Friday, July 30, 2010

More Unaccountable Obama Czars

by Phyllis Schlafly
July 30, 2010

Barack Obama has appointed another Czar from Chicago: the new Food Czar Sam Kass. Officially, he is labeled Senior Policy Adviser for Healthy Food Initiatives, but he's joining the list of more than 35 Czars given broad and unaccountable power over our lives, habits and spending.

Everybody laughed when Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) asked Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan if it would be constitutional for Congress to order Americans "to eat three vegetables and three fruits every day." Kagan declined to give a straightforward answer, maybe because she knew that exactly that type of dictatorial mandate is coming soon, in both Obamacare and a ukase issued by the new Food Czar.
Far scarier is Obama's appointment of his new Health Czar, Donald Berwick, to be the top administrator over Medicare and Medicaid. The life-and-death powers he will exercise, the huge sums of taxpayers' money he will direct, and the dishonest way Obama evaded the Senate's constitutional right to interrogate and reject him, make this the most shocking of all Obama's appointments.
Obama told Joe the Plumber that he wanted to redistribute the wealth. We didn't realize what else Obama planned to redistribute.
Czar Berwick is on record as saying, "Excellent health care is by definition redistributional." He used this favorite Obama term in the context of praising Britain's socialized medicine system as "a global treasure" and "I love it."
Coincidentally with the announcement of Berwick's appointment, Britain's major newspaper The Sunday Telegraph uncovered widespread cuts in British health care that were adopted in secret and buried in obscure appendices and lengthy policy documents. These include restrictions on common operations such as hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery, the closure of many nursing homes for the elderly, and a reduction in hospital beds and staff.
Berwick admits that redistributing health care means rationing health care, which is why he has been called a one-man Death Panel. Last year he admitted in an interview, "The decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open."
Note the imperial "we." That's the way czars talk.
Like a typical arrogant totalitarian socialist, Berwick assumes that smart bureaucrats should make life-and-death decisions and spend the money belonging to those they disdain as dumb, ordinary citizens. Berwick said, "I cannot believe that the individual health care consumer can enforce through choice the proper configurations of a system as massive and complex as health care. That is for leaders to do."
Berwick even promises he will train young doctors and nurses to understand "the risks of too great an emphasis on individual autonomy." To eliminate individual health-care choices, Berwick's bureaucracy will have a budget that is larger than the Defense Department and is 4 percent of our GDP.
Berwick's paper trail of "baggage" is why Obama gave him a recess appointment. He wanted to avoid the Senate's advice-and-consent power altogether and keep Berwick's damaging statements out of the news.
The term czar has come to mean a presidential crony appointee who was never vetted by the Senate and who exercises sweeping regulatory authority without congressional oversight. But let's not lose sight of the vastly increased regulations issued by established agencies.

Obamacare's 2000-plus pages created about 160 new agencies and boards with regulatory power. The Department of Health and Human Services just published 864 pages of regulations to govern electronic medical records.
President Obama just signed the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. Its implementation will require at least 243 new regulations by 11 federal agencies, several of which do not yet exist.
Obama's Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, brags that under his leadership, the Department of Energy (DOE) has "accelerated the pace" of regulation and "placed new resources and emphasis behind the enforcement" of new regulations which "increase the stringency" of "minimum conservation standards" for all sorts of home appliances. Look out! The energy police are invading our homes.
In April, DOE issued a new rule that gas fireplace logs cannot use more than 9,000 BTUs per hour, which is about one-tenth of what current gas logs require. This new rule will wipe out the gas fireplace industry, and the gas log in my home would become illegal.
In May, DOE effectively banned showerheads with multiple nozzles by ruling that all nozzles combined will be permitted to deliver no more than an anemic 2.5 gallons per minute. This rule will destroy upscale showers and hand-held sprays used by the disabled and elderly, like the one I use.
Obama wasn't kidding when he promised to "fundamentally transform the United States." He has figured out how to bypass Congress and rule us by czars and a tsunami of regulations.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Obama's Terror Pal Rashid Khalidi Calls for Funding for Next Jihad War Convoy Flotilla, "Audacity of Hope"

“Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, reportedly has signed an appeal for funds to outfit a ship–to be named The Audacity of Hopethat will challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza in September or October. Khalidi and his wife (who also signed the appeal) became friends and occasional dinner companions of Barack Obama when Khalidi was on the faculty of the University of Chicago. Khalidi also contributed to the education of Obama on issues relating to the Middle East. Just before Khalidi moved to Columbia, at a dinner honoring Khalidi, Obama saluted the rabidly anti-Israel professor for “offer[ing] constant reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases.”
Obama and Rashid Khalidi go way back. Obama babysat Khalidi's kids, Khalidi did a fund-raiser for Obama in 2001, and Obama sat on the board of the Woods Foundation with terrorist Bill Ayers and gave Khalidi 40,000 and 30,000 grants respectively:
For those of you unfamiliar with Rhashid Khalidi. Go here.
     •Professor of Middle East Studies at Columbia University
     •Former PLO operative
     •Has justified as legitimate Palestinian “resistance” that results in death of armed Israelis
     •Rejects the possibility of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (from Atlas, March 2008)

Obama attended a dinner for Khalid. The LA Times has the tape. Now more than ever, under FIOA, the LA Times must release the tape of Obama speaking and toasting Rashid Khalidi.Here is an account from a journalist who saw the tape:
Saw a clip from the tape. Reason we can't release it is because statements Obama said to rile audience up during toast. He congratulates Khalidi for his work saying "Israel has no God-given right to occupy Palestine" plus there's been "genocide against the Palestinian people by Israelis."
Here is an excerpt on Khalid from my book which launched today: Buy it , there's more.
Rashid Khalidi
In 2005, Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi taught a fifteen-week course on Middle Eastern politics at Columbia’s Middle East Institute. The New York Sun reported that the Saudis “funneled tens of thousands of dollars” into the institute’s programs. However, New York City’s schools chancellor, Joel Klein removed Khalidi from the program after it came to light that Khalidi had justified jihad terror attacks against Israeli civilians: “Killing civilians is a war crime, whoever does it. But resistance to occupation is legitimate in international law.” Martin Kramer, a trenchant critic of the anti-Israel and pro-jihad bias that prevails in American academia, explained: “If you’re a Saudi, it’s very convenient for Rashid Khalidi to claim that the source of America’s problems in the region is not their special relationship with Saudi Arabia, but their special relationship with Israel. All he has to do is say it’s Palestine, stupid.”
That wasn’t all. Reports indicate that Khalidi was a director of WAFA, the official press agency of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in Beirut from 1976 to 1982. According to journalist Aaron Klein, “Rashid Khalidi at times has denied working directly for the PLO but Palestinian diplomatic sources in Ramallah told WND he indeed worked on behalf of WAFA. Khalidi also advised the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Conference in 1991.” What’s more, “during documented speeches and public events, Khalidi has called Israel an ‘apartheid system in creation’ and a destructive ‘racist’ state. He has multiple times expressed support for Palestinian terror, calling suicide bombings response to ‘Israeli aggression.’ He dedicated his 1986 book, ‘Under Siege,’ to ‘those who gave their lives ... in defense of the cause of Palestine and independence of Lebanon.’ Critics assailed the book as excusing Palestinian terrorism.”
In 2001 and 2002, the fiercely anti-Israeli Arab American Action Network (AAAN), headed by Khalidi’s wife Mona, received $110,000 in grants from the Woods Fund, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization. One of the members of the Woods Fund board of directors at that time was Barack Obama, Khalidi’s former colleague back in the 1990s, when they both taught at the University of Chicago. Like Ayers, Khalidi also took a financial interest in Obama’s political career: in 2000, he held a fundraiser for Obama’s unsuccessful run for a seat in the House of Representatives. In October 2008, the Los Angeles Times obtained a video of a 2003 AAAN dinner attended by Obama, Ayers, Dohrn, and Khalidi. The Times refused to release the video, leading to angry accusations of journalistic bias from the McCain campaign, since it was widely rumored that the video showed Obama making or at very least assenting to anti-Israel statements.
One thing that the Times did reveal that Obama spoke warmly at the banquet about his numerous conversations with Rashid and Mona Khalidi, saying that they had served for him as “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It’s for that reason that I’m hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation – a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid’s dinner table,” but on the big stage of “this entire world.”
Times reporter Peter Wallsten noted that “the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor’s going-away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say. Their belief is not drawn from Obama’s speeches or campaign literature, but from comments that some say Obama made in private and from his association with the Palestinian American community in his hometown of Chicago, including his presence at events where anger at Israeli and U.S. Middle East policy was freely expressed.” One of those was the 2003 AAAN dinner, at which “a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, ‘then you will never see a day of peace.’” Another speaker compared the “Zionist settlers on the West Bank” – to whom Obama as president has been notoriously hostile – to Osama bin Laden. Obama is not recorded as having contradicted these remarks, although he did, according to Wallsten, adopt “a different tone in his comments and called for finding common ground.”
In any case, whatever was said on this notorious video, no smoking-gun videotape was really necessary to establish Obama’s close ties to haters of Israel. The evidence was already there in abundance.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Shirley Sherrod's Disappearing Act: Not So Fast - The Background You Haven't Seen

