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Impeach Bush

Boycott of NBC,GE,Microsoft


160 MPs prepared to vote against Blair

GOP Telemarketing Scandal

GOP Ethics Chairman to be Investigated

Cost of war $95 billion again

US Threatens France

Consumer Confidence Falls to 9-Year Low

Scalia Steps Down As Labor Lawyer

FBI Retaliates Against Whistleblower *

U.S. Deficit Hits $97B in First 4 Months

Boycott of NBC,MSNBC,CNBC,GE,Microsoft
Electronic Media/GLAAD/NAACP/NOW/PFLAG
February 26, 2003

MSNBC is feeling heat from an increasing number of organizations that are angry that the news network owned by NBC and Microsoft has given a weekend show to conservative San Francisco-based talk show host and author Michael Savage, whose habit of saying things such as Hispanics "breed like rabbits," women "should have been denied the vote" and "The gay and lesbian mafia wants our children" has earned him a reputation as a hate monger and not the "compassionate conservative" he calls himself.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is expected to announce Wednesday morning that it will mobilize protest of MSNBC's decision to give Mr. Savage an hour-long show on Saturdays (starting at a date still to be announced).

The National Organization for Women is expected to notify NBC parent company General Electric and Microsoft on Wednesday that "It is very important that the corporations that own the media get the message: Profiting from hate will cost them the business of thinking consumers. That applies to GE, as well as Microsoft."

With the cancellation Tuesday of Phil Donahue's show and the recent hiring of former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, the conservative Republican Texan whose long term in Congress ended in January, as a regular contributor of commentary, MSNBC has "created a situation that makes it impossible to get a moderate message out," NOW President Kim Gandy said.

"We've done our homework on this," said Cathy Renna, news media director for GLAAD, which applied similar pressure in 2000 when Paramount built a short-lived syndicated TV show around conservative Dr. Laura Schlessinger, whose comments on gays became a lightning rod. "There are a lot of different organizations concerned about giving a platform to Michael Savage."
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting senior analyst Steve Rendall said FAIR is disturbed by the message from MSNBC that "They can't be held responsible for what he has said in the past," only for what he says on MSNBC's air. "That sounds a lot like Dr. Laura's people at Paramount. Isn't that why they hired [Mr. Savage]? It is what he said in the past that is getting him in the door."

NBC and GE were unavailable for comment. Microsoft had no immediate response.

In a statement, MSNBC said, "The addition of Michael Savage to the MSNBC lineup was made with the full awareness of his reputation for controversy and confrontation. We respect the right of those who wish to protest. However, we also strongly defend his new show as a legitimate attempt to expand the marketplace of ideas. By bringing our viewers a wide range of strong, opinionated voices, MSNBC underscores its commitment to ensuring that its perspective programming promotes no one single point of view. We encourage debate and we would neither expect, nor want, our audience to agree with everything on our channel."

Commentary:
100% conservatism, 100% of the time isn't good enough. Now they give us hate-filled monsters like this. This is the first time I've told readers to take specific action, but I feel compelled to stop this man and others like him.

Begin by sending a letter to MSNBC from GLAAD. Then let GE and Microsoft know your boycott includes them. This shouldn't take more than a few weeks--trust me.

GE can be reached here.

Microsoft Feedback can be reached here. [send feedback/other].

Liberal media! Huh? Where?


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160 MPs prepared to vote against Blair
Guardian.co.uk
Staff and agencies
Wednesday February 26, 2003

The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, today attempted to persuade sceptical MPs of the merits of the government's position on the Iraq crisis.
Attempting to head off a backbench rebellion, Mr Straw told MPs that the government motion was not an endorsement of a deployment of British forces against Iraq, stating that: "No decision to deploy British forces has yet been taken."

And he reassured MPs that the government would put any decision on military action to the Commons with the timing subject to the usual caveat about the safety of British forces.

Mr Straw pointed out that Iraq had the only government in the world which had fired missiles at five of it neighbours; invaded two of them; and gassed its own people.

