Books, Pop Culture and Political Humor from J.D. Rhoades, best-selling author, attorney, and award-winning newspaper columnist.
"Like [Lee] Child, Rhoades dishes out one airtight action scene after another, mixing in just enough character-building moments and holding our interest in a full cast of nicely developed supporting players."-Booklist
The House ethics committee concluded yesterday that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and his top staff probably knew for months, if not years, of then-Rep. Mark Foley's inappropriate contact with former House pages but did nothing to protect the teenagers.
So much for "it's all a Democratic ploy! Conspiracy! Conspiracy!"
Top GOP House leaders also "failed to exercise appropriate diligence" in the matter, the committee's report found, and tried "to remain willfully ignorant of the potential consequences of Foley's conduct." The ensuing scandal contributed to the Republicans' losses in the midterm elections. The report speculated that some officials were reluctant to act too aggressively for fear of exposing Foley's homosexuality or for political reasons.
But the ethics panel, officially known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, decided against taking any action against the leaders, aides or House officials involved in the saga, declining even to describe their actions as bringing ill repute on the House.
On the other side of the Capitol, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania met with his successor, Bob Casey, for nearly an hour on Thursday, their longest encounter apart from their televised debates.
But Mr. Santorum, a Republican whose once-steady rise in politics ended with a resounding defeat, refused to be photographed with Mr. Casey, and brushed past reporters in his closing days in the Capitol.
That's your GOP...gracious in neither victory nor defeat. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who will become House majority leader and is writing the schedule for the next Congress, said members should expect longer hours than the brief week they have grown accustomed to.
"I have bad news for you," Hoyer told reporters. "Those trips you had planned in January, forget 'em. We will be working almost every day in January, starting with the 4th."
The reporters groaned. "I know, it's awful, isn't it?" Hoyer empathized.
For lawmakers, it is awful, compared with what they have come to expect. For much of this election year, the legislative week started late Tuesday and ended by Thursday afternoon -- and that was during the relatively few weeks the House wasn't in recess.
Next year, members of the House will be expected in the Capitol for votes each week by 6:30 p.m. Monday and will finish their business about 2 p.m. Friday, Hoyer said.
*** Keeping us up here eats away at families," said Rep. Jack Kingston(R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. "Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."
The poor dears. Gotta love 'em.
Maybe I can go into court on Monday and tell the judge, "sorry, your Honor, but this Monday through Friday thing is putting a real strain on the family. You believe in family, don't you? See you at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. Oh, and I'm taking Friday off. You know, family."
Former Debutante Madeline Dare has gone decidedly downscale. She's living with her inventor husband in crumbling Syracuse, New York, writing food articles for a local rag, and wanting desperately for them to be anywhere else. Then one of her in-laws finds a clue that implicates Madeline's favorite cousin in a decades-old murder, and her seemingly dead-end life starts getting considerably more interesting than she wished for.
This is one of those books that I love so much, I end up accosting people on the street and pressing it into their hands. The plotting is superb, much more assured than one would expect from a first time author. The twists and red herrings are deftly mixed in to keep the reader guessing without feeling confused during the journey and used at the end.
It's the quality of the writing, however, that really makes this book special. I fell in love with Madeline's voice from the opening sentences ("There are people who can be happy anywhere. I am not one of them.") And it just keeps getting better. Cornelia Read has a flair for the compact: the quickly sketched but perfect descriptive phrase; the snarky aside tossed off so quickly it almost seems like a throwaway until you get it and laugh with delight; the one seemingly trivial detail that causes a character to suddenly spring to life in the reader's imagination.
A Field of Darkness is an amazing debut. Check it out.
The members of the incoming Democratic majority in Congress are not without some bad baggage from their pasts.
Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida recently was passed over for the Intelligence Committee chairmanship he'd expected because of his impeachment back in the '80s for bribery and his removal from his position as a federal judge. One of the people who voted for his impeachment was incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, so it's perhaps not surprising that she wouldn't stick Hastings in one of the most security-sensitive positions in the House.
