Monday, August 30, 2004

The NYTimes > Media & Advertising > Drilling Down/Election Web Sites: Kerry Generates Hits

The New York Times > Business > Media & Advertising > Drilling Down/Election Web Sites: Kerry Generates Hits:
"The heated dispute over John Kerry’s war record may not be helping John Kerry the candidate, but it seems to be stirring interest in John Kerry the Web site. According to figures from Nielsen/NetRatings, visitors to Mr. Kerry’s campaign site ( more than doubled in the third week in August, as the charges and countercharges over his service in Vietnam made headlines."

Opposition sites including also enjoyed traffic increases during the debate. The curious exception is the official site for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (, the group that initiated the attacks on Mr. Kerry. As its charges became more widespread, the number of visitors dwindled. It does seem to suggest that the Internet was the catalyst, said Kenneth Cassar, a director at Nielsen/NetRatings. But once mainstream media covered the story, fewer people visited the Web site.

In other ways, behavior on political sites is more predictable. The biggest draw on the Kerry site, for example, is a petition entitled ‘‘Tell George Bush: Stop the Smear Campaign: Get Back to the Issues.’’

The NYTimes > Campaign 2004 > Subpoena Seeks Records About Delegate Lists on Web

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Subpoena Seeks Records About Delegate Lists on Web:
"WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 - The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation and is demanding records regarding Internet postings by critics of the Bush administration that list the names of Republican delegates and urge protesters to give them an unwelcome reception in New York City."

Federal prosecutors said in a grand jury subpoena that the information was needed as part of an investigation into possible voter intimidation. Protesters and civil rights advocates argued that the Web postings were legitimate political dissent, not threats or intimidation.

The investigation, conducted by the Secret Service, comes at a time when federal officials have begun an aggressive effort to prevent what they say could be violence by demonstrators at the convention this week and at other major political events. Large-scale demonstrations in New York began over the weekend.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has questioned at least several dozen would-be protesters about whether they knew of any plans for violent demonstrations, and it has directed agents nationwide to identify possible criminal plots. Some Democrats in Congress and civil rights advocates have criticized the efforts, saying the inquiries have had a chilling effect on free speech.The accusations are likely to intensify with the disclosure of the subpoena regarding the Republican delegates.

"People have a right to be heard politically, and the names of a lot of these delegates are already public anyway," said Matt Toups, 22, a system administrator for the Web site under federal investigation. "This is just part of the government's campaign to intimidate people into not saying things."

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Truth About Confessions

The Truth About Confessions :
"The idea that one can confess to a crime one didn't commit seems bizarre. Confession is the most personal of statements. It is supposed to express the intimate truth of the individual, to reveal his lived experience and 'inner dispositions,' as Rousseau put it in his 'Confessions.' This truth, these dispositions, are obscure, shifting, illusive; most confessions are laden with unintended meanings."

The N YTimes > Campaign 2004 > Bush Takes On Direct Role in Shaping Election Tactics

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Bush Takes On Direct Role in Shaping Election Tactics:
"President Bush will accept his party's nomination in New York this week on the crest of a campaign that aides say reflects an unusual level of involvement from the president himself, particularly in driving attacks on Senator John Kerry that have characterized his re-election effort since the spring.

Several aides said Mr. Bush viewed this as the campaign of his life and had intervened on matters as large as the themes it should strike and as small as particular shots of him in his television advertisements. While making sure Mr. Kerry is challenged at every opening, they said, the single most consuming concern for Mr. Bush is that there is an elaborate get-out-the-vote operation in November in anticipation of a contest as tight as the one in 2000. "

Mr. Bush, in an interview in New Mexico last week, was careful to present himself as above his campaign, saying he was busy dealing with the problems of the country.…

Still, aides say that while Karl Rove continues to dominate the campaign as the top White House political adviser, the president's involvement and interest is far deeper than is widely known. [Page 24.] Mixed in with the updates on national security by Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, and Vice President Dick Cheney that Mr. Bush receives in his daily Oval Office morning briefings is a quick campaign overview from Mr. Rove.

Mr. Bush's role in his own campaign was described in extensive interviews with aides and party leaders as Republicans gathered in New York to nominate Mr. Bush for a second term. They arrived buoyed by three new polls suggesting Mr. Bush's standing had improved at least somewhat against Mr. Kerry.

Democrats contend that any damage to Mr. Kerry's popularity was caused by unsubstantiated claims by veterans disputing his Vietnam combat medals and that Mr. Bush will ultimately be hurt by their accusation that his campaign was secretly orchestrating the veterans' attacks.

Beyond the involvement of the president himself, aides say the strategy that has brought Mr. Bush to this point is quietly being directed not from the Oval Office, or even his campaign headquarters, but by what his inner circle privately calls the Breakfast Club: a small group of advisers who gather on weekends at Mr. Rove's home in northwest Washington, where, over eggs and bacon cooked by Mr. Rove, they measure the campaign's progress against a detailed plan devised 18 months ago.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Special Report: The Investigation of Intelligence Activities at Abu Ghraib

Special Report: The Investigation of Intelligence Activities at Abu Ghraib:
"The Army has concluded its investigation of intelligence activities at Abu Ghraib. Begun March 31 and concluded on August 6, it is a comprehensive review of the 205th MI Brigade, including contractor support, and higher chain of command through CJTF-7. The investigation determined that the primary causes of abuse at Abu Ghraib are misconduct by a small group of soldiers and civilian contractors who apparently failed to respect the dignity of those in their custody, a lack of discipline on the part of leaders and soldiers of the 205th MI Brigade, and a failure of leadership by multiple echelons within Combined Joint Task Force 7. "

Twenty-seven (27) 205th MI Brigade personnel allegedly requested, encouraged, condoned or solicited MP personnel to abuse detainees and / or participated in detainee abuse and / or violated established interrogation procedures and applicable laws and regulations during interrogation operations at Abu Ghraib. Leaders bear responsibility for lack of oversight, failure to react to warnings and indications, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross report, and policy memos that failed to provide clear, consistent guidance for intelligence gathering execution at the tactical level. The 205th MI Brigade and 800th MP Brigade leaders at Abu Ghraib failed to supervise or provide direct oversight, to properly discipline their soldiers, to learn from prior mistakes, and to provide continued mission-specific training. Additionally, some allegations pertaining to “ghost detainees” were substantiated. Interrogation practices of other governmental agencies were a contributing factor to a loss of accountability at Abu Ghraib.

Download the report -
The Investigation of Intelligence Activities at Abu Ghraib (1MB, .pdf)

Friday, August 27, 2004

Militants Leave Shrine as Cease-Fire Deal Appears to Hold

Militants Leave Shrine as Cease-Fire Deal Appears to Hold
NAJAF, Iraq, Aug. 27 — An uneasy peace settled over this city today as guerrillas loyal to the insurgent cleric Moktada al-Sadr streamed out of the Imam Ali Shrine before a cordon of American troops, ceding control of the Shiite holy site to the mainstream religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and appearing to end a bloody three-week standoff.

With thousands of civilians pouring into the shrine from all over Iraq, some who were weeping and kissing the walls of the damaged temple, the insurgents who had commandeered the holy site for nearly a month joined the departing pilgrims and headed out through its vaulting gates.

"In the name of Allah, my brothers in the Mahdi Army, I beg you, if civilians are in the shrine, leave with them, and leave your guns behind," intoned a voice from the shrines loudspeaker, reading a message from Mr. Sadr. "This is an order that you must obey."

With that, the fighters, many of them hollow-eyed and appearing strained after days under fire, walked into the streets and left the area, moving along what appeared to be an agreed-upon exit route that led out of the city. Others simply hung about, boasting of what they told themselves was an epic stand against the American Army.

As the Mahdi Army fighters did not surrender themselves, neither did they give up their guns. Instead, they took the assault rifles and rocket launchers with which they had commandeered the shrine and loaded them onto donkey carts, covering them with blankets and grain sacks and television sets and sending them away.

