Thursday, September 30, 2004

Bush Misadministration a strange combo of the “Wizard of Oz” and Orwell's “1984”

The Bush Misadministration is a strange combination of the “Wizard of Oz” and Orwell's “1984”
Two plus two is four,“except when the state says it's five” and “Pay no attention to the man behind that curtain.” or is it “Blazing Saddles”, as in “Gentlemen we've got to save our phony baloney jobs!”

“Politicians use the simple doublespeak of redefining a common term and then using their new definition without telling us or seeking our approval”
— The New Doublespeak by William Lutz —
HarperCollins 1996 page 157
  • The war on Al Qaeda morphs into a war on Terrorism, a technique not an enemy.
  • It morphs into an invasion of a country that had nothing to do with 9-11 2001.
  • It morphs into an accomplished mission when only the Oil Ministry was secured.
  • It morphs into progress when water availability, power reliability and Iraqi health are worse than before the invasion.
  • Insurgents control more of Iraq than they did at the handover.
It's all a matter of redefining a few terms.

Debate was and, I'm pretty sure, still is an important part of life at Phillips Academy at Andover, where I like G.W Bush spent two years.

Winning, even by redefining common terms is something to watch out for in this and any future debates. In fact, we've all seen some extreme examples in the justification of his Iraq policies.

Tonight's Rules

Neither President Bush or Senator John Kerry will be allowed to step from behind his lectern at any time.

Nor will they be allowed to pose questions directly to each other, though they can pose rhetorical questions that may cry for answers just the same. They cannot approach one another with "proposed pledges,'' like "Let's stop all negative advertising right now." They may not single out any member of the audience, as they might on the stump, as the living embodiment of a failed or successful policy.

There will be no opening statements, just closing ones, and those can last only two minutes. The candidates are not allowed to use any props. That means no charts, no diagrams and no photographs. They can take notes, however.

A candidate will have up to two minutes to respond to a question, and should the moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, ask a follow-up question, 30 seconds to respond to that. A candidate who speaks for too long will be alerted by a flashing light and a buzzer that will be seen and heard not only by those in the hall but also by television viewers.

At the outset, the candidates are to shake hands at center stage before proceeding to their respective places, which will be marked by lecterns that are 50 inches high and 10 feet apart. The audience will be instructed to keep quiet throughout the “debate”.

The New York Times > National > Judge Strikes Down Section of Patriot Act

The New York Times > National > Judge Strikes Down Section of Patriot Act:
"The ruling invalidated one piece of the law, finding that it violated both free speech guarantees and protection against unreasonable searches. It is thought likely to provide fuel for other court challenges.

The ruling came in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against a kind of subpoena created under the act, known as a national security letter. Such letters could be used in terrorism investigations to require Internet service companies to provide personal information about subscribers and would bar them from disclosing to anyone that they had received a subpoena.

Such a subpoena could be issued without court review, under provisions that seemed to bar the recipient from discussing it with a lawyer.

Judge Marrero vehemently rejected that provision, saying that it was unique in American law in its 'all-inclusive sweep' and had 'no place in our open society.'"

Anthony Romero, executive director of the A.C.L.U., called the ruling a "stunning victory against John Ashcroft's Justice Department." He said it would reinforce arguments the group had made in a separate challenge in Michigan to another surveillance section of the act.

The ruling does not affect many sections of the act, which is more than 350 pages long, that give the government enhanced powers to control immigration, conduct searches and investigate financial support for terrorism. It comes as Congress is debating additions to the Patriot Act.

Bush administration officials have said the Patriot Act is a foundation of their efforts to prevent terrorist attacks against Americans.

The civil liberties group's suit was brought on behalf of John Doe, an Internet provider company that received a national security letter from the F.B.I., but was barred under its terms from revealing its name. Until the judge revealed the facts of the case in his ruling, the civil liberties group had been reluctant to state publicly that it was representing a company that had received a national security letter.

Such subpoenas would prevent Internet companies from telling customers that the F.B.I. had collected their information.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Bush memo font study

Bush memo font study

The following evidence from a forensic examination of the Bush memos indicates that they were typed on a typewriter:

1. The specific font used is from a typewriter family in common use since 1905 and a typewriter capable of producing the spacing has been available since 1944.
2. The characters “e,” “t,” “s,” and “a” show indications of physical damage and/or wear consistent with a well used typewriter.
3. The characters that are seldom used show no signs of damage or wear.
4. The quality of individual characters is inconsistent throughout the memos beyond expectations from photocopying and/or digitizing but quality is consistent with worn platen and variations in paper quality.
5. Overlapping characters occasionally indicate paper deformation consistent with hammered impressions.
6. Critical indicators of digital production or cut and paste production are missing.

Implications are that there is nothing in this evidence that would indicate the memos are inauthentic. Furthermore, from the point of view of the physical evidence in the documents (excluding any rhetorical evidence or external evidence, which is not examined in this study) no amount of additional research on the part of CBS would have lead them to exclude the documents from their 60 Minutes report.

There are a number of reasons for identifying the physical source for the recently released memos indicating that President George Bush failed to meet his obligation to the Air National Guard and disobeyed both written and spoken orders to take a flight physical.

A careful forensic examination of even the worst copies may provide some evidence of the documents’ authenticity or disprove their authenticity. For example, if the evidence demonstrates that the documents were originally digitally produced, it would disprove their authenticity.

On the other hand, if evidence indicates they were typewritten, it lends support to the credibility of CBS in general and to Dan Rather and his producers in particular. If evidence demonstrates that the memos were typewritten using a font usually available in the military, but less common among civilians, at least on this evidence they were right to air the memos.

Given the current extent of political animosity, the voice of indisputable evidence can be useful. In short, there is justification for a qualified, independent lab to examine the documents and make the results publicly available.


The information available in such poor reproductions is surprisingly significant.

First, The documents are not Times New Roman, or any similar font, nor are they produced with word processing software (or at least, were not printed using contemporary printing technologies). The documents are almost certainly printed using an impact printer (typewriter or daisy wheel) and are not digitally produced for the following three reasons:

1. The font is a common typewriter typeface invented at the beginning of the 20th century and in continuous use until the computer replaced the typewriter. The font’s name is “Typewriter.” Although the typeface was somewhat modified for civilian communities in the 1960s, it remained commonplace in the military well into the 1970s. In short, the Bush memos were produced in a version of Typewriter commonly used in the military at the time.

2. It is possible to find worn and damaged characters. The top left of the “t” is clearly worn to the extent that it seldom makes an impression. The “e” shows clear indications of physical damage. It appears to have three scratches and/or gouges extending diagonally down and across the bowl and across the lower stroke. The “a” and the “s” show similar indicators of wear and damage.

3. Seldom used characters such as numbers, capitals, and the lower case “o,” “q” and “p” (and the other less used lower case characters) show no signs of damage.

4. Overall inconsistency of the characters goes well beyond what one would expect from photocopying and digitizing and indicates that they were produced using an inconsistent (i.e., “mechanical”) process.

5. There are indications of white “blisters” cause by a character typed on paper that was deformed by the impact of a previously struck character.

…the memos were probably done in a proprietary IBM typewriter font redesigned specifically for proportional typing. In 1984, I wrote articles on an IBM Selectric that uses an uncondensed IBM equivalent. The font used in the memos is a variant of the font used in Figure 1, below.

Figure 1. Example a selection typed with an IBM Selectric typewriter.

Differences between the above font and that used in the Bush memos are consistent with making the above font compatible with a proportional typewriter. The "g" on the Bush memo was narrowed with an up facing ear, the stroke at the bottom of the "t" is shortened, the numbers "6," "7" and "9" are simplified and the “”W” and “R” are slightly modified. With a few exceptions the lower case characters are condensed while the caps are left uncondensed. Oddly, the “s” is doubly condensed while the “m” is extended. These characteristics should make the specific type ball easy to identify.

Typewriter Typeface is in the larger family of typefaces called "Slab Serif." Typewriter includes ITC American Typewriter, Courier, Secret Service Typewriter and similar typefaces characterized by flat square serifs and (usually) consistent stroke widths. Common in this version of Typewriter, the upper serif on the 1 stands out like a flag in a strong wind. In the newer versions, the upper serif droops like a flag in a light wind. (Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Example of “1” taken from Bush memos.

Definition: A Slab Serif is a type of serif font that evolved from the Modern style. The serifs are square and larger, bolder than serifs of previous typestyles. Considered a sub-classification of Modern, Slab Serif is further divided into Clarendon, Typewriter, and Slab Serif (a separate sub-category of Slab Serif) styles. (emph. mine) (

The documents I used for comparison include military orders, letters of recommendation and commendation, security clearance evaluations. The documents were produced at American military installations in Korea, the United States, and England.

