Attention, job-seekers. The federal Bureau of Prisons has been looking for a dance instructor to offer "beginner and advanced" dance to inmates at a prison in Texas. The focus is on "modern dance, ballet and jazz and other forms of dance," and there's to be "a class on the History of Dance for students to attend."
But step lively on this one. Two senators yesterday wrote Bureau of Prisons Director Harley G. Lappin yesterday telling him the idea was an "absurd" waste of tax dollars.
"At a time when our country has so many pressing needs for government funds, and many agencies are tightening their belts, we cannot understand how [this] is an appropriate use of taxpayers dollars," wrote Sens. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The bureau said it had not hired anyone from a job announcement last spring but it has had a dance instructor in the past, a Dorgan spokesman told our colleague, Christopher Lee. The senators said they would offer a provision in a fiscal 2004 appropriations bill to prohibit such classes for the general prison population.
The Fort Worth facility, now home to former Louisiana governor Edwin W. Edwards and once home to Whitewater figure James B. McDougal, has a diverse inmate population, including robbers, arsonists, sex offenders and white-collar types, though about 60 percent are serving drug-related sentences.
Trying to hire a dance instructor, the two senators said, "strikes us as an awful lapse of judgment and a disturbing lack of common sense."
Maybe if they included a little ballroom? Tango? Guaracha?
"It's okay by me as long as they aren't teaching the lambada," one Justice Department official quipped.
Oh, That Paul D. Wolfowitz!
Really good senior executives keep their eyes on the "big picture," not on minutiae. They let nameless worker bees handle the little operational stuff. President Bill Clinton's inability to back off the small stuff is oft-cited as one reason for his chaotic White House. (Yes, there were others.)
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is truly a big picture guy. Really big. Take his press briefing Wednesday. A reporter, explaining a question, said: "The main reason I asked was General Blount said today that he expected . . . "
"Who's he?" Rumsfeld asked.
"The head of the 3rd," "Third Infantry Division," reporters called out.
"That General Blount!" Rumsfeld said.
Yes. Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III, you know, Liberator of Baghdad. Nickname "Buff?" Short gray hair? Not to be confused with Mel Blount, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Hall of Fame cornerback, or with Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the GOP whip.
Want to See Safe Sex? Check In to House Gym
Our National Abstinence Clearinghouse e-mail update yesterday pointed us to a recent article in the Hill newspaper headlined: "A 'safe sex' guide in House gym causes embarrassment."
The pamphlet "vividly describes sex acts illegal in 14 states," the article says. It's an illustrated primer, explaining how "almost anything you want to do, you can probably do safely. Be creative, and have a healthy, safer, sex life."
The guide, which advises against sharing sex toys or reusing condoms, was published by the D.C. Department of Human Services and sponsored by the Whitman-Walker Clinic Inc. A spokesman for the office of the Architect of the Capitol, which oversees the House gym, said it was one of a series of 50 pamphlets, members "can pick . . . up and browse through . . . just like you would in your doctor's office."
Still, lawmakers were said to have been most offended and upset when they heard about the instructional material.
After briefly glancing at the guide, Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio), head of the House gym committee, declined to say whether it was appropriate material for the gym.
"It's probably none of your business anyway," he told the Hill.
Site for Sore Eyes
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called at the crack of dawn (almost) Wednesday demanding "justice" for a teensy tweak in that day's column that noted he confused Dublin with Belfast. He pointed out that in the very next item we had put the site of the June G-8 Summit in Paris, when it's going to be held in Evian.
Well, at least we got the country right.
Meanwhile, President Bush, in Belfast, hailed peace efforts and said he hoped for a time when "young generations of Northern Irelanders can grow up in peace." No doubt Southern Irelanders hope so too.
Justice Taps Keyboard in Error
The Justice Department appears to be taking a lead role in patching things up with our European allies. It's even giving out grants in euros instead of dollars. A press release yesterday said the department "announces E20.5 million in grants to hire law enforcement officers to protect America's schools." The program "provides a maximum of E125,000 over a three-year period" for salaries and benefits.
The euros, worth about $1.08, apparently were a computer error. "We really don't know what happened," said Justice Department spokesman Gilbert Moore. "We don't have the euro symbol on our keyboard." It may be that it had something to do with an interface between Microsoft and Mac systems, he said, but "that is speculation."