Porn surfing rampant at U.S. science foundation

EXCLUSIVE: Porn surfing rampant at U.S. science foundation

EXCLUSIVE:

Jim McElhatton

Employee misconduct investigations, often involving workers accessing pornography from their government computers, grew sixfold last year inside the taxpayer-funded foundation that doles out billions of dollars of scientific research grants, according to budget documents and other records obtained by The Washington Times.

The problems at the National Science Foundation (NSF) were so pervasive they swamped the agency’s inspector general and forced the internal watchdog to cut back on its primary mission of investigating grant fraud and recovering misspent tax dollars.

“To manage this dramatic increase without an increase in staff required us to significantly reduce our efforts to investigate grant fraud,” the inspector general recently told Congress in a budget request. “We anticipate a significant decline in investigative recoveries and prosecutions in coming years as a direct result.”

The budget request doesn’t state the nature or number of the misconduct cases, but records obtained by The Times through the Freedom of Information Act laid bare the extent of the well-publicized porn problem inside the government-backed foundation.

For instance, one senior executive spent at least 331 days looking at pornography on his government computer and chatting online with nude or partially clad women without being detected, the records show.

When finally caught, the NSF official retired. He even offered, among other explanations, a humanitarian defense, suggesting that he frequented the porn sites to provide a living to the poor overseas women. Investigators put the cost to taxpayers of the senior official’s porn surfing at between $13,800 and about $58,000.

“He explained that these young women are from poor countries and need to make money to help their parents and this site helps them do that,” investigators wrote in a memo.

The independent foundation, funded by taxpayers to the tune of $6 billion in 2008, is tasked with handing out scientific grants to colleges, universities and research institutions nationwide. The projects it funds ranges from mapping the genome of the potato to exploring outer space with powerful new telescopes. It has a total of 1,200 career employees.

Recent budget documents for the inspector general cite a “6-fold increase in employee misconduct cases and associated proactive management implication report activities.” The document doesn’t say how many cases were involved in the increase, and officials could not immediately provide a figure.

Documents obtained by The Times through an open records request show the foundation’s inspector general closed 10 employee misconduct investigations last year, up from just three in 2006. There were seven cases in 2007. Of the 10 cases closed last year, seven involved online pornography, records show. However, those figures don’t include pending cases.

Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for the nonpartisan watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste, called the situation “inexcusable.”

“What kind of oversight is there when they have to shift people from looking at grant fraud to watch for people looking at pornography?” she said.

Foundation spokeswoman Dana Topousis said officials have enacted more rigorous computer training and tightened controls to filter out inappropriate Internet addresses from the sites employees can access from their work computers.

Deputy Inspector General Tim Cross said despite the office’s budget request, the foundation appears to have fixed the systematic problems that allowed workers to look at pornography on the job.

He said the office’s 2010 budget request was written well in advance and that, at the time, “we were consumed with a lot of these cases.”

“The agency has done a lot to address the underlying issues in terms of getting out the message it’s not to be done and making technological changes,” he said.

The foundation’s inspector general uncovers scientific misconduct that can force the return of misused grant money to the government but told Congress it was diverted from that mission by the porn cases.

The office was unable to immediately provide an estimate of how much money the projected decline in investigative recoveries will cost taxpayers. According to congressional reports, overall investigative recoveries by the watchdog agency totaled more than $2 million for the year ending March 31.

The pornography problem came to light earlier this year, when the inspector general’s office published short summaries of several recent cases in a semiannual report to Congress.

The report caught the attention of Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, who launched an inquiry that generated unwanted media attention on the online activities of employees at the foundation.

The newly obtained documents provide fresh evidence that the problem wasn’t just an embarrassment: It was expensive and often went undetected for long periods of time.

The names of all of the employees targeted in the pornography cases were redacted from the more than 120 pages of investigative documents released to The Times. Names were withheld because none of the employees was subject to criminal prosecution, recent civil court action or debarment.

The documents don’t include cases that the foundation examined internally without the inspector general’s involvement.

