Sunday, May 28, 2006

Thank you, American Heroes

To all those that have given us everything they had to give, I thank you. There are those who are known, those who are unknown, and those known only to a select few. I thank you all. But this Memorial Day I would like to especially thank those whose graves will not be found in a national cemetery marked with a flag. There is nothing but a star to represent their sacrifice. We remember you and we thank you for your quiet service and devotion.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


UPDATE: After several hours with the incorrect information on their site, CBS finally decided to attribute the bribery investigation and allegedly corrupt Congressman to the correct party.

CBS news is reporting that the Louisiana Congressman caught on tape taking $100,000 and in whose freezer $90,000 of it was found is a Republican. He is a Democrat. The first two paragraphs of the article:

(CBS/AP) Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI director Robert Mueller signaled they would resign this week rather than give in to Congress in a dispute over an FBI raid on Rep. William Jefferson's Capitol Hill office, an administration official tells CBS News.

Top law enforcement officials at the Justice Department and the FBI indicated to their counterparts at the White House that they could not, and were unwilling to, return documents to the Louisiana Republican which were seized as part of a bribery investigation.

He isn't "the Louisiana Republican", he is "the Louisiana DEMOCRAT".

Liberal News Outlets in Trouble -- More Evidence

I noticed a tiny little entry today on the UPI wire that I believe is evidence that the US News media is on its way to irrelevance due to the priority they place on their political agenda rather than reporting the news and giving a thoughtful analysis. Here is what it said:

Beginning June 6, Britain's The Times of London tabloid newspaper will begin publishing a northeastern U.S. edition.

The daily will be printed on New York Post presses, which is another holding of News Corp., and will target wealthy readers in the finance and media industries, or "the penthouse demographic," said Robert Thomson, editor of the Times.

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch approved the plans for the U.S. edition, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Thomson said the offshoot was decided after it was realized several hundred copies were being flown to the U.S. northeast each day, along with the fact the Times' Web site receives three million unique U.S. hits each month.

Now imagine that. New York's "penthouse set" reading a foreign paper rather than the New York Times. What is it about The Times of London that might make it a desirable read? A lack of spin immediately comes to mind coupled with world class credibility. These are qualities the New York Times utterly lacks in the former and is losing in the latter.

Movers and shakers of the world, the people who engage in business decisions that impact billions of dollars, need an accurate picture of world events. They can not afford to base their business decisions on political spin and wishful thinking from political hacks posing as journalists publishing in a propaganda rag. They need accurate information and thoughtful analysis, not spin and clever syntax loaded with innuendo.

Like these "penthouse set" readers, I find I go more these days to the foreign press, albeit electronically. I find the coverage from outlets such as The Times of London and others to be refreshingly free of domestic US political spin and the analysis to be competent and insightful. As the major US papers become more interested in pushing their agenda than in reporting the news, more people are going to find themselves seeking alternatives. In today's electronic age competing papers are only keystrokes away. The notion that one could corner the information market by being the only paper in town is as obsolete as the dial telephone.

Circulation rates are falling among the old line major US papers. Papers such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times (hmm, why doesn't a Chicago paper immediately come to mind in that mix? I'll have to ponder that some.) are becoming less influential as the decision makers now dilute the influence of these papers with alternative news sources offering less spin and more objectivity. At the same time the number of people subscribing to hard copy Times of London and even domestic papers such as The Washington Times are increasing. It isn't limited to the print media either. People are turning away from the network news outlets and cable outlets such as CNN and MSNBC and turning to outlets such as Fox News. There was a time in the not so distant past when The Larry King Show was the number one cable news show. Larry King is now listed sixth in the latest ratings I have seen and all five higher rated shows are Fox News programs. Larry King is still number one at CNN but CNN is shedding viewers. Its influence is waning as the influence of alternative outlets grow. It is also interesting to note that Fox News happens to be owned by the same group that owns The Times of London. Interesting? You bet. Coincidence? I think not. News Corp is driven by profit, not ideology. They hire people having a broad spectrum of viewpoints, not all marching in lockstep to a particular political drum.

This shouldn't surprise anyone in a market based economy. If something is produced that is judged to be of inferior quality or utility, people will find alternative sources of supply that fill their needs. The news organizations need to ask themselves why they are in business. Being a political outlet is a perfectly valid model but it presents certain business challenges when you consider that in so doing you are probably alienating half the potential consumers of your product. You are likely to end up preaching to the choir. And if that choir has several outlets of the same propaganda from which to choose, you are only going to get a portion of that half of the potential consumer base. If you publish real news and analysis then you are a useful information source to people of every political stripe.