The New York Times > Opinion > Al Gore: How to Debate George Bush

The New York Times > Opinion > Al Gore: How to Debate George Bush:
"My advice to John Kerry is simple: be prepared for the toughest debates of your career. While George Bush's campaign has made 'lowering expectations' into a high art form, the record is clear - he's a skilled debater who uses the format to his advantage. There is no reason to expect any less this time around. And if anyone truly has 'low expectations' for an incumbent president, that in itself is an issue."

But more important than his record as a debater is Mr. Bush's record as a president. And therein lies the true opportunity for John Kerry - because notwithstanding the president's political skills, his performance in office amounts to a catastrophic failure. And the debates represent a time to hold him to account. For the voters, these debates represent an opportunity to explore four relevant questions: Is America on the right course today, or are we off track? If we are headed in the wrong direction, what happened and who is responsible? How do we get back on the right path to a safer, more secure, more prosperous America? And, finally, who is best able to lead us to that path?

A clear majority of Americans believe that we are heading in the wrong direction. The reasons are obvious. The situation in Iraq is getting worse. Osama bin Laden is alive and plotting against us. About 2.7 million manufacturing jobs have been lost. Forty-five million Americans are living without health insurance. Medicare premiums are the highest they've ever been. Environmental protections have been eviscerated.

In the coming debates, Senator Kerry has an opportunity to show voters that today American troops and American taxpayers are shouldering a huge burden with no end in sight because Mr. Bush took us to war on false premises and with no plan to win the peace. Mr. Kerry has an opportunity to demonstrate the connection between job losses and Mr. Bush's colossal tax break for the wealthy. And he can remind voters that Mr. Bush has broken his pledge to expand access to health care.

Senator Kerry can also use these debates to speak directly to voters and lay out a hopeful vision for our future. If voters walk away from the debates with a better understanding of where our country is, how we got here and where each candidate will lead us if elected, then America will be the better for it. The debate tomorrow should not seek to discover which candidate would be more fun to have a beer with. As Jon Stewart of the "The Daily Show'' nicely put in 2000, "I want my president to be the designated driver.''

The debates aren't a time for rhetorical tricks. It's a time for an honest contest of ideas. Mr. Bush's unwillingness to admit any mistakes may score him style points. But it makes hiring him for four more years too dangerous a risk. Stubbornness is not strength; and Mr. Kerry must show voters that there is a distinction between the two.…

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Chicago Tribune | Dr. Dubya's reality show

Chicago Tribune Dr. Dubya's reality show:
"When Sen. John Kerry launched tough attacks on President Bush's record on Iraq, he partly relied on information from 22-year-old Devon Largio, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois. Advisers said Kerry used her 212-page senior honors thesis, 'Uncovering the Rationales for the War on Iraq: The Words of the Bush Administration, Congress and the Media from September 12, 2001, to October 11, 2002,' as a source.

Largio's two semesters of research, based on computer analysis of official documents, speeches and transcripts of Sunday talk shows, found that the Bush administration presented 23 different arguments for the war in Iraq. 'By one count, the president offered 23 different rationales for going to war,' Kerry said in his speech Sept. 20 at New York University"

"It really hit me that someone of this importance took this argument out of my thesis," Largio said Monday, adding that she feels torn over Iraq.

Largio, who recently began law school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said she is "involved in politics," but has not joined any political party. And she noted that only people opposed to the war have picked up her thesis so far.

“Politicians use the simple doublespeak of redefining a common term and then using their new definition without telling us or seeking our approval”
— The New Doublespeak by William Lutz —
HarperCollins 1996 page 157

  • The war on Al Qaeda morphs into a war on Terrorism, a technique not an enemy.
  • It morphs into an invasion of a country that had nothing to do with 9-11 2001.

  • It morphs into an accomplished mission when only the Oil Ministry was secured.

  • It morphs into progress when water availability, power reliability and Iraqi health are worse than before the invasion.

  • Insurgents control more of Iraq than they did at the handover.
It's all a matter of redefining a few terms.,1,5586623.story

Monday, September 27, 2004

The NYTimes > Campaign 2004 > Debate Preparation Began With a Professor at Yale

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > White House Letter: Debate Preparation Began With a Professor at Yale:
"People may think they have heard enough about the things that President Bush and Senator John Kerry have in common - Yankee ancestry, distant relatives, Skull and Bones. But there is one more shared experience, if readers can bear another ramble down the byways of Yale, which is of no small relevance in a week when the two presidential candidates face off in their first debate."

It turns out that Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry, two years apart in New Haven, shared the same oratory teacher and debate coach, Rollin G. Osterweis. Their training in speaking and thinking under Professor Osterweis influenced the kind of candidates they became, and will be part of their performances in Coral Gables, Fla., on Thursday.

Professor Osterweis, who died in 1982, was a courtly Yale professor who taught a popular and easy class, History of American Oratory, for a quarter-century. Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry took the course, which consisted of studying famous addresses by William Jennings Bryan, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, among others, as well as delivering a speech to Professor Osterweis and the class. Mr. Kerry, as is well known, went one step further and became a star on the Yale debate team, with Professor Osterweis as coach.

Aides say that Mr. Bush, who never tried out for the team, nonetheless took from the class lessons that he uses today: the importance of direct language, organized speeches and connecting with crowds.

"He actually gave me a lecture once," Karen P. Hughes, Mr. Bush's close adviser, said at the White House last week. Ms. Hughes was referring to the president's demands on his speechwriters, who get drafts of major addresses sent back with heavy markings from the president's Sharpie marker. Mr. Bush is not known for his elocution on the stump, but he has clear ideas about how his speeches should sound.

As Ms. Hughes recounts in her book, "Ten Minutes From Normal," Mr. Bush calls at all hours with small-bore speech instructions: "Paragraph five on page two says the same thing as paragraph four on the page before." "This whole page is too repetitive." "That section is way too passive; I'm not bobbing along like some cork; I want active verbs."

…David Boren, a former United States senator and a 1960's Yale debater who is now the president of the University of Oklahoma, said that Professor Osterweis, his mentor, taught students two main lessons. "First, you have to have substance - values and principles that are worth conserving," Mr. Boren said. "Then you have to communicate them in a way that makes the audience feel that they have ownership of the ideas. It's almost like you have to become part of the crowd, and have them go away adopting the ideas as their own."

Mr. Boren, a Democrat who knows both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry, said that the president, with his colloquialisms and regular-guy style, had clearly learned the second lesson. "Bush puts himself inside the head of the person listening to him," he said.

In contrast, Mr. Boren said, Mr. Kerry is all policy and expertise. "I think Kerry obviously uses his speeches to be a teacher and to go into the nuances and complexities," he said. Professor Osterweis, he added, "saw the role of the president in part as being a teacher."

So far, no record has surfaced of the speeches Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush delivered in the Osterweis course, and neither campaign was forthcoming over the weekend.

But Professor Osterweis's daughter Ruth Osterweis Selig said her father had often talked of Mr. Kerry, whose most well-known Yale debate was in February 1966, when he defeated a previously unbeaten traveling British team with a topic he may well have to revisit Thursday: a defense of the United Nations. Mr. Kerry's argument 38 years ago was that the organization had "supplied a meeting place for harmonizing differences."

For the record debate was and, I'm pretty sure, still is an important part of
life at Phillips Academy at Andover, where I like G.W Bush spent two years.

Winning, even by redefining common terms is something to watch out for
in this and any future debates. In fact, we've all seen some extreme examples in
the justification of his Iraq policies. / World / US - US 'must raise troop numbers' to fulfil commitments / World / US - US 'must raise troop numbers' to fulfil commitments:
A Pentagon-appointed panel has found that the US military will not be able to maintain its current peacekeeping commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan without a significant increase in the size of the armed forces or scaling back the objectives of the stabilisation missions.

"A report by the respected Defence Science Board was presented to Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, late last month. Mr Rumsfeld found the study compelling and ordered it to be presented earlier this month to all the uniformed chiefs of the four armed services as well as the military's combatant commanders, who oversee each of the Pentagon's six regional commands.

Although the report, first disclosed in the newsletter Inside the Pentagon, has not been made public, pages from the study reviewed by the Financial Times state that while some of the stresses on the US military could be mitigated by private contractors and improved technologies, such measures are unlikely to be sufficient.

'It is not clear that our new stabilisation capabilities will suffice if we maintain the current pace of stabilisation operations,' the study says. "

The report, entitled Transition to and from Hostilities, could re-ignite the debate over the size of the US military, particularly the army, which many analysts warn is becoming overworked and stretched thin by repeated rotations through Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Rumsfeld has largely resisted moves to enlarge the army, although he has given General Peter Schoomaker, army chief of staff, permission for a temporary increase of 30,000 soldiers.

