Sunday, November 30, 2003

BUSINESS COMMENTARY: It's time for a realistic discussion about taxes
Donald Ratajczak: Regent Professor of Economics, Georgia State University
- For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, November 30, 2003

In theory, economics has a lot to say about the size of government. No resources should be extracted from the private sector that will not be used for greater good in the public sector. Unfortunately, measuring public goodness isn't so easy.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

They Called It ‘Rubinomics’
Ex-Treasury Chief Robert Rubin says nothing in life is certain. But in his new book, the ex-treasury chief is sure about one thing: Bush’s economic policies are badly misguided. An excerpt:

In January 2001, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected a ten-year federal government surplus of $5.6 trillion. By September 2003, after two rounds of tax cuts, Goldman Sachs estimated a ten-year deficit of $5.5 trillion. That’s a swing of $11.1 trillion, but adjusting for methodological differences the better number to use is $9 trillion. Though many factors contributed, the tax cuts of June 2001 and May 2003 were central to this reversal.

They Called It ‘Rubinomics’
Robert Rubin, Ex-Treasury Chief's new book, excerpt:

Nov. 17 issue — After being somewhat involved in the 2000 election, I didn’t give much thought to what role, if any, I would have in the policy debate going forward. But more than anything else, it was my deeply troubled reaction to the administration’s tax cut proposals that led me to reengage.

The Tax Bil, debated and passed in the first half of 2001, began a period in which tax cut advocates dismissed mainstream views about the direct and indirect effects of large tax cuts on the government’s fiscal position, the value of sound fiscal policy, and the harm caused by large, long-term structural deficits.

Conservatives often framed the debate over Bush’s proposals as a question of lower taxes versus more spending. If government didn’t give back the surpluses to the public in the form of a tax cut, leading conservatives argued, “Washington” would find a way to spend the money. Another version was that the surpluses were the people’s money and should be returned to them. These formulations are as politically shrewd as they are simplistic. Nobody likes what government does when it’s described as “spending.” Yet the major programs that make up the vast preponderance of government spending—from Social Security and Medicare to defense, law enforcement, education and environmental protection—command widespread public support.

The Bush administration’s approach to tax cuts framed a new stage in the Great Fiscal Debate, an ongoing clash about the effects of fiscal discipline and of tax cuts on economic growth. This argument first affected policy in a significant way during the 1980 presidential campaign, when a group of conservative “supply-siders” attained prominence. The core of the supply-side theory was that lower marginal tax rates would cause people to “supply” more labor, working more and harder, which would increase growth—and the positive effect on growth would be so large that government tax revenue would actually increase rather than decrease in response to the tax cut.
Interview: Not Out of the Woods

George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan’s opponent for the Republican nomination in the 1980 election, referred to this as “voodoo economics.” And not all of Reagan’s advisers believed this theory. Some committed conservatives understood that reducing the size of government is difficult because of the popularity of most spending programs of significant size. Tax cuts seemed to offer a way around this problem. If government’s revenues were squeezed, this line of reasoning went, spending could no longer grow and might even be forced to shrink. Despite that theory, spending throughout the 1980s consistently and significantly exceeded levels —necessary to offset the tax cuts. The result was large deficits that kept increasing during the early 1990s and were projected by the outgoing administration in 1992 to grow even more in the years ahead.

To run a cyclical deficit—a short-term and temporary deficit in conjunction with a recession or slowdown—isn’t necessarily bad and at times may be entirely sensible. But the Reagan tax cuts, combined with defense spending increases, created something different: large and long-term structural deficits, which persisted even when economic conditions were good.

After Clinton took office, the Great Fiscal Debate mutated. In 1993, the debate was between supporters of Clinton’s economic plan—which included revenue increases, principally an income tax increase on the top 1.2 percent of taxpayers and a small gas tax—and opponents who argued that tax increases of any kind would harm the economy. “I believe this will lead to a recession next year,” Newt Gingrich said at the time. “This is the Democratic machine’s recession and each one of them will be held personally accountable.”

The 1993 deficit reduction program was a test for supply-side theory. Instead of the job losses, increased deficits, and recession the supply-siders predicted, the economy had a remarkable eight years—the longest period of continuous economic expansion yet recorded. That success created an immense anger on the part of some conservatives, who saw a policy they decried led to conditions they said wouldn’t occur.

As the deficits diminished and a surplus emerged during Clinton’s second term, the debate evolved again. Conservatives now argued for “giving back” the large projected surpluses to taxpayers in the form of a tax cut. We felt that continued fiscal discipline—in this case, beginning to pay down the federal debt—would best promote growth. What’s more, Social Security and Medicare were facing huge deficits once the baby-boom generation began to retire.

All of this argued against massive tax cuts. But the surplus left the Democrats in a tricky situation. Most voters don’t even understand the difference between the government’s annual deficit and its accumulated debt. So it was almost impossible to explain why entitlement obligations we faced decades down the road meant that a government that was running a surplus should use the money to pay down its long-term debt instead of refunding it to taxpayers. Preserving the surplus as savings and using that to pay down debt would contribute to lower interest rates, greater job creation, and higher standards of living.

In January 2001, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected a ten-year federal government surplus of $5.6 trillion. By September 2003, after two rounds of tax cuts, Goldman Sachs estimated a ten-year deficit of $5.5 trillion. That’s a swing of $11.1 trillion, but adjusting for methodological differences the better number to use is $9 trillion. Though many factors contributed, the tax cuts of June 2001 and May 2003 were central to this reversal.

The Great Fiscal Debate now moved to the question of whether these projected deficits mattered. The proponents of tax cuts had to argue that they didn’t matter—or at least didn’t matter much—because large tax cuts and a sound fiscal position could not be reconciled. And tax cut advocates pointed to me as the symbol of the position that deficits have a significant effect on interest rates and therefore on economic activity, job creation, and growth. The Wall Street Journal editorial page dismissed the theory that deficits affect interest rates as “Rubinomics.” Flattered as I was, I didn’t think this position could possibly get traction. But it was loudly trumpeted, and the countervailing view wasn’t. What seemed to me arrant nonsense came to be treated as a serious point of view.

The first thing you learn in Introductory Economics is that supply and demand determine price. It’s curious that people whose credo is that markets explain everything don’t think that an important factor in the supply and demand for debt financing—the government’s fiscal position—has any effect on interest rates. Put another way, it’s an even more obvious point: when the government borrows, the pool of savings available for private purposes shrinks and the price of capital—the interest rate—rises.

Interest rates are only part of the picture. An unsound long-term fiscal situation can also damage business and consumer confidence—as was evident before the 1992 election. Large structural deficits can also diminish confidence in our economy and currency abroad, impair the ability of the federal government to serve the purposes the American people wish it to serve, and undermine our resilience in dealing with future recessions or emergencies.

One major impediment to serious discussion of our fiscal morass is that it immediately raises the question of whether the country now needs to raise taxes to deal with the deficit. My view is that the fiscal deterioration caused by the current fiscal policy will inevitably mean shared sacrifice, as it did in 1993, and will involve both spending and tax measures. But whatever the eventual solution, the president and congressional leaders of both parties should get together—sooner rather than later—to deal with what has become a serious threat to our future well-being.

Robert Reischauer, a former head of the CBO and one of the wisest budget experts I know, thinks that our nation’s leaders may well be unwilling to repair our long-term fiscal mess until we reach an inevitable day of reckoning. When that crisis arrives, we will either make the decision to increase revenues substantially—at what may well be an inopportune time—or face severe and prolonged economic tribulations. Then the American people will look back with dismay at what happened. Unfortunately, no one who is now concerned about deficits has yet found a way to explain these future costs in a way that has political resonance while these problems are being created and can still be prevented.

Leaving aside debates about whether deficits matter and about whether the supply-side effects are real, tax cuts and spending increases often seem attractive in the short term to politicians—and voters—who either don’t focus on the long term or perhaps recognize the potential problems but feel that they will fall on somebody else’s watch.

From “In an Uncertain World” by Robert E. Rubin and Jacob Weisberg. To be published by Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. © 2003 by Robert E Rubin and Jacob Weisberg.

November 25, 2003 E-mail story Print
LA Times Special Report
Third of three parts
By Nancy Cleeland and Abigail Goldman, Times Staff Writers

Grocery Unions Battle to Stop Invasion of the Giant Stores
Wal-Mart plans to open 40 of its nonunion Supercenters in California. Labor is fighting the expected onslaught, but the big retailer rarely concedes defeat.

Wal-Mart and the Unions
Number of visits to U.S. Wal-Marts weekly: 100 million.

Single-day sales record: $1.4 billion for American stores on Nov. 29, 2002 - larger than the annual GDP of Belize, Greenland and Monaco. (Source: Wal-Mart & the CIA World Factbook)

Number of new employees Wal-Mart plans to hire through 2008: 800,000 — the equivalent to of adding all the workers at General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. combined. (Source: Wal-Mart & Hoovers)

Number of ocean shipping containers imported in 2002: 291,900. Home Depot was No. 2 at 182,000.

Wal-Mart stores permit recreation vehicles to park for free on its lots on a store-by-store basis, making Wal-Mart an unofficial campground chain for cross-country travelers.

Wal-Mart's distribution center in Bentonville covers 1.2 milllion square feet, which could hold 24 football fields, 800 tennis courts or 7 Major League Baseball fields. (Source: Wal-Mart)

Wal-Mart is the country's top seller of dog food, disposable diapers, photographic film, toothpaste and pain remedies.(Fortune magazine, Feb. 2003 article)

If Wal-Mart were a country, its 2002 sales of $245 billion would make it No. 31 on the list of the world's largest economies richest nations, ahead of Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Austria. (Source: CIA World Factbook)

Wal-Mart is three times the size of Carrefour, the world's second-largest retailer. (Source: Retail Forward)

Wal-Mart is the No. 1 retailer not just in the U.S., but also in Canada and Mexico as well as the U.S. (Source: Wal-Mart)

Additional sources: "The Wal-Mart Decade," by Robert Slater; The Journal of Commerce; Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Hoovers Inc., CIA World Factbook, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Retail Forward.

November 24, 2003 E-mail story Print
Second of Three Parts
Scouring the Globe to Give Shoppers an $8.63 Polo Shirt

Wal-Mart, once a believer in buying American, extracts ever lower prices from 10,000 suppliers worldwide. Workers struggle to keep pace.

Kofi Annan says Israeli 'wall' puts peace at risk
By Leonard Doyle and Eric Silver in Jerusalem
29 November 2003

Israel has swatted aside a formal complaint by the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, over its refusal to halt construction of a wall that cuts deep into the West Bank and slices through Palestinian neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem.

Mr Annan said the fence "could damage the longer-term prospects for peace by making the creation of an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state more difficult".

Israel said it was speeding up construction and may take other "unilateral steps" if the Palestinians delay peace talks. "Our patience is running out," the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, declared.

An update on the Worldwide AIDS Epidemic from a BBC Interview with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Nov. 2003.
Transcript: Kofi Annan's BBC interview

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan was interviewed by Carrie Gracie of the BBC in his New York office for the World Service's The Interview programme.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Thanksgiving Prayer by Brad Jensen
Nov. 26th, 2003

Thanks to my Creator(s) for making me a part of your creation. Thank you for deciding that free will, rememberance, integrity, and self-awareness is a part of existence, even down to the smallest particle.

Thank you for making more than one of us, so we can love each other. Thank you for making light a rainbow, instead of just one color. Thank you for letting us have loneliness, so we can come together in love. Thank you for letting us have ignorance, so we can become wise. Thank you for letting us have childhood, so that we can become mature.

Thank you for letting me see you through the eyes of my children, and letting them see you in my eyes. Thank you for my friends and relations, who remind me to love the whole tapestry of life and not just the prettiest colors. Thank you for my lover, who reminds me of your love when I need it.

Thank you for letting us have the sunrises and sunsets that people call birth and death. Thank you for the trees and flowers that are the growth of love and awareness in our hearts. Thank you for the birds and beasts that are the thoughts taking on a life of their own. Thank you for all of life.

Thank you for letting us know that you are there, by the way you respond to the prayer of our hearts.
Thank you for investing me with a body, heart, and mind, that I may use each to their utmost to appreciate the endless bounty of life.

Thank you for letting me be like you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Treason's Greetings
The GOP calls Democrats soft on terror.
By William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg
Posted Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2003, at 2:15 PM PT

The first attack ad from the RND, "Reality" was produced for the Republican National Committee by Crawford Creative. To watch the ad on the RNC Web site, click here. For a transcript of the ad, click here. When Republicans introduced this ad, they suggested that Democrats had twisted President Bush's national security record for months and that it was time to even the score. If so, mission accomplished. In 30 seconds, this ad distorts the Democrats' views and impugns their motives more crudely than the Democrats have done to Bush in two years.

Note: Choice phrase from the ad:
CHYRON: Tell them (legislators) to support the President's policy of preemptive self-defense.

A historical look at computer viruses

By Edwin Park, Melanie Nathanson, Robert Greenstein, and John Springer
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Nov. 21, 2003

The conference agreement on the Medicare drug bill would cost an estimated $400 billion over ten years, and much larger amounts in succeeding decades as drug prices continue to rise. Because the legislation is not “paid for,” it would substantially worsen the nation’s long-term fiscal problems, which already threaten to be the most serious in the nation’s history.

This raises a fundamental question: is the legislation sound enough policy to justify substantially worsening an already grim long-term fiscal outlook? Examination of the legislation strongly suggests the answer is no. The legislation contains a number of features that do not represent sound policy, either because they would change Medicare in troubling ways or because they fail to incorporate measures to curtail spiraling drug costs that ought to be an essential part of any legislation to establish a Medicare drug benefit.

November 23, 2003
LA Times
First of Three Parts
An Empire Built on Bargains Remakes the Working World

Wal-Mart is so powerful that it moves the economies of entire countries, bringing profit and pain. The prices can't be beat, but the wages can. By squeezing suppliers to cut wholesale costs, the company has hastened the flight of U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas. By scouring the globe for the cheapest goods, it has driven factory jobs from one poor nation to another. Wal-Mart's penny-pinching extends to its own 1.2 million U.S. employees, none of them unionized. By the company's own admission, a full-time worker might not be able to support a family on a Wal-Mart paycheck.

AARP Faces Kickback For Backing Medicare Bill
Many Seniors Unhappy With Reform Bill Passed By Congress
POSTED: 6:46 p.m. EST November 26, 2003

BOSTON -- Senior citizens angry over the AARP's endorsement of the Medicare bill are ripping up or burning their AARP membership cards and flooding the lobbying group with complaints in what could be the biggest revolt in its ranks since the 1980s. Many fear the Republican-backed bill approved by Congress on Tuesday will harm senior citizens and say the AARP, the nation's most influential retiree lobby, with 35 million members, sold them out.

If signed by President George W. Bush as expected, the new law would set up a limited program of competition between traditional Medicare and private plans, beginning in 2010. Activists are worried that could lead to the privatization of Medicare, placing the elderly in the hands of insurance companies more concerned about profits than quality medical care.

AARP policy director John Rother said the new plan is not perfect, and the organization will continue to try to improve it. The group's chief executive said between 10,000 and 15,000 members have quit because of the bill.

GOP Defends Bill
The bill adds a prescription-drug entitlement that would be available to 40 million older and disabled Americans. The Medicare bill has been heavily pushed by the White House and narrowly survived a weekend vote in the House. In the Senate, the package cleared several procedural votes Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said the bill will allow seniors more access to preventive care for heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and a host of other ailments. Bush hails the Senate's passage. Speaking at a Las Vegas hospital Tuesday, he said the 38-year-old Medicare program will now be able to catch up with the changes taking place in medicine.

He said under the system that existed until now, the government would pay for ulcer surgery costing $28,000 but wouldn't pay for $500 worth of medicine that could have prevented the surgery to begin with. Bush said the changes that he'll sign into law will strengthen and modernize the Medicare system and give "high quality care" to the nation's seniors.

Under the legislation, the prescription drug benefit doesn't begin until 2006. At that time, all Medicare beneficiaries will have access to the prescription drug benefit -- and some will save significantly.

In the meantime, seniors will be eligible to purchase a Medicare-backed discount drug card that will offer an estimated 15 to 25 percent savings. Low-income seniors would get an additional $600 credit on this card. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she supported the bill even though it sometimes wasn't easy to do. She said the bill contains items that seniors in her home state of California have asked for -- especially the drug benefit. She said the benefit is needed because some low-income seniors have to choose between buying food or buying prescription drugs.

Opponents said final passage was a formality, since they lacked the votes to stop the measure. They have denounced the $400 billion measure as a windfall for drug companies and private insurers. Democrats worked hard to block it, but they failed by two votes Monday to block a final vote on the measure. But even now, Democratic opponents of the Medicare bill are vowing to keep fighting it.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said he didn't see many senior citizens in the Senate gallery during Tuesday's vote. Instead, he said he saw lobbyists for the drug and insurance industries, which he said are favored by the bill. Daschle suggested that some seniors fear they may be forced into a private health plan under the measure. And he said seniors in his home state of South Dakota don't think the drug benefit is adequate. Daschle had called the bill a "bailout for the HMOs and insurance companies."

Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy said the measure threatens the traditional Medicare system. He's vowing that he and other opponents will continue to battle provisions of the bill in future elections and future sessions of Congress.

2:15pm (UK)
Hero Hacker Does It Again

A young Norwegian who became a global hacker hero by writing and distributing a program to crack DVD security codes appears to have struck again, this time against Apple Computer’s ITunes online music service. Jon Lech Johansen, 19, faces a new trial next week after prosecutors appealed his acquittal for violating Norway’s data break-in laws with his DeCSS program.

Now, a new security ripping program called QTFairUse was posted – along with the message So sue me – on an Internet home page under Johansen’s name. The new program circumvents ITune’s anti-copying program, MPEG-4 Advanced Audio Coding, by legally opening and playing a music file, but then, essentially, draining the music into a new and parallel file.

The newspaper said there are many other programs on the Internet allowing ITune’s files to be copied, but that Johansen was the first to post his program as “open coding.” By providing details of his program, Johansen makes it possible for other programmers to use it as a basis for other applications, the report said.

Johansen, also known as DVD-Jon, was 15 when he developed the program, DeCSS, to watch movies on a Linux-based computer without DVD-viewing software. He also posted it on the Internet in 1999. The program is just one of many that can break the film industry’s Content Scrambling System, which prevents illegal copying and blocks the use of legitimate copies on unauthorised equipment.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Nigeria Will Surrender Taylor for War Crimes Trial
Published: November 25, 2003

OTA, Nigeria (AP) -- Nigeria's influential president set tough terms Tuesday for two African pariahs, pledging to "persuade'' indicted war criminal Charles Taylor to surrender for trial if Liberia asks, and to bar Zimbabwe's president from an international summit.

William F. Griswold, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.

This ... suggests that one way to understand the nature of press coverage of the debate over the Bush administration's "Healthy Forests Initiative" is to see it as an example of the process by which powerful groups in society use the media as they compete among themselves to influence the problem definition stage of public policy making.

A theoretical perspective is outlined that argues that for many public issues, the decision-making process entails: 1) recognition of a trend, issue or situation; 2) widespread perception of the trend, issue or situation as a problem that requires action; 3) formation of a consensus about what the problem is; 4) delineation of the range of possible policy alternatives; 5)selection of one of the policies, and 6) implementation of the policy.

The third step in this process, problem definition, is important because, as one researcher has observed, "There are great political stakes in problem definition. Some are helped and others are hurt, depending on how problems get defined." How a problem is defined can determine the range of possible responses to the problem, and being able to define a problem in a desired way may make it much more likely that a person or group or institution can shape policy responses to meet his/her/its own interests.

The findings indicate that the Bush administration used rhetoric and communication strategies designed to get across the message that America?s forests had become "sick," and that the problem was an excessive build-up of combustible material. Part of the reason for the vehement opposition to the proposals in the environmental community was that they went against a consensus that had developed over the last decade that the real problem of forest fire management was a history of overzealous fire suppression, combined with development of homes and businesses that encroached on the forests.

These findings are interpreted as an instance in which the mass media served as arenas in which powerful interests in society competed to have their different problem definitions adopted by the public.

The author argues that the way problem definitions on this issue were presented in news media reports was powerfully affected by the actions of interest groups that stood to gain or lose both money and political power. The discussion suggests conditions under which elite groups are more likely to be able to have their preferred definitions of problems included in news reports, and the conditions under which mass-mediated presentations are likely to be able to shape public understanding of what public issues are all about.

The Uncivil War
NY Times
Published: November 25, 2003

"One of the problems with media coverage of this administration," wrote Eric Alterman in The Nation, "is that it requires bad manners."

He's right. There's no nice way to explain how the administration uses cooked numbers to sell its tax cuts, or how its arrogance and gullibility led to the current mess in Iraq.

So it was predictable that the administration and its allies, no longer very successful at claiming that questioning the president is unpatriotic, would use appeals to good manners as a way to silence critics. Not, mind you, that Emily Post has taken over the Republican Party: the same people who denounce liberal incivility continue to impugn the motives of their opponents.

Smart conservatives admit that their own side was a bit rude during the Clinton years. But now, they say, they've learned better, and it's those angry liberals who have a problem. The reality, however, is that they can only convince themselves that liberals have an anger problem by applying a double standard.

When Ann Coulter expresses regret that Timothy McVeigh didn't blow up The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal laughs it off as "tongue-in-cheek agitprop." But when Al Franken writes about lies and lying liars in a funny, but carefully researched book, he's degrading the discourse.

More important, the Bush administration — which likes to portray itself as the inheritor of Reagan-like optimism — actually has a Nixonian habit of demonizing its opponents.

For example, here's President Bush on critics of his economic policies: "Some say, well, maybe the recession should have been deeper. It bothers me when people say that." Because he used the word "some," he didn't literally lie — no doubt a careful search will find someone, somewhere, who says the recession should have been deeper. But he clearly intended to suggest that those who disagree with his policies don't care about helping the economy.

And that's nothing compared with the tactics now being used on foreign policy.

The campaign against "political hate speech" originates with the Republican National Committee. But last week the committee unveiled its first ad for the 2004 campaign, and it's as hateful as they come. "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists," it declares.

Again, there's that weasel word "some." No doubt someone doesn't believe that we should attack terrorists. But the serious criticism of the president, as the committee knows very well, is the reverse: that after an initial victory in Afghanistan he shifted his attention — and crucial resources — from fighting terrorism to other projects.

What the critics say is that this loss of focus seriously damaged the campaign against terrorism. Strategic assets in limited supply, like Special Forces soldiers and Predator drone aircraft, were shifted from Afghanistan to Iraq, while intelligence resources, including translators, were shifted from the pursuit of Al Qaeda to the coming invasion. This probably allowed Qaeda members, including Osama bin Laden, to get away, and definitely helped the Taliban stage its ominous comeback. And the Iraq war has, by all accounts, done wonders for Qaeda recruiting. Is saying all this attacking the president for attacking the terrorists?

The ad was clearly intended to insinuate once again — without saying anything falsifiable — that there was a link between Iraq and 9/11. (Now that the Iraq venture has turned sour, this claim is suddenly making the rounds again, even though no significant new evidence has surfaced.) But it was also designed to imply that critics are soft on terror.

All this fuss about civility, then, is an attempt to bully critics into unilaterally disarming — into being demure and respectful of the president, even while his campaign chairman declares that the 2004 election will be a choice "between victory in Iraq and insecurity in America."

And even aside from the double standard, how important is civility? I'm all for good manners, but this isn't a dinner party. The opposing sides in our national debate are far apart on fundamental issues, from fiscal and environmental policies to national security and civil liberties. It's the duty of pundits and politicians to make those differences clear, not to play them down for fear that someone will be offended.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Rush's Rich Excuse
NY Post
By John MainelliI
November 20, 2003

Rush Limbaugh yesterday claimed that the more than $300,000 he withdrew in cash from an account at U.S. Trust in Palm Beach, Florida was just "walking-around money," adding that he knew who was responsible for stories that he's being investigated for violating money-laundering laws. "I have not laundered any money," Limbaugh told his radio audience, two days after returning to the air from five weeks of rehab for his painkiller addiction.

Limbaugh, who pockets an estimated $35 million a year, reportedly made up to 40 cash withdrawals from U.S. Trust in amounts just under the mandated federal reporting limit of $10,000. Investigators reportedly believe the top-rated talker used the money to buy massive amounts of black-market painkillers over several years - most of them from a maid in his Palm Beach, Fla., mansion.

The ABC report questioned whether he helped his supplier hide the proceeds of their transactions. "It's being reported in the paper [that] every time I got cash, somebody from the bank snuck over under the cover of darkness to my building," he said. "It was nothing like that," he said, blaming the bank for telling him to keep the amounts under $10,000 "so they wouldn't have to report anything."

Limbaugh, 52, said he wasn't sure how much cash he got. "I don't know - two or three, four or five, whatever, it wasn't very many" under-the-radar cash deliveries. He said the rest involved him personally cashing checks at the bank - "with witnesses." U.S. Trust paid a $10 million fine in 2001 for similar transactions involving Limbaugh and others.

Limbaugh said he used the cash to remodel his Palm Beach mansion and for travel, food and "playing a lot of golf tournaments." He conceded that $300,000 is "a lot of money, but given the amount of money I earn and so forth, it's pretty much in proportion with, you know, what anybody earns in terms of percentage of walking-around money."
"I answered every question that they had," he said.

War critics astonished as US hawk admits invasion was illegal
Oliver Burkeman and Julian Borger in Washington
Thursday November 20, 2003
The Guardian

International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal. In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."

President George Bush has consistently argued that the war was legal either because of existing UN security council resolutions on Iraq - also the British government's publicly stated view - or as an act of self-defence permitted by international law. But Mr Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable.

French intransigence, he added, meant there had been "no practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein". Mr Perle, who was speaking at an event organised by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, had argued loudly for the toppling of the Iraqi dictator since the end of the 1991 Gulf war.

"They're just not interested in international law, are they?" said Linda Hugl, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which launched a high court challenge to the war's legality last year. "It's only when the law suits them that they want to use it." Mr Perle's remarks bear little resemblance to official justifications for war, according to Rabinder Singh QC, who represented CND and also participated in Tuesday's event.

Certainly the British government, he said, "has never advanced the suggestion that it is entitled to act, or right to act, contrary to international law in relation to Iraq". The Pentagon adviser's views, he added, underlined "a divergence of view between the British govern ment and some senior voices in American public life [who] have expressed the view that, well, if it's the case that international law doesn't permit unilateral pre-emptive action without the authority of the UN, then the defect is in international law".

Mr Perle's view is not the official one put forward by the White House. Its main argument has been that the invasion was justified under the UN charter, which guarantees the right of each state to self-defence, including pre-emptive self-defence. On the night bombing began, in March, Mr Bush reiterated America's "sovereign authority to use force" to defeat the threat from Baghdad.

