Please note: the viewport design is copied from Steve Den Beste's excellent blog, USS Clueless. Used with permission.

Saturday, February 12, 2005  

via The New York Times (registraton required)

A Dismal Class-Action Finale

Published: February 12, 2005

Senator Joseph Biden, the Delaware Democrat, got it exactly right when he pronounced the limits on class-action lawsuits approved on Thursday by the Senate a bad idea whose time has come.

Instead of narrowly focusing on real abuses of the system, the measure reconfigures the civil justice system to achieve a significant rollback of corporate accountability and people's rights. The main impact of the bill - which has the sort of propagandistic title normally assigned to such laws, the Class Action Fairness Act - will be to funnel nearly all major class-action lawsuits out of state courts and into already overburdened federal courts. That will inevitably make it harder for Americans to pursue legitimate claims successfully against companies that violate state consumer, health, civil rights and environmental protection laws.

Sadly, amendments designed to curb some of the bill's unfairness - for example, by preventing federal courts from dismissing class actions because they involve varying laws of multiple states - were handily rejected. It was dismaying to see Democrats like Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut follow lock step behind their Republican colleagues as the Senate took its marching orders on major legislation from corporate special interests and its allies in the White House, as Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, one of the bill's 26 Democratic opponents, aptly described the dismal goings-on in the chamber.

This deeply flawed bill now heads to the House, where its sponsors expect to get it approved by the end of the week. Having spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying for this bill, the United States Chamber of Commerce and allied business groups are understandably pleased. They got what they paid for.

posted by Gary Williams at 12:30 PM | link |

Friday, February 11, 2005  

via The New York Times (registration required)

Bush's Class-War Budget


Published: February 11, 2005

It may sound shrill to describe President Bush as someone who takes food from the mouths of babes and gives the proceeds to his millionaire friends. Yet his latest budget proposal is top-down class warfare in action. And it offers the Democrats an opportunity, if they're willing to take it.

First, the facts: the budget proposal really does take food from the mouths of babes. One of the proposed spending cuts would make it harder for working families with children to receive food stamps, terminating aid for about 300,000 people. Another would deny child care assistance to about 300,000 children, again in low-income working families.

And the budget really does shower largesse on millionaires even as it punishes the needy. For example, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities informs us that even as the administration demands spending cuts, it will proceed with the phaseout of two little-known tax provisions - originally put in place under the first President George Bush - that limit deductions and exemptions for high-income households.

More than half of the benefits from this backdoor tax cut would go to people with incomes of more than a million dollars; 97 percent would go to people with incomes exceeding $200,000.

It so happens that the number of taxpayers with more than $1 million in annual income is about the same as the number of people who would have their food stamps cut off under the Bush proposal. But it costs a lot more to give a millionaire a break than to put food on a low-income family's table: eliminating limits on deductions and exemptions would give taxpayers with incomes over $1 million an average tax cut of more than $19,000.

It's like that all the way through. On one side, the budget calls for program cuts that are small change compared with the budget deficit, yet will harm hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable Americans. On the other side, it calls for making tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, and for new tax breaks for the affluent in the form of tax-sheltered accounts and more liberal rules for deductions.

The question is whether the relentless mean-spiritedness of this budget finally awakens the public to the true cost of Mr. Bush's tax policy.

Until now, the administration has been able to get away with the pretense that it can offset the revenue loss from tax cuts with benign spending restraint. That's because until now, 'restraint' was an abstract concept, not tied to specific actions, making it seem as if spending cuts would hurt only a few special interest groups.

But here we are with the first demonstration of restraint in action, and look what's on the chopping block, selected for big cuts: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health insurance for children and aid to law enforcement. (Yes, Mr. Bush proposes to cut farm subsidies, which are truly wasteful. Let's see how much political capital he spends on that proposal.)

posted by Gary Williams at 1:26 PM | link |

via The New York Times (registration required)

Ms. Fiorina's Fatal Operating Error

Published: February 11, 2005

The Monday-morning quarterbacking about Hewlett-Packard's decision to ignominiously dump Carleton Fiorina, its chief executive, has pushed three possible lessons to the forefront: (1) The perils of discrimination against women - do the ones who have to claw their way to the top alienate all and sundry by insisting on running things their way? (2) The perils of the chief-executive-as-rock-star - what was she doing in Davos among the likes of Angelina Jolie, anyway, when she had a ticked-off board back home? (3) The perils of megamergers, and companies' biting off more than they can chew.