Hours later, Mahdi Army fighters, some still dressed in their signature black uniforms, could be seen stashing rocket launchers in crates and pushing them into roadside shops.

As the Mahdi fighters streamed out of the city, the American soldiers who had fought their way to within 75 yards of the shrine in some of the war's most ferocious fighting kept their distance, neither shooting the Mahdi fighters nor trying to take them into custody. American commanders said they were under orders to arrest no one, least of all Mahdi Army insurgents.

Later in the day, obviously tipped off about a cache of guns, a platoon of American soldiers rumbled up Rasool Street to the gates of the shrine and began searching sidewalks and cars.

Aides to Ayatollah Sistani, who brokered the peace agreement upon returning to the city on Thursday, moved into the shrine early today and told Mr. Sadr's men that they were now in charge.

"We are taking over the shrine," one of Ayatollah Sistani's senior clerics said. "We will not be making another comment."

By early evening, aides to Ayatollah Sistani were fully in control of the shrine itself. Iraqi police officers, backed by American soldiers and armor, converged on the area around the shrine, with the Americans moving to within 75 yards and then dropping back.

The reassertion of Iraqi government control, symbolized by the entry of the police, was one of the key demands made by Ayatollah Sistani of Mr. Sadr.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The NYTimes > Abu Ghraib Report: Abuses at Prison Tied to Officers in Intelligence

The New York Times > Washington > Abu Ghraib Report: Abuses at Prison Tied to Officers in Intelligence:
"The 171-page report chronicled a gruesome range of abuses, including one death, an alleged rape, numerous beatings and instances where prisoners were stripped naked and left for hours in dark, poorly ventilated cells that were stifling hot or freezing cold. Gen. Paul J. Kern, who supervised the work of General Fay and General Jones, spoke with disgust of a 'game' in which dog handlers terrorized adolescent prisoners. [Excerpts, Page A10.]

'There were a few instances when torture was being used,' General Fay told reporters at Pentagon news conference, in perhaps the harshest characterization of the abuses so far by military authorities.

While investigators said the mistreatment captured in the horrific photographs that first brought the abuses to light did not in most cases involve interrogations, the panel said it had uncovered other abuses that did occur during questioning, or were carried out by military police on orders from interrogators with the aim of extracting information. "

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Chicago Tribune | 9/11 panel faults probe of 2 charities

Chicago Tribune | 9/11 panel faults probe of 2 charities:
"The government's shutdown of two Chicago-area Islamic charities after the Sept. 11 attacks has yet to produce a terrorism-related criminal conviction and 'raises substantial civil liberty concerns,' according to the staff of the independent commission that investigated the attacks.

Authorities froze the assets of the charities--Global Relief Foundation of Bridgeview and Benevolence International Foundation of Palos Hills--before any official finding that they were aiding Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations.

The action put Global Relief and Benevolence International out of business. But since they were shuttered in December 2001, the government hasn't proven in court that they were guilty of any terrorism-related crimes."

The commission staff examined the moves against the two charities as part of a report on U.S. efforts to combat terrorism funding. The study also reviewed in detail a case against the Al-Barakaat money-transmission network, which fell apart because of insufficient evidence.

The report raises questions about the government's claims of success in its terrorism financing investigations. It also echoes concerns of civil liberty abuses raised for years by Chicago-area Muslims and other supporters of the closed charities.,1,6574018.story

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The NYTimes > Campaign > The Military Record: Officer From Another Swift Boat B

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > The Military Record: Officer From Another Swift Boat B:
"William B. Rood, is now an editor at The Chicago Tribune, which ran on its Web site yesterday and in Sunday's paper a 1,750-word first-person article in which Mr. Rood recounted the mission. His account added to a growing debate over the most serious claims from the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. And it ensured that questions swirling around the veracity of the group's claims, and the Kerry campaign's accusations that the group was connected to the Bush campaign, would dominate the contest for yet another day.
Mr. Rood stepped forward after Mr. Kerry called him and another veteran on Mr. Rood's boat as members of the Swift boat group blanketed cable television and radio talk shows to repeat their claim, also made in a book and a television advertisement, that Mr. Kerry had fabricated his military accomplishments to win medals.

Mr. Kerry's phone calls were part of his campaign's first concerted push to address the group's claims, which surfaced weeks ago. That push also included the release of a new Internet advertisement on Saturday highlighting accusations made about Senator John McCain by military supporters of Mr. Bush in 2000 and a public call by Mr. Kerry's running mate, Senator John Edwards, for Mr. Bush to tell the group to cease running advertisements against Mr. Kerry. "

The Swift boat group, which garnered much of its initial financing from men who have supported Mr. Bush's and his father's political endeavors, has been ready to defend itself and quickly provided a statement Saturday saying Mr. Rood's article was politically motivated. The group continues to raise money and on Friday introduced an advertisement with former prisoners of war recounting the pain Mr. Kerry's 1971 antiwar comments caused them when they were being held by the Vietcong.

Mr. Bush's campaign confirmed on Saturday an accusation by the Kerry campaign that one of the veterans in the that advertisement was a member the Bush campaign's veterans' advisory committee. The Bush campaign said in a statement that it did not know that the man, retired Col. Kenneth Cordier, was going to appear in the advertisement and because of that he was no longer a volunteer.

The Bush campaign denies involvement with the Swift boat group and on Saturday released a statement to the Federal Election Commission saying that the Kerry campaign's accusations of coordination were untrue. The Bush camp has declined to tell the group to stop running advertisements, but aides said Mr. Kerry should join Mr. Bush in calling for all outside groups to stop advertising.

In his article Mr. Rood disputed a claim the Swift boat group made in its book, "Unfit for Command," that Mr. Kerry had received his Silver Star for chasing down a lone Vietcong teenager "in a loincloth" who may or may not have been armed on Feb. 28, 1969.

Mr. Rood was the skipper of one of three boats involved in the mission with Mr. Kerry, conducting a sweep for the enemy through a tributary of the Bay Hap River. "I have no idea how old the gunner Kerry chased that day was," Mr. Rood wrote, but "he was a grown man, dressed in the kind of garb the VC usually wore." He also wrote that Mr. Kerry had devised a plan to face into enemy fire, a breach of typical procedure.

He added, referring to John O'Neill, a co-author of "Unfit for Command" and a leader of the Swift boat group: "The man Kerry chased was not the 'lone' attacker at that site, as O'Neill suggests. There were others who fled. There was also firing from the tree line well behind the spider holes and at one point, from the opposite riverbank as well."

Mr. Rood also noted that Roy F. Hoffmann, a retired rear admiral who was the Swift boat group's commander, lauded the operation at the time in glowing terms. Mr. Hoffmann is, with Mr. O'Neill, one of the main engineers of the anti-Kerry group's effort.

Chicago Tribune | `This is what I saw that day'

Chicago Tribune | `This is what I saw that day':

There were three swift boats on the river that day in Vietnam more than 35 years ago--three officers and 15 crew members. Only two of those officers remain to talk about what happened on February 28, 1969.

One is John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate who won a Silver Star for what happened on that date. I am the other.

For years, no one asked about those events. But now they are the focus of skirmishing in a presidential election with a group of swift boat veterans and others contending that Kerry didn't deserve the Silver Star for what he did on that day, or the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts he was awarded for other actions.

Many of us wanted to put it all behind us--the rivers, the ambushes, the killing. Ever since that time, I have refused all requests for interviews about Kerry's service--even those from reporters at the Chicago Tribune, where I work.

But Kerry's critics, armed with stories I know to be untrue, have charged that the accounts of what happened were overblown. The critics have taken pains to say they're not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us. It's gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue, especially when they come from people who were not there.

Even though Kerry's own crew members have backed him, the attacks have continued, and in recent days Kerry has called me and others who were with him in those days, asking that we go public with our accounts.

I can't pretend those calls had no effect on me, but that is not why I am writing this. What matters most to me is that this is hurting crewmen who are not public figures and who deserved to be honored for what they did. My intent is to tell the story here and to never again talk publicly about it.

