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KN4M 09-02-03

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Cleveland.com Voting Machine Owner Committed
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 2, 2003
      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Thanks,
      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist
      http://www.konformist.com

      Cleveland.com

      Voting Machine Owner Committed To Give Votes To Bush
      By Julie Carr Smyth
      Cleveland Plain Dealer Bureau
      8-30-03

      Columbus - The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in
      Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is:

      "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the
      president next year."

      The Aug. 14 letter from Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold
      Inc. - who has become active in the re-election effort of President
      Bush - prompted Democrats this week to question the propriety of
      allowing O'Dell's company to calculate votes in the 2004 presidential
      election.

      O'Dell attended a strategy pow-wow with wealthy Bush benefactors -
      known as Rangers and Pioneers - at the president's Crawford, Texas,
      ranch earlier this month. The next week, he penned invitations to a
      $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser to benefit the Ohio Republican Party's
      federal campaign fund - partially benefiting Bush - at his mansion in
      the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington.

      The letter went out the day before Ohio Secretary of State Ken
      Blackwell, also a Republican, was set to qualify Diebold as one of
      three firms eligible to sell upgraded electronic voting machines to
      Ohio counties in time for the 2004 election.

      Blackwell's announcement is still in limbo because of a court
      challenge over the fairness of the selection process by a
      disqualified bidder, Sequoia Voting Systems.

      In his invitation letter, O'Dell asked guests to consider donating or
      raising up to $10,000 each for the federal account that the state GOP
      will use to help Bush and other federal candidates - money that
      legislative Democratic leaders charged could come back to benefit
      Blackwell.

      They urged Blackwell to remove Diebold from the field of voting-
      machine companies eligible to sell to Ohio counties.

      This is the second such request in as many months. State Sen. Jeff
      Jacobson, a Dayton-area Republican, asked Blackwell in July to
      disqualify Diebold after security concerns arose over its equipment.

      "Ordinary Ohioans may infer that Blackwell's office is looking past
      Diebold's security issues because its CEO is seeking $10,000
      donations for Blackwell's party - donations that could be made with
      statewide elected officials right there in the same room," said
      Senate Democratic

      Diebold spokeswoman Michelle Griggy said O'Dell - who was unavailable
      to comment personally - has held fund-raisers in his home for many
      causes, including the Columbus Zoo, Op era Columbus, Catholic Social
      Services and Ohio State University.

      Ohio GOP spokesman Jason Mauk said the party approached O'Dell about
      hosting the event at his home, the historic Cotswold Manor, and not
      the other way around. Mauk said that under federal campaign finance
      rules, the party cannot use any money from its federal account for
      state- level candidates.

      "To think that Diebold is somehow tainted because they have a couple
      folks on their board who support the president is just unfair," Mauk
      said.

      Griggy said in an e-mail statement that Diebold could not comment on
      the political contributions of individual company employees.
      Blackwell said Diebold is not the only company with political
      connections - noting that lobbyists for voting-machine makers read
      like a who's who of Columbus' powerful and politically connected.

      "Let me put it to you this way: If there was one person uniquely
      involved in the political process, that might be troubling," he
      said. "But there's no one that hasn't used every legitimate avenue
      and bit of leverage that they could legally use to get their product
      looked at. Believe me, if there is a political lever to be pulled,
      all of them have pulled it."

      Blackwell said he stands by the process used for selecting voting
      machine vendors as fair, thorough and impartial.

      As of yesterday, however, that determination lay with Ohio Court of
      Claims Judge Fred Shoemaker.

      He heard closing arguments yesterday over whether Sequoia was
      unfairly eliminated by Blackwell midway through the final phase of
      negotiations. Shoemaker extended a temporary restraining order in the
      case for 14 days, but said he hopes to issue his opinion sooner than
      that.

      *****

      http://www.theage.com.au

      Harrison Ford blasts US Iraq policy
      August 27, 2003

      At a safe distance from his homeland, veteran Hollywood actor
      Harrison Ford launched a broadside at US policy on Iraq, his
      country's gun laws - and the film industry for producing "video
      games" for teenagers.

      "I'm very disturbed about the direction American foreign policy is
      going," said Ford, with US post-war casualties having exceeded those
      during the actual conflict.

      "I think something needs to be done to help alleviate the conditions
      which have created a disenfranchised and angry faction in the Middle
      East.

      "I don't think military intervention is the correct solution. I
      regret what we as a country have done so far," said Chicago-born
      Ford, 62.

