Saturday, August 26, 2006

Vote if you support Elvira Arellano

Vote if you support Elvira Arellano
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times
August 26, 2006

The children and voting. To me, that's what Elvira Arellano's battle to stay in the United States should be all about. I'm glad her supporters are of the same opinion.

Since I first heard about Arellano, the undocumented worker who has taken sanctuary in Adalberto United Methodist Church to avoid deportation to Mexico, my prevailing question has been this: What about the rights of her 7-year-old son, Saul, who is an American citizen? We should be concerned about his rights. You start trampling on the rights of one citizen, and where does it end?

So I was glad to see that a petition is being filed in federal court to vacate her deportation. The petition says that because Arellano and Saul have no other family members in the United States who could take care of the 7-year-old if she were deported, what will happen is the United States will be deporting a U.S. citizen, too. Because that is exactly what we'll be seeing: an American citizen forced to leave the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. A child will have to choose between mom and his country of birth, the United States. That's homeland security? I don't think so.

A lot of people have said we cannot make exceptions for one mother and one child. Sorry, that's so shortsighted and denies the real family situations in this current battle over immigration. Saul and Elvira Arellano are just the public faces of a situation that is a reality in many homes across the United States.

By even conservative estimates, there are more than 3 million U.S. citizens -- children just like Saul -- whose parents are undocumented workers. These are children who were born here, which makes them just as American as George W. Bush. These are American children who, just like Citizen Saul, worry every day that Mom or Dad or both parents will be plucked away from them just like that. This, in the country that loves to drape itself in "family values." Where is the value of ripping American citizens away from their parents?

And just as those children suffer, so does little Citizen Saul. I stopped by the church this week, a modest yet well-cared-for storefront house of worship, and talked to its leader, the Rev. Walter Coleman. Many question Arellano's motives because Coleman is a longtime activist on social issues. Frankly, I think it was her lucky day when their paths crossed. This is a man who knows how to help the little people get their voices heard.

According to Coleman, Citizen Saul is having problems with separation anxiety. If mom is out of sight even briefly, he is anxiously searching her out. He may be only 7, but I bet he understands quite clearly that at any moment she could be taken away. That's no way for any child to live.

OK, before you all rip out your pens or start hammering away on the e-mails, let me say this: The millions of undocumented workers didn't just get here overnight. As Coleman pointed out, undocumented workers have been here for about a century. Why? Because their presence here worked to the advantage of businesses and our government.

And, yes, I realize Arellano came across the border illegally twice. For every comfortable U.S. citizen who tells me that, I wonder, how would you react if you and your family were so poor and hungry and just to the north there were jobs to end that misery? Desperate people do desperate things, especially with opportunity so close they can almost touch it.

In the church, right in front of a little basket with buttons that bear a photo of Citizen Saul and mom, hangs another important part of Elvira Arellano's battle, a voter registration form. There's a pile of them nearby, too. Coleman and other volunteers are working on putting up kiosks -- a thousand of them -- in neighborhood businesses starting next week.

By Coleman's estimates, they could register 100,000 new voters. As Coleman says, those who can vote should "vote for those who can't." Now that's the Coleman I remember from watching him during the Harold Washington era. Power to the people.

Supporters of Elvira Arellano who can vote should indeed first register to vote, and second, exercise that right. Make sure the politicians know you're doing it, too. For voting is the only way to make those in power sit up and pay attention.

Those who are eligible to vote and believe that this broken system of immigration should be fixed, here's your chance. Register. Vote. The elections in November are coming up. Let your voices be heard.

Immigration---- the flip side

Immigration---- the flip side
As more Americans flock to enclaves in Mexico, some see commercial boon while others fear culture dilution
By Linda Lutton
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published August 23, 2006

AJIJIC, Mexico -- Diane Steimle figures her life has been a slow journey south and west.

After growing up outside Rockford and spending years in Palatine, she worked in Albuquerque and Santa Fe before crossing the border and moving to Mexico.

"Moving 1,300 miles south is not that far of a stretch," said Steimle, 55.

Now she's the owner of a two-bedroom Mexican home on a romantic, shady, cobblestone street in Ajijic, in western Mexico. Her kitchen is painted bright green, and her second-floor balcony looks out onto tile rooftops and Lake Chapala -- a 50-mile-wide lake considered one of Mexico's natural treasures.

While the immigration debate has become heated in the U.S., Steimle and the thousands of other Americans living in this small town are a reminder that immigration can be a two-way street.

Just as Mexicans are the largest immigrant group in the United States, Americans are the largest immigrant group in Mexico. And of the 4 million to 6 million American citizens who live outside the United States, the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs says, more are in Mexico than in any other nation.

In this former fishing town on the shores of Lake Chapala, Americans have created a community that bears a striking similarity to immigrant communities in the United States. A critical mass of Americans here has made this place feel a lot like -- well, like America.

Think waffles for breakfast, imported Wisconsin cheddar cheese, WGN-TV. Think Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Catholic mass and a 30,000-book library -- all in English.

"There's nothing you can't get," says Steimle, who moved here almost four years ago for the climate and the affordability, and because after years in the Southwest she was comfortable in a Hispanic culture. Steimle says that some days she hears less Spanish spoken in Ajijic than she did in Sante Fe.

"We have Wal-Mart here. We have Home Depot. We have Applebee's. `The Da Vinci Code' opened the same day here as it did in the U.S. ... I could probably go a complete day here without a reminder that I'm in another country."

In Ajijic, local businesses have sprung up to offer help with immigration issues and real estate transactions. Signs on a community bulletin board urge American citizens to register to vote. (The Democratic and Republican parties have chapters here.) There are multiple American Legion posts. If you die here, you can still be buried with U.S. military honors.

No one keeps an exact count of how many Americans and Canadians live here permanently -- estimates run between 5,000 and 10,000. Ajijic and nearby Chapala are said to form the largest retirement community outside the United States, but many here are much younger.

Because of the foreigners' presence, questions of language, culture and assimilation that the United States is wrestling with are issues here as well. There are even spats over Americans working illegally in Mexico.

"I think there's a lot of people working illegally -- they're very quiet about it because they could be deported at any time," said Judy King, a 16-year Ajijic resident and editor of an online magazine about life in the Chapala region. "Anytime we hear a rumor that they're coming out from the immigration offices to check papers, a bunch of folks make fast trips to the States."

Turning in competitors

In San Miguel de Allende, the largest colony of Americans in Mexico, a Mexican realty group threatened in May to turn over foreign Realtors' names to the Mexican immigration service. They charged that the American Realtors were operating without work permits and cutting Mexicans out of one of the best-paying jobs -- selling houses to Americans.

Other Americans work illegally as home health-care attendants, handymen or house sitters.

American officials do not consider Americans working illegally in Mexico to be a widespread problem. And some Mexican officials don't seem worried either.

Hermenegildo Castro Ojeda, spokesman for Mexico's national immigration service, says there are 493,000 foreigners with non-tourist visas in Mexico -- 30 percent of them Americans. Thousands of others may live undocumented, having overstayed tourist visas.

"You've got to look at the proportions," he says. "Out of 100 million people, we have a foreign population of less than 1 percent."

Like a lot of other Americans in Ajijic, Steimle doesn't necessarily think of herself as an immigrant. "I think about it less as `living in a different country' and more about living somewhere better on the planet," she says. Other Americans think of themselves as "guests," still others as expatriates.

King thinks of herself as a future Mexican citizen. She says she now thinks "with a Mexican head. When I go back to Iowa and Missouri and Minnesota to visit, I don't fit in there anymore."

Tourist destinations

Americans have been settling in this region since the early 1900s, when Ajijic and Chapala were tourist destinations for foreign travelers and home to American and European artists and writers. Until recently, most who ventured here were interested in a certain degree of assimilation. They were attracted by Mexico's culture and people.

But a new type of immigrant has arrived here, one interested in "importing lifestyle," according to David Truly, associate professor of geography at Central Connecticut State University, who researches retirement migration to the area.

"I found that a lot of people [in the Ajijic area] really weren't into the Mexican culture -- they were down there for the climate and the lower cost of living. They ... kind of hung around with Americans in Mexico. They bought a lot of their food and items from Wal-Mart and Sam's. They preferred doing business with Americans."

Americans can now set up a lifestyle nearly identical to the one they had in the United States, said Truly, thanks to advances in communications and a weakening of trade restrictions in the 1990s.

Many of these new migrants live in gated communities built into the hills above Ajijic and the other lakefront villages. They can use one of the two Mailboxes, Etc. offices in the area instead of the Mexican postal service.

Steimle thinks often about how much Americans here are benefiting the local community -- the same equation people like to work in the U.S., calculating whether immigrants contribute more to society than they take away.

But for some, it's a fast answer: Americans pump money into Mexico's economy, and that's what counts.

Ajijic's American and Canadian residents hire maids and gardeners who earn inflated wages of around $3 per hour. Construction workers are busy all year. Foreigners' money also supports other businesses -- from restaurants and espresso bars to nail salons and art supply stores. A slew of charitable groups work on everything from lake cleanup efforts to getting computers into schools and helping disabled kids obtain wheelchairs.