The report was discussed briefly in a congressional hearing last week, where Mr Rumsfeld described it as "a good one". Congressional critics, however, used it to denounce his reluctance to back army enlargement.

"I think the major point, the one I think the Defence Science Board concludes with, is that we have put ourselves in a strategic position where we may not be able to respond to obvious threats that we're seeing today," said Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat on the armed services committee.

The Defence Science Board, founded in the 1950s, is made up of leading academics and experts appointed to examine science, technology and research issues that could affect security policy.

Is Market Demand the Lifeblood of Capitalism?

Is Market Demand the Lifeblood of Capitalism?

When British economist Alfred Marshall first wrote about the concept of demand and supply in his 1890 book Principles of Economics, he made a profound observation about the life of a business and that of a human being. Each followed a strikingly similar path starting with birth, moving through growth, to maturity, and finally into decline, and ultimately death. In his words:

A business firm grows and attains great strength, and afterwards perhaps stagnates and decays; and at the turning point there is a balancing or equilibrium of the forces of life and decay. And as we reach to the higher stages of our work, we shall need ever more and more to think of economic forces as resembling those which make a young man grow in strength until he reaches his prime; after which he gradually becomes stiff and inactive, till at last he sinks to make room for other and more vigorous life.

Lost, however, over the last century of extraordinary growth, is Marshall's observation that nothing lasts forever. Implied in his statement is that demand is also not immortal, regardless of endless price decreases. More than 100 years ago when Marshall first captured the essence of the law of demand and supply, there wasn't a whole lot to demand beyond the basic categories of food, clothing, and shelter. However, as the 20th century dawned, the arrival of the automobile, first in Europe and then in North America, signaled the start of a long and remarkable run for demand. At one time easily controlled by simple price adjustments, demand shows almost no sign of vitality today, and there is no evidence to suggest that it will change anytime soon.

As the 21st century dawned, there were more consumers in more countries consuming more products in more categories than at any other time in history. The events of the early part of the 20th century, including the introduction of mass production, helped make all products affordable not just for the rich, but for the growing number of people who were rapidly populating an entirely new group in the social strata between the rich and the working class: the middle class. The significant and concurrent conditions that allowed for such a unique growth dynamic were:

  • Population growth.

  • The development of thousands of new categories of products and services.

  • The ability to rapidly communicate with an increasing number of consumers everywhere.

By the end of the 20th century, there was hardly a category that was not populated by all three major classes. Even the poor had cell phones, cars, houses, televisions, Play Stations, computers, and e-mail.

The lack of worldwide demand today is neither an indictment of corporations such as Kraft Foods nor the mature consumer packaged goods industry in which it competes. In fact, quite the opposite might be true. The folks at Kraft Foods might have done their jobs too well over the last 50 years, effectively hastening the onset of saturation by influencing as many people on the planet who can afford to do so to consume as much cream cheese, cookies, and cereal as they possibly can. With the universe of bagel noshers largely fixed, even some of the most successful marketers in the world can't convince them to increase their consumption of schmeers. Now, satiated consumers worldwide are increasingly saying, "No mas! Nicht mehr! No, I do not want fries with that!"

Countless corporations in dozens of industries across all sectors are flirting with flat or even shrinking year-over-year revenue growth. Even a decade of aggressive mergers and acquisitions has largely resulted in simply creating bigger corporations with little or no organic growth.

Obscured by the events of September 11, 2001 and the 2003 war in Iraq, is an underlying trend that has gone largely unnoticed over the last quarter-century: demand, and the rate of unit and revenue growth for corporations around the world, has gradually slowed to a trickle.

However, as the rate of revenue growth has dwindled, the global investment community's expectations for consistent earnings growth have intensified. A rigid and unrelenting demand for increased profit growth, in the absence of an accompanying boost in natural revenue, has created a mathematical dilemma that is sending some corporations on acquisition shopping sprees, many on the cost-cutting warpath, and others beyond the boundaries of ethical business behavior. The rash of financial fabrications involving high-profile public corporations certainly raised the specter of impropriety in the early years of this century. It also increased our awareness of the lengths to which corporations will go to deliver the level of earnings that Wall Street expects.

On the surface, this revenue problem seems imminently fixable. A stimulus package here, zero percent financing there, and we are magically back on the growth track. However, there are new fundamental symptoms that suggest otherwise. Although productivity gains have greatly helped in the delivery of earnings growth over the last decade, our ability to continue to increase output per worker is fading. Sometimes forgotten is the fact that revenue is the single most important element in generating earnings. Without revenue, there can be no earnings at all, and without a constant inflow of new revenue, the long-term prospect for delivering earnings growth in perpetuity for some of the most established and historically successful businesses in the world could be at risk.

Over the course of the last 25 years, some have confused stock market performance with the actual operational performance and health of the corporations that are traded on Wall Street. More often than not, when graduates from the Class of 1990 and later are asked, "How's the company doing?" they respond with information about the corporation's stock performance: "It's up 2 percent this quarter." Without operational performance, it's difficult to see an appreciation in stock performance over the long term. Have we already forgotten about the dot-com debacle? Some have become so blinded by the prospect of building personal wealth that they forget that the operational performance of a corporation really comes down to three basic elements:

  1. Costs

  2. Revenue

  3. Earnings

However, we don't always remember that these elements follow a natural progression: investment (costs), income (revenue), and profit (earnings). There are no earnings at all without revenue. When asked if the pace at which earnings are outgrowing revenues troubled her, one high-profile Wall Street analyst simply brushed off the question remarking, "Earnings have always grown faster than revenues." Obviously, she never launched a business.

The most frightening aspect of this statement was that she believed she was right. This dangerous perspective illustrates that we have effectively created two separate, often disconnected worlds: the world of Wall Street and the world of business. The connection between the two worlds has been reduced to a single number every three months—earnings—with little regard for the means taken to deliver those earnings. The lack of demand and, therefore, lack of revenue growth is causing corporations to take actions that they never had to before.

Dow component corporation Eastman Kodak is a good example. Caught in a rapidly changing industry, Kodak is essentially the same size it was a decade ago (about $13 billion in sales), but with about 40,000 fewer employees. It's been a tough decade for Kodak, as well as for the greater Rochester, New York area where the company is headquartered.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.: Getting to Average

The New York Times > Opinion > HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.: Getting to Average:
"Franklin Raines, the C.E.O. of Fannie Mae, told me. 'We don't need to take everybody from the ghetto and make them Harvard graduates. We just need to get folks to average, and we'd all look around and say, 'My God, what a fundamental change has happened in this country.' '

How big a change? He's done the math. 'If America had racial equality in education and jobs, African-Americans would have two million more high school degrees, two million more college degrees, nearly two million more professional and managerial jobs, and nearly $200 billion more income,' he pointed out in a speech. 'If America had racial equality in housing, three million more Americans would own their own homes. And if America had racial equality in wealth, African-Americans would have $760 billion more in equity value, $200 billion more in the stock market, $120 billion more in their retirement funds and $80 billion more in the bank.' Total: Over $1 trillion. "

…The glory days for the black working class were from 1940 to 1970, when manufacturing boomed and factory jobs were plentiful. But when the manufacturing sector became eclipsed by the service economy, black workers ended up - well, stuck in a demographic Buffalo.

…William Julius Wilson, the sociologist, thinks better manpower policies would help. Once black workers moved to where the jobs were; they need to do it again. Instead of trying to turn ghettos into boomtowns, then, we ought to provide workers with relocation assistance, and create "transitional public sector jobs" for those who haven't yet found a private-sector gig. Oh, and - since we're dreaming - fixing the schools would be nice, including "school-to-work transition programs," to place high school grads in the job market.

Raines, as you might expect, considers homeownership to be crucial to wealth generation. "The average person develops more wealth in their home than they do in the stock market. Next to a job, it's the most important thing in a family's lives." Blacks, he notes, are considerably less likely to own their own homes than whites.

How to afford one, though? "The whole new service economy is fundamentally based on communications, the Internet, electronics," he told me. "That infrastructure is going to need people who can manage it, and those jobs are going to move from very high tech to being service jobs, just the way it happened at the telephone company. You used to have to be a scientist to operate a phone, and then it became a blue-collar job."

But maybe, as the economist Glenn Loury suggests, we need to aim lower. "There doesn't seem to be an end in sight to the vast, disproportionate overrepresentation of African-Americans in prison or jails," he told me. "It's our deepest problem." Job training for willing prisoners would be a good start.

