Thursday, August 28, 2008

ELECTION '08 - Letter to the Editor

"The Bush-McCain tax plan" Northern Star

Under “conservatives” George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, America has run up 65 percent of our $9.6 trillion U.S. National Debt. The centerpiece of John McCain’s election platform is not raising taxes, including taxes on the wealthy. However, McCain proposes to tax employees that receive health insurance from their employers.

In order to maintain the American empire (which includes 700 military bases in 130 countries) we will have to borrow from foreign governments and add to our massive debt. The U.S. dollar has lost 40 percent of its value since President Bush took office. A weak dollar increases the price of our imports, such as oil.

Like Bush, McCain is a “free trader” who thinks that “fair” trade deals with Third World countries benefit the U.S. Never mind the loss of American jobs and the tax revenues that those jobs produce for the U.S. Treasury.

Two-thirds of U.S. corporations pay no income tax. McCain proposes lowering corporate tax rates but he wouldn’t close the offshore loopholes for U.S. corporations. Halliburton has recently moved its corporate headquarters to Dubai to avoid U.S. taxes. No wonder the U.S. is running huge budget deficits. Maybe McCain will cut Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid to balance his budget. McCain, like Bush, wants to “privatize” Social Security. Can anyone guess how long it will take for Wall Street to steal the money?

We are now experiencing the highest inflation in 27 years. McCain promises to not raise taxes but this unwise deficit spending has proven to be a back door tax in the form of inflation, a weak U.S. dollar, and a huge debt left to our children.

Stephen Reid

Both G.W. Bush and McCain are bottom-feeders, feeding on the life-blood of the majority of Americans, and cheered on by the GOP.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

ELECTION '08 - Olbermann Special Comment

Olbermann Chastises McCain
Countdown, NBC

ECONOMY - Arh My Bucko, Rig the Masts, Man the Cannons

"Are Oil Prices Rigged?" by ARI J. OFFICER AND GARRETT J. HAYES, Time CNN

Excerpt from 4 page article

We've all read that speculators are driving oil prices artificially high — a claim that gets more interesting in light of oil's recent fall below $115. But maybe we're looking at it from the wrong perspective. Suppose that major suppliers in the oil industry are these manipulative speculators.

Is it possible that oil prices are rigged? You bet. Here's how:

Just how would you raise prices if you were an oil supplier? Controlling the supply — as in the 1973 OPEC embargo — has become less effective with more sources of oil worldwide. And oil suppliers clearly cannot raise prices by controlling demand in the physical oil market; ultimately, they need to sell their oil, not buy it. However, with the market inefficiencies that we expose here, oil suppliers can regain the upper hand by artificially inflating demand using a different market. To understand this mechanism, we must take a glimpse into the future — the futures market, that is.

The price of oil reported in the news is actually the price of oil in the futures market. In this market, traders do not exchange physical barrels of oil, but instead trade contracts which obligate them to exchange oil at a quoted price at a specific date in the future, usually months in advance. Such a contract allows companies to hedge positions by locking in prices early. Airlines might buy futures contracts to reduce their exposure to rising fuel prices. Conversely, oil companies might sell futures contracts to assure a profit against future price drops. It's all about reducing risk and uncertainty. But what if oil suppliers were instead buying oil futures, compounding their own risk and reaping enormous profits from the explosion in the price of physical oil?

The futures market has become the public driving force in pricing oil. But the vast majority of oil consumed in the world is purchased through private deals, given the massive undertaking of physically delivering millions of barrels. However, a series of private deals cannot establish a market price. Because pricing in the futures market is transparent, in that trade activity is publicly available, it establishes the widely accepted benchmark for the price of oil. In other words, the futures market serves as the price discovery mechanism for the oil the world consumes.

Thanks to margin in the futures market, you can trade ten times more oil than you could otherwise afford. For only $9,000, you could control more than $140,000 of oil at recent highs.

All told, about one billion barrels of oil are traded daily through futures contracts at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). This volume significantly overshadows the 80 million barrels of oil consumed each day worldwide. Yet this large volume of trading is misleading. Most of the trades are just noise: speculators going for quick profits, taking a position, and closing it out immediately.

Rigged? Nah. After all, Big Oil and Speculators are really, really concerned about the little people..... NOT!

GOP Cheerleaders, sponsored by McBush & Co: "Greed is good, greed is great!"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

ELECTION '08 - Obama on the March

"Mile-High Makeover" by Timothy Egan, New York Times


From Buffalo Bill’s grave atop Lookout Mountain you can see nearly every vote Barack Obama needs to win the presidency -– that is, if all goes as planned starting next week, when Democrats settle into the Geography of Hope.

Below are the Front Range suburbs, one of the fastest growing areas in the country, where women and the young are more likely to favor Obama, and men are proudly independent -– waiting to be impressed, reluctant to embrace any one party, concerned about the rookie with the funny name.

You see a metro area rated one of the most educated, but also a troubled exurban frontier, mile-high neighborhoods named for lost ranches where the leading crop this season is the foreclosure sign.

This is the America that Obama has to win, and if he simply holds on to every state that Al Gore took in 2000 and claims Colorado’s nine electoral votes he will be the next president.

This is also the America that Karl Rove lost, or miscalculated, when the man who likes to be called The Architect thought he had put together his permanent Republican majority. It was based on an all-white core in the solid South, evangelicals and small towns in the Midwest, and gun lovers and tax-aphobics in the Mountain West.

But politics is not all wedge issues and brand-specific sloganeering. At some point, parties have to govern. And what nearly two-out-of-every-three Americans concluded in the last four years -– based on disapproval ratings -– was that Republicans could not govern at a national level.

As the sun rises in the West, we can look forward to a better America.

Hopefully we will be putting even more GOPers in the Recycle Bin.

TECKNEWS - Usenet Suffering From Giantism

"Usenet Growth Reveals Need for 64-bit Based Article Numbering"


Giganews, Inc., the world's foremost premium Usenet access provider, announced today that it has observed that several high-volume newsgroups are poised to exceed the article numbering limit of 2,147,483,647, the maximum possible article number as specified in RFC 3977, the most recent standard for the NNTP protocol. The first newsgroup to exceed this limit is anticipated to do so in about 200 days.

According to RFC 3977, newsgroup article numbers must not exceed 2,147,483,647 (about 2.1 billion), the maximum value of a 32-bit signed integer. Section 6 of the RFC specifies that "While servers MUST NOT send article numbers greater than [2,147,483,647], client and server developers are advised to use internal structures and datatypes capable of handling larger values in anticipation of such a change."

And, as the NET grows......

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

WORLD - Good for Pakistan, Bad for USA

"In Musharraf’s Wake, U.S. Faces Political Disarray" by JANE PERLEZ, New York Times


Facing imminent impeachment charges, President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation on Monday, after months of belated recognition by American officials that he had become a waning asset in the campaign against terrorism.

The decision removes from Pakistan’s political stage the leader who for nearly nine years served as one of the United States’ most important — and ultimately unreliable — allies. And it now leaves American officials to deal with a new, elected coalition that has so far proved itself to be unwilling or unable to confront an expanding Taliban insurgency determined to topple the government.

“Whether I win or lose the impeachment, the nation will lose,” Mr. Musharraf said, explaining his decision in an emotional televised speech lasting more than an hour. He will stay in Pakistan and will not be put on trial, government officials said.

The question of who will succeed Mr. Musharraf is certain to unleash intense wrangling between the rival political parties that form the governing coalition and to add a new layer of turbulence to an already unstable nuclear-armed nation of 165 million people.

“We’ve said for years that Musharraf is our best bet, and my fear is that we are about to discover how true that was,” one senior Bush administration official said, acknowledging that the United States had stuck with Mr. Musharraf for too long and developed few other relationships in Pakistan to fall back on.

Administration officials will now have to find allies within the fractious civilian government, which has so far shown scant interest in taking on militants from the Taliban and Al Qaeda who have roosted in Pakistan’s badlands along the border with Afghanistan.

At the same time, suspicions between the American and Pakistani intelligence agencies and their militaries are deepening, and relations between the countries are at their lowest point since Mr. Musharraf pledged to ally Pakistan with the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

Among the greatest concerns, senior American officials say, is the durability of new controls over Pakistan’s nuclear program. Though Pakistan has been through far more abrupt political transitions than this one — through assassinations, a mysterious plane crash and coups — this is the first since it amassed a large nuclear arsenal.

Another central concern is the war in Afghanistan, which has been fueled by Taliban and Qaeda fighters who have used Pakistan as a rear base to carry out increasingly lethal and sophisticated attacks across the border.

This becomes an old-age problem of the USA backing the wrong horse for the wrong reasons. Iran ring a bell?

Monday, August 18, 2008

POLITICS - Today's Reality Check

"Numbers, political climate dog Republicans as they strive to deny Democrats 60 Senate seats" by JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, AP


Even the top Republican in charge of the party's Senate campaigns concedes that the GOP will lose seats this year — the only question is how many.

With President Bush's ratings at rock-bottom, fewer Republicans signing up to vote, and voters nationally gravitating toward Democrats in public polls, the GOP is bracing for defeats in November that will expand Democrats' now razor-thin 51-49 majority in the Senate.

Democrats have solid chances of winning five seats, according to strategists in both parties and public polls, and realistic shots at picking off another three to five Republican senators. Republicans have only one good opportunity for replacing a Democrat, in Louisiana.

