Saturday, March 05, 2005


Saw this posted and am sharing the info:


* End the War *
* Bring the Troops Home Now *
* Rebuild Our Communities *

Save the Date: March 19, 2005
March 19, 2005
Save the Date

March 19, 2005
Millions will again unite globally to STOP the endless war on Iraq!!!

March 19, 2005
Millions will again unite globally to say NO more blood for oil!!!

March 19, 2005
Millions will again unite globally to say STOP the spilling and STOP
the killing!!!

March 19, 2005
Millions will again unite globally for PEACE and JUSTICE!!!

March 19, 2005
Millions will again unite to END the OCCUPATION of Iraq!!!

March 19, 2005
Millions will again unite to say BRING the troops home now!!!

March 19, 2005
Millions will again unite globally to say NO more unjust wars!!!

March 19, 2005
Millions will again unite globally to say YES to world peace!!!

Save the Date
March 19, 2005

Plus two after events:

Saturday, March 19th 2005 8:00pm
New York, NY USA

A celebration and search for peace. A collection of poems, songs,
essays and short plays all read/sung by TheDrillingCompany.

TheDrillingCompany, a Off-Off-Broadway theatre company recognized for
its thematic commissions, returns with an evening of songs short plays
essay and poems written by both DrillingCompany members and leading
peace activists.

Notably powerful is "Logical Fallacies" by Richard Harden. A powerful
anti-war statement which includes the reading of those American defense
fatalities thus far in Iraq.
Event last aproximately 90 minutes. Space is limited. Donation is
suggested but not required for admission. All are welcome.

78th Street Theatre Lab 236 West 78th Street 3rd fl. New York NY 10024
Hamilton Clancy
Sponsored By:
TheDrillingCompany, Theatre Against War, 78th Street Theatre Lab


Iraq: Speaking of War
Saturday, March 19th 2005 8 pm
New York, NY USA

IRAQ: SPEAKING OF WAR:This ritual-theater event is presented on the eve
of the second anniversary of the United States invasion of Iraq, to
mourn all those who have died and been wounded in the conflict. Actors
tell stories of individuals caught in the war, culled from a wide range of
documentary sources, while the chorus names and laments the dead.
Musical interludes provide space for reflection. This documentary-ritual
reveals the human costs of the Iraq war and memorializes the loss of so
many irreplaceable lives.
Even as the official death toll of Americans killed in combat continues
to rise (currently over 1,350), there is no count of Iraqi civilian
deaths. Estimates range from between 16,000 (Iraq Body Count) to over
100,000 (The Lancet). Many of those killed or maimed by bombs and shrapnel,
at checkpoints, or in their homes, have been children. The stories of
American soldiers, Iraqi civilians and combatants, journalists and aid
workers, when told together, weave a tapestry of shared humanity.

New York actors George Bartenieff, Kathleen Chalfant, Eve Ensler, Najla
Said, Maysoon Zayid, and others will participate. Music and drumming
will be provided by: Gilberto Alvarez, Johnny Farraj, and Raquy and the
Cavemen (Raquy Danziger , Liron Peled, Rami El-Aasser, Yotam Beery),
Milos Raickovich, and others. Text and production by: Dalia Baisouney,
Linda Hoaglund, Alicia House, Danielle Heureux, Amneh Taye, and Karen
(An earlier version of this event was presented as Iraq: Naming the
Dead, last August. See )

Saturday, March 19, at 8 pm
Suggested donation: $10, free to students, the elderly and the
The Prozansky Auditorium
The Graduate Center-City University of New York
365 Fifth Ave. (at 34th St)
Any subway to 34th St. walk to Fifth Ave. 365 Fifth Ave. New York NY
Karen Malpede
Sponsored By:
Continuing Education and Public Programs of the City University of New
York; Iraq: Naming the Dead


Gonzo Gone, Rather Going, Watergate Still Here

The New York Times
March 6, 2005

Gonzo Gone, Rather Going, Watergate Still Here

TWO weeks ago Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide. Next week Dan Rather commits ritual suicide, leaving the anchor chair at CBS prematurely as penance for his toxic National Guard story. The two journalists shared little but an abiding distaste - make that hatred in Thompson's case - for the Great Satan of 20th-century American politics, Richard Nixon. The best work of both was long behind them. Yet memories of that best work - not to mention the coincidental timing of their departures - only accentuate the vacuum in that cultural category we stubbornly insist on calling News.

What's missing from News is the news. On ABC, Peter Jennings devotes two hours of prime time to playing peek-a-boo with U.F.O. fanatics, a whorish stunt crafted to deliver ratings, not information. On NBC, Brian Williams is busy as all get-out, as every promo reminds us, "Reporting America's Story." That story just happens to be the relentless branding of Brian Williams as America's anchorman - a guy just too in love with Folks Like Us to waste his time looking closely at, say, anything happening in Washington.

In this environment, it's hard to know whom to root for. After the "60 Minutes" fiasco, Mr. Williams's boss, the NBC president Jeff Zucker, piously derided CBS for its screw-up, bragging of the reforms NBC News instituted after a producer staged a truck explosion for a "Dateline NBC" segment in 1992. "Nothing like that could have gotten through, at any level," Mr. Zucker said of the CBS National Guard story, "because of the safeguards we instituted more than a decade ago." Good for him, but it's not as if a lot else has gotten through either. When was the last time Stone Phillips delivered a scoop, with real or even fake documents, on "Dateline"? Or that NBC News pulled off an investigative coup as stunning as the "60 Minutes II" report on Abu Ghraib? That, poignantly enough, was Mr. Rather's last hurrah before he, too, and through every fault of his own, became a neutered newsman.

Hunter Thompson did not do investigative reporting, but he would have had a savage take on our news-free world - not least because it resembles his own during the Nixon era, before he had calcified into the self-parodistic pop culture cartoon immortalized by Garry Trudeau, Bill Murray, Johnny Depp and most of his eulogists. Read "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72" - the chronicle of his Rolling Stone election coverage - and you find that his diagnosis of journalistic dysfunction hasn't aged a day: "The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of political journalism in America has its roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between politicians and journalists." He cites as a classic example the breathless but belated revelations of the mental history of George McGovern's putative running mate, the Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton - a story that had long been known by "half of the political journalists in St. Louis and at least a dozen in the Washington press corps." This same clubby pack would be even tardier on Watergate, a distasteful assignment left to a pair of lowly police-beat hacks at The Washington Post.

Thompson was out to break the mainstream media's rules. His unruly mix of fact, opinion and masturbatory self-regard may have made him a blogger before there was an Internet, but he was a blogger who had the zeal to leave home and report firsthand and who could write great sentences that made you want to savor what he found out rather than just scroll quickly through screen after screen of minutiae and rant. When almost all "the Wizards, Gurus and Gentlemen Journalists in Washington" were predicting an unimpeded victory march for Edmund Muskie to the Democratic presidential nomination, it was Thompson who sniffed out the Muskie campaign's "smell of death" and made it stick. The purported front-runner, he wrote, "talked like a farmer with terminal cancer trying to borrow money on next year's crop."

But even Thompson might have been shocked by what's going on now. "The death of Thompson represents the passing from the Age of Gonzo to the Age of Gannon," wrote Russell Cobb in a column
in The Daily Texan at the University of Texas. As he argues, today's White House press corps is less likely to be invaded by maverick talents like a drug-addled reporter from a renegade start-up magazine than by a paid propagandist like Jeff Gannon, a fake reporter for a fake news organization (Talon News) run by a bona fide Texas Republican operative who was a delegate to the 2000 Bush convention.

Though a few remain on the case - Eric Boehlert of Salon,, Joe Strupp of Editor and Publisher - the Gannon story is fast receding. In some major news venues, including ABC and CBS, it never surfaced at all. Yet even as Mr. Gannon has quit his "job" as a reporter and his "news organization" has closed up shop, the plot thickens. His own Web site - which only recently shut down with the self-martyring message "The voice goes silent" - has now restarted as a blog with Gonzo pretensions. The title alone of his first entry, "Fear and Loathing in the Press Room," would send Thompson spinning in his grave had he not asked that his remains be shot out of a cannon.

As a blogger, Mr. Gannon's new tactic is to encourage fellow right-wing bloggers to portray him as the victim of a homophobic left-wing witch hunt that destroyed his privacy. Given that it was Mr. Gannon himself who voluntarily exhibited his own private life by appearing on Web sites advertising his services as a $200-per-hour escort, that's a hard case to make. But it is a clever way to deflect attention from an actual sexual witch hunt conducted by his own fake news organization in early 2004. It was none other than Talon News that advanced the fictional story that a young woman "taped an interview with one of the major television networks" substantiating a rumor on the Drudge Report that John F. Kerry had had an extramarital affair with an intern. (Mr. Kerry had to publicly deny the story just as his campaign came out of the gate.) This is the kind of dirty trick only G. Gordon Liddy could dream up. Or maybe did. Mr. Gannon's Texan boss, Bobby Eberle, posted effusive thanks (for "their assistance, guidance and friendship") to both Mr. Liddy and Karl Rove on Talon News's sister site, GOPUSA, last Christmas.