“The employees who were investigated were disciplined in one way or another,” Ms. Topousis said, adding that she could not comment on individual disciplinary actions.

One foundation employee paid an unspecified sum last year after investigators found that during a three-week period in June 2008, the worker perused hundreds of pornographic Web sites during work hours. That employee received a 10-day suspension.

In an official notice of the decision, the foundation called the conduct “unprofessional and unacceptable,” but also noted the employee’s work history and lack of any previous disciplinary actions.

As for the unnamed “senior executive” who spent at least 331 days looking at pornography at work, investigators said his proclivity for pornography was common knowledge among several co-workers.

“At the same time, employees were generally reluctant to make any official report or complaint because the misconduct involved a senior staff member and employees feared that they would suffer in some form of complaining,” the investigators later wrote in a summary of the case.

Another employee in a different case was caught with hundreds of pictures, videos and even PowerPoint slide shows containing pornography. Asked by an investigator whether he had completed any government work on a day when a significant amount of pornography was downloaded, the employee responded, “Um, I can’t remember,” according to records.

The employee also said that friends sent him the pornographic files, that he never planned on viewing them and that he never got around to deleting the files, a claim one official later called “simply not believable.”

Suspended for 10 days, the employee unsuccessfully appealed the decision after arguing that it was too harsh. Other employees were terminated.

Another employee who stored nude images of herself on her computer told investigators she mistakenly had downloaded the pictures. She received counseling and was told to adhere to the foundation’s policies on computer use.

The foundation is hardly the only government agency to be embarrassed by disclosures about employees looking at pornography at work.

The inspector general for the Securities and Exchange Commission noted in a report last fall that it had recently conducted three investigations into employees who misused government computers to view pornography.

At the time of the report, one employee had been fired and another suspended, while disciplinary action against a third was pending.

Ariz. governor signs immigration enforcement bill

Ariz. governor signs immigration enforcement bill

By PAUL DAVENPORT and JONATHAN J. COOPER
The Associated Press
Friday, April 23, 2010; 6:17 PM

PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer ignored criticism from President Barack Obama on Friday and signed into law a bill supporters said would take handcuffs off police in dealing with illegal immigration in Arizona, the nation’s gateway for human and drug smuggling.

With hundreds of protesters outside the state Capitol shouting that the bill would lead to civil rights abuses, Brewer said critics were “overreacting” and that she wouldn’t tolerate racial profiling.

“We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act,” Brewer said after signing the law. “But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”

Earlier Friday, Obama called the Arizona bill “misguided” and instructed the Justice Department to examine it to see if it’s legal. He also said the federal government must enact immigration reform at the national level – or leave the door open to “irresponsibility by others.”

“That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe,” Obama said.

The legislation, sent to the Republican governor by the GOP-led Legislature, makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It also requires local police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal immigrants, allows lawsuits against government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws, and make it illegal to hire illegal immigrants for day labor or knowingly transport them.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund said it plans a legal challenge to the law, arguing it “launches Arizona into a spiral of pervasive fear, community distrust, increased crime and costly litigation, with nationwide repercussions.”

Brewer ordered the state’s law enforcement licensing agency to develop a training course on how to implement the law while respecting civil rights.

The bill will take effect in late July or early August.

At the Capitol, some 2,000 protesters booed county Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox when she announced that “the governor did not listen to our prayers.”

“It’s going to change our lives,” said Emilio Almodovar, a 13-year-old American citizen from Phoenix. “We can’t walk to school any more. We can’t be in the streets anymore without the pigs thinking we’re illegal immigrants.”

Brewer signed the bill in a state auditorium about a mile from the Capitol complex where demonstrators have protested the legislation since the measure was approved by lawmakers on Monday. Their numbers grew steadily throughout the week, with buses bringing protesters from as far away as Los Angeles.

Brewer, who faces a tough election battle and growing anger in the state over illegal immigrants, said the law “protects every Arizona citizen.”

Anti-immigrant anger has swelled in the past month, after rancher Rob Krentz was found dead on his land north of Douglas, near the Mexico border. Authorities believe he was fatally shot by an illegal immigrant possibly connected to a drug smuggling cartel.