The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, has questioned that justification, arguing that the security council would have to rule on whether the US and its allies were under imminent threat. Coalition officials countered that the security council had already approved the use of force in resolution 1441, passed a year ago, warning of "serious consequences" if Iraq failed to give a complete ac counting of its weapons programmes.

Other council members disagreed, but American and British lawyers argued that the threat of force had been implicit since the first Gulf war, which was ended only by a ceasefire. "I think Perle's statement has the virtue of honesty," said Michael Dorf, a law professor at Columbia University who opposed the war, arguing that it was illegal.

"And, interestingly, I suspect a majority of the American public would have supported the invasion almost exactly to the same degree that they in fact did, had the administration said that all along." The controversy-prone Mr Perle resigned his chairmanship of the defence policy board earlier this year but remained a member of the advisory board.

Meanwhile, there was a hint that the US was trying to find a way to release the Britons held at Guantanamo Bay. The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, said Mr Bush was "very sensitive" to British sentiment. "We also expect to be resolving this in the near future," he told the BBC.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

In 2001 The "Overtime Bill" was passed with bi-partisan support, and was aimed at preventing hospitals from forcing nurses to work overtime. The current legislation, hidden in the omnibus funding bill and fought over along party and economic class lines, is another in a long line of Bush Administration "Bully Tactical Measures" to reward Big Business at the expense of working people.

If you and those you love own a small business, work for a living, and are not a principal of a Fortune 500 company, and you still want to vote for Christian/Republican Fundamentalists/Neocoms in '04, then IMHO, you should request a refund on any money you paid for your education.

Bush said to prevail on overtime
Congressional aides say Pa.'s Specter lifts objections to rule changes.

November 22, 2003: 11:59 PM EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration has won a Capitol Hill battle over proposed changes to U.S. overtime work rules that are supported by business and opposed by labor, congressional aides said. They said Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, had lifted his objections, clearing the way for passage of a huge year-end spending bill without a provision that would have blocked the new regulations.

Specter, who could have kept the bill bottled up in committee by one vote, made the about-face a day after he floated a possible compromise that was shot down, and hours after he told a news conference he was still seeking a deal. He conceded he had been "boxed in" with no certain way out. The administration, which has refused to back down from its proposal despite majority votes against it in both the House and the Senate, contends the regulations would clarify and update often confusing and antiquated work rules.

It also says the changes in the rules would guarantee overtime protection for an estimated 1.3 million more low-income, white-collar workers. But foes warn that the regulations, which the administration intends to put into effect in a few months, could cost more than 8 million Americans their overtime pay and result in companies forcing employees to work longer hours without compensation.

Specter and other lawmakers have vowed to challenge the proposed work rules next year under an act that allows congressional review of new regulations, and labor groups promise to test them in court. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who had teamed up with Specter to try to block the regulations, issued a statement expressing his regrets.

"I understand that the Republican leadership, at the behest of the White House, has killed the overtime pay protections in the omnibus appropriations bill," Harkin said. "This is hugely disappointing to me, and a real blow to the working men and women of this country who depend on overtime pay." William Samuel, legislative director for the 13-million member AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor group, said: "We know Specter was under enormous pressure and that the White House was willing to provoke a fiscal crisis to gets its way."

"We will make sure that the American people know the length that this administration went to cut overtime for 8 million Americans," Samuel said. A majority of the Republican-led Senate and House had defied a White House veto threat by voting in favor of a Harkin provision that would have blocked a proposed expansion of overtime exemptions for white-collar workers under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.

Specter sought to keep the provision in a massive catch-all spending bill for a number of federal agencies, but the White House got him to back down and allow the measure to move without it, aides said. Specter's sudden reversal seemed to catch even some members of his own staff by surprise. "This is news to me," said a spokesman for the senator, adding Specter had left town.

Specter recommended Thursday that a commission be created to review the proposed work rules and that Congress then vote on them. But the recommendation, like a similar suggestion Specter offered earlier, was turned down.

ANA Applauds Introduction of Mandatory Overtime Legislation
May 16th, 2001

Companion measures would ensure safer patient care, greater protections for nurses

Washington, DC --The American Nurses Association today hailed the Safe Nursing and Patient Care Act of 2001, a bill introduced by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) and Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) with more than 20 U.S. House of Representatives colleagues that would strictly limit the use of mandatory overtime for nurses. Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John Kerry (D-MA) will introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

The bill is expected to address the current nurse staffing crisis in the U.S. by strictly limiting the use of forced overtime among nurses, a dangerous practice that has contributed to a recent exodus of nurses from the nation's hospitals and a decline in safe, quality patient care. ANA was at the forefront of the push for this legislation and worked collaboratively on its development with members of Congress and other organizations representing nurses.

"We know that excessive use of mandatory overtime by health care facilities has been on the rise," said ANA President Mary Foley, MS, RN. "In fact, 67 percent of respondents to a recent ANA health and safety survey reported working some form of mandatory or unplanned overtime every month. With this proposed legislation, we can offer protection by prohibiting health care facilities from forcing exhausted nurses to work extra shifts, an unsafe practice that puts both patients and nurses at risk."

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Crimes Against Nature (Full Text Version Follows)
The Bush Administation is sabotaging the laws that have protected America's environment for more than thirty years
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Rolling Stone Magazine Nov. 2003

George W. Bush will go down in history as America's worst environmental president. In a ferocious three-year attack, the Bush administration has initiated more than 200 major rollbacks of America's environmental laws, weakening the protection of our country's air, water, public lands and wildlife. Cloaked in meticulously crafted language designed to deceive the public, the administration intends to eliminate the nation's most important environmental laws by the end of the year.

Under the guidance of Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the Bush White House has actively hidden its anti-environmental program behind deceptive rhetoric, telegenic spokespeople, secrecy and the intimidation of scientists and bureaucrats. The Bush attack was not entirely unexpected. George W. Bush had the grimmest environmental record of any governor during his tenure in Texas. Texas became number one in air and water pollution and in the release of toxic chemicals. In his six years in Austin, he championed a short-term pollution-based prosperity, which enriched his political contributors and corporate cronies by lowering the quality of life for everyone else. Now President Bush is set to do the same to America. After three years, his policies are already bearing fruit, diminishing standards of living for millions of Americans.

I am angry both as a citizen and a father. Three of my sons have asthma, and I watch them struggle to breathe on bad-air days. And they're comparatively lucky: One in four African-American children in New York shares this affliction; their suffering is often unrelieved because they lack the insurance and high-quality health care that keep my sons alive. My kids are among the millions of Americans who cannot enjoy the seminal American experience of fishing locally with their dad and eating their catch. Most freshwater fish in New York and all in Connecticut are now under consumption advisories. A main source of mercury pollution in America, as well as asthma-provoking ozone and particulates, is the coal-burning power plants that President Bush recently excused from complying with the Clean Air Act.

Furthermore, the deadly addiction to fossil fuels that White House policies encourage has squandered our treasury, entangled us in foreign wars, diminished our international prestige, made us a target for terrorist attacks and increased our reliance on petty Middle Eastern dictators who despise democracy and are hated by their own people.

When the Republican right managed to install George W. Bush as president in 2000, movement leaders once again set about doing what they had attempted to do since the Reagan years: eviscerate the infrastructure of laws and regulations that protect the environment. For twenty-five years it has been like the zombie that keeps coming back from the grave.

The attacks began on Inauguration Day, when President Bush's chief of staff and former General Motors lobbyist Andrew Card quietly initiated a moratorium on all recently adopted regulations. Since then, the White House has enlisted every federal agency that oversees environmental programs in a coordinated effort to relax rules aimed at the oil, coal, logging, mining and chemical industries as well as automakers, real estate developers, corporate agribusiness and other industries.

Bush's Environmental Protection Agency has halted work on sixty-two environmental standards, the federal Department of Agriculture has stopped work on fifty-seven standards, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has halted twenty-one new standards. The EPA completed just two major rules -- both under court order and both watered down at industry request -- compared to twenty-three completed by the Clinton administration and fourteen by the Bush Sr. administration in their first two years.

This onslaught is being coordinated through the White House Office of Management and Budget -- or, more precisely, OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, under the direction of John Graham, the engine-room mechanic of the Bush stealth strategy. Graham's specialty is promoting changes in scientific and economic assumptions that underlie government regulations -- such as recalculating cost-benefit analyses to favor polluters. Before coming to the White House, Graham was the founding director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, where he received funding from America's champion corporate polluters: Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto, Alcoa, Exxon, General Electric and General Motors.

Under the White House's guidance, the very agencies entrusted to protect Americans from polluters are laboring to destroy environmental laws. Or they've simply stopped enforcing them. Penalties imposed for environmental violations have plummeted under Bush. The EPA has proposed eliminating 270 enforcement staffers, which would drop staff levels to the lowest level ever. Inspections of polluting businesses have dipped fifteen percent. Criminal cases referred for federal prosecution have dropped forty percent. The EPA measures its success by the amount of pollution reduced or prevented as a result of its own actions. Last year, the EPA's two most senior career enforcement officials resigned after decades of service. They cited the administration's refusal to carry out environmental laws.

The White House has masked its attacks with euphemisms that would have embarrassed George Orwell. George W. Bush's "Healthy Forests" initiative promotes destructive logging of old-growth forests. His "Clear Skies" program, which repealed key provisions of the Clean Air Act, allows more emissions. The administration uses misleading code words such as streamlining or reforming instead of weakening, and thinning instead of logging.

In a March 2003 memo to Republican leadership, pollster Frank Luntz frankly outlined the White House strategy on energy and the environment: "The environment is probably the single issue on which Republicans in general and President Bush in particular are most vulnerable," he wrote, cautioning that the public views Republicans as being "in the pockets of corporate fat cats who rub their hands together and chuckle maniacally as they plot to pollute America for fun and profit." Luntz warned, "Not only do we risk losing the swing vote, but our suburban female base could abandon us as well." He recommended that Republicans don the sheep's clothing of environmental rhetoric while dismantling environmental laws.

I prosecute polluters on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance. As George W. Bush began his presidency, I was involved in litigation against the factory-pork industry, which is a large source of air and water pollution in America. Corporate pork factories cannot produce more efficiently than traditional family farmers without violating several federal environmental statutes. Industrial farms illegally dump millions of tons of untreated fecal and toxic waste onto land and into the air and water. Factory farms have contaminated hundreds of miles of waterways, put tens of thousands of family farmers and fishermen out of work, killed billions of fish, sickened consumers and subjected millions of farm animals to unspeakable cruelty.

On behalf of several farm groups and fishermen, we sued Smithfield Foods and won a decision that suggested that almost all of American factory farms were violating the Clean Water Act. The Clinton EPA had also brought its own parallel suits addressing chronic air and water violations by hog factories. But almost immediately after taking office, the Bush administration ordered the EPA to halt its Clean Air Act investigations of animal factories and weaken the water rules to allow them to continue polluting indefinitely.

Several of my other national cases were similarly derailed. Eleven years ago, I sued the EPA to stop massive fish kills at power plants. Using antiquated technology, power plants often suck up the entire fresh water volume of large rivers, killing obscene numbers of fish. Just one facility, the Salem nuclear plant in New Jersey, kills more than 3 billion Delaware River fish each year, according to Martin Marietta, the plant's own consultant. These fish kills are illegal, and in 2001 we finally won our case. A federal judge ordered the EPA to issue regulations restricting power-plant fish kills. But soon after President Bush's inauguration, the administration replaced the proposed new rule with clever regulations designed to allow the slaughter to continue unabated. The new administration also trumped court decisions that would have enforced greater degrees of wetlands protection and forbidden coal moguls from blasting off whole mountaintops to get at the coal beneath.

The fishermen I represent are traditionally Republican. But, without exception, they see this administration as the largest threat not just to their livelihoods but to their values and their idea of what it means to be American. "Why," they'll ask, "is the president allowing coal, oil, power and automotive interests to fix the game?"

Back to the Dark Ages

George w. Bush seems to be trying to take us all the way back to the Dark Ages by undermining the very principles of our environmental rights, which civilized nations have always recognized. Ancient Rome's Code of Justinian guaranteed the use to all citizens of the "public trust" or commons -- those shared resources that cannot be reduced to private property -- the air, flowing water, public lands, wandering animals, fisheries, wetlands and aquifers.

When Roman law broke down in Europe during the Dark Ages, feudal kings began to privatize the commons. In the early thirteenth century, when King John also attempted to sell off England's fisheries and erect navigational tolls on the Thames, his subjects rose up and confronted him at Runnymede, forcing him to sign the Magna Carta, which includes provisions guaranteeing the rights of free access to fisheries and waters.

Clean-air laws in England, passed in the fourteenth century, made it a capital offense to burn coal in London, and violators were executed for the crime. These "public trust" rights to unspoiled air, water and wildlife descended to the people of the United States following the American Revolution. Until 1870, a factory releasing even small amounts of smoke onto public or private property was operating illegally.

But during the Gilded Age, when the corporate robber barons captured the political and judicial systems, those rights were stolen from the American people. As the Industrial Revolution morphed into the postwar industrial boom, Americans found themselves paying a high price for the resulting pollution. The wake-up call came in the late Sixties, when Lake Erie was declared dead and Cleveland's Cuyahoga River exploded in colossal infernos.

In 1970, more than 20 million Americans took to the streets protesting the state of the environment on the first Earth Day. Whether they knew it or not, they were demanding a return of ancient rights.

During the next few years, Congress passed twenty-eight major environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, and it created the Environmental Protection Agency to apply and enforce these new laws. Polluters would be held accountable; those planning to use the commons would have to compile environmental-impact statements and hold public hearings; citizens were given the power to prosecute environmental crimes. Right-to-know and toxic-inventory laws made government and industry more transparent on the local level and our nation more democratic. Even the most vulnerable Americans could now participate in the dialogue that determines the destinies of their communities.

Earth Day caught polluters off guard. But in the next thirty years, they mounted an increasingly sophisticated and aggressive counterattack to undermine these laws. The Bush administration is a culmination of their three-decade campaign.

Strangling the Environment

In 1980, candidate Ronald Reagan declared, "I am a Sagebrush Rebel," marking a major turning point of the modern anti-environmental movement. In the early 1980s, the Western extractive industries, led by one of Colorado's worst polluters, brewer Joseph Coors, organized the Sagebrush Rebellion, a coalition of industry money and right-wing ideologues that helped elect Reagan president.

The big polluters who started the Sagebrush Rebellion were successful because they managed to broaden their constituency with anti-regulatory, anti-labor and anti-environmental rhetoric that had great appeal both among Christian fundamentalist leaders such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and in certain Western communities where hostility to government is deeply rooted. Big polluters found that they could organize this discontent into a potent political force that possessed the two ingredients of power in American democracy: money and intensity. Meanwhile, innovations in direct-mail and computer technologies gave this alliance of dark populists and polluters a deafening voice in American government.

Coors founded the Mountain States Legal Foundation in 1976 to bring lawsuits designed to enrich giant corporations, limit civil rights and attack unions, homosexuals and minorities. He also founded the right-wing Heritage Foundation, to provide a philosophical underpinning for the anti-environmental movement. While the foundation and its imitators -- the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Reason Foundation, the Federalist Society, the Marshall Institute and others -- claim to advocate free markets and property rights, their agenda is more pro-pollution than anything else.

From its conception, the Heritage Foundation and its neoconservative cronies urged followers to "strangle the environmental movement," which Heritage named "the greatest single threat to the American economy." Ronald Reagan's victory gave Heritage Foundation and the Mountain States Legal Foundation immeasurable clout. Heritage became known as Reagan's "shadow government," and its 2,000-page manifesto, "Mandate for Change," became a blueprint for his administration. Coors handpicked his Colorado associates: Anne Gorsuch became the EPA administrator; her husband, Robert Burford, a cattle baron who had vowed to destroy the Bureau of Land Management, was selected to head that very agency.

Most notorious, Coors chose James Watt, president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, as the secretary of the interior. Watt was a proponent of "dominion theology," an authoritarian Christian heresy that advocates man's duty to "subdue" nature. His deep faith in laissez-faire capitalism and apocalyptic Christianity led Secretary Watt to set about dismantling his department and distributing its assets rather than managing them for future generations. During a Senate hearing, he cited the approaching Apocalypse to explain why he was giving away America's sacred places at fire-sale prices: "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns."

Meanwhile, Anne Gorsuch enthusiastically gutted EPA's budget by sixty percent, crippling its ability to write regulations or enforce the law. She appointed lobbyists fresh from their hitches with the paper, asbestos, chemical and oil companies to run each of the principal agency departments. Her chief counsel was an Exxon lawyer; her head of enforcement was from General Motors.

These attacks on the environment precipitated a public revolt. By 1983, more than a million Americans and all 125 American-Indian tribes had signed a petition demanding Watt's removal. After being forced out of office, Watt was indicted on twenty-five felony counts of influence-pedaling. Gorsuch and twenty-three of her cronies were forced to resign following a congressional investigation of sweetheart deals with polluters, including Coors. Her first deputy, Rita Lavelle, was jailed for perjury.

The indictments and resignations put a temporary damper on the Sagebrush Rebels, but they quickly regrouped as the "Wise Use" movement. Wise Use founder, the timber-industry flack Ron Arnold, said, "Our goal is to destroy, to eradicate the environmental movement. We want to be able to exploit the environment for private gain, absolutely."

By 1994, Wise Use helped propel Newt Gingrich to the speaker's chair of the U.S. House of Representatives and turn his anti-environmental manifesto, "The Contract With America," into law. Gingrich's chief of environmental policy was Rep. Tom DeLay, the one-time Houston exterminator who was determined to rid the world of pesky pesticide regulations and to promote a biblical worldview. He targeted the Endangered Species Act as the second-greatest threat to Texas after illegal aliens. He also wanted to legalize the deadly pesticide DDT, and he routinely referred to the EPA as "the Gestapo of government." In January 1995, DeLay invited a group of 350 lobbyists representing some of America's biggest polluters to collaborate in drafting legislation to dismantle federal health, safety and environmental laws.

Gingrich and DeLay had learned from the James Watt debacle that they had to conceal their radical agenda. Carefully eschewing public debates on their initiatives, they mounted a stealth attack on America's environmental laws. Rather than pursue a frontal assault against popular statutes such as the Endangered Species, Clean Water and Clean Air acts, they tried to undermine these laws by attaching silent riders to must-pass budget bills.

But the public got wise. Moderate Republicans teamed up with the Clinton administration to block the worst of it. My group, the NRDC, as well as the Sierra Club and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, generated more than 1 million letters to Congress. When President Clinton shut down the government in December 1995 rather than pass a budget bill spangled with anti-environmental riders, the tide turned against Gingrich and DeLay. By the end of that month, even conservatives disavowed the attack. "We lost the battle on the environment," DeLay conceded.

Undermining the Scientists

Today, with the presidency and both houses of Congress under the anti-environmentalists' control, they are set to eviscerate the despised laws. White House strategy is to promote its unpopular policies by lying about its agenda, cheating on the science and stealing the language and rhetoric of the environmental movement.

Even as Republican pollster Luntz acknowledged that the scientific evidence is against the Republicans on issues like global warming, he advised them to find scientists willing to hoodwink the public. "You need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue," he told Republicans, "by becoming even more active in recruiting experts sympathetic to your view."

In the meantime, he urged them to change their rhetoric. " 'Climate change,' " he said, "is less threatening than 'global warming.' While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge."

The EPA's inspector general received broad attention for his August 21st, 2003, finding that the White House pressured the agency to conceal the public-health risks from poisoned air following the September 11th World Trade Center attacks. But this 2001 deception is only one example of the administration's pattern of strategic distortion. Earlier this year, it suppressed an EPA report warning that millions of Americans, especially children, are being poisoned by mercury from industrial sources.

This behavior is consistent throughout the Bush government. Consider the story of James Zahn, a scientist at the Department of Agriculture who resigned after the Bush administration suppressed his taxpayer-funded study proving that billions of antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be carried daily across property lines from meat factories into neighboring homes and farms. In March 2002, Zahn accepted my invitation to present his findings to a convention of family-farm advocates in Iowa. Several weeks before the April conference, pork-industry lobbyists learned of his appearance and persuaded the Department of Agriculture to forbid him from appearing. Zahn told me he had been ordered to cancel a dozen appearances at county health departments and similar venues.

In May, the White House blocked the EPA staff from publicly discussing contamination by the chemical perchlorate -- the main ingredient in solid rocket fuel. The administration froze federal regulations on perchlorate, even as new research reveals alarmingly high levels of the chemical in the nation's drinking water and food supply, including many grocery-store lettuces. Perchlorate pollution has been linked to neurological problems, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses in some twenty states. The Pentagon and several defense contractors face billions of dollars in potential cleanup liability.

The administration's leading expert in manipulating scientific data is Interior Secretary Gale Norton. During her nomination hearings, Norton promised not to ideologically slant agency science. But as her friend Thomas Sansonetti, a coal- industry lobbyist who is now assistant attorney general, predicted, "There won't be any biologists or botanists to come in and pull the wool over her eyes."

In autumn 2001, Secretary Norton provided the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources with her agency's scientific assessment that Arctic oil drilling would not harm hundreds of thousands of caribou. Not long afterward, Fish and Wildlife Service biologists contacted the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which defends scientists and other professionals working in state and federal environmental agencies. "The scientists provided us the science that they had submitted to Norton and the altered version that she had given to Congress a week later," said the group's executive director, Jeff Ruch. There were seventeen major substantive changes, all of them minimizing the reported impacts. When Norton was asked about the alterations in October 2001, she dismissed them as typographical errors.

Later, she and White House political adviser Karl Rove forced National Marine Fisheries scientists to alter findings on the amount of water required for the survival of salmon in Oregon's Klamath River, to ensure that large corporate farms got a bigger share of the river water. As a result, more than 33,000 chinook and coho salmon died -- the largest fish kill in the history of America. Mike Kelly, the biologist who drafted the original opinion (and who has since been awarded federal whistle-blower status), told me that the coho salmon is probably headed for extinction. "Morale is low among scientists here," Kelly says. "We are under pressure to get the right results. This administration is putting the species at risk for political gain -- and not just in the Klamath."

Norton has also ordered the rewriting of an exhaustive twelve-year study by federal biologists detailing the effects that Arctic drilling would have on populations of musk oxen and snow geese. She reissued the biologists' report two weeks later as a two-page paper showing no negative impact to wildlife. She also ordered suppression of two studies by the Fish and Wildlife Service concluding that the drilling would threaten polar-bear populations and violate the international treaty protecting bears. She then instructed the Fish and Wildlife Service to redo the report to "reflect the Interior Department's position." She suppressed findings that mountaintop mining would cause "tremendous destruction of aquatic and terrestrial habitat" and a Park Service report that found that snowmobiles were hurting Yellowstone's air quality, wildlife and the health of its visitors and employees.

Norton's Fish and Wildlife Service is the first ever not to voluntarily list a single species as endangered or threatened. Her officials have blackballed scientists and savaged studies to avoid listing the trumpeter swan, revoke the listing of the grizzly bear and shrink the remnant habitat for the Florida panther. She disbanded the service's oldest scientific advisory committee in order to halt protection of desert fish in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas that are headed for extinction. Interior career staffers and scientists say they are monitored by Norton's industry appointees to ensure that future studies do not conflict with industry profit-making.

Cooking the Books on Global Warming

There is no scientific debate in which the White House has cooked the books more than that of global warming. In the past two years the Bush administration has altered, suppressed or attempted to discredit close to a dozen major reports on the subject. These include a ten-year peer-reviewed study by the International Panel on Climate Change, commissioned by the president's father in 1993 in his own efforts to dodge what was already a virtual scientific consensus blaming industrial emissions for global warming.

After disavowing the Kyoto Protocol, the Bush administration commissioned the federal government's National Academy of Sciences to find holes in the IPCC analysis. But this ploy backfired. The NAS not only confirmed the existence of global warming and its connection to industrial greenhouse gases, it also predicted that the effects of climate change would be worse than previously believed, estimating that global temperatures will rise between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees by 2100.

A May 2002 report by scientists from the EPA, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, approved by Bush appointees at the Council on Environmental Quality and submitted to the United Nations by the U.S., predicted similarly catastrophic impacts. When confronted with the findings, Bush dismissed it with his smirking condemnation: "I've read the report put out by the bureaucracy. . . ."

Afterward, the White House acknowledged that, in fact, he hadn't. Having failed to discredit the report with this untruth, George W. did what his father had done: He promised to study the problem some more. Last fall, the White House announced the creation of the Climate Research Initiative to study global warming. The earliest results are due next fall. But the White House's draft plan for CRI was derided by the NAS in February as a rehash of old studies and established science lacking "most elements of a strategic plan."

In September 2002, administration censors released the annual EPA report on air pollution without the agency's usual update on global warming, that section having been deleted by Bush appointees at the White House. On June 19th, 2003, a "State of the Environment" report commissioned by the EPA in 2001 was released after language about global warming was excised by flat-earthers in the White House. The redacted studies had included a 2001 report by the National Research Council, commissioned by the White House. In their place was a piece of propaganda financed by the American Petroleum Institute challenging these conclusions.

This past July, EPA scientists leaked a study, which the agency had ordered suppressed in May, showing that a Senate plan -- co-sponsored by Republican Sen. John McCain -- to reduce the pollution that causes global warming could achieve its goal at very small cost. Bush reacted by launching a $100 million ten-year effort to prove that global temperature changes have, in fact, occurred naturally, another delay tactic for the fossil-fuel barons at taxpayer expense.

Princeton geo-scientist Michael Oppenheimer told me, "This administration likes to emphasize what we don't know while ignoring or minimizing what we do know, which is a prescription for paralysis on policy. It's hard to imagine what kind of scientific evidence would suffice to convince the White House to take firm action on global warming."

Across the board, the administration yields to Big Energy. At the request of ExxonMobil, and with the help of a lobbying group working for coal-burning utility Southern Co., the Bush administration orchestrated the removal of U.S. scientist Robert Watson, the world-renowned former NASA atmospheric chemist who headed the United Nations' IPCC. He was replaced by a little-known scientist from New Delhi, India, who would be generally unavailable for congressional hearings.

The Bush administration now plans to contract out thousands of environmental-science jobs to compliant industry consultants already in the habit of massaging data to support corporate profit-taking, effectively making federal science an arm of Karl Rove's political machine. The very ideologues who derided Bill Clinton as a liar have institutionalized dishonesty and made it the reigning culture of America's federal agencies. "At its worst," Oppenheimer says, "this approach represents a serious erosion in the way a democracy deals with science."