He accused Saddam Hussein of trying to string the process of weapons inspection out as long as possible so he can keep his weapons of mass destruction. And he rubbished reports that Iraq is giving greater cooperation to the UN's weapons inspectors.

"Without active cooperation," he claimed, "even an increase in inspectors on the ground would be pointless."

Tonight the government faces potentially the biggest rebellion of Labour MPs since it came to power in 1997.

One hundred Labour MPs have signed an amendment to the government's motion which states that the case for military action against Iraq is still unproven. Backbench critics have claimed at least 160 MPs are prepared to vote against the government or abstain this afternoon.

Mr Straw said that Iraq's conduct showed it was right to say the country had weapons of mass destruction.

He asked France and Germany, who want a continuation of the inspection programme, why they believe it is more likely that Saddam Hussein would cooperate more fully with the inspectors in a further 120 days than they had already.

He claimed that President Saddam would use a further 120 days to continue to "tie the inspectors in knots" and would understand that the international community lacked "the will to disarm him," he added.

Responding for the opposition, the shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said war was "a desperately sad prospect" but delaying taking action against Saddam Hussein if he failed to comply would leave the crisis unresolved.

Mr Ancram told MPs: "Sometimes conflict is necessary in the short term to achieve peace through the threat of aggression and sometimes it is the threat of conflict which can establish peace."

The current situation in Iraq was "conflict waiting in the wings" and to prolong in the absence of genuine disarmament would prolong "the uncertainty and suffering" of the Iraqi people. "It would not be peace, it would be the procrastination of a conflict that would be more vicious and more damaging when eventually it came."

As the debate opened up to the floor, MPs spoke backing both the government's motion, and the "rebel amendment" stating the case for military action was "yet unproven."

© BBC 2003

Commentary:


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GOP Telemarketing Scandal
Washington Post
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 22, 2003; Page A01

The call starts with flattery: You have been named businessman of the year, or physician of the year, or state chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee's Business Advisory Council.

Then comes the fundraising hook: a request for as much as $500 to help pay for a full-page Wall Street Journal advertisement, then a request for $5,000 to reserve a seat at a banquet thrown in your honor. Can't handle that? How about $1,250 for the no-frills package?

Officials of the NRCC, which helps elect Republicans to the House, say their honors program isn't really fundraising because no one has to pay for the honor.

Plenty of people called by a telemarketing firm that plays a taped message from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) agreed to accept the title and have their names printed in small type in an ad that ran Wednesday in some regional editions of the Journal. Some have posted the commendation on their Web sites and framed their faxed award certificates.

But others who were called -- including a New Jersey limousine company owner, an Arlington physician and a Beverly Hills, Calif., accountant -- weren't pleased. "This whole thing is not right," said Bob Flesch, one of NRCC's "New Jersey businessmen of the year." "They're trying to extort money."

Michael Broida, the accountant who said he is politically "a little left of Jesse Jackson," called it "character assassination" to have his name appear on an NRCC fax as one of the businessmen of the year who "will work closely with the Republican leadership in restoring American prosperity."

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a campaign-finance reform group and a longtime student of political fundraising, said the NRCC method "fits into the hall of fame of telemarketing scams." He said it is "designed to catch people unaware and fool them into thinking they are getting something, when the only purpose is to mass market through unsolicited telephone calls."

Carl Forti, an NRCC spokesman, said the committee is merely recognizing business leaders and inviting them to periodic conferences and banquets. No money need be given to accept the honor, although there is a fee for the gatherings, he said.

The NRCC has run such programs for at least five years, Forti said. They have attracted scattered media attention over that time: Some local newspapers have trumpeted awards given to local business leaders. Others have reported gaffes, such an award given to a Florida man charged with making drug paraphernalia.

He would not say how many people are offered the awards, but this week's Journal ad lists more than 1,900 people as 2003 businessmen of the year -- including one from the District, 38 from Maryland and at least 59 from Virginia. Forti would not divulge the criteria for selecting honorees, or where the telemarketer got the names of those solicited.

"I guess it's unfortunate he believes it's a scam," Forti said of Wertheimer. "There are many, many happy members of the Business Advisory Council."

