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Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Heresy That Made Them Rich

October 29, 2005
The Heresy That Made Them Rich
By JOSEPH NOCERA

A FEW weeks ago, Columbia Business School held its 15th Annual Graham & Dodd Breakfast. The guest speaker was Jean-Marie Eveillard, a successful (and now retired) mutual fund manager, who used to beat the market regularly by adhering to the "value investing" principles first articulated by the great investor Benjamin Graham and his co-author, the Columbia professor David L. Dodd, in their 1934 classic, "Security Analysis."

The host was Bruce Greenwald, the Robert Heilbrunn professor of finance and asset management, whose value investing course is one of the school's most popular offerings. Heilbrunn, a Graham disciple who died in 2001, donated the money for Mr. Greenwald's chair, and also gave the university $5 million to establish a Graham and Dodd research center. Among the 300-plus value investors in the audience were the famed fund manager Mario J. Gabelli (class of '67), who is a strong backer of the Columbia program, and Paul D. Sonkin (class of '95) of the Hummingbird Value Fund and an adjunct professor at the school, where he teaches value investing.

And present in spirit, if not in the flesh, was another Graham devotee, the greatest value investor of them all: Warren E. Buffett (class of '51).

I hadn't quite appreciated, before going to the breakfast, the extent to which Columbia Business School is an outlier in the world of academic finance. (A disclosure: for the last year and a half, I've taught a class at Columbia Journalism School.) Most business schools emphasize modern portfolio theory, which has as its central tenet that the market is so efficient it can't be beaten with any regularity. Portfolio theory stresses, sensibly enough, diversification as the best way to spread market risk, but it also generally holds that because the market is efficient, those who beat it are lucky rather than skilled. As Mr. Buffett put it to me recently, "You couldn't advance in a finance department in this country unless you taught that the world was flat."

Although Columbia has its share of portfolio theorists, the value investing program that Mr. Greenwald runs preaches something else: that the world is round. Or, more precisely, that the market can be beaten. Not easily, mind you, and not mindlessly. A "value" stock is, at bottom, a cheap stock. And a value investor is someone who has the facility to ferret out cheap stocks that don't deserve to be cheap, the acumen to understand why certain such companies have what Mr. Buffett calls "a sustained competitive advantage" that will be borne out over time, the patience to wait for the market to come around to his view of things, and the discipline to stick to his value parameters through thick and thin.

"For a value investor, the only relevant questions are: Is it a good business? And will it be a better business in five years?" said Jason Zweig, a columnist with Money magazine who, a few years ago, published an annotated version of Mr. Graham's other classic work, "The Intelligent Investor." If this be heresy, the world could use a little more of it.

EFFICIENT market theory is basically dead," Mr. Greenwald exclaimed, as he began to tell me the story of how he abandoned portfolio theory for value investing.

I've always found value investing appealing because it seems to reward virtue. If you put in the effort, focus more on the business than the stock, and have patience, you have a decent chance of making money. It seems right, somehow, that that's how the world should work.

Mr. Greenwald, an economist and an expert on business strategy, likes to make grand, provocative statements that are likely to tick off the academic establishment, like saying efficient market theory is dead. I suspect that Mr. Greenwald finds value investing appealing at least in part because it puts him at such odds with his academic brethren.

In fact, Columbia's value investing roots go back to Graham, who not only went to the school as an undergraduate, but taught there until the mid-1950's. (Mr. Buffett took his course and worked for his small investment firm, Graham Newman, from 1954 to 1956.) By the time Mr. Greenwald arrived at Columbia in 1991, though, the business school had largely abandoned the field.

Not long after he arrived, Mr. Greenwald attended a series of lectures, as a courtesy, he says, by a retired professor named Roger F. Murray. Murray, who died in 1998, had taught value investing for 20 years after Graham, and one of his prize students had been Mr. Gabelli (whose 20-year track record at the Gabelli Asset Fund, in case you were wondering, is an annualized 14.11 percent). Gabelli was underwriting the lectures - and also videotaping them, a little like an anthropologist trying to capture a dying language while there was still someone around who spoke it.

To his surprise, Mr. Greenwald came away impressed. "I thought," he recalled, "this is not stupid; there is a discipline and a process here." In his own financial life, Mr. Greenwald was the rankest of speculators, to sometimes spectacular and sometimes dismal effect. Value investing was the opposite of that.

In addition, academic studies were beginning to be published that showed value stocks regularly outperformed the market. One important study, for instance, showed that a basket of value stocks outperformed a basket of growth stock about 80 percent of the time. Although finance professors have subsequently engaged in a furious debate as to why this is so, a debate that largely consists of trying to square these findings with efficient market theory, Mr. Greenwald became convinced that they told an unambiguous truth: value investing worked. By 1994, he had revived the school's value investing course.

A decade-plus later, Mr. Greenwald has his own protégés, including Mr. Sonkin - just as Ben Graham once had Mr. Buffett as a protégé, and Murray had Mr. Gabelli. Among the many benefits for Mr. Greenwald is that he now gets to invest with some of the people he once taught -Mr. Sonkin's fund, for instance, has an annualized return of 17.3 percent since January 2000. And, of course, as they become successful, they contribute money to the Graham and Dodd program.

Still, the Columbia program - and value investing in general - feels a little like a cult. Despite the obvious success of people like Mr. Buffett and Mr. Gabelli - and the studies that seem to bear out that success as something more than luck - it is not yet fully accepted by either mainstream Wall Street or mainstream academia. In his remarks at the breakfast, Mr. Eveillard said he thought that maybe 5 percent of professional money managers are true value investors.

But why? If it works, why don't more investors use it? Everybody I spoke to had a different answer. Mr. Zweig said he thought the biggest issue was that value investing was just plain hard. "Buffett is looking to buy great businesses at good prices," he said. "That's not an easy thing to do." He pointed to the example of Mr. Buffett buying a stake in Anheuser-Busch this year after having read the company's annual report for 25 years. "He was watching and waiting for a quarter of a century," Mr. Zweig said.

Mr. Buffett said he thought that most people regarded themselves as value investors, even if they weren't. "Very few people will say they think they are buying something overvalued," he pointed out. But he added that most people looked at the wrong measurements or were overly focused on short-term results, something value investors try to look past.

Mr. Greenwald thought it was because "people love the idea of getting rich quickly"- which is the antithesis of value investing. "People buy lottery tickets, too," he said.

At the Graham & Dodd Breakfast, Mr. Eveillard's remarks suggested that he thought it was all of the above. "It goes against human nature," he said. "You have to be very patient. You're not running with the herd - and it's much warmer inside the herd."

Toward the end of the breakfast, a young investor asked him whether he tried to look around for a catalyst - "such as a corporate raider" - when a stock he owned refused to move up, the way he thought it should. Mr. Eveillard laughed. No, he said, he just waited. "I've been frustrated forever," he said. "I accept that."

Would that we could all accept it. But then, that's why he is a successful investor, and most of us are not.

Last week, I told an anecdote - probably apocryphal, I said - about the former president of Harvard, Derek Bok, firing the man who had run the Harvard Management Company in the 1980's. Neither man returned my calls before the column went to press, but this week, Mr. Bok called to express his dismay that I had published the anecdote. "It never happened," he said.

Who's on First? By MAUREEN DOWD

October 29, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Who's on First?
By MAUREEN DOWD

WASHINGTON

It was bracing to see the son of a New York doorman open the door on the mendacious Washington lair of the Lord of the Underground.

But this Irish priest of the law, Patrick Fitzgerald, neither Democrat nor Republican, was very strict, very precise. He wasn't totally gratifying in clearing up the murkiness of the case, yet strangely comforting in his quaint black-and-white notions of truth and honor (except when his wacky baseball metaphor seemed to veer toward a "Who's on first?" tangle).

"This indictment's not about the propriety of the war," he told reporters yesterday in his big Eliot Ness moment at the Justice Department. The indictment was simply about whether the son of an investment banker perjured himself before a grand jury and the F.B.I.