I was part of the operation that led to Kerry's Silver Star.,1,2523679.story?coll=chi-news-hed

The New York Times > National > U.S. Terrorism Tribunals Set to Begin Work

The New York Times > National > U.S. Terrorism Tribunals Set to Begin Work:
"United States officials are keenly aware that Guantánamo, which has served as a prison for as many as 800 detainees captured at the end of the Afghanistan war, has become in many parts of the world a symbol of American high-handedness and unwillingness to acknowledge international law. Last month, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general of Britain, told a law conference in London that the tribunals did not offer enough guarantees of a fair trial.

Because of the criticism, United States military officials say they are determined to demonstrate that they will hold fair trials for the detainees, the first four of whom are charged with various counts of conspiracy to commit terrorism."

John D. Altenburg Jr., a retired Army lawyer who oversees the tribunal system, told reporters in Washington that the trial procedures were based on many principles that would safeguard justice, like a presumption of innocence and a requirement that a defendant may be deemed guilty only by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

But the trials will be open to news media representatives and legal observers, though conducted under a barrage of doubts about their fairness, voiced by human rights groups, foreign governments and, most strikingly, American military defense lawyers who have gone beyond the expected protestations of their clients' innocence to scathing speeches asserting that the trials are stacked in favor of the prosecution.

One of those lawyers, Lt. Cmdr. Philip Sundel, said he accepted the job after the Navy's top lawyer said it would be a historic opportunity. "Not historic enough, I guess," Commander Sundel said in an interview.

"I found out in June I was not selected for promotion for the second year in a row," said Commander Sundel, who has a strong reputation as a trial lawyer. Under the military's system that emphasizes promotion or resignation, he will leave the service. Asked if he believed the promotion denial was related to his representation of Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al-Bahlul of Yemen and his strong criticism of the tribunal system, he said: "I have no way of knowing if it adversely impacted my situation. It didn't positively impact, it seems."

His client is charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism and war crimes. Mr. Bahlul is accused of having sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden, traveled with him as a bodyguard and made a videotape that was used as a recruiting tool for Mr. bin Laden's terrorist network, Al Qaeda.

Some of the defense lawyers have complained that problems with their translators, who have not been paid in a timely manner, hampered them in mounting their cases. Mr. Altenburg told reporters that the complaints had merit and he was moving quickly to address them.

Commander Sundel said he expected to do little at the coming hearings beyond ask for more time to meet with his client. "We desperately need to speak with him," he said. "The hearing is Thursday and we were only given a new interpreter last week."

The first translator was judged inadequate and dismissed in April.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Judges rule file-sharing software legal - News - ZDNet

Judges rule file-sharing software legal - News - ZDNet:
"Like the lower court, the Ninth Circuit implied that any ability to hold software developers liable for copyright infringement might have to come from Congress rather than from the courts. Indeed, the RIAA is already pursuing that goal, with a bill sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, that would put legal responsibility for copyright infringement back on the peer-to-peer developers.

But the Appeals Court closed its decision with words that some technology lawyers are interpreting as a cautionary note to Congress, as it debates that bill.

'The introduction of new technology is always disruptive to old markets and particularly to those copyright owners whose works are sold through well-established distribution mechanisms,' the court wrote. 'Yet history has shown that time and market forces often provide equilibrium in balancing interests, whether the new technology be a player piano, a copier, a tape recorder, a video recorder, a personal computer, a karaoke machine or an MP3 player. Thus, it is prudent for courts to exercise caution before restructuring liability theories for the purpose of addressing specific market abuses, despite their apparent present magnitude.' "

The NYTimes > Americas: Chávez Victory: A Blow to the Bush Administration

The New York Times > International > Americas > The Chá:vez Victory: A Blow to the Bush Administration:
"The United States long ago threw its lot in with an opposition movement that is being discredited by foreign diplomats and many Venezuelans for insisting that fraud took place when the preponderance of evidence indicates it did not.

The United States has also provided money to groups like S?mate, which violated elections norms early on Monday by distributing results of a survey of voters leaving the polls that showed Mr. Ch?vez losing by a wide margin. Mr. Ch?vez seized on this financing of anti-government groups, channeled through the National Endowment for Democracy, to whip his supporters into an anti-American frenzy.

'The United States is stuck in a time warp,' said Riordan Roett, director of Latin American studies at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. 'It is using tools from the cold war, when money from the National Endowment for Democracy was useful in funding anti-Communist movements.'"

The United States policy has largely been out of step with the rest of the region. Washington has been unable to grasp the widespread reaction against free market changes across Latin America, changes now being rolled back by left-leaning leaders. In Venezuela, the United States has operated on the presumption that Mr. Chávez's opponents had more support, clearly underestimating that most Venezuelans would vote to keep him in office.

"It's not that the U.S. is not paying attention, it's that their calculation and strategy was wrong," said Eduardo Gamarra, a Bolivian who is director of the Latin America and Caribbean Center at Florida International University in Miami. "And it's been wrong because it's been based on the false assumption that Chávez is not popular, on the false assumption that he's a dictator."

After Mr. Chávez's resounding win, the Bush administration set itself apart from the rest of the region, calling on the Venezuelan government's electoral board to "allow a transparent audit," though international monitors pronounced the election free and fair. On Tuesday, Mr. Ereli, the State Department spokesman, dodged questions from reporters about why the United States was not congratulating Mr. Chávez.

The NYTimes > National > Senator? Terrorist? A Watch List Stops Kennedy at Airport

Senator? Terrorist? A Watch List Stops Kennedy at Airport:
"Between March 1 and April 6, airline agents tried to block Mr. Kennedy from boarding airplanes on five occasions because his name resembled an alias used by a suspected terrorist who had been barred from flying on airlines in the United States, his aides and government officials said.

Instead of acknowledging the craggy-faced, silver-haired septuagenarian as the Congressional leader whose face has flashed across the nation's television sets for decades, the airline agents acted as if they had stumbled across a fanatic who might blow up an American airplane. Mr. Kennedy said they refused to give him his ticket.

'He said, 'We can't give it to you',' Mr. Kennedy said, describing an encounter with an airline agent to the rapt audience. ' 'You can't buy a ticket to go on the airline to Boston.' I said, 'Well, why not?' He said, 'We can't tell you.' '

'Tried to get on a plane back to Washington,' Mr. Kennedy continued. '' 'You can't get on the plane.' I went up to the desk and said, 'I've been getting on this plane, you know, for 42 years. Why can't I get on the plane?' ' …"

Mr. Kennedy said his situation highlighted the odyssey encountered by people whose names had mistakenly appeared on terrorist watch lists or resembled the names of suspected terrorists on such lists. In April, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the government on behalf of seven airline passengers who said they had wrongly been placed on no-fly lists or associated with names on the lists and could not find a way to clarify their identities.

In Mr. Kennedy's case, airline supervisors ultimately overruled the ticket agents in each instance and allowed him to board the plane. But it took several weeks for the Department of Homeland Security to clear the matter up altogether, the senator's aides said.

Just days after Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge called Mr. Kennedy in early April to apologize and to promise that the problems would be resolved, another airline agent tried to stop Mr. Kennedy from boarding a plane yet again. The alias used by the suspected terrorist on the watch list was Edward Kennedy, said David Smith, a spokesman for the senator.

At the hearing, Mr. Kennedy wondered how ordinary citizens could navigate the tangled bureaucracy if a senator had so much trouble. "How are they going to be able to get to be treated fairly and not have their rights abused?" he asked.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Voting While Black

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Voting While Black:
"The smell of voter suppression coming out of Florida is getting stronger. It turns out that a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation, in which state troopers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando in a bizarre hunt for evidence of election fraud, is being conducted despite a finding by the department last May 'that there was no basis to support the allegations of election fraud.'