Inside the Cheney Task Force

There is no better example of the corporate cronyism now hijacking American democracy than the White House's cozy relationship with the energy industry. It's hard to find anyone on Bush's staff who does not have extensive corporate connections, but fossil-fuel executives rule the roost. The energy industry contributed more than $48.3 million to Republicans in the 2000 election cycle, with $3 million to Bush. Now the investment has matured. Both Bush and Cheney came out of the oil patch. Thirty-one of the Bush transition team's forty-eight members had energy-industry ties. Bush's cabinet and White House staff is an energy-industry dream team -- four cabinet secretaries, the six most powerful White House officials and more than twenty high-level appointees are alumni of the industry and its allies (see "Bush's Energy-Industry All-Stars," on Page 183).

The potential for corruption is staggering. Take the case of J. Steven Griles, deputy secretary of the Interior Department. During the first Reagan administration, Griles worked directly under James Watt at Interior, where he helped the coal industry evade prohibitions against mountaintop-removal strip mining. In 1989, Griles left government to work as a mining executive and then as a lobbyist with National Environmental Strategies, a Washington, D.C., firm that represented the National Mining Association and Dominion Resources, one of the nation's largest power producers. When Griles got his new job at Interior, the National Mining Association hailed him as "an ally of the industry."

It's bad enough that a former mining lobbyist was put in charge of regulating mining on public land. But it turns out that Griles is still on the industry's payroll. In 2001, he sold his client base to his partner Marc Himmelstein for four annual payments of $284,000, making Griles, in effect, a continuing partner in the firm.

Because Griles was an oil and mining lobbyist, the Senate made him agree in writing that he would avoid contact with his former clients as a condition of his confirmation. Griles has nevertheless repeatedly met with former coal clients to discuss new rules allowing mountaintop mining in Appalachia and destructive coal-bed methane drilling in Wyoming. He also met with his former oil clients about offshore leases. These meetings prompted Sen. Joseph Lieberman to ask the Interior Department to investigate Griles. With Republicans in control of congressional committees, no subpoenas have interrupted the Griles scandals.

With its operatives in place, the Bush energy plan became an orgy of industry plunder. Days after his inauguration, Bush launched the National Energy Policy Development Group, chaired by Cheney. For three months, the task force held closed-door meetings with energy-industry representatives - then refused to disclose the names of the participants.

For the first time in history, the nonpartisan General Accounting Office sued the executive branch, for access to these records. NRDC put in a Freedom of Information Act request, and when Cheney did not respond, we also sued. On February 21st, 2002, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and other agency officials to turn over the records relating to their participation in the work of the energy task force. Under this court order, NRDC has obtained some 20,000 documents. Although none of the logs on the vice president's meetings have been released yet and the pages were heavily redacted to prevent disclosure of useful information, the documents still allow glimpses of the process.

The task force comprised Cabinet secretaries and other high-level administration officials with energy-industry pedigrees. The undisputed leader was Cheney, who hails from Wyoming, the nation's largest coal producer, and who, for six previous years, was CEO of Halliburton, the oil-service company. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was chairman of the Aluminum Company of America for thirteen years. Aluminum-industry profits are directly related to energy prices. O'Neill promised to immediately sell his extensive stock holdings in his former company (worth more than $100 million) to avoid conflicts of interest, but he delayed the sale until after the energy plan was released. By then, thanks partly to the administration's energy policies, Alcoa's stock had risen thirty percent. Energy Secretary Abraham, a former one-term senator from Michigan, received $700,000 from the auto industry in his losing 2000 campaign, more than any other Senate candidate. At Energy, Abraham led the administration effort to scuttle fuel-economy standards, allow SUVs to escape fuel-efficiency minimums and create obscene tax incentives for Americans to buy the largest gas guzzlers.

Joe Allbaugh, director of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, sat next to Abraham on the task force. Allbaugh's wife, Diane, is an energy-industry lobbyist and represents three firms -- Reliant Energy, Entergy and TXU, each of which paid her $20,000 in the three months of the task force's deliberation. Joe Allbaugh participated in task-force meetings on issues directly affecting those companies, including debates about environmental rules for power plants and -- his wife's specialty -- electricity deregulation.

Commerce Secretary Don Evans, an old friend of the president from their early days in the oil business, was CEO of Tom Brown Inc., a Denver oil-and-gas company, and a trustee of another drilling firm. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, a mining-industry lawyer, accepted nearly $800,000 from the energy industry during her 1996 run in Colorado for the U.S. Senate.

In the winter and spring of 2001, executives and lobbyists from the oil, coal, electric-utility and nuclear industries tramped in and out of the Cabinet room and Cheney's office. Many of the lobbyists had just left posts inside Bush's presidential campaign to work for companies that had donated lavishly to that effort. Companies that made large contributions were given special access. Executives from Enron Corp., which contributed $2.5 million to the GOP from 1999 to 2002, had contact with the task force at least ten times, including six face-to-face meetings between top officials and Cheney.

After one meeting with Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, Cheney dismissed California Gov. Gray Davis' request to cap the state's energy prices. That denial would enrich Enron and nearly bankrupt California. It has since emerged that the state's energy crisis was largely engineered by Enron. According to the New York Times, the task-force staff circulated a memo that suggested "utilizing" the crisis to justify expanded oil and gas drilling. President Bush and others would cite the California crisis to call for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Energy companies that had not ponied up remained under pressure to give to Republicans. When Westar Energy's chief executive was indicted for fraud, investigators found an e-mail written by Westar executives describing solicitations by Republican politicians for a political action committee controlled by Tom DeLay as the price for a "seat at the table" with the task force.

Task-force members began each meeting with industry lobbyists by announcing that the session was off the record and that participants were to share no documents. A National Mining Association official told reporters that the industry managed to control the energy plan by keeping the process secret. "We've probably had as much input as anybody else in town," he said. "I have to take my hat off to them -- they've been able to keep a lid on it."

When it was suggested that access to the administration was for sale, Cheney hardly apologized. "Just because somebody makes a campaign contribution doesn't mean that they should be denied the opportunity to express their view to government officials," he said. Although they met with hundreds of industry officials, Cheney and Abraham refused to meet with any environmental groups. Cheney made one exception to the secrecy policy: On May 15th, 2001, the day before the task force sent its plan to the president, CEOs from wind-, solar- and geothermal-energy companies were granted a short meeting with Cheney. Afterward, they were led into the Rose Garden for a press conference and a photo op.

While peddling influence to energy tycoons, the White House quietly dropped criminal and civil charges against Koch Industries, America's largest privately held oil company. Koch faced a ninety-seven-count federal felony indictment and $357 million in fines for knowingly releasing ninety metric tons of carcinogenic benzene and concealing the releases from federal regulators. Koch executives contributed $800,000 to Bush's presidential campaign and to other top Republicans.

Last March, the Federal Trade Commission dropped a Clinton-era investigation of price gouging by the oil and gas industries, even as Duke Energy, a principal target of the probe, admitted to selling electricity in California for more than double the highest previously reported price. The Bush administration said that the industry deserved a "gentler approach." Administration officials also winked at a scam involving a half-dozen oil companies cheating the government out of $100 million per year in royalty payments.

Southern Co. was among the most adept advocates for its own self-interest. The company, which contributed $1.6 million to Republicans from 1999 to 2002, met with Cheney's task force seven times. Faced with a series of EPA prosecutions at power plants violating air-quality standards, the company retained Haley Barbour, former Republican National Committee chairman and now governor-elect of Mississippi, to lobby the administration to ignore Southern's violations.

The White House then forced the Justice Department to drop the prosecution. Justice lawyers were "astounded" that the administration would interfere in a law-enforcement matter that was "supposed to be out of bounds from politics." The EPA's chief enforcement officer, Eric Schaeffer, resigned. "With the Bush administration, whether or not environmental laws are enforced depends on who you know," Schaeffer told me. "If you've got a good lobbyist, you can just buy your way out of trouble."

Along with Barbour, Southern retained current Republican National Committee chairman and former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot. Barbour and Racicot repeatedly conferred with Abraham and Cheney, urging them to ease limits on carbon-dioxide pollution from power plants and to gut the Clean Air Act. On May 17th, 2001, the White House released its energy plan. Among the recommendations were exempting old power plants from Clean Air Act compliance and adopting Barbour's arguments about carbon-dioxide restrictions. Barbour repaid the favor that week by raising $250,000 at a May 21st GOP gala honoring Bush. Southern donated $150,000 to the effort.

Cheney's task force had at least nineteen contacts with officials from the nuclear-energy industry -- whose trade association, the Nuclear Energy Institute, donated $100,000 to the Bush inauguration gala and $437,000 to Republicans from 1999 to 2002. The report recommended loosening environmental controls on the industry, reducing public participation in the siting of nuclear plants and adding billions of dollars in subsidies for the nuclear industry.

Cheney wasn't embarrassed to reward his old cronies at Halliburton, either. The final draft of the task-force report praises a gas-recovery technique controlled by Halliburton -- even though an earlier draft had criticized the technology. The technique, which has been linked to the contamination of aquifers, is currently being investigated by the EPA. Somehow, that got edited out of the report.

Big Coal and the Destruction of Appalachia

Coal companies enjoyed perhaps the biggest payoff. At the West Virginia Coal Association's annual conference in May 2002, president William D. Raney assured 150 industry moguls, "You did everything you could to elect a Republican president." Now, he said, "you are already seeing in his actions the payback."

Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company and a major contributor to the Bush campaign, was one of the first to cash in. Immediately after his inauguration, Bush appointed two executives from Peabody and one from its Black Beauty subsidiary to his energy advisory team.

When the task force released its final report, it recommended accelerating coal production and spending $2 billion in federal subsidies for research to make coal-fired electricity cleaner. Five days later, Peabody issued a public-stock offering, raising $60 million more than analysts had predicted. Company vice president Fred Palmer credited the Bush administration. "I am sure it affected the valuation of the stock," he told the Los Angeles Times.

Peabody also wanted to build the largest coal-fired power plant in thirty years upwind of Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and International Biosphere Reserve. With arm-twisting from Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles and another $450,000 in GOP contributions, Peabody got what it wanted. A study on the air impacts was suppressed, and park scientists who feared that several endangered species might go extinct due to mercury and acid-rain deposits were silenced.

At the Senate's request, Griles had signed a "statement of disqualification" on August 1st, 2001, committing himself to avoiding issues affecting his former clients. Three days later, he nevertheless appeared before the West Virginia Coal Association and promised executives that "we will fix the federal rules very soon on water and soil placement." That was fancy language for pushing whole mountaintops into valleys, a practice worth billions to the industry. As a Reagan official, Griles helped devise the practice, which a federal court declared illegal in 2002, after 1,200 miles of streambeds had been filled and 380,000 acres of Appalachian forestlands had been rendered barren moonscapes.

Now Griles was promising his former coal clients he would fix these rules. In May 2002, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers adopted the language recommended by his former client, the National Mining Association. Had Griles not intervened, the practice of mountaintop-removal mining would have been severely restricted. Griles also pushed EPA deputy administrator Linda Fisher to overrule career personnel in the agency's Denver office who had given a devastating assessment to a proposal to produce coal-bed methane gas in the Powder River basin in Wyoming. Although Griles had recused himself from any discussion of this subject because it would directly enrich his former clients, he worked aggressively behind the scenes on behalf of a proposal to build 51,000 wells. The project will require 26,000 miles of new roads and 48,000 miles of pipeline, and will foul pristine landscapes with trillions of gallons of toxic wastewater.

Blueprint for Plunder

The energy-task-force plan is a $20 billion subsidy to the oil, coal and nuclear industries, which are already swimming in record revenues. In May 2003, as the House passed the plan and as the rest of the nation stagnated in a recession abetted by high oil prices, Exxon announced that its profits had tripled from the previous quarter's record earnings. The energy plan recommends opening protected lands and waters to oil and gas drilling and building up to 1,900 electric-power plants. National treasures such as the California and Florida coasts, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the areas around Yellowstone Park will be opened for plunder for the trivial amounts of fossil fuels that they contain. While increasing reliance on oil, coal and nuclear power, the plan cuts the budget for research into energy efficiency and alternative power sources by nearly a third. "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue," Cheney explained, but it should not be the basis of "comprehensive energy policy."

As if to prove that point, Republicans simultaneously eliminated the tax credit that had encouraged Americans to buy gas-saving hybrid cars, and weakened efficiency standards for everything from air conditioners to automobiles. They also created an obscene $100,000 tax break for Hummers and the thirty-eight biggest gas guzzlers. Then, adding insult to injury, the Energy Department robbed $135,615 from the anemic solar, renewables and energy-conservation budget to produce 10,000 copies of the White House's energy plan.

To lobby for the plan, more than 400 industry groups enlisted in the Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth, a coalition created by oil, mining and nuclear interests and guided by the White House. It cost $5,000 to join, "a very low price," according to Republican lobbyist Wayne Valis. The prerequisite for joining, he wrote in a memo, was that members "must agree to support the Bush energy proposal in its entirety and not lobby for changes." Within two months, members had contributed more than $1 million. The price for disloyalty was expulsion from the coalition and possible reprisal by the administration. "I have been advised," wrote Valis, "that this White House 'will have a long memory.' "

The plan represents a massive transfer of wealth from the public to the energy sector. Indeed, Bush views his massive tax cuts as a way of helping Americans pay for inflated energy bills. "If I had my way," he declared, "I'd have [the tax cuts] in place tomorrow so that people would have money in their pockets to deal with high energy prices."

Looting the Commons

Although congress will have its final vote on the plan in November, the White House has already devised ways to implement most of its worst provisions without congressional interference. In October 2001, the administration removed the Interior Department's power to veto mining permits, even if the mining would cause "substantial and irreparable harm" to the environment. That December, Bush and congressional Republicans passed an "economic-stimulus package" that proposed $2.4 billion worth of tax breaks, credits and loopholes for Chevron, Texaco, Enron and General Electric. The following February, the White House announced it would abandon regulations for three major pollutants -- mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

Early in the Bush administration, Vice President Cheney had solicited an industry wish list from the United States Energy Association, the lobbying arm for trade associations including the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association, the Nuclear Energy Institute and the Edison Institute. The USEA responded by providing 105 specific recommendations from its members for plundering our natural resources and polluting America's air and water. In a speech to the group in June 2002, Energy Secretary Abraham reported that the administration had already implemented three-quarters of the industry's recommendations and predicted the rest would pass through Congress shortly.

On August 27th, 2002 -- while most of America was heading off for a Labor Day weekend -- the administration announced that it would redefine carbon dioxide, the primary cause of global warming, so that it would no longer be considered a pollutant and would therefore not be subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. The next day, the White House repealed the act's "new source review" provision, which requires companies to modernize pollution control when they modify their plants.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the White House rollback will cause 30,000 Americans to die prematurely each year. Although the regulation will probably be reversed in the courts, the damage will have been done, and power utilities such as Southern Co. will escape criminal prosecution. As soon as the new regulations were announced, John Pemberton, chief of staff to the EPA's assistant administrator for air, left the agency to work for Southern. The EPA's congressional office chief also left, to join Southern's lobbying shop, Bracewell, Patterson.

By summer 2003, the White House had become a virtual pi-ata for energy moguls. In August, the administration proposed limiting the authority of states to object to offshore-drilling decisions, and it ordered federal land managers across the West to ease environmental restrictions for oil and gas drilling in national forests. The White House also proposed removing federal protections for most American wetlands and streams. As an astounded Republican, Rep. Christopher Shays, told me, "It's almost like they want to alienate people who care about the environment, as if they believe that this will help them with their core."

EPA: From Bad to Worse

On August 30th, president bush nominated Utah's three-term Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt to replace his beleaguered EPA head, Christine Todd Whitman, who was driven from office, humiliated in even her paltry efforts to moderate the pillage. In October, Leavitt was confirmed by the Senate.

Like Gale Norton, Leavitt has a winning personality and a disastrous environmental record. Under his leadership, Utah tied for last as the state with the worst environmental enforcement record and ranked second-worst (behind Texas) for both air quality and toxic releases. As governor, Leavitt displayed the same contempt for science that has characterized the Bush administration. He fired more than seventy scientists employed by state agencies for producing studies that challenged his political agenda. He fired a state enforcement officer who penalized one of Leavitt's family fish farms for introducing whirling disease into Utah, devastating the state's wild-trout populations.

Leavitt has a penchant for backdoor deals to please corporate polluters. Last year he resurrected a frivolous and moribund Utah lawsuit against the Interior Department and then settled the suit behind closed doors without public involvement, stripping 6 million acres of wilderness protections. This track record does not reflect the independence, sense of stewardship and respect for science and law that most Americans have the right to expect in our nation's chief environmental guardian.

The Threat to Democracy

Generations of Americans will pay the Republican campaign debt to the energy industry with global instability, depleted national coffers and increased vulnerability to price shocks in the oil market.

They will also pay with reduced prosperity and quality of life at home. Pollution from power plants and traffic smog will continue to skyrocket. Carbon-dioxide emissions will aggravate global warming. Acid rain from Midwestern coal plants has already sterilized half the lakes in the Adirondacks and destroyed the forest cover in the high peaks of the Appalachian range up into Canada. The administration's attacks on science and the law have put something even greater at risk. Americans need to recognize that we are facing not just a threat to our environment but to our values, and to our democracy.

Growing up, I was taught that communism leads to dictatorship and capitalism to democracy. But as we've seen from the the Bush administration, the latter proposition does not always hold. While free markets tend to democratize a society, unfettered capitalism leads invariably to corporate control of government.

America's most visionary leaders have long warned against allowing corporate power to dominate the political landscape. In 1863, in the depths of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln lamented, "I have the Confederacy before me and the bankers behind me, and I fear the bankers most." Franklin Roosevelt echoed that sentiment when he warned that "the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any controlling power."

Today, more than ever, it is critical for American citizens to understand the difference between the free-market capitalism that made our country great and the corporate cronyism that is now corrupting our political process, strangling democracy and devouring our national treasures.

Corporate capitalists do not want free markets, they want dependable profits, and their surest route is to crush competition by controlling government. The rise of fascism across Europe in the 1930s offers many informative lessons on how corporate power can undermine a democracy. In Spain, Germany and Italy, industrialists allied themselves with right-wing leaders who used the provocation of terrorist attacks, continual wars, and invocations of patriotism and homeland security to tame the press, muzzle criticism by opponents and turn government over to corporate control. Those governments tapped industrial executives to run ministries and poured government money into corporate coffers with lucrative contracts to prosecute wars and build infrastructure. They encouraged friendly corporations to swallow media outlets, and they enriched the wealthiest classes, privatized the commons and pared down constitutional rights, creating short-term prosperity through pollution-based profits and constant wars. Benito Mussolini's inside view of this process led him to complain that "fascism should really be called 'corporatism.' "

While the European democracies unraveled into fascism, America confronted the same devastating Depression by reaffirming its democracy. It enacted minimum-wage and Social Security laws to foster a middle class, passed income taxes and anti-trust legislation to limit the power of corporations and the wealthy, and commissioned parks, public lands and museums to create employment and safeguard the commons.

The best way to judge the effectiveness of a democracy is to measure how it allocates the goods of the land: Does the government protect the commonwealth on behalf of all the community members, or does it allow wealth and political clout to steal the commons from the people?

Today, George W. Bush and his court are treating our country as a grab bag for the robber barons, doling out the commons to large polluters. Last year, as the calamitous rollbacks multiplied, the corporate-owned TV networks devoted less than four percent of their news minutes to environmental stories. If they knew the truth, most Americans would share my fury that this president is allowing his corporate cronies to steal America from our children.

Bush ripe for green revolt
November 21, 2003

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., one of the nation's more prominent environmentalists, has some compelling arguments against President Bush's environmental policies.

In "Crimes Against Nature," an article for Rolling Stone that hits newsstands today, RFK Jr. ranks Bush as "America's worst environmental president" and accuses the GOP administration of waging "a ferocious three-year attack" on laws that protect that nation's air, water, public lands and wildlife.

Kennedy notes that for the first time in three decades, water pollution levels are rising and that more than 200 million Americans now live within 10 miles of a polluted water body. He is also troubled that the Bush administration is sabotaging the Clean Air Act and is seeking to allow twice as much sulfur dioxide and three times more mercury emissions.

Note: The most telling remark from the article is a quote from Frank Lutz: In a March 2003 memo to Republican leadership, pollster Frank Luntz frankly outlined the White House strategy on energy and the environment: "The environment is probably the single issue on which Republicans in general and President Bush in particular are most vulnerable," he wrote, cautioning that the public views Republicans as being "in the pockets of corporate fat cats who rub their hands together and chuckle maniacally as they plot to pollute America for fun and profit." Luntz warned, "Not only do we risk losing the swing vote, but our suburban female base could abandon us as well." He recommended that Republicans don the sheep's clothing of environmental rhetoric while dismantling environmental laws.

2 Bills Would Benefit Top Bush Fundraisers
Executives' Companies Could Get Billions
By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 22, 2003; Page A01

More than three dozen of President Bush's major fundraisers are affiliated with companies that stand to benefit from the passage of two central pieces of the administration's legislative agenda: the energy and Medicare bills.

The energy bill provides billions of dollars in benefits to companies run by at least 22 executives and their spouses who have qualified as either "Pioneers" or "Rangers," as well as to the clients of at least 15 lobbyists and their spouses who have achieved similar status as fundraisers. At least 24 Rangers and Pioneers could benefit from the Medicare bill as executives of companies or lobbyists working for them, including eight who have clients affected by both bills.

By its latest count, Bush's reelection campaign has designated more than 300 supporters as Pioneers or Rangers. The Pioneers were created by the Bush campaign in 2000 to reward supporters who brought in at least $100,000 in contributions. For his reelection campaign, Bush has set a goal of raising as much as $200 million, almost twice what he raised three years ago, and established the designation of Ranger for those who raise at least $200,000.

Note: So about 20% of the 300 Pioneers/Rangers grade Bush supporters will benefit directly from the passage of the Medicare and Energy bills before Congress. Ok; but hardly an indictment if 80% do not. The author should have made the argument stronger by including reference to the 80%'s participation in other Republican backed bills, or else accept the fact that the article just reads like a minor-league hatchet job.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Court Allows Number Switch
Appeals Court Rules Against Delaying Number Portability
By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 22, 2003; Page E01

A federal appeals court yesterday refused to delay a plan to allow customers to switch their home telephone numbers to cell phones beginning Monday, but said it would consider the objections of local phone companies next week.

A similar rule also scheduled to go into effect Monday would allow customers to keep their phone numbers when switching wireless carriers. That rule faced a challenge from a group of four rural phone companies who sought a delay, but late yesterday the court denied that petition. "We're pleased that consumers will have the freedom to transfer their numbers on Monday as planned," said Richard Diamond, spokesman for the FCC.

AARP Gone Astray
NY Times
Published: November 21, 2003

This is a good bill that will help every Medicare beneficiary," wrote Tom Scully, the Medicare administrator, in a letter to The New York Times defending the prescription drug bill. That's flatly untrue. (Are you surprised?) As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, the bill will force millions of beneficiaries to pay more for drugs, thanks to a provision that cuts off supplemental aid from Medicaid. Poorer recipients may find previously affordable drugs moving out of reach.

That's only one of a number of anti-retiree measures tucked away in the bill. It contains several Trojan horse provisions that are clearly intended to undermine Medicare over time — it will allow private insurers to cherry-pick healthy clients in selected cities, and it will heavily subsidize private plans competing with traditional Medicare. Meanwhile, the bill prohibits Medicare from using its bargaining power to cut drug prices; drug company stocks have soared since the bill's details became public.

Yet the bill has a good chance of passing, thanks to an endorsement from AARP, the retiree advocacy organization, which has already begun an expensive advertising campaign on the bill's behalf. What's going on?

Let's step back a minute. This is a bill with huge implications for the future of Medicare. It's also, at best, highly controversial. One might therefore have expected an advocacy group for retired Americans to take its time in responding — to make sure that major groups of retirees won't actually be hurt, and to poll its members to be sure that they are well informed about what the bill contains and don't object to it.

Instead, AARP has thrown its weight behind an effort to ram the bill through before Thanksgiving. And no, it's not urgent to get the bill passed so retirees can get immediate relief. The plan won't kick in until 2006 in any case, so no harm will be done if the nation takes some time to consider.

Many of AARP's members feel betrayed. The message boards at the organization's Web site have filled up with outraged posts. A number of those posts say something like this: "Now you're just an insurance company." Indeed, that may get to the heart of the matter.

Over the years AARP has become much more than an advocacy and service organization for older Americans. It receives more than $150 million each year in commissions on insurance, mutual funds and prescription drugs sold to its members.

And this Medicare bill is very friendly to insurance and drug companies. Senator John Breaux, one of only two Democrats who participated in negotiations over the bill, takes the controversy as a good sign: "No one got everything they wanted." But as Jonathan Cohn points out in The New Republic, drug and insurance companies got exactly what they wanted: no efforts to limit prices, generous subsidies and lots of additional business. For example, insurance companies that offer an alternative to Medicare will not only be able to pick and choose their customers, but will also get 30 percent more per client than the government spends on the average Medicare recipient.

So do AARP executives support this bill because they hope to share in the bounty? Maybe, but it probably runs deeper than that. Once an advocacy group becomes as much a business as a service organization, its executives are likely to start identifying more with industry interests than with the groups they are supposed to serve.

Thus it may seem odd on the surface that William Novelli, AARP's chief executive, wrote a glowing preface to Newt Gingrich's book on health care reform. After all, Mr. Gingrich has long advocated turning the administration of Medicare over to private companies — an unpopular idea, and also an expensive one (forget the clichés about inefficient government: private companies have much higher overhead than Medicare). But what looks like wasted money to taxpayers and retirees looks like opportunity to private providers. Enough said.

Am I being too cynical? How could I be? In case you haven't noticed, we live in a golden age of pork: the other big piece of legislation marching through Congress, the energy bill, makes the Smoot-Hawley tariff look like a classic of good government.

So it should come as no surprise that Medicare "reform" appears likely to be another triumph for the coalition of the bought-off — a coalition that, sadly, includes AARP.

Twilight of the PC Era?

Some commentators are proclaiming the end of the computer world’s glory days. But more chip power and connectivity might produce the biggest changes yet.
By Steven Levy

Nov. 24 issue — Nicholas Carr seems an unlikely candidate for the technology world’s Public Enemy No. 1. A mild-mannered 44-year-old magazine editor and freelance writer, he’s spent five years laboring for the Harvard Business Review, not exactly a hotbed of bomb-throwers.