A quirk of the political calendar — Republicans are defending 23 seats this year to Democrats' 12 — put the GOP at a disadvantage from the start. Worse still, those include five Republican retirements — which typically make it harder to keep a seat — compared to none among Democrats.

The scent of defeat threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy: Republican donors are sitting on their hands, giving Democrats a nearly 2-to-1 advantage in fundraising that limits the GOP's ability to defend key seats.

Ahaaa.... "Look into my eye...."

POLITICS - A Warning for Americans

"There May Be Many Mushroom Clouds In Our Future" by Paul Craig Roberts, OpEdNews

The success of the Bush Regime's propaganda, lies, and deception with gullible and inattentive Americans since 9/11 has made it difficult for intelligent, aware people to be optimistic about the future of the United States. For almost 8 years the US media has served as Ministry of Propaganda for a war criminal regime. Americans incapable of thinking for themselves, reading between the lines, or accessing foreign media on the Internet have been brainwashed.

As the Nazi propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, said, it is easy to deceive a people. You just tell them they have been attacked and wave the flag.

It certainly worked with Americans.

The gullibility and unconcern of the American people has had many victims. There are 1.25 million dead Iraqis. There are 4 million displaced Iraqis. No one knows how many are maimed and orphaned.

Iraq is in ruins, its infrastructure destroyed by American bombs, missiles, and helicopter gunships.

We do not know the death toll in Afghanistan, but even the American puppet regime protests the repeated killings of women and children by US and NATO troops.

We don't know what the death toll would be in Iran if Darth Cheney and the neocons succeed in their plot with Israel to bomb Iran, perhaps with nuclear weapons.

What we do know is that all this murder and destruction has no justification and is evil. It is the work of evil men who have no qualms about lying and deceiving in order to kill innocent people to achieve their undeclared agenda.

That such evil people have control over the United States government and media damns the American public for eternity.

America will never recover from the shame and dishonor heaped upon her by the neoconned Bush Regime.

The success of the neocon propaganda has been so great that the opposition party has not lifted a finger to rein in the Bush Regime's criminal actions. Even Obama, who promises "change" is too intimidated by the neocon's success in brainwashing the American population to do what his supporters hoped he would do and lead us out of the shame in which the neoconned Bush Regime has imprisoned us.

This about sums up the pessimistic state in which I existed prior to the go-ahead given by the Bush Regime to its puppet in Georgia to ethnically cleanse South Ossetia of Russians in order to defuse the separatist movement. The American media, aka, the Ministry of Lies and Deceit, again accommodated the criminal Bush Regime and proclaimed "Russian invasion" to cover up the ethnic cleansing of Russians in South Ossetia by the Georgian military assault.

Only this time, the rest of the world didn't buy it. The many years of lies--9/11, Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, al Qaeda connections, yellowcake, anthrax attack, Iranian nukes, "the United States doesn't torture," the bombings of weddings, funerals, and children's soccer games, Abu Ghraib, renditions, Guantanamo, various fabricated "terrorist plots," the determined assault on civil liberties--have taken their toll on American credibility. No one outside America any longer believes the US media or the US government.

The rest of the world reported the facts--an assault on Russian civilians by American and Israeli trained and equipped Georgian troops.

The Bush Regime, overcome by hubris, expected Russia to accept this act of American hegemony. But the Russians did not, and the Georgian military was sent fleeing for its life.

The neoconned Republican response to the Russian failure to follow the script and to be intimidated by the "unipower" was so imbecilic that it shattered the brainwashing to which Americans had succumbed.

McCain declared: "In the 21st century nations don't invade other nations." Imagine the laughs Jon Stewart will get out of this on the Daily Show. In the early years of the 21st century the United States has already invaded two countries and has been beating the drums for attacking a third. President Bush, the chief invader of the 21st century, echoed McCain's claim that nations don't invade other nations.

This dissonant claim shocked even brainwashed Americans, as readers' emails reveal. If in the 21st century countries don't invade other countries, what is Bush doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what are the naval armadas and propaganda arrayed against Iran about?

Have two of the worst warmongers of modern times--Bush and McCain--called off the US/Israeli attack on Iran? If McCain is elected president, is he going to pull US troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan as "nations don't invade other nations," or is President Bush going to beat him to it?

We all know the answer.

The two stooges are astonished that the Americans have taught hegemony to Russians, who were previously operating, naively perhaps, on the basis of good will.

Suddenly the Western Europeans have realized that being allied with the United States is like holding a tiger by the tail. No European country wants to be hurled into war with Russia. Germany, France, and Italy must be thanking God they blocked Georgia's membership in NATO.

The Ukraine, where a sick nationalism has taken hold funded by the neocon National Endowment for Democracy, will be the next conflict between American pretensions and Russia. Russia is being taught by the neocons that freeing the constituent parts of its empire has not resulted in their independence but in their absorption into the American Empire.

Unless enough Americans can overcome their brainwashed state and the rigged Diebold voting machines, turn out the imbecilic Republicans and hold the neoconservatives accountable for their crimes against humanity, a crazed neocon US government will provoke nuclear war with Russia.

The neoconservatives represent the greatest danger ever faced by the United States and the world. Humanity has no greater enemy.

The "neoconservatives" being in control of today's GOP.

These people (I'm using a polite term) need to go the way of T-Rex. Into total extension.

POLITICS - Bush and Russia

NewsGroup sdnet.politics "Brian David Smith" wrote:

Last Friday George Bush said, "With its actions in recent days Russia has damaged its credibility and its relations with the nations of the free world."

This is the pot calling the kettle black. In denial, George Bush has ignored his own arrogant actions and criticized others for doing the same thing.

For example, last Friday Bush said, "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."

However, arrogantly, with megalomaniacal intent, Bush attacked and occupied Iraq ignoring Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Bush had no business bullying Iraq. There was no proof of weapons of mass destruction. There was no proof Iraq had connections to terrorists. There was no proof of Iraqi involvement in 9-eleven. There was no proof Hussein was a threat to world peace.

Bombs falling on Pearl Harbor killing 2400 Americans was proof Japan had ill intent.

Occupying Poland and dropping bombs on Great Britain was proof Germany had ill intent. Iraqi troops occupying Kuwait in 1991 was proof Iraq had ill intent.

However, rumor and hearsay about imaginary "Winnebago's of Death" was NOT proof. Irresponsibly, George Bush sold the Iraq War to the American voters based on fiction fabricated by the Bush Administration.

Bush being critical of Russian creditability is extreme hypocrisy.

Bush himself destroyed whatever creditability the United States had by attacking Iraq with no proof.

To the regret of the American voters, Bush, and therefore the United States, has no creditability because of Bush's criminal abuse of power, ignorance, and pistol packing cowboy-like "shoot first, ask questions later" arrogance.

Shame on Bush.

Shame on American voters for allowing Bush to remain in office while he murdered over 4000 American troops and thousands of Iraqis in an ill-conceived war of his own choosing.

Regardless of what Russia is doing, Bush critical of bullying and intimidation demonstrates Bush is delusional and criminally irresponsible. Bush, a war criminal himself, is the pot calling the kettle black.

Brian David Smith, San Diego, California

Just an example of the ol' Double Standard.

Emperor Bush can ignore the law (aka as Commander and Chief, he can ignore the other Articles of our Constitution AND break the law) and attack a sovereign country without provocation, but that's not bullying.

Thank you Brian

Friday, August 15, 2008

CONSTITUTION - What Our Founding Fathers Feared

"The Imperial Presidency?" Bill Moyers Journal

In his conversation with Bill Moyers on this week’s JOURNAL, scholar and former army colonel Andrew Bacevich discussed his vision of what has gone wrong with American government and policy over the last several decades.

Andrew Bacevich: “The Congress, especially with regard to matters related to national security policy, has thrust power and authority to the executive branch. We have created an imperial presidency. The Congress no longer is able to articulate a vision of what is the common good. The Congress exists primarily to ensure the reelection of members of Congress... As the Congress has moved to the margins, as the President has moved to the center of our politics, the presidency itself has come to be less effective...

Because of this preoccupation, this fascination with the presidency, the President has become what we have instead of genuine politics, instead of genuine democracy... We look to the next President to fix things and, of course, that lifts all responsibility from me to fix things. So one of the real problems with the imperial presidency is that it has hollowed out our politics and, in many respects, has made our democracy a false one. We’re going through the motions of a democratic political system, but the fabric of democracy really has worn very thin.”

The sad thing is, so many Americans don't seem to care. They just go along with whatever Emperor Bush and the GOP say. They don't see the danger in what they have allowed to be done in the name of National Security and the, so called, War on Terror.

ECONOMY - Blow to GOP & Bush Support?

"CEOs gloomier than public on U.S. economy" by Jonathan Stempel, Reuters


The vast majority of chief executives are gloomier about U.S. economic prospects than a year earlier, and top company officials have become more downbeat than the public at large, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

Some 90 percent of chief executives described U.S. economic conditions as fair or poor, up from 16 percent a year earlier, according to NYSE Euronext's fourth annual CEO survey, "Managing During Economic Turbulence."

The survey was conducted in March, when housing and credit conditions were better than they are now. Just 83 percent of U.S. adults polled at that time felt the economy wasn't in good shape.

