And now the most intriguing two minutes in television, the latest from the political grapevine:
Pledging to Protect
Michael Newdow, the atheist activist who brought the suit challenging the Pledge of Allegiance as unconstitutional, claimed in the suit that he was trying to protect his grade school daughter from being forced to sit and listen while her teachers led other students in the pledge. But Newdow told FOX News that his eight-year-old daughter voluntarily says the pledge along with her classmates. He also said, "This is more about me than her. I'd like to keep her out of this." Newdow, a 49-year-old single father, told the Times he has given up working to "fight the government." Newdow also told the Los Angeles Times that he is a minister ordained by the Universal Life Church of Modesto, Calif., whose Web site boasts that anyone, regardless of faith or the lack of it, can become a minister -- no questions asked -- over the Internet free of charge. All you have to do, says the Church, is adhere to what it calls the "Universal Doctrine of Religious Freedom," which is, "Do only that which is right." In fact, I became ordained in this very church a few years ago, for a humorous end piece on this very broadcast.
Nominee Agreement Is a No Go
Senate leaders are near a deal that would break the logjam over President Bush's judicial nominees, but Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, reports that one senator has blocked the agreement. It is John McCain, who is demanding that a Democratic Party nominee to the Federal Election Commission be approved by the White House as his price for letting the Bush court nominees go forward. McCain wants Democrat Ellen Weintraub on the FEC because, he says, the commission is gutting the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill by writing lax rules to enforce it.
Just a Dash From a Crash
Chinese fighter jets had another close encounter with an American reconnaissance plane off the Chinese coast on Monday. Defense Department sources told The Washington Times the Chinese aircraft came within about 150 feet of the propeller-driven U.S. P-3 in international airspace north of Taiwan. That was by far the closest encounter since a Chinese plane actually hit a U.S. surveillance plane in April of last year. That Chinese plane crashed into the sea and the U.S. plane limped to an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island where the U.S. crew was held for 11 days.