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The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa • Page 11
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The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa • Page 11

Des Moines, Iowa
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LETTERS Aug. 29, 1984 THE DES MOINES REGISTER 1U Should be mad as hell Getting to know you through computer taps Platform? What is a platform? By PETER J.OGMBENE By RUSSELL BAKER SOMEONE TAPS your phone and hears your chat with Aunt Matilda, the eavesdropper has committed a felony under federal law; but if someone uses the JiJLsame phone circuit to steal valuable, computerized Masochists may have noticed that the Republicans have spent a lot of time writing a platform on which President Reagan will not run, for the simple reason that he doesn't need a platform to run on. records, he probably will escape federal prosecution. Though many states have laws against computer tapping, the federal government does not A bill passed last month by the House of Representatives would specifically prohibit computer tapping of credit and financial records covered by existing privacy statutes; but the Reagan administration opposes the bill, and the Republican-controlled Senate seems inclined to ignore it. Federal sanctions against wire-tapping have their roots in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." However, "upon probable cause," a judge may issue a warrant that allows law-enforcement officers to wiretap a criminal suspect's phone; but anyone can tap a computer without a federal warrant Unless they violate some state statute, they will have committed no crime.

This is not an inadvertent loophole. The federal statute court order to tap a phone or seize the records of someone they suspect of criminal conduct. An incident that came to light last year shows how vulnerable we are to technological snooping. Donald Sellar, a Washington reporter for Southam News Service, Canada's largest chain of newspapers, was writing a series on U.S. weapons.

In the course of his research, he learned of secret negotiations between Canadian and American officials to permit the testing of nuclear-capable, cruise missiles in Canada. After writing his story on a word-processing computer, Sellar transmitted the report over U.S. telephone circuits to Southam's headquarters in Ottawa. The next day an intelligence official told him "there was a witch hunt under way for my sources," Sellar recalled recently. Yet the article had not even been published.

Sellar's transmission from Washington was, apparently, intercepted by the National Security Agency as the data-stream passed between microwave repeaters. (Those towers, spaced about 25 miles apart, carry most long-distance communications in this country.) Then, using a computer program designed to pick out key words or phrases, such as "nuclear" or "cruise missile," a computer at NSA head- REGISTER ILLUSTRATION BY TOM WEINMAN quarterS in Fort Meade, spat out Sellar's story along with i other bits of banning wiretaps applies only to the "aural acquisition" of telephone conver-s a i Because trans-missions between computers cannot be "acquired by the use of the ear," said Joseph Wright, the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, "anyone can conduct unauthorized non-aural wiretapping of data without a court order and not be in violation." The Reagan administration has made no COMINT (communications in-telligence gathered that day. All of this took place in roughly 24 hours. Then, the information was passed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which handles counterintelligence activities within the United States. Several months later, an FBI agent warned Sellar that he risked federal prosecution if he continued to write He is a politician who can run on a shoe shine and a smile, and doubtless will this time out though he will surely read (flawlessly) the customary quota of ghosted speeches to lend verisimilitude to the fiction that the political process is about ideas and not just about making a nice appearance.

If it were indeed about ideas, the Republicans would probably be in serious trouble, for, as the platform-writing illustrated, the people who control the party's ideological apparatus consider Reagan a weak specimen of conservative thought. To nudge him back to the true faith, they voted down a number of platform proposals submitted by the White House, condemning them as heretical-ly unconservative, and substituted sterner stuff. Example: If he treated the platform as anything other than nonsense, the president would be obliged to abandon the historic process of financing government by raising taxes. Naturally, nobody expects him to pay any attention to the platform. Even presidents who worry about details have seldom bothered to look at the party platform, and part of Reagan's charm is his sublime indifference to detail.

Still, what is arresting in the platform exercise is the assumption among its authors that Reagan is so soft-headed that he can be readily used by his flunkeys. Implicit in this attitude is a contempt for the president's leadership. It's hard to imagine Republican ideologues rejecting policy recommendations of Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon when those two were nominated for second terms. Knuckles would have been rapped, snouts kicked. Not with Reagan.

The ideologues are thinking of the future and who will inherit the party. Will it be the ultra-conservative conservatives or the radical conservatives? Now is an excellent time to take positions, but it can be done only if the president doesn't care. Obviously, he doesn't. The platform writers knew he wouldn't. What the White House submitted and they ignored, they dismissed as "White House proposals," not as "Reagan proposals." There is an old suspicion among the party's right-wing ideologues that "the White House" and "Reagan" are not the same, that the president is a sort of sappy, happy captive of dangerously moderate Republicans who will not "let Reagan be Reagan." It is hard to see how loyal Republicans can subscribe to this insulting view unless they think of the president as intellectually contemptible.

