One Day You’re In …

Posted January 4, 2008 at 6:24pm

Though official Washington at first might appear stodgily averse to the fickle whims of fads, actually, it’s as trend-obsessed as the most ADD-riddled fashion victim. [IMGCAP(1)]

One minute, we’re collectively obsessed with former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, then, poof, the new enemy is lead-laced Barbie dolls from China. Or is it steroids that’s the scourge du jour? Or Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)?

Nevermind, because we’ll be on to the newest flash in the Congressional pan faster than you can say “surge.” With the first days of Congress’ 2008 session upon us, HOH helpfully brings you this handy list of what’s in and what’s out — at least for now:

E-mailing pages/Ogling interns
5-day workweek/3-day workweek
Recess appointments/Vetoes
Tourists/Capitol Visitor Center
Trent Lott’s hair/Trent Lott’s heir
Wide stances/BYO TP
Intimate gatherings/Widely attended events
Dennis Kucinich’s UFO/Ron Paul’s blimp
Morning Business/Stump speeches
Making the max/$123,890 annual salary
Blackberry thumb/Carbon footprint
The Presidency/The Nobel Prize
Bono the activist/Bono the singer
Seersucker/Sweater vests
Tagg Romney/David Huckabee

Bananas for Burr. He might have lost the race last month for the chairmanship of the Senate Republican Conference, but Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.) undoubtedly has the support of a solid majority of … chimpanzees. Chimps are showing Burr some love after the Senator passed a little-heralded bit of legislation in the waning hours of the pre-holiday session that would ensure that chimps used in scientific testing and sent to a Louisiana “retirement home” wouldn’t be pressed into further science-lab service.

The legislation originally establishing Chimp Haven would have permitted that, and backers of the new legislation said it made it harder for the home to get additional funding from nonprofit groups. The House version was sponsored by Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.), whose district is home to the facility.

A Facebook group sprung up in tribute to Burr’s primate promotion. Called “Thank you, Senator Burr, for saving the chimps,” the group had a grand total of nine members as of HOH’s Friday deadline. The group’s page includes a photo of Burr, with an obviously superimposed picture of a chimp offering the Senator a kiss on the cheek. Other chimp-tastic features include a YouTube video of “Charlie” the karate-chopping chimp (look out Chuck Norris!) and a video of the actual retirement facility in Louisiana (HOH looked in vain for the shuffleboard setup).

The founder of the group wouldn’t ’fess up, but Burr spokesman Chris Walker speculated that it might be the work of “a few staffers monkeying around.” Burr’s interest in the chimp’s plight was piqued after he watched a PBS documentary, his office says, and he’s met several times with famed chimp champ Jane Goodall.

And despite its wholesome aims, HOH hears that Chimp Haven is no stranger to scandal. Last year, in a chimp-daddy whodunit worthy of US Weekly, a female at the facility mysteriously turned up pregnant, even though the males in the home had supposedly been sterilized. When the baby was born, vets tested it to find out who the Larry Birkhead of Chimp Haven was, and promptly put him under the knife.

And HOH thought our species had the lock on scandal.

Pass It On. Just in case telling your busybody co-worker wasn’t enough of a surefire way to spread a rumor, there’s a new Web site devoted to airing salacious — and possibly true — tales. Launched last month, the proprietor of tells HOH the site’s trafficking in dirt has a high-minded purpose: anonymous whistle-blowers posting their stories equals transparency, and transparency equals better government, says David Zetland, a development economist finishing up his Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis.

Zetland wants to encourage whistle-blowers to come forward, promising anonymity and none of the hurtles they might face elsewhere, like having to call a toll-free number, hiring a lawyer or talking to an ombudsman.

On the site, visitors can post their stories or comment or vote on the truthfulness of others’ postings. Sure, Zetland acknowledges, some of the stories might be false, but he insists that the larger goal of keeping the government honest outweighs the risk.

Zetland says he has no specific political agenda and that he started the nonprofit that runs the site purely for the public good. “I go around quoting to people from the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence,” he says. “That’s what kind of a crazy American I am.”

Another way to spread rumors? Washington thanks you.

Smiling Over Gas. It may not seem like much, but for Rep. David Hobson, getting the new Speedway SuperAmerica gas station on U.S. Route 42 in Ohio could be his finest moment in Congress. While common wisdom on Capitol Hill these days is that earmarks are bad, the Ohio Republican, who helped secure an economic development grant of about $800,000 in 2001 for the gas station, was more than happy to set aside the money, according to his spokeswoman Sara Perkins.

Hobson, who participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 27 for the development that also bears his name, the Tawawa/Dave Hobson Plaza, came up with the idea for a gas station more than 20 years ago after almost running out of gas on his way to a meeting at Central State University, according to Perkins. She says the Congressman’s pride over the gas joint isn’t just about filling tanks, but that it provides local college students with internships and jobs.

And while earmarks may be out of favor with most Members of Congress, Hobson told the local paper, the Xenia Daily Gazette, that he’s “probably more proud of this earmark and what it will do in the future than anything I’ve ever done.”

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