We pick No. 3. The beheading at Hewlett is really a story of a bad merger: the company's $19 billion acquisition of Compaq in 2002. Ms. Fiorina failed to turn the combined company into anything remotely able to challenge I.B.M. or Dell. Instead, one Hewlett-Packard executive recently told Fortune magazine that the acquisition might require a write-down.

posted by Gary Williams at 1:18 PM | link |

via The New York Times (registration required)

Microsoft and Pfizer Suing 2 Web Sites That Sell Pills


Published: February 11, 2005

Microsoft and Pfizer took coordinated legal action yesterday against two groups sending junk e-mail messages that offer illegal generic versions of Viagra, Pfizer's best-selling drug for erectile dysfunction.

The two companies filed separate lawsuits against the people behind the CanadianPharmacy site at, and the operators of Pharmacy Direct at

The Microsoft suits, filed in Washington State court, claim each group sent deceptive junk e-mail messages, known as spam, that violated federal and state antispam laws and flooded users of its MSN Hotmail service. Pfizer's suits, filed in federal court in Manhattan, accuse the sites of violating its trademark and of unfair competition.

Microsoft has been active in suing suspected spammers, including several online pharmacies. In August, Pfizer took legal action against 30 Web sites selling a generic version of Viagra.

But this was the first time the companies had worked together, jointly hiring private investigators to track down the operators of the two sites.

posted by Gary Williams at 12:42 PM | link |

via National Lampoon

The Fine Art of Writing a Love Letter

Does the person in question read and understand English? If not, you can save a great deal of time just scrawling different-shaped swirls on a page.

posted by Gary Williams at 12:44 AM | link |

Thursday, February 10, 2005  

via The Register

Astronomers spot fun-sized solar system

By Lucy Sherriff
Published Wednesday 9th February 2005 15:37 GMT

Astronomers working on data from NASA's Spitzer telescope have spotted a disk of planet-forming material in orbit around a brown dwarf - a failed star just 15 times the size of Jupiter.

This is the smallest potential solar system ever seen, and could help scientists understand more about how planetary systems form. It also raises the possibility that the universe could be littered with planetary systems orbiting bodies barely bigger than planets themselves.

posted by Gary Williams at 11:03 PM | link |

via The New York Times (registration required)

World of Warcraft Keeps Growing, Even as Players Test Its Limits


Published: February 10, 2005

IRVINE, Calif., Feb. 7 - It was 4:33 p.m. Thursday, and 263,863 people were reaching through cyberspace to explore the sprawling World of Warcraft.

On the windswept plains of the Arathi Highlands, priests and paladins battled creatures of elemental fire and water as they strove to free the spirit of an entrapped princess. To the south, leather workers and alchemists crowded around auctioneers in the bustling underground city Ironforge to hawk their wares while speculators sifted for bargains.

Meanwhile, high in towering Blackrock Spire, dozens of gnomes and humans, dwarves and night elves banded together to assault the legions of the fearsome General Drakkisath.

And in an unmarked building in a nondescript office park here, the builders at Blizzard Entertainment were assembling yet another challenge for the player-heroes of World of Warcraft, the colorful three-dimensional online fantasy that since its release 10 weeks ago has become one of the world's fastest-selling computer games.

posted by Gary Williams at 5:39 PM | link |

Wednesday, February 09, 2005  

via The New York Times (registration required)

Welcome to a Cleaner Habitat

Published: February 9, 2005

It was a shock at first to see Senator Trent Lott step forward as a convert to the cause of campaign finance reform. Then came his choice of words - 'sewer money' - in vowing to regulate the hundreds of millions of dollars from unions, millionaire donors and corporations that flowed elusively around campaign controls last year to shadow-party organizations.


But there, indeed, was Senator Lott, the Mississippi Republican, standing shoulder to shoulder with the familiar champions of reform - Senators Russell Feingold of Wisconsin and John McCain of Arizona, and Representatives Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Martin Meehan of Massachusetts - as a bipartisan bill was introduced last week to rein in that latest twist in unregulated donations.