But not all the news is good for locals. Property values have soared here, making it nearly impossible for Ajijic natives to buy land in their own town. Other negatives of the boom in foreigners: traffic jams, overstressed infrastructure -- with raw sewage from new subdivisions pouring into the already polluted lake -- and a sometimes awkward coexistence of economic extremes.

Norberto Nunez, 47, has been coming to Ajijic to sell the family's hand-woven rugs since he was a teen. "At first, things were good," recalls Nunez. But business is flagging.

"They want everything cheap," he complains in Spanish.

A boom in rents

The booming real estate market has pushed the cost of the single room he rents to 2,000 pesos per month, nearly $200 -- about $80 more than a minimum-wage earner would make in a month. Many in Ajijic -- both foreigners and Mexicans -- charge rent in dollars. A two-bedroom house is going for between $600 and $800, locals say.

The irony is that an inflated market in Mexico could actually push locals to migrate to the United States. Ajijic, Chapala and other lake communities have migrants in el norte.

Some Americans who moved to Mexico for the culture are now eyeing less developed towns than Ajijic. In nearby Jocotepec, foreigners looking for a more authentic (and less expensive) Mexican experience are building homes near the edge of that town -- sometimes on as many as five lots.

That's good for Jocotepec, says local shopkeeper Juan Manuel Solis, who runs a tiny store that looks like hundreds of others in Mexico. From behind the counter he dispenses cold soda, beer, snacks and a small selection of pirated DVDs.

"They're peaceful people, and they give jobs to Mexicans -- construction, cleaning, gardening jobs -- and they pay well," Solis says.

So what if Jocotepec becomes like Ajijic -- with lots of Americans?

"No!" Solis says quickly. "Not that many! The Americans don't buy anything from stores like mine," he says. "They go to Sam's."


Why do they hate us, you ask?

Why do they hate us, you ask?
By Carlos T Mock, MD
August 24, 2006

The reason is the war in Iraq. A war that began at the president's choosing which has degenerated into a desperate, bloody mess that has turned much of the world against the United States. The administration's contempt for international agreements, congressional prerogatives and the authority of the courts has undermined the rule of law abroad and at home.

A war characterized by terrible intelligence, inadequate planning, not enough troops, underestimating the enemy, Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, torturing our prisoners of war, raping innocent 14 y/o Iraqi civilians and murdering them for fun, creating torture sites in foreign countries, and ignoring Article 3 of the Geneva convention. More arrogance and ignorance. The size of the fiasco is so large, that it will be a terrible blow to the U.S. military and American prestige for the next decade. Osama bin Laden in his wildest dreams could not have imagined that the United States would have responded to the World Trade Center attack with such madness—the White House led the United States into a disastrous international crisis and started subverting basic American traditions.

Yet while all this has been happening, the political discussion in Washington has become a captive of the Bush agenda. Traditional beliefs like every person's right to a day in court, or the conviction that America should not start wars it does not know how to win, wind up being portrayed as extreme. The middle becomes a place where senators struggle to get the president to volunteer to obey the law when the mood strikes him. Attempting to regain the real center becomes a radical alternative.

The truth is that five years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Bush's ongoing attempts to portray the war on terror as a global conflict in which Iraq is the front line obscure the fact that the U.S. still is vulnerable to the same sort of terrorism as in 2001. Bush has taken his eye off the real threat to national security: Al Qaeda and related terrorist networks.

To me, the foiled plot offered a way of reminding voters that the president is fighting the wrong war. "The Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "This latest plot demonstrates the need for the Bush administration and the Congress to change course in Iraq."

The administration's persistence in portraying the war in Iraq as the front line in the war on terror has left the U.S. more vulnerable to threats from either Osama bin Laden or others who model their attacks along Al Qaeda lines.

"The fact that we turned so quickly into preparations for Iraq allowed Al Qaeda remnants to escape from Afghanistan and begin the process of reconstitution," said Rand Beers, a former national security aide to Bush and previous presidents. "The violence that we face today is a direct result of that failure."

The sad truth is that the arrogance and ignorance were not limited to the administration. The religious right has fueled the situation by their hope that this is the beginning of Armageddon.

You asked why do they hate us? I answer - they have every right to do so.

Artful Iran outplays hesitant America

Artful Iran outplays hesitant America
By Philip Stephens
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: August 24 2006 20:21 | Last updated: August 24 2006 20:21

Whatever else might be said about the Iranian regime, it has played its diplomatic hand adroitly. A calculatedly equivocal response this week to international demands that it suspend its nuclear activities was scarcely unexpected. It seems likely nonetheless to divide the United Nations Security Council.

After countless hours bargaining with their Iranian counterparts, European officials speak of a deeply frustrating process. The Iranians play by their own rules. In most international negotiations, diplomats will tell you, once agreement has been reached on the issues of principle, the details can be tidied up later. Not so with Tehran. Everything has be nailed down. Otherwise, as one official puts it: “You buy the car only to discover afterwards that you have to pay extra if you want the wheels.”

Sometimes the Iranian negotiating team, led by Ali Larijani, simply tears up the agenda. Mr Larijani billed his meeting with Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, last month as a quest to clarify the incentives offered by the west in return for an Iranian suspension of uranium enrichment. In the event, he devoted the entire closed-door session to an attack on American motives.

Tactical gamesmanship apart, the Iranians are adept at exploiting the strategic weaknesses of opponents. First it was the divisions between the Americans and the Europeans, more recently the gulf between western governments on one side and Russia and China on the other.

Iran’s disregard of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) has been well documented by the International Atomic Energy Agency. For all their reluctance to force a confrontation with Tehran, Russia and China have never really challenged the proposition that it has pursued an illicit weapons programme.

But Tehran has often succeeded in framing the argument otherwise. The issue then becomes one not about breaches of the NPT, but about the sovereign right of all signatories to pursue peaceful nuclear technology. This theme has great resonance with non-aligned nations.

Washington has made the task easier. Almost everything the Bush administration has done in the greater Middle East, from the axis of evil on, has in one way or another benefited Iran. I remember a conversation with a prominent US neo-conservative on the eve of the Iraq war. The demonstration effect of the removal of Saddam Hussein, he said, along with the establishment of a flourishing democracy in Iraq, would isolate and weaken the Iranian regime.

Well, it did not work out quite like that. The shift in the balance of power in the region is well documented in a report released this week by Chatham House, the London-based international affairs institute. Iran has been the chief beneficiary, it says, of the US war on terror in the Middle East.

Just as US power and prestige has been weakened by the insurgency in Iraq, the overthrow of the Sunni regime in Baghdad eliminated Iran’s most dangerous enemy. Tehran has benefited similarly from the removal of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Its standing has been further enhanced by Israel’s failure to defeat Hizbollah in southern Lebanon. Iran has thus had a measure of success in cultivating relations with its neighbours, even those Arab Sunni states that are not natural allies.

Washington has also suffered from the confusion about its aims. Initially, it stood aloof from negotiations. That policy was reversed earlier this year when the administration said it would join talks if Iran suspended enrichment. But US intentions are still opaque. President George W. Bush has told at least one European leader that he is not at all sure he had been right to change course.

Such hesitancy allows Iranians to claim that negotiations are a feint – the real objective remains regime change. Hawks in Washington agree. That makes it an awful lot harder for the US to enlist the support of China and powerful non-aligned nations such as India and South Africa.

There is confusion, too, about the imminence of the threat. The best guess of US and other intelligence agencies seems to be that Iran is five years or possibly more from building a nuclear weapon. But, while some suggest that its uranium enrichment programme will soon take Iran beyond a crucial technical threshold, others say Iranian scientists are struggling with 1950s technology.

None of the above – and one could add to the list of Washington’s self-imposed handicaps a selective attitude to enforcement of the NPT – makes it sensible or right for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability. President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad is not the sort of leader one wants armed with nuclear missiles. The artfulness of Tehran’s diplomacy and clumsiness in Washington have too often obscured the nature of the present Iranian regime.

A nuclear-armed Iran would be bad for everyone, including Tehran. History and geography leave Iran with genuine security concerns. But there is nothing to be gained that could not better be achieved through strong regional security arrangements and integration into the international community – and a lot to be lost.

By refusing to open direct talks, or setting preconditions for multilateral negotiations, the US inadvertently colludes with the hardliners in Tehran in obscuring this choice. Nothing suits Mr Ahmadi-Nejad better than the perception of US obduracy.

There are dangers, too, for Iran. It could yet miscalculate and overplay its hand. Mr Bush may judge he has little to lose in the twilight of his presidency. An uncompromising stance could otherwise emerge as a litmus test of a robust commitment to US national security in the 2008 presidential campaign. Military strikes on Iran could then be, if not the last act of this administration, the first mistake of the next.

The important thing now is that these choices, and risks, are clearly enunciated – not least to the Iranian people. Here, the US weakens rather than strengthens its case by setting conditions on talks with Tehran.

