Politicians Spanked by Virgin

By Al Kamen
Friday, March 14, 2008

Seems just about everyone has been seizing on New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's misfortune to score legislative points or make a buck.

RH Reality Check, an online abortion rights publication, has been pushing to drop language in an international AIDS-prevention bill that would require health organizations to sign a pledge condemning prostitution.

In an online message Tuesday, the group noted the irony of Spitzer's "visiting prostitutes while Congress is forcing" the organizations to sign the pledge.

British entrepreneur Richard Branson's mobile-phone company weighed in quickly after the scandal broke. It is using Spitzer in Canadian newspaper ads touting a warmer, more personal service.

A photo of Spitzer, Love Client No. 9, has a bubble that says "I'm tired of being treated like a number."

Well, not to worry, gov'ner. "At Virgin Mobile, you're more than just a number," the ad says. "When you call us we'll treat you like a person, not a client. Whether you're #9 or #900, you'll get hooked up with somebody who'll finally treat you just how you want to be treated."

A Virgin ad last week focused on lower rates and featured Hillary Clinton with this thought bubble: "I wish my bill wasn't so out of control." Switching to Virgin Mobile's "no-con contracts" the ad says, will let you "finally put your bill back in its place," and show you "how you can get your bill to behave."

A Barack Obama ad will be out shortly, said Virgin chief marketing officer Nathan Rosenberg. "There is a brilliant photo of him in his swimwear we are quite fond of," he said, and "we also think he is probably wondering if they will hear my 'call for change.' "

But no John McCain? The GOP candidate will be happy -- or maybe not -- to know that the company intends "to give him fair representation," Rosenberg said. But "all the action and craziness is on the Democratic side right now. . . . We haven't been inspired."

If You Close One Eye, It Almost Looks Like Progress

Looks as if the human rights bureau and the East Asia bureau at the State Department ironed out disagreements over how to deal with North Korea in this year's human rights report.

Loop Fans may remember that last week, we reproduced some of the back-and-forth at Foggy Bottom over the introduction to the report. The East Asia folks were hoping to get the human rights folks to "sacrifice a few adjectives" -- that is, to be a bit diplomatic in describing the horrific abuses by the lunatic in Pyongyang -- "for the cause" of negotiations aimed at coaxing North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

The item sparked a letter of concern from the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea -- run by Richard V. Allen, former Reagan national security adviser (and now a New Zealand vintner) and former congressman Stephen J. Solarz, urging that "the integrity of human rights reporting on North Korea not be sacrificed to policy considerations of any sort."

The final report's rewritten introduction seems a compromise. On the question of whether to refer to Kim Jong Il's circle as a "regime" or to use the more neutral term "government," the report uses both.

Gone is the human rights bureau language that "reports of public executions were on the rise" and other language saying things were worse in 2007 than the year before. (Kinda hard to imagine, anyway.) Even so, the report painted a picture of North Korea as a positively ghastly place, and the regime remained on the department's "worst offenders" list.

Communist China, however, was taken off that list and moved up to become one of those "authoritarian countries that are undergoing economic reform [and] have experienced rapid social change but have not undertaken democratic political reform and continue to deny their citizens basic human rights and fundamental freedoms."

This probably stunned imprisoned and harassed human rights activists and people walking anywhere near Tiananmen Square.

On a wholly unrelated matter, don't forget to sign up for your tickets to the Olympic Games, beginning Aug. 8 in Beijing. President Bush will be there.

Maybe the North Koreans could host the Winter Games?

EPA Chief Emits Dangerous Levels of CO2

Environmental Protection Agency chief Stephen L. Johnson infuriated pro-enviro lawmakers once more with his decision yesterday when he tightened ozone standards to a lesser degree than his scientists advised.

But he's proved himself more than capable of deflecting apoplectic members of Congress critical of his unusual stewardship of the nation's environment. Note for example, his handling of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) at a recent Senate hearing.

Feinstein, who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that controls the EPA's budget, asked why Johnson had not yet complied with a Supreme Court ruling a year ago in Massachusetts v. EPA that required him to come up with ways to regulate greenhouse gases.

"I find this unbelievable on behalf of what is called an environmental protection agency," Feinstein said, "and there's a finding of the United States Supreme Court telling you to do something."

"Well, Madam Chairman," Johnson eloquently intoned, doing a spectacular imitation of Mr. Magoo wandering about in the smog, "I respectfully disagree that this is an easy decision. . . . I think Justice Scalia actually set it up as, in essence, a three-part test for me and this would be my brief summary, and that is: If the agency finds -- if I find that there's endangerment, then under the Clean Air Act I must regulate. If I find that there is not, that's test one. If I find that there is not endangerment, then I should not regulate. Or third, if there are other circumstances . . . "

Huh? At any rate, it's clear that Johnson has paid careful attention to the Supreme Court decision and is adhering to Justice Antonin Scalia's concise test.

One small problem: Scalia dissented in that ruling. But maybe Johnson reserves the right to pick and choose from either the majority or the meaningless dissent. It's not as if a greenhouse-gas-emissions case were the only thing on his plate. "But also we have a number of pending petitions before the agency," he said, "including airlines, including off-roads, including marine, including stationary sources, including NSPS, including PSD, and I can go on and on," he said, not even mentioning the NFL, the PGA, the NCAA.

We Need All the Friends We Can Get

Let's have a fine Loop Welcome for Dr. Samir Geagea, a hard-line Lebanese Christian militia leader back in the nasty old days when those militias were slaughtering one another and assassinating rival leaders. Geagea had been linked in the media to a number of civil-war-era killings, including those of a pro-Syrian prime minister and a prominent Christian politician.

After the Syrians took over, they threw Geagea in prison for life for war crimes, but he was pardoned in 2005 after 11 years in solitary. He has become a key player in the pro-Western, anti-Syrian alliance.

And now, a statesman. Geagea's in town for visits with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley before heading off to tour the country.

As they say, the enemy of my enemy gets my visa.

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