Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Don Imus Makes Joe Lieberman Look Like a DUCK....

God and Maureen Gave Us Blue Cheese....and Here WE ARE..

Our brilliant blues
Creamy, rich and intense, the new American farmstead blue cheeses are uniquely linked to the land.
By Regina Schrambling
Special to The Times

November 30, 2005

DAVID GREMMELS and Cary Bryant could be considered the accidental cheese makers.

Three years ago they were scouting for blue cheese to stock a wine bar they planned to open in Oregon when they happened on Rogue Creamery in Central Point, which had been making a Roquefort-style cheese since 1957. They tried it, they liked it and then the 75-year-old owner, Ignacio Vella, dropped a bombshell: "Gentlemen, if you want my cheese, you're going to have to make it yourself. I'm going to close it down."

They "bought on a handshake," Gremmels said, and within two months were up to their elbows in curds and mold. Vella, whose family also owns the well-regarded Sonoma company that makes Dry Jack cheese, stayed on to teach them (he's still officially master cheese maker). Soon Bryant was putting his microbiology degree to work tweaking Rogue's recipes, one for Oregon Blue Vein that was brought by Vella's father from France and the other for Oregonzola, named by Vella's daughter for his variation on the Italian original. Every year since, Rogue has been steadily developing new varieties of blue with character all their own, cheeses that are American to the nubbly core but are racking up awards even in the land of Stilton.

And Rogue is just one of the many artisanal cheese makers now churning out blues that hold up against or even surpass the European classics.

Simultaneously creamy, crumbly, sweet and salty, these new blues are anything but an acquired taste. They're sophisticated and nuanced but still accessible. You can eat them on a cracker or showcase them in recipes, and always you get unique flavor, mellow but sharp, with all the hallmarks of a superb Burgundy. They even seem to induce wine-speak, with aficionados finding hints of berries and caramel and hazelnuts in a single buttery bite.

Like all the great pungent, veiny cheeses, the new Americans go with everything you want to eat right now: pecans and pears, apples and walnuts, cranberries and bitter greens, grilled beef and roast pork, even pasta and polenta. The flavor, the texture and the creaminess harmonize with nearly every other brink-of-winter ingredient, and that's before you even get out the Port.

A category of cheese essentially dominated for 64 years by Maytag Blue out of Iowa now includes variations from coast to coast: from California to New York and Massachusetts, with stopovers in Colorado and Louisiana and Vermont. Terroir is a pretentious word, but tasting these cheeses can give you a hint of how connected the Oregon grass the cows eat is to the Crater Lake blue you spread on a sliced baguette.

As Gremmels notes, culinary artisans in all fields in this country "are very open to mixing and blending and looking at things creatively," whether varietals for wine or hops for beer or molds — and milks — for cheese. (After experimenting, Rogue now produces Echo Mountain Harvest Blue in limited supply using part goat's milk and part cow's; one of its latest innovations comes wrapped in Merlot and Syrah grapevine leaves macerated in Oregon's Clear Creek pear brandy.) No one today is trying just to emulate the European classics. They are making truly American cheeses for Americans who are better educated about food in general, well traveled and open to new tastes.

Naturally, these new blues do not vary as discernibly as French Roquefort and Spanish Cabrales (crumbly and made from sheep's milk, or from a blend of sheep's, cow's and goat's milk) do from Italian Gorgonzola (often almost Brie-like and made from cow's milk). Most are fairly creamy, assertive but not overpowering, and nearly all can be used interchangeably in cooking. Lay them out side by side and the main difference will be in the tone of the veining — some are more green, some more blue, some more mottled.

Like all blue cheeses, the domestic kind are produced by a time-honored method, with mold called penicillium roqueforti injected to create the distinctive flavor. Most of the American blues are made from raw cow's milk and are aged four to six months.


Uniquely local

BOTH the Cheese Store of Silverlake and the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills report doing a good business in American blues, especially as the quality and variety have improved. Chris Pollan, the proprietor of Silverlake, says he carries around half a dozen kinds, as does Norbert Wabnig at the Beverly Hills shop, who even has one called Shaft's that is aged in an old mining shaft. Online dealers such as also carry a good assortment. (Some cheese makers sell from their own websites, but usually only in hefty proportions.)

Of the nine American blues I tried, two were decidedly different. Bayley Hazen, from Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vt., is firm and crumbly, with a strong underpinning of blue mold and just enough salt. It's almost nutty-tasting and not at all creamy-rich. If you think blue cheese should be in-your-nose aggressive, more Stilton than Danish blue, this is the right choice.

Rogue's Smokey Blue is also simply extraordinary. Cold-smoked over Oregon hazelnut shells, it starts out on your palate as a typical sublime blue but finishes just like smoke, in the best way. Eating it plain is addictive, but it also has a wondrous effect in cooking, particularly as a topping for char-roasted green beans and grilled meat. Gremmels says chefs particularly love it with salmon, stuffed into morels or crumbled onto salads.

At the other extreme is Point Reyes Original Blue, from a cheese maker on Tomales Bay in Northern California. More white than blue, it borders on bland, which is a cardinal sin in cheeseland. No wonder it is most often served at fancy food shows mixed into a dip with lots of sour cream. This is blue cheese for Colby Longhorn lovers, or for beginners willing to take baby steps.

Maytag Blue seems to be the baseline for most of the newer cheese makers. A dairy in Newton, Iowa, started by the grandson of the founder of the Maytag appliance company, now churns out more than 1 million pounds of this crumbly cheese every year. It's deeply mottled with green-blue mold and has a potent but not overpowering flavor, alone or especially in any salad.

Rogue River produces other cheeses that evoke Maytag's, but with specific Northwest character — particularly its Crater Lake blue and Oregon Blue Vein, both aged in caves just as Roquefort is in France. (Vella's father studied there and brought the original cultures to the United States along with plans for the caves.) Crater Lake is delicately but deeply veined and tastes of cream and salt first, bracing mold last. It's superb. Oregon Blue Vein is more in-your-mouth tangy/salty, but has a lovely creamy center.

From the other side of the country, Great Hill Blue, made in Buzzard's Bay, on Massachusetts' Cape Cod, is another lively standout — almost the consistency of cream cheese but with very, very potent flavor. The veining is easily the most delicate of all these cheeses except Point Reyes, which has less immediate sharpness. By contrast, Bingham Hill Rustic Blue, from Fort Collins, Colo., has a texture more like a great cheddar: firm and dry, and a smooth and mellow, almost nutty taste.

All these blues also submit to cooking without losing their personality. Melt them with half-and-half to make a quick sauce for broccoli or cauliflower. Crumble them over hot polenta. Toss them with pasta, with or without pistachios or other nuts and sautéed leeks. Stuff them into mushrooms to be baked. Toss them into salads, especially with endives or frisée and other richness such as lardons and/or poached eggs, but also salads with fruit — pears, apples or persimmons are naturals. Spread them on a grilled burger or tuck them into an omelet with spinach.