The camera doesn’t quite lie

The camera doesn’t quite lie
By Christopher Caldwell
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: August 25 2006 19:46 | Last updated: August 25 2006 19:46

Last week, George Allen, the Republican senator running for re-election in Virginia, apologised for calling one of his opponent’s campaign aides, who is Indian-American, “macaca”. The aide had been tailing Mr Allen with a video camera, hoping, no doubt, to record any undignified incidents. He posted the footage of this one on the video-archiving website, YouTube. Blogs linked to it and Mr Allen was soon embroiled in controversy. There is no consensus on opinion pages and talk shows about what macaca means. (The aide’s bizarre haircut may hold a clue.) But there is consensus about what YouTube means – an earthquake in American politics.

It is easy to see why people would make such claims. YouTube has been up and running only since last year, yet already users view 100m videos a day there and post 65,000 of their own. The company has $11.5m in venture capital to grow on. YouTube and similar sites (such as MySpace) are starting to play a role in political campaigns. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut’s Democratic senator, lost a primary election to Ned Lamont, his anti-war challenger, after the latter’s supporters used the internet to spread clips of Mr Lieberman’s gaffes, along with satirical pastiches implying Mr Lieberman was not just in agreement but in love with president George W. Bush.

If you visit YouTube itself, you will find predictions of its waxing importance hard to credit. The Washington Post aptly calls it a “video dumpster” – an unsifted pile of gross stunts, pornography, fights, flatulence, car crashes and Japanese animation. It serves many functions. In places it is the “e-” equivalent of a vanity publisher. YouTube’s first dedicated “channel”, launched this week, promotes the singing career of Paris Hilton, who shot to fame as an internet porn star. Nothing ground-breaking there – Emile Zola’s Nana was not the first account of “laundering” sexual fame into something more durable. In other places YouTube is a video file-sharing arrangement along lines pioneered by the defunct music service Napster. The site helps companies police piracy, though, and its main role may eventually be as a marketing tool for videos and movies.

Although YouTube users describe their self-filmed offerings as creative and individualistic, viewer-generated video is unlikely to be more appealing, on average, than “diner-generated food” would be in a restaurant. So a lot of the offerings have a corporate, even consumerist orientation. Some of YouTube’s most visited web pages are advertisements. The site is a meeting place for what Harold Rosenberg, the American art critic, called “the herd of independent minds”, where everyone is unique in the same way. Of course, this is a big part of what makes YouTube a political force. Like everything else on the internet, it allows similarly inclined people to find one another. That is the optimistic way of putting it. The pessimistic way is to say that the internet solves the organising problem of mobs.

Those who like this development (or want to stay on the good side of internet users) credit it with a “democratisation of information”, as Harold Wolfson, Hillary Clinton’s political adviser, did last week. The internet lets the little guy keep tabs on the big wheels. But Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, argued persuasively in The New Yorker this month that we are still a long way from the “citizen journalism” that internet visionaries promised a decade ago. There are all kinds of sites in many different genres, writes Mr Lemann, “but none of that yet rises to the level of a journalistic culture rich enough to compete in a serious way with the old media – to function as a replacement rather than an addendum”. Although it is yet possible the internet and blogging will revolutionise news reporting, thus far the new media is mostly parasitic on the old.

At partisan websites, what information the little guy is deemed to need depends on whose ox is being gored., a leading website of the Democratic party’s left, took its name from the proposition that scrutiny of Bill Clinton’s sex life in the 1990s was an obsession that was diverting Americans from more urgent priorities. They were right, too, but “move on” is now the last thing the website wishes to do. In the Bush era, its motto might as well be “lest we forget”. Rightwing websites behave no differently. The internet, because it records missteps forever, is ideally suited to those whose grievances are of a Balkan obsessiveness.

That is why some people argue that YouTube will put an end to spontaneity in politics: who will loosen up and speak from the heart, they ask, when the slightest faux pas – the macaca business, for instance – can be rerun until it jeopardises a politician’s career? This is a weak argument. For one thing, protecting political careers is not the purpose of democracies. For another thing, the assumption that video makes people cautious is wrong.

Citizen activists have never been reliably objective, but the pseudo-objectivity of video permits a partial account to masquerade as “the” truth. Unlike writing, it has no “voice” through which bias can be detected. That is why terrorists’ most effective recruiting tool is not verbal argument but carefully edited atrocity videos.

Democratic politics is not immune to built-in biases. Think of the countless cameras that anti-globalist protesters have trained on policemen at demonstrations in the past decade. They are meant to document police brutality – but if no police brutality happens, you will never see the video. The exercise is structured so that brutality is the only police behaviour you will ever see. Similarly, fiery remarks were the only kind of remarks that the aide to Mr Allen’s opponent was interested in recording. If the camera “doesn’t lie”, then the truth it tells is at best a partial one. We can already see that this partial truth is more likely to rile people up than to calm them down.

The writer is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard

Senator’s racial slur could hand Virginia to the Democrats

Senator’s racial slur could hand Virginia to the Democrats
By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: August 24 2006 22:37 | Last updated: August 24 2006 23:31

George Allen, the ambitious Republican junior senator for Virginia, is losing ground to his opponent in a key race that could help determine whether Democrats can seize control of the Senate in November’s congressional elections.

The latest Rasmussen poll shows Mr Allen’s lead over the Democrat Jim Webb has shrunk from 11 points a month ago to only five points; 47 per cent favoured Mr Allen with 42 per cent now preferring Mr Webb, a former marine and Reagan-era secretary of the navy, who is one of dozens of veterans seeking national office for the first time.

Needing to take six seats from the Republicans in November to capture the Senate, Democrats have been counting on swing races – Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Missouri, Montana and Ohio. Recently, though, they have been eyeing Tennessee and Virginia as possible states for an upset.

Republicans across the country are suffering from association with an administration whose Iraq war is becoming increasingly unpopular. President George W. Bush this week acknowledged that the war was “straining the psyche” of the American people, and Republicans are increasingly questioning the administration over its tactics as references to civil war increase in political discourse.

But Mr Allen managed to generate more problems for himself recently when at a campaign event he singled out S.R. Sidarth, a Webb staffer of Indian descent who was trailing him, using a reference to a genus of monkey that in some countries is used as a racial slur which Mr Siddarth captured on video that the Webb campaign then made available over YouTube, the fast-growing website that allows people to share video clips.

“This fellow over here with the yellow shirt – Macaca or whatever his name is – he’s with my opponent,” said Mr Allen. “Let’s give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.”

Mr Allen, who is considering a presidential run in 2008, came under heavy criticism for the remark, which Mr Sidarth captured on video and allowed the Webb campaign to post on the internet. As the controversy refused to die down, Mr Allen on Wednesday called Mr Sidarth to apologise.

The controversy has generated much criticism in the media. On Thursday, the Washington Post lambasted the Allen campaign for saying Mr Allen was being unfairly vilified for his remarks. But the political storm was not sufficient to prevent Mr Bush from attending a fundraiser for Mr Allen on Wednesday.

Bush loses House ally over policy on Iraq withdrawal

Bush loses House ally over policy on Iraq withdrawal
By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: August 25 2006 23:29 | Last updated: August 25 2006 23:29

George W. Bush lost another key ally on Iraq this week when an influential Republican congressman from Connecticut distanced himself from the administration’s policy on Iraq.

The White House is having difficulty convincing the public that progress is being made in Iraq, but the president has rejected calls to set a timetable for withdrawal, saying that would be a “huge mistake”.

Public support for the war has crumbled as the number of US military casualties climbs – more than 2,900 in Iraq and Afghanistan – and daily images of violence in Iraq flash across US television screens.

Until recently, Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican who chairs the House subcommittee on national security, agreed with his commander-in-chief about not setting a timetable for withdrawal.

He said last month: “Neither Congress or the administration should set definitive timelines for withdrawal.”

But this week he changed his tune. Speaking to Fox News yesterday following his 14th trip to Iraq, he said: “I’m not seeing the political will on the part of the Iraqis . . . We need to incentivise the Iraqis. They need to know there is a limit to our presence there.”

Mr Shays still portrays himself as a strong supporter of the war. But by agreeing with many Democrats who want a timeline for pulling troops out, he has joined growing ranks of Republicans facing tough re-election races in November who are trying to distance themselves from the administration’s handling of the war without appearing weak on national security.

Mr Shays denied his U-turn was political. But his move comes on the heels of Connecticut Democrats who last month punished Senator Joe Lieberman for his strong support of the war by selecting Ned Lamont, an anti-war candidate, to replace him as the Democratic choice for the November ballot.

Since his loss, Mr Lieberman, now running as an independent, has called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, a tactic that Mr Shays adopted this week. Senator Hillary Clinton, the perceived frontrunner for the 2008 Democrat presidential nomination, recently berated Mr Rumsfeld at a congressional hearing on Iraq and called for his resignation for the first time.

John McCain, the Arizona senator who is considering running for president in 2008, also this week found himself caught between the administration and Republicans fighting for re-election when he accused the administration of “underestimating” the task in Iraq.

Mr McCain said comments made last year by Mr Rumsfeld (that the insurgents were a “few dead-enders”) and Vice-President Dick Cheney (that the insurgency was in its “last throes”) contributed to the sense of frustration of Americans about the war. But after White House officials suffered persistent questioning about his remarks, Mr McCain yesterday released a statement saying he fully supported Mr Bush.

