September 24, 2004
Let's Get Real
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Never mind the inevitable claims that John Kerry is soft on terrorism. What he must address is the question of how his policy in Iraq would differ from President Bush's. And his answer should be that unlike Mr. Bush, whose decisions have been dictated at every stage by grandiose visions and wishful thinking, he will get real - focusing on what is really possible in Iraq, and what needs to be done to protect American security.
Mr. Bush claims that Mr. Kerry's plan to secure and rebuild Iraq is "exactly what we're currently doing." No, it isn't. It's only what Mr. Bush is currently saying. And we have 18 months of his administration's deeds to contrast with his words.
The actual record is one of officials who have refused to admit that their fantasies about how the war would go were wrong, and who have continued to push us ever deeper into the quagmire because of their insistence that everything is going according to plan.
There has been a lot of press coverage of the administration's failure to do anything serious about rebuilding Iraq. Less attention has been given to its parallel failure to take the security problem seriously until much of Iraq had already been lost.
Long after it was obvious to everyone else that we were engaged in an escalating guerrilla war, Bush appointees clung to the belief that they were fighting a handful of dead-enders and foreign terrorists.
As a result, they casually swelled the ranks of our foes - remember, Moktada al-Sadr was never going to be our friend, but he didn't have to be our enemy. They even treated Iraqi security forces with contempt, not bothering to provide them with adequate training or equipment.
In an analysis titled "Inexcusable Failure," Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies details how the U.S. "failed to treat the Iraqis as partners in the counterinsurgency effort." U.S. officials, he declares, are "guilty of a gross military, administrative and moral failure."
That failure continues. All the evidence suggests that Bush officials still think that one more military push - after the U.S. election, of course - will end the insurgency. They're still not taking the task of fighting a sustained guerrilla war seriously.
"Three months into its new mission," The New York Times reported, "the military command in charge of training and equipping Iraqi security forces has fewer than half of its permanent headquarters personnel in place."
At the root of this folly is a continuing refusal to face uncomfortable facts. Confronted with a bleak C.I.A. assessment of the Iraq situation - one that matches the judgment of just about every independent expert - Mr. Bush's response is that "they were just guessing." "In many ways," Mr. Cordesman writes, "the administration's senior spokesmen still seem to live in a fantasyland."
Fantasyland extended to the Rose Garden yesterday, where Mr. Bush said polls asking Iraqis whether their nation was on the right track were more positive than similar polls asking Americans about their outlook - and he seemed to consider that a good sign.
Where is Mr. Bush taking us? As the reality of Iraq gets worse, his explanations of our goals get ever vaguer. "The security of our world," Mr. Bush told the U.N., "is found in the advancing rights of mankind."
He doesn't really believe that. After all, he continues to praise Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, even as Mr. Putin strangles democratic institutions. The subtext of Mr. Bush's bombast is that because he can't bring himself to admit a mistake, he refuses to give up on his effort to turn Iraq into a docile client state - an effort that is doomed unless he can figure out a way to come up with a few hundred thousand more troops.
We don't have to go there. American policy shouldn't be dictated by Mr. Bush's infallibility complex; our first priority must be our own security. And in Iraq, that means setting realistic goals.
On "Meet The Press" back in April, Mr. Kerry wasn't as forthright about Iraq as he has now, at long last, become, but he did return several times to a point that shows that he is on the right track. "What is critical," he said, "is a stable Iraq." Not an Iraq in our image, but a country that isn't a "failed state" that poses a threat to American security.
The Bush administration has made such a mess of Iraq that even achieving that goal will be very hard. But unlike Mr. Bush's fantasies, it's still in the realm of the possible.
Friday, September 24, 2004
September 24, 2004
Bush Upbeat as Iraq Burns
By BOB HERBERT
George W. Bush was a supporter of the war in Vietnam. For a while.
As he explained in his autobiography, "A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House":
"My inclination was to support the government and the war until proven wrong, and that only came later, as I realized we could not explain the mission, had no exit strategy, and did not seem to be fighting to win."
How is it that he ultimately came to see the fiasco in Vietnam so clearly but remains so blind to the frighteningly similar realities of his own war in Iraq? Mr. Bush cannot explain our mission in Iraq and has nothing resembling an exit strategy, and his troops - hobbled by shortages of personnel and by potentially fatal American and Iraqi political considerations - are certainly not fighting to win.
As the situation in Iraq moves from bad to worse, the president, based on his public comments, seems to be edging further and further from reality. This is disturbing, to say the least. The news from Iraq is filled with reports of kidnappings and beheadings, of people pleading desperately for their lives, of American soldiers being ambushed and killed, of clusters of Iraqis being blown to pieces by suicide bombers, and of the prospects for a credible election in January tumbling toward nil.
The war effort has deteriorated so drastically that the administration is planning to take more than $3 billion earmarked for crucial reconstruction projects and shift them to security programs designed to ward off the increasingly deadly insurgency. A classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for the president contained no really good prospects for Iraq. The best-case scenario was a country with only tenuous stability. The worst potential outcome was civil war.
The intelligence estimate was prepared in July, and the situation has only worsened since then.
Even Republicans are starting to voice their concerns about the unfolding disaster. When asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" whether the U.S. was winning the war in Iraq, Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, said, "No, I don't think we're winning." He said the U.S. was "in deep trouble in Iraq" and that some "recalibration of policy" would be necessary to turn things around.
Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, said on "Fox News Sunday": "The situation has obviously been somewhat deteriorating, to say the least." He said "serious mistakes" have been made and that most of them "can be traced back to not having sufficient numbers of troops there."
These are not doves talking. These are supporters of President Bush who support the war in Iraq and believe it can be won. But they're also in touch with reality.
President Bush does not share their sense of alarm. He acknowledged that "horrible scenes" are being shown on television and the Internet, but he was unmoved by the gloomy intelligence estimates. According to Mr. Bush: "The C.I.A. laid out several scenarios. It said that life could be lousy, life could be O.K., life could be better."
Que sera, sera.
The president said he is personally optimistic and he delivered an upbeat assessment of conditions in Iraq to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. Iraq, he said, is well on its way to being "secure, democratic, federal and free."
If you spend more than a little time immersed in the world according to Karl Rove, you'll find that words lose even the remotest connection to reality. They become nothing more than tools designed to achieve political ends. So it's not easy to decipher what the president believes about Iraq.
This is scary. With Americans, Iraqis and others dying horribly in the long dark night of this American-led war, the world needs more from the president of the United States than the fool's gold of his empty utterances.
Perhaps someone can dislodge the president from Karl's clutches, shake him and tell him that his war is a tremendous tragedy with implications far beyond the election in November.
At the moment there is no evidence the president understands anything about the war. He led the nation into it with false pretenses. He never mobilized sufficient numbers of troops. He seemed to believe the war was over in May 2003. And he seems not to know how to proceed now.
The tragic lesson of Vietnam is staring the president in the face. But he'll have to become better acquainted with the real world before he can even begin to learn from it.
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:45 PM
Thursday, September 23, 2004
The New York Times
September 23, 2004
A Chance of Success Slips Away
By J ALEXANDER THIER
President Bush describes Afghanistan, the first front on the war on terrorism, as a success. In comparison to Iraq, perhaps it is. But if you look at Afghanistan on its own merits, the lack of progress is disheartening. In 2002, President Bush promised a "Marshall Plan" for the country, with the goal of turning Afghanistan into a stable, democratic state. On Tuesday, before the United Nations General Assembly, the president said that "the Afghan people are on the path to democracy and freedom." Yet in nearly three years we have failed to create security, stability, prosperity or the rule of law in Afghanistan.
These failings are not just a reflection of the great difficulties of nation-building in places like Afghanistan, they are also the direct result of the Bush administration's policy decisions. Our efforts in Afghanistan are underfinanced and undermanned, and our attention is waning.
The root of the problem is that we invaded Afghanistan to destroy something - the Taliban and Al Qaeda - but we didn't think much about what would grow in its place. While we focused on fighting the terrorists (and even there our effectiveness has been questionable), Afghanistan has become a collection of warlord-run fiefs fueled by a multibillion-dollar opium economy. We armed and financed warlord armies with records of drug-running and human rights abuses stretching back two decades. Then we blocked the expansion of an international security force meant to rein in the militias. These decisions were made for short-term battlefield gain - with disregard for the long-term implications for the mission there.
Our Army continues to hunt insurgents in the mountains, but we have refused to take the steps necessary to secure the rest of the country, and it shows. More coalition and Afghan government soldiers and aid workers have died this year than in each of the previous two. This summer, Doctors Without Borders, which has worked in the most desperate and dangerous conditions around the world, pulled out of Afghanistan after 24 years. In other words, the group felt safer in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and the civil war that followed than it did three years after the United States-led coalition toppled the Taliban.
Last month, after a United Nations-backed voter registration office was bombed, the vice president of the United Nations Staff Union urged Secretary General Kofi Annan to pull employees out of Afghanistan. The opium trade is also out of control, fueling lawlessness and financing terrorists. Last year, the trade brought in $2.3 billion; this year, opium production is expected to increase 50 to 100 percent.