By: Tom Blumer
Special to The Examiner
07/20/10 1:52 PM EDT

My oh my, that happened quickly. Perhaps too quickly.

Until yesterday, Shirley Sherrod was Georgia Director of Rural Development for the USDA. Earlier in the day at Big Government, Andrew Breitbart put up a video that exposed Ms. Sherrod as someone all too willing to discriminate based on race.

Within hours of the video's release, USDA Director Tom Vilsack announced Sherrod's resignation, and in the process issued an exceptionally strong condemnation ("We are appalled by her actions ... Her actions were shameful ... she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man").

The NAACP, at whose Freedom Fund Banquet Sherrod spoke of her discriminatory posture, and at which the audience seemed to indicate approval of her outlook, followed a short time later, virtually echoing Vilsack.

So I guess we're supposed to forget about Shirley Sherrod from this point forward.

Not just yet. Luckily, she's not going away quietly, and is complaining about Fox News and the Tea Party causing her dismissal. Keep it up, ma’am, because you and the USDA both deserve further scrutiny.

Ms. Sherrod's previous background, the circumstances surrounding her hiring, and the USDA's agenda may all play a part in explaining her sudden departure from the agency. These matters have not received much scrutiny to this point.

An announcement of Ms. Sherrod's July 2009 appointment to her USDA position at gives off quite a few clues:

RDLN Graduate and Board Vice Chair Shirley Sherrod was appointed Georgia Director for Rural Development by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on July 25. Only days earlier, she learned that New Communities, a group she founded with her husband and other families (see below) has won a thirteen million dollar settlement in the minority farmers law suit Pigford vs Vilsack.


The news that follows at the link, which appears to pre-date the announcement of Ms. Sherrod's appointment, provides further details:

Minority Farm Settlement
Justice Achieved - Congratulations to Shirley and Charles Sherrod!

We have wonderful news regarding the case of New Communities, Inc., the land trust that Shirley and Charles Sherrod established, with other black farm families in the 1960's. At the time, with holdings of almost 6,000 acres, this was the largest tract of black-owned land in the country.

... Over the years, USDA refused to provide loans for farming or irrigation and would not allow New Communities to restructure its loans. Gradually, the group had to fight just to hold on to the land and finally had to wind down operations.

... The cash (settlement) award acknowledges racial discrimination on the part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the years 1981-85. ... New Communities is due to receive approximately $13 million ($8,247,560 for loss of land and $4,241,602 for loss of income; plus $150,000 each to Shirley and Charles for pain and suffering). There may also be an unspecified amount in forgiveness of debt. This is the largest award so far in the minority farmers law suit (Pigford vs Vilsack).

The Pigford matter goes back a long way, and to say the least has a checkered history, as this May 27, 2010 item at Agri-Pulse demonstrates (bolds are mine):

As part of a April 14, 1999 class action case settlement, commonly known as the Pigford case, U.S. taxpayers have already provided over $1 billion in cash, non-credit awards and debt relief to almost 16,000 black farmers who claimed that they were discriminated against by USDA officials as they “farmed or attempted to farm.” In addition, USDA’s Farm Service Agency spent over $166 million on salaries and expenses on this case from 1999-2009, according to agency records.

Members of Congress may approve another $1.15 billion this week to settle cases from what some estimate may be an additional 80,000 African-Americans who have also claimed to have been discriminated against by USDA staff.