Loury considers welfare reform a success: "We ask a lot more of mothers, and they have given us a lot more, and they and we are both better off for our having asked." When it comes to education, though, he advocates "equal expenditures per kid, no matter where they live." In fact, he'd spend more money on inferior school districts, at least over the short run, to bring them up to standard.

The New York Times > Washington > Medicare Rules Set Off a Battle on Drug Choices

The New York Times > Washington > Medicare Rules Set Off a Battle on Drug Choices:
"The new Medicare law has touched off a huge battle between insurance companies and drug companies that could determine how many medicines will be readily available to Medicare beneficiaries.

Under the law, Medicare will rely on private health plans to deliver drug benefits to the elderly and disabled. The government will not specify precisely which drugs must be covered. Rather, each plan will develop a list of drugs approved for reimbursement.

In general, drug companies want as many drugs as possible on each list, known as a formulary. Many doctors and consumer groups agree. But insurers and drug benefit managers generally want to limit the number of drugs, and the types of drugs. Otherwise, they say, the new drug benefit will quickly become unaffordable."

Pharmaceutical companies stand to gain or lose billions of dollars depending on whether their drugs or competing products are included in Medicare formularies.

The Bush administration has retained a private nonprofit organization, the United States Pharmacopeia, to develop a list of the types of drugs that should be covered. The guidelines, which serve as a model for private plans providing the new drug benefit, list 146 distinct categories and classes of drugs.

A broad therapeutic category, like antihistamines or heart medications, typically includes several classes. Under the law and rules announced by the Bush administration, private plans must cover at least two drugs in each category and class.

The formularies could have a major impact on the success of the new law, determining how many people sign up for drug benefits and how many private plans participate. Before enrolling in a plan, beneficiaries will presumably check to see if it covers the drugs they are taking.

A health plan generally does not have to pay for drugs excluded from its formulary, and while beneficiaries can use their own money to buy such drugs, the costs will not count toward the annual limit on their out-of-pocket expenses. After reaching that limit ($3,600 a year in 2006), the beneficiary is entitled to catastrophic coverage, meaning that Medicare pays about 95 percent of drug costs beyond that amount.

The debate over formularies has produced some odd allies and adversaries. Drug companies have joined patients in arguing that patients should have access to the full array of drugs for AIDS, asthma, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and other diseases.

Howard J. Bedlin, vice president of the National Council on the Aging, a research and advocacy group, said, "A restrictive formulary with a limited number of therapeutic classes may save money in the short run, but it will cost Medicare and beneficiaries more in the long run,'' by increasing the need for hospital care, nursing home admissions and doctors' visits.

"If beneficiaries discover that the drugs they take are not covered under the plans available in their area, many may choose not to enroll,'' Mr. Bedlin said, and that could drive up premiums for those who do enroll.

Richard I. Smith, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a lobby for brand-name drug makers, said the list of drug classes must be expanded to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have access to the drugs they need and use.

"A formulary could comply with the U.S. Pharmacopeia's guidelines while excluding coverage for 41 of the 50 drugs most commonly used by seniors,'' Mr. Smith said. The 41 drugs, he said, include Lipitor and Zocor for high cholesterol, Norvasc for high blood pressure, Fosamax for osteoporosis, Celebrex and Vioxx for arthritis, Nexium for heartburn, Zoloft and Paxil for depression and Allegra for allergies.

Until now, Medicare had no outpatient drug benefit. In Congressional debate last year, lawmakers said it was absurd that Medicare would pay $8,000 to hospitalize a person for a heart attack, but not $80 a month to provide drugs like Lipitor that could help prevent heart attacks by reducing cholesterol. But Dr. Cranston, a pharmacologist, said the guidelines did not require prescription drug plans to cover the type of drugs most widely used to treat high cholesterol, known as statins.

Dr. Hans Vemer, senior vice president of the Schering-Plough drug company, said that by limiting coverage of such products, prescription drug plans could "avoid attracting large numbers of patients with serious heart disease'' and other chronic illnesses.

The law forbids discrimination against people with high drug costs, but insurers may have powerful incentives to discourage the enrollment of such patients. On average, Mr. Smith said, the drug costs for a Medicare recipient with heart disease or diabetes are twice as high as the drug costs for all other beneficiaries.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said Medicare officials could require insurers to modify their formularies if they were found to discriminate against people with mental illness, AIDS or other conditions. Congress wanted beneficiaries to have access to "a wide range of prescription drugs,'' and in some cases, that will require more than two drugs of a particular type, said Mr. Grassley, a principal author of the new law.

Andrew Sperling, a lobbyist at the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, said the guidelines made "a serious mistake'' by lumping a vast array of treatments for depression in a single class. As a result, he said, a drug plan could include two older drugs on its formulary while excluding newer, more effective antidepressants that cost more.

"These drugs are not interchangeable,'' Mr. Sperling said.

But managed care companies and benefit managers oppose any increase in the types of drugs that must be covered. They complain that drug makers are continually pushing for coverage of their latest, most expensive products, even when older drugs are just as effective for most patients.

"The drug makers' agenda could seriously undermine Medicare's ability to maintain an affordable benefit,'' said Mark Merritt, president of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents companies like Medco and Express Scripts.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

DISEASE IN IRAQ: Hepatitis Outbreak Laid to Water and Sewage Failures

IN IRAQ: Hepatitis Outbreak Laid to Water and Sewage Failures
“A virulent form of hepatitis that is especially lethal for pregnant women has broken out in two of Iraq's most troubled districts, Iraqi Health Ministry officials said in interviews here this week, and they warned that a collapse of water and sewage systems in the continuing violence in the country is probably at the root of the outbreak. The disease, called hepatitis E, is caused by a virus that is often spread by sewage-contaminated drinking water. The officials said they had equipment to test only a limited number of people showing symptoms, suggesting that only a fraction of the actual cases have been firmly diagnosed. In Sadr City, a Baghdad slum that for months has been convulsed by gun battles between a local militia and American troops, the officials said as many as 155 cases had turned up.”

The second outbreak is in Mahmudiya, a town 35 miles south of Baghdad that is known for its kidnappings and shootings as well as for its poverty, where there are an estimated 60 cases. At least nine pregnant women are believed to have been infected, and one has died. Five deaths have been reported over all.

"We are saying that the real number is greatly more than this, because the area is greatly underreported," said Dr. Atta-alla Mekhlif Al-Salmani, leader of the viral hepatitis section at Health Ministry's Center of Disease Control.

The World Health Organization is rushing hepatitis E testing kits, water purification tablets, informational brochures and other materials to Iraq, said Dr. Naeema Al-Gasseer, the W.H.O. representative for Iraq, who is now based in Amman, Jordan.

But viral hepatitis comes in many forms, and another ominous set of statistics suggests that the quality of water supplies around the country has deteriorated since the American-led war began last year, Dr. Salmani said. In 2003, 70 percent more cases of hepatitis of all types were reported across Iraq than in the year before, he said. During the first six months of 2004, as many cases were reported as in all of 2002.

In yet another indication of the deteriorating safety of water and food in Iraq, the number of reported cases of typhoid fever is up sharply this year, said Dr. Nima S. Abid, the ministry's director general of public health and primary health. Hospitals across the country are also full of children with severe forms of diarrhea, Dr. Abid said.

Those reports come as the Bush administration has proposed shifting $3.46 billion in reconstruction money for Iraq to programs that would train and equip tens of thousands of additional police officers, border guards and national guardsmen in hopes of regaining control of the security situation. The shift, which needs approval by Congress, would gut what had been an ambitious program to rebuild Iraq's crumbling water and sewage systems, forcing the cancellation or delay of most of the projects. Last fall, Congress approved $18.4 billion for Iraq's reconstruction; so far, only about $1 billion has been spent.

This is what the administration is calling progress.
Pay no attention to the catastrophe behind that diversion.
Ignore the strings animating Prime Minister Allawi.
Don't think about the negatives.
Don't Think!

Friday, September 24, 2004

This Just In | George Bush, Master of Sanctimony | The Progressive magazine

This Just In | George Bush, Master of Sanctimony | The Progressive magazine:
"He boasted that 'we have the historic chance . . . to fight radicalism and terror with justice and dignity,' willfully ignoring the Abu Ghraib scandal that has so besmirched the U.S. reputation abroad.

On Iraq and Afghanistan today, he said, 'Freedom is finding a way,' and that both peoples 'are on the path to democracy and freedom.'

It must be a slippery path, though, and a difficult way.

Bush hinted at this by saying, 'The work ahead is demanding.' But he used this acknowledgment to upbraid the delegates: 'The proper response to difficulty is not to retreat, it is to prevail.'

