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Published: Wednesday, 5/4/2005

Beetles of distinction

THANKS to a couple of administration-admiring entomologists, now President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have slime-mold beetles named in their honor.

We assume it was meant as a compliment.

Burdened with the task of naming 65 newly discovered species of slime-mold beetles, entomologists Quentin Wheeler and Kelly B. Miller decided to recognize the national leaders in a different kind of way. The famous beetles are Agathidium bushi; Agathidium cheneyi, and Agathidium rumsfeldi.

The first word in each name is the genus of a new species. The second word ends in "i" when named after a person. The last names of the person or persons who describe a species is added as a third part of the name; so in this case each beetle also has Wheeler and Miller tacked on.

Naturally, critics and opponents of the administration will get a kick out of this. The entomologists, who published the names in a March issue of the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, found no humor in their venture. They are quite serious.

Mr. Wheeler said, "We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular."

Yes, of course. But there are millions of Americans, say about half the electorate, who believe the designation is appropriate for less flattering reasons.

Nevertheless, it's kind of nice that the President, vice president, and secretary of defense will be remembered, long after they leave Washington, as bushi, cheneyi, and rumsfeldi.

Lest anyone think we're taking all this too seriously, we have two more nominees if they run out of beetle names: Agathidium lennoni and Agathidium mccartneyi.

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