Cameron J. Hutchison, president and founder of the Hutchison Group Inc., a Woodbury, Conn., management consulting firm, said he never saw the Wall Street Journal ad that he paid $300 for, but is looking forward to the "tax summit" March 17-18 at the Washington Hilton and Towers that he paid about $1,200 to attend. He declined to pay the $4,000 for the black-tie gala to be held the first night.

Gebreyes B. Begna, owner of the Ethiopia Amalgamated Ltd., bragged to the Addis Tribune in Addis Ababa that he had been made an "honorary co-chairman" of the council, even though the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia was preparing to foreclose on his company.

The NRCC pitch generally follows a script. Businessmen or physicians receive a phone call from people identifying themselves as aides to DeLay. The callers are really telemarketers from Akron, Ohio-based InfoCision Management Corp. They then ask if the recipients would like to hear a message from DeLay.

After the message extolling their virtues along with those of President Bush's tax-cut proposal, the honorees are asked if they would accept their awards. If the answer is yes, the awardees are asked to help pay for a Wall Street Journal ad.

Some months later, honorees are faxed an invitation to a conference and awards dinner, then urged to call a toll-free number to "reserve your spot." During that call, honorees are told the price.

Recent rounds of calls have been so widespread they are beginning to stir up protests. Regina Varolli, a self-described left-leaning Internet columnist and speechwriter in Springfield, was nominated as "businessman of the year," then wrote two columns about it for the Online Journal in October and December. Marie Schum-Brady, a general practitioner in Arlington, who was named physician of the year for 2002 and 2003, recently returned a call to a toll-free number to say she could attend the Physicians' Advisory Board meeting, chairmen's dinner and award luncheon Feb. 25-26. A telemarketer then said the cost would be $5,000, she said.

When she balked, she was offered the bargain rate of $1,250. She still objected, she said, and was told she could keep her faxed award certificate but could not come to the conference.

Schum-Brady then contacted Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory, who inquired about the invitation. NRCC special projects coordinator Adam Fromm called to say there had been a "terrible mistake" and that Schum-Brady could attend without paying. She plans to attend the meeting at the J.W. Marriott Hotel next week.

Flesch, the owner of Executive Limousine in Princeton Junction, N.J., said he was at first intrigued and honored. His small company had been hammered by the decline in business travel after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and the caller played off that, saying he had been chosen for weathering the "adversity of 9-11."

But when he was asked to contribute to pay for the ad, he was incredulous, and refused. A few weeks later, when he was sent what he thought was a copy of the Wall Street Journal ad, including the newspaper's masthead, he became suspicious, he said. When he received his award invitation and was told the cost, he was incensed.

"I said: 'You're telling me you want me to pay $5,000 to go to a dinner to accept my award? I think you're scamming us,' " he said.

It is not just some recipients who are angry. Lawyers for Dow Jones & Co., owner of the Wall Street Journal, contacted NRCC officials before Christmas to ask them to stop using the Journal masthead, saying they were "misstating a connection between the award and the Wall Street Journal," said Brigitte Trafford, a Dow Jones spokeswoman. Flesch said he received his "Wall Street Journal" ad fax this month. Trafford said Dow Jones lawyers would be back in contact with the NRCC.

Some honorees who contributed have complained that they never received their promised "handsome framed certificate." Others said they welcomed the attention regardless of its value.

Christine Berk-Carlton, owner of Transformations Tanning and Skin Care Studio in Lake Mary, Fla., said she framed her faxed award and proudly posted on her Web site that she had been appointed to serve on the NRCC Business Advisory Council. The Republican activist said an honor is not supposed to come with a price tag, but she figures that since she resisted the sales pitch, she made the most it.

William R. Steele, president of Aerospace and Defense Strategies, LLC in Phoenix and the "Arizona chairman" of the Business Advisory Council, came to a similar conclusion.

"It's always nice to post something like that on a Web site," he said. "It probably won't get me a free cup of coffee, but it's nice to have the recognition."

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
Isn't it a crime to say a person won something when they didn't? I'm almost sure a law was passed forbidding such nonsense. No matter, if you're a republican and gullible enough to fall for something this stupid, I don't want to do business with you. Btw, when did stupid become so fashionable?