But now he finds himself branded a wild-eyed heretic and a threat to the underpinnings of the entire economy. His offense? Penning a 12-page article about the state of information-technology (IT) investment in the corporate world. Why has it jacked up the aggregate blood pressure in Armonk, N.Y., Silicon Valley, Calif., and Redmond, Wash.? Consider the title: “IT Doesn’t Matter.”
Doesn’t matter? Tech consultants have been burned at the stake, even banned from the golf course, for less. Ever since 1979, when Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston invented the electronic spreadsheet—and changed the way people in the business world worked—the unshakable wisdom in the corridors of commerce has been that nothing could possibly matter more than IT.
As personal computers landed on every desk, the Internet connected everything and an army of mobile devices made every shard of data accessible at any time, there seemed no reason to question the equation that a buck spent on technology would result in a bankroll soon thereafter. And with Moore’s Law (which propounds that every 18 months computer power doubles at no extra cost) still going strong, the reigning assumption is that such alchemy will only continue.
Carr begs to differ, claiming, in essence, that the innovations of the last couple of decades have succeeded too well—at least from the point of view of those peddling software. The very ubiquity of computer power makes it unremarkable, he says, and no longer offers a strategic advantage to companies employing it. The big innovations are over, the low-hanging fruit has been picked and “the IT buildout is much closer to its end than its beginning,” he writes. More and more, technology that once seemed unique has now been commoditized, and can be bargained for and bought in bulk like office furniture and paper clips. And in a suggestion that chills the soul of an industry based on first-movers and constant upgrades, he advises companies to spend less. “Follow, don’t lead,” he cautions.
When Carr’s article appeared in May, “it was greeted with horror here [in Palo Alto],” says economist W. Brian Arthur. “It was like saying that Beethoven can’t play piano.” And the outrage continues. Shane Robison, chief strategist of HP, tells of a meeting with corporate information officers on its advisory board last week. “They were wrapped around the axle by that article,” he says. Peter Godfrey, the CTO of 3M, has a typical response: “It’s utter nonsense—so far from the truth that it’s laughable.”
During Microsoft’s analyst meeting last summer, Bill Gates was only the first of a parade of executives who, before PowerPointing their plans for an innovation-studded future, felt compelled to issue a Soviet-style repudiation of Carr-think. (“Hogwash!” cried CEO Steve Ballmer.) But Gates and the rest know that it isn’t just the word processor (on an iMac!) of a lone bespectacled observer that he has to worry about. Carr’s complaint is only one sign that a dangerous idea is afoot in the land, a philosophy of “good enough” when it comes to high tech. In a number of ways, the perpetual Saturday-night blowout in the tech world suddenly looks like Sunday Morning Coming Down. Here are some dispiriting signs:
Spending nose dives. The bleak economy has battered budgets everywhere, and tech buyers are getting by with less. In the post-bubble era, “there’s a ‘we won’t get fooled again’ ” attitude, says Gary Beach, publisher of CIO magazine. A report by a Forrester researcher says the dismal spending trend isn’t supposed to improve through 2004. And the question that really terrifies tech vendors was asked by Bill Joy, then chief scientist at Sun, at last winter’s World Economic Forum in Davos: “What if the reality is that people have already bought most of the stuff they want to own?”
Trouble in PC-land. While consumers have found some reasons to buy new PCs, the corporate world has less incentive. “There’s never been such a gap between the IT world and the consumer,” says Ray Ozzie, CEO of Groove Networks. “In the corporate world, the bosses want to lock down the desktop so you can’t install or change anything. But at home the same users can hook up cameras and music devices, and find new uses for their PCs.” Meanwhile, PC makers are increasingly hedging their bets by selling more profitable electronics devices like TVs, cameras and digital jukeboxes.
High-tech dark side. No one disputes the benefits of technology. But people have learned that all too often the value of tech comes with an unwelcome downside. The biggest problem is security and disaster recovery, which that same Forrester report listed as the No. 1 priority for IT departments. It’s an expensive, labor-intensive pursuit that does nothing for productivity, but does keep the systems going. In fact, our reliance on virus-prone computers is itself a scary proposition: what would be the consequence of an Internet blackout? Another dark-side plague is spam. The time spent deleting all the come-ons makes you question the value of e-mail itself.
Is that all there is? We’ve had it drilled into us that we should love the increased productivity of high tech. But technology has enabled companies to eliminate jobs or smoothly outsource them to cheap labor in distant lands. And high-tech connectivity makes us available to our employers at any time of day, at any location. “For many people, the productivity is not apparent,” says Edward Tenner, author of “Why Things Bite Back.” “Despite technology, they’re not working shorter hours for more pay. They ask, ‘What does productivity mean for me?’ Certainly there’s been no increase in self-reported happiness.”
But while the “end of the PC era” thinking seems to have hit a nerve (and launched a healthy re-examination of where we are in relation to our digital tools) there’s another, less dour way of looking at things. Every wave of innovation—the microchip, the PC explosion, the Internet boom—has built on those that came before. And every step of the way, technology touches more people, more deeply. It’s a little ridiculous to insist that the breakthroughs are over—it’s actually easier for an act of genius to change everything. For example, a widespread penetration of the Internet, along with more powerful computers with lots of space on their disk drives, set the stage for 19-year-old college freshman Shawn Fanning to shock the world with his peer-to-peer file-sharing program, Napster. In turn, the unfettered party that followed help spread broadband even more widely, sold more computers, kick-started the digital music-player trade and, oh, almost shut down the entertainment industry. Putting piracy aside, the tech world is only beginning to exploit the legal uses of P2P—which in turn will create an environment for more innovations.
That’s why the more contemplative people inside the industry view this moment as an opportunity to take stock, but certainly not a fadeout for dizzying technological change. “I’ve been hearing about the end of innovation since the 386 chip [more than 20 years ago],” says Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s chief technology officer. “But we’re not about to go backwards.” Nick Donofrio, senior VP of IBM, concurs. “Our point of view is that we’ll see six magnitudes of improvement in the next 35 years,” he says.
Even Mitch Kapor, whose Open Source Applications Foundation is built on the premise that today’s high-priced software applications will one day be cheap or free, considers it absurd to imagine the end of big innovations. “Is our software so great now that it can’t be radically improved?” he asks.
So, what are the emerging innovations? Some of them don’t really sound earth-shattering, but they get CIOs excited: Web services that promise to speed the information flow through a company and eliminate delays in the supply chain. (We’ll leave the details to CIO magazine.) One new technology promises to send shock waves through corporate America and eventually alter the lives of consumers: radio-frequency identification, or RFID. The ability to put very cheap sensors on products and track them from manufacture to the consumer—and eventually tag all items so people can keep track of their stuff—will cause a lot of changes. (Privacy advocates are already concerned about the ability of snoopers to look inside your shopping bags.) Wal-Mart, a company that’s grown to monster size by embracing technology, is demanding that its suppliers adopt RFID. Developments like these confound Carr’s “Follow, don’t lead” advice. As Microsoft VP Jeff Raikes says, “Who would you rather be—Wal-Mart or Sears?”
Another compelling development is search technology—the success of Google shows that a business can be built on the ability to instantly locate information. As more and more data are warehoused in cheap storage devices, software to mine them will change not only the way businesses work, but the way we learn, archive and remember.
Microsoft itself has, as you might imagine, its own master plan to keep the good times rolling. Next month Bill Gates and his top tech gurus will present a new “core vision” for the company based on what he calls “seamless computing”—a holistic means of using technology that delivers “rich interfaces and new experiences” no matter where you are and what device you use. “It’s all about the power of using advanced software to bring computers into your world, rather than forcing you into theirs,” says Gates. The flagship for the seamless-computing effort is the next operating system, code-named Longhorn, due to arrive in 2006.
Carr and other proponents of the twilight era have performed a service in puncturing some of the starry-eyed and self-serving cant of industry insiders. But the smart people who buy technology know that sooner or later, something will come along that compels them to bust their budget. Chances are that at this very moment there’s some unknown geek making a breakthrough that corporations everywhere will have to understand and utilize—or else choke in the dust of discarded motherboards. And then we’ll know, beyond a doubt, how much IT matters.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

For a more in-depth look at the pending legislation on Prescription Drug Benefit/Medicare 'adjustments' visit a website devoted to Medicare. And please note, that while the AARP Executives have endorsed the pending legislation, and financed TV ads in support of it, they have not seen the 1,000 plus page document yet. It seems these August Members still have not learned a lesson from their 1976 encounter with politicians over Medicare coverage.

Also, an examination of the AARP corporate financials illustrate another probable explanation for their quick support of this legislation.

Rule Britannia:
Nov. 18, 2003

The White House asked British authorities to give U.S. special agents and snipers immunity if they shot protestors or other civilians during the president's visit to Great Britain. That was one of the many demands the White House made in preparation for the president's visit. Others were permission to close the Tube network, the use of U.S. air force planes and helicopters and the shipping in of battlefield weaponry to use against rioters. In the case of the accidental shooting of a protester, the Brits said no--the Americans in President Bush's protection squad will face justice in a British court as would any other visitor.

47 Currency Traders Are Indicted on Fraud Charges
NY Times
Published: November 19, 2003

Forty-seven currency traders were indicted today on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and securities fraud for what prosecutors said were wide-ranging crimes involving nearly every level of foreign-exchange trading.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Novell says SuSE buy perfectly legal
Dated: Tuesday, November 18 2003 @ 12:22 PM PST
Author: ByteEnable

PROVO, Utah Nov. 18, 2003 — (LinuxElectrons) Novell has seen the November 18 InfoWorld article in which SCO CEO Darl McBride refers to a supposed non-compete agreement between Novell and SCO. Mr. McBride's characterization of the agreements between Novell and SCO is inaccurate. There is no non-compete provision in those contracts, and the pending acquisition of SUSE LINUX does not violate any agreement between Novell and SCO.

Novell has received no formal communication from SCO on this particular issue. Novell understands its rights under the contracts very well, and will respond in due course should SCO choose to formally pursue this issue.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Funds and Games
NY Times
Published: November 18, 2003

You're selling your house, and your real estate agent claims that he's representing your interests. But he sells the property at less than fair value to a friend, who resells it at a substantial profit, on which the agent receives a kickback. You complain to the county attorney. But he gets big campaign contributions from the agent, so he pays no attention.

That, in essence, is the story of the growing mutual fund scandal. On any given day, the losses to each individual investor were small — which is why the scandal took so long to become visible. But if you steal a little bit of money every day from 95 million investors, the sums add up. Arthur Levitt, the former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, calls the mutual fund story "the worst scandal we've seen in 50 years" — and no, he's not excluding Enron and WorldCom. Meanwhile, federal regulators, having allowed the scandal to fester, are doing their best to let the villains get off lightly.

Unlike the cheating real estate agent, mutual funds can't set prices arbitrarily. Once a day, just after U.S. markets close, they must set the prices of their shares based on the market prices of the stocks they own. But this, it turns out, still leaves plenty of room for cheating.

One method is the illegal practice of late trading: managers let favored clients buy shares after hours. The trick is that on some days, late-breaking news clearly points to higher share prices tomorrow. Someone who is allowed to buy on that news, at prices set earlier in the day, is pretty much assured of a profit. This profit comes at the expense of ordinary investors, who have in effect had part of their assets sold off at bargain prices.

Another practice takes advantage of "stale prices" on foreign stocks. Suppose that a mutual fund owns Japanese stocks. When it values its own shares at 4 p.m., it uses the closing prices from Tokyo, 14 hours earlier. Yet a lot may have happened since then. If the news is favorable for Japanese stocks, a mutual fund that holds a lot of those stocks will be underpriced, offering a quick profit opportunity for someone who buys shares in the fund today and unloads those shares tomorrow. This isn't illegal, but a mutual fund that cared about protecting its investors would have rules against such rapid-fire deals. Indeed, many funds do have such rules — but they have been enforced only for the little people.

In some cases fund managers traded for their own personal gain. In other cases hedge funds, which represent small numbers of wealthy investors, were allowed to enrich themselves. In return, it seems, they found ways to reward the managers. You make us rich, we'll make you rich, and the middle-class investors who trusted us with their money will never know what happened.

And there's probably more. During last year's corporate scandals, each major company that came under the spotlight turned out to have engaged in some original scams. By analogy, it's a good guess that the mutual fund industry was cheating its clients in other ways that haven't yet come to light. Stay tuned.

Oh, and about that corrupt county attorney: last year it seemed, for a while, that corporate scandals — and the obvious efforts by the administration and some members of Congress to head off any close scrutiny of executive evildoers — would become a major political issue. But the threat was deftly parried: a few perp walks created the appearance of reform, a new S.E.C. chairman replaced the lamentable Harvey Pitt, and then we were in effect told to stop worrying about corporate malfeasance and focus on the imminent threat from Saddam's W.M.D.

Now history is repeating itself. The S.E.C. ignored warnings about mutual fund abuses, and had to be forced into action by Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general. Having finally brought a fraud suit against Putnam Investments, the S.E.C. was in a position to set a standard for future prosecutions; sure enough, it quickly settled on terms that amount to a gentle slap on the wrist. William Galvin, secretary of the commonwealth of Massachusetts — who is investigating Putnam, which is based in Boston — summed it up: "They're not interested in exposing wrongdoing; they're interested in giving comfort to the industry."

I wonder what they'll use to distract us this time?

Subject: Grandma's House
Author Unknown

Grandma's House

   Everyone was seated around the table as the food was being served. When little Jonathan received his plate, he started eating right away. "Jon, wait until we say our prayer," his mother reminded him.

"I don't have to," the little boy replied. "Of course you do," his mother insisted, "we say a prayer before eating at our house." "That's at our house," Logan explained, "but this is Grandma's house and she knows how to cook.

Pres. Bush grants unprecedented interview to England's Sun Newspaper.
NY Times Nov. 17th, 2003

Bush, meanwhile, has given no solo interviews this year to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Time or Newsweek. And he hasn't given an exclusive interview in his entire presidency to the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe and dozens of other major publications.

Note: But Rupert Murdock doesn't own these does he, and can the interview be hard-headed? The interview was conducted in Washington by the Sun's political editor, Trevor Kavanagh, who on Monday penned an article titled "Bush Shows Tax Cuts Can Boost Economy." interview in the Sun about the US Economy to be published Tuesday on page three. Sounds right up there with the Sun's Page Three Standard Topic. Boobs !!

A Remembrance of Jonestown:

On November 18th, 1978, 913 followers of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple committed a mass suicide in northern Guyana at a site called, Jonestown. An examination of the Temple cannot omit the question of why so many folks would commit suicide in the name of their new faith (or at the behest of a single man). Jones, apparently, saw the suicide as a revolutionary act, and in the last years of the Temple, an emphasis on religious ideas, particularly those of mainstream Christianity, was replaced by an emphasis on the political nature of the group.

The 25th Year Silver Anniversary Jonestown Memorial Service "Remembering to Remember the 913 Lives Lost At Jonestown

November 18, 2003 @ 11:00 AM
Evergreen Cemetery
6450 Camden Ave

Court to rule on 'enemy combatant' label
Christian Science Monitor
Posted: Monday, November 17, 5:35pm EST

A federal appeals judge said Monday it would be "a sea change" in the Constitution to allow the Bush administration to designate a US citizen suspected in an alleged dirty bomb plot as an enemy combatant. In a critical showdown between the government and civil rights lawyers, two members of a three-judge federal panel seemed hesitant to embrace the government's reasoning for why Jose Padilla, 33, should be held indefinitely without access to a lawyer and without being charged.

Padilla, a Muslim, is accused of plotting with Al Qaeda to detonate a "dirty" bomb," which uses conventional explosives to disperse radioactive materials. The former Chicago gang member was taken into custody in May 2002, and has spent most of the time since then in a naval brig in Charleston, S.C. In the two-hour hearing before the appeals panel Monday, Deputy Solicitor General Paul D. Clement suggested that the urgency of the war against terrorism necessitated such moves.

"Al Qaeda made the battlefields the United States and they've given every indication they're trying to make the United States the battlefield again," he said. But Judge Barrington D. Parker Jr. said he believed the power to designate a US citizen as an enemy combatant rested with Congress, rather than the president.

Giving such power to the executive branch with only limited review by the courts, he said, would be "a sea change in the constitutional life of this country and ... unprecedented in civilized society." Said Judge Rosemary S. Pooler, another member of the panel: "If, in fact, the battlefield is the United States, I think Congress has to say that, and I don't think they have yet." Later, she added, "As terrible as 9/11 was, it didn't repeal the Constitution."

Monday, November 17, 2003

School vouchers to surface in massive spending bill

BEN FELLER, AP Education Writer Monday, November 17, 2003
LA Times
(11-17) 13:45 PST WASHINGTON (AP) --

Republican Senate leaders plan to force a vote this week on the nation's first federally funded school voucher experiment, tucking the program into broader spending legislation that would be politically difficult for Democrats to block. With the Senate working this week to finish business for the year, the GOP majority is moving to an expected approach: fold the voucher plan and the capital city budget into an enormous spending bill for education, agriculture, housing and many other areas. The move would likely force Democrats to accept vouchers or reject the budgets of entire agencies.

The strategy, confirmed by congressional aides and lobbyists familiar with House and Senate negotiations, is expected to lead to a vote by Friday.

Critics, who include the teachers unions and some school officials, say vouchers strip money from public schools and funnel it to private schools that face little accountability for improving achievement. "The voucher proponents have been reduced to hiding vouchers into a large, omnibus spending package because they couldn't pass the matter in the Senate," said Joan Wodiska, lobbyist for the National School Boards Association. "This shouldn't be railroaded into law."

The Abercrombie Christmas Field Guide Quarterly "Sex Scandal"

The instigator of the "Abercrombie & Finch Christmas Field Guide Quarterly" sex scandal, one Kevin McCullough who writes for the WorldNetDaily, and as a commentator on WMCA, likes to present himself as a "Winner of the Marconi and Tesla Broadcast Awards"; but can more accurately and readily be identified by proximity to his sycophants: Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Coulter as "truth seekers" for the Christian Right, rather than in any way related to electronic engineering.

Marconi and Tesla were geniuses of the first order; but Mr. McCullough has a divinity degree, not an IEEE related degree. At best, he received an award for being an on-air personality, not for inventing the radio, radar, logic gates, AC current, etc.

Mr. McCullough has already shown, in his articles about Ed Asner, that he has a problem with the veracity of the quotes he ascribes to others. In his A&F diatribe he fails to notice that the Abecrombie & Finch Quarterly is marketed and provided to adults over eighteen years of ago only, according to the A&F Corporate Offices. McCullough leads off in his rant that the Quarterly is being made available to 7-14 year olds. Absent the age issue, his commentary is almost meaningless as a call to action for those offended by what he describes, in detail of course, about the sexual promiscuity of the people in the Quarterly.

Mature, in the US, means over the age of eighteen. At which age one can serve in the US Military, buy alcohol in some States, be tried as an adult in legal proceedings, be held accountable for their actions in a court of law, vote, obtain a drivers license, and be married in most States. If these same "adults" want to look at suggestive or even pornographic material it is perfectly legal for them to do so. If Mr. McCullough has a problem with that he can address it by reference to biblical teachings if he wishes; but he is way off base trying to urge parental boycotts of A&F based on the availablity of suggestive material in a clothing circular or magazine.

Go after Hustler, Playboy, Maxim, or even Vanity Fair, (who had Demi nude on the cover), when she was eight months pregnant. What about all the other suggestive materials on the news stands, Calvin Klein ads, Madonna and Spears lyrics, TV & Radio shows that concentrate on sex matters, and even discussions between parents and children about sexual behavior.

Would any moderately sane parent wait until their child was eighteen before discussing sexual activities with them? By their actions, the Christian Right shows their true nature which is completely at odds with the goal of education. They rant and rave about: "do not do xyz because we elders know it to be a bad thing/not what you should be doing/etc" rather than to encourage the attainment of a critical facility, a capacity to research information and weight the merits, errors, and limitations of arguments.

Keeping pornography away from children IS worthwhile, beneficial, and a lofty goal. Keeping it away from adults by edicts, boycotts, raids, slander, and mob rule is not.


Washington, DC - Finalists for the National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Radio Awards competition have been selected.

Established in 1989 and named after inventor and Nobel Prize winner, Guglielmo Marconi, the Marconi Awards are given to radio stations and outstanding on-air personalities to recognize excellence in radio. An independent task force selected finalists in 19 categories. Ballots will be sent to members of the NAB Marconi Radio Awards Selection Academy in August. The ballots are sent to KPMG

Statement by AARP CEO Bill Novelli on Medicare Legislation Proposal

November 16, 2003
AARP is hopeful that the recently announced agreement in principle will result in adding a much-needed prescription drug benefit in Medicare. While we have yet to review actual language, we are encouraged by the conference committee members' efforts. The willingness of the committee members to move toward common ground by further reducing the scope of the private market competition test is an important step.

Note: We suggest you keep tuned to this, as there has been a tendency by the Legislature to initially propose one rule, and later come out with a law that does something entirely different.

Clergy Group to Counter Conservatives
NY Times
Published: November 17, 2003

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 — In an effort to counter the influence of conservative Christian organizations, a coalition of moderate and liberal religious leaders is starting a political advocacy organization to mobilize voters in opposition to Bush administration policies.

The nonprofit organization, the Clergy Leadership Network, plans to formally announce its formation on Friday and will operate from an expressly religious, expressly partisan point of view. The group cannot, under Internal Revenue Service guidelines, endorse political candidates, and it will have no official ties to the Democratic Party.

Kennedy vows fight over GOP drug bill
Warns proposal is threat to Medicare
By Stephen J. Glain and Susan Milligan, Globe Staff, 11/17/2003

WASHINGTON -- Senator Edward M. Kennedy said yesterday that he would fight a Republican-crafted prescription drug bill, which he said would undercut Medicare and threaten the future of the 38-year-old entitlement.

The Massachusetts Democrat said the deal hammered out by Republican leaders Saturday night to dramatically expand and revamp Medicare and subsidize prescription drug coverage for seniors "won't pass the Senate." The agreement, Kennedy said yesterday morning on CBS's "Face the Nation" is "basically a slush fund" for the country's insurance and pharmaceuticals industries.

Kennedy's remarks suggested he might filibuster debate on the bill, but he didn't say so directly. For years, the Massachusetts lawmaker has supported prescription drug coverage for the elderly, but he has insisted he will not back a bill he believes undermines Medicare. Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota and the Senate minority leader, also criticized the plan, which he said "keeps drug prices high, causes 2 to 3 million retirees to lose drug coverage."

The Medicare package would expand benefits by some $400 billion over 10 years for the nation's 40 million Medicare patients, a cornerstone commitment of President Bush's 2000 campaign. The Republican agreement also calls for a large role in Medicare for private health insurers and health-care providers, which some lawmakers say is vital to preserve affordable treatment and which others condemn as an opening gambit to privatize the program.

The bill is supported by Bush -- who is under pressure to deliver a health-care reform bill, as he prepares his reelection bid -- as well as the health-care industry. A complex of special interests, including the powerful AARP and several doctors' groups, have also praised the bill.

At the heart of the dispute over the House version is its emphasis on market forces to reshape Medicare. House leaders say such an approach is necessary to accommodate the burden of an older population, which is expected to increase dramatically in the next decade as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age and the costs of the drug benefits kick in. Democrats and some Republicans are worried that private health-care plans could dramatically weaken Medicare -- historically a universal benefit offered to all seniors, rich and poor -- by tempting many beneficiaries away with low rates.

Last week, 44 senators, enough to sustain a possible filibuster, sent a letter to Republican leaders objecting to the involvement of private insurance companies. Among them was Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, who said in a statement that she was "deeply concerned" about the consequences of allowing private companies into the Medicare system.

The initiative, according to Snowe's statement "does not establish specifically how this policy will be implemented or how it will protect those seniors who rely on the traditional Medicare system for their insurance coverage." Nonetheless, many lawmakers could be reluctant to vote against a prescription drug bill just before an election year. Because they control both chambers of Congress and the White House, Republicans would have to struggle to explain why they could not pass a bill that makes prescription drugs available cheaply. Democrats, for their part, would find it precarious to filibuster a bill supported by AARP and its allied groups.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Democrats Out of Step in South
Los Angeles Times
By John Johnson, Times Staff Writer

Once a stronghold, the region was swept by Bush in 2000. Many voters say the party has strayed too far from the mainstream. The writer offers these observations:

1. "Not rich enough" to be a Republican, he said, he's a Ralph Nader man who can't understand what's happened to the Democratic Party in the South.

2. "Now they're preoccupied "with all this negative stuff," he said, meaning the gay rights movement. Hudson doesn't mind people living their lives the way they want in private, but "they don't have to be out there having parades."

3.- about wanting to appeal to guys with Confederate flags on their pickups...

4. Confederate flag wavers are "not a group that votes very much of the time. Or if they did, they wouldn't think that a New England Democrat would represent them," But Dean's broader point, that the Democrats need to find a way to reach out to working-class white voters, is on target.

5. The truth is in the numbers. President Bush defeated Al Gore, 57% to 41%, in South Carolina's 2000 presidential voting on his way to sweeping the South.

6. The Republicans... have exploited the worst fears of whites by opposing Democratic efforts to achieve racial justice. "What changed in this state is race," he said. "They've painted the Democrats as the black party."

7.Some whites...are troubled by the way Democrats seem to be courting one special interest group or another. If the issue isn't gay pride, it's abortion rights.

8. That's not to say no one here is struggling to make ends meet. It's just that there are not enough low-wage earners to fuel class rage, Erwin said.

9. Although unemployment in South Carolina is up a tick or two to 7%,...there's not enough pain out there right now to threaten Bush in South Carolina next year.

10. Rather than rail against Bush policies, however, people sipping beers at the Blind Horse Saloon were more inclined to blame Northerners for their woes.

11. Sharon Blake, 59, moved here from Connecticut with her husband two years ago to retire. A onetime liberal-leaning social worker, she said she has grown more conservative with age. Still, Blake said, she had to adjust to some of the things that make the South unique, like the huge influence of religion here. "There's got to be 500 Baptist churches in Greenville," she said.

12. When you start talking politics to people in coffee shops and bars, you'll still hear complaints that Republicans are for the rich. But the passion starts to boil when talk turns to gay pride parades, civil unions or outlawing religion in the classroom while certain Hollywood movies depict a moral wasteland.

13. "They're not for the working man anymore," Jerry, who refused to give his last name, said of the Democrats.

14. To many here, Democrats have become a party of scolding parents demanding that the South change its nasty habits. That just makes some want to dig in their heels more.

15. "They ought to leave that flag alone," said Bohler.

Bizmarts says:

"From all indications I've seen and heard lately, Southerners see Republicans as: "for the rich", "overly evangelical", "not beholding to minority social groups", "for the nuclear family", "tough on crime", "morally sound", and "predominately white prosperous professionals", "oriented toward frontiersman concerns", "favorably disposed toward the US Military", and "a lot like me".

They see Democrats as "morally relativistic", "pushy on Gay/Lesbian issues", "overly concerned with minorities", "snobbishly Northeastern", "either a socialist or a low-life grifter", "concerned with things that don't matter", "not patriotic", "whiny", "female-centric concerns", "wanting to take assets from "productive people; ie, me" and give to others who don't deserve it", "not friendly toward religion or the nuclear family", and "not good stewards of resources".