The survey included 184 CEOs from the United States and 70 from other countries. Sixty percent of respondents run companies with market values of $1 billion or more.

Americans in general soured on the economy sooner than many corporate chiefs. Last year, 63 percent of adults thought conditions were fair or poor, compared with 16 percent of CEOs.

A gloomy outlook may bode ill for capital spending and job growth at a time when housing prices are falling, unemployment is rising, oil prices remain near record highs, and many Americans say they feel like the economy is in recession.

Gee wiz. We can hope that this is the death knell of automatic Big Money support of the GOP.

Friday, August 08, 2008

CAMPAIGN '08 - Hold Your Nose, Toxic Slime

Even the foreign press sees the slinging.

"Barack Obama, baby killer?" by Dan Kennedy, Guardian UK


Buckle your seatbelt. Make sure your nausea bag is at the ready. Because the slimiest accusation yet aimed at Barack Obama is on the verge of having its moment in the mainstream media.

Within certain fringe elements of the anti-abortion right, it's been an article of faith for some time that Obama's support of abortion rights is so extreme that it encompasses infanticide. As in the deliberate murder of babies after they are born.

Sorry to spoil the suspense, but it's not true. As an Illinois state senator, Obama opposed a bill that could have had the effect of outlawing abortion, thus violating Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 US supreme court decision that guarantees a woman's right to choose. More about that in a moment. But first, let's look at the swamp from which this thing emerged.

I learned about Obama's alleged support for baby-killing a few weeks ago while perusing a local right-wing website called Pundit Review. What I found, in turn, referenced a 2006 blog post for the ultraconservative website of Human Events, written by Amanda Carpenter, laying out the parameters of the accusation.

According to Carpenter, the Illinois legislature in 2002 rejected a bill that "would have protected babies that survived late-term abortions", even though the wording was identical to a federal bill that passed overwhelmingly, and that was so non-controversial even Naral Pro-Choice America, the leading abortion-rights group, did not object to it. She added (accurately, unlike some of her other claims) that the Illinois bill came up for a vote twice, with Obama voting "present" the first time and "no" the second, and that he derailed the bill in committee in 2003.

Tracing the accusation back further, I discovered that Obama's Republican opponent in his 2004 US senate race, Alan Keyes, had sought to use the issue against him, accusing Obama of supporting "infanticide". At what must have been a memorable news conference, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Keyes actually said: "Christ would not vote for Barack Obama because Barack Obama has voted to behave in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved."

Finally, I came across a blog entry written in August 2004 by Chicago Tribune reporter Eric Zorn, who clearly laid out the differences between the state and federal bills (scroll down to "Apple/Orange Report"). According to Zorn, the federal bill contained language that specified the law would do nothing to threaten a woman's right to obtain a legal abortion - language that was not included in the Illinois bill. (In other words, Amanda Carpenter's Human Events post was wrong.) Indeed, Obama said at the time that he would have voted in favor of the federal bill, but couldn't support the state bill because it appeared to be at odds with Roe v Wade.

IRAQ - Inside Politics


Since the last week until now, we have been waiting for the news about approving the provincial election law but our great parliament couldn't reach a deal that end the disagreements about this law. The real knot of the who law is one city. Kirkuk or as some people like to call it (The City of the Black Gold). Each coalition or a group of lawmakers want to win the share of the cake or even the whole cake. I listened to many of them. I noticed that most of them talk about Kirkuk in a way as if its a prey for the greed and ambitions of their parties. They never talk about it as a part of Iraq because they don't care about Iraq. They care only about their limited personal interests.

I remember the first year when the same politicians were fighting on TV showing when their high patriotism trying to convince us that the united happy Iraq is their only aim. They could deceive us. We went to the election not for their sake but for the sake of Iraq.

Thank you very much Kirkuk because you could reopen our blind eyes and we could see the naked truth of our unfaithful politicians.

ECONOMY - The Chinese Raiders

"New Chinese Antitrust Law Threatens America’s High-Tech Leadership" by Daniel Ballon, Pacific Research Institute

As athletes from around the world gather in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the Chinese government has its eyes on the gold. The gold that China wins on the field of play, however, will pale in comparison to the riches it plunders from America’s most successful innovators. Armed with a vast new antitrust law that went into effect this month, the country is gearing up to extort billions of dollars from leading firms such as Google, Intel, and Microsoft.

The purpose of this new law is clear: take money from American businesses and use it to prop-up state-owned competitors with strong ties to the Communist Party. If foreigners do not submit to this government shake-down, they could be locked out of the world’s fastest-growing high-tech market. At a July 17 hearing, the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade addressed the threats to American businesses from rampant “corruption and cronyism” in Chinese markets. According to Chairman Brad Sherman (D-CA), China routinely blocks “access to its markets just by mistreating our companies.”

The new law empowers Chinese regulators to arbitrarily punish foreign businesses that threaten “healthy development of the socialist market economy.” Because “antitrust” can be used to justify nearly any punishment against any company for any reason, countries around the world are rushing to turn America’s most creative firms into their own personal piggy banks. This trend threatens to halt innovation in the rapidly evolving high-tech sector, as explained in a new report from the Pacific Research Institute, Tech Titans or Political Piñatas? How Global Antitrust Laws String Up, Beat Down, and Hold Back America’s Leading Innovators.

Instead of promoting a competitive marketplace, antitrust laws are increasingly used by self-interested bureaucrats to shelter failing products from competition. In order to succeed in this environment, every technology company from scrappy startup to multinational corporation must now siphon resources away from research and innovation in order to fund aggressive lobbying campaigns. According to PRI’s study, computer and Internet firms today spend more on lobbyists than any other industry except pharmaceuticals, insurance, and electric utilities.

As countries around the world assume authority to extort and bully America’s technology leaders, unfriendly governments will increasingly see antitrust as a tool for bolstering their nation’s influence on the international political stage. The time has come for a moratorium on antitrust hostilities. If policy makers do not act to stem the rise of global antitrust abuse, it threatens to dismantle the high-tech pioneers of today and drive away the most innovative entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

ENVIRONMENT - Mother Earth's Champion, Gore Where Are You?

"Where's Al Gore?" by Brent Budowsky, The Hill

Anyone can champion the Earth when it's easy, yet too many remain silent when it's hard. The forces behind oil are taking charge in the great energy debate and global warming has virtually disappeared, even from its strongest advocate.

I have supported Al Gore for a generation but am profoundly troubled by his silence and absence from the great debate during this election year. Gore did not run; Gore did not endorse when it mattered; Gore did not push his issues during the primaries; Gore did not challenge the phony gas tax holiday idea; Gore does not challenge the Mother Earth of all flip-flops and sellouts from John McCain, who went from pretending to be a global warming leader to being the great shill for oil company profits.

John McCain is a second-tier Teddy Roosevelt impersonator with zero in common with TR's championing of the environment, trust-busting attacks on corporate abuses, regulation to prevent children from being poisoned by bad food, and rights of American workers.

Why is Gore not challenging John McCain visibly, aggressively and clearly? Why is Gore not challenging the American people to take the hard actions that are needed to conserve energy, to save the planet, and to change the world at such a critical moment?

Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has shown real guts in criticizing McCain and praising Obama. If a Republican like Arnold can be so forceful, where's Al Gore? Why is a right-wing Republican oilman who financed the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry doing much more this election year than the Nobel Laureate?

The occasional emergence for the big speech is not enough. The occasional crowd-pleaser for bloggers means nothing in the real fight. The awards, the prizes, the movies, the books, the concerts, the standing ovations and venture capital funds (all of which I have supported for Gore) mean nothing, zero, nada, in the real fight at the critical moment.

Oil is defeating the Earth; oil money is now dominating the debate; oil lobbyists are now controlling the agenda. The debate is now about who supports how much drilling. The defense of the planet has receded when the politics has become hard. The debate is largely surrendered when the battle matters the most and the leader of the free world is being chosen.

Whatever one believes about drilling, those who try to persuade a hurting public that it matters anytime soon are committing a fraud, a hoax, a sham, a lie to the public.

Now is that time for all good men and women to come to aid of the country, the people, the planet, and the truth.

Hard truths need to be told and a great battle needs to be waged. For me that means a challenge to my friends, such as Gore, as much as a challenge to the frauds, such as McCain.

Oil is defeating the Earth, and Al Gore should roll up his sleeves and wage the fight this moment demands.

ECONOMY - Fall of Capitalism?

GRITtv: The Fall Of Capitalism

POLITICS - Follow the Money

The following is an example of why big money is corrupting our elections. This is really NOT about McCain but it IS about Harry Sargeant III and Mustafa Abu Naba’a.

"McCain to Give Back $50,000 Under Scrutiny" by MICHAEL LUO, New York Times

Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign said Thursday that it would return all the contributions solicited for it by the Jordanian business partner of a prominent Florida fund-raiser for Mr. McCain.

For the McCain camp, the decision caps a queasy two days in which news accounts scrutinized a cluster of more than $50,000 in unusual contributions from a single extended family of Californians, the Abdullahs, and several of their friends.

The bundling of the donations was initially credited by the campaign to Harry Sargeant III, finance chairman of the Florida Republican Party and part-owner of a major oil trading company. But they were actually solicited by Mustafa Abu Naba’a, a longtime business partner of Mr. Sargeant.