Mr. Gannon, a self-promoting airhead, may well be a pawn of larger forces as the vainglorious Mr. Liddy once was. But to what end? That Kerry "intern" wasn't the only "news" Mr. Gannon helped stuff in the pipeline during an election year. A close reading of the transcripts of televised White House press conferences reveals that at uncannily crucial moments he was called on by the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, to stanch tough questioning on such topics as Abu Ghraib and Mr. Rove's possible involvement in the outing of the C.I.A. spy Valerie Plame. We still don't know how this Zelig, using a false name, was given a daily White House pass every day for two years. Last weekend, Jim Pinkerton, a former official in the Reagan and Bush I White Houses, said on "Fox News Watch," no less, that such a feat "takes an incredible amount of intervention from somebody high up in the White House," that it had to be "conscious" and that "some investigation should proceed and they should find that out."

Given an all-Republican government, the only investigation possible will have to come from the press. Which takes us back to 1972, the year of Thompson's fear and loathing on the campaign trail. That was no golden age for news either. As Thompson's Rolling Stone colleague, Timothy Crouse, wrote in his own chronicle of that year, "The Boys on the Bus," months of stories by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein failed to "sink in" and only 48 percent of those polled by Gallup had heard of Watergate by Election Day.

Some news organizations had simply ignored The Post's scoops "out of petty rivalry," wrote Mr. Crouse. Others did so because they "feared the administration or favored Nixon in the presidential race." Others didn't initially recognize the story's importance. (The New York Times played the Watergate break-in on page 30.) The White House's pathological secrecy and penchant for threatening to use the Federal Communications Commission as a battering ram on its broadcast critics took care of the rest. According to a superb new history of the Washington press corps, "Reporting from Washington," by Donald A. Ritchie, even Mr. Rather, then CBS's combative man in the Nixon White House, "left the Watergate story alone at first, sure that it would fade like 'a puff of talcum powder.' "

For similar if not identical reasons, journalistic investigations into the current administration rarely "sink in" either. Early stories in The Boston Globe and Washington Post on what Jeff Gannon himself (on his blog) now calls "Gannongate" faded like that puff of powder. So did Eric Lichtblau's recent Times report on the White House's suppression of the 9/11 commission finding that federal aviation officials ignored dozens of advance warnings of Al Qaeda airline hijackings and suicide missions. But we've now entered a new twilight zone: in 1972, at least, the press may have been stacked with jokers but not with counterfeit newsmen.

Today you can't tell the phonies without a scorecard. Besides the six "journalists" we know to have been paid by the administration or its backers, bloggers were on the campaign payrolls of both a Republican office-seeker (South Dakota's Senator John Thune) and a Democrat (Howard Dean) during last year's campaign. This week The Los Angeles Times reported that Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration, "taking a cue from President Bush's administration," had distributed fake news videos starring a former TV reporter to extol the governor's slant on a legislative proposal. Back in Washington, the Social Security Administration is refusing to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests for information about its use of public relations firms - such as those that funneled taxpayers' money to the likes of Armstrong Williams. Don't expect news organizations dedicated to easy-listening news to get to the bottom of it.

"Reporting America's Story," NBC's slogan, is what Hunter Thompson actually did before the phrase was downsized into a vacuous marketing strategy. As for Mr. Rather, he gave a valedictory interview to Ken Auletta of The New Yorker in which he said, "The one thing I hope, and I believe, is that even my enemies think that I am authentic." The bar is so low these days that authenticity may well constitute a major journalistic accomplishment in itself.


The Crisis Last Time

The New York Times
March 5, 2005

The Crisis Last Time


IT is almost 22 years to the month since Representative Barber Conable Jr. strode to the floor of the House to defend a carefully constructed plan to save Social Security. Mr. Conable, a moderate New York Republican with whom I then worked, spoke with characteristic understatement. "This is not a work of art," he told a packed chamber. "But it is artful work."

He was right. The $168 billion package eased the program through a turbulent period, and 1983 marks the last time Congress cut Social Security benefits, raised taxes and lived to tell about it. Before drawing too much inspiration from this history, however, we should recognize that this rescue was anything but assured when Mr. Conable and the other members of the bipartisan National Commission on Social Security Reform began work under the leadership of Alan Greenspan in February 1982.

Then as now, a president was ready to invest his political capital in Social Security reform. Despite his best efforts to convince the public that Social Security was going broke, Ronald Reagan got exactly nowhere. In May 1981 his budget director, David Stockman, proposed a deep cut in the early-retirement benefit available at age 62; in July there was the suggested elimination of the $122-a-month minimum benefit for the poorest beneficiaries; and in September word leaked out that Mr. Reagan was considering a three-month freeze in the annual cost-of-living increase.

With his public approval sagging under opposition to all these proposals, Mr. Reagan did what any beleaguered president would do: he pulled his foot off the third rail of the political subway and proposed a bipartisan national commission to study the issue. Scheduled to report by January 1983, after the midterm elections, the 15-member commission would, with luck, give the president time to recover before the 1984 campaign.

Then as now, there was little agreement that the program was actually broken. Republicans used worst-case economic assumptions to paint the most draconian future imaginable - and then best-case assumptions to sell their solutions. Democrats, in turn, used their own projections to minimize the Social Security problem, and the worst-case numbers to illustrate the impact of any benefit cuts.

Then as now, there was intense conflict on how to fix the program. As expected, Republicans said the best way to rescue Social Security was to reduce benefits, while Democrats sought to give the program breathing room by raising taxes.

Finally, then as now, Republicans worried about how Social Security would affect the midterm elections. Their concern was justified. With Social Security as the centerpiece of their "It's not fair ... It's Republican" advertising campaign, Democrats added 26 seats to their already substantial majority in 1982.

So much for the parallels between then and now. The 1983 rescue was rooted in four conditions that do not currently prevail.

First, there was a real and pressing deadline for action in 1983 that simply does not exist today. Without action by March or April 1983, the Social Security trust fund would have started to run a slight deficit by midsummer. Social Security would not have literally gone bankrupt, but there would have been a slight disruption in check processing until the needed revenue dribbled in.

Second, both sides in the 1983 debate eventually agreed on a single estimate of the size of the problem - a consensus that seems well out of reach today. "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions," Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan told his fellow commissioners as they set the targets for compromise only days after the 1982 midterm elections. "But not to their own facts."

Third, negotiators had the political cover to form a consensus that would be hard to build in today's 24-hour news cycle. Although the commission is often credited for the 1983 Social Security rescue, the hard bargaining was done by a secret "gang of nine" that met irregularly during the first two weeks of January at the Foxhall Road home of James Baker, then the White House chief of staff. The members reached a final agreement one early afternoon in January 1983, then watched the Redskins defeat the Vikings in the N.F.L. playoffs as they waited for final approvals from the president and speaker of the House.

Fourth, both sides agreed to mutual sacrifice, a concept that has yet to surface in the current conversation. Democrats accepted a six-month delay in the annual cost-of-living adjustment and the increase in the retirement age, while Republicans accepted a faster-than-planned rise in payroll taxes and a substantial tax increase on the self-employed. The two sides closed the deal by subjecting up to half of Social Security benefits to income taxes for higher-income beneficiaries, a provision that allowed Democrats to say Republicans had passed a tax increase and Republicans to say Democrats had agreed to a benefit cut.

This agreement was rooted in a common willingness to solve the problem regardless of the political consequences. Republicans gave up their effort to reduce the public's dependency on Social Security, while Democrats gave up the one campaign issue that might have slowed Mr. Reagan's easy run to re-election in 1984.

It is hard to imagine how a similar package could emerge from today's highly polarized process. Yet, as the 1983 rescue showed, Congress and presidents can take action when they are forced into up-or-down votes on urgent problems. The key is deciding just how urgent a problem is.

Paul C. Light, a professor of public service at New York University and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, is the author of "The Four Pillars of High Performance."


Lobbyist as Snapping Turtle

The New York Times
March 5, 2005

Lobbyist as Snapping Turtle

Why should an Indian tribe booming with casino profits deserve a $3 million school construction grant from a federal fund specifically earmarked for impoverished tribes? That's one of the many questions emerging in Washington as investigators track how Jack Abramoff, a smooth-talking lobbyist with close ties to Capitol politicians, was able to score more than $80 million in fees from roughly a dozen casino tribes that he promised inside clout.

The Saginaw Chippewa tribe in Michigan, an Abramoff client, got the money after pressure was applied by Senator Conrad Burns, the Montana Republican who oversees the budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It turns out that Senator Burns has seen his campaign chest enriched with $137,000 in donations from Mr. Abramoff and his tribal clients.

Senator Burns pressed for the tribal boon over the objections of interior officials, who stressed that the aid fund was not for wealthy tribes - each Chippewa enjoys a $70,000 annual share in casino profits - but for poorer tribes with dilapidated schools. The senator denies any quid pro quo exchange. The Washington Post uncovered close social and employment ties between some of the senator's staff members and the Abramoff lobbying operation. But the senator insists he went to bat for the tribe at the behest of other lawmakers, not a lobbyist who flaunted his power-brokering in Super Bowl junkets.

Investigations by the Senate and the Justice Department began after tribal critics pointed out that their chiefs had been overcharged by Mr. Abramoff and his lobbying partner, Michael Scanlon, a former spokesman for the House majority leader Tom DeLay. Other politicians are undoubtedly anxious now about Mr. Abramoff, who spread his favors and the tribe's funds strategically in the Washington power game. In denying ethical violations, Senator Burns told a Washington newspaper, Roll Call, that Mr. Abramoff was "like a snapping turtle." "When he hooked on," the senator said, "He stayed on."