The Democratic achievements are viewed as "something that happened in the past", and Southerners believe "nothing bad is going to happen" to Medicaid, Medicare, the US Dollar, Main Street, America's place in the World, Financial Markets, or with regard to crime and drugs because "our current system is taking pretty good care of these things now".

Professional class concerns about pre-emptive war, insider trading, corporate dishonesty, budget deficits, unilateral interventions in foreign countries opposed by the World community, abrogation of treaties, dismantilation of the social safety net, environmental degradation not being opposed by the Federal Governement, extensive suburbanization of the country, static and declining fertility rates for native born citizens, religious jingoism, the destructive role of money in politics, limitations and repeal of constitutional laws and practices, and declining citizen participation in community activities all do not register as being important concerns.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

The Trojan Horse
NY Times
Published: November 14, 2003

What are we going to do about Medicare? That should be the subject of an open national debate. But right now Congressional leaders are trying to settle the question by stealth, with legislation that purports to be doing something else.

An aging population and rising medical costs will eventually require the nation to provide Medicare with more money or to cut benefits, or both. Meanwhile, there are demands for a new benefit: a gradual shift away from hospital treatment and toward the use of drugs has turned the program's failure to cover prescription drugs into a gaping hole.

A Congressional conference is now trying to agree on prescription drug legislation. But beware of politicians bearing gifts — the bill will contain measures that have nothing to do with prescription drugs, and a lot to do with hostility to Medicare as we know it. Indeed, it may turn out to be a Trojan horse that finally allows conservative ideologues, who have unsuccessfully laid siege to Medicare since the days of Barry Goldwater, to breach its political defenses.

Alabama Panel Ousts Judge Over Ten Commandments Monument
Published: November 14, 2003
NY Times

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Nov. 13 — A special ethics panel on Thursday ousted Alabama's chief justice, Roy S. Moore, who was lionized by the religious right for his refusal to remove a titanic monument of the Ten Commandments he had put in the lobby of the state judicial building.

The head of the ethics panel, William Thompson, said he and his colleagues were given little choice because "the chief justice placed himself above the law" by defying a federal court order to remove the monument.

Do You Know Who I Am?

A crowded United Airlines flight was canceled. A single agent was rebooking a long line of inconvenienced travelers. Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk. He slapped his ticket on the counter and said "I HAVE to be on this flight and it has to be FIRST CLASS."

The agent replied, "I am sorry, sir. I'll be happy to try to help you, but I've got to help these folks first, and I'm sure we'll be able to work something out." The passenger was unimpressed. He asked loudly, so that the passengers behind him could hear, "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO I AM?"

Without hesitating, the agent smiled and grabbed her public address microphone, "May I have your attention
please, "she began, her voice heard clearly throughout the terminal. We have a passenger here at Gate 14 WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHO HE IS. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to Gate 14."

With the folks behind him in line laughing hysterically, the man glared at the United agent, gritted his teeth and
swore "F**k You!". Without flinching, she smiled and said, "I'm sorry, sir, but you'll have to get in line for that too".

Which of the most prominent public figures around today served in the US Military?

Republican Party Leaders Who Did Not Serve List:

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert - did not serve.
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey - did not serve.
House Majority Leader Tom Delay - did not serve
House Majority Whip Roy Blunt - did not serve
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist - did not serve
Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-KY - did not serve
Rick Santorum, R-PA, third ranking Republican in the Senate - did not serve.
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott - did not serve.
VP Dick Cheney - did not serve.
Att'y Gen. John Ashcroft - did not serve
Jeb Bush, Florida Governor - did not serve.
Karl Rove - did not serve
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich - did not serve
Phil Gramm - did not serve
Senator Don Nickles - did not serve
Senator Richard Shelby - did not serve
Senator Jon Kyl - did not serve
Senator Tim Hutchinson - did not serve
Senator Saxby Chambliss - did not serve
Rep. JC Watts - did not serve
Eliot Abrams - did not serve
Paul Wolfowitz - did not serve
Richard Perle - did not serve
Rudy Giuliani - did not serve
Michael Bloomberg - did not serve
George Pataki - did not serve
John Engler - did not serve
Linsey Graham - did not serve

Pundits, Pros, and Preachers Who Did Not Serve List:
George Will - did not serve
Chris Matthews - did not serve
Bill O'Reilly - did not serve
Bill Bennett - did not serve
Pat Buchanan - did not serve
Rush Limbaugh - did not serve
John Wayne - did not serve
Pat Robertson - did not serve
Kenneth Starr - did not serve
Antonin Scalia - did not serve
Clarence Thomas - did not serve
Ralph Reed - did not serve

And those who did serve:
Senator John McCain - USN
Gen. Colin Powell - USA
Pres. Jimmy Carter - USN
VP Walter Mondale - USA
Senator John Glenn - USAF
Pres. George Herbert Walker Bush - USAF
Tom Ridge - USA
Senator Ted Stevens - USAF
Pres. Gerald Ford - USN
Senator Strom Thurmond - (Served Unk Branch)
Pres. George W. Bush - NG
Richard Gephardt - NG
Tom Daschle - USAF
Al Gore - USA
Senator Bob Kerrey - USN
Senator John Kerry - USN
Senator Charles Rangel - USA
Senator Ted Kennedy - USA
Senator Tom Harkin - USN
Senator Fritz Hollings - USA
Jesse Ventura - USN
Senator Jim Jeffords - USN

(Veterans Day 2003 Inspired a reconsidered Feb. 2000)

More on the Republican Primary: Feb. 2000 in South Carolina: | Feb. 11, 2000

South Carolina is home to an estimated 400,000 veterans, so Bush and McCain's mad dash for these votes is understandable. As Bush travels around the state, he asks his traveling "Veterans for Bush" team to stand and be honored with applause. That Cronauer lives in Virginia, and Davis in Georgia, doesn't seem to matter. Nor that Bush doesn't seem to know the name of supporter John Baker -- Bush stumbled over identifying the Medal of Honor recipient from Columbia, S.C., -- who's often at hand as well. Bush, a National Guardsman during that era, is eager to at least try to compete with McCain's military cred.

Perhaps too eager. Fresh off his New Hampshire primary loss, Bush held a veterans-related rally in Sumter, S.C., where he was introduced by J. Thomas Burch Jr. Standing on the dais with Bush, Burch said McCain "had the power to help the veterans," but instead he "came home [from Vietnam] and forgot us."

Immediately, the McCain camp returned fire. The campaign released a list of the dozens of legislative efforts McCain has made on behalf of veterans, including laws pertaining to controversial issues like Agent Orange and Gulf War Syndrome, and an investigation into POW/MIAs.

Then the five Vietnam veterans in the Senate -- Max Cleland, D-Ga., Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., John Kerry, D-Mass., Chuck Robb, D-Va. and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., four Democrats and a McCain supporter -- fired off a letter to Bush calling on him to "publicly disassociate" himself from the "false" allegations.

"We believe it is inappropriate to associate yourself with those who would impugn John McCain's character and so maliciously distort his record on these critical issues," the letter said.

Other letters followed, from seven other former POWs who served with McCain, from South Carolina legislators and so on.

Bush refused to do so, however, responding that Burch was "entitled to his opinion."

On Tuesday, Medal of Honor recipient Michael Thornton, a former Navy SEAL and McCain supporter -- born and raised in Spartanburg, S.C., and now a Texan -- confronted Bush on the campus of North Greenville College. Bush still didn't back down.

Fueled by half a tank of outrage and another half of good ol' fashioned politics, a small band of "Veterans for McCain" have thus been following Bush around the state, protesting Burch's comments and Bush's refusal to repudiate them. Outside a Bush event Wednesday evening at a National Guard Armory in Gaffney, I spoke to a few of them, including Thornton.

"I flew in because I was outraged by the statement Thomas Burch made," Thornton says. "I told [Bush] he needed to apologize. He said John McCain was a great American and a great veteran -- but he doesn't control what Burch says. But the man was standing up on the platform, elbow to elbow with him! He shook his hand!"

What did Thornton say to Bush after that?

"I said, 'Yessir, but you should be responsible. You should say, "This is not true," or apologize.' He said, 'Well, I have no control over what people say.' And I said, 'Sir, your father wouldn't have stood for that and you shouldn't either.' And after that, he just didn't say nothing."

Another "Veteran for McCain" chirped in. "Here's a guy [Burch] who trashed George's father!" shouted Col. Philip Butler, an Army veteran who was once chief of staff at Fort Jackson, S.C.

Butler said he couldn't believe Bush would associate himself with a man who was -- according to the letter to Bush from the five Senate Vietnam combat veterans -- "a leading critic of President Reagan's and your father's policies on POW/MIA issues."

And in 1988, the veterans group Burch chairs, the National Vietnam Veterans Coalition, slammed then-Vice President George Bush for selecting a National Guardsman, Dan Quayle, as his running mate.

"We believe Bush and his people are sandbagging on the Quayle issue," said NVVC's then-vice chairman, Jerry Kiley, to the Associated Press in 1988. "The issue is how he got in [to the Guard]. By doing that, Quayle bumped somebody off that list, and it's likely the person he bumped went to Vietnam. But what makes this worse is here's a hawk, a man clamoring to send our boys into battle but who did not have the courage of his own convictions to go himself."

That was NVVC's position in 1988. And that, of course, was long before Bush's son -- a National Guardsman who also managed to avoid serving in Vietnam -- decided that Burch was an endorsement that could help him get in good with South Carolina veterans.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Published on Monday, February 21, 2000
The South Carolina Primary:
Bush Wins, America Loses
by Dr Nancy Snow

Lee Atwater must be smiling somewhere. The originator of the establishment South Carolina firewall, he was the 1988 Bush campaign manager who made his celebrity from happy-go-lucky hatchet politics. Favorite pastimes were intentionally mispronouncing the names of Bush opponents’ Cuomo and Dukakis and going negative for the entertainment value. Atwater’s close friend was none other than George W. Bush, a pairing the Washington Post reported as a “giggling, laughing, Beavis and Butt-head relationship.”

It wasn’t until Atwater was near death in 1991 at age 40 from a brain tumor that he expressed regrets over his negative techniques.

In Election 2000, the ghost of Lee Atwater is very much alive, but this time it’s on steroids. Lesson numero uno to present and future political science majors: (The lowest of) negative campaigns work. Lesson number two: political language has lost all meaning.

First, a disclaimer. I spent the last ten days of the South Carolina Primary observing and occasionally volunteering my time for the John McCain campaign. I am a registered independent from New Hampshire on semester’s leave from my teaching position in political science at New England College and as executive director of Common Cause in New Hampshire. I went to South Carolina buoyed by McCain’s huge victory in New Hampshire (despite being outspent by Bush 5:1) and to see how his messages of campaign reform and `inspiring a generation of young Americans to causes greater than their own self-interest’ would play. I came away crestfallen at the despicable campaign tactics the Bush campaign and its allies used to pull out a 11 percent victory margin on Saturday, this after both McCain and Bush had run positive campaigns in New Hampshire and referred to each other as friends.

There’s no doubt that McCain’s 19 percent victory over Bush in New Hampshire caused a panic rethink strategy in the Bush team. Their response was to drop the “compassionate conservative” that had failed Bush in New Hampshire and wage a nonstop barrage of negative attacks to kill the messenger McCain. Nothing was too low to rule out. The nadir moment occurred February 3rd when a smiling Bush stood in front of television cameras as a fringe Vietnam veteran, Thomas Burch, denounced McCain as a POW who “came home and forgot us.” Governor Bush knows Burch well. The same Thomas Burch had accused President Bush of abandoning veterans during his administration, but alas, all old wounds must have been healed in time to neutralize McCain’s war hero factor.

Push polling by Bush activists was standard fare and leaflets distributed by Bush allies described McCain as “pro-abortion” and “the fag candidate” (because McCain was the only Republican presidential candidate to meet with the gay Republican men’s group, Log Cabin Republicans). One particularly offensive missive distributed via the Internet and to the press was from the Christian Fundamentalist Bob Jones University, where Bush had staked his Christian conservative claim one day after the NH Primary. A professor named Richard Hand wrote that McCain “chose to sire children without marriage,” among other hallucinations.

McCain fought back (much like a sailboat might take on a battleship) with a regrettable political ad in which he accused Governor Bush of using campaign tactics that were “twisting the truth like Clinton.” Clinton is the Anti-Christ to conservative Republicans in South Carolina and Bush was able to use the Clinton comparison to his full advantage throughout the campaign. By the weekend of the primary vote, more South Carolinians blamed McCain for going negative than they did Bush, despite the fact that McCain pulled all broadcast political advertisements critical of Governor George Bush in the last week of the campaign and promised that “I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.” (McCain pulled his ads after hearing the story of Donna Duren, who told McCain at a February 10th Spartanburg Town Hall Meeting that her 14-year-old son, who considers McCain his hero, had been push polled and told that McCain was a “liar, cheat, and a fraud.” )

Like Bill Bradley haplessly defending his health care plan too late after Gore spent months using the attack-a-day plan, McCain came across as negative if he said anything on the stump. His resources were no match to Bush’s $3.1 million negative radio and television air war. And Bush kept pouring gasoline onto the fire with ads that said, “John McCain promised a clean campaign, then attacked Governor Bush with misleading ads.” Over a ten-day period, McCain’s unfavorability rating went from 4 percent to 18 percent while Bush’s dropped from 26 percent to 20 percent. On the campaign trail, Bush said, “It’s sad, isn’t it? The true nature of John McCain is evidently coming out.”

Lesson number two: language has lost all meaning in politics. In South Carolina, the 70 million dollar man Bush redefined himself as the “reformer with results” and exit polls among voters identified Bush more often than McCain as a “real reformer.” Bush told CNN after his win that South Carolina voters “responded overwhelmingly for me because I ran a positive campaign, a campaign that clearly enunciated what I want to do.”

McCain’s promise to break the iron triangle of “lobbyists, big money and legislation” was turned on its head in Bush’s victory speech: “They oftentimes talk about an iron triangle in Washington. We’ve got an iron triangle here in South Carolina. And that’s my three co-chairmen.” Make that a virtual Empire of Establishment support.

Ultimately Bush may pay a high price in the general election. One McCain volunteer turned to me while watching the results and said, “You might as well start calling him President Al Gore,” signaling that Bush’s win came on the strength of the religious right. McCain’s political director John Weaver said, “Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are to be congratulated.”

The higher price is the disillusionment the South Carolina primary will cast on those who witnessed it at the ground level. The clean campaign tactics in New Hampshire inspired me. South Carolina reinforces that the low road in American politics is the fastest way to the White House.

Dr. Nancy Snow, Assistant Professor, Political Science at New England College in Henniker, NH , can be reached at

Josiah Bartlett
-Signers of the Declaration

Josiah Bartlett, the first of the New-Hampshire delegation who signed the Declaration of Independence, was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts, in 1729.

Dr. Bartlett's political career began in 1765 with his appointment as a provincial legislator, an office which he filled annually until the revolution. Here he frequently opposed the royal policy. Governor Wentworth, hoping to gain his support, appointed him a magistrate and later, in 1770, to the command of a militia regiment. His staunch support of the cause of the Patriots led to his dismissal from the post of justice of the peace by the Royal Governor and presumably, to the burning of his house.

In 1774, the loss of his house prevented his serving as delegate to the first continental congress, but he was reelected to the second and was present when the Declaration was adopted and signed. As the roll was called from north to south, it was Dr. Bartlett who cast the very first vote for independence on July 4, 1776 as the senior member representing New Hampshire
President Josiah Bartlett: West Wing Episode:

'It was not a spaceship from another planet, just another time. A long since abandoned Soviet satellite, one of its booster rockets didn't fire and it couldn't escape the earths orbit--a sad reminder of a time when two powerful nations challenged each other and then boldly raced into outer space.

What will be the next thing that challenges us . . . ? That makes us work harder and go farther? . . . Surely, we can do it again. As we did in the time when our eyes looked toward the heavens, and with outstretched fingers, we touched the face of God.

President George W. Bush quotes:

"I think anybody who doesn't think I'm smart enough to handle the job is underestimating."
--U.S. News & World Report, April 3, 2000

"Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning"
--Florence, SC, Jan. 11, 2000

"Actually, I -- this may sound a little West Texan to you, but I like it. When I'm talking about -- when I'm talking about myself, and when he's talking about myself, all of us are talking about me."
--Hardball, MSNBC, May 31, 2000

"It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it."
--Reuters, May 5, 2000

"I think we agree, the past is over."
--On his meeting with John McCain, Dallas Morning News, May 10, 2000

"Laura and I really don't realize how bright our children is sometime until we get an objective analysis."
--Meet the Press, April 15, 2000

"I was raised in the West. The west of Texas. It's pretty close to California. In more ways than Washington, D.C., is close to California."
--Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2000

"We want our teachers to be trained so they can meet the obligations; their obligations as teachers. We want them to know how to teach the science of reading. In order to make sure there's not this kind of federal cufflink."
--Fritsche Middle School, Milwaukee, March 30, 2000

"The fact that he relies on facts -- says things that are not factual -- are going to undermine his campaign."
--New York Times, March 4, 2000

"It is not Reaganesque to support a tax plan that is Clinton in nature."
--Los Angeles, Feb. 23, 2000

"I understand small business growth. I was one."
--New York Daily News, Feb. 19, 2000

"How do you know if you don't measure if you have a system that simply suckles kids through?"
--Explaining the need for educational accountability, Beaufort, S.C.,Feb.16, 2000

"The senator has got to understand if he's going to have he can't have it both ways. He can't take the high horse and then claim the low road."
--To reporters in Florence, S.C., Feb. 17, 2000
---(Priceless !!)ed.

"If you're sick and tired of the politics of cynicism and polls and principles, come and join this campaign."
--Hilton Head, S.C., Feb. 16, 2000

"We ought to make the pie higher."
-South Carolina Republican Debate, Feb. 15, 2000

"I've changed my style somewhat, as you know. I'm less, I pontificate less, although it may be hard to tell it from this show. And I'm more interacting with people."
--Meet The Press, Feb. 13, 2000

"I think we need not only to eliminate the tollbooth to the middle class, I think we should knock down the tollbooth."
--Nashua, N.H., as quoted by Gail Collins, New York Times, Feb. 1, 2000

"The most important job is not to be governor, or first lady in my case."
--Pella, Iowa, as quoted in the San Antonio Express News, Jan. 30, 2000"

"This is Preservation Month. I appreciate preservation. It's what you do when you run for president. You gotta preserve."
--Speaking during Perseverance Month at Fairgrounds Elementary School in Nashua, N.H.

"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family."
--Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000

"This is still a dangerous world. It's a world of madmen and uncertainty and potential mental losses."
--At a South Carolina oyster roast; quoted in the Financial Times, Jan.14, 2000

"There needs to be debates, like we're going through. There needs to be townhall meetings. There needs to be travel. This is a huge country."
--Larry King Live, Dec. 16, 1999

"The important question is, How many hands have I shaked?"
--Answering a question about why he hasn't spent more time in New Hampshire; quoted in the New York Times, Oct. 23, 1999

"Keep good relations with the Grecians."
--Quoted in the Economist, June 12, 1999

"I don't remember debates. I don't think we spent a lot of time debating it. Maybe we did, but I don't remember."
--On discussing the Vietnam War as an undergraduate at Yale, in the Washington Post, July 27, 1999

"Put the 'off' button on."
--South Carolina, February 14, 2000

"I did denounce it. I de-I denounced it. I denounced interracial dating. I denounced anti-Catholic bigacy... bigotry."
--Referring to his Bob Jones University visit and the subsequent criticism, Virginia, February 25, 2000

"We believe in opportunity for all Americans: Rich and poor, black and white...."
--From a speech at Bob Jones Univ., in South Carolina, 2/2/00

"We must all hear the universal call to like your neighbor just like you like to be liked yourself."
--George W. Bush puts an interesting twist on Jesus Christ's proverb: "Love thy neighbor." (Quote is from the Financial Times)

"I would have said yes to abortion if only it was right. I mean, yeah it's right. Well no it's not right that's why I said no to it."
--South Carolina, February 14,2000

"My [tax cut] plan is realistic because it avoids meaningless 15-year projections."
--George W. Bush goes to extraordinary lengths to defend his tax cut plan. (Quote is from a Bush speech in Iowa, 12/1/99)

"The fundamental question is: 'Will I be a successful president when it comes to foreign policy?' I will be, but until I'm the president, it's going to be hard for me to verify that I think I'll be more effective."
--New York Times, 7/28/99

"There ought to be limits to freedom"
--at a Press conference at the Texas State House, May 21, 1999, referring to

"We have struggle to not proceed but to preceed to the future of a nation's child."
--Journal Gazette 11/12/00

"My opponent seems to think that Social Security is a federal program. I believe that money is yours and you should be able to invest it yourself."
-The final Presidential debate

"Down in Washington they're playing with Social Security like it's some kind of government program!"
-NBC Nightly News (Date unknown, anyone out there know?)

"The reason we start a war is to fight a war, win a war, thereby causing no more war!"
--The first Presidential debate

"They said, 'You know, this issue doesn't seem to resignate [sic] with the people.' And I said, you know something? Whether it resignates [sic] or not doesn't matter to me, because I stand for doing what's the right thing, and what the right thing is hearing the voices of people who work.
--Portland, Ore., Oct. 31, 2000

"It's your money. You paid for it."
--LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000

"It's important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. It's not only life of babies, but it's life of children living in, you know, the dark dungeons of the Internet.
-Arlington Heights, Ill., Oct. 24, 2000

"If affirmative action means what I just described, what I'm for, then I'm for it."
--The Presidential Debates. St. Louis, Mo., October 18, 2000

"It's going to require numerous IRA agents."
--On Gore's tax plan, Greensboro, N.C., Oct. 10, 2000

"I don't think we need to be subliminable [sic] about the differences between our views on prescription drugs."
--Orlando, Fla., Sept. 12, 2000. He then repeatedly mispronounced the word after his press conference.

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully"
--Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

"Will the highways on the Internet become more few?"
--Concord, N.H., Jan. 29, 2000

"It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas."
--Beaverton, Ore., Sep. 25, 2000

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier...just as long as I'm the dictator..."
--Washington, DC, Dec 18, 2000, during his first trip to Washington as President-Elect

"They misunderestimated me."
--Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000

"That's a chapter, the last chapter of the 20th, 20th, the 21st century that most of us would rather forget. The last chapter of the 20th century. This is the first chapter of the 21st century."
--On the Lewinsky scandal, Arlington Heights, Ill., Oct. 24, 2000"

"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."
—LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000"

"There's a huge trust. I see it all the time when people come up to me and say, 'I don't want you to let me down again.'"
— Boston, Massachusetts, October 3, 2000

"I think if you know what you believe, it makes it a lot easier to answer questions. I can't answer your question"
--Reynoldsburg, Ohio, October 4, 2000

"You teach a child to read and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test."
--February 21, 2001 - President Bush at Townsend Elementary School, touting his education reform plans.

Got That?????

Nov. 11, 2003, 11:23PM
Houston Chronicle
Secret CIA report warns tide turning against U.S.
Top American official in Iraq said to agree
Knight-Ridder Tribune News

WASHINGTON -- A new, top-secret CIA report from Iraq warns that growing numbers of Iraqis are concluding that the U.S.-led coalition can be defeated and are supporting the resistance. The report paints a bleak picture of the political and security situation in Iraq and cautions that the U.S.-led drive to rebuild the country as a democracy could collapse unless corrective actions are taken immediately.

L. Paul Bremer, head of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, who arrived unexpectedly in Washington for strategy sessions on Tuesday, essentially endorsed the CIA's findings, said a senior administration official. The report's bleak tone and Bremer's private endorsement differ sharply with the upbeat public assessments that President Bush, his chief aides and Bremer are giving as part of an aggressive publicity campaign aimed at countering rising anxieties at home over increasing U.S. casualties in Iraq.

Concrete Argument
From Tom Paine Weblog
Nov. 11th, 2003

In the latest example of how right-wing thuggery has been used to block access to safe abortions, a Texas construction company has backed out of a project to build a Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin after concrete suppliers boycotted the job. Building stopped when the San Antonio-based Browning Construction Co. pulled out last week after a boycott was announced by a right-wing coalition of Republicans and religious activists. Subcontractors for Browning Construction Company said they were harassed and feared for their safety.

And today, Planned Parenthood announced that it will serve as its own contractor to build the clinic.The development follows a Texas legislative session hostile to reproductive rights, with two new bills passed that place further restrictions on already stringent state abortion regulations.

U.N. Estimates Israeli Barrier Will Disrupt Lives of 600,000
NY Times
Published: November 12, 2003

JERUSALEM, Nov. 11 — The route for Israel's planned boundary barrier would put nearly 15 percent of West Bank land on the Israeli side and disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, according to a United Nations report released Tuesday.

Where's the Outrage?
By Allan Sloan
Newsweek's Wall Street Editor
Tuesday, November 11, 2003; Page E03

If you're an investment professional who's hell-bent on picking people's pockets, try to follow these simple rules. Get caught when the stock market's rising. Take a little money from a lot of people, so you won't create dramatic, sympathetic victims. Make sure you're doing something so complicated that it takes at least two sentences to explain. And, finally, try not to have Washington connections that will turn your sleazy behavior into a political story.

If you follow all these rules, you don't have to worry about being reviled on the front pages and on TV day after day, the way the likes of Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling of Enron, Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom, and Jack Grubman of Salomon Brothers were. These guys, firmly established as villains, haven't been convicted of anything and, in some cases, not even indicted. But they made a lot of money acting badly while other people lost their life savings. Today, though, mutual fund perps are admitting wrongdoing right and left -- and no one outside the business world knows their names.

Last week produced the first congressional mutual fund hearings, and showed how the fund story hasn't stirred emotions the way Enron did. Fitzgerald's hearing produced a lot of light: Regulators served up the shocking assertion that about half the fund companies they've looked at were breaking rules designed to protect investors.

Even better, Fitzgerald -- who comes from a business family and understands numbers -- managed to explain this scandal in emotional rather than intellectual terms, calling it "the world's biggest skimming operation." That evokes wonderful images of bad guys at casinos, and is exactly right. Because, to cut through the technicalities, fund companies have let a handful of investors skim relatively small amounts of money from millions of other investors.

A major reason you don't hear ordinary investors screaming about these outrages involves nomenclature. When Spitzer got a big hedge fund, Canary Capital, to cop to feathering its own nest at the expense of investors in four mutual fund families, his filings used the term "market timing," which in most contexts (but not this one) is a legitimate and legal investment technique. The Canaries of the world call what they're doing -- taking unfair advantage of mutual fund investors -- market timing because it sounds so much nicer than "skimming" or "stealing" or "looting." Wall Street, after all, is big on euphemisms.