If one decides to take their product down the political propaganda route then one can expect the financial success of the enterprise to be a consideration secondary to getting the proper indoctrination to the readership. In fact, we are seeing this very issue with outlets such as Air America, who is rumored to be going out of business any day now and is shedding outlets, and The New York Times who has had their financial paper (bonds) downgraded two full grades this past week. So when I step back and look at the overall landscape I see The New York Times in financial trouble with declining circulation. I see The Times of London with circulation increasing in the US to the extent that they are going to publish here and that circulation apparently going mostly to the influential decision makers in the region of the new circulation. The conclusion I would come to is that The New York Times is not only losing its influence in the general population of the market they serve as evidenced by lower circulation numbers and financial trouble, it is also losing its influence among the powerful players in world economics. And the influential players in world economics are often very influential on the political process in this country.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Earlier today ABC posted on their "The Blotter" blog site the following article that explicitly stated that the Speaker of the House of Representatives was under FBI investigation:

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is seeking to determine his role in an ongoing public corruption probe into members of Congress, ABC News has learned from high level official sources.

Federal officials say the information implicating Hastert was developed from convicted lobbysists who are now cooperating with the government. Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government. The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for Hastert at a restaurant owned by Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time.

The day Abramoff was indicted, Hastert denied any unlawful connection and said he would donate to charity any campaign contribution he had received from Abramoff and his clients.

A spokesman for Speaker Hastert told ABC News, "We are not aware of this. The Speaker has a long history and a well-documented record of opposing Indian Reservation shopping for casino gaming purposes."

This week, Hastert has been outspoken in his criticism of the FBI for its raid on the office of another congressman under investigation, Democrat William Jefferson of Louisiana.

"My opinion is that they took the wrong path, Hastert said of the FBI. "They need to back up, and we need to go from there."

Shortly after that, the Speaker's office demanded a retraction and the FBI stated that the Speaker was absolutely not being investigated. Soon after that ABC said they stood by the story and someone at ABC made an interesting comment. I read something to the effect that "the story was carefully written, perhaps it isn't being read carefully". I thought it was pretty clear in that the first sentence of the first paragraph said the speaker was being investigated so I went back and looked at the URL again. What I then found was a completely different story. Here is what I found that ABC was now "standing behind":

Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government.

The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for Hastert at a restaurant owned by Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time.

The day Abramoff was indicted, Hastert denied any unlawful connection and said he would donate to charity any campaign contribution he had received from Abramoff and his clients.

A spokesman for Speaker Hastert told ABC News, "We are not aware of this. The Speaker has a long history and a well-documented record of opposing Indian Reservation shopping for casino gaming purposes.

"This week, Hastert has been outspoken in his criticism of the FBI for its raid on the office of another congressman under investigation, Democrat William Jefferson of Louisiana.

"My opinion is that they took the wrong path, Hastert said of the FBI. "They need to back up, and we need to go from there."

Notice how the first paragraph says only that the Speaker is "included" in the investigation. This certainly is a careful use of words and completely changes the meaning. The Speaker could be cooperating, assisting, mentioned in a document, almost anything. ABC went back and changed the story, all the while claiming to "stand behind" it. Also note that the FBI said very clearly that the Speaker is NOT under investigation.

ABC news and their "The Blotter" blog have no journalistic integrity. They will publish something that says one thing, then go back later and modify it to say something else later. What will the article say tomorrow? Will they delete it and try to claim they never published it in the first place? Who knows. What a bunch of Goobers!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Good News from the Long War

It seems things are going very well in Afghanistan. Allied forces are pushing into areas we hadn't operated in before with good results. Over the past week or so, this increased pressure from NATO and Afghan forces have resulted in hundreds of Taliban dead and the capture of many others including some apparently high ranking figures. As perplexed as I am about our commercial media's portrayal of this as some sort of Taliban resurgence, the fact remains that what we are witnessing is our forces taking the initiative, moving into areas that had been avoided in the past and giving the resident Taliban a sound thrashing.

In Iraq, large weapons caches have been discovered, more "high value targets" have been detained and optimistic statements of security takeover by the government have been announced. One interesting even caught my eye today and that was the oil ministry again talking about getting foreign investments in infrastructure and development in place. It is nice to hear forward looking statements coming out of the various segments of the Iraqi government. Mohammad posting from Iraq on Iraq The Model blog mentions that the Iraqi party formerly known as SCIRI will now be known as SICI as they drop the word "Revolutionary" from their name. They have become "Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq" and Mohammed noted that he hopes it isn't long before the various groups begin to drop the word "Islamic" from their party names as they become more mainstream. Mohammed also reports that President al-Maliki has also called for "reactivating the Iraqi-Korean cooperation committee to give it a bigger role in Iraq's reconstruction".

