- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2003

When music dies

“Thoughts in the skye over Kansas” — or so is title of the letter from Washington-based musician Bonnie Rideout, who if you didn’t gather from her Gaelic spelling has roots in Scotland.

“The last time I flew into Wichita, Kansas, was an emergency landing due to a gentleman behind me who suffered a massive heart attack,” she writes. “The tension from anxious passengers in the plane’s enclosed space was overwhelming.”

So, from the overhead bin, Miss Rideout pulled out her violin.

“I am a Scottish fiddler,” she notes (as if we didn’t know), “and began to quietly play a heart-warming old Scottish aire. What happened next was astounding. One could physically feel the brittle tension in the stale air disintegrate in seconds. In no time, passengers were making requests, and one woman even got up and danced.”

Which isn’t surprising. The Scotsman in Edinburgh once wrote that the fiddler’s “exceptional control when bowing … produce an authentically moving, almost keening, sound.”

“Ironically,” Miss Rideout now continues, “I am on my way back to Wichita six years later. Only this time I am facing charges of assault towards a flight attendant who refused to let me carry my violin on board. An hour ago, I stood crying in Row 4 on Delta Flight # 4199. I removed my precious violin from its case and asked to hold it in my lap all the way from Washington, D.C., so that they could check ‘the bag’ (my violin is smaller than an infant and bothers no one).

“My approach to solving this dilemma was apparently too confrontational,” she explains. “Where the assault charges came into the picture is still a mystery (the officer later explained that even if I touched or brushed against a flight attendant, it can be considered ‘assault’).

“I am innocent,” concludes the violinist. “PS: If I am not in jail, I’ll be performing at The Kennedy Center Concert Hall on December 26th.”

Silencing Franken

So, Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly, tell us how you really feel about comedian turned political activist Al Franken.

“This man is being run by some very powerful forces in this country,” replies Mr. O’Reilly when asked by Time magazine. “I was ambushed at a book convention. He got up in front of a national audience and called me a liar for 20 minutes. President Andrew Jackson would have put a bullet between his eyes.

“Franken’s job is to do exactly what Donald Segretti did for Nixon — dig up dirt on people. He is not a satirist; he is not a comedian. He’s someone who wants to injure people’s reputations, and I think people have got to know that.”

Sheurer thing

A bipartisan effort has been launched to remove every member of the Senate and House who voted for the war in Iraq and replace them with committed peace candidates.

The first candidate under the “Congress for Peace” umbrella is Bill Sheurer (pronounced “sure”), who seeks the House seat held by Rep. Philip M. Crane, Illinois Republican.

As for additional candidates to fill what would amount to several hundred vacancies in Congress, Mr. Sheurer says there are many qualified people who, like himself, have never run for elected office “and are not necessarily political types.”

Mr. Sheurer, a lawyer, emphasizes that with peace he backs a “strong defense.” He just doesn’t like the U.S. sticking its boots in other countries. Two of his children served in the Army and Marines, including tours to Kuwait.

Cowboy gone bad

“Year in which Donald Rumsfeld gave Saddam Hussein a pair of golden spurs: 1983.”

Harper’s Index

All aboard?

We bring you the conclusion of a new Congressional Budget Office study on the future of U.S. passenger rail service: “If policymakers cannot reach agreement about passenger-rail issues, then Amtrak is likely to limp along as it has for the past 33 years: not quite satisfying anyone, not providing the most valued rail service per dollar of subsidy, not costing very much relative to the size of the economy and the federal budget.”

Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corp.) originally was intended to be a for-profit company that would be free of federal subsidies within a few years, the study notes. Instead, Amtrak has needed federal support every year of its 33-year history.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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