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GOP Ethics Chairman to be Investigated
Washington Post
By Jim VandeHei and Kathleen day
Washington Post Staff Writers Wednesday
February 26, 2003; Page A04

A House committee chairman came under heavy fire yesterday for allegedly pressuring the mutual fund industry to hire a Republican lobbyist, as House Democrats considered breaking a six-year ethics truce among lawmakers by calling for a congressional investigation into his tactics.

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Democratic leaders will meet as early as today to determine how to respond to allegations that top aides to Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) suggested that a congressional probe of mutual fund companies might ease if the industry dismissed one of its most prominent Democratic lobbyists or hired a Republican. As chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Oxley oversees mutual fund companies.

"That is an extraordinarily serious allegation," Hoyer said. If proven true, "it's both unethical and frankly borders on perhaps being criminal." Several Democratic officials said party leaders plan to force an ethics investigation but do not want to be seen as targeting Oxley for partisan reasons.

Common Cause, the watchdog group that led the fight for new campaign finance laws, yesterday called on the House ethics committee to launch a probe. "The threat of conducting, or abating, a formal congressional investigation as a weapon of pressure for partisan purposes would be an especially egregious abuse of authority, and in violation of the rules," Common Cause acting president Donald J. Simon wrote in a letter to the ethics committee.

An investigation of Oxley could have broad ramifications for the House and for Washington lobbyists. Republicans privately warned they would retaliate by filing ethics charges against House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and perhaps other Democrats facing allegations of wrongdoing. The Federal Election Commission is investigating charges that Pelosi last year operated two leadership political action committees at the same time, a potential violation of election laws.

"I find it very dangerous for the committee of the House for people to play politics by filing ethics charges that have no basis," Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) told reporters yesterday.

Hoyer said he sees the Oxley matter as a microcosm of a burgeoning GOP campaign to strong-arm companies and trade association to purge Democrats from important lobbying jobs. "It's part and parcel of a pattern pursued" by Republicans since they launched what they called the "K Street Project" shortly after winning control of Congress in 1994, Hoyer said.

The K Street Project, which involves top Republican lawmakers and party officials, was designed to track the party affiliation and political contribution of hundreds of lobbyists in Washington. The data are made available to lawmakers -- so they can deny access to Democrats if they so choose -- and to top party officials so they can lobby companies and trade associations to hire Republicans for top-paying jobs.

The ethics committee in 1998 admonished then-Majority Whip DeLay for pressuring the Electronic Industry Association not to hire former Rep. David McCurdy (D-Okla.) to run the group.

Democrats said they would base their call for an investigation of Oxley on a Feb. 15 report in The Washington Post that detailed how Oxley and his staff have leaned on the Investment Company Institute -- the mutual fund industry's main lobbying arm -- to oust Democratic lobbyist Julie Domenick. Six sources, Republicans among them, told The Post that two of Oxley's top aides told industry officials that a House investigation of the industry was linked to ICI's strong ties to Democrats. Oxley spokeswoman Peggy Peterson said, "Rumors of some quid pro quo are exactly that: rumors."

House rules prohibit congressmen and staff from using their positions to "coerce or induce another person . . . to provide any benefit, financial or otherwise." A 1999 ethics committee memo said members and staff are "prohibited from taking or withholding any official action on the basis of . . . partisan affiliation."

Oxley repeatedly has declined requests to comment on the ICI matter.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
So this guy breaks House rules and of course quid pro quo is a crime. I see a need for immediate impeachment. If republicans had ethics this man would be forced from office. They don't so he won't.


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Cost of war $95 billion again
Washington Post
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 26, 2003; Page A19

The Pentagon has sharply increased the estimated cost of a war in Iraq to as much as $95 billion for the combat phase and immediate aftermath, with huge reconstruction and occupation costs to come later, administration and congressional officials said yesterday.