Let's think for a minute about many of the transactions that regulators have described. Well-connected investors get real-time information about what's in mutual funds' portfolios, information that's not available to the public. Then these Connected Ones use that information to make profits. "If it's material, nonpublic and they're trading on it to their advantage, it's insider trading," says Stephen Cutler, director of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Exactly so.

Why aren't regulators and the media using terms like "insider trading"? Because we're trained to be careful and -- don't snicker, now -- we occasionally try to be fair. In this case, though, we've been way too nice.

That could change soon, I think, because we'll learn that some fund-company malefactors were even worse than we thought. And that some of them, not content with their high pay and the profits they skimmed from their own companies' funds, bought and sold securities in anticipation of what their funds would do. That would be "front running," another nice, emotional term. Maybe we'll have an individual villain or two to focus on, finally, rather than an entire diffuse industry.

And who knows? Someone may find a potent political connection between some fund bad guys and the political elite, the way Enron's Lay was linked to George W. Bush through ties of fundraising and mutual back-scratching. Let that happen, and the fund story will leap the species barrier and become a political story. Then, finally, this story will attract the attention it deserves and we'll fix the fund industry. And the villains will get what they deserve: infamy everlasting.

Sloan is Newsweek's Wall Street editor. His e-mail address is

Soros's foundation left 'paralysed' after raid
November 12, 2003

By Sapa-AFP

Moscow - Fifteen years since it started work in post-Soviet Russia, US billionaire financier George Soros's foundation has been "paralysed" after 50 camouflage-clad men seized its Moscow offices and removed computer records and archives. Yekaterina Geniyeva, the head of Soros's Open Society Institute in Russia, told journalists yesterday that the raid, ordered by the building's owner ostensibly because of a dispute over rent, appeared to be politically motivated.

The raid, at about midnight on Thursday, came just days after Soros publicly criticised the jailing of Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky as "persecution" that would force business to submit to the state. The organisation had lost all information on its 1 000 grant recipients, Geniyeva said.

"This means that the work of the Soros foundation is paralysed. We can't work without our financial framework." "I really hope that there is no connection between the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and what happened with our building ... But I cannot rule this out completely. There are too many coincidences: the interview of Soros, the arrest of Khodorkovsky, the seizure of the Soros building and the removal of documents. We do not understand why they were needed.

"The Soros foundation has been stripped bare. There is nothing left but the walls. We will try to resurrect our activities but we cannot be certain when," Geniyeva said. The foundation is involved in promoting civil society and the development of democratic ideas, chiefly in former Soviet bloc countries.

Khodorkovsky, the former boss of oil giant Yukos, has been in jail since October 25 on seven charges including fraud and tax evasion. A Moscow court yesterday turned down an appeal by Khodorkovsky to be released from jail after a two-hour bailhearing that was held behind closed doors, Sapa-AP reported.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

An anti-profiteering amendment to the Iraqui supplemental appropriations bill was stripped out of the bill at the last minute by House Republicans.
The provision — included during the Senate Appropriations Committee markup with unanimous support but removed in conference — would have subjected those who deliberately defrauded the United States or Iraq to jail terms of up to 20 years and costly fines."

Humourous Truths About Government

1. *Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
--Mark Twain

2. *A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
--George Bernard Shaw

3. *Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
--James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

4. *Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.
--Douglas Casey, at Georgetown U.(1992)

5. *I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.
--Will Rogers

6. *If you want government to intervene domestically, you're a liberal. If you want government to intervene overseas, you're a
conservative. If you want government to intervene everywhere, you're a moderate. If you don't want government to intervene
anywhere, you're an extremist.
--Joseph Sobran, Editor of the National Review at one time

7. *Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.
--Pericles (430 B.C.)

8. *No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.
--Mark Twain (1866)

9. *Talk is cheap-except when Congress does it.

10. *The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings.. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.
--Winston Churchill

11. *The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
--Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

12. *There is no distinctly native American criminal class save Congress.
--Mark Twain

13. *What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.
-- Edward Langley, Artist 1928-1995


1. I can see your point, but I still think you're full of s***.
2. I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.
3. How about never? Is never good for you?
4. I see you've set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.
5. I'm really easy to get along with once you people learn to see it my way.
6. I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter.
7. I'm out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message.
8. I don't work here. I'm a consultant.
9. It sounds like English, but I can't understand a damn word you're saying.
10. Ahhh...I see the screw-up fairy has visited us again...
11. I like you. You remind me of myself when I was young and stupid.
12. You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.
13. I have plenty of talent and vision; I just don't give a damn.
14. I'm already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
15. I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.
16. Thank you. We're all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.
17. The fact that no one understands you doesn't mean you're an artist.
18. Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.
19. What am I? Flypaper for freaks!?
20. I'm not being rude. You're just insignificant.
21. It's a thankless job, but I've got a lot of Karma to burn off.
22. Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
23. And your crybaby whiny-assed opinion would be...?
24. Do I look like a people person?
25. This isn't an office. It's Hell with fluorescent lighting.
26. I started out with nothing & still have most of it left.
27. Sarcasm is just one more service we offer.
28. If I throw a stick, will you leave?
29. Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.
30. Whatever kind of look you were going for, you missed.
31. I'm trying to imagine you with a personality.
32. A cubicle is just a padded cell without a door.
33. Can I trade this job for what's behind door #1?
34. Too many freaks, not enough circuses.
35. Nice perfume. Must you marinate in it?
36. Chaos, panic, & disorder, my work here is done.
37. How do I set a laser printer to stun?
38. I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted a salary.
39. Who lit the fuse on your tampon?
40. Oh I get it... like humor... but different

Howard Dean says he is opting out of the public campaign financing plan:

Dean is the first Democrat in history to forgo the taxpayer-financed system that encourages small donations by matching them with federal funds, freeing him to exceed the $45-million spending cap that comes with the money. Dean said he was forced to opt out to compete with President Bush, who already had said he would forgo matching funds and that he, (Pres. Bush), was aiming to raise $175 million before the Republican National Convention in September 2004.

Illegal travelers to Cuba get judicial notices
By Rafael Lorente
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration for the first time is beginning judicial proceedings against dozens of people accused of visiting Cuba illegally, even as Republicans and Democrats in Congress move to end enforcement of the four-decade-old U.S. travel ban to the island

As Prepared for Delivery
By Al Gore
November 9, 2003
(Full Text in HTM Format)


Thank you, Lisa, for that warm and generous introduction. Thank you Zack, and thank you all for coming here today

I want to thank the American Constitution Society for co-sponsoring today’s event, and for their hard work and dedication in defending our most basic public values.

And I am especially grateful to, not only for co-sponsoring this event, but also for using 21st Century techniques to breathe new life into our democracy.

For my part, I’m just a “recovering politician” – but I truly believe that some of the issues most important to America’s future are ones that all of us should be dealing with.

And perhaps the most important of these issues is the one I want to talk about today: the true relationship between Freedom and Security.

So it seems to me that the logical place to start the discussion is with an accounting of exactly what has happened to civil liberties and security since the vicious attacks against America of September 11, 2001 – and it’s important to note at the outset that the Administration and the Congress have brought about many beneficial and needed improvements to make law enforcement and intelligence community efforts more effective against potential terrorists.

But a lot of other changes have taken place that a lot of people don’t know about and that come as unwelcome surprises. For example, for the first time in our history, American citizens have been seized by the executive branch of government and put in prison without being charged with a crime, without having the right to a trial, without being able to see a lawyer, and without even being able to contact their families.

President Bush is claiming the unilateral right to do that to any American citizen he believes is an “enemy combatant.” Those are the magic words. If the President alone decides that those two words accurately describe someone, then that person can be immediately locked up and held incommunicado for as long as the President wants, with no court having the right to determine whether the facts actually justify his imprisonment.

Now if the President makes a mistake, or is given faulty information by somebody working for him, and locks up the wrong person, then it’s almost impossible for that person to prove his innocence – because he can’t talk to a lawyer or his family or anyone else and he doesn’t even have the right to know what specific crime he is accused of committing. So a constitutional right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we used to think of in an old-fashioned way as “inalienable” can now be instantly stripped from any American by the President with no meaningful review by any other branch of government.

How do we feel about that? Is that OK?

Here’s another recent change in our civil liberties: Now, if it wants to, the federal government has the right to monitor every website you go to on the internet, keep a list of everyone you send email to or receive email from and everyone who you call on the telephone or who calls you – and they don’t even have to show probable cause that you’ve done anything wrong. Nor do they ever have to report to any court on what they’re doing with the information. Moreover, there are precious few safeguards to keep them from reading the content of all your email.

Everybody fine with that?

If so, what about this next change?

For America’s first 212 years, it used to be that if the police wanted to search your house, they had to be able to convince an independent judge to give them a search warrant and then (with rare exceptions) they had to go bang on your door and yell, “Open up!” Then, if you didn’t quickly open up, they could knock the door down. Also, if they seized anything, they had to leave a list explaining what they had taken. That way, if it was all a terrible mistake (as it sometimes is) you could go and get your stuff back.

But that’s all changed now. Starting two years ago, federal agents were given broad new statutory authority by the Patriot Act to “sneak and peak” in non-terrorism cases. They can secretly enter your home with no warning – whether you are there or not – and they can wait for months before telling you they were there. And it doesn’t have to have any relationship to terrorism whatsoever. It applies to any garden-variety crime. And the new law makes it very easy to get around the need for a traditional warrant – simply by saying that searching your house might have some connection (even a remote one) to the investigation of some agent of a foreign power. Then they can go to another court, a secret court, that more or less has to give them a warrant whenever they ask.

Three weeks ago, in a speech at FBI Headquarters, President Bush went even further and formally proposed that the Attorney General be allowed to authorize subpoenas by administrative order, without the need for a warrant from any court.

What about the right to consult a lawyer if you’re arrested? Is that important?

Attorney General Ashcroft has issued regulations authorizing the secret monitoring of attorney-client conversations on his say-so alone; bypassing procedures for obtaining prior judicial review for such monitoring in the rare instances when it was permitted in the past. Now, whoever is in custody has to assume that the government is always listening to consultations between them and their lawyers.

Does it matter if the government listens in on everything you say to your lawyer? Is that Ok?

Or, to take another change – and thanks to the librarians, more people know about this one – the FBI now has the right to go into any library and ask for the records of everybody who has used the library and get a list of who is reading what. Similarly, the FBI can demand all the records of banks, colleges, hotels, hospitals, credit-card companies, and many more kinds of companies. And these changes are only the beginning. Just last week, Attorney General Ashcroft issued brand new guidelines permitting FBI agents to run credit checks and background checks and gather other information about anyone who is “of investigatory interest,” - meaning anyone the agent thinks is suspicious - without any evidence of criminal behavior.

So, is that fine with everyone?

Listen to the way Israel’s highest court dealt with a similar question when, in 1999, it was asked to balance due process rights against dire threats to the security of its people:

“This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual’s liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day they (add to) its strength.”

I want to challenge the Bush Administration’s implicit assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists.

Because it is simply not true.

In fact, in my opinion, it makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama Bin Laden.

In both cases, the Administration has attacked the wrong target.

In both cases they have recklessly put our country in grave and unnecessary danger, while avoiding and neglecting obvious and much more important challenges that would actually help to protect the country.

In both cases, the administration has fostered false impressions and misled the nation with superficial, emotional and manipulative presentations that are not worthy of American Democracy.

In both cases they have exploited public fears for partisan political gain and postured themselves as bold defenders of our country while actually weakening not strengthening America.

In both cases, they have used unprecedented secrecy and deception in order to avoid accountability to the Congress, the Courts, the press and the people.

Indeed, this Administration has turned the fundamental presumption of our democracy on its head. A government of and for the people is supposed to be generally open to public scrutiny by the people – while the private information of the people themselves should be routinely protected from government intrusion.

But instead, this Administration is seeking to conduct its work in secret even as it demands broad unfettered access to personal information about American citizens. Under the rubric of protecting national security, they have obtained new powers to gather information from citizens and to keep it secret. Yet at the same time they themselves refuse to disclose information that is highly relevant to the war against terrorism.

They are even arrogantly refusing to provide information about 9/11 that is in their possession to the 9/11 Commission – the lawful investigative body charged with examining not only the performance of the Bush Administration, but also the actions of the prior Administration in which I served. The whole point is to learn all we can about preventing future terrorist attacks,

Two days ago, the Commission was forced to issue a subpoena to the Pentagon, which has – disgracefully – put Secretary Rumsfeld’s desire to avoid embarrassment ahead of the nation’s need to learn how we can best avoid future terrorist attacks. The Commission also served notice that it will issue a subpoena to the White House if the President continues to withhold information essential to the investigation.

And the White House is also refusing to respond to repeated bipartisan Congressional requests for information about 9/11 – even though the Congress is simply exercising its Constitutional oversight authority. In the words of Senator Main, “Excessive administration secrecy on issues related to the September 11 attacks feeds conspiracy theories and reduces the public’s confidence in government.”

In a revealing move, just three days ago, the White House asked the Republican leadership of the Senate to shut down the Intelligence Committee’s investigation of 9/11 based on a trivial political dispute. Apparently the President is anxious to keep the Congress from seeing what are said to have been clear, strong and explicit warnings directly to him a few weeks before 9/11 that terrorists were planning to hijack commercial airliners and use them to attack us.

Astonishingly, the Republican Senate leadership quickly complied with the President’s request. Such obedience and complicity in what looks like a cover-up from the majority party in a separate and supposedly co-equal branch of government makes it seem like a very long time ago when a Republican Attorney General and his deputy resigned rather than comply with an order to fire the special prosecutor investigating Richard Nixon.

In an even more brazen move, more than two years after they rounded up over 1,200 individuals of Arab descent, they still refuse to release the names of the individuals they detained, even though virtually every one of those arrested has been "cleared" by the FBI of any connection to terrorism and there is absolutely no national security justification for keeping the names secret. Yet at the same time, White House officials themselves leaked the name of a CIA operative serving the country, in clear violation of the law, in an effort to get at her husband, who had angered them by disclosing that the President had relied on forged evidence in his state of the union address as part of his effort to convince the country that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of building nuclear weapons.

And even as they claim the right to see the private bank records of every American, they are adopting a new policy on the Freedom of Information Act that actively encourages federal agencies to fully consider all potential reasons for non-disclosure regardless of whether the disclosure would be harmful. In other words, the federal government will now actively resist complying with ANY request for information.

Moreover, they have established a new exemption that enables them to refuse the release to the press and the public of important health, safety and environmental information submitted to the government by businesses – merely by calling it “critical infrastructure.”

By closely guarding information about their own behavior, they are dismantling a fundamental element of our system of checks and balances. Because so long as the government’s actions are secret, they cannot be held accountable. A government for the people and by the people must be transparent to the people.

The administration is justifying the collection of all this information by saying in effect that it will make us safer to have it. But it is not the kind of information that would have been of much help in preventing 9/11. However, there was in fact a great deal of specific information that WAS available prior to 9/11 that probably could have been used to prevent the tragedy. A recent analysis by the Merkle foundation, (working with data from a software company that received venture capital from a CIA-sponsored firm) demonstrates this point in a startling way:

“In late August 2001, Nawaq Alhamzi and Khalid Al-Midhar bought tickets to fly on American Airlines Flight 77 (which was flown into the Pentagon). They bought the tickets using their real names. Both names were then on a State Department/INS watch list called TIPOFF. Both men were sought by the FBI and CIA as suspected terrorists, in part because they had been observed at a terrorist meeting in Malaysia.
These two passenger names would have been exact matches when checked against the TIPOFF list. But that would only have been the first step. Further data checks could then have begun.
Checking for common addresses (address information is widely available, including on the internet), analysts would have discovered that Salem Al-Hazmi (who also bought a seat on American 77) used the same address as Nawaq Alhazmi. More importantly, they could have discovered that Mohamed Atta (American 11, North Tower of the World Trade Center) and Marwan Al-Shehhi (United 175, South Tower of the World Trade Center) used the same address as Khalid Al-Midhar.
Checking for identical frequent flier numbers, analysts would have discovered that Majed Moqed (American 77) used the same number as Al-Midhar.
With Mohamed Atta now also identified as a possible associate of the wanted terrorist, Al-Midhar, analysts could have added Atta’s phone numbers (also publicly available information) to their checklist. By doing so they would have identified five other hijackers (Fayez Ahmed, Mohand Alshehri, Wail Alsheri, and Abdulaziz Alomari).
Closer to September 11, a further check of passenger lists against a more innocuous INS watch list (for expired visas) would have identified Ahmed Alghandi. Through him, the same sort of relatively simple correlations could have led to identifying the remaining hijackers, who boarded United 93 (which crashed in Pennsylvania).”
In addition, Al-Midhar and Nawaf Alhamzi, the two who were on the terrorist watch list, rented an apartment in San Diego under their own names and were listed, again under their own names, in the San Diego phone book while the FBI was searching for them.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but what is needed is better and more timely analysis. Simply piling up more raw data that is almost entirely irrelevant is not only not going to help. It may actually hurt the cause. As one FBI agent said privately of Ashcroft: “We’re looking for a needle in a haystack here and he (Ashcroft) is just piling on more hay.”

In other words, the mass collecting of personal data on hundreds of millions of people actually makes it more difficult to protect the nation against terrorists, so they ought to cut most of it out.

And meanwhile, the real story is that while the administration

manages to convey the impression that it is doing everything possible to protect America, in reality it has seriously neglected most of the measures that it could have taken to really make our country safer.

For example, there is still no serious strategy for domestic security that protects critical infrastructure such as electric power lines, gas pipelines, nuclear facilities, ports, chemical plants and the like.

They’re still not checking incoming cargo carriers for radiation. They’re still skimping on protection of certain nuclear weapons storage facilities. They’re still not hardening critical facilities that must never be soft targets for terrorists. They’re still not investing in the translators and analysts we need to counter the growing terror threat.

The administration is still not investing in local government training and infrastructures where they could make the biggest difference. The first responder community is still being shortchanged. In many cases, fire and police still don’t have the communications equipment to talk to each other. The CDC and local hospitals are still nowhere close to being ready for a biological weapons attack.

The administration has still failed to address the fundamental disorganization and rivalries of our law enforcement, intelligence and investigative agencies. In particular, the critical FBI-CIA coordination, while finally improved at the top, still remains dysfunctional in the trenches.

The constant violations of civil liberties promote the false impression that these violations are necessary in order to take every precaution against another terrorist attack. But the simple truth is that the vast majority of the violations have not benefited our security at all; to the contrary, they hurt our security.

And the treatment of immigrants was probably the worst example. This mass mistreatment actually hurt our security in a number of important ways.

But first, let’s be clear about what happened: this was little more than a cheap and cruel political stunt by John Ashcroft. More than 99% of the mostly Arab-background men who were rounded up had merely overstayed their visas or committed some other minor offense as they tried to pursue the American dream just like most immigrants. But they were used as extras in the Administration’s effort to give the impression that they had caught a large number of bad guys. And many of them were treated horribly and abusively.

Consider this example reported in depth by Anthony Lewis:

“Anser Mehmood, a Pakistani who had overstayed his visa, was arrested in New York on October 3, 2001. The next day he was briefly questioned by FBI agents, who said they had no further interest in him. Then he was shackled in handcuffs, leg irons, and a belly chain and taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Guards there put two more sets of handcuffs on him and another set of leg irons. One threw Mehmood against a wall. The guards forced him to run down a long ramp, the irons cutting into his wrists and ankles. The physical abuse was mixed with verbal taunts.

“After two weeks Mehmood was allowed to make a telephone call to his wife. She was not at home and Mehmood was told that he would have to wait six weeks to try again. He first saw her, on a visit, three months after his arrest. All that time he was kept in a windowless cell, in solitary confinement, with two overhead fluorescent lights on all the time. In the end he was charged with using an invalid Social Security card. He was deported in May 2002, nearly eight months after his arrest.

The faith tradition I share with Ashcroft includes this teaching from Jesus: “whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.”

And make no mistake: the disgraceful treatment suffered by many of these vulnerable immigrants at the hands of the administration has created deep resentments and hurt the cooperation desperately needed from immigrant communities in the U.S.and from the Security Services of other countries.

Second, these gross violations of their rights have seriously damaged U.S. moral authority and goodwill around the world, and delegitimized U.S.efforts to continue promoting Human Rights around the world. As one analyst put it, “We used to set the standard; now we have lowered the bar.” And our moral authority is, after all, our greatest source of enduring strength in the world.

And the handling of prisoners at Guantanomo has been particularly harmful to America’s image. Even England and Australia have criticized our departure from international law and the Geneva Convention. Sec. Rumsfeld’s handling of the captives there has been about as thoughtful as his “postwar” plan for Iraq.

So the mass violations of civil liberties have hurt rather than helped. But there is yet another reason for urgency in stopping what this administration is doing. Where Civil Liberties are concerned, they have taken us much farther down the road toward an intrusive, “Big Brother”-style government – toward the dangers prophesized by George Orwell in his book “1984” – than anyone ever thought would be possible in the United States of America.

And they have done it primarily by heightening and exploiting public anxieties and apprehensions. Rather than leading with a call to courage, this Administration has chosen to lead us by inciting fear.

Almost eighty years ago, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote “Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. . . . They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty.” Those who won our independence, Brandeis asserted, understood that “courage [is] the secret of liberty” and "fear [only] breeds repression."

Rather than defending our freedoms, this Administration has sought to abandon them. Rather than accepting our traditions of openness and accountability, this Administration has opted to rule by secrecy and unquestioned authority. Instead, its assaults on our core democratic principles have only left us less free and less secure.

Throughout American history, what we now call Civil Liberties have often been abused and limited during times of war and perceived threats to security. The best known instances include the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798-1800, the brief suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, the extreme abuses during World War I and the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids immediately after the war, the shameful internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the excesses of the FBI and CIA during the Vietnam War and social turmoil of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

But in each of these cases, the nation has recovered its equilibrium when the war ended and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.

There are reasons for concern this time around that what we are experiencing may no longer be the first half of a recurring cycle but rather, the beginning of something new. For one thing, this war is predicted by the administration to “last for the rest of our lives.” Others have expressed the view that over time it will begin to resemble the “war” against drugs – that is, that it will become a more or less permanent struggle that occupies a significant part of our law enforcement and security agenda from now on. If that is the case, then when – if ever – does this encroachment on our freedoms die a natural death?

It is important to remember that throughout history, the loss of civil liberties by individuals and the aggregation of too much unchecked power in the executive go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin.

A second reason to worry that what we are witnessing is a discontinuity and not another turn of the recurring cycle is that the new technologies of surveillance – long anticipated by novelists like Orwell and other prophets of the “Police State” – are now more widespread than they have ever been.

And they do have the potential for shifting the balance of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the individual in ways both subtle and profound.

Moreover, these technologies are being widely used not only by the government but also by corporations and other private entities. And that is relevant to an assessment of the new requirements in the Patriot Act for so many corporations – especially in the finance industries – to prepare millions of reports annually for the government on suspicious activities by their customers. It is also relevant to the new flexibility corporations have been given to share information with one another about their customers.

The third reason for concern is that the threat of more terror strikes is all too real. And the potential use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorist groups does create a new practical imperative for the speedy exercise of discretionary power by the executive branch – just as the emergence of nuclear weapons and ICBMs created a new practical imperative in the Cold War that altered the balance of war-making responsibility between Congress and the President.

But President Bush has stretched this new practical imperative beyond what is healthy for our democracy. Indeed, one of the ways he has tried to maximize his power within the American system has been by constantly emphasizing his role as Commander-in-Chief, far more than any previous President – assuming it as often and as visibly as he can, and bringing it into the domestic arena and conflating it with his other roles: as head of government and head of state – and especially with his political role as head of the Republican Party.

Indeed, the most worrisome new factor, in my view, is the aggressive ideological approach of the current administration, which seems determined to use fear as a political tool to consolidate its power and to escape any accountability for its use. Just as unilateralism and dominance are the guiding principles of their disastrous approach to international relations, they are also the guiding impulses of the administration’s approach to domestic politics. They are impatient with any constraints on the exercise of power overseas – whether from our allies, the UN, or international law. And in the same way, they are impatient with any obstacles to their use of power at home – whether from Congress, the Courts, the press, or the rule of law.

Ashcroft has also authorized FBI agents to attend church meetings, rallies, political meetings and any other citizen activity open to the public simply on the agents’ own initiative, reversing a decades old policy that required justification to supervisors that such infiltrations has a provable connection to a legitimate investigation;

They have even taken steps that seem to be clearly aimed at stifling dissent. The Bush Justice Department has recently begun a highly disturbing criminal prosecution of the environmental group Greenpeace because of a non-violent direct action protest against what Greenpeace claimed was the illegal importation of endangered mahogany from the Amazon. Independent legal experts and historians have said that the prosecution – under an obscure and bizarre 1872 law against “sailor-mongering” – appears to be aimed at inhibiting Greenpeace’s First Amendment activities.

And at the same time they are breaking new ground by prosecuting Greenpeace, the Bush Administration announced just a few days ago that it is dropping the investigations of 50 power plants for violating the Clean Air Act – a move that Sen. Chuck Schumer said, “basically announced to the power industry that it can now pollute with impunity.”

The politicization of law enforcement in this administration is part of their larger agenda to roll back the changes in government policy brought about by the New Deal and the Progressive Movement. Toward that end, they are cutting back on Civil Rights enforcement, Women’s Rights, progressive taxation, the estate tax, access to the courts, Medicare, and much more. And they approach every issue as a partisan fight to the finish, even in the areas of national security and terror.

Instead of trying to make the “War on Terrorism” a bipartisan cause, the Bush White House has consistently tried to exploit it for partisan advantage. The President goes to war verbally against terrorists in virtually every campaign speech and fundraising dinner for his political party. It is his main political theme. Democratic candidates like Max Cleland in Georgiawere labeled unpatriotic for voting differently from the White House on obscure amendments to the Homeland Security Bill.

When the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, was embroiled in an effort to pick up more congressional seats in Texas by forcing a highly unusual redistricting vote in the state senate, he was able to track down Democratic legislators who fled the state to prevent a quorum (and thus prevent the vote) by enlisting the help of President Bush’s new Department of Homeland Security, as many as 13 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration who conducted an eight-hour search, and at least one FBI agent (though several other agents who were asked to help refused to do so.)

By locating the Democrats quickly with the technology put in place for tracking terrorists, the Republicans were able to succeed in focusing public pressure on the weakest of the Senators and forced passage of their new political redistricting plan. Now, thanks in part to the efforts of three different federal agencies, Bush and DeLay are celebrating the gain of up to seven new Republican congressional seats in the next Congress.

The White House timing for its big push for a vote in Congress on going to war with Iraqalso happened to coincide exactly with the start of the fall election campaign in September a year ago. The President’s chief of staff said the timing was chosen because “from a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

White House political advisor Karl Rove advised Republican candidates that their best political strategy was to “run on the war”. And as soon as the troops began to mobilize, the Republican National Committee distributed yard signs throughout Americasaying, “I support President Bush and the troops” – as if they were one and the same.