Amid terrorist attacks and fighting among regional warlords, the country is preparing for presidential elections on Oct. 9. A recent United Nations report warned that warlords were intimidating voters and candidates. This month, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has monitored post-conflict elections in trouble spots like Bosnia and Kosovo, declared that Afghanistan was too dangerous for its election monitors (it is sending a small "election support team'' instead). President Hamid Karzai narrowly escaped assassination last week on his first campaign trip outside Kabul, and eight other presidential candidates have called for elections to be delayed, saying it's been too dangerous for them to campaign.
Many of these problems flow from early mistakes. Rather than moving quickly to establish security and then gradually turning over control to a legitimate domestic authority, we have done the opposite. As fighting among warlord militias in the countryside intensifies, we are slowly expanding our presence and being dragged into conflicts. The American "advisers" in Afghan Army units, the ubiquitous heavily armed "private" security forces and the fortress-like American Embassy are garnering comparisons to the day of the Soviets.
In Kabul, the effort to build a stable, capable government has also lagged dangerously. President Karzai has begun to show great fortitude in challenging warlords. But his factious cabinet, born of political compromise, has collapsed under the pressure of the country's hurried presidential elections. Outside Kabul, his control remains tenuous in some places, nonexistent in others. Kabul's Supreme Court, the only other branch of government, is controlled by Islamic fundamentalists unconcerned with the dictates of Afghanistan's new Constitution. On Sept. 1, without any case before the court, the chief justice ordered that Latif Pedram, a presidential candidate, be barred from the elections and investigated for blasphemy. His crime? Mr. Pedram had suggested that polygamy was unfair to women. These clerics are trying to establish a system like that in Iran, using Islam as a bludgeon against democracy.
It's true that there have been several important accomplishments in these three years: the Taliban and Al Qaeda no longer sit in Kabul's Presidential Palace; girls are back in school in many parts of the country; some roads and buildings have been rebuilt; and more than 10 million Afghans have registered to vote for the presidential elections. Thousands of international aid workers have been working with the Afghans, often at great risk, to make things better. Despite the slow progress, most Afghans are more hopeful about their future than they have been in years.
But many people working there are left with the nagging feeling that much more could have been done both to help Afghanistan and fight terrorism over the last three years. Our experience demonstrates that you can't fight wars, or do nation-building, on the cheap. Afghanistan should be a critical election issue this year, but Iraq looms much larger in the public mind. Unless the next administration steps up to the plate, it may well be an issue in four years, when we start asking, "Who lost Afghanistan?"
J Alexander Thier, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, was a legal adviser to Afghanistan's constitutional and judicial reform commissions.
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:24 PM
September 23, 2004
How Not to Save Social Security
Among the clear-cut policy differences between President Bush and Senator John Kerry is each man's take on Social Security. In his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, Mr. Bush said, "We must strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account." Mr. Kerry, in his acceptance speech, said, "I will not privatize Social Security."
Mr. Kerry is right, and Mr. Bush is wrong. The president's plan would do the opposite of what Mr. Bush claims. It would weaken Social Security, hurt the economy and endanger many workers' retirements by pushing them into unreasonable risks in the stock market. If Mr. Bush were a broker peddling stocks to low-income, uninsured, indebted individuals like many of the Americans who would be included in his plan, he would be violating rules that require brokers to recommend only suitable investments.
When responsible politicians talk about "fixing" Social Security, what they generally mean is finding a way to guarantee a basic level of financial security for the elderly while closing the gap that will develop over time in the system's finances if nothing is done. Social Security's trustees plan for solvency over 75 years. Currently, the program is projected to come up short in 2042, when it will be able to pay about 70 percent of the promised benefits. That's a lot of money, but the gap can be bridged over the next 38 years with a package of modest reforms, which we will discuss in a future editorial.
What Mr. Bush proposes - allowing workers to divert some of their Social Security taxes into personal investment accounts in exchange for agreeing in advance to receive a much-reduced guaranteed government benefit when they retire - would neither provide retirement security, nor take care of the solvency of the Social Security system. And it would wreak havoc with the overall federal budget.
In proposing personal accounts, Mr. Bush has promised to retain the current benefits for today's retirees and for those who are nearing retirement. So for some 40 years, workers would be making deposits into their accounts with tax money that - under the current system - would have been used to pay the benefits of those who are retired. The government would have to make up the difference, and Mr. Bush has no reasonable plan for covering this cost, which is estimated to be at least $1 trillion.
That leaves three general possibilities: immense government borrowing, draconian cuts in other programs or higher taxes. In a 1997 report by President Bill Clinton's Advisory Council on Social Security, those who favored ample mandatory personal accounts proposed a national sales tax of 1 percent and $1.2 trillion in government borrowing.
If offsetting steps were not taken immediately, the reduced cash flow in the transition period would drive the Social Security trust fund into the red about 15 years earlier than is currently projected. That, too, would require wrenching fiscal moves - borrowing, spending cuts, tax increases - to avoid default on the government's obligation to retirees.
When workers in a partly privatized system reached retirement, they would find that higher interest rates caused by huge deficits, reductions in government services or higher taxes had offset some - if not all - of the sums they had accumulated in personal accounts. And they would get smaller government benefits than they would if Social Security had been reformed in a more sensible way.
However Social Security is reformed, when younger workers retire, their benefits are likely to be smaller than the benefits promised to current retirees. But a partly privatized system would produce a cut that's likely to be bigger and an income that would be far less reliable. That's because the government benefit is cut more deeply under privatization, and how much you can actually accumulate in a personal account would depend on the stock market. Anyone who lived through the 1990's knows that investing in stocks can leave you with less than you started with.
Privatization would invite overexposure to the stock market - a risk that is not justified by the potential return. Most people who already save for retirement rely heavily on stock investments through 401(k)'s and other savings plans. Even workers who have traditional pensions are more exposed to the stock market than ever, as employers increasingly strive for outsized stock market returns to make up for inadequate contributions to their plans.
And people without pensions or enough income to save money in retirement plans generally do not belong in the stock market at all. Stock investing makes sense only after you have accumulated an emergency cash reserve, are adequately insured and have paid off consumer debt. Personal accounts within Social Security would perpetuate the wrongheaded notion that the stock market can bail everyone out. It can't. Mr. Bush does everyone a disservice by implying that it will.
The personal account idea also does nothing about another big reason that Social Security needs reforming: people are living longer. Unless the government mandates that people convert their personal accounts into private annuities, retirees are in danger of outliving their money, leaving them to survive on the meager government benefit. And they would lose the inflation protection built into government benefits, which is increasingly important the longer you live. Those most at risk of impoverishment are old women, who live three years longer than men on average and are far less likely to have private pensions.
There is a broad social argument against privatization, which is that we all lose if our fellow citizens come up short in their quest for secure retirements. By taking the financial risk out of growing old, Social Security has had remarkable results for society at large. Poverty among the elderly is now 10 percent, down from 30 percent in 1960. Like any sound insurance system, Social Security works by broadly pooling risks. It protects everyone because it includes everyone. Personal accounts move Social Security away from a comprehensive system to one in which it's increasingly every man for himself.
None of these arguments deter Mr. Bush and other advocates of personal accounts. For them, Social Security is primarily an ideological struggle. Social Security supports retirees by shifting income from the young to the old via taxes, and from the rich to the poor via the formula for calculating benefits. To Mr. Bush and his supporters, taxation and redistribution are anathema, and Social Security is an anticapitalist ploy to squelch initiative and growth. Those same arguments were leveled against Social Security when President Franklin Roosevelt established it in 1935, and when its constitutionality was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1937.
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:21 PM
Majority of Senators cave in to Bush nomination of man who said he wasn't qualified to be CIA Director
In a pitiful display of spinelessness, the United States Senate voted 77-17 to appoint Porter Goss, an extremely partisan Republican, who, as previoulsly reported here stated publicly earlier this year that he was absolutely not qualified for the job, to be the next head of the CIA.
Six (6) Senators (2 were Republicans) were not present or otherwise did not vote. Seventeen (17) Senators (all Democrats) had the backbone to oppose this nomination.
NOT VOTING - 6
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:35 AM
Experts criticize companies' recount proposals
By Dara Kam
Special to The Palm Beach Post
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
TALLAHASSEE — Manufacturers of the touch-screen voting machines used by more than half of Florida's electorate said they can perform manual recounts if necessary, but at least one company said it probably won't be ready by the general election on Nov. 2.
Computer experts, however, say the companies' responses to Secretary of State Glenda Hood's request for how to perform the recount fall far short of guaranteeing that every ballot is accurately counted.
"All of this is not in any way a recount," said Rebecca Mercuri, a Harvard-affiliated computer scientist. "It's a reprint."
Hood, appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush two years ago, gave manufacturers and "interested parties" until Sept. 10 to tell her how manual recounts can be conducted on the ATM-style machines. Last month an administrative law judge threw out a rule created by Hood's office that excluded the 15 touch-screen voting counties, including Palm Beach and Martin, from performing manual recounts in extremely tight races, saying that a state law requiring recounts in such cases superceded the departmental rule.