Scooter does seem like a big fat liar in the indictment. And not a clever one, since his deception hinged on, of all people, the popular monsignor of the trusted Sunday Church of Russert. Does Scooter hope to persuade a jury to believe him instead of Little Russ?

Good luck.

There is something grotesque about Scooter's hiding behind the press with his little conspiracy, given that he's part of an administration that despises the press and tried to make its work almost impossible.

Mr. Fitzgerald claims that Mr. Libby hurt national security by revealing the classified name of a C.I.A. officer. "Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life," he said.

He was not buying the arguments on the right that Mrs. Wilson was not really undercover or was under "light" cover, or that blowing her cover did not hurt the C.I.A.

"I can say that for the people who work at the C.I.A. and work at other places, they have to expect that when they do their jobs that classified information will be protected," he said, adding: "They run a risk when they work for the C.I.A. that something bad could happen to them, but they have to make sure that they don't run the risk that something bad is going to happen to them from something done by their own fellow government employees."

To protect a war spun from fantasy, the Bush team played dirty. Unfortunately for them, this time they Swift-boated an American whose job gave her legal protection from the business-as-usual smear campaign.

The back story of this indictment is about the ongoing Tong wars of the C.I.A., the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon: the fight over who lied us into war. The C.I.A., after all, is the agency that asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate how one of its own was outed by the White House.

The question Mr. Fitzgerald repeatedly declined to answer yesterday - Dick Cheney's poker face has finally met its match - was whether this stops at Scooter.

No one expects him to "flip," unless he finally gets the sort of fancy white-collar criminal lawyer that The Washington Post said he is searching for - like the ones who succeeded in getting Karl Rove off the hook, at least for now - and the lawyer tells Scooter to nail his boss to save himself.

But what we really want to know, now that we have the bare bones of who said what to whom in the indictment, is what they were all thinking there in that bunker and how that hothouse bred the idea that the way out of their Iraq problems was to slime their critics instead of addressing the criticism. What we really want to know, if Scooter testifies in the trial, and especially if he doesn't, is what Vice did to create the spidery atmosphere that led Scooter, who seemed like an interesting and decent guy, to let his zeal get the better of him.

Mr. Cheney, eager to be rid of the meddlesome Joe Wilson, got Valerie Wilson's name from the C.I.A. and passed it on to Scooter. He forced the C.I.A. to compromise one of its own, a sacrifice on the altar of faith-based intelligence.

Vice spent so much time lurking over at the C.I.A., trying to intimidate the analysts at Langley into twisting the intelligence about weapons, that he should have had one of his undisclosed locations there.

This administration's grand schemes always end up as the opposite. Officials say they're promoting national security when they're hurting it; they say they're squelching terrorists when they're breeding them; they say they're bringing stability to Iraq when the country's imploding. (The U.S. announced five more military deaths yesterday.)

And the most dangerous opposite of all: W. was listening to a surrogate father he shouldn't have been listening to, and not listening to his real father, who deserved to be listened to.

Friday, October 28, 2005

John Biguenet's NOLA Journal - Two Cities--A Video Report

Oct. 27, 2005

Two Cities — A Video Report

When the levees crumbled in New Orleans, the flood that inundated the city and killed hundreds left some neighborhoods untouched and others ruined. As the dry sections have sprung back to life — like the Louisiana irises and other marsh plants that are turning parts of the city green again — the traces of Hurricane Katrina are quickly disappearing. Residents have returned, streets are crowded with traffic, and restaurants are jammed.

See the video.

But along the lakefront, in the Lower Ninth Ward, and across New Orleans East, a curfew remains in effect from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. Abandoned cars strew the roads. Shattered windows gape unrepaired from walls stained white by the salty flood. Roofs are still pierced with the holes punched out by families trapped in their attics by rising water. Each house continues to announce in blue paint the grim tally of the living and the dead found by rescue teams after the water subsided. And everything is glazed with dust as gray as ash — all the color has been drained from these once vibrant neighborhoods.

So New Orleans has become two cities. The French Quarter, the Garden District, the university section, the business district, the West Bank will soon be as beautiful as ever, throbbing with the intense life we live down here. But the areas devastated by the flooding are another city, a ghost town.

My day swings back and forth between these two places. Now that Marsha and I have found a place to rent in Uptown New Orleans, we spend our mornings and nights amid the bustle of a reborn city. But the rest of the day, we rip sheetrock and insulation from our flooded home as we, quite literally, gut it.

You have to be here to grasp how much New Orleans has accomplished in the two months since defective levees collapsed and drowned the city — and how much remains to be done. The accompanying video offers you a tour of a place still half dead but well on its way back to life.

See the video.

John Biguenet's NOLA Journal - The New New Orleans

Oct. 26, 2005
The New New Orleans



Just across from Audubon Park on the streetcar line, Loyola University, where I teach English, presents one of the most picturesque facades on St. Charles Avenue. Unscathed by Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath, the university looks exactly as it did on the Friday afternoon before the storm hit when I locked my office door and left for what I thought might turn into an extended holiday weekend. So the university is as ready today as it was in late August to fulfill its educational mission. Chalk and erasers still on the ledge beneath each board, the desks still in neat rows, its classrooms lack only students and teachers.

But getting students and teachers back into those classrooms illustrates the myriad challenges facing every institution and business in the city. For instance, a ZIP code analysis of faculty and staff addresses indicates that the houses of roughly half of Loyola’s employees may be uninhabitable thanks to the flooding from the catastrophic failure of the levee system. Loyola has spent the last month assembling a housing database to assist faculty and staff in relocating back to New Orleans, and everyone seems to be pitching in to help homeless colleagues, either offering spare rooms or passing on information. Yesterday afternoon, I received a call on my cellphone from a member of the physics faculty, who had a lead on an apartment for me. I gratefully explained that Marsha and I had already found a place.

Housing isn’t the only problem. An estimated 200,000 cars may have been destroyed in the flood. Marsha and I, for example, are sharing her VW Beetle, having lost both my car and my son’s. So the university is compiling a transportation database as well to help faculty get to school every day, a task made more difficult by the fact that the St. Charles Avenue streetcars are not yet back in service.

Then we have to lure our students home from the universities where they have taken classes this semester. Though surveys indicate most can’t wait to return, the school is taking extraordinary steps to insure an easy transition back into life at Loyola. In addition to great flexibility when it comes to transferring credits earned elsewhere this fall, the university will offer a combination of regular and intensive semesters to meet the wide variety of student needs after the disruptions of these last few months. To make that possible, faculty will teach more courses in the spring and again in the summer than they typically do.

Despite all the challenges the university faces, there was a sense of excitement at a faculty meeting I attended on campus a few days ago. Interdisciplinary courses examining the effects of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath will engage students in a consideration of what happened, why it happened, and how the city will change in response to this unprecedented disaster. Similarly, some faculty members are already redirecting their research to the extraordinary laboratory New Orleans now offers to a range of scholarly disciplines, from the physical sciences to law to music to the social sciences to economics and the humanities.

That research, often conducted in collaboration with students in their courses, is one reason there is so much optimism on campus about Loyola’s future. We’re beginning to see that we can offer an education that schools elsewhere will not be able to match. At most universities around the country next semester, students will study the past. But at Loyola and other New Orleans institutions of higher learning, our students will also be actively involved in the creation of the future — of both a city and a region. Imagine the kind of students such an education will attract and the kind of leaders we will graduate.

It’s been only two months since the levees we believed we could trust collapsed all around us. So we’re still tallying our losses. But if Loyola University is any indication, we’re about to begin to figure out what the new New Orleans may offer in compensation for the old one that was washed away.

Bernanke and the Bubble By PAUL KRUGMAN

October 28, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Bernanke and the Bubble
By PAUL KRUGMAN

By Bush administration standards, the choice of Ben Bernanke to succeed Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve was just weird.

For one thing, Mr. Bernanke is actually an expert in monetary policy, as opposed to, say, Arabian horses.

