Randy's Corner Deli Library

30 March 2006

Spectator - A Sane Italian Jew? Fugedaboutit

Spectator - A Sane Italian Jew? Fugedaboutit
by Robert David Jaffee, Contributing Writer

Historians have indicated there were roughly 50,000 Jews in Rome when Caesar
reigned and the same number under Mussolini. Beyond the obvious
assimilation, it’s clear Jews and Italians know how to coexist. No wonder
the two peoples lived in adjoining neighborhoods on the Lower East Side and
in Brooklyn.

Steve Solomon, whose one-man show “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish,
& I’m in Therapy” is playing at the Brentwood Theater, comes from Brooklyn’s
Sheepshead Bay and is the product of a mixed marriage.

For the show, the stage is filled with kitsch — a sign on a bookshelf,
constructed in children’s block letters, reads OFFICE; there’s also a framed
Campari poster and a picture of two zaftig women enjoying the sun and
cocktails. This psychiatrist’s office is not simply a cluster of cultural
clichés; there’s the promise of something more — in a piano at the left side
of the stage and a telescope on the right.
An adept impressionist, Solomon imitates his Old World Italian and Jewish
relatives, as well as Jamaicans, Indian taxi drivers, pet dogs, even metal
detectors. While many comedians draw upon the clashes between their parents,
few would characterize them as Solomon does in a phone interview — “the cup
is half-full for my dad; for my mom, it’s half-empty with poison in it.”

While Jews famously make good comics, Solomon says that Italians make even
better comics: “They hit you when they talk to you. They smack you all the
time. By the time you leave, you come away black and blue.”

In one of his funniest bits in the show, he recalls exhuming “dead”
silverware, contaminated by both meat and milk, and being apprehended by the

Solomon tells stock scatological, sexual and ethnic jokes, but there is a
tinge of melancholy when he plays “Rhapsody in Blue,” as well as an original
composition on the piano for his Bubbe, who then passes away.

You get the sense that he might want to stare out that telescope and seek
out distant ports of call, at least New York, the next stop on his tour.
“My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy” runs through
April 9 at the Brentwood Theater. For tickets, call (213) 365-3500.

25 March 2006

FW: [Food] 10 great places to nosh on authentic Jewish deli food

I Randolph S. Shiner

Sent from my Sprint Pocket PC

-----Original Message-----
From: "B Taverna" <bltaverna@yahoo.com>
To: "* EEJH" <eejh@yahoogroups.com>
Sent: 3/25/06 5:40
Subject: [Food] 10 great places to nosh on authentic Jewish deli food

March 24, 2006

10 great places to nosh on authentic Jewish deli food

The classic Jewish deli was born of homesickness. The
wave of Eastern European immigrants that flooded into
New York from 1881 to 1924 brought with them a
yearning for the Old Country. And they found it by
sharing food and conversation in neighborhood
eateries. Even today, writes Sheryll Bellman in her
new book, America's Great Delis: Recipes and
Traditions from Coast to Coast (Collectors Press,
$35), delicatessens are about more than matzo ball
soup and brisket. “(It) is comfort, it is memories, it
is nostalgia.” Sadly, many of the time-honored Jewish
delis are gone. How to identify the real deal? “The
ambience isn't fancy. The menus always stay the same,”
Bellman says. She steers USA TODAY's Jayne Clark to
some classic Jewish delis.

Canter's Deli

Los Angeles

This old-fashioned deli in the heart of Los Angeles
looks much as it did when it opened at its Fairfax
Avenue location in 1953 (though it's been in business
since 1931). “The booths are the same. Even the
waitresses seem pretty much the same. And they have
the best bakery in the city: babka, rugelach, cheese
Danish, cheese blintzes. The best,” Bellman says. The
475-seat restaurant is open 24 hours a day.
323-651-2030; cantersdeli.com .

Stage Deli

New York

Established in the heart of the theater district in
1937, the restaurant drew actors and theatergoers and
continued to attract those loyal customers after it
moved in 1943 to Seventh Avenue and 54th Street,
Bellman says. The original owner, Russian immigrant
Max Asnas, was the first to put a celebrity sandwich
on the menu, a tradition that continues today, with
creations such as the Dolly Parton (pastrami and
corned beef on twin rolls). 800-782-4369;

Shapiro's Delicatessen


This city isn't exactly where you'd expect to run
across a classic deli, Bellman acknowledges, but this
one has been in the Shapiro family for four
generations. The cafeteria-style restaurant seats 250,
who flock to dine on traditional fare such as sour
cream egg noodles and potato pancakes. 317-631-4041;

Zingerman's Delicatessen

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Owners Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw couldn't find
decent deli food in this Midwest college town, so they
solved the problem by opening their own place. “It's
not that old — they opened in the '80s, but they've
developed into a famous place where people go for the
reason people go to delis — good, plentiful food,”
Bellman says. 734-663-3354; zingermans.com.

Attman's Delicatessen


Rose's Deli & Bakery

Portland, Ore.

Portland isn't exactly a hotbed of Jewish cooking, but
Rose's has been an off-and-on fixture since 1956, when
Rose Naftalin opened her place on NW 23rd Avenue. She
retired in 1967. The restaurant closed in 1980 but
reopened with new owners 14 years ago. It has changed
and expanded — there are four Rose's Delis in the area
now — and all rely on Naftalin's original recipes.
People come from all over for the cinnamon rolls.
503-222-5292; rosesrestaurant.net.

Nate ‘n Al Delicatessen Restaurant

Beverly Hills, Calif.

The whitefish is delicious; the lox, divine. And the
celebrity spotting at this vintage deli isn't half
bad, either. Regulars include Larry King, Suzanne
Pleshette, Robert Wagner and Neil Diamond. Even so,
“it's not as touristy as some New York delis. It's
more of a locals' place,” Bellman says. Little has
changed since opening day in 1945. “The waitresses
have been there forever. The menu hasn't changed.” And
even in weight-conscious Beverly Hills, “on Sundays
there's a line out the door.” 310-274-0101;

Corky & Lenny's

Woodmere Village, Ohio

This suburban Cleveland restaurant remains “the Jewish
deli in the area” 50 years after Corky Kurland and
Lenny Kaden opened it, Bellman says. It's still
family-run and still known for its chocolate
phosphates — “what we in New York call an egg cream.
There are no eggs and no cream. It's milk and
chocolate syrup and seltzer.” 216-464-3838

Carnegie Delicatessen

New York

The sandwiches are huge. The wait staff is surly. The
tour buses line up outside. “It's the quintessential
New York deli. You eat at these long tables and
everything's delicious,” Bellman says. “It's a huge
tourist place, but (diners) get their money's worth.”
800-334-5606; carnegiedeli.com.

Langer's Deli

Los Angeles

Patrons rhapsodize about the pastrami sandwiches, on
the menu since 1947 at this downtown Los Angeles
restaurant. Office workers routinely climb on the
city's abbreviated subway system and take the
“pastrami express” — the red line train to the
Westlake/MacArthur Park stop — for one of these tender
creations. Bellman persuaded co-owner Norm Langer to
reveal his pastrami recipe, and she includes it in her
book, “though no one is going to make it.” (It
requires three hours of cooking in a custom-made
steamer.) “But it's nice that he shared it with me,”
she says. 213-483-8050langersdeli.com.


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23 March 2006


Originally uploaded by irsslex.

I think I have waited 5 years for a picture like this. My son, Mitch, at the drums in a professional gig (albeit a one-off due to an illness in the family of the regular drummer of the band "Sanctuary")just totally getting "off" on what he's doing. I only wish this for him the rest of his life. I have no doubt that he'll make it so.

Thanks and kudos to Ari Rosenthal of OzMoses Media for being in the right place at the right time for the pics of Mitch and the band. www.ozmosesmedia.com

21 March 2006

President Bush Fights the Strawmen

Originally posted: March 21, 2006
President Bush fights the strawmen
Posted by Frank James at 1:21 pm CST

More thoughts on the president's conference today.

The press conference once again showed the president's fondness for the old
debater's trick of setting up straw men and knocking them down, the result
being that you look like you've demolished your opponents' ridiculous

It's the rhetorical equivalent of fighting a battle on the ground of your
choosing. The president often turns to this tactic whenever his approach to
the war on terror is questioned.

Here's how it came up today.

REPORTER: I know you've said about your presidency that you don't pay that
much attention to the polls, but --


REPORTER: -- there is a handful that have come back and they all say the
exact same thing, that a growing number of Americans are questioning the
trustworthiness of you and this White House. Does that concern you?

After saying he understands the concerns of Americans who see the daily Iraq
violence and that he would never endanger U.S. troops for a cause he thought
was lost, Bush said:

Now, some in this country don't -- I can understand -- that don't view the
enemy that way. I guess they kind of view it as an isolated group of people
that occasionally kill. I just don't see it that way. I see them bound by a
philosophy with plans and tactics to impose their will on other countries.
The enemy has said that it's just a matter of time before the United States
loses its nerve and withdraws from Iraq. That's what they have said, and
their objective for driving us out of Iraq is to have a place from which to
launch their campaign to overthrow modern governments and moderate
governments in the Middle East as well as to continue attacking places like
the United States.

Now, maybe some discount those words as kind of meaningless propaganda. I
don't, Jim. I take them really seriously, and I think everybody in
government should take them seriously and respond accordingly. And so it's
-- I've got to continue to speak as clearly as I possibly can about the
consequences of success and the consequences of failure, and why I believe
we can succeed.