The officials said Defense Department planners are pegging the cost of the expected war at $60 billion to $95 billion. The long-term expense of occupying and rebuilding Iraq, as well as providing postwar humanitarian relief to as many as 2 million refugees, would be added to those costs, resulting in a marked increase in the $300 billion budget deficit the administration had projected for each of the next two years.

Until now, administration officials have provided only vague estimates of the cost of a war with Iraq. President Bush's aides have said the only benchmark they could offer was the cost of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which was $61.1 billion excluding reconstruction costs, or $82.5 billion in current dollars.

Five weeks ago, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters that the administration was estimating the cost of a possible war at "under $50 billion." Now, several officials said they are working with an estimate of $80 billion just for the Pentagon, plus foreign aid and other expenses. The new figures provide a measure of vindication for Bush's former economic adviser, Lawrence B. Lindsey, who put the figure at $100 billion to $200 billion last fall, only to have other administration officials ridicule his estimate as excessive.

Bush met yesterday with Rumsfeld and the White House budget director, Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., to discuss the matter. A Republican official called the estimate "dollar-rattling by the Pentagon" and said Bush will work to reduce the number.

Officials said the Office of Management and Budget, which Daniels heads, has been working on war estimates for at least five months. The scenarios being considered include such specific provisions as rebuilding 2,500 Iraqi schools, if necessary. With diplomacy continuing, administration spokespeople said that Bush has made no final decisions and that any specific figures were speculative.

White House officials still expect a speedy war, with estimates ranging from one to six weeks. But with deployments nearing their crest and final planning underway, the expected tab has risen. One reason, administration officials said, is that other countries in the region are following Turkey's lead and demanding more U.S. aid to cover their possible war-related costs. One official said the United States will be asked to increase assistance to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan and perhaps other countries.

Military analysts said many of the costs are unknowable, such as possible decontamination requirements if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein launched chemical or biological weapons. "There could be massive, incalculable costs associated with Saddam lashing out against other countries, such as Israel, or pursuing a scorched-earth policy against his own people," said Daniel Goure, a vice president at the Lexington Institute, a defense-oriented think tank.

About 80 percent of the 1991 Gulf War's cost was borne by U.S. allies. Administration officials said they expect the United States to pay most of the cost of a war in Iraq, although they would expect other countries to help with building a democratic Iraq after a war.

A senior administration official said more than two dozen countries -- out of 191 U.N. member states -- have agreed to provide assistance, including troops, expertise, political support or donations to humanitarian groups.

Rumsfeld told Congress early this month that the Pentagon had spent $2.1 billion so far on the buildup.

Administration officials had considered sending a supplemental budget request to Congress before an invasion to cover such expenses as the shelters, food and medicine for refugees that have been shipped to four countries in the gulf region so the supplies would be ready for delivery right behind the military. Now, officials say that when hostilities began, Bush would send Congress a request that included both Pentagon costs and about one year of resources for humanitarian and reconstruction agencies.

Staff writers Vernon Loeb and Thomas E. Ricks contributed to this report.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
Bush the neo-liberal spend and borrow president should be raising taxes to pay for his war instead of borrowing money to give to the rich. But that's far too much for a republican (read: dunce) president to do. Deficits are future taxes so this year Bush is most likely giving us a $400 billion tax increase. Not bad for a dishonest day's work.


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US Threatens France
Independent.co.uk
By John Lichfield in Paris
26 February 2003

The US ambassador to Paris gave a blunt warning yesterday that Franco-American relations would plunge into the deep freeze if France used its UN veto to block a draft second resolution on Iraq.

Howard Leach told a French television interviewer: "I hope there won't be a veto, because a veto would be very unfriendly, and we would not look favourably on that."

Officially, France says that it has not yet considered whether or not to use its veto, as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Paris says it is still hopeful that a majority will support its alternative plan to strengthen inspections and extend them for four months.

But French sources unofficially accept that Paris is nearing a dangerous precipice. If most of the Council backs the US, France would face an impossible choice. If it used its veto, it would seem to be blocking the will of the
international community. The future of the Security Council the veto and the French role would be called into question.