Beyond that, Mr. Bernanke's partisanship, if it exists, is so low-key that his co-author on a textbook didn't know he was a registered Republican. The academic work on which his professional reputation rests is apolitical. Moreover, that work is all about how the Fed can influence demand - there's not a hint in his work of support for the right-wing supply-side doctrine.

Nor is he a laissez-faire purist who believes that government governs best when it governs least. On the contrary, he's a policy activist who advocates aggressive government moves to jump-start stalled economies.

For example, a few years back Mr. Bernanke called on Japan to show "Rooseveltian resolve" in fighting its long slump. He even supported a proposal by yours truly that the Bank of Japan try to get Japan's economy moving by, among other things, announcing its intention to push inflation up to 3 or 4 percent per year.

Last but not least, Mr. Bernanke has no personal ties to the Bush family. It's hard to imagine him doing something indictable to support his masters. It's even hard to imagine him doing what Mr. Greenspan did: throwing his prestige as Fed chairman behind irresponsible tax cuts.

All of this raises a frightening prospect. Has President Bush been so damaged by scandals and public disapproval that he has no choice but to appoint qualified, principled people to important positions?

O.K., seriously, many economists and investors feared that Mr. Bush would try to place a highly partisan figure in charge of the Fed. And even before the revelations surfaced about cronyism at FEMA and elsewhere, there was widespread concern that Mr. Bush would try to select a John Snow type - a businessman whose only qualification is loyalty - to run monetary policy. The naming of Mr. Bernanke was a sign of Mr. Bush's weakness, and it brought a collective sigh of relief.

Obviously I'm pleased, too. Full disclosure: Mr. Bernanke was chairman of the Princeton economics department before moving to Washington, and he made the job offer that brought me to Princeton.

So should we all feel confident about the economic future, assuming that Mr. Bernanke is confirmed? Alas, no.

This isn't a comment on Mr. Bernanke's qualifications, although there is one talent, important in a Fed chairman, that Mr. Bernanke has yet to demonstrate (though he may have it). Mr. Greenspan, for all his flaws, has repeatedly shown his ability to divine from fragmentary and sometimes contradictory data which way the economic wind is blowing. As an academic, Mr. Bernanke never had the occasion to make that kind of judgment. We'll just have to see whether he can develop an economic weather sense on the job.

No, my main concern is that the economy may well face a day of reckoning soon after Mr. Bernanke takes office. And while he is surely the best politically possible man for the job (all the other candidates I would have been happy with are independents or Democrats), coping with that day of reckoning without some nasty shocks may be beyond anyone's talents.

The fact is that the U.S. economy's growth over the past few years has depended on two unsustainable trends: a huge surge in house prices and a vast inflow of funds from Asia. Sooner or later, both trends will end, possibly abruptly.

It's true that Mr. Bernanke has given speeches suggesting both that a "global savings glut" will continue to provide the United States with lots of capital inflows, and that housing prices don't reflect a bubble. Well, soothing words are expected from a Fed chairman. He must know that he may be wrong.

If he is, the U.S. economy will find itself in need of the "Rooseveltian resolve" Mr. Bernanke advocated for Japan. We can safely predict that Mr. Bernanke will show that resolve. In fact, Bill Gross of the giant bond fund Pimco has already predicted that next year Mr. Bernanke will start cutting interest rates.

But that may not be enough. When all is said and done, the Fed controls only one thing: the short-term interest rate. And it will be a long time before we have competent, public-spirited people controlling taxes, spending and other instruments of economic policy.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Driving Blind as the Deaths Pile Up | By BOB HERBERT

October 27, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist

Driving Blind as the Deaths Pile Up

Much of the nation is mourning the more than 2,000 American G.I.'s lost to the war in Iraq. But some of the mindless Washington weasels who sent those brave and healthy warriors to their unnecessary doom have other things on their minds. They're scrambling about the capital, huddling frantically with lawyers, hoping that their habits of deception, which are a way of life with them, don't finally land them in a federal penitentiary.

See them sweat. The most powerful of the powerful, the men who gave the president his talking points and his marching orders, are suddenly sending out distress signals: Don't let them send me to prison on a technicality.

This is not, however, about technicalities. You can spin it any way you want, but Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby et al. is ultimately about the monumentally conceived and relentlessly disseminated deceit that gave us the war that never should have happened.

Oh, it was heady stuff for a while - nerds and naïfs swapping fantasies of world domination and giddily manipulating the levers of American power. They were oh so arrogant and glib: Weapons of mass destruction. Yellowcake from Niger. The smoking gun morphing into a mushroom cloud.

Now look at what they've wrought. James Dao of The Times began his long article on the 2,000 American dead with a story that was as typical as it was tragic:

"Sgt. Anthony G. Jones, fresh off the plane from Iraq and an impish grin on his face, sauntered unannounced into his wife's hospital room in Georgia just hours after she had given birth to their second son."

The article described how Sergeant Jones, over a blissful two-week period last May, "cooed over their baby and showered attention on his wife."

"Three weeks later, on June 14," wrote Mr. Dao, "Sergeant Jones was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on his third tour in a war that is not yet three years old. He was 25."

Three times Sergeant Jones was sent to Iraq, which tells you all you need to know about the fairness and shared sacrifices of this war. If you roll the dice enough times, they're guaranteed to come up snake eyes.

Sergeant Jones told his wife, Kelly, that he had "a bad feeling" about heading back to Iraq for a third combat tour. After his death, his wife found a message that he had left for her among his letters and journal entries.

"Grieve little and move on," he wrote. "I shall be looking over you. And you will hear me from time to time on the gentle breeze that sounds at night, and in the rustle of leaves."

In addition to the more than 2,000 dead, an additional 15,000 Americans have been wounded. Some of these men and women have sacrificed one, two and even three limbs. Some have been permanently blinded and others permanently paralyzed - some both. Some have been horribly burned.

For the Iraqis, the toll is beyond hideous. Perhaps 30,000 dead, of which an estimated 10 percent have been children. The number of Iraqi wounded is anybody's guess.

This is what happens in war, which is why wars should only be fought when there is utterly and absolutely no alternative.

So what's ahead, now that the giddiness in Washington has been replaced by anxiety and the public is turning against the war?

Even Richard Nixon's cronies are crawling out of the woodwork to urge the Bush gang to stop the madness. In an article for Foreign Affairs magazine, former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, now 83, says the administration needs to come up with a clearly defined exit strategy, and fast.

Said Mr. Laird: "Getting out of a war is still dicier than getting into one, as George W. Bush can attest."

But President Bush, who never gave the country a legitimate reason for going to war, and has never offered a coherent strategy for winning the war, seems in no hurry to figure out a way to exit the war.

Soon after the Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday that the American death toll in Iraq had reached 2,000, the president gave a speech in which he said: "This war will require more sacrifice, more time and more resolve. No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead, nor should they overlook the advantages we bring to this fight."

Thousands upon thousands are suffering and dying in Iraq while, in Washington, incompetence continues its macabre marathon dance with incoherence.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Just How Nasty Is a Rat? It's New York, Ask an Expert

October 26, 2005
About New York
Just How Nasty Is a Rat? It's New York, Ask an Expert
By DAN BARRY

THE members of the inaugural class of the New York City Rodent Control Academy followed the signs adorned with drawings of rats to a lecture room yesterday morning. They slapped on name tags, collected spiral-bound copies of the curriculum - "Section 11: Using Exterior Bait Boxes for Rat Control: What, When, and How" - and squeezed into school desks.

Some wore neat pantsuits and some wore rumpled work clothes. Some had ties dangling from their necks and some had huge key rings dangling from their belt loops. Most were city employees, representing sanitation, or transportation, or housing. All had a professional interest in "controlling," which is a nice way of saying "getting rid of," a creature of insidiously perfect design: the Norway rat.

Edgar R. Butts, the City Health Department's assistant commissioner for veterinary and pest control services, welcomed the students the way a college president might greet incoming freshmen. He had reason to be upbeat, given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had awarded the city a sizable grant to create this first-of-a-kind course, one that explains why rodent control is more than simply laying out bait.