I've listened in Washington to many critics of the president's prosecution
of the war on terror for several years now. Not once have I heard any of
them minimize the threat represented by al Qaeda or its shadowy allies.

Serious critics ranging from Richard Clarke, the former White House
counterterror official to former (and future) Democratic presidential
candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) have all ascribed to al Qaeda the same
vast ambitions and strategic designs the president does.

Even Howard Dean, when he was running for the Democratic presidential
nomination in 2003, said: "I believe it is my patriotic duty to urge a
different path to protecting America's security: To focus on al Qaeda, which
is an imminent threat, and to use our resources to improve and strengthen
the security and safety of our home front and our people while working with
the other nations of the world to contain Saddam Hussein."

It's not an understanding of al Qaeda's aims that critics, including some
Republicans, differ with the president on but the correct response to those
"Islamofascist" ambitions, as the president would say.

So a follow-up question to ask the president is, does he really believe that
his critics have dismissed the threat from al Qaeda, in which case what
evidence has the White House staff found to support this? When have critics
said al Qaeda and like-minded terrorists "are an isolated group of people
that occasionally kill?"

The president's remark echoes comments by Deputy White House chief of staff
Karl Rove who in a New York speech last year said: "...Liberals saw the
savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer
therapy and understanding for our attackers." So it's obviously bouncing
around the White House and its allies. But that doesn't necessarily make it

I don't think the White House staff will be able to find remarks by serious
critics of the administration's war-on-terror policy minimizing the al Qaeda
threat. If anything, the critics have often sounded more alarmist than the

Which is how we get back to the strawmen.

20 March 2006

Mitch Shiner's First Pro Gig (Albeit Impromptu)

Hi all --

Last Saturday evening, my son Mitch was with his friend and his father at a club in Milwaukee (Roots Cellar) to listen to Mitch's music instructor at Mapledale Middle School , Jamie Brewick, who had a gig with his band "Sanctuary" which plays a lot of jazz fusion in the vein of Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew". Between sets, the band's regular drummer got an urgent call – his son was taken to the hospital, and he understandably had to leave. Brewick knew Mitch was there, and asked him if he could step in and finish the gig.

He did, and it wasn't until the second to last song of the set that he was introduced and the audience was told that Mitch was in 8 th grade. I am told that the crowd went crazy.

Mitch had enough time before the second set began to call his mother who in turn called a friend of hers who is a professional photographer to get to the club to take the attached photos of Mitch during the gig. I hope you enjoy seeing this face as much as I enjoyed hearing about the whole thing at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night, which was 1:30 a.m. Sunday Central time.

This summer, Mitch will be attending the UCSD Summer Jazz Workshop here in San Diego as well as the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp at the University of Louisville . Last summer, he went to the UCSD Jazz Workshop and had one-on-one lessons with the likes of Jeff Hamilton, who is probably best know for his work as Diana Krall's drummer on her Grammy award winning album "April in Paris". His combo was led by Eric Reed, who played in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra as a pianist and has a successful career in his own right.

Mitch is a member of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Jazz Studies Program, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Honors Band and has had private lessons on the drums since he was 10. He's appeared in other gigs with his jazz ensembles, but never with a group of true professionals.

Saturday night was indeed memorable for him and, I hope, signifies things to come for something that he is truly passionate about – Jazz. I guess it's true that inside every cloud there is a silver lining. Sanctuary's regular drummer's son at last report was doing OK.


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Why are we sick of George W. Bush? Pick a reason

Mephitic? I have to disagree there. RS
Impeachment? Hell no, impalement
Why are we sick of George W. Bush? Pick a reason
I don't know about you guys, but I am so sick and tired of these lying,
thieving, holier-than-thou, right-wing, cruel, crude, rude, gauche, coarse,
crass, cocky, corrupt, dishonest, debauched, degenerate, dissolute,
swaggering, lawyer shooting, bullhorn shouting, infrastructure destroying,
hysterical, history defying, finger-pointing, puppy stomping, roommate
appointing, pretzel choking, collateral damaging, aspersion casting, wedding
party bombing, clear cutting, torturing, jobs outsourcing, torture
outsourcing, "so-called" compassionate- conservative, women's rights
eradicating, Medicare cutting, uncouth, spiteful, boorish, vengeful,
noxious, homophobic, xenophobic, xylophonic, racist, sexist, ageist,
fascist, cashist, audaciously stupid, brazenly selfish, lethally ignorant,
journalist purchasing, genocide ignoring, corporation kissing, poverty
inducing, crooked, coercive, autocratic, primitive, uppity, high-handed,
domineering, arrogant, inhuman, inhumane, insolent, know-it-all, snotty,
pompous, contemptuous, supercilious, gutless, spineless, shameless,
avaricious, poisonous, imperious, merciless, graceless, tactless, brutish,
brutal, Karl Roving, backward thinking, persistent vegetative state
grandstanding, nuclear option threatening, evolution denying, irony
deprived, depraved, insincere, conceited, perverted, pre-emptory invading of
a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 911, 35 day vacation
taking, bribe soliciting, incapable, inbred, hellish, proud for no apparent
reason, smarty pants, loudmouth, bullying, swell headed, ethnic cleansing,
ethics eluding, domestic spying, medical marijuana busting, kick backing,
Halliburtoning, New Deal disintegrating, narcissistic, undiplomatic,
blustering, malevolent, demonizing, baby seal clubbing, Duke Cunninghamming,
hectoring, verbally flatulent, pro-bad, anti-good, Moslem baiting, photo-op
arranging, hurricane disregarding, oil company hugging, judge packing,
science disputing, faith based mathematics advocating, armament selling,
nonsense spewing, education ravaging, whiny, unscrupulous, greedy
exponential factor fifteen, fraudulent, CIA outing, redistricting, anybody
who disagrees with them slandering, fact twisting, ally alienating,
betraying, god and flag waving, scare mongering, Cindy Sheehan libeling,
phony question asking, just won't get off the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge drilling, two-faced, inept, callous, menacing, oppressive, vulgar,
antagonistic, brush clearing, suck-up, showboating, tyrannizing, peace
hating, water and air and ground and media polluting -- which is pretty much
all the polluting you can get -- deadly, illegal, pernicious, lethal,
haughty, venomous, virulent, ineffectual, mephitic, egotistic, bloodthirsty,
incompetent, hypocritical, did I say evil, I'm not sure if I said evil,
because I want to make sure I say evil... EVIL, cretinous, fool, toad,
buttwipe, lizardstick, cowardly, lackey imperialistic tool slime buckets in
the Bush Administration that I could just spit.

Impeachment, hell no. Impalement.

Upon the sharp and righteous sword of the people's justice.

Don’t forget the Will & Willie Show. Monday through Friday. 7- 10am. PST. On
KQKE. 960 AM. The QUAKE. San Francisco. Or listen long distance @
quakeradio.com. To read more Will Durst satire, see the Will Durst archive

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19 March 2006

Ten Rules for More Effective Advertising

Can you use this in YOUR job?

American Research Group, Inc.

Ten Rules for More Effective Advertising

Leahy's Law states that if a thing is done wrong often enough, it becomes right, and as a result, volume becomes a defense to error. When advertising fails to sway consumers, most advertisers follow Leahy's Law by increasing the frequency of the advertising hoping that more of what is not working will somehow work when consumers are subjected to more of the same.
Use the following 10 simple rules to evaluate the advertising you encounter. You may be disappointed, but don't be surprised when you discover that most advertising fails to follow any of the rules.

1. Does the ad tell a simple story, not just convey information?
A good story has a beginning where a sympathetic character encounters a complicating situation, a middle where the character confronts and attempts to resolve the situation, and an end where the outcome is revealed. A good story does not interpret or explain the action in the story for the audience. Instead, a good story allows each member of the audience to interpret the story as he or she understands the action. This is why people find good stories so appealing and why they find advertising that simply conveys information so boring.

2. Does the ad make the desired call to action a part of the story?
A good story that is very entertaining but does not make a direct connection between the desired call to action - the purpose of the ad - and the story is just a very entertaining story. The whole point of the story in advertising is to effectively deliver the desired call to action. If the audience does not clearly understand the desired call to action after seeing the ad, then there is no point in running the ad. Contrary to popular belief, having an entertaining story and clearly delivering the desired call to action are not mutually exclusive.

3. Does the ad use basic emotional appeals?
Experiences that trigger our emotions are saved and consolidated in lasting memory because the emotions generated by the experiences signal our brains that the experiences are important to remember. There are eight basic, universal emotions - joy, surprise, anticipation, acceptance, fear, anger, sadness, and disgust. Successful appeals to these basic emotions consolidate stories and the desired calls to action in the lasting memories of audiences. An added bonus is that successful emotional appeals limit the number of exposures required for audiences to understand, learn, and respond to the calls to action - people may only need to see emotionally compelling scenes once and they will remember those scenes for a lifetime.

4. Does the ad use easy arguments?
"Jumping to conclusions" literally gave our ancestors an advantage even when the conclusions that made them jump were wrong because delaying actions to review information could have deadly consequences. Easy arguments are the conclusions people reach using inferences without a careful review of available information. Find and use easy arguments that work because it is almost impossible to succeed when working against them.

5. Does the ad show, and not tell?
"Seeing is believing" and "actions speak louder than words" are two common sayings that reflect a bias and preference for demonstrated behavior. This is especially true when interests may not be the same. Assume audiences are skeptical about any advertising and design advertising that shows and does not tell.