This persistent effort to politicize the war in Iraqand the war against terrorism for partisan advantage is obviously harmful to the prospects for bipartisan support of the nation’s security policies. By sharp contrast, consider the different approach that was taken by Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the terrible days of October 1943 when in the midst of World War II, he faced a controversy with the potential to divide his bipartisan coalition. He said, “What holds us together is the prosecution of the war. No…man has been asked to give up his convictions. That would be indecent and improper. We are held together by something outside, which rivets our attention. The principle that we work on is, ‘Everything for the war, whether controversial or not, and nothing controversial that is not bona fide for the war.’ That is our position. We must also be careful that a pretext is not made of war needs to introduce far-reaching social or political changes by a side wind.”

Yet that is exactly what the Bush Administration is attempting to do – to use the war against terrorism for partisan advantage and to introduce far reaching controversial changes in social policy by a “side wind,” in an effort to consolidate its political power.

It is an approach that is deeply antithetical to the American spirit. Respect for our President is important. But so is respect for our people. Our founders knew – and our history has proven – that freedom is best guaranteed by a separation of powers into co-equal branches of government within a system of checks and balances – to prevent the unhealthy concentration of too much power in the hands of any one person or group.

Our framers were also keenly aware that the history of the world proves that Republics are fragile. The very hour of America’s birth in Philadelphia, when Benjamin Franklin was asked, “What have we got? A Republic or a Monarchy?” he cautiously replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

And even in the midst of our greatest testing, Lincoln knew that our fate was tied to the larger question of whether ANY nation so conceived could long endure.

This Administration simply does not seem to agree that the challenge of preserving democratic freedom cannot be met by surrendering core American values. Incredibly, this Administration has attempted to compromise the most precious rights that Americahas stood for all over the world for more than 200 years: due process, equal treatment under the law, the dignity of the individual, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom from promiscuous government surveillance. And in the name of security, this Administration has attempted to relegate the Congress and the Courts to the sidelines and replace our democratic system of checks and balances with an unaccountable Executive. And all the while, it has constantly angled for new ways to exploit the sense of crisis for partisan gain and political dominance. How dare they!

Years ago, during World War II, one of our most eloquent Supreme Court Justices, Robert Jackson, wrote that the President should be given the “widest latitude” in wartime, but he warned against the “loose and irresponsible invocation of war as an excuse for discharging the Executive Branch from the rules of law that govern our Republic in times of peace. No penance would ever expiate the sin against free government,” Jackson said, “of holding that a President can escape control of executive powers by law through assuming his military role. Our government has ample authority under the Constitution to take those steps which are genuinely necessary for our security. At the same time, our system demands that government act only on the basis of measures that have been the subject of open and thoughtful debate in Congress and among the American people, and that invasions of the liberty or equal dignity of any individual are subject to review by courts which are open to those affected and independent of the government which is curtailing their freedom.”

So what should be done? Well, to begin with, our country ought to find a way to immediately stop its policy of indefinitely detaining American citizens without charges and without a judicial determination that their detention is proper.

Such a course of conduct is incompatible with American traditions and values, with sacred principles of due process of law and separation of powers.

It is no accident that our Constitution requires in criminal prosecutions a “speedy and public trial.” The principles of liberty and the accountability of government, at the heart of what makes Americaunique, require no less. The Bush Administration’s treatment of American citizens it calls “enemy combatants” is nothing short of un-American.

Second, foreign citizens held in Guantanamo should be given hearings to determine their status provided for under Article V of the Geneva Convention, a hearing that the United Stateshas given those captured in every war until this one, including Vietnamand the Gulf War.

If we don’t provide this, how can we expect American soldiers captured overseas to be treated with equal respect? We owe this to our sons and daughters who fight to defend freedom in Iraq, in Afghanistanand elsewhere in the world.

Third, the President should seek congressional authorization for the military commissions he says he intends to use instead of civilian courts to try some of those who are charged with violating the laws of war. Military commissions are exceptional in American law and they present unique dangers. The prosecutor and the judge both work for the same man, the President of the United States. Such commissions may be appropriate in time of war, but they must be authorized by Congress, as they were in World War II, and Congress must delineate the scope of their authority. Review of their decisions must be available in a civilian court, at least the Supreme Court, as it was in World War II.

Next, our nation’s greatness is measured by how we treat those who are the most vulnerable. Noncitizens who the government seeks to detain should be entitled to some basic rights. The administration must stop abusing the material witness statute. That statute was designed to hold witnesses briefly before they are called to testify before a grand jury. It has been misused by this administration as a pretext for indefinite detention without charge. That is simply not right.

Finally, I have studied the Patriot Act and have found that along with its many excesses, it contains a few needed changes in the law. And it is certainly true that many of the worst abuses of due process and civil liberties that are now occurring are taking place under the color of laws and executive orders other than the Patriot Act.

Nevertheless, I believe the Patriot Act has turned out to be, on balance, a terrible mistake, and that it became a kind of Tonkin Gulf Resolution conferring Congress’ blessing for this President’s assault on civil liberties. Therefore, I believe strongly that the few good features of this law should be passed again in a new, smaller law – but that the Patriot Act must be repealed.

As John Adams wrote in 1780, ours is a government of laws and not of men. What is at stake today is that defining principle of our nation, and thus the very nature of America. As the Supreme Court has written, “Our Constitution is a covenant running from the first generation of Americans to us and then to future genera?tions.” The Constitution includes no wartime exception, though its Framers knew well the reality of war. And, as Justice Holmes reminded us shortly after World War I, the Constitution’s principles only have value if we apply them in the difficult times as well as those where it matters less.

The question before us could be of no greater moment: will we continue to live as a people under the rule of law as embodied in our Constitution? Or will we fail future generations, by leaving them a Constitution far diminished from the charter of liberty we have inherited from our forebears? Our choice is clear.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Justices to Hear Case of Detainees at Guantánamo
NY Times
Published: November 11, 2003

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 — Setting the stage for a historic clash between presidential and judicial authority in a time of military conflict, the Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide whether prisoners at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are entitled to access to civilian courts to challenge their open-ended detention.

The court said it would resolve only the jurisdictional question of whether the federal courts can hear such a challenge and not, at this stage, whether these detentions are in fact unconstitutional. Even so, the action was an unmistakable rebuff of the Bush administration's insistence that the detainees' status was a question "constitutionally committed to the executive branch" and not the business of the federal courts, as Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson argued in opposition to Supreme Court review


By Wei Jingsheng

Wei Jingsheng, perhaps China's most famous dissident, was expelled from that country in 1997. He now lives in exile in New York and is chairman of the Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition.

NEW YORK -- When we invite a guest to our home to entertain, we usually regard this guest as a good friend. At least, such a guest would be a lawful person and would not bring trouble. Otherwise we would rather meet the guest in our office.

When a U.S. president invites the president of another nation to his private ranch and entertains him with enthusiasm, one would assume the guest is the head of an ally country or the leader of a trustworthy nation. At least the guest must not be a dictator of a totalitarian state, not a president of a nation that may bring trouble for the United States. Since President George W. Bush has enthusiastically invited China's President Jiang Zemin to his private farm for entertainment, we cannot help but ask: Is this invitation appropriate?
Pres. Bush has been reluctant to say who has been a guest at the Crawford, TX ranch. And if you really want to know about Pres. Bush's property check this out.

Known Guests at the Bush Ranch:

Vladimir Putin: (Russia)
Jiang Zemin: (China)
Junichiro Koizumi: (Japan)
Silvio Berlusconi: (italy) Visited Twice !
John Howard: (Australia)
Prince Bandar bin Sultan: (Saudi Arabia)
Crown Prince Abdullah: (Saudi Arabia)
Vincente Fox: (Mexico)
Jose Maria Aznar: (Spain)
Tony Blair: (England)
Gen. Tommy Franks: (US Army)

While sleep-in guests of the Bushs' at the White House average five per month. as of Aug. 2002

Has anyone done research of the funds paid by the US Government for "homestead" upgrading at sitting Presidents' private residences during their term of office? Pres. Bush may have been a millionaire when he came into office, and his ranch at 1,600 acres may have cost a few dollars initially; but reading the site report for his Crawford, Texas ranch one gets the idea that a considerable amount of government money has been spent to accomodate these international guests at the ranch. How much?

The complete text of the joint press conference between Presidents Bush and Putin in Slovenia on June 16, 2001. wherein President Bush made the 'looked into his soul' comment...note that what he actually said was:

"BUSH: I will answer the question. I looked the man in the eye, (Putin). I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. And I appreciated so very much the frank dialogue. There was no kind of diplomatic chit chat, trying to throw each other off balance. There was a straightforward dialogue, and that's the beginning of a very constructive relationship. I wouldn't have invited him to my ranch if I didn't trust him.

"This was a very good meeting, and I look forward to my next meeting with President Putin in July. I very much enjoyed our time together. He's an honest, straightforward man who loves his country. He loves his family. We share a lot of values. I view him as a remarkable leader. I believe his leadership will serve Russia well. Russia and America have the opportunity to accomplish much together. We should seize it, and today we have begun."

Pres. Bush says: "I was able to get a sense of his soul", not as currently reported: "I sensed his soul", or "I looked into his soul". There is also no direct quote in the transcript where Pres. Bush said Putin was a "good man": Perhaps most striking is Pres. Bush's comment: "We share a lot of values." "He (Putin) is an honest, straightforward man...". It might have something to do with their close involvement in the Intelligence communities of their respective countries, as both leaders had considerable exposure to that World, with Putin in the KGB, and Bush as the son of the CIA Director.

12 JAN 2003 > Return to Opinions Index
NATO invitation presents new obligations

We cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefits we receive must be rendered again line for line, deed for deed, to somebody.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals, 1836

"...It is also not coincidence that Mr. Putin has restored the red star symbol to his army, the Soviet hymn to official occasions, and the statue of Feliks Dzershinsky, founder of the Cheka (later the KGB), in Lubyanka Square. Together with muzzling of the media, these steps signal regression into strong man rule. Then, as though the rest of us have no memory, Mr. Putin talks about "respecting Soviet achievements." Those include the horrors of the Gulag, for which no one has been held accountable. Can he not at least find the moral backbone to set the historical record straight for his own people? No. He will protect his KGB comrades, above all. This "partner" has not renounced a dangerous agenda. One media moment, in which President George Bush "looked into his soul" and "found a good man," does not reassure us. Mr. Putin must have been smirking all the way back to the Kremlin.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

It's getting clearer now that several past National Champion caliber teams are not going to be there this year: Miami, Florida State, (who both lost today), Florida, Notre Dame, Penn State, and a bunch of others including Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn, Clemson, Alabama, among others. So who will it be? Oklahoma and, and, ....hmm, USC? Nah ! Well, who then? And how'd you like to bet against Oklahoma? They won 6 of their 10 games scoring more than 50 points, and in 9 of the 10 games beat their opponent by at least 21 points. But USC is not a Texan team you say? Ok...I'll give you USC and 13 points.

What World War I's Greatest Poet Would Say About Hiding Our War Dead
Published: November 9, 2003

When World War I broke out, the English saw going off to battle as a fine thing to do. They embraced the Latin poet Horace's dictum, "Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori" — It is sweet and proper to die for one's country. But four years later, that romantic notion had been shattered by the grim reality of the mustard-gas-laced killing fields, and by the bitter words of Wilfred Owen, a British officer now recognized as the greatest poet of the Great War. Owen's subject was, he declared, "war, and the pity of war." He expressed it through dark word portraits, in which dead and dying young men were stripped of any glory or sentimentality. Owen himself became one of these inglorious casualties when he was killed in action at the age of 25, just days before the war's end, 85 years ago this week.

A revered figure in England, Owen found a large American following during the Vietnam War. He is often portrayed as antiwar, which he was not. What he stood for was seeing war clearly, which makes him especially relevant today. The Bush administration has been loudly attacking the news media for misreporting the Iraq conflict by leaving out good news. Owen would counter — in vivid, gripping images — that it is the White House, with its campaign to hide casualties from view, that is dangerously distorting reality.

Owen, who was commended posthumously for inflicting "considerable losses on the enemy," was no pacifist. He told his mother he had a dual mission: to lead his men "as well as an officer can" but also to watch their "sufferings that I may speak of them." Owen was right that an honorable approach to war requires both ably leading troops on the battlefield, and reporting honestly what occurs there.

The Bush administration, however, is resisting this honorable approach. In its eagerness to convince the public that things are going well in Iraq, it is leading troops into battle, while trying its best to obscure what happens to them. President Bush is not attending soldier funerals, as previous presidents have, avoiding a television image that could sow doubts in viewers' minds. He avoids mentioning the American dead — and the injured, who are seven times as numerous. The Pentagon has sent out emphatic reminders that television and photographic coverage is not allowed of coffins returning to Dover Air Force Base.

Americans are already considering the relative merits of staying the course in Iraq, putting in an international peacekeeping force, and even pulling out. It is a somber debate, with great consequences for this nation, and the world. We must enter into it with full information, without lapsing into what Owen trenchantly called "the old lie" — or new ones.

Dulce Et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen
First Published in 1921

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!--An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Saturday, November 08, 2003, Oct. 21, 2003

In Britain, the cost of tuition is largely borne by the government and students pay much less. For example, tuition alone for undergraduates at Harvard is currently $26,066 a year as compared with $1,840 at Oxford University.

November 5, 2003
Baghdad Scrambled to Offer Deal to U.S. as War Loomed
NY Times

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 — As American soldiers massed on the Iraqi border in March and diplomats argued about war, an influential adviser to the Pentagon received a secret message from a Lebanese-American businessman: Saddam Hussein wanted to make a deal. Iraqi officials, including the chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, had told the businessman that they wanted Washington to know that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction, and they offered to allow American troops and experts to conduct an independent search. The messages from Baghdad, first relayed in February to an analyst in the office of Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy and planning, were part of an attempt by Iraqi intelligence officers to open last-ditch negotiations with the Bush administration through a clandestine communications channel, according to people involved.

Urban Legend?

Claim: Newspaper publishes death notice requesting that memorial gifts for the deceased "be made to any organization that seeks the removal of President George Bush from office."
Status: True.
Example: [Associated Press, Nov. 3rd, 2003]

This was an actual obituary published in The Times-Picayune, New Orleans on 10/2/2003:
"Word has been received that Gertrude M. Jones, 81, passed away on August 25, 2003, under the loving care of the nursing aides of Heritage Manor of Mandeville, Louisiana. She was a native of Lebanon, KY. She was a retired Vice President of Georgia International Life Insurance Company of Atlanta, GA. Her husband, Warren K. Jones predeceased her. Two daughters survive her: Dawn Hunt and her live-in boyfriend, Roland, of Mandeville,LA; and Melba Kovalak and her husband, Drew Kovalak, of Woodbury, MN. Three sisters, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren, also survive her. Funeral services were held in Louisville, KY. Memorial gifts may be made to any organization that seeks the removal of President George Bush from office. "

Origins: A senior citizen who so despised the current president that, before she died, she left instructions directing that her memorial gifts should "be made to any organization that seeks the removal of President George Bush from office"? Yup. And there has been more than one!

US Diplomatic Missions in Saudi Arabia Close Due to Terror Threat
Voice of America
The United States has closed all its diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia after officials received what they said was a warning of a serious threat of terrorist attacks in the kingdom.

Red Cross pulling out of Baghdad
CNN - BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) --
The international Red Cross is closing its offices in Baghdad and Basra temporarily because of "extremely dangerous" conditions in Iraq, the organization said.

From Aljazeera Poll
"Should sanctions be imposed to stop Israel building its so called security wall?"
Yes :       85%
No :       13%
Unsure? : 2%
Number of pollers : 2745

Also from Aljazeera:
Report exposes Ugandan rebels' brutality
Tuesday 15 July 2003, 18:44 Makka Time, 15:44 GMT
A new report into Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group says abductions, torture, mutilations and the recruitment of child soldiers have increased sharply in the past year. "Since June 2002, the LRA has abducted approximately 8,400 children, resumed its despicable practice of mutilating people it believes to be affiliated with the government and targeted religious leaders, aid providers and other civilians," it said.

The LRA's 17-year war against the army in northern Uganda has been characterised by great brutality. The LRA is led by self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony, said to take his orders from the Holy Spirit, which takes possession of his body. His force is made up mainly of children, thousands of whom have been abducted. Kony has said he wants to overthrow the government and rule Uganda by the biblical Ten Commandments.

Operation Iron Fist failed
In March 2002, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's army launched an unsuccessful military offensive to flush out the rebels from their bases in southern Sudan. "Operation Iron Fist had a boomerang effect in that the LRA, instead of being wiped out, evaded the UPDF in Sudan and returned to northern Uganda in June 2002 with new equipment, uniforms and training," the report by four groups including New York-based Human Rights Watch said. The 73-page report also accuses the Uganda People's Defence Force of rights abuses in the region, including torture, rape, summary executions and recruiting underage soldiers.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Late in Tuesday's Democratic Presidential Challenger debate, Wesley Clark told an instructive story about a homophobic friend.

"One of my Army friends came to me. He said, "Sir, I've got a little bit of trouble with your position on gays in the military." I said, "Well, let me explain it to you this way. If you had a son or daughter who was gay, would you love them? And he said, "Well, yes." I said, "Would you want them to have the same rights and the same opportunities in life as everybody else?" And he looked at me and he said, "Now I understand why you're saying what you're saying."

We need to do a lot better job in communicating in this society and crossing barriers. That's how outreach works. You don't spurn people who disagree with you, even on issues of segregation and discrimination. You communicate. You cross barriers. It's a good way to win elections—and to change the world. > Opinion
Flags Versus Dollars
Published: November 7, 2003

Howard Dean's remarks about the need to appeal to white Southerners could certainly have been better phrased. But his rivals for the Democratic nomination should be ashamed of their reaction. They know what he was trying to say — and it wasn't that his party should go soft on racism. By playing gotcha, by seizing on the chance to take the front-runner down a peg, they damaged the cause they claim to serve — and missed a chance to confront the real issue he raised.

A three-sentence description of the arc of American politics over the past 70 years would run like this: First, Democrats and moderate Republicans created institutions — above all, Social Security and Medicare — that provided a measure of financial security to ordinary working Americans. The biggest beneficiaries of these institutions were African-Americans and working-class Southern whites, and both were part of the moderate-to-liberal coalition that dominated American politics until the 1960's.

But the right opened an increasingly effective counterattack, with a strategy that included using racially charged symbolism to get Southern whites to vote against their own economic interests. All Mr. Dean was saying was that Democrats need to understand and counter this strategy.

I know these are fighting words. But the reliance of modern Republican political strategy on coded appeals to racism is no secret. Controversies over efforts to remove the Stars and Bars from the top of the South Carolina Statehouse, and to reduce its size on the Georgia flag, played a significant role in Republican victories in 2002. And the evidence that race is still a crucial factor is as fresh as Tuesday's election.

The big story in that election was the victory of Republicans in Mississippi and Kentucky. The secondary story, however, was a string of victories by Democrats in affluent suburban areas in the Northeast. In my state, New Jersey, Democrats took firm control of the state's Legislature.

What this tells us is that some people — either in New Jersey, Mississippi or both — voted against their economic interests. For whatever you think of Bush's economic plan, it's clearly much better for New Jersey — a rich state, which gains a lot from tax cuts tilted toward the affluent — than for a poor state like Mississippi.

Consider, for example, the effects of estate tax repeal, a central feature of the 2001 tax cut. Almost nobody in Mississippi pays the estate tax. In 2001 only 249 estates in Mississippi paid any tax at all; raising the exemption to $5 million, which some Democrats suggested as an alternative to full repeal, would have reduced that to a couple of dozen. By contrast, New Jersey, with three times Mississippi's population, had almost 10 times as many taxable estates.

Or consider the 2003 tax cut. It was also heavily tilted toward the affluent, and therefore toward rich states. According to Citizens for Tax Justice estimates, the typical New Jersey family got a $409 tax cut. In Mississippi, the number was only $165.

So did Mississippi voters support the Republicans, even though they get very little direct benefit from Bush-style tax cuts, because they — unlike New Jersey's voters — understand the magic of supply-side economics? If you believe that, I've got an overpass on the Garden State Parkway you may be interested in buying.

Now maybe New Jersey voted Democratic because of irrational Bush hatred. But I think it's a lot more likely that white Mississippi voters, unlike their counterparts up north, are still responding to Republican flag-waving — and it's not just the American flag that's being waved.

Yet the fact is that Mississippi, being relatively poor, will lose disproportionately if the right wins on its full agenda, which involves a big rollback of New Deal and Great Society programs. (I'll explain in a future column how Republicans are using the prescription drug bill to lay the groundwork for later Medicare cuts.)

Mr. Dean wasn't suggesting that his party adopt the G.O.P. strategy of coded racial signals, and by and large African-Americans — my wife included — understand that. What he meant by his flag remark was that Democrats must make the case to working Americans of all colors that the right's elitist agenda isn't in their interest. And he's right.

Jessica Lynch Criticizes U.S. Accounts of Her Ordeal
NY TImes
Published: November 7, 2003

In her first public statements since her rescue in Iraq, Jessica Lynch criticized the military for exaggerating accounts of her rescue and re-casting her ordeal as a patriotic fable.

Asked by the ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer if the military's portrayal of the rescue bothered her, Ms. Lynch said: "Yeah, it does. It does that they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff. Yeah, it's wrong," according to a partial transcript of the interview to be broadcast on Tuesday.

After months of retreating from the news media, Ms. Lynch will be a ubiquitous presence next week. In addition to her appearance on ABC, she will be on the cover of Time magazine, and NBC will broadcast a movie based on an Iraqi's account of her ordeal. On Tuesday, the book publisher Knopf will release an account of her experience, "I Am a Soldier, Too," written with her cooperation by a former reporter for The New York Times, Rick Bragg.

The book and the movie are unrelated and tell different versions of Ms. Lynch's story, but the publisher has timed the book to capitalize on publicity from the television movie.

The book has already added another, lurid indignity to the public accounts of her capture. It reports that Ms. Lynch's military doctors found injuries consistent with sexual assault and unlikely to have resulted from the Humvee crash that caused her other wounds, suggesting that she was raped after her capture. Ms. Lynch, who was unconscious immediately after the crash, does not remember any such assault, according to people who have talked to her and read the book. Those details of the book's contents were reported yesterday in The New York Daily News.

In the book and in the interviews, Ms. Lynch says others' accounts of her heroism often left her feeling hurt and ashamed because of what she says was overstatement.

At first, a military spokesman in Iraq told journalists that American soldiers had exchanged fire with Iraqis during the rescue, without adding that resistance was minimal. Then the military released a dramatic, green-tinted, night-vision video of the mission. Soon news organizations were repeating reports, attributed to anonymous American officials, that Ms. Lynch had heroically resisted her capture, emptying her weapon at her attackers.

But subsequent investigations determined that Ms. Lynch was injured by the crash of her vehicle, her weapon jammed before she could fire, the Iraqi doctors treated her kindly, and the hospital was already in friendly hands when her rescuers arrived.

Asked how she felt about the reports of her heroism, Ms. Lynch told Ms. Sawyer, "It hurt in a way that people would make up stories that they had no truth about. Only I would have been able to know that, because the other four people on my vehicle aren't here to tell the story. So I would have been the only one able to say, yeah, I went down shooting. But I didn't."

And asked about reports that the military exaggerated the danger of the rescue mission, Ms. Lynch said, "Yeah, I don't think it happened quite like that," although she added that in that context anybody would have approached the hospital well-armed. She continued: "I don't know why they filmed it, or why they say the things they, you know, all I know was that I was in that hospital hurting. I needed help."

Lt. Col. Rivers Johnson, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, declined to comment on Ms. Lynch's views. But he said, "Essentially, the mission to rescue Jessica Lynch demonstrated America's resolve to account for all of its missing service members." He added that the rescue had been conducted under the appropriate procedures for a fluid situation like the war in Iraq. "You always plan for the worst."

Ms. Lynch also disputed statements by Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief, the Iraqi lawyer, that he saw her captors slap her.

"From the time I woke up in that hospital, no one beat me, no one slapped me, no one, nothing," Ms. Lynch told Diane Sawyer, adding, "I'm so thankful for those people, because that's why I'm alive today."

Jeff Coplon, who helped Mr. Rehaief write his book, "Because Each Life is Precious," said it was possible that both he and Ms. Lynch were telling the truth in their divergent accounts.

"One of the questions that could arise in the wake of this kind of trauma is that someone could believe they remember everything and their memory could still be incomplete," Mr. Coplon said

The Egyptian Controversy Over Circumcising Girls
By: B. Chernitsky*?

"Circumcising Girls Prevents Unnatural Sexual Pleasure
Among the proponents of circumcising girls are Islamists who rely on medical, rather than religious, support for their arguments. The practice, they say, is beneficial to women's health, since it facilitates washing the genitalia and contributes to normal sexual relations.

A surgical specialist at Al-Azhar University, Dr. Muhammad Rif'at Al-Bawwab, provides an example, saying that women can wash and clean the genital area more easily if part of their sexual organ has been removed. In addition, he says, the clitoris protrudes more than other parts of a woman's genitalia, and "this protrusion causes it to rub against clothing and other things, which diverts the attention of the adolescent girl toward unnatural pleasure that is likely to make her addicted to it in an abnormal and damaging way… After marriage, it is difficult to prevent this from happening to a woman who has become accustomed to it. [The only way to deal with this situation is] to conduct sexual relations in an abnormal way, in which her clitoris is rubbed forcefully, as she has become accustomed [thus leading to her moral degradation].

"Therefore, the removal of the clitoris during circumcision greatly reduces [the chances] of this occurring. In this way, the woman remains unaware, and she finds enjoyment with her husband in the natural way, [only by] the male organ rubbing the woman's vagina and cervix, which are the source of her pleasure [and not via the clitoris]."

This article makes the US discussion about "late-term" abortions sound quaint. What they share is an effort by Males to regulate Female sexuality and reproduction activities, as if some Mullah or President has the knowledge and experience to make decisions about a woman's body that they have no personal, professional, ethical, or moral jurisdiction over. Leave this to the individual woman and her chosen medical professionals !! not some damn religious or political person, especially if it's a Male !!!!

Say Muslim Guys, for sanitary purposes, to lessen the chances of moral degradation, and to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, why do you not support the removal of Male external genitalia?

The assassination of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq at the Najaf Mosque was conducted by US Forces, asserts this writer.The Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram's editorial of August 31, 2003, was titled "The Najaf Massacre and the National Unity Required in Iraq."

The Failure to Establish a 'Knowledge Society' in Arab Nations: Arab Human Development Report
By Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli*.