A lot of thought and planning had gone into the academy, especially by two Health Department veterans of the city's rodent war, Flavia Diaz and Karlette Sylvain. They had helped in everything from organizing the three-day curriculum to settling on navy blue for the matching "NYC Rodent Control Academy" hats and tote bags.

But the academy's greatest coup, perhaps, was in acquiring the services of its first speaker and visiting scholar: Bobby Corrigan, a balding, unassuming man who writes poetry and putters around with his wife on their 70-acre farm in Indiana. He also happens to be the "superstar of the rodent-control industry," as Robert Sullivan dubbed him in his seminal work on this squeamish subject, "Rats" (though the "superstar" did not complicate his appearance with divalike demands for, say, red-only M&M's).

Dr. Corrigan thinks that one-rat-for-every-city-resident ratios are silly and misleading - the number is "unmeasurable," he says - and realizes the Sisyphean element to his life's work. But he is clearly committed. Not only is he the author of "Rodent Control: A Practical Guide for Pest Management Professionals," a frequent columnist for Pest Control Technology magazine, and a former researcher at Purdue University, he has also been there: answering calls about rats in toilets, blending into the dark to study rodent behavior, tracking the greasy paths of rats through subway, sewer and high-rise.

With this combination of the practical and academic, coupled with a familiar Brooklyn-Long Island accent that betrayed his roots, he had his downtown audience at hello.

Halfway through his introductory session, the only sound in the darkened room was the scratchy tenor voice of Dr. Corrigan, spinning stories and lessons as he flashed one disturbing photograph after another onto a screen.

Here was one of a subway station. That little blur there? A rat, scurrying into a utility room. And this black greasy streak along the subway tiles? The rub marks of filthy rats, running back and forth in that spot thousands of times.

The Latin root for the word rodent, by the way, means "to gnaw." And so what might that rat do in the utility room? Or in the wiring of airplanes, and cars, and buildings? "If it starts gnawing on wires," Dr. Corrigan said, warming to his point, "we've got potential."

Here was another photograph, a still portrait of sorts, showing a spice shelf in a kitchen, blackened by the repetitive visits of greasy rats. Imagine where that grease came from; imagine the potential for disease for the distraught tenant and her two children; and imagine what the landlord said about sound pest control. Too expensive, Dr. Corrigan recalled.

IT is the responsibility of everyone in this city to participate in rodent control, beginning with the proper disposal of food. But Dr. Corrigan flashed a large photograph of a black rat on the screen and told his students that "nobody is collecting that guy" - except the likes of the people in this room.

You protect the roof over people's heads, he said. You protect the food that they eat, their health, their comfort, their safety. No other occupation can claim all those responsibilities, he said, except those dedicated to rodent control.

"Without pest control, this city would be in a hurt," he said. "In a big, big way."

Another speaker began the second session - "Rodents and Allergens" - and Dr. Corrigan stepped outside to sip his coffee. He admitted that his introductory talk was partly meant to boost morale.

"No one's going around saying, 'Do you want to grow up to be an exterminator?' " he said after the class. "No one has 'Thank You Exterminator' days."

Then he returned to the classroom to lecture about "The Biology and Behavior of Rodents." After that, lunch.

10 Reasons Terror Meets Silence From Muslims

10 Reasons Terror Meets Silence From Muslims
By ROGER COHEN
International Herald Tribune

Mao Tse-tung famously remarked that, "The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea." That sea, for jihadist Islamic fanatics, is the Muslim world.

Since the 9/11 attack on the United States, the West has been disappointed in that world's failure to raise its voice against terrorism. Here are 10 reasons why moderate Muslims have remained largely silent in the face of the violent extremism that invokes Islam's name.

1. Islamic militants, be they freelance suicide bombers recruited on the Internet or Qaeda operatives, are widely seen as the only genuine resistance to an intrusive and hypocritical United States that has, in Muslim eyes, co-opted the autocratic governments of the Arab world and favored Israel in its fight with the Palestinians.

2. The Bush administration now says it favors democratic reform throughout the Middle East. But its chosen initial instrument, the Iraqi invasion, is often viewed as an unacceptable occupation of Arab land, and the decades-long history of cynical American connivance with oil-providing despots has not been forgotten. Given a choice between militants fighting the Middle Eastern status quo and a new American policy also avowedly directed at change, many Arabs find the former more credible and sympathetic.

3. The Islamization of Arab societies over the past three decades came in response to the failures of those societies. Repressive and corrupt one-party regimes, condoned by Washington in countries from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, left the mosque as the only significant platform for political opposition. It is therefore not surprising that militants and terrorists who invoke an anti-Western Islamic ideology find a wide echo, even after the collapse of the fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the failures of the theocratic revolution in Iran.

4. Middle Eastern governments that are nominally America's allies are playing a double game. It is still easier, and more popular, for these governments to encourage railing against America in Iraq, or Israel in the West Bank, than it is to embrace an American-backed transformational reform program that might bite them back, as recent events in Syria show. Hala Mustafa, an Egyptian writer and intellectual, said her access to Egyptian television was curtailed after she failed "to conform to the anti-American stereotype." She added: "If you are pro-American, you are put under every kind of pressure. The regime regards you as an embarrassment." Moderate Muslims receive little or no real encouragement from their governments or media to speak out against anti-Western jihadists. The Saudi royal family may call Al Qaeda "madness and evil," but their money helped birth it and their power remains inextricable from a fundamentalist Islam whose anti-Western currents are strong.

5. Decades of repression have led to the depoliticization of many Arab societies. People are passive. They do not believe that by raising their voice, or taking to the street, they can make a difference. They are susceptible to conspiracy theories, chief among them any that demonize America. Islamization, exploited in various guises by many regimes, has encouraged this tendency. In God-given, as opposed to man-made societies, the individual carries little weight.

6. A sense of humiliation is widespread in the Arab world, fed by Israel's victories, America's invasion of Iraq, a history of Western colonization, and the economic and cultural failings chronicled by the United Nations in successive Arab Human Development Reports. The other face of humiliation is belligerence; the other face of misery is the quest for recovered pride. In this context, jihadists who embrace death over being demeaned are viewed as salvaging some vestige of Arab and Islamic honor.

7. All-conquering Western modernism, with its share of arrogance and prejudice, is widely rejected as an identity by young Muslims. When the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, said Western civilization was superior to Islamic civilization, he was seen as being blunt about something widely felt. Similarly, when President George W. Bush spoke of a "crusade," Muslims thought they were hearing the truth behind the circumlocutions. Their response: to embrace Islam as a culturally authentic alternative to the West and, in extreme cases, to decide to fight the West with bombs.

8. Islamic fanaticism has successfully imposed a realm of fear, on Muslim intellectuals and others. People are afraid to speak out against Islamo-terrorism for fear of being killed. Ahmed Aboutaleb, a Muslim city councilor in Amsterdam, said he often asked groups of young Dutch Muslims if they would speak out if they learned that a member of their families was preparing to plant a bomb. The response was silence and evasion.

9. Fear of human reprisal for speaking out is sometimes complemented or reinforced by fear of divine reprisal. Osama bin Laden is a puritan Muslim. He points, not implausibly, to certain texts from the Koran in justification of his actions, including the beheading of the infidel occupying holy Arab lands. To denounce him and his movement in public is therefore to risk incurring the wrath of Allah.

10. Islam is far younger than the world's other main religions. The Prophet Muhammad died in 632, less than 1,400 years ago. Perhaps Islam's effervescence and violence may be compared to that of Christendom at the time of the Protestant Reformation, a movement that was followed by religious wars of devastating brutality in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Not for centuries after that did Western colonialism, inseparable from missionary Christian zeal to convert the pagan unbeliever, reach its zenith. No wonder, then, that Muslims are reluctant to speak out about, or denounce, the bomb-bearing zealots who proclaim, however preposterously, Islam and its civilization as their cause.

