The era of forced multilingual ballots "hit a new low" when the town of Briny Breezes, Fla., was forced to print election notices in Spanish despite the fact everybody understands English.
Furthermore, federal law required leaders of the tiny oceanfront retirement community to provide bilingual election information to residents - even though there was no election to hold.
"This is the epitome of government multilingualism gone amok," says U.S. English Chairman Mauro E. Mujica, whose office is one block from the White House. "How many communities will have to throw away precious tax dollars to fund unnecessary multilingual services?"
Mujica, who immigrated to the United States from Chile, says Briny Breezes "has gotten caught up in the ugly tentacles of the Voting Rights Act," which requires all towns within a county to print ballots in foreign languages when the number of foreign language speakers in that county rises above a certain threshold.
Two years ago, tony Palm Beach County was informed that more than 5 percent of its voters were Spanish-speaking, forcing each of its 37 municipalities to print ballots in Spanish and provide bilingual poll workers.
But U.S. census statistics show that 99 percent of Briny Breezes' population of 411, 98 percent of whom are U.S. citizens, speak English "very well." And talk about being U.S. citizens for a long time, the town's median age is 70, double the U.S. average of 35. Nevertheless, the town was required to print a double-sided notice - one side in English, the other in Spanish - to inform residents that there would be no election.
HERE'S HOW IT WORKS
We've written about George W. Bush's first political job in 1967, when he was press aide to Rep. Edward J. Gurney, a Florida Republican running for the Senate. The future president herded reporters onto the campaign's propeller-driven press plane and into their hotel rooms, and woke them back up again at 6 a.m. He was described as being "very cordial" with reporters and quite the organizer.
Even with his full contingent of press aides today, Bush still prefers to set the parameters for members of the Fourth Estate. Consider Wednesday's exchange with reporters during an Oval Office visit by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.
"Here's what we're going to do," Bush told scribes. "I will make a statement. The president will make a statement. I will then call upon an American correspondent to ask a question. The president will call upon a Georgian correspondent. We'll have two questions per side."
Except when both leaders concluded their statements, it was a Georgian reporter who tried to pose the first question.
"What do you think about ... ," the Georgian began.
"Hold on!" Bush interrupted. "Will somebody translate."
"It's in English," Saakashvili pointed out.
"I understand. I understand. Hold on for a second," Bush said. "The way this is going to work is this."
"I'm from Georgia," the visiting reporter tried again.
"I know you are, excuse me," Bush said. "We're going to start with the American press, and then there will be a Georgian press, and then there will be an American press, and then there will be a Georgian press. That's the best way to maintain order, so we don't have everybody yelling at the same time."
Victor Gold, press secretary to Vice President Spiro Agnew, got a chuckle out of the item in our last column about Clinton Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich nicknaming radical conservatives "Radcons."
"During the campaign of 1970 we coined the word 'Radic-lib' for radical liberal - to separate them from the old, traditional liberals," Gold says. "So when I read your item I figured Reich was either reading up on my old boss, or else he stole it directly."
Given his illustrious career, we wouldn't be surprised if Gold coined the word. Prior to working for Agnew, he was deputy press secretary to Barry Goldwater in 1964, and later served as a speechwriter for Gerald R. Ford, Bob Dole and George Bush. Gold today is a national correspondent for Washingtonian magazine, covering political affairs.
Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the first B-2 stealth bomber - the most powerful military plane in the world - and nobody is more proud than Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.
After all, starting at an early age, Skelton paved the way for the B-2's arrival.
"I will never forget one particular warm autumn day in my hometown of Lexington," says the congressman. "I was 11 years of age, and I was with my buddies ... when I heard and saw the Army Air Corps C-47s pulling gliders above us."
The Air Corps, he knew, had a base in nearby Sedalia. What he didn't know was that its pilots were training for the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion at Normandy.
Skelton's first job was washing airplanes and raking dirt floors of hangars at the old Lexington airport. One day, he peered into an airplane and atop the right seat spotted a large set of radio equipment.