“I have never intended my concern that the American public be fully informed about the conduct and consequences of the war to indicate any lessening of my support for our mission there,” he said. “On the contrary, I view a candid, informed public discussion of the war as critical to sustaining popular support for the war.”

General John Abizaid, the top US commander in the Middle East, this week said the recently increased US force presence in Baghdad was having success in curbing the violence.

Last month, he told Congress that controlling the situation in Baghdad was the key to averting a possible civil war.

Scandals have slid off Daley (until now) Corrected Version

Scandals have slid off Daley (until now) Corrected Version
By Lois Wille a former Tribune editorial page editor
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published August 20, 2006

This story contains corrected material.

The Wall Street Journal's 1984 reference to "Beirut on the Lake," comparing Chicago to Beirut, was misidentified in this story as published.

Ronald Reagan was known as the Teflon president because he could brush away scandals with the sunshine of his smile.

He said he never knew the details of his administration's illegal weapons sales to Iran, didn't know it was illegally shifting the profits to anti-Marxist rebels in Nicaragua.

He seemed blissfully unaware of the mounting AIDS crisis, the soaring deficits and the corrupt activities of senior aides. And he got away with it.

Will Richard Daley turn out to be Chicago's Teflon mayor? It won't be easy for him.

For the first time since he took office in 1989, he's vulnerable. The political organization he built has been battered by federal investigations and convictions. He's bashed regularly by the news media, racing to be first with the next big scandal. And questions about his passive reaction to reports of torture by police officers while he was Cook County state's attorney could ignite racial tensions.

Daley can't play Reagan's game. No one will ever call him a "Great Communicator." When he gets in a tight spot, he spouts angry babble instead of Reagan's genial optimism.

Nor can he mimic Reagan's dreamy obliviousness. Daley is clearly the man in charge of all phases of city government, even those that were once the province of aldermen. That's why it's so difficult to believe he didn't know some top aides were destroying records and rigging tests to hide violations of federal anti-patronage decrees, or that fraud was widespread in the city's minority-contracting procedures.

Yet if Daley runs in February, minus the legacy-busting handicap of a federal indictment, he's likely to be re-elected.

With the recent emphasis on scandals and the smoldering resentment over some of his policies that are painfully slow in showing results--restructuring public housing and reshaping failed public schools, for example--it's easy to forget that the mayor has had a strong relationship with legions of Chicagoans.

It's complicated and conflicted, with a personal dimension that goes beyond politics and governance. He's the good son who honored his mother and father. The devoted husband who chokes with emotion when talking about his wife's bravery in coping with breast cancer. The loving father who gets teary-eyed at the mention of his soldier son Patrick and always includes Kevin, the boy who died many years ago, when referring to his children.

He wears his heart on his sleeve, and a lot of Chicagoans appreciate that.

They also take a perverse sort of pride in his outbursts. They roll their eyes and wonder if he's really lost it this time, as when he responded to a complaint that tollway traffic was manipulated to ease his drive to his weekend home by screeching, "Silly, silly, silly, silly!" Or when he got fed up with stalled efforts to convert Meigs Field into a park and staged a midnight bulldozer raid that tore up its runways. (Yes, I know that was outrageous, but I couldn't help cheering him on. Mainly, my reaction was: Good. He's atoning for what he did to the lakefront when he OKd the Soldier Field renovations.)

Mayors of other big cities don't behave like this, but as the rascal lawyer Billy Flynn said in the hit film named for our city, "That's Chicago!"

Source of pride

There's another, more significant factor in Chicago's relationship with this mayor. He made the city feel proud again after it had endured 25 years of pummeling and ridicule.

Chicago's troubles had simmered for a long time but burst to the surface in the mid-1960s with bloody upheavals in the misery-soaked black ghettos, the ghettos that Daley's father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, said didn't exist.

Chicago's police force brutalized anti-war demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention while the whole world watched. The city's public schools were labeled the worst in the nation, and they had earned it. Its public housing, designed to wall off the black and poor so the rest of the city could forget about them, was a crime against humanity. Its Park District existed mainly as a lucrative haven for a patronage army, while the parks themselves deteriorated. I could go on with a long list of other social crimes because I covered most of them as a reporter in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1983, a bloc of white aldermen staged a race-based war against Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor, and city government ground to a halt for three years. Chicago richly deserved the Wall Street Journal's sobriquet, "Beirut on the Lake" (this sentence as published has been corrected in this text).

By 1989, the city that had grown accustomed to one Mayor Daley for 21 years had been governed--although that is hardly an appropriate term--by four other mayors in just 12 years.

None of the four, it is fair to say, had a single lasting positive impact on the city's entrenched problems. But it is also fair to add that Harold Washington barely had time to wrest control from the hooligan white aldermen before his death. The city was grim and depressed, and it looked that way.

Then the new Daley took over. And even those who thought his dad had failed found a stability associated with the name that was reassuring. There was hope that, at least, he would have learned something about managing a city government, and that he meant it when he said he would be more responsive, more attuned to the needs and concerns of a contemporary metropolis such as Chicago. And he had a string of successes.

He made a genuine effort to reach out to all segments of the community. He took control of the budget and spread money around neighborhoods that had long been neglected.

Under his direction the city and the Park District planted several hundred thousand trees, spruced up boulevard median strips with flowers and shrubs, built or restored school parks. He promoted theater and the arts, boosted downtown residential development to breathe life into an ailing Loop, and tried to improve frayed relationships between citizens and police officers with the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy.

His New Homes for Chicago program has used city money to reduce sales prices for about 2,000 low-income families.

These initiatives were welcome. Two others were heroic and have earned him nationwide praise: taking on the city's sorry schools and public housing. None of his predecessors did much about either, except make weak appointments to their boards and offices.

Without improvement in both, there is little hope of breaking the chain of chronic poverty and depression that has kept large swaths of this city from enjoying a safe, secure and productive life.

The trouble is, both are long-term projects. Progress will come slowly, and there are bound to be setbacks along the way--fodder for demagogues, and for political opponents.

City on the rise

But hopeful signs appear too. The Chicago Public Schools partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Academy for Urban School Leadership to train teachers is providing much-needed support to a gradually improving system. And new Chicago Housing Authority construction should ease the enormous problem of relocating families uprooted by the demolition of high-rise units. That will continue to be a struggle--especially with an administration in Washington that has washed its hands of urban problems.

Five months ago, the Economist magazine published a series of articles on Chicago's progress since the 1980s, concluding that the city "has come through deindustrialization looking shiny and confident. ... Chicago is undoubtedly back. Back, that is, from what many feared would be the scrapheap."

Whether that shiny confidence is shared by a majority of Chicago voters may be the determining factor in next year's mayoral election.

Even if voters aren't so confident, if Daley remains unindicted but they find his behavior in the hiring scandals inexplicable and unforgivable, they may be nervous about rejecting him and ushering in another dozen years or so of turmoil.

They will need to see a link between scandals and poorer services or higher taxes, which hasn't happened. And they will need to be convinced that a Daley opponent can manage this tough-to-run city with the same courage and concern for its future that this mayor has demonstrated.


Lois Wille is a former Tribune editorial page editor.

Chicago Tribune Editorial - State Street? Still standing

Chicago Tribune Editorial - State Street? Still standing
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published August 26, 2006

Many Chicagoans expressed outrage when Federated Department Stores bought Marshall Field's and announced that, come September, the venerable Field's name would disappear--even on the State Street store--and Macy's would take its place. Shoppers vowed their loyalty to a Chicago icon. Many insisted they would cut up their credit card and never again set foot inside the soon-to-be formerly Field's.

But that all may be just so much nostalgia. It looks like we're not so loyal after all. Bon-Ton Stores Inc. announced Friday that it is shuttering Carson Pirie Scott's historic State Street store, the other big retailing icon on that great street. The reason: slumping sales. The other 25 Carsons stores in the region are doing just fine.

Just like that, Marshall Field's and Carson Pirie Scott will be gone from State Street. Two names that embodied Chicago retailing for more than a century will disappear. The Field's name will be gone from State Street in two weeks and Carsons will disappear in March.

At least you'll still be able to shop at the Marshall Field's store--albeit under the red and black Macy's logo. Federated says the State Street Macy's store will become a great department store again.

Carsons on State Street will no longer be a department store. The famed Louis Sullivan-designed building at 1 S. State, designated a national historic landmark, will be converted into a mix of retail, office, school and entertainment uses. Joseph Freed and Associates of Palatine bought the 1 million-square-foot building five years ago. It has spent $60 million restoring and renovating the place and promises an exciting future.

And you know what? Life will go on. More people may be drawn to State and Madison. Chicagoans lament the loss of the historic names that defined State Street shopping for 100 years--but not enough of them have been going there. They've been going to Target or Costco or Kohl's or Wal-Mart or any of the other specialty and big-box retailers that don't have famous addresses and landmark status but have been chipping away at department store sales for years.

If you've lived in Chicago for any period of time, especially if you grew up here, chances are you have a favorite memory of shopping on State Street. You're probably thinking of windows at Christmas right now. But times and tastes and habits change.

It's a sad day for those who love Chicago's history, and particularly for those who will lose jobs at Carson Pirie Scott.