All of the above suggests Bush may be naïve in arguing that the West's only fight is with a "perversion" of Islam, a latter-day Fascist ideology. Rather, it is with a deep-rooted movement of Islamization for which the West bears significant responsibility. The Muslim sea is deep and wide and not about to yield its sharp-toothed fish.

Dick at the Heart of Darkness By MAUREEN DOWD

October 26, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Dick at the Heart of Darkness
By MAUREEN DOWD
WASHINGTON

After W. was elected, he sometimes gave visitors a tour of the love alcove off the Oval Office where Bill trysted with Monica - the notorious spot where his predecessor had dishonored the White House.

At least it was only a little pantry - and a little panting.

If W. wants to show people now where the White House has been dishonored in far more astounding and deadly ways, he'll have to haul them around every nook and cranny of his vice president's office, then go across the river for a walk of shame through the Rummy empire at the Pentagon.

The shocking thing about the trellis of revelations showing Dick Cheney, the self-styled Mr. Strong America, as the central figure in dark conspiracies to juice up a case for war and demonize those who tried to tell the public the truth is how unshocking it all is.

It's exactly what we thought was going on, but we never thought we'd actually hear the lurid details: Cheney and Rummy, the two old compadres from the Nixon and Ford days, in a cabal running the country and the world into the ground, driven by their poisonous obsession with Iraq, while Junior is out of the loop, playing in the gym or on his mountain bike.

Mr. Cheney has been so well protected by his Praetorian guard all these years that it's been hard for the public to see his dastardly deeds and petty schemes. But now, because of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation and candid talk from Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Wilkerson, he's been flushed out as the heart of darkness: all sulfurous strands lead back to the man W. aptly nicknamed Vice.

According to a Times story yesterday, Scooter Libby first learned about Joseph Wilson's C.I.A. wife from his boss, Mr. Cheney, not from reporters, as he'd originally suggested. And Mr. Cheney learned it from George Tenet, according to Mr. Libby's notes.

The Bush hawks presented themselves as protectors and exporters of American values. But they were so feverish about projecting the alternate reality they had constructed to link Saddam and Al Qaeda - and fulfilling their idée fixe about invading Iraq - they perverted American values.

Whether or not it turns out to be illegal, outing a C.I.A. agent - undercover or not - simply to undermine her husband's story is Rove-ishly sleazy. This no-leak administration was perfectly willing to leak to hurt anyone who got in its way.

Vice also pressed for a loophole so the C.I.A. could do torture-light on prisoners in U.S. custody, but John McCain rebuffed His Tortureness. Senator McCain has sponsored a measure to bar the cruel treatment of prisoners because he knows that this is not who we are. (Remember the days when the only torture was listening to politicians reciting their best TV lines at dinner parties?)

Colonel Wilkerson, the former chief of staff for Colin Powell, broke the code and denounced Vice's vortex, calling his own involvement in Mr. Powell's U.N. speech, infected with bogus Cheney and Scooter malarkey, "the lowest point" in his life.

He followed that with a blast of blunt talk in a speech and an op-ed piece in The Los Angeles Times, saying that foreign policy had been hijacked by "a secretive, little-known cabal" that hated dissent. He said the cabal was headed by Mr. Cheney, "a vice president who speaks only to Rush Limbaugh and assembled military forces," and Donald Rumsfeld, "a secretary of defense presiding over the death by a thousand cuts of our overstretched armed forces."

"I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less," Colonel Wilkerson wrote. "More often than not, then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was simply steamrolled by this cabal."

Brent Scowcroft, Bush Senior's close friend, let out a shriek this week to Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker, revealing his estrangement from W. and his old protégé Condi. He disdained Paul Wolfowitz as a naïve utopian and said he didn't "know" his old friend Dick Cheney anymore. Vice's alliance with the neocons, who were determined to finish in Iraq what Mr. Scowcroft and Poppy had declared finished, led him to lead the nation into a morass. Troop deaths are now around 2,000, a gruesome milestone.

"The reason I part with the neocons is that I don't think in any reasonable time frame the objective of democratizing the Middle East can be successful," Mr. Scowcroft said. "If you can do it, fine, but I don't think you can, and in the process of trying to do it you can make the Middle East a lot worse."

W. should take the Medal of Freedom away from Mr. Tenet and give medals to Colonel Wilkerson and Mr. Scowcroft.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hurricane Fitzgerald Approaches the White House by Nicholas Kristof

I, for one, see NOTHING disgraceful, Mr. Kristof, in Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation. And to compare it to Ken Starr's? I am repulsed, Mr. Kristof, at your equating treason and oral sex. I am loathe to post your column, but needs must.

October 25, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Hurricane Fitzgerald Approaches the White House
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Before dragging any Bush administration officials off to jail, we should pause and take a long, deep breath.

In the 1990's, we saw the harm that special prosecutors can do: they become obsessive, pouncing on the picayune, distracting from governing and frustrating justice more than serving it. That was true particularly of Kenneth Starr's fanatical pursuit of Bill Clinton and of the even more appalling 10-year investigation into inconsequential lies by Henry Cisneros, the former housing secretary.

Special prosecutors always seem to morph into Inspector Javert, the Victor Hugo character whose vision of justice is both mindless and merciless. We don't know what evidence has been uncovered by Patrick Fitzgerald, but we should be uneasy that he is said to be mulling indictments that aren't based on his prime mandate, investigation of possible breaches of the 1982 law prohibiting officials from revealing the names of spies.

Instead, Mr. Fitzgerald is rumored to be considering mushier kinds of indictments, for perjury, obstruction of justice or revealing classified information. Sure, flat-out perjury must be punished. But if the evidence is more equivocal, then indictments would mark just the kind of overzealous breach of prosecutorial discretion that was a disgrace when Democrats were targeted.

And it would be just as disgraceful if Republicans are the targets.

There is, of course, plenty of evidence that White House officials behaved abominably in this affair. I'm offended by the idea of a government official secretly using the news media - under the guise of a "former Hill staffer" - to attack former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. That's sleazy and outrageous. But a crime?

I'm skeptical, even though there seems to have been a coordinated White House campaign against Mr. Wilson. One indication of that coordination is that, as I've reported earlier, I received a call at the same time, in June 2003, from yet another senior White House official, who chided me for two columns in which I discussed Mr. Wilson's trip to Niger but didn't use his name.

My caller never said anything inappropriate or mentioned Mr. or Mrs. Wilson. But the White House was clearly on the warpath - even before Mr. Wilson went public in his July 2003 Op-Ed article - to defend itself from his allegations and from the idea that the administration had cooked the Iraq intelligence.

My guess is that the participants in a White House senior staff meeting discussed Mr. Wilson's trip and the charges that the administration had knowingly broadcast false information about uranium in Niger - and then decided to take the offensive. The leak of Mrs. Wilson's identity resulted from that offensive, but it may well have been negligence rather than vengeance. I question whether the White House knew that she was a noc (nonofficial cover), and I wonder whether some official spread the word of Mrs. Wilson's work at the C.I.A. to make her husband's trip look like a nepotistic junket.

That was appalling. It meant that any person ever linked to Mrs. Wilson or to her front company was at grave risk. And we in journalism have extended too much professional courtesy to Robert Novak, who was absolutely wrong to print the disclosure.

But there's also no need to exaggerate it. The C.I.A. believed that Mrs. Wilson's identity had already been sold to the Russians by Aldrich Ames by 1994, and she had begun the process of switching to official cover as a State Department officer.

To me, the whisper campaign against Mr. Wilson amounts to back-stabbing politics, but not to obvious criminality. And if indictments are issued for White House officials on vague charges of revealing classified information, that will have a chilling effect on the reporting of national security issues. The ultimate irony would come if we ended up strengthening the Bush administration's ability to operate in secret.

One can believe that the neocons are utterly wrong without also assuming that they are evil. And one can yearn for Scooter Libby's exit from the White House - to be, say, ambassador to Nauru - without dreaming of him in chains.