Arizona has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants, and its harsh, remote desert serves as the corridor for the majority of illegal immigrants and drugs moving north into the U.S. from Mexico.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat, said he closed his Arizona offices at noon Friday after his staff in Yuma and Tucson were flooded with calls this week, some from people threatening violent acts and shouting racial slurs. He called on businesses and groups looking for convention and meeting locations to boycott Arizona.

The bill’s Republican sponsor, state Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, said Obama and other critics of the bill were “against law enforcement, our citizens and the rule of law.”

Pearce said the legislation would remove “political handcuffs” from police and help drive illegal immigrants from the state.

“Illegal is illegal,” said Pearce, a driving force on the issue in Arizona. “We’ll have less crime. We’ll have lower taxes. We’ll have safer neighborhoods. We’ll have shorter lines in the emergency rooms. We’ll have smaller classrooms.”

Associated Press Writer Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.

John McCain backs (but not endorses) Arizona’s tough new immigration bill (from Russell Pearce); border security plan John waffles on new law He was against it before he was for it???????

John McCain backs (but not endorses) Arizona’s tough new immigration bill (from Russell Pearce); border security plan

[See the UPDATE:; McCain backed away from endorsing it.]

Per this, John McCain has endorsed a new bill in Arizona that would, among other things allow police to arrest suspected illegal aliens who couldn’t provide evidence of legal presence. Per him:

“I think it’s a very important step forward… I can fully understand why the legislature would want to act.”

Needless to say, this isn’t in line with his previous positions; Arizona state senator Russell Pearce is the sponsor of the bill in question, and he’s usually directly opposite the more “pro-business” GOP types on this issue.

Also:

McCain’s comments to reporters came as he and fellow Republican Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl unveiled a 10 step plan to secure Arizona’s border with Mexico. McCain and Kyl want to send 3,000 National Guard troops to help an overstretched border patrol curtail increasingly violent incidents along the border, among other measures.

[McCain said:] “The lesson is clear: First we have to secure the border… If you want to enact some other reforms, how can that be effective when you have a porous border? …So we have to secure the border first.”

While his plan might have some merit, “secure the border” (see the link) is in many cases just a cover to get comprehensive immigration reform.

UPDATE: Per this, “U.S. Sen. John McCain on Monday called the bill a “tool that I think needs to be used.” His office later said that wasn’t an endorsement.”

Redactions Revealed: The Six Secrets You Need to Know From the Obama Subpoena Request

Redactions Revealed: The Six Secrets You Need to Know From the Obama Subpoena Request

 

Update:Judge calls emergency meeting over redaction errors.

Former governor Rod Blagojevich‘s defense team asked Thursday to issue a trial subpoena to the President of the United States of America.

The motion, intended to be heavily redacted, was improperly edited — the full document was easily viewable if the text is copied and pasted to another document (an error first revealed on Capitol Fax).

Below, the six revelations the redacted portions were meant to conceal. 

2010 Illinois Election Guide

1. Obama may have lied about conversations with convicted fraudster Tony Rezko

Blagojevich’s lawyers allege that Rezko admitted breaking the law by contributing “a large sum of cash” to a public official. Blagojevich’s attorneys say that public official is Obama. Obama said that Rezko never relayed a request from a lobbyist to hold a fundraiser in favor of favorable legislative action. But the point may be moot: regardless of Obama talking/not talking to Rezko, Blagojevich’s attorneys say that Obama refused the request regardless.

Redacted portion: However, the defense has a good faith belief that Mr. Rezko, President Obama’s former friend, fund-raiser, and neighbor told the FBI and the United States Attorneys a different story about President Obama. In a recent in camera proceeding, the
government tendered a three paragraph letter indicating that Rezko “has stated in interviews with the government that he engaged in election law violations by personally contributing a large sum of cash to the campaign of a public official who is not Rod Blagojevich. &hellip Further, the public official denies being aware of cash contributions to his campaign by Rezko or others and denies having
conversations with Rezko related to cash contributions. &hellip Rezko has also stated in interviews with the government that he believed he transmitted a quid pro quo offer from a lobbyist to the public official, whereby the lobbyist would hold a fundraiser for the official in exchange for favorable official action, but that the public official rejected the offer. The public official denies any such conversation. In addition, Rezko has stated to the government that he and the public official had certain conversations about gaming legislation and administration, which the public official denies having had.