All three of the touch-screen machine manufacturers - Sequoia, Diebold and ES&S — offered methods that would essentially reprint the information captured by the machines. None offered a voter-verifiable paper trail, as U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler has sued in state and federal court to require.
The elections equipment officials told the state they could print "ballot images," but Mercuri said that is inadequate.
"The thing the voter actually saw is just ephemera — it's just electrons — then it's gone," she said. She suggested that the ATM-style machines instead be outfitted to print out a copy of the ballot for voter inspection, which would be collected for use in the event of a recount.
Elections Systems and Software officials wrote Hood that a tabulation of under-voted ballots, those on which no vote was recorded in some races, could be performed using auditing software already employed on the machines, which are used in Martin County. But Mercuri said that software has a glitch that delivers inconsistent results when generating an electronic log of voting activity.
The same company told Hood in a Sept. 10 memo that "ES&S could create an enhanced recount function," but would need six to 12 weeks to do so. That enhancement, which was not specified in the memo, would need to be certified by state elections officials.
Florida law requires a manual recount in elections that are decided by 0.25 percent of the votes cast or less. County canvassing boards look at the ballots and determine what the "voter intent" was in instances of under-votes and over-votes, which occur when more than one candidate is chosen in a single race.
Sequoia Voting Systems, which makes the system used by Palm Beach County, preferred to conduct recounts from the voting machines as opposed to recreating each ballot, which Michael Frontera, a company vice-president, said was too "labor intensive."
"This will generate approximately 1,000,000 records for the general election," in the four counties that use Sequoia machines, he wrote. "The chances of human error in recounting this number of records are extremely high."
But one elections expert said that even re-creating each ballot a machine records would not guarantee the ballot was recorded correctly in the first place.
"There's a difference between voter intention and valid ballots," said Stephen Ansolabehere, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology political science professor who specializes in elections.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:49 AM
A key question from a slain GI's mother
September 19, 2004
Sue Niederer was standing in the middle of the large audience in the Colonial Volunteer Fire Company house in Hopewell Township, N.J. She was looking up at Laura Bush, who was speaking sweetly to the audience.
Sue wore her new T-shirt, "George Bush You Killed My Son." On January 17, she stood in the Baltimore airport with her son, Army 1st Lt. Seth Dvorin, 24, who was boarding a flight to Iraq. She remembers saying to him, "Do you want to go?" And he said, "No, Mom, I don't want to go back."
"Come on," she said. She said that she would take him anywhere. He said, no, he had 18 men to watch over. So he kissed her and boarded the plane. A month later, Army people came to her house in Pennington, N.J., to tell her he was dead.
"George Bush killed my son," she said.
She spent her first 11 years on Kings Highway and Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn and the direct speech remains. And now the other night she was in the crowd at the firehouse and Laura Bush started to talk about Iraq. "She said how high the morale was," Sue was saying on the phone yesterday. "Then she started to say what a wonderful job her husband was doing running the war. I was waiting for that."
Sue Niederer called out to Laura Bush, "When are yours going to serve?"
Sue thought that Laura Bush looked dumbfounded. She saw Laura Bush turning away.
"I thought they would send someone up to me and bring me back and let me tell her in private about how I felt, and many others, too. Not these people."
Of course they whisked her out of the place and arrested her for using free speech. But her words remain.
She is the only one that I know of who has stood up and asked the question that should be asked of every government person in charge of this war: "Where are yours?" If Bush wants to send her son to get killed, she reasons, then why doesn't he have his two daughters, both of military and night club age, go into the service?
This was not the last time that Sue Niederer will be heard. Because her hurt does not go away and George Bush's war does not go away.
The names listed below arrive on a fax machine that seems to weep as the pages come out. The names are quite real. They are dead. The documents are not forged. Bush and the CBS television station argue about some cheap forgeries. They are supposed to distract us from the fact, that John Kerry was in the war in Vietnam. He performed the hardest, most brutal task for his country: killing somebody. George Bush ducked it and his most hazardous duty in the National Guard was to face a dentist's drill.
The center of the election should be the dead of Iraq. This is something that Bush and his lackeys do anything to dodge.
And now there are well over 1,000 dead Americans and Bush walks past them as if he had nothing to do with them. He is the president. What has this got to do with me? That is his style of lying. Do not recognize what is there and tell the populace the direct opposite and never stop doing this. "The war goes great!" Do not dare mention bin Laden because he means terrorism. Instead crow that we captured Hussein, who did not attack us, and we are tangling with Iraq and this is our war on terrorism.
This leaves you with Montaigne, whose words speak for the dead listed below:
"If we recognized the horror and the gravity of lying, we would persecute it with fire more justly than other crimes."
The names are an indictment of a government that put them into Iraq on a cold premeditated lie. The dead American servicemen of just the last several days - maybe you ought to get the number from information and give them a call to let them know that people love them:
Army Spc. Edgar P. Daclan Jr., 24, lst Battalion, 18th Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany. Killed by an explosion Sept. 10 in Balad. Home: Cypress, Calif.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class David A. Cedergren, 25, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Forces Atlantic. Killed Sept. 11 near Iskandariyah. Home: South St. Paul, Minn.
Marine Pfc. Jason T. Poindexter, 20, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment lst Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. Killed Sept. 12 in Anbar province. Home: San Angelo, Texas.
Marine lst. Lt. Alexander E. Wetherbee, 27, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, lst Marine Division, lst Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. Died Sept. 12 in Anbar province. Home: Fairfax, Va.
Maine Lance Cpl. Dominic C. Brown, 19, Headquarters Battalion, lst Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. Died in Anbar Province. Home: Austin, Texas.
Marine Lance Cpl. Cesar F. Machado-Olmos, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. Died in vehicle accident in Anbar Province. Home: Spanish Fork, Utah.
Marine Lance Cpl. Michael J. Halal, 22, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. Died Sept. 13 in Anbar province. Home: Glendale, Ariz.
Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew D. Puckett, 19, 3rd Assault Amphibious Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. Died Sept. 13 due to enemy action in Al Anbar province. Home: Mason, Texas.
Army Staff Sgt. Guy S. Hagy, Jr., 31, 1st Battalion, 12 Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Killed by explosive Sept. 13. in Baghdad. Home: Lodi, Calif.
Army Sgt. Carl Thomas, 29, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Wash. Killed by explosive Sept. 13 in Baghdad. Home: Phoenix.
Sgt. Jacob S. Demand, 29, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Wash. Killed Sept. 13 in Mosul when convoy attacked. Home: Palouse, Wash.
Staff Sgt. David J. Weisenburg, 26, National Guard 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, Corvallis, Ore. Killed Sept. 13 after vehicle attack in Taji, north of Baghdad. Home: Portland, Ore.
Spc. Benjamin W. Isenberg, 27. National Guard 2nd Battalion, 162 Infantry, Corvallis, Ore. Killed Sept. 13 after vehicle attacked at Taji, north of Baghdad. Home, Sheridan, Ore.
Cpl. Adrian V. Soltau, 21, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. Killed due to enemy action in Anbar Province. Home: Milwaukee.
Maj. Kenneth M. Shea, 35, (died on birthday) 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. Home: District of Columbia.
Marine Corps Cpl. JayGee Ngirmidol Meluat died Sept. 14. Home: Guam.
Marine Drew Uhles, 20, died Sept. 15 in field hospital in northern Iraq. He had been assigned to an area between Husaybah and Al Qaim, along Syrian border. Home: DuQuoin, Ill.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:44 AM
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
The Boston Globe
A broken promise to children
By Robert Kuttner | September 22, 2004
ONE OF the many lamentable things about this presidential campaign is how the real issues have been obscured in a sea of mud and deception. Exhibit A is education.
President Bush campaigned as an education president and pledged to leave no child behind. His main legacy, however, is a most un-Republican brand of federal mandates on public schools, imposing high-stakes testing but without the funding to deliver the promise of better schools and teachers.
Today happens to be the kickoff of the National Mobilization for Great Public Schools, a campaign organized by a coalition that includes Campaign for America's Future, ACORN, MoveOn, the National Education Association, some 40 groups in all.
At last count, 4,000 teachers and parents had signed up to host house parties to organize an army of parents and others to press for adequate funding to back up the administration's rhetoric. Here are some appalling statistics, courtesy of the Mobilization and other research organizations:
* Headstart is a proven success for low-income preschoolers, but 3 million eligible kids can't participate because there's a $23 billion funding gap.
In next year's budget, the White House actually plans to cut Headstart funds by almost $200 million. Nearly half of all 3- and 4-year-olds are not enrolled in any kind of preschool program, and the United States still lacks universal kindergarten.
* After-school programs are crucial to help working parents and to make sure that kids are in safe learning environments rather than in custodial daycare or on the street. The administration promised to deliver after-school programs for 1.4 million kids, then short-changed them by a billion dollars.
* Next year's budget would provide $11 billion less than what was promised for children with disabilities.
* The administation proposes a $7.2 billion shortfall in education aid to kids in poor communities and no money for school renovation and modernization even though the cost of deferred repairs and construction now exceeds $300 billion. One school in three uses trailers.
* The United States faces the greatest wave of teacher retirements ever, but the administration is actually cutting funds for teacher training and for recruitment and mentoring programs.
* The administration also short-changes higher education. In 1975-76, a Pell grant covered 84 percent of tuition at a typical public university. Today, after three decades of rising costs, it covers just 39 percent. As recently as the early 1990s, grants covered a majority of costs to low- and middle-income students. Today it's mostly loans.
And while the administration fails to offer adequate funding, what does it emphasize? Over the objections of its own panel, the admistration is going forward with a plan to require Headstart to test children as young as 3 and 4, even though virtually every reputable expert concludes that very young children cannot be reliably tested and that testing results are a nonsensical way to evaluate the quality of Headstart programs.
The administration is also pressing ahead with voucher schemes even though the preponderance of research suggests that voucher schools do no better with comparable kids than public schools and drain public systems of resources.
For half the cost of the Iraq War or for less than half the cost of the Bush tax cuts, we could keep faith with America's schools and educate the next generation of at-risk kids. We could provide high-quality early education -- or paid parental leave -- so mothers (as well as fathers) forced to work full time would know that their children were safe and learning.
Even if you don't have children, you must know that the productivity of the next generation will determine whether the United States will have a competitive economy that can cover the costs of Medicare and Social Security.
Isn't this the sort of thing Americans should be debating? Shouldn't Bush be held accountable for the chasms between his rhetoric and his program (with far deeper cuts expected in a second term)? Who is the real flip-flopper here? Who is the flop as president?
Finally, belatedly, John Kerry delivered a forceful speech on what's wrong with Bush's Iraq policy. Now he needs to do the same thing, one cogent speech at a time, to expose each aspect of Bush's abysmal domestic program.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:12 PM
Republican discord in the Senate
By Derrick Z. Jackson, Globe Columnist | September 22, 2004
THE VOICE of the moment on Iraq is Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Almost as audible are his fellow Republican senators John McCain of Arizona and Richard Lugar of Indiana.
Hagel was with several guests on Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation." Before he spoke, Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona was given a chance to discuss whether President Bush was talking straight with the American people about Iraq.
Kyl answered, "Absolutely." He described Bush as a leader who "has a firm idea of what he wants to accomplish." He said, "Freedom is on the march." He praised Bush's decisiveness, saying, "Hand-wringing does not win wars."
Hagel had none of that partisan jingoism. He was asked by the host, Bob Schieffer, "Do you think, Senator Hagel, that we're winning?"
Hagel said, "No, I don't think we're winning. In all due respect to my friend Jon Kyl, the term `hand-wringing' is a little misplaced here. The fact is, a crisp, sharp analysis of our policies is required. We didn't do that in Vietnam and we saw 11 years of casualties mount to the point where we finally lost. We can't lose this. This is too important. There's no question about that. But to say, `Well, we just must stay the course and any of you who are questioning are just hand-wringers' is not very responsible. The fact is, we're in trouble. We're in deep trouble in Iraq."
We are in such deep trouble in Iraq that when Schieffer asked Hagel how long it would take to get an Iraqi army and police force up to speed to secure the country, Hagel said, "It's probably two years."
We are in such deep trouble that McCain, who just a couple of weeks ago was hugging Bush in a show of unity, said on Fox: "We made serious mistakes right after the initial successes by not having enough troops on the ground, by allowing the looting, by not securing the borders." While Bush says on the stump "we are winning and we will win," McCain said, "the situation has obviously been somewhat deteriorating, to say the least."
More important, McCain was asked by his host, Chris Wallace: "Is the president being straight with the American people? Is he leveling with them about just how tough the situation is in Iraq?"
McCain answered, "Perhaps not as straight as maybe we'd like to see. . . It's not satisfactory to just use airstrikes or artillery. You've got to send our troops in there on the ground. And that, of course, means the most difficult kind of fighting. . . . I'd like to see more of an overall plan articulated by the president."
On yet another talk show, yet another influential Republican senator, Richard Lugar, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was scathing. On ABC's "This Week," he said the reason so little of the Iraq reconstruction money has been spent is because of "incompetence in the administration." This was on the heels of Lugar's comments last week at a hearing when he said: "Our committee heard blindly optimistic people from the administration prior to the war and people outside the administration -- what I call the `dancing in the street crowd' -- that we just simply will be greeted with open arms. The nonsense of all that is apparent. The lack of planning is apparent."
Neither Hagel, McCain, nor Lugar is about to jump the Republican ship. All three were careful to say they still want Bush's policies to succeed. But when three such prominent Republicans issue such pointed statements a month and a half before the presidential election, when they've had enough of hearing "we are winning" from their standard-bearer and when it is Hagel, not Kerry, the liberals, or the left, invoking Vietnam, it is a sign that the administration's policy in Iraq is falling into a tailspin.
Hagel, the Purple Heart Vietnam veteran worried about Bush's obvious unilateralism in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, wrote in 2002: "I can think of no historical case where the United States succeeded in an enterprise of such gravity and complexity as regime change in Iraq without the support of a regional and international coalition."
Two years later, Bush is on the stump, keeping the war simple. His favorite punch line, after depicting John Kerry as a hand-wringer, is "there is nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat." Hagel, McCain, and Lugar, not just the Democrats, are worried that Bush's blindly optimistic and simple-minded invasion is leading to a grave, complex defeat. It is easy for Bush to call Kerry a flip-flopper. But what about those hand-wringing Republicans?
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:11 PM
Ad Says Kerry 'Secretly' Met With Enemy; But He Told Congress of It
By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 22, 2004; Page A08
The veterans organization that sparked controversy last month when it questioned John F. Kerry's military service in Vietnam plans to launch a new commercial today that equates Kerry with Vietnam War protester Jane Fonda and accuses the Democratic presidential nominee of secretly meeting with "enemy leaders" during the conflict.
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth said it will spend $1.3 million to air its advertisement in five battleground states and on national cable television networks over the next week. The ad, titled "Friends," makes no assertion of any direct link between Kerry and Fonda, but it suggests that their contacts with North Vietnamese leaders during the war were equally dishonorable.
"Even before Jane Fonda went to Hanoi to meet with the enemy and mock America, John Kerry secretly met with enemy leaders in Paris," begins the spot, with grainy footage of the actress and a young Kerry. ". . . Then he returned and accused American troops of committing war crimes on a daily basis. Eventually, Jane Fonda apologized for her activities, but John Kerry refuses to."
The group, whose members served in the Navy at the same time as Kerry, is referring to a meeting Kerry had in early 1971 with leaders of the communist delegation that was negotiating with U.S. representatives at the Paris peace talks. The meeting, however, was not a secret. Kerry, a leading antiwar activist at the time, mentioned it in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April of that year. "I have been to Paris," he testified. "I have talked with both delegations at the peace talks, that is to say the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and Provisional Revolutionary Government," the latter a South Vietnamese communist group with ties to the Viet Cong.
Kerry's campaign said earlier this year that he met on the trip with Nguyen Thi Binh, then foreign minister of the PRG and a top negotiator at the talks. Kerry acknowledged in that testimony that even going to the peace talks as a private citizen was at the "borderline" of what was permissible under U.S. law, which forbids citizens from negotiating treaties with foreign governments. But his campaign said he never engaged in negotiations or attended any formal sessions of the talks.
"This is more trash from a group that's doing the Bush campaign's dirty work," Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton said. "Their charges are as credible as a supermarket rag."
In an interview yesterday, John O'Neill, an organizer of the Swift boat group and co-author of the anti-Kerry book "Unfit for Command," said it would be "unprecedented" for a future commander in chief to have met with enemy leaders. "It would be like an American today meeting with the heads of al Qaeda," he said.
Historian Douglas Brinkley said Kerry's trip to Paris, after his honeymoon with his first wife, Julia Thorne, was part of Kerry's extensive fact-finding efforts on the war. "He was on the fringes," said Brinkley, the author of "Tour of Duty," a book about Kerry's military service. "But he was proud of it. . . . He wanted to make his own evaluation of the situation."
The Swift boat group's first ad gained widespread exposure last month through talk-radio programs, cable television talk shows and newspaper articles because of its assertions that Kerry had exaggerated his war record as the commander of a Navy Swift boat in Vietnam.
Some of the independent organization's assertions were refuted, and several links between it and President Bush's campaign subsequently came to light. But the media storm created by the ad put Kerry and his campaign on the defensive.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:36 AM
The New York Times
September 22, 2004
Lots of Chemicals, Little Reaction
By RICK HIND and DAVID HALPERIN
Washington — While President Bush continues to make terrorism and domestic security the centerpiece of his campaign, he has made little mention of one of the most urgent threats to our safety: the risk that terrorists could cause thousands, even millions, of deaths by sabotaging one of the 15,000 industrial chemical plants across the United States.
The dangers from chemical plant mishaps are clear. According to data compiled by Greenpeace International, the 1984 accident at an Union Carbide insecticide plant in Bhopal, India, has caused 20,000 deaths and injuries to 200,000 people. A terrorist group could cause even greater harm by entering a plant in the United States and setting off an explosion that produces a deadly gas cloud.
The administration knows the dangers. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, Senator Jon Corzine, Democrat of New Jersey, highlighted the issue with legislation requiring chemical plants to enhance security and use safer chemicals and technologies when feasible. (Such safer substitutes are widely available.)
A study by the Army surgeon general, conducted soon after 9/11, found that up to 2.4 million people could be killed or wounded by a terrorist attack on a single chemical plant. In February 2003, the government's National Infrastructure Protection Center warned that chemical plants in the United States could be Qaeda targets. Investigations by The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the CBS program "60 Minutes" have highlighted lax or nonexistent security at chemical plants, with gates unlocked or wide open and chemical tanks unguarded.
The Environmental Protection Agency under Christie Whitman did its part to evaluate the threat, identifying 123 chemical facilities where an accident or attack could threaten more than a million people, and 7,605 plants that threatened more than 1,000 people. The agency determined that it could use the Clean Air Act to compel chemical plants to increase security.
Following the Corzine approach, the agency also planned to promote the use of less hazardous chemicals. But the Bush administration overruled the initiative, and in December the president announced that chemical security was now the province of the new Department of Homeland Security, under Secretary Tom Ridge.
As The Wall Street Journal disclosed last month, Homeland Security tried to reduce the threat of catastrophic attack with the stroke of a pen. The department announced that the number of plants that threatened more than 1,000 people was actually only 4,391, and the number that endangered more than a million people was not 123 but two.
Mr. Ridge has set in motion plans to install security cameras at chemical plants in seven states - but not in some high-threat states like Florida, Ohio and Minnesota. Although the department visits plants and offers advice, unlike the E.P.A., it doesn't have the power to enforce security measures and relies instead on voluntary efforts by the industry. Without enforceable requirements, chemical firms will remain reluctant to put sufficient safeguards in place, for fear that their competitors will scrimp on security and thus be able to undercut them on price.
Industry groups have lobbied intensely against the Corzine legislation. While reluctant to invest in plant safety, some of these companies and their executives have found the resources to help pay for the Republican campaign.
For the Bush administration, it seems, homeland security is critical except when it conflicts with the wishes of supporters who own chemical plants.
Rick Hind is legislative director of Greenpeace's toxics campaign. David Halperin, a lawyer, has served on the staffs of the National Security Council and the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:32 AM
The New York Times
September 22, 2004
First, Find the Forger
By WILLIAM SAFIRE
Whoever, having devised any scheme or artifice to defraud transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. " U.S. Criminal Code, Chapter 63, Section 1343.
WASHINGTON — At the root of what is today treated as an embarrassing blunder by duped CBS journalists may turn out to be a felony by its faithless sources.
Some person or persons conceived a scheme to create a series of false Texas Air National Guard documents and append a photocopied signature to one of them. The perpetrator then helped cause the fraudulent file to be transmitted by means of television communication to millions of voters for the purpose of influencing a federal election.
That was no mere "dirty trick"; it could be a violation of the U.S. criminal code. If the artifice had not been revealed by sharp-eyed bloggers, a national election could have been swung by a blatant falsehood.
Who was the forger? Did others conspire with him or her to present a seeming government document - with knowledge of its falsity and with intent to defraud, which is a felony in Texas? Who was to benefit and how?
CBS News belatedly apologized and agreed to appoint independent examiners. That's a start.
The government and the courts have no business forcing journalists to reveal sources. But no ethic requires a journalist to protect a source who lied. Accordingly, Dan Rather went to the Texas ranch of his source and telecast Bill Burkett's admission of having falsely "thrown out the name" of someone who gave him the false evidence. Burkett now claims his real source was some hard-to-find mystery woman.
What benefit did the Bush-hating Burkett gain from CBS in return for his fake documents? One plausible answer: he got coveted access to someone high up in the Kerry campaign.
We learned last week that Burkett had reached Kerry's convention introducer, former Senator Max Cleland, to plead for access to higher-ups so as to launch a "counterattack." Cleland confirms getting the call and says he told him to try the D.N.C., (where Terry McAuliffe, as former prosecutor Joseph DiGenova noted on MSNBC, carefully denied a role only in the preparation of the documents).
When his call to headquarters was not returned, Burkett then asked Mary Mapes, the CBS producer, to help him gain the top-level Kerry access he so highly valued.
Only days before the telecast, Mapes or some other "60 Minutes" staff member delivered the goods: their "unimpeachable" source was paid off with a call from Joe Lockhart, the Clinton press aide newly hired to strip nuance out of Kerry's message. With the number supplied by CBS, Lockhart called Burkett. We don't know what was said, but the call from on high was payoff in itself.
What should CBS do now? First, release Rather's interview with Burkett in its entirety; viewers are entitled to the outtakes now. Next, let Mary Mapes, at the center of all this, speak to reporters. Third, expend some Viacom resources to track down the possible original sources, including the man whose name Burkett says he "threw out" to mislead CBS.
Appointing independent reviewers should not be a device to duck all others' questions; that's Kofi Annan's trick to stonewall his oil-for-food scandal. But lacking the power of a grand jury's subpoena or testimony under oath, victimized CBS cannot put real heat on the perpetrator or conspirators. We have hard evidence of crimes by low-level operatives here - from wire fraud to forgery - as well as the potential of high-level political involvement. Is no prosecutor prepared to enforce the law?
Conservatives should stop slavering over Dan Rather's scalp, and liberals should stop pretending that noble ends justify fake-evidence means. Both should focus on the lesson of the early 70's: from third-rate burglaries to fourth-rate forgeries, nobody gets away with trying to corrupt American elections.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:31 AM
The New York Times
September 22, 2004
Washing Away the Mud
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
What I found most dispiriting over the last month of politicking was the sight of two senior statesmen in the Republican Party - yes, I mean you, George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole - climbing on the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth bandwagon in its campaign to turn Mr. Kerry from war hero to craven braggart.
Both former President Bush and Mr. Dole are honorable. And Mr. Bush has personal knowledge of such smears. The bomber Mr. Bush piloted was shot down in 1944. He bailed out, but the two others in the plane, Ted White and John Delaney, were killed.
Then in the 1988 campaign, a tail-gunner on another plane on the same bombing mission accused Mr. Bush of having been a coward and causing Mr. White's and Mr. Delaney's deaths. A couple of others on the mission backed this accusation, claiming that Mr. Bush could have tried a water landing rather than consigning the others to their deaths.
The accusations were rebutted by other witnesses, however, and journalists mostly shied away from them. Michael Dukakis dismissed the story, and few voters knew about the smear.
These days, though, accusations that have even less evidence behind them - that Mr. Kerry connived his way into getting medals he did not deserve - are widely aired and believed. A Times/CBS poll found that more than 60 percent of the respondents said Mr. Kerry is hiding something or mostly lying about Vietnam.
That's not a problem just for Mr. Kerry, but for the integrity of our political process. As I wrote in my last column, a careful look at Mr. Kerry's war record suggests that he stretched the truth here and there, but he served with immense courage - and he deserved all his medals.
Every single enlisted man who served with Mr. Kerry on his boats at the time he earned his Purple Hearts and Silver and Bronze Stars say the medals were all deserved, and they are all supporting his candidacy.
True, Democrats have also engaged in below-the-belt attacks. Some of "Fahrenheit 9/11," the Michael Moore film, was the liberal equivalent of the anti-Kerry smears. Its innuendos implying that Mr. Bush arranged the war in Afghanistan so backers could profit from an oil pipeline were appalling.
But I, along with some others, immediately complained about "Fahrenheit 9/11." Aside from John McCain, where are the sensible conservatives? Why don't they denounce the Swift Boat Veterans' attacks? And why doesn't President Bush condemn those attacks, showing the kind of integrity that Mr. Dukakis showed?
The news media also need to think through this issue, for we're being manipulated. I remember rumors about Mr. Bush in the 2000 campaign that were well known among journalists, but they never saw the light of print because we could not substantiate them. Every major candidate draws scurrilous charges, but responsible journalists - quite rightly - refuse to report unsubstantiated accusations of things like love children, drug dealing or mistresses. As CBS has found, to its chagrin, extraordinary charges require extraordinary proof.
Even though the Swift Boat Veterans' accusations are unsubstantiated, wealthy Bush supporters have turned them into campaign ads - and the press has often covered the result like a sporting event, rather than trying to find the truth. For voters who question both sides' rhetorical barbs, I recommend www.factcheck.org.
The only hope for stopping the mudslinging is if well-meaning people try to police their own side.
If they're intellectually consistent, Democrats will speak out not only against the Swift Boat Veterans but also against Mr. Kerry's demagoguery on trade, like his suggestion that outsourcing is the result of Mr. Bush's economic policies. Trade demagoguery may not be as felonious as an assault on a war hero's character, but it harms America by undermining support for free trade.
I'm afraid that the dishonesty of politics has infected all of us if we're so partisan that we're willing to point out only the sins of the other side. Intellectual consistency requires a tough look first at one's own shortcomings. So Republicans should be denouncing the smear against Mr. Kerry's war record, and Democrats should be denouncing their candidate's protectionist tone on trade.
In the spirit of taking a tough look at one's own shortcomings: on Saturday, I referred to William Rood as a witness for Mr. Kerry's Silver Star incident. It was the Bronze Star episode that he saw. Mea culpa.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:28 AM
The New York Times
September 22, 2004
Five Pieces of Silver
Opportunists have never stopped crawling over the rubble of Sept. 11, looking to make a buck. Small-time vendors, incapable of shame, began selling T-shirts even before the dust cleared. Other, more sophisticated, examples of that low but indestructible form of life, the 9/11 profiteer, have given their greed a sheen of philanthropy.
Consider the National Collector's Mint. "Silver Recovered From Ground Zero!" reads a fake news release from the company datelined "Thursday, 8:55 A.M." It explains: "You see, when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001, a bank vault full of .999 Pure Silver bars was buried under hundreds of tons of debris. After months of salvage work, many of the bars were found." Some of that silver, it says, "has been used to create the magnificent 2004 'Freedom Tower' Silver Dollar." The coins are yours for $19.95 each, plus $7 for shipping, handling, insurance and a "deluxe velvet presentation case." Each one is cheaper if you buy more; the limit is five per customer. "Avoid disappointment and future regret," the ad advises. "ACT NOW!"
Despite the words "One Dollar" and "In God We Trust," the coin is not legal tender. The company calls it a "legally authorized government issue'' dollar, but the government in question is the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a United States possession with no authority to coin its own currency.
If this were merely the work of insensitive pitchmen on a remote Pacific atoll best known for its sweatshops, we might have ignored it. But the president of National Collector's Mint is Avram Freedberg, a prominent businessman in Stamford, Conn., and a donor to Democratic causes. The coins are sold out of an office on Slater Street in Port Chester, N.Y., about 25 miles from ground zero.
Mr. Freedberg's lawyer insists that his client is honoring the dead. He says the company gives $5 from each sale to the Bear Search and Rescue Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports canine rescue units. (It's named for a golden retriever that did heroic work at ground zero.) Capt. Scott Shields, who was Bear's handler, confirms that the company has donated more than $130,000 in cash and products - vital help, he says, for cash-starved units that do important work.
If you agree, you could just send your $19.95 directly to the foundation. You won't get a silver dollar, but you also won't help anyone exploit a tragedy. Avoid disappointment and future regret. Act now!
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:25 AM
The New York Times
September 22, 2004
President Bush's Lead Balloon
We did not expect President Bush to come before the United Nations in the middle of his re-election campaign and acknowledge the serious mistakes his administration has made on Iraq. But that still left plenty of room for him to take advantage of this one last chance to appeal to an increasingly antagonistic world to help the Iraqis secure and rebuild their shattered nation and prepare for elections in just four months. Instead, Mr. Bush delivered an inexplicably defiant campaign speech in which he glossed over the current dire situation in Iraq for an audience acutely aware of the true state of affairs, and scolded them for refusing to endorse the American invasion in the first place.
Even when he talked about issues of common agreement, like the global fight against AIDS and easing the crushing third-world debt, Mr. Bush seemed more interested in praising his own policies than in assuming the leadership of an international effort. The speech would have drawn cheers at an adoring Republican National Convention, but it seemed to fall flat in a room full of stony-faced world leaders.
Mr. Bush has never exhibited much respect for the United Nations at the best of times. But the United States now desperately needs the partnership of other nations on Iraq. Without substantial help from major nations, the prospects for stabilizing that country anytime soon are bleak. American soldiers and taxpayers are paying a heavy price for Washington's wrongheaded early insistence on controlling all important military, political and economic decision-making in post-invasion Iraq.
Other nations have generally responded by sitting sullenly on the sidelines. Even when they cast grudging votes for American-sponsored Security Council resolutions, they hold back on troops and financial support. With the war going so badly and voters hostile to it in most democracies, that situation is unlikely to change unless Washington signals a new attitude, and deals with other countries as real partners whose opinions and economic interests are entitled to respectful consideration.
Mr. Bush might have done better at wooing broader international support if he had spent less time on self-justification and scolding and more on praising the importance of international cooperation and a strengthened United Nations. Instead, his tone-deaf speechwriters achieved a perverse kind of alchemy, transforming a golden opportunity into a lead balloon.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:23 AM
The New York Times
September 22, 2004
U.S. Seeks Cuts in Housing Aid to Urban Poor
By DAVID W. CHEN
The Bush administration has proposed reducing the value of subsidized-housing vouchers given to poor residents in New York City next year, with even bigger cuts planned for some urban areas in New England. The proposal is based on a disputed new formula that averages higher rents in big cities with those of suburban areas, which tend to have lower costs.
The proposals could have a "significantly detrimental impact" in some areas by forcing poor families to pay hundreds of extra dollars per month in rent, according to United States Representative Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican. That extra burden could be too much for thousands of tenants, "potentially leaving them homeless," Mr. Shays wrote in a recent letter to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The changes would affect most of the 1.9 million families who participate in the Section 8 program, the government's primary housing program for the poor, including 110,000 in New York City. People in the program receive vouchers to help them rent private apartments from landlords who agree to participate.
For a four-bedroom apartment in New York City, HUD has proposed that the fair market rent be reduced from $1,504 a month to $1,286, a drop of more than 14 percent. For practical purposes, that means that a tenant must find an extra $218 to stay in that apartment, or else find something cheaper. A voucher for a three-bedroom apartment would be cut by 7 percent, with smaller cuts for smaller units.
In an interview last night, two top HUD officials - Michael Liu, assistant secretary for public and Indian housing; and Cathy M. MacFarlane, assistant secretary for public affairs - attributed the new national numbers to fresh data from the 2000 census and a new system that averages a city's rents with those of its surrounding suburbs.
Last month, however, the housing secretary, Alphonso Jackson, suggested a somewhat different rationale for the need to change the Section 8 program, which he said was growing too fast and eating away at other programs. In an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times, he wrote that the housing voucher system was broken and wedded to a fair-market-rent formula that did not reflect current conditions. Many rental markets around the nation have softened, he wrote, and vacancy rates in some areas are at their highest rate in decades.
Those trends, however, are not reflected uniformly around the nation, and particularly not in the New York area.
The new proposal, for example, concludes that fair market rents in two fast-growing cities, Las Vegas and Houston, should increase up to 11 and 7 percent, respectively, while rents in two New England cities, Boston and New Haven, should drop as much as 27 and 21 percent for large apartments. And yet, the proposal also suggests that the figure in New York should fall by almost 15 percent for big apartments, even though local data indicate that housing prices are climbing steadily.
Fair market rents function as the statistical benchmark for many housing programs, most prominently Section 8. As such, the dispute over the new formula represents the latest chapter of an escalating struggle over Section 8, which the Bush administration has declared is too expensive.
"Like hurricanes in the Atlantic, assaults on the housing voucher program by the Bush administration have been unrelenting," wrote Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in the group's most recent weekly newsletter to its 5,000 members. "Any program will break apart if battered hard and often enough. If the program can be so destabilized that landlords, lenders and developers will give up on it, it will much easier to cut down."
The fair market rent issue is the latest of several proposed cuts in federal programs that would disproportionately affect New York and the Northeast, including an overall cut to the Section 8 budget - later restored for New York City - and a new financing system for public housing developments.
The rent drop in New York also echoes the projected drop in Medicare payments to the city's hospitals, under new national boundaries drawn up by the White House Office of Management and Budget, and recommended for all federal agencies. Those new boundaries would add Bergen, Passaic and Hudson Counties, where costs are lower, to New York City, where costs are higher, thereby lowering the city's average portion.
This being a presidential year, some housing groups have noted that many predominantly Democratic states, including New York and Massachusetts, fare poorly under these new proposals, while Republican states, like Texas and Georgia, tend to benefit.
But Dennis Shea, assistant secretary for HUD's office of policy development and research, said it was "absolutely false" that politics colored the calculations. In fact, he said that career civil servants prepared the fair market rents in accordance with technical requirements, as required by law.
Yet Mr. Shea did strike a conciliatory tone in reiterating that the proposals were just that - proposals, which were published for comment in the Federal Register last month. He said that HUD was working closely with the White House Office of Management and Budget to review the proposed rents before the publication of the final rules on Oct. 1.
Noting that HUD had received more than 300 comments, Mr. Shea added: "We're sensitive to the concerns raised by some of the communities and some public housing officials. We're trying to come up with a solution that is as fair as possible."
Tenants contribute 30 percent of their income to the rent, while the federal government pays the landlord the rest, up to the level of the fair market rent of the area.
Fair market rents are generally defined as the amount of money that would cover the rent, plus certain utilities, on 40 percent of the housing units in an area. Established for different bedroom sizes, they are adjusted each year, usually with little fanfare, and tend to inch up a couple of percentage points.
The city's Rent Guidelines Board recently approved rent increases of 6.5 percent for the next two years, after studying rising costs of city landlords. HUD itself, in agreeing to restore almost all the money to New York's Section 8 budget, recently concurred that rental costs in the city had risen by 4.1 percent.
But this year, the housing department factored in data from the 2000 Census for the first time, while applying the new geographical boundaries recommended by the Office of Management and Budget. Among other major changes, the department also reduced the rent allocation for larger apartments with three or four bedrooms, disproportionately affecting larger families.
The proposed changes appear to be larger than in previous years. According to an analysis published last week by Barbara Sard and a colleague, Will Fischer, 99 percent of the nation's counties would be subject to increases or decreases of more than 5 percent for apartments with more than one bedroom, in contrast to 2 percent of the counties in the previous year. Ms. Sard is director of housing policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal Washington research group.
Unless the proposed cuts are changed, some landlords say that they will have little incentive to continue to participate in the Section 8 program, a program long appreciated for its reliability.
Vincent S. Castellano, a real estate broker specializing in Section 8 who owns a few apartments in Queens, says that he owns a two-bedroom apartment in Rockaway Beach that he had been planning to rent to a Section 8 tenant for $1,000 a month. Under the new proposals, the Section 8 fair market rents for two-bedroom apartments, minus utilities, would be $944; under the existing one, it would be above $1,000.
"I'm going to go without Section 8," he said. "And there are going to be guys who pull out of the market, there are going to be fewer Section 8 apartments available, and there are going to be more people in the shelters."
There is evidence, however, that the rental market is easing up in some parts of the country, including parts of the Northeast. While the average rent per square foot for apartments across the country have remained flat in the last year, they have dipped in cities like Boston (down by 1.3 percent) and Detroit (1.2 percent), according to a recent analysis by the National Real Estate Index, which is published by Global Real Analytics, a research company.
Some smaller markets, at the same time, have seen housing costs rise.
In Murray County, Ky., with a population of about 33,000, Murray State University has expanded its enrollment by 25 percent in the last six years and the demand for new rental housing has pushed prices up. As a result, the new proposed fair market rent for a two-bedroom of $500, an increase of $117, is more than justified, said Don Elias, the city administrator.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:22 AM
The New York Times
September 22, 2004
C.I.A. Review Is Critical of Prewar Iraq Analysis
By DOUGLAS JEHL
McLEAN, Va., Sept. 21 - A review by the Central Intelligence Agency has identified serious weaknesses in analytical work on Iraq but continues to hold that the prewar conclusion that Iraq possessed illicit weapons was reasonable based on the information available at the time, an internal document shows.
"We're not kidding ourselves," John E. McLaughlin, the acting director of central intelligence, said Tuesday in an hourlong interview in his office at the agency's headquarters here. "Reasonable doesn't mean we were right."
But the description of the prewar conclusions as reasonable is very different from the judgment reached unanimously in July by the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose report described the conclusions as having been unwarranted and unfounded.
The C.I.A. document, dated August 2004 and obtained by The New York Times, summarizes conclusions reached by a panel called the Iraq W.M.D. Review Group, which completed a 10-month review in May but has not made its findings public. Among the analytical flaws identified in the group's report were what was described as "imprecise language" and "insufficient follow-up" as well as "sourcing problems" in the prewar intelligence on Iraq, including "numerous cases" in which analysts "misrepresented the meaning" of intelligence reports about Iraq's weapons.
The August report, a new C.I.A. publication known as "Tradecraft Review," found the agency's analytic judgments to have been reasonable, but it also described the C.I.A.'s analytical branch as having "never been more junior or more inexperienced" than it is now and said that some of the "systemic problems" uncovered might reflect more general "tradecraft weaknesses" across the branch, known as the Directorate of Intelligence.
The interview with Mr. McLaughlin was arranged by the C.I.A. after The Times obtained the internal document and requested that a senior official be made available to discuss it. The document was based on a presentation made to C.I.A. analysts in May by Jami Miscik, the deputy director for intelligence. Ms. Miscik joined Mr. McLaughlin in his office for the interview.
In particular, the document says, the now-discredited National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which found that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and was reconstituting its nuclear program, was not double-checked to be sure that its assertions were properly backed up. Efforts by intelligence agencies to substantiate the estimate proved "unable to support some of the text with sources," the document says.
Mr. McLaughlin has served as the agency's acting director since July 12, during a period in which the agency has come under scrutiny more intense than any it has faced in more than a quarter century. Representative Porter J. Goss is expected to win Senate confirmation this week as director of central intelligence, and as Mr. McLaughlin prepares to give way, he said in the interview that he was not being complacent or in denial about the quality of intelligence on Iraq, the Sept. 11 attacks, and other issues that have kindled sharp criticism and given rise to calls for an intelligence overhaul.
After the interview, Mr. McLaughlin telephoned a reporter to say he wanted to emphasize that the criticisms spelled out in the internal review on Iraq and illicit weapons should demonstrate that the C.I.A. was "not shying away from the problem." The review represented "a lot of work put together by people who clearly get it," he said. He said he took issue with those who have labeled the agency's prewar judgments on Iraq and illicit weapons as unreasonable because they were doing so with the benefit of hindsight.
Mr. McLaughlin described the internal review as part of a concerted effort by the agency that began in July 2003, after the failure to find illicit weapons in Iraq raised questions about the prewar intelligence. The purpose, Mr. McLaughlin said, has been to identify problems and lessons that should be learned by analysts whose duties cover the broad spectrum of the agency's analytical work.
Still, the bottom-line conclusion, which Mr. McLaughlin emphasized in the interview, was the same one that C.I.A. officials have offered for more than a year in response to criticisms of the prewar intelligence on Iraq. "Based on the information we had in hand and in front of us, the judgments were reasonable" at the time, Mr. McLaughlin said of the conclusions spelled out in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.
Ms. Miscik said, "You could see how people could have gotten to that conclusion" that Iraq had such weapons.
Mr. McLaughlin's tenure has included the sharp criticisms spelled out in final reports from the independent Sept. 11 commission as well as from the Senate committee, against a backdrop of calls for intelligence reform that have included one high-level call, from Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, that the C.I.A. be dismantled.
But in the interview, Mr. McLaughlin, who rose through the agency's analytical ranks to become deputy director of central intelligence in 2000, also sought to turn attention to the agency's successes. Among them, he mentioned the apparent disruption in Pakistan and Britain this summer of a Qaeda cell that had produced surveillance reports on buildings in New York, New Jersey and Washington.
Still, Mr. McLaughlin said in the interview, the volume and intensity of outside criticism and internal business has made his short time as acting director "the equivalent of two or three years of the typical directorship." He said he had sometimes felt the need to reassure the agency's employees.
"People here are resilient or they wouldn't be in this business," he said. "And they don't come here for public praise. But it's been a rough couple of months for people here, in terms of some of the public criticisms."
In the interview, both officials said the use of the word "reasonable" in describing the C.I.A.'s prewar judgments should not be given undue emphasis. They noted that the overall tone of the August 2004 document, which summarized comments Ms. Miscik made in presentations to analysts in May, was critical, encouraging more "analytical humility" and discouraging "analytical arrogance" within the intelligence directorate, known as the D.I.
"The directorate's track record will never be all right or all wrong," the document says, "but the Iraq W.M.D. review can provide analysts some important lessons on how to improve D.I. analysis across the board regardless of the issues they cover. The purpose is not to point fingers, but to demonstrate through concrete examples that the D.I. can improve."
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:22 AM
The New York Times
September 22, 2004
3 DeLay Aides Facing Charges in Fund-Raising
By GLEN JUSTICE and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 - Three aides who helped run a political action committee created by the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, were indicted by a grand jury in Texas on Tuesday on charges that included raising illegal corporate contributions and funneling them to state candidates during the 2002 elections.
Eight companies were also charged, including Sears Roebuck & Company and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc.
The 32 separate indictments sprang from a two-year investigation by local prosecutors into Texans for a Republican Majority P.A.C., a political action committee created by Mr. DeLay that spent $1.5 million to help Republicans gain control of the Texas House. The Legislature later redrew the boundaries of the state's Congressional districts in favor of Republicans, which helps the party maintain control of Congress.
The charges against the aides come at a time when Mr. DeLay himself is under investigation by the House ethics committee over accusations of improper fund-raising. News of the indictments led to fresh calls for the committee to move forward with its inquiry.
At his regular weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Mr. DeLay dismissed the indictments as politically motivated, insisting that he had no knowledge of the day-to-day workings at the political action committee and that he had played no role in determining how it spent money. The majority leader, who has repeatedly said he was not a target in the Texas investigation, seemed calm and collected as reporters strafed him with questions.
"This just emphasizes what I've been saying all along, that this investigation isn't about me,'' he said. "I haven't been asked to testify, I haven't been asked to provide any records, I haven't been asked to come as a witness.''
But critics say the charges are an ominous development for one of the most powerful figures in Congress, whose fund-raising strategies have been repeatedly questioned by Democrats and campaign finance watchdogs over the years, even as he rose through the Republican ranks to become the second most powerful Republican in the House.
"This first round of indictments reaches directly into DeLay's inner circle,'' said Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Public Justice, the group that filed a complaint that helped lead to the Texas investigation. "The cloud hovering over DeLay just got several shades darker.''
The indictments say Texans for a Republican Majority P.A.C. raised corporate contributions that were illegal under Texas laws and directed the money to state candidates by using other organizations as a conduit, according to prosecution documents.