6. Does the ad use symbolic language and images that relate to the senses?
People prefer symbolic language and images that relate to the senses. People are far less receptive and responsive to language and images that relate to concepts. Life is experienced through the senses and using symbolic language and images that express what people feel, see, hear, smell, or taste are easier for people to understand, even when used to describe abstract concepts. The language and images used in advertising should "make sense" to the audience.

7. Does the ad match what viewers see with what they hear?
People expect and prefer coordinated audio and visual messages because those messages are easier to process and understand. Audio and visual messages that are out-of-sync may gain attention, but audiences find them uncomfortable.

8. Does the ad stay with a scene long enough for impact?
People have limited mental processing capacities. Quick cuts to different scenes require people to devote more of their limited resources to following the cuts and less resources to processing each scene. It takes people between eight and ten seconds to process and produce a lasting emotional response to a scene. Camera movement or different camera angles of the same scene can engage people through their orienting responses while providing enough time for them to process the scene.

9. Does the ad let powerful video speak for itself?
Again, the processing capacity of our brains is limited and words may get in the way of emotionally-powerful visual images. When powerful visual images dominate - when "a picture is worth a thousand words" - be quiet and let the images do the talking.

10. Does the ad use identifiable music?
Music can be a rapidly-identified cue for the recall of emotional responses remembered from previous advertising. Making the same music an identifiable aspect of all advertising signals the audience to pay attention for more important content.

These rules take into consideration consumers' out-of-conscious processing systems. To learn more, go to The Scintillating Grid.

PA Hypocrisy (What Else Is New?)

This is so typical of the PA. It's a trick they've used for years, and with success - the Israeli PR department is pretty dismal about immediately spreading the word about these sort of hypocrisies that are integral to the operation and continuation of the myth of the Palestinian Authority. Readers will recall that Arafat stole millions and millions of dollars and Euros intended to go to "his" people, but he was lining his filthy pockets the entire time he was "Fuehrer", while blaming Israel and the rest of the world for "his" people's economic plight. Q: Why isn't there an indictment against Arafat's wife? A: (well one answer anyway) Nobody, the US, the EU -- wants to admit that they'd been 'had' by a lowlife gangster like Arafat. At least if there is going to be some conniving, they should at least have the decency to hire decent lawyers to make sure that the money isn't discoverable. And we wonder why the Palestinians voted for a Hamas majority in their government? Heck, the YMCA could have done a better job than Arafat with all the money he stole and gave away to his wife who traded in a cozy flat in Ramallah for a Parisian pied a terre. Why, Hamas offers such an exciting program of social services, it must have been difficult NOT to vote for them. Why, a whole new generation of kids will grow up far more enlightened than in the past, what with suicide bomber training for their children and other like benefits that will improve their collective station in life.


Arutz 7: "PA Keeps Crossing Closed, Complains of Humanitarian Crisis
Sunday, March 19, 2006 / 19 Adar 5766

Only one crossing remains open between Israel and Gaza, yet the PA refuses to accept goods transferred through it - and complains that Israel is causing its people to starve.

In light of ongoing terrorism warnings, Israel closed the Karni Crossing into Gaza this past Tuesday, refusing to reopen it until the terrorist warnings subside. As a replacement, and in order to enable basic foodstuffs to enter Gaza, Israel has decided to open the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza - but the Palestinian Authority is refusing to cooperate.

'It is inconceivable that the PA would prefer to allow its people to suffer instead of taking up Israel's offer to use alternative crossings into Gaza until the terror threats are lifted,' a security source was quoted as telling the Jerusalem Post. 'This is clearly a political decision on their part.'

The decision might actually not be political, but rather financial. The PA is given 50% of the fees charged for each truck entering Gaza through Karni - but not at other crossings. It has therefore been alleged that at the root of the PA objections to Kerem Shalom is the desire for monetary percentages.

As of this morning (Sunday), the PA refuses to open the Kerem Shalom crossing. A PA security official said a final decision would only be made this afternoon, after a meeting with Israeli officials, but that 'we have conditions for the opening of Kerem Shalom.'

Israel says that in any event, the goods, such as flour and milk products, will be transferred directly to Egypt. If the PA leaders decide not to accept the goods, Israeli sources say, 'that's their problem. Their refusal is a cynical move designed to force Israel to"

18 March 2006

Basketball Sets Sports Record

I knew that the March Madness was just that – mad – but for good reason.
It’s the single most exciting weekend in all of team sports. Anything can
happen. And did. I wanted to be there. And I was, thanks to ncaasports.com’s
live feeds to games I could not see on TV. They were technically excellent;
I did not have even a single instance where a game got dropped, though they
kicked you out of the “viewing area” after one game so you had to re-enter
(read: see and hear more commercials) again, even if you had the foresight,
as I did, to sign up as a “VIP” when CBS first began advertising the site at
the time of the Conference Tournaments in February. Now a word on the
commercials. It seems as if the shape of things to come is finally here. The
commercials – the video ones, that is, were straight off the TV, and were
accompanied by a simultaneous banner ad immediately to the right which was
itself sometimes moving, sometimes not, but which, with a mouseclick, would
take you to Dell, Marriott or one of the other sponsors. (See how well they
worked?) The truth is, I didn’t mind. I could turn down the volume and turn
away if I wanted, just like the ol’ idiot box (er, panel, er, whatever). The
thing was a raging success, and good for the network, good for all who were
involved in the preparation of the presentation, and good for the buyers of
the ad spots. I am sure they will see fruit from this planting. And if not,
they have planted the seed of what internet viewing will be in the future –
now. Well done, and thanks for a great weekend of sports. OH WAIT! There’s
one more day! Yippee!!

Basketball Sets Sports Record
March Madness smashes the old online sports scores for capacity and
March 17, 2006

CBS and NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball scored early and often,
obliterating the old record for simultaneous online video streams for a live
sports event and taking over the second spot among all live online events
with 268,000 viewers at once.
The total is second only to Yahoo’s webcast of the Discovery shuttle launch
last July which drew 335,000 simultaneous viewers.
The web broadcast of shock jock Howard Stern celebrating his exit from
terrestrial radio last December attracted 214,000 simultaneous online
viewers. That event occupies the third spot.
Live online web casting has improved since a shaky Victoria’s Secret live
fashion show six years ago was unable to support the demand and many haute
couture fans were shut out.
But March Madness, as the college basketball championships are called,
became the first sporting event to enter the top three for both the number
of simultaneous streams supported and the fewest technical glitches.  The
network’s sports media unit CBS SportsLine said on Friday that a total of 2
million fans checked out the site in the first 24 hours.
CBS, which has been running the first few rounds of March Madness online
since 2003, dropped its subscription fee of $19.95, which it charged users
last year. The network used advertising to pay for its effort, attracting
sponsors such as Dell, Courtyard by Marriott, Lowes, State Farm, and
The network attracted a little more than 20,000 online viewers to March
Madness in 2005 and expected about 200,000 viewers to log in for its first
freebie run. They were not disappointed (see March Madness Heats Up Online).
Shares of CBS rose $0.11 to $24.33 in recent trading.
Waiting Room
CBS SportsLine, which used the services of MLB Advanced Media, Akamai
Technologies, and Limelight Networks to present the games, debuted a waiting
room feature to accommodate excess demand.
In case demand exceeds capacity and visitors have trouble accessing the
games, the system employs a waiting room to keep fans occupied with scores
and other tidbits. In the past, online users compounded the overload
problems by repeatedly refreshing their screens or attempting to gain access
from a new browser.
CBS is also offering condensed versions of the games for download from
Apple’s iTunes Music Store for $1.99 per game (see Apple, CBS Team on
While concerts and titillating fashion shows have immense appeal to online
entertainment buffs, sports will be the content that truly tests the
tolerances and capabilities of the Internet.
Sports has broad-based appeal outside the youth demographic, the usual
market for online entertainment. And unlike music videos, movies on demand,
and even news, sports remains one of the few forms of entertainment where
watching it as it happens is critical. It provides the last bastion of
appointment TV.
Now sports fans are getting ready for Day 2 of March Madness.

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17 March 2006

Story from NYPOST.COM from Randy Shiner

New York Post Online Edition

Randy thought you would find this story from NYPOST.COM interesting:

HOLLYWOOD bully Tom Cruise got Comedy Central to cancel Wednesday night's cablecast of a controversial "South Park" episode about Scientology by warning that he'd refuse to promote "Mission Impossible 3," insiders say.

Since Paramount is banking on "MI3" to rake in blockbuster profits this summer, and Paramount is owned by Viacom, which also owns Comedy Central, the tactic worked.

The "South Park" episode, "Trapped in the Closet," pokes fun at Scientology and shows Cruise, John Travolta and R. Kelly (who is not a Scientologist, but has a song called "Trapped in the Closet") literally in a closet.

The episode, which first aired last November, was set to rerun Wednesday night, but was mysteriously pulled at the last minute.

Now, hollywoodinterrupted.com reports Cruise went straight to the top - to execs at Viacom - and warned he'd boycott the promotion for "MI3" unless the "South Park" episode was pulled.

Series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have been told not to discuss the matter - to avoid embarrassing Cruise as they did Isaac Hayes last week when Hayes, also a Scientologist, quit his role as the voice of the Chef character.

Hayes claimed he couldn't stand by while "South Park" made fun of religion, but Stone pointed out that Hayes had cashed plenty of checks while the show made fun of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Stone hinted that Hayes was pressed to quit by his minders in the Church of Scientology.

