Last fall, Williams Communications Group (WCG) looked like as good a bankruptcy candidate as any. The firm was supposed to make money by selling access to its 33,000-mile fiber-optic network to phone companies and Internet service providers. But a glut of fiber-optic cable had driven prices for that service down dramatically, while communications traffic was barely increasing. That left WCG's revenues at only a fraction of what had been expected when all its cable had been laid.
FIRST TIME FARCE: When Al Sharpton took to the streets of Manhattan this past weekend to protest the recording industry's exploitation of black musicians, it surprised no one. After all, Sharpton has by now conclusively established himself as America's foremost champion of the invented racial grievance. But Sharpton's partner in protest was a bit surprising: Michael Jackson, who, in a remarkable rebranding effort, now apparently wants to be known as a race man. Even more surprising, the Gloved One actually put the Rotund One to shame in the demagoguery department.
FOR A YEAR AND A HALF now, my husband and I have lived in a tall, tomato-red house near the southern end of Washington's Embassy Row. Built in 1898, the house had the exact combination of personality and sturdiness we had been looking for. Just as important, it came with an array of age-related quirks that scared away all other potential buyers. This allowed us to avoid the bloody bidding wars so common in D.C.
On its face, Attorney General John Ashcroft's plan, announced last week, to fingerprint about 100,000 foreigners visiting the United States each year sounds prudent. Since "fingerprints don't lie," as Ashcroft recently put it, fingerprinting visitors from Arab and Muslim nations should be a reliable way of identifying terrorists who would otherwise quickly disappear inside the country. In fact, until recently even liberals endorsed this logic.
At an early June meeting of Republican activists in California, White House political director Ken Mehlman set the stage for the November congressional elections. Delivering a slick PowerPoint presentation with 27 slides bearing short, declarative sentences and nifty national maps, Mehlman summarized the parties' competing approaches with boardroom efficiency. First he explained the by-now-familiar Democratic strategy: Support George W.
A few hours before President Bush's big speech last Thursday announcing what is shaping up to be the most ambitious attempt to expand the federal government since Hillarycare, the White House quietly released an amendment to an obscure, Clinton-era executive order. The White House deleted from the original order a phrase defining America's air-traffic-control system as "an inherently governmental function." In other words, it was the first step toward privatizing the work of some 20,000 air-traffic controllers (the guys Ronald Reagan famously fired his first year in office).
THE FACE OF EVIL: There are two things about the Daniel Pearl video that are unforgettably shocking. The first, of course, is the sight of his murder.
Last week the United States learned that, more than one month before September 11, President George W. Bush received a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) memo mentioning a possible Al Qaeda hijacking. News of the memo took Washington by storm. It dominated newspaper headlines and TV talk shows. Democrats abandoned their long-standing caution regarding the war on terrorism and demanded to know what Bush knew and when he knew it. The White House counterattacked.But the "smoking gun" isn't all that smoking. The memo--prepared at presidential request--vaguely mentioned hijackings.
The furious volley of charges between Democrats and the White House over what President Bush knew about the terrorist threat before 9/11 seems to have produced some clear winners and losers. After a week of acid exchanges, the consensus in Washington is that Democrats are in retreat and Bush is jetting off to Europe victorious. The White House supposedly won the skirmish with a furious two-pronged, vice-presidential counterattack. First, Dick Cheney questioned the patriotism of Democrats who implied that Bush had actionable intelligence about September 11.