Settling this case is clearly a priority for the White House and USDA
. Secretary Vilsack described the funding agreement reached between the Administration and advocates for black farmers early this year as “an important milestone in putting these discriminatory claims behind us for good and in achieving finality for this group of farmers with longstanding grievances."

However, confronted with the skyrocketing federal deficit, more officials are taking a critical look at the billion dollars spent thus far and wondering when these discrimination cases will ever end. Already, the number of people who have been paid and are still seeking payment will likely exceed the 26,785 black farmers who were considered to even be operating back in 1997, according to USDA. That’s the year the case initially began as Pigford v. (then Agriculture Secretary) Glickman and sources predicted that, at most, 3,000 might qualify.

At least one source who is extremely familiar with the issue and who asked to remain anonymous because of potential retribution, says there are a number of legitimate cases who have long been denied their payments and will benefit from the additional funding.  But many more appear to have been solicited in an attempt to “game” the Pigford system.

Here are just a few questions about Ms. Sherrod that deserve answers:

•Was Ms. Sherrod's USDA appointment an unspoken condition of her organization's settlement?

•How much "debt forgiveness" is involved in USDA's settlement with New Communities?

•Why were the Sherrods so deserving of a combined $300,000 in "pain and suffering" payments -- amounts that far exceed the average payout thus far to everyone else? ($1.15 billion divided by 16,000 is about $72,000)?

•Given that New Communities wound down its operations so long ago (it appears that this occurred sometime during the late 1980s), what is really being done with that $13 million in settlement money?

Here are a few bigger-picture questions:

•Did Shirley Sherrod resign so quickly because the circumstances of her hiring and the lawsuit settlement with her organization that preceded it might expose some unpleasant truths about her possible and possibly sanctioned conflicts of interest?

•Is USDA worried about the exposure of possible waste, fraud, and abuse in its handling of Pigford?

•Did USDA also dispatch Sherrod hastily because her continued presence, even for another day, might have gotten in the way of settling Pigford matters quickly?

The media and the blogosphere shouldn't be so quick to forget about Shirley Sherrod.

This Background May Give You Insight into the Whole Shirley Sherrod Story - Her Background

July 21, 2010
Forty Acres & a Mule -- Sherrod Style?
Rosslyn Smith

Shirley Sherrod's quick dismissal from the Obama administration may have had less to do with her comments on race before the NAACP than her long involvement in the aptly named Pigford case, a class action against the US government on behalf of black farmers alleging that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had discriminated against black farmers during the period from 1983 through 1997. According to Wikipedia:

The plaintiffs settled with the government in 1999. Under the consent decree, all African American farmers would be paid a "virtually automatic" US$50,000 plus granted certain loan forgiveness and tax offsets. This process was called "Track A".[2]

Alternatively, affected farmers could follow the "Track B" process, seeking a larger payment by presenting a greater amount of evidence - the legal standard in this case was to have a preponderance of evidence along with evidence of greater damages....

At the time the case was settled, it was estimated there would be in the area of 2,000 to 3,000 claims. As with most estimates involving government handouts that number was woefully short of the mark. Again, according to Wikipedia:

22,505 "Track A" applications were heard and decided upon, of which 13,348 (59%) were approved. US$995 million had been disbursed or credited to the "Track A" applicants as of January 2009, including US$760 million disbursed as US$50,000 cash awards. Fewer than 200 farmers opted for the "Track B" process.

Beyond those applications that were heard and decided upon, about 70,000 petitions were filed late and were not allowed to proceed. Some have argued that the notice program was defective, and others blamed the farmers' attorneys for "the inadequate notice and overall mismanagement of the settlement agreement." A provision in the 2008 farm bill essentially allowed a re-hearing in civil court for any claimant whose claim had been denied without a decision that had been based on its merits

In other words, according to the number of total claims filed not only exceeded the original estimate by almost 40 to 50 times, it is close to four times the USDA's estimate of 26,785 total black owned farms in 1977! One reason for this is that the settlement applied to farmers and those who "attempted to farm" and did not receive assistance from the USDA. Getting the latest round of Pigford cases from the 2008 farm bill settled is said to be a high priority for the Obama administration.

So where does Sherrod come into this picture? In a special to the Washington Examiner, Tom Blumer explains that Sherrod and the group she formed along with family members and others, New Communities. Inc. received the largest single settlement under Pigford.