A rep for Comedy Central, asked if Cruise was responsible for the "Closet" episode being yanked, attributed it instead to Hayes' resignation, saying, "In light of the events of earlier this week, we wanted to give Chef an appropriate tribute by airing two episodes he is most known for." But TV insiders weren't buying that explanation.

Now the question is whether Comedy Central will ever again air "Trapped in the Closet" and whether it will be included on the DVD of the show's ninth season.

Cruise has a history of playing hardball. He is allegedly responsible for the missing sex scene his fiancée Katie Homes filmed (before she started dating Tom) in "Thank You for Smoking," which opens today.

And who will ever forget the way Cruise shouted down Matt Lauer on the "Today" show when Lauer argued that some people have been helped by prescription drugs?

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15 March 2006

Working It Out

The author asks the question at the end of the article: Why is there so much focus on women leaving the work force? One answer is immediately clear to me: It's floated about as a "given" by those in our male-dominated society to say "Aha! Look! Women don't want to work. Even if given the chance, they STILL leave the workforce to go make babies and stay home"--"there's your proof", so they would say, "that women don't really want to work", thereby creating the perception on the part of our 'follower' society that women should just stay home and be moms and not even try to advance professionally and be good mothers at the same time. Because, proponents say, it's impossible to do both and to do both well. It depends on where one is on the American society's food chain, in large measure.

In my view, the whole concept and the recent attention to this supposed "fact" is fairly in line with the fact that the "radical religious right" in American society is very powerful politically and therefore is able to spread its agenda as if it were the gospel itself. As they would deny a woman the right to choose what to do with her body in cases of abortion, they would deprive women of their equal right to feel comfortable about a decision to seek fulfillment in ways that do not involve children. This proposition is anathema to the radical religious right, since women, by definition, exist to procreate and populate the earth.

Thoughtful humans should understand this and realize that the claims that 'women are leaving the workforce in droves' is just more propaganda from the radical religious right to drive women back into the home full time, regardless of that woman's particular choice or desire to advance professionally. The only ones to win this debate are men, as the women who say they are not leaving the professional ranks will be looked at as "bad" mothers, made to feel guilty for nursing their own particular sense of self-worth that may be beyond and therefore inclusive of being a mom and homemaker. What's more, those that do elect to stay home will be subjected to odd looks as if there is actually something wrong with that choice as well. The point is, I suppose, that those who propogate the myth under discussion are the only ones to win - everybody else loses.

I would also note in closing that this propaganda is likewise economically skewed. You will, regardless of the presence of children, but especially in situations where there are, not find poor women 'leaving the workforce in droves'. They do not have the luxury of choice. In those households that are headed by a single mother, a woman cannot leave the workplace, lest her children not eat or have a roof over their heads. I am particularly sensitive to this since I was raised in a single-parent household and do not have a memory of a father being at home. My mother, divorced as she was in the 1960s, raised two children alone; believe me, she did not have a choice to leave the workforce just as many in her position 30-40 years later do not. The propaganda, therefore, is largely aimed at couples who have two incomes from professional earners, where a choice is possible. The radical right is happy to see single mothers work out of the house in generally low-paid jobs, but is not happy when a professional woman who has the capacity and desire to find fulfillment via her professional achievements as well as in her role as mother. They argue that both are not possible; but that is not a choice that anyone but the individual can make according to the circumstances that person finds themselves in at the time.

The supposition that women can't be both successful mothers and successful in their professsional lives has led, as the article points out, to many women delaying marriage, pregnancy and child-bearing until their late 30s or beyond, or, in many cases, not at all. The supposition that women cannot do both things simultaneously or that a choice to do one or the other is not fully acceptable societally (or that it is society's business) has left many women confused. And confusion often leads to emotional paralysis, so that a woman in her 20s who is 'on track' at a law firm, for example, bombarded with messages subtle or direct, that if she leaves, she will no longer be 'on track'. Or that if she leaves for a period of time to have a child and then decides to return (or in reality to add on to her responsibilities as a mother) to her professional life that she will be considered - again, subtly or not -- a 'bad' mother or a selfish person in general. Which leads her to a decision that creates a double-loss for society: to do one or the other but not both. Leaving more and more women single and without children or husbands, married to their jobs, parenting projects or patients but not boys or girls - the choice having been denied them by the implantation of a sense of permanent guilt over whether or not to do one or the other. It seems to me, as the article suggests, that if really given a choice and left to feel good about whatever it might be, women have the power to "work it out".


March 15, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
Working It Out
Cambridge, Mass.

HIGHLY educated women are getting a bum rap from the press. There has recently been a spate of news and opinion articles telling us that these women, especially graduates of the best universities and professional schools, are "opting out" in record numbers, choosing the comforts of home and family over careers.

And because there are now 1.33 women graduating from college for every man, the best and brightest women will either have to "marry down" or, more likely, we are told, remain single. Taken together, highly educated women will have either family or career. Half of it all, rather than "having it all."

But the facts speak loudly and clearly against such suppositions. Women who graduated 25 years ago from the nation's top colleges did not "opt out" in large numbers, and today's graduates aren't likely to do so either.

To know whether a woman sacrificed career for her family, we need to know her employment status over many years. The Mellon Foundation did just that in the mid-1990's, collecting information on more than 10,000 women (and 10,000 men) who entered one of 34 highly selective colleges and universities in 1976 and graduated by 1981. We thus have detailed data about their educational, family and work histories when they were in their late 30's. That gives us enough information to figure out whether many women who graduated from top-ranked schools have left the work force.

Among these women fully 58 percent were never out of the job market for more than six months total in the 15 or so years that followed college or more advanced schooling. On average, the women in the survey spent a total of just 1.6 years out of the labor force, or 11 percent of their potential working years. Just 7 percent spent more than half of their available time away from employment.

These women were, moreover, committed not just to their careers. They were also wives and mothers — 87 percent of the sample had been married, 79 percent were still married 15 years after graduation and 69 percent had at least one child (statistics that are similar to national ones for this demographic group from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey). Women with at least one child spent a total of 2.1 years on average out of the labor force, or 14 percent of their potential time. Fifty percent of those with children never had a non-employment (non-educational) spell lasting more than 6 months.

You could argue that they opted out of their careers in more subtle ways, say, by choosing less demanding careers than those for which they had trained. But the occupation data for these women suggest otherwise. Women in these graduating classes stuck with their specialties to about the same degree as did comparable men. The vast majority of women who went to medical school were employed as doctors when in their late 30's; similarly, women who received law degrees were practicing lawyers.

What about more recent graduates, those who finished school 10 years ago and are, today, in their early 30's? It is too early to tell for sure, but there are strong hints that little has changed on the opt-out front. Statistics from the National Vital Statistics System show that highly educated women today are having babies even later in life on average than did the entering class of 1976 (and are having more of them). The Current Population Survey tells us that the percentage of college-educated women in their 30's who work has been high (in the 80 percent range) and fairly constant since the early 1990's, although the percentage dropped a bit — along with that of their male counterparts in the recent economic slump.

The fraction in their late 30's who are married, moreover, is around 75 percent and has not budged in the last 25 years. Taken together, the facts — later babies, more babies, high and fairly constant employment rates, stable marriage rates — don't spell big opt-out to me. And they don't spell big opt-out change either.

I'm not saying that all is rosy. These hard-working women still earn less than their male counterparts and they work more around the house. Given their lower earnings, it isn't surprising that some do opt out. But for the most part, female college graduates — especially those from top-notch schools — who are in their 30's are career women who care for their children if they have them and work hard for their families.

These are the opt-out facts. So why is there so much focus on women leaving the work force instead? My friend Ellen, a Ph.D. economist with two young children who teaches in a top-ranked medical school, recently noted with frustration that many people have difficulty believing that "women can actually contribute professionally and participate meaningfully in the raising of a family." But the truth is that a greater fraction of college women today are mixing family life and career than ever before. Denying that fact is ignoring the facts.

Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard, is the author of "Understanding the Gender Gap."

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Thank You For Smoking opens March 17th

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The Greatest Dirty Joke Ever Told

That this country has lost the ability to relate to its bawdy and raunchy past is a tribute to the effectiveness of the propaganda campaign waged by the extreme right taken up after 9/11 all allegedly in support of the President's "War" on Terror. This was obvious a year ago when this column was written. We are regressing (or have we already done so?) into a Puritanical age where nothing that is in the least controversial or emits even the perception of a break in ranks with our messianic President is permitted or even laughed at. We are becoming a society of zombies - we follow the trends set by whomever. We do not buck them; we are victims of them so long as the lies and deception that we are fed are accepted unquestioned and without analysis. The scary part is that even worthwhile analysis is frowned upon if it is not toting the party line. In the end, we must ask ourselves just exactly who or what group is benefiting by all of this? One answer to consider might be entrenched groups who stand to benefit from the status quo - do I have to list them? That is the dirtiest joke of them all. Rome burns while Nero fiddles.


The Greatest Dirty Joke Ever Told

By FRANK RICH (NYT) 1902 wordsPublished: March 13, 2005

IT was two and half weeks after 9/11 that I heard the dirtiest joke I'd ever heard in my life. New York was still tossing and turning under its blanket of grief back then. Almost no one was going out at night to have fun, a word that had been banished from the country's vocabulary. But desperately sad people will do desperate things. That's my excuse for making my way with my wife to the Hilton on Sixth Avenue, where the Friars Club was roasting Hugh Hefner.

