Wednesday, September 24, 2003

A level playing field

Former Sen. Jake Garn’s Monday Op-Ed column, “Destroying MCI,” overreaches in its references to AT&T and misrepresents the corporate culture of MCI/WorldCom. Mr. Garn seems to have disregarded the results of the investigation by bankruptcy court examiner Dick Thornburgh, a former U.S. attorney general. Mr. Thornburgh states, “While the degree of responsibility varies greatly, WorldCom could not have failed as a result of the actions of a limited number of individuals. Rather, there was a broad breakdown of the system of internal controls, corporate governance and individual responsibility, all of which worked together to create a culture in which few persons took responsibility until it was too late.”

Let me be clear: AT&T has never called for the liquidation of MCI/WorldCom for committing the largest-ever corporate accounting fraud. We have only called for a level playing field and assurances that MCI/WorldCom will be held to the same standards as every other law-abiding company doing business in the United States.

In AT&T’s view, competing on a level playing field means not engaging in fraud of any kind, especially fraud designed to improve MCI/WorldCom’s own financial standing at the expense of its competitors.

MCI/WorldCom’s well-documented “Canadian Gateway” fraud has cost AT&T and its share owners untold damages. We don’t believe it’s asking too much for a company that says it’s now operating with integrity to prove it by making amends for its wrongdoing.


AT&T corporate media relations

Bedminster, N.J.

The CBC speaks out

As chairman of the 39-member Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), I understand that taking criticism from the press is part of serving in Congress. More difficult to understand, however, is how an Op-Ed column by Deborah Simmons (“Partying with no purpose,” Friday).

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 33rd Annual Legislative Conference (ALC), being held in Washington this week, will serve some very important purposes, and I am confident that the nonprofit foundation’s very able chairman, Rep. William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, would agree.

Fair is fair, however. Let’s allow the readers to make up their own minds.

Yes, as noted in the column, there will be receptions, a fashion show and an awards dinner during the ALC. Although The Times chose to label these events a “shakedown,” I believe the thousands of deserving young people who have benefited from the $6 million in scholarship assistance raised by these events over the years would disagree. They might well call the ALC’s fund-raising efforts a “hand up.”

More than 50 citizen-legislator forums will be held during the ALC this week. Thousands of Americans will come together in Washington to examine and debate what the federal government is (and should be) doing to create more jobs, support small businesses, improve our schools, expand access to high-quality health care, protect our lives and preserve our freedom.

Are these issue forums, the policy “brain trusts” and the national “town hall” meeting that will cap the conference political? No, unless one uses the word political in the sense that the late Sen. Paul Wellstone used it when he called upon those of us who serve in Washington to return to what he termed the “politics of the center.”

The fact that the current members of the CBC are all Democrats seems to be at the crux of the column’s complaint.

The example of former CBC member Rep. Gary Franks illustrates that the CBC is not immune to Republican influence.

I am not angered by the inferencethatMrs. Simmons prefers Republicans over Democrats. However, contrary to Mrs. Simmons’ assertion, almost all of the members of the CBC were in the Capitol voting against the school-voucher bill, H.R. 2765, the evening of Sept. 9 — not attending the Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s Democratic presidential debate in Baltimore. The Times and its readers can check the recorded roll-call vote (No. 491) on the House Web site — but allow me to tell you “the rest of the story.”

The CBC Institute and Fox News Channel announced in early August that we were going to hold a presidential debate the evening of Sept. 9. We knew public interest would be high, as the television ratings ultimately confirmed.

Several days before the debate, however, knowing that the vote on the D.C. voucher experiment would be very close, the House Republicans scheduled the vote for the same night. As members of the majority party, Republicans set the agenda and schedule the votes.

I spent several hours urging members of the CBC to stay in Washington. (They all did, with the exception of myself.) I also called House Majority Leader Tom DeLay seeking the courtesy of a vote postponement.

He declined.

We Democrats have come to expect this lack of cooperation from the Republican leadership in Washington.

The members of the CBC believe there is a better way for this nation to be governed — an approach that stresses an informed and engaged citizenry, as well as a more civil, more cooperative discourse on Capitol Hill.

On Election Day next year, the American people will decide if we are right.



Congressional Black Caucus


Population roller coaster

While Michael Fumento’s Tuesday Commentary column, “Italy’s population implosion,” accurately predicts declining populations throughout Europe, I found a number of facts and predictions misleading.

First, Mr. Fumento’s suggestion that “most of us like living close to each other” does not logically imply there are “huge swathes of perfectly habitable land unused.” Human beings don’t live in a vacuum. They need more than a living space to subsist, such as food, clothing and material fancies. All of these needs, real or perceived, reduce the amount of unused land until it resembles more a meager patchwork of unspoiled areasamidtransformed human landscapes.

Second, the United Nations’ estimate of 350 million Americans by 2050 is distorted, and I would suggest using the conservative Census Bureau middle estimate of 420 million by 2050 instead. The U.S. population is 292 million and grew by more than 2 million already this year.

Finally, Mr. Fumento is right about unfettered immigration being responsible for U.S. population growth. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, 87 percent of our growth comes from immigration, with 50 percent of urban sprawl directly attributable to population growth. America consumes heavily; does it make much sense to expand our population and further deplete national and worldwide resources?

If a rapidly declining population is as bad as Mr. Fumento suggests, then a rapidly increasing population fueled by mass immigration isn’t good, either. Congress should enact a five-year moratorium on legal immigration with an annual admittance cap of 100,000 — the highest number we can allow to stabilize America’s population.


Program associate

Carrying Capacity Network


Naughty or nice

One of the recurring features of your letters section is the hand-wringing of milquetoasts who cringe at plain speech. The most recent example is Jack H. Olender scolding Thomas Sowell for referring to a federal judge as a “jackass” (“A nasty business,” Letters, Wednesday). “As our parents would tell us,” coos Mr. Olender, “it’s just not nice.” Golly. How non-judgmentally Mr. Sowell is judged. Can you say “passive aggressive”? I knew that you could. And, by the way, why has no one explained to these oh-so-sensitive nice-nellies that democracies flourish in the rough and tumble of their public discourse?


Columbia, Md.

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