UPI's Capital Comment for July 16, 2002

By United Press International  |  July 16, 2002 at 12:41 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 16 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Banning on the ban -- Most everyone in America has by now heard of Dr. Michael Newdow, the father of a California girl who sued on her behalf to have the Pledge of Allegiance tossed out of the public schools. Most everyone has not heard of Sandra Banning, the little girl's mother who is of a decidedly different mind on the whole business.

"After hearing the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals decision that held reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as unconstitutional because of the phrase, 'One Nation, Under God,' there was a sense of shock in my home," Banning says, because "In our home we are practicing Christians and are active in our church."

Banning says the daughter whom she and Newdow brought into the world -- and who lives with Banning -- "expressed sadness" over the court's decision but tried to reassure her mother that everything would be OK because she "will still whisper 'One Nation, Under God,' and no one will hear her and know she is breaking the law."

Attorneys from the Washington office of the firm of Foley and Lardner have been retained by Banning to represent her and her daughter as the case moves forward. The firm is also handling all the details for The Pledge Defense Fund -- where donations to underwrite the legal expenses involved in the appeals process are being received.

You can't bank on it -- There is a growing sense on Capitol Hill that an amendment to the Treasury/Postal appropriations bill involving banks and real estate will likely stand. The amendment, by U.S. Rep. Anne Northup, R-Ky., would prohibit the Treasury Department from expending any public funds to write or issue a rule allowing banks to get into the real estate business during fiscal year 2003. Sources on Capitol Hill suggest that the effort on behalf of the financial services industry to strip the language from the bill will prove fruitless -- so no one may even try. Opponents of the prohibition think their time may be better spent working the conference committee once the House and Senate come together to reconcile the difference between their bills.

Across the great divide -- At least one Arab-American group is voicing disapproval over the Zionist Organization of America's bestowing of its annual "State of Israel Friendship Award" to religious broadcaster Pat Robertson. Arab-American Institute President James J. Zogby said: "Robertson's receiving an award for his friendship to Israel is particularly offensive given that his personal religious philosophy, and his political work, depends on continued violent conflict in the region. In short, he is not a man that has ever behaved as if peaceful coexistence in the Holy Land is his desired goal. If you watch his program, he seems to thrive on violence in the Mideast. But I guess everyone is entitled to define their own friends."

Short circuit, tall order -- Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., has introduced H.R. 5064, the Pledge Protection Act of 2002 in the wake of the 9th Circuit ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance was, after a fashion, unconstitutional. Akin's bill would remove jurisdiction to hear the case from the federal district and appeals courts, making the U.S. Supreme Court the only judicial venue in which such a case could be heard.

With this bill, I see red -- The congressional supporters of a federal constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being between one man and one woman, one couple at a time, are kicking their efforts into high gear now that the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a pro-homosexual special preference group, has brought suit in New Jersey. The fund is suing on behalf of seven same-sex partners who were denied marriage licenses by the state. Those who monitor the issue in Congress expect that by this time next year, both New Jersey and Massachusetts will have fully recognized same-sex marriage -- so they hope to beat them to the punch and pass the Federal Marriage Amendment before then.

A new day, a new lineup -- The folks at MSNBC are shifting things around quite a bit according to MSNBC.com's acting Editor in Chief Michael Silberman. The new prime time lineup, which begins this week, starts with "Nachman," featuring network honcho Jerry Nachman exploring the grittier side of life from an urban angle at 7 p.m. EDT. He is followed at 8 p.m. by the return to television of talk show legend Phil Donahue while "Hardball with Chris Matthews" moves to 9 p.m.

The network is also trying to draw readers to its online site. According to Silberman, MSNBC.com has "jumped feet-first into the 'blogosphere,' with Monday through Friday interactive columns from Eric Alterman on politics, media and culture; Chris Matthews on politics; Jan Herman with 'The Juice' on entertainment and the arts" and several other Weblogs designed to boost readership.

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