Someone had decided that the show must go on. A crowd materialized out of nowhere to pack a vast ballroom in an otherwise shadowy and deserted Midtown. On the dais were not only the expected clowns old (Alan King) and young (Jimmy Kimmel) but a surreal grab bag of celebrities out of Madame Tussauds: Dr. Joyce Brothers, Ice-T, Patty Hearst, Donald Trump. ''God Bless America'' was sung by Deborah Harry.

The ensuing avalanche of Viagra jokes did not pull off the miracle of making everyone in the room forget the recent events. Restlessness had long since set in when the last comic on the bill, Gilbert Gottfried, took the stage. Mr. Gottfried, decked out in preposterously ill-fitting formal wear, has a manic voice so shrill he makes Jerry Lewis sound like Morgan Freeman. He grabbed the podium for dear life and started rocking back and forth like a hyperactive teenager trapped onstage in a school assembly. Soon he delivered what may have been the first public 9/11 gag: He couldn't get a direct flight to California, he said, because ''they said they have to stop at the Empire State Building first.''

There were boos, but Mr. Gottfried moved right along to his act's crowning joke. ''A talent agent is sitting in is office,'' he began. ''A family walks in -- a man, woman, two kids, and their little dog. And the talent agent goes, 'What kind of an act do you do?''' What followed was a marathon description of a vaudeville routine featuring incest, bestiality and almost every conceivable bodily function. The agent asks the couple the name of their unusual act, and their answer is the punch line: ''The Aristocrats.''

As the mass exodus began, some people were laughing, others were appalled, and perhaps a majority of us were in the middle. We knew we had seen something remarkable, not because the joke was so funny but because it had served as shock therapy, harmless shock therapy for an adult audience, that at least temporarily relieved us of our burdens and jolted us back into the land of the living again. Some weeks later Comedy Central would cut the bit entirely from its cable recycling of the roast. But in the more than three years since, I have often reflected upon Mr. Gottfried's mesmerizing performance. At a terrible time it was an incongruous but welcome gift. He was inviting us to once again let loose.

I bring up that night now because I've seen ''The Aristocrats,'' a new documentary inspired in part by Mr. Gottfried's strange triumph. Unveiled in January at Sundance, it's coming to a theater near some of you this summer. (It could be the first movie to get an NC-17 rating for sex and nudity not depicted on screen.) But I also bring up that night for the shadow it casts on a culture that is now caught in the vise of the government war against ''indecency.'' The chill cast by that war is taking new casualties each day, and with each one, the commissars of censorship are emboldened to extend their reach. When even the expletives of our soldiers in Iraq are censored on a public television documentary, Mr. Gottfried's unchecked indecency seems to belong to another age.

The latest scheme for broadening that censorship arrived the week after the Oscar show was reduced to colorless piffle on network television. Ted Stevens, the powerful chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, pronounced himself sick of ''four-letter words with participles'' on cable and satellite television. ''I think we have the same power to deal with cable as over the air,'' he said, promising to carry the fight all the way to the Supreme Court. Never mind that anyone can keep pay TV at bay by not purchasing it, and that any parent who does subscribe can click on foolproof blocking devices to censor any channel. Senator Stevens's point is to intimidate MTV, Comedy Central, the satellite radio purveyors of Howard Stern and countless others from this moment on, whether he ultimately succeeds in exerting seemingly unconstitutional power over them or not.

If you can see only one of the shows that he wants to banish or launder, let me recommend the series that probably has more four-letter words, with or without participles, than any in TV history. That would be ''Deadwood'' on HBO. Its linguistic gait befits its chapter of American history, the story of a gold-rush mining camp in the Dakota Territory of the late 1870's. ''Deadwood'' is the back story of a joke like ''The Aristocrats'' and of everything else that is joyously vulgar in American culture and that our new Puritans want to stamp out. It's the ur-text of Vegas and hip-hop and pulp fiction. It captures with Boschian relish what freedom, by turns cruel and comic and exhilarating, looked and sounded like at full throttle in frontier America before anyone got around to building churches or a government.

Its creator is David Milch, a former Yale fraternity brother of George W. Bush and the onetime protיgי of Robert Penn Warren, whose 1946 novel ''All the King's Men'' upends bowdlerized fairy tales about American politics just as ''Deadwood'' dismantles Hollywood's old sanitized Westerns. As Mr. Milch says in an interview on the DVD of the first ''Deadwood'' season: ''It's very well documented that the obscenity of the West was striking, and that the obscenity of mining camps was unbelievable.'' There was ''a tremendous energy to the language,'' he adds, but the reason this language never surfaced in movie Westerns during the genre's heyday was the Hays production code. For some 30 years starting in 1934, Hollywood's self-censorship strictures kept even married couples in separate beds on screen.

Mr. Milch has fought such codes in the past. He was a co-creator, with Steven Bochco, of the network police show, ''NYPD Blue,'' which prompted protests in 1993 for its rude language and exposure of David Caruso's backside. That battle was won; ''NYPD Blue'' overcame the howls of the American Family Association and an early blackout by some ABC affiliates to become a huge hit that ended its run only this month. But it's a measure of what has happened since that now even the backside of a cartoon toddler is being pixilated in the animated series ''Family Guy,'' on Fox. Mr. Bochco told Variety, ''I don't think today we could launch or sell 'NYPD Blue' in the form that it launched 12 years ago.'' He's right. We're turning the clock back to the days of Hays.
This is why ''Deadwood'' could not be better timed. It reminds us of who we are and where we came from, and that even indecency is part of an American's birthright. It also, if inadvertently, illuminates the most insidious underpinnings of today's decency police by further reminding us that the same people who want to stamp out entertainment like ''Deadwood'' also want to rewrite American history (and, when they can, the news) according to their dictates of moral and political correctness. They won't tolerate an honest account of the real Deadwood in a classroom or museum any more than they will its fictionalized representation on HBO.

Lynne Cheney has taken to writing and promoting triumphalist children's history books that, as she said on Fox News recently, offer ''an uncynical approach to our nation and to our national story.'' (So much for her own out-of-print ''Deadwood''-esque novel of 1981, ''Sisters,'' with its evocation of lesbian passions on the frontier.) That's her right. But when her taste is enforced as government policy that's another matter. The vice president's wife has used her current political clout, as The Los Angeles Times uncovered last fall, to quietly squelch a Department of Education history curriculum pamphlet for parents that didn't fit her political agenda. It's no coincidence that Senator Stevens attacked the Smithsonian Institution in the 1990's when it mounted an exhibit deromanticizing the old West, ''Deadwood''-style, by calling attention to the indignities visited on women, Indians and the environment.

At a certain point political correctness on the right becomes indistinguishable from that of the left. On the Oscar telecast, Robin Williams was prohibited by ABC from delivering a satirical comic song by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the ''Hairspray'' songwriting team, inspired by James Dobson's attack on the ''pro-homosexual activism'' of the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. One of the no-no's: an unflattering reference to Indian casinos in the lyric ''Pocahontas is addicted to craps.'' If the lyric had said Pocahontas was victimized by white guys, the right would have shut the song down just as fast.

''It's a dangerous world we're living in when you get to the point that a joke about Jude Law is the most controversial thing in the Oscar show,'' says the TV star and standup comic Bob Saget. ''I'm missing Marlon Brando's Indian wife, David Niven and the streaker.'' I had called Mr. Saget because he is one of the hundred or so comedians who appear in the documentary ''The Aristocrats,'' in which another comic, Paul Provenza, and the magician-comedian Penn Jillette interview their peers about the decades-long history and countless improvisational variations on the film's eponymous joke.

The movie is a multigenerational compendium of comedians, from Phyllis Diller and Don Rickles to George Carlin, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman and Cartman of ''South Park.'' But the raunchiest participants are often those best known for their roles in family-friendly sitcoms on network TV: Drew Carey, Jason Alexander, Paul Reiser. I asked Mr. Saget, who starred as a lovable widower father in the long-running hit ''Full House,'' where his own impulse to tell X-rated standup comes from. Among his reasons: ''There's something about all of us that wants to push the limits of the world we're in, where you can't say anything. There's a time and a place for stuff that is freeing for people.''

I'm not a particular enthusiast for dirty jokes, but that freedom is exactly what I, and I suspect others, felt when a comic with a funny voice in a bad suit broke all the rules of propriety at that Friars Roast. But it was just three days earlier at the White House that Ari Fleischer, asked to respond to a politically incorrect remark about 9/11 by another comedian, Bill Maher, warned all Americans ''to watch what they say.'' That last week in September 2001, I've come to realize, is as much a marker in our cultural history as two weeks earlier is a marker in the history of our relations with the world. Even as we're constantly told we're in a war for ''freedom'' abroad, freedom in our culture at home has been under attack ever since.

Intimate Makeover

From the Los Angeles Times
Intimate makeover

In a quest to look younger, feel prettier and have better sex, women are turning to genital plastic surgery. And the look many want is that of a porn star.

By Melissa HealyTimes Staff WriterMarch 13, 2006

SINCE the dawn of its days as a medical specialty, plastic surgery has been marching inexorably down women's bodies, straightening, slimming, tucking as it goes, restoring the appearance of youth to features sagging with age and smoothing those marked by eccentricity.

Plastic surgery's southward expansion has now entered territory long thought sacred. Today, the vagina and its neighbors — the labia majora, the labia minora, the clitoral hood — are the latest bit of feminine real estate considered to be blighted by age or otherwise in need of renovation, beautification and rejuvenation.