The Bush Team's Abortion Misstep

The New York Times
March 5, 2005

The Bush Team's Abortion Misstep

At a moment when the United States should be leading the world on advancing women's equality, the Bush administration chose instead to alienate government ministers and 6,000 other delegates at an important United Nations conference on that issue with a burst of anti-abortion zealotry this week.

The two-week session is being held to reinvigorate efforts to improve women's lives a decade after a landmark U.N. conference in Beijing. The organizers had hoped to keep a tight focus on urgent challenges like sexual trafficking, educational inequities and the spread of AIDS.

The first order of business was to be quick approval of a simple statement reaffirming the Beijing meeting's closing declaration. But on Monday, the Americans created turmoil by announcing that the United States would not join the otherwise universal consensus unless the document was amended to say that it did not create "any new international human rights" or "include the right to abortion."

This was shabby and mischievous. For one thing, the Beijing statement was nonbinding. For another, the Beijing negotiators had tried to anticipate controversy by recognizing unsafe abortions as a serious public health issue while leaving the question of legality up to each nation.

Specifically, the Beijing platform says that abortion should be safe where it is legal, and that criminal action should not be taken against any woman who has an abortion. All of this seemed clear enough, but the Bush team apparently could not resist an opportunity to press its anti-abortion agenda.

By Thursday evening, the American delegation had agreed to drop the explicit anti-abortion clause from its proposed amendment, and yesterday it finally withdrew the amendment entirely. But the damage had been done. An apology is due from the United States delegation for the weeklong disruption it caused. So is a fresh spirit of cooperation and a less rigid insistence on dictating global strategy.


A Fighting Strategy for Veterans

The New York Times
March 5, 2005

A Fighting Strategy for Veterans

Military veterans are crying foul over President Bush's budget proposals to cut spending on their health care. The budget must not be balanced "on the backs of veterans," wrote Stephen P. Condon, the chairman of the Air Force Association, in a recent letter to The Times, a point that was echoed by other veterans at Congressional hearings last month. We agree with the veterans - but for somewhat different reasons than they have put forth.

The veterans' goal is to block the president's attempt to impose new hospital fees, higher prescription co-payments and other spending constraints - all of which would add up to an estimated 16 percent reduction in veterans' benefits in 2010. (The estimate is from the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities because the administration, breaking with 16 years of budget tradition, did not provide five-year projections for specific programs.) But if veterans succeed in preserving only their own benefits, they will have been outfoxed by the administration.

Mr. Bush knows that wartime is no time to go after veterans' benefits. But by proposing changes that are politically implausible while challenging Congress to cut spending, the administration gains a bargaining chip: if lawmakers aren't willing to make the veterans' cuts the president has proposed, they will be pressured to make even deeper cuts in programs for people who don't have the veterans' ability to fight back.

In effect, Mr. Bush's budget pits veterans against the 660,000 women, infants and children whose food assistance is on the chopping block; against the 120,000 preschoolers who would be cut from Head Start; against the 370,000 families and disabled and elderly individuals who would lose rental assistance; against the whole communities that would lose support for clean air and drinking water; and so on.

The only way for veterans to avoid those unacceptable trade-offs is to refuse to fight on the president's terms. The size and scope of Mr. Bush's proposed spending cuts are a direct result of his refusal to ask for tax-cut rollbacks - that is, to ask wealthy investors, who have had lavish, deficit-bloating tax cuts over the past four years, to contribute toward deficit reduction. On the contrary, Mr. Bush's budget proposes even more tax breaks, specifically for people with six-figure incomes or more and overflowing investment portfolios.

Most galling, the new tax cuts would be, in themselves, so large that the net spending cuts Mr. Bush has requested would not be enough to pay for them, let alone reduce the existing deficit.

Veterans have the moral and institutional clout to argue that no one group should be singled out to make sacrifices until all groups are asked to sacrifice. Bolstering that case is the fact that all successful deficit-cutting budgets have included tax increases on the affluent, including President Reagan's 1983 budget, the first President George Bush's 1991 budget and President Bill Clinton's 1994 budget. Mr. Bush's 2006 budget must do the same. If veterans drive that point home, the benefits they'll save will be their own, and those of many women and children, too.


Friday, March 04, 2005

Gibbons' speech plagiarism
Gibbons' speech plagiarism

15 paragraphs came from copyrighted talk by Alabama woman


As Rep. Jim Gibbons' incendiary remarks at an Elko Lincoln Day dinner last Friday began to make national news, his words drew notice for their similarity to a copyrighted speech.

The speech Gibbons, R-Nev., delivered was largely plagiarized from a 2003 address given by Alabama Auditor Beth Chapman at a Stand Up for America rally.

Fifteen of the 21 paragraphs in Chapman's speech made their way into Gibbons' prepared remarks either verbatim or in nearly identical fashion.

For example, The Elko Daily Free Press quoted Gibbons in a rant against Hollywood liberals in which he told the crowd: "I say we take those liberal, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippie, tie-dyed liberals to go make their movies and music and whine somewhere else."

Chapman's speech stated: "Tonight, I say we should support the president of the United States and the U.S. military and tell the liberal, tree-hugging, hippie, Birkenstock-wearing, tie-dyed liberals to go make their movies and music and whine somewhere else."

The other paragraphs are nearly identical, based on a comparison of the initial press account of Gibbons' speech and a copy of Chapman's address.

Gibbons was unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon, but he issued a statement saying he got the speech in an e-mail "sometime back." "I don't remember who sent me the e-mail or when I received it exactly ... only that I found the words to be reflective of my deep concern about the morale of our troops."

Gibbons told the Elko Daily Free Press for a Thursday Web edition that he did not remember how he got the speech.

Chapman could not be reached late Thursday.

In his statement, Gibbons said that when he found out Thursday that the speech was copyrighted, he phoned Chapman to apologize. "We had a nice chat and she was very cordial and understanding," the statement said.

The state Democratic Party already has criticized Gibbons' speech for his references to abortion and statements about liberals being expendable.

"I want to know how these very people who are against war because of loss of life can possibly be the same people who are for abortion?" Gibbons told the Elko crowd. "They are the same people who are for animal rights, but they are not for the rights of the unborn."

Gibbons' wife, former Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, is pro-choice.

According to the Daily Free Press, Gibbons then said liberals are the same people who wanted to go to Iraq to become human shields. "I say, it's just too damn bad we didn't buy them a ticket," he added.

In January, during an interview on NBC News, Gibbons objected to those protesting the public financing of inaugurals, saying: "Anybody who is against that obviously must be a communist."

He later apologized for the remark.

Jon Summers, state Democratic Party spokesman, said the plagiarism is "just another disappointment from Jim Gibbons."

"We're seeing from this sort of behavior why he failed to get the chairmanship in D.C. and decided instead to run for governor," Summers said.

Gibbons has formed an exploratory committee to run for Nevada governor next year. He has stated in published reports that his bid for governor was his second choice after failing to win the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee.

Two Democrats who are planning to run for governor next year described Gibbons' behavior as "extreme."

"Not only is it a bad speech," said Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, "it's a bad, stolen speech."

Titus said Gibbons' comments actually will help Democrats running statewide. "I don't think most Republicans in the state are that extreme."

Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, criticized Gibbons' speech on two fronts.

"Not only did he not provide any leadership in his speech, it appears that he wasn't even intellectually honest with his audience," Perkins said. "If he still has an interest in running for governor, I'm not sure Nevadans will want somebody who's not going to be honest with him."

Gibbons also is facing opposition from within his own party for the gubernatorial nomination.

Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, a Republican who has announced her bid for governor in 2006, said she was at the Lincoln Day Dinner in Elko and was surprised when she heard Gibbons' remarks.

"I truly believe it's important at this time that leaders bring people together and not be divisive," Hunt said. "At the same event I quoted Abraham Lincoln."




Imagine being a few weeks into a new job when your employer suddenly claims that a
background check revealed your prior indiscretions with drug
importation. It seems you have been the victim of identity theft and that was
never you. But when you confront the company that provided the erroneous
, in this case ChoicePoint, they reply, "It's your life and you have to
fix it." Unfortunately, legislators have failed to make any headway
against the increasing frequency of "identity theft and [subsequent]
improper disclosure of private information." The imposing barricade in their
way is the aggressive million-dollar lobbying campaign that
"ChoicePoint and six of the country's other largest sellers of private consumer
data" have launched against federal oversight or regulation legislation
that "might prevent unauthorized disclosures or give additional rights
to consumers harmed by incorrect information." Simultaneously, they are
bankrolling research that conveniently extols "the virtues of
background checks and the importance of data brokers to national security." It
makes sense that ChoicePoint is the forerunning backer of the
resistance, since the company has a history
of being " duped...into selling
the names, addresses and Social Security numbers and other data on tens
of thousands of people."




White collar criminals who failed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties are still maxin' and relaxin' in the lap of luxury, a new congressional investigation
shows. The five criminals covered by the study -- all "high-ranking
officials of companies" or business owners -- were wealthy before the
judgments, but "claimed later they did not have the money to pay full
restitution to their victims." Funny, that. As the congressional report
shows, "several continued living in million-dollar homes, and two took
overseas trips ( while on supervised
release." Now, since so much time has passed between their crimes and the
judgments, "prospects are not good for collecting additional
restitution." And you thought Martha had it good
( !