The donations came under scrutiny because of their large size and the fact that for the most part, the Abdullahs do not appear wealthy. In addition, several of them interviewed expressed indifference or even hostility to Mr. McCain’s candidacy.

All this taken together has raised the question of whether at least some of the family and their friends may have been donors in name only who were reimbursed by someone trying to skirt individual contribution limits.

“We are taking the precautionary effort of returning any and all contributions that were solicited by Mr. Abu Naba’a,” said Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign. “We had an issue with the idea there were people giving to the campaign who had no intention of voting for or supporting John McCain.”

Earlier Thursday, the campaign said it was reviewing all the donations collected by Mr. Sargeant, who has raised more than $500,000 for Mr. McCain. The campaign said it would send a letter to all of Mr. Sargeant’s donors reminding them of a variety of restrictions, among them that campaign contributions may not be reimbursed and may not be made by foreign nationals.

If a donor has failed to meet those standards, the campaign said, it will arrange for a refund.

Given that Mr. Abu Naba’a is a foreign national, some Democratic officials questioned the legality of his bundling money for Mr. McCain. But several election law experts who were consulted said that while foreign nationals were clearly barred from making donations themselves, federal statutes did not explicitly forbid them to solicit contributions. They do come close, though.

In 2004, the Federal Election Commission considered the case of Zury Ríos Sosa, a Guatemalan who was the fiancée of Representative Jerry Weller, Republican of Illinois. The commission issued an advisory opinion that said Ms. Ríos, as an “uncompensated volunteer” for Mr. Weller, could “solicit funds from persons who are not foreign nationals.”

Nevertheless, Paul S. Ryan, a lawyer at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said there seemed to be some tension within the opinion, because it cites a regulation that says foreign nationals shall not “directly or indirectly” play a role in the “decision-making process” of any person’s “election-related activities,” including the making of contributions.

Mr. Ryan said that if he were representing the McCain campaign, he would seek an opinion from the commission.

Mr. Rogers, of the McCain campaign, said its lawyers believed that the bundling by Mr. Abu Naba’a was permissible. The campaign decided to return the money, he said, because “it just didn’t sound right to us, the whole situation.”

MIDDLE EAST - Appropriate Response or Not?

"Israeli officer ousted for videotaped shooting" by Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy News

The Israeli officer who reportedly ordered one of his soldiers to shoot a bound-and-blindfolded Palestinian demonstrator is being reassigned.

Lt. Col. Omri Borberg requested - and received - permission to be sent to a new unit after he became the focal point of the latest abuse inquiry to hit the Israeli military.

Last month, an Israeli human rights group released video showing Borberg holding the prisoner by the arm while one of his soldiers fires a rubber bullet at a demonstrator who had taken part in a protest against Israel's separation barrier.

After the video came out, the incident generated a lot of public attention, especially since it was the second questionable shooting to be videotaped and since two young Palestinian boys have recently been killed by Israeli soldiers during West Bank protests in the village of Naalin.

Yesterday, Israeli papers reported that Borberg and the soldier would both be indicted on relatively minor charges that will allow them both to avoid prison time.

“I see myself serving for many more years at the heart of the military activity," Borberg told Israel's Maariv newspaper. "I see the act (leaving the battalion) as an educational, moral act, which was in my view called for in light of the event.”

Human rights groups are denouncing the apparent plea bargain.

“This case proves once again that the military judicial system views harming innocent citizens as a public image problem and not as a moral issue," said the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din. "If the brigade commander had been caught smoking a joint, for example, he would be dishonorably discharged after a prison sentence.”

Maariv's Amir Rappaport said the incident "proves that there is a highly severe cover up culture in the IDF."

"The images from Naalin are harsh, even intolerable," wrote Rappaport. "But the investigation of the Investigative Military Police presented a chain of events that was more similar to a ridiculous comedy of errors in a weary army than a case of storm troopers shooting their prey with terrible cruelty."

"If this were an isolated case of covering things up—that would be one matter," he concluded. "The problem is that this is a fairly representative case of the culture of military inquiries."

Americans, we have to ask is the "reassignment" of this officer an appropriate response to shooting and unarmed, blindfolded, prisoner; even if only with a rubber bullet? Is this a "just" act?

CAMPAIGN '08 - Nuance Not Withstanding

"Obama Needs Nuance Without Ambiguity" by Roger Hernandez, Huffington Post

"I don't do nuance," President Bush supposedly once said to Sen. Joe Biden.

And he didn't, during the past eight years, in ways too disastrous, too numerous, too familiar to list.

If Bush's problem was not doing nuance, Obama is facing the opposite problem: doing too much of it. Good for policy, bad for politics.

He goes to Iraq, sees what's happening and realizes that the timetable he favored needs to be more flexible than he first believed. Obama made the shift only after he satisfied himself in person that the actual security situation on the ground required discarding rigidly preconceived, ideologically driven troop movements deadlines.

It's what presidents are supposed to do (though we can think of one who didn't). Yet Obama got hammered for flip-flopping.

Obama has also been attacked for changing his mind on any number of other issues: offshore oil drilling, dipping into the strategic petroleum reserve, NAFTA, negotiating "without preconditions" with Iran and Cuba, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Not every Obama supporter is going to like every tug and adjustment. What could he possibly have been thinking when he called the D.C. gun ban unconstitutional?

And some of those tugs and adjustments are self-serving. Nothing else explains his opting out of public campaign financing.

So there's political calculation mixed in there with the policy nuance. Well, it is politics. But now Obama's job is to show that it is not all politics.

He can do that by leading a reform of affirmative action.

Obama has the opportunity to bring nuance to these policies because there is no agreement on what affirmative action is, or even on what its purpose should be.

On one side, there are liberals who fear that any recalibration of racial preference programs means disaster for ethnic minorities left unprotected from discrimination.

The left that loves nothing better than a nice wallow in virtuous victimhood saw no problem with the program at the University of Michigan that was struck down by the Supreme Court five years ago, under which Barack Obama's daughters would have received an automatic 20 points on a scale of 150 because they would have been deemed underprivileged. To assume that being black equals being socioeconomically disadvantaged is nothing less than a hidden form of racism.

Obama sees the absurdity in that. He told George Stephanopoulos last year that his daughters "should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged." And he added that "we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty and shown themselves to have what it takes to succeed."

It's a move toward an affirmative action that considers factors other than race. But without forgetting race, because at the same time, Obama needs also to confront conservatives who like to pretend racial discrimination is no longer a barrier to progress. These people, too, love their own right-leaning wallow in virtuous victimhood -- remember that infamous Jesse Helms ad with the "white hands" crumpling a job rejection letter because "they had to give it to a minority"?

An Obama reform of affirmative action must have as a premise the fact that racial discrimination is much more likely to affect people who are not white -- while at the same time, the policy must be nuanced enough to recognize that indeed, reverse discrimination is also reprehensible and should be every bit as illegal.

Then there is that buzzword, "diversity," derided on the right as mere political correctness. Well, "diversity" in the workplace brings together individuals from different backgrounds, with different ideas and different ways of doing things so that an enterprise can consider a product or service from various perspectives. Why does that make some on the right uneasy?

And so, there you have Obama's nuanced affirmative action: It should be used to oppose racial discrimination, whether overt from the right or the veiled, patronizing kind from the left; it should boost disadvantaged people regardless of race; and it should promote the benefits of diversity.

He has said much of all that, a little bit here and a little bit there, sometimes ambiguously. Now he needs to lay it all out. Nuance without ambiguity. Because what this country urgently needs is a president unafraid to act boldly upon shades of gray.

AMERICA - And From Michigan....

"Michigan Memories and Musings" by Matthew Dowd, Huffington Post

So, I am sitting by the shores of Lake Michigan with my feet in the warm sand relaxing, reading and wondering about life and what to make of the latest events in the presidential campaign.

It is great being back here in northern Michigan (I grew up in this swing state), and there is nothing like a sunset over Lake Michigan.

I recall as I sit here that it was on a vacation in northern Michigan that I got hooked on politics and my love of it bloomed 35 years ago at this exact same time of year.

Driving north from Detroit up Interstate 75 in one of those huge station wagons back in 1973 with four brothers and four sisters (we ended up 11, but two more boys came later in the 1970s), all I was thinking about was watching the Watergate hearings on television.

My brothers and sisters played on the beach while I tried to discuss the latest questioning of White House officials; my siblings thought I was crazy and they probably were right, though more than 80 percent of Americans watched some portion of the famous hearings.

Back to this political environment and a few observations as I listen to the waves come in on the shore:

First, for an election whose dominant value desired by the public is authenticity, it seems to be greatly missing on both sides of the campaign.

Obama seems to have real difficulty admitting a mistake (didn't we just go through that with another President?) and admitting some of his policy positions might have been wrong. The public sees politicians admitting a mistake and learning as a sign of strength, not a weakness.

McCain seems to have lost his way a bit about providing uplifting politics and being one who can change Washington. The public is OK with hardnosed political tactics, just not ones that don't feel and look authentic to the candidate.

Second, both the presidential candidates through their careers and in their run for president have talked about putting a premium on rebuilding the community we call America. Bringing people to a common sense of purpose and getting past the nastiness and labels and bickering, and rebuilding the American campfire so we can all gather around it and help each other solve the problems in our country and the world.

And what have we heard recently -- name calling by both sides, release of attack ads that don't seem to have much to do with our problems, and attacks on each other related to celebrity and ignorance.