Across the country, post-pubescent and peri-menopausal women alike are having their vaginas tightened, their mons pubis liposuctioned, their labial folds nipped and their clitoral hoods tucked. Most are seeking to restore what plastic surgeons are calling "a more youthful look" to this long-secreted corner of the female anatomy and often to improve their sex lives in the process. (In some cases, women with few pretensions to virginity are surprising their partners by having their hymens surgically restored.)

Other women, bothered by the imperfect proportions of their genitalia, undergo surgery just to bolster their self-image — a boost that often pays sexual dividends as well."I was the type who always wanted to have the lights down low" when having sex, says Holly, a 50-year-old medical assistant who recently had surgery to trim her labia minora and who asked that her last name not be used to maintain her privacy. "Just being comfortable with my body, this was huge for me. I was able to be sexually confident."Even as the small but growing group of genital plastic surgeons devise new and better surgical techniques, they acknowledge the standards women hope to achieve are set mostly by adult film actresses, strippers and nude denizens of the Internet."

I know what women want," says Dr. David L. Matlock of Los Angeles, an obstetrician turned plastic surgeon who has been a pioneer in devising and popularizing the procedures. He knows, he says, because so many of his patients tote their husband's or boyfriend's magazines into his office and point to photos almost as explicit as the before-and-after ones posted on many surgeons' websites.

More traditional plastic surgeons and gynecologists may be reluctant to endorse such procedures, but the demand is undeniable. Vulvar and vaginal plastic surgery is one of the fastest-growing areas in plastic surgery, say some in the field.Many of the techniques have been practiced for decades by obstetricians and gynecologists to repair childbirth-related injuries, and by urologists and reconstructive surgeons who repair birth defects or perform sex-reassignment surgery. But in the late 1990s, a few surgeons began offering the procedures as a means to enhance the aesthetic appearance of women's genital organs and, in some cases, to improve sexual function.

Today, in a field that assiduously tracks the demand for tummy tucks, butt lifts and breast implants, there is no data to gauge the scale of demand for these procedures. But there are signs that genital plastic surgery has appeared on the radar screens of social trend-watchers and the medical profession itself.

Next year, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons expects to begin collecting data on the number of vulvar and vaginal procedures its members are performing. Several practitioners of the new procedures, including a pair of Los Angeles plastic surgeons, have been profiled on cable TV shows pitched to viewers hungry for news of the beautiful and famous. And members of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have begun grumbling that it's an issue on which they need to weigh in.

But Dr. V. Leroy Young, who chairs the Emerging Trends Task Force of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, says the true gauge of these procedures' popularity may lie precisely in the fact that, far from either coast, conservative heartland women are paying doctors like him to perform them.Young performs about two to three vulvar procedures a month on women who "would never dare ask the question at a church social," but who can now learn about such procedures on the Internet and on TV. "It's right here in middle America," says Young, whose practice is based in Creve Coeur, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis.

Porn-star standards

Southern California — the seat of the adult entertainment industry — is undeniably the birthplace of this fledgling field of surgical alteration.In 2000, many Americans learned about a new procedure called labiaplasty when a porn star known as Houston had her labia-reduction surgery filmed and distributed to subscribers, then later auctioned off the excised flesh over the Internet.

Sharon Mitchell, executive director of the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation in Sherman Oaks and Woodland Hills, says few of today's adult film actresses are having the surgery because so many are already very young. But Mitchell, an adult film actress for 25 years before she earned a doctorate in human sexuality, says the adult film industry's emphasis on youth, as well as its growing audience among beauty-conscious women, is almost certainly driving the upsurge in the surgery.

And many women take the standards set by sex workers very much to heart, say doctors performing the surgeries."I hear it time and time again," says Dr. Gary Alter, a urologist-turned-plastic-surgeon who operates out of offices in Beverly Hills and New York City. "The woman says, 'I thought I was normal and I watch these movies with my boyfriends and now I feel like I must be a freak.' They feel they're the only ones in the world."

As the procedures have grown in exposure and popularity, a few mainstream gynecologists have sounded the alarm."You're basically taking a risk for no or very little benefit" with most of these surgeries, says Dr. Thomas G. Stovall, immediate past president of the Society of Gynecological Surgeons. Stovall warns that with labiaplasties and vaginal tightening, patients run the risk of developing infection and scar tissue, which can decrease sensation — or worse, cause pain — in the areas where incisions have been made.

As for the claim that vaginal tightening can enhance sexual gratification, Stovall insists "there is no scientific basis" to support it. "It might make it better for her partners," says Stovall, but the female patient is taking a risk without much prospect of personal benefit.

Feminists too have criticized the trend. Judy Norsigian, co-founder and author of the feminist health tract "Our Bodies, Ourselves," says women who have these surgeries are taking risks to adhere to standards of feminine beauty that are fleeting, unnatural and, ultimately, dictated by a society in which men are fixated on barely pubescent girls.

Norsigian and others have spoken out against Brazilian waxes, a popular hair removal trend that leaves all but a tiny wisp of pubic hair intact, as a reflection of that fetish. In turn, by making women's genitals more visible, the Brazilian wax trend has naturally led more women to take the risky next step of having their genitalia surgically altered, she says."We live in a country where people are always thinking up new things, new practices, new ways to make money," says Norsigian. "

And if you can play upon an insecurity, you can get a lot of people to do a lot of things."But many of the patients who pay from $7,000 to $18,000 to have their genitals nipped, tucked and rejuvenated aren't buying the arguments of those who would portray them as feckless pawns."I consider myself a feminist, and I feel this is so empowering," says Katie Sokey, a 36-year-old South Pasadena resident on whom Matlock recently performed laser vaginal rejuvenation. "It was a way to take charge of my own sexuality" after giving birth naturally to three strapping babies.

Why women risk it

Women seeking plastic surgery in the genital area vary in their motivations, say those in the field. Many are prompted strictly by aesthetics: They are, says Alter, "women who are in tune with what they should look like."But a number of patients, including Sokey, turn to plastic surgeons with complaints about physical discomfort, whether from lengthy labia, weakened vaginal walls or a clitoris enlarged by steroids or hormone imbalance. And in many cases, these patients report their concerns have been dismissed, played down or greeted with an unsympathetic shrug from the obstetricians and gynecologists they consulted first.

Sokey had three children at home with a midwife and breast-fed them well into their toddler years. She laughs sheepishly at the thought that she has become a champion of vulvar plastic surgery. "I would have never thought I'd end up in a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon's office; this is not my world," she says.But in the two years after the birth of her third child, Sokey says she consulted three physicians for symptoms that had grown more dramatic with each childbirth. Her vaginal walls felt loose, she felt a "bottoming-out" feeling when she ran or lifted the baby and the downward pressure of her reproductive organs, urinary bladder and rectum had caused her labia to swell so much that normal underwear rubbed and chafed. "Sex," she adds, "just wasn't as much fun," and feeling her marriage was in jeopardy, she went looking for help.One gynecological surgeon told her she "had the vagina of a 50-year-old woman," and sent her home with orders to do more Kegels, a pelvic-squeezing exercise long recommended to reestablish vaginal tone after childbirth. Another suggested corrective surgery and the implantation of a pessary, a supporting device that would hold her uterus and other organs in place and prevent them from intruding into the vagina. But the physician cautioned that convalescence would be long and insisted Katie stop breast-feeding so that the weakened surface of her vagina would hold sutures.

A third recommended a hysterectomy, which would have plunged Sokey into early menopause.

Sokey felt the options that obstetrics and gynecology had offered her ranged from ineffective to frighteningly radical. Her physical problems and the demands of motherhood were taking a toll on intimacy, even as her marriage, she discovered, was coming apart.

Sokey says she was overwhelmed with "the despair of going forth in the world of singlehood feeling broken and used up, and there was nothing I could do about it … I felt very old."When a friend suggested she go to Matlock, Sokey felt a twinge of hope. "It seemed overall like a gentler procedure," she says, and Matlock's staff assured her they had sent women in her situation home repaired, happy and hopeful. She went for Matlock's trademarked Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation package, an $8,000 procedure in which Matlock uses lasers and layers of sutures to make incisions along the front and back of vaginal walls, stitch the urinary bladder and rectum in place, remove excess tissue and tighten the vaginal opening.

Today, Sokey says she feels, simply, "rejuvenated." When she blew up a balloon for her son recently, she did not have to brace against the bottoming-out feeling. Her labia have returned to normal, making her choice of underpants a fashion decision again. And as she makes the first tentative steps back into single life, she says, "sex has been great." Matlock says his colleagues in the obstetrics and gynecology specialties have treated women — and patients such as Sokey — shabbily. He says he is listening to them and giving them options that many desperately want."

If these were male problems, [the medical profession] would have looked at these symptoms and solved them long ago," Matlock says. His patients, he says, are voting with their feet — and their pocketbooks because virtually none of the services he provides is paid for by insurance. "They all have gynecologists, but they're coming to me."Even Stovall, of the Society of Gynecological Surgeons, acknowledges that many ob-gyn specialists are wary of asking about vaginal function after childbirth because women's sexuality is such a complex matter. "

Most doctors don't have the expertise," he says, adding "since they don't have anything to address the problem, they'd just as soon not ask."That may be a problem," says Stovall. "But getting your vagina lasered is not going to solve that problem."

But for every woman like Sokey, there is probably at least one like Holly, the 50-year-old medical assistant from Southern California.

Holly conceived the idea that her labia didn't look right while in her late teens, just as she became sexually active. Looking furtively at adult magazines or at her friends convinced her "this didn't look normal."For almost 30 years, her sense that her labia minora were too long "constantly made me sad and not [feel] good about myself." When she would confide the cause of her sexual shyness to a man, he would invariably tell her she was fine, but she never bought it. Now, with her labia reduced by Alter, "there's a little jump in my step because I just feel so good about myself."