The commercial media is still playing "Chicken Little" with frantic headlines such as "Armed groups propel Iraq toward chaos". They have been predicting "chaos" and "civil war" for months and Iraq still manages to move forward. I suppose that is par for the course for our "fake but accurate" media these days. It recalls an old George Carlin bit that went along the likes of "I call 'em like I see 'em and if I don't see 'em, I make 'em up!". Reporting the reality of the situation getting better or worse doesn't seem to be as important to them as getting people to believe they are getting better or worse. In this case worse. With the exception of the cities of Baghdad and Ramadi, everything I am hearing from Iraq from people actually there says things are getting better.

Word is that European countries are starting to keep an eye out for jihadis returning from Iraq as they abandon the lost cause there. That is also a good sign, in an unexpected kind of way. At least while they are in Western Europe they can be watched closely.

Yemen is starting to warily eye Somalia as they should. Somalia and the Palestinian territories are where al Qaida will be operating next. They have already started to stir up trouble in Gaza by planting bombs in order to foment trouble between Hamas and Fatah. Getting a war started between those two would be al Qaida's plan. I have to wonder, though, how much the Palestinians would take to outsiders coming in and killing Palestinians. That seems to be al Qaeda's method. They go into a country and start getting the people killing each other. In the end, it's the people they have come to "help" that end up paying the price and al Qaida never wins.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Problem With Ethanol

Many people have proposed that we use ethanol in our cars to replace a major product of oil use in this country. This solution has an emotional appeal on the surface but has some serious problems when one looks deeper into the issue. First of all there is this notion that the US Government can just waive a wand and people will suddenly be able to purchase ethanol based cars. Well, we have a market driven economy, not a centrally dictated economy. When and if it becomes cheaper to run cars on ethanol, we will. Car makers will produce the cars and other enterprising folks will produce the fuel.

Next comes the basic energy/cost issue. It would be currently more expensive to run cars on ethanol than it is on gasoline even with gas at $3.00 per gallon. A gallon of ethanol has less energy than a gallon of gas. In order to get the same energy production as 10 gallons of gas, you need 15 gallons of ethanol (alcohol). So a car burning ethanol will burn about 1.5 times as much fuel per mile driven as one burning gasoline. To go as far as $30 of gas would take you, you will need to spend over $40 for ethanol. Now there may come a time when gas is over $4.00 per gallon and ethanol will be cost effective. At that point there will be market incentive to produce ethanol vehicles and they will be produced.

Another problem is distribution. Gasoline can be transported via piplelines over long distances, ethanol can't, at least not without replacing our entire pipeline infrastructure. You see, ethanol absorbs water. This means that pipelines transporting ethanol are subject to corrosion. We would have to transport this ethanol by road or rail rather than by pipelines. This adds another inefficency in the distribution network.

Then there is the whole notion of having a fuel resource that is dependent on the weather. Have a major drought and your fuel supply goes away. If the fuel is produced from corn, in a drought year we will have to choose between food or fuel. If we are using sugar to produce our fuel, a hurricane can again demolish our production.

So what the ethanol supporters would want us to do is force auto makers to produce vehicles that use a more expensive fuel that might go away if we have bad weather. I have a better idea.

Lets go on a major nuclear electric program, convert our rail system completely to electric, drive electricity prices down to the point where commuter electric vehicles are much cheaper than gasoline vehicles, and go on a major high-speed electric passenger rail program of the scale of the Interstate Highway project. Even if OPEC shut the oil off to the US we would still be able to get to work, move freight, and visit grandma; even in a drought year.

Modern nuclear technology is much advanced from the 1950's and 1960's designs of currently operating plants. There is also technology that allows for the reprocessing of waste into new fuel and the transmutation of waste products into materials that decay in 300 years rather than tens of thousands of years. These technologies would allow us to convert depleted and natural uranium unto fuel without enrichment. We would not need to mine any uranium for over 100 years nor would we need to enrich any. These technologies are there, ready for us to use. Bill Clinton killed the Integral Fast Reactor project after a campaign waged by one John Kerry. This project would have allowed a fuel cycle whereby fuel would be recycled on site. The eventual waste being less than 10% of that created by current reactors and that waste needing to be impounded for only 300 years. Thanks Bill, thanks John.

There are better ways right at our fingertips. All we need is the will to put them into play.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Donate To Murtha's Opponent

There isn't much those of us outside of Pennsylvania can do to remove John Murtha from office but one thing we CAN do is help his opponent. Send Diana Irey a donation, look on the right side of the web page for the "Contribute" link marked with the yellow star.

After what he did today, I can't imagine returning him to Congress. You don't comment on a UCMJ investigation in progess. Even if he is correct, he might have just caused some serious problems for any prosecution. Murtha needs to go.

Our Military Much Improved

According to this report our military is in much better shape than it was 5 years ago.