But State Street, it'll survive. In fact, it looks like State Street will be just fine. As the Tribune recently reported, the Loop is enjoying a resurgence, prompted by the revived theater district and the wondrous Millennium Park. A record number of stores and restaurants have been moving in. State Street is a fun place to hang out again. The new joints in the old Carsons building will probably thrive there.

We'll miss Marshall Field's and Carsons. But State Street is still standing, and very much open for business

Chicago Tribune Editorial - Cashing in on the calendar

Chicago Tribune Editorial - Cashing in on the calendar
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published August 26, 2006

More than 80 companies have come under scrutiny in federal investigations of possible stock option fraud, and you can't help but wonder if we're on the verge of Enron/WorldCom/Tyco revisited.

So far, news of the investigations hasn't roiled the markets the way a spate of corporate scandals did a few years ago. But this does have the potential to shake the confidence of investors.

An option is the right to buy a share of a company's stock in the future at the price of the share on the day the option is granted. So, if 1,000 options are valued at $25 a share, and the stock goes up to $35, the holder can buy and sell and make a quick $10,000 profit. (Or buy and hold the shares.)

The practice under scrutiny is called "backdating." The option might have been issued on a day when the stock was worth $25. But if the option is later changed so it's pegged to a date when the stock sold for, say, $20, the holder can make a larger profit.

Backdating may be legal if a company's board of directors approves it and investors are alerted that it's being done. But it's illegal if it's done in secret. That practice doesn't allow investors to accurately judge the potential cost of a company's option grants.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating this practice, as are federal prosecutors in San Francisco. Some companies have been forced to restate their earnings or delay issuing quarterly results. Apple Computer this month said it will have to restate earnings going back years. The company said its financial statements could "no longer be relied on" because of "irregularities" in its handling of option grants.

Two former executives of Brocade Communications Systems have been indicted by a federal grand jury on conspiracy and securities fraud charges. The former CEO of Comverse Technology is believed to have fled the U.S. after federal prosecutors charged him and two other Comverse executives with securities, mail and wire fraud related to backdating stock options.

Other firms have publicly revealed that they are part of the ongoing investigations.

Stock options have been particularly popular in the high-tech field because they provide a way for some start-up companies to reward executives with the prospect of future riches in lieu of big paychecks. So it comes as no surprise that many of the 80 companies under investigation in the backdating scandal are high-tech companies.

But the practice may be far more common. More than 2,000 U.S. firms have engaged in the practice, according to an analysis by two professors, the University of Iowa's Erik Lie and Indiana University's Randall Heron. They examined nearly 40,000 stock option grants to executives at more than 7,700 companies between 1996 and 2005. Their analysis revealed that 29 percent of the companies manipulated at least some option grants. The practice fell off four years ago after the SEC required companies to report option grants within two days, but it didn't disappear. Some companies apparently ignored the new rules.

"Backdating goes to the heart of investor confidence," SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said last month. The SEC is writing new rules that will require companies to spell out when, how and why they backdate options. More information for investors is good. Armed with that, they can make up their own minds about a company. As for executives thinking they can get away with illegal backdating, the best deterrent is likely to be the one that has been so effective with other corporate scandals: arrest and conviction.

1 day, 7 flight-security incidents

1 day, 7 flight-security incidents
Foiled plot tightens rules, heightens stress
By Elizabeth Mehren, Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times; Times staff writers Steve Chawkins in Los Angeles and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago, and Tribune reporter Gerry Doyle in Chicago contributed,
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published August 26, 2006

BOSTON -- Amid new anxiety about air travel and tough new regulations covering what passengers may bring on planes, seven U.S. flights were involved in security incidents on Friday. In one case, a stick of dynamite was found to have been aboard a flight.

The rash of events, safety consultants and others said, reflected heightened emotions and appropriately tightened security in the wake of an alleged plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners thwarted this month by British authorities.

"I think it's a combination of both," said Douglas Laird, a Reno-based consultant to the airline industry and former longtime security director for Northwest Airlines. "I think there is a heightened awareness of what happened in London, and that causes some people to overreact."

One incident involved an American Airlines plane headed for Chicago, and another involved a United Airlines plane about to leave O'Hare International Airport.

The Transportation Security Administration said American Flight 55, bound for Chicago from Manchester, England, was diverted to Bangor, Maine, because of "a reported threat to the aircraft while it was en route."

In the United incident at O'Hare, United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said two people and their luggage were taken off Flight 686 after the plane had left the gate. It then departed for LaGuardia Airport in New York. McCarthy said she couldn't provide details.

In what may have been Friday's most serious incident, authorities said a college student's checked luggage on a Continental Airlines flight from Argentina was found to contain a stick of dynamite after it landed in Houston en route to Newark International Airport.

A bomb-sniffing dog at the international arrivals area at Bush Intercontinental Airport detected an explosive substance in a suitcase belonging to a man who told Houston authorities he works in mining and often handles explosives.

The man, Howard McFarland Fish, 21, was charged with carrying an explosive aboard an aircraft. His actions were determined not to be terrorism related, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

Also on Friday, a Charlotte-bound U.S. Airways jet that had taken off from Phoenix made a forced landing in Oklahoma City after a federal air marshal reportedly subdued an unruly passenger. Authorities declined to give details pending an investigation.

In another incident, the crew of Continental Airlines Flight 2258, bound for Bakersfield, Calif., from Corpus Christi, Texas, discovered a missing panel in the lavatory, according to the TSA. The plane, carrying 50 passengers, was diverted to El Paso, Texas.

It was held for about four hours before officials determined there was no danger.

In Hartford, Conn., authorities boarded U.S. Airways Flight 554 from Philadelphia after a passenger found a utility knife on a vacant seat. No arrests were made, and no threats issued, state police said.

And in Ireland, an Aer Lingus plane from New York was evacuated at Shannon Airport after police received a call early Friday claiming that "some sort of device" was on board. Police found nothing suspicious, Aer Lingus officials said Friday.

Aviation security has increased dramatically since British intelligence services announced on Aug. 10 that they had broken up a plan to destroy trans-Atlantic airliners with liquid explosives.

Ann Davis, a TSA spokeswoman in Boston, acknowledged the security measures have raised the anxiety level and inconvenience of air travel.

- - -

Friday's airline-security events

- American Airlines plane flying from England to Chicago diverted to Bangor, Maine

- United Airlines flight from O'Hare International Airport headed to New York delayed when authorities removed two passengers after the plane had left the gate

- Stick of dynamite found in luggage on Continental Airlines plane from Argentina that landed in Houston; 21-year-old man in custody

- US Airways jet diverted to Oklahoma City after air marshal subdued a disruptive passenger

- Continental flight diverted to El Paso, Texas, after crew found missing panel in lavatory

- Knife found on US Airways plane that had flown from Philadelphia to Connecticut

- Aer Lingus plane from New York to Dublin evacuated during a scheduled stopover in Shannon, Ireland, after bomb threat later declared unfounded

Bush's vows after Katrina go unfulfilled

Bush's vows after Katrina go unfulfilled
Critics: Washington `all windup, no pitch'
By Mark Silva
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published August 26, 2006

WASHINGTON -- One year after Hurricane Katrina's wind and water ruined 200,000 homes along the Gulf Coast and displaced nearly 1 million people, the city of New Orleans and smaller coastal communities are not all that remain to be rebuilt.

President Bush, who accepted blame for the faltering federal response to the disaster, still suffers from the political fallout of a storm that raised questions about the competence of his administration in the face of a catastrophe and about his sensitivity to the poor.

The president's political standing, also battered by an unpopular war and criticism of his handling of matters at home, has not recovered from a year of controversy rooted in Katrina. Some question whether it will ever recover.

While the storm challenged the administration's readiness for crisis, incomplete cleanup and rebuilding efforts have cast doubts on the president's follow-through. The crisis exposed a deep vein of poverty in America, Bush said at the time, tracing that poverty to "a history of racial discrimination" and vowing to address its inequities.

As Bush returns to New Orleans next week for the anniversary of the hurricane that hit Louisiana and Mississippi one year ago Tuesday, observers say, his year-old pledge to rebuild New Orleans and his promise "to confront this poverty with bold action" and "rise above the legacy of inequality" are far from fruition.

This has further embittered Bush's relationship with an African-American community he once vowed to bring into the Republican fold.

In Biloxi and Gulfport, Miss., and in New Orleans, Bush will tout progress made, debris removed, tens of billions of federal dollars spent on recovery and many billions more in the pipeline. But the anniversary also provides a spotlight for critics who complain of promises unfulfilled.

"The very word, `Katrina,' is one they are trying to get over. They dread this anniversary," said Douglas Brinkley, a historian at Tulane University and author of "The Great Deluge," an account of one of the most devastating hurricanes in American history. "The Bush administration, post-Katrina, has been all windup and no pitch. It's a low point in Bush's tenure."

The response to this storm could have been a high point for a president who rose to the occasion after the horrifying terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Instead, Katrina revealed the failings of the protective structure Bush built after Sept. 11, a Department of Homeland Security that failed its first major test.

Many visits by the Bushes

This is not the first time Bush has returned to the scene of the crisis. When the president and First Lady Laura Bush appear in Mississippi on Monday and New Orleans on Tuesday, it will be the 22nd time that at least one of them has traveled to the hurricane-stricken coast.

