- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Speaks for everyone

“To see the picture of one of the young women … go on the TV screen, and see her young, beautiful face, and realize her life has been taken, and thinking of her family, and then magnifying this at least 30 times, it is almost too much to bear.”

— Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, speaking on the Senate floor about this week’s bloody massacre at Virginia Tech

Animal house

We see former Bush White House aide-turned-publishing-executive Mary Matalin and her political-animal husband, James Carville, are hosting a May 10 book party in their Old Town Alexandria home for Dan Matthews, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Lily Tomlin says that it’s ‘like David Sedaris but with a mission,’ ” PETA’s Bruce Freidrich tells Inside the Beltway about the new book, with Miss Tomlin referring to the popular humorist and author of several recently published animal fables.

As for Mr. Matthews’ tome (for the book jacket, the author is dressed in a bunny outfit, although we prefer him clad as a carrot), the title is: “Committed: A Rabble-Rouser’s Memoir.”

Derisive decade

“Can you believe it’s been 10 years,” writes F.R. “BobDuplantier, arguably the country’s top political limerick writer, who has been appearing in Inside the Beltway since 1997.

The first published “politickle,” as Mr. Duplantier calls his limericks, dealt with then-Vice President Al Gore and his fellow Democratic Party members accepting loads of campaign cash generated by John Huang, with whom Mr. Gore had traveled to Taiwan on a trip sponsored by a Buddhist organization. That same group in 1996 hosted a questionable Democratic fundraiser at a Buddhist temple in California, and Democrats eventually were forced to return more than a million dollars in contributions.

Today, Mr. Duplantier is still cranking out his “politickles.” One from the archives that we think is rather timely is titled “Division Leaders”:

Who has kept black Americans down

And spread hatred from town to town?

No, it’s no Anglo-Saxon

But Sharpton and Jackson

Who’re the rabidest racists around.

Can’t win

Get your tax returns postmarked by midnight last night?

The National Taxpayers Union’s annual study of tax-law complexity says Americans who struggled to finish their tax returns last night needed a little aspirin and a lot of luck to cope with new filing headaches and increased costs.

Taxpayers this year who used any of the 1040 tax forms spent an average of 24.2 hours and $207 completing their returns, up from 23.3 hours and $179 three years ago. All told, Americans spent 6.65 billion hours complying with the tax laws.

But what about taxpayers like this columnist, a longtime client of H&R; Block, which stores vital personal information in computers for easy retrieval each year?

“Although computers and printers have gained dramatically in capacity over the past 10 years, this efficiency has likely been overwhelmed by complexity,” says the NTU. “The average fee charged by H&R; Block increased roughly 150 percent during that period (not adjusted for inflation), even as the ratio of taxpayers using computers or paid preparers rose from seven in 10 to nine in 10.”

As bad as it gets

Clint Van Zandt is as tough as they come. During his 25-year career with the FBI, his titles included “chief hostage negotiator,” supervisor of the Behavioral Science Unit and leader of the analytical team that identified the Unabomber.

Now an analyst for MSNBC, Mr. Van Zandt at noon yesterday was standing on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., being interviewed about the investigation into the shooting deaths of 32 students and faculty. He analyzed what details are available of the killings, from the pair of guns used to perpetrate the crimes to how the mind of the 23-year-old shooter Cho Seung-hui might work — or, in this case, didn’t work.

Then, as the camera began to turn away from him, Mr. Van Zandt said: “One more thing, please.”

At that point, the emotions of a retired veteran FBI agent, who thought he had seen every horror imaginable during his long career, suddenly spilled out. Choking back tears, practically unable to speak, he tried describing the grief-stricken students he had encountered on campus who, he noted, stopped to hug one another, only to collapse and fall “to the ground.”

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

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