In a country where blue cheese so often is relegated to the dip for Buffalo chicken wings and dressings for iceberg salad, the variety and sophistication of the new blues should seem unlikely. But then who would have imagined 25 years ago that goat cheese would not only shed its French euphemism of chèvre but become almost as ubiquitous as Kraft Singles?



Blue cheese in an American vein

BLUE cheese is generally aged, but once cut from the wheel it has a surprisingly short lifespan. If possible, buy from a store that slices to order and wraps in paper. Any blue cheese you find already cut and wrapped is on its way to funky. Even sealing blue cheese in plastic wrap at home is a bad idea. A high water content combined with the mold puts a sublimely pungent cheese at higher risk of decaying into bitterness. Better to use wax paper or foil.

Most of the best American blue cheeses run around $18 to $20 a pound, but prices vary widely from source to source. When serving any blue cheese, use a knife warmed in hot water and slice all the way through — the center is creamier and often milder than the hard, pungent outer area, and you want both distinctive taste sensations. In fact, this is one cheese to eat rind and all.

Bayley Hazen. A hard, sharp, wonderfully pungent blue from Vermont. Available at the Cheese Store of Silverlake, (323) 644-7511, $18 per pound.

Bingham Hill Rustic Blue. Another hard cheese, from Colorado, that is almost cheddary in texture, with a seriously mellow flavor. Available at the Cheese Store of Silverlake, $18 per pound; and at the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, (310) 278-2855, $20 per pound.

Echo Mountain Harvest Blue. This fabulous limited-edition blue made with a blend of cow's and goat's milk is creamy, rich and well-balanced, with a lovely salt tang. Available at the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, $30 per pound.

Great Hill Blue. A balanced blend of pungent and buttery smoothness from Cape Cod. Available at the Cheese Store of Silverlake and the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, about $18 per pound.

Maytag Blue. The standard- setter from Iowa is always reliable; the taste and texture evoke a good Danish blue. Widely available, about $18 per pound.

Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue. Extraordinarily creamy and pungent and also seductively smoky. Available at the Cheese Store of Silverlake and the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, about $18 per pound.

Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue Vein. A close American cousin of Roquefort, with a sharp but smooth flavor. Available at the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, about $18 per pound.

Rogue Creamery Crater Lake. Creamier, nuanced but still sharply flavored in the best way. Available at the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, about $18 per pound.

Point Reyes Blue. The mildest of the American blues. Available at Whole Foods, Bristol Farms and Gelson's. Prices vary from about $15 to $19 per pound.

— Regina Schrambling


Apple-wild rice salad with blue cheese and Calvados dressing

Total time: 25 minutes plus 30 minutes chilling

Servings: 6 to 8

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup plus 2 to 4 tablespoons Calvados (or applejack)

1 egg yolk, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or more to taste

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup walnut oil

1/2 cup peanut oil

1 large Granny Smith apple

2 cups cooked wild rice

1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped fine

1/2 to 1 cup crumbled Maytag blue cheese

1. Simmer the cranberries in one-half cup Calvados in a small saucepan over low heat until all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside.

2. Place the egg yolk in a blender and add the salt, lemon juice, vinegar and mustard. Process until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons Calvados and process briefly. With the motor running on low speed, slowly drizzle in the walnut and peanut oils. Add the remaining Calvados to taste. Chill at least 30 minutes.

3. Peel and core the apple. Cut into half-inch dice. As you chop them, toss them in a bowl with about one-half cup of the dressing to keep them from discoloring.

4. Add the wild rice, pecans and cranberries and toss to combine, adding more dressing as needed. Stir in the blue cheese and serve.

Each of 8 servings: 453 calories; 5 grams protein; 33 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 30 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 35 mg. cholesterol; 339 mg. sodium.


Roasted green beans with blue cheese

Total time: 30 to 45 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

1 pound green beans, trimmed

2 tablespoons extra virgin

olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon sea salt, divided

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large red pepper, cored and seeded

1 Vidalia or other sweet onion, peeled

1/2 cup walnuts

2 to 3 ounces American blue cheese, preferably Rogue River smoked

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1. Wash the green beans and dry well. Place in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and half of the salt. Season with pepper to taste. Toss to coat well. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Cut the red pepper and onion into slices about the same thickness as the green beans. Place in a bowl and add the remaining oil and salt and season with pepper. Toss to coat well. Spread on a second rimmed baking sheet.

3. Heat the oven to 475 degrees. As it heats, toast the walnuts in a small baking dish, 5 to 10 minutes; watch carefully to be sure they don't burn. Cool, then coarsely chop.

4. Roast the vegetables until they're soft and starting to caramelize, 15 to 30 minutes, stirring and turning every 5 minutes to cook evenly without burning.

5. Transfer to a shallow serving dish. Sprinkle with the walnuts. Crumble the blue cheese over and sprinkle with the chives. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Each of 8 servings: 188 calories; 6 grams protein; 11 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 15 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 9 mg. cholesterol; 551 mg. sodium.


Grilled steaks with blue cheese and cranberry confit

Total time: 25 minutes

Servings: 4

2/3 cup fresh cranberries

2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 shallots, finely chopped

1/2 cup red wine

4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 4 pieces

4 (11- to 12-ounce) New York strip steaks, 1 1/4 inches thick

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces American blue cheese, such as Crater Lake

1. Heat a charcoal or gas grill or grill pan.

2. Cook the cranberries in one-half cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat until they pop and the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Stir in just enough maple syrup to take off the tart edge.

3. Combine the shallots and wine in a small skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the liquid is reduced to a glaze. Off the heat, whisk in the butter, a piece at a time. Add the cranberry mixture and keep warm. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Season the steaks well with salt and pepper on both sides. Sear over the hottest part of the grill for 2 minutes on each side. Move them to a cooler part of the grill and cook, turning once, until done to your taste, about 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare results. Transfer to serving plates.

5. Spoon the cranberry mixture over the steaks. Crumble the cheese over and serve.

Each serving: 734 calories; 77 grams protein; 12 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 38 grams fat; 20 grams saturated fat; 192 mg. cholesterol; 544 mg. sodium.


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Plan B....and the Bush Ideologues

This article can be found on the web at
Dr. Hager's Family Values


[from the May 30, 2005 issue]

Now that the Food and Drug Administration has again delayed over-the-counter sale of the morning-after pill Plan B, new lobbying efforts are underway to make the drug widely available. This report, published in May 30, provides useful background on how the personal ideology of Bush appointees is adversely affecting the health and welfare of women.

Late last October Dr. W. David Hager, a prominent obstetrician-gynecologist and Bush Administration appointee to the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), took to the pulpit as the featured speaker at a morning service. He stood in the campus chapel at Asbury College, a small evangelical Christian school nestled among picturesque horse farms in the small town of Wilmore in Kentucky's bluegrass region. Hager is an Asburian nabob; his elderly father is a past president of the college, and Hager himself currently sits on his alma mater's board of trustees. Even the school's administrative building, Hager Hall, bears the family name.