(Though having Paris or Britney around a campfire would definitely be entertaining -- oops, I digress)

Third, isn't it amazing that we have two Presidents available to each party who won more raw votes in their reelections than any other previous member of either of their parties, and neither campaign wants them close by or around much.

Bill Clinton won reelection in 1996 with more votes than any other Democrat before him, and George W. Bush won more votes in his reelection in 2004 than any other Republican before him. And both are being benched by the campaigns.

One counter intuitive thing to do is for McCain to give a speech congratulating and lauding Clinton for all that he has done in the world on health and poverty, and for Obama to give a similar speech highlighting what Bush has done on AIDS and Africa. It is by far his best singular achievement and one that no president came close to doing.

Just some musings from Michigan, and the next stop for this column will be on the upcoming conventions.

POLITICS - Enter the Thought Police

"Don't Even Think About It" by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella , Mother Jones

Page 1 of 3 in article

Perhaps no campaign tactic is more effective than fearmongering, and in the current presidential race the sum of all fears, once again, is radical Islamic terrorists—or "jihadists," to use the now-ubiquitous term. On the Republican side, it's a pissing match over who can look toughest against this shadowy enemy, with John McCain running ads showing masked Islamic gunmen, while Mitt Romney spouts the old neocon warning about forces that want to "unite the world under a single jihadist caliphate." Although the Democrats' rhetoric is more restrained, Hillary Clinton didn't hesitate to suggest that the new president might quickly face another terrorist attack on American soil, as part of her quest to convince voters they need her cool-headed experience.

Largely ignored by the mainstream candidates—as well as the mainstream media—are the latest efforts to bring the fear home by targeting "homegrown terrorism"—another new catchphrase. Only liberal Democrat Dennis Kucinich and libertarian Republican Ron Paul have warned that in the name of stopping domestic terrorist plots before they happen, Congress is in the midst of passing legislation aimed not at actual hate crimes or even terrorist conspiracies, but at talking, Web surfing, or even thinking about jihadism or other "extremist belief systems." Last October, a piece of legislation called the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 sailed through the House with near-universal bipartisan support; it is likely to reach the floor of the Senate early this year and appears certain to be signed into law.

Meanwhile, a report released by the New York City Police Department's intelligence division has been warmly received in Washington and widely distributed to law enforcement officials and seems sure to influence national policy. "Radicalization in the West and the Homegrown Threat" details how not only committed terrorists but potential jihadists think, what they talk about, and where they meet. The report's apparent goal is to increase surveillance on constitutionally protected activities. Already, members of the New York City Fire Department have been enlisted by Homeland Security to be on the lookout for signs of possible terrorist activity whenever they enter people's homes and to share this "intelligence" with other agencies.

Both the legislation and the report are presented as reasonable, rational responses to the threat of terrorism from domestic "extremist" groups and are framed not as plans for action but as efforts to "study" and "understand" the roots of homegrown terrorism. Both promote precisely the kind of broad approach—targeting beliefs rather than actions, assuming that "radicalization" leads to violence, defining terms loosely and casting a wide net—that has been used in the past by government authorities to monitor and disrupt legitimate dissent as well as illegal plots.

The primary sponsor of the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act is Jane Harman, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Intelligence. Harman made a point of introducing the legislation on April 19, the 12th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, saying it was "aimed at ensuring such an attack never happens again." But it was clear from the start that the bill was not aimed at white supremacists or anti-government militias. In announcing the bill, Harman also cited a 2005 plot in her Southern California district, targeting "military bases and recruiting stations, the Israeli Consulate, synagogues filled with worshipers on Jewish holy days, and the El Al ticket counter at LAX"—a plot that was foiled when a local police detective spotted "jihadist extremist material" in the apartment of a robbery suspect.

The danger posed by American jihadists remains relatively small—both in comparison to domestic threats in Europe and to the threat of attacks on the United States from abroad. The latest National Intelligence Estimate on "The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland," released in July 2007, clearly stated that Al Qaeda "is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat" to the United States. In fact, the report found that "the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" from its safe haven in Pakistan, and that the rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq has helped it raise resources and "recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks." Far down in its threat assessment, the NIE notes that "the radical and violent segment of the West's Muslim population is expanding, including in the United States," but also finds that "this internal Muslim terrorist threat is not likely to be as severe as it is in Europe."

Nonetheless, a few thwarted conspiracies are more than enough to float a bill like this. After a couple of hearings—described by OMB Watch as "primarily one-sided, with the bulk of the witnesses representing law enforcement or federal agencies"—the bill went to the House floor, where it was it passed with only six members voting against it—three Democrats and three Republicans. (Twenty-two others were absent.) Currently, a nearly identical version of the bill awaits a vote in the Senate's Committee on Homeland Security, where it has a supporter in chair Joseph Lieberman. Committee member Barack Obama has gone on record as being undecided on the bill (after an earlier email to constituents that seemed to indicate support)—but no presidential candidate is likely to cast a vote that could be seen as soft on terrorism.

The legislation would create a National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism composed of 10 members whose vaguely defined job would be to "examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence," and to "build upon and bring together the work of other entities" including various federal, state, and local agencies, academics, and foreign governments. The commission is charged with issuing a report after 18 months. It also directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to set up a center to study "violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism" at a U.S. university, and to "conduct a survey" of what other countries are doing to prevent homegrown terrorism.

The danger to our Human & Constitutional Rights, like all such legislation, is leaving the definition as to WHAT constitutes "homegrown terrorism" to the agencies conducting the program.

We are suppose to just "trust" that "they" will NOT violate our rights. If this passes as is, the next time you (or a family member) protests any war, be ready to be added to a Homegrown Terrorist List. Of course this is assuming that such a list does NOT exist already.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

POLITICS - Washington Beltway Conservatism

"Bill Moyers talks with Thomas Frank" Bill Moyers Journal

Note: I have reformatted the text slightly, adding who is talking in brackets

Thomas Frank's THE WRECKING CREW, examines corruption in Washington, puts the Abramoff scandal into context. Bill Moyers and Thomas Frank discuss the scandal and Frank’s new book in a Web-exclusive interview.

[Bill Moyers] Your book describes conservatism as "an expression of American business." Why exclude Democrats? Jimmy Carter triggered the deregulation frenzy. Bill Clinton pushed for NAFTA, signed the Telecommunications Act of l996 which gave the megamedia companies everything they wanted, auctioned off the Lincoln Bedroom, and swooned over Robert Rubin while showing Robert Reich the door. Democratic Congresses were shaking down corporations when George W. Bush was still tipsy in Texas. And who was running Congress during the S&L swindles of the late 80s? Why single out conservatives as the greedy party?

[Thomas Frank] Democrats can be conservatives too, of course. In fact, certain Democrats' embrace of the free-market faith has been just as consequential as the Republicans' own move to the right. When the Democrats gave up on FDR and came around to the ideology of Reagan, the opposition ceased to oppose.

But this was the subject of my 2000 book, ONE MARKET UNDER GOD, which discussed NAFTA and the Telecommunications Act at some length. THE WRECKING CREW is an effort to explain the particular species of corruption we see in Washington today.

Clinton's contributions here were not insignificant, but they were more passive than active. His celebration of outsourcing set up the government-for-profit of the Bush era. His war on federal wages ensured that government would remain an unattractive career option, especially when compared to what's offered by the contractors who are our de facto government today. His failure even to try to reverse certain initiatives of the Reagan years allowed them to harden into permanent fixtures of the Washington scene.

There are other forms of corruption that are particular to liberalism, and that occur more naturally among Democrats. But by and large, the particular mode of corruption I describe in this book is a Republican invention. True believers in the free-market way invented it and feel most comfortable in it. Most Democrats can be embarrassed by their relationship to lobbyists because publicly they pretend to be the "party of the people"; most Republicans are happy to say they believe in market-based government.

[Bill Moyers] You go on to write that the political triumph of conservatism has coincided with the rise of the Washington area to the richest rank of American metropolises. But can't it be said that the ascendancy of liberalism turned government into the cornucopia of spending which became a vast feeding ground for predators of all stripes?

[Thomas Frank] During its heyday, liberalism was often depicted in these terms-as a giveaway to special interests, handouts to organized whiners, pork-barrel projects like the TVA. There may have been some merit to those charges-they aren't my subject in this book so I don't know-but whatever they were, they are as nothing compared to the kind of money presently being sent down the chute to defense contractors and homeland-security operators and so on.

As for Washington's wealth, it is uniquely a phenomenon of the era of privatization and outsourcing, not of liberalism.

[Bill Moyers] You seem to dismiss, if not denigrate, the term "culture of corruption." If that doesn't fit the nexus between K Street, the White House, Congress and contract-dispensing federal agencies, what does?

[Thomas Frank] My problem with the term "culture of corruption" is that the word "culture" is being used generically-to mystify and accuse, not to define. I wanted to get down to specifics: What, exactly, is corrupt about this culture? How did it get that way? What's responsible for it? The Democrats' talk about a "culture of corruption" implies that simply voting for Democrats will fix it; when we know more about this culture we discover that it goes far too deep for such a simple solution.

[Bill Moyers] You argue that the sprawling spectacle surrounding Jack Abramoff was not just a matter of a "few bad apples." So was the whole orchard rotten?