... New Communities is due to receive approximately $13 million ($8,247,560 for loss of land and $4,241,602 for loss of income; plus $150,000 each to Shirley and Charles for pain and suffering). There may also be an unspecified amount in forgiveness of debt. This is the largest award so far in the minority farmers law suit (Pigford vs Vilsack).

What makes this even more interesting to me is that Charles appears to be Charles Sherrod, who was a big player in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the early 1960s. The SNCC was the political womb that nurtured the Black Power movement and the Black Panthers before it faded away.

Blumer has some questions about this settlement and about Sherrod's rapid departure from the USDA

•Was Ms. Sherrod's USDA appointment an unspoken condition of her organization's settlement?

•How much "debt forgiveness" is involved in USDA's settlement with New Communities?

•Why were the Sherrods so deserving of a combined $300,000 in "pain and suffering" payments -- amounts that far exceed the average payout thus far to everyone else? ($1.15 billion divided by 16,000 is about $72,000)?

•Given that New Communities wound down its operations so long ago (it appears that this occurred sometime during the late 1980s), what is really being done with that $13 million in settlement money?

Here are a few bigger-picture questions:

•Did Shirley Sherrod resign so quickly because the circumstances of her hiring and the lawsuit settlement with her organization that preceded it might expose some unpleasant truths about her possible and possibly sanctioned conflicts of interest?

•Is USDA worried about the exposure of possible waste, fraud, and abuse in its handling of Pigford?

•Did USDA also dispatch Sherrod hastily because her continued presence, even for another day, might have gotten in the way of settling Pigford matters quickly?

I second his conclusion that the media and bloggers shouldn't be so quick to dismiss Shirley Sherrod.

Let me start by adding another question to the list. In her position at not for profit, Rural Development Leadership Network, a network of activists and community builder, was Sherrod involved in any way in encouraging people to submit fraudulent claims under Pigford? Did she put black people who owned rural land in touch with lawyers who would file the paperwork claiming attempts to farm had been prevented by the non cooperation of the local USDA?

I ask because there are a multitude of small parcels of non productive rural land all across the south, land unsuitable for mechanized agriculture that was once owned by subsistence farmers, black and white alike. Many of these parcels continue to be owned by family members who moved elsewhere out of sentimental reasons. The property taxes and other carrying costs are cheap and often ancestors are buried there in family plots. A drive on any country road in the South may turn up several carefully maintained postage stamp sized family cemeteries. As I read Blumer, I wondered how many of the owners claimed they had attempted to farm just such acreage to score a fast $50,000 from Uncle Sam?

Shirley Sherrod - the REST of the Story

The NAACP possessed the entire video of Ms. Sherrod's speech from day one.  Click here to view the article directly.  I will post below:

July 20, 2010
12:16 pm

NAACP Plans To Investigate Its Own

Organization Agrees With Sherrod Resignation, Will Investigate 'Disturbing' Reactions Of Audience, NAACP Officials

Last Tuesday, the NAACP passed a resolution condemning racism in the Tea Party movement. The organization's delegates called on Tea Party leaders to "repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches."

Tea Party members and supporters saw the resolution as a condemnation of the group itself, which calls for fiscal responsibility, restrictions on governmental power, and backs political candidates who claim the same.

The NAACP's action caught the attention of Andrew Breitbart of, who said the controversy was "absolutely manufactured for political gain," in a summer "in which the economy is the number one issue affecting blacks and whites in this country. This country can ill afford the schism of race to be exploited the way [he is] based upon the false premise of the Tea Party being racist."
He also claimed to possess recorded evidence of racism from the NAACP.

On Monday, Breitbart posted a video of a speech by Shirley Sherrod, USDA Rural Development Georgia State Director, delivered at the NAACP's 20th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet. The video shows Sherrod speaking of racial considerations being a factor for how much help she would give.
Sherrod tendered her resignation Monday.

"The first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm, he took a long time talking but he was trying to show me he was superior to me. I know what he was doing, but he had come to me for help. What he didn't know while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me was, I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him," Sherrod said.

"I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So I didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough," Sherrod said. "So that when he, I assumed the Department of Agriculture had sent him to me, either that or the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and he needed to go back and report that I did try to help him."