That day, a mostly friendly audience of 1,500 students and faculty packed into the seats in front of him. With the autumn sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows, Hager opened his Bible to the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel and looked out into the audience. "I want to share with you some information about how...God has called me to stand in the gap," he declared. "Not only for others, but regarding ethical and moral issues in our country."

For Hager, those moral and ethical issues all appear to revolve around sex: In both his medical practice and his advisory role at the FDA, his ardent evangelical piety anchors his staunch opposition to emergency contraception, abortion and premarital sex. Through his six books--which include such titles as Stress and the Woman's Body and As Jesus Cared for Women, self-help tomes that interweave syrupy Christian spirituality with paternalistic advice on women's health and relationships--he has established himself as a leading conservative Christian voice on women's health and sexuality.

And because of his warm relationship with the Bush Administration, Hager has had the opportunity to see his ideas influence federal policy. In December 2003 the FDA advisory committee of which he is a member was asked to consider whether emergency contraception, known as Plan B, should be made available over the counter. Over Hager's dissent, the committee voted overwhelmingly to approve the change. But the FDA rejected its recommendation, a highly unusual and controversial decision in which Hager, The Nation has learned, played a key role. Hager's reappointment to the committee, which does not require Congressional approval, is expected this June, but Bush's nomination of Dr. Lester Crawford as FDA director has been bogged down in controversy over the issue of emergency contraception. Crawford was acting director throughout the Plan B debacle, and Senate Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray, are holding up his nomination until the agency revisits its decision about going over the counter with the pill.

When Hager's nomination to the FDA was announced in the fall of 2002, his conservative Christian beliefs drew sharp criticism from Democrats and prochoice groups. David Limbaugh, the lesser light in the Limbaugh family and author of Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging Political War Against Christianity, said the left had subjected Hager to an "anti-Christian litmus test." Hager's valor in the face of this "religious profiling" earned him the praise and lasting support of evangelical Christians, including such luminaries as Charles Colson, Dr. James Dobson and Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham.

Back at Asbury, Hager cast himself as a victim of religious persecution in his sermon. "You see...there is a war going on in this country," he said gravely. "And I'm not speaking about the war in Iraq. It's a war being waged against Christians, particularly evangelical Christians. It wasn't my scientific record that came under scrutiny [at the FDA]. It was my faith.... By making myself available, God has used me to stand in the breach.... Just as he has used me, he can use you."

Up on the dais, several men seated behind Hager nodded solemnly in agreement. But out in the audience, Linda Carruth Davis--co-author with Hager of Stress and the Woman's Body, and, more saliently, his former wife of thirty-two years--was enraged. "It was the most disgusting thing I've ever heard," she recalled months later, through clenched teeth.

According to Davis, Hager's public moralizing on sexual matters clashed with his deplorable treatment of her during their marriage. Davis alleges that between 1995 and their divorce in 2002, Hager repeatedly sodomized her without her consent. Several sources on and off the record confirmed that she had told them it was the sexual and emotional abuse within their marriage that eventually forced her out. "I probably wouldn't have objected so much, or felt it was so abusive if he had just wanted normal [vaginal] sex all the time," she explained to me. "But it was the painful, invasive, totally nonconsensual nature of the [anal] sex that was so horrible."

Not once during the uproar over Hager's FDA appointment did any reporter solicit the opinion of the woman now known as Linda Davis--she remarried in November 2002 to James Davis, a Methodist minister, and relocated to southern Georgia--on her husband's record, even though she contributed to much of his self-help work in the Christian arena (she remains a religious and political conservative). She intermittently thought of telling her story but refrained, she says, out of respect for her adult children. It was Hager's sermon at Asbury last October that finally changed her mind. Davis was there to hear her middle son give a vocal performance; she was prepared to hear her ex-husband inveigh against secular liberals, but she was shocked to hear him speak about their divorce when he took to the pulpit.

"In early 2002," Hager told the churchgoers that day, "my world fell apart.... After thirty-two years of marriage, I was suddenly alone in a new home that we had built as our dream home. Time spent 'doing God's will' had kept me from spending the time I needed to nourish my marriage." Hager noted with pride that in his darkest hour, Focus on the Family estimated that 50 million people worldwide were praying for him.

Linda Davis quietly fumed in her chair. "He had the gall to stand under the banner of holiness of the Lord and lie, by the sin of omission," she told me. "It's what he didn't say--it's the impression he left."

David Hager is not the fringe character and fundamentalist faith healer that some of his critics have made him out to be. In fact, he is a well-credentialed doctor. In Kentucky Hager has long been recognized as a leading Ob-Gyn at Lexington's Central Baptist Hospital and a faculty member at the University of Kentucky's medical school. And in the 1990s several magazines, including Modern Healthcare and Good Housekeeping, counted him among the best doctors for women in the nation.

Yet while Hager doesn't advocate the substitution of conservative Christianity for medicine, his religious ideology underlies an all-encompassing paternalism in his approach to his women patients. "Even though I was trained as a medical specialist," Hager explained in the preface to As Jesus Cared for Women, "it wasn't until I began to see how Jesus treated women that I understood how I, as a doctor, should treat them." To underscore this revelation, Hager recounted case after case in which he acted as confidant, spiritual adviser and even father figure to his grateful patients. As laid out in his writings, Hager's worldview is not informed by a sense of inherent equality between men and women. Instead, men are expected to act as benevolent authority figures for the women in their lives. (In one of his books, he refers to a man who raped his wife as "selfish" and "sinful.") But to model gender relations on the one Jesus had with his followers is to leave women dangerously exposed in the event that the men in their lives don't meet the high standard set by God Himself--trapped in a permanent state of dependence hoping to be treated well.

In tandem with his medical career, Hager has been an aggressive advocate for the political agenda of the Christian right. A member of Focus on the Family's Physician Resource Council and the Christian Medical and Dental Society, Hager assisted the Concerned Women for America in submitting a "Citizen's Petition" to the FDA in August 2002 to halt distribution and marketing of the abortion pill, RU-486. It was this record of conservative activism that ignited a firestorm when the Bush Administration first floated his name for chairman of the FDA's advisory committee in the fall of 2002. In the end, the FDA found a way to dodge the controversy: It issued a stealth announcement of Hager's appointment to the panel (to be one of eleven members, not chairman) on Christmas Eve. Liberals were furious that they weren't able to block his appointment. For many months afterward, an outraged chain letter alerting women to the appointment of a man with religious views "far outside the mainstream" snaked its way around the Internet, lending the whole episode the air of urban legend.

Back in Lexington, where the couple continued to live, Linda Hager, as she was still known at the time, was sinking into a deep depression, she says. Though her marriage had been dead for nearly a decade, she could not see her way clear to divorce; she had no money of her own and few marketable skills. But life with David Hager had grown unbearable. As his public profile increased, so did the tension in their home, which she says periodically triggered episodes of abuse. "I would be asleep," she recalls, "and since [the sodomy] was painful and threatening, I woke up. Sometimes I acquiesced once he had started, just to make it go faster, and sometimes I tried to push him off.... I would [confront] David later, and he would say, 'You asked me to do that,' and I would say, 'No, I never asked for it.'"

