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Between the Lines

December 23, 2003

Mad cow disease: it's here now

The U.S. now has its first official case of mad cow disease. The sick animal, slaughtered this month, was from a farm in Mabton, Wash., not far from Yakima.

Some meat from the animal was shipped to two packing plants in the state. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman claims, nonetheless, that she has complete confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply.

Mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, eats holes in the brains of sick cows -- and in the brains of humans who consume meat from diseased animals. There is no treatment for beast or man and death is inevitable.

The USDA has been testing suspect animals since 1990, after an epidemic of mad cow killed more than 150 people in Britain and continental Europe. Veneman said 20,526 animals were tested this year.

Posted by tbrown at 04:30 PM


Looks like Howard Dean was right after all

The Democratic presidential hopeful took grief from every Republican hack and brain-dead editorial writer (I hate to be redundant here) from D.C. to the California shore for saying that the capture of Saddam Hussein did nothing to make us safer. Well, Dean was right. Saddam’s apprehension was, obviously, a good thing. He’s one of modern history’s worst thugs and he should be tried by the Iraqis for his depredations against his fellow citizens. Maybe we’ll even let that happen.

But let’s be clear: Saddam’s apprehension did nothing to make us any safer. Saddam already had been on the run for months and had been, apparently, splitting time between a hut and a hole in the ground. If he ever had been a threat to the U.S., he certainly wasn’t when he was captured.

Meanwhile, back here on the home front, the Department of Homeland Security has upped the security-alert level to Orange and government officials are considering extending the alert into next year. Why? Officials are quite concerned that Al-Qaida operatives will hijack more planes or use other means to, as White House spokesman Scott McClellan put it, launch attacks that could “rival or exceed the scope and impact of those we experienced on Sept. 11.”

“While officials would not discuss specific information that led the administration to raise the threat level, they said not only that it was considered credible but also that the volume of it picked up by both electronic intercepts and human intelligence had increased significantly in recent days and weeks. The source of that intelligence is largely overseas, officials said.”

Have a vigilant holiday – and remember, the talking heads say we’re safer now.

Posted by tbrown at 11:36 AM


And by the way – where is Osama?

Capturing him might actually contribute something to making us safer. It was, after all at his bidding – not that of Saddam – that those 19 terrorists crashed airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and that muddy field in Pennsylvania. And it was him against whom the “war on terror” was launched. Remember?

Here’s a thumb-sucker from Newsweek that reports Osama is still alive (though some say his health may be failing) and still dodging U.S. pursuers (we now have about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, the original front in the terror war, compared with about 130,000 in Iraq). He’s also vowing to take the offensive by bringing more terror attacks against the U.S. and its allies in Iraq, Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East.

And, perhaps, in the U.S. itself, if our Department of Homeland Security is right.

Here’s a question Democratic candidates might try on audiences, though I seriously doubt any of them, with the possible exceptions of Dean and Wesley Clark have the moxie to pull it off: “Do you feel safer now than you did two years ago?”

Posted by tbrown at 11:33 AM


The official memory hole grows …

The Bush administration, which since day one has established itself as one of the most secretive in the nation’s history, is seizing every opportunity to conceal as much government information as possible, even stuff that under no circumstances could be considered important to national security.

“Steven Aftergood, who directs the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, says it is nothing less than a ‘mutation in American politics’ away from open government. ‘There is an unwholesome change in the deliberative process unfolding before our eyes,’ he said. ‘These are not technicalities. These are fundamental issues of American government that are now up for grabs.’ "

Read it all here.

Posted by tbrown at 11:30 AM


… and so does the unofficial one

Meanwhile, our good friend the FCC, which has never seen a proposal for media monopoly that it doesn’t enthusiastically welcome, has approved the $6.6 billion merger of Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. with DirecTV, swelling his elephantine viewership by another 11 million. This is particularly troubling from the standpoint of political speech, as News Corp. owns “fair and balanced” Fox News, which is little more than an ill-mannered extension of the White House flack staff. Murdoch’s “news” operations can be reliably depended upon to hastily dispose of any news inimical to the interests of the Bush administration

Ah, yes. It’s Rupert’s world. We just have to watch it.

Posted by tbrown at 11:28 AM


Rush actually is just a linguini-spined wimp

The radio bully, it turns out, allegedly was blackmailed by his maid. Rush “I Take Full Responsibility for My Actions” Limbaugh -- blackmailed! Any Real American would have booted the maid and taken his chances with Truth, Justice and the American Way. Not Rush. He paid some $4 million in hush money, according to his shark (who no doubt will extract at least that much before this is over).

Now the lawyer, Roy Black, is talking to Palm Beach County officials about a plea bargain. Yes – a plea bargain for Rush “I Am Not a Hypocrite” Limbaugh.

Tsk, tsk. How sad. And how very predictable.

Update: When a blowhard the, uh, size of Limbaugh blows a gasket, it isn't pretty. His "statement" today, regarding a Florida judge's order that he open his medical records to prosecutors, is an all timer. Right up there with his Best OxyContin Moments.

Posted by tbrown at 11:26 AM




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 RECENT ENTRIES
Mad cow disease: it's here now
Looks like Howard Dean was right after all
And by the way – where is Osama?
The official memory hole grows …
… and so does the unofficial one
Rush actually is just a linguini-spined wimp

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