Remember Gen. William Boykin, the James Dobson of the U.S. Army? In late 2003, Gen. Boykin made headlines when tapes showed him describing the war on terrorism as a battle between a "Christian nation" -- the United States -- and Satan. During one talk, he recalled a Muslim fighter in Somalia, saying, "I knew that my God was
a real God, and his was an idol." At the time, Defense Secretary
Rumsfeld defended the remarks, saying Boykin was just exercising his rights
to free speech and " that's the wonderful thing about our country
( ." According to
the New York Times, however, the Army's inspector general felt
differently. A report completed in August 2004 found Boykin had " violated
several Pentagon rules in delivering" the speeches, and recommended the
officer be subjected to "appropriate corrective action.
" An Army representative told the Times "that it had taken action
against General Boykin, but it declined to provide details or to say what
rules he had violated."




House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) is mired in yet another ethics scandal
. The latest: DeLay, his wife, and conservative lobbyist Jack Abramoff
went on a whirlwind tour of Europe in 2000, staying in posh hotels and
eating lavish meals. The trip was supposedly paid for by the
conservative National Center for Public Policy Research. New disclosures,
however, show Jack Abramoff -- who is currently enmeshed in his own ethics
violations concerning pulling in money from both sides of an Indian
gambling issue -- may have actually paid for some of DeLay's expenses.
Legally, that's a clear "violation of House ethics rules, which prohibit
members from having their travel paid for by a registered lobbyist." Though
the National Center purports that they were "careful to pay all the
expenses associated" with the trip, Abramoff reportedly listed some of
DeLay's expenses -- for example, a $4,285 hotel bill -- as well as his own
when asking his law firm to reimburse him for the trip.


Reverse Boyle's Nomination

Reverse Boyle's Nomination

President Bush once claimed he would be a "uniter, not a divider." You
wouldn't know it by his judicial nominees. Bush has continued to
re-nominate radical, activist judges who have been strongly opposed
by mainstream America. Case in point: Terrence Boyle, whose nomination
hearings for the Fourth Circuit began yesterday. Boyle has been
vociferously opposed by civil rights groups and disability groups for his
extreme decisions to weaken civil rights and disability rights. Boyle's
high reversal rate even in non-ideological cases is a mark of mediocrity.
None of this has the president particularly concerned; turning a blind
eye to Boyle's record, President Bush
in January said: "[Judge Terrence Boyle is] an exceptional candidate
for the appeals court...He'd make a superb addition to the Fourth Circuit
Court of Appeals, and he is vitally needed on that court." The
following shows why he is wrong:

REVERSING BOYLE: Judge Boyle, a former Jesse Helms protégé, has been
trying to win a seat on this court since he was first nominated in 1991.
The problem? He's just not a very good judge. The Fourth Circuit is
considered one of the most conservative circuits in the entire country and
even it has repeatedly found Boyle to be too radical in his judgments.
The Fourth Circuit has had to reverse Boyle's decisions a whopping 150
times for errors in judgment and fundamental legal mistakes
( .

BOYLE AGAINST MINORITIES: Boyle is opposed by a large number of groups
for his dismal civil rights record. For example, during the 1990
redistricting of North Carolina, the state created a congressional district
to reflect the strong African-American population of the area. Boyle
tried to block the district's creation and twice declared it
unconstitutional. His decision was reversed twice by the Supreme Court
( . The first time, writing
for a unanimous court , Justice Clarence Thomas found Boyle's ruling
was "clearly erroneous." The Supreme Court sent the case back to Judge
Boyle and his colleagues. Judge Boyle wrote another opinion reprinting
large swaths of the first one the Supreme Court had rejected. The Supreme
Court rejected Boyle's view again. Boyle also has a record of siding
with employers in cases of workplace discrimination. In Whiting v. Ski's
Auto World, Boyle ruled against an employee who had been passed over
for promotion because of his race; the Fourth Circuit again overturned
his decision. In Godon v. North Carolina Crime Control & Pub. Safety, "a
boot camp counselor claimed that her supervisors violated her First
Amendment rights when they fired her for complaining about the treatment
of black and female cadets." Boyle dismissed the case because he found
the counselor's speech was not protected by the First Amendment, "but
rather merely a personal expression of dissatisfaction
( ."
A unanimous Fourth Circuit reversed him.

BOYLE AGAINST THE DISABLED: Appellate courts have repeatedly criticized
Boyle for his overreaching attacks against the Americans with
Disabilities Act. Boyle has tried to undermine the constitutionality of the ADA.
He has tried to exempt state agencies from following the federal
anti-discrimination laws. In Williams v. Channel Master Satellite Systems,
Inc., for example, Boyle ruled working was "not a major life activity"
which should be protected by the ADA. In reversing his ruling, the Fourth
Circuit said of Boyle's declaration that "while some courts might
entertain claims under the 'major life activity' of 'working,' this Court
does not (

BOYLE AGAINST WOMEN: Boyle has a record of undermining workplace
discrimination laws. In one of the most egregious examples, United States v.
North Carolina, Boyle fought to protect North Carolina's right to
discriminate (
against women in the workplace, claiming the state should be exempt from
federal laws protecting the rights of women because the anti-bias laws
were somehow against the state's "culture." The Fourth Circuit
overturned Boyle's nonsensical decision, stating his ruling "constituted an
abuse of discretion."

GROUPS AGAINST BOYLE: The National Bar Association
( (NBA), a national network of
African-American lawyers working together to protect civil and
political rights, is strongly opposed to Boyle's nomination. In a letter to
Sen. Arlen Specter yesterday, the group said it found Judge Boyle "not
qualified" for appointment, saying, "Judge Boyle has not reigned in his
judicial activism to apply an appropriate judicial balance." North
Carolina cops don't like Boyle. The North Carolina Police Benevolent Society
opposes the nomination over a series of rulings. In both Kirby v.
Elizabeth City and Morrash v. Strobel, Boyle dismissed cases brought by
police officers who were penalized for telling the truth in court, ruling
their testimonies were not protected by the First Amendment. The
National Employment Lawyers Association
"strongly opposes" him for his record against workers' rights.


'I just want to survive and go home with all my body parts'

'I just want to survive and go home with all my body parts'

Fears of soldiers on patrol in Mosul as US military death toll in Iraq tops 1,500
Rory Carroll
Friday March 4, 2005

The city was quiet but the soldiers sitting and swaying inside the Stryker were animated by their favourite debate: was it better to be five metres or 20 metres from an explosion?

The front gunner belonged to the 20-metre school, figuring the greater distance reduced your chances of losing limbs to the blast. The two rear gunners scoffed and said that would increase the odds of being hit by shrapnel, which fanned upwards and outwards.

Five months of patrolling Mosul had furnished evidence for both views and the discussion was as well-worn as the Stryker's tyres.

Sergeant David Phillips, 23, sighed and patted his flak jacket. "I just want to stay alive and go home with all my body parts." He spoke for 150,000 American soldiers in Iraq.

Yesterday the number of US military deaths since the March 2003 invasion crept over 1,500.

There was no official acknowledgment of the milestone, just curt statements that three soldiers had died in two separate attacks on Wednesday. "Names are being withheld pending notification of next of kin." The figure includes accidents.

The daily drip of US casualties passes almost unnoticed now, a footnote to the wider slaughter of Iraqis: five policemen killed in two car bombs yesterday, 13 soldiers killed on Wednesday, a judge on Tuesday, at least 115 police and army recruits and civilians on Monday. Some 18,000 civilians are estimated to have died.

Yesterday's headlines were about the renewal of Iraq's state of emergency, fresh attacks on oil pipelines, and deadlock between Shias and Kurds over forming a new government.

The men of Bravo company, an infantry unit which rides in the armoured Stryker vehicles of 321 Battalion in Mosul, did not care that since George Bush's re-election the artificial limbs and flag-draped coffins of US troops have faded in political significance. For them, it was personal.

"I don't tell my mom or my wife that we drive up and down streets getting blown up every day. They'd just worry all the time. I tell them we sit in the base and do the odd mission," said Sgt Nathan Purdy, who is 23.

A week embedded with Bravo company, midway through a year-long stint in an insurgent stronghold, showed a group of men with good morale and determination to catch "bad guys" but divided over the war and frustrated by an elusive enemy.

There was consensus about the reaction when home on leave. "People wanting to buy you drinks, buy you food, wanting to shake your hand, they made you feel a hero," said Specialist Matt Sutton, 24, from Illinois. Those from liberal states such as Washington said anti-war activists did not criticise them personally or echo the Vietnam-era chant of baby killer. "The country is behind us. They didn't dare," said one lieutenant.

Bravo Company's quarters are a bombed-out palace in the grounds of Camp Freedom, a sprawl of cabins and concrete shelters. Mortars land regularly but tend not to hit anything.

Lieutenant Colonel Mike Gibler said his battalion's main objective was rebuilding the Iraqi security forces which "imploded" last November after insurgents overran Mosul's police stations.

The Iraqi army was improving thanks to joint operations and would soon take half of the responsibility of securing the city. Asked about the police force he rolled his eyes, but speculated that there was enough progress for US forces to leave within three years. His desk had tomes on Islam and a "Don't mess with Texas" sticker.

Enlisted men were less sure about progress, complaining they were always on the defensive and waiting to be attacked by insurgents. "They fight like bitches, pop a few shots, then hide," said Sgt Ramirez Flores.