I first heard of Davis's experience in 2004 through a friend of hers. After a few telephone conversations, she agreed to have me fly down to see her in her modest parsonage in Georgia, to tell me her story on the record. With her mod reading glasses, stylish bob and clever outfits, Davis, 55, is a handsome woman with a sharp wit. She spoke with me over two days in January.

Linda Davis (née Carruth) first met David Hager on the campus of Asbury College in 1967. "On the very first date he sat me down and told me he was going to marry me," Davis remembers. "I was so overwhelmed by this aggressive approach of 'I see you and I want you' that I was completely seduced by it."

Davis, a former beauty queen, was a disengaged student eager to get married and start a family. A Hager-Carruth marriage promised prestige and wealth for the couple; her father was a famous Methodist evangelist, and his father was then president of Asbury. "On the surface, it just looked so good," she remembers. The couple married in 1970, while Hager completed medical school at the University of Kentucky.

"I don't think I was married even a full year before I realized that I had made a horrible mistake," Davis says. By her account, Hager was demanding and controlling, and the couple shared little emotional intimacy. "But," she says, "the people around me said, 'Well, you've made your bed, and now you have to lie in it.'" So Davis commenced with family making and bore three sons: Philip, in 1973; Neal, in 1977; and Jonathan, in 1979.

Sometime between the births of Neal and Jonathan, Hager embarked on an affair with a Bible-study classmate who was a friend of Davis's. A close friend of Davis's remembers her calling long distance when she found out: "She was angry and distraught, like any woman with two children would be. But she was committed to working it out."

Sex was always a source of conflict in the marriage. Though it wasn't emotionally satisfying for her, Davis says she soon learned that sex could "buy" peace with Hager after a long day of arguing, or insure his forgiveness after she spent too much money. "Sex was coinage; it was a commodity," she said. Sometimes Hager would blithely shift from vaginal to anal sex. Davis protested. "He would say, 'Oh, I didn't mean to have anal sex with you; I can't feel the difference,'" Davis recalls incredulously. "And I would say, 'Well then, you're in the wrong business.'"

By the 1980s, according to Davis, Hager was pressuring her to let him videotape and photograph them having sex. She consented, and eventually she even let Hager pay her for sex that she wouldn't have otherwise engaged in--for example, $2,000 for oral sex, "though that didn't happen very often because I hated doing it so much. So though it was more painful, I would let him sodomize me, and he would leave a check on the dresser," Davis admitted to me with some embarrassment. This exchange took place almost weekly for several years.

Money was an explosive issue in their household. Hager kept an iron grip on the family purse strings. Initially the couple's single checking account was in Hager's name only, which meant that Davis had to appeal to her husband for cash, she says. Eventually he relented and opened a dual account. Davis recalls that Hager would return home every evening and make a beeline for his office to balance the checkbook, often angrily summoning her to account for the money she'd spent that day. Brenda Bartella Peterson, Davis's friend of twenty-five years and her neighbor at the time, witnessed Hager berate his wife in their kitchen after one such episode. For her part, Davis set out to subvert Hager's financial dominance with profligate spending on credit cards opened in her own name. "I was not willing to face reality about money," she admits. "I thought, 'Well, money can't buy happiness, but it buys the kind of misery you can learn to live with.'"

These financial atmospherics undoubtedly figured into Linda's willingness to accept payment for sex. But eventually her conscience caught up with her. "Finally...I said, 'You know, David, this is like being a prostitute. I just can't do this anymore; I don't think it's healthy for our relationship,'" she recalls.

By 1995, according to Davis's account, Hager's treatment of his wife had moved beyond morally reprehensible to potentially felonious. It was a uniquely stressful year for Davis. Her mother, dying of cancer, had moved in with the family and was in need of constant care. At the same time, Davis was suffering from a seemingly inexplicable exhaustion during the day. She began exhibiting a series of strange behaviors, like falling asleep in such curious places as the mall and her closet. Occasionally she would--as she describes it--"zone out" in midsentence in a conversation, and her legs would buckle. Eventually, Davis was diagnosed as having narcolepsy, a neurological disorder that affects the brain's ability to regulate normal sleep-wake cycles.

For Davis, the diagnosis spelled relief, and a physician placed her on several medications to attain "sleep hygiene," or a consistent sleep pattern. But Davis says it was after the diagnosis that the period of the most severe abuse began. For the next seven years Hager sodomized Davis without her consent while she slept roughly once a month until their divorce in 2002, she claims. "My sense is that he saw [my narcolepsy] as an opportunity," Davis surmises. Sometimes she fought Hager off and he would quit for a while, only to circle back later that same night; at other times, "the most expedient thing was to try and somehow get it [over with]. In order to keep any peace, I had to maintain the illusion of being available to him." At still other moments, she says, she attempted to avoid Hager's predatory advances in various ways--for example, by sleeping in other rooms in the house, or by struggling to stay awake until Hager was in a deep sleep himself. But, she says, nothing worked. One of Davis's lifelong confidantes remembers when Davis first told her about the abuse. "[Linda] was very angry and shaken," she recalled.

As Hager began fielding calls from the White House personnel office in 2001, the stress in the household--and, with it, the abuse--hit an all-time high, according to Davis. She says she confronted her husband on numerous occasions: "[I said to him,] 'Every time you do this, I hate your guts. And it blows a bridge out between us that takes weeks, if not months, to heal.'" She says that Hager would, in rare instances, admit what he had done and apologize, but typically would deny it altogether.

For a while, fears of poverty, isolation and damnation were enough to keep Davis from seeking a divorce. She says that she had never cheated on Hager, but after reuniting with a high school sweetheart (not her current husband) in the chaotic aftermath of September 11, she had a brief affair. En route to their first, and only, rendezvous, she prayed aloud. "I said to the Lord, 'All right. I do not want to die without having sex with someone I love,'" she remembers. "'I want to know what that's like, Lord. I know that it's a sin, and I know this is adultery. But I have to know what it's like.'"

Davis was sure that God would strike her dead on her way home that weekend. But when nothing happened, she took it as a good sign. Back in Lexington, she walked through her front door and made a decision right there on the spot. "I said, 'David, I want a divorce.'"

Marital rape is a foreign concept to many women with stories like this one. Indeed, Linda Davis had never heard the term until midway through her divorce. In Kentucky a person is guilty of rape in the first degree when he engages in sexual intercourse with another person by "forcible compulsion"; or when the victim is incapable of consent because she is physically helpless. The same standards apply to the crime of sodomy in the first degree (equivalent to rape, and distinct from consensual sodomy). Both are felonies.

