- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Traditional leaders

Production by the nation’s largest supplier of natural gas is being threatened by environmental groups, which are complaining that Uncle Sam did not consult with “various medicine men” of the Navajo Nation.

A lawsuit filed last week by the Western Resources Advocates and Natural Resources Defense Council against Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton says regulatory documentation for 10,000 wells in New Mexico, Colorado and Utah is insufficient.

The Interior Department consulted with Navajo Nation President Kelsey Begaye, but did not follow a recommendation by a community-services coordinator that “a more traditional-oriented person or persons should be contacted to obtain a true concern about the many negative affects Navajo People experience because of the method in which land is used.”

That’s reason No. 63, listed in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, to stop production on federal land that is not owned by the Navajos. That leaves one Republican congressional aide perplexed.

“The environmentalists have screamed for decades to use more natural gas, because it’s the cleanest and greenest fuel,” says the aide. “But when we try to produce natural gas, they object because medicine men haven’t been consulted.”

Lousy date?

John Kerry didn’t get one vote in yesterday’s Virginia’s Democratic primary: that of a woman who said she “used to go out with him.”

Instead, the unidentified woman said she was going to pull the lever for Howard Dean or John Edwards — she wasn’t quite sure.

But, being a “die-hard Democrat” — and granted the Massachusetts senator eventually wins the nomination — she said she’d vote for Mr. Kerry this fall.

Go figure

When it comes to those now-controversial Medicare ads, it’s difficult to understand why Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy are so upset.

The two Democrats got all huffy after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began running “1-800-MEDICARE” ads informing senior citizens that answers to their questions were just a phone call away.

Last week, after HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson previewed the ads for reporters, Mr. Kennedy went on a political tear, charging Republican collusion in light of recent Medicare reforms. He equally was upset to learn that HHS was mailing 40 million seniors information on the Medicare changes.

For three years, National Media Inc., which has links to the Republican Party, has been carrying out media buys on behalf of HHS. Now, Mr. Kennedy is alluding that the Alexandria-based firm’s participation is proof that the campaign is politically motivated.

However, the HHS’s lead contractor happens to be Ketchum Communications, whose senior vice president Charles “Chuck” Dolan played a role in bringing National Media on board. As for Mr. Dolan’s credentials?

He was a member of the Clinton for President Exploratory Committee, he served as the state chairman of the Virginia Clinton-Gore campaigns in 1992 and 1996, he is former executive director of the Democratic Governors’ Association (for seven years he participated in the election and re-election of Democratic governors in all 50 states), and now, he is said to be supporting Mr. Kerry for president.

“And the hypocrisy here is that Kerry is calling for a GAO [General Accounting Office] investigation,” says one political observer.

Alternative carnival

When Reps. Walters B Jones Jr., North Carolina Republican, and Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, announced last year that French fries in the House cafeteria would henceforth be “freedom fries” — and French toast “freedom toast” — patriotic restaurant owners across the land followed suit.

It was a small but symbolic measure to express displeasure at France for not supporting the U.S. position on Iraq.

Soon, it will be Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” brought to this country with the French in 1699. And should anybody still be boycotting French food, Washington restaurateur Ingrid Aielli extends an invitation to visit her Teatro Goldoni on Feb. 24th, where Mardi Gras will be celebrated “Italian style.”

She is even bringing in the masked “Queen Luna di Luna” (an Italian wine of the same name that competes with French labels and is among the fastest growing on the market) direct from Venice, along with renowned photographer Michael Colleta.

Mrs. Aielli is dubbing her celebration “the Carnival of Venice.”

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

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