Pledge to refile

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jan 13, 2005 12:00 AM

A congressman whose Pledge Protection Act passed the House in the final days of the 108th Congress, yet never got a Senate vote, will refile the legislation in the wake of atheist Michael Newdow's renewed "assault" on the Pledge of Allegiance.

Rep. Todd Akin, Missouri Republican, says Newdow's latest federal lawsuit seeking to outlaw the recitation of the Pledge phrase "under God" is another effort to prevent freedom of speech by an "activist judiciary."

The original act sought to protect the Pledge by removing jurisdiction of the federal courts in questioning its constitutionality.

"This is a disturbing effort to stifle the right of the children of our country to echo a commitment to what the Declaration of Independence calls 'a firm reliance on Divine Providence,' and must not be allowed to stand," Akin says.

Newdow - who won his case in federal court in 2002, arguing it was unconstitutional to recite the Pledge in public schools - saw it dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court because he did not have custody of his young daughter, whom he purported to represent.

Now, he's joined in a new lawsuit with eight others - parents and children - who claim to be damaged by reciting the Pledge.

MISGUIDED DOGS

First it was hounds in Great Britain. Now it's getting difficult for dogs to hunt in America.

Legislation drafted by a Republican, to be introduced in the Virginia House, would criminalize the retrieval of hunting dogs from private property onto which they might stray. Fredericksburg Delegate Mark Cole's bill would make it a crime to retrieve dogs without the written permission of the land owner.

"House Bill 1612 assumes that a hunting dog found on private property was released with the intent to illegally hunt," notes Tony Celebrezze, field director of the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance. "Even the best-trained dogs will stray on occasion.

"Current law," he adds, "allows a sportsman to retrieve a dog that has strayed, but this bill presumes the sportsman is hunting without permission and makes the recovery of the dog a misdemeanor."

TED ROCKS

Rocker Ted Nugent and his wife, Shemane, aren't your typical celebrity couple. The pair are conservative, after all, and behind President Bush 100 percent.

The couple now live near Crawford, Texas, not far from Bush's ranch, and they have become quite active in the community. Case in point:

The White House invited Crawford's high school marching band to participate in next week's inaugural parade along Pennsylvania Avenue. The Nugents caught wind of the invitation and immediately orchestrated a special fund-raiser for the students so they can fly to the nation's capital instead of taking the long bus ride.

Even better, the fund-raiser will be a Ted Nugent jam session, to be held at the school this Saturday (Nugent soon will go on tour with country music artist Toby Keith.)

"Crawford is going nuts," event insider Jennifer Ohman tells this column. "But the Nugents . . . think it's a great opportunity for the kids to see a Republican president in person and (in) action."

The Nugents will be attending Thursday's inauguration, and then Nugent will play his guitar at the Texas/Wyoming Inaugural Ball.

JOB WELL DONE

She's held the post since 2001, and now U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James has submitted her letter of resignation to President Bush, effective Jan. 31.

"I have been privileged to lead the American civil service during a period of great change, especially after the horrific events of September 11," writes James, who played a central role in the largest government merger since World War II - consolidating 22 agencies representing 180,000 employees, 15 different basic pay systems, and 17 separate labor unions into the new Department of Homeland Security.

"Public service is a noble profession, and our federal employees are true patriots charged with defending our homeland . . . often in the face of great personal sacrifice and danger," she says of the 1.8 million federal workers.

Reflecting on her departure, she quotes former President Theodore Roosevelt as saying, "Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."

"I intend to work equally hard and . . . maintain a voice in national policy discussions while participating in private and nonprofit solutions designed to improve the lives of our fellow citizens and further meaningful reforms," James says of her future.

LINT SCREEN

The long line of airline passengers waiting to be screened at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport couldn't help but laugh at the federal Transportation Security Administration officer who announced into her microphone: "Remove your coats, remove your jackets, remove your belts, remove your shoes - remove your lint, if you have any."

MOORE GROWTH

After a successful run as president of the Club for Growth, Stephen Moore is starting a new organization that will advocate for Social Security reform, tax reform and legal reform, as well as other pro-growth issues up for consideration in Congress.

The organization's name: Free Enterprise Fund.

JACK'S PICK

Washington malpractice lawyer Jack Olender is delivering up his top 10 legal predictions for 2005, not the least of which is that Justice Antonin Scalia will be the next chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Another possibility: Justice Clarence Thomas.

Olender notes that one of the most popular Internet gambling companies has also named Justice Scalia as the odds-on favorite to be the next chief justice of the land.

The well-known Washington lawyer estimates that his predictions are right 90 percent of the time, but he says: "I don't gamble."

LOST COLIN

Former Rep. Clint Roberts, South Dakota Republican, read our recent item about an impressive feline named Colin Powell taking top honors in the Cat Fanciers' Association's 2004 "Best Cat" competition.

"I have a beautiful cat named after one of my favorite people: Colin Powell. We call him CP," Roberts writes from his home in Presho, S.D.

Unfortunately, he continues, CP "disappeared 10 days ago."

If anybody in South Dakota spots CP, please notify Roberts.

"Please tell him we miss him," adds the former congressman, who prior to serving in Congress during the early 1980s was an unsuccessful nominee for governor of South Dakota.

TAXES, PLEASE

Congratulated Wednesday on his ascension to executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) - replacing longtime NORML director and founder Keith Stroup - Allen St. Pierre joked: "Now if you could tell my mother that it's a good thing."

Then again, if the 39-year-old St. Pierre has his way, his mother - and others in this country, particularly women concerned about the legal consequences of smoking marijuana - might just climb on board.

"On April 15, Tax Day, we're going to be the only people in this country to draw a big target on our head and tell the federal government ... that those of us who consume cannabis would like to pay taxes," explains St. Pierre, who has been NORML's deputy director since 1993.

"We're going to start talking in serious economic terms about the cost of prohibition and alternative policies, most notably taxing and regulating (marijuana)."

Another major thrust in the coming months for NORML, whose headquarters are just a few blocks from the White House on K Street, will be to educate the public about "known science" surrounding "the relative harmlessness of marijuana when juxtaposed to other drugs" - including alcohol and caffeine, which some studies show have more adverse effects on the body.

"Marijuana fits into taxation scheme already in place for alcohol and tobacco," says St. Pierre.

Finally, he says, with NORML's support, look for numerous "reefer resolutions" - decriminalization bills - to be introduced in various state legislatures in the coming year or so, from Washington state to Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"The next four years are going to be tough, so we must be tougher. Our health, our rights and our democracy are teetering on the brink."

- National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy