Attempts by media behemoths such as Clear Channel, Cumulus Media and Cox Media and right-wing commentators to punish the Dixie Chicks for Natalie Maines' criticism of George W. Bush haven't hurt the Chicks too badly, as the group's Home CD remained at the top of Billboard's Country chart as of 4/3/03. ranked 16th (down from 7 last week) on the Top 200 list. The Chicks are expressing concern for their personal safety after the venomous response of right-wing critics. "We've gotten a lot of hate mail, a lot of threatening mail," Martie Maguire told reporters in Australia. "Emily (Robison) had the front gate of her ranch smashed in. We have to have security when we get back to the States. It puts my well-being in jeopardy." Maines, however, has reacted more flippantly to the situation, according to reports. The singer said, "The more flack I get for it, the prouder I am." She also pointed out that in her hometown of Lubbock, Texas, "only six people showed up," for a public Chicks CD-smashing protest. The Dixie Chicks kick off their "Top Of The World" tour on May 1 in Greenville, S.C.

Maines started the controversy in March when she told a London audience, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." She later apologized, saying, "As a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful," the singer said in a statement. "I feel that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect."

The Specious Report, a satire website (thespeciousreport.com), added what Maines should have said: "I hope everyone understands, I'm just a young girl who grew up in Texas. As far back as I can remember, I heard people say they were ashamed of President Clinton. I saw bumper stickers calling him everything from a pothead to a murderer. I heard people on the radio and TV like Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott bad mouthing the President and ridiculing his wife and daughter at every opportunity. I heard LOTS of people disrespecting the President. So I guess I just assumed it was acceptable behavior.

"But now, thanks to the thousands of angry people who want radio stations to boycott our music because criticizing the President is unpatriotic, I realize it's wrong to have a liberal opinion if you're a country music artist. I guess I should have thought about that before deciding to play music that attracts hypocritical rednecks. I also realize now that I'm supposed to just sing and look cute so our fans won't have anything to upset them while they're cheating on their wives or getting in drunken bar fights or driving around in their pickup trucks shooting highway signs and small animals.

"And most important of all, I realize that it's wrong for a celebrity to voice a political opinion, unless they're Charlie Daniels, Clint Black, Merle Haggard, Barbara Mandrell, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, Travis Tritt, Hank Williams Jr, Amy Grant, Larry Gatlin, Crystal Gayle, Reba McEntire, Lee Greenwood, Lorrie Morgan, Anita Bryant, Mike Oldfield, Ted Nugent, Wayne Newton, Dick Clark, Jay Leno, Drew Carey, Dixie Carter, Victoria Jackson, Charlton Heston, Fred Thompson, Ben Stein, Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Bo Derek, Rick Schroeder, George Will, Pat Buchanan, Bill O'Reilly, Joe Rogan, Delta Burke, Robert Conrad or Jesse Ventura."

PENTAGON: SADDAM WORSE THAN HITLER, STALIN. Victoria Clarke went over the top in the campaign to demonize the Iraqi regime March 31 when the Pentagon spokeswoman said the worst ruler in world history is Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "The Iraqi people will be free of decades and decades and decades of torture and oppression the likes of which I think the world has not ever seen before," Clarke told a Pentagon news conference. As Reuters noted, "Saddam has been condemned for his exceptional brutality against his own people but historians generally agree that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and Soviet leader Josef Stalin were responsible for killing more people than any other dictators in world history."

9/11 PROBE ON THE CHEAP. The commission investigating the 9/11 terrorist attacks finally started public hearings March 31 after begging $8 million to supplement the $3 million originally earmarked for its work. The White House resisted the establishment of the commission until it was forced by Congress to accept it. Then Bush appointed Henry Kissinger to be its chair, only to see public outrage force Kissinger to step aside. Former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean (R) was then named to chair the panel, but the administration only approved $3 million for its work. (The Columbia shuttle investigation was given $50 million.) Kean sought another $11 million for the panel but only got $9 million. As Joe Conason wrote in the New York Observer, "It offends decency that the Republicans, who were only too happy to spend upward of $30 million investigating Whitewater, suddenly pull the purse strings tight for a probe into the deaths of 3,000 Americans in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the planes hijacked by al Qaeda. (These are the same Republicans telling us not to worry too much about the yawning federal deficit.)"

Families of 9/11 victims asked commissioners to resist the cover up. Said Stephen Push, whose wife died on the plane that hit the Pentagon: "I think this commission should point fingers. I'm not suggesting that you find scapegoats, but there were people -- people in responsible positions -- who failed us." For some of the top unanswered questions about the 9/11 attacks, see www.unansweredquestions.org.

PERLE AMONG SWINE. Of the 30 members of the Defense Policy Board, the government-appointed group that advises the Pentagon, at least nine have ties to companies that have won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002, the Center for Public Integrity reported (see www.publicintegrity.org). Four members are registered lobbyists, one of whom represents two of the three largest defense contractors. Companies with ties to Defense Policy Board members include prominent firms like Boeing, TRW, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen Hamilton and smaller players like Symantec Corp., Technology Strategies and Alliance Corp., and Polycom Inc.

The board's chairman, Richard Perle, stepped down March 27, 2003, amid allegations of conflicts of interest for his representation of companies with business before the Defense Department, although he will remain a member of the board. Perle tried to help Global Crossing sell its Asian fiber optic cables to companies controlled by China. That enraged the National Security Agency, which uses these cables to spy on Asia, and does not want China to have such capability. Others with defense industry ties include retired Adm. David Jeremiah, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with over 38 years in the Navy, a director or advisor of at least five corporations that received more than $10 billion in Pentagon contracts in 2002; retired Air Force Gen. Ronald Fogleman, who sits on the boards of directors of companies that received more than $900 million in contracts in 2002; retired Gen. Jack Sheehan, who joined Bechtel in 1998 after 35 years in the US Marine Corps. Bechtel had defense contracts worth close to $650 million in 2001 and more than $1 billion in 2002. Former CIA director James Woolsey, a principal in the Paladin Capital Group, a venture-capital firm that like Perle's Trireme Partners is soliciting investment for homeland security firms, also joined consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton as vice president in July 2002. The company had contracts worth more than $680 million in 2002. William Owens, another former high-level military officer, sits on boards of five companies that received more than $60 million in defense contracts last year. Harold Brown, former secretary of defense under President Jimmy Carter, and James Schlesinger, who has served as CIA director, defense secretary and energy secretary in the Carter and Nixon administrations, also have ties to defense contractors. Chris Williams is one of four registered lobbyists to serve on the board, but the only one to lobby for defense companies. Williams was a special assistant for policy matters to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

OREGON WOULD IMPRISON PROTESTERS. An Oregon anti-terrorism bill would jail street-blocking protesters for at least 25 years in a thinly veiled effort to discourage anti-war demonstrations, critics say. Sen. John Minnis, Republican chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote SB 742, which identifies a terrorist as a person who "plans or participates in an act that is intended, by at least one of its participants, to disrupt" business, transportation, schools, government, or free assembly. Critics say the bill's language is so vague it erodes basic freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism under an extremely broad definition. Legislators say the bill stands little chance of passage, Reuters reported.

QUOTE: Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear -- kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor -- with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil ... to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real. -- General Douglas MacArthur, speaking of large Pentagon budgets, 1957 (William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur [Dell 1978, p827])

TOM TOMORROW GETS RFK AWARD. "This Modern World" by Dan Perkins (alias "Tom Tomorrow") was one of the recipients of the 35th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards. The citation noted that Perkins "howcases multilayered satirical commentary on economic inequality in the United States, as well as the inaction of the politicians who have the power to change it. Perkins' body of work also addresses subjects such as access to health care and the gradual erosion of civil liberties in today's post-9/11 world."

GREENS WIN IN WISCONSIN. Voters elected four Green Party candidates in races throughout Wisconsin on April 1. Pete Karas was elected to Common Council in Racine's 9th District with 73% of the vote, while three Green Party candidates won races for Madison City Council. Brenda Konkel, who has served on the council the past 2 years, was re-elected with 71% of the vote. Austin King won in the 8th District with 55% of the vote and Brian Benford won his first bid for a seat in Madison's 12th District, with 53% of the vote. The wins bring the total of elected Greens in Wisconsin to 17 and in the U.S. to 177. See www.gp.org.

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