People might feel secret contempt for the president's willingness to get by on a grin, a shrug and a one-liner instead of applying himself seriously to the correct application of dogma. It would be a mistake, though, to underrate the intelligence or determination of the ideologues. They may lack Reagan's ability to convey a sense of optimism with nothing more substantial than body language, but they know their party. It is a party whose old orthodoxies are being jettisoned and replaced by radically new ones. In boring exercises like platform writing, they are creating the new orthodoxies.

When the mindless optimism of the Reagan presidency is past, this party, so devoted to orthodoxy, will probably fall to leaders who have rewritten the book. Russell Baker writes for The New York Times. move to close this gap. "There are suspicions," said Robert Ellis Smith, publisher of "Privacy Journal," "that government agencies may already be listening to computer transmission and don't want to make it illegal." Even if you never send a message from, one computer to another, your health, credit, financial and other records routinely pass between data banks. By tapping data-streams, electronic eavesdroppers could compile detailed records on millions of people at relatively little cost.

The dossiers could be used to market products, or by govern-ment investigators who lack sufficient evidence to get a Peter J. Ognibene is a Washington writer. stories based on classified information. The Canadian Embassy sent a letter to the State Department to protest the threat. The Justice Department decided not to file charges.

The Sellar incident suggests that the NSA routinely intercepts computerized messages. Moreover, because the law does not explicitly prohibit the interception of domestic data-streams, the government does not need a court order to record what passes between computers owned by newspapers, banks or private citizens in this country. Although it is a felony to open other people's mail or to listen to their phone conversations, our most modern means of communication are at the mercy of snoopers. That makes no sense. I read with great pleasure the Aug.

IS article on the front page by Register editor James Gannon: "The Dark Threat of Terror Now Stalking Des Moines Should Make Us All Mad as Hell!" The citizens of Des Moines and surrounding areas should be mad. We should be mad as hell. This city and this geographical area are supposed to be comfortable, safe places to raise children, work and lead productive lives. This entire situation tarnishes every citizen in this community. Kidnappings, murders, rapes and this type of terrorism should be a call to arms and a call to anger for all law-abiding citizens.

We should work with utmost support with local law-enforcement agencies and each citizen should strive to become involved. Scott B. Neff, D.O., 1301 Pennsylvania Des Moines. Your "dark threat of terror" commentary was well taken. Indeed, if we are to make our neighborhoods and streets safe we must all unite to that end.

Your suggestions are worth repeating: Leave your outdoor lights on at night, keep an eye on the street where you live, and if you see something out of place, check it or report it. Join a neighborhood-watch program, or better yet, start one. This has been going on in some neighborhoods as a method of survival in Des Moines for years. Now the whole city needs to watch. We all can and should take more responsibility to protect our children.

To this end, The Register needs to take a greater responsibility. I'm mad as hell too, and I'm mad about the fact that The Register, and other newspaper companies, have long exploited child labor. You have kids doing fairly hard labor at very minimal income, and you do not provide them a safe environment to work in. No child of mine would be delivering papers in the dark in Des Moines, unless I walked every step with him. If you cannot provide a safe environment for the kids to deliver papers in, then you should not have kids delivering papers.

How about using some of your recent profits to hire additional route managers (adults) who could be on the streets checking up on the carriers when they're working, helping us do what you suggested? William Peterson, 923 Iowa Apt. 201, Iowa City. Mr. Gannon, you bet, I'm mad as hell and I am not going to take it any more. However, I feel as though my hands are tied.

Until we start to look at our judicial system and our laws and at least not victimize the innocent people by defending the guilty, crime is going to continue to rise, and our once-quiet "great-place-to-raise-kids" city may become the crime capital of the world. This was brought to my distasteful attention when my youngest child asked me, "What if the Martin boy was carrying a knife and used it to defend himself?" And you know the answer. Who is going to start standing up for the innocent victims? More and more the innocent become the victims. I am a mother of eight, and seven of my children delivered The Register. My youngest is still one of your carriers and it doesn't make me happy to read about "crime on the rise" and how close to home it is.