In sexual assault cases, the outcome hinges on the issue of consent. A high-level domestic violence prosecutor in Kentucky confirmed that a scenario such as this one, in which Davis was in a deep sleep from the narcolepsy, could meet the "physically helpless" standard required for a first-degree offense. A prosecutor could also argue that Hager engaged in sodomy with Davis by means of forcible compulsion, even though the alleged encounters did not involve violence. According to the Kentucky Supreme Court's decision in 1992 in Yarnell v. Commonwealth, a climate of abuse involving "constant emotional, verbal, and physical duress" is tantamount to forcible compulsion. In that case, the victims submitted to the sex acts to avoid a loss of financial security, as well as to maintain peace in the household.

Historically, the legal system has long been indifferent to the crime of marital sexual assault; as recently as twelve years ago in some states, it was legal for a man to force his wife physically into sex, or commence having sex without her consent--actions that could land a stranger in jail. Until 2000 the Kentucky Penal Code still contained archaic procedural obstacles for prosecuting marital rape, including a requirement that it be reported within one year of the offense. (No other felony--including "stranger rape"--contains a statute of limitations.) Even today, marital sexual assault is a notoriously difficult crime to prosecute. Women like Davis often have strong financial incentives to stay with their spouses; those who speak out frequently face an uphill battle to convince people that their husbands, who may be well liked and respected, are capable of something this ugly at home. Also, because marriages play out over many years, some sex is consensual, while other sex is not--a fact that may complicate matters for a jury in a criminal proceeding.

Linda Davis chose not to bring allegations of marital rape into her divorce proceedings; her foremost desires at the time were a fair settlement and minimal disruption for her sons. Nonetheless, she informed her lawyer of the abuse. Natalie Wilson, a divorce attorney in Lexington, asked Linda to draw up a working chronology of her marriage to Hager. "[It] included references to what I would call the sexual abuse," Wilson explained. "I had no reason not to believe her.... It was an explanation for some of the things that went on in the marriage, and it explained her reluctance to share that information with her sons--which had resulted in her sons' being very angry about the fact that she was insisting on the divorce."

As it turned out, when the dust settled after their divorce, nearly everyone in the Hagers' Christian and medical circles in Lexington had sided with Hager, who told people that his wife was mentally unstable and had moved in with another man (she moved in with friends).

Davis had only told a handful of people about the abuse throughout her marriage, but several of her longtime confidantes confirmed for this article that she had told them of the abuse at the time it was occurring. Wilson, the attorney, spoke to me on the record, as did Brenda Bartella Peterson, Davis's close friend of twenty-five years. Several others close to Davis spoke to me off the record. Two refused to speak to me and denounced Davis for going public, but they did not contest her claims. Many attempts to interview nearly a dozen of Hager's friends and supporters in Lexington and around the country were unsuccessful.

As for David Hager, after repeated attempts to interview him for this story, we finally spoke for nearly half an hour in early April. That conversation was off the record. "My official comment is that I decline to comment," he said.

As disturbing as they are on their own, Linda Davis's allegations take on even more gravity in light of Hager's public role as a custodian of women's health. Some may argue that this is just a personal matter between a man and his former wife--a simple case of "he said, she said" with no public implications. That might be so--if there were no allegations of criminal conduct, if the alleged conduct did not bear any relevance to the public responsibilities of the person in question, and if the allegations themselves were not credible and independently corroborated. But given that this case fails all of those tests, the public has a right to call on Dr. David Hager to answer Linda Davis's charges before he is entrusted with another term. After all, few women would knowingly choose a sexual abuser as their gynecologist, and fewer still would likely be comfortable with the idea of letting one serve as a federal adviser on women's health issues.

(Lest inappropriate analogies be drawn between the Hager accusations and the politics of personal destruction that nearly brought down the presidency of Bill Clinton, it ought to be remembered that President Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky was never alleged to be criminal and did not affect his ability to fulfill his obligations to the nation. This, of course, did not stop the religious right from calling for his head. "The topic of private vs. public behavior has emerged as perhaps the central moral issue raised by Bill Clinton's 'improper relationship,'" wrote evangelist and Hager ally Franklin Graham at the time. "But the God of the Bible says that what one does in private does matter. There needs to be no clash between personal conduct and public appearance.")

Hager's FDA assignment is an object lesson in the potential influence of a single appointment to a federal advisory committee that in turn affects thousands, even millions, of lives. Witness the behind-the-scenes machinations that set the stage for the FDA's ruling against Plan B, a decision that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called a "dark stain on the reputation of an evidence-b

TRUTH On TRIAL,0,1317995.story?track=tothtml

2 Britons Accused in Leak of Bush-Al Jazeera Memo
The document said the president had proposed to Blair in 2004 that the Arab TV channel be bombed, a newspaper reported this month.
By John Daniszewski
Times Staff Writer

November 30, 2005

LONDON — Two men appeared in court Tuesday accused of mishandling official secrets in connection with a memo that, according to a newspaper account, showed President Bush had proposed bombing the Arab news channel Al Jazeera and was talked out of it by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

When the Daily Mirror published its account Nov. 22, the White House dismissed it as ludicrous. "We are not going to dignify something so outlandish with a response," a White House official said at the time.

But officials of Qatar-based Al Jazeera, the Arab world's most influential satellite news channel, regard the denial as evasive. The station's general director has been in London this week seeking a clarification from Blair and asking that the memo be made public.

At the same time, prosecutors have said that if the Mirror and other newspapers publish the contents of the memo, they too could be liable under Britain's Official Secrets Act, which forbids publication of confidential government information. Newspapers have accused the government of trying to gag them to save the U.S. president from embarrassment.

According to published descriptions, the secret five-page memo is a detailed account of conversations between Bush and Blair in April 2004, when the war in Iraq had entered a particularly heated phase. It allegedly was passed in May or June 2004 from a Cabinet employee, David Keogh, to a staff member of a Parliament member.

The Parliament member, Anthony Clarke, found the memo in his office and returned it to the government, but not, apparently, before some people outside the government became familiar with its contents. Clarke, a member of Blair's Labor Party, has since left Parliament.

Keogh, a former communications officer, and Leo O'Connor, a researcher for Clarke, appeared in court Tuesday.

The charge against Keogh was a "damaging disclosure of a document" relating to international relations, while O'Connor was accused of receiving a document from a civil servant.

O'Connor pleaded not guilty; Keogh did not enter a plea. A lawyer for O'Connor told reporters that his client was surprised and "very disappointed" to have been charged. The case was adjourned until Jan. 10.

Al Jazeera General Director Waddah Khanfar said White House and Downing Street statements about the memo so far "do not satisfy anyone, especially Al Jazeera … and journalists all over the world…. They are going to increase the doubts and the speculations."

Khanfar said he was not assuming that the Mirror's original report was true, but said that it deserved to be cleared up.

"I actually suspend any judgment until we know exactly the truth behind it," he said. "We have not received any official denial, neither an official confirmation. This is why we are here, in order to find out the whole truth about this document."

Since the Mirror article appeared, there have been suggestions that even if Bush and Blair had discussed military action against Al Jazeera, Bush must not have been serious.

Kevin Maguire, who co-wrote the Mirror article, said that his source, who was familiar with the document, had no doubt that Bush was serious. Maguire said he himself had not seen the document and therefore was keeping an open mind.

