- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 30, 2005

Jurassic journalism

He’s written numerous novels that were translated into more than 20 languages, with many — “Jurassic Park,” “The Lost World,” “The Great Train Robbery,” “Rising Sun,” “Congo” and “The Andromeda Strain” — winding up on the big screen.

Friday, writer and filmmaker Michael Crichton, a graduate of Harvard Medical School (yes, he created the hit television series “ER,” too), came to Washington and specifically the American Enterprise Institute to warn that science and science-based policies have been captured by political interests with regrettable human, economic and policy consequences.

This theme comes as no surprise, given his latest blockbuster novel, “State of Fear,” which details how alarmist green “nongovernmental organizations,” or NGOs, cynically manipulate the public through one scare campaign after another — in this case “man-made global warming” — recycling breathtaking slices of their enormous booty into more fund-raising campaigns touting the alarm of the day.

Mr. Crichton detailed the corruption of science by politics and set forth a prescription for competitive and verified research ensuring that searching for the truth trumps the pursuit of fame and research grants.

Taking questions from the audience, Mr. Crichton did not disappoint, humorously batting away defensively silly media harangues.

The ultimate moment of life imitating Mr. Crichton’s art, however, came when one young scribe unwittingly stepped directly from the pages of “State of Fear.” Quite possibly, in all seriousness, the concerned scribbler anxiously wondered how, were we to actually reform this corrupt politicization of scientific policy matters, could the state then ensure continued viability of the NGOs?

Indeed, there would be few more difficult tasks in such a futuristic hell.

Cough it up

Several lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and his vice presidential running mate, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, have broken a federal statute by pocketing thousands of dollars in salary while being away from their jobs during 2003 and 2004.

An obscure federal statute requires congressional absentees to forfeit pay unless they or a family member are ill, but some lawmakers seem reluctant to comply, says the National Taxpayers Union.

The NTU says “chronically absent” members of the 108th Congress, besides Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards, include Democratic presidential candidates Bob Graham, former senator of Florida; Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut; former House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri; and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio.

And there’s numerous other sitting senators and congressmen — too many to list here — who improperly accepted salaries while off stumping for votes.

The NTU says compliance with 2 U.S. Code 39, requiring the secretary of the Senate and the chief administrative officer of the House of Representatives to deduct congressional salary for days of unexcused absences, has been sparse, but not nonexistent.

“In 1971, Representative Edwin Edwards abided by the no-work, no-pay law while running for Louisiana governor,” says the nonpartisan union.

And while federal law does not require presidents to forfeit their pay while seeking re-election, the NTU notes that George W. Bush relinquished his governor’s salary for days spent outside Texas campaigning for president in 2000.

See your shadow?

Job Corps, the Labor Department’s educational and vocational training program for people ages 16 to 24, is celebrating its 40th year and Ground Hog Day at the same time this year.

The Job Corps calls it “Groundhog Job Shadow Day,” which also falls on Wednesday. And this year, for the first time, a shadow will descend on the White House.

Two dozen members of Congress also will have shadows, or Job Corps youth following them, as will officials of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, C-SPAN and Comcast Sportsnet, to name a few of the local participants.

In fact, hundreds of thousands of Job Corps participants — each in search of a better job and skills — will be shadowing chosen professions across the country Wednesday, through the combined efforts of organizations like Junior Achievement and America’s Promise.

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

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