- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Forced donations

Inside the Beltway is told of a “significant development” in a pending U.S. Supreme Court case, Davenport v. WEA, that could dramatically expand employee rights when it comes to union dues being spent on political campaigns.

In fact, union members might soon be getting cash refunds.

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation lawyers, representing 4,000 nonunion teachers in Washington state, are seeking to overturn that state’s Supreme Court ruling that “fabricated” a First Amendment “right” for union officials to spend nonunion members’ compulsory union dues on politics, foundation spokesman Patrick Semmens tells this column.

“In short, if the U.S. Supreme Court takes the additional step we are asking, an estimated 1 million nonunion workers across the country will immediately be entitled to automatic annual refunds of hundreds of dollars each in forced union dues,” he says.

Right yourselves

Bruised Republicans welcomed back to Capitol Hill this week by the House Republican Study Committee (RSC), chaired by conservative Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, were reminded of what football legend Vince Lombardi said when the going got tough: “Don’t tell me how rocky the sea is, just bring in the ship.”

Uncivil war

Forget about debating whether a civil war is under way in Iraq. One best-selling author is questioning whether the extreme polarization in America today could lead to another civil war in this country.

Orson Scott Card’s previous book, “Ender’s Game,” was read by top brass at the Pentagon and was cited as one of the sources of the Afghanistan battle plan. Now we’ve gotten hold of his upcoming book, “Empire,” in which he argues that the uncompromising rhetoric from the right and left is tearing America apart.

“We are a country that is fully polarized,” he warns, adding that hate speech and insistent ideology spewing from both sides is endangering the nation’s future.

The author says he wrote the book from the standpoint of “a flaming moderate.”

Glenn honors Glenn

That’s Army Sgt. William Glenn, the recent “Military Idol” winner, set to serenade pioneer astronaut and former Ohio Democratic Sen. John Glenn at tomorrow evening’s American Patriot Award gala at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Presented by the National Defense University Foundation, the award recognizes exceptional American leaders, such as Mr. Glenn, who have demonstrated “a profound and abiding love of country.”

Past honorees include former President George H.W. Bush, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, the late Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.

As for Sgt. Glenn, who grew up in Alabama, he outsang hundreds of soldiers worldwide to become the Military Idol. We’re told he’ll be singing patriotic songs tomorrow, but it was his rendition of “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” that won him the Idol honors.

Page and Press

They call themselves Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), and let’s just say they’ve started a war against the war on drugs.

Nearly 300 college-age students, who say they are fed up with the nation’s war on drugs and its “harmful impact on young people,” will gather on Capitol Hill this weekend for SSDP’s annual conference and lobby day and “demand reform” of current drug policy.

Sirius satellite radio host and MSNBC analyst Bill Press and Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page will be on hand to address the students.

Kazakh rage

Why all the buzz suddenly about the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan?

First, a new vodka produced by the Kazakhs and introduced in Washington in recent months, is rapidly growing in popularity, poured at restaurants like Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, Charlie Palmer and Cafe Milano.

Vanessa Ugo, the Washington representative for Snow Queen Vodka, says everybody from Mick Jagger to Prince William has acquired a taste for the suddenly popular spirit. (Something about the vodka being “distilled five times” is what makes it so pure.)

Kazakhstan is also receiving unprecedented exposure after this month’s release of the hit movie, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” If you haven’t seen it, a fictional Kazakh TV journalist named Borat is sent to the “greatest country in the world” — the United States — where he files some rather outrageous stories.

Even Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev is getting in on the act, showing up recently to meet with President Bush in the Oval Office.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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