And now some fresh pickings from the political grapevine:
Frustrations in Congress
New York Congressman Charles Rangel and fellow Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee are feeling a little frustrated by the administration's approach to social programs -- it doesn't mirror theirs -- but since they can't hammer the president directly, they decided Thursday to target someone they can grill in person: Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. When Thompson refused to divulge details about the administration's upcoming Medicare proposal, Rangel snapped, "You really illustrate the need for prescription drugs." Meanwhile Health subcommittee ranking member Pete Stark, a Democrat from California noted for personal insults, complained that Thompson had spent "89 words in your written testimony on a Medicare drug benefit and a full page on a faith-based benefit for drug treatment. I don't think the president had to pay a penny when he went to AA and my impression is that it's still free."
Complaint Going to Court
A Michigan man who installed a 50-foot flagpole following the Sept. 11 terror attacks was ticketed after a neighbor said the flag's flapping made too much noise. Ray Saelens said the sight and sound of an American flag whipping in the wind has special meaning. He tells The Macomb Daily, "To me, the noise of the flag is the voices of everyone who's died for this country." But a next-door neighbor complained, saying the flapping of the flag bothered him, and police issued Saelens a warning. Now a court will have to settle the dispute, but Saelens says he intends to keep the flag flying, saying, "You're going to have to pry it out of my hands."
Suit Over Advertisement
And finally, a Kennebunk, Maine, restaurant owner is suing tourist officials for ordering him to block out the words "Hebrew National Beef Franks" on eatery umbrellas. The town says Brian Bartley violated an ordinance that limits restaurant signs to three per establishment. But Bartley says the move smacks of anti-Semitism, and his lawyer says, "If the umbrellas had said Christian National Beef Franks, I don't think he would have been offended." Bartley claims a code enforcement officer said when issuing the citation that the umbrellas were "personally offensive to me, and they have to go."