State officials have said that the investigation, which has already frightened many voters and intimidated elderly volunteers, is in response to allegations of voter fraud involving absentee ballots that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March. But the department considered that matter closed last spring, according to a letter from the office of Guy Tunnell, the department's commissioner, to Lawson Lamar, the state attorney in Orlando, who would be responsible for any criminal prosecutions."

The letter, dated May 13, said:

"We received your package related to the allegations of voter fraud during the 2004 mayoral election. This dealt with the manner in which absentee ballots were either handled or collected by campaign staffers for Mayor Buddy Dyer. Since this matter involved an elected official, the allegations were forwarded to F.D.L.E.'s Executive Investigations in Tallahassee, Florida.

"The documents were reviewed by F.D.L.E., as well as the Florida Division of Elections. It was determined that there was no basis to support the allegations of election fraud concerning these absentee ballots. Since there is no evidence of criminal misconduct involving Mayor Dyer, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement considers this matter closed."

Well, it's not closed. And department officials said yesterday that the letter sent out in May was never meant to indicate that the "entire" investigation was closed. Since the letter went out, state troopers have gone into the homes of 40 or 50 black voters, most of them elderly, in what the department describes as a criminal investigation. Many longtime Florida observers have said the use of state troopers for this type of investigation is extremely unusual, and it has caused a storm of controversy.

The officers were armed and in plain clothes. For elderly African-American voters, who remember the terrible torment inflicted on blacks who tried to vote in the South in the 1950's and 60's, the sight of armed police officers coming into their homes to interrogate them about voting is chilling indeed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Slavery Era Insurance Policies Registry

Slavery Era Insurance Policies Registry:
"Pursuant to Public Act 93-0333, effective January 1, 2004, every licensed insurer must report to the Director information regarding policies issued to slaveholders for death or damage of their slaves that it wrote either directly or through a predecessor corporation during the slavery era. Insurers are required to report the information to the Department no later than June 15, 2004. The information will be compiled into a report that will be available to the public and the General Assembly."

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Saving the Vote

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Saving the Vote:
"…not many politicians or mainstream journalists are willing to talk about it, for fear of sounding conspiracy-minded: there is a substantial chance that the result of the 2004 presidential election will be suspect.

When I say that the result will be suspect, I don't mean that the election will, in fact, have been stolen. (We may never know.) I mean that there will be sufficient uncertainty about the honesty of the vote count that much of the world and many Americans will have serious doubts.

How might the election result be suspect? Well, to take only one of several possibilities, suppose that Florida - where recent polls give John Kerry the lead - once again swings the election to George Bush. "

Much of Florida's vote will be counted by electronic voting machines with no paper trails. Independent computer scientists who have examined some of these machines' programming code are appalled at the security flaws. So there will be reasonable doubts about whether Florida's votes were properly counted, and no paper ballots to recount. The public will have to take the result on faith.

Yet the behavior of Gov. Jeb Bush's officials with regard to other election-related matters offers no justification for such faith. First there was the affair of the felon list. Florida law denies the vote to convicted felons. But in 2000 many innocent people, a great number of them black, couldn't vote because they were erroneously put on a list of felons; these wrongful exclusions may have put Governor Bush's brother in the White House.

This year, Florida again drew up a felon list, and tried to keep it secret. When a judge forced the list's release, it turned out that it once again wrongly disenfranchised many people - again, largely African-American - while including almost no Hispanics.

Yesterday, my colleague Bob Herbert reported on another highly suspicious Florida initiative: state police officers have gone into the homes of elderly African-American voters - including participants in get-out-the-vote operations - and interrogated them as part of what the state says is a fraud investigation. But the state has provided little information about the investigation, and, as Mr. Herbert says, this looks remarkably like an attempt to intimidate voters.

Given this pattern, there will be skepticism if Florida's paperless voting machines give President Bush an upset, uncheckable victory.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The NYTimes > Nation's Charter Schools Lagging Behind, U.S. Test Scores Reveal

The New York Times > Education > Nation's Charter Schools Lagging Behind, U.S. Test Scores Reveal:
"The first national comparison of test scores among children in charter schools and regular public schools shows charter school students often doing worse than comparable students in regular public schools.

The findings, buried in mountains of data the Education Department released without public announcement, dealt a blow to supporters of the charter school movement, including the Bush administration."

The data shows fourth graders attending charter schools performing about half a year behind students in other public schools in both reading and math. Put another way, only 25 percent of the fourth graders attending charters were proficient in reading and math, against 30 percent who were proficient in reading, and 32 percent in math, at traditional public schools.

Because charter schools are concentrated in cities, often in poor neighborhoods, the researchers also compared urban charters to traditional schools in cities. They looked at low-income children in both settings, and broke down the results by race and ethnicity as well. In virtually all instances, the charter students did worse than their counterparts in regular public schools.

Charters are expected to grow exponentially under the new federal education law, No Child Left Behind, which holds out conversion to charter schools as one solution for chronically failing traditional schools.…

The results, based on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly known as the nation's report card, were unearthed from online data by researchers at the American Federation of Teachers, which provided them to The New York Times. The organization has historically supported charter schools but has produced research in recent years raising doubts about the expansion of charter schools.

Charters are self-governing public schools, often run by private companies, which operate outside the authority of local school boards, and have greater flexibility than traditional public schools in areas of policy, hiring and teaching techniques.

Federal officials said they did not intend to hide the performance of charter schools, and denied any political motivation for failing to publicly disclose that the data were available. "I guess that was poor publicity on our part," said Robert Lerner, the federal commissioner for education statistics. Mr. Lerner said further analysis was needed to put the data in its proper context.

But others were skeptical, saying the results proved that such schools were not a cure-all. "There's just a huge distance between the sunny claims of the charter school advocates and the reality," said Bella Rosenberg, an special assistant to the president of the American Federation of Teachers. "There's a very strong accountability issue here."

Sunday, August 15, 2004

The New York Times > Week in Review > The Struggle Over the Torture Memos

The New York Times > Week in Review > The Struggle Over the Torture Memos:
"According to John Yoo, the former Bush administration official who wrote some of the most controversial torture memos, the call for openness has already inhibited candid deliberation within the Justice Department. He also fears that too much disclosure might tip off the enemy and discourage the executive from considering aggressive measures in the war on terror.

'Would you want the government to have open discussions about whether we could legitimately assassinate Osama bin Laden, and what rules you'd have to follow?' asked Mr. Yoo, who teaches law at the University of California at Berkeley. 'Suppose it was disclosed that the government concluded that you couldn't attack Osama in a civilian's house. You would be telling the other side what to avoid.'

Legal scholars who call for the release of unpublished memos insist that the Bush administration should be held to higher standards of disclosure than its predecessors because of the aggressiveness of its legal claims. 'The more the president claims a power of extraordinary policy making which is liberated from the normal operations of checks and balances, the more he has to be publicly accountable,' said Bruce Ackerman of Yale Law School."

I think we can and should discuss assasinating Bin Laden. We don't need to discuss means and conditions, but whether or not he's a worthwhile target. Al Ingram

The New York Times > Week in Review > Najaf: The Silence of a Siege

The New York Times > Week in Review > Najaf: The Silence of a Siege:
"As American forces here battled rebels loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr here last week, the fighting was described as fierce or block by block. It was not. Outside the huge cemetery that was the focus of the battle, most of Najaf has been quiet, though tense."

On Thursday, even as news reports described a major new offensive, Army commanders spent much of the afternoon buying and distributing food from local merchants. They were rewarded when a group of children led them to a large weapons cache, including artillery shells and explosives, and to the man who had buried the arsenal. He was detained, American commanders said.

And after costly battles earlier in the week, even the cemetery itself - an enormous warren of mausoleums, shrines and crumbling brick graves overlooked by the golden dome of the Imam Ali mosque - had settled down some by Thursday. With afternoon temperatures topping 120 degrees, neither Mr. Sadr's rebels nor American soldiers wanted to fight much during the day in the dry, dusty graveyard. Fighting peaked at dawn and dusk, when teams of guerrillas pushed up against American armored vehicles, firing grenades and helping to target mortars fired from positions in Najaf's old city.