Redacted footnote: The defense has a good faith belief that this public official is Barack Obama.

2. Obama may have overtly recommended Valerie Jarret for his Senate seat
Blagojevich’s defense team basically alleges that Obama told a certain labor union official that he (Obama) would support Valerie Jarrett’s candidacy for the Senate seat. Jarrett, referred to as “Senate Candidate B”, is now a senior advisor to the president.

Redacted portion: Yet, despite President Obama stating that no representatives of his had any part of any deals, labor union president told the FBI and the United States Attorneys that he spoke to labor union official on November 3, 2008 who received a phone message from Obama that evening. After labor union official listened to the message labor union official told labor union president “I’m the one”. Labor union president took that to mean that labor union official was to be the one to deliver the message on behalf of Obama that Senate Candidate B was his pick. (Labor union president 302, February 2, 2009, p. 7).

Labor union official told the FBI and the United States Attorneys “Obama expressed his belief that [Senate Candidate B] would be a good Senator for the people of Illinois and would be a candidate who could win re-election. [Labor union official] advised Obama that [labor union official] would reach out to Governor Blagojevich and advocate for [Senate Candidate B] … [Labor union official] called [labor union president] and told [labor union president] that Obama was aware that [labor union official] would be reaching out to Blagojevich.” (Labor union official 302, February 3, 2009 p. 3).

3. A supporter of President Obama may have offered quid pro quo on a Jarrett senate appointment
Redacted portion: Supporter of Presidential Candidate Obama is mentioned in a phone call on November 3, 2008, having offered “fundraising” in exchange for Senate Candidate B for senator (Blagojevich Home Phone Call # 149).

4. Obama maintained a list of good Senate candidates
Redacted portion: President-elect Obama also suggested Senate Candidate A to Governor Blagojevich. John Harris told the FBI and the United States Attorneys that he spoke to President’s Chief of Staff on November 12, 2008. Harris took notes of the conversation and wrote that President’s Chief had previously worked as Blagojevich’s press secretary. Obama agreed of Staff told Harris that Senate Candidate A was acceptable to Obama as a senate pick. (Harris handwritten notes, OOG1004463) President’s Chief of Staff told the FBI that “he could not say where but somewhere it was communicated to him that” Senate Candidate A was a suggested candidate viewed as one of the four “right” candidates “by the Obama transition team.”

5. Rahm Emanuel allegedly floated Cheryl Jackson’s name for the Senate seat

Redacted portion: President’s Chief of Staff told the FBI that he had a conversation discussing the Senate seat with Obama on December 7, 2008 in Obama’s car. President’s Chief of Staff told the FBI “Obama expressed concern about Senate Candidate D being appointed as Senator.

[President’s Chief of Staff] suggested they might need an expanded list to possibly include names of African Americans that came out of the business world. [President’s Chief of Staff] thought he suggested Senate Candidate E who was the head of the Urban League and with President’s Chief of Staff’s suggestion.

6. Obama had a secret phone call with Blagojevich
Redacted portion: President-elect Obama also spoke to Governor Blagojevich on December 1, 2008 in Philadelphia. On Harris Cell Phone Call # 139, John Harris and Governor’s legal counsel discuss a conversation Blagojevich had with President-elect Obama. The government claims a conspiracy existed from October 22, 2008 continuing through December 9, 2008.6 That conversation is relevant to the defense of the government’s theory of an ongoing conspiracy. Only Rod Blagojevich and President Obama can testify to the contents of that conversation. The defense is allowed to present evidence that corroborates the defendant’s testimony.

Brewer signs immigration bill into law

Brewer signs immigration bill into law

Phoenix Business Journal – by Mike Sunnucks

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed into law Senate Bill 1070, a contentious immigration measure that gives police sweeping powers to question and arrest illegal immigrants.