      The veteran star is in Madrid to promote his latest release Hollywood
      Homicide, a story of two moonlighting Los Angeles policemen, and
      receive a commemorative pin from Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid,
      city rivals of Real, the club having tied up a sponsorship agreement
      with Colombia films.

      Twice-married Ford, who sidestepped questions about his relationship
      with actress Calista Flockhart, also slammed the film industry for in
      his view relying on hi-tech wizardry at the expense of thrilling
      plots - though he himself was involved in the early days of the trend
      with Star Wars in the 1970s.

      "I think American films right now are suffering from an excess of
      scale. Lots of movies we're seeing now are more akin to video games
      than stories about human life and relationships," said Ford, while
      noting "12- to 20-year-olds are maybe the largest economic force in
      the US movie business".

      Asked if his feelings were linked to his veteran status and a longing
      for the 'good old days', Ford countered: "I'm not a very nostalgic
      person - but I enjoy a good story".

      He admitted that many recent releases, without specifying any in
      particular, were "not my cup of tea".

      "It seems everybody is only going for the big hit, for the most
      return," said Ford.

      However, he used the opportunity to announce he will shortly be back
      in a big hit of his own in revealing that Indiana Jones IV is now
      scheduled to hit screens in 2005 - despite reports of problems with
      the script.

      "There is a script in preparation for Indiana Jones IV. It's come a
      long way. if we can get to be happy with the progress of the script
      we'll start shooting in the summer of 2004.

      "I'm delighted to get back to that character and work with (director)
      Steven Spielberg again. I'm delighted to revisit Indiana Jones."

      Although on screen Ford has starred in many action-packed, gun-toting
      thrillers - his Hollywood Homicide alongside 25-year-old Josh
      Hartnett is, in fact, more designed as a comedy - Ford abhors liberal
      US gun laws.

      "I'm very troubled by the proliferation of arms, at the fact so many
      people in the United States carry guns. It obviously contributes
      greatly to the crime problems we have. I'm sure gun laws should be
      strengthened in the United States. I just don't know the correct
      mechanism."

      *****

      Citing 'National Emergency', Bush Limits Pay Increases For Many
      Federal Workers
      By John King
      8-29-03

      CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- Citing the "national emergency" created by
      the September 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush Wednesday exercised
      his authority to limit the pay increase for many federal workers next
      January to 2 percent -- well below the 15 percent some employees
      would have been entitled to receive.

      The president exercised the same authority last year, as have other
      presidents in the past. In this case, Bush said the country could not
      afford to give civilian federal employees who are covered by what is
      known as the General Schedule the full raises they would get had he
      not invoked his authority.

      Those raises would have included a 2.7 percent increase to cover
      inflation as set by the government's Employment Cost Index.

      Some federal employees also are eligible for -- but not guaranteed --
      locality pay increases that are determined based on inflation and
      other factors, including housing costs. In some cases, the raises for
      employees covered by the locality system could have been as high as
      15.1 percent.

      In a letter to congressional leaders, the president said he was
      invoking his authority to implement an alternative pay plan if he
      came to the conclusion that allowing the full raises to go into
      effect would be inappropriate due to "national emergency or serious
      economic conditions affecting the general welfare."

      Explaining his decision to limit raises to a total of 2 percent, Bush
      said granting the full increases would "interfere with our nation's
      ability to pursue the war on terrorism."

      He said allowing the maximum raises to take effect would cost the
      Treasury Department about $13 billion in fiscal year 2004 -- $11
      billion more than his call for 2 percent overall raises.

      "Such cost increases would threaten our efforts against terrorism or
      force deep cuts in discretionary spending or federal employment to
      stay within the budget," the president's letter said. "Neither
      outcome is acceptable."

      *****

      Los Angeles Daily News

      Cheaters prospering
      Employees, residents defraud county for as much as $1 billion a year

      By Troy Anderson
      Staff Writer

      Sunday, August 24, 2003 - Los Angeles County government loses huge
      sums of money -- perhaps as much as $1 billion a year, according to
      one statistical model -- because of fraud, waste and corruption, and
      officials concede they are making scant progress against the problem.

      As massive budget cuts this year forced the county to release jail
      inmates early and close hospitals and health clinics, critics say the
      county could have avoided the deepest cuts by cracking down on fraud
      which ranges from welfare cheaters to county employees running
      private businesses or working a second job during office hours.

      "It sounds to me like they are just scratching the surface, given the
      size of the ($16.7 billion) county budget," said Jon Coupal,
      president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. "I think it's
      far more widespread than people realize."

      The county's 189 welfare fraud investigators detect between $14
      million to $19 million a year in overpayments and fraud.

