BEFORE THE Persian Gulf crisis arose, Worth B. Daniels Jr. of Baltimore asked me about the air raid sirens that go off here every Monday.
"Who controls them?" he wrote. "What budget maintains them? Who could decide to stop their Monday performance? Would a hue and cry arise if they no longer sounded? What is a hue?"
Those are all good questions, but I can only answer the last one. A "hue" is a "shout or outcry." My Merriam-Webster's defines the phrase "hue and cry" this way: "1 a: a loud outcry used in the pursuit of felons and joined and taken up by all who heard it in the pursuit b: the pursuit of a felon or a written proclamation for the capture of a felon or the finding of stolen goods 2: a clamor or pursuit or protest 3: a hubbub."
"Hue and cry" is not to be confused with "hew and cry," which is, of course, the first thing lumberjacks learn to do ("Tim-ber!").
* * * I admitted in a recent column that I saw no way to change the situation in which incumbents in Congress write the campaign laws, which keep them in office for life. I asked for suggestions.
Kirk S. Nevin of White Hall, Md., suggested, "Take off your necktie some day and have a few brews in a neighborhood bar."
He said I'd hear talk about the looming revolution. "We will get enough hunger and enough anger and enough body bags from the Middle East, and we will have our Tiananmen Squares and then we will have our revolution a la Romania!"
And members of Congress complain that the hue and cry about term-limitations is drastic!
I took Mr. Nevin's advice. It's my job. After several weeks of having a few in various neighborhood bars, I have heard no talk about revolution. I have gained 10 pounds and lost several neckties. Well, nobody ever said journalism would be easy.
* * * Raymond Doyle of Mount Morris, Ill., had a suggestion that is a little more practical than waiting for the revolution. He suggests a third chamber of Congress, "one Democrat and one Republican from each state. Their terms would be limited and they would be ineligible for future membership in House or Senate. This house would write the rules of conduct, terms of office and set ethical standards for the House and Senate. It would have the power to impeach [members of Congress]." Not likely, but not bad.
Mr. Doyle is full of good ideas. He said in a p.s., "My solution for the Persian Gulf is for President Bush to notify Saddam Hussein to get out of Kuwait in two weeks or he will notify all of the countries that surround Iraq that the country is up for grabs and that the U.S. will not interfere except to free Kuwait."
I like that, except I would add that the U.S. should maintain the embargo and provide Iraq's attackers with weapons and other material needs.
In other words, Uncle Sam would hold somebody else's coat for a change.