Senator Lott, previously a staunch opponent of campaign controls, promised that his Rules Committee would take up the bill next month. The proposal's targets are the tax-exempt '527' advocacy groups, named after a section of the revenue code. Such groups proliferated last year to evade the new legal ban on soft money. Mr. Lott joined the bipartisan disgust at the 527 abuse, disgust that grew as millionaires like George Soros gave $24 million to stop President Bush while groups like the Swift Boat veterans spent freely against Senator John Kerry.

The proposal would place these runaway operatives under regulations governing more traditional political action committees. 'I'm not in my natural habitat,' Senator Lott said, grinning but promising to adapt creatively with quick committee action.

posted by Gary Williams at 10:56 AM | link |

[Politech] Update on new House driver's license bill: Votescheduled today

From Declan McCullagh's Politech

Subject: [Politech] Update on new House driver's license bill: Votescheduled today [priv]

The bill that I placed online here:

And that we've discussed over the last two weeks is now available on a
government site as HR418:

The news is that the House of Representatives is about to hold a floor
vote on HR418 under a special "suspension" calendar that is supposed to
be reserved for noncontroversial legislation. See the Majority Whip's
notice saying the vote will be held Wednesday or Thursday:

Also see a note below from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee on
HR418, and while we're at it, a note about a "broadcast decency" vote on
Wednesday afternoon.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: BORDC Action Alert: House to vote on REAL ID Act this week
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2005 15:09:57 -0500
From: Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Dear Friends:

The House of Representatives is scheduled to take up Rep.
Sensenbrenner's REAL ID Act (H.R. 418) next WEDNESDAY, with a vote
likely THURSDAY, FEB. 10. Sending refugees who have fled torture, rape,
and other brutal human rights abusers back to their tormenters and
deporting long-term residents for charity contributions they made long
ago will not make Americans safer from terrorism. Yet sections of H.R.
418 would do just that. To avoid debate over the bill's controversial
provisions, the sponsor plans to attach his bill to a fast-approaching
"must pass" bill, such as the the Iraqi supplemental spending bill or
the relief bill for tsunami victims.

Summaries of a few troubling sections and a sample phone script follow.
Here are links for more information:

* Bill text, list of cosponsors, and status:

* Contact information for your representative:

* Good analysis of the bill by the American Immigration Lawyers

* Human Rights First web page where you can send your
representative an instant message:

Summary: You may recognize parts of H.R. 418 as the most troubling
sections of H.R. 10, which the conference committee for the Intelligence
Reform bills rejected as too extreme, unrelated to intelligence or
anti-terrorism, and in conflict with the 9/11 Commission's
recommendations. Among the sections of most concern are:

* Section 101, which enables a judge to deny a refugee asylum if
she is unable to track down specific documents that corroborate her
claims--even if the U.S. State Department confirms that the country from
which the refugee has fled never provides the documents--and bars other
judges from reversing their determinations because the corroborating
evidence is not available.
* Sections 103 and 104 would permit long-term legal U.S. residents
to be deported for having given contributions years ago to organizations
that later fit the Bush administration's profile of a terrorist
organization, even if they are not on a list of named terrorist

Sample Phone Script: Please contact your Representative by phone and
explain why you oppose some of the bill's provisions. For example,

"I urge you to oppose H.R. 418's provisions that will make it much
harder for legitimate refugees to gain asylum and place them at greater
risk of being deported back into the hands of their persecutors."

Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Phone: 413-582-0110
Fax: 413-582-0116



CONTACT: Larry Neal or Jon Tripp

Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2005


Committee Schedules Markup

On Broadcast Decency Legislation

WASHINGTON – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton,
R-Texas, has scheduled a full committee markup for Wednesday, Feb. 9 at
12:30 p.m. (or five minutes following the conclusion of the
Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee hearing) in room 2123
of the Rayburn House Office Building, to consider the following:

1. H.R. 310, To increase the penalties for violations by television
and radio broadcasters of the prohibitions against transmission of
obscene, indecent, and profane material, and for other purposes, and;

2. Completion of organizational business.

Politech mailing list
Archived at
Moderated by Declan McCullagh (

posted by Gary Williams at 10:25 AM | link |

[Politech] Bush's budget: What it means for Fed technology spending

From Declan McCullagh's Politech

Subject: [Politech] Bush's budget: What it means for Fed technology spending

Here's another take:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: NEWS: FSI Initial Analysis of President's FY06 Budget
Date: Tue, 08 Feb 2005 15:56:50 -0500
From: Amy Foschetti

Hi Declan,

Below is the news release that was just issued today from FSI as they
have completed their initial analysis of the Bush Administration's 2006
budget to Congress. Please let me know if you'd like to speak with FSI's
Chief Knowledge Officer, Ray Bjorklund. Thanks!