      The county also has nine "fraud cops" who catch some of the county's
      85,000 employees and county contractors costing $3 million to $4
      million a year through various forms of fraud and theft -- from
      timecard forgery, kickbacks and taking bribes to stealing county
      funds and computers, nepotism and employees who drive county vehicles
      after hours.

      At the same time, the District Attorney's workers' compensation fraud
      division, with 14 prosecutors and investigators, collected $2.1
      million in restitution last year and arrested six county employees.

      Marion Romeis, chief investigator in the Auditor-Controller's special
      investigation office, said the $3 million to $4 million a year in
      fraud identified by her unit does not include "substantial" losses
      resulting from lost productivity, including serious time abuse,
      employees viewing pornography or gambling on the Internet and other
      abuses of county work hours and equipment.

      "When you look at nationwide figures, white-collar crime involves
      hundreds of billions of dollars," Romeis said. "Southern California
      is the white-collar crime capital of the world, and there is no
      reason to assume county government is any different than the private
      sector."

      Based on a survey last year of 663 certified fraud examiners in
      business and government, the
      Austin, Texas-based Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
      estimated that 6 percent of the nation's revenues were lost due to
      occupational fraud and abuse.

      John Warren, associate general counsel of the association, said that,
      based on the county's $16.7 billion budget, it was reasonable to
      assume the county loses $1 billion a year to fraud, waste and similar
      abuse.

      "I think it's fair to draw that conclusion," Warren said. "This is
      just an opinion of fraud examiners. But their opinion does carry
      weight because they are experts in fraud detection. I would say it's
      safe to assume if (county officials) are catching $3 (million) to $4
      million a year in fraud, there is a significantly larger amount that
      they are not catching."

      The association has 28,000 members, including certified fraud
      examiners, auditors, accountants, investigators, lawyers and loss-
      prevention specialists.

      County Auditor-Controller Tyler McCauley said his 400-plus employees,
      including 75 auditors, are not able to detect all the abuse and waste
      of county funds by contractors and employees.

      "A billion dollars appeared to me to be a high estimate," McCauley
      said. "However, we are aware, based on statistics, that the incidence
      of fraud and abuse is larger than we are able to identify, and we're
      doing our best effort through our hot line and other means to keep it
      down. ... We do know that we are not catching it all."

      The California Taxpayers Association recently reviewed published
      articles and government audits, and the group's president said that
      the review revealed $10 billion in waste, fraud, questionable
      spending and contract overruns in schools and local and state
      government agencies statewide.
      CTA chief Larry McCarthy said the county should probably have more
      than nine fraud investigators.

      "Los Angeles County and other agencies are distinguishing themselves
      with high levels of fraud and misspending," McCarthy said. "The
      county and other public agencies would do well to strategically focus
      on stopping this assault on taxpayers.

      "Sound financial management demands that the county work to stop the
      rip-off before it takes place. Managers must tighten up the processes
      and improve financial management so that tax dollars are used
      efficiently to fund essential services. Finding the fraud after it
      happens is a fall-back objective after failing to get the dollars
      where they are intended and needed."

      Luther Evans, director of the Welfare Fraud Prevention and
      Investigations Section at the county Department of Public Social
      Services, said his 189 investigators detected about $15 million in
      welfare and food-stamp overpayments in the fiscal year that ended
      June 30, down from $19.3 million in the previous year.

      Romeis' team of nine "fraud cops" opened 1,089 investigations since
      2000 based on tips to the county's fraud hot line -- (800) 544-6861 --
      or referrals from county departments.
      "It's anything you can think of -- improper promotions, misuse of
      equipment, computer thefts, contractor overbillings and theft,
      copyright violations and identity theft," Romeis said.

      Still, only seven employees were sentenced to jail or prison and six
      placed on probation since 2000. In addition, 37 employees were
      dismissed, 22 resigned, 24 were suspended, 8 transferred, 11
      reprimanded or given written warnings and 34 were counseled.

      Romeis said a half-dozen cases involving county employees and
      contractors were recently referred for prosecution.

      "Since its inception, we have detected millions of dollars in
      overpayments in welfare and other types of fraud," said Supervisor
      Michael D. Antonovich, who sponsored the motion creating the hot
      line. "When you consider the large number of employees we have and
      the total number that have been exposed, it's a small element that
      commit fraud.

      "I would say that's a credit to our work force, but we need to do a
      better analysis of those who were apprehended to ensure our hiring
      practices only get the best employees who are honest, with integrity
      and good character."
      ---
      Troy Anderson can be reached at (213) 974-8985 and
      troy.anderson@....