[Thomas Frank] It's not the apples, it's the trees themselves. It's systemic. It's structural. It's the logical consequence of the philosophy of government currently in place. It has nothing to do with individuals except for the handful of geniuses who invented it all.

[Bill Moyers] I read the muckraker David Graham Phillips, whom you quote in your book. A hundred years ago he was writing about The Treason of the Senate when the biggest names in the world's "greatest deliberative body" were serving "interests as hostile to the American people as any invading army could be, and vastly more dangerous; interests that manipulate the prosperity produced by all, so that it heaps up riches for the few; interests whose growth and power can only mean the degradation of the people." Ralph Nader couldn't say it better. So what's new?

[Thomas Frank] Morally, those sentiments are right on-target. What's new is (a) the unthinkable is back; (b) it's infinitely more complex; and (c) it's ideological. The Vanderbilts had their own U.S. Senator because that way they could grab more, but the people doing it today are motivated at least partially by ideology. They have a theoretical justification for what they've done: the market is always and in every case better than the bureaucracy.

What's more, many of the people I describe in the book understand themselves as crusaders against corruption. They think *they* are the muckrakers, demanding more and more deregulation or privatization. Government should get out of the marketplace altogether. By what right does it regulate insider trading or price fixing? Get off our backs!

[Bill Moyers] You require several pages - riveting pages, I will admit - to describe a "fantastic misgovernment." Distill the essence of it for a bumper sticker or t-shirt.

[Thomas Frank] Bad government is the natural product of rule by those who believe government is bad.

Or: Cynicism spawns corruption, which spawns cynicism.

Or: Bring back the regulators before the system self-destructs.

[Bill Moyers] Conservatives are fond of writing op-eds and going on television to say, "Don't look at us. It was the Republicans!" Are we really talking about a colossal case of mistaken identity here? Were the souls of conservatives actually hijacked and implanted in Republican bodies bought at a local taxidermist shop?

[Thomas Frank] It is true that not all Republicans are conservatives-we used to have some pretty liberal ones out in the Midwest. Also some pretty clean ones, especially in Kansas City, where the Dems were the party of Pendergast.

But the distinction is constantly abused by conservatives in order to get their movement off the hook when their one-time leaders' numbers plummet. One day Jack Abramoff is their maximum leader; when it's discovered that he's been ripping off his clients, suddenly he's not a conservative anymore. One day George W. Bush is thought to be in daily contact with the Almighty; when his numbers tank, he's an "impostor" who's tricked the movement. They once said the same things about Reagan, incidentally.

Incidentally, all of this is a basic logical fallacy called "No True Scotsman." Scotsman A says, "No Scotsman puts soy milk on his porridge." Scotsman B says, oh yeah? I know a Scotsman who puts soy milk on his porridge. Scotsman A then replies, "well, no *true* Scotsman puts soy milk on his porridge."

[Bill Moyers] Many years ago I reported for a documentary on the Iran-Contra scandal - when President Reagan was waging a "secret" war against the Sandinistas and his hirelings in the basement of the White House traded arms for hostages to finance it. In your description of that scandal you write that two great conservative themes converged: "freedom fighters" and political entrepreneurship. Right?

[Thomas Frank] Yes. The right of those years was infatuated with the idea of "freedom fighters"-the contras in Nicaragua, the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, Jonas Savimbi in Angola, and whatever that brutal gang was called in Mozambique. To conservatives these guys seemed to represent a kind of sixties in reverse, in which the glamorous guerrillas were now on our side. And, yes, they thought Jonas Savimbi was glamorous.

They supported these figures with entreneurial methods: asking millionaires to contribute to nonprofits which would then buy supplies for the contras (and supplies for the fundraiser); transforming their control of the state into cash (selling weapons to Iran). Their ultimate ambition was supposed to be called "The Enterprise": a foreign policy instrument completely free from the scrutiny of Congress.

[Bill Moyers] And you think some of what we've seen under this regime evolved - pardon the secular language - from that convergence?

[Thomas Frank] The entrepreneurship is officially woven into the fabric of the state now: "Government should be market-based," Bush says. Entrepreneurship is what gave you both the catastrophic depopulating of FEMA and the lucrative but ineffectual recovery effort after Katrina. Or look at Iraq, where much of our foreign-policy apparatus is indeed private and is almost completely beyond scrutiny. Try phoning Blackwater and asking them why they do the things they do.

[Bill Moyers] Two years ago my documentary "Capitol Crimes," which we're repeating and updating this Friday night, reported on how conservatives in Washington ganged up to promote sweat shops on American territory. You devote a chapter to this story and call it Bantustan That Roared." Give our readers a peek into what you mean.

[Thomas Frank] "Bantustans," or "homelands," were a tool of the apartheid government in South Africa. They were supposedly separate countries in which the black population could be theoretically housed, leaving South Africa proper for the whites. Generally speaking, the bantustans had two industries: casino gambling and low-wage manufacturing. One of them was ferociously libertarian, and much beloved of American conservatives. And they were all propped up ideologically by appeals to racial or ethnic pride.

Each of these elements was present in Saipan, to one degree or another. The raging libertarianism, the casino gambling, the sweatshop manufacturing-exploiting, in this case, imported Filipinos and Chinese-and the constant use of ethnic pride to excuse the whole rotten thing. I say Saipan "roared" because, while the bantustans pretty much sucked for everyone who lived there, it has been a great success for some.

[Bill Moyers] Tom DeLay went there with a gaggle of conservatives in two and called the sweat shops "a petri dish of capitalism." How about that for a vision of America's future?

[Thomas Frank] DeLay was right. That's what we're becoming. Democracy is over. It's rule by money, now: plutocracy, the pre-thirties system.

[Bill Moyers] What do you make of the fact that Norquist is still riding high, despite the seamy business he carried on of using his organization to funnel money from Abramoff's clients to Ralph Reed? Does his constituency just not care about such things?

[Thomas Frank] Apparently not. Maybe they think Norquist is just a good entrepreneur. I met him, by the way, and found him a charming and very intelligent man.

[Bill Moyers] Who are the real casualties of THE WRECKING CREW?

[Thomas Frank] It's ordinary working people. Thirty or forty years ago, it was possible to work a blue-collar job and enjoy a middle-class standard of living. In fact, it was common. It was the American way. The reason it was so common, though, was because we decided to make it that way and used government as our instrument. That instrument is no longer under our control. Someone else is at the wheel, and they're steering us in a different direction.

[Bill Moyers] So can good little liberals go to bed at night now and sleep soundly knowing the Good Democrats have slain the monsters and reclaimed the castle?

[Thomas Frank] No. Unfortunately, the system I describe is part of the landscape in Washington now. It's structural. It's an industry. It's not going down without an enormous fight. Besides, rather than putting away this very profitable game, a lot of Democrats seem excited to try their hand at it.

(Other Democrats, though, are trying to get to the bottom of things. Some Republicans, too. There used to be one called John McCain that I liked.)

[Bill Moyers] Years ago the WALL STREET JOURNAL banned subversive - liberal - writers from their editorial pages. Suddenly you pop up as a columnist on the op-ed page. Are you Rupert Murdoch's fig leaf?

How did it happen? This wasn't supposed to be the Age of Miracles.

[Thomas Frank] I have never met or spoken to Rupert Murdoch. The editor of their op-ed page is the one who offered me a spot. I was as surprised by the invitation as you are, since one of my previous books was basically an extended commentary on the JOURNAL's opinion page over the course of the 1990s.

I personally think that one of the reasons I've ended up at the JOURNAL is, ironically, the famous "liberal bias" critique. I've always suspected that one of the reasons I've never been offered a regular, permanent place in any prominent mainstream publication is that everyone in big-media-land is terrified of seeming too liberal, and hiring someone like me would obviously expose them to terrific blasts from the right. Well, one of the only publications in America that is totally immune to that critique is the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Which means they're free to hire me.

[Bill Moyers] Has living in Washington made you cynical? Or was it the ripping of the veil in "The Wizard of Oz" that destroyed your faith?

[Thomas Frank] The literature of Washington is, by and large, the literature of cynicism and disillusionment. I wanted to update it for our time. But I prefer the word "skeptical," since I believe good government is possible.

POLITICS - The Green-Eyed Monster Campaign '08

"McCain’s Green-Eyed Monster" by MAUREEN DOWD, New York Times


Now John McCain is pea-green with envy. That’s the only explanation for why a man who prides himself on honor, a man who vowed not to take the low road in the campaign, having been mugged by W. and Rove in South Carolina in 2000, is engaging in a festival of juvenilia.

The Arizona senator who built his reputation on being a brave proponent of big solutions is running a schoolyard campaign about tire gauges and Paris Hilton, childishly accusing his opponent of being too serious, too popular and not patriotic enough.

Even his own mother, the magical 96-year-old Roberta McCain, let slip that she thought the Paris Hilton-Britney Spears ad was “kinda stupid.”

McCain’s 2000 strategist, John Weaver, was equally blunt with Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter: “It’s hard to imagine America responding to ‘small ball’ when we have all these problems.”

Some of McCain’s old pals in the Senate are cringing at what they see as his soulless transformation into what he once scorned.

“John’s eaten up with envy,” said one. “His image of himself was always the handsome, celebrity flyboy.

“Now somebody else is the celebrity,” the colleague continued, while John looks in the mirror and sees his face marred by skin cancer and looks at the TV and sees his dashing self-image replaced by visions of William Frawley, with Letterman jokes about his membership in the ham radio club and adventures with wagon trains.