Many soldiers said they were surprised by the bravery and ferocity of Mr. Sadr's rebels, who are outgunned and keep coming though scores of them are killed for every casualty they inflict.…

The NYTimes > Economic View: Jobs? Oil? Iraq? On Second Thought, Let's Talk Taxes

New York Times > Business > Your Money > Economic View: Jobs? Oil? Iraq? On Second Thought, Let's Talk Taxes:
"THE economy is slowing, prices are rising and the lift that came from last year's tax cuts has faded into memory. What is the White House to do?

With the Republican National Convention just two weeks away, top advisers to President Bush are looking for a few big ideas to add some sizzle to the economic platform.

Don't expect Mr. Bush to advocate a national sales tax to replace the income tax, even though he flirted with the idea at a campaign stop in Florida last week. The suggestion drew hoots of derision from Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, who said consumers would face a 20 percent tax on everything they bought. Bush campaign officials quickly denied that any such plan was in the works."

Still, Mr. Bush's advisers said the president wants to make tax reform a cornerstone of his second term, and campaign officials see the potential to win over voters by pledging to fix a system that is widely seen as complex and unfair.

One thought is to change the system so that it focuses less on taxing what people earn and more on taxing what they spend. Even without a sales tax, this could be accomplished by letting people deduct money they put in savings and investments from their income, so they would owe taxes only on what was left - in other words, essentially on what they spent.…

The political question is this: Would bold new proposals create more excitement among voters, or would they mire the campaign in debate that could detract from the goal of promoting Mr. Bush?

It is also unclear whether voters have much appetite for another big idea from the president. Since taking office, after all, Mr. Bush has pushed through two huge tax cuts, which contributed to record deficits; a war against Iraq, which is not going especially well; and a broad expansion of Medicare, which is proving more expensive and less popular than its supporters expected.

For all the allure of replacing a tax code that millions of people resent, even a general proposal would open up an arcane debate that would be full of potential minefields. Mr. Kerry has already been saying that the Bush tax cuts flowed overwhelmingly to the very wealthiest taxpayers, and last week he jumped on a new study by the Congressional Budget Office that, he said, showed the top 1 percent of income-earners received one-third of the recent tax-cut benefits.

The New York Times > Out of Spotlight, Bush Overhauls U.S. Regulations

The New York Times > Washington > Out of Spotlight, Bush Overhauls U.S. Regulations:
"April 21 was an unusually violent day in Iraq; 68 people died in a car bombing in Basra, among them 23 children. As the news went from bad to worse, President Bush took a tough line, vowing to a group of journalists, 'We're not going to cut and run while I'm in the Oval Office.'

On the same day, deep within the turgid pages of the Federal Register, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a regulation that would forbid the public release of some data relating to unsafe motor vehicles, saying that publicizing the information would cause 'substantial competitive harm' to manufacturers. "

As soon as the rule was published, consumer groups yelped in complaint, while the government responded that it was trying to balance the interests of consumers with the competitive needs of business. But hardly anyone else noticed, and that was hardly an isolated case.

Allies and critics of the Bush administration agree that the Sept. 11 attacks, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq have preoccupied the public, overshadowing an important element of the president's agenda: new regulatory initiatives. Health rules, environmental regulations, energy initiatives, worker-safety standards and product-safety disclosure policies have been modified in ways that often please business and industry leaders while dismaying interest groups representing consumers, workers, drivers, medical patients, the elderly and many others.

And most of it was done through regulation, not law - lowering the profile of the actions. The administration can write or revise regulations largely on its own, while Congress must pass laws. For that reason, most modern-day presidents have pursued much of their agendas through regulation. But administration officials acknowledge that Mr. Bush has been particularly aggressive in using this strategy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

NYTimes > Crucial Unpaid Internships Increasingly Separate the Haves From the Have-Nots

The New York Times > Washington > Crucial Unpaid Internships Increasingly Separate the Haves From the Have-Nots:
"Mr. Oldman said. 'It used to be that internships used to be a useful enhancement to one's r?sum?. Now it's universally perceived as an essential stepping stone to career success.'

But as internships rise in importance as critical milestones along the path to success, questions are emerging about whether they are creating a class system that discriminates against students from less affluent families who have to turn down unpaid internships to earn money for college expenses.

'It's something that really makes me nuts,' said Cokie Roberts, an ABC News correspondent who spoke out about the problem on Capitol Hill several weeks ago at a gathering of Congressional interns. 'By setting up unpaid internship programs, it seems to me that without completely recognizing it, it sets up a system where you are making it ever more difficult for people who don't have economic advantages to catch up.' "

Dalton Conley, a sociology professor at New York University who has studied how people get ahead, said: "It moves the clock back when you need connections. It makes it doubly hard for social mobility and equal opportunity, because of the connections that it requires at an earlier age, the financial sacrifices and also the culture savoir-faire."

While half of internships nationwide are paid or have at least a small stipend, according to national surveys conducted by Vault, unpaid internships are concentrated in the most competitive fields, like politics, television and film.

"The more glamorous an internship, the less likely it is paid," Mr. Oldman said. "Washington in general has high-demand internships. In most cases they don't have to pay or they don't have to pay much."

The White House does not pay the hundred-plus interns who work there during the summer. The Supreme Court does not pay its undergraduate interns, who work 12 to 16 weeks, although in some cases it will give a $1,000 scholarship. And a vast majority of Congressional offices do not pay the 4,000 summer interns who pass through Capitol Hill, though a few, mostly on the Senate side, provide a limited stipend. Congressional offices once each received $3,000 to pay summer interns, but the money was eliminated by budget cuts in the 1990's.

And since Washington internships serve as a pipeline that brings policy makers into the nation's capital, some people fear that over the long term, internships will be another means, like the rising costs of college tuition, of squeezing voices from the working class and even the middle class out of high-level policy debates.

The New York Times > U.S. Is Linking Immigrant Patients' Status to Hospital Aid

The New York Times > Washington > U.S. Is Linking Immigrant Patients' Status to Hospital Aid:
"The federal government is offering $1 billion to hospitals that provide emergency care to undocumented immigrants. But to get the money, hospitals would have to ask patients about their immigration status, a prospect that alarms hospitals and advocates for immigrants. "

When Congress decided to provide the money last year, state officials and hospital executives saw it as a breakthrough. For years, they had argued that the federal government was responsible for immigration policy and should cover the costs of medical care for illegal immigrants because it had created the problem. These costs weigh heavily on border states like Texas, Arizona and California and on states like New York and Illinois, with large numbers of such immigrants.

The largest allocations are going to California, $72 million a year; Texas, $48 million; Arizona, $42 million; New York, $12 million; Illinois, $10 million; and Florida, $9 million.

But federal health officials, under guidelines developed in the last couple of weeks, said hospitals had to ask questions about immigration status to make sure the money would be used as Congress intended, for "emergency health services furnished to undocumented aliens."

Hospital executives and immigrant rights groups said the questioning would deter undocumented immigrants from seeking hospital care when they need it, and some hospitals said compliance might cost them more than they would receive in federal aid.

Monday, August 09, 2004

The NYTimes > Business > It's Not Just the Jobs Lost, but the Pay in the New Ones

The New York Times > Business > It's Not Just the Jobs Lost, but the Pay in the New Ones:
"The data is still inconclusive. But the weakness in job creation and the apparent weakness in high-paying jobs may be opposite sides of a coin. Companies still seem cautious, relying on temporary workers and anxious about rising health care costs associated with full-time workers. Many economists say that over the long term, the most vulnerable positions are those at the low end of the wage scale that require fewer skills and are easily replicated.

Even now, at a time when a disproportionate number of new jobs appear to be lower-paying ones, there has been growth in some high-income occupations like accounting, architecture and software.

