No joke

Posted: Dec 04, 2002 12:00 AM
NO JOKE The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has begun a probe after getting numerous complaints from Arab- and Muslim-Americans stating that unknown individuals have "spoofed" their e-mail accounts and are sending messages, many inappropriate or offensive, in their names. Join the club. "We are trying to gather information about this problem," Joseph Zogby, special counsel to the Justice Department's post-9/11 national origin discrimination unit, writes to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "If someone has spoofed your e-mail account, please send me your name and contact information; a detailed description of what happened, including when it started and how often it has happened; and copies of the spoofed messages, if you have them." Certainly Attorney General John Ashcroft is aware that "spoofing" e-mail accounts knows no ethnic or religious boundaries. It occurs literally thousands of times every day, victimizing African-Americans and Caucasian-Americans, Protestant Americans and Jewish Americans. It happens to doctors and lawyers, bankers and newspapermen. In fact, this columnist was "spoofed" again just last week. Anybody who received an e-mail bearing the name "jmccaslin" and the message, "Hi, let's be friends," rest assured it didn't come from yours truly. While I strive to be friends with everybody, I have never pursued relationships over the Internet. BARR'S BACK Outspoken Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, the high-profile House manager during President Clinton's impeachment proceedings who lost this fall's GOP primary against fellow House member Rep. John Linder, will join the legal advisory board of the Southeastern Legal Foundation. A former U.S. attorney, whose appointment is effective when he leaves Congress in January, Barr had served as president of the foundation in the early 1990s before entering politics. Serving on the board will mean he will help guide and approve the legal work of the foundation. The SLF was founded in 1976 and is considered one of the nation's leading constitutional public interest law firms and policy centers. It's won more than a dozen U.S. Supreme Court decisions on everything from unfair taxes to illegal affirmative action quotas. Barr served as a plaintiff in the SLF's 1999 landmark Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of the "Clinton Census 2000" plan to use statistical sampling rather than an actual head count. And the congressman is currently a plaintiff in the foundation's constitutional challenge to the controversial Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. In other words, Congress hasn't heard the last of Barr, who vows to "continue to serve the long-term best interests of this nation." 41ST REGIMENT Desert Storm commanders who served under former President George Bush, including retired Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, will land in Washington on Friday (Dec. 6) for the National Defense University Foundation's presentation of the American Patriot Award to the nation's 41st president. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers, CIA Director George J. Tenet and possibly Vice President Richard B. Cheney, who served as the elder Bush's defense secretary, will also be on hand to pay tribute to Bush at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The American Patriot Award recognizes "an exceptional American whose inspirational leadership and selfless dedication to national security and to world peace have significantly advanced this nation's ideals, values, and democratic principles." Most fittingly, honorary chairmen of the award dinner are the nation's 43rd president, George W. Bush, and first lady Laura Bush. TAX TESTAMENT It's easy for politicians to beat up on individuals and corporations who appear to be dodging taxes, and no one can deny there are genuine cheats who deserve to be caught and punished, says
Heritage Foundation President Edwin Feulner. "But when you consider what a complicated mess the U.S. Tax Code has become, you can see we're not exactly encouraging good behavior here," Feulner adds. The income-tax system, observes the think tank president, was launched in 1913 as a two-page form backed by 14 pages of law. Today, Americans struggle with 742 different forms and 254 separate publications, backed by more than 17,000 pages of law. Notes Feulner: "Clocking in at close to 6 million words, the tax code is more than seven times longer than the Bible." TOKING AND DRIVING Could perfectly sober drivers, who inhaled marijuana days or even weeks before getting pulled over by a law enforcement officer, still be arrested for driving under the influence? While driving under the influence of pot, like alcohol, "is never acceptable, neither is it sound public policy to treat sober drivers as if they are impaired simply because inactive marijuana metabolites may be detectable (weeks later) in their blood or urine," argues Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. Stroup's remarks come in response to the recent debut of a new federal campaign to prosecute drivers who test positive for any presence of marijuana - including, he says, "inactive metabolites" that can remain present in the body for days or even weeks after pot use. "This plan advocated by the (White House) drug czar would result in the unfair arrest of tens of thousands of unimpaired motorists each year," Stroup says. "That's not a safe nor sensible driving initiative. That's an attempt to misuse the traffic-safety laws to identify and prosecute marijuana smokers per se." In announcing the new White House effort against "drugged driving," John P. Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, says that while the consequences of drunk driving have become well-known over the past two decades, driving under the influence of illegal drugs has received limited attention. The New England Journal of Medicine published results from a roadside study of reckless drivers who weren't impaired by alcohol in which 45 percent tested positive for marijuana. CAL UNPLUGGED Cal Thomas, the country's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist, was handed a terrific birthday present Monday when Fox News Channel announced a new Saturday night television talk show, "After Hours," to be hosted by the outspoken commentator. "This is going to be a different kind of show," Thomas tells us, "each featuring a liberal and a conservative guest from among three venues: Hollywood, Broadway and Washington. It's going to be conversational, not confrontational. I want people to feel as if they are coming into the living room of my home." Thomas will welcome Vice President Richard B. Cheney when the show debuts this Saturday, Dec. 7 (see local listings).