Bush, touting $110 billion in federal aid committed to the recovery of the region, said on Wednesday: "The first obligation of the federal government is to write a check big enough to help the people down there. . . . To the extent that there's still bureaucratic hurdles, and the need for the federal government to help eradicate those hurdles, we want to do that."

He added that "I also want people to remember that a one-year anniversary is just that, because it's going to require a long time to help those people rebuild."

But politically, Bush has been playing catch-up since Katrina made landfall.

At first he was remote from the disaster, leaving a long summer vacation in Texas for a scheduled speech to senior citizens in Arizona the day Katrina struck. His distance was magnified the next day in San Diego, where he commemorated the 60th anniversary of Victory in Japan Day and hoisted a singer's guitar for photographers.

The next soon-to-become iconic image of detachment came with a photograph of Bush looking down at New Orleans from Air Force One as he flew east to Washington. It portrayed, not a concerned leader, but one who had not stopped to comfort suffering people.

When Bush finally did arrive on the Gulf Coast on Sept. 2, he uttered the words to the struggling director of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, that have haunted Bush since: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

As most of New Orleans lay under water and thousands piled into the convention center pleading for food and potable water, the nation's most costly natural disaster had become a full-fledged political disaster.

The crisis arrived as growing numbers of Americans were starting to question the conduct of the war in Iraq as well as Bush's handling of the economy. His approval rating in the Gallup Poll already had slumped to 40 percent days before Katrina, then a low point for Bush and a level of support he still is struggling to maintain.

President's image tarnished

"The greatest damage that Katrina did to President Bush was in his aura of competence," said David Lanoue, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama. "It shook the confidence of a lot of people in the White House's ability to respond to either natural or man-made disasters."

When the White House finally grasped the magnitude of the political threat, it struggled to respond. But a year later, that response has not played out as many hoped.

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The president, addressing the nation via TV from the floodlit heart of a darkened New Orleans two weeks after Katrina, promised to rebuild. Responding to images of poor, black New Orleans residents left homeless, Bush cited poverty that "has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America" and committed to bring new, minority-owned businesses to the area and make homeowners of renters.

"He said he was going to talk about race and poverty," said Brinkley, who teaches American civilization at Tulane. "When did that happen? It's back to business as usual."

The federal government has committed $17 billion for community development block grants, offering as much as $150,000 for each homeowner whose home stood outside designated flood zones.

But Mississippi only recently started paying out this money to homeowners, and Louisiana is just now starting.

Experts say little will end up in the hands of low-income homeowners--and none will go to renters, nearly half of the people displaced by Katrina.

"This is a unique opportunity in American life," said Roland Anglin, director of the Initiative on Regional and Community Transformation at Rutgers University. "When the president came to the Gulf Coast and made those remarks, a lot of us thought that was an opportunity to readdress the issue of race and equity. Unfortunately, that has not progressed as much as many of us hoped it would."

Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, made a similar point. "To remove poverty, you have to assist people in building assets," he said, adding that few are receiving aid. "Home renters, low-income workers and senior citizens are left out."

The administration, however, cautions that restoration of such a disaster-racked region takes time. The federal government has designated more than $110 billion overall for the cleanup, for temporary housing of the displaced and for rebuilding levees, infrastructure and homes, and $44 billion has been spent, according to Donald Powell, Bush's federal coordinator for Gulf Coast rebuilding.

"There's been lots of progress made in one year," Powell said. "This is an ongoing effort to rebuild the Gulf Coast. ... I would acknowledge that there's more to be done. . . . I have a sense of frustration, I have a sense of urgency all the time."

The cleanup has consumed time and money. While all of the dry debris in Mississippi has been removed, 25 percent of the debris in Louisiana awaits cleanup.

Miles of levees rebuilt

The Army Corps of Engineers has rebuilt 220 miles of the levees around New Orleans. Yet the corps allows that it will take until 2010 to build barriers sufficient to withstand the worst storm predictable over 100 years. And Congress has not authorized levees capable of withstanding Category 5 hurricanes, the most severe. Katrina, which gained that intensity as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico, hit New Orleans as a Category 3 storm.

Yet, critics say, it is the more profound goal of social and racial equity that the president raised in the aftermath of Katrina that remains furthest from realization one year later.

"This is a problem that continues to earn him the ire of black Americans," said Ronald Walters, a political scientist and director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland.

"All in all, what you feel is the lack of an aggressive federal response," Walters said. "The president, after criticism, was responsive. . . . But then he pretty much walked away."


Beware, there are still crazy people out there! Just read this response to one of my blogs.

Note: this email is in response to an article called
Joe Liberman, sore loser
published at


Loved the blog about Lieberman. Please continue your fantasy-land dream thoughts about how great the Democrats are positioned to really sweep things in the upcoming election. It's very easy to run on a platform of "Hate Bush" without any real ideas on how to confront a vicious enemy like the Radical Islamists that we face in this war. Your ideas of surrender and capitulate are easy to espouse and a great reminder of how the Europe had an identical position toward a similar "expansionist" named Adolf Hitler in 1933. Unfortunately, you and your allies at CBS, NBC, ABC, NPR, CNN, Air America, the New York Times, LA Times, & the ACLU will not learn the depth of hatred & persistence of our enemy until we are attacked again. When the latter is accomplished, your side will have the gall to blame the current Administration for not protecting our Country for the attack.

I want to be clear on my stance, however, with the Bush Adminstration and the handling of the Iraq War. I think this Administration has indeed handled the war poorly, but only due to the constant drumbeat of "handwringing" over how much force we've used. This "drumbeat" has derived from all your friends at the previously referenced media sources, and has resulted in a kinder-gentler US Force response. It is this situation, that we stand in agreement. Where we differ is that you and your allies belief that the way to peace is for UN agreements and cease-fires, while I believe that the only way to peace (in the Middle East) is to demonstrate the full capacity of the military might of the United States Armed Forces.

Your views are both frightening and of compromise to the security of this Nation. We ask that you and your allies submit, publicly, a plan to fight the rise of Islamic Fascism (I know this is a dirty word in your politically correct world). Cut & run is NOT acceptable nor are you acting in the best interest of this Country (although tis is a popular act in France). Stop your tired criticism of this Administration and offer an alternative that doesn't resemble a lap-dog biting at the ankle of a visitor.

Retail icon moving out of Loop

Retail icon moving out of Loop
BY SANDRA GUY Business Reporter
August 26, 2006
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times

Carson Pirie Scott & Co. announced Friday it is willingly leaving its 102-year-old home at 1 S. State St. by March for a new site in Chicago, spurred by a helpful push from its landlord, Joseph Freed and Associates.

"The store has been declining in sales for years, and the operating expenses are 40 percent higher than an average Carson's store in Chicago," Byron "Bud" Bergren, the native Minnesotan who is CEO of Carson's parent company, Bon-Ton Stores, told the Sun-Times.

Carson's will be leaving its 102-year-old home by next March. The building at 1 S. State was designed by famed architect Louis H. Sullivan and is a historic landmark. (BRIAN JACKSON/SUN-TIMES)

Bon-Ton would have to spend even more money to upgrade the store, Bergren said, but he declined to cite specific costs.

The landlord's offer to buy out Carson's lease, which would have expired in 2022, was too good a price to pass up, Bergren said. Bon-Ton, of York, Pa., bought Carson's and four other regional department store chains from Saks Inc. for $1.1 billion in March.

Carson's will remain open on State Street through the holidays and will open a new store in Chicago. It is already reviewing sites on the Near South Side and the Near North Side, Bergren said.

Boutique idea ruled out

Shoppers expressed shock at the news and recalled fond memories of the store, but few were surprised because of Carson's deteriorating condition.

Catherine Clark recalled getting spa treatments at the Elizabeth Arden Spa there and of buying her ultimate pre-teen birthday gift, a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans.

"I just assumed that Carson's store was such a staple, it would always have a place on State Street," she said.

Carson's parent company considered returning to the flagship store as a small boutique, but decided it wouldn't work, Bergren said. It also has looked at sites downtown for a possible new store but has yet to find the right one.

"We are still very committed to the city of Chicago, and we have no desire to change the Carson's name," Bergren said. Carson's operates 28 department stores and five furniture stores in the region, including two stores inside Chicago's city limits at Gateway Mall, 120 South Riverside Plaza, and at Ford City Mall, 7601 South Cicero.


The Carson Pirie Scott & Co. building at State and Madison is one of more than 100 buildings designated by the City of Chicago as landmarks.
The buildings cannot be torn down or modified inside or outside without specific permission from several city agencies.
For a full list of Chicago landmarked buildings, go to chicago

Bergren said the decision to vacate the historic landmarked Louis H. Sulivan building was difficult because Carson's "is very much a tradition."

But he said the more difficult decision was to eliminate jobs of the 450 employees at the flagship store, many of whom have worked for Carson's for many years.

Far higher rents expected

Carson's will offer the employees -- 300 full-time and 150 part-time -- a chance to interview for positions at other stores and, if they cannot find a new job, offer severance and state employment service help.