I personally believe that Donald Rumsfeld is a genius. He is taking an engineering approach to building a modular military where different modules can be grouped together to configure a force that meets the threat du jour rather than the old model of having all our forces configured in large divisions to meet a cold war era threat. A couple of gems jump out of the report:

The Army is transforming from a structure of 48 brigades, none of which had stand-alone capability, to a force of 70 active and Reserve modular Brigade Combat Teams. "These more agile, lethal and more autonomous units can deploy and fight quickly with enough of their own firepower, armor, logistics and administrative assets to protect and sustain themselves over time," Rumsfeld said. This is leading to a significant increase in readily available combat power, he added.

Along with this one:

The Navy previously could deploy only three aircraft carrier strike groups at once, adding two more within 30 days. Today it can deploy six, and add another within 90 days.

And this one:

These changes all have come about, Rumsfeld said, while the U.S. military has been engaged actively in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and while deploying around the world to meet the asymmetric threat posed by terrorism.

I am suspecting that some of that criticism that Rummy has been getting has been due to his changing of the configuration of the military and rocking the boat when it comes to their careers. I can imagine that a guy with 20+ years in and thinks he has everything pretty much figured out might get a little pissed when someone comes in and changes all the rules in the space of only 5 years.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

President Bush's Immigration Speech

Overall I thought the speech was superb. It covered all of my major points.

Catch and release -- no more
Barriers in rural areas -- done
Apply technology to border surveillance -- done
Beef up the Border Patrol -- done
In the meantime, put troops on the border in support roles to free up more Border Patrol for, well, patrolling the border.

He hit all the main points. I also support a guest worker program to legalize the illegals. We are going to need the Social Security tax as the boomers start to retire. We don't have enough youngsters in the pipeline to replace them. Immigrants will do the trick.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Immigration Isn't The Only Problem

Scroll for updates.

I have just returned from a family event in a Western US state. During the course of my chats with various members of my extended family, I have come to realize that the issue facing us isn't completely about immigration when it comes to the illegal issue. Fully half the problem is with us, right here in America. Allow me to elaborate on a couple of conversations I had.

Family Member A is a college student at a university in a Western US city. He works in both summer and winter to provide himself with an income. In winter he is a snowmobile guide and in summer he works construction. Both jobs are "under the table" in that he gets paid cash, has nothing withheld, and gets no W2 or 1099. As far as the IRS and his employer is concerned, his labor doesn't officially exist. He pays no taxes on his income and his employer is not burdened with unemployment insurance premiums, workers compensation premiums, 1/2 of the social security tax and other withholding trouble.

Family Member B is a drywall contractor in another major Western US city. He owns his own business and employs several people. Most of his work comes from bids to developers who are building large developments. He provides benefits and does all the proper withholding. He is finding it nearly impossible to compete with other contractors employing "under the table" labor. Sure, some of those laborers might be illegals, but many aren't. These competitors will take anyone willing to work. The only reason my relative is still in business is because of his quality of work and it's reputation coupled with the fact that there are some high-end developments under construction that are willing to pay extra for "premium" labor.

Making the illegals legal isn't going to fix the problem as long as employers are willing to hire anyone and not withhold proper taxes and file required paperwork. Family member A is white as Wonder Bread His coworkers at his construction job are about 2/3 hispanics who speak little or no english and he suspects are here illegally. The other 1/3 are young folks like himself who found a summer job working "under the table". We must smash this culture of under the table employment if we are ever going to get a grip on the illegal immigration problem.

If employers right now decided to "legal up" in their employment paperwork, the illegal worker problem would become a much smaller issue. Business employers aren't the only ones doing it either. A good many regular individuals do too. Do you have someone who does some light housekeeping for you, watches your kids or cuts your grass? Have you ever provided a form 1099 for the money you paid them over the course of the year? If you pay them by cash or personal check, chances are good they aren't reporting the income on their taxes. Filing a form 1099 would notify the government of the money you have paid them. Check with the IRS, they can usually answer your question over the telephone.

It is a myth that illegals take jobs that other Americans won't do. They pretty much take what they can get and often work side by side with other Americans. Most often, illegals take "under the table" cash employment. If we could stop that practice, we could eliminate a lot of the incentive to come here in the first place. The practice of "under the table" employment is everywhere. Several years ago I knew of a single mother on welfare who worked "under the table" doing childcare for other working mothers. She also had a live-in boyfriend who paid most of the bills. Had those other women filed 1099 forms for the money they paid her, the state and federal government would have been aware of her true income and would have given her the opportunity to pay her share of taxes and probably reduced or eliminated her welfare payments because she was actually doing quite well for an unemployed single mom. In fact, I would venture to guess that a large number of American "unemployed" are actually working "under the table".

