Monday, June 30, 2003

Real good time. Proof that L(y) is certifiably insane:

E: What did you end up doing for the summer? Porn? Prostitution? Convenience store? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

L(y): Well, I tried to combine the three and ended up selling gas to my pimp and turning in racy pictures of cigarettes to the photo shoot. Then I gained three hundred pounds, dyed my hair stringy blonde and renamed myself "Erma." Ok, it was funny when I said it out loud...

This reminds me of a gross encounter I had at Yankee stadium in the bathroom. This woman who was noticably anorexic and with hair bleached to within an inch of its life was in the bathroom touching up her makeup. She was obviously drunk and had toilet paper hanging out of her ass (ick) and she had these very long nails, but one of them was broken and hanging on by a thread. she kept talking to the girl standing next to her about how disgusting her nail was but how she didn't want to do anything about it because she didn't "want to lose it." All the while, she's applying lip liner which is remarkably darker than her lipstick color (very trashy). She must have been a Met fan :-p

Guilty confession of the day: I want to see Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle *hangs head in shame*

Friday, June 20, 2003

All we are is what we're told, and most of that's been lies. And they say The Onion is only satire. Ha, I say. Ha!

U.S. Refuses To Allow U.N. Weapons Inspectors Back Into Iraq
BAGHDAD, IRAQ—For the third time in as many weeks, U.S. officials denied U.N. weapons inspectors' request to reenter Iraq. "Thanks so much for the offer, but we can handle it from here," Lt. Gen. William Wallace told U.N. chief inspector Hans Blix. "We're getting very close to finding Saddam's massive WMD stockpile, and to have the U.N. get involved at this point would just complicate matters. Sorry." U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has given President Bush a June 28 deadline to let inspectors into Iraq.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Stereo can provide. At the gym last night, one of the televisions was set to "Fox News" (Lord knows why), and there was some debate about the Bush administration's exaggeration of Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction." I thought this was so ridiculous that I had to share the transcript (Being a reporter and having access to these things rules). It's a bit long, but bear with it. The best part is at the end (emphasis added):

Interview With J.C. Watts, Juanita Millender-McDonald
Sean Hannity; Alan Colmes
Fox News: Hannity & Colmes
(c) Copyright Federal Document Clearing House. All Rights Reserved.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Let's get right to our first guest tonight. Joining us from Washington is California congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald and from Norman, Oklahoma, former Congressman J.C. Watts. Good to see you both with us.
COLMES: Another U.S. soldier killed, Congressman Watts, one wounded yesterday in Baghdad. Did we announce the end of hostilities too soon?
WATTS: Well, Alan, that's -- I don't think we did. I think those are -- you know, we may see some of those incidents happen but I think for the most part, over the last week, I think we have gotten more aggressive, I think, in trying to take charge of those situations and kind of take care of some of those radicals who are still loyalists to Saddam Hussein. But any time you lose an American life, I think we all should be concerned. But I do think, as we have seen in the last week, the administration and administration over in Iraq has said -- General Franks and the gang has said that they're going to get more aggressive in trying to weed out these Saddam loyalists.
COLMES: Congresswoman Millender-McDonald, it didn't seem like we were ready for this. We didn't anticipate it. We're seeing continuous -- it's like a guerrilla war that's going on now. We were kind of sold a Bill of goods, everything was great, it was pretty much over. People would be settling back into their normal lives. It's not at all what's happening, is it?
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: That is not all that's happening. And I think we did stop this war too soon. We have had upwards of 45 casualties since the president declared the war was over. That was much too soon, because we put our military forces in harm's way even more so. And so I think the president was trying to declare this war over because he had said to the American people that this war would be over in short order. And so he was trying to stick by his guns on that. But by doing that, our military forces and our soldiers have been killed.
COLMES: Congressman Watts, the administration -- Go ahead, sir.
WATTS: Alan, just let me add, I never recalled the president or the secretary of defense or secretary of the state or anyone else in the administration saying that the war was over.
COLMES: But they said hostilities had pretty much ceased is what they did say. They didn't declare victory.
WATTS: "Our." Said our hostilities or our aggression toward the Iraqi regime. They never said that they would stop looking or that we would -- I don't know how you're going to continue to look for weapons of mass destruction and not, you know, understand that we're not going to have some hostilities executed against us.
COLMES: But we thought we'd find those weapons of mass destruction by now. By the way, the Bush administration is getting awfully defensive, isn't it, about the reasons for this war? It seems every day they're getting more aggressive in trying to defend the stated core reasons they gave for going in, in the first place.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: Well, that's because they have over-exaggerated this war. They spoke to the American people to get that support by saying that Saddam Hussein had these weapons of mass destruction and that it was a threat to the United States. Given the 9/11, Americans wanted anything to happen that would not be a threat -- a further threat to us. And so of course, that was the argument that was raised by this administration. In doing so, he is now trying to defend himself by saying that we should take time, we need time on our hands because Baghdad is such a large place. We knew that going into this war.
COLMES: Congressman Watts, if it turns out intelligence was manipulated, if we find it out, that it was manipulated for the purpose of promoting this war, what should be the consequences for that?
WATTS: Well, I think the American people will hold the administration responsible if the intelligence was manipulated to justify the war. But it was not. And I think we need to make that clear. I find it ironic that the same people today who are saying we want evidence today, we want proof right now, those same people were saying give the U.N. inspectors more time.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: That is correct.
WATTS: Give them more time to find weapons of mass destruction.
WATTS: Let me say one other thing -- we have to understand, the American people, they are very supportive of what happened in Iraq because they understand that we got rid of the number one weapon of mass destruction...
HANNITY: Saddam Hussein.
WATTS: ... and that was Saddam Hussein and his regime.