The US, Britain and Spain tabled the second resolution before the Security Council on Monday, in effect beginning a two-week countdown to war. But France, backed by Russia, China and Germany, submitted a plan aimed at averting military action as long as the inspection process is going on.

Canada distributed a compromise plan yesterday in which Iraq would be given a 28 March deadline to comply with UN demands or face war. The Canadian paper said the plan aimed to bridge the gap between an "open-ended" and a "truncated inspection process", leaving "no doubt that war was a last resort".

French deputies will debate Iraq today. They are expected to endorse the government's position. However, some centre-right deputies want President Jacques Chirac to be more flexible.

Axel Poniatowksi, of Mr Chirac's UMP party and head of the assembly's Franco-American friendship group, said: "A veto would be particularly inappropriate ... It would not be in the interests of our country and would damage Franco-American relations for many years."

Diplomatic sources said the likely outcome ­ if the US assembled a pro-war majority ­ was that France would abstain and be outvoted. It would not use its veto but would not participate in the war.

Commentary:
Forget the merit or lack thereof of the US arguments. The idea that the US threatens an ale to do as we want or else so childish. I'm still waiting for some grown-ups to take over at this White House. These guys look like rank amateurs. Foreign readers, please understand not all Americans are as stupid as Bush. Some of us actually believe the will of the people has merit in France, Germany, Spain, Turkey and Britain. And some of us think your governments should listen to you.


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Consumer Confidence Falls to 9-Year Low
New York Times
February 25, 2003
By KENNETH N. GILPIN

Consumer confidence plunged in February to its lowest level in more than nine years, the Conference Board reported today, as concerns about a war with Iraq, rising energy prices and jobs took a toll on attitudes.

The consumer confidence index, a monthly measure, fell to a reading of 64 from 78.8 in January.

The drop is the second-biggest ever. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Conference Board's index fell by 17 points. The February reading was the third straight month in which consumers expressed waning optimism about their immediate and medium-term prospects.

Economists had expected the index to register a decline, but the magnitude of what the Conference Board's survey showed was much greater than forecasts. The consensus estimate was a drop in the index to 77.

The Conference Board surveys 5,000 households about general economic conditions, their employment prospects and their spending plans.

The Conference Board reading follows by two weeks a similarly grim assessment of consumer attitudes by the University of Michigan.

The news was not well received in the stock market.

Major market indexes, which have been under pressure due to uncertainty about a possible war, moved sharply lower after the confidence data were released.

By early afternoon, the Dow Jones industrial average, the Standard & Poor's 500 index and the Nasdaq composite index were all down by more than 1 percent.

Consumer attitudes could shift quickly if certain things, like a quick, successful prosecution of war in Iraq were to happen soon.

But analysts said the uncertainty, coupled with the income-crimping reality of dealing with high energy prices, has put the economy in jeopardy.

"The uncertainty factor is obviously bad news for confidence," said Richard Berner, chief U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley.

"And the energy shock we are experiencing is also bad news for the economy and spendable income."

Mr. Berner said that as a result of these factors, he has recently revised downward his growth forecast for the first half of the year to a level he called "stall speed."

"The economy is very vulnerable," he said.

Still, the Morgan Stanley analyst was unwilling to say the economy is on the verge of tipping back into recession.

"The odds of the economy rolling over are less than 50-50, and probably one in four," he said. "But none of us anticipated the perfect storm we have had in energy prices, with the price of crude oil, natural gas and heating oil all shooting up like this."

Last week, the Labor Department reported that retail gasoline prices shot up 6.6 percent in January, while heating oil costs jumped 8.6 percent.

So far this month, the average price of a gallon of gasoline has risen to its highest level since June of last year, according to data from the Department of Energy.

Mr. Berner said the increase in energy prices has been big enough to shave 1 percentage point off his growth forecast.

Currently, he anticipates the economy to expand at a 1.8 percent annual rate in the first quarter, but then slow to a 0.6 percent rate of increase in the second quarter.

Research has shown that consumer confidence readings correlate more closely with current spending than future spending. And thus far this quarter data show that consumers have been confident enough to make major purchases. Sales of new and existing homes remain strong, for example.

