- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

Killing two birds

You have to hand it to Rep. Barney Frank. The Massachusetts Democrat has a sense of humor — even if a bit morbid.

In the hours before congressmen fled Washington and its dog days of August (lawmakers don’t return from their summer recess until Sept. 6), Mr. Frank and fellow Democrats sat and observed for “well over an hour here … while the [Republican] leadership variously cajoled, bribed, browbeat, et cetera, a few Republicans who wanted to have it both ways — who wanted to give people the impression they were opposed to [the Central American Free Trade Agreement] while they were ready to cave in for sufficient inducement.”

Says Mr. Frank: “While I am not an expert in time management, I do have a suggestion that would allow the House to better use its time.”

Which is?

“What we should have done, and I propose this for the future, is the next time we have one of those tough votes where they are going to have to do that with their [Republican] members, let us schedule an evacuation drill from the House,” he says.

“The fact is at the time the [errant] plane was flying over here and a roll call was open and we evacuated the House, it took about the same time as it took them to cajole and blackmail and browbeat their people,” the congressman points out.

“So why not do two things at once? The next time they know there is a bill they are going to cram down people’s throats that they do not want to vote for and want to pretend to their voters they are against it — and it is going to take them an hour or two to find out ways to get them to help fool people — why not schedule in advance an evacuation drill, and that way we can kill two birds with one stone?

“And since people might not know it is a drill, they can threaten people who do not vote with them: They can make them stay here in case there is a plane crash.”

Access denied

The White House has granted press passes to bloggers, so why not the State Department?

That’s the question from Michael Petrelis, a San Francisco AIDS activist who recently used his Web log (mpetrelis.blogspot.com) to highlight abuses against homosexuals in foreign countries, including Iran.

Planning a visit to Washington later this month, Mr. Petrelis sent an Aug. 3 letter to the State Department requesting press credentials.

Mr. Petrelis has a long record of working with the press, including The Washington Times. Among other things, he helped expose the questionable use of federal AIDS prevention grants by a San Francisco nonprofit, eventually sparking an investigation by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. But this apparently didn’t impress the folks at Foggy Bottom.

In a phone message, Mr. Petrelis reports, a State Department official told him that “right now our policy is that the general public cannot attend press briefings, and we consider bloggers to be still in the public realm, not being an employee of a mainstream news organization. So, unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to come in to attend the briefings.”

This prompted Mr. Petrelis to write a second message to the State Department press office: “Considering the White House press office in March began granting daily press passes to bloggers, I think State should forthwith follow the example of allowing bloggers access to media briefings. If bloggers qualify as journalists worthy of admission by the White House into press briefings, why should State have a different standard on this matter?”

Distinguished group

With the increasing number of U.S. soldiers being killed and wounded in Iraq, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wants Americans to learn the significance of the Purple Heart, the oldest military decoration in the world in present use.

The medal is awarded in the name of a U.S. president to members of the armed forces who are wounded in conflict with an enemy and are wounded while held as prisoners of war, and posthumously to the next of kin of soldiers who are killed in conflict or who die of a wound received in battle.

The award was established Aug. 7, 1782, during the Revolutionary War, when Gen. George Washington issued an order establishing the Honorary Badge of Distinction, otherwise known as the Badge of Military Merit.

Interestingly enough, the awarding of the Purple Heart ceased with the end of the Revolutionary War, but was revived in 1932 — the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth, out of respect for the country’s military achievements.

All told, about 1,535,000 Americans have been awarded the Purple Heart, about 550,000 of whom are still living.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide