Saturday, December 25, 2004

Oh that's why


Is that the ball dropping?


Coalition to defeat Social Security


The New Deal


A Christmas Carol


Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry ...


The True Values of The Day

The True Values of The Day

By E. J. Dionne Jr.

Friday, December 24, 2004; Page A17

No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God -- for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.

-- the late Archbishop Oscar

Romero of El Salvador

This is supposed to be the year when moral values dominated politics. On the eve of Christmas, let's talk about values.

In any given city this Christmas, homeless people will not be looking forward to opening presents. They will be lucky to have a place to go at all. They will, by Archbishop Romero's radical and demanding definition, be the true participants in Christmas. But it's unlikely that the rest of us will think much about them. Isn't that a question of values?

Unemployed parents who love their children as much as the rest of us love ours won't have the same chance to show them materially the love they feel in their hearts. God willing, their kids will understand. But some kids, watching other kids in the television ads, might wonder: Why can those parents give their kids all that stuff that my parents can't give me? Isn't that a question of values?

In the fall, I got the chance to moderate a post-election panel at Fordham University's Center on Religion and Culture in New York. Former senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska noted that on Jan. 1, the quotas protecting what's left of the U.S. textile and apparel industry will end. "Over a 12-month period," he said, "three or four million jobs that are currently paying $8 to $10 an hour are going bye-bye unless those jobs are protected.

"Now, I hazard to guess that most of those individuals will move into the ranks of poverty," Kerrey went on. "They'll move to minimum-wage jobs, which is 20 or 30 percent under poverty today. . . . If it's a young woman who gets pregnant and says, 'I don't have health insurance anymore. I can't -- it's expensive to raise a baby right today' -- that they're more likely to choose an abortion even if Bush appoints anti-Roe v. Wade justices that overturn it, because they're going to make what I consider to be a tragic choice out of economic necessity."

Whatever you think of abortion or, for that matter, free trade, who can argue with Kerrey's central assertion: that the abortion rate is more likely to go up when economic opportunities for the poor are curtailed? (As Mark W. Roche of Notre Dame noted in the New York Times this fall, the abortion rate dropped by 11 percent during the prosperous years of the Clinton presidency.) Shouldn't all who care about abortion be passionately committed to changing the economic circumstances in which women make their choices? Isn't that a question of values?

In many parts of our country, parents who lack health insurance are wondering if they will be around for their children next Christmas. A mother has a lump on her breast and worries about the cost of having it checked out. A father has chronic chest pains but decides that seeing a cardiologist would be too expensive. They ought to get help. Isn't that a question of values?

In Iraq, young men and women serving their country complain of equipment shortages and wonder why their leaders didn't send enough troops in the first place. Could it be that acknowledging the true cost of the Iraqi invasion at the outset might have endangered all those tax cuts -- and might have reduced support for the war? Isn't that a question of values?

Archbishop Romero was murdered on March 24, 1980, because he chose to stand with El Salvador's poor against a repressive regime. "Brothers, you came from our own people," Romero told soldiers in El Salvador's army. "You are killing your own brothers. . . . In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: Stop the repression."

How many among the cardinals and bishops and pastors and preachers and televangelists who now enjoy favor in high places would have the courage to do what Archbishop Romero did? In fairness, how many of the rest of us would? Isn't that a question of values?

A child was born in a manger because there was no room for his family anywhere else. Wasn't that a question of values?


Groups on Right Say Christmas Is Under Attack

Groups on Right Say Christmas Is Under Attack
Others Call Outcry A Ploy for Funds

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 24, 2004; Page A04

Many of the conservative Christian groups that led the fight this year to ban same-sex marriage are sounding an alarm about efforts to block Christmas celebrations.

Representatives of the groups -- including the Alliance Defense Fund, the Thomas More Law Center and Liberty Counsel -- say the two issues, and other pending fights over public display of the Ten Commandments and teaching of evolution, are linked by a belief among religious conservatives that traditional values are under siege in the United States.

"The sentiment is the same for the same-sex marriage battle or for Christmas: It's the pervasive idea among religious people that traditional values are under attack from all different angles," said Erik Stanley, chief counsel for the Liberty Counsel.

Those on the other side of these battles say the Christian groups are wildly exaggerating the threats from a phantom enemy for the purpose of mobilizing evangelicals to contribute funds (some groups are explicitly using the Christmas issue to raise money) or to become politically active. On the Christmas fight, the American Civil Liberties Union, the group most often cited as the enemy of traditionalists, says it has not filed a single case blocking Christmas displays this year and cites half a dozen instances over the past year in which it has fought on the side of more religious expression.

"This is the winter equivalent of those summer stories about shark attacks being on the increase," says Barry Lynn, who heads the liberal group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The conservative groups, he said, "think they can make Christians feel like a besieged majority. It creates a Christian solidarity against all those who would oppress them: secularists in this season, gay and lesbians next month, abortion the next month."

Whether the threat is real or a straw man, conservatives have been aggressive this season in citing the danger to Christmas. This week, Jerry Falwell, a conservative leader, told supporters that "so-called civil libertarians attempt to purge all vestiges of faith from the American public square." Also this week, Paul M. Weyrich, another conservative leader, proclaimed that "the campaign to eliminate Christmas from our society is well underway." Several conservative commentators have echoed the charge on television and radio and in newspapers.

The Rutherford Institute, declaring "Christmas Under Siege," cites a "growing tendency among public schools and government officials to ban references to Christmas or Christianity." The Alliance Defense Fund, which has been battling gay unions, sent letters to more than 6,700 schools as part of its "Christmas Project." It has 700 "allied attorneys" looking for cases where local authorities have sought to secularize the holiday, and it has found three dozen instances of bans on candy canes, prohibitions on Christmas colors, and cancellation of holiday celebrations that had Christian components.

Even President Bush, who joined with religious conservatives in efforts to ban same-sex marriage, has become a target of those fearing the secularization of Christmas. The Web site WorldNetDaily complained this week of an absence of Jesus and other Christian references on the White House Web site or in the White House Christmas decorations or the Bush Christmas card. "What's virtually missing from the White House commemoration of Christmas this year?" the Web site asked. "Jesus."

Some of those leading the fight for religious Christmas celebrations acknowledged there is no hard evidence of an increase in efforts to secularize the holiday. Richard Thompson, who leads the Thomas More Law Center, said there is anecdotal evidence of more efforts to ban Christian displays but "I don't have a statistical base."

What has indisputably increased is an effort by Christian groups to push back when such incidents are found. "There are cases like that every year, but I think it's becoming more and more evident to Christians," he said. "More and more Christians are ready to resort to litigation."

Linking the Christmas dispute to the battle over gay marriage, Thompson said: "They're different issues, but I think you could make a general rule that there is a resurgence of Christian activism in the public arena. It's a reaction to what the left wing has been doing for the last several years."

In the case of gay marriage, Christian groups were reacting to efforts to legalize same-sex unions in California and the Northeast. That fueled anger that helped gay-marriage bans pass in 11 states.

In the case of secularizing Christmas, it is more difficult to demonstrate a widespread threat. "It's very convenient for Christians to say the culture has changed and they've lost power, but Christians have never been stronger politically," said Marci A. Hamilton, who teaches at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and has written a book, "God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law."

She said the threat to Christmas "is not secularization, it's pluralization. The law doesn't say Christian symbols have to be taken out of schools, only that it can't only be Christian, it has to be pluralistic."

ACLU President Nadine Strossen, similarly, said the conservative complaints are "like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling." She adds that while there are "occasional violations in either direction" on church-state separation, "if anything, since 1985, the Supreme Court has become more supportive of government-sponsored religious exercises."

The conservative groups agree there have been no recent legal cases limiting religious expression. Liberty Counsel's Stanley said threats to Christmas have not jumped this year. "I think the response to those threats are increasing," he said.

At the Alliance Defense Fund, staff attorney Joshua Carden said the defense of Christmas has become a large campaign "just in the last couple of years where people see more outrageous incidents when Christmas is being removed from the public square."

Part of the emergence of the outrageous incidents, he said, comes from his group's efforts to highlight them. But, Carden added, Christmas "is under attack, and ADF wants to defend it."

Staff writer Alan Cooperman contributed to this report.


Recount: Dems win Washington gov's race

County recount gives win to Democrat
GOP vows to continue fight in governor's race

(CNN) -- Democrat Christine Gregoire finished 130 votes ahead in the roller-coaster Washington governor's race after results of a hand recount including disputed ballots were released Thursday by King County.

Gregoire called on state residents to unite. But Chris Vance, the GOP state chairman, had already vowed: "This battle is not over."

Outgoing Gov. Gary Locke, a fellow Democrat, referred to Gregoire as the "apparent governor-elect" Thursday evening.

But Gregoire said she would not declare victory over Republican Dino Rossi until Washington's secretary of state certified the results of the hand recount.

"A lot of heated words have been said during this recount," she said. "But with the election coming to a close, I am confident that we can begin moving forward as one state."

The three-term state attorney general's tenuous 10-vote lead widened when she picked up 120 more votes from hundreds of ballots added to the count because of a ruling by the state Supreme Court.

King, the most populous of the state's 39 counties, was the last to complete its hand recount.

The result means that when Secretary of State Sam Reed certifies the results -- scheduled to happen next week -- Gregoire will be named governor-elect. Rossi had held that title after he was certified the winner of the first and second counts of the vote.

State law does not allow either side to ask for another recount. But the imbroglio over the closest gubernatorial election in Washington state history, which has already stretched more than seven weeks, will apparently not end.

"We believe Dino Rossi is the legitimate governor-elect of the state of Washington," Vance said in a statement. "We will continue fighting to protect his election."

Election officials in King County, which includes Seattle, announced Thursday afternoon that the disputed ballots gave Gregoire 311 more votes compared to 191 for former Republican state Sen. Rossi, for a net gain of 120 votes.

That put Gregoire's overall lead after the third tabulation of ballots at 130 votes, out of nearly 2.9 million votes cast.

Vance said the GOP now plans to ask election officials in other counties across the state to reconsider votes cast for Rossi that were rejected -- a door he said was opened when the state Supreme Court allowed King County to reconsider more than 700 ballots that election officials discovered had been left uncounted because of a computer error.

Vance said the GOP would ask Reed, a fellow Republican, to delay final certification "until we know every legitimate vote has been counted."

Republicans also have the option of going to court to formally contest the election once Reed certifies the results.

The new governor is scheduled to be inaugurated in less than three weeks, on January 12.

Locke said Rossi ran a "brilliant" campaign and the issues he raised in the campaign "must be addressed."

"Emotions are running high because we all care about this great state, and we all care about the future of our state," he said. "Both have been excellent candidates with different views and priorities, but there must be an end. Our state must come together, and we must move on with the governing of our state."
Results flip

Rossi, 44, led Gregoire by 261 votes after the initial count, a margin small enough to trigger an automatic statewide machine recount. After the second tabulation, he led by 42 votes.

But citing the narrowness of the margin, 57-year-old Gregoire refused to concede, and the state Democratic Party put up a $730,000 deposit to pay for a statewide hand recount, which put her into the lead for the first time.

Because that recount flipped the result, Democrats will get their money back and the state will pay the cost of the retabulation.

In the midst of the hand recount, election officials in King County said they discovered the some 735 absentee ballots. When they evaluated the ballots on Thursday, 566 were found to be valid and added to the count.

Republicans went to court to stop those votes from being included, arguing that their emergence was suspicious and that state law limited recounts to only those ballots that had been counted in the earlier tallies. But on Wednesday, the state Supreme Court ruled 7-0 that the disputed ballots should be added to the county's recount result.

The ballots were originally rejected because the signature on the ballot did not match the voter registration signature in King County's computer system. But Dean Logan, the county's election director, said the ballots were excluded by mistake because the voter registration signatures were never entered into the computer system.


Bush to resubmit blocked judicial nominees

Bush to resubmit blocked judicial nominees
Strengthened majority in new Senate could ease approvals

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will renominate a group of judicial nominees who were blocked by Senate Democrats during his first term, the White House said Thursday.

"The president nominated highly qualified individuals to the federal courts during his first term, but the Senate failed to vote on many nominations," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said. "Unfortunately, this only exacerbates the issue of judicial vacancies, compounds the backlog of cases and delays timely justice for the American people."

After the November election, Republicans added to their majority in the Senate. They now control the chamber by a 10-vote margin, 55 to 45.

According to the Web site of the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Policy, Bush has nominated 34 people for appeals courts, and 18 of them have been confirmed. Of his 97 nominations for district courts, 88 were confirmed.

Republicans were angered during Bush's first term when Democrats used filibusters to block several of Bush's nominees to federal appellate courts. (Full story)

With the expectation that Bush might soon get to make appointments to the Supreme Court, the issue has taken on even more prominence. (Full story)

"The Senate has a constitutional obligation to vote up or down on a president's judicial nominees," McClellan said. "The president looks forward to working with the new Senate to ensure a well-functioning and independent judiciary."

In response to Republican charges of obstructionism, Senate Democrats have countered that they have voted to confirm the vast majority of Bush's judicial nominees and are blocking only those that are so conservative that they are out of the mainstream.

"I'm encouraged that the president plans to renominate these well-qualified candidates to the federal bench," said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Constitution subcommittee. "I hope that with a new Senate, tempered by the last two elections, we will have a fresh start to the confirmation process."

But Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused Bush of being divisive.

"The Bush Administration is ending the year as they began it, choosing confrontation over compromise, ideology over moderation, and defiance over cooperation," he said in a written statement.

Leahy said Democrats have supported more than 200 of Bush's judicial nominees, and the federal court system has its lowest number of vacancies in 16 years.

"On some of their controversial nominees, they may prevail because of their monopoly of power. The big loser, however, will be the independence of our judicial branch of government."

Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, also sharply criticized Bush.

"The president has regrettably signaled his renewal of partisan warfare," Neas said, characterizing Bush's action as a "plan to re-nominate extremist nominees."

"The president and his team want to pack the federal courts with right-wing ideologues, and roll back decades of progress in social justice," he said. "This portends long, hard months of debate over the federal courts, and sends a truly disturbing signal of what we can expect if and when a Supreme Court vacancy occurs."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said last month he hoped Senate Democrats would drop their filibusters against Bush's judicial nominees, but said if they did not, he would change Senate rules to end the practice. He said, however, that Republican gains in the Senate might make such a change unnecessary.

Earlier this month, Judge Charles Pickering Sr., named to a recess appointment on a federal appeals court after Senate Democrats blocked his nomination, said he will retire. Pickering, 67, blamed Democrats for forcing him to step down. (Full story)

Those the White House said will be renominated, the respective courts and the dates on which they were first nominated are:

For the Court of Appeals:

* Terrence W. Boyle (4th Circuit; May 9, 2001)

* Priscilla Richman Owen (5th Circuit; May 9, 2001)

* David W. McKeague (6th Circuit; Nov. 8, 2001)

* Susan Bieke Neilson (6th Circuit; Nov. 8, 2001)

* Henry W. Saad (6th Circuit; Nov. 8, 2001)

* Richard A. Griffin (6th Circuit; June 26, 2002)

* William H. Pryor (11th Circuit; April 9, 2003)

* William Gerry Myers III (9th Circuit; May 15, 2003)

* Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Circuit; July 25, 2003)

* Brett M. Kavanaugh (D.C. Circuit; July 25, 2003)

* William James Haynes II (4th Circuit; Sept. 29, 2003)

* Thomas B. Griffith (D.C. Circuit; May 10, 2004)

For District Courts:

* James C. Dever III (Eastern District, N.C.; May 22, 2002)

* Thomas L. Ludington (Eastern District, Mich.; Sept. 12, 2002)

* Robert J. Conrad (Western District, N.C.; April 28, 2003)

* Daniel P. Ryan (Eastern District, Mich.; April 28, 2003)

* Peter G. Sheridan (N.J.; Nov. 5, 2003)

* Paul A. Crotty (Southern District, N.Y.; Sept. 7, 2004)

* Sean F. Cox (Eastern District, Mich.; Sept. 10, 2004)

* J. Michael Seabright (Hawaii, Sept. 15, 2004)


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Department of Education to tighten Pell Grant eligibility

Department of Education to tighten Pell Grant eligibility

(CNN) -- A change in eligibility for Pell Grants to be announced Thursday by the Department of Education would cut some 90,000 students from the rolls of recipients and affect more than 1 million others, an education advocate says.

In addition to those who will lose their grants completely, "we estimate about 1.3 million students will see reductions in their grants from $100 to $300 per year," said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, a trade association representing 2,000 public and private colleges and universities.

The 5 million recipients each get about $2,500 per year in Pell grants, he said.

They are awarded in the form of vouchers that can be used at whatever accredited school the student chooses.

The new formula depends on more recent state and local tax data paid by low- and middle-income families, Hartle said. The formula is supposed to be updated regularly, but the Department of Education had not done so for 15 years, he said.

At that time, state and local taxes were, on average, higher than they are today, he said. As a result, the recalibrated formula makes it appear that families have more income available to pay college expenses than they did.

"It's always regrettable when federal student aid to individuals is reduced," he said. "This shows the perils of not updating formulas for 15 years."

Susan Aspey, press secretary for the Department of Education, said, "We're required by law to do this and we can't pick and choose which parts of the law to follow.

"Our projections show an increase in the number of students receiving Pell Grants next year and nearly half of Pell recipients are eligible for the maximum award and won't be affected."

The program was created in 1972 by former Sen. Claiborne Pell, who, as chairman of the Senate Education Committee, championed its creation.

It has proven to be immensely popular, with about a third of college students receiving some aid under the program.

Nineteen of 20 of the Pell Grant recipients have annual family income (including that of their parents) of less than $35,000, Hartle said.

Still, he predicted the new regulation will have modest impact on most college students.

"We don't think many students will drop out of college as a result," he said. Instead, they will likely work longer hours, borrow from other sources such as credit cards or reduce their course load, he said.

"It's unfortunate, but the real thing that's unfortunate is that the Pell Grant isn't going up," said Sarah Flanagan, vice president for government relations of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

"If the maximum were making even moderate increases, all these people on the margin wouldn't fall out of the program."

The last increase -- of $50 per year -- occurred three years ago, she said. The maximum award is $4,050.

The average student graduates from college with $17,000 in debt, she said.

But the program, which costs $13 billion per year, is in deficit. Its costs to the federal treasury jumped several years ago, during the burst of the dotcom bubble, when a number of people opted to return to school rather than try to compete in a tight job market.

Thursday's change is not expected to curtail the program's popularity.

"Even with this change, there will be more Pell Grant recipients and the federal government will spend more money on Pell than it did this year," Flanagan said.

Dallas Martin, the president of the National Association of Student and Financial Aid Administrators, said the tax tables used are not reflective of current tax rates.

But DOE's Aspey said the tables use 2002 data, the most recent available.

In addition, Martin said, the law requires that the formulas be published before July 1.

"Publishing the tax tables at this point in time -- in December -- seems to me to be in violation of the statute."

Aspey disagreed. "It is the opinion of our Office of General Counsel that this is legally permissible. The law requires us to either update the tables or tell Congress why we're not -- we informed Congress that we were delaying publication until we could review the interim report of the advisory committee.

"We have reviewed the report and determined the only option available to us was to update the tables using the most up-to-date information."


Kerik resigns from Giuliani's security firm

Kerik resigns from Giuliani's security firm

NEW YORK (AP) -- Former police commissioner and one-time Cabinet nominee Bernard Kerik said Wednesday he will leave Giuliani Partners, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's consulting firm.

At a news conference in Manhattan, Kerik said he had apologized to Giuliani for being a distraction because of his messy withdrawal as a candidate to head the Department of Homeland Security.

Kerik had been CEO of Giuliani-Kerik LLC, an affiliate of Giuliani Partners LLC. In a statement Wednesday, Giuliani said Giuliani-Kerik would be renamed Giuliani Security & Safety.

Kerik said he told Giuliani his resignation would be effective immediately. He said he would seek other unspecified business opportunities, and did not take questions from reporters.

President Bush tapped Kerik, 49, earlier this month as his nominee for homeland security secretary, but Kerik abruptly withdrew his name December 10 after revealing that he had not paid all required taxes for a family nanny-housekeeper and that the woman may have been in the country illegally.

He has been hit with other allegations as well, including that he had connections with people suspected of doing business with the mob and that he had simultaneous extramarital affairs with two women.

Kerik's nomination became a political embarrassment for Giuliani, a rising star in the GOP who had recommended his friend and business partner to Bush.

After leaving the police department in 2002, Kerik joined Giuliani Partners, becoming a security consultant and then signing on to help launch the Iraqi police force.

Giuliani Partners has advised business and government agencies on security, leadership and other issues. The consulting firm advised Trinidad in its battle against a rise in kidnappings and murders and was paid $4.3 million by Mexico City officials for advice on reducing crime there.


Arafat, the bowling alley investor


Arafat, the bowling alley investor


December 23, 2004

Strike Long Island, a bowling alley and go-kart track, goes all out when it hosts bar mitzvahs. It pulls down seven large screens for showing home movies, uses glow-in-the-dark pins, has a VIP room for a candle-lighting ceremony and offers kosher catering.

Just one problem: Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, owned a piece of the action.

According to Bloomberg News, Arafat's investment adviser put more than $1 million in Strike Holdings LLC, a private Manhattan-based company that owns the New Hyde Park entertainment facility as well as Bowlmor Lanes in Manhattan's Greenwich Village and bowling alleys in Miami and Bethesda, Md.

Some patrons bowling yesterday at Bowlmor, which dates from 1938 but was spiffed up with a retro look seven years ago when Strike bought it, were bowled over when they heard the news. "Really? Wow!" said Jacob Shapiro, who had two children he baby-sits in tow. "I had no idea."

Neither, it seems, did the bowling alley's owners.

Arafat, who died last month at age 75, made the investment through SilverHaze Partners, a firm in McLean, Va., which invests money for wealthy individuals, according to Bloomberg News. It was part of $799 million of investments disclosed by the Palestinian Authority throughout the past two years, the Bloomberg story said.

One of SilverHaze's partners, Zeid Masri, went to business school at the University of Virginia with Strike founder Thomas Shannon. But apparently Masri never told Shannon where the money he invested came from and the Arafat money was part of a larger pool. Masri did not return calls.

A statement from spokeswoman Marcia Horowitz, speaking for Strike's owners, said they were "shocked" to learn the SilverHaze stake included funds from the Palestine Commercial Services Co. She said the source of the funds was never disclosed and had they known they wouldn't have accepted it. The Arafat investment represents 2 percent of the company's equity, they said.

"We have instructed our attorneys to sever the relationship with SilverHaze immediately," the owners said. Horowitz said they expect to return $1.3 million to SilverHaze by the end of today. "We do not endorse their values and do not want to be affiliated with them in any way," Horowitz said, for Shannon.

Apparently the investment wasn't a gold mine for Arafat, a controversial leader considered a peacemaker by some and a terrorist by others. Since he forked over the money in summer 2001, neither SilverHaze nor the Palestine company received dividends or payouts from Strike.

But not everyone had a problem with the connection.

Rabbi Scott Hoffman of the Lake Success Jewish Center said knowing the financial backing wouldn't affect his returning to Strike Long Island.

"It's so indirect," Hoffman said. "The real sad part is the Palestinians are quite impoverished and he stole from his own people to enrich himself." Staff writer Jamie Herzlich contributed to this story.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Kerik resigns position with Giuliani firm

Kerik resigns position with Giuliani firm
Quits consulting company, apologizes for distraction

The Associated Press
Updated: 5:42 p.m. ET Dec. 22, 2004

NEW YORK - Former police commissioner and one-time Cabinet nominee Bernard Kerik said Wednesday he will leave Giuliani Partners, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s consulting firm.

At a news conference in Manhattan, Kerik said he had apologized to Giuliani for being a distraction because of his messy withdrawal as a candidate to head the Department of Homeland Security.

Kerik had been CEO of Giuliani-Kerik LLC, an affiliate of Giuliani Partners LLC. In a statement Wednesday, Giuliani said Giuliani-Kerik would be renamed Giuliani Security & Safety.

Kerik said he told Giuliani his resignation would be effective immediately. He said he would seek other unspecified business opportunities and did not take questions from reporters.

President Bush tapped Kerik, 49, earlier this month as his nominee for homeland security secretary, but Kerik abruptly withdrew his name Dec. 10 after revealing that he had not paid all required taxes for a family nanny-housekeeper and that the woman may have been in the country illegally.

Tide of allegations

He has been hit with other allegations as well, including that he had connections with people suspected of doing business with the mob and that he had simultaneous extramarital affairs with two women.

Kerik’s nomination became a political embarrassment for Giuliani, a rising star in the GOP who had recommended his friend and business partner to Bush.

After leaving the police department in 2002, Kerik joined Giuliani Partners, becoming a security consultant and then signing on to help launch the Iraqi police force.

Giuliani Partners has advised business and government agencies on security, leadership and other issues. The consulting firm advised Trinidad in its battle against a rise in kidnappings and murders and was paid $4.3 million by Mexico City officials for advice on reducing crime there.


Democrat takes lead in Washington recount
Democrat takes lead in Washington recount
Hundreds of disputed ballots approved but yet to be tallied

By Rebecca Cook
The Associated Press
Updated: 9:03 p.m. ET Dec. 22, 2004

OLYMPIA, Wash. - More than seven weeks after the election, Democrat Christine Gregoire took the lead in Washington’s governor’s race for the first time Wednesday, gaining a 10-vote advantage over Republican Dino Rossi after King County officials announced the results of a hand recount.

Gregoire, the loser by increasingly slim margins in the first two counts, could claim an even wider margin of victory thanks to a state Supreme Court decision Wednesday that requires more than 700 disputed King County ballots to be counted.

At a news conference in Seattle, Gregoire said she would not declare victory yet.

“Keep the faith,” she told cheering supporters. “The election process is working exactly as it should.”

Unlikely to finally settle race
King County, a Democratic stronghold and the last county to finish counting ballots, is expected to certify its results Thursday, but it appeared that the courts ultimately would have to decide who won.

Republicans, who have begun preparing for a lawsuit, vowed to seek out Rossi voters whose ballots were disqualified because of election workers’ errors and ask canvassing boards to review them.

“It’s certainly too close to call, and Dino is not conceding,” said Mary Lane, a spokeswoman for Rossi. “This election is not over.”

The ruling and the recount results were explosive twists in the roller-coaster race, which was supposed to have been settled Nov. 2.

Gregoire, 57, a three-term attorney general, was the favorite going into the election against Rossi, 45, a real estate agent and former state senator.

But out of 2.9 million ballots cast on Election Day, Rossi won by 261 votes over Gregoire. His lead was whittled to 42 votes in a subsequent machine recount. Democrats paid $730,000 for the hand recount, although by law the state has to repay the party if the recount reverses the results.

Asked whether Rossi should concede, Gregoire said she would leave that decision up to him.

“I've been called on many times to concede,” she said with a smile. But she urged Rossi to abide by the final result of the hand recount.

“We’ve got huge issues facing the state, and we need to get on with it,” she said. “Whoever is governor is going to have a challenge of bringing the state together.”

The key: 723 votes
King County’s hand recount results were announced after the state’s high court unanimously ruled that 723 overlooked ballots also should be included in the tally. All valid ballots among those were expected to be counted by Thursday.

During the hand recount, workers in King County, which includes Seattle, found 573 ballots that elections officials said were mistakenly rejected because of a problem with how the voters’ signatures had been scanned into the computer system. Workers then searched a warehouse and found 150 more overlooked ballots from voters with last names beginning with A, B or C.

State Republican Chairman Chris Vance called their discovery weeks after the election “very suspicious.” And some Washington residents who had calmly been watching the recount with confidence in their state’s reputation for clean politics were starting to have their doubts.

At a hearing Wednesday morning before the Supreme Court, Republicans had argued that a recount should be a mere retabulation and that it was too late for counties to go back and correct errors.

But the court unanimously said state law and previous court rulings specifically allowed county canvassing boards to correct mistakes during a recount.

Justices questioned Republican claims that counting the votes would cause irreparable harm.

“You're looking at it from the point of view of the winner or the loser — shouldn’t we be looking at it from the point of view of the voter?” Justice Susan Owens asked.

After the secretary of state certifies the election, which is expected Thursday, any registered voter can sue to challenge the results. Republicans have already begun preparing for possible legal action, and Rossi has repeatedly said he will keep all his options open.

If the legal fighting does not produce a new governor by the scheduled Jan. 12 inauguration, lame-duck Gov. Gary Locke, a Democrat, may have to stick around. That is because of a provision of the state constitution that says the governor’s term of office is four years “and until his successor is elected and qualified.”

Locke has made it clear that he is not interesting in hanging around.


Challenges and the challenged
December 22, 2004

Challenges and the challenged
-Keith Olbermann

SECURE UNDISCLOSED LOCATION — So much for my vow of not posting again during my vacation.

However, a lot of facts from the previous post have been clarified — or muddied — and the news, to paraphrase one of my snarkiest friends in the business, “doesn’t stop when you’re off; it goes on another three to four hours a day.”

Representative John Conyers of Michigan is awaiting a staff report before deciding whether or not to formally challenge Ohio’s electoral votes a week from tomorrow. Ted Kalo, the Minority General Counsel of the House Judiciary Committee, advises us by email that Conyers “is waiting until all the facts are in,” but notes that Representative Maxine Walters of Los Angeles has already spoken publicly about her willingness to be the house signatory on the challenge. Whether or not there’s a senator willing to do the same is still an open question.

Mr. Kalo also points out details that make the recount situation in Hocking County, Ohio, seem far less closed than the County’s Assistant Prosecutor led me to believe. I guess I’m still a little naïve on such things, but it would seem to me that in telling his story of a “comedy of errors” involving the inspection of the main vote tabulator there by a representative of the voting machine manufacturer, Triad Systems, David Sams might have been mentioned that in addition to being Assistant Prosecutor, he is also (per Mr. Kalo) the legal representative of the Hocking County Board of Elections during the recount.

I thought we had a bad jobs situation in Ohio. How come so many civil servants there have to double up?

Kalo, and the Green Party’s recount coordinator for Southeastern Ohio, Orren Whiddon, both point out that the issue in Hocking is not so much what was or wasn’t done to the machine, but the efforts of the Triad man to find out which of Hocking’s precincts was to be subjected to the mandatory 3% hand recount.

One of our producers had asked Deputy Prosecutor Sams about how the subject of the unusual inquiries was dealt with at the informal “board meeting” Sams conducted Monday. Asked why the Triad employee would’ve asked about precincts at all, Mr. Sams replied, “I don’t remember, to be honest, what he answered to that. But it was really just a comedy of errors. There was no impropriety.”

Both Mr. Kalo and Mr. Whidden spoke highly of Sams, but suggest he missed the point. The Green Party rep notes that Ohio law is specific about the 3% sample that must be hand recounted in each county: it’s supposed to be selected randomly. If the effort is made — either by an election official, or somebody else (like a manufacturer’s rep) — to decide in advance which 3% of the vote is to be recounted, the concept of random selection is thoroughly contaminated and once again, a puff of smoke rises from the entire recount process.

Mr. Whidden told me by phone this afternoon that there are a lot of puffs of smoke. “86 of Ohio’s 88 counties have pre-selected their random precincts,” he claims. Their motivations — and even Triad’s — may not be as nefarious as would appear. Ohio law states that if the 3% hand recount doesn’t match the original vote, the entire County’s vote must be recounted by hand. These County Board of Elections, especially in the smaller jurisdictions, are comprised largely of volunteers, and a full, hand recount means an incredible amount of work, which as human nature would suggest, they’d prefer to avoid.

Unfortunately, it also means that if you were trying to fix a vote in Ohio, or cover it up in a recount, you had merely to identify which precincts were least likely to be chosen (rather than randomly selected), and do your dirty work in them.

Which brings us back to Triad and what its rep was doing, trying to find out which precincts in Hocking would be recounted by hand, and offering tips to help make sure the recount matched the original vote. “Highly respected company,” Whidden notes. “Triad has a rule against corporate donations to political parties; their employees may, but they don't. Not a Diebold situation. They answer questions openly. They believe in customer service.” The problem arises when the customer service, even innocently, dovetails with the same mechanism that guarantees that the precinct selection isn’t random, and full hand recounts don’t occur.

Whidden points out how it’s supposed to be done. In one county for which he acted as a supervisor, Athens, “the board of elections took the names of each of its precincts, put them on slips of paper, put the pieces in a coffee can, and kept pulling the slips out until they had precincts that totaled to 3% of the county vote. Great, great job.”

So there’s the early picture from Ohio: the best-respected of the computer companies, Triad, tries to help one of its customers out. The customer wants to go home without doing the heavy lifting that the law requires, but which to them seems utterly academic. The process is repeated across the state. Benign intentions; potentially pernicious outcomes.

Which brings us back again Washington. There, Mr. Conyers wrote yesterday to the various chairmen, network presidents, and news division leaders at ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and the Associated Press, requesting that they release to the House Judiciary Committee “the raw exit poll data from the 2004 November presidential election you purchased from Mitofsky International and Edison Media Research.” I suppose I should have some inside information on NBC’s response, but I don’t. Responses from the other networks have thus far spoken of the need to wait for final reports to be compiled from the data — which would seem to be exactly the opposite of the point Conyers is making.

On the lighter side, there is this from The New York Daily News, which reports that the wonderful website sent around 250 Christmas gifts to media outlets around New York: “O’Reilly Approved Loofahs.”

Bill Bastone, who runs the site that got more than 3.5 million hits for its posting of Andrea Mackris’s lawsuit against Bill O’Reilly, told the paper’s Lloyd Grove: “We think we’re probably the single largest client of the Massage Warehouse in Norcross, Georgia.”

You sure about that, Mr. Bastone? What about Mr. O’Reilly himself?

Lastly, I mentioned here Tuesday that I’d been advised by one of my extremist readers that Adolf Hitler was a Left-winger; that, in fact, all fascists were.

Little did I know that this revisionist history has been a popular subtext on talk radio for several years (I stopped listening to anything Rush Limbaugh said after he came to my desk in Bristol, Connecticut about a decade ago and told me his dream was to work for ESPN — how’d that work out for him, by the way?)

I got a flood of emails pointing out that on the basis of economic policy — the original means by which “right” and “left” came into use in Europe and here — the Fascists of Italy and Germany were a little to the right of Atilla the Hun. There were also useful reminders that the Germans and Italians backed Franco in the Spanish Civil War (with American leftists coming in against them as “The Lincoln Brigade”), along with a lot of simple guffaws.

One of the loudest was provided — unintentionally — by somebody who had drunk this particular kool-aid. “You do realize the Nazis were the ‘National-Socialist German Workers’ Party,’ don’t you? How many socialists in your experience have been what you would call ‘right-wingers?’”

As I noted to my correspondent, the answer is probably contained in the following set of facts:

* The Communist state in what was, until 1990, East Germany was officially called “The German Democratic Republic,” and it was never mistaken by anybody for a democracy.
* The Communist behemoth in China is officially “The People’s Republic,” and it’s never been mistaken by anybody for a Republic (although if it were, its leaders would be called, by dint of pure linguistic logic, Republicans).
* The football championship is officially called “The Super Bowl,” and when the game isn’t particularly super, they don’t go offering everybody refunds.

Comments on voting, loofahs or European history circa WWII? Email:


Sorting through voting fraud stories
December 21, 2004

Time to separate the wheat from the chaff
-Keith Olbermann


It is at once touching and scary that I should have to explain why I’m not posting or on television on a given week. Scary, of course, because the latest Gallup Poll which closed Sunday reports that 19% of Americans believe “incidents of fraud” decided, or helped to decide, last month’s election. The most intriguing part of that number is that more than a month ago, 18% of Americans believed there was something illegitimate about the vote.

What was and wasn’t legitimate is now difficult to sort. The most, and least, credible stories of voting irregularities continue to flourish side by side on the 'Net— the natural by-product of its unedited, but unproven, nature. Time to review the various running stories to try to separate the wheat from the chaff.

1. Mr. Triad Goes to Hocking:
There doesn’t appear to have been anything illegitimate about the actions of a “manufacturer’s rep” at the Board of Elections of Hocking County, Ohio, about two weeks ago. You will recall that his unlikely appearance, comments, and ‘maintenance work’ prompted first the Green Party and then Congressman John Conyers to seek a local investigation, and a second from the FBI.

The locals moved quickly. David Sams, the Assistant Prosecutor in Hocking, happens conveniently enough to be a Countdown viewer. He met with the Board of Elections, and the Triad representative, yesterday. “There were some things that seemed ‘irregular,’ which raises the possibility of impropriety,” he told our office. “It bore looking into.” Sams said he had Triad’s man recreate what he did to the computer tabulator that so disturbed the County’s Deputy Elections Director, Sherole Eaton. “The gentleman in question took apart the computer in front of us, and our patrolman, who has worked many computer-related crimes, assessed what he did.

“He was fixing the system,” Sams continued. “Whatever happened that day, happened today. It’s a fourteen-year old computer. We had another gentleman, a local systems analyst, who verified this information for us… We were prepared to disassemble the machine and have it dissected. But we didn’t think this was necessary. The election in our county was completely proper.”

Sams is writing the whole thing off as a “comedy of errors,” saying the Triad rep’s comments had led to appropriate suspicions. Hocking County’s investigation combines with two other facts to suggest that nobody went in to “tamper” with the tabulator there before the recount. The other evidence is that: a) the woman who filed the affidavit complaining about Triad’s visit, the Democrat Sherole Eaton, has since complained that her remarks were blown up out of context, and, b) if there was wrong-doing in Hocking, the County Prosecutor’s office just made itself a very open target for conspiracy theorists, and for whatever the FBI does or doesn’t do.

But the real impact in Hocking is the simple fact that a computer technician had access to the voting equipment in violation of the Ohio Secretary of State’s controversial extension of the “canvassing period.” Simply put, according to Kenneth Blackwell, nobody should’ve been allowed to dust the machine, let alone replace a battery or parts, except under extremely controlled circumstances.

Thus the evidence of a “fix” in Hocking is almost nil. The evidence of holes in the security of the voting system big enough to drive a full-sized scandal through, is conclusive.

2. The House Judiciary Committee is investigating:

No, it isn’t.

I can’t estimate how many emails I’ve gotten insisting that what Representative Conyers is doing is a “congressional investigation.”

Mr. Conyers has thus far held two “voting forums,” one in Washington D.C., and the other in Columbus, Ohio, and may hold another after the holidays. They may be of great importance, and could serve as the basis for all manner of later investigations.

But Conyers and the other Congressmen - all Democrats - taking testimony, are meeting ad hoc. Being members of the minority, they can’t act, they can’t get legislation passed, they can’t get anything done, without the cooperation of some Republicans. And they aren’t going to get that cooperation.
Officially, the most Mr. Conyers and his colleagues can do now is to formally challenge Ohio’s slate of voters when the Electoral College balloting is opened before the joint session of Congress on January 6th. Last week, on Countdown, Conyers said he was fully prepared to do that (the Constitution requires one willing congressman and one willing Senator to put such a challenge in writing), but he would not commit to doing it himself, and has not referred to it since.

Barring the biggest of possible evidentiary surprises - something so overwhelming and conclusive that it would convince police, FBI, and the Republican Party that Ohio’s vote was fatally flawed - even a formal challenge would be, at best, a token protest.

3. The American media has a liberal bias:

I think we can pretty much put this one to bed.

The mainstream media has so tiptoed around the voting irregularities stories that it’s deflated any reasonable belief that there are swarms of reporters bypassing facts to substitute their own agendas. Instead of a circus, the Conyers “voting forums” have received tepid coverage.

Had there been a reversal of the poles in this political equation, of course, the impenetrable Sean Hannity would be in his 49th consecutive day of broadcasting without sleep, and by now would’ve already announced that Democrats from Outer Space had stolen the election.

4. Affidavits are smoking guns:

As we may have seen in the Sherole Eaton case in Ohio, a sworn deposition can be less than it seems.

I have been sent countless links and updates - including one to a Florida weekly newspaper called The Seminole Chronicle— noting the affidavit of a former computer programmer named Clint Curtis. He insists that in September, 2000, a then state representative (now Congressman) named Tom Feeney asked him to write software that would enable the altering of vote totals on touch-screen machines.

I’ve refrained from reporting any of this here because there are a lot of questions about the nature of the interactions between Mr. Curtis and Congressman Feeney. But at my request, a very reliable member of the NBC News Investigative Unit tracked down some of the headlines, and we also spoke to Congressman Feeney. Given that the story has hit the newspapers, even in a small way, it’s now appropriate to report what we’ve learned.

Firstly, the attorney for the firm for whom Mr. Curtis worked at the time of the purported skullduggery request, Yang Enterprises of Oviedo, Florida, insists that the company has never sold any voting software. Its lawyer claims Curtis has previously threatened the firm and its top officers, in writing, and that they were sufficiently concerned to file a police report as a result. Though the term “disgruntled employee” is too easily thrown around (I can attest to that), if somebody has put it in writing, it’s a tough climb back to full credibility.

There are also a couple of logical disconnects contained in Curtis’s story. As our investigator notes, if Curtis is correct, Feeney made an illegal request to a group of employees who might have tacitly committed a felony just by listening to it and not reporting it to authorities. Additionally, Curtis made no reference to any of this until he had left Yang’s employ, and by the time he did tell anybody, it was four years after the fact.

For his part, Congressman Feeney answered seven questions from one of our producers and in six of them made gentle hints about reporters getting legal counsel before they ran with the story (this was before the Florida paper ran what it did— one wonders what things are like in their office this week). In short, Feeney says he doesn’t remember meeting Mr. Curtis; that his only connection to Yang Enterprises was as an attorney prior to 2002; that because Mr. Curtis had “slandered and defamed a lot of people” he would not reply to specific questions, only general ones; and that as to the story on the whole, “I’m very amused by it. I wish I had some of the power that he suggests.”

5. Republicans are invulnerable:

Even before the President’s second term has begun, this too has been disproved. He and his administration are already under attack— by their own party.

The Senate backlash against Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was so rapid, and the Congressional balk at the Intelligence Reform Act so intransigent, that it seems as if enough Republicans to make a difference saw Mr. Bush as not much more than a coat-tail to ride. From listening to their complaints, it’s hard to know if more Republican legislators think him too conservative, or too liberal. Regardless, it appears that they feel that the only Republican mandate in Washington belongs to them, not him. The assumption is that they want Mr. Rumsfeld out and will get their way— if not immediately, then within, as Trent Lott suggested, the year.

Poor Rumsfeld isn’t helping his case much. While the Pentagon was happy to seize upon the Chattanooga reporter’s confession that he spoon-fed a soldier the question about the lack of vehicle armor in Kuwait and Iraq, the soldier himself is contradicting that account. Time magazine quotes Specialist Thomas Wilson as saying that Lee Pitts of the Chattanooga Times Free Press not only didn’t give him the question, he tried to talk Wilson into finding “a less brash way of asking the question.” Wilson even said “I hope I didn’t do any damage to Secretary Rumsfeld.”

No need to worry there— he’s doing it to himself. The issue of vehicle armor may resonate with the average American; the subject of form letters to grieving service families will probably make him see red. The revelation that the Secretary’s condolence letters to the families of fallen U.S. service personnel were signed by an auto-pen device (and the lame excuse that the method was used in consideration of Rumsfeld’s heavy travel schedule - as if the letters could not be sent with him and signed in transit) will probably prove the end of his career.

Then, of course, there are the Bernard Kerik follies. Either the White House vetted him with all the thoroughness with which a hot dog consumer vets the meat, or it thought it could slip him past public scrutiny. Thus its failure on Kerik simplifies into a fielder’s choice: either the extraordinary contortions our society has been asked to perform since 9/11 can’t catch the most obvious of transgressors, or the Administration isn’t spending enough time in the good-old Reality-Based World.

6. Fascists are Leftists:

I have to throw this in somewhere. As noted previously, I am periodically harangued by a handful of official right-wing nuts.

They are remarkably entertaining - like listening to Ann Coulter, only without the audio accompaniment of her shrill whistle of hate - but one of them got me genuinely angry the other day, and made me doubt the value of our educational system.

This one fellow’s email contained a reference to Fascism being a leftist doctrine. I actually had to write him back to make sure he was serious. “Hitler was a left-winger. Case closed, dumbass.”

For anybody else just joining us here in the real world, here’s the story so far: the Fascists started in Italy, with Benito Mussolini. They— and the Germans that followed them - were an ultra-conservative political party that opposed (and later jailed and killed) leftists. The German ones even went to war against a Communist state, suggesting that the use of the term “Socialism” in their official party name was almost ironic in intention. American Fascists have sought to outlaw Jews, Catholics, minorities, and Republicans. Also, the sun rises in the east, and two and two still makes - even if somebody from a Blue State tells you this— four.

7. There is a media lockdown on voting irregularities:

If you’ve waded through all of this, you might be wishing that there was one - or even just a maximum word limit.

But since, as I was writing this, I got that Peter Coyote “Olbermann Was Fired” email again, I thought I’d better emphasize anew: I’m on vacation. We’ll be back with the Countdown year-in-review show Friday night, and regular newscasts on the 27th. I probably won’t be blogging again before next week.

If you really want to worry about vacations, keep track of the days taken off by our crack line producer Greg Kordick. As diligent a fellow as there is, Greg tends to take off long weekends rather than full weeks.

And this year, on his days off, the following people have died: Ray Charles, Rick James, President Reagan, Rodney Dangerfield, Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, and Faye Wray. The jury in the Scott Peterson case came back on one of his days off, and returned its sentence on another one.

The rest of the staff tends to huddle in the corner whenever Greg’s on vacation.

Happy Holidays…


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Fortress America's problem at the border

Fortress America's problem at the border

By Matt Frei
BBC Washington correspondent

Illegal immigration has become a major problem in much of the developed world. The US believes a million and a half immigrants cross its borders illegally every year. The majority of them do not come through its tightly-controlled airports - they wander in across the long and porous border which separates the US from its southern neighbour, Mexico.

It is always the unexpected detail that one remembers.

The bottles of Hellman's mayonnaise, strewn between the Saguaro cacti like the remnants of some hastily abandoned picnic.

"What's with the mayonnaise?" I asked Garrett Neubauer, the ex-marine turned border patrol "agent", as he insisted on being called.

He was spitting mouthfuls of phlegm pickled with chewing tobacco onto the parched ground when he was not trying to explain his mission to protect America from illegal aliens.

"They just love mayonnaise, these people. Mayonnaise and Taco chips. They also like this." He pointed to an abandoned sachet of caffeine pills.

"The coyotes, the people smugglers, give 'em these to speed them up. Trouble is, it kills 'em. Dehydrates 'em real fast!"

We were standing on top of a hill in the Arizona desert under a vast blue sky.

All around us Saguaro cacti, the ones that grow arms and look as if they had been painted by children, were standing sentry.

In the distance you could see a huge white building.

The locals call it the Taj Mahal.

It is the border post between the US and Mexico. It graces a pristine, asphalted road, the legal route between the two countries.

It was completed after 9/11 and hardly anyone ever uses it. The customs officials sit around playing cards.

Cat and mouse

But on either side of this monument to futility, the flimsy barbed wire that separates the First World and the Third has been prised open.

The churned-up sand shows a veritable stampede of migrants.

In the high season, which starts after Epiphany, as many as 6,000 Mexicans and other Hispanics will sneak across the border.

It is a game of cat and mouse, in which the mouse tends to win

Only one in three gets caught. It is a game of cat and mouse, in which the mouse tends to win.

We were spending the day with the border patrol to see how they catch the "illegals", as Agent Neubauer called them.

But we were having little luck.

Our brand new Humvee patrol vehicle got a flat tyre and the helicopter was "10-7".

"10-7? What does that mean?" I asked the agent, whose eyes were hidden behind wraparound reflector specs. "It means it's broken down, Sir."

No migrants, then.

But we did find plenty of traces.

You wonder how desperate or tired some people are to ditch the few precious
personal things that they have taken on this trek
Garrett Neubauer

The hill we were standing on was a staging post after the first two days of walking. From here, it is another three days to reach Phoenix, the capital of Arizona.

It looked like a municipal rubbish dump, strewn with precious personal belongings.

Rucksacks containing documents, family photographs, medication. A pink Slumber Party children's bike with a flat tyre.

Agent Neubauer shook his head. "You wonder how desperate or tired some people are to ditch the few precious personal things that they have taken on this trek."

The biggest disincentive to cross what has been called the "Tortilla Curtain" is not the border patrol, but the desert itself.

Every year about 600 migrants die, mainly from thirst. In the summer, the temperatures in Arizona often soar to 40-45C (104-113F).

The most astonishing aspect of this migration is the scale of it.

Last year, one-and-a-half million illegals entered the US.

At America's airports, they take your fingerprints and do a retina scan. They require new visas that involve longer queues.

The number of foreign students studying in the US has shrunk by a quarter since 2001. So walking across the border in the middle of the night is still the best option.

It makes a mockery of the concept of Fortress America.

But the US needs these people. And they need the US.

Vital work

To see why, all I had to do was look down my street from my house in Washington this morning.

Next door, there were five Latin American men grappling with long ladders. They had come to clear our neighbour's gutters, still clogged with autumn leaves.

They were wearing blue jackets emblazoned with the company logo, The Gutter Gang - and were trying to understand what their employer was saying in broken Spanish.

On the other side of the road, two Mexicans - or were they from Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala or El Salvador, it is hard to tell - were using a machine to blow leaves into a large heap.

Antonio the tree man was due to turn up at our house at ten o'clock, to cut some dead branches.

He is from Colombia. His partner Jose comes from Chile. Our plumber Francisco is from Bolivia. His wife Rosa works at a McDonalds in Maryland.

There is a film out this year called A Day Without Mexicans.

Based in California, it imagines how the Golden State wakes up one day to find that all of its Mexican migrants have disappeared.

There is no one left to flip the burgers, clean the loos, blow the leaves or nanny the children.

For 24 hours, life in California grinds to a halt.

Mass hysteria breaks out.


Bush named 'Person of the Year'

Bush named 'Person of the Year'

Time magazine has given its Person of the Year award to United States President George W Bush.

Time credited him with "sticking to his guns" and persuading voters "this time around that he deserved to be in the White House for another four years".

Mr Bush's clear re-election in November contrasted with a disputed win in 2000.

Time's annual award comes as Mr Bush prepares for his second inauguration, and US forces in Iraq struggle to quell violence ahead of the January election.

The magazine's year-end ritual goes back to 1927, when aviator Charles Lindbergh was given the title.

Last year's Person of the Year was the "American soldier" who bore the duty of "living and dying for a country's most fateful decisions".

The latest issue, honouring Mr Bush, will be on sale from Monday.

Time managing editor Jim Kelly said: "Obviously many supporters of the president will be pleased, many people who do not support the president will probably sigh.

"But even those who may not have voted for him will acknowledge that this is one of the more influential presidents of the last 50 years."

Mr Kelly added that the president had reshaped "the rules of politics to fit his 10-gallon-hat leadership style".


In an interview with the magazine, Mr Bush said he owed his victory over Democratic candidate John Kerry to his foreign policy and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The election was about the use of American influence," he said.

The president's approval rating stands at 49% - the level where it stood in the lead-up to the election - according to a Time poll unveiled on Sunday.

Mr Bush had already received Time magazine's yearly accolade after his first, controversial election in 2000.

He joins six other US presidents who twice won the award - Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower (first as a general), Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Three-time recipient Franklin D Roosevelt - who was elected four times - holds the record.

1938 - Adolf Hitler
1942 - Joseph Stalin
1952 - Elizabeth II
1963 - Martin Luther King
1968 - Astronauts Anders, Borman and Lovell
1977 - Anwar Sadat
1979 - Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
1988 - Endangered Earth
1998 - Bill Clinton and Kenneth Starr
2003 - The American soldier


A Week of Inauguration Protests Planned

1010 WINS
Dec 21, 12:54 PM EST

A Week of Inauguration Protests Planned

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Groups targeting President Bush's economic agenda, the legitimacy of his election and the war in Iraq plan a week of events to counter his inauguration Jan. 20.

"Our intention is to show President Bush and the world our movement is energized, mobilized and determined to fight back," said Gael Murphy, of the activist group Code Pink.

Inauguration week will feature rallies, marches and demonstrations with the focus on peaceful, family-friendly gatherings, said organizer Shahid Buttar. Hundreds of groups throughout the country will participate, Buttar said, including Mobilization for Global Justice and the Committee to ReDefeat the President, a PAC that sees Bush's presidency as illegitimately won.

The groups have received permits for parks around the city, Buttar said, but they are still waiting for clearance to march along the Inaugural Parade route. More details will be released once all permits have been secured, said David Lytel, founder of Redefeat Bush.

Bush, who will be in a security area known as the "Red Zone," will be surrounded by blue, the color assigned to Democratic-voting states, Lytel said.

"What I expect is more people will be here to protest Bush's inauguration than to inaugurate him," Lytel said.

Lytel said his group will film events on Inauguration Day and release a documentary online that evening. They also plan a protest near the Capitol on Jan. 6, the day Congress will certify the electoral votes and officially declare Bush the winner.


U.S. Election Voted Top News Story of '04

1010 WINS

Dec 21, 3:17 PM EST

U.S. Election Voted Top News Story of '04

AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Iraq war and terrorism dominated the 2004 list of top stories in an annual Associated Press survey, but it was President Bush's election victory that editors and news directors chose as the biggest story of the year.

The war itself was the No. 2 choice, and four other stories in the Top 10 involved either Iraq or terrorist attacks.

The election, in which Bush defeated Democrat John Kerry and the Republicans strengthened their hold on both chambers in Congress, received 137 first-place votes out of 234 ballots cast. Iraq, voted the No. 1 story in both 2002 and 2003, was runner-up this year, with 79 first place votes.

Here are 2004's top 10 stories, as voted by AP members:

1. U.S. ELECTION: After vanquishing Howard Dean, John Edwards and other Democratic rivals, Kerry seemed to have a strong chance of ousting Bush. But the Massachusetts senator struggled to explain his stance on Iraq, underestimated the sting of negative ads and - in the end - narrowly lost the pivotal swing state of Ohio after a campaign in which Bush, over and over, insisted he was best qualified to be commander in chief at a time of complex challenges to national security.

2: IRAQ: Throughout 2004, Iraq was a striking mix of bloody turmoil and tantalizing promise. Anti-American insurgents wreaked havoc with car bombings and videotaped beheadings of hostages; the death toll for U.S. military forces passed 1,300, and the toll of Iraqi civilians was many times higher. Yet Iraq's interim leaders doggedly proceeded with plans for national elections early in the new year.

3. FLORIDA HURRICANES: Four major hurricanes - Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne - devastated Florida and other southern states in August and September, killing 117 people in Florida, destroying 2,500 homes and causing more than $22 billion in insured losses. Not since 1886 had one state been hit by four hurricanes in one season.

4. ABU GHRAIB SCANDAL: Photographs came to light showing U.S. military guards at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad forcing naked Iraqi detainees to pose in humiliating positions. Prosecutions ensued, and the scandal fueled anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.

5. SEPT. 11 REPORT: After painstaking research and dramatic public hearings, the commission formed to investigate the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, issued its report. It concluded that America's leaders failed to grasp the gravity of terrorist threats before Sept. 11 and recommended creation of a national intelligence director to oversee civilian and military intelligence agencies.

6: GAY MARRIAGE: From coast to coast, gay marriage was a volatile topic throughout the year. Massachusetts became the first state to have legal, same-sex weddings, and local officials in several places - including San Francisco and Portland, Ore. - also wed gay and lesbian couples before courts intervened. However, each time the issue reached the ballot - in 13 states in all - voters decisively approved constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.

7: ARAFAT DIES: For three decades, Yasser Arafat was a hero to most of his fellow Palestinians but considered unreliable - or worse - by leaders in the West and Israel. His death in November, at age 75, triggered emotional mourning among Palestinians but also sparked hopes of a breakthrough in efforts to end their long, bloody conflict with Israel.

8: REAGAN DIES: Alzheimer's disease had kept Ronald Reagan out of the public eye for a decade. But when the nation's 40th president died in June, at 93, Americans responded with an outpouring of affection and respect. His stately funeral in Washington brought the country together at least briefly in a year otherwise marked by bitter partisan divisions.

9: RUSSIAN SCHOOL SEIZURE: Even in a world grown all too accustomed to terrorism, the drama in the Russian town of Belsan was shocking because children were so clearly prime targets. A band of terrorists, believed led by a Chechen warlord, took more than 1,000 people hostage at a school in September. When the seizure ended, amid explosions and gunfire, more than 330 hostages had been killed - most of them children.

10: MADRID BOMBINGS: Another stunning terrorist strike occurred in March, when 190 people were killed after bombs hidden in backpacks exploded on four commuter trains during Madrid's morning rush hour. Soon after the attack, which was blamed on Islamic militants, angry voters unseated Spain's pro-American conservative government in favor of the Socialist Party, which promptly withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq.

Voters in the AP survey were invited to write in their own suggestions for top stories. One voter listed "the growing gap between the haves and have-nots" and another the "growing influence of evangelical conservatives on our political campaigns."

A sports story almost cracked the Top 10: The Boston Red Sox' World Series victory, their first since 1918, finished No. 13 and was among 10 stories that received at least one first-place vote.


Monday, December 20, 2004

Schwarzenegger urges GOP left turn

Report: Schwarzenegger urges GOP left turn

BERLIN, Germany (AP) -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested in a German newspaper interview published Saturday that the Republican Party should move "a little to the left," a shift that he said would allow it to pick up new voters.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has taken an unorthodox approach since winning office last year -- standing by a promise to toe a conservative line on fiscal matters while veering leftward on social issues such as gay rights and the environment.

In an interview with Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, Schwarzenegger said that "the Republican Party currently covers only the spectrum from the right wing to the middle, and the Democratic Party covers the spectrum from the left to the middle."

"I would like the Republican Party to cross this line, move a little further left and place more weight on the center," he was quoted as saying. "This would immediately give the party 5 percent more votes without its losing anything elsewhere."

Schwarzenegger was guarded on suggestions that he harbors presidential ambitions, saying only that a debate on whether the constitution should be amended to allow foreign-born citizens to run was "overdue."

Schwarzenegger became an American citizen in 1983, 15 years after he emigrated from Austria. He has said he'd consider running for president if such an amendment passed but has also taken pains to say it shouldn't be created specifically for him.

"I would like people to remember me as someone who raised standards, wherever I got involved." he was quoted as saying.

"I brought bodybuilding from nothing, I made the action film a genre, and the same goes for politics -- I want to do things that no one believed possible. I would like to bring people together as governor."


Bill expands DOJ powers to track down war criminals

Bill expands DOJ powers to track down war criminals

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Legislation signed by the president Friday gives the Justice Department expanded powers to track down and deport aliens who were engaged in war crimes and human-rights abuses in their home countries.

The Anti-Atrocity Alien Deportation Act, first introduced in Congress five years ago, was part of the massive intelligence community overhaul bill that President Bush signed into law.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate with Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said it updated the charter of Justice's Office of Special Investigations, which has been responsible for identifying Nazi war criminals who sought refuge in the country.

The new law will allow Justice to investigate other war criminals as well.

"Now we can pursue the new generations of war criminals and human-rights abusers," Leahy said in a statement.

Rep. Mark Foley, R-Florida, the House sponsor with Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York, said an estimated 800 to 1,000 war criminals and human-rights abusers seek refuge in the United States every year from such countries as Haiti, Honduras, North Korea, Rwanda and Cuba.

"The United States is currently home to many immigrants who fled torture in their home countries," Foley said in a statement. "What many people don't know is that their torturers also come here to live."

The measure expands the scope of aliens subject to deportation and denial of entry to those who have engaged in torture, genocide and religious persecution.

The Office of Special Investigations was set up in 1979 to prosecute and remove Nazi-era criminals.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Sierra said the department will review the new law before deciding on staff changes.


Judge limits counting in Washington state governor's race

Judge limits counting in Washington state governor's race

SEATTLE, Washington (CNN) -- A judge Friday sided with the Washington state Republican Party in deciding to block the counting of more than 700 uncounted ballots in the governor's race, which the GOP candidate is winning by a few dozen votes.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend said it is too late for King County to reconsider the newly discovered ballots now. Other ballot counting will continue through the weekend.

Democratic spokeswoman Kirsten Brost said Democrats are appealing to the state Supreme Court, and don't believe Arend's decision will stand.

"How can you tell someone their vote matters when you throw away hundreds of ballots because the government made a mistake?" she asked.

King County officials said they will not certify the election results until the high court hears the case.

Republicans applauded Arend's decision, saying justice was served.

Republican Dino Rossi won the November 2 election over Democratic Attorney General Christine Gregoire by 261 votes in the first count and by 42 after a machine recount of the 2.9 million votes cast.

Another 162 ballots have been identified as misfiled or not previously counted in the contest. Earlier, King County elections director Dean Logan said 573 ballots were mistakenly rejected.

Gregoire is seeking to overturn Rossi's narrow victory in two earlier ballot counts.

Officials said they believe the new 162 ballots were rejected because workers could not find a signature that corresponded to them.

Friday afternoon, Republicans filed a restraining order in Pierce County Superior Court asking that the hand recount be halted.

Washington State Democrats Chair Paul Berendt called it "upsetting that a clerical mistake could have robbed hundreds of citizens of their right to vote. This is exactly why we needed a statewide hand count, and exactly why the law says county canvassing boards have until the final certification to fix mistakes just like this."

He added, "More upsetting is that now, Republicans say we should throw these ballots away so they can win by mistake. They want to throw out votes for no reason other than their political success."

Rossi led Gregoire by 261 votes statewide after the first ballot count, a margin small enough to trigger a mandatory machine recount. That retabulation narrowed his margin to 42 votes out of the nearly 2.9 million cast, and Secretary of State Sam Reed certified him as governor-elect. The Democratic Party then put up a $730,000 deposit to pay for a statewide hand recount.

The inauguration of the new governor -- whoever it turns out to be -- is set for January 12.

CNN Correspondent Kimberly Osias contributed to this report.


Al Gore remembers mother at funeral

Al Gore remembers mother at funeral
Pauline LaFon Gore died Wednesday at age 92

CARTHAGE, Tennessee (AP) -- Former Vice President Al Gore remembered his mother at her funeral as an inspiring role model for women who believed education was the "key to freedom in life."

"She wanted everyone to personally feel the enlightenment from knowledge that she had felt in her own life," Gore said of Pauline LaFon Gore, who died Wednesday at the age of 92.

"It was her deep conviction that education opens the door to a new way of understanding the world and provides the key to freedom in life."

More than 200 people attended the funeral Saturday at the United Methodist Church in Carthage, a small town about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Nashville where the Gore family owns a farm.

Al Gore's oldest daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, remembered her grandmother as a powerful example to others.

"She inspired and motivated younger women to be independent thinkers and to respect themselves," she said.

Born in poverty in the small town of Palmersville, Tennessee, Pauline Gore became one of the first female graduates of Vanderbilt University's law school in 1936. She met her future husband while working as a coffee-shop waitress to pay for classes.

Her husband, Albert Gore Sr., was elected to the U.S. House from 1939 to 1953 and then to the Senate from 1953 to 1970. His wife played a central role in shaping his campaign strategy. The senior Gore was also briefly a vice presidential candidate himself during the 1956 Democratic National Convention. He died in 1998.

Gore's father was one of the few senators from the South to refuse to sign the segregationist Southern Manifesto in 1956. His opposition to the Vietnam War ended his 32 years in Congress.

"She strengthened him and confirmed him in his inclination to fight for justice and to stand against the wrong, even if the political wind was blowing in the opposite direction," Al Gore said.

Pauline Gore campaigned for her son when he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for president in 1988. During the 1992 campaign, she and her husband campaigned for the Clinton-Gore ticket.

Gore said his own political career was inspired by his mother's sense of justice, which extended to civil rights and environmental causes. He said he became an environmentalist after his mother read Rachel Carson's 1962 book "Silent Spring," which exposed the hazards of the pesticide DDT.

When he visited her after giving a speech at the Democratic National Convention last summer, Gore recalled that his mother, who had trouble speaking in later years because of strokes, told him, "You made a good speech, son."

"I can't tell you the impact that those words had on me," Gore said.


Bush pushes agenda
Bush pushes agenda

President Bush met with reporters to tout his second-term agenda Monday, wasting no time seeking to spend the "political capital" he says his re-election gave him for ambitious domestic and foreign policy proposals.

The text of Bush's comments can be found here.


Revised Bill of Rights


A Climate Carol




The Joys of Privatization


Worse = Better Prize?


Undoing The New Deal




Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Not So Wonderful Life

The New York Times
December 19, 2004

A Not So Wonderful Life


CLOSE SHOT - Rummy is standing by the railing, staring morosely into the water. The snow is falling hard. Feeling a tap on his shoulder, he wheels around and wrestles an old man with wings into a headlock.

OLD MAN: Ouch! Tut, tut. When will you learn that force doesn't solve everything?

RUMMY: Who the dickens are you?

OLD MAN: Clarence, Angel First Class. I've been sent down to help you.

RUMMY, squinting: You're off your nut, you old fruitcake. You can't help me. I was a matinee idol in this town, a studmuffin. Now everyone's turned on me - Trent Lott, Chuck Hagel and that dadburn McCain.

CLARENCE: No more self-pity, son. I'm going to show you what the world would have been like if you'd never been born.

Clarence, who can fly now, takes Rummy's hand and they soar over the icy Potomac to the Pentagon. Beneath the glass on the desk of the defense secretary is a list of members of Congress and their phone numbers.

RUMMY: Who put that there?

CLARENCE: Sam Nunn. He's the defense secretary. Sam consults with Congress. Never acts arrogant or misleads them. He didn't banish the generals who challenged him - he promoted 'em. And, of course, he caught Osama back in '01. He threw 100,000 troops into Afghanistan on 9/11 and sealed the borders. Our Special Forces trapped the evildoer and his top lieutenants at Tora Bora. You weren't at that cabinet meeting the day after 9/11, so nobody suggested going after Saddam. No American troops died or were maimed in Iraq. No American soldiers tortured Iraqis in Abu Ghraib. No Iraqi explosives fell into the hands of terrorists. There's no office of disinformation to twist perception abroad. We're not on the cusp of an Iraq run by Muslim clerics tied to Iran. Here's Sam. He's with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

GENERAL SHINSEKI: We got some good news today on the National Guard, sir. Recruiting is up 40 percent. With the money we saved killing that useless missile defense system, we up-armored all our Humvees.

RUMMY, fists and jaw clenched: Grrrrrrr...I want to see Wolfie!

CLARENCE: Sam never hired any of those wacko neocons. Wolfowitz is a woolly headed professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a consultant to Ariel Sharon. Richard Perle was never in charge of the Defense Policy Board, so he was unable to enrich himself through government connections, or help Ahmad Chalabi con the administration. Perle stayed an honest man, running a chain of soufflé shops. His soufflés were so fluffy he became known as the Prince of Lightness. Doug Feith never worked here, either, so he never set up the Office of Special Plans to spin tall tales about W.M.D. and Qaeda ties to Saddam. And he never bungled the occupation because there was no occupation. Without you to swoon over in a book, neocon doyenne Midge Decter became a fallen woman, like Violet.

RUMMY, dyspeptic: Holy mackerel! Take me to Dick!

CLARENCE: Dick and Lynne run a bait, tackle and baton-twirling shop in Casper, Wyo. You didn't exist, so you never gave him those jobs in the Nixon and Ford administrations, and he never ran for Congress or worked for Bush 41 or anointed himself 43's vice president. W. chose Chuck Hagel as his running mate. So without you and Dick there to dominate him, he was guided by his dad and Brent Scowcroft, who kept Condi in line. Colin Powell was never cut off at the knees and the U.N. and allies were never bullied. There was never any crazy fever about Iraq or unilateralism or "Old Europe." Here's Colin now, heading for the Oval Office.

POWELL: Merry Christmas, Mr. President. With the help of our allies around the world, we have won the war on terror. And Saddam has been overthrown. Once Hans Blix exposed the fact that Saddam had no weapons, the tyrant was a goner. No Arab dictator can afford to be humilated by a Swedish disarmament lawyer.

RUMMY: Goodness gracious, I've heard enough now. I'm going home. Unless you're going to tell me my wife is an old maid, because I wasn't around to marry her.

CLARENCE: Oh, no. Joyce lives across the street from your old house on Kalorama Road. She's happily married to the French ambassador.

"Auld Lang Syne" swells as we FADE OUT.


From Britain, a Message to Washington

The New York Times
December 19, 2004

From Britain, a Message to Washington

It is a high tribute to the judicial systems of the United States and Britain that they have not followed politicians in using the threat of terror as a reason to erode fundamental democratic values. First, the United States Supreme Court proclaimed last June that war was not a "blank check for the president," and ruled that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay must be allowed to challenge their detention before a neutral decision-maker. Now the highest legal authority in Britain, the Law Lords, has ruled that international law does not permit the indefinite detention of foreign terrorism suspects. And it sternly declared that laws abridging liberties posed a greater threat to a democracy than terrorism itself.

The law at issue in Britain was the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act passed in 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11, which allows the Home Office to detain indefinitely, without charges, foreigners it suspects of terrorist activities. Nine Muslim men are being held in top-security prisons under the law. But a panel of the Law Lords ruled 8 to 1 on Thursday that the law violated international law, in part because there was no evidence that the threat "strictly required" suspending civil liberties this way.

The ruling does not free the detainees, but it requires the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Parliament to reassess the law. As important was the ruling's message that the very existence of the "draconian" anti-terrorism law was an affront to democracy. The most thunderous indignation came from Lord Hoffmann, who said the law "calls into question the very existence of an ancient liberty of which this country has until now been very proud: freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention."

That sentiment is just as applicable to aspects of the Patriot Act, and to the Pentagon's disgracefully run detention camp at Guantánamo.

After Sept. 11, 2001, it was clear that the authorities needed some new powers to combat terrorism effectively. But President Bush and Mr. Blair have refused to acknowledge that the erosion of civil liberties has been excessive, and that this was undermining the values that Islamist terrorists yearn to destroy. We hope Britain will set an example for the United States and follow Lord Hoffmann's sobering admonition not "to give the terrorists such a victory."


Beyond Bernard Kerik

The New York Times
December 19, 2004

Beyond Bernard Kerik

Now that Bernard Kerik has been relegated to a footnote in the history of Homeland Security, the Bush administration must come up with a new choice to head the department. If there is any upside to Mr. Kerik's train wreck of a nomination it is that his career, as it emerged in press reports in the days after his nomination, provides a checklist of many of the qualities the next secretary should not have. The next nominee will clearly be better vetted, but he or she should also be a person of unquestioned competence, integrity and independence.

When Mr. Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner, was suggested for the job, the aura of Sept. 11 heroics that surrounded him seems to have been so blinding that the White House failed to notice the many aspects of his background that made him spectacularly unsuitable. His ties to questionable companies, his possible misuse of his authority to favor friends and allies, his willingness to politicize homeland security during the presidential campaign, and the serious doubts about his security work in Iraq last year should all have raised his personal alert level to red.

As the Bush administration searches for a new nominee, it should emphasize many of the things that were missing from, or in short supply in, Mr. Kerik's background - notably a demonstrated record of ability in national security. And given the difficult funding and turf battles that are built into the job, experience in dealing with Congress and the Washington bureaucracy is an important, if not necessary, qualification.

It has often appeared that the Homeland Security Department was being used to score political points; during the election campaign, terror alerts seemed to be issued at unusually opportune moments. The next nominee should be someone who is not strongly identified with partisan politics, or at least shows a clear inclination to rise above them. There have been reports that the White House has tried to entice a Democratic senator to take the job. Reaching across the partisan divide is a fine idea, but one big reason for choosing a Democratic senator would be to increase the Republican Senate majority by one. That sort of political calculation has no place in filling a position with as sober a mandate as this one.

One of the most troubling aspects of Mr. Kerik's nomination was his web of connections to companies in the homeland security business, including his consulting partnership, Giuliani-Kerik L.L.C., and his relationship with Taser International, the stun-gun maker on whose board he has served. The new secretary should be someone whose highest loyalty is to the defense of the American people.

In recent weeks, President Bush has appointed members of his inner circle to cabinet positions, giving the appearance that he wants departments headed by yes men and women. It would be a mistake to do this with Homeland Security.


Winning in the Streets

Winning in the Streets

In Ukraine, they know how to respond to a rigged election.

by Geov Parrish

December 15 - 21, 2004

While disgruntled Kerry supporters are still muttering about Ohio recounts, touch-screen voting machines, and all manner of perceived electoral corruption, and while Democrats of all stripes still fume over the stolen election of 2000, the chosen course of action has been to do nothing.

In Ukraine this month, we learned what's possible if a wronged electoral candidate actually does something about it.

The wronged candidate was Viktor Yushchenko, who lost a Nov. 21 presidential election to Viktor Yanukovich, the candidate supported by the current president and government and by neighboring Russia. The election was widely condemned as marred by voter fraud, and Yushchenko's supporters took to the streets, protesting in cities across the country and clogging the main square in the capital city of Kiev with an estimated quarter-million demonstrators. Many of those demonstrators camped out for days, withstanding cold and snow to demand a new election and a new government.

They got their wish. On Dec. 3, Ukraine's highest court threw out the tainted election and ordered a runoff between Yushchenko and Yanukovich on Dec. 26. Negotiators for Yushchenko and the current president, Leonid Kuchma, ushered through parliament and into law a sweeping set of constitutional changes that will expand parliamentary power and rein in the power of Ukraine's president.

None of it would have been possible without the crowds, which effectively nullified a declared Yanukovich victory and changed the government. In the process, they also triggered an international crisis, with Western governments echoing the claims of electoral malfeasance and Russia favoring the current Moscow-backed government. Talk even arose of the country splitting, with the more nationalist areas in the country's west aligning themselves with Yushchenko and the Russian-speaking areas in the east with Yanukovich.

In the end, the crowds and the threat of an ungovernable country led to a court decision and the sweeping constitutional changes. Yushchenko's "Orange Revolution" will now almost certainly win the Dec. 26 revote, and it will be seen as a popular repudiation of the strong-armed government of Kuchma. The government, essentially, will have been overthrown, and it will have been done without a single shot being fired.

It all makes me wonder what would have to happen to trigger such a popular uprising here. What level of irrefutable voting fraud would have to be proven to drive people into the streets? One of the unlikely heroes of the Ukraine uprising is a state television sign-language interpreter, who began signing on the air that the telecast was lies and that she wouldn't go along with it any longer. Inspired by her actions, 200 journalists for state-run TV and radio vowed to no longer act as the government's mouthpiece. How many bland White House assertions that the sky is green and the grass is blue would it take to drive someone at Fox News to denounce the status quo like that?

The difference, of course, is history. After hundreds of years of rule by Moscow, independence is a cherished thing in Ukraine. After 80 years of communist rule, most Ukrainians well understand the dangers of autocratic government or state-controlled media lies. Democracy is not taken for granted.

In America, by contrast, we have no such history, and instead of skepticism about authority, our heads are swelled from birth with jingoistic bilge about how perfect American democracy is, how great and infallible our country is, how righteous is our form of government. For all the decades of conservatives bashing big government, we have surprisingly little skepticism, and for all the triumph of our popular will, we have a surprisingly widespread belief that there's nothing ordinary people here can do to change things.

But the demonstrators on that Ukrainian plaza were also ordinary people. They took time off from their jobs and their studies to protest, because in the face of a corrupt government, they believed that their voices could make a difference.

The unaccountable governments of the 21st century are those bloated by corporate influence, and in recent years a series of popular uprisings across South America has replaced such governments with ones skeptical of American corporate policy. As with Ukraine, it's ordinary people who made the difference. What would it take—how many wars, how much fiscal recklessness, how much bald corruption and crass redistricting, how many increases in state influence—for Americans to discover our own power?

Here in the self-styled exporter of democracy to the world, we ordinary people have forgotten our power. That's why episodes like Ukraine matter. They remind us of what democracy can be.