Drive-by shootings have wounded several in the unit but the big fear is roadside bombs which according to the Pentagon accounted for 56% of all US battle deaths in the first two months of this year. They are hidden in rubbish bags, animal carcasses, holes, rubble, cars and carts, turning every object into a potential killer.

A suicide car bomber rammed and immolated one of the battalion's Strykers but all the occupants survived, prompting reverence for the eight-wheel, 23-tonne monsters.

A tip about weapons caches this week led to a midnight mission to dig up a lawn. It yielded nothing.

"F---ing gardeners - what are we doing here?" asked one private. "And tomorrow we're giving out candy to kids again," replied his friend. "We didn't train for this."


Saddam's son plotted his ouster

'Saddam's son plotted his ouster'

AFP[ FRIDAY, MARCH 04, 2005 01:31:37 PM ]

LOS ANGELES: The eldest son of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was plotting to overthrow his father just as the US troops advanced on Baghdad in March 2003, journalist Peter Arnett claimed in Playboy magazine.

Uday Hussein, known for his ruthlessness and flashy lifestyle, had won the support of the leadership of his father's Fidayeen militia to overthrow Saddam's 35-year rule, according to an advance copy of the April edition of Playboy.

The controversial reporter, who was fired by the US NBC television network in 2003 after suggesting that the US war plan in Iraq had failed, made the claim following an 18-month investigation in which he says he gained access to Uday Hussein's inner circle.

The article cited a letter from Saddam Fidayeen commander Gen Maki Humudat, dated March 26, 2003, in which he swore allegiance to a new Iraqi government under the control of Fedayeen chief Uday Hussein.

"According to your direction and command to form a new government under the leadership of your excellency (Uday), we have informed all the senior officers of the Saddam Fidayeen of your desire to appoint them as your candidates for office in your government," the letter said.

Uday had planned to announce his seizure of the crumbling reins of power later the same day, but was thwarted when US jets bombed his Youth TV studios in Baghdad, according to Arnett.

The ambitious heir had even formed a shadow government on the outskirts of Iraq's capital, Baghdad that was disguised under the cover of his powerful Olympic committee and funded by murky oil deals, he said.


Rumsfeld Asked for Contract Details

Rumsfeld Asked for Contract Details

Rep. Waxman wants information on pacts awarded to a defense contractor whose board of directors includes Bush's uncle.

By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Times Staff Writer

March 4, 2005

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) has asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to provide details on a series of contracts awarded to a St. Louis company that has an uncle of President Bush on its board of directors.

In a letter sent to Rumsfeld on Thursday, Waxman asked for copies of all military contracts awarded to Engineered Support Systems Inc. and a briefing on the process used to award those pacts. William H.T. "Bucky" Bush, an uncle of the president, has served on Engineered Support's board of directors since 2000.

In his letter, Waxman cited a Feb. 23 Los Angeles Times article that reported some ESSI contracts were awarded without bids and disclosed that the president's uncle recently cashed in $450,000 worth of stock options in the defense firm.

"These relationships and the sole-source nature of the contracts raise questions about the processes by which these contracts were awarded and administered," Waxman wrote in the letter.

Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Gary Keck said he had not seen the letter written by Congressman Waxman but that Rumsfeld routinely responded to such requests as quickly as possible. "And I'm sure he will do so with this one," Keck said.

Waxman also asked Rumsfeld to provide details on why some of the ESSI contracts were recently referred to the department's inspector general for further review.

A Pentagon official said last week that the contracts were submitted for review because of unspecified anomalies.

ESSI officials did not respond to a request for comment, but company officials have previously stated that the inspector general's review had been ordered because some of the contracts were sole-source awards.

The defense contractor has a dozen different operating units and has been awarded numerous contracts, many of them directly related to U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among the Iraq-related contracts were recent awards to refurbish military trailers and to provide armor protection kits for military vehicles being used in the conflict.

William Bush did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. In a previous interview, the president's uncle said he never used his family connections to help the company win contracts.

"I don't make any calls to the 202 area code," he said, referring to Washington.

William Bush is the youngest brother of the president's father, former president George H. W. Bush.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

U.S. death toll in Iraq passes 1,500

Bombs strike two Iraqi targets, killing 6
U.S. death toll in Iraq passes 1,500

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Bombers struck two Iraqi security targets on Thursday, killing five police officers near the Interior Ministry in Baghdad and another person in front of a police headquarters in Baquba, authorities said.

As the U.S. death toll in the war passed 1,500, Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi extended a state of emergency throughout the country for 30 days, his office said Thursday.

The extension came as insurgents struck for a third consecutive day, igniting two explosive-laden vehicles near the Interior Ministry, police said.

The Baghdad bombs -- inside a Kia and a Jeep Cherokee -- went off within minutes of each other, police said, after guards had stopped the vehicles. Five police officers were killed and seven others were wounded.

In Baquba, a suicide car bomber detonated outside a headquarters for Iraqi emergency police, killing one person and wounding a dozen others, police and hospital sources said.

The attack appeared to target a convoy of Mudhafar Shahab Jiburi, chief of the police agency in Diyala province, said police spokesman Sattar al-Karkhi.

In a separate incident in Baghdad, an Iraqi army patrol used small arms to fire on a vehicle as it approached a traffic control point. The vehicle and a vehicle behind it both detonated.

The incident is under investigation, said a spokesman for the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division, who offered no other details.

A car bomb attack on Monday, the single most deadly attack of the war, killed at least 127 people lined up at a police recruiting center in Hilla. On Tuesday, a judge and his lawyer son who work with the Iraqi war crimes tribunal were assassinated in Baghdad. On Wednesday, 13 people died in two Baghdad bombings aimed at Iraqi police and soldiers.

The killing of three U.S. troops on Wednesday brought the American military death toll in the Iraq war to 1,502, according to the U.S. military.

A roadside bomb killed two Task Force Baghdad soldiers on patrol in the capital late Wednesday, the military said Thursday.

The number of U.S. dead in the war reached 1,500 Wednesday when a U.S. Army soldier died in combat in northern Babil province -- an area south of Baghdad nicknamed the "Triangle of Death."

The soldier was serving with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, a Marine Corps statement said. No other details were released, including the soldier's identity, so relatives could first be notified.

An overwhelming number of all U.S. troops killed in the war have died battling the insurgency that arose after the U.S.-led ouster of the Saddam Hussein regime. The number of those who died in combat totals 1,147, according to the military.

Pentagon officials say 1,450 Iraqi security forces have died hostile action since September 2003.

There has been no official figure for the overall number of Iraqis killed since the conflict began, but some non-government estimates have ranged from 10,000 to 30,000.

Last October, public health experts published a survey in the British health journal The Lancet that estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians had died since the U.S.-led invasion.

'Continuing of the conditions'

Interim Prime Minister Allawi's office said the reason for the extension of the state of emergency was "continuing of the conditions" under which it was first issued.

A state of emergency essentially puts Iraq under martial law and permits the government to restrict freedom of movement, establish curfews and impose any required security and military measures.

The autonomous, mostly Kurdish region in northern Iraq is exempt from the declaration, which has been in place since the U.S.-led operation in November to oust insurgents from Falluja.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Grounded: Millionaire John Gilmore stays close to home while making a point about privacy

Grounded: Millionaire John Gilmore stays close to home while making a point about privacy

He's unable to travel because he refuses to present a government-approved ID

Fascinating article:


Medicare's deficit 7 times Social Security's

Medicare's deficit 7 times Social Security's

Why Bush, Congress aren't addressing this issue

The Associated Press
Updated: 6:48 p.m. ET March 1, 2005

WASHINGTON - A looming Medicare shortage is seven times the size of the one that Social Security faces and nearly four times the entire federal debt. It is not being addressed by President Bush and Congress, and, to some, that is just as well.

Social Security, which Bush has hoisted atop his domestic agenda, is $3.7 trillion short of what it will need for benefits over the next 75 years, under the latest federal projections. Medicare, the health care program for the elderly, must find an estimated $27.8 trillion.

By 2018, Social Security is on track to start paying more annually to recipients than it collects in payroll taxes — an ominous tipping point that Medicare reached last year.

While Social Security is expected to exhaust its reserves in 2042, Medicare should deplete the trust fund financing its hospital benefits in 2019, the latest forecasts show.

Medicare’s problems are full of political and technical complexities that are thornier than those confronting Social Security.

That makes it a daunting mix the White House would rather tackle later.

“Once we modernize and save Social Security for a young generation of Americans, then it will be time to deal with the unfunded liabilities in Medicare,” Bush told reporters last month.

Social Security supports 47 million people, most of whom are elderly and disabled. It is the largest federal program at $517 billion this year.

Medicare, costing $325 billion, provides health insurance to 42 million old and disabled people.

Though Medicare is smaller today, the government and public trustees who oversee both programs projected last year that Medicare’s costs would overtake Social Security’s by 2024 and nearly double them by 2078.

Baby boomer crunch
Helping make Social Security the current priority for the president and fellow Republicans is its relatively clear problems and potential solutions. It faces a crunch from the retirement of baby boomers starting later this decade. It either will need more money from the 12.4 percent payroll tax that workers and their employers split, or cuts in benefits, or extra federal borrowing.

Medicare faces the same demographic tidal wave — plus the added costs and complications of health care. Progress in medicine and medical technology are helping increase health care costs by about 7 percent a year — more than double general inflation.

As a result, few people think Medicare expenses can be definitively contained without stemming the growth of overall medical costs — an intricate task on which there is little consensus. It also would involve taking on the potent lobbies of the nation’s doctors and other health care providers.

