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Washington Calling

Cushy Marine gigs ... Happy CEOS ... In praise of war dogs
Scripps Howard News Service


June 23, 2007

WASHINGTON -- "Do as I say, not as I do" appears to be the credo of some good-government groups, whose reluctance to reveal their contributors could help scuttle congressional ethics reforms.

Watchdog groups Public Citizen, Common Cause and Democracy 21 -- which have been some of the most energetic forces for "open" government, campaign-finance reform and tough ethics rules -- are now fighting to keep their own donor lists secret.

The proposed reform package, which would create an independent House ethics panel, includes a provision requiring any group that files a complaint with that committee to disclose the names of their contributors.

The groups say government has no right ordering them or any other private outfits to do so, and contend that such a disclosure rule would hurt their viability as government critics by scaring off donors.

But the disclosure provision is a key part in a delicate compromise being built in the House, and backers say the whole endeavor could crumble without it.


The new Marine commandant says many of his troops in Iraq have it too easy. That's right, Commandant Gen. James Conway told the newspaper Marine Corps Times this past week that some bases there are way too cushy, what with their post exchanges, fast-food restaurants and movie theaters. Conway's concern is that leathernecks will get too soft to do what Marines do -- "fight and win in austere environments."

Easy for him to say. He lives in a splendid mansion at the historic Marine Corps Barracks a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol.


War dogs are a bit closer to getting a national monument. The House passed a measure that tells the Pentagon to start looking for a site for the National War Dogs Monument, which would honor the extraordinary contributions more than 100,000 of these creatures have made for their nation's defense since World War I. The Senate has not weighed in yet.

Among the supporters of the cause are country music's Oak Ridge Boys. The Vietnam Dog Handlers Association has pledged to raise the estimated $3 million needed for the project.


How do we get one of these jobs? Chief executive officers usually are rewarded with higher compensation even when the takeover of another company they engineered turns out to be unprofitable.

That's the conclusion of a just-released study by the University of Washington business school, which examined 370 mergers of publicly traded companies that occurred between 1993 and 2000.

"While CEOs are still better off making good acquisition decisions, there is little penalty to making bad ones," the report said.


So much for virgin territory. A new government report has found that only 4 percent of Americans 20 and older have never had sex. Of those 20 to 29, just 9 percent said they were virgins. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study also disclosed that 16 percent of adults said they first had sex before the age of 15. Another 15 percent said they abstained from sex until they were 21 or older.


Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, at 89 the longest-serving senator in U.S. history, this past week cast his 18,000th vote. It came during a debate on energy legislation.


These days, it seems, Americans can't go anywhere without clutching a bottle of water. The result: a growing glut of plastic trash piling up in landfills. The Container Recycling Institute calculated that annual sales of plastic water bottles doubled from 15 billion to nearly 30 billion in just three years, from 2002 to 2005.

At the same time, the amount of all beverage containers that are recycled has fallen from 48 percent in 1997 to just 33 percent in 2005. Aluminum cans also are more likely to be pitched in the trash; in 2002, the can-recycling rate was 65 percent, compared with 45 percent in 2005.



SHNS correspondent Lee Bowman contributed to this column

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