Amazingly, he said, 'The people of Iraq have regained sovereignty,' even though they are being ruled by a former CIA asset appointed by the Iraqi Governing Council, which Bush's viceroy, Paul Bremer, handpicked."

Bush's entire discussion about Iraq reeked of hubris. Just last week, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called the Iraq War "illegal," but Bush said "a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the world." Once again, he simply assumed that the United States has the right to be the unilateral enforcer of U.N. Security Council resolutions, even when the Security Council itself does not agree. To give those resolutions meaning and "for the sake of peace" (calling George Orwell), Bush said the war against Saddam Hussein was necessary.

Bush did not mention the elusive weapons of mass destruction, incidentally. Instead, he emphasized that the war against Iraq this time was to "deliver the Iraqi people from an outlaw dictator."

On the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Bush, as is his custom, spent much more time and much stronger language berating Yasser Arafat, though not by name, than in scolding the Israeli government.

This imbalance must have been clear to people in the Arab and Muslim world.

Bush did denounce the crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan, "crimes my government has concluded are genocide." But he was short on any follow through that is necessary to stop that genocide.

The only new initiative he offered during his entire speech was the establishment of something he called a Democracy Fund to help set up "independent courts, a free press, political parties, and trade unions." Trade unions? Since when has Bush been a supporter of them? Bush added, "Money from the fund would also help set up voter precincts and poling places, and support the work of election monitors."

We may need those election monitors here on November 2.…

Bullies at the Voting Booth | Anne-Marie Cusac | October 2004 issue

Bullies at the Voting Booth | Anne-Marie Cusac | October 2004 issue:
"What if Republican shenanigans tip the election? Many members of the media are looking at the dangers voting machines may pose to the integrity of the national election. Others are wondering whether voters may be disenfranchised by use of faulty felon lists, as happened in Florida in 2000. But there is another danger: Republicans may use a variety of tactics to suppress the vote of racial minorities in swing states. These tactics could determine control of the White House or the Senate.

In August, the Zogby International poll raised the number of battleground states from sixteen to twenty. In those states, notes John Zogby, 'the pounding has been relentless.'

Zogby was referring to negative ads, but the sanctity of the vote is also taking a pounding. In some states, Republicans are threatening to conduct widespread vote challenges in heavily minority areas. In others, recent events suggest that poll workers may wrongly turn away voters. In still others, new laws passed or enforced by Republicans have erected hurdles to trip up the minority vote. And on Election Day itself, say advocates, Republicans may direct numerous tricks at Democratic districts in an effort to confuse or frighten voters.…"

The state that started it all in 2000 is no stranger to controversy this election. In July, The Miami Herald revealed that the state issued faulty felon purge lists containing the names of 48,000 people it said were ineligible to vote. Among these were 2,100 who actually were eligible voters. Many of these people were African American Democrats. The list of 48,000 also contained only sixty-one Hispanic names. (Because of Florida's large Cuban population, the Hispanic vote in Florida is predominantly Republican. The Florida African American vote, on the other hand, tends to be heavily Democratic.)

In mid-August, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert revealed that the state was investigating get-out-the-vote drives among blacks in Orlando by sending armed police officers into the homes of citizens who had filed absentee ballots. Most of these citizens were African American, and many were elderly.

And in Florida's late August primary, representatives from People for the American Way saw poll workers turn back registered voters who neglected to bring their IDs. "Under Florida law," noted The New York Times, "registered voters can vote without showing identification."

But there's a lot more going on in the state, according to Alma Gonzalez, spokeswoman for the Voter Protection Coalition in Florida and special counsel to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "We keep hoping that they've learned from 2000," but early indications are that they haven't, she says. "When some of our members have gone to early voting or to register to vote, they're being asked if they're citizens of the United States." Gonzalez says she has heard from "about half a dozen people, all of them in South Florida," who approached the polls as part of the early election only to be asked their citizenship. And it's not poll watchers who are asking, says Gonzalez. It's "the poll workers, the duly deputized election officials."

Registered voters, Gonzalez points out, have already attested to their citizenship in their registration forms. "They cannot ask you your citizenship at the polling place. It's unlawful," says Gonzalez. "When that question is asked of you" based on your skin color or the fact that you have an accent, "it is not intended to ensure that you're complying with the law. It's intended to suppress voters."

And, even though public attention to the faulty felon voter purge lists led the Florida government to say belatedly that it would not use them this time, the word has traveled slowly. "We are still getting reports from people when they go to vote in different parts of the state," says Gonzalez. "Apparently, there are still inaccuracies."

Then there's the provisional ballot crisis. In Florida in 2000, many people who attempted to vote found that they were not on the rolls, even though they had registered. This is the reasoning behind the provisional ballot requirement in the federal Help America Vote Act. If a voter is wrongly removed from the rolls in the future, he or she should be able to file a provisional ballot. Most states interpret this part of the act as allowing provisional ballots as long as the voter files them in the correct county.

Florida is a little different. Rather than the correct county, voters must submit their provisional ballots to the correct precinct. "This will disenfranchise thousands and thousands of voters," says Gonzalez.

So the AFL-CIO is suing Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood, along with two election supervisors from areas of Florida that have seen some of the largest population increases, and some of the most marked changes in precinct lines. The precinct requirements "impermissibly abridge the right to vote," the AFL says.

How intentional is all this on the part of Florida officials? "They're all intentional," Gonzalez says. "People didn't do these things in their sleep." Then she qualifies the point, saying the real question is, are they intentionally trying to suppress voter turnout? "I'm not going to make that allegation," she says. "I know what the result is." And, she points out, under the Voting Rights Act, the issue is not whether you intended to disenfranchise people, but what is the result. "These election schemes and the conduct of these officials are undermining" the rights of people to vote.

Public Agenda Behind the Headlines: The Poll Truth , September 17, 2004

Public Agenda Behind the Headlines: The Poll Truth, September 17, 2004:
"As we head into the season of fast-and-furious political polling, it can be difficult for the average person to keep things straight. Today, for example, three different polls were released; one by the Pew Research Center says President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are now neck-and-neck again, as does the new Harris Poll, while Gallup's latest survey says President Bush has widened his lead to 13 points. How can they all be true?"

In judging any survey, it's critical to know who's being surveyed and how. One key difference to watch for is between registered voters and "likely voters" -- the people pollsters believe are more likely to show up on Election Day. Polling organizations seeking likely voters will ask respondents a series of questions designed to figure out someone's past voting behavior and level of interest in the current election. That can change the results even in the same survey. This week's Gallup poll had registered voters at 52 percent for Bush and 44 percent for Kerry, compared to 55 percent and 42 percent among likely voters. The difference in the previous Gallup poll was even more pronounced -- registered voters were essentially tied, while Bush led among likely voters.

The trouble is that different polling organizations use different methods to identify likely voters, so even then the results can vary from poll to poll.…

In a tight, hard-fought campaign like this one, when the poll is taken can also matter. All three polls were … conducted at different times (Harris on Sept. 9-13, Gallup on Sept. 12-15, and Pew in two waves on Sept. 8-10 and Sept. 11-14.). If the campaign was a blowout for Bush or Kerry that might not matter, but in a close election a few days can make a big difference. And of course, in a tight race, survey results can be within the three- or four-point margin of error -- which essentially should be considered too close to call.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The NYTimes > Washington > Opponents Say Republicans Plan Sequel to Patriot Act

The New York Times > Washington > Opponents Say Republicans Plan Sequel to Patriot Act:
"House Democratic leaders and civil liberties advocates said Wednesday that a Republican bill responding to the findings of the Sept. 11 commission would go well beyond the panel's recommendations. It would call for broad new powers for law enforcement agencies, they said, and include new authority to conduct electronic surveillance in terrorism investigations.

House Republican officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the bill would incorporate new law enforcement authority that was not specifically requested by the commission, which called for an overhaul of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and other federal agencies responsible for intelligence and counterterrorism.

A spokesman for Representative J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, the House speaker, said pre-emptive criticism of the bill was unwarranted because as of Wednesday evening, the legislation was still not in final form and was not ready for release to the public.

But the spokesman, John Feehery, acknowledged that the bill would call for broadened surveillance powers for law enforcement and intelligence agencies that 'will help us get terrorists and those who help terrorists.' Among the provisions, Mr. Feehery said, are ones to permit surveillance of so-called lone-wolf terrorism suspects who operate without the clear support of terrorist groups."