Look in the mirror, America. There's the problem.


This ties in with another thing I have considered. A national sales tax would provide a means to tax the "under the table" economy. It wouldn't matter if you are pouring cement or running a meth lab, you are going to spend the proceeds of your undocumented income at some point. A national sales tax would tap that undocumented economy. Most areas already have a mechanism for collecting sales tax so we are talking a couple of percent increase and the state sends a cut to the feds. Simple. The cost of putting it into motion is minimal and I believe the resulting revenue would be beyond anyone's expectations. It is also a "progressive" tax because poor people spend a greater portion of their money on rent, utilities, and groceries which would be exempt. You could make it even more of a "progressive" rate tax by exempting home purchases up to the amount of the state median home price from sales tax. Rich people would most likely purchase homes much above the median why the lower income would buy homes closer to or below the median paying less or no sales tax.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Goss and the CIA

I have been waiting a bit before making my comments on the Goss resignation issue. I am not going to speculate on the reasons, I am simply going to accept it as fact and look forward. The reason is that I don't have any information on why and I am hearing speculation all over the spectrum as to reasons why and none of it appears to come from anyone in a position to know. In short, as Goss himself said, "It's one of those mysteries".

What I do have a very strong opinion about is the comments from some people concerning a desire to keep the DCI (Director of Central Intelligence) position civilian. Notwithstanding that there have been what, 6 past military directors, I have had some sympathy with the view that the DCI should be a civilian. All of that changed when the DNI (Director of National Intelligence) position was created as one of the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. The traditional role of the DCI was set out in 1947 legislation. It described the position as follows (according to wikipedia):

The Central Intelligence Agency was created in 1947 with the signing of the National Security Act by President Harry S. Truman. The act also created a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) to serve as head of the United States intelligence community; act as the principal adviser to the President for intelligence matters related to the national security; and serve as head of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 amended the National Security Act to provide for a Director of National Intelligence who would assume some of the roles formerly fulfilled by the DCI, with a separate Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Now the functions that I feel should be executed by a civilian have been moved out of the CIA and is now the responsibility of the DNI. There has also been talk that even more functions of the CIA will be moved over to DNI such as the Directorate of Intelligence. The CIA is, according to many familiar with the intelligence community, in the process of being transformed into a clandestine service performing covert operations and HUMINT activities. In other words, collection and operations. The analysis and policy impacting output is moving to DNI which IS headed by a civilian.

So I am having a problem understanding the call for a civilian director. It makes sense if you have an "old" CIA but doesn't make much sense for a "new" CIA. It can be a military slot just as NSA, DIA and some other agencies are. Our elected officials can't be that dumb. Maybe they think we are? Maybe they are relying on a traditional understanding of the CIA in order to find some reason to come out against the president's choice.

I believe their goal is to simply come out against whatever choice President Bush proposes. This was an easy "handle" to grab onto but comes off in your hand once you dig into the issue. This is not the time to bicker over a CIA director. We need to get this issue closed up and get on with things. Dragging this out is not going to do anything to endear Congress to the American people.

Who do I think should be in charge there? Someone who has experience in intelligence but has no connection with CIA. The agency is going to undergo some serious surgery and someone with an attachment to the old structure is going to be less helpful.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Trouble With The Media

For the longest time there has been something that I haven't been able to figure out with the media. For most of my adult life, the media has been a fairly reliable reflection of the opinions and leanings of America. Sure, there would be the exception here and there. I would hear a story that I thought was "out there" or just an obvious job of political slant but those seemed to be the exception. For the most part the sentiment of the media reflected the sentiment of the people.

Then recently things took a major change in direction. Starting shortly after President Bush's election, nearly all of the media content seemed to take an extreme slant to the left. Looking closer, it wasn't' just the words of the reporters taking that slant, it was the words of the sources they were using in their stories. It seemed like nearly every source quoted was hammering on the administration or its policies. I got the impression going into the 2004 elections that Bush was toast. In fact, even the polling numbers the media was reporting showed Bush behind. But even that had me puzzled because the reporting of the media didn't seem to be anywhere near the polling numbers. While the press seemed 75 to 80 percent against Bush in their reporting, the polls numbers being reported had Kerry ahead by a few points. The reporting seemed to be more out of line with the sentiment of the people than at any time I could remember.

Then Bush won and the problem got WORSE. The press turned even more away from what appeared to be the sentiment of the population at large. At first I blamed the journalists and the media organizations thinking that it was obvious from their reporting that they had a political agenda to push onto the people. Lately, though, the more I dig into the issue, I am coming to the realization that our press has been hijacked. Major media outlets are being spoon fed sources and stories and events to report on. In fact, these events are being carefully orchestrated with the same group holding the strings. Today was one of those days. We had the Secretary of Defense being heckled at a press conference, Cindy Sheehan in Canada begging them to accept deserters, a column by Lt. Gen. William Odom and an interview with Lawrence Korb all on the same day. The fact is that all of these people are connected.