President Bushs Proposed FY06 Budget Represents Growth in IT Spending
for Federal Government

FSI Completes Initial Analysis of Bush Administrations 2006 Budget to

McLean, VA  February 8, 2005  President Bushs proposed FY06
Information Technology (IT) Budget of $65.2 billion, announced
yesterday, appears to represent a more than 7% growth rate. A four year
view shows the IT budget represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR)
of 5.5% over four years (FY03 through FY06).

This is not unexpected, and represents healthy growth for IT,
considering that the top line budgets of many agencies are dropping or
funded below requested, said Karen Wilson, vice president, consulting
for FSI. The IT portions of this budget are growing, which is good news
for the industry.

The 2004 actual IT spending, per the Office of Management and Budget
(OMB), was less than what was enacted in the budget; $59.1 billion,
compared to just $58.6 billion actually spent.

This was highly unusual. Many public IT companies have been reporting
sluggish government spending to their investor community. We believe
this sluggishness could be in part due to OMB exercising its authority
in oversight of IT programs, said Ray Bjorklund, FSIs senior vice
president and chief knowledge officer. OMB may be slowing down the
apportionments on major IT programs to ensure that there is proper
emphasis on program management, due to some major mis-steps in
government IT projects over the last few years.

That being said, the projected spending for government fiscal year (GFY)
05 and 06 appears to be catching up for any sluggishness in GFY04.

Some examples of major new projects include:

- Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): Health eVet  funded at $311
million for FY06. The project replaces the existing VistA-Legacy system.
VistA is the technical infrastructure that supports the VHA provision of
health care to veterans.

- Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Border & Transportation
Securitys (BTS) Consolidated Enforcement Environment is funded at $31.6
million for 2006. This is a DHS system designed to support the
intelligence, interdiction, law enforcement and investigative efforts of
the Department.

- DHS: Homeland Security operations center  which is a consolidated
emphasis on developing the capability for HSOC, and is budgeted for $38
million of new funding.

- DHS will receive $11.6 million for tools for infrastructure protection
to manage cyber-security

- Transportation Security Administrations (TSA) Freight Assessment
Program is funded at $10 million in 2006. This provides a supporting
system to governments databases on shippers and air carriers, with the
intent to analyze data for effective intelligence and protection of
citizens and freight.

There are also several programs that are not new, but appear to have
sizeable increases from FY05 to 06. Overall, the ten largest program
increases from GFY05 to 06 represent an increase of $1.9 billion. Some
examples include the following:
- TSA will receive $382.5 million for electronic baggage screening
- TSA will also receive $215.7 million for the combined credentialing
- Department of Justice (DoJ) will receive long-needed funds for
consolidated enterprise infrastructure totaling some $154 million.

There is much emphasis in the government on information sharing
stemming in part from the Intelligence Reform Bill passed in late 2004.
While the budget does contain several examples of information-sharing
projects (such as the consolidated law enforcement project in DHS noted
above), the bulk of the funding at this point appears to be interwoven
among many projects such as existing data sets to be consolidated and
shared, infrastructure and communications network improvements, and
other similar projects.

Homeland security initiatives government-wide, in the DHS and other
agencies with homeland missions, will increase 42% from 2004-2006, with
an increase of $748 million to $1.13 billion from 2005 to 2006.

Another area of emphasis is healthcare. This general area will grow
13.4% increase from 2004 to 2006. However, from 2005 to 2006, there is
not much increase, which may signal re-alignment of existing funds.

There is noticeable growth in new projects of healthcare-related IT. As
opposed to information sharing, healthcare IT is called out in several
areas in the budget  most notably in the VA and the Department of
Health and Human Services. Some examples include Health eVet program
noted above. Also, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will
provide $457 million in development/modernization / enhancement grant
funds to the states for the federal share of State Medicaid Management
Information System systems costs.