The American Civil Liberties Union said it had seen drafts of chapters of the bill, which is expected to be introduced as early as Thursday, and described it as "Patriot Act 2," a reference to the landmark antiterrorism bill passed after the Sept. 11 attacks to give sweeping new powers to law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

"Nowhere in its recommendations does the 9/11 commission ask Congress to pass a sequel to the Patriot Act," said Laura W. Murphy, director of the Washington office of the A.C.L.U.…

The NYTimes > Campaign '04 > Laws on Felons Forbid Many Black Men to Vote

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > 2 Studies Find Laws on Felons Forbid Many Black Men to Vote:
"The studies, the first to look at felon disenfranchisement laws' effect on voting in individual cities, add to a growing body of evidence that those laws have a disproportionate effect on African-Americans because the percentage of black men with felony convictions is much larger than their share of the general population.

The study in Atlanta concluded that two-thirds of the gap in voter registration between black males and other ethnic and gender groups was attributable to Georgia's felon disenfranchisement law.

'We have the conventional wisdom that African-American males register to vote at lower rates because of political apathy,' said the study's author, Ryan King of the Sentencing Project, a research and prisoners' rights group based in Washington. But the new data clearly indicate that 'their registration is artificially suppressed by the disproportionate effect of their disenfranchisement.'

The Atlanta study also found that about a third of black men who had lost the right to vote because of a felony had been convicted of drug crimes.

'This is important,' Mr. King said, 'because drug arrests are inherently discretionary.' Other research has shown that blacks do not use drugs more than whites but are arrested on drug charges, and convicted, at a much higher rate."

The NYTimes > International Special > Web War: Even Near Home, a New Front Is Opening in the Terror Battle

The New York Times > International > International Special > Web War: Even Near Home, a New Front Is Opening in the Terror Battle:
"The flags that sprouted after the Sept. 11 attacks still flap on lawns and flutter on poles outside well-tended homes here, about 15 miles from Manhattan. Looming above them is a concrete tower that houses a real-estate firm, an office supplies company - and, until recently, investigators fear, an outpost of Al Qaeda."
On the second floor, an Internet company called Fortress ITX unwittingly played host to an Arabic-language Web site where postings in recent weeks urged attacks against American and Israeli targets. "The Art of Kidnapping" was explained in electronic pamphlets, along with "Military Instructions to the Mujahedeen," and "War Inside the Cities." Visitors could read instructions on using a cellphone to remotely detonate a bomb, and one even asked for help in manufacturing small missiles.

Federal investigators, with the help of a small army of private contractors monitoring sites around the clock and across the world, are trying to find out. Ever since the United States-led coalition smashed Al Qaeda's training grounds in Afghanistan, cyber substitutes, which recruit terrorists and raise money, have proliferated.

While Qaeda operatives have employed an arsenal of technical tools to communicate - from e-mail encryption and computer war games to grisly videotapes like the recent ones showing beheadings believed to have been carried out by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - investigators say they worry most about the Internet because extremists can reach a broad audience with relatively little chance of detection.

By examining sites like those stored inside the electronic walls of the Clifton business, investigators are hoping to identify who is behind them, what links they might have to terror groups, and what threat, if any, they might pose. And in a step that has raised alarms among civil libertarians and others and so far proven unpersuasive in the courtroom, prosecutors are charging that those administering these sites should be held criminally responsible for what is posted.

Attempting to apply broad new powers established by the Patriot Act, the federal government wants to punish those who it claims provide "expert advice or assistance" and therefore play an integral part of a global terror campaign that increasingly relies on the Internet. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee recently, called such Web sites "cyber sanctuaries."

"These networks are wonderful things that enable all kinds of good things in the world," Mr. Wolfowitz said of the Internet. "But they're also a tool that the terrorists use to conceal their identities, to move money, to encrypt messages, even to plan and conduct operations remotely."

Many question the government's strategy of trying to combat terrorism by prosecuting Web site operators. "I think it is an impossible task," said Thomas Hegghammer of the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, an agency that monitors the use of the Internet by Al Qaeda. "You can maybe catch some people. But you will never ever be able to stem the flow of radical Islamic propaganda."

He pointed out that it is difficult to distinguish between a real terrorist and a make-believe one online. "You would end up prosecuting a lot of angry young people who do this because it is exciting, not because they want to actually participate in terrorist attacks," he said. "I don't think it helps you fight Al Qaeda."

The government faces many hurdles in pursuing virtual terrorists. While many militant Islamic message boards and Web pages reside on computer servers owned by North American Internet companies, outfits like Fortress ITX say it would be impractical - and unethical, given that the company sells server space to clients who then resell it - for them to keep track of all of the content stored within their equipment.

"It is hideous, loathsome," said Robert Ellis, executive vice president of Fortress, after viewing postings from the Abu al-Bukhary Web site his company hosted. "It is the part of this business that is deeply disturbing." His company shut down the site within the last month after learning of it from a reporter. The intense focus on Muslim-related sites like Abu al-Bukhary, in an era when domestically produced anarchist manuals are commonly available on the Web, has provoked charges that the anti-cyber sanctuary effort is really a misguided anti-Muslim campaign that is compromising important First Amendment rights.

This effort "opens the floodgates to really marginalizing a lot of the free speech that has been a hallmark of the American legal and political system," said Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "Globally it really does nothing but worsen the image of America in the rest of the world."

The detective work begins in a northeast city in a compact office set up by a self-proclaimed terrorist hunter. This is the headquarters of Rita Katz, an Iraqi-born Jew whose father was executed in Baghdad in 1969, shortly after Saddam Hussein's Baath Party came to power.

Finding terrorists has become a crusade for Ms. Katz, who began going to pro-Palestinian rallies and fund-raisers disguised as a Muslim woman in the late 1990's, then presented information to the federal government in an effort to prove there were ties between Islamic fundamentalist groups in the United States and terror organizations like Hamas or Al Qaeda.

Federal agencies, including the National Security Agency, the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security, monitor suspected terror sites on the Internet and sometimes track users. Private groups like Ms. Katz's Search for International Terrorist Entities Institute and The Middle East Media Research Institute are also keeping track of the ever-changing content of these sites. Ms. Katz's institute, which relies on government contracts and corporate clients, may be the most influential of those groups, and she is among the most controversial of the cyberspace monitors. While some experts praise her research as solid, some of her targets view her as a vigilante. Several Islamic groups and charities, for example, sued for defamation after she claimed they were terrorist fronts, even though they were not charged with a crime.

Jaish Ansar al-Sunna, a group that has surfaced in Iraq, posted a video on its Internet site showing the bodies of 12 Nepali contractor workers who it had taken hostage and killed. The site was taken down that same day, but then reappeared on a computer server of a Utah-based Web hosting company.…

The NYTimes > Washington > Deal in Congress to Keep Tax Cuts, Widening Deficit

The New York Times > Washington > Deal in Congress to Keep Tax Cuts, Widening Deficit:
"Putting aside efforts to control the federal deficit before the elections, Republican and Democratic leaders agreed Wednesday to extend $145 billion worth of tax cuts sought by President Bush without trying to pay for them.

At a House-Senate conference committee, Democratic lawmakers abandoned efforts to pay for the measures by either imposing a surcharge on wealthy families or closing corporate tax shelters.

'I wish we could pay for them, but this is a political problem and we have people up for re-election,'' said Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. 'If you have to explain that you voted for these tax cuts because they benefit the middle class and against them because of the deficit, you've got a problem.''"

Fearful of being attacked as supporters of higher taxes, Democrats said they would go along with an unpaid five-year extension of the $1,000 child tax credit; a four-year extension of tax breaks intended to reduce the so-called marriage penalty on two-income families; and a six-year extension of a provision that allowed more people to qualify for the lowest tax rate of 10 percent.

Even as they pushed for the cuts that will add to the federal budget deficit, House Republican lawmakers said Wednesday that they hoped to have a vote soon on a constitutional amendment that would require the government to balance the budget by 2010, except if the country is at war.

That proposed amendment has no chance of becoming law, but it would conflict with even the Bush administration's rosiest goals for reducing the deficit, which is expected to hit $420 billion this year, a record. Mr. Bush has promised only to cut the deficit in half by 2009.

As recently as July, the moderates demanded that such tax cuts be paid for either with budget cuts or with higher taxes in other areas. By teaming up with Democrats, the Republican moderates prevented their own party leaders and the Bush administration from getting their way.

But with the election nearing, Congressional Democrats said they would not let themselves be branded as supporters of tax increases, which would occur if the expiring provisions were not renewed.

With Democrats capitulating to the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, the handful of Republican holdouts have quietly surrendered as well.

The Republican rebels - Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine - infuriated Mr. Bush and many Republican leaders. But their ability to block action evaporated without the votes of Democrats.

The result of the reversal on the part of the Democrats and the Republican moderates is likely to be a tax measure that will last longer and increase federal deficits more than a two-year extension that Republican Senate leaders offered this summer. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that debt will climb by $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years, and that making all Mr. Bush's tax cuts permanent would cost an additional $1.9 trillion by the end of 2014.

