How much is $400 billion?
It's 400,000 millions. Or 400 million thousands. Or 4 billion hundreds. Any way you count it, says the conservative Heritage Foundation, $400 billion is the "low" estimate of what taxpayers are likely to pay over the next 10 years if Congress and President Bush add prescription drugs to Medicare as an entitlement.
As the late Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois said, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money."
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"The difference between Congress and drunken sailors is that drunken sailors are spending their own money." - Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), when asked by FOX News Channel's Bill O'Reilly if he had learned anything from a publicly funded study on political conservatism.
ONE MAN'S NANTUCKET
"He began the day with his usual intelligence and national security briefings. He also met with staff on a number of issues. Then he cleared cedar and is going for a run." - White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan, giving us a glimpse of the typical day of President Bush's "vacation" at his ranch outside Crawford, Texas.
National Stonewall Democrats are denouncing the Senate Republican leadership for pushing to further codify marriage discrimination in federal law.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), in a 12-page policy paper published by the Republican Policy Committee, warns that same-sex "marriage" is a "threat" that must be dealt with by the U.S. Senate. Or at least that's how the Stonewallers interpret it.
The paper titled "The Threat to Marriage from the Courts" offers a strategic road map on how to curb marriage equality and says that nothing "will stop determined activists and their judicial allies (but) a constitutional amendment."
"Senate leaders should be adequately addressing inequality, and not publishing 'how-to guides' on how to discriminate against millions of Americans," says Dave Noble, the NSD's executive director. "It seems that all Republicans can do lately is find new ways to attack our families."
He's not referring to traditional families.
National Stonewall Democrats, if you didn't gather, is the leading national organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Democrats, with more than 70 local chapters across the nation.
TEACHING THE ABCs
Harvard anthropologist Edward C. "Ted" Green, a supporter of the "ABCs" approach to preventing AIDS, has been appointed to the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
"It seemed like quite a lot of fanfare (for) an advisory council that meets a few times a year," Green wrote to friends after a swearing-in ceremony administered by Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Claude Allen. "Still, I hope to have some influence on how we conduct AIDS prevention in the future (effective prevention remains my primary focus)."
Writing in March about the ABCs - "Abstinence, Be faithful, or use Condoms" - we noted that President Bush, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for global affairs, have all endorsed abstinence as a means of AIDS prevention, especially in Africa and the Caribbean.
But Green, at the forefront of calling attention to the ABCs approach, stressed "it is not 'abstinence only' or 'condoms only.' Both are needed. There is a need for condoms if A and B fail. Some people will never change their behavior."
The anthropologist explains that specific high-risk groups, such as prostitutes and their customers, are not likely to change and, therefore, need condoms for protection.
Still, Green says what is witnessed of late in Uganda, with the "B" approach of monogamous relationships and fidelity in marriage, appears to be proof that a general population can and will change behavior.
Ugandan women, afraid for their lives because of philandering husbands and boyfriends, demanded change. And as Ugandan men reduce their number of partners, far fewer infections are being transmitted.
BIRMINGHAM AND BAGHDAD
In a speech centered on the uphill battle to combat terrorism around the world, President Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told the 28th annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists that "our own histories should remind us that the union of democratic principle and practice is always a work in progress."
"When the Founding Fathers said, 'We the People,' they did not mean us," Rice told the black reporters. "Our ancestors were considered three-fifths of a person. America has made great strides to overcome its birth defects, but the struggle has been long and the cost has been high."
Rice told the minority crowd that, "like many of you, I grew up around the home-grown terrorism of the 1960s. I remember the bombing of the church in Birmingham in 1963, because one of the little girls that died was a friend of mine. Forty years removed from the tragedy, I can honestly say that Denise McNair and the others did not die in vain. They and all who suffered and struggled for civil rights helped reintroduce this nation to its founding ideals.
"And because of their sacrifice, we are a better nation - and a better example to a world where difference is still too often taken as a license to kill."
She implored the journalists to "never indulge the condescending voices who allege that some people are not interested in freedom or aren't ready for freedom's responsibilities. That view was wrong in 1963 in Birmingham, and it is wrong in 2003 in Baghdad."
The Washington-based immigration-watchdog group Project USA has identified nine congressmen who, given their "poor records" on immigration issues, are considered "vulnerable" in the next election.
While it has yet to name the targeted lawmakers, between now and the November 2004 elections, the group intends to inform voters in each of the nine districts about their voting records.
"Just imagine the shock wave it would send through Washington" if immigration became a deciding factor in the election, says Project USA Director Craig Nelson. "Even the White House might realize that Americans have had enough of putting corporate profiteers and race hustlers above the well-being of the American people."
FREE SPEECH, YOUR TAXES
Recipients of federal grants are being asked to comply with the Bush administration's policies. And this, according to the Village Voice, is "a right-wing conspiracy to audit nonprofits" - and a threat to free speech.
"The Bush administration is actively seeking to gag or punish social service organizations that challenge the party line on such matters as health care for poor children and HIV prevention, according to a new report," Chisun Lee warns in the latest issue of the New York counterculture weekly.
"Nonprofits that disagree with the president's own solutions, or go further and blame him for problems in the first place, have come to expect unpleasant consequences. Those might include audits of federal-funds spending and reviews of content, such as workshop literature."
The Voice cites a report from OMB Watch, a Washington group whose board of directors reads like an alphabet-soup Who's Who of Beltway liberaldom, with officials from the AFL-CIO, UAW and AFSCME, not to mention the Sierra Club and TomPaine.com.
"If you disagree with the administration on ideological grounds, they're going to come down with a hammer. This has huge implications for the free flow of speech in this country," Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, told the Voice.
The funding flap began, according to the Voice, when protesters at a July 2002 AIDS conference in Barcelona, heckled Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, drowning out his speech. HHS responded by reviewing federal funding for the activist groups whose members had organized the protests.
The Voice notes that HHS also is scrutinizing $224,000 in annual taxpayer funding for the Stop AIDS Project in San Francisco, which has been accused of violating federal policy with its sexually explicit workshops. One of that group's workshops was titled "Booty Call" and another offered advice on how to have "safe sex" with male prostitutes.
Such scrutiny of federal grantees "erodes a key part of our ability to pursue justice," Mr. Bass told the Voice.
"Governator" of California.