But until we stop defending the guilty and punishing the innocent I will be mad as hell, and I wish I knew how I would not have to take it any more. Jan Ton-asket, 8801 New York Urban-dale. Mr. Gannon said, "It's time to ask if we are buying all the police protection we need, or only as much as we can get without raising taxes a bit." In 1970, the Association of Chiefs of Police made a study for the Des Moines Police Department. It found, among other things, that the Des Moines Police Department was greatly understaffed for the size of the city (65 square miles).

Since this time, the number of sworn personnel has not increased, but decreased. Two of the most important functions a city can offer its citizens are fire and police protection. Yet, 81.2 percent of the budget goes to other places, with the largest portion going to administration. Can the administration of the city be that tough, or are administrators overstaffed and overpaid? D. Underwood, 1600 Financial Center, Des Moines.

I really belive that Mr. Gannon's comments in regard to the disappearance of two young newspaper carriers missed the mark by quite a bit. It is Mr. Gannon's newspaper that is the employer of those young boys and girls who are sent out on the streets to deliver papers early in the morning. Under all normal circumstances of employer-employee relations, it is the employer who is primarily responsible for providing safe work conditions.

It is the employer, in this case, who should examine its policies in regard to the work conditions of its young newspaper carriers. Has The Register offered its employees the proper protection? Perhaps the whole question of hiring young people at a very low wage to go out under such conditions to deliver newspapers and collect the subscription money should be re-examined. The Register derives a certain amount of economic benefit from its contract with newspaper carriers. Perhaps it is time to turn this type of employment entirely over to adults, who are better equipped to protect themselves, but who might demand in turn a decent amount of pay and benefits for the work performed and hours spent in employment. As a labor representative and union advocate, I realize that under certain circumstances within special industries such as the newspaper business, the child-labor laws are suspended and augmented.

However, when it becomes obvious that the exception to those laws is no longer practical, honest, or in the public interest, then the law must be reinforced to ensure that our sons and daughters are not taken advantage of. I think it is now necessary to review and change the laws that allow the newspaper industry to utilize child labor. John Efferding, president, American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, 6000 Douglas, Des Moines. Thank you for focusing attention on the disappearance of the two teen-age newsboys. Your statements, "Liberty is not a dawn-to-dusk proposition only.

Freedom from fear only half the time is no freedom at all" are bold and true facts. For several years, the women's movement across the country has sponsored a "Take Back The Night" evening. We know that not one person can be free until it is safe on the streets, any time, for us all. Women are raped daily. The evidence of child molestation grows by leaps and bounds.

Young women are taught from the time they are tots that being on the street, alone, is an invitation to violence. We have been taught to live our lives cautiously, if not in outright fear. Our seniors are terrified to be out, knowing their weakness is a target for delinquents of all ages. They cower in their homes afraid of each sound and what it might mean. Sometimes they are roughed up.

Sometimes the women are raped, and sometimes someone is shot, or knifed, or beaten to death. Who raises the cry for each of us? How many more women, seniors and youths will be brutalized before we all realize it is the same sickness which strikes us all? We demand these young men be found. When will we be free? When we demand freedom from fear for each of us, not one of whom is less than the next. When we all take back not only the night, but every minute of the day. When each is as outraged that so many live in fear, as we all are inflamed at what happened to these two young men.

When our outrage has coalesced into a plan of action. Sherri Zapata, 604 Hodge, Ames. Three cheers for your front-page article of Aug. IS, encouraging Des Moines to cry out in anger at the increasingly difficult-to-ignore potential for victimization here. You urge us to "take back the night." We of the Women Take Back The Night committee welcome your comments and your reference to the concept, which we believe states so succinctly the problem we face in today's society.

Indeed, there is at least one part of our 24-hour-day that is inaccessible to us, given the intimidation and fear we feel. For three years, and now again this year, Women Take Back The Night has sponsored the annual rally and march, with speakers and entertainment focusing on the many issues collected under that umbrella concept. We address the issues of domestic abuse, rape, pornography, incest and child abuse. We show support for those victims who have survived attacks. We show our appreciation for and commitment to those community agencies and resources that assist the victim.

We encourage public education and the education of professionals related to the victimization of women and children by this society. All of Des Moines is welcome to come to the rally and "show your support, share your anger." Take Back The Night is scheduled for Saturday night, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m., at Nollen Plaza. Kathy Hints and Karea Jaggard, for the Take Back The Night Committee; 1915 Hickman, Dei Moines. I'm a letter carrier in Midwest City, Okla.

I heard that you had suggested to the president that posters of both boys be put in every post office. A letter should accompany the posters asking the letter carriers for their help in finding the two boys. A letter carrier knows who moves in and out of his area. Phil Corbett, S01 to W. Lockheed, Midwest City, Okla.

