Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Image is everything

Average amount the Bush administration has spent per year on contracts with public-relations firms: $62.5 million

Average amount spent during the entire second term of the Clinton administration: $32 million

—Harper’s Index, May 2005

Wishing for error

“The following quotation was attributed to you in a recent report,” Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican, writes in a most unusual letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, delivered in recent days to the Russian Embassy in Washington.

The quote attributed to Mr. Putin: “First and foremost, it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

“As much as we treasure our free press in the United States,” Mr. Cox reminds the Russian president, “we understand that reporters, just like the rest of us, sometimes make mistakes. It is my fervent hope that you have been misquoted.”

The congressman instead suggested to Mr. Putin that the greatest catastrophe of the last century in Russia “was the Soviet Union itself.”

“Looking back on the suffering endured by the Russian people at the hands of the Soviet regime, it is hard for me to believe that something significant has not been lost in translation.”

Mayoral pad?

Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams has revealed which building he thinks would make a “wonderful” mayoral residence: the historic, yet run-down Old Naval Hospital, which stands within sight of the U.S. Capitol on Pennsylvania Avenue in Southeast.

This interesting nugget comes to us via the current issue of the Hill Rag, the lively monthly newsmagazine that circulates on Capitol Hill. The Rag examined the recent controversy surrounding Mr. Williams’ decision not to make a decision about how to save the once-handsome Civil War-era edifice.

“Turning the old hospital into a mayoral mansion is a wonderful idea — but right now the mayor is hoping to find a use that has a broad appeal to the community,” the mayor’s office told the Rag.

Mr. Williams recently rejected two sets of plans by groups that wanted to spend their own money to restore the building. One project, submitted by the Old Naval Hospital Foundation, would have turned the building into a Capitol Hill Center, housing a new library and other community facilities.

The other bid was from the Art of Living Foundation, the international “wellness” group headed by Indian guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It wanted to conduct spiritual classes in the building.

Greg Richey, leader of the Friends of the Old Naval Hospital, a grass-roots group that has worked for six years to get the city to save the once-magnificent structure, says the mayor’s decision “smacks of cronyism to the Hill’s old guard and prejudice towards outsiders.”

Woody’s return

It wasn’t Uncle Sam’s endangered species legislation, but private and public landowners who played a significant role in last week’s rediscovery in Arkansas of the supposedly extinct ivory-billed woodpecker.

So says the Land Rights Network (LRN), a division of the American Land Rights Association.

The spotting of the rare bird, not seen for six decades, “is a celebration of what can occur when good scientific research is combined with the cooperative efforts of public and private landowners,” says James L. Cummins, executive director of the Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Much of the forested wetlands in the South were logged excessively in the early 1900s, significantly decreasing acreage of habitat for the woodpecker and other wildlife. Through the efforts of private landowners, the LRN says, more than a half-million acres of bottomland hardwoods and wetlands were restored in the Lower Mississippi River Valley.

Elders’ prescription

Nobody better than former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders to headline the Marijuana Policy Project’s 10th anniversary fundraising gala on Capitol Hill this week.

Others speaking out in support of medicinal-marijuana patients are 2004 presidential candidate Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, and fellow Democratic Reps. Linda T. Sanchez of California and Sam Farr of California. (The latter is to receive a legislative leadership award).

Meanwhile, Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, is expected to begin a drive this week to prevent federal government “attacks” on medicinal-marijuana patients.

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

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