“I don’t think anybody has a good idea how to resolve” Medicare’s woes, said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H. He acknowledges that he lacks the votes to overhaul Medicare in the budget that Congress will write this year. “Let’s solve the one we can solve.”

The Medicare problem is “several multiples more difficult than is Social Security,” Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told a House committee last month. But he advised against tackling Medicare until advances are made in medical information technology, which is expected to save money by increasing the health sector’s efficiency.

“If we do it now or even next year, I’m fearful we would be restructuring an obsolete model and have to come back and undo it,” Greenspan said.

Adding to the appeal of tackling Social Security first is a sense by many Republicans of a potential long-term political triumph.

Struggle over personal accounts

Bush is struggling to win support in Congress for his plan to add personal savings accounts for the retirement program. Even so, many Republicans say enactment of a plan buttressing Social Security would win them gratitude from younger voters who think the current system will go bankrupt and is too financially stodgy.

A similar political gain from reshaping Medicare seems more elusive. Congress attached prescription drug coverage to the program in 2003, adding $724 billion to Medicare’s costs over the next decade, according to White House estimates. An immediate effort to cull savings from Medicare could be seen as an admission of error by Bush and the GOP-led Congress.

“It would be embarrassing to suddenly say this is a program in dire need of restricting,” said Robert Reischauer, president of the liberal-leaning Urban Institute and former head of the Congressional Budget Office.

Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, says Bush’s focus on Social Security first could be “a diversion from how big the overall problem” of budget deficits and costly programs such as Medicare really is.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says Democrats’ talk about Medicare “looks a lot like a ploy to do nothing.” He added, “We shouldn’t let Medicare prevent us from making real progress on Social Security.”


Gonzales defends handling of 'dirty bomb' case

Gonzales defends handling of 'dirty bomb' case

Judge ruled earlier that suspect must be tried or freed

The Associated Press
Updated: 6:15 p.m. ET March 1, 2005

WASHINGTON - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday defended the Bush administration’s detention of Jose Padilla, following a judge’s ruling that the “dirty bomb” suspect must be charged with a crime or freed.

While lawmakers urged compliance with the ruling Monday by U.S. District Judge Henry Floyd in Spartanburg, S.C., Gonzales said the Supreme Court has upheld the proposition that the government can hold someone it declares an enemy combatant “for the duration of the hostilities.”

The administration’s position troubled Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., and Frank Wolf, R-Va., who said the fight against terrorism is unlike other conflicts in U.S. history.

“I will not live to see the end to the war on terror,” Wolf said. “We cannot continue to keep an American citizen. This is not (Osama) bin Laden.”

Padilla a former gang member
Serrano said that if the government has the evidence to back its claims against Padilla, “then bring him to trial.”

Padilla, a former gang member who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., has been held for 21 months without being charged. He was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in 2002 after returning from Pakistan.

The government views Padilla as a militant who planned attacks on the United States, including with a dirty bomb radiological device, and has said he received weapons and explosives training from members of al-Qaida.

Floyd ruled that the government can not hold Padilla indefinitely as an “enemy combatant,” a designation President Bush gave him in 2002. The administration said it will appeal the order.

Padilla is one of only two U.S. citizens designated as enemy combatants. The second, Louisiana native Yaser Hamdi, was released in October after the Justice Department said he no longer posed a threat to the United States and no longer had any intelligence value.

Earlier Supreme Court ruling
Hamdi, who was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2001, gave up his American citizenship and returned to his family in Saudi Arabia as a condition of his release.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that the president had authority to hold Hamdi as an enemy combatant. But the court also gave Hamdi the right to challenge his detention.

Gonzales, making his first appearance on Capitol Hill since he became attorney general last month, said the Padilla case presented some hard issues, which he acknowledged federal courts would resolve.

“The administration has no interest in holding someone indefinitely,” he told the House Appropriations law enforcement subcommittee. “We are working very hard in looking at ways to have ultimate disposition of everyone that this government detains.”

Gonzales added, “On the other hand, we also have an obligation to get information ... so that we can better protect this country.”


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

USA Next accused of stealing photo of gay couple for anti-AARP ad campaign

USA Next accused of stealing photo of gay couple for anti-AARP ad campaign
by John in DC - 2/28/2005 10:29:00 AM

Thanks to the DailyKos folks for discovering this story. I got in touch with the couple in the photo on Friday and put them in touch with a lawyer (a rather big lawyer at that). I'm now working as their publicist - not that I wouldn't have covered this anyway. Please help spread the word on this, it's outrageous.

Below is the press release we just sent out. And attached here
( ) is the letter the couple's lawyer just sent to USA Next.

February 28, 2005

Contact: John Aravosis
Spokesman for Richard M. Raymen and Steven P. Hansen

Couple: Image Stolen for Campaign Against AARP

WASHINGTON, DC - Conservative front organization USA Next was accused today of illegally using a gay couple’s wedding photo in an anti-gay ad campaign supporting President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security.

The couple in the photo, Richard M. Raymen and Steven P. Hansen of Portland, Oregon, have come forward through an attorney to demand that USA Next stop using their image, and that the organization publicly apologize for using their image in a homophobic and libelous way. The demand, contained in a letter sent today to USA Next Chairman and CEO Charles Jarvis, references the couples’ right to seek damages for the misappropriation of their image.

In one version of the USA Next advertisement disseminated widely on the Internet last week, and aired repeatedly by television news programs nationwide, the couple’s image, superimposed with a green checkmark, is side-by-side a picture of a US soldier with a red “X” across it. Below the photos is the phrase “The REAL AARP Agenda.”

A copy of the ad can be viewed online here:

"In 2004, our clients allowed their picture to be taken at their public celebration, as couples getting married do every day,” Christopher Wolf, a partner in the Washington, DC office of the New York-based law firm Proskauer Rose LLP and counsel for Raymen and Hansen. . “They did not volunteer to be models for a 2005 right-wing hate campaign, and never would have consented to having their images plastered in an ad of any kind, much less the one USA Next chose to run. USA Next has violated the law and must take responsibility for the consequences. Tort law is quite clear that USA Next acted illegally.”

“The USA Next ad communicates the false message that gay marriages generally, and our clients specifically, are the antithesis of supporting American troops during wartime,” said Wolf. “Gay marriage, and our clients’ ceremony, have nothing to do with support of the troops. Our clients are patriotic Americans who strongly support our service members.”

USA Next’s ad campaign has generated heated debate about the organization.. Ramen and Hansen have been the subject of hate-filled messages and ridicule as a result of the ad campaign, and have suffered a significant invasion of privacy.

“We never signed up to be Harry and Louise for a hate-mongering group,” Raymen said, referring to the fictional couple used in television commercials to scuttle then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s health care proposal. “USA Next is illegally using our photo to portray us as a threat to American values. How would any citizen like having their image stolen and broadcast for the purpose of tarring our troops and suggesting that you’re un-American?”

On behalf of Raymen and Hansen, Wolf wrote USA Next today demanding that the organization immediately stop using photos of the couple and that it publicly apologize for the ongoing harm it is causing.

“As our clients contemplate their full legal remedies, we are writing to demand that you immediately cease and desist using any photograph of our clients and that you publicly apologize to them for the use you already have made, and the harm you have already caused,” Wolf wrote to USA Next.

Wolf said his clients seriously are considering filing suit against USA Next but, regardless, use of the photo must stop.


Rumsfeld Sued Over Prisoner Abuse
Rumsfeld Sued Over Prisoner Abuse
March 1, 2005

Two human rights groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on behalf of eight men allegedly tortured by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility" because he "personally signed off" on policies guiding prisoner treatment, said American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero.

A number of other lawsuits also are pending against Rumsfeld, military commanders and civilian contractors in the abuse scandal, which broke last spring with the disclosure of photographs showing American military men and women abusing prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

An independent commission agreed in August 2004 that Rumsfeld and other top Pentagon leaders contributed to an environment in which prisoners suffered sadistic abuse at Abu Ghraib. The members also concluded that the officials could be faulted for failed leadership and oversight.

On Monday the U.S. military appointed a three-star general to lead an investigation into abuse allegations at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

At a Washington news conference, the ACLU and Human Rights First said the suit was filed in Rumsfeld's home state of Illinois and alleged the eight men suffered physical and psychological injuries while incarcerated in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the suit, the two groups said the men were subjected to torture and other cruel and degrading treatment while in the facilities, including severe and repeated beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions, death threats, and restraint in contorted and excruciating positions.

The ACLU has also filed three similar complaints against Colonel Thomas Pappas, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski and Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez on behalf of detainees who were allegedly tortured in Iraq. The three additional complaints were filed in federal courts in Connecticut, South Carolina and Texas.


German jobless rate at new record

German jobless rate at new record
More than 5.2 million Germans were out of work in February, new figures show.

The figure of 5.216 million people, or 12.6% of the working-age population, is the highest jobless rate in Europe's biggest economy since the 1930s.

The news comes as the head of Germany's panel of government economic advisers predicted growth would again stagnate.

Speaking on German TV, Bert Ruerup said the panel's earlier forecast of 1.4% was too optimistic and warned growth would be just 1% in 2005.

"Do something!"

The growth warning triggered anger even from government supporters, who said the Social Democrat-Green administration of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had to do more.

