Undying Gratitude

There are those to whom the phrase "eternally grateful" may not be just empty words. Take the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce in Taiwan. Recently it placed a full-page ad in this newspaper to celebrate the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act -- 20 years ago.

That act enabled Washington to continue more-or-less normal relations with Taiwan after having established full diplomatic relations with communist China. (For example, the U.S. "ambassador" to Taiwan is the head of the American Institute in Taiwan, a virtual embassy.)

The newspaper ad expressed "gratitude" to the 85 senators -- this was not a controversial measure -- and 339 House members who voted for the Taiwan Act, and ran a list of their names as a sign of appreciation.

Now, most lobbying organizations pay for ads to ingratiate themselves with people who can help them later on. In this case, all but 16 of the senators who voted for the act are either long gone from the Senate or long dead. And one, former senator James Sasser (D-Tenn.), is now ambassador to Beijing.

When you have a 3,500-year-old civilization, 20 years must seem like only yesterday.

Green-Baiting

Speaking of communist China, the end of the Cold War appears to have caused a precipitous drop in old-fashioned redbaiting in national political discourse. Being "soft on communism" or being a "fellow traveler" just doesn't resonate the way it used to.

But Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) can still get a standing O from the faithful when he blasts the communist-like agenda of "left-wing leaders" of the environmental movement.

"The nature of the left is based on the Communist Manifesto," Doolittle told a gathering of property rights activists last month in Oregon.

"The leaders of the left care nothing about the environment," he said, according to an account in the Capital Press, a weekly agricultural newspaper published in Salem, Ore. "It is simply a hook by which they advance their unrelenting control over people and property."

". . . First we heard we need to clean up our water, we need to clean up our air," Doolittle said. "We did those things," only to get hit with the Endangered Species Act, a sweeping law that has bedeviled (and riled) rural landowners, timber and mining companies and developers. "The left promotes conflict, with the idea that out of conflict comes progress. That is the tenet of communism and of the environmental movement."

Makes you feel a bit nostalgic.

Diplo-Speek

Not just anyone can get into the Foreign Service, the creme de la creme of government workers. There are all manner of hurdles to overcome, including the "Foreign Service Oral Assessment," which is conducted by the U.S. Foreign Service Board of Examiners.

The examiners evaluate candidates' "performance on the twelve dimensions (knowledge, skills, and abilities) identified . . . as essential to perform effectively as an entry-level Foreign Service Officer."

Spelling, however, appears to be not so important. One Loop Fan who took the test got back an evaluation that found she did poorly on "Objectivity & Intergreity," better on "Info Integr./Analasys" and best on maintaining "Compusure."

Our question is: Does Madeleine Allbrite know about this?

May the Cards Be With You

"Star Wars"? Forget it. Beanie Babies? Old hat. Here's a chance to get in on what's destined to take off as the next national craze: U.S. Senate biography cards. Destined to be worth . . . well, who knows?

You can have a complete boxed set of 100 cards for only $10, or a poster-size sheet of the entire Senate in the 105th Congress, suitable for framing, for only $15. Daniel Halsey of Burnsville, Minn., got the idea for the cards three years ago when he was watching his son play with baseball cards. Halsey, an "advertising photographer in real life," said he wanted to do something

"socially redeeming" and increase political awareness among junior high and high school students.

These are very flattering cards -- "a testament to the character, efforts and accomplishments" of the senators, the ad for them says. Some of these folks cannot hope to look as good as their glossy portrait on the front of their card. And Halsey and two pals wrote short, glowing bios for the back.

Any kid who is seriously into baseball cards knows that Hall of Famer Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game in 1964. But how many kids know the same Bunning, now a Republican senator from Kentucky, also served on the Fort Thomas city council from 1977 to 1979?

The real question, though, is: How many kids care? Halsey says sales have been slow, but there are some 350 posters in high schools around the country, and he gets five or six phone orders a week for a set of the cards. He says he's not making any money yet, but he's still trying to get a feel for the market.

Maybe bubble gum in each packet?

"I've been thinking about that," he said.

Tips and comments for Al Kamen's column are welcomed at: In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or by e-mail at Loop@washpost.com. Please include home and work phone numbers.