An Ira Contribution

The media is much criticized for sensationalism, bias, arrogance, carelessness and so forth. A less noted, but equally egregious sin should be added: ingratitude.

Take last month's news that

a federal appeals court overturned a $285,864 fine against the Clinton administration and former Clinton aide Ira Magaziner, who was accused of lying about the makeup of Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care task force in order to keep things secret.

The unanimous three-judge panel, Reagan appointees all, concluded Magaziner and company did not act in "bad faith" and shouldn't be assessed the opposing side's legal bills.

Magaziner, the point person in the health care reform debacle, was huge news in the first two years of the administration. Then, in 1997, newspapers prominently displayed -- in some cases on the front page -- U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth's blast of Magaziner for "reprehensible" and "dishonest" statements and his assessment of the fine. Editorial pages, pundits and television chatterers weighed in, some taking up the GOP's demand that Clinton fire Magaziner.

So, a few weeks ago, in the no-news, dead zone days of late August, where did the press play the story of the appeals court's action overturning Lamberth's decision -- labeling it "clearly erroneous"? A few paragraphs -- if at all -- on inside pages. The talk shows appear to have ignored Magaziner's vindication.

What kind of treatment is this for someone who enhanced, even launched, the careers of so many reporters and columnists? After all, without the spectacular failure of the administration's health care reform effort, it is possible that the Republicans might not have captured Congress in the next election. And that in turn means no Speaker Newt Gingrich, no government shutdown. No government shutdown, no Monica delivering pizza. And we know what that means. The press has enjoyed years of rollicking good times.

But did anyone take a moment to raise a glass and toast Magaziner's good fortune and thank him for their own? Forget it.

So let's have a big Loop Salute: Here's to you, Ira. Thanks for the memories.

AIDing and Abetting Hillary

Loop Fans may recall an August 15 item here about the Agency for International Development shrine to Hillary Clinton in the lobby of its headquarters at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center.

The centerpiece of the exhibit, with 12 large photos of Clinton on various international trips, is a 6-feet-wide-by-9-feet-high bronze plaque, which is affixed to a wall and carries an excerpt from a speech by Clinton about human rights.

Below that, a message by former AID administrator J. Brian Atwood is inscribed, saying we should "recognize the invaluable contribution to worldwide development made by the First Lady . . ."

Now we find out how much this bit of heavy metal cost the taxpayers. "The total cost of the plaque and installation" was $53,593, an AID official told an inquiring Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The plaque itself cost a mere $24,613, the agency reported. "This was the lowest of three estimates received."

"The cost of erecting the plaque was $28,980," the agency told the committee, and that included "platform construction . . . uncrating, storage . . . delivery . . . wall preparation and refinishing . . . and lighting installation."

Of course the government's not done paying for this. When President George W. Bush takes over, his new head of AID will, no doubt, take one look and order it shipped to the Clintons' (hopefully high-ceilinged) New York home. Then there's the bill for repairing the wall . . .

Meanwhile, AID 's Food for Peace office says it costs $24 a month to feed one person in Kosovo, so almost 200 Kosovars -- or, for comparison purposes, some 300 North Koreans -- could have been fed for a year for the cost of the plaque project . Then there's the $30,000 paid by Monsanto, Roche and BASF to provide a luncheon for various well-fed Americans who attended the unveiling last spring.

Patently Different

Had it with your dripping long hair messing your makeup? Worry no more. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has the answer in its files. It recently gave a patent to Pamela Esposito of Deltona, Fla., for a "hair pouch."

It's made of terry cloth with an elastic opening. "Wearing this hair pouch eliminates dripping after showers and helps to keep hair dry while working or playing in hot and humid conditions," according to the patent abstract. "Furthermore, the pouch allows the wearer to apply makeup without having the wet hair drip . . . The pouch can also be used as a steering wheel cover to protect the steering wheel from the effects of the sun while a vehicle is parked keeping the steering wheel cool so as not to burn a driver's hands."

For the woman who has everything.

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.