- The Washington Times - Monday, May 30, 2005

Say it ain’t so

After years of good-tempered competition between Congressional Quarterly publisher and President Robert Merry and National Journal publisher and President John Fox Sullivan, the pair is calling a truce.

“There is no feud,” says Mr. Merry, who points out that the two Capitol Hill news publications are longtime market competitors — and competition, somebody said, is a good thing.

Still, he adds, “John and I never pass up an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage in what is a very brutal market, to outmaneuver the other at every turn.”

Mr. Merry says he and Mr. Sullivan were friends before they became competitors and that they resolved long ago that they would not let those competitive juices harm their personal relationship.

Smart decision. Mr. Merry’s just-published book, “Sands of Empire,” will be officially debuted — and toasted — at the home of Mr. Sullivan this week.

Travel restrictions

Hats — sombreros, beach hats, tennis visors, golf caps — off to Rep. Scott Garrett, New Jersey Republican, who has pushed through an amendment limiting the number of federal employees who can attend international conferences.

“While it may be important to send scientists, ‘experts’ and essential staff overseas to attend conferences, I believe 50 people attending a single conference is more than sufficient,” says the congressman.

In the past, he observes, such conferences attracted “hundreds” of federal bureaucrats, who jet off overseas at “an excessive amount of tax dollars.”

The amendment, just approved by the House, says no more than 50 federal employees will be permitted to attend international conferences.

Beware the beltway

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Charles E. Grassley, of all budget-conscious lawmakers, has been named Porker of the Month by Citizens Against Government Waste for “raiding” the federal cookie jar of $11 million.

Among “many projects” the Iowa Republican has effectively funded for his state is a feasibility study for a “beltway” around Polk County (we hereby warn readers in the Hawkeye State that constructing such a dangerous loop of asphalt leads to “Inside the Beltway” symptoms suffered by many in the nation’s capital. These maladies often lead to scandals, and bigger scandals to “gates,” like the granddaddy of them all, Watergate.)

Endless mowing

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest landowner of them all?

You are, Uncle Sam.

The federal government owns 29 percent of all the land in America, according to the latest survey by the General Services Administration. Farmers, perhaps, will be interested to know that amounts to 653,299,090.2 acres.

Nevada has the largest percentage of federal landownership, nearly 85 percent; followed by Alaska with 69 percent, Utah with almost 58 percent, Oregon with 53 percent and Idaho with 50 percent.

By comparison, the Republican Study Committee points out, the District, established by the Constitution as the federal city (city leaders are demanding more local control, but Republicans won’t budge), has 25 percent of its total land owned by the federal government.

Slightly more than 2 percent of federal land in the United States is used for military purposes, while more than 5 million acres owned by Uncle Sam are classified as “vacant,” with no definable purpose.

Grab a gun

Men, have you grown bored on the treadmill? Ladies, are you tired of sweating at the spa?

Then grab a shotgun or fishing pole, because it’s a great way to shed extra pounds.

“I think the kind of gradual, sustained exercise a day of hunting offers is far more beneficial than a half-hour in the gym,” said Don Thomas of Montana, who is an avid bowhunter.

The Connecticut-based National Shooting Sports Foundation quotes health specialists as saying that traditional outdoor sports — shooting and fishing in particular — just may be what the doctor ordered for millions of overweight Americans.

“For example, did you know that you can burn 408 calories per hour during a typical pheasant hunt? That’s over 100 calories more per hour than in golf or dancing,” the foundation states.

And guys, don’t be afraid to invite ladies on your next round of blasting sporting clays. Surveys show that up to 48 million Americans — many of them women — would happily accept an invitation to go target shooting or fishing, if only they were asked.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@ washington times.com.

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