Brewer made the announcement Friday at a press conference in Phoenix.

The law allows police to arrest illegal immigrants for trespassing in Arizona; requires immigrants to carry work and travel papers; and makes it a crime to transport illegal immigrants, including day laborers.

Brewer faced political pressure from both sides on this issue. The governor is running for re-election.

Public opinion polls show the majority of Arizona voters back the measure, with strong support from conservatives including Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who also is mulling a gubernatorial run.

Critics include those in the tourism industry, who are concerned that the law underscores a negative image of Arizona and could cost the state conventions and other major events. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and others say the measure is anti-Latino and will lead to unfair targeting of those with brown skin.

SEC staffers watched porn as economy crashed—-Who gets fired????

SEC staffers watched porn as economy crashed

By DANIEL WAGNER
The Associated Press
Friday, April 23, 2010; 1:25 AM

WASHINGTON — Senior staffers at the Securities and Exchange Commission spent hours surfing pornographic websites on government-issued computers while they were being paid to police the financial system, an agency watchdog says.

The SEC’s inspector general conducted 33 probes of employees looking at explicit images in the past five years, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press.

The memo says 31 of those probes occurred in the 2 1/2 years since the financial system teetered and nearly crashed.

The staffers’ behavior violated government-wide ethics rules, it says.

It was written by SEC Inspector General David Kotz in response to a request from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

The memo was first reported Thursday evening by ABC News. It summarizes past inspector general probes and reports some shocking findings:

- A senior attorney at the SEC’s Washington headquarters spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography. When he ran out of hard drive space, he burned the files to CDs or DVDs, which he kept in boxes around his office. He agreed to resign, an earlier watchdog report said.

- An accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a month from visiting websites classified as “Sex” or “Pornography.” Yet he still managed to amass a collection of “very graphic” material on his hard drive by using Google images to bypass the SEC’s internal filter, according to an earlier report from the inspector general. The accountant refused to testify in his defense, and received a 14-day suspension.

- Seventeen of the employees were “at a senior level,” earning salaries of up to $222,418.

- The number of cases jumped from two in 2007 to 16 in 2008. The cracks in the financial system emerged in mid-2007 and spread into full-blown panic by the fall of 2008.

California Rep. Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said it was “disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at porn than taking action to help stave off the events that put our nation’s economy on the brink of collapse.”

He said in a statement that SEC officials “were preoccupied with other distractions” when they should have been overseeing the growing problems in the financial system.

An SEC spokesman declined to comment Thursday night.

About 16 percent of men with Internet access at work admit to looking at online porn while at the office, according to a 2006 survey by Websense Inc.

Former SEC spokesman Michael Robinson said he shares the public’s outrage about SEC staffers who enjoyed porn on the taxpayer dime when they were supposed to be keeping the markets safe.

“That kind of behavior is just intolerable and atrocious,” said Robinson, now with Levick Strategic Communications. He said he expects SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro and her team are “very focused on” the issue.

Schapiro has had other worries in recent days. She has been parrying Republican attacks after announcing civil fraud charges Friday against Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Agency officials had hoped the charges would mark a new era of tougher oversight of Wall Street. They followed high-profile embarrassments including the failure to catch Ponzi kings Bernard Madoff and R. Allen Stanford.

But soon after Goldman charges were filed, Republicans began questioning the timing of the announcement. The news came as the Senate prepared to take up a sweeping overhaul of the rules governing banks and other financial companies.

Republican lawmakers also accused the SEC of being influenced by politics. The SEC’s commissioners approved the Goldman charges on a rare 3-2 vote. The two who objected were Republicans.

Schapiro is a registered independent who has been appointed by presidents of both parties.

Associated Press writer Christine Simmons contributed to this report.

Will Obama’s Goldman Sachs Attack Expose Al Gore? Or Other Dems?

Will Obama’s Goldman Sachs Attack Expose Al Gore? Or Other Dems?