Paul Fitzpatrick, managing director at Freed, said Friday the landlord will lease space to small and large retailers in the basement level and on the first two floors of the Carson's building at rents that are expected to be far higher than what Carson's pays.

A grocery store, restaurant and student entertainment service are being courted for the site, Fitzpatrick confirmed.

The remainder of the Carson's store space, floors 3-7, will be leased for offices. Higher floors in the building are occupied by offices including the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the School of the Art Institute.

New retailers are expected to appeal to the Loop's burgeoning population of students and well-heeled condo dwellers.

Chicago's Loop has become the biggest "campus town" in Illinois, hosting about 52,000 students who would like new and cheaper places to eat, shop and park, according to a study released in January 2005 by Regional Economic Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois.

New York Times Editorial - Wanted: Scarier intelligence

New York Times Editorial - Wanted: Scarier intelligence
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: August 25, 2006

The last thing the United States needs as it heads into this election season is another attempt to push the intelligence agencies to hype their conclusions about the threat from a Middle Eastern state.

That's what happened in 2002, when the administration engineered a deeply flawed document on Iraq that reshaped intelligence to fit President George W. Bush's policy. And history appeared to be repeating itself this week, when the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, released a garishly illustrated and luridly written document that is ostensibly dedicated to "helping the American people understand" that Iran's fundamentalist regime and its nuclear ambitions pose a strategic threat to the United States.

It's hard to imagine that Hoekstra believes there is someone left in America who does not already know that. But the report obviously has different aims. It is partly a campaign document, a product of the Republican strategy of scaring Americans into allowing the party to retain control of Congress this autumn. It fits with the fearmongering we've heard lately - like Bush's attempt the other day to link the Iraq war to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

But even more worrisome, the report seems intended to signal the intelligence community that the Republican leadership wants scarier assessments that would justify a more confrontational approach to Tehran. It was not the work of any intelligence agency, or the full intelligence panel, or even the subcommittee that ostensibly drafted it. The Washington Post reported that it was written primarily by a former CIA official known for his view that the assessments on Iran are not sufficiently dire.

While the report contains no new information, it does dish up dire- sounding innuendo, mostly to leave the impression that Iran is developing nuclear weapons a lot faster than intelligence agencies have the guts to admit. It also tosses in a few conspiracy theories, like the unsupported assertion that Iran engineered the warfare between Israel and Hezbollah. And it complains that America's spy agencies are too cautious, that they "shy away from provocative conclusions."

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, put it even more bluntly in explaining some Republicans' dissatisfaction with the CIA reporting on Iran: "The intelligence community is dedicated to predicting the least dangerous world possible."

All in all, this is a chilling reminder of what happened when intelligence analysts told Vice President Dick Cheney they could not prove that Iraq was building a nuclear weapon or had ties with Al Qaeda. He kept asking if they really meant it - until the CIA took the hint.

It's obvious that Iran wants nuclear weapons, has lied about its program and views America as an enemy. We enthusiastically agree that the United States needs every scrap of intelligence it can get on Iran. But the reason American intelligence is not certain when Iran might have a nuclear bomb is because the situation is so murky - not because the agencies are too wimpy to tell the scary truth.

If the Republicans who control Congress really wanted a full-scale assessment on the state of Iran's weapons programs, they would have asked for one, rather than producing this brochure.

The United States cannot afford to pay the price again for politicians' bending intelligence or bullying the intelligence agencies to suit their ideology.

New York Times Editorial - Wanted: Scarier intelligence

New York Times Editorial - Wanted: Scarier intelligence
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: August 25, 2006

The last thing the United States needs as it heads into this election season is another attempt to push the intelligence agencies to hype their conclusions about the threat from a Middle Eastern state.

That's what happened in 2002, when the administration engineered a deeply flawed document on Iraq that reshaped intelligence to fit President George W. Bush's policy. And history appeared to be repeating itself this week, when the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, released a garishly illustrated and luridly written document that is ostensibly dedicated to "helping the American people understand" that Iran's fundamentalist regime and its nuclear ambitions pose a strategic threat to the United States.

It's hard to imagine that Hoekstra believes there is someone left in America who does not already know that. But the report obviously has different aims. It is partly a campaign document, a product of the Republican strategy of scaring Americans into allowing the party to retain control of Congress this autumn. It fits with the fearmongering we've heard lately - like Bush's attempt the other day to link the Iraq war to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

But even more worrisome, the report seems intended to signal the intelligence community that the Republican leadership wants scarier assessments that would justify a more confrontational approach to Tehran. It was not the work of any intelligence agency, or the full intelligence panel, or even the subcommittee that ostensibly drafted it. The Washington Post reported that it was written primarily by a former CIA official known for his view that the assessments on Iran are not sufficiently dire.

While the report contains no new information, it does dish up dire- sounding innuendo, mostly to leave the impression that Iran is developing nuclear weapons a lot faster than intelligence agencies have the guts to admit. It also tosses in a few conspiracy theories, like the unsupported assertion that Iran engineered the warfare between Israel and Hezbollah. And it complains that America's spy agencies are too cautious, that they "shy away from provocative conclusions."

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, put it even more bluntly in explaining some Republicans' dissatisfaction with the CIA reporting on Iran: "The intelligence community is dedicated to predicting the least dangerous world possible."

All in all, this is a chilling reminder of what happened when intelligence analysts told Vice President Dick Cheney they could not prove that Iraq was building a nuclear weapon or had ties with Al Qaeda. He kept asking if they really meant it - until the CIA took the hint.

It's obvious that Iran wants nuclear weapons, has lied about its program and views America as an enemy. We enthusiastically agree that the United States needs every scrap of intelligence it can get on Iran. But the reason American intelligence is not certain when Iran might have a nuclear bomb is because the situation is so murky - not because the agencies are too wimpy to tell the scary truth.

If the Republicans who control Congress really wanted a full-scale assessment on the state of Iran's weapons programs, they would have asked for one, rather than producing this brochure.

The United States cannot afford to pay the price again for politicians' bending intelligence or bullying the intelligence agencies to suit their ideology.

Boston Globe Editorial - Lessons on terrorism

Boston Globe Editorial - Lessons on terrorism
Copyright by The Boston Globe
Published: August 25, 2006

Eleven suspects were brought to court in London this week, charged with involvement in the plot to blow up several airliners over the Atlantic. The foiling of their alleged conspiracy will inevitably be scrutinized for what it reveals about the terrorist threat five years after Sept. 11.

It should be reassuring that the plotters were not as well organized or as successful at keeping their plans secret as the Sept. 11 masterminds and the terrorists who did their bidding. If British and Pakistani officials are correct, knowledge of the airline plot was disseminated among scores of people. The conspirators failed to prevent a mole from infiltrating their network. And they were careless enough to permit U.S. agencies to intercept their communications.

If the scheme to use liquid explosives to blow up the airliners was conceived or directed by top Qaeda figures, as Pakistani intelligence has claimed, then it seems obvious that Osama bin Laden's lieutenants are less capable of carrying out a complex terrorist spectacular than they were before they lost their sanctuary and training camps in Afghanistan.

If Al Qaeda was not orchestrating the airline scheme, or if Qaeda figures were involved only tangentially, the thwarting of the plot suggests that local terrorists and jihadists are best fought with sound intelligence and old-fashioned police work. They may be capable of mass killing, as the London train bombings last summer showed, but the threat they represent is very different from that of Stalin's Soviet Union or Hitler's Germany.

Inflating the danger from jihadi terrorists into an existential threat and invoking a grandiose third world war, as President George W. Bush and his advisers have been doing, only plays into the hands of bin Laden and the other deluded megalomaniacs hiding out with him in the mountains of South Waziristan.

- The Boston Globe

New York Times Editorial - Arrest that dangerous man

New York Times Editorial - Arrest that dangerous man
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: August 25, 2006

We've been fascinated by the story of how Jim Bensman of Alton, Illinois, went to a hearing about fish and wound up as a potential terrorism suspect.

As Cornelia Dean reported in The New York Times, the Army Corps of Engineers held a meeting in Bensman's neighborhood to talk about helping those fish swim around the locks and dams it has constructed on the Mississippi River over the years. One option - clearly not the Corps' favorite - was to eliminate a dam in East Alton. To illustrate that idea, the presentation included a picture of a dam being dynamited.

Bensman rose later to support removing the dam. Big mistake. A local paper reported that Bensman told the Corps he "would like to see the dam blown up." A Corps security officer read the report. He decided that Bensman was threatening a public facility.

An FBI agent then contacted Bensman, who was surprised to learn that U.S. investigators believed a terrorist might announce his plans at a public hearing. When the agent said he wanted to visit his home, it occurred to Bensman that he needed a lawyer. At that point, Bensman said, the agent threatened to "put you down as not cooperating."

All this started because Bensman believes the Army Corps builds way too many locks and dams on the Mississippi. We have always thought so, too. But not in any way, shape or form that involves any kind of sabotage whatsoever.

Bernanke calls for fairer globalisation

Bernanke calls for fairer globalisation
By Krishna Guha in Jackson Hole
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: August 25 2006 15:18 | Last updated: August 25 2006 23:37

Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, on Friday called on global policymakers to do more to ensure the benefits of globalisation are widely spread within their countries.