"We are not going to create more jobs with growth of 1%," Harald Schartau, head of the Social Democrats in the northern state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told ZDF television.

"We say to our friends in Berlin, you have to persevere and create more impulse for growth."

Many German newspapers had the figures a day ahead, splashing them with angry headlines on Tuesday morning.

The mass-market Bild tabloid used red type to splash the phrase, "Do something!" across its front page.


The German government insists its efforts to tackle the stubbornly-high levels of joblessness with a range of labour market reforms are only just getting under way.

The core is the "Hartz-IV" programme introduced in January to shake up welfare benefits and push people back into work - even if some of the jobs are heavily subsidised.

According to the Federal Labour Office, the changes have contributed to the rise in the official unemployment rate.

Some three quarters of February's 180,000 additions to the jobless total were the result of January's reclassification, it said - although it acknowledged the weak economy and cold weather hitting the construction industry were also to blame.

Different numbers

Still, some measures suggest the picture is not quite so bleak.

For one thing, January's reclassification boosted the jobless total by more than 500,000 that month, as many benefit claimants were added to the list for the first time thanks to the new rules.

Moreover, adjustments for seasonal changes give an overall unemployment level of 4.875 million people or 11.7% - admittedly up 0.3 percentage points from the previous month.

And the most internationally-accepted methodology, designed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), says Germany had 3.97 million people out of work in January.

The ILO defines an unemployed person as someone who in the previous four weeks had actively looked for work they could take up immediately.

ILO-based figures also suggest that 14,000 new net jobs were created that month, taking the number of people employed to 38.9 million.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/03/01 12:19:06 GMT


Five Minutes With: Elizabeth Edwards

Interesting interview:


Results of USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll February 25-27

USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll results

At the link below are poll results based on telephone interviews with 1,008 national adults conducted February 25-27, 2005 regarding Bush's handling of the economy, terrorism, and other issues. Based on details provided due to a few questions about the Pope and Baseball, we are told that the survey population included 241 Catholics, 767 non-Catholics (but no further breakdown), and 619 sports fans. Other than that, we have no idea what the political leanings of the sampled adults were (e.g., were there more republicans than democrats, more conservatives than liberals, etc.), so like almost every poll thrown at the public, there is no real way of knowing how accurately the poll results reflect the views of the entire population of the USA.

Here's the link:


Overhaul a Tough Sell, GOP Lawmakers Find

Overhaul a Tough Sell, GOP Lawmakers Find

Republicans returning to Capitol Hill say they were greeted with skepticism from constituents over the president's Social Security privatization plan.

By Janet Hook and Richard Simon
Times Staff Writers

March 1, 2005

WASHINGTON — Discouraged by the feedback they received in meetings with constituents, Republican lawmakers returned to Congress this week convinced that it would take time to build support for President Bush's still-evolving plan to overhaul Social Security.

Many lawmakers held town hall meetings to discuss Social Security during last week's congressional recess, and many Republicans were pounded by skeptical questions about the president's plan. Some said the experience drove home how much work remained to persuade people to support Bush's proposal, which would allow younger workers to divert a portion of their Social Security taxes into private investment accounts.

"This is going to be a long process," said Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.), chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees Social Security. "I don't expect members to come back from recess and say: 'No way we can do that.' But I also don't expect them to say: 'This is going to be easy.' "

Some Republicans say they never expected the complex issue to move quickly through Congress. But some senior strategists have contended that Bush has only a small window of opportunity to get his initiative in motion.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said in February that Bush had about three months to mobilize public opinion behind his plan.

"If we don't see some grass-roots organizing and change of public opinion after 90 days, it's going to discourage people in Congress from moving ahead," Grassley told reporters in Iowa.

A senior Senate GOP aide said the initiative could be in trouble if it fails to pick up some steam after Congress returns from its next recess in early April. "After that recess, if things haven't started to jell, I wouldn't say it's over, but you've got to start seeing some movement by the end of June," the aide said.

Stuart Roy, a former aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), said the feedback from town hall meetings last week would support a "go-slow approach" to handling the Social Security issue.

"It is a months-long, if not a years-long, process," Roy said. Bush will continue his campaign-style appearances around the country this week to promote Social Security restructuring, with visits to New Jersey and Indiana. But some GOP leaders say the president also may need to step up his lobbying of congressional Republicans, perhaps even going to Capitol Hill.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) acknowledged that Bush's allies faced resistance when discussing the issue with constituents. But the problem, he said, was a lack of understanding. "The headwind is confusion and concern, and they don't know who to believe," Ryan said. "It just requires more communication."

He said Republicans would face political peril if they invested a lot of time and energy in the issue and could not deliver legislation. "People are expecting something to happen this year," said Ryan, who has proposed his own plan to create private accounts. "For us to say there's a problem [and] then walk away from it would be irresponsible in the eyes and minds of our constituents."

Michael Tanner, an expert on Social Security at the libertarian Cato Institute, said he was encouraged by behind-the-scenes maneuvering — even if the public face of the debate did not seem to go well for Bush.

"There are lots of discussions, a lot of negotiating and people reaching out with different proposals," he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has been attempting to broker a compromise with Democrats, is drafting a bill that would create the private investment accounts and raise the $90,000 cap on wages subject to Social Security taxes. Graham also is exploring a formula change that likely would lead to retirees receiving a lower initial benefit, with protections for low-income workers.

Bush says the private accounts would allow younger workers to build a fatter retirement nest egg than the current system can offer, while at the same time giving workers a sense of "ownership" of their retirement savings. Opponents say Bush's plan would force the government to borrow $1 trillion or more to replace the tax revenue diverted into the accounts, while doing nothing to fix the financing shortfall that Social Security will face as the baby boom generation retires. White House officials said there had been no change of strategy in response to last week's congressional town hall meetings.

Bush has said repeatedly that the first step in the process of winning support for private investment accounts is to convince members of Congress, through their constituents, that the Social Security system is facing a severe funding squeeze. White House officials have said Bush believes it will take weeks or months to accomplish that objective.

Some Republican strategists, fearing that no compromise will break the Democrats' solid wall of opposition, are plotting strategies for defeating moderate Democrats such as Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bill Nelson of Florida in the 2006 elections and replacing them with Republicans who want to overhaul Social Security.

"We're going to get this in the next five years," Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a leading backer of private accounts, said last month. "We'll either get it now, or we'll knock out the two Nelsons … and come back and say: 'Who wants to play again?' "

Times staff writer Warren Vieth contributed to this report.


Monday, February 28, 2005

Don't Blame Wal-Mart

The New York Times
February 28, 2005

Don't Blame Wal-Mart

Berkeley, Calif. — BOWING to intense pressure from neighborhood and labor groups, a real estate developer has just given up plans to include a Wal-Mart store in a mall in Queens, thereby blocking Wal-Mart's plan to open its first store in New York City. In the eyes of Wal-Mart's detractors, the Arkansas-based chain embodies the worst kind of economic exploitation: it pays its 1.2 million American workers an average of only $9.68 an hour, doesn't provide most of them with health insurance, keeps out unions, has a checkered history on labor law and turns main streets into ghost towns by sucking business away from small retailers.

But isn't Wal-Mart really being punished for our sins? After all, it's not as if Wal-Mart's founder, Sam Walton, and his successors created the world's largest retailer by putting a gun to our heads and forcing us to shop there.

Instead, Wal-Mart has lured customers with low prices. "We expect our suppliers to drive the costs out of the supply chain," a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said. "It's good for us and good for them."

Wal-Mart may have perfected this technique, but you can find it almost everywhere these days. Corporations are in fierce competition to get and keep customers, so they pass the bulk of their cost cuts through to consumers as lower prices. Products are manufactured in China at a fraction of the cost of making them here, and American consumers get great deals. Back-office work, along with computer programming and data crunching, is "offshored" to India, so our dollars go even further.

Meanwhile, many of us pressure companies to give us even better bargains. I look on the Internet to find the lowest price I can and buy airline tickets, books, merchandise from just about anywhere with a click of a mouse. Don't you?

The fact is, today's economy offers us a Faustian bargain: it can give consumers deals largely because it hammers workers and communities.

We can blame big corporations, but we're mostly making this bargain with ourselves. The easier it is for us to get great deals, the stronger the downward pressure on wages and benefits. Last year, the real wages of hourly workers, who make up about 80 percent of the work force, actually dropped for the first time in more than a decade; hourly workers' health and pension benefits are in free fall. The easier it is for us to find better professional services, the harder professionals have to hustle to attract and keep clients. The more efficiently we can summon products from anywhere on the globe, the more stress we put on our own communities.

But you and I aren't just consumers. We're also workers and citizens. How do we strike the right balance? To claim that people shouldn't have access to Wal-Mart or to cut-rate airfares or services from India or to Internet shopping, because these somehow reduce their quality of life, is paternalistic tripe. No one is a better judge of what people want than they themselves.

The problem is, the choices we make in the market don't fully reflect our values as workers or as citizens. I didn't want our community bookstore in Cambridge, Mass., to close (as it did last fall) yet I still bought lots of books from In addition, we may not see the larger bargain when our own job or community isn't directly at stake. I don't like what's happening to airline workers, but I still try for the cheapest fare I can get.

The only way for the workers or citizens in us to trump the consumers in us is through laws and regulations that make our purchases a social choice as well as a personal one. A requirement that companies with more than 50 employees offer their workers affordable health insurance, for example, might increase slightly the price of their goods and services. My inner consumer won't like that very much, but the worker in me thinks it a fair price to pay. Same with an increase in the minimum wage or a change in labor laws making it easier for employees to organize and negotiate better terms.

