[snip] Earth to Washington, D.C.: welfare reform has failed. Reduced caseloads in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program don’t mean success, notes the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in an October 7 press release–not when the Census Bureau reports that there was a marked rise in child poverty in 2003 and that “poverty and joblessness among single mothers increased significantly between 2000 and 2003.”

[snip] Torture surrogates. You wouldn’t know it from reading the Tribune, but the intelligence-overhaul bill passed by Congress on October 8 includes provisions authorizing “extraordinary rendition,” which the American Bar Association believes would allow the government to “secretly [transfer] terrorist suspects to foreign countries known to use torture in interrogating prisoners.” The ABA’s president condemned the idea in a September 30 press release, saying “it not only violates all basic humanitarian and human rights standards, but violates U.S. treaty obligations which make clear that the U.S. government cannot avoid its obligations under international law by having other nations conduct unlawful interrogations in its stead.”

[snip] What did you expect? It’s only been three years since 9/11. In August the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a long report called “DHS Challenges in Consolidating Terrorist Watch List Information.” In short, it’s not happening. In April 2003 the General Accounting Office (recently renamed the Government Accountability Office) reported that “nine federal agencies used 12 separate systems and databases, each developed in response to the agencies’ individual legal, cultural, and systems environments, to support federal law enforcement and border security processes”–meaning watch lists. Their systems are still in effect, creating an “overly complex, unnecessarily inefficient, and potentially ineffective network that is associated with unstructured and non-standard database environments.”

[snip] The long-feared lawsuit explosion simply hasn’t happened, writes Stephanie Mencimer in the Washington Monthly. “According to the National Center for State Courts, a research group funded by state courts, personal injury and other tort filings, when controlled for population growth, have declined nationally by 8 percent since 1975, and have been falling steadily in real numbers since 1996.”

[snip] “This president does genuinely care a great deal about education,” Andrew Rotherham, a Democrat in charge of education at the Progressive Policy Institute, writes in the “Education Gadfly” (September 2). “But now that the NCLB [No Child Left Behind] framework is in place, improving education for disadvantaged youngsters requires sustained and intensive attention to making it work. Instead, the Bush Administration’s attention to education policy making has been episodic and inconsistent.” He cites three blunders in particular: the administration overregulated and wouldn’t listen “to even reasonable calls for change,” it failed to issue “quick guidance about key parts of NCLB and help states and school districts understand its complicated provisions,” and it didn’t fund the act adequately. “Had the president’s budget requests been passed as submitted, federal funding for NCLB would be almost $7 billion less than it is now.”

[snip] “Insurers make money by not paying bills,” notes a report entitled “Waste Not, Want Not,” issued by Jobs With Justice on October 7. “Their profits rise when they can find ways to avoid paying bills, passing them on to either the government, other insurers, or to patients. As a result, the administrative costs of the private health insurance system are almost ten times as much as the administrative costs of the Medicare system.”

[snip] As others see us. Jay Walljasper writes in the September “Making Places,” newsletter of the New York-based Project for Public Spaces, “Grant Park is a place conceived primarily for the pleasure of people. Its walking paths, lawns, monuments, and spectacular Buckingham Fountain exist to stimulate and refresh residents of one of America’s most densely settled cities. Millennium Park, on the other hand, was built to generate buzz.”