The Fed chairman said it was essential to build a “consensus for welfare-enhancing change” in order to avoid a resurgence of protectionism.

He urged governments directly to address the plight of workers whose livelihoods are threatened by changing patterns of international production and trade, for instance by helping them retrain for new jobs.

“Further progress in global economic integration should not be taken for granted,” Mr Bernanke told the Fed’s annual symposium at the mountain resort of Jackson Hole in Wyoming.

“Geopolitical concerns, including international tensions and the risks of terrorism already constrain the pace of worldwide economic integration and may do so even more in the future.”

The Fed chairman said that in this episode of globalisation, as in previous episodes, “the social and political opposition to openness can be strong.”

He said much of this arises “because changes in the patterns of production are likely to threaten the livelihoods of some workers and the profits of some firms, even when these changes lead to greater productivity and output overall.”

Mr Bernanke said the challenge for policymakers “is to ensure that the benefits of global economic integration are sufficiently widely shared” to provide the political underpinnings for integration to continue.

His comments come at a time when there is widespread public angst in the US at the apparent stagnation of median wages, which many attribute in part to greater global competition and offshoring of production.

The mainstream US political consensus in favour of free trade has come under increasing strain, with a growing swathe of the Democratic party turning hostile to further liberalisation.

Mr Bernanke said the effort to build a consensus in favour of further integration is “well worth making, as the potential benefits of increased global economic integration are large indeed.”

The Fed chairman said the current episode of globalisation had many similarities with past phases of international integration. As in the past, “technological advances continue to play an important role in facilitating global integration.”

This results in a “continued broadening of the range of products that are viewed as tradable” – which now extends to services as well as goods.

Government policy also plays a “critical role.”

However, Mr Bernanke said the latest phase of globalisation is unique in several respects.

The Fed chairman said there are “no historical antecedents” for the rapid integration of China, India and the former Communist bloc into the world economy in the space of just a couple of decades.

Moreover, he said “the traditional distinction between the core and the periphery is becoming increasingly less relevent.”

Wheras in the 19th century the core countries of western Europe exported manufactured goods and surplus savings to the colonial periphery, today emerging markets export manufactured goods to the developed world in general, and surplus savings to the US.

In addition, Mr Bernanke said, global capital flows are increasingly sophisticated, while “production processes are becoming geographically fragmented to an unprecedented degree.”

Mr Bernanke’s comments were echoed by Stan Fischer, governor of the Bank of Israel, who said: “Part of the anxiety in the west must derive from the discomforts of the adjustment process forced by the dynamism of Asia, and part from the fact that the wages of unskilled workers in the west may be adversely affected by such competition.

“Policy can deal with these consequences through adjustment aid and through education, but unless this is done then negative fallout from . . . competition will likely continue.”

Iraqi battlefront: Prices

Iraqi battlefront: Prices
By Damien Cave
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: August 25, 2006

BAGHDAD For Mehdi Dawood, Iraq's failures have leeched into the cucumbers. A few months ago, he paid about $1.70 for a week's worth of the seedy staple. Prices have since doubled, so if he shopped like he used to, cucumbers would devour a fifth of his monthly pension.

It's not just the vegetables. Fuel and electricity prices are up more than 270 percent over last year, according to Iraqi government figures. Tea in some markets has quadrupled, egg prices have doubled, and all over the country, the daily routine now includes a new question: What can be done without?

"Meat, I just don't buy it anymore," said Dawood, 66, holding half filled bags at a market in Baghdad. "It's too expensive."

"We are all suffering," he said. "It's the government's fault. There is no security, there is no stability."

Even as violence rages here, disgust is rising like bile among Iraqis who cite a failing economy as their most pressing concern. Three months into the administration of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the inflation rate has reached 70 percent, up from 32 percent last year.

Wages meanwhile are flat, banks are barely functioning and the consensus among many U.S. and Iraqi officials is that inflation will likely accelerate.

The causes, nearly all agree, are numerous. Violence, corruption and the fallout from decades of state control are kicking up the price of nearly everything, especially fuel, which in turn multiplies the production cost for goods already on the rise.

"It's a very serious problem," said Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "You don't have stable trucking, you don't have stable distribution. You have a constant protection racket with security forces who are involved in sectarian fighting often taking bribes to have things operate. All of that builds up pressure on prices."

Maliki's office has responded with proposals to spur foreign investment and calls for public patience, even forgiveness. But billions in American aid have been spent on Iraq with limited impact. Unlike the security situation, which can be addressed by deploying more troops to the streets, economies are mercurial, especially in a country where buying and selling typically occur beyond the reach of government policy.

Fuel remains Iraq's most visible example of economic dysfunction. A gallon of gasoline cost as little as 4 cents in November 2005; now, after the International Monetary Fund pushed the Oil Ministry to cut its subsidies, the official price is about 67 cents.

The spike has come as a shock to Iraqis, who make only about $150 a month on average, if they even have a job. Estimates of unemployment range from 40 to 60 percent. With black-market sellers commanding $3.19 a gallon because of shortages, up from about $1.25 a few months ago, the actual price most Iraqis pay is far higher than what is officially sanctioned. Filling up now requires several days' pay, monastic patience or both.

Three years after fuel shortages led to riots in Basra, tension is often palpable at the pumps. Gas lines stretch as far as the eye can see, and at least two shootings have been reported in Baghdad this month alone. Near a station in the city center this week, bribes and line cutting appeared to be the norm. At one point, a Mercedes and several police vehicles cut ahead of at least 50 cars while a policeman watched.

The station's manager said the drivers given special treatment must have had a note showing they were doctors, or attending a funeral. By a beat-up station wagon, Abdul Rehman Qasim had a different theory: The drivers avoiding the wait possessed either money or power. He had neither.

"I'm a poor guy," he said. "So I leave some of my children here. They spend the night in the car."

"Under the government of Maliki, things are getting worse and worse," he added. "Only God can save us."

In Iraq's once-bustling markets, frustration is equally acute. Car bombers have regularly targeted commercial districts, and prices seem to be up at every stall. In one of city's oldest markets, in a middle-class Shiite area near downtown, chick peas have doubled in price. Lamb now runs as high as $2.75 a pound, up from $1.50.

Prices for cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, have all jumped too, while the price of the propane gas cylinders most families use for cooking have quintupled to more than $15 each.

"We live hand to mouth," said Dawood, a retired clerk for Pepsi.

Veiled women shopping nearby agreed. "We're tired and the situation is horrible," said Zakiya Abid Salman, 55, a widow carrying eggplants. "There are no jobs and the prices are always rising."

Merchants said they had no choice but to increase what they charge because of the increased cost of doing business. Still, they said, their incomes declined. Ali Fouad, 27, pushing live fish around a shallow tub of water, said the price of transporting his product from farms south of Baghdad has nearly tripled since last year. A few months ago, he sold about 49 kilograms, or 110 pounds, of fish a day, earning roughly $50 after expenses. Since he had to raise prices about 60 percent, he said he sells fewer fish and earns only $20 a day.

"What's our life today?" he asked. "We are working only for gas, ice and electricity. There are no savings."

From Basra in the south to the rural areas of Iraqi Kurdistan, considered the most stable part of the country, rampant inflation is stirring discontent. Kurds regularly complain that the prices on virtually all the basic needs of life have shot up in the past year. Salaries have not kept pace.

"Inflation now is very bad," said Lieutenant Ismail Ibrahim Said, a police officer in Qaradagh, a town in Kurdistan. "The salary we get is nothing for us. It's only $220 a month. If a child gets sick, we can't take him to a clinic for treatment. We can't buy new clothes. The salary is enough only for food."

Stanching inflation will be not be easy. Experts here say they struggle just to collect the data necessary to diagnose the problem, while Iraq largely lacks the usual economic mechanisms for controlling prices.

The Central Bank of Iraq is only 3 years old. Though the International Monetary Fund reports that officials have raised interest rates to reduce liquidity - and accelerated efforts to create a functioning free market - its most recent study in July also concluded that "the banking system is largely inert." As a result, the report said, the effectiveness of such proposals would be "very limited."

Ali al-Dabagh, a spokesman for the prime minister, said in an interview that "the government is working hard to find solutions." He blamed terrorists for undermining Iraq's democratically elected leaders, but he acknowledged that the country "needs an administrative revolution."

For the families trying to survive, time sometimes seems to be running out. Fathi Khalid, 43, a vegetable seller with a mostly empty stall except for a few dozen cucumbers, said that obstacles seem to multiply by the day. Sometimes roads are blocked so harvests never arrive. Sometimes he cannot afford to pay the right bribes. Week after week, his customers purchase less and less. "Most people buy half what they used to," he said. "The vegetables sit here and rot."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Politically Correct

While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies.

His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

"Welcome to heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you."

"No problem, just let me in," says the man.

"Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity."

"Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven," says the senator.

"I'm sorry, but we have our rules."

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.

They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.

Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises...

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

"Now it's time to visit heaven."

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

"Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity."

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: "Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell."

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. "I don't understand," stammers the senator. "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?"

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, "Yesterday we were campaigning.... Today you voted."