"I … could be convinced in future that perhaps Bush just said something in a fury and never intended it that way, although the prime minister didn't interpret it that way," Maguire said.

Even though Al Jazeera is hugely popular in the Arab world and is situated in the capital of a country friendly to the United States, it frequently has been accused of having an anti-Western agenda, and of allowing itself to be used by Al Qaeda to spread the terrorist network's views.

Founded in 1996 and largely funded by the emir of Qatar, the news channel denies that it is for or against any government. Its reports and discussion shows have raised hackles in many Arab countries as well as the United States, its advocates point out.

In 2001, its office in Kabul, Afghanistan, was struck by a U.S. bomb, and in 2003, one of its correspondents in Baghdad was killed in a bombing. In both cases, U.S. officials denied that the channel had been targeted.


Janet Stobart of The Times' London Bureau contributed to this report.


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Propaganda in Iraq,0,5638790.story?track=tothtml

U.S. Military Covertly Pays to Run Stories in Iraqi Press
Troops write articles presented as news reports. Some officers object to the practice.
By Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi
Times Staff Writers

November 30, 2005

WASHINGTON — As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

The articles, written by U.S. military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.

Though the articles are basically factual, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said. Records and interviews indicate that the U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles, with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism," since the effort began this year.

The operation is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military. The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories. The Lincoln Group's Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets.

The military's effort to disseminate propaganda in the Iraqi media is taking place even as U.S. officials are pledging to promote democratic principles, political transparency and freedom of speech in a country emerging from decades of dictatorship and corruption.

It comes as the State Department is training Iraqi reporters in basic journalism skills and Western media ethics, including one workshop titled "The Role of Press in a Democratic Society." Standards vary widely at Iraqi newspapers, many of which are shoestring operations.

Underscoring the importance U.S. officials place on development of a Western-style media, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday cited the proliferation of news organizations in Iraq as one of the country's great successes since the ouster of President Saddam Hussein. The hundreds of newspapers, television stations and other "free media" offer a "relief valve" for the Iraqi public to debate the issues of their burgeoning democracy, Rumsfeld said.

The military's information operations campaign has sparked a backlash among some senior military officers in Iraq and at the Pentagon who argue that attempts to subvert the news media could destroy the U.S. military's credibility in other nations and with the American public.

"Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we're breaking all the first principles of democracy when we're doing it," said a senior Pentagon official who opposes the practice of planting stories in the Iraqi media.

The arrangement with Lincoln Group is evidence of how far the Pentagon has moved to blur the traditional boundaries between military public affairs — the dissemination of factual information to the media — and psychological and information operations, which use propaganda and sometimes misleading information to advance the objectives of a military campaign.

The Bush administration has come under criticism for distributing video and news stories in the United States without identifying the federal government as their source and for paying American journalists to promote administration policies, practices the Government Accountability Office has labeled "covert propaganda."

Military officials familiar with the effort in Iraq said much of it was being directed by the "Information Operations Task Force" in Baghdad, part of the multinational corps headquarters commanded by Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were critical of the effort and were not authorized to speak publicly about it.

A spokesman for Vines declined to comment for this article. A Lincoln Group spokesman also declined to comment.

One of the military officials said that, as part of a psychological operations campaign that has intensified over the last year, the task force also had purchased an Iraqi newspaper and taken control of a radio station, and was using them to channel pro-American messages to the Iraqi public. Neither is identified as a military mouthpiece.

The official would not disclose which newspaper and radio station are under U.S. control, saying that naming them would put their employees at risk of insurgent attacks.

U.S. law forbids the military from carrying out psychological operations or planting propaganda through American media outlets. Yet several officials said that given the globalization of media driven by the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, the Pentagon's efforts were carried out with the knowledge that coverage in the foreign press inevitably "bleeds" into the Western media and influences coverage in U.S. news outlets.

"There is no longer any way to separate foreign media from domestic media. Those neat lines don't exist anymore," said one private contractor who does information operations work for the Pentagon.

Daniel Kuehl, an information operations expert at National Defense University at Ft. McNair in Washington, said that he did not believe that planting stories in Iraqi media was wrong. But he questioned whether the practice would help turn the Iraqi public against the insurgency.

"I don't think that there's anything evil or morally wrong with it," he said. "I just question whether it's effective."

One senior military official who spent this year in Iraq said it was the strong pro-U.S. message in some news stories in Baghdad that first made him suspect that the American military was planting articles.

"Stuff would show up in the Iraqi press, and I would ask, 'Where the hell did that come from?' It was clearly not something that indigenous Iraqi press would have conceived of on their own," the official said.

Iraqi newspaper editors reacted with a mixture of shock and shrugs when told they were targets of a U.S. military psychological operation.

Some of the newspapers, such as Al Mutamar, a Baghdad-based daily run by associates of Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, ran the articles as news stories, indistinguishable from other news reports. Before the war, Chalabi was the Iraqi exile favored by senior Pentagon officials to lead post-Hussein Iraq.

Others labeled the stories as "advertising," shaded them in gray boxes or used a special typeface to distinguish them from standard editorial content. But none mentioned any connection to the U.S. military.

One Aug. 6 piece, published prominently on Al Mutamar's second page, ran as a news story with the headline "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism." Documents obtained by The Times indicated that Al Mutamar was paid about $50 to run the story, though the editor of the paper said he ran such articles for free.

Nearly $1,500 was paid to the independent Addustour newspaper to run an Aug. 2 article titled "More Money Goes to Iraq's Development," the records indicated. The newspaper's editor, Bassem Sheikh, said he had "no idea" where the piece came from but added the note "media services" on top of the article to distinguish it from other editorial content.

The U.S. military-written articles come in to Al Mutamar, the newspaper run by Chalabi's associates, via the Internet and are often unsigned, said Luay Baldawi, the paper's editor in chief.

"We publish anything," he said. "The paper's policy is to publish everything, especially if it praises causes we believe in. We are pro-American. Everything that supports America we will publish."

Yet other Al Mutamar employees were much less supportive of their paper's connection with the U.S. military. "This is not right," said Faleh Hassan, an editor. "It reflects the tragic condition of journalists in Iraq. Journalism in Iraq is in very bad shape."

Ultimately, Baldawi acknowledged that he, too, was concerned about the origin of the articles and pledged to be "more careful about stuff we get by e-mail."

After he learned of the source of three paid stories that ran in Al Mada in July, that newspaper's managing editor, Abdul Zahra Zaki, was outraged, immediately summoning a manager of the advertising department to his office.

"I'm very sad," he said. "We have to investigate."

The Iraqis who delivered the articles also reaped modest profits from the arrangements, according to sources and records.

Employees at Al Mada said that a low-key man arrived at the newspaper's offices in downtown Baghdad on July 30 with a large wad of U.S. dollars. He told the editors that he wanted to publish an article titled "Terrorists Attack Sunni Volunteers" in the newspaper.