Yet the earnings gap between the highest-paid employees and the rest of the work force is still widening, as it has over most of the last 30 years. The trend is most striking in factories, which accounted for the bulk of job losses in the last three years and tended to pay above-average wages. "

In contrast to previous recoveries, when companies rehired a large proportion of laid-off workers, manufacturers have added only 91,000 jobs this year, having eliminated more than two million jobs in the previous three years.

The largely permanent decline in manufacturing employment, which has been more acute after this recession than in previous ones, spans all levels from blue-collar workers through senior management. It has coincided with a bulge in the number of jobs in low-paying fields that are comparatively easy to enter: retail sales, hotel services and clerical work.

Bush-Cheney campaign insisted on knowing the race of photographer
McCarthyism Watch | The Progressive magazine

Bush-Cheney campaign insisted on knowing the race of photographer:
"On July 30, the day before Dick Cheney appeared in Tucson, a rally organizer for Bush-Cheney asked about the race of several local journalists.

The campaign 'insisted on knowing the race' of an Arizona Daily Star photographer, Mamta Popat, who was assigned to cover the event, the paper reported."

Managing Editor Teri Hayt refused. "It was such an outrageous request, I was personally insulted," she said, according to an article by C. J. Karamargin in that paper on July 31. Popat ultimately did get to photograph Cheney.

Danny Diaz, a spokesman for Bush-Cheney, told the paper that the requested information was "to ensure the safety of all those involved, including the Vice President of the United States."

Hayt wondered about racial profiling. "Because she has Indian ancestry, were they going to deny her access?" Diaz later told the Daily Star he was following orders of the Secret Service.

The Secret Service denies that racial profiling was involved. Race is a "personal identifier" for obtaining accurate background information, Secret Service spokeswoman Lorie Lewis told Karamargin and the Daily Star on August 3. "We aren't using that information for profiling purposes. They are standard checks. The Secret Service does not and will not tolerate racial or cultural bias."

Hayt said in her paper that a journalist's race is "not relevant." Reached by The Progressive, she declined to elaborate. "This is an old story, as far as I'm concerned," she said. "I've got to get back to the business of running my newspaper."

The Daily Star also revealed on August 3 that the Bush-Cheney campaign had asked about the race of journalists at three other news outlets, KVOA-Channel 4, KOLD-Channel 13, and the Tucson Citizen. A "newsroom clerk" at the Citizen furnished the race of the photographer to the campaign, though the paper's senior editor, Jennifer Boice, said she "would have been hesitant to provide that information," the Daily Star reported.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

The New York Times > National > Sensing the Eyes of Big Brother, and Pushing Back

The New York Times > National > Sensing the Eyes of Big Brother, and Pushing Back:
"Liberals quoted Newt Gingrich, the Republican former House speaker, who says that the federal law passed just after the Sept. 11 attacks needs to be reined in to protect basic civic birthrights.

Conservatives praised the campaign against the act by the American Civil Liberties Union, which says the law gives government unchecked power to rifle through an individual's financial and computer records and bookstore purchases.

And one Tumwater resident asked why all the fuss in a sleepy little town over a federal antiterror law.

In the end, the concerns over the Patriot Act - real or phantom - were enough to compel the Tumwater City Council on July 20 to join more than 330 communities and 4 states that have condemned or expressed worry about the act. The resolution called on city employees in this town near Olympia not to follow provisions of the law that violate the Constitution - though leaving it vague how they would interpret this."

NYTimes > Editorial Observer: Rolling Down the Highway, Looking Out for Flawed Elections

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial Observer: Rolling Down the Highway, Looking Out for Flawed Elections:
"The elections director of Mohave County, Ariz., was so proud of his new electronic voting system that Bev Harris barely had the heart to point out its vulnerabilities. But she did, and before long she was ticking off the ways that she said an outsider could hijack his central tabulator - the computer that stores all of the county's votes - and steal an election.

By the time she had shown him a 'backdoor' way to gain access to his software without a password, the elections director was visibly concerned. Before she left, he asked her to send him a list of things he could do to safeguard this year's election.

Ms. Harris's visit to Mohave County was part of a monthlong trip in which she and her deputy, Andy Stephenson, traveled to 10 states, investigating flaws in electronic voting and giving on-the-fly computer security tutorials."

Foreign Affairs - The Neglected Home Front - Stephen E. Flynn

Foreign Affairs - The Neglected Home Front - Stephen E. Flynn:
"The United States is living on borrowed time -- and squandering it. The attacks of September 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon highlighted just how open the United States is to unconventional attacks. The widespread economic and social disruption that flowed from the suicidal acts of just 19 terrorists also exposed the Achilles' heel of the world's sole superpower. The transportation, energy, information, financial, chemical, food, and logistical networks that underpin U.S. economic power and the American way of life offer the United States' enemies a rich menu of irresistible targets. And most of these remain virtually unprotected."

It does not have to be this way. Choosing to invest in offensive and defensive capabilities should not be an either-or proposition. In war, nations need both. Given the wealth of the United States, it can clearly afford to protect its most valued assets along with fielding a second-to-none military. But it cannot strike the right balance as long as it persists with treating homeland security as wholly separate from national security. Nor can muscular efforts to combat terrorism at its source be a substitute for the systematic engagement of civil society and the private sector in a collective effort to confront the threat of catastrophic acts of terror at home. The United States must do more than transform its armed forces and repair its broken intelligence services. It must also provide a new institutional framework to construct a more resilient society that has the capacity to take a blow as well as to strike one.

Washington has demonstrated an extraordinary degree of hardheadedness when it comes to acknowledging the limits of its military and intelligence capabilities to combat the terrorist threat. The premise behind the Bush administration's strategy of preemptive use of force is that as long as the United States is willing to show sufficient grit, it can successfully hold its enemies at bay. Vice President Dick Cheney made this case recently in an address to a class of newly commissioned Coast Guard officers. He asserted, "Wars are not won on the defensive. To fully and finally remove this danger [of terrorism], we have only one option -- and that's to take the fight to the enemy." On July 4, 2004, President George W. Bush made the point this way: "We will engage these enemies in these countries [Iraq and Afghanistan] and around the world so we do not have to face them here at home."

Targeting terrorism at its source is an appealing notion. Unfortunately, the enemy is not cooperating. There is no central front on which al Qaeda and its radical jihadist imitators can be cornered and destroyed. The commuter train bombings in Madrid in March illustrate that terrorists are living and operating within jurisdictions of U.S. allies and do not need to receive aid and comfort from rogue states. According to the U.S. Department of State's latest revised global terrorism report, the number of terrorist incidents went up in 2003, despite the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. And, according to a July statement by Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, al Qaeda remains at large inside the United States, busily planning its next attack on U.S. soil, perhaps before the November elections.


The reluctance of the White House and the national security community to adapt to the shifting nature of the terrorist threat bears a disturbing resemblance to the opening chapter of World War II. In September 1939, the German army rolled eastward into Poland and unleashed a new form of combat known as "blitzkrieg." When Poland became a victim of the Third Reich, London and Paris finally abandoned their policies of appeasement and declared war. The British and French high commands then began to execute war plans that relied on assumptions drawn from their experiences in World War I. They activated their reserves and reinforced the Maginot Line, defenses of mounted cannons stretching for 250 miles along the Franco-German border. Then they waited for Hitler's next move.

The eight-month period before the fall of Paris came to be known as "the phony war." During this relatively quiet time, France and the United Kingdom were convinced they were deterring the Germans by mobilizing their more plentiful military assets in an updated version of trench warfare. But they did not alter their tactics to respond to the new offensive warfare that the Germans had executed with such lethal results in eastern Europe. In May 1940, they paid a heavy price for their complacency: Panzer units raced into the lowlands, circumvented the Maginot Line, and conquered France shortly thereafter. The British expeditionary forces narrowly escaped by fleeing across the English Channel aboard a makeshift armada, leaving much of their armament behind on the beaches of Dunkirk.