HANNITY: J.C., good to see you, congresswoman, good to see you.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: Thank you very much.
HANNITY: I know you're a smart woman, so I'm going to give you a quiz. Just for fun, just to start out the show and have a little fun. Considering you said that the president over-exaggerated his statements, I am going to give you some statements and I am going to see if you can guess who said them.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: Hannity, I said he either over-exaggerated or he manipulated the intelligence. It's one or the other.
HANNITY: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Who said the following: "We know that Saddam Hussein has chemical and biological weapons?" Who said the following also: "Saddam has a large and growing stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons." Who said: "We know he continues to develop weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear devices?" And who said: "Most elements of the program are larger and more advanced than they were before the Cold War -- the Gulf War?" Can you guess who said those four things?
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: It's a possibility that the Clinton administration said that at one time.
HANNITY: No, no. John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry. And Hillary herself said, "I voted for the Iraqi resolution in large measure based on the intelligence" she was privy to as first lady.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: All right. But Hannity...
HANNITY: Did they exaggerate?
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: But they did not go to the American people to try to gain support.
HANNITY: Did they exaggerate like you said the president exaggerated? Are you going to say the same thing?
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: It was on everyone's part who took part in declaring that this war should be waged. I was not one of those. Because I thought that the inspectors should have been given time to go in and try to find these weapons of mass destruction.
HANNITY: J.C., you point out, rightly so, the U.N. knew, the Clinton administration laid out the case in '98, no Democrat that is now attacking this president very early after the war, by the way. We still have a lot of inspecting to do, that they're doing it and it's for clearly partisan, political reasons, to -- excuse me, Juanita. Excuse me. Right, J.C.? This is what it's about.
WATTS: Sean, it does make you do what Arsenio Hall would do in his monologue when they say, "Things that make you go hmm." You know, and Sean, also, I want to throw in here, you had 15 countries that voted unanimously, saying that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Fifteen countries unanimously. Now where are the weapons of mass destruction? Did he sell them off? Did he get rid of them? I mean, they agreed.