He paid cash and left no calling card, employees said. He did not want a receipt. The name he gave employees was the same as that of a Lincoln Group worker in the records obtained by The Times. Although editors at Al Mada said he paid $900 to place the article, records show that the man told Lincoln Group that he gave more than $1,200 to the paper.

Al Mada is widely considered the most cerebral and professional of Iraqi newspapers, publishing investigative reports as well as poetry.

Zaki said that if his cash-strapped paper had known that these stories were from the U.S. government, he would have "charged much, much more" to publish them.

According to several sources, the process for placing the stories begins when soldiers write "storyboards" of events in Iraq, such as a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid on a suspected insurgent hide-out, or a suicide bomb that killed Iraqi civilians.

The storyboards, several of which were obtained by The Times, read more like press releases than news stories. They often contain anonymous quotes from U.S. military officials; it is unclear whether the quotes are authentic.

"Absolute truth was not an essential element of these stories," said the senior military official who spent this year in Iraq.

One of the storyboards, dated Nov. 12, describes a U.S.-Iraqi offensive in the western Iraqi towns of Karabilah and Husaybah.

"Both cities are stopping points for foreign fighters entering Iraq to wage their unjust war," the storyboard reads.

It continues with a quote from an anonymous U.S. military official: " 'Iraqi army soldiers and U.S. forces have begun clear-and-hold operations in the city of Karabilah near Husaybah town, close to the Syrian border,' said a military official once operations began."

Another storyboard, written on the same date, describes the capture of an insurgent bomb-maker in Baghdad. "As the people and the [Iraqi security forces] work together, Iraq will finally drive terrorism out of Iraq for good," it concludes.

It was unclear whether those two storyboards have made their way into Iraqi newspapers.

A debate over the Pentagon's handling of information has raged since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In 2002, the Pentagon was forced to shut down its Office of Strategic Influence, which had been created the previous year, after reports surfaced that it intended to plant false news stories in the international media.

For much of 2005, a Defense Department working group has been trying to forge a policy about the proper role of information operations in wartime. Pentagon officials say the group has yet to resolve the often-contentious debate in the department about the boundaries between military public affairs and information operations.

Lincoln Group, formerly known as Iraqex, is one of several companies hired by the U.S. military to carry out "strategic communications" in countries where large numbers of U.S. troops are based.

Some of Lincoln Group's work in Iraq is very public, such as an animated public service campaign on Iraqi television that spotlights the Iraqi civilians killed by roadside bombs planted by insurgents.

Besides its contract with the military in Iraq, Lincoln Group this year won a major contract with U.S. Special Operations Command, based in Tampa, to develop a strategic communications campaign in concert with special operations troops stationed around the globe. The contract is worth up to $100 million over five years, although U.S. military officials said they doubted the Pentagon would spend the full amount of the contract.


Mazzetti reported from Washington and Daragahi reported from Baghdad.


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AND LIEBERMAN...why the wall street journal editorial yesterday? What has he to gain, pray tell?

Totalitarianism Today

Alina Stefanescu

Monday, September 30, 2002


To those who guided, supported, encouraged, criticized, entertained, mediated, and even mocked my search for a principled political philosophy, I extend my humble thanks. As I will never be through with thinking and learning, I will never be through with thanking. So this list remains open. I quote-- with a mixture of awe, ambition, and shame--G.K. Chesterton , the only difference being that, while he is done, I have only just begun:

"...No reader can accuse me here of trying to make a fool of him: I am the fool of this story, and no rebel shall hurl me from my throne. I freely confess all the idiotic ambitions of the end of the nineteenth centruy. I did, like all other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it....I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy."

To my parents, for deciding that communism was incompatible with their beliefs, and then acting in accordance with that decision. To Jessica Burke, for the genesis. To Roderick Long, for being my mentor. To Norman Singleton, for being the only Big Brother I would ever choose. To Ted Galen Carpenter for his faith. To John Charles Rodenberry, for his immutable love and honor. To Cameron Tidwell, for being my philosophy professor and best friend. To Daniel Sullivan, for "ever". To Amy Pelletier and Kelly Torrance, for one of the best summers of my life. To Dr. Kelly Jolley, for his edifying criticism. To Jonah Goldberg, for his edifying mockery. To Dr. Paul Johnson, for his support. To Dan Bowden and Scott Kjar, for teaching me how to play hardball. To my fellow Koch fellows, for liberty in action. To Peter Jaworski, for his kindness. To JR Parker and the HLS Feds for making my time in Boston continuously interesting and fun. To Monica Monroe, for the lessons on love and copyright law. To Gene Healy, Radley Balko, Jon Basil Utley, Joanne McNeil, Joe Sobran, Lew Rockwell and Robert Higgs for giving me the time of day.

Monday, September 30, 2002


To further illustrate the rapidly-solidifying, eye-popping cleavage of the Left, Chris Hitchens placed himself firmly in the pro-war camp by announcing that "we must fight Iraq". Hitchens turned Christian? Not without the requisite drugs. No, Hitchens' split from the antiwar Left has little to do with god and much more to do with a sense of mission. Indeed, a religious war would not be worthy of the "collateral damage" for the man who thinks most religions are in a race for title to the "stupidest".

So why is Hitchens embracing his inner hawk and leaving The Nation? Is the difference of opinion on war the only thorn in his side? Joe Conason, who described Hitchens' farewell to The Nation as "curt" and "graceless", doesn't think so. Conason insinuates that this live-off-them-and-leave-them attitude plays a prominent role in Hitchens' repertoire. And then there's the old adage, "Since 9-11, the world has become a different place..." Right. Joe Liebermann and Hitchens have traded their "vigorous liberalism" for camouflage, and the most titillating aspect of domestic politics is hearing Congressman Marion Berry (D-AR) wax poetic about pensions and the exorbitant cost of drugs for senior citizens. Need I explain once again how the costs of marijuana will decrease if it is decriminalized? Berry, I'm with you on this one. There is nothing I want more than a world of happy grandparents and a peace-piped Hitchens.

Bush and Freedom....and Deborah Davis

Article Last Updated: 11/27/2005 05:19 PM

david harsanyi
Court trip next stop for bus rider

By David Harsanyi
Denver Post Staff Columnist

Deborah Davis doesn't consider herself a hero. Certainly not a modern-day champion of the Constitution. Yet, in her own way, she might be a little of both.

Two months ago, this 50-year-old mother of four was reading a book while riding to work on RTD's Route 100. When the bus rolled up to the gates of the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, a guard climbed on and demanded Davis, as well as everyone else on board, produce identification.

Perhaps it was that inherent American distaste for producing papers on demand, but Davis, who had gone through this drill before, decided to pass.

"I told him that I did have identification, but I wasn't going to show it to him," Davis explains. "I knew that I wasn't required by law to show ID and that's why I decided I wasn't going to. The whole thing seemed to be more about compliance than security."

According to Davis, the guard proceeded to call on federal cops, who then dragged Davis off a public bus, handcuffed her, shoved her into the back seat of a police car and drove off to a police station within the Federal Center.