Similarly today, the United States is fighting the war it prepared for in the twentieth century, rather than the one that is being waged upon it by al Qaeda. Instead of a Maginot Line, the Pentagon is executing its long-standing forward defense strategy, which involves leapfrogging ahead of U.S. borders and waging combat on the turf of U.S. enemies or allies. Meanwhile, protecting the rear -- the American nation itself -- remains largely outside the scope of national security even though the September 11 attacks were launched from the United States on targets within the United States.

The degree to which the Bush administration is willing to invest in conventional national security spending relative to basic domestic security measures is considerable. Although the CIA has concluded that the most likely way weapons of mass destruction (WMD) would enter the United States is by sea, the federal government is spending more every three days to finance the war in Iraq than it has provided over the past three years to prop up the security of all 361 U.S. commercial seaports. This myopic focus on conventional military forces at the expense of domestic security even extends to making the physical security at U.S. military bases a higher budget priority than protecting the nation's most critical infrastructure. In fiscal year 2005, Congress will give the Pentagon $7.6 billion to improve security at military bases. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security will receive just $2.6 billion to protect all the vital systems throughout the country that sustain a modern society.

Much of the nation's critical infrastructure is in densely populated areas, so if the country is attacked, average U.S. citizens, not uniformed military personnel, will be the most likely casualties. Yet the federal effort to promote civil defense has gone quiet after a rocky start that generated a run on plastic sheeting and duct tape and provided fodder for the late-night comedy shows. Police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians will be the first on the scene of any attack; they will have to operate largely on their own for at least the first 12 to 24 hours. Yet on average, U.S. fire departments have only enough radios to equip half their firefighters on a shift, and breathing apparatus for only a third. Police departments in cities across the country do not have the protective gear to safely secure a site following a WMD attack. And most emergency medical technicians lack the tools to determine which chemical or biological agent may have been used.

The deadly weapons that local emergency responders are so poorly equipped to cope with do not need to be imported. But although the Bush administration has made a top priority of preventing the spread of WMD overseas, it has slashed funds to dispose of commercially held radioactive materials (such as cesium-137, cobalt-60, and americium), which could be used in constructing dirty bombs, within the United States. The release of a biological agent on U.S. soil would be even deadlier, yet there is no federal program to provide ongoing oversight of how lethal pathogens are handled. Many university research labs around the country hold highly contagious specimens, and post-September 11 inspections have documented significant lapses in control over access to the labs and the securing of dangerous materials. Meanwhile, half of the federal scientific and medical personnel that the nation would turn to in the event of a bioterrorism attack will be eligible to retire within five years, and there is no comprehensive plan to address this looming personnel crisis.

Finally, even though the most tempting targets for terrorists are those that can produce widespread economic and social disruption, the White House has declared that safeguarding the nation's critical infrastructure is not a federal responsibility. According to President Bush's 2002 National Homeland Security Strategy, "The government should only address those activities that the market does not adequately provide -- for example, national defense or border security. ... For other aspects of homeland security, sufficient incentives exist in the private market to supply protection." Unfortunately, this expression of faith has not been borne out. According to a survey commissioned by the Washington-based Council on Competitiveness just one year after September 11, 92 percent of executives did not believe that terrorists would target their companies, and only 53 percent of the respondents indicated that their companies had increased security spending between 2001 and 2002. With the passing of each week without a new attack, the reluctance of companies to invest in security has only grown.

The NYTimes > Middle East > Security: Outlaw Militia Plays Role of Ad Hoc Police Force

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Security: Outlaw Militia Plays Role of Ad Hoc Police Force:
"The Mahdi Army has emerged in recent months as a powerful paramilitary force that has not only taken charge of policing Shiite enclaves like this one but has also been aiding Iraqi security forces in crackdowns against looters and kidnappers, according to Mahdi Army members and civilians in other parts of Baghdad.

Officially, the militia is an outlaw group. An arrest warrant was issued for Mr. Sadr in April by an Iraqi court in connection with the killing of a rival Shiite cleric.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which controls police and security forces, said there was no official cooperation with the Mahdi Army but acknowledged that its members sometimes worked with local law enforcement groups on security. "

"In various parts of the country, they have been helpful," Sabah Khadim, the ministry spokesman, said in an interview. "When we have sufficient security forces, this government will have Iraq under control. There will be no other militias."

The apparent cooperation between the Mahdi Army and the state security forces signals the inability of the Iraqi government to control Mr. Sadr's militia, leaving it trying to make deals with the group.

Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has allowed Mr. Sadr to resume the publication of his newspaper, which Americans closed this spring, prompting clashes in the south. The government has not pressed the arrest warrant for Mr. Sadr.

It has also dangled an offer of an amnesty for some of his fighters and repeatedly invited Mr. Sadr to take part in a national conference to plan Iraq's political future. Mr. Sadr has rejected both.

[The government's approach has not brought peace. On Thursday, American forces and the militia began fierce fighting, which has continued through Saturday across several cities in the south, and there have been skirmishes in Sadr City. The American military estimated the death toll among the fighters at more than 300. Mr. Sadr's forces said it was about 40. Iraqi government officials sharply criticized the militia and what they said were foreign supporters of the group.

[Mr. Sadr's group called for a fresh uprising against the American-led coalition. "I say 'America is our enemy,' " said Sheik Jaber al-Khafaji, reading a statement from Mr. Sadr during Friday Prayer in Kufa, the city adjacent to Najaf, Mr. Sadr's base. "I warn Iraqi police not to attack any peaceful demonstration."]

In Sadr City recently, a Mahdi Army commander who called himself Haji Abu Mustafa - a name that means he is the father of Mustafa and has been to Mecca - both bragged and lamented about the militia's work with the Iraqi authorities. His group, he said, had retrieved 140 stolen cars and handed over 180 gang members to the police in recent months. He would not reveal much about his group's tactics except to say that Mahdi Army members, posted on each block in this neighborhood, were well placed to collect tips on wrongdoers and miscreants. The neighborhood police, he said, relied on the militia's capabilities but failed to give it credit.

He said the new government had initiated joint operations since coming into power June 28, but he said the Mahdi Army had set up patrols in Sadr City under its own command soon after the ouster of Saddam Hussein and the breakdown of law and order.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The New York Times > Washington > The C.I.A.: Agency Curbs War Critic Author

The New York Times > Washington > The C.I.A.: Agency Curbs War Critic Author:
"The author of 'Imperial Hubris,' who wrote the book anonymously, is a longtime counterterrorism official at the C.I.A. who previously ran the agency's unit that concentrated on Osama bin Laden. In his book and in subsequent interviews, the author has said he believes that the war in Iraq has been a major distraction from the effort to fight Al Qaeda and that the war has also inflamed Islamic resentment against the United States while aiding Al Qaeda's recruitment among Muslims.

Since the book was published on July 15, the anonymous author, known publicly only as Mike, has granted numerous interviews to discuss his book and his views.

Christina Davidson, the editor of 'Imperial Hubris'' at Brassey's Inc., the publisher, said Mike was told in a meeting with senior C.I.A. officials at the agency's headquarters on Wednesday that effective immediately he was prohibited from taking part in more interviews without prior written approval.

Ms. Davidson said he was told that he must seek approval for each interview at least five business days in advance. He also must provide the agency with a detailed outline of what he plans to say each time."

The New York Times > Rebel Cleric Calls for Uprising as Clashes Erupt in Najaf

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Rebel Cleric Calls for Uprising as Clashes Erupt in Najaf:
"The truce has been unraveling for days. It first frayed on Sunday, when the police arrested Methal al-Hasnawi, a representative of Mr. Sadr, in Karbala, near Najaf. On Monday, marines and Mahdi insurgents battled near a maternity hospital in Najaf, and several rebels died.

On Tuesday, American troops approached Mr. Sadr's house in Najaf, according to Dr. Salama al-Khafaji, a spokeswoman for a government-appointed council that mediates between Mr. Sadr and American authorities. Fighting intensified Wednesday night, when troops again approached Mr. Sadr's house, Dr. Khafaji said.

'The Americans escalated the whole situation by coming back with their armored vehicles and trespassing,' Dr. Khafaji said.