HANNITY: The United Nations in '98 said they had them.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: This is why we want the U.N. inspectors to go in and try to find them. This is why you should have given the U.N. inspectors time to look for those while they were there.
WATTS: But, Juanita you all were saying then, let's give the inspectors more time...
WATTS: ... and now you're saying with the Bush administration, we want them yesterday.
HANNITY: That's right.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: No, we're not saying that, J.C. We're simply saying...
HANNITY: Yes, you are.
HANNITY: You accused the president of exaggerating.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: We have lost all of these lives on the premise that there was weapons of mass destruction. We have not found those.
HANNITY: Do you think the president lied, Juanita? Do you think the president lied, congresswoman?
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: You're not going to put words in my mouth.
HANNITY: You think he did? That's a question. That's not words in your mouth.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: You're saying that the intelligence...
HANNITY: Do you think he did, yes or no? Do you think he lied?
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: I was going to say maybe what was given to the president was skewed or there was an exaggeration of the intelligence.
HANNITY: Here's my point. Bill Clinton said the same thing in '98, the U.N. said the same thing when they laid out the exact weapons they had. Did they also lie? And why didn't you ask for an investigation into their, quote, "exaggeration"?
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: Well, I was not privy to any input then. I am now. I am saying that there was an over-exaggeration of the intelligence.
HANNITY: Should we investigate Bill Clinton? Should we investigate whether Bill Clinton lied?
COLMES: We've got to take a break. Bill Clinton was not calling for an all-out war and regime change.
HANNITY: No, he just bombed the living daylights out of them.
COLMES: He did not call for regime change.
HANNITY: Now we get back to our debate. All right. Congresswoman, I'm going to give it one more shot. This is what I want to say to you. We know that the night that your beloved Bill Clinton bombed Iraq that he cited Iraq's chemical, biological, nuclear weapons program and the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Now you just said in the last segment that George Bush exaggerated. We ought to investigate these things. I want to know if you are fair and balanced, if you want the same investigation into Bill Clinton's claims of whether or not they existed when he made those claims to the American people? Because none of you liberals did that at that time but you're doing it to this president. So I've got to believe it's politically motivated.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: What I want now, Hannity, is that this administration, who came to the American people saying that we must go to war because there were weapons of mass destruction...
HANNITY: What about Bill Clinton, will you demand the same of him?
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: He's no longer in office.

HANNITY: But we can still investigate if he exaggerated, so you care so much about the issue, should we do it for him?
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: I do care about the issue because I care about those who have been killed at the hands of these rogues.
HANNITY: Why not investigate Bill Clinton...
HANNITY: ... when he bombed Iraq?
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: We're talking now about this present administration. We're not going to go back in history to try and claim who did what.
HANNITY: My fears have been confirmed that there is a double standard.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: It is not a double standard.
HANNITY: This is politically motivated. That the people that were on the wrong side of destroying the dictator, who filled the mass graves, don't want to be accountable for their wrong decision and they want to turn it around into a political issue and demand of this president what they never demanded of their own president, correct?
WATTS: Well, and Sean, let me remind you that Slobodan Milosevic, also, you know, he didn't have weapons of mass destruction and we went after him.
COLMES: That wasn't the argument used, Congressman. You're mixing apples and oranges here.
WATTS: I'm just giving you another instance of a double standard.
COLMES: But that wasn't the argument used to go after Milosevic.
WATTS: Alan, but consider this. There's over 600 sites over there and we've probably inspected 150 to 200 of them. So I still believe they're going to find weapons of mass destruction. But I think...
COLMES: Well, you know, we might. We might. But...
WATTS: I think the American people are delighted that we have gotten that dictator, that brutal dictator by the name of Saddam Hussein and his regime out of power.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: J.C., the American people are concerned now about this war being waged here.
WATTS: The great majority of the American people are supportive of what happened and you all are assuming that you're going to have a political issue because we're not going to find weapons of mass destruction.
COLMES: Congresswoman Watts, would you acknowledge that Bill Clinton -- just hold on a second. J.C., Bill Clinton had a very different...
WATTS: ... structure when Saddam Hussein...
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: You know what, you're manipulating now. You're manipulating this whole issue here.
WATTS: No, I'm saying that we've got rid of one weapon of mass destruction and we're going to find more and we'll deal with that.
COLMES: Get Congresswoman Millender-McDonald in here.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: No, but that was not the reason we went to the war.
COLMES: Hold on, J.C. Congresswoman, Bill Clinton, let's be very clear here. Bill Clinton did not go in and do regime change. He didn't use the excuse of weapons of mass destruction...
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: That is correct.
COLMES: ... to put American lives at risk to the extent that George W. Bush did. He didn't go in and make Iraq a protector of the United States, protectorate, that is, and put in U.S.-led government...
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: That is correct.
COLMES: ... and change the government. So to compare what Bill Clinton did to what George W. Bush did with American lives and Iraqi civilian lives, by the way, who were lost in the thousands, is not at all analogous.
MILLENDER-MCDONALD: That is correct, very much so. And at this point we're talking about our present president, the sitting president, who came to the American people asking them for support. And this was presented on the premise of weapons of mass destruction. So now the American people are asking, "Where are they? Where are the weapons?"
HANNITY: The point is Bill Clinton used the premise to bomb Iraq. Those were his arguments. J.C., you get the last word. Go ahead.
WATTS: Sean, just to let me make one point. Alan and Juanita, you guys are saying that the Clinton administration didn't deal with the regime. That's the problem.
COLMES: That's not what we said. That's not what I said.
WATTS: You're saying that they didn't go in and change regimes and, you know, send American people over there to administer that. The problem that we found with the previous administration, they kept kicking the can down the road.
HANNITY: That's a good point. J.C., we've got to run.
WATTS: This administration said, "We're going to deal with it."

