- The Washington Times - Monday, October 26, 2009

YOU BETCHA

The face of Sarah Palin — goddess edition — could soon loom over Highway 101 near San Carlos, Calif., showcased on a 14-by-48-foot billboard that touts her political prowess.

But the sign was almost a no-show thanks to some locals who were willing to compromise the First Amendment for their cause. In September, city planners voted to bar the “Sarah Palin for President 2012” billboard, citing restrictive ordinances on size and scope.

Jeffrey Herson, who originated the billboard idea, then sued the city of San Carlos, claiming that officials favored “commercial speech” and “community activity signs” on the byways, but not political speech — the kind protected by the First Amendment.

U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in San Francisco agreed, and placed a temporary restraining order on the city’s decision, noting that local officials appeared to claim “unfettered discretion to determine who may or may not speak.”

It’s still a cliffhanger, though. The city plans to declare an emergency 45-day ban on new signs Monday until “constitutional issues” get worked out and yet another Palin-centric cultural moment unfolds.

“This demonstrates the passion people have for Sarah Palin. I can’t think of any politician in American history that has generated such enthusiasm from the people,” LaDonna Hale Curzon tells Inside the Beltway.

She is executive producer and co-host of Sarah Palin Radio on the WS Radio network.

Folks are still eager for the Palin story, meanwhile. Though it will not be released until Nov. 17, Mrs. Palin’s book “Going Rogue: An American Life” remains No. 2 on the Amazon best-seller ranks, and ranks ninth at Barnes & Noble.

PERFORMANCE ANXIETY

Chronic spendthrifts and foot draggers, heads up: The chief of performance police is now known.

Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, has been appointed chairman of the Senate Budget Committee’s new bipartisan Task Force on Government Performance, which will scrutinize the federal government’s shoddy management framework and identify “opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness.”

Of particular interest to the Virginia Democrat are “best practices” and “lessons learned” from private and nonprofit sources in the United States and Britain.

“I strongly believe that ‘what gets measured gets done,’ ” Mr. Warner says. “We have to take on the difficult challenge of making our government agencies and programs perform better through better measurements, enhanced transparency and greater accountability.”

Watch this space. The first hearing is Thursday. Perhaps the oddsmakers are already wondering if a Democrat can lead the charge against big, bad, burgeoning government.

PAGING BIG BROTHER

Identity theft alarms Americans just as much as terrorism.

Consider that the Government Accountability Office recently found that the IRS recorded 51,000 cases of taxpayer identity theft, paying out $15 million in fraudulent tax refunds. No wonder, then, that only 22 percent of Americans trust government agencies to keep their personal information secure, according to a new study by Unisys, an information technology company. Sixty-five percent are “extremely” or “very” concerned about identity theft and credit card fraud, while 64 percent were seriously concerned over terrorism - up 6 percentage points in six months.

The fears could be driving new attitudes. Unisys found that 58 percent of Americans are now willing to provide “biometric data” to authenticate their identity - up 20 percent since last year.

“Existing vulnerabilities are being exploited at an alarming rate,” chief information security officer Patricia Titus tells Beltway. “Not only are the criminals becoming more sophisticated in how they launch attacks, but the unsuspecting consumers become the weakest link.”

The survey of 1,000 Americans was conducted Sept. 11-13.

OH REALLY, O’REILLY?

President Obama should fire White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and hire me as his top adviser. Don’t laugh. I can almost guarantee higher poll numbers for the president if he brings me on board,” says Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in his syndicated Oct. 26 column.

Well. OK. Halloween’s coming up, sir. Get your costume ready, now’s your big chance.

“The first thing I would do is declare a truce with Fox News. Right now, the president is spending more time launching offensives against FNC than against the Taliban. The American people want Osama bin Laden’s head on a stick, not Glenn Beck’s,” Mr. O’Reilly notes.

SWEET STUFF

From our Only-in-America desk, many of the nation’s dentists will “buy back” Halloween candy from their young patients at $1 a pound once the hubbub of trick-or-treat is over. Here’s the cool addendum. The candy - from 500 to 6,000 pounds from each office - is then sent to overseas U.S. troops via Operation Gratitude, a California-based nonprofit volunteer group that has unfailingly sent care packages and cheer to soldiers for eight years.

Interested teeth doctors can e-mail the group for information ([email protected]) or consult www.halloweencandy buyback.com.

“As a dentist, you can own Halloween,” advises Dr. Chris Kammer, a cosmetic dentist who has organized the program since 2007.

“Halloween candy represents a warm memory of life back home, and children that care enough to donate candy in support of our troops,” he adds.

POLL DU JOUR

• 15 percent of Republican voters who plan to vote in 2012 say their party representatives have done a good job representing Republican values.

• 73 percent say their lawmakers have “lost touch” with Republican voters.

• 31 percent say economic issues will determine who they vote for; 25 percent cite national security.

• 39 percent favor Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele; 35 percent are undecided about Mr. Steele; 27 percent rate him unfavorably.

• 42 percent would vote for their district Republican candidate; 37 would vote for a Democratic opponent.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 750 likely 2012 Republican voters, conducted Oct. 15

Howls, clanks, assorted sound effects to jharper@ washingtontimes.com.

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