So I find myself repulsed by the glee that some Democrats show at the possibility of Karl Rove and Mr. Libby being dragged off in handcuffs. It was wrong for prosecutors to cook up borderline and technical indictments during the Clinton administration, and it would be just as wrong today. Absent very clear evidence of law-breaking, the White House ideologues should be ousted by voters, not by prosecutors.

John Biguenet's NOLA Journal - Pulp Fiction

Oct. 24, 2005

Pulp Fiction

I had always thought that when you lose everything, the irreplaceable mementoes of life must be the hardest to part with. And dredged up from the muck left by the receding flood, such things, ruined beyond repair, do wound me — the spontaneous gift of a beautiful bowl bestowed for no reason one evening by a friend now long dead, the self-portrait with green teeth by a second-grader now grown into his twenties, the battered music box that served as the first token of a love that has outlasted more than just this most recent disaster. But I could not have guessed that of all the things lost in the flood, my mold-encrusted books would weigh so heavily upon me.

When I kicked open my door the first time we returned to our house after the hurricane, what caught my eye was not the heavy sofa that had floated across the living room to totter upon the stairs, nor even the veil of mold that shrouded every surface. What I fixed upon was the copy of “Mary Reilly” my friend Valerie Martin had autographed for me that now lay at my feet, its pages black and waterlogged. The novel had been shelved at the top of the bookcase with other prized volumes by admired writers; I realized immediately that sometime during the three weeks my house had remained flooded four feet deep, the bookcase had pitched forward into the water.

So I knew the soggy pile of books sprawled across the floor and discolored by the mold must include the whole set of Janette Turner Hospital’s stories and novels I had been reading my way through this past summer, the collection of poetry John Balaban had insisted I take as a gift at a conference we both attended, the inscribed copy of Helen Scully’s first novel, the volumes by Angela Carter I had found here and there over 20 years, the boxed set of Tolstoy’s diaries I’d requested in place of a fee for a favor I had done a publisher, novels by Tim Gautreaux and Tom Franklin and Steve Stern and Ha Jin, Michael Henry Heim’s translation of Chekhov’s letters, Edith Grossman’s new translation of “Don Quixote.” Though I was surrounded by tens of thousands of dollars of damage, what pierced my heart was the swollen paperback of “The Tain,” the Irish epic, which Marsha and I had discovered in a British bookshop on our first trip to Europe 30 years ago.

The ruined books, heavy with water and slippery with mold, clung to one another. It was difficult work, lifting them into a garbage can to haul to the curb, then flinging them, often one by one, onto the common trash hill my neighbors and I have built. In fact, the ribs on my left side are still tender from the effort to finish the job this past weekend.

I keep reminding myself it’s foolish to regret a lost book. All but a few of those I’ve thrown away are probably available in new editions, in a library, in a used-book shop somewhere. And a book is just a temporary transition, after all, between two minds, the writer’s and the reader’s. So what have I lost, really?

But each book had its own story of how it had come to rest on one of my shelves. “The Tain” and the other volumes we found on that first trip to Europe came home in Marsha’s yellow suitcase, the one we emptied of clothes as we traveled to make more room for books unavailable in those days in the States. The American Merchant Seaman's Manual had been my father’s. The thin volume of poems by grammar-school students, including the first poem ever published by a promising young versifier named Wystan Hugh Auden, was the very touching gift of an organization I had served that knew of my love for his later poetry. Now nothing but pulp, they have a new story to tell me of how quickly things pass. (And, of course, my own books rotting among the work of so many other writers have their own lesson to teach me about the glory of this world.)

One of the books I lost was “The Complete Poems of Elizabeth Bishop.” Her villanelle, “One Art,” repeats a line I’ve learned is true: “The art of losing isn’t hard to master.” But she insists, over and over again, it’s never really a “disaster.” I know she’s right about that, too — though surrounded by my past, corrupting page by page, it’s a difficult truth to accept.

Monday, October 24, 2005

How Scary Is This? by BOB HERBERT

October 24, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
How Scary Is This?
By BOB HERBERT

The White House is sweating out the possibility that one or more top officials will soon be indicted on criminal charges. But the Bush administration is immune to prosecution for its greatest offense - its colossal and profoundly tragic incompetence.

Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, addressed the administration's arrogance and ineptitude in a talk last week that was astonishingly candid by Washington standards.

"We have courted disaster in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran," said Mr. Wilkerson. "Generally, with regard to domestic crises like Katrina, Rita ... we haven't done very well on anything like that in a long time. And if something comes along that is truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence."

The investigation of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby et al. is the most sensational story coming out of Washington at the moment. But the story with the gravest implications for the U.S. and the world is the overall dysfunction of the Bush regime. This is a bomb going "Tick, tick, tick . . ." What is the next disaster that this crowd will be unprepared to cope with? Or the next lunatic idea that will spring from its ideological bag of tricks?

Mr. Wilkerson gave his talk before an audience at the New America Foundation, an independent public policy institute. On the all-important matter of national security, which many voters had seen as the strength of the administration, Mr. Wilkerson said:

"The case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process. What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made."

When the time came to implement the decisions, said Mr. Wilkerson, they were "presented in such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn't know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out."

Where was the president? According to Mr. Wilkerson, "You've got this collegiality there between the secretary of defense and the vice president, and you've got a president who is not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either."

One of the consequences of this dysfunction, as I have noted many times, is the unending parade of dead or badly wounded men and women returning to the U.S. from the war in Iraq - a war that the administration foolishly launched but now does not know how to win or end.

Mr. Wilkerson was especially critical of the excessive secrecy that surrounded so many of the most important decisions by the Bush administration, and of what he felt was a general policy of concentrating too much power in the hands of a small group of insiders. As much as possible, government in the United States is supposed to be open and transparent, and a fundamental principle is that decision-making should be subjected to a robust process of checks and balances.

While not "evaluating the decision to go to war," Mr. Wilkerson told his audience that under the present circumstances "we can't leave Iraq. We simply can't." In his view, if American forces were to pull out too quickly, the U.S. would end up returning to the Middle East with "five million men and women under arms" within a decade.

Nevertheless, he is appalled at the way the war was launched and conducted, and outraged by "the detainee abuse issue." In 10 years, he said, when this matter is "put to the acid test, ironed out, and people have looked at it from every angle, we are going to be ashamed of what we allowed to happen."

Mr. Wilkerson said he has taken some heat for speaking out, but feels that "as a citizen of this great republic," he has an obligation to do so. If nothing is done about the current state of affairs, he said, "it's going to get even more dangerous than it already is."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

How to Slow Runaway Executive Pay

October 23, 2005
How to Slow Runaway Executive Pay
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON

WHILE investors have railed about skyrocketing executive pay, lo these many years, the response from executive suites has been a confounding silence. Even directors, who have a fiduciary duty to put shareholders' interests before those of managers, have been unwilling to stop the insanity.

Last year, the average pay package for chief executives at big companies came in at $10 million, up 13 percent from 2003. In view of the pension and health insurance givebacks being forced upon lower-level workers, this surge is especially obscene.

That the people on the receiving end of these enormous transfers of shareholder wealth want them to continue is no surprise. What's-in-it-for-me is the way we live now. Still, letting excessive pay escalate every year hurts the already battered reputations of American executives. From that standpoint, the silence has been baffling.

Finally, however, a C.E.O., albeit an emeritus one, is talking tough about outrageous pay and pliant boards. In a taped speech - aimed at directors - that will be shown at a compensation conference on Oct. 31 in Chicago, Edgar S. Woolard Jr., the former chief executive of DuPont and the current chairman of the New York Stock Exchange's compensation committee, debunks the main myths of executive pay.

Mr. Woolard, 71, does the debunking with style. He has one word, for example, to describe the notion that chief executive pay is driven by competition: "bull." And to the idea that compensation committees are independent, he says "double bull."

What about the doctrine that chiefs are owed stupefying amounts because they create wealth for shareholders? "A joke," Mr. Woolard says.