Still, the readings on what consumers expect in the near-term future were not reassuring: the percentage of those surveyed who expect their incomes to increase six months from now fell to their lowest level since the Conference Board began collecting the data in 1967.

And the component of the confidence index that tracks consumers' present situation fell to 61.6 in February, its lowest level since November 1993

Commentary:
So here we have it. Bush and his silly war are destroying the economy and he doesn't care. He wants his legacy to be a war-time president but the problem is there's no war to fight. So he picks this fight with Iraq, playground bully style. A small defenseless country that we've been disarming off and on for twelve years is now going to be attacked by us. Wow, are we strong or what? My dad is bigger than yours. So there.

If interest rates ever turn around we're in for serious trouble. The only reason we have growth in some areas like homes is because of these low rates. The Fed is still trying to keep us out of deflation and depression.


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Scalia Steps Down As Labor Dept. Lawyer
Kansas City.com
Posted on Mon, Jan. 06, 2003
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Eugene Scalia, the Labor Department's top lawyer whose nomination was fiercely opposed by labor unions, said Monday he stepping down after a year in the position.

Scalia cited "notable accomplishments," including resolution of the West Coast ports dispute and "internal changes that I hope will be of lasting value," in a statement Monday. "I have concluded, however, that now is an appropriate time for me to leave the department and take on other challenges."

President Bush tapped Scalia as labor solicitor in spring 2001, but Democrats who controlled the Senate blocked a vote on his nomination over union objections to his opposition of workplace safety regulations during the Clinton administration.

Bush elevated Scalia, the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to the position last January when Congress was in recess, bypassing the Senate confirmation process.

As a recess appointment, Scalia would have been forced to step down in November when Congress adjourned. Bush, however, named him acting solicitor with the intent of submitting his nomination again, this time to a Senate controlled by Republicans.

"Gene Scalia has made an invaluable contribution to this department and its efforts to help American workers," Secretary Elaine L. Chao said. "He has served his country well, and we will miss him greatly."

Scalia will depart Jan. 17. Howard Radzely, currently the deputy solicitor, will succeed Scalia as acting labor solicitor.

© Copyright 2002 Knight Ridder. All Rights Reserved Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of any of the contents of this service without the express written consent of Knight Ridder is expressly prohibited.

Commentary:
Another one bites the dust.


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FBI Retaliates Against Whistleblower *
An Impeachable Offense
Washington Post
By LARRY MARGASAK
The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 25, 2003; 10:01 AM

An FBI manager, John Roberts, was passed over for promotion after criticizing the bureau on national television - leaving the clear impression of retaliation, the Justice Department's internal watchdog says.

Inspector General Glenn Fine concluded Monday that Roberts' boss, assistant director Robert Jordan, exercised poor judgment in passing Roberts over for promotion and by leaving the impression that his subordinate could be investigated or asked to leave.

Roberts had obtained FBI approval to appear on CBS' "60 Minutes" program last October. He repeated his previous congressional testimony that rank-and-file FBI workers received harsher treatment than senior managers in a double standard of discipline.

The report said there was no evidence that FBI Director Robert Mueller had a role in Jordan's actions or statements, but found that Deputy Director Bruce Gebhardt sent an e-mail critical of Roberts.

"If we have internal problems then I would rather find solutions and fix them, rather than tell the world on `60 Minutes,'" he wrote. "In my opinion, Roberts brought discredit to the FBI badge, and the 27,000 employees of the FBI."

Jordan's decision to pass over Roberts as deputy assistant director in the Office of Professional Responsibility was made "in large part because of Roberts' statements on 60 Minutes, an action that left the clear appearance of retaliation," Fine's report found. The job went to someone with less experience than Roberts.

Jordan made statements that led Roberts to believe the inspector general would be asked to investigate the remarks on the show. The report concluded, however, that Jordan actually asked the inspector general to investigate Roberts' allegations that some internal disciplinary investigations "just disappeared, just vaporized."

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said Jordan would have no comment. He said the bureau "commends the inspector general and his staff for their thorough and independent investigation" and added the findings are under review by senior management.

Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, jointly released the findings and sharply criticized FBI management.