While I was unable to reach anyone at the Department of Homeland Security on Friday to comment on Davis' case, the offense/incident report corroborates her basic story.

Though, it should be noted that, according to the arresting officer, Davis became "argumentative" before she "was physically removed from the bus and placed under arrest."

Good for her.

Davis - whose middle son is risking his life in Iraq while the federal government is demanding papers from and arresting his middle-aged mom - is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 9 and could face up to 60 days in jail.

Gail Johnson, a volunteer ACLU lawyer who practices at a prominent Colorado criminal defense firm, will defend Davis without charge. She expects the government to arraign Davis on two federal criminal misdemeanors, if not more.

The first states that citizens must "when requested, display Government or other identifying credentials to Federal police officers or other authorized individuals." The second says that citizens must comply with "the lawful direction of Federal police officers and other authorized individuals."

As Johnson sees it, there are numerous problems with the charges and she plans to fight them "vigorously."

"She was a passenger on a public bus," explains Johnson, who believes this case is about the fundamental right to travel. "She got on the bus outside of the federal area and she wanted to get off the bus outside the federal area. It's not her fault buses run along this route."

Legal issues notwithstanding, you have to wonder what ever happened to common sense? What exactly were the guards, who merely glanced at the IDs, doing? Is there a "no-bus rider" terrorist list in Lakewood? And if there is, how would the guards be able to differentiate between real and fake IDs?

And no, we needn't be absolutists about freedom. There are potentially a whole host of justifiable reasons for enhanced security.

In this instance, however, the Federal Center houses the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Geological Survey and a section of the National Archives.

Not exactly Dick Cheney's super-secret underground bunker.

If safety at the center was a question of national security, why have a public bus route running through the facility in the first place?

"I'm just a regular, normal, everyday person," Davis says. "There is nothing really far out about me. I have been laid off. I pay my taxes. I have my problems. I am no different than anyone else. It just didn't seem right."

Ah, but here she's wrong.

She's not like anyone else. So let's hope more Americans act like Deb Davis, not another partisan hack acting the victim, but an average American who questions government intrusion into our private and public lives for freedom's sake.

David Harsanyi's column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 303-820-1255 or

Ah...Focus On The Family....should it be Tax EXEMPT?

IRS complaint filed against Focus on the Family
Group say tax-exempt status prohibits political activity

DENVER (AP) -- A Washington-based group has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether Focus on the Family or its founder James Dobson violated IRS rules by electioneering.

James Bopp, an attorney for the Colorado Springs-based conservative Christian group, said the group has fully complied with IRS code.

The complaint, filed Monday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, also asked the IRS to investigate whether the tax-exempt status of Focus on the Family should be revoked. Tax-exempt organizations cannot participate in campaigns for or against candidates for public office.

The group alleges that news articles showed Dobson endorsed candidates for Congress before the organization officially formed its separate public policy arm, Focus on the Family Action, in July 2004.

Bopp said the organization didn't break any rules.

"Anything Dr. Dobson did to endorse candidates, he did as an individual," Bopp said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Cheney! The Godfather?

November 30, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
The Autumn of the Patriarchy
In the vice president's new, more fortified bunker, inside his old undisclosed secure location within the larger bunker that used to be called the West Wing of the White House, Dick Cheney was muttering and sputtering.

He wasn't talking to the pictures on the wall, as Nixon did when he finally cracked. Vice doesn't trust those portraits anyway. The walls have ears. He was talking to the only reliable man in a city of dimwits, cowards, traitors and fools: himself.

He hurled a sheaf of news reports with such force it knocked over the picture of Ahmad Chalabi that he keeps next to the picture of Churchill. Winston Chalabi, he likes to call him.

Vice is fed up with all the whining and carping - and that's just inside the White House. The only negativity in Washington is supposed to be his own. He's the only one allowed to scowl and grumble and conspire.

The impertinent Tom DeFrank reported in New York's Daily News that embattled White House aides felt "President Bush must take the reins personally" to save his presidency.

Let him try, Cheney said with a sneer. Things are nowhere near dire enough for that. Even if Junior somehow managed to grab the reins to his presidency, Vice holds Junior's reins. So he just needs to get all these sniveling, poll-driven wimps and losers back on board with the master plan.

Things had been going so smoothly. The global torture franchise was up and running. Halliburton contracts were flowing. Tax cuts were sailing through. Oil companies were raking it in. Alaska drilling was thrillingly close. The courts were defending his executive privilege on energy policy, and people were still buying all that smoke about Saddam's being responsible for 9/11, and that drivel about how we're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here. Everything was groovy.

But not anymore. Cheney could not believe that Karl had made him go out and call that loudmouth Jack Murtha a patriot. He was sure the Pentagon generals had put the congressman up to calling for a withdrawal from Iraq. Is the military brass getting in touch with its pacifist side? In Wyoming, Vice shoots doves.

How dare Murtha suggest that Cheney dodged and dodged and dodged and dodged and dodged the draft? Murtha thinks he knows about war just because he served in one and was a marine for 37 years? Vice started his own war. Now that's a credential!

It always goes this way with the cut-and-run crowd. First they start nitpicking the war, complaining about little things like the lack of armor for the troops. Then they complain that there aren't enough troops. Well, that would just require more armor that we don't have. Then they kvetch about using incendiary weapons in a city like Falluja. Vice likes the smell of white phosphorus in the morning.

What really enrages him is all the Republicans in the Senate making noises about timetables. Before you know it, it's going to be helicopters on the rooftop at the Baghdad embassy.

Just because Junior's approval ratings are in the 30's, people around here are going all wobbly. Vice was 10 points lower and he wasn't worried. Numbers are for sissies.

Why do Harry Reid and his Democratic turncoats think they can call the White House on the carpet? Do they think Vice would fear to lie about lying about the rationale for going to war? A real liar never stops lying.

He didn't want to have to tell the rest of the senators to go do to themselves what he had told Patrick Leahy to go do to himself.

Now all these idiots are getting caught, even Scooter. DeLay's on the ropes and the Dukester is a total embarrassment, spending bribes on antique commodes and a Rolls-Royce. Vice should never have let an amateur get involved with defense contracts.

Republican moderates are running scared in the House, worried about re-election. Even senators seem to have forgotten which side their bread is oiled on. Ted Stevens let oil company executives get caught lying about the energy task force meeting, while Vice can't even get a little thing like torture chambers through the Senate. What's so wrong with a little torture?

And now John Warner wants Junior to use fireside chats to explain his plan for Iraq. When did everybody get the un-American idea that the president is answerable to America?

Vice is fed up with the whining of squirrelly surrogates like Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Wilkerson on behalf of peaceniks like George Senior and Colin Powell. If Poppy's upset about his kid's mentor, he should be man enough to come slug it out.

Poppy isn't getting Junior back, Vice vowed, muttering: "He's my son. It's my war. It's my country."

(And the bad news is: this man is our vice president.)

Thomas L. Friedman is on vacation.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company