For McCain, being cool meant being a rogue, not a policy wonk; but Obama manages to be a cool College Bowl type, which must irk McCain, who liked to play up his bad-boy cool. Now the guy in the back of the class is shooting spitballs at the class pet and is coming off as more juvenile than daring.

Around the McCain campaign, they grouse that Obama “hasn’t bled.” He hasn’t bled literally, in military service, just like W., the last holder of an E-ZPass who sped past McCain. And he hasn’t paid his dues in the Senate, since he basically just stopped by for directions to the Oval Office.

As a new senator, Obama was not only precocious enough to pounce on turf that McCain had invested years in, such as campaign finance lobbying, ethics reform and earmarks. When Obama did reach across the aisle for a mentor, it was to the staid Richard Lugar of Indiana, not to the salty Republican of choice for Democrats, McCain.

When the Illinois freshman took back a private promise to join McCain’s campaign finance reform effort, McCain told his aide Mark Salter to “brush him back.” Salter sent an over-the-top vituperative letter to Obama. “I guess I beaned him instead,” Salter told Newsweek’s Howard Fineman.

McCain could dismiss W. as a lightweight, but he knows Obama’s smart. Obama wrote his own books, while McCain’s were written by Salter. McCain knows he’s the affirmative action scion of admirals who might not have gotten through Annapolis without being a legacy. Obama didn’t even tell Harvard Law School that he was black on his application.

McCain upbraids Obama for being a poppet, while he’s becoming a puppet. His mouth is moving but the words coming out belong to his new hard-boiled strategist, Steve Schmidt, a Rove protégé, nicknamed “The Bullet” for his bald pate.

Schmidt has turned Mr. Straight Talk into Mr. Desperate Straits. It’s not a good trade.

Waaaa, waaaa! Mommy they like him better than me!

Well, McBush, just too bad. Live with it.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

TECHNOLOGY - Here Comes the SPAM & Google

There are a number of reports concerning SPAM and Google.....

"Spammers using Google Sites to bypass filters" by Matthew Broersma,


Spammers had already been making use of Google Docs, Google Page Creator and Google Calendar as spam-hosting facilities, but Google Sites is a recent addition, according to the MessageLabs Intelligence Report for July 2008. Junk emailers are using the tool to automatically create web pages with names composed of a string of random numbers and letters, resulting in an address that is more difficult for signature-based anti-spam tools to block, MessageLabs said.

The Google Sites abuse indicates that spammers are becoming more advanced at getting around the Captcha (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) mechanisms used to defend against the automated sign-up tools frequently used by junk emailers, said MessageLabs' chief security analyst, Mark Sunner.

(Also see IT Business Net)

Not good for Google's reputation, to say the least.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


"We don’t need another ‘war president’" by Joseph J. Carbone, (Letter to the Editor) Las Vegas Sun

As a former serviceman and as a proud American, I sincerely respect and admire that John McCain was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. That said, I have to question whether that experience qualifies Mr. McCain as a hero or to be president and commander in chief.

A hero by definition is someone who performs a heroic deed. I am not minimizing the hardships Mr. McCain experienced, but we must not blow that out of proportion. Unfortunate, yes; heroic, hardly. He was not the only prisoner in Hanoi, and although he was imprisoned a long time, many, many others were imprisoned much longer than he was.

Mr. McCain implies that his military service has equipped him to be a strong and formidable commander in chief, but we are electing a president, and being commander in chief is only part of that position, not the position.

The people of this country and the world are sick and tired of war. We have incredible problems in the United States and all the effort and capital we have poured into war has exacerbated them. The United States needs a president who can work to solve our problems, not continue to maintain them.

The present administration has unequivocally stated that the reasons we went to war with Iraq were not substantiated. There were no weapons of mass destruction that could and would be imminently used against us or our allies. Saddam Hussein was not in league with al-Qaida. We, in fact, did not go to war. What we did was attack, invade and conquer a country. What in God’s name qualifies and dignifies victory in an unjustified war?

Mr. McCain would better present himself as an ideal presidential candidate by telling us how he will solve our national problems, rather than continuing a horrible mistake to eventual “victory,” whatever that means. We have had our fill of a “war president.”

My hearty thanks to a fellow veteran.

TECHNOLOGY - Bugs In the Works, nVidia

"NVIDIA DISASTER: thousands of GPUs faulty" by Leigh Stark, APC Magazine


NVIDIA has admitted to a major manufacturing screw-up, which is seeing thousands of its GPUs overheating, burning out and failing.

NVIDIA have had a long history of making great graphics processors but lately there's something terribly wrong coming out of their factories.

If you bought a laptop with either the NVIDIA Geforce 8400M (M for Mobile) or 8600M in it, you can now stick yourself in the pile for people with bad luck. This includes laptops from the following brands (take a deep breath): Acer, Apple, Asus, BenQ, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, LG, MSI, NEC, Sony, Toshiba... to name a few. Now it's not with everyone, of course. If you hit your Control Panel and find yourself using either the 8400M or 8600M graphics processor, you're affected; everyone else can move on.

BUSINESS - Corporate Sleaze

"Companies Tap Pension Plans To Fund Executive Benefits" by ELLEN E. SCHULTZ and THEO FRANCIS, Wall Street Journal

At a time when scores of companies are freezing pensions for their workers, some are quietly converting their pension plans into resources to finance their executives' retirement benefits and pay.

In recent years, companies from Intel Corp. to CenturyTel Inc. collectively have moved hundreds of millions of dollars of obligations for executive benefits into rank-and-file pension plans. This lets companies capture tax breaks intended for pensions of regular workers and use them to pay for executives' supplemental benefits and compensation.

The practice has drawn scant notice. A close examination by The Wall Street Journal shows how it works and reveals that the maneuver, besides being a dubious use of tax law, risks harming regular workers. It can drain assets from pension plans and make them more likely to fail. Now, with the current bear market in stocks weakening many pension plans, this practice could put more in jeopardy.

How many is impossible to tell. Neither the Internal Revenue Service nor other agencies track this maneuver. Employers generally reveal little about it. Some benefits consultants have warned them not to, in order to forestall a backlash by regulators and lower-level workers.

The background: Federal law encourages employers to offer pensions by giving companies a tax deduction when they contribute cash to a pension plan, and by letting the money in the plan grow tax free. Executives, like anyone else, can participate in these plans.

But their benefits can't be disproportionately large. IRS rules say pension plans must not "discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees." If a company wants to give its executives larger pensions -- as most do -- it must provide "supplemental" executive pensions, which don't carry any tax advantages.

The trick is to find a way to move some of the obligations for supplemental pensions into the plan that qualifies for tax breaks. Benefits consultants market sophisticated techniques to help companies do just that, without running afoul of IRS rules against favoring the highly paid.

Intel's case shows how lucrative such a move can be. It involves Intel's obligation to pay deferred compensation to executives when they retire or leave. In 2005, the chip maker moved more than $200 million of its deferred-comp IOUs into its pension plan. Then it contributed at least $187 million of cash to the plan.

Now, when the executives get ready to collect their deferred salaries, Intel won't have to pay them out of cash; the pension plan will pay them.

Normally, companies can deduct the cost of deferred comp only when they actually pay it, often many years after the obligation is incurred. But Intel's contribution to the pension plan was deductible immediately. Its tax saving: $65 million in the first year. In other words, taxpayers helped finance Intel's executive compensation.

Meanwhile, the move is enabling Intel to book as much as an extra $136 million of profit over the 10 years that began in 2005. That reflects the investment return Intel assumes on the $187 million.

Fred Thiele, Intel's global retirement manager, said the benefit was probably somewhat lower, because if Intel hadn't contributed this $187 million to the pension plan, it would have invested the cash or used it in some other productive way.

The company said the move aided shareholders and didn't hurt lower-paid employees because most don't benefit from Intel's pension plan. Instead, they receive their retirement benefits mainly from a profit-sharing plan, with the pension plan serving as a backup in case profit-sharing falls short.

The result, though, is that a majority of the tax-advantaged assets in Intel's pension plan are dedicated not to providing pensions for the rank and file but to paying deferred compensation of the company's most highly paid employees, roughly 4% of the work force.

On the Hook

And taxpayers are on the hook in other ways. When deferred executive salaries and bonuses are part of a pension plan, they can be rolled over into an Individual Retirement Account -- another tax-advantaged vehicle.

Intel believes that its practices "feel consistent" with both the spirit and letter of the law that gives tax benefits for providing pensions.

Intel may be a model for what's to come. Many companies are phasing out their pension plans, typically by "freezing" them, i.e., ending workers' buildup of new benefits. This leaves more pension assets available to cover executives' compensation and supplemental benefits. A number of companies have shifted executive benefits into frozen pension plans.

Technically, a company makes this move by increasing an executive's benefit in the regular pension plan by X dollars and canceling X dollars of the executive's deferred comp or supplemental pension.

CenturyTel, for instance, in 2005 moved its IOU for the supplemental pensions of 18 top employees into its regular pension plan. Chief Executive Glen Post's benefits in the regular pension plan jumped to $110,000 a year from $12,000. A spokesman for the Monroe, La., company, which made more such transfers in 2006, was frank about its motive: to take advantage of tax breaks by paying executive benefits out of a tax-advantaged pension plan.