But perhaps the new congressman with the most egregious act in his past is John Hall of New York's 19th District.
What did Hall do that was so terrible? Three words: "Still the One."
You remember "Still the One"? The insanely bouncy and smarmy little '70s tune by the band Orleans? Maybe this will refresh your memory: "You're still the one who can scratch my itch. You're still the one and I wouldn't switch." As a member of Orleans, Hall wrote both that tune and their equally hideous follow-up single, "Dance With Me" ("I want to be your partner, can't you seeeeee ").
It's dreck like that that makes me wonder how I made it through the Seventies with my sanity intact. (Actually I do know, but my parents read this column, and I'm not sure if all the applicable statutes of limitations have run, so let's just drop the subject for now, shall we?)
Well, Hall's a bit older now, with a lot less hair than he sported in the '70s. He's shaved his beard and gotten all serious. Even so, when the very liberal Hall ran for Congress in the usually Republican N.Y.-19, very few people gave him much of a chance against the well-funded six-term incumbent Sue Kelly.
Then something happened. Several things, actually. Growing unease about Iraq. Duke Cunningham. Jack Abramoff. The Foley page scandal. Suddenly, it wasn't the greatest time to be a Republican incumbent.
Hall kept the pressure on by talking about Iraq and asking pointed questions about Kelly's membership on the House Page Board. Kelly tried to fight back by publishing fliers showing Hall half-naked with his bandmates on the cover of their "Waking and Dreaming" album, one of the most horrifically misconceived album covers of all time.
None of it worked. Hall won by 4,300 votes. Maybe if Kelly, instead of concentrating on the album cover, had actually published some of Hall's lyrics, like "Fantasy/could never be so killing/I feel free/ I hope that you are willing," she'd have had a better chance.
So now what? Will other rockers decide to try for higher office? After all, if the actor whose major claim to fame before entering politics was acting in a movie called "Bedtime for Bonzo" can achieve the presidency of these United States, what's to stop, say, Ozzy Osbourne from running for Senate?
Oh, sure, he's a little addled, but have you heard some of the stuff that comes out of the mouth of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)? Who can forget the shot of Stevens -- the head of the Commerce Committee, mind you -- standing in the well of the Senate bellowing, "[The internet] is not a truck! It's a series of tubes!" And let's face it, in Strom Thurmond's last couple of terms, he appeared to have roughly the cognitive ability of quartz.
No, if there's one thing recent history has taught us, it's that severe brain damage is no disqualification for the U.S. Congress. Now, I know Ozzy's British. But people have overcome worse handicaps to serve in politics. Or maybe I'm just pushing this because I really would like to see the look on Nancy Pelosi's face when Ozzy finishes off a rousing speech on the House floor by chomping the head off a bat. Hey, a man can dream.
But let's face it, Congressman Ozzy's unlikely to happen. What's more likely is that we'll get somebody like, say, Bruce Springsteen.
Now don't get me wrong, I love Bruce's music, especially the rockers. He puts on one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen, and he's one heck of a songwriter. But Bruce has this regrettable tendency to suddenly up and decide that he's this generation's answer to Woody Guthrie.
Sometimes he can pull it off, as on a few of the tracks of his recent "Seeger Sessions" collection of folk standards. But when he starts crooning something like "We Shall Overcome," you just want to take him by the shoulder and go "Bruce. Dude. No. Just....no."
Still, Bruce has that populist, friend-of-the-working-man thing going on. I suppose we could do worse, even if there's little chance of bat-munching from Congressman Springsteen, the honorable gentleman from New Jersey.
What the heck. I'd even vote for him, except I'd have to move to Jersey to do that. And the chances of that are about the same as my chances of buying "Orleans' Greatest Hits."
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage. He says he might also be persuaded to vote for Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.