- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

Just curious

“You’re convinced by the president?”

Jan Peter Balkenende, prime minister of the Netherlands, addressing a reporter who had just asked visiting President Bush whether he planned to relax strict Patriot Act laws that went into effect after the September 11 attacks. (Mr. Bush had replied that his administration is “constantly re-evaluating law,” however his most important duty as president “is to protect the American people” from terrorism.)

Condi’s roots

In promoting democracy in her travels around the world, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice doesn’t hesitate to share her personal roots with audiences.

Most recently, the Community of Democracies held its third meeting of foreign ministers in Santiago, Chile, discussing how democratic nations can better promote democracy around the globe.

“Democratization,” Miss Rice told the foreign ministers, is “not an event, it is a process. It takes many years, even decades to realize the full promise of democratic reform.

“For nearly a century after the founding of the United States, millions of black Americans like me were still condemned to the status below that of full citizenship,” the secretary said. “When the Founding Fathers of America said ‘We the People,’ they did not mean me; many of my ancestors were thought to be only three-fifths of a man.”

Miss Rice said, “It is only within my lifetime that the United States has begun to guarantee the right to vote for all of our citizens.”

Drowning in red

Forget about all of the mind-numbing “national debt” figures we constantly hear about — said to be approaching $8 trillion, according to the U.S. Treasury.

The actual math, or so one fiscal expert says, is far worse.

The Bureau of the Public Debt (yes, there is such a federal agency) says outstanding public debt as of press time yesterday stood at precisely $7,753,671,705,649.72.

Given the estimated population of the United States is 296,051,717 (not counting several million illegal aliens), each of us would have to contribute $26,188.26 to Uncle Sam to repay the national debt, which grows by an estimated $1.7 billion per day.

Or is it more? Sid Taylor, research associate for the National Taxpayers Union Foundation and professed “systemist” — meaning that he writes and lectures on the need for system simplification in many of the billion-dollar federal programs — tells Inside the Beltway that because of “flawed or outdated federal government accounting systems, plus the recent upsurge in war costs,” the taxpayers’ liability index (TLI) actually stands at an all-time record high of $20 trillion.

That’s right, $20 trillion worth of “red ink,” Mr. Taylor says.

The TLI totals include the national debt, plus fiscal obligations, financial commitments and unfunded liabilities (actuarial and contingent) of the U.S. government.

Fitness frenzy?

OK, preschoolers, climb out of your cribs and into your Nikes. (We recommend Velcro for those who haven’t learned to tie their shoelaces.)

The Congressional Fitness Caucus, led by Reps. Zach Wamp, Tennessee Republican, and Mark Udall, Colorado Democrat, has joined with Nike and the National Head Start Association for a first-of-its-kind program “to get preschoolers more physically active.”

“As childhood obesity continues to rise, we need to take every opportunity to teach and reinforce exercise and nutrition to our nation’s children,” says Mr. Udall, even if it means getting preschoolers onto the exercise mat.

“Educating our children at an early age about responsible nutrition and exercise habits will help put them on a lifetime journey of good health and wellness,” he says.

Program that works

One of the most highly visited sites on the Internet today is the Federal Trade Commission’s “Do Not Call Registry” (www.donotcall.gov), which opened in June 2003.

The number of enrollees today stands at an amazing 60 million Americans, with 78 percent reporting that they are receiving “far fewer calls” or none at all since they registered for free via the Internet or toll-free number.

The registry, developed by a trade commission team led by Eileen Harrington, blocks phone calls from telemarketers.

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

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