Dealing with mad cow disease has been headache enough for the National Cattlemen's Association. Now they have People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) surfing down their necks.
PETA, a pro-vegeterian bunch never short on surprises, somehow has obtained the Internet site Beef.com - which is very similar to the cattlemen's popular online address, Beef.org.
In other words, rather than feasting eyes on a juicy New York Strip, Internet users who mistakenly surf into PETA's site get to see a foaming-at-the-mouth cow.
Washington PETA official Bruce Friedrich, who steered this columnist to Beef.com, is encouraging Americans from here to Walla Walla, Wash., to throw away all frozen meat for fear it's contaminated.
As for the domain name Beef.com, it's owned by Michael Fischer of Michigan, who has allowed PETA exclusive use of the address - free of charge - for one month. After that, it's for sale - $2.5 million its current price tag.
Economically speaking, George W. Bush is sitting pretty.
"Often, criticism leveled at policymakers is well founded. I certainly have offered up my share," writes American Enterprise Institute resident scholar John H. Makin. "But as 2003 ends and 2004 begins, we find ourselves at a point where the performance of the U.S. economy is about as good as it gets."
Makin observes that the stock market is up 20 percent this year, inflation and interest rates are low, productivity growth is high, and U.S. exports are rising strongly.
Now, if Congress and the White House would only sit down and tackle the nation's skyrocketing overall debt, which has just broken the $7 trillion threshold - a new record.
LOVE THE PORK
More than three months into fiscal 2004 and Congress has yet to finish the appropriations process.
Which isn't to say senators and congressmen haven't found time to pile on the pork.
The House passed the 1,448-page, $820 billion Consolidated Appropriations Act for fiscal 2004 on Dec. 8, but the Senate isn't expected to take action on the bill until it reconvenes Jan. 20.
Meanwhile, Citizens Against Government Waste says the bill is continously "stuffed" with parochial projects.
Some recent examples: $750,000 added by the Senate for Love, Inc., a Fairbanks, Alaska social service facility; $300,000 added by the House for street furniture and facade improvements for the city of Luverne, Ala.; and $75,000 added by the House for construction of a social hall for the Japanese Community Center in East San Gabriel Valley, Calif.
Democratic presidential hopeful Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio told a restaurant crowd in Washington that he will introduce a D.C. "statehood" bill before the close of the 108th Congress. We will be the first to let you know if it passes.
Explaining that "politics is now a tradeable commodity," the firm Trading Exchange Network - parent company of intrade.com - has actually launched an exchange for trading the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.
CEO John Delaney says with almost $1 billion changing hands since the network's inception in November 2001 "hedging political risk is the next frontier in asset management."
"Since the dawn of insurance we've learned how to protect ourselves from unexpected or unwanted events," he says. "This is one way to protect our assets from a change in leadership."
Unlike political polling, adds the network's Mike Knesevitch, politicians - through data obtained from the network's 25,000 members - can better assess their state-by-state potential and allocate resources accordingly.
"This will transform the way campaigns are managed," he predicts.
Any election take thus far?
"It's interesting to note that the recent capture of Saddam Hussein hurt the nomination chances of (Demorats Howard) Dean and (Wesley) Clark but boosted the market's outlook for (Richard) Gephardt, (Joe) Lieberman and (John) Edwards," says Knesevitch. "This was primarily due to the anti-war stance of Dean and Clark. At the same time, we saw the market trade higher for George Bush's re-election chances."
The latest intrade.com electoral college numbers show George W. Bush securing as many as 274 votes at this early date, with as many as 264 votes going to the Democratic candidate. A total of 270 electoral votes are needed for election.
By the way, Delaney predicts "about a 25 percent probability" of capturing Osama bin Laden by June.
"The last time a group showed this kind of efficiency, Moe was teaching Larry and Shemp to be plumbers," Voices for Choices spokesman Peter Arnold tells this column after the U.S. Telecom Association fired its general counsel after only one day on the job.
Only then did the powerful association, the trade group for giants such as Verizon and Bell, discover that its new attorney, Russell Merbeth - who previously lobbied on behalf of rival telephone companies - recently questioned the legality of a Bell meeting with equipment suppliers by signing a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary committees requesting an investigation.
"USTA, of course, has the right to hire people for its most senior positions at will - and then dismiss them because the organization apparently didn't even bother with a Google search," notes Arnold.
Eventually, USTA officials did conduct an actual Google search, revealing Merbeth's signature atop the Oct. 31 letter. No word on Mr. Merbeth's plans, but he is being paid for a single day of employment.
BACKING A HAWK
Not impressed by Howard Dean's rhetoric on Iraq and antiterrorism, the influential left-leaning magazine New Republic has endorsed Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) for president.
"The deep irony of Lieberman's campaign is that many Democrats view him as timid. But how much courage does it take for Dean to throw red meat to the party faithful?" ask the magazine's editors, warning that the former Vermont governor is out of touch with an American public that is rightfully concerned about terrorism striking home.
"Dean has helped create this mood of self-righteous delusion," says New Republic. "Only Lieberman - the supposed candidate of appeasement - is challenging his party, enduring boos at event after event, to articulate a different, better vision of what it means to be a Democrat."
And what it means to be a liberal hawk.
Lieberman's "steadfast" opposition of Saddam Hussein, says the magazine, "falls within a hawkish liberal tradition that stretches through the Balkan wars, the (Persian) Gulf war, and, indeed, the cold war itself."
It was Lieberman, as co-sponsor of the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, who helped commit the United States to a regime change in Baghdad.
Has an antiwar screed by a Beverly Hills sex therapist inflamed anti-American sentiment in the Islamic world - even inspiring terrorism?
Yes, according to the Boston Globe.
Susan Block, a California sex therapist who hosts a syndicated radio show and HBO's "Radio Sex TV," wrote an April 15 column titled "The Rape of Iraq" for the antiwar Web site Counterpunch (www.counterpunch.org).
The column used rather elaborate metaphorical language to compare the conquest of Baghdad to rape.
Televised expressions of gratitude by the Iraqi people were being used to justify "the Anglo-American rape of Iraq," Block wrote: "As the rapist would say, 'I gave her what she really wanted.' She needed to be raped. She wanted to be violated."
Such metaphors apparently don't translate well.
On Oct. 22, Yeni Safak, an Islamic journal in Turkey, published an article that said "thousands of Iraqi women are being raped by American soldiers. There are more than 4,000 rape events on the record." The journal cited "Dr. Susan Block" as its source.
The U.S. Embassy in Turkey responded by condemning the Turkish journal for publishing "outrageous allegations based on a U.S. 'source' best known for her pornographic Web sites and erotic television program," according to the Globe.
Whatever the source, Ilyas Kuncak of Istanbul was enraged by the reports, according to his son, Nurullah Kuncak.
"Didn't you see? The American soldiers raped Iraqi women," the son told the Globe's correspondent in Istanbul. "My father talked to me about it. Thousands of rapes are in the records. Can you imagine how many are still secret?"
On Nov. 19, Ilyas Kuncak drove a car bomb into the Istanbul headquarters of the British bank HSBC, his suicide attack part of four separate al Qaeda-planned car bombings that also destroyed the British Consulate and two synagogues in Istanbul, killing 27 and wounding more than 400.
For her part, Block says she is horrified and tells the Globe she never meant her charge of an American "rape" of Iraq to be taken literally: "I am appalled to be misquoted and even more appalled that the story inspired someone to such violence."