In the conference committee, House and Senate Republicans added about $13 billion worth of business tax breaks, the biggest of which was a renewal of the investment tax credit for research and development.

House Republican conferees also rejected a proposed amendment by Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, that would expand the number of poor families eligible for a refundable child tax credit. That measure would have cost $7 billion over 10 years.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The NYTimes > U.S. Wants Air Traveler Files for Security Test
Long Live Big Brother!

The New York Times > Washington > U.S. Wants Air Traveler Files for Security Test:
"The Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday that it planned to require all airlines to turn over records on every passenger carried domestically in June, so the agency could test a new system to match passenger names against lists of known or suspected terrorists.

The data will vary by airline. It will include each passenger's name, address and telephone number and the flight number. It may also include such information as the names of traveling companions, meal preference, whether the reservation was changed at any point, the method of ticket payment and any comment by airline employees, like whether a passenger was drunk or belligerent in encounters with airline personnel.

The goal, the agency said, is to reduce the number of passengers selected for more intensive screening, including 'wanding,' pat-downs and hand-searches of carry-on luggage, and to increase the chance that people on government watch lists will in fact be searched. Under the current system, the airlines check their passengers' names against government lists of suspicious people. But, the government, fearing that the lists could fall into the wrong hands, does not give the airlines all the names."

The new order, to take effect after a 30-day comment period, would require airlines to provide the same kind of information on passengers that several, including JetBlue and Northwest, voluntarily turned over to the government or to a private company looking at ways to spot terrorists. The airlines were embarrassed by disclosure that they did so willingly.

"We believe the government needs to have a legal order to compel production of this data," said Jack Evans, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, the trade group of the major carriers, who added that delivering the information under government order would protect the carriers from passenger lawsuits.

The department's sensitivity on the issue is reflected by the fact that it is placing several documents related to the proposal in the Federal Register on Wednesday for public comment, a first for the agency, which is promising to listen to airlines, privacy advocates and others who opposed an earlier proposal. "We're giving them a chance to comment on the order, which we almost never do," said Justin Oberman, director of the Office of National Risk Assessment at the Transportation Security Administration. "We want to do this collaboratively," he said.

The agency plans to issue the order for the June records 10 days after the comment period, and if the test is successful, to start requiring continuous reporting in the spring.

The proposal, for a program called Secure Flight, replaces one for a program that was to be called Capps 2, for Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, but appears to contain some of the elements that privacy advocates had found objectionable in the first proposal.

In the documents scheduled for publication Wednesday, the security agency said it had dropped Capps 2 because of objections to "mission creep." Capps 2 would have been used not only to determine who should be subjected to additional scrutiny before boarding and who was on the "no fly" list, but also to catch people for whom there were outstanding warrants for violent crimes. The Secure Flight program will not be used to apprehend those wanted people, officials said.

But the American Civil Liberties Union said the program appeared to retain most of the objectionable features of the one that was dropped. By demanding the entire airline "passenger name record," the security agency would be receiving not only the traveler's name, phone number and address, said Barry Steinhart of the A.C.L.U., but also information like "whether you ordered the low-salt kosher meal and who is sleeping in your hotel room."

He said there was nothing to prevent the government from reviving the idea of using the airport security system to catch people wanted for unrelated crimes. But he added that his group had never opposed the idea of having the government, rather than the airlines, check passenger names against a watch list. "The question is not whether TSA should do the administration, it's what program they should be administering," he said.

He said he was struck by the argument that the agency did not trust the airlines with all the names of possible terrorists. "If they weren't giving the worst names to airlines, what were they doing? Who were they screening, then?" he asked.

Secure Flight continues to make use of another feature that raised the hackles of privacy advocates: government use of commercial data about citizens who are not accused of any crime. The T.S.A. said it would use that data with techniques used by private companies to find people who might be committing identity theft. In the agency's case, the object would be to find people who might be flying under assumed names, and thus might be security risks.

But Mark O. Hatfield Jr., a spokesman for the agency, said that in every hearing where screening had been discussed, members of Congress asked how the security agency would ensure that travelers were using their real names.

Lisa S. Dean, the agency's privacy officer, said under the proposed system, "we're not looking for every passenger as a potential terrorist.''

"What we're looking for is the people who are actually on that list," Ms. Dean said.

But at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which recently used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain T.S.A. documents that showed how the Capps 2 program had grown beyond aviation purposes, Marcia C. Hofmann, staff counsel and director of the Open Government Project, gave Secure Flight a mixed review.

She said the agency had made a step forward by asking for comment, but she added, "The T.S.A. has exempted Secure Flight from as many legal obligations under federal privacy law as it possibly could."

For example, she said, federal privacy law usually requires that when an agency creates a system of records, individuals can have access to information about them, and correct or amend it. "T.S.A. exempted Secure Flight from that," she said. And the information could be used for activities that have nothing to do with aviation security, she said.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

NYTimes > Campaign 2004 > The Campaign: Kerry Attacks Bush Over War in Iraq

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > The Campaign: In Harshest Critique Yet, Kerry Attacks Bush Over War in Iraq
And It's About Time!
"'Today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way,' Mr. Kerry said. 'How can he possibly be serious? Is he really saying that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to Al Qaeda, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer, resoundingly, is no, because a commander in chief's first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe.'

While Mr. Kerry said Saddam Hussein 'deserves his own special place in hell,' he argued, 'we have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.'

The 47-minute speech was Mr. Kerry's most stinging critique to date of what he called Mr. Bush's 'colossal failures of judgment' on Iraq. Mr. Kerry also laid out, as he has before, four broad steps that he urged Mr. Bush to take immediately: repair alliances, train Iraqi security forces, improve reconstruction and ensure elections. If all that happened, Mr. Kerry said, 'we could begin to withdraw U.S. forces starting next summer, and realistically aim to bring our troops home within the next four years.'"

Monday, September 20, 2004

The NYTimes > Campaign 2004 > CBS News Concludes It Was Misled on Guard Memos

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > The News Media: CBS News Concludes It Was Misled on National Guard Memos, Network Officials Say:
"In examining where the network had gone wrong, officials at CBS News turning their attention to Ms. Mapes, one of their most respected producers, who was riding particularly high this year after breaking news about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal for the network.

In a telephone interview this weekend, Josh Howard, the executive producer of the '60 Minutes'' Wednesday edition, said that he did not initially know who was Ms. Mapes' primary source for the documents but that he did not see any reason to doubt them. He said he believed Ms. Mapes and her team had appropriately answered all questions about the documents' authenticity and, he noted, no one seemed to be casting doubt upon the essential thrust of the report.

'The editorial story line was still intact, and still is, to this day,'' he said, 'and the reporting that was done in it was by a person who has turned in decades of flawless reporting with no challenge to her credibility"

He added, "We in management had no sense that the producing team wasn't completely comfortable with the results of the document analysis.''

Ms. Mapes has not responded to requests for comment.

Mr. Howard also said in the interview that the White House did not dispute the veracity of the documents when it was presented to them on the morning of the report. That reaction, he said, was "the icing on the cake'' of the other reporting the network was conducting on the documents. White House officials have said they saw no reason to challenge documents being presented by a credible news organization.
  • The pay records released by the White House this past winter prove Bush received unauthorized, i.e., fraudulent, payments for inactive duty training, even if he did show up for duty.

  • The memorandum from Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Albert C. Lloyd, who affirmed for the White House that Bush met his retention/retirement year point requirement, is an obfuscation, or outright deception, that disregarded Bush’s failure to meet the statutory and regulatory fiscal year satisfactory participation requirement.

  • Bush’s superiors in the Texas Air National Guard failed to take required regulatory actions when Bushed missed required training and failed to take his flight physical.

  • Despite seemingly laudatory comments, Bush’s May 1972 officer performance report was a clear and unmistakable indication that his performance had declined from the annual 1971 report. The report was the kiss of death before he left for Alabama that year.

  • Bush did not meet the requirements for satisfactory participation from 1972 to 1973.

He certainly cannot rely on his military record to answer these questions.,1,5468228.story?coll=chi-news-hed

President George W. Bush’s Military Service: A Critical Analysis at:

The NYTimes > Vote '04 > Military Service: Portrait of Bush in '72: Unanchored in Turbulent Time

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Military Service: Portrait of George Bush in '72: Unanchored in Turbulent Time:
"Nineteen seventy-two was the year George W. Bush dropped off the radar screen.

He abandoned his once-prized status as a National Guard pilot by failing to appear for a required physical. He sought temporary reassignment from the Texas Air National Guard to an Alabama unit but for six months did not show up for training. He signed on as an official in the losing campaign of a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, and even there he left few impressions other than as an amiable bachelor with a good tennis game and a famous father."

