Senator Fights for the House

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, January 18, 2006 3:51 PM

Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott 's announcement yesterday that he's running for another term will come as welcome news to many of his constituents and fellow litigants who are taking insurance companies to court over damage from Hurricane Katrina.

On Sunday, Lott, prepping in the CNN green room for his appearance on "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer ," talked about his lawsuit against State Farm for the insurance company's refusal to pay when his $700,000 Pascagoula home was leveled by Katrina.

State Farm is one of many insurers being sued for refusing to pay policyholders for some damage. The companies say people suffered flood damage from the storm surge, which they say is not covered by homeowner policies, Lott explained.

Lott is represented by lawyer and brother-in-law Richard "Dickie" Scruggs , famed for his successful litigation against the tobacco companies. Scruggs also represents Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), another policyholder who lost his home. Their argument is that the hurricane winds caused the surge of water, and wind damage is covered by their insurance company.

Most likely there'll be a consolidation of the thousands of suits lest courts grind to a halt from the workload. In the past, Lott and his GOP colleagues took a dim view of class-action litigation, working hard to limit the suits with legislation. But that's only because they were often "frivolous."

In contrast, these suits are doubtless meritorious. Even so, there could be a couple of years of wrangling before President Bush fulfills his dream of sitting with Lott on the porch.

Prisoner Forced Into Blue Period

A most disheartening setback for budding artist and Loop Favorite James A. Traficant Jr. , the former Democratic representative from the Youngstown, Ohio, area. Traficant took up painting last year while doing an eight-year stretch in the federal pen for racketeering and bribery.

And when word of his hobby hit the press last week, the value of his paintings soared from about $140 to $205 each to nearly to $2,000. The paintings, mostly acrylic on prison-supplied cardboard, are of barns, rural scenes and horses -- the latter with flowing manes and huge tails reminiscent of that bouffant toupee he wore. One of the equine series, titled "Strong Horse," sold Saturday for $1,825; a "River Scene" went for $1,875.

Alas, the artist can paint no more. "As of January 14, 2006, Mr. Traficant is no longer permitted to partake in workshop activities, therefore he is not allowed to produce any more artwork," the Web site that sold his work reports. "The vast amount of publicity attributed to our website and ebay offerings has triggered the Authorities to further restrict his freedom and his ability to express his creativity.

"At this time, we will be limiting our offerings to ebay. There will be no sales made through our website. We apologize for these unforeseen circumstances and wish you all well." The site: .

So his next artistic efforts will be when he's released in a few years. That should make his art from the slammer -- call it "Traficant: The Prison Period" -- all the more valuable.

Abramoff Contest Deadline Is Here, Now

Midnight tonight is the deadline for entering the Name the Abramoff Scandal Contest!

Send your entry -- and rationale -- via e-mail to Top 10 winners get one of those highly coveted In the Loop T-shirts. Entries on background are welcome, but everyone must include telephone numbers to be eligible. Remember to avoid names ending in -gate.

Gray in Brussels

The White House yesterday threw in the towel on getting Bush I White House counsel C. Boyden Gray confirmed to be ambassador to the European Union in Brussels. It looked for a while as if Gray could overcome holds from Senate Democrats and get his nomination confirmed, but it didn't happen. The Democrats took offense at an ad by the Committee for Justice, which Gray headed and which was pushing for confirmation of Republican judges. Democrats said one of the ads accused them of opposing a judicial candidate because he was Roman Catholic. Gray reportedly chatted with the Democrats and apologized, but apparently to no avail so President Bush gave him a recess appointment, which is good for two years.

Details or You're Grounded

A final note from Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr 's daily blog on that wonderful issues conference/golf outing at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel in Hawaii.

"Yesterday was the third day" of the American Airport Association Executives conference, Carr's blog reported Friday, "and it was a repeat of the first two days, so I won't bore you with all the salacious details about who golfed with who, and what lobbyist split flapjacks with which Congressman."

No, no, boring is good.

The Axis of Thermidors

At a news conference last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addressed the state of affairs in the Middle East.

"The neighborhood is changing," she said. "It's changing quite dramatically. And while there are a couple of states -- among them Syria and Iran -- that seem to want to engage in pushing toward some kind of thermidor, it's not going to happen."

The unwashed and uneducated reporters scratched their heads. Lobster? Refrigerator? What's she talking about?

But Loop Fans and other sophisticates would immediately understand she was referring to the month that Robespierre was overthrown in the French Revolution. It's a historical term that has come to mean the reactionary period after a revolution. And Washington helped bring a democracy revolution in the Middle East.

So is Bush Robespierre?

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