What has happened is that a relatively small cross section of the American political spectrum has been given access to the media that is greatly out of proportion with their numbers or their popularity. The effect is to make their political agenda seem much more popular than it really is. There is a public relations firm called Fenton Communications that is associated with a large number of political cells. Each of these cells is composed of a fairly small number of people, some of them are maybe a half dozen, sometimes a little more. Names such as Center for International Policy and Center for Economic and Policy Research and Fund for Peace and Institute for Policy Studies and Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and Iraq Policy Information Group and a bazillion others are all cut from the same cloth. You might recognize some names that have popped up in the news ... Dana Priest, reporter for the Washington Post. Her husband is associated with the Center for International Policy. That is where a woman named Mary McCarthy worked after she left the White House before returning to the CIA. A guy named Joe Wilson is the featured speaker for the Iraq Policy Information Group, a spinoff cell of the Center for International Policy. When these groups get too large or want to branch out into a different issue, they spin off a new cell.

What all these have in common is a PR firm called Fenton Communications. So does Cindy Sheehan and so does I found it interesting that just about all the people involved in Washington's latest news grabbing headlines are all connected to each other and have probably known each other for a long time. Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame, Dana Priest, Mary McCarthy, all are connected to organizations that themselves are interconnected. The common item to all of them is Fenton Communications.

In the course of my research, I discover that this isn't the first time a lot of this kind of stuff has happened. During the Reagan administration there was one freshman Senator Kerry who was holding hearings on our efforts to combat the Sandanista government in Nicaragua. There was a journalist involved named Martha Honey who seemed to be getting a lot of CIA leaked information. There was a group of CIA types called the VIPs who were seemingly on her side. Martha Honey is now with the Institute for Policy Studies.

What seems to be happening is that the PR agency, who claims to be "very selective" in who they take as clients (basically, you have to be anti-Republican) manages to get these people in front of journalists for interviews, get columns out, get events staged (like the Rumsfeld press conference today) and generally spoon feed the media with events, information, and message. Fenton Communications "owns" the anti-war and anti-Bush movements. They set the message, they set the information flow. They place it right into the journalists lap packaged exactly as they want it. The journalists are simply reporting what they see. They either don't know or don't care that what they see is being carefully managed.

One of the advantages of having so many groups working through one PR agency is that there is a certain economy of scale when it comes to information. They can make sure the various groups reinforce each other to an extent. Validate each other's messages, not work at cross purposes, incorporate each other's buzzwords when applicable. "Mother" Cindy Sheehan is "Peace Mom". They all "Speak Truth to Power".

The net result is that a very small group of people gets a very large percentage of the media coverage. What did getting fired mean to McCarthy? She was "days away" from retiring anyway. It isn't like her career is ruined. Joe Wilson is making more on the speaking circuit than he would ever make as a government employee and Valerie Plame is today looking at a book deal.

Our media has been hijacked. Fenton Communications apparently "owns" the Associated Press, the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post when it comes to getting their message out. The second stringers then pick up the stories from the lead outlets. Our journalism trade has gotten lazy. There are few real reporters left. The few that are left will gladly take information that is laid in their lap and everyone else repeats it.

The bottom line is that the political message from the main media no longer reflects the opinions of the American people as a whole. The opinion of the population is more divided. An accurate representation would result in more debate in the articles in our mainstream media. There would be more pro-Administration viewpoints, about evenly divided. The result of this drift away from the opinions of the people is a drift by the people away from the media. People are coming to the conclusion that the media doesn't reflect their opinions on their own. The media can only publish propaganda for so long and the people either buy it or they don't. Apparently we aren't buying it. This is pushing people into other forms of information exchange such as blogs and media outlets that haven't allowed themselves to be hijacked in this manner (Fox News might be an example of that). Those outlets are seeing an increase in popularity. It isn't that the people aren't interested, they just aren't interested in "artificial news".

It is high time that the commercial news media in this country spoke truth to power, and that power is the people who digest their content. If they aren't honest, they will find themselves abandoned because we have alternatives in this age, and it appears that we are using them.

Gasoline Price Primer

Many don't understand why rising oil prices directly mean rising gasoline prices. Some think that even though the market price of oil is up, it doesn't cost the oil company any more to get it, they are producing it, not buying it on the market. To understand why rising market crude prices also mean oil companies have to charge more for gasoline, let's use an eBay example.

