From the "declarer" to the "double-dummy," the world of bridge is notorious for being full of words that make very little sense to people outside it. But when a team of women who represented the United States at the world bridge championships in Shanghai last month held up a sign scribbled on the back of a menu during their victory ceremony, no one had any doubt about what they meant.
"We did not vote for Bush," read the scrawled, but entirely legible letters.
The genteel world of bridge was not amused. The New York Times reports that the women are facing sanctions, including a yearlong ban from competition, for their spur-of-the-moment protest.
"This isn't a free-speech issue," said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation. "There isn't any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them."
Actually, yes there is, according to Danny Kleinman, a professional bridge player and columnist. "If the U.S.B.F. wants to impose conditions of membership that involve curtailment of free speech, then it cannot claim to represent our country in international competition," he said.
The fight between these two world views has spread throughout the international bridge community, with the French (naturally) coming out in support of the women.
"By trying to address these issues in a nonviolent, nonthreatening and lighthearted manner," the French team wrote to the federation's board, "you were doing only what women of the world have always tried to do when opposing the folly of men who have lost their perspective of reality."
Apparently no one in the federation thinks it was very "lighthearted." They're calling for a one-year suspension from federation events, a one-year probation after that suspension, 200 hours of community service "that furthers the interest of organized bridge" and an apology drafted by the federation's lawyer. They're also demanding the women write a statement telling "who broached the idea of displaying the sign, when the idea was adopted, etc."
Gain Greenberg, the team's nonplaying captain, said she decided to put up the sign in response to question from players from other countries about American interrogation techniques, the war in Iraq and other foreign policy issues.
"There was a lot of anti-Bush feeling, questioning of our Iraq policy and about torture," she said. "There wasn't the amount of warmth you usually feel at these events."
Most Virginians Want Police To Check Immigration Status
On the same day that the New York Times reports the death of Governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to give illegal immigrants drivers licenses comes a story from the Washington Post suggesting anti-immigrant sentiment is gaining force in Virginia, too.
The Post reports that the Virginia Crime Commission called on the state's General Assembly to ask Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to require state troopers to help federal authorities detain and deport illegal immigrants.
The commissions recommendation will pressure Kaine and other lawmakers to take up an issue that split state lawymakers during the fall campaign and cause local governments such as Price William County's to enact their own measures.
According to a Post poll, an overwhelming majority of Virginians want the state and local governments to do more about illegal immigration. Eight in 10 state residents said they would support a measure requiring state police to check the immigration status of people they suspect of a crime or think may be undocumented.
In other immigration news, sticking up for immigrants doesn't seem to be a very politically wise thing to do in Iowa, either.
In a New York Times story about a new Times/CBS News poll - reported more fully on CBSNews.com - 86 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Democrats described immigration as a very or somewhat serious problem facing the country.
Republicans in Iowa view Mr. Romney as the candidate who most closely shares their views about immigration, the paper reports. Meanwhile, struggling Senator John McCain of Arizona has repeatedly pointed to his identification with legislation that included some provisions that would allow immigrants to gain legal status as a main cause of his decline in Iowa.
First-responder Camp? What's Next, Homeland Securityland?
Surgary cereal advertisers have known it for years: If you want adults to buy something, market to their kids. Now the disaster preparedness sector is taking a page from the Saturday morning cartoon set.
The Washington Post reports on a national effort to get families to prepare emergency kits and otherwise plan for disasters by spreading the message through cartoons, Disney shows and even first-responder camp.
The Department of Homeland Security has sent its "Ready Kids" program to nearly 400,000 teachers. It handed out coloring sheets at Disney shows at 42 shopping malls this summer. And Washington, D.C. schools have launched a weekly class that brings homeland security to youngsters with characters like Commander Ready.
Not everyone thinks this is a good idea. James Carafano, a homeland security specialist at the Heritage Foundation, said some of the programs are downright "stupid."
"Mathematically, the odds of a any child being killed by a terrorist in the United States are infinitesimally small," he said. "You might as well give them classes on how to avoid being hit by asteroids."
A NOTE TO READERS: The Skinny is available via e-mail. Click here and follow the directions to register to receive it in your inbox each weekday morning.