A range of normalcy

A plastic surgeon must always consider whether a patient's request is reasonable or is a symptom of an unhealthy body image. To do so requires an understanding of what is normal and what is, by society's current definition, beautiful. When it comes to female genitalia, the standard of beauty, at least, is an evolving standard. And that leaves plastic surgeons little firm basis for deciding which patients are unstable and should be turned away.

Matlock is perhaps clearest in his definition of female genital beauty. The porn stars his patients most frequently hold up as exemplary, says Matlock, sport "a nice, clean look," with a smooth clitoral hood hugging the clitoris like "a piece of paper draped tightly around a pencil" and petite, wrinkle-free labia flanking a "slit-like introitus" (or vagina) that appears never to have endured the indignities of childbirth.

But that is hardly the norm among American women, and physicians such as Stovall argue that before they reach for plastic surgery, women should be made to understand that "there are a multitude of normal variations." In plastic surgery, however, that's often a tough sell — not to mention a low priority. Young says he often tries to reassure women who seek him out that their genitals "are in the range of normal." Most often, he adds, "they don't want to hear it. They want the problem fixed."

Young echoes an often-heard conviction of plastic surgeons offering the new procedures: "I don't want to hear from a patient that they're doing it for someone else, that 'my husband or boyfriend said he doesn't like the way I look,' " he says. "That's a dead-end."But he acknowledges there's at best a "subtle difference" between a woman seeking surgery to increase her own self-confidence and the one who does so in hopes of pleasing the man or men in her life.

Many women who come to Alter's office are more focused on improving the look of their genitals than correcting a defect in their function, he says. But he refuses to dismiss their concerns as a form of "body dysmorphia" — the kind of wildly distorted body image that afflicts, for instance, those suffering the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.

For women whose sexuality is profoundly linked to self-esteem, Alter insists that improving appearance does improve sexual function, and helping women improve the quality of their lives is worth the risks that come with surgery."I hear people say, 'Who cares anyhow how someone looks down there?' " says Alter, who performs about 15 labia reduction surgeries, one of his specialties, a month. "My response is, 'You look down there and the other person who counts most of all, your partner, does, and that's enough. People do look down there, and no one likes to feel they're a freak."My view is that the operations I do are extremely safe, they have negligible risks and an incredibly high satisfaction rate. What's the problem?" Alter says.

The problem, says Mitchell of the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, is that women, whether they are porn stars or would like to look like them, would do better to accept themselves — to "dance naked in front of the mirror until they like what they see."And those tempted to go under the knife after admiring the genital proportions of a porn star should remember, she adds, that there is more than just youth and beauty at work in adult films: There is considerable cinematic sleight of hand."It's still a fantasy, still a projection," says Mitchell, who notes that vaginal wrinkles or asymmetrical labia can be airbrushed as readily as a pimple. "This is still moviemaking, regardless of how cheap."

France's Youth On Trial

France's youth on trial

Published: March 15 2006 02:00 Last updated: March 15 2006 02:00

Dominique de Villepin is being pilloried for the one thing he is doing right: making a courageous attempt to make his country's youth more employable. France's prime minister has suffered a sharp drop in his opinion poll rating for pushing the "first job contract" law through parliament in the face of massive university sit-ins and union demonstrations aimed at forcing him now to repeal it. The stakes are high. If he stands firm, France has a chance of beginning to lower the 23 per cent jobless rate among its young, and Mr de Villepin a fair shot at the Elysée palace next year. If he backtracks, his credibility as a presidential candidate will crumble along with those for labour market reform.

France has an unhappy history of trying to prod its young into jobs. Insufficient vocational training and a high university drop-out rate are partly to blame. But so are rigid minimum wage and redundancy laws that make French employers reluctant to give regular contracts of indefinite duration to less skilled or experienced workers who are so often the young. Yet attempts to devise lower levels of pay and redundancy compensation for the young are resented as discrimination. The upshot is that young people just tend to go from one temporary contract (if they are lucky) to another. Mr de Villepin's innovation has been to try to entice employers to give the young a footing on the ladder of regular work. His new law allows employers to dispense with the usual redundancy restrictions if they choose to dismiss workers under the age of 26 during the first two years of their contract.

This has been greeted with outrage. Student groups gripe the young are being treated as "the Kleenex generation", used and then discarded. They seem oblivious to the fact such criticism is far better directed at the fixed-term contract system and to the plight of all those young unemployed who vented their frustration by burning cars in the poorer suburbs of Paris and other cities last autumn.

Meanwhile, the opposition Socialists are asking the constitutional court to overturn the law. They and trade union leaders fear the new law will be the thin end of the wedge aimed at making the labour code for all workers more flexible. Hopefully, it will be. But that may be too much to expect with the presidential election little more than a year away.

However, this half-reform can be made to stick if the centre-right holds solid behind Mr de Villepin. President Jacques Chirac has a record of retreat in the face of student opposition, but yesterday said he backed Mr de Villepin. Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr de Villepin's presidential rival on the right, has been less explicit in his support. But reversal of the law would also complicate his calls for reform. This issue ropes the three centre-right leaders together like climbers on a mountain: if one slips the others will too.

14 March 2006

Stop the Attack on Our Constitution

Yesterday, Senator Russ Feingold introduced a resolution to censure President Bush for breaking the law by illegally wiretapping American citizens.

As most of you know, Sen. Feingold is and has been a breath of fresh air in that he is a Democrat who shares progressive values and has the spine to stand up for what he thinks is the right thing to do. I can recall some 25 years ago when I was in school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that his name was mentioned often and in favorable tones among state politicos who valued his insight, integrity and honesty.

I share the same feelings about his colleague, (who happens to be a Republican) Senator John McCain. You may recall that these two authored the “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002”, commonly referred to as the “McCain-Feingold Act”. This bill was passed in 2002 and was challenged in the Supreme Court by, among others, the Democratic party to which Mr. Feingold belongs as well as a host of others all along the political spectrum. For more on Campaign Reform, please see, e.g.,

It should be noted that Senator McCain has, by speaking his mind and acting accordingly, caused some consternation among his “conservative” base in Arizona. See, e.g., http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1421461/posts . Apparently, it is permissible to be a Republican if you also must qualify as an obedient lap-dog. An obedient lap-dog Senator McCain is not.

Sen. Feingold has also come under fire from some in his own party for having initially voting against the war in Iraq and against the Patriot Act (the only Democrat to do so) not because he disagreed with what President Bush’s conception – keep terrorists at bay here in this Country – but rather in the execution of that conception. Sadly prescient, he. If we only knew then what we know now… Senator Feingold is above reproach in his political stances even if one disagrees with them, a remote possibility, but a possibility nonetheless. One can rest easy knowing that he is voting after giving all sides to an issue a fair hearing and an opportunity to be heard and with the knowledge that his position has been carefully considered. That, after all, is really all we can ask of our representatives in Congress, so many of whom are more concerned with reelection and pleasing their corporate constituencies.

Senator Feingold appeared with George Stephanopoulos of ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday morning. He explained why the censure was necessary:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tomorrow in the Senate, you're going to introduce a resolution to censure George W. Bush. Let me show that to our viewers.
It says, "Resolved that the United States Senate does hereby censure George W. Bush, president of the United States, and does condemn his unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans."
That is a big step. Why are you taking it now?
FEINGOLD: It's an unusual step. It's a big step, but what the president did by consciously and intentionally violating the Constitution and laws of this country with this illegal wiretapping, has to be answered.
There can be debate about whether the law should be changed. There can be debate about how best to fight terrorism. We all believe that there should be wiretapping in appropriate cases -- but the idea that the president can just make up a law, in violation of his oath of office, has to be answered .
STEPHANOPOULOS: But as you know, the president says he was acting on his inherent authority under the Constitution -- and even your resolution acknowledges that no federal court has ruled that a president does not have that authority as commander in chief.
So aren't you jumping the gun?
FEINGOLD: Not at all. You know, we've had a chance here for three months to look at whether there's any legal basis for this -- and they're using shifting legal justifications.
First, they try to argue that, somehow under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, they can do this. It's pretty clear that they can't.
Then there's the argument that somehow the military authorization for Afghanistan allowed this. This has basically been laughed out of the room in the Congress.
So the last resort is to somehow say that the president has inherent authority to ignore the law of the United States of America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Inherent authority...
FEINGOLD: And that has a consequence that the president could even order the assassination of American citizens if that's the law.
So there is no sort of independent, inherent authority that allows the president to override the laws passed by the Congress of the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you're so convinced -- if you're so convinced -- that the president has broken the law, why not file an article of impeachment?
FEINGOLD: Well, you know, that's an option that we could look at, if somebody thought that was a really good idea.
There are other options out there.
In fact, this conduct is right in the strike zone. Even though the founding fathers, they didn't have strike zones; they didn't have baseball -- but this is right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So are you pulling your punch?
FEINGOLD: We have to consider: Is it best for the country to start impeachment proceedings? Is it best for the country to consider removing the president from office?
We're not mandated to impeach a president who has broken the law, but I think we are required to do our job to live up to our oath of office and say, "Wait a minute, there has to be" -- at least as a first step -- "some accountability."
FEINGOLD: Proper accountability is a censuring of the president
-- saying: "Mr. President, acknowledge that you broke the law, return to the law, return to our system of government."
That's what I think we should do.