What is effective language? By THOMAS F.DUNN ANGUAGE IN the form of speech is as widely dispersed as is humanity and is almost as much so in tnrUtnn (ami in A Unmicu iui 111. 11 a iivi viu as iiuuiauuy, uui very nearly so, for by its appearance we in species-his writing about different things. With the eons of evolution of spoken language into hundreds, even thousands, of languages and dialects, with scores of levels of usage in many of these, with the additional reflections of these levels in the works of nearly all our greatest writers, how is it possible to talk about rules save those that might be descriptive (not prescriptive) of a given dialect or level, at a given time or place? For once we admit to the evolution of language (the burden of Stroud's arguments) we must admit that two or more usages might be competing for ascendancy at any given moment. Who has the prescience to say which one will win and to formulate a rule to govern that usage? Or who can tell when that usage has seen its day and is on the way to archaism? Oddly enough, there are hordes who think they know that much and have that foresight. I brought Stroud to Drake in 1946, but would not have done so had there been any evidence that he could not tell that Gartner writes only the most formal kind of written English and could not see that most of the columns in the generally well-edited paper he serves, and that most other editors and writers for the paper, employ different levels.

I am old enough and experienced enough, having taught at several American colleges and at three foreign ones, to know some of the facts of linguistic life. The forms of language mentioned in my first paragraph are but the major parts of language that make up communication, and in communication there is but one rule: The best usage is that which is best understood and best achieves its desired results. tory distinguish man from certain species of apes. And though only some 46 different speech sounds may be made by the human mouth, these are supplemented by tones, variations of stress, facial movements and body gestures, so that it may also be said that speech is as widely diversified as are human beings. By language, we estimate innate mental ability in infants, judge ability and maturation for such things as college work in adolescents, and evaluate manners and moral worth by the use of speech.

We use it for the most intimate of personal individualized expression and we give computerized commands to interplanetary satellites. Speech and writing also offer ranges of diversities almost as great as those mentioned above, with computer languages adding immensely to the variety of written language. Speech and writing do "walk around the Earth like the sun, they shine everywhere." One superficially would think that we should understand something of the nature of language, with its eons of universality in spoken usage and some 8,000 years of written evolution and adaptation, but the controversy among the admirers of the Misses Hall and Hendricks and of Thoreau indicates that many people who should understand do not. They are not aware, for example, that The Register's Michael Gartner and English professor T.A. Stroud are Thomas Dunn is a fellow in linguistics of the American Council of Learned Societies.

WORDS WORDS VORDS" wonos WORDS WORDS. word (wurd) n.ME. akin to G. wort lE.wer (extension of base wer-, to speak, say), whence L. verb: A word I.

a) a speech sound, or scries of them, servinj communicate meaning and consisting of at least one By MICHAEL GARTNER Ann Ruble of Waukee, was listening to the radio, and that old song about the Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini came on. Her 6-year-old son, Nathan, asked her if the bikini was yellow with dots of other colors or if it was another color with yellow polka dots. We don't deal with deep philosophical issues here, Nathan, so you'll OEAN VIETOR 1 have to take that to your guru. But that prompted Ann Ruble to wonder why polka dots are called polka dots. "Is it I much longer than they do today.

Fabric manufacturers and dress designers often named their products after the songs most in vogue at the time. And so it was that those years saw polka gauze, polka hats and fabrics printed with polka dots. Only the polka dots lasted, though." All right, then, what about bikini? You're probably too young to remember this, but some early atomic-bomb tests by the United States were conducted on an atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Western Pacific in 1946. That atoll was called Bikini, and the name became a household word. About the same time, someone invented a woman's two-piece bathing suit in which the two pieces were very small.

The effect was explosive, as explosive, some said, as the atomic bomb. So someone no one remembers who called the suits oifctnts. And the name stuck. The suit you could say, was an anatomic bomb. An atoll, in case you were wondering, is "a ringlike coral island and reef that nearly or entirely encloses a lagoon." The 'a' in atoll can be short or long.

derived from the dance, or is it just one of those unknown facts of life?" If you went to college in Minnesota, as I did, you know that a polka is a dance. The word comes from an Eastern European word meaning "Polish woman." And the dance, says one text lent its name to the dot Here's what it says: "Just as the Charleston swept the country in the 1920s and the Frug and Watusi in the 1960s, so the polka was once the dance for everyone with any pretensions to style. At the time, there was no radio or TV, not even phonograph records, so fashions in music as well as In dress tended to last.

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