One area noticeably missing from the budget are funds for the Social
Security Administration (SSA), given the Presidents focus on social
security reform. The SSA budget takes a big hit in IT. This could
indicate that the Administration does not know what shape the IT
investments will take in any reform, or that the enabling legislation
defining IT investment will not be passed in time for GFY06.

We feel confident that this proposed spending will be positive for
professional services firms and those systems integrators that provide
professional services in helping government agencies define and manage
their IT initiatives, concluded Bjorklund. The budget's emphasis on
security and sensor technologies also bodes well for equipment
manufacturers that have robust capabilities for distributed control and

About The FSI Consulting Practice
As the nation's preeminent supplier of government IT market intelligence
since 1984, FSI has been helping clients make better business decisions
and operate more effectively with fact-based, actionable intelligence
for succeeding in the government IT market.

FSI provides a combination of online services, consulting and events to
provide a "one-stop" source of business-to-business market intelligence
for the government IT marketplace. FSIs respected and experienced
consulting professionals are dedicated to strengthening the business
development, marketing, and sales functions of companies selling into
the government market.

FSI is a methods-driven, fact-based, analytical consultancy, providing
actionable intelligence based on data, primary and secondary research,
and experienced analysis.

FSIs Consulting Practice professionals have a wealth of experience
ranging from research, market intelligence, budget analysis and survey
methods, as well as management and technology consulting to the federal
government. FSIs expert consultants hail from industry leaders such as
Booz Allen Hamilton, Unisys, EDS, Veritas, Arthur Andersen, Deloitte,
ICF Consulting, Arthur D. Little, Ernst and Young / Cap Gemini, and
government entities including GSA, DISA, Army, Air Force, Navy and the
White House.

About FSI
FSI (Federal Sources, Inc.), a Washington Management Group Company,
delivers fact-based, government-IT market intelligence to both the
largest existing government contractors and new market entrants via
online subscription services, tailored consulting, GSA Schedule services
and industry-leading events. These programs, underscored by a hands-on
approach to client support, enable IT vendors and government
organizations to make informed business decisions and experience rapid
return on investment. FSI was founded in 1984 and is headquartered in
McLean, Virginia. For more insight from FSI on the 2006 IT budget you
can register for the Federal Outlook Conference on April 12 at

Politech mailing list
Archived at
Moderated by Declan McCullagh (

posted by Gary Williams at 10:06 AM | link |

Tuesday, February 08, 2005  

via Blogging in Paris

Valentine By Ogdan Nash

More than a catbird hates a cat,
Or a criminal hates a clue,
Or the Axis hates the United States,
That’s how much I love you.

I love you more than a duck can swim,
And more than a grapefruit squirts,
I love you more than a gin rummy is a bore,
And more than a toothache hurts.

As a shipwrecked sailor hates the sea,
Or a juggler hates a shove,
As a hostess detests unexpected guests,
That’s how much you I love.

I love you more than a wasp can sting,
And more than the subway jerks,
I love you as much as a beggar needs a crutch,
And more than a hangnail irks.

I swear to you by the stars above,
And below, if such there be,
As the High Court loathes perjurious oathes,
That’s how you’re loved by me.

posted by Gary Williams at 12:18 PM | link |

Monday, February 07, 2005  

Comic Of The Day

posted by Gary Williams at 8:03 PM | link |

via The New York Times (registration required)

Stories From the Inside


Published: February 7, 2005

'During the whole time we were at Guant?namo,' said Shafiq Rasul, 'we were at a high level of fear. When we first got there the level was sky-high. At the beginning we were terrified that we might be killed at any minute. The guards would say to us, 'We could kill you at any time.' They would say, 'The world doesn't know you're here. Nobody knows you're here. All they know is that you're missing, and we could kill you and no one would know.' '

The horror stories from the scandalous interrogation camp that the United States is operating at Guant?namo Bay, Cuba, are coming to light with increased frequency. At some point the whole shameful tale of this exercise in extreme human degradation will be told. For the time being we have to piece together what we can from a variety of accounts that have escaped the government's obsessively reinforced barriers of secrecy.

We know that people were kept in cells that in some cases were the equivalent of animal cages, and that some detainees, disoriented and despairing, have been shackled like slaves and left to soil themselves with their own urine and feces. Detainees are frequently kicked, punched, beaten and sexually humiliated. Extremely long periods of psychologically damaging isolation are routine.

posted by Gary Williams at 10:11 AM | link |

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