During the holiday season, children should slumber with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. Instead, an animal-rights group's anti-fur campaign is giving them tormenting nightmares.
So charges the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, referring to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals activists, who are menacing children at performances of "The Nutcracker" in 20 U.S. cities - giving them handouts that read, "Your Mommy Kills Animals."
"The campaign is intended to terrorize young children whose mothers are wearing fur," the alliance says of the fliers, which show a color illustration of a woman stabbing a rabbit.
"The text implies that a child's mother who wears fur may kill the family pets. The sooner she stops wearing fur, the sooner the animals will be safe. Until then, keep your doggie or kitty friends away from mommy - she's an animal killer."
A spokesman at PETA headquarters in Norfolk didn't deny the charges when we called, providing the statement: "PETA activists ... are making guest appearances outside performances of 'The Nutcracker' across the country this holiday season with a cheeky message of compassion.
"As children arrive ... PETA will be there to greet any fur-clad moms and their children with their newest anti-fur leaflet ... 'Your Mommy Kills Animals.' Kids will see the bloody truth behind their moms' pretentious pelts. Accompanied by graphic photographs of skinned carcasses and animals [that] never get to swim or have fun. All they can do is cry - just so your greedy mom can have that fur coat to show off when she walks the streets."
LAND OF THE FREE
An Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling upholding right-to-work laws is cause for celebration in some quarters of Washington.
The court rejected two separate attempts by union lawyers to deny Oklahoma citizens the right to choose whether to join or support financially a union, upholding Oklahoma's Right to Work Amendment passed by statewide referendum in September 2001.
The two-year legal battle was waged by attorneys for former Gov. Frank Keating alongside National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation lawyers from Washington against union lawyers "bent on reclaiming the privilege of compulsory unionism they enjoyed prior to that referendum," says Stefan Gleason, the NRWLDF's vice president.
"Today is a great day for Oklahoma. No longer will there be a dark cloud over the Right to Work Amendment that has already resulted in the creation of new jobs, an increase in wages, and more employee freedom, compared to states without such protections."
Tom Scully, the Bush administration official who headed the massive Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, has joined the Washington law office of Alston & Bird.
The return of Scully, formerly president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, to the private sector comes on the heels of the firm's appointment of Colin Roskey, the Senate Finance Committee lead staffer on the Medicare bill signed into law by President Bush two weeks ago.
During nearly three years with the Bush administration, Scully, a former deputy assistant to President George H.W. Bush, was known to be one of Medicare's strongest proponents - and one of its toughest critics. He oversaw insurance coverage for approximately 25 percent of the U.S. population and the second-largest program budget in the federal government.
"Tom Scully was a leading architect of a fundamental restructuring in the way our nation pays for health care services and has arguably done as much as anyone to modernize the system and bring it into the 21st century," notes Ben Johnson, Alston & Bird's managing partner.
Among others, Scully will now be working alongside former Sen. Bob Dole.
CHURCH AND STATE
Leaders of the American Muslim community are encouraging members of the faith to weigh U.S. presidential candidates by their positions on the USA Patriot Act.
Issuing the first of weekly "Election 2004 Updates," the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington observes that provisions of the act have been challenged by civil libertarians as infringing on the rights of all Americans.
"Muslims are specifically concerned with section 213 (sneak and peak searches), section 215 (personal records), section 412 (indefinite detentions), and section 802 (definition of domestic terrorism)," says the political update.
"To have a voice in the political process, American Muslims must be aware of the issues that impact their lives and have an understanding of where each candidate stands on those issues," says council executive director Nihad Awad.
Christmas always reminds me of one of my favorite all-time congressional quotes, compliments of a former senator and congressman, William L. Armstrong, Colorado Republican, in 1988:
"The federal government is currently operating on a budget passed in the dead of night just before Christmas. It comprised three massive documents, ran to a staggering 3,296 pages, weighed in at a hefty 43 pounds, and had a price tag of $650 billion. Congress had about three hours to look at it before voting on it."
Let's drop by the National Archives, which just released for public hearing 240 additional hours of tape recordings from the Nixon presidency.
In the latest batch - actually 304 compact discs - are approximately 3,000 conversations recorded at the White House from July 1972 through October 1972. This is the 10th so-called "opening" of Nixon White House tapes since 1980.
Before the latest tapes could be released, we're told, officials sworn to secrecy had to edit out 21 minutes for national security reasons. In addition, seven minutes were restricted for invasion of privacy (good thing President Clinton didn't tape-record his presidency), and 14 hours of tape wound up on the Archives floor merely because it was unintelligible.
We turn to Alan Caruba, founder of the National Anxiety Center, for his annual review of the most dubious news stories of the year - in 2003 debunking food police, dry toilets and bovine flatulence.
"This year has not lacked for some of the stupidest ideas put forth by various groups claiming that it's for our own good," notes Caruba.
Item: In January, columnist and failed California gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington initiated "Project Detroit" to get people to stop driving sport utility vehicles and other vehicles. She claimed that buying gas-operated vehicles helped support terrorism.
Item: In September, the First International Dry Toilet Conference was held in Finland in order to avoid an "environmental disaster." Its objective is to eliminate flush toilets. ("If you prefer a run to the outhouse instead of your bathroom," said Caruba, "you may have to race Al Gore, because he thinks this is a great idea.")
Item: In June, a New Zealand legislator proposed a tax on the flatulence released by that nation's cattle and sheep. It would raise $4.9 million to fund research into ways of minimizing the effect it was claimed to have on the Earth's climate.
Item: In June, the U.S. surgeon general told a congressional committee that he would support a total ban on all tobacco products. ("Someone should tell him about the failed social experiment called Prohibition or the billions of dollars of illegal drugs smuggled into the U.S. every year," said Caruba.)
Item: In November, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a group that in the past has opposed both Chinese and Mexican food, said nutrition labeling on packaged food was too confusing for consumers to understand, essentially saying they are too stupid to do the math. Its spokesman said, "We could envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheese (and) meat."
Item: In May, a lawyer sued Kraft Foods, seeking to ban Oreo cookies. Nationwide, the food police have declared a holy war claiming that the most prolific weapons of mass destruction are a cheeseburger and a soda. They're saying that personal responsibility no longer should be considered the best way for Americans to watch their weight.
Item: In December, New Jersey held its first bear hunt in decades after it was determined that up to 3,000 bears are roaming the most densely populated state in the union. On the first day of the hunt, more than 100 were bagged. Animal rights advocates were very upset. Meanwhile, an estimated 170,000 deer still roam the state.
"There was no end to the unscientific claims and outrageous lawsuits intended to impose endless restrictions on everything anybody anywhere in the world might possibly enjoy, from smoking to eating to driving," concludes Caruba, whose center was founded in 1990 to debunk "scare campaigns" that are designed to influence public opinion and policy.
"At Christmas play and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year."
- Thomas Tusser, "A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry," 1557