The indictments say the P.A.C. gave $190,000 to a committee controlled by the Republican National Committee, along with a list suggesting which state candidates the committee should contribute to and in what amounts, documents say. The indictments say the Republican National Committee, through the same committee, later made $190,000 in contributions to seven candidates for the Texas House of Representatives.
James W. Ellis, 47, of Virginia, a top DeLay aide and one of the committee's officers, was charged with money laundering in a single indictment, documents say. The indictment says he was the one who presented the check and the list to the Republican National Committee.
The committee's executive director, John D. Colyandro, 40, of Texas, was charged with illegally accepting corporate contributions in 13 indictments and a 14th indictment charged him with money laundering, documents say.
And a fund-raiser for the committee, Warren M. Robold, 48, of Maryland, was changed in nine indictments with soliciting and receiving illegal corporate contributions, documents say.
Officials at the Republican National Committee could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The grand jury also indicted eight companies, accusing them of making illegal contributions to the committee, ranging from $25,000 to $100,000. They are: Sears, Bacardi U.S.A. Inc., Westar Energy Inc., Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Williams Companies Inc., the Questerra Corporation, Diversified Collection Services Inc. and Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care Inc.
Texas prosecutors say the investigation is continuing.
"What has emerged is the outline of an effort to use corporate contributions to control representative democracy in Texas," said Ronald Earle, the district attorney in Travis County. Mr. Earle, a Democrat, would not say whether Mr. DeLay was a target of the investigation. "Anybody who has committed a crime in this context is a target," he said.
In an interview earlier this year, Mr. Ellis said that he, Mr. DeLay and Mr. Colyandro had created Texans for a Republican Majority P.A.C. and that Mr. DeLay served on a five-member advisory board that decided which candidates to endorse.
Mr. Ellis is executive director of Mr. DeLay's own political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority. Mr. DeLay said Tuesday that though he often talked to Mr. Ellis about how the Texas committee was faring he had "no idea about the day-to-day operations'' of the committee.
He added, "All I did was help raise money."
In Washington, Mr. DeLay is the subject of a complaint before the House ethics committee that is deeply intertwined with the Texas investigation - and with Texas politics. The complaint, filed by Representative Chris Bell, a Texas Democrat who lost his primary race after the redistricting, accuses the majority leader of illegally soliciting campaign contributions, laundering campaign contributions to influence state legislative races and improperly using his office to influence federal agencies.
Mr. DeLay has said there is no substance to the accusations. But on Tuesday, Representative Bell said the Texas indictments "are clear indication that the ethics complaint against Mr. DeLay is substantive and extremely serious." He called upon the ethics panel to move forward with a full inquiry.
Whether the committee will do so, however, is unclear.
On Monday, the committee's chairman, Representative Joel Hefley, Republican of Colorado, and its senior Democrat, Representative Allan B. Mollohan of West Virginia, announced that they had finished a 90-day period of "fact-gathering activities" and would soon turn their findings over to the full committee, which will make a decision about whether to proceed.
But the committee membership is equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, raising the possibility that it will deadlock along party lines.
On Tuesday, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic whip, told reporters the committee should pursue the allegations.
"They ought to pursue this for the Congress's sake and for the American public's sake, and I would hope they would do that," Mr. Hoyer said.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:19 AM
The New York Times
September 22, 2004
U.S. Wants Air Traveler Files for Security Test
By MATTHEW L. WALD
WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 - 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.
When Congress created the T.S.A. almost three years ago, it ordered the agency to come up with a better way to screen passengers; the one used now was invented by Northwest Airlines in the mid-1990's as a way to pick which luggage to screen, in response to the 1988 Libyan bombing of a jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. The existing system, Capps 1, relies on factors like paying cash for a ticket and booking a one-way flight.
The agency said Capps 1 snags about 15 percent of travelers and Secure Flight would subject only about one-third that number to more intrusive scrutiny. Mr. Steinhart of the A.C.L.U. said the agency had no firm basis for the 15 percent estimate.
In fact, its record-keeping is so poor, the T.S.A. will not be able to compare those "selected" in June with the list of who would have been selected through the new system because the agency does not know who was picked in June for secondary screening.
One unresolved question is whether old airline computer systems can communicate successfully with the T.S.A.'s, and, if not, who will pay to modernize them.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:18 AM
The New York Times
September 22, 2004
Iran Moves Toward Enriching Uranium
By CRAIG S. SMITH
PARIS, Sept. 21 - Iran defied the United Nations' nuclear agency on Tuesday, announcing that it had begun converting tons of uranium into gas, a crucial step in making fuel for a nuclear reactor or a nuclear bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency called Saturday for Iran to suspend all such activities.
Iran's statement, made in Vienna by the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, put the country on a collision course with the United States, which has lobbied vigorously for the international nuclear agency to refer Iran's nuclear program to the Security Council for past breaches of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The announcement will only add weight to Washington's arguments.
On Saturday, the United Nations agency's 35-member board passed a resolution calling for Iran to halt all uranium-enrichment activities, but it declined to refer the matter to the Security Council.
The board meets again on Nov. 25. Should the United States prevail, the Council could decide to impose sanctions against Iran, issue a warning or take no action at all.
The nuclear agency's resolutions are not legally binding, and many countries, including Brazil and South Africa, may resist American pressure to sanction Iran for activities they support: the development of a complete nuclear fuel cycle, from mining uranium ore to reprocessing nuclear waste.
Mastering the cycle can make countries nearly independent in fulfilling their energy needs. But it brings them to within months of being able to build nuclear weapons.
Iran, as a signer of the nonproliferation treaty, has the right to convert uranium into a gas and to concentrate the fissile 235 isotope of that gas with high-speed centrifuges, a process called enrichment.
But it began an enrichment program without notifying the I.A.E.A. - a breach of its responsibilities under the treaty - and the agency has used the threat of Council intervention to press it to stop all of the steps leading to the production of enriched uranium.
Uranium with a relatively low concentration of the uranium-235 isotope can be used to fuel a nuclear reactor, but the process can easily be extended to produce the higher concentrations of the isotope necessary for a nuclear bomb.
The agency had expressed alarm at Iran's earlier announced plans to convert more than 40 short tons of uranium oxide, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexafluoride gas.
The resolution passed Saturday said the agency "considers it necessary" that in order for Iran to "promote confidence" - a veiled reference to the threat of a referral to the Security Council - it must "immediately suspend all enrichment-related activities," including the production of uranium hexafluoride gas at a plant built near Isfahan with Chinese technology and opened last year.
That plant is monitored by the international agency, but it declined to say Tuesday whether gas had been produced there since Saturday.
"Some of the amount of the 37 [metric] tons has been used," Mr. Aghazadeh was quoted as saying Tuesday by Reuters. Mr. Aghazadeh, one of Iran's vice presidents, was attending a general conference of the nuclear agency, which is based in Vienna. "The tests have been successful, but these tests have to be continued using the rest of the material," he said.
Though Iran calls the yellowcake a test amount, experts say the 40 short tons could produce enough fissile material for several weapons.
Iran argues that its uranium-enrichment program is intended to produce low-enriched uranium for use in a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant that it began constructing in the 1970's.
It has offered to accept any safeguards imposed by the agency to ensure its enrichment activities do not go beyond the 3.5 percent concentration of the uranium-235 isotope needed for its power plant and six others it plans to build.
But the United States and other countries say they believe the program is part of an effort to develop a capacity for nuclear weapons.
Some American analysts warn that there is only a year or so left to stop Iran from achieving nuclear self-sufficiency. After that, they say, the country will have the means to create a nuclear arsenal without outside help, forever altering the Middle East balance of power.
One concern is that Israel, an I.A.E.A. member that has not signed the nonproliferation treaty and has nuclear weapons, may decide to take the matter into its own hands if diplomacy fails to deter Iran.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Tuesday that Israel was planning to buy 500 so-called bunker-busting bombs capable of penetrating six feet of concrete.
Those bombs could be used to destroy Iran's underground nuclear facilities. While analysts say such a pre-emptive strike is unlikely, in 1981 Israel bombed a nuclear reactor in Iraq to stop that country from developing nuclear weapons.
Iran argues that it is being unfairly penalized and that it has repeatedly proposed keeping the Middle East free of nuclear weapons.
The nuclear agency is trying to force Iran to accept limits on what it can do under the nonproliferation treaty without causing Iran to withdraw from the treaty.
Iran argues that discrimination among signatories is prohibited under the treaty and that accepting any limits would set a dangerous precedent for other treaties it has signed.
On Sunday Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, warned in Tehran that Iran might drop out of the treaty if its case were sent to the Security Council. The treaty permits any country to withdraw on three months' notice. North Korea withdrew in 2001.
"We have made our choice: yes to peaceful nuclear technology and no to nuclear weapons," Iran's president, Mohammad Khatami, said in Tehran on Tuesday at a military parade featuring the Shahab-3 missile, with a range that could reach Israel. Missiles at the parade were draped with banners that read "Crush America" and "Wipe Israel Off The Map," according to The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.
"We will continue on this path even if it means cutting off international supervision," he said.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:15 AM