Friday, June 13, 2003

We are the champions. I suppose that I really shouldn't be suprised that when Bush said we were going to 'liberate" Iraq, he really ment "suppress the female population by archaic, restrictive, mysogynistic religious edicts." Man, Ari Fleischer did a good job of spinning that one, huh? And I'm not even going to talk about those weapons of mass destruction, which have mysteriously moved to Iran.

In freer Iraq, new curbs on women's wear

By Ilene R. Prusher | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

BAGHDAD – The only parts of Maryam Mohammed and Zeinab Sarowa visible to the world are their hands and faces. But when they come for Friday prayers at the Shiite mosque where they have worshiped all their lives, they are turned away.
The reason: though covered head to toe, they're not wearing the dark, billowing clothing the guard says is required for Muslim women during prayer.

Sulking with her friends outside one of Baghdad's holiest Shiite shrines in the neighborhood of Kadhumiya, Ms. Mohammed says that in the past, even when visiting the world-famous Shiite sites in Najaf and Karbala, no one questioned her dress or barred her from entering.

But that was then. In the new Iraq, religious groups, once under the stifling control of Saddam Hussein, are testing out their newfound elbow room. Some Iraqis view this as the unfettering of faith after decades of a Baathist regime that brutally suppressed religion, particularly the majority Shiites. For others, many women in particular, it is as if the piercing summer sun, which bathes the courtyard of the shrine, is also drying up their liberties before their eyes.

"Thursday they sent my sister away. Who are they? Who put them in charge?" snaps Ms. Sarowa, who finished a political science degree two years ago, but has yet to find a job. "If there were a government here, they wouldn't be able to do that."

There is an authority of sorts at the shrine containing the tomb of Imam Musa al-Kadhum and his grandson, for whom the neighborhood is named. It is called the Hawza el Miya, which is the world's foremost seminary of Shiite religious learning. It is made up of 1,000 scholars who are authorized to issue fatwas, or religious edicts. The word of the Hawza is considered the most authoritative in the Shiite world, and presents a challenge even to the clerics in Iran's holy city of Qom, whose role was elevated by the flight of Iraqi religious leaders during Mr. Hussein's rule.

It is the Hawza, says an armed guard actively turning away women who are not in abaya, who has ordered the enforcement of this new dress code.

Both Mohammed and Sarowa are wearing long, light-colored suit-jackets, floor-length skirts, and hijab, or an Islamic head scarf. But they are not, the guard at door of the dazzling mosque and Shiite shrine complains, wearing the abaya. The abaya, a big and billowing head-to-toe black cloth that is placed over a long black cloak - which itself is worn over a woman's indoor clothing - with a separate, tightly fastened head scarf, is similar to the chador worn by many women in Iran. What Iraqis call the jupeh, a long, straight-cut gown similar the Western equivalent of a housedress, is not sufficient, says Said Alla Azaidi.

"My dear sister," he tells an inquiring woman, "it is an order from the Hawza of Najaf, because all of the body of a woman should be protected. A woman must not show any part but her face to strangers." The coat she wears "must be wide," he says, at least when she's coming to a religious establishment.

The policy, Mr. Azaidi says, began to be instituted after the fall of Mr. Hussein's regime.

"The [long dresses] which open in the front with buttons, that's no good. We don't consider that lawful hijab," Azaidi continues. Nor are light or pastel fabrics, like the whites and blues worn by Mohammed and Sarowa approved.

"When a man who is praying at the mosque looks at a woman with this colorful clothing, he will be distracted by Satan, and she will be distracted, too," he says. The policy could not be enforced in the past, he adds, because "Saddam Hussein was persecuting the Shiites and he didn't want a Muslim society."