The fact sheet put out by Senator Feingold’s office is direct and to the point.
# # #
Senator Feingold’s resolution of censure condemns the President for breaking the law by authorizing an illegal wiretapping program, and for misleading Congress and the American people about the existence and legality of that program.

The President Broke the Law by Wiretapping Outside of FISA

It Is Illegal to Wiretap Without the Requisite Warrant or Court Order: The law is clear that the criminal wiretap statute and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) “shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . and the interception of domestic wire, oral, and electronic communications may be conducted.”

FISA Has an Emergency Exception: The Administration has indicated that it ignored FISA because the application process takes too long. In fact, in an emergency where the Attorney General believes that surveillance must begin before a court order can be obtained, FISA permits him to immediately authorize the surveillance as long as the government goes to the court within 72 hours. Prior to 2001, the emergency wiretap period was only 24 hours. The Administration requested and received the increase to 72 hours in intelligence authorization legislation that passed in late 2001.

FISA Provides for Wartime Situations: FISA also permits the Attorney General to authorize warrantless electronic surveillance in the United States during the 15 days following a declaration of war, to allow time to consider any amendments to FISA necessitated by a wartime emergency.

The Administration Has Used FISA Thousands of Times Since 9/11: Administration officials have criticized FISA, but they have obtained thousands of warrants approved by the FISA court since 9/11, and have almost never had a warrant request rejected by that court.

The President Made Misleading Arguments Defending his Wiretapping Program

Military Force Resolution Did Not Authorize Wiretapping: The President has argued that Congress gave him authority to wiretap Americans on U.S. soil without a warrant when it passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force after September 11, 2001. There is no language in the resolution and no evidence to suggest that it was intended to give the President authority to order these warrantless wiretaps. Warrantless domestic surveillance is not an “incident of war” akin to detaining an enemy soldier on the battlefield as the Administration has argued.

In fact, Congress passed the Patriot Act just six weeks after September 11 to expand the government’s powers to conduct surveillance of suspected terrorists and spies. Yet the Administration did not ask for, nor did the Patriot Act include, any change to FISA’s requirement of judicial approval for wiretaps of Americans in the United States.

Prohibition on Wiretapping Limits Executive Power: The President’s assertion of inherent executive power is also wrong. The President has extensive authority when it comes to national security and foreign affairs, but given the clear prohibition in FISA, that authority does not include the power to wiretap American citizens on American soil without a warrant.

Executive Branch Review of Wiretapping Is Not Enough: The President has argued that periodic executive branch review provides an adequate check on the program. But Congress when it passed FISA explicitly rejected the idea that the executive branch should be fully entrusted to conduct national security wiretaps on its own – a power that the executive had abused in the past. In addition, the Administration has said that NSA employees decide whose communications to tap. Executive branch employees are no substitute for FISA Court judges. (emphasis mine)

Congress Did Not Approve This Program: The extremely limited briefings of the President’s warrantless surveillance programs to a handful of Congressional leaders did not constitute Congressional oversight, much less approval. In fact, the failure of the President to keep the Congressional Intelligence Committees “fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities” was a violation of the National Security Act.

The President Made Misleading Public Statements about Administration Wiretapping

“Finally, we need to renew the critical provisions of the Patriot Act that protect our civil liberties. The Patriot Act was written with clear safeguards to ensure the law is applied fairly. The judicial branch has a strong oversight role. Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, a federal judge's permission to track his calls, or a federal judge's permission to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of these tools. And these standards are fully consistent with the Constitution of the U.S.”

--President George Bush, June 9, 2005, in Columbus, Ohio

“A couple of things that are very important for you to understand about the Patriot Act. First of all, any action that takes place by law enforcement requires a court order. In other words, the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order. Now, we've used things like roving wiretaps on drug dealers before. Roving wiretaps mean you change your cell phone. And yet, we weren't able to use roving wiretaps on terrorists. And so what the Patriot Act said is let's give our law enforcement the tools necessary, without abridging the Constitution of the United States, the tools necessary to defend America.”

--President George Bush, July 14, 2004, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

“Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.”

--President George Bush, April 20, 2004, in Buffalo, New York

Here’s the Resolution in its entirety in .pdf format: http://feingold.senate.gov/censureresolution.pdf

Yesterday, Sen. Feingold appeared on CNN to discuss his Senate Resolution to censure President Bush. Again, he agrees with the conception that terrorists should be listened in on and stopped before they can do damage to our country (again). It is in the execution that President Bush has failed at:

He perseveres, as should we, in discovering how this country can sit back and watch as its Constitution is destroyed. As far as the present issue is concerned, it is high time that we realize that our constitution is under attack, and not just by Al-Qaeda.

It is under serious threat by this President who, under the cloak of executive privilege and presumed power as commander in chief of our armed forces, thinks and acts like he can do anything he wants to whomever he wants. The “outing” of Valerie Plame was just one incident.

In case the administration’s spinmeisters spun that one past you, a member of the Bush administration leaked the name of a CIA operative to the Washington Post because her husband, Joe Wilson, had criticized as untrue the administration’s claim that Iraq had sought to acquire nuclear material from the African country of Niger.

Today, Vanity Fair reported that former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee says it is reasonable to assume former State Department official Richard L. Armitage is likely the source who revealed CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/13/AR2006031301904_pf.html

By all accounts from respected journalists who cover Washington, there is a climate of fear among those who would criticize the administration that pervades what kind of news we hear out of Washington. Just how successful has President Bush been in intimidating journalists and others who would ask “Why?” Perhaps that self-censorship is just a little less now than it was, but that is only because President Bush’s ratings have dropped to an all-time low – people in all those red states are finally waking up to discover that President Bush is NOT on the side of the “little guy”, and so perhaps it is safe to start talking freely again – maybe. And if all those “conservatives” have seen enough, perhaps some of them will have the intellectual and intestinal fortitude to walk their talk.

Those Congressmen that choose to stand up to Bush and the power-elites in Washington will, in the end, be the true heroes for us in these days of national agony. They will be remembered as the true Progressives. We will stop using labels that have been defined out of existence such as “liberal” or “conservative”. Instead, we will vote and arrange our political lives in accordance to what we believe are the right things to do and steps to take, regardless of party affiliation and single-issue interest groups and always upholding the law. And if the law is wrong then change it. But we cannot have a sitting President blatantly and cheerfully cynically tell us to our faces that he is above the law. Even President Nixon tried to cover-up his approval of the break-in of a political opponent’s psychiatrist’s office at the Watergate. We know from the experience in Germany in the 1930s, Russia in the 1940s-50s and China under Mao in the 1960s what can happen when a government becomes centered around men and not laws that were enacted by the people’s elected representatives.

What is going on now is the re-enactment of nothing less than Dr. Josef Goebbels’ “Big Lie” theory: if you repeat a lie with earnest intention (I do not question President Bush’s earnest intent) often enough, people will start to take that lie as the truth. And so it was in Germany in the 1930s and 40s. We are fortunate today to have a (mainly) free press unlike Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia or Maoist China so that the machinations that trigger calls for the censure of the President of the United States can see the light of day despite their best efforts to the contrary. Hopefully our government has not set up concentration camps or gulags for journalists or others who might have been deemed, in a different time in a different place “undesirable”.

Let there be no doubt, however, that we are at a precipice: what we are talking about at the core is how people think about their government, and accordingly how they interact with it - whether it is through newspapers, the internet or talk over coffee at Starbucks. President Bush, under the cover of a thus-far compliant, malleable Republican Congress, has thus far been able to spin, wheedle and avoid any real popular reaction to what he has done to this country. With a complicit Republican-controlled Congress, he has cut off the access to information that would allow those who would protect and defend our country from finding out the truth about the run-up to the war as well as the illegal wiretapping that is taking place. This must end. It must come out from under the rug.

In addition to the Senate Resolution introduced by Senator Feingold, similar resolutions were introduced in December in the House of Representatives by Hon. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee concerning the lies and deception that were practiced on the people of the United States on the run-up to the Iraq War by President Bush and Vice-President Cheney and others. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-conyers/the-constitution-in-crisi_b_12626.html?p=3 Representative Conyers has called for the establishment of a special committee to investigate the activities of the Bush Administration.

“Over 55,000 people have signed up to become Citizen Cosponsors of my House Resolution 635 which would create a Special Committee to investigate whether any crimes committed by the Bush Administration rise to the level of impeachment. The creation of a special committee is the same deliberative step taken by former Judiciary Committee Chairman, Sam Ervin, to review the Nixon Administration's conduct prior to deciding whether to pursue articles of impeachment. If you haven't signed yet, or know others who should, this is the link.” http://www.conyersblog.us/

Those resolutions are based on facts and law contained in the Investigative Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff, the executive summary of which you can download here: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/downloads/section1.pdfIts title is The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War (This Report is 273 pages.)Full Report

While the investigation is incomplete, President Bush has admitted facts that, if true, would constitute a prima facie violation of (at least) the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. What is more troubling is that the Bush administration is not cooperating with Congress in trying to get to the bottom of any of these issues, choosing instead to allow Congress and the electorate (us) to operate in the dark, with only a few brave souls willing to stand up and be counted. And Senators McCain and Feingold and Representative Conyers are those souls.

Censuring the president is a reasonable first step in condemning the president's actions in regard to illegal wiretapping. Now it's up to us to show broad public support for Senator Feingold's resolution.

Please consider signing this petition asking Congress to join the call for censure: http://political.moveon.org/censure/