No less than 196 copies of The New Yorker magazine issue featuring presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama in a not-so-flattering light were fetching high bids on the eBay auction block at one point this week, one framed cover alone advertised at a "buy now" price of $500.
Copies of the controversial issue were fetching $50, $60, and $70, particularly "never read" or opened magazines. A typical ad reads:
"July 21, 2008 New Yorker Magazine — Barack Obama in a Muslim outfit and Michelle Obama with a gun and afro on the cover of The New Yorker. It also shows the American flag burning in the fireplace. This is sure to be a classic, collector’s issue.
"This copy is straight from the store and in mint brand new condition, which means that this copy of the magazine does not have the address label. Will be packed in a padded envelope and shipped the day you purchase."
WHO’S THE ‘BOSS?’
When it comes to distributing Bruce Springsteen tickets, we’re not sure who’s in more hot water: the taxpayer-subsidized New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority or New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg?
”The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority shouldn’t be in the business of supporting any political campaign. Senator Lautenberg’s request for 40 VIP tickets to next Sunday’s Bruce Springsteen concert at Giants’ stadium smacks of politics as usual," New Jersey Republican State Committee Chairman Tom Wilson said Monday in response to an article the Bergen Record.
He said if the sports authority is giving Mr. Lautenberg "40 prime seats to feed his campaign warchest, then I want 40 prime seats to offer to the average citizen at face value."
In a statement sent to this columnist Monday, Mr. Lautenberg said: "[D]espite the fact that the sports authority agreed to sell us a block of tickets to Sunday’s Bruce Springsteen concert, the Lautenberg for Senate campaign is rescinding its order for tickets to the upcoming concert.
"The campaign is also asking the sports authority to re-examine its practice of reserving tickets, in order to ensure that its tickets are available to all New Jersey residents, not just to VIPs."
When it comes to domestic energy production, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu is not your typical Democrat.
Indeed, she’s among a handful of Democrats working with Republicans on decreasing, as she chooses to phrase it, "our dangerous dependency on oil from places in this world that do not share our values and are not friendly, safe places to operate."
In recent days, Inside the Beltway listened as Mrs. Landrieu took to the Senate floor and argued: "There are benefits to drilling in Alaska. There are not many people there to aggravate. There are only 500,000, and people in Alaska, like people in Louisiana, want to have oil and gas drilling. They believe in using their natural resources, whether it is oil and gas or trees."
"We believe in actually cutting a lot of our trees because they grow back," she said.
New legislation would assure that all military chaplains in every branch of the U.S. armed services, including military academies, have the prerogative to recite a closing prayer outside of a religious service according to the dictates of the chaplain’s own conscience.
"For Christian chaplains, closing their prayers in the name of Jesus Christ is a fundamental part of their beliefs, and to suppress this form of expression would violate their religious freedom," says Rep. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican and sponsor of the legislation introduced last week.
"The demand for so-called ‘nonsectarian’ prayer is merely a euphemism declaring that prayers will be acceptable only so long as they censor Christian beliefs."
Mr. Jones says some progress is being made. The 2007 National Defense Authorization Act, for instance, directed the secretaries of the Navy and Air Force to rescind 2006 guidelines preventing chaplains from praying according to their own faith and conscience in public venues.
The Internal Revenue Service has an expanding inventory of uncollected "tax debts" approaching $300 billion at the close of fiscal 2007.
To make matters worse (unless you happen to be one of the delinquent parties that owes money to Uncle Sam), the IRS has "shelved or delayed collection of billions of dollars" of back taxes.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just issued a report describing the federal tax collection agency as not only having "a very large debt workload and limited resources spread across multiple units," but "a complex process to collect unpaid tax debts by contacting taxpayers through notices, telephone calls and in person."
The report says the IRS "does not yet have an agencywide, systematic approach to managing the collection of tax debts," albeit it recently created a "council" of IRS officials to coordinate various collection activities and recommend potential changes in the process.
RAINES IT POURS
The American Conservative Union wants a full investigation of the role former Clinton budget director Franklin D. Raines played in the current national mortgage crisis, particularly related to Fannie Mae.
"When you examine Raines’ resignation from Fannie Mae amidst charges of accounting irregularities and previous practices he may have encouraged, including those that helped lead to the mortgage crisis we face today, Congress needs to conduct a full and fair investigation …," said ACU Chairman David A. Keene.
Upon leaving the Clinton White House, Mr. Raines returned to Fannie Mae as chairman and CEO before being forced out over an accounting scandal in 2004. Last April, he and two other top executives of the lending giant agreed to a $31-million-plus settlement with Uncle Sam.
BENT ON IMPEACHING
One congressman and former presidential candidate remains intent on impeaching President Bush before January.
In referring an Article of Impeachment to the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich acknowledged "people ask me, don’t we have more important things to do?"
Well, don’t you?
"Think about this," said the Ohio Democrat. "This war [against terrorism] has cost us our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties. Is there something more important?"
OBAMA FAN CLUB
Rep. Lamar Smith is blasting The Washington Post and the New York Times for their front-page treatment of the two presumptive presidential nominees, Democrat Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain.
"The results may be of interest to voters who expect fair and objective reporting," said the Texas Republican.
From June 28 through July 14, he determined, "the papers wrote far more stories about Senator Obama than Senator McCain. And while most of the 15 articles about Senator Obama were positive, not a single one of the nine articles about Senator McCain was positive. That is a huge slant in favor of Senator Obama."
Mr. Smith emphasized that the media has a responsibility to provide "balanced coverage."
CLEAR THE HALLS
Capitol Hill hall monitors are issuing written citations to members of Congress for honoring the memory of fallen soldiers from their home states and districts.
"That’s right, Republicans and Democrats all over the Hill are getting busted," reveals Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas. "The dastardly offense was paying tribute to American warriors by placing a poster outside the office with photos of our troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan."
Mr. Poe, like others, got cited for having a sign-in table and easel with a poster in the hallway. He himself was granted 30 days to comply with the new hallway policy or he will be in violation of the new edict.
"While we are still in the transition period we are bringing this issue to your attention in order to provide you with the opportunity to bring your office into compliance," the citation reads. "The policy will be in full force and effect on August 2, 2008, and after that date all items that violate the hallway policy will be removed."
The Architect of the Capitol argues that during an emergency evacuation items placed in the extra-wide hallways of the congressional office buildings interfere with the safe exit of members, staff, and visitors.
But Mr. Poe counters that the new rule violates the first amendment of free speech and freedom of expression, and he is now threatening to push for passage of a law to keep such tributes on display.
DRIVING TO MINNIE
One congressman calls it the "Post Office Congress," noting almost 30 percent of legislation passed by lawmakers in this 110th Congress "has been naming federal buildings."
"Today, I see we will be naming two more post offices," observed Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, referring to the Bishop Ralph E. Brower Post Office and the Minnie Cox Post Office Building, both approved this week.
"Almost every morning I talk to my parents who are both in their 80s and are very inquisitive about what goes on in Congress," he said. "I tell them we are working on postal legislation. I don’t really go further and tell them the legislation actually is just naming post office buildings throughout the vast plains and prairies of America. After all, we have named 72 federal buildings in [the current] Congress."
As for insult to injury, the congressman added: "Today Mom said she can’t even afford gas to get to the post office."