But the American military blamed Mr. Sadr for the breakdown in the truce. Marines were sent to Najaf's main police station at 3 a.m., after Mr. Sadr's forces attacked the station with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, according to a statement from Central Command, which oversees American troops in Iraq. The Iraqi police and national guard troops defended the station, and the marines did not fire shots or take any casualties, according to the statement."

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Some Definitions of concept on the Web:

Some Definitions of concept on the Web:

A keyword or phrase that most aptly describes the subject about which a user is seeking information. For example, if a searcher is looking for information about elderly volunteers in the community, the concepts would be elderly, volunteers, and community.

the active species of representation, by means of which our understanding enables us to think. By requiring perceptions to conform to the categories, concepts serve as 'rules' allowing us to perceive general relations between representations. (Cf. intuition.)

A clearly written and possibly visual description of the new product idea that includes its primary features and consumer benefits, combined with a broad understanding of the technology needed.

A clear written and possibly visual description of the new product idea that includes its primary features and consumer benefits.

A general plan for a publication, with attention given to the audience to be reached, the message or key information, the general look and feel, the available budget and the format of the publication.

An abstract idea generalized from particular instances. Involves idea of the existence of objects, processes, or relation of objects, i.e., table, cell, man, raining, family, etc.

A mental picture of a group of things that have common characteristics. A generalization is a person’s idea of the relationships between two or more concepts. Concepts represent a group of solid objects, such as an airplane or book; or abstract ideas such as leadership and honesty. A concept is an idea about a group of things. A concept involves thinking about what it is that makes those things belong to that one group.

Monday, August 02, 2004


con·ven·tion (kn-vnshn)

    1. A formal meeting of members, representatives, or delegates, as of a political party, fraternal society, profession, or industry.
    2. The body of persons attending such an assembly: called the convention to order.

  1. An agreement between states, sides, or military forces, especially an international agreement dealing with a specific subject, such as the treatment of prisoners of war.
  2. General agreement on or acceptance of certain practices or attitudes: By convention, north is at the top of most maps.
  3. A practice or procedure widely observed in a group, especially to facilitate social interaction; a custom: the convention of shaking hands.
  4. A widely used and accepted device or technique, as in drama, literature, or painting: the theatrical convention of the aside.

[Middle English convencioun, from Latin conventi, conventin-, meeting, from conventus, past participle of convenre, to assemble. See convene.]

Just so we're clear on definitions

We've broken the Geneva Conventions, abandoned the ABM treaty, basically declared that reality is whatever George W. says it is. Then we wonder why everybody's mad at us.

In the absence of WMD, or any meaningful link to Al Qaeda, we justify a war of choice by claiming to care about the Iraqi people, but we refuse to keep track of how many we've killed, let alone injured. We hold thousands, without charges, in Saddam's worst prison. We refuse to examine ourselves, and get angry when the rest of the world points out our inconsistencies.

There are those who hate us, but, most of the world loves what America is supposed to stand for, freedom, justice, opportunity. They don't understand how one incident could lead us to abandon our better nature. After all, they've had to live with the threat and results of terror for decades. After all, they lost people too, on September 11, 2001.

  1. Based on or in accordance with general agreement, use, or practice; customary: conventional symbols; a conventional form of address.

  2. Conforming to established practice or accepted standards; traditional: a conventional church wedding.
    1. Devoted to or bound by conventions to the point of artificiality; ceremonious.
    2. Unimaginative; conformist: longed to escape from their conventional, bourgeois lives.

  3. Represented, as in a work of art, in simplified or abstract form.
  4. Law. Based on consent or agreement; contractual.
  5. Of, relating to, or resembling an assembly.
  6. Using means other than nuclear weapons or energy: conventional warfare; conventional power plants.

con·vention·al·ism n.
con·vention·al·ist n.
con·vention·al·ly adv.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

The New York Times > Business > Your Money > How Does It Feel in the Middle?

The New York Times > Business > Your Money > How Does It Feel in the Middle?:
"'Wages really have lagged,' said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight, an economic forecasting company in Waltham, Mass. 'There is a cyclical component to it, but it is quite a bit more pronounced than in past cycles.'

The disparity is also widening between middle-income and high-income earners. Adjusted for inflation, wages for middle-income men - those in the 50th percentile of earnings - were virtually flat at about $15 an hour between 1980 and 2003, according to a paper that will be published in September by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group in Washington. By contrast, wages for high-income men - those in the 95th percentile of earnings - climbed by one-third, to $44 an hour in 2003 from $32 an hour in 1980.

'It has been going on for a long time,' said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. 'Middle-wage workers have not done well over the past three decades.'"

David Autor, an associate professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said middle- and lower-income workers enjoyed real gains during the economic boom from 1995 to 2000. But their earnings went flat once again after the recession in 2001, and have yet to start rising.

"What's happened in the last few years is that people's earnings have stagnated again, except for those at the top end," Professor Autor said. "It really hasn't been as much of a middle-income squeeze as a middle-income stagnation."

The New York Times > Campaign 2004 > Political Points: Finding Biases on the Bus

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Political Points: Finding Biases on the Bus:
"As John Kerry celebrates his nomination with a coast-to-coast bus trip (this may be the first time the word 'celebrates' has appeared so close to 'coast-to-coast bus trip') conservatives are complaining about his good press. They say that journalists' liberal bias has colored the reviews of the Democratic convention and his speech.

But do journalists really want John Kerry to defeat George W. Bush? It depends where they work and how you ask the question, at least according to the unscientific survey we conducted last weekend during a press party at the convention. We got anonymous answers from 153 journalists, about a third of them based in Washington."

When asked who would be a better president, the journalists from outside the Beltway picked Mr. Kerry 3 to 1, and the ones from Washington favored him 12 to 1. Those results jibe with previous surveys over the past two decades showing that journalists tend to be Democrats, especially the ones based in Washington. Some surveys have found that more than 80 percent of the Beltway press corps votes Democratic.

But political ideology isn't the only possible bias. Journalists also have a professional bias: they need good stories to make the front page and get on the air.

So we asked our respondents which administration they'd prefer to cover the next four years strictly from a journalistic standpoint. We expected the Washington journalists to strongly prefer Mr. Kerry, partly because they complain so much about the difficulty of getting leaks from the Bush White House, but mainly because any change in administration means lots of news.

Sure enough, the Washington respondents said they would rather cover Mr. Kerry, but by a fairly small amount, 27 to 21, and the other journalists picked Bush, 56 to 40. (A few others had no opinion.) The overall result was 77 for Bush, 67 for Mr. Kerry.

Why stick with the Bush administration? "You can't ask for a richer cast of characters to cover," one Washington correspondent said. "Kerry will be a bore after these guys."

The New York Times > National > Black Farmers' Refrain: Where's All Our Money?

The New York Times > National > Black Farmers' Refrain: Where's All Our Money?:
"Mr. Stevenson expected to benefit from the landmark 1999 class-action settlement with the United States Department of Agriculture, which acknowledged decades of 'indifference and blatant discrimination' against blacks in the department's lending programs. When the settlement was approved, the judge hailed it as the biggest civil rights award in United States history, estimating that $2 billion would be paid out to black farmers.

The claims process was to be swift and 'virtually automatic,' the judge, Paul L. Friedman of United States District Court in Washington, wrote. Most of the claimants were to receive $50,000 each and $12,500 for taxes on that amount. Five of Mr. Stevenson's sons received the money on the ground that they had been rebuffed by the Agriculture Department in the 1980's. But Mr. Stevenson, like the vast majority of those who submitted claims, was rejected.

His case illustrates the failures of a claims process that even the judge said had fallen far short of what he envisioned. Thousands of claims have been denied for a tangle of reasons including tight deadlines and late submissions, lawyers' bungling and, perhaps most significantly, the resistance of the Agriculture Department, which critics say has used technicalities to deny farmers a hard-won remedy. For those rejected, the only hope for restitution is an act of Congress."
con·cept: August 2004