"I honestly don't understand why more C.E.O.'s aren't concerned about the image of business leaders in general," Mr. Woolard said in an interview. "They don't seem to have the same perception I do that business leaders are beginning to be thought of as politicians and labor union leaders and other types of individuals who don't have the right respect. So I'm speaking out because I would like to encourage other current C.E.O.'s to provide the leadership to begin to make the change to more rational compensation."

For example, he said, most people do not know that compensation committees are not independent of the chief executive. He described the workings of these typically close relationships:

"The compensation committee talks to an outside consultant who has surveys that you could drive a truck through and pay anything you want to pay, to be perfectly honest," Mr. Woolard says. "The outside consultant talks to the H.R. vice president, who talks to the C.E.O. The C.E.O. says what he'd like to receive. It gets to the H.R. person who tells the outside consultant. And it pretty well works out that the C.E.O. gets what he's implied he thinks he deserves, so he will be respected by his peers."

Mr. Woolard said directors should solve this problem by barring compensation consultants from discussing pay with anyone inside the company. Rather, the consultant should offer pay ideas to the company's compensation committee, which should discuss the matter only with human resources people. "At the New York Stock Exchange our outside consultants do not get any comments or sense of direction from the C.E.O. or H.R. person," he said.

While executives often contend that their pay is driven by competition, Mr. Woolard counters that the outside consultants are in control. If the consultants want to be rehired in future years, they will not want to hurt their chances by suggesting that a chief receive less than his or her peers do.

"Boards have been led to accept the logic that if 'our C.E.O.' is not in the top half, it implies to employees and to the general public that the board may not have confidence in the C.E.O.," Mr. Woolard said in the interview. "For some crazy reason it's been translated to, 'If you paid me at the bottom quartile, people would think you're about to get rid of me.' All that is honed by these outside consultants; they've gotten rich by providing this framework and the logic of the top quartile, and the boards have accepted it."

A solution, Mr. Woolard said, is a strategy known as internal pay equity, which he put into practice at DuPont in 1989. It starts with an examination of the average pay given to the handful of senior managers running a company's divisions; the chief executive's compensation is then based on a premium set to those pay levels.

"We took the level of the senior v.p.'s, the people who make very major decisions about the businesses underneath them," Mr. Woolard recalled. "And we asked the outside consultant to make a survey of how other companies pay people at that level, which is not escalating greatly. Then we put a cap on the C.E.O.'s total compensation not exceeding 50 percent of that." The chief executive, therefore, is taken out of the peer-group horse race that propels pay into the stratosphere.

Finally, Mr. Woolard knocks down the notion that chief executives deserve their riches because of the shareholder wealth they have created.

"During the 1990's with the stock market bubble and the major temporary wealth created for shareholders, this philosophy that 'I am doing so great for my shareholders, I certainly deserve a fairly significant portion of the benefit,' permeated across companies and boards," Mr. Woolard said. "Now, my concern is that the stock market bubble burst and many shares declined significantly but the base of C.E.O. compensation that was built during that artificial period is a base that is still used today. Because the surveys of the outside consultants are primarily built on compensation for the last five years, there's no way for those surveys to decline."

In other words, a lot of these emperors have no clothes.

Jesse M. Brill, a securities lawyer who is chairman of the National Association of Stock Plan Professionals, a sponsor of the Chicago conference, said the video of Mr. Woolard's speech should be required viewing in every public company's boardroom. Mere mortals can view it, too, at www.compensationstandards.com/nonmember/EdWoolard_video.asp.

"It all goes back to accepting that this is a significant problem," Mr. Woolard said, "and thinking very carefully about it at the compensation committee and the board, and not allowing the C.E.O. to have any input into the process."

Won't it be interesting to see if any of Mr. Woolard's peers join him in battling chief executive greed or if directors start to take up this fight? It would be a shame if the silence from the corner office just continued.

"We Have Courted Disaster" by Nicholas Kristof

Oct. 20, 2005
"We Have Courted Disaster"

Colin Powell has been stewing in silence, but his former chief-of-staff, Larry Wilkerson, a sensible man with long ties to Republican administrations, has now gone public with an inside look at the ineptitude in this administration’s foreign policy. Here’s the top of the Washington Post story today:

“As Colin Powell's right-hand man at the State Department, Larry Wilkerson seethed quietly during President Bush's first term. Yesterday, Colonel Wilkerson made up for lost time.

“He said the vice president and the secretary of defense created a "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" that hijacked U.S. foreign policy. He said of former defense undersecretary Douglas Feith: "Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man." Addressing scholars, journalists and others at the New America Foundation, Wilkerson accused Bush of "cowboyism" and said he had viewed Condoleezza Rice as "extremely weak." Of American diplomacy, he fretted, "I'm not sure the State Department even exists anymore."

The rest of that story can be read here.

And there’s more here, from Newsday.

And here’s a more-or-less full transcript:

One key paragraph is this one: “I would say that we have courted disaster, in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, generally with regard to domestic crises like Katrina, Rita and I could go on back, we haven’t done very well on anything like that in a long time. And if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government.”

Mr. Bush, This Is Pro-Life? by Nicholas Kristof

October 23, 2005

Mr. Bush, This Is Pro-Life?

ZINDER, Niger

When I walked into the maternity hospital here, I wished that President Bush were with me.

A 37-year-old woman was lying on a stretcher, groaning from labor pains and wracked by convulsions. She was losing her eyesight and seemed about to slip into a coma from eclampsia, a complication of pregnancy that kills 50,000 women a year in the developing world. Beneath her, cockroaches skittered across the floor.

"We're just calling for her husband," said Dr. Obende Kayode, an obstetrician. "When he provides the drugs and surgical materials, we can do the operation," a Caesarean section.

Dr. Kayode explained that before any surgery can begin, the patient or family members must pay $42 for a surgical kit with bandages, surgical thread and antibiotics.

In this case, the woman - a mother of six named Ramatou Issoufou - was lucky. Her husband was able to round up the sum quickly, without having to sell any goats. Moreover, this maternity hospital had been equipped by the U.N. Population Fund - and that's why I wished Mr. Bush were with me. Last month, Mr. Bush again withheld all U.S. funds from the U.N. Population Fund.

The Population Fund promotes modern contraception, which is practiced by only 4 percent of women in Niger, and safe childbirth. But it has the money to assist only a few areas of Niger, and Mrs. Issoufou was blessed to live in one of them.

Nurses wheeled her into the operating theater, scrubbed her belly and administered a spinal anesthetic. Then Dr. Kayode cut open her abdomen and reached inside to pull out a healthy 6-pound, 6-ounce boy. (A video of the delivery.)

After removing the placenta, Dr. Kayode stitched up Mrs. Issoufou. Her convulsions passed, and it was clear that she and the baby would survive. For all the criticism heaped on the U.N., these were two more lives saved by the U.N. Population Fund - no thanks to the Bush administration.

Even when they don't die, mothers often suffer horrific childbirth injuries. In the town of Gouré, a 20-year-old woman named Fathi Ali was lying listlessly on a cot, leaking urine. After she was in labor for three days, her mother and her aunt had put her on a camel and led her 40 miles across the desert to a clinic - but midway in the journey the baby was stillborn and she suffered a fistula, an internal injury that leaves her incontinent.

Village women are the least powerful people on earth. That's why more than 500,000 women die every year worldwide in pregnancy - and why we in the West should focus more aid on preventing such deaths in poor countries.

Mr. Bush and other conservatives have blocked funds for the U.N. Population Fund because they're concerned about its involvement in China. They're right to be appalled by forced sterilizations and abortions in China, and they have the best of intentions. But they're wrong to blame the Population Fund, which has been pushing China to ease the coercion - and in any case the solution isn't to let African women die. (Two American women have started a wonderful grass-roots organization that seeks to make up for the Bush cuts with private donations; its website is http://www.34millionfriends.org/.)

After watching Dr. Kayode save the life of Mrs. Issoufou and her baby, I was ready to drop out of journalism and sign up for medical school. But places like Niger need not just doctors, but resources.