      *****

      The Great Oil Gouge -
      Burning Up That Tax Rebate
      By David Lindorff
      CounterPunch.org
      8-27-03

      Remember that $400 family credit that you got from the IRS (assuming
      you weren't one of those 8 million poor families that the Republicans
      and the president decided didn't deserve a tax rebate)?

      Well, if your family has the typical two cars and two drivers, and
      you each drive the typical 15,000 miles a year and get the typical 20
      miles per gallon, that windfall will be more than eaten up by New
      Years by what might be called the Bush/Cheney oil price surcharge,
      which has seen gas prices soar in recent weeks to the high they
      reached last March on the eve of the war against Iraq. And that's not
      counting the even more additional money you'll be forking over for
      heating oil this winter, which for a typical home in the Northeast or
      Midwest, could be $450-500 (not to mention your higher electric
      bills, since a lot of U.S. electricity is generated by oil-fired
      plants, besides which coal and natural gas prices rise in tandem with
      oil prices).

      Think back a bit to when oil prices were surging last March. The oil
      industry at the time blamed those record high prices on the unusually
      cold winter, which had depleted crude oil reserves, and on concern
      over threats to the Middle Eastern oil supply as a result of the
      coming war--concerns which caused oil traders to bid up the per-
      barrel price of crude oil.

      Of course, the war never did produce any delays in Middle Eastern oil
      deliveries, and in fact, some Iraqi oil is now being added to the
      world market, which should be bringing prices down, not up. And there
      certainly hasn't been any unusual demand placed upon supplies.

      So why the record increase, which the Lundberg Survey says over the
      past two weeks has been the largest price hike on record since the
      outfit began keeping records 50 years ago? According to the oil
      industry, the problem this time was temporary refinery shutdowns
      caused by the East Coast blackout, and by a break in a pipeline in
      Arizona.

      Does anyone really believe this malarky? The blackout lasted a couple
      of days, and was not nationwide. Indeed, it was in an area--the
      Northeast--not particularly known as a center of oil drilling and
      refining. There was no blackout in California, or in Texas, or even
      in the Southeast--all areas with far more refinery activity. And as
      for that pipeline in Arizona, it is not that crucial to U.S. oil
      supplies except in Arizona and New Mexico.

      What's really going on here is collusive price gouging by an industry
      with a history of such behavior, and one that in this current
      political environment has become almost synonymous with the national
      government.

      In recent years, the number of oil firms in the country, and the
      world, has been dramatically reduced, with the mergers of Exxon and
      Mobil, of Amoco and Arco and British Petroleum, and of Texaco and
      Chevron. That means a lot fewer companies competing.

      In addition, the oil industry long ago learned how to collude on
      pricing without having to technically violate the anti-trust laws by
      sitting together in a single room or chatting on a single phone hook-
      up. Because these companies share refineries, share tank farm storage
      facilities, and share pipelines, it's easy for each company to know
      all the details of its "competitors'" production plans, reserves,
      distribution and pricing. There are few if any secrets among them.
      That's about all you need to have collusion in an industry where the
      main product is a commodity, priced the same the world over. And
      collusion clearly works far better in this industry's interest than
      competition.

      Everyone has seen how collusion works at the retail level. In my own
      community, I have three gas stations all within a block of each other-
      -an Exxon station, a Sunoco station and a Texaco station. Every time
      one garage raises its price by a penny, the other two follow suit
      with a speed that makes your head spin. Rarely are any of them out of
      line by more than a penny.

      The other thing you've probably noticed is that whenever some
      incident happens in the news that might logically be construed as
      crimping oil production or delivery--say a pipeline break or a
      blackout--prices at the retail pumps jump.

      Immediately.

      Yet the gas in the tanks underground was put there days ago, and was
      refined weeks, or even months ago.

      Notice what happens when the pipeline gets fixed or the lights come
      back on though.

      Did the pump price drop right back down?

      No. That takes weeks, if it happens at all.

      That is not the behavior of a competitive market.

      And at the producer level, the situation is even more corrupt and non-
      competitive.

      We Americans, who live and die by the automobile and by the oil that
      fuels it, are quick to condemn the slightest increase in our taxes
      (and to praise any politician who reduces our tax bill by even a tiny
      amount). Yet so indoctrinated are we with "free market" ideology,
      that we accept without a word of protest any increase in our fuel
      prices as a natural disaster over which we have no power or say.

      Not that this Administration, whose key members almost all hail from
      the oil patch, would ever order an anti-trust investigation of the
      oil industry, even if we did start rebelling.

      - Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into
      the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A collection of Lindorff's
      stories can be found here: http://www.nwuphilly.org/dave.html
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