Posted By Richard Pollock On April 22, 2010 @ 12:00 am In Column 1, Money, US News | 36 Comments

Whether Wall Street colossus Goldman Sachs has committed a crime remains to be seen, but the investigation may well uncover the environmental lobby and its public figurehead. For nearly a decade, Goldman Sachs has been a quiet but major investor in cap and trade. And Goldman’s main investment partner has been Al Gore.

About a decade ago, Goldman executives recognized that personal fortunes could be made with the invention of a carbon trading system through the passage of a U.S. cap-and-trade bill.  This area was well suited to Goldman Sachs, the architects behind the complex world of futures trading and exotic derivatives.

Goldman joined Al Gore in 2004 and capitalized his investment company, Generation Investment Management. Strangely for a man who was a heartbeat away from the presidency, Gore decided to register his company in London — not the United States.

In November 2004, Gore unveiled GIM. Standing at his side was David Blood, the CEO of Goldman Asset Management. Blood was to become his co-founder (the new company was quickly nicknamed “Blood & Gore”). It was established with the initial capital of $206 million, much of it from Blood clients at Goldman Sachs.

Gore also turned to Goldman Sachs guru (and later Bush Treasury Secretary) Henry Paulson to help him establish GIM. At the time, Paulson himself was an eco-warrior of sorts, serving as chairman of the board of the Nature Conservancy.

Today, seven of Gore’s GIM chief partners are from Goldman Sachs. The company is now valued [1] at $2.2 billion.

It doesn’t stop there. The Goldman Sachs/Gore team then established the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), a new cap-and-trade carbon trading platform, and partnered with the UK-based Climate Exchange, Plc (CLE), a holding company [2] listed on the London Stock Exchange [3]. CLE does carbon trading in Europe. In late 2004, they also created the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange [4] (CCFX).

In September of 2006, Climate Exchange Plc acquired [5] the remainder of CCX it didn’t own [6] and placed £12.2 million of new shares with Goldman Sachs [7].

Goldman is reported to have made an investment of $23 million in the venture. Between Gore and Goldman, they are the largest investors in the Chicago Climate Exchange, owning 20% of it.

Last year, in an expose from Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi (Inside the Great American Bubble Machine [8]“) Taibbi identified Goldman Sachs as the father of some of our most notable modern day economic crises. He profiled a firm that handsomely profiteered over both the tech bubble and the metastasizing housing bubble.

Taibbi predicted Goldman’s next big play in cap and trade. This would become our next bubble. Taibbi tagged Goldman Sachs a “gangster state, running on gangster economics.”

Marc Morano, publisher of Climatedepot.com, agrees:

Goldman Sachs is helping to engineer the next great bubble. And we are talking about subprime science, subprime politics, and subprime economics. Goldman Sachs is at the forefront of the subprime economics of carbon trading.

Although cap and trade has temporarily faded in Washington, D.C., carbon trading still lives in the nation’s capital. Next week, Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are expected to unveil a new cap-and-trade bill.

The idea of turning a free, colorless, and odorless gas into a product still attracts the money people. Myron Ebell, director of Freedom Action, says:

These Gore investments could potentially make him a billionaire. For a guy who started with just a small fortune he could end up with a very large one.

In describing its own mission, CCFE’s website is reminiscent of last Friday’s SEC fraud charge on mortgage derivatives:

Chicago Climate Futures Exchange® operates the leading U.S. marketplace for environmental derivatives, financial instruments whose underlying values are tradeable environmental assets.

CCFE was launched in 2004 and is part of the Climate Exchange Plc (LSE: CLE.L) group of companies, which comprise the world’s leading exchanges specializing in environmental derivatives. Also owned by Climate Exchange Plc are the European Climate Exchange® (ECX®) and the Chicago Climate Exchange® (CCX®), of which CCFE is a subsidiary. ECX is the dominant exchange by trading volume for carbon derivatives in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.

Morano thinks the tarnished Goldman Sachs brand can taint Al Gore and cap-and-trade advocates:

You add to that the underpinnings of the people who backed [cap and trade] and helped create it are tied to Al Gore and Goldman Sachs, and then you have a real crisis in confidence. And then you have more woes for the global warming establishment.

Goldman Sachs is one of the most politically connected investment firms in all of America. In the 2008 political cycle alone, the Goldman Sachs PAC lavished $5.9 million upon candidates for Congress.

Three out of four Goldman Sachs dollars went to Democrats. Nearly $1 million more went to Barack Obama. Goldman Sachs was the second-highest contributor to the Democratic presidential candidate. And in the last three years Goldman Sachs spent a cool $12.3 million to lobby the halls of Congress.

Even Barack Obama, who seems to be needling Goldman in his war against Wall Street, has himself turned to the storied Wall Street firm. Neel Kashkari, who led Goldman’s security investment banking practice, was tapped to run Obama’s TARP government bailout program.

As the presidential attack on Goldman intensifies, will Obama wound some of his closest political allies?

Obama Ignores Islamic Extremist Threat

Obama Ignores Islamic Extremist Threat

Posted 04/21/2010 ET

 

In June 1876, U.S. Army General George Armstrong Custer was defeated by Cheyenne Indians at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. In what became known as “Custer’s Last Stand,” defeat was attributed primarily to a false assumption. Custer expected to encounter an enemy force of approximately equal size; instead, he faced a force at least three times the strength of his. That false assumption cost the charismatic general his life—as well as the lives of 267 men trusting in his leadership. Had Custer been better informed—and the threat better understood—disaster may well have been averted.

One hundred thirty-four years later, a false assumption and lack of understanding by President Obama for a threat of a new era could well spell similar disaster—this time for an entire nation.

There is a common thread tying together most terrorist activity occurring around the world today. Whether it is Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, China, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza, etc., that common thread is Islamic extremism. And, when Islamic extremism raises its ugly head, it matters not that most victims of its violence are fellow Muslims. As was the case in the 20th Century, more Muslims in the 21st Century are being killed by Islamic extremists than by non-Muslims. One can only imagine the threat posed to non-believers by an ideology whose believers do not hesitate to “eat their own” in this manner.

The Bush Doctrine correctly identified the threat by stating: “The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict in the early years of the 21st Century.” But President Obama is issuing new national security guidelines from which any reference to religious terms such as “Islam,” “Islamic extremism” and “jihad” is to be avoided. 

According to a U.S. government official, the rationale for this is that there is “a very narrow segment” of the world’s population at risk of turning to extremism but, by using such terms in referencing terrorism, we “risk offending people by creating the impression that we think they are going to go that way, when in fact they don’t.” 

By this logic, the administration worries more about offending Muslims—clearly not prone to embracing extremism—by avoiding any linkage between Islamic extremism and terrorism than it does about educating both Muslims and non-Muslims on what the real threat is. In other words, we don’t want to run the risk of alienating non-extremist Muslims by pointing out the 800 pound Islamic extremist gorilla in the room disrupting everyone’s public order and safety. 

This approach ignores a few important factors.

First, success in minimizing a threat turns on public awareness and understanding its essence. Not calling Islamic extremism by its rightful name dumbs people down as to what the threat is. Americans understanding this threat by openly discussing it is of far greater importance than concerns over offending non-extremist Muslims.

Second, the legions of Islamic extremist ranks are mostly filled by Muslims who know or care little about whether the U.S. has identified them as a threat. They focus only upon what they have been told by their Muslim extremist religious leaders—i.e., that the West is a threat to them and must be eradicated.

Third, in its effort to avoid the use of any religious reference to Islam that might support Osama bin Laden’s claim the West is mounting an attack upon Islam, the administration fails to recognize an irony:  It is assisting Islamic extremists in mounting an attack upon our political system. An Iranian philosopher, physician, scientist and former Muslim, Ali Sina, has said of Islam: “Islam is not a religion. Considering Islam a religion is a foolish mistake that could cost millions of lives. Islam is a political movement set to conquer the world… Islam has one goal and one goal alone:  to assimilate or to destroy.”