No jeans for 'real' Muslims

The quickly evolving dress code is not limited to mosques. At Al Mustansirriye University in Baghdad, new guidelines have been posted on student bulletin boards by "security officers" who say they have been elected to represent the Hawza on campus. On professor complains that Baath Party enforcers are just being replaced by Hawza authorities.

Signs near the campus entrance state: "A [new version of the] hijab appeared in Iraq after the year 2000 in which girls leave part of the head uncovered. Although this is called the French hijab, it is made in Iraq and is widespread in institutions and universities. Therefore we address all believers. They should ask representative of the Hawza for their opinions about such hijab and whether it is allowed."

The sign then goes on to provide an answer from Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammed El Yacuby, an expert on social problems. "The woman who wears such hijab is not a real Muslim and she has no belief in Islam. There is no permission for this kind of hijab," the Ayatollah's response reads. The sign goes on to state that pants, jeans, or culottes are also not allowed.

With such notices popping up in various places, several women complain that they fear things are getting worse, not better, as a result of the US-led invasion. The coalition authorities occupying Iraq have pledged that they will do everything possible to ensure that the new Iraq will empower all groups, including women. L. Paul Bremer, the US civilian administrator in Iraq, says the political council of 25 to 30 members he is appointing next month will certainly include women.

It is not just women who are concerned about religious Shiite muscle flexing.

"The only thing I take exception to is the naiveté to think that woman is the enemy of God. They are imposing hijab, but only in certain [areas]," says Dr. Nadhmi, who is a Sunni living in a Shiite neighborhood. "I wouldn't be reluctant to write articles saying, 'You are making fools of yourselves in imposing the hijab, and not just hijab, but abaya.' "

No imitating Americans

The sudden strictness appears to be applied by zealous individuals who have appointed themselves to the task, and may not be an actual modesty police with authority to enforce new rules.

"We don't have a new policy toward women these days," says Mullah Hamid Rashid al Saadi, a cleric from Sadr City, a poor and predominantly Shiite area that was once forced to call itself Saddam City. "The commitment to wear these things comes from the heart. You cannot enforce it."

That hasn't stopped the guardians at the gates of Kadhumiya. Different guards were spotted turning away women not wearing abaya. In one case, a woman wearing a long black robe and a golden-yellow head scarf - but not the abaya - was told to stay out. When a foreign reporter approached her to ask her what happened, the guard said: "I'll let you in this time, but don't come back like this again." The woman, who declined to give her name, was insulted. "I do not consider myself Sunni or Shiite," she says, "I am just a Muslim, and I have always come here."

Some women say the guards are being reasonable. Women should wear the abaya to attend prayers, some say, and should not come dressed stylishly in pants "like the Sunni women used to be able to," one woman said, as her friends agreed.

Mothers with adolescent girls not in abaya were told that they could come in if they walked with their daughters covered inside the wing of the mother's abayas.

When Friday prayers come at about one o'clock in the afternoon, worshipers listen to a sermon by Sayed Hazem al-Aragy, a cleric who has just returned from exile in Iran.

"The Iraqi people should keep away from the American forces. Students in universities have a heavy task for themselves: to try to stop anyone who tries to imitate the American style, either in dress or in thought," Mr. Aragy said, "because they are trying to spoil Islam and the Muslim shrines."

The young women, disappointed that they could not attend prayers, decided to go shopping instead. "Why are they doing this now? It is important to put freedom in place first. I am ready to go to complain to a human rights organization," says Sarowa. Realistically, she did not expect anyone, especially not the US soldiers sparsely patrolling this neighborhood, to get involved. "Who can say anything to the Hawza? This is a problem for us."

Monday, June 09, 2003

Grease is the word. I'm starting to hate the word "Iraq." The tall "i," the curled "r" leading to the fat "a" and the smug, misplaced "q." What the hell is that "q" doing all the way out there, especially without its long-time mate, "u?" Did "q" and "u" have a fight? And let's not forget the stupid American pronunciation: Eye-rack. Like a rack of lamb or a ski rack. Really, it's a pretty word, especially when one rolls the "r." Irrrrrahck. Lovely.

Leave it to our government to make me detest a country's name, of all things.

Friday, June 06, 2003

And all the stars are just like little fish. Are our politicians on crack, and we just haven't found out about it yet? What the heck is going on? The Laci and Connor Law? Someone pinch me, I must be having a nightmare.