This is a from a post I made in a comment at Flopping Aces but I decided to copy in here in my own blog:

Let's say you have a well in your yard and a pump and you can get 10 barrels of oil a day out of it. It costs you 10 dollars to pump and deliver a barrel of oil. You put the oil on eBay to sell it. As people bid on the oil, the price goes up. People buy your oil for $15 dollars a barrel and you make $5 per transaction and life is good. Now some kids named China and India that have only been buying one or two barrels a day from you decide they need more. You are still only pumping 10 barrels a day. This means they must outbid other people for the oil. Now your oil auctions settle for $50 a barrel and you make $40 per transaction and life just got better.

Now lets say I decide to make gasoline out of one of my barrels and sell that instead of selling crude. The people that don’t know economics are going to say fine, it costs you $10 to pump the oil, you don’t need to raise the price of gas. Back to eBay …

Lets say you can produce bolts of fabric for $10 and are selling them on eBay and they are bringing $20 so you make $10 each. Now lets say your fabric becomes very popular and it is now selling for $70. You have also been using one bolt a day to make socks. You were selling raw fabric for $20 and you were making enough socks so you were getting $30 for the socks you could make out of that bolt of fabric. So after your wear and tear on equipment and your labor, you made what you thought was a fair profit on the gasoline, ehm, I mean socks.

Now your bolts of fabric are bringing $70. Are you going to sell a bolt’s worth of socks for $30? Are you going to spend all that labor and equipment cost to LOSE $40 a bolt compared to what you could just sell the crude for without refining it … I mean fabric for without sewing it?
No, of corse not. You are going to raise the price of your socks so that you make at least as much on the cloth from socks as you could selling the raw cloth … so the price of gasoline … I mean SOCKS goes up.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

My Take on Mr. Bill Keller (NYT)

There is something that so bothers me in what Mr. Keller said in his response to Opinion Journal that I just have to say it now. There is this myth that is going around that the press was somehow hard on Bill Clinton. While it may be fine to go around saying that, saying it doesn't make it true.

The press softballed Clinton. They reproduced items brought out by other investigations but you never saw any hard "bird dog" reporting against Clinton from the likes of The Washington Post or The New York Times. They were more likely to print information against Ken Starr or when someone came forward to present information that made Clinton appear to look bad, the major media seemed to aim their investigative guns at the person bringing the information forward. Some of the people that exposed Clinton's actions in Arkansas were publicly humiliated in the press. The media wasn't at all hard on Clinton. That is one myth that needs to go. The press did everything they could to make what Clinton did seem like "no big deal" and making the Republicans look like they were getting all upset about nothing. This is the same press that gets all bent out of shape about a perjury indictment of Scooter Libby, but told everyone that a perjury indictment against Bill Clinton was "just politics".

What about the White House requesting the personal information files from the FBI of possibly up to 900 people, many who had served in the Reagan and Bush administrations? The media played it like there was nothing to it, just a big Republican conspiracy to make a mountain out of a molehill. Yeah? What if Bush requested the FBI background investigation files of Democrats serving under Clinton? There would be no end to the wailing. How soon people forget.

There, that little bit has been bothering me for years. I'm glad I got it off my chest.

Mr. Keller, you are not being honest. Not to the people and maybe not even to yourself.

How many articles have been published in your paper on the scubject of "Scooter" Libby over the past month? What's the count of articles whose main subject is Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV)? What's the count of articles whose main subject is Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA)?

The plain fact of the matter is that your publication and your industry don't treat both parties equally. I have no trouble with a paper having a political slant but I do have a problem with the entire industry having a specific political slant. To pen a reply such as this as your response is patronizing to the extreme.

I might even be able to let you off the hook with the thought that maybe you don't even realize you are doing it. You are probably so sensative to any negative information at all about Democrats that even the slightest criticism "feels" as strong to you as the way Republicans are treated in the paper. To me the issue isn't so much about patriotism as it is about a trade I once respected as being an important strength of this nation now being corrupt and not caring if they damage our country in their haste to influnce Americans in the next election cycle. Our media would cause other countries to stop sharing intelligence information with us for years to come so the Democrats might have a better chance in the next election.

It would help if you had some balance. Maybe the major media could actually hire some articulate conservatives rather than hiring a token conservative who makes all on the right look like raving dumbasses. How about this novel idea ... how about half of your staff writing from the conservative viewpoint? It might actually help increase your readership. Democrats can find dozens of papers that validate their view. Other than the Washington Times, the other 50% of the population have no place to go but the Internet. Why do you think Fox News has high ratings? They are the only TV outlet that doesn't go out of its way to make Republicans look bad, that's why. And last time I looked, there were about as many Republicans in this country as Democrats. So Democrats have dozens of stations to choose from, Republicans have one that doesn't have to include the obligatory jab in every news story.