"Instead of facing up to the criticism and clear evidence of a double standard in discipline, top bureaucrats circled the wagons and shot the messenger," Grassley said.

Leahy said the FBI attitude toward Roberts was "a travesty to him and his family, as well as to the FBI, the Congress and the American people."

The report said Jordan showed poor judgment by holding a staff meeting shortly after the show, on a day that Roberts was on sick leave. Jordan may have left the impression that retaliation was planned, but "did not cross the line in what he said."

Most troubling, the inspector general found, was Jordan's failure to respond, when asked whether there had been discussion about removing people who had been in their jobs too long.

"Instead of saying he had no intention of forcing Roberts to leave ... Jordan said nothing," the report said.

© 2003 The Associated Press

Commentary:
Ashcroft is in charge of Justice and Justice oversees the FBI. Bush appointed Ashcroft and in that appointment he has two choices. Force Ashcroft to resign for allowing violations of whistleblower laws or force him to get his act together.

Since democrats and republicans agree on this why isn't something going after the two guys in charges, Ashcroft and Bush? The Congress is still full of cowards. I look forward to the day when congress has the balls to something more than press conferences. How about fixing the problem by betting rid of those who caused it?


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U.S. Deficit Hits $97B in First 4 Months
Washington Post
By JEANNINE AVERSA
The Associated Press
Monday, February 24, 2003; 3:34 PM

The government has run up a deficit of $97.6 billion in the first four months of the 2003 budget year, representing a turnaround from the corresponding period last year when a small surplus was produced.

The latest budget figures, released Monday by the Treasury Department, highlighted the government's deteriorating fiscal situation, where record high budget deficits are forecast this year and next.

The whopping deficit posted from the beginning of the 2003 fiscal year in October through January, the most recent month available, stood in stark contrast to the $8.4 billion surplus posted for that period last year.

Revenues are down by 8.1 percent this budget year from last year, to $615.3 billion, which reflects in part lower tax revenues from the sagging economy.

Individual income tax payments totaled $306.5 billion, a 9.4 percent drop from last year. Corporate tax payments plunged by 47.4 percent to $34.2 billion.

Spending for the first four months of the 2003 budget year totaled $712.9 billion, representing a 7.8 percent increase from the corresponding period in 2002.

The biggest spending categories so far this budget year were: programs of the Health and Human Services Department, including Medicare and Medicaid, $169.9 billion; Social Security, $168.4 billion; interest on the public debt, $131.4 billion; and military, $123.4 billion.

For the entire 2002 budget year, which ended Sept. 30, the government ran up a deficit of $157.8 billion, ending four consecutive years of surpluses.

The Bush administration is projecting record budget deficits of $304 billion this year and $307 billion next year. Those projections factor in President Bush's proposed economic stimulus package, which consists mostly of tax cuts, but does not include outlays related to possible war with Iraq.

The administration has blamed the return of deficits on lingering effects of the 2001 recession and the costs of waging war in Afghanistan and battling terrorism at home. Democrats say a major cause of the red ink has been Bush's 10-year $1.35 trillion tax cut and what they contend are bad economic policies being pursued by the administration.

In January, the government produced a surplus of $11.1 billion, compared with a $43.7 billion bounty registered in the same month last year.

Still, January's surplus - based on revenues of $187.9 billion and spending of $176.8 billion - was slightly larger than the $10 billion surplus both the Congressional Budget Office and private economists had predicted for the month.

On the Net: Treasury Department: http://www.ustreas.gov/

© 2003 The Associated Press

Commentary:
Did you read the article carefully? The interest on the debt is larger than spending on the military. Damn! That's what years of neglect have given us. Since the Reagan tax cut in the early 80's the US has created $5.4 trillion of debt ($700 billion so far under Bush alone). No other generation has created more debt than this one.

We have to start wondering how the next generation is going to pay for its military, its wars, its stimulus packages etc. They'll be spending every tax dollar paying for what this generation was too selfish to pay. We borrow money from Medicare, social security and from future generations (deficits), then give it the richest of the rich. Does this generation have no shame?


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