Thus, while the West strives to provide a nurturing environment for Islam, we also plow fertile ground for the seed of an extremism that seeks the destruction of our own political system. As a believer who came to fully understand the duplicitous nature of Islam, Ali Sina should be heeded.

Fourth, Obama’s national security strategy change could not come at a worse time. An American Muslim cleric believed to be hiding in Yemen, Anwar al-Awaki, recently released a video calling for young American Muslims to wage a holy war against the U.S. His message has received hundreds of thousands of hits—along with blessings and vows to join.

President Obama seeks to maximize political correctness while minimizing U.S. national security interests. As Americans perceive he gives Islamic extremism traction at their expense, Obama may, in 2012, find himself fighting a Battle of Little Big Horn for his political survival. Hopefully, it will occur before America’s “Last Stand” against Islamic extremism does.

 

James Zumwalt, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam and Gulf wars who writes often on national security and defense issues, is the author of “Bare Feet, Iron Will: Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields” (found at: http://www.jgzumwalt.com).

America’s Top Business Groups Say Vast Tax Increases Inevitable Under Obama Budget

America’s Top Business Groups Say Vast Tax Increases Inevitable Under Obama Budget

April 23rd, 2010 Posted By Pat Dollard.

Obama Vacation

The Hill:

Vast tax increases will be inevitable under President Barack Obama’s budget blueprint, the nation’s largest business groups complained on Friday.

The groups blasted tax increases on businesses and wealthy individuals and families in the budget in a letter to members of the House and Senate, while warning that escalating public debt threatened the underlying economy.

“If the President’s budget demonstrates the administration’s long-term governing priorities, then it’s hard not to conclude that this spending boom is deliberate,” the letter from the Tax Relief Coalition said.

“It is an effort to put in place programs and spending commitments that will require vast new tax increases going forward, and give the political class a claim on far more private American wealth,” it said.

The chief lobbyists for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers signed the letter, as did Business Roundtable President John Castellani.

Dick Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist are also signatories.

Obama’s budget proposal would increase marginal tax rates on individuals whose incomes are above $200,000, and families with incomes about $250,000. It would also raise taxes on dividends and capital gains.

On business, Obama’s tax proposals include the elimination of “deferral,” which will increase the taxes U.S. corporations pay on their subsidiaries. The administration also wants to change the way “carried interest” is paid, which would raise taxes on hedge fund managers. Carried interest is now taxed at the 15 percent rate as capital gains, but the administration would like to have it taxed as ordinary income, which would hit the deep-pocketed fund managers.

The business groups warned that imposing those taxes on an economy they said is still struggling “will delay our recovery and slow down both economic and job growth well into the future.

“This budget is a prescription for slower economic growth, prolonging high unemployment levels and making U.S. companies less competitive on world markets,” they wrote.

The Senate Budget Committee on Thursday approved a new spending plan that seeks to reduce the deficit from $1.3 trillion to $545 billion by 2015, but this depends on Congress offsetting the expense of patching the Alternative Minimum Tax that would otherwise hit millions of middle-class taxpayers this year.

The budget committee’s resolution would impose tougher restrictions on spending than Obama’s plan.

Sarah Palin: The Army’s Loss in Dis-Inviting a Good Man

Sarah Palin: The Army’s Loss in Dis-Inviting a Good Man

The Army’s Loss in Dis-Inviting a Good Man
 Today at 5:01am
My, have things changed. I was honored to have Rev. Franklin Graham speak at my Governor’s Prayer Breakfasts. His good work in Alaska’s Native villages and his charitable efforts all over the world stem from his servant’s heart. In my years of knowing him, I’ve never found his tempered and biblically-based comments to be offensive – in fact his words have been encouraging and full of real hope.

It’s truly a sad day when such a fine patriotic man, whose son is serving on his fourth deployment in Afghanistan to protect our freedom of speech and religion, is dis-invited from speaking at the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer service. His comments in 2001 were aimed at those who are so radical that they would kill innocent people and subjugate women in the name of religion.

Are we really so hyper-politically correct that we can’t abide a Christian minister who expresses his views on matters of faith? What a shame. Yes, things have changed.

- Sarah Palin

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