Stevens off on belated honeymoon

If Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who once described himself as “a mean, miserable SOB,” seems in an uncharacteristically mellow mood when he checks in at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s national convention in San Francisco next month, there’s a good reason for it.

If Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who once described himself as “a mean, miserable SOB,” seems in an uncharacteristically mellow mood when he checks in at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s national convention in San Francisco next month, there’s a good reason for it.

The 82-year-old chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and father of six will just be returning from a long-delayed honeymoon with his wife, Catherine.

“We’ve only been married 25 years, and we did not have a honeymoon,” Stevens said yesterday at a telecommunications and information-technology breakfast sponsored by The Hill.

Stevens, the senior GOP senator and fourth in seniority overall, explained that when he and his wife were married in 1980 he had to fill in for then-Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) on a trip to China because Baker’s wife was ill.

Stevens disclosed his belated honeymoon plans while discussing his views on extending the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to apply to cable and satellite TV and radio the same indecency regulations that govern over-the-air broadcasters (he’s opposed to it).

“So, on the way back from the honeymoon, I think I’ll be in a better frame of mind, and I’ll talk to the industry in San Francisco,” he said.

But Stevens wasn’t willing to disclose where he and his bride will spend their honeymoon. Aides said they aren’t at liberty to disclose his schedule, but it’s probably a safe bet the Stevenses won’t spend their honeymoon in cold and snowy Alaska. Sunny and tropical Hawaii sounds more likely.

Imus riled at Santorum’s airtime wait

Being interviewed by the irreverent and often irascible radio talk-show host Don Imus has sometimes been compared to playing Russian roulette. 
That must be how Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) is feeling after he appeared on Imus’s nationally syndicated program yesterday and was greeted with an expletive, not directed at him but at Imus’s long-suffering staff.

Told that Santorum had been waiting several minutes while Imus was obviously filling time by talking about undergoing a medical procedure at a New York hospital, Imus exploded.

“Oh, God d--- it!” Imus exclaimed. “You’ve got to let me know this stuff. Good morning, Senator Santorum.”

Santorum, a frequent Imus guest, was obviously taken aback. “Good morning. I’m sorry you’re not feeling well today,” he said.

Imus apologized for making Santorum wait, and Santorum replied, “I was wondering but thought maybe you didn’t want to talk to me that much.”

“No, I do want to talk to you,” Imus said. “I have a staff about like your staff, just hideously incompetent.”

“Yeah, but you pay them more,” the straight-laced Santorum said.
After the rocky beginning, both host and guest settled down to a reasonably demure discussion of the topics of the day.

At least Imus didn’t use the F word.

Boehlert hits home run with baseball fundraiser

It’s not surprising that Major League Baseball’s return to the nation’s Capitol next month was topic A at Rep. Sherwood Boehlert’s (R-N.Y.) semiannual fundraiser on Capitol Hill last night. Topic B, of course, was Congress’s investigation of players’ use of steroids. 

For the 10th year in a row, Boehlert, whose district includes the Baseball Hall of Fame, imported a former major-league star, this time left-handed pitcher Tommy John, to headline the fundraiser.

Although John, unlike Boehlert’s previous guests, isn’t in the Hall of Fame, Boehlert says he’s in his personal hall of fame. In the past, Boehlert’s guests have included such baseball immortals as Bob Feller, Warren Spahn, Harmon Killebrew, Phil Rizzuto and Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson. 

John shared baseball stories and typical ballpark fare of hot dogs and beer with several hundred contributors at the American Legion Hall.

Byrd memoir due out in June

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the senior member of the Senate and its greatest scholar in the opinion of many, turns the spotlight on himself this June, as his long-awaiting autobiography is published.

According to publisher West Virginia University Press, Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coal Fields “follows Senator Byrd’s experiences from his boyhood in the early 1920s to his election in 2000, which won him an unprecedented eighth term in the U.S. Senate. Along the way, Senator Byrd offers commentary on national and international events that occurred throughout his long life in public service.”

List price for the 550-page book is $35, but you can preorder it at Amazon.com for only $23.10.

New Capitol IDs to get currency-level security

When Hill staffers receive their new ID cards this spring, they’ll notice big differences from the previous cards.

The majority of the card’s face will be filled by a kinegram — which is best described as a very advanced hologram with prism-type effects dispersed throughout — with either the House seal or the Senate seal on the lower portion, depending on the issuing office.

The new technology is the work of the Kurz Group, a German company with a subsidiary in North Carolina, which has designed security features on 175 denominations of currency for 65 countries. The foil-stamped devices on the Capitol IDs are basically larger versions of the stamps that appear in 20-millimeter sizes on banknotes for much of the European Union.

“You destroy the kinegram” if you try to remove the laminated overlay on an ID to alter the personal information, said John Tye, a security specialist with Kurz.

Senate Sergeant at Arms Bill Pickle said Senate IDs have been historically easy to duplicate or counterfeit. He expects better security from the new IDs, which have some of the same security features used on IDs for President Bush’s recent inauguration. Pickle added that the new models will contain a chip in case the Senate decides to further implement card readers to control access to certain areas.

The change goes back two years, when House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) observed that the existing IDs were inadequate and easy to counterfeit. Members of the North Carolina delegation, including Reps. Sue Myrick (R) and Mel Watt (D) and Sens. John Edwards (D) and Elizabeth Dole (R), put Ney in touch with Kurz, which says it’s the only company in the world to market this level of security for printed material.

After having its designs approved by Ney and the Capitol Police, the company delivered the foils this past December.

Which certainly makes company brass happy to have a foothold in Washington. They’re currently in discussions with the U.S. Mint to assist in a further redesign of the $100 bill, the most counterfeited bank note in the world.

Palm chef retires after 31 years

Sang Ek, the longtime executive chef at the Palm restaurant, is hanging up his toque after 31 years at the venerable 19th Street steakhouse.

A native of Thailand, Ek emigrated to the United States in 1972 and almost immediately began working at the Palm. He started as a dishwasher and over the years worked his way up to executive chef.

Ek infused the Palm’s ultratraditional steak-and-potatoes menu with a surprising, but welcome, Asian flair. Ek has recently reconnected with his family in Southeast Asia and says he plans to return often in his retirement.

Specter defies Dr.’s orders by glad-handing

Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R-Pa.) doctors have advised him to limit his exposure to bacteria as he goes through the chemotherapy process.

Specter, who just won a fifth term and assumed the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Although it’s nearly impossible for a politician, he’s been cautioned to limit handshakes and time spent along rope lines.

Specter, a noted political independent who voted “not proven” during President Clinton’s impeachment trial, evidently has not taken his doctor’s advice into account. He was seen at a hearing last week doing what comes naturally — shaking hands.