Pregnant women die constantly here because they can't afford treatment costing just a few dollars. Sometimes the doctors and nurses reach into their own pockets to help a patient, but they can't do so every time.

"It depends on the mood," Dr. Kayode said. "If the [staff] feel they can't pay out again, then you just wait and watch. And sometimes she dies."

A few days earlier, a pregnant woman had arrived with a dangerously high blood pressure of 250 over 130; it was her 12th pregnancy. Dr. Kayode prescribed a medicine called Clonidine for the hypertension, but she did not have the $13 to buy it. Nor could she afford $42 for a Caesarean that she needed.

During childbirth, right here in this hospital, she hemorrhaged and bled to death.

Somewhere in the world, a pregnant woman dies like that about once a minute, often leaving a handful of orphans behind. Call me naïve, but I think that if Mr. Bush came here and saw women dying as a consequence of his confused policy, he would relent. This can't be what he wants - or what America stands for.

Karl and Scooter's Excellent Adventure By FRANK RICH

October 23, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist

Karl and Scooter's Excellent Adventure

THERE were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda on 9/11. There was scant Pentagon planning for securing the peace should bad stuff happen after America invaded. Why, exactly, did we go to war in Iraq?

"It still isn't possible to be sure - and this remains the most remarkable thing about the Iraq war," writes the New Yorker journalist George Packer, a disenchanted liberal supporter of the invasion, in his essential new book, "The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq." Even a former Bush administration State Department official who was present at the war's creation, Richard Haass, tells Mr. Packer that he expects to go to his grave "not knowing the answer."

Maybe. But the leak investigation now reaching its climax in Washington continues to offer big clues. We don't yet know whether Lewis (Scooter) Libby or Karl Rove has committed a crime, but the more we learn about their desperate efforts to take down a bit player like Joseph Wilson, the more we learn about the real secret they wanted to protect: the "why" of the war.

To piece that story together, you have to follow each man's history before the invasion of Iraq - before anyone had ever heard of Valerie Plame Wilson, let alone leaked her identity as a C.I.A. officer. It is not an accident that Mr. Libby's and Mr. Rove's very different trajectories - one of a Washington policy intellectual, the other of a Texas political operative - would collide before Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury. They are very different men who play very different White House roles, but they are bound together now by the sordid shared past that the Wilson affair has exposed.

In Mr. Rove's case, let's go back to January 2002. By then the post-9/11 war in Afghanistan had succeeded in its mission to overthrow the Taliban and had done so with minimal American casualties. In a triumphalist speech to the Republican National Committee, Mr. Rove for the first time openly advanced the idea that the war on terror was the path to victory for that November's midterm elections. Candidates "can go to the country on this issue," he said, because voters "trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military might and thereby protecting America." It was an early taste of the rhetoric that would be used habitually to smear any war critics as unpatriotic.

But there were unspoken impediments to Mr. Rove's plan that he certainly knew about: Afghanistan was slipping off the radar screen of American voters, and the president's most grandiose objective, to capture Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," had not been achieved. How do you run on a war if the war looks as if it's shifting into neutral and the No. 1 evildoer has escaped?

Hardly had Mr. Rove given his speech than polls started to register the first erosion of the initial near-universal endorsement of the administration's response to 9/11. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey in March 2002 found that while 9 out of 10 Americans still backed the war on terror at the six-month anniversary of the attacks, support for an expanded, long-term war had fallen to 52 percent.

Then came a rapid barrage of unhelpful news for a political campaign founded on supposed Republican superiority in protecting America: the first report (in The Washington Post) that the Bush administration had lost Bin Laden's trail in Tora Bora in December 2001 by not committing ground troops to hunt him down; the first indications that intelligence about Bin Laden's desire to hijack airplanes barely clouded President Bush's August 2001 Crawford vacation; the public accusations by an F.B.I. whistle-blower, Coleen Rowley, that higher-ups had repeatedly shackled Minneapolis agents investigating the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, in the days before 9/11.

These revelations took their toll. By Memorial Day 2002, a USA Today poll found that just 4 out of 10 Americans believed that the United States was winning the war on terror, a steep drop from the roughly two-thirds holding that conviction in January. Mr. Rove could see that an untelevised and largely underground war against terrorists might not nail election victories without a jolt of shock and awe. It was a propitious moment to wag the dog.

Enter Scooter, stage right. As James Mann details in his definitive group biography of the Bush war cabinet, "Rise of the Vulcans," Mr. Libby had been joined at the hip with Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz since their service in the Defense Department of the Bush 41 administration, where they conceived the neoconservative manifesto for the buildup and exercise of unilateral American military power after the cold war. Well before Bush 43 took office, they had become fixated on Iraq, though for reasons having much to do with their ideas about realigning the states in the Middle East and little or nothing to do with the stateless terrorism of Al Qaeda. Mr. Bush had specifically disdained such interventionism when running against Al Gore, but he embraced the cause once in office. While others might have had cavils - American military commanders testified before Congress about their already overtaxed troops and equipment in March 2002 - the path was clear for a war in Iraq to serve as the political Viagra Mr. Rove needed for the election year.

But here, too, was an impediment: there had to be that "why" for the invasion, the very why that today can seem so elusive that Mr. Packer calls Iraq "the 'Rashomon' of wars." Abstract (and highly debatable) neocon notions of marching to Baghdad to make the Middle East safe for democracy (and more secure for Israel and uninterrupted oil production) would never fly with American voters as a trigger for war or convince them that such a war was relevant to the fight against those who attacked us on 9/11. And though Americans knew Saddam was a despot and mass murderer, that in itself was also insufficient to ignite a popular groundswell for regime change. Polls in the summer of 2002 showed steadily declining support among Americans for going to war in Iraq, especially if we were to go it alone.

For Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush to get what they wanted most, slam-dunk midterm election victories, and for Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney to get what they wanted most, a war in Iraq for reasons predating 9/11, their real whys for going to war had to be replaced by fictional, more salable ones. We wouldn't be invading Iraq to further Rovian domestic politics or neocon ideology; we'd be doing so instead because there was a direct connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda and because Saddam was on the verge of attacking America with nuclear weapons. The facts and intelligence had to be fixed to create these whys; any contradictory evidence had to be dismissed or suppressed.

Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney were in the boiler room of the disinformation factory. The vice president's repetitive hyping of Saddam's nuclear ambitions in the summer and fall of 2002 as well as his persistence in advertising bogus Saddam-Qaeda ties were fed by the rogue intelligence operation set up in his own office. As we know from many journalistic accounts, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby built their "case" by often making an end run around the C.I.A., State Department intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Their ally in cherry-picking intelligence was a similar cadre of neocon zealots led by Douglas Feith at the Pentagon.

THIS is what Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's wartime chief of staff, was talking about last week when he publicly chastised the "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" for sowing potential disaster in Iraq, North Korea and Iran. It's this cabal that in 2002 pushed for much of the bogus W.M.D. evidence that ended up in Mr. Powell's now infamous February 2003 presentation to the U.N. It's this cabal whose propaganda was sold by the war's unannounced marketing arm, the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, in which both Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove served in the second half of 2002. One of WHIG's goals, successfully realized, was to turn up the heat on Congress so it would rush to pass a resolution authorizing war in the politically advantageous month just before the midterm election.

Joseph Wilson wasn't a player in these exalted circles; he was a footnote who began to speak out loudly only after Saddam had been toppled and the mission in Iraq had been "accomplished." He challenged just one element of the W.M.D. "evidence," the uranium that Saddam's government had supposedly been seeking in Africa to fuel its ominous mushroom clouds.

But based on what we know about Mr. Libby's and Mr. Rove's hysterical over-response to Mr. Wilson's accusation, he scared them silly. He did so because they had something to hide. Should Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove have lied to investigators or a grand jury in their panic, Mr. Fitzgerald will bring charges. But that crime would seem a misdemeanor next to the fables that they and their bosses fed the nation and the world as the whys for invading Iraq.