"To say he brought in a bunch of initiatives and bright ideas," said a fellow campaign worker, Devere McLennan, "no he didn't."

This year of inconsequence has grown increasingly consequential for President Bush because of persistent, unanswered questions about his National Guard service - why he failed to take his pilot's physical and whether he fulfilled his commitment to the Guard. If anything, those issues became still murkier this past week, with the controversy over the authenticity of four documents disclosed by CBS News and its program "60 Minutes" purporting to shed light on that Guard record.

Still, a wider examination of his life in 1972, based on dozens of interviews and other documents released by the White House over the years, yields a portrait of a young man like many other young men of privilege in that turbulent time - entitled, unanchored and safe from combat, bouncing from a National Guard slot made possible by his family's prominence to a political job arranged through his father.

In a speech on Tuesday at a National Guard convention, Mr. Bush said he was "proud to be one of them," and in his autobiography he writes that his service taught him respect for the chain of command. But a review of records shows that not only did he miss months of duty in 1972, but that he also may have been improperly awarded credit for service, making possible an early honorable discharge so he could turn his attention to a new interest: Harvard Business School.

Mr. Bush, nearly 26, went to Alabama in mid-May 1972 to work on the campaign of Winton M. Blount, a construction magnate known as Red who was a friend of Mr. Bush's father. The Democratic opponent was Senator John J. Sparkman, chairman of the Senate banking committee, a legendary power in what was still a solidly Democratic South.

Mr. Bush, while missing months of the Guard duty that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, was the political director of the Blount campaign, which accused Mr. Sparkman - a hawk on the war - and the national Democrats of supporting "amnesty for all draft dodgers" and of showing "more concern for coddling deserters than for patriotic American young men who have lost their lives in Vietnam." In the last week of the race, the Blount campaign ran a radio advertisement using an edited recording of Mr. Sparkman that made him appear to support forced busing of schoolchildren, which he opposed.

Although campaign records list Mr. Bush as third in command, people who worked in the race said he was not involved in those tactics or with the overall agenda. Mr. Bush's connection was Jimmy Allison, a political operative from Midland, Tex., who was running the campaign and was a close friend of George H. W. Bush, having managed the elder Mr. Bush's 1966 Congressional victory in Houston.

Mr. Allison's widow, Linda, who volunteered in the Blount campaign, said she became curious about the young Mr. Bush's job after noticing his coming into the office late and leaving early.

"I asked Jimmy, 'What does Georgie do?' '' Mrs. Allison, 73, said in an interview, repeating the account she had given to Salon, the online publication. "He just said George had called him and told him that Georgie was having some difficulties in Houston. Big George thought it would be beneficial to the family and George Jr. for him to come to Alabama to work on the campaign with Jimmy."

His jobs had mostly come through family ties, and in 1971 he was hired as a management trainee at Stratford of Texas, an agricultural and horticultural conglomerate owned by a Bush family friend, Robert H. Gow. Mr. Bush's immediate supervisor, Peter Knudtzon, then Stratford's executive vice president, recalls him as a smart, dutiful worker who, while lacking direction, was keenly interested in the process of politics - "how people get elected, where the power is."

Every so often, he would take off work to fly with the National Guard. His entree to the Guard had come through Ben Barnes, then the lieutenant governor of Texas, who has said that he helped get Mr. Bush, among other well-connected young men, a slot at the request of a Bush family friend. When Mr. Bush applied, in 1968, one of the forms he filled out asked if he would volunteer for overseas duty; he checked "I 'do not' volunteer for overseas."

And he got off to a splashy start. After basic training and a year at flight school in Georgia, he was assigned to Ellington Air Force Base outside Houston, where he flew F-102 fighter jets. In March 1970, with his father, himself a World War II Navy pilot, in Congress, the Texas Air National Guard issued a news release announcing that the young Mr. Bush "doesn't get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed," but from "the roaring afterburner of the F-102." As he wrote in his autobiography, "It was exciting the first time I flew, and it was exciting the last time." In a November 1970 evaluation, his squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, called him a "top-notch" pilot and a "natural leader."

By 1972, though, something had changed; the excitement seemed to have waned. Mr. Bush's flying buddy from Ellington, Dean Roome, said Mr. Bush may have been frustrated because the unit's growing role as a training school left young pilots fewer opportunities to log hours in the air. Others who knew him believe he simply lost interest. He was once again at loose ends, without a regular job, having left Stratford after a year or so, unhappy in the company's buttoned-down atmosphere.

Whatever precisely was drawing Mr. Bush away from flying, it was then, in the spring of 1972, that the Alabama job came along. He had worked for Jimmy Allison before - on a 1968 Senate campaign in Florida - but this would be his first full-time job in the family business, politics.

Still, there was the matter of his commitment to the Guard. Moving to Alabama meant taking a temporary leave from his Texas unit; Guard officials say it was not unusual for civilian officers to take jobs away from their home states. Mr. Bush did not wait to line up a spot with an Alabama unit before arriving in Montgomery in mid-May.

Mr. Bush first tried to join the 9921 Air Reserve Squadron in Montgomery, which was classified as a "standby reserve unit." Unlike his unit in Texas, the Alabama unit had no planes and its members were neither paid nor required to attend monthly drills.

In July, though, senior Guard officials rejected Mr. Bush's transfer, saying he had to continue with a "ready reserve unit," which requires monthly attendance. In that same period - the precise timing is not clear - he did something that brought his dwindling flying ambitions to a close: he failed to take the annual physical exam required of all pilots.

In his 1999 book, "A Charge to Keep," Mr. Bush did not mention the missed physical or the suspension. "I was almost finished with my commitment in the Air National Guard," he wrote, "and was no longer flying because the F-102 jet I had trained in was being replaced by a different fighter." In fact, when he missed his physical he had almost two years left in the Guard.

Later, an aide to Mr. Bush explained that he had missed his physical because he was waiting to get examined by his personal physician. But pilots were required to be examined by military doctors.

More recently the White House has said that he did not take the physical because Alabama units were not flying the F-102. But his second application to transfer to Alabama - after the rejected transfer in July - was filed in September 1972, at least two months after he had missed his physical.

Whatever the reason, on Sept. 5, Mr. Bush was notified that he was suspended from flying "for failure to accomplish annual medical examination."

By that time, still without an Alabama unit, he had not attended a required monthly drill for almost five months, according to records released by the White House. Under the law at the time, he could have been sent to Vietnam. But in the relatively relaxed world of the Guard, and with hardly anyone being called up for active duty anymore, officials took no action. He was free to stay in Montgomery and work on the Blount campaign.

Richard Nelson, who had been Mr. Blount's political director, remembers briefing Mr. Bush when he arrived in town. "He was a bright young man," Mr. Nelson recalled. "I knew who his father was."

The months in Montgomery were part of what Mr. Bush has described as his "nomadic" years, when he "kind of floated and saw a lot of life." No one remembers him worrying about his Guard status - or, for that matter, much of anything else. He worked the phones in the Montgomery office and drove around the state meeting with county chairmen. He played tennis at Winton Blount's mansion and partied with the other young campaign workers at watering holes like the Top of the Star, at the Montgomery Holiday Inn.

Kay Blount Pace, 52, the candidate's daughter, said Mr. Bush did not act like the son of the man who was then the United States ambassador to the United Nations. "This was just Joe Blow - cute, fun George Bush, who fit in with the campaign," Ms. Pace said.

Murphy Archibald, a nephew of Winton Blount's, remembers Mr. Bush rolling into the office at noon and joking about how much he had had to drink the night before.

"I found him to be far younger than his age," recalled Mr. Archibald, a Democrat in Charlotte, N.C., who had gone to Vietnam in 1968.

One way or another, Vietnam ran through the lives of the young campaign workers in Montgomery. Devere McLennan said he figured he got lucky when, after enlisting in the Marines, he washed out of Quantico with a bad back. Another campaign worker, Emily Marks, had a college boyfriend who had been killed by a land mine in Vietnam a couple of years before. In 1972, Ms. Marks, the daughter of an old Montgomery family, was dating George Bush, and she remembers that he was in the Guard but could offer no detailed recollections. "A lot of people were doing Guard duty," she said in an interview.

That September, grounded from flying but still obligated to his Guard service, he wrote to his Texas squadron commander, Colonel Killian, asking for permission to perform his monthly drills with the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in Montgomery for September, October and November, according to documents released by the White House.

"We told him that was O.K. with us," said Bobby W. Hodges, then a commander in the Texas Guard. He was told he would have to do drills there, Mr. Hodges added. "He may or may not have done it. I don't know."
con·cept: September 2004