"This massive equipment allowed the plane to serve as a drone, pulling targets for the Army Air Corps pilots to practice shooting," he says. "In my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined that years after seeing those planes ... that I would be a part of making that Sedalia Army Air Field, now known as Whiteman, the most modern bomber base in the world."
Whiteman has been home to the B-47 wing, and during the height of the Cold War it was a Minuteman I and II missile installation. Two decades ago, Mr. Skelton proposed that the futuristic B-2 be based there, and in 1986 Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger concurred.
The secretary even let Skelton make the announcement.
"This plane flies for the same purpose as the planes I saw in 1943: to preserve freedom," says the 72-year-old congressman. "The airplanes have changed, but the mission remains the same."
One never knows, but Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) might have witnessed a terrorist incident gone awry last month after he boarded American Airlines Flight 4784, scheduled to depart Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport for New York.
A member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Bayh had settled into his seat in the middle of the plane as the flight crew prepared to shut the main cabin door and begin taxiing toward the runway.
Suddenly, after one of the pilots announced strict security measures in place for flights leaving Reagan - passengers are forbidden to leave their seats 30 minutes after departure or before landing - a man described by one passenger as being of Middle Eastern descent leapt from his seat and shouted to a flight attendant that he'd forgotten an item at the airport's security checkpoint.
The flight attendant, the passenger says, tried to prevent the man from deplaning, but he grabbed a piece of carry-on luggage and disappeared - never to be seen again.
"(A) man jumped up from his seat and ran off the plane, saying that he had left something behind," confirms Meg Keck, the senator's spokeswoman. "There was some initial confusion over whether or not the passenger returned to the plane.
"Other passengers spoke with the flight crew to inform them that the man had not returned to his seat," Keck adds, "which prompted the crew to evacuate the plane as a safety precaution."
Bayh, meanwhile, quickly made his presence known to the flight crew, arguing that the plane's luggage also should be removed and reinspected for explosives - "that it could be a danger," Keck says. "The airline did so, and after a few hours' delay the plane was allowed to fly on to New York," she says, where the senator was to make a connecting flight to Israel.
WARMING TO ALIENS
A new report on potential effects of global warming, issued by two researchers working for the Pentagon, is being "misinterpreted" as a prediction of imminent climate disaster.
"Some alarmists are pointing to the Pentagon report as proof that we face impending climate disaster, but even a brief review shows that that isn't the case," argues Myron Ebell, director of Global Warming and International Environmental Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
"As with past national security assessments, the Department of Defense was presented with a worst-case scenario, not the likely future," he says. "The Pentagon naturally believes it has to research any possible threat - whether it be an alien invasion, an accidental nuclear detonation, or catastrophic climate change."
Authors of "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security" also reportedly acknowledge that many climate scenarios they discuss are "extreme" and "not the most likely," Ebell notes.
CEI says the report "does make a useful contribution to the global warming debate, however, by recommending the 'immediate action' of improving predictive climate models."
The Pentagon itself downplayed the report, with Andrew Marshall, the adviser who ordered the study, telling reporters that it was speculative.
PLAYING THE NUMBERS
Unauthorized resident aliens in this country illegally are using 265,000 Social Security numbers issued to others by the Social Security Administration.
The magnitude of the alien "identity theft" problem, including ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers) issued to foreign nationals, is contained in government records provided to this column by a federal agent whose responsibility is to protect the integrity of the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security numbers, taxpayer records and identities.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the agent says during the mid-1990s illegal aliens discovered "a hole in the system whereby they could use a legitimate taxpayer's Social Security number for employment purposes and then use an ITIN to file a return."
This presented a twofold problem for the IRS.
"W-2 income from the illegal was submitted by the employer at the end of the year, but it was posted under the account of the legitimate taxpayer. This created numerous instances where the legitimate taxpayer was audited for not claiming earnings and had to prove they had not incurred the wages."
There have been several instances, he adds, where the IRS "ignored" the legitimate taxpayers' pleas and attempted to seize property based upon undeclared income.
"In one case I worked, the illegal had secured 5 ITINs for brothers and sisters so he could claim them on his federal tax return," says the agent. "The problem was that all of the siblings lived in Guatemala and had never stepped foot in the United States."