How 'partial birth' bill fits into shifting abortion wars
With Wednesday's vote, antiabortion forces score a win and Bush hones his support base.

By Linda Feldmann | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON – When Republicans took the reins of Congress in January, abortion activists on both sides of the issue knew it was only a matter of time: With a sympathetic ear in the White House, major antiabortion legislation would at last become law.
For political reasons, President Bush didn't make passage of a ban on so-called partial-birth abortions his top priority. He had Iraq and tax cuts in his sights first. But, with the easy House passage of the partial-birth bill Wednesday night, the way is nearly clear for the president to satisfy a long-held dream of social conservatives, who have been fighting to outlaw the rare form of late-term abortion for eight years.

In short order, later this month, the Senate will vote on another bill dear to religious conservatives that enjoys wide public support: the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which recognizes a fetus as a crime victim if he or she is injured or killed in the course of a federal crime. The House has renamed the bill Laci and Conner's Law, after the high-profile murder in California of Laci Peterson and her unborn son.

Proponents of "fetal rights" are on a roll. The publicity surrounding the Peterson case, congressional action, and a Newsweek cover story on fetal rights featuring photos of a developing fetus - including one undergoing surgery - have pushed the already defensive abortion-rights movement further back on its heels.

"The fetal rights thing is part of an effort to create a picture that is not of moral, mature individual women making the best decisions for themselves," says Roger Evans, public-policy legal director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "The woman is out of the picture entirely. Instead, the picture that is created is of everybody's image of a cute little baby."

The future of the abortion tug-of-war

Where is all this heading? Ultimately, abortion foes hope to eliminate the right to abortion altogether - though many are willing to grant an exception if the mother's life is in danger. If one or more Supreme Court justices retires soon - a distinct possibility - World War III may break out in Washington over whom Bush nominates and what his or her stand on abortion might be.

Beyond that, the two sides part company in their analysis. Abortion-rights supporters see a Supreme Court that could be one vote away from overturning the nationwide right to abortion, as enshrined in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Abortion opponents believe they need at least two new justices, and don't feel that the nation is culturally ready to outlaw abortion. Thus the focus on peripheral bills like the partial-birth abortion ban and Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which horrify the public with gruesome images and may prepare the way for a frontal assault on abortion rights.

Politically, analysts say, Bush has handled the issue wisely. He's encouraged legislation that enjoys broad public support - including the approval of centrists who support the right to abortion, in the vast majority of cases, as long as it comes early in the pregnancy. A Newsweek poll found that 84 percent of the American public believes prosecutors should be able to bring homicide charges when a fetus is killed in the womb during a physical assault. But antiabortion legislators know that their strength on fetal issues would evaporate if they attacked abortion directly.

"There's no appetite among Republicans on Capitol Hill to visit polarizing cultural issues," says a senior aide to an anti-abortion senator. "They're very careful to approach the abortion issues around the edges, rather than those on the core."

John Green, an expert on the religious right at the University of Akron in Ohio, sees Bush and his top political adviser, Karl Rove, as coalition-builders whose own convictions are deeply colored by the need to keep that coalition together. "Bush is handling the issue very well," says Professor Green. Signing the late-term abortion bill will help "cement the social-conservative base. They're hungry for any kind of legislative victory. And it doesn't restrict that many abortions."

With limited laws, little public uproar

In the minds of most people, banning a rare form of abortion that critics call "partial-birth abortion," and granting fetuses some legal rights, does not represent a slippery slope toward the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Thus, these laws can be enacted without much public uproar. Already 28 states have laws that criminalize harm to fetuses - while protecting a woman's right to choose abortion and a doctor's right to perform one.

A vacancy on the Supreme Court is a different matter, though, and abortion-rights forces are getting ready for the struggle by conducting research on people the president might nominate and bracing themselves for the onslaught of attention that they hope will help their cause.

In the meantime, activists like Kate Michelman, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, watch as much of the public goes along with socially conservative legislation that she sees as deceptive.

"The truth is, antichoice legislators dominate the House and the Senate, as well as the White House," says Ms. Michelman. "And that is frankly a result of pro-choice Americans not understanding how at risk their constitutional right to freedom of choice is." But when a vacancy opens up on the Supreme Court, she adds, "we are ready to go into high gear."