You don't have to lean toward anyone, just don't lean against anyone either. Speak truth to the power that buys your product (or isn't these days, as the case may be). The damage these leaks have done goes far beyond domestic politics. Countries may now be reluctant to share intelligence with us about a terrorist group moving into our country because they worry about it leaking and causing their source of information on the group to go away ... leaving them blind to the threat. When it comes to us or them, a foreign government is always going to consider their own interests before ours. The ironic part is, that if such a thing should ever happen, rather than blaming themselves for it, the press would try to blame "the Bush administration".

How many have to die, Mr. Keller, before you guys shut your mouths when it comes to intelligence information in time of war? Evidently 3,000 in New York wasn't enough. There are channels that can be used if the intelligence community is doing something wrong. Did you consider taking the information before a few members of the Congressional oversight committees first? You could have done that and published that you had done that to put pressure on the committee to respond without publishing the actual information if it is really change that you want. But it isn't really change that you want, is it Mr. Keller? What you really want to do is damage the Republicans and you can only do that by putting information out to the public that makes the Republicans look bad. Giving the information to Congress and pushing for action might get the situation corrected, but that wouldn't really satisfy you, would it? Now what you have done is damaged our nation's ability to obtain information from other countries for many administrations to come, no matter who is president. Last time I looked, our nation was composed of Democrats too. If a Democrat is elected in 2008 are rogue officers expected to leak information damaging to that administration to the Washington Times and Fox News? We don't want to start down the road of playing politics with our intelligence community because the end result is that it makes them useless. But looking at the agenda of some of John Kerry's friends, for example, making our intelligence community useless seems to be what their long term goal is anyway so I suppose to them it isn't much harm.

But most of all, I would think you would resent your publication and your profession being used by a third party for their own purposes. Dana Priest of the Washington Post isn't the first to be used in such a manner. Martha Honey is now associtaed with the Institute for Policy Studies. She was part of a very similar "operation" during the Reagan administration. PR Agencies such as Fenton Communications are setting the media agenda. These are the people that are feeding the sources to your journalists and deciding what your reporter is going to hear and how they are going to hear it. These are the people that are actually deciding your agenda. All you are doing is spell checking their work. You are being used and either don't know or you don't care. People are wise to it these days and are abandoning your information stream in droves. Not long ago we didn't really have a choice of where our information came from. Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, all cut from the same cloth. But we do have a choice now, Mr. Keller. Welcome to the 21st Century.

I'll spell check it later ... myself. :)

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Amnesty Dilemma

The issue of amnesty for people in this country illegally is not as easy to solve as simply giving them amnesty and a path to citizenship. In fact, doing these things might actually hurt the people who are here illegally now. Many people are "thinking" with their emotions and not using their brains. Let's think this through:

If I have a business and I hire illegal labor at low rates, what happens when that laborer becomes legal? I must now withhold social security tax as well as pay 1/2 of that worker's social security tax out of my own pocket. I must withhold federal and state income taxes, I must pay workers comp. and state unemployment premiums and finally, I must pay my worker the minimum wage. Any economic benefit of hiring the illegal has now evaporated and it is just as expensive to employ them as any other worker.

If the laborer is a day laborer, they must now file quarterly income tax as a self-employed person. They must pay both halves of their social security tax, fund their own medical insurance, plus pay all federal, state, and local taxes on their income and property. The effect of this is that they will need to raise their labor rate to compete. Again, the advantage of being an "illegal" and working for less money has just evaporated.

But the worst part is what comes next. By failing to secure the border, millions of new illegals cross and begin to work "under the table" forcing the newly legal workers out of their jobs and into the unemployment line. All amnesty has accomplished at that point is to create a new crop of illegals and increased unemployment among the formerly illegal workers who decided to "legal up".

This exposes the true goal of what the illegals really want. What they want is to be free from worry about deportation and they want access to all the benefits that come to people here legally but I do not believe they are wanting to accept all the responsibilities that come with those rights. Once they pay their share of taxes and employers must cover them with benefits, their economic advantage is gone. I really don't think that is what they want.

Until the border can be secured to prevent waves of new illegal immigration coming here to undercut the wages of the newly legal, amnesty has no chance.

We need a wall. Not a Berlin Wall with only a couple of checkpoints, but a border control wall with lots of manned checkpoints with multiple lanes so that legal immigration, trade, and tourism can flourish unimpeded. Closing off remote desert border access does nothing to adversely impact legal trade. The only people crossing in those locations are illegal migrants or people moving illegal cargo. Such a wall would stop both. Until such a wall is in place, there is no point to giving anyone amnesty as their gains will be short lived as their jobs are, in turn, taken away by a newer crop of illegal migrants.