How They Do It

So how can companies boost regular pension benefits for select executives while still passing the IRS's nondiscrimination tests? Benefits consultants help them figure out how.

To prove they don't discriminate, companies are supposed to compare what low-paid and high-paid employees receive from the pension plan. They don't have to compare actual individuals; they can compare ratios of the benefits received by groups of highly paid vs. groups of lower-paid employees.

Such a measure creates the potential for gerrymandering -- carefully moving employees about, in various theoretical groupings, to achieve a desired outcome.

Another technique: Count Social Security as part of the pension. This effectively raises low-paid employees' overall retirement benefits by a greater percentage than it raises those of the highly paid -- enabling companies to then increase the pensions of higher-paid people.

Indeed, "it is actually these discrimination tests that give rise to Qserp in the first place!" said materials from one consulting firm, Watson Wyatt Worldwide. "Qserp" means "qualified supplemental executive retirement plan" -- an industry term for a supplemental executive pension that "qualifies" for tax breaks.

Watson Wyatt senior consultant Alan Glickstein said the firm's calculations tell employers exactly how much disparity they can achieve between the pensions of highly paid people and others. "At the end, when the game is over, when the computer is cooling off, you know whether you passed [the IRS nondiscrimination tests] or not," he said. At that point, companies can retrofit the benefits of select executives, feeding some into the pension plan.

They can do this even if they freeze the pension plan, because executives' supplemental benefits and deferred comp aren't based on the frozen pension formula.

Keeping Quiet

Generally, only the executives are aware this is being done. Benefits consultants have advised companies to keep quiet to avoid an employee backlash. In material prepared for employers, Robert Schmidt, a consulting actuary with Milliman Inc., said that to "minimize this problem" of employee relations, companies should draw up a memo describing the transfer of supplemental executive benefits to the pension plan and give it "only to employees who are eligible."

The IRS was also a concern for Mr. Schmidt. He advised employers that in "dealing with the IRS," they should ask it for an approval letter, because if the agency later cracks down, its restrictions probably won't be retroactive.

"At some point in the future, the IRS may well take the position" that supplemental executive pensions moved into a regular pension plan "violate the 'spirit' of the nondiscrimination rules," Mr. Schmidt wrote. In an interview, he confirmed his written comments.

Companies don't explicitly tell the IRS that an amendment is intended to shift supplements executive benefits obligations into the regular pension plan. "They hide it," a Treasury official said. "They include the amendment with other amendments, and don't make it obvious."

With too little staffing to check the dozens of pages of actuaries' calculations, the IRS generally accepts the companies' assurances that their pension plans pass the discrimination tests, the official said.

"Under existing rules, there's little we can do anyway. If Congress doesn't like it, it can change the rules." To halt the practice, Congress would have to end the flexibility that companies now have in meeting the IRS nondiscrimination tests.

A spokesman for the IRS said it has no idea how many such pension amendments it has approved or how much money is involved.

A Way to Pass

Sometimes, the only tipoff that a firm is moving executive benefits into the regular pension is that it provides small increases to some lower-paid groups in the plan, in order to pass the nondiscrimination tests.

Royal & SunAlliance, an insurer, sold a division and laid off its 228 employees in 1999. Just before doing so, it amended the division's pension plan to award larger benefits to eight departing officers and directors. One human-resources executive got an additional $5,270 a month for life.

But to do this and still pass the IRS's nondiscrimination tests, the company needed to give tiny pension increases to 100 lower-level workers, said the company's benefits consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers. One got an increase of $1.92 a month.

Joseph Gromala, a middle manager who stood to get $8.87 more a month at age 65, wrote to the company seeking details about higher sums other people were receiving. A lawyer wrote back saying the company didn't have to show him the relevant pension-plan amendment.

Mr. Gromala then sued in federal court, claiming that administrators of the pension plan were breaching their duty to operate it in participants' best interests. The company replied that its move was a business decision, not a pension decision, so the fiduciary issue was moot. The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

PricewaterhouseCoopers declined to comment. A spokesman for Royal & SunAlliance's former U.S. operation, now called Arrowpoint Capital, said the pension plan "wasn't discriminatory." Royal & SunAlliance recently changed its name to RSA Insurance Group.

Pension-plan amendments like the documents Mr. Gromala sought must be filed with the IRS, but the agency normally won't disclose specifics such as who benefits. The IRS says it can't release details of the amendments because they reflect individuals' benefits.

Not So Safe

Employers sometimes tell executives that moving their supplemental pensions or deferred comp into the company pension plan will make them more secure. Normally, supplemental pensions or deferred comp are just unsecured promises; companies don't set aside cash for supplemental executive pensions and deferred comp because there's no tax break for doing so. But the promises will be backed by assets if the company can squeeze them into a tax-advantaged pension plan.

This supposed security can prove illusory, as executives at Consolidated Freightways found out.

The trucking firm moved most of its retirement IOUs for eight top officers into its pension plan in late 2001. It said this would protect most or all of their promised benefits, which ranged up to $139,000 a year.

This came as relief to Tom Paulsen, then chief operating officer, who says he knew the Vancouver, Wash., trucking company was on "thin ice."

But the pension plan was underfunded. And Consolidated didn't add more assets to it when the company gave the plan new obligations. Adding the executive IOUs thus made the plan weaker. It went from having about 96% of the assets needed to pay promised benefits to having just 79%.

Losing Benefits

Consolidated later filed for bankruptcy and handed its pension plan over to a government insurer, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. The PBGC commits to paying pensions only up to certain limits. Mr. Paulsen said he and other executives have been told they won't get their supplemental pensions.

Some lower-level people will lose benefits, too. Chester Madison, a middle manager who retired in 2002 after 33 years, saw his pension fall to $20,400 a year from $49,200. Mr. Madison, 62, has taken a job selling flooring in Sacramento, Calif.

He faults those who made the pension decisions. "I look at it as greed and taking care of the top echelons," he says.

It's impossible to know how much the addition of executive pensions to the pension plan contributed to the plan's failure. But in this as in similar companies where a plan saddled with executive benefits failed -- such as at kitchenware maker Oneida Ltd. in upstate New York -- it's clear the move weakened the plans by adding liabilities but no assets.

A trustee for Consolidated's bankruptcy liquidation declined to discuss details of the company's pension plan.

Mr. Madison and five other ex-employees sued Towers Perrin, a consulting firm that had advised Consolidated on structuring its benefits. The suit, alleging professional negligence over this and other issues, was dismissed in late 2006 by a federal court in the Northern District of California. Towers Perrin declined to comment.

Some companies, after moving executives' supplemental benefits into a pension plan, now take steps to protect them. When Hartmarx Corp. added executive obligations to its pension plan last year, it set up a trust that automatically would be funded if the plan failed.

Glenn Morgan, the clothier's chief financial officer, said the trust benefits nine or 10 people. "The purpose is to pay them the benefit they've earned," he said.

Rape and plunder, GREED IS GOOD!

Friday, August 01, 2008

POLITICS - Another Blow to Our Constutional Protections

"Big FOIA Backlog Lingers" by Tim Bella, Pro Publica

Earlier this month, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government ran out of funding. But before it shuts its doors, the advocacy group has issued one final, scathing report (PDF) showing how a key tool for open government -- the Freedom of Information Act -- is losing its bite.

The report, "An Opportunity Lost,” (PDF) surveyed Freedom of Information Act processing across 25 departments and agencies from 1998 to 2007. The study found that while the backlog of unprocessed requests was down a bit from a year before, it was still at a near-record number.

FOIA backlogs decreased by six percentage points last year compared to 2006, but they are 20 percentage points higher than a decade ago. Overall, there was a 33 percent backlog in FOIA requests last year.

The analysis, in its third year of publication following President Bush's Dec. 2005 executive order (PDF) calling for improved agency disclosure of information, comes less than a month after the Justice Department published its own FOIA study (PDF), which found that agencies made "remarkable improvements" in dealing with FOIA requests.

The advocacy group's study pointed to one potential reason for the continued backlog: The number of FOIA workers fell by eight percent.

"Clearly, some agencies do not have adequate funding to employ the number of FOIA officers needed," said Andy Alexander, Washington Bureau Chief at Cox Newspapers and one of the people who helped oversee the study.

The report also highlights an overall nine percentage point drop in requesters getting full or partial agency grants of FOIA requests, going from 69 percent in 1998 to 60 percent last year. Some of this could stem from a three-percent dip in spending since 1998.

"It tends to confirm with real data what most FOIA users will have suspected already from their own experience," said Steve Aftergood, the director for the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy. "That is that FOIA compliance is spotty and getting worse."

Pete Weitzel, the freedom of information coordinator for the now-defunct coalition group, said the analysis pulls numbers directly from other agency reports. (He added that the organization is closing due to a lack of funding.)

A Defense Department spokeswoman suggested we go to the coalition group for a response on their FOIA numbers concerning the Defense Department. An Education Department spokesman said he's looking into it. (We'll post their response when it comes.)

Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said reducing backlogs within the department remains a significant challenge: "The complexities of these requests, the number of offices that must be searched, the number of consultations that must be made, and the level of review that must be undertaken prior to responding to the request are all beyond the control of the agency."

Chip, chip, chip away on the slow, but presistant, road to dictatorship.

Reminder, the Nazies were VOTED into power.