Jihad, Oppressors, Holy, Allah...this stuff reads like the program given to attendees at ...

Internet music piracy pushes Big Five Music companies to merge? or just form partnerships

WILLIAM SAFIRE: It's Iraq War III, and we have to fight to win
Published November 6, 2003

"Most television sets in the triangle depend for reception on the old rabbit ears, not satellite dishes; the Iraqi Media Network we set up is now operational but runs mainly old movies and canned messages from our Paul Bremer with an Arabic translation. I'm told by programmers in the contractor handling IMN, Science Applications International, that attention-getting Arabic programs produced in the gulf states will begin this month, which should attract many new viewers.

But why not supplement Bremer on the air with our secret weapon? John Abizaid, our commanding general, speaks fluent Arabic. He should be on radio and television regularly -- the live voice and face of liberation -- answering questions from Iraqi reporters in their native language. If Donald Rumsfeld can deliver the message of resolve on TV here, why not Abizaid there?"

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Some Interesting Stats About the Middle East Countries:

Note the Countries with the lowest GDP per person have some of the highest growth rates, and that the UAE stats are closer to that of Israel than to most other countries in the Region. Also look at the top four countries where the GDP is low, the birth rate is high, and the average age is fairly low...does that imply we will be involved in Syria in the near future?

Mark Dankof, Columnist with Global News Net has a few things to say about the American Religious Right and Israel.

While the economy might be showing signs of recovery, the job market isn't.

Survey: Job cuts more than double in Oct.


Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said Tuesday that in October companies announced plans to eliminate 171,874 positions, compared with 76,506 jobs in September. It was the highest monthly level since October 2002, when 176,010 job cuts were announced. (AP Graphic)

NEW YORK -- Job cuts announced by U.S. companies more than doubled in October from the previous month, providing more evidence that the nation's economy is in a period of jobless expansion, according to a report from an outplacement firm.

Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said Tuesday that in October companies announced plans to eliminate 171,874 positions, compared with 76,506 jobs in September. It was the highest monthly level since October 2002, when 176,010 job cuts were announced. The surge in October ended a streak of five months when job reductions fell below 100,000 per month. The lowest figure during that time was in June, with 59,715 jobs cut.

Hardest-hit was the automotive industry, which announced plans to eliminate 28,363 jobs in October. That was followed by the retail sector, which plans to cut 21,169 positions, and the telecommunications industry, which said it would slash 21,030 jobs. "While perhaps shocking to some, the October spike follows a trend of heavy year-end downsizing that has occurred since we began tracking job cuts in 1993," said CEO John A. Challenger. "In 2001 and 2002, October was the largest job-cut month in the fourth quarter."

He added that companies' increasing productivity has made it easier for them to further delay hiring plans. The migration of jobs offshore as well as increasing consolidation also have stunted job growth. "I don't think that this expansion has the potential to create 150,000 jobs a month - a number to get unemployment to go down," he said. "I think that this will be a meager job expansion." Challenger, Gray & Christmas's monthly report focuses on companies' planned cuts, not actual reductions. The data is based on tracking figures from the news media and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In a new poll of human resources executives conducted by Challenger, 78 percent did not expect to see any significant upturn in hiring until the second quarter of 2004. None of the respondents forecast an upturn in the first quarter. Eleven percent said hiring would pick up in the third or fourth quarter. Eleven percent of those polled said that there would be no hiring rebound at all in 2004.

EFF request cease and desist ruling against Diebold

Civil rights groups sue electronic voting company over threats
Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Attorneys specializing in free speech on the Internet filed suit Tuesday against Diebold Inc., demanding the voting equipment company stop sending legal threats to organizations that publish its leaked documents. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Stanford University's Cyberlaw Clinic filed for a temporary restraining order in federal court. Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose is expected to issue a decision this week.

Computer programmers, Internet service providers and students from at least 20 universities, including the University of California, Berkeley, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have received the cease-and-desist orders from Diebold. Many groups are refusing to remove from their Web sites internal Diebold documents that they claim raise serious security questions and threaten the U.S. elections process.

Diebold executives could not be reached Tuesday, but spokesman Mike Jacobsen said in late October that the cease-and-desist orders do not mean the documents are authentic - nor do they give credence to advocates who claim lax Diebold security could allow hackers to rig machines. Jacobsen warned that some of the 13,000 pages of stolen documents may have been altered after they were stolen from the company's central server.

In March, a hacker broke into Diebold's servers using an employee's ID number, and copied company announcements, software bulletins and internal e-mails dating back to January 1999, Jacobsen said. The vast majority of the 1.8 gigabits of data contain little more than banal employee e-mails, routine software manuals and old voter record files. But several items seem to raise security concerns. In one series of e-mails, a senior engineer dismisses concern from a lower-level programmer who questions why the company lacked certification for a customized operating system used in touch-screen voting machines. The Federal Election Commission requires voting software to be certified by an independent research lab.

In another e-mail, a Diebold executive scolded programmers for leaving software files on an Internet site without password protection. "This potentially gives the software away to whomever wants it," the manager wrote in the e-mail. In August, the hacker e-mailed the data to voting activists, some of whom published stories on their Web logs. A freelance journalist at Wired News also received data and wrote about it in an online story.

The data was further distributed in digital form online, and it can still be found at dozens of sites - including some in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Italy. It's unclear how many sites link to the data. EFF staff attorney Wendy Seltzer said activists are trying to publicize alleged security breaches at Diebold, which has more than 50,000 touch-screen voting terminals nationwide. Publishing stolen documents from one of the nation's largest election equipment vendors, she says, is more important than honoring copyrights. "People are using these documents to talk about how the votes are counted," Seltzer said. "The First Amendment protects them." San Francisco-based EFF represents Online Policy Group, a nonprofit ISP that hosts the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center.

Voyager 1 Keeps on A Tickin' 8 Billion Miles, and 26 Years Later...

A long-delayed federal Internet tax bill that would turn a temporary moratorium on taxes on Internet access into a permanent ban is scheduled for debate today on the floor of the Senate.

Thursday November 06, 2003 06:55 - (SA)
WASHINGTON - Microsoft has launched a reward fund with $5 million to help track down creators of viruses and other types of malicious activity on the Internet.

The software giant is offering $250,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the authors of the MSBlast.A worm, designed to attack Microsoft's website. It is offering another $250,000 for information on the author of the Sobig virus, which attacked individual machines running Microsoft operating systems. The rewards are being offered worldwide, in an acknowledgement of the global nature of cybercrimes, the company said.

The announcement was made in Washington by Microsoft representatives, flanked by agents of the cybercrime divisions of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Secret Service and Interpol. "Malicious worms and viruses are criminal attacks on everyone who uses the Internet," said Brad Smith, senior vice president and general counsel at Microsoft.

"Even as we work to make software more secure and educate users on how to protect themselves, we are also working to stamp out the criminal behavior that causes this problem. These are not just Internet crimes, cybercrimes or virtual crimes. These are real crimes that hurt a lot of people. Those who release viruses on the Internet are the saboteurs of cyberspace, and Microsoft wants to help the authorities catch them."

Peter Nevitt, Interpol's director of information, systems, acknowledged it may be difficult to track and arrest some hackers or virus creators in countries where there may be no laws on computer crimes and few extradition treaties. But Nevitt said the agency is encouraging countries to use conventional laws such as those covering criminal damage to property to prosecute hackers and virus creators.


Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Former HealthSouth Chief Indicted

HealthSouth Indictment
November 4, 2003
On The Web

By Jesus Sanchez, Times Staff Writer

Federal prosecutors today indicted former HealthSouth chief Richard Scrushy on 85 counts ranging from fraud to money laundering and charged him with playing a key role in a scheme that inflated the once high-flying health care company's earnings by $2.5 billion.

Scrushy, whose huge salary and lavish lifestyle have been cited as examples of corporate excess during the 1990's stock market boom, will become the first major chief executive to be charged under new federal rules that makes corporate leaders accountable for false and inaccurate financial statements.

Scrushy, 51, turned himself into federal officials in Birmingham, Ala., where HealthSouth is headquartered, and is scheduled to make his initial court appearance later today, according to the Associated Press. He has previously denied any allegations of wrongdoing, saying he was unaware of the accounting fraud.

More than a dozen other HealthSouth executives have already pleaded guilty as a result of the government's probe into massive accounting irregularities at the firm, which operates a network of about 1,700 outpatient surgical, diagnostic imaging and rehabilitation centers. Since the investigation began, HealthSouth investors have watched their shares plummet in value.

"The magnitude of this alleged fraud is staggering" said U.S. assistant attorney general Christopher Wray in a Washington, D.C. press conference. "Instead of telling the public the truth, Scrushy and his accomplices lied. They cooked Healthsouth's books and filed false financial statements with the SEC to cover up their scheme."

Since Scrushy's compensation was tied to his company's financial performance, the former chief executive officer and chairman reaped a huge windfall by inflating HealthSouth's earnings, prosecutors allege. Between 1996 and 2002, Scrushy earned $267 million in salary, bonuses and stock options.

Charges against Scrushy include conspiracy, securities, mail fraud and money laundering, according to the indictment, which was issued Oct. 29 but unsealed today.

In addition, he allegedly violated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed in the wake of the Enron scandal, which requires chief executives to certify that their company's financial statements are true and accurate.

Tripp to Get Privacy Settlement
Defense Department Leaked Personal Information About Her
By Bradley Graham
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 4, 2003; Page A13

Linda Tripp, who secretly taped Monica Lewinsky's confessions of a sexual affair with President Bill Clinton, will receive a lump-sum payment of $595,000 from the Defense Department to settle claims that officials violated her privacy by leaking personal information.

Under the terms of a court settlement announced yesterday, Tripp will also receive a retroactive promotion and retroactive pay at a higher salary level for 1998, 1999 and 2000.

The agreement ended four years of litigation. Tripp, who worked for the Pentagon as a public affairs specialist, sued the department alleging that officials released private information about her in retaliation for her role in the Lewinsky matter, which led to impeachment proceedings against Clinton. The Pentagon ultimately conceded that its officials had violated the Privacy Act, which prohibits the government from releasing unauthorized personal information about Americans to nonfederal organizations. But Pentagon lawyers argued that the violations were minor.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan rejected Pentagon efforts to narrow Tripp's claims and urged the parties to work with a mediator to achieve a settlement. Tripp left the Pentagon in January 2001 with the change in administrations. She has since been reported to be battling breast cancer and has not worked.

One of her attorneys, Michael Kohn, said she intends to file for retirement benefits. But he held open the possibility that Tripp might apply for a federal job in the future. At her insistence, he said, the settlement does not restrict her right to work again for any branch of the federal government.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

From the same EU Commission a report about the major worries of EU Member citizens:
1. Environment @ 63%
2. Unemployment @ 56%
3. Crime @ 49%
4. Poverty @ 44%
5. Drug Abuse @ 26%
6. Racism @ 22%
7. Aids @ 16%
8. Immigration @ 14%
9. Loss of Traditional Values @ 13%
10. Globalization @ 10%
11. Aging Population @ 8%
12. European Integration @ 4%

Meanwhile, from a portion of a 2002 Pew Research Survey about America worries:
1. Terrorism @ 91%
2. Immigration @ 60%
3. Nothing @ 21%
4. Unemployment @ 19%

Monday, November 03, 2003

According to a report for the EU Commission entitled: "Flash Eurobarometer" dated November 2003 the view of America's role in Iraq by European citizens is highly unfavorable, and untrusting of America's role in the rebuilding process.

In reply to questions, EOS Gallup European polling showed:
Q1: "Today would you say that the military intervention of the United States and their Allies in Iraq was justified?"
   EU Total: 68% Not Justified, 29% Justified
Ranging from a high Not Justified rate of 96% in Greece, to a low Not Justified of 41% in Denmark

Q2: "In your opinion to whom should the management of the rebuilding of Iraq be entrusted?"
   US: 18%; EU: 25%; UN: 58%; CPA: 44%
The UN & it's Peacekeeping Force is viewed much more favorably than any other option

Q3: "And in your opinion, who should finance the rebuilding of Iraq?"
   US: 65%; EU: 24%; UN: 44%; CPA: 29%

Q4: "In your opinion who should guarantee security in Iraq during the period of rebuilding the country?"
   US: 6%, US & UN MultiNational Under US Control: 11%; UN & Peacekeeping Force: 62%

Q9: "How would you evaluate the threat of terrorism in (our country) today?"
   EU: 55% Strong Threat; 43% Weak Threat
For UK and Spain citizens 76% saw a strong threat
For Finland 94% saw a weak threat

Q10: "For each of the following countries tell me in your opinion if it presents or not, a threat to peace in the World?"
In Rank Order:
1. Israel @ 59%
2. Iran @ 53%
3. Korea @ 53%
4. United States @ 53%
5. Pakistan @ 48%
6. China @ 30%
7. India @ 22%
8. Russia @ 21%
9. The EU @ 8%

"In all EU Member States (with the exception of Italy), the majority of citizens believe that Israel presents the highest threat of all Nations to peace in the world with "Yes" results as high as 74% in the Netherlands."

Europe 60 Percent of Europeans See Israel as Threat to Peace
VOA News via Pravda
01 Nov 2003, 06:44 UTC

A new survey reportedly shows that six out of 10 Europeans view Israel as a greater threat to world peace than North Korea, Iran or Afghanistan.
A report published in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune says Europeans participating in the October poll were given a list of 15 countries and asked if any of them present a threat to world peace. Fifty nine percent said Israel was a threat. Eighty percent of those surveyed said Europe should be more involved in the Middle East peace process.

The poll, called the Eurobarometer, was conducted for the European Commission. Results are expected to be made public Monday. Survey encompassed 7,400 people. Five hundred in each of the 15 member states of the European Union. An international Jewish organization dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust calls the survey's results "shocking" and "racist." The Simon Wiesenthal Center says the result "defies logic" and shows that "anti-Semitism is deeply embedded within European society."

The poll also found that about two thirds of respondents think the war in Iraq was unjustified, and that the United States should pay the full costs of Iraq's reconstruction. More than half (54 percent) oppose sending any European peacekeepers to Iraq.

October 30th was Political Repressions Victim Day in Russia. Note this candid article in Pravda about political repression in Russia, and elsewhere.

Anti-Spammers meets DDoS attacks, and both are bloodied.

A CBS Mini-Series about Ronald Reagan runs into criticism.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

The Seminoles won big at Notre Dame on Saturday. ...and are still in the running for the National Championship, especially since Miami lost to NC State. However, Rix needs to make better decisions about when not to throw the ball ! Three TDs are fine; but three interceptions per game is not going to get it done against any of the other top five teams.

{Doctor's Without Borders: What Role do They Play in the World}

"Au Liberia, les enfants miliciens sont les forces irrégulières de l'intervention internationale"
LE MONDE | 01.11.03 | 13h59
Jean-Hervé Bradol, président de Médecins sans frontières (MSF).

Vous venez de passer dix jours au Liberia. quelle est aujourd'hui la situation à Monrovia ?

L'arrivée des casques bleus donne un peu de répit à une population traumatisée par les centaines de morts et les milliers de blessés dus aux combats entre factions armées, cet été.
Ces affrontements ont entraîné des déplacements, plus ou moins temporaires, de centaines de milliers de personnes. Une importante épidémie de choléra a également touché la ville. Dans un pays épuisé par des années d'instabilité et d'embargo international, se nourrir chaque jour est la préoccupation majeure des familles.

Au plus fort des affrontements, pourquoi MSF, à la différence d'autres organisations humanitaires, n'a-t-elle pas lancé un appel à une intervention militaire extérieure ?

Tout simplement parce qu'elle était déjà en cours ! Le principal mouvement rebelle - Libériens unis pour la réconciliation et la démocratie, LURD - avait ses bases à l'extérieur du Liberia, recrutait des combattants en partie guinéens ou sierra-léonais et bénéficiait d'un soutien américain. Le Conseil de sécurité de l'ONU n'a jamais trouvé à redire contre cette situation de fait lors de ses nombreuses réunions au sujet du Liberia.

Finalement, l'arrivée des casques bleus ressemble à la dernière étape d'une intervention politique et militaire internationale visant à chasser le président Charles Taylor, que les sanctions internationales n'avaient pas réussi à déloger. Les enfants miliciens de la rébellion, avec leur perruque et leur joint au bec, sont en quelque sorte les forces irrégulières d'une intervention internationale dont les casques bleus sont les troupes régulières. Il est difficile de penser, dans ces circonstances, que le sort de la population libérienne préoccupe ceux qui décident de telles interventions militaires.

Aujourd'hui, c'est le cas au Liberia, hier c'était le cas en Sierra Leone, où le Nigeria et le Royaume-Uni sont intervenus pour maintenir au pouvoir un ancien fonctionnaire international. Sous la direction de l'ONU, des Etats-Unis ou d'une autre puissance - le Royaume-Uni en Sierra Leone, l'Australie au Timor, la France en Côte d'Ivoire... -, nous assistons à la multiplication d'opérations menées au nom de la sécurité collective et d'une hypothétique morale universelle dans des pays en crise.

Dans un certain nombre de cas, l'implication prend la forme d'une action militaire directe en appui à l'une des parties au conflit, comme au Kosovo ou en Afghanistan. Dans tous les cas, ces interventions aux résultats incertains ne se déroulent pas sans faire des victimes. Le rôle des organisations humanitaires n'est pas de se faire l'auxiliaire de telles entreprises politico-militaires, mais de produire, en toute impartialité et indépendance, des secours adaptés aux besoins des populations affectées par les conflits. Il est donc compréhensible que nous n'appelions pas à de telles interventions, en dehors de circonstances exceptionnelles, comme lors du génocide au Rwanda, en 1994.

Si le but était la chute de Charles Taylor, la fin de son régime ouvre-t-elle la voie à la reconstruction nationale ?

Ce serait souhaitable pour une population dont une grande partie demeure inaccessible à l'aide internationale. Le rythme peu soutenu du déploiement des casques bleus à l'intérieur du pays est une indication de la précarité de la paix qui s'installe. Les Nations unies ont-elles un plan réalisable pour stabiliser le Liberia, que ses dirigeants s'acharnent à détruire depuis bientôt quatorze ans ? L'avenir le dira.

Lors du siège de Monrovia, des cadavres ont été déposés devant l'ambassade américaine. Les Libériens ne se défaussent-ils pas sur le monde extérieur, au lieu d'assumer la responsabilité pour leur propre guerre civile ?

Déposer les cadavres peut s'interpréter de deux façons : demander de l'aide à l'extérieur, mais également souligner la responsabilité américaine dans la reprise des combats.

Au Liberia, personne n'ignore l'hostilité des Américains à l'égard de Charles Taylor, leur complaisance vis-à-vis de la rébellion. Quand la situation dégénère au point où des roquettes tirées par la rébellion tuent des civils dans un camp de déplacés situé sur un terrain appartenant à l'ambassade américaine, il semble logique que les proches des victimes se tournent vers l'ambassade américaine en demandant à ce pays d'assumer les responsabilités d'une politique qui a entraîné la disparition de leurs parents.

Les Etats-Unis ayant refusé de venir au secours, les Nations unies ont à présent le Liberia à charge. Avec quelles chances de succès, face à quelles attentes ?

Nos patients et nos collègues libériens expriment un immense espoir, après tant d'années de guerre et de misère, vis-à-vis des Nations unies. Cet espoir est à la mesure de leur défiance à l'encontre des hommes politiques de leur pays. D'un autre côté, ils ont déjà fait l'expérience des interventions des Nations unies, ces dernières années, et ont eu l'occasion d'en mesurer les difficultés.

Dans cette situation, quelles sont les priorités de MSF au Liberia ?

Offrir des soins médicaux gratuits, d'une qualité raisonnable, aux groupes de populations les plus affectés par la guerre à Monrovia et dans les régions les plus déstabilisées à l'intérieur du pays. Concrètement, nous sommes responsables de 400 lits d'hospitalisation, de cinq cliniques, de cinq centres de traitement du choléra, de plusieurs centres de réhabilitation nutritionnelle dans Monrovia.

La prochaine étape consistera à déployer le même type de secours à l'intérieur du pays, où quelques équipes sont déjà en place. Plusieurs missions exploratoires sont en cours, mais, jusqu'à présent, les conditions de sécurité, en particulier dans la zone tenue par les rebelles du LURD, n'ont pas été suffisantes.

Propos recueillis par Stephen Smith


17:16 2003-10-30
Russian Constitutional Court confirms journalists' right to freedom of expression during election campaign

The Russian Federation Constitutional Court confirmed journalists' right to freedom of expression during the election campaign.

"The positive or negative opinion of some candidates is not part of an election campaign and can't be a ground for bringing media representatives to administrative account," says the court ruling voiced by RF Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin on Thursday. In the court's opinion, "journalists' opinion and their comments" or "expression of preference for this or that candidate" are not part of an election campaign either, just like distributing information unrelated to the candidate's current professional activity, says the CC ruling on the case that was brought up on the initiative of a number of journalists and on the request by a group of State Duma deputies.

Thus, the RF Constitutional Court ruled that a provision of a subclause of clause 2, article 48 of the federal law "On the Main Guarantees of Franchise and the Right of Russian Federation Citizens to Participate in Referendums" was unconstitutional and infringed upon the freedom of mass media. In the court's opinion, this provision "allows broad interpretation of the very notion and types of banned election campaigns, and thus does not rule out optional use of this norm." The RF Constitutional Court gave a clear definition of an election campaign and limited to the minimum the scope of information that can be regarded as part of it.

Sen. John McCain has lots of friends in the Democratic Presidential Race.

Remember the Wall of Shame? Where do these belong on that wall? Adelphia, Andersen Consulting, Enron, Global Crossing, Imclone, Qwest, Tyco, Wall Street, WorldCom.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

In the film: Wall Street, Michael Douglas's character said: "Greed is Good"..., yeah, sure it is for the 1%'ers; but everyone else suffers. We knew that our mutual fund accounts had essentially become static over the past few years. Accounts we had setup in 1996-1997 have a present value almost exactly equal to what we paid in, excluding their diminished post-inflation actual value. All the volatility with no appreciation. We probably would have been better to just leave the money in certificates of deposit. So, it's no surprise to now read about Spitzer's actions against several mutual funds. If all this "take care of the big guys" financial shenanigans continues unabated, we will be sowing the seeds of our own destruction. Without faith and trust in America's financial markets, the Euro could become the defacto international currency, and the corporate crooks who made it happen will watch as our once mighty dollar sucks wind.

Israeli General has a few words for the Sharon Government:

Our strategy helps the terrorists - army chief warns Sharon
Fierce rebuke exposes rift between military and government

Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Friday October 31, 2003
The Guardian

Israel's army chief has exposed deep divisions between the military and Ariel Sharon by branding the government's hardline treatment of Palestinian civilians counter-productive and saying that the policy intensifies hatred and strengthens the "terror organisations".

Lieutenant-General Moshe Ya'alon also told Israeli journalists in an off-the-record briefing that the army was opposed to the route of the "security fence" through the West Bank. The government also contributed to the fall of the former Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, by offering only "stingy" support for his attempts to end the conflict, he said.

Gen Ya'alon had apparently hoped his anonymous criticisms would strengthen the army's voice, which has been subordinated to the views of the intelligence services in shaping policy. But the comments were so devastating that he was swiftly revealed as the source. The statements - which a close associate characterised to the Israeli press as warning that the country was "on the verge of a catastrophe" - will also reinforce a growing perception among the public that Mr Sharon is unable to deliver the peace with security he promised when he came to office nearly three years ago.

The criticism is made all the more searing because Gen Ya'alon is not known for being soft on the Palestinians. As deputy chief of staff, he called the latest conflict the second stage of Israel's independence war. The general warned that the continued curfews, reoccupation of towns and severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, combined with the economic crisis they have caused, were increasing the threat to Israel's security.

"In our tactical decisions, we are operating contrary to our strategic interest," Gen Ya'alon said. "It increases hatred for Israel and strengthens the terror organisations."

Earlier this week, army commanders in the West Bank told the military administration in the occupied territories that Palestinians had reached new depths of despair, which was fuelling a hatred for Israeli that had little to do with the propaganda so often blamed by the government. "There is no hope, no expectations for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, nor in Bethlehem and Jericho," said Gen Ya'alon.

The commanders warned that the situation was strengthening Hamas, a view the Israeli intelligence services agreed with. But while the army sees the solution as easing most oppressive elements of occupation, the Shin Bet argues that rising support for Islamist groups is a reason to keep the clampdown in place. This is the preferred option of the defence minister and Gen Ya'alon's predecessor as army chief of staff, Shaul Mofaz. Mr Sharon and Mr Mofaz were reportedly furious at the general's statements and initially demanded that he retract them or resign. But the political establishment apparently decided it would be better to deride Gen Ya'alon.

Anonymous sources in the prime minister's office were quoted in the Israeli press complaining that the army chief was trying to blame the politicians for the military's failures. But army radio reported yesterday that the foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, agreed that there needs to be a substantial easing of restrictions on the Palestinian population. The deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, was also reported to have backed the general's view.

Gen Ya'alon also waded into one of the most contentious issues of the day by saying the army had recommended a less controversial route for the steel and concrete "security fence" through the West Bank. He said the military had warned that the fence, which digs deep into Palestinian territory, caging some towns and villages and cutting farmers off from their land, will make the lives of some Palestinians "unbearable" and require too many soldiers to guard it.

Further questions were raised yesterday after the chairman of parliament's defence budget committee revealed that the cost of the fence could triple to �1.3bn - or 3% of the national budget - if Mr Sharon fulfils his plan for the fence to run around Jewish settlements and the length of the Jordan valley so that it encircles the bulk of the Palestinian population. In response to questions about Gen Ya'alon's comments, the army's chief spokeswoman, Brigadier General Ruth Yaron, said they reflected a debate within the military. "No uniformed officer has expressed criticism of the government. The articles reflect fundamental deliberations within the army, in light of a complex reality," she said.

Oh goodie, another Email worm: MIMAIL unleached today propagates inside a zip file usually called: PHOTOS.ZIP
MiMail works in a manner similar to SOBIG; but it is not as aggressive or elegant. Still, wanna bet that lots of dweebs will open the zipfile to look at photos, especially if they might be... ta-ta.. {intended for adults}. Unknown if the viri scanners can pick it up yet as it was released late Friday PM.

Microsoft wants to make programming easier with the next iteration of their Windows OS, code named: Longhorn. C++ programmers have nothing to worry about; but if you make your coins with VB, it's probably better that you buy your new Bimmer now. But WTH, if you're not doing Linux extended by 06 you'll be toast anyway.

After reading about the Terri Schiavo episode in Florida, or remembering the Karen Quinlan case from a few years ago, it might be useful for those so oriented to make a "Durable Power of Attorney" for health care, and a "Living Will". You can obtain the "Five Wishes" program which is valid in 35 States, or for Georgia residents, the forms are available here.