I wouldn't go so far as to re-regulate the airline industry or hobble free trade with China and India - that would cost me as a consumer far too much - but I'd like the government to offer wage insurance to ease the pain of sudden losses of pay. And I'd support labor standards that make trade agreements a bit more fair.

These provisions might end up costing me some money, but the citizen in me thinks they are worth the price. You might think differently, but as a nation we aren't even having this sort of discussion. Instead, our debates about economic change take place between two warring camps: those who want the best consumer deals, and those who want to preserve jobs and communities much as they are. Instead of finding ways to soften the blows, compensate the losers or slow the pace of change - so the consumers in us can enjoy lower prices and better products without wreaking too much damage on us in our role as workers and citizens - we go to battle.

I don't know if Wal-Mart will ever make it into New York City. I do know that New Yorkers, like most other Americans, want the great deals that can be had in a rapidly globalizing high-tech economy. Yet the prices on sales tags don't reflect the full prices we have to pay as workers and citizens. A sensible public debate would focus on how to make that total price as low as possible.

Robert B. Reich, the author of "Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America," was secretary of labor from 1993 to 1997.


GOP Odd Couple Reflect Chambers They Lead

GOP Odd Couple Reflect Chambers They Lead

Their Cohesion Could Greatly Affect Bush Agenda

By Charles Babington and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writers

The Republican leaders of the House and Senate were 4,000 miles apart on a recent Friday afternoon. One hunkered down at a GOP lawmakers' retreat in West Virginia while the other discussed world poverty with movie stars in a Swiss resort town. People who know them were not surprised.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) share many goals and, by most accounts, genuinely like each other. But in style, ambition and operating methods, they could hardly be more different.

Their ability to work together this year and next -- and, more important, to align their two chambers -- will have major ramifications for President Bush's agenda and the course of such knotty issues as the Iraq war and the federal deficit.

With Republicans holding the House, Senate and White House, cooperation would seem easier than under divided government, but that has not always been the case. The House consistently leans more conservative than the Senate, and lately Hastert has differed with Bush on such matters as highway funding and Social Security.

Aside from making them a political odd couple, Hastert's and Frist's actions, choices and priorities reflect the realities of the chambers they lead.

Republicans dominate the House, where Hastert has moved quietly but aggressively to consolidate his power, rarely bothering to explain his rationale or involve Democrats in making decisions. In the Senate, Democrats still hold enough seats to block Republicans on most issues, sometimes by using the filibuster. Their strength forces Frist to cajole, explain and persuade almost constantly, either before television cameras or secluded in his office with a handful of fellow senators.

Frist's job is "like herding cats," said James A. Thurber, director of American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. Mainly because of half a dozen moderate GOP senators, he said, "it's very hard to keep the caucus together in the Senate."

As for Hastert and his lieutenants, Thurber said, "it's brilliant in the House how they've centralized power."

A comparison of the two men, and the current state of the institutions they lead, suggests both the power and the limits of one-party rule.
A Difference in Style

The events of Jan. 27 and 28 neatly captured their divergent styles: Hastert the classic insider, a legislator's legislator, little known to the outside world; Frist the cosmopolitan traveler and frequent television guest, known as much for his medical skills as his legislative talents. Most House and Senate Republicans had traveled to West Virginia's Greenbrier resort for a long weekend of partisan strategizing. Hastert arrived promptly on the first day, a Thursday, and was there Friday when Bush spoke.

Frist was in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum. A surgeon who has operated on indigent patients and campaigned for better health around the world, he had agreed last summer to moderate a panel on global poverty. In doing so, he drew a few chuckles when he appeared not to recognize actress Sharon Stone, asking her to "please identify yourself" when she interrupted the talk to offer money to fight malaria in Africa.

Frist left Davos early to fly home in time to reach the Greenbrier on Friday night, soon after Bush had left, and he stayed through the weekend. A few published reports said Frist's Davos diversion had irked Hastert and other Republicans, but the speaker plays down the incident.

"Somebody assumed that I would probably be unhappy because he was in Davos and I was with the conference," said Hastert, who, like Frist, spoke for this article. "But that's up to him. He has to make the decisions. I have enough trouble filling my shoes every day and getting things done here."

By "here" he means the 435-member House, his workplace for two decades. Whereas Frist, 53, is contemplating a 2008 presidential bid, Hastert, 63, has made it clear he aspires to nothing beyond the speakership, which he has held for six years. He rarely holds news conferences or goes on network talk shows. A burly man who ambles when he walks and often mumbles when he talks, Hastert still resembles an Illinois high school wrestling coach -- which he was, for many years.

Frist is a tall, trim, sharply dressed physician with personal wealth and degrees from Princeton and Harvard. His possible White House aspirations sometimes stir whispered questions about his motives when he goes on TV or makes well-publicized trips. By the standards of Washington politics, however, such questions seem mild, colleagues say, largely because the election is years away, and even Frist's potential rivals generally respect and trust him. Frist says he will retire at the end of 2006, keeping the two-term-limit pledge he made when elected in 1994.

Frist said he is keenly aware that his Senate career will draw to a close midway through Bush's second term. "It keeps me very focused," he said. "It is pretty much the same thing in heart surgery. It makes you go hard fast, maximize use of time and respect other people."

He added, "I can't put things off two or three or four years -- these big issues like Social Security or Medicare last year."

For all their differences -- Frist sometimes e-mails his aides at 3 a.m., while Hastert sleeps from 10 or 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. -- the two have key similarities. Their politics are mainstream conservatism, and they landed in their powerful posts largely by accident. Hastert, after eight years of unspectacular ascension in the House, vaulted to the speakership in late 1998 when a series of political and ethical missteps toppled then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and his heir apparent, Bob Livingston (R-La.).

Frist, who never voted until he was 36, jumped from medicine to politics in 1994 and promptly unseated veteran Sen. James Sasser (D). Eight years later, when Trent Lott (R-Miss.) was forced out as Senate majority leader because he praised a 1948 segregationist presidential campaign, Bush helped elevate his friend Frist to the post.

Congressional sources say Hastert had no special affection for Lott and was ready to embrace the new Senate leader. But they had a rocky start in April 2003, when Frist angered Hastert and other Republicans by not informing them that he had agreed to limit a proposed tax cut during tough negotiations with party moderates.

Frist quickly apologized, and Hastert says he used the occasion to reach an understanding with him. "I said to him, 'Look it' -- and I think he agreed -- 'if we're going to get along together, if we're going to get things done, we have to be honest with each other and straightforward with each other and tell each other some things that probably aren't pleasant to tell. But we have to be candid.' And we've had that relationship. And I think it's worked."

Other Capitol insiders agree that Frist has grown more adept in his leadership post, and he recently celebrated a victory that reversed one of last year's keenest disappointments. After several years of nudging by the House, the Senate passed a measure to limit class-action lawsuits. "I'm hopeful," said a beaming Frist, "that the swift passage of this overwhelmingly bipartisan bill reflects a continuing commitment by members of both chambers to put good policy ahead of partisan politics."

But lawmakers from both parties say it is far from certain that the House and Senate can resolve long-standing differences on many other high-profile issues, including energy policies, a ban on Arctic oil drilling, highway funding and medical malpractice revisions -- not to mention the battle now raging over Social Security.
Bridging Differences

Congressional rules and precedents have long granted minority parties greater protections in the Senate than in the House. When Republicans and Democrats each control one chamber -- or when they split control of the White House and Congress -- those differences are largely muted by the broader partisan warfare throughout the government. But when one party controls the executive and legislative branches, as Republicans have since the 2002 elections, the House-Senate differences come more sharply into play, often frustrating those who cannot understand why the majority party does not push its entire agenda through Congress.

The Hastert-led House, able to ignore Democrats, often passes legislation that the more centrist Senate rejects, including measures dealing with gun control, abortion limits and civil liability curbs. Last year, the House and Senate could not even agree on a budget, in an embarrassment to the Republican Party.

In the meantime, Hastert, ever focused inward, has coupled his institutional powers with tough policies in his GOP caucus, cowing potential challengers in ways that belie his teddy-bear image. He recently removed a handful of Republican committee members, including two chairmen, deemed insufficiently loyal. He replaced them with allies less likely to question his leadership team, which includes Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).

Hastert and DeLay "made a conscious decision this year to consolidate power," said six-term Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.).

But he said Hastert leavens his tough-guy approach with patient willingness to listen to colleagues. He cited last year's intelligence restructuring bill, which many Republicans rejected until Hastert promised to allow changes to immigration laws. "He got a lot of bad publicity," LaHood said, "but he did it in a way that pleased our members."

Nowadays, Frist and Hastert meet frequently, seeking ways to bring the unwieldy Senate and lock-step House into accord -- a task tougher than it looks, insiders say. Senate GOP Whip Mitch McConnell (Ky.) called Frist's leadership post "the toughest job in town" and said of the House: "Things that they can do on a partisan basis, we couldn't even get started on over here on a partisan basis."

Hastert said he understands Frist's challenge and is determined to work with the other chamber, even if it sometimes seems alien.

"Even though the Senate is only 30 yards away across that Rotunda," Hastert said, "sometimes it's like they're 30 miles away."

Originally published Saturday, February 26, 2005; Page A01