In the video, Sherrod also spoke of referring the white farmer to a white lawyer, thinking the latter would be more sympathetic because of race. "So I took him to a white lawyer that had attended some of training that we had provided because Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farm. So I figured if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him."

NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous issued the following statement Monday:
"Since our founding in 1909, the NAACP has been a multi-racial, multi-faith organization that-- while generally rooted in African American communities-- fights to end racial discrimination against all Americans.

We concur with US Agriculture Secretary Vilsack in accepting the resignation of Shirley Sherrod for her remarks at a local NAACP Freedom Fund banquet.

Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race.

We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.

Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man.

The reaction from many in the audience is disturbing. We will be looking into the behavior of NAACP representatives at this local event and take any appropriate action.

We thank those who brought this to our national office's attention, as there are hundreds of local fundraising dinners each year.

Sherrod's behavior is even more intolerable in light of the US Department of Agriculture's well documented history of denying opportunities to African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American farmers, as well as female farmers of all races. Currently, justice for many of these farmers is being held up by Congress. We would hope all who share our outrage at Sherrod's statements would join us in pushing for these cases to be remedied.
Since NAACP had the whole tape, why would they release this article condemning Sherrod's speech, supporting the resignation?

Now, they have turned 180 degrees and posted a new statement on her resignation:

July 20, 2010
[no time listed]

(BALTIMORE, MD) - NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous issued the following statement today after a careful investigation into the presentation of former USDA Official Shirley Sherrod.

"The NAACP has a zero tolerance policy against racial discrimination, whether practiced by blacks, whites, or any other group.

The NAACP also has long championed and embraced transformation by people who have moved beyond racial bias. Most notably, we have done so for late Alabama Governor George Wallace and late US Senator Robert Byrd -- each a man who had associated with and supported white supremacists and their cause before embracing civil rights for all.

With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA Official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias [they had had the whole tape since March, 2010!].

Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans. I apologized to Ms. Sherrod, clearly a commited and selfless public servant, who had been unfairly maligned.

The fact is Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech. They personally credit her with helping to save their family farm.

Moreover, this incident and the lesson it prompted occurred more that 20 years before she went to work for USDA.

Finally, she was sharing this account as part of a story of transformation and redemption. In the full video, Ms.Sherrod says she realized that the dislocation of farmers is about “haves and have nots.” "It’s not just about black people, it’s about poor people," says Sherrod in the speech. “We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn’t matter.”

This is a teachable moment, for activists and for journalists.

Most Americans agree that racism has no place in American Society. We also believe that civil and human rights have to be measured by a single yardstick.

The NAACP has demonstrated its commitment to live by that standard.

The Tea Party Federation took a step in that direction when it expelled the Tea Party Express over the weekend. Unfortunately, we have yet to hear from other leaders in the Tea Party movement like Dick Armey and Sarah Palin, who have been virtually silent on the “internal bigotry” issue.

Next time we are confronted by a racial controversy broken by Fox News or their allies in the Tea Party like Mr. Breitbart, we will consider the source and be more deliberate in responding. The tape of Ms. Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP banquet was deliberately edited to create a false impression of racial bias, and to create a controversy where none existed [check out the tape below]. This just shows the lengths to which extremist elements will go to discredit legitimate opposition.

According to the USDA, Sherrod’s statements prompted her dismissal. While we understand why Secretary Vilsack believes this false controversy will impede her ability to function in the role, we urge him to reconsider.

Finally, we hope this incident will heighten Congress’s urgency in dealing with the well documented findings of discrimination toward black, Latino, Asian American and Native American farmers, as well as female farmers of all races."

Video: Watch the Shirley Sherrod Speech in Full

The video of Shirley Sherrod released by Andrew Brietbart's Big Government Blog on July 19 didn't tell the full story. It was selectively edited to cast her in a negative light. Here is the video, shot by the local NAACP unit that hosted Ms. Sherrod. Watch the video, and judge for yourself.

[If you don't want to see the whole video, look at remarks she made at 22:00 and forward, 24:00 and forward, and 35:00].

The two times indicated above are referenced in this July 22, 2010 article.

More quotes from Shirley Sherrod’s famous NAACP speech which you can watch in full here and make your own judgment. Do you want Shirley Sherrod in charge of the USDA outreach position that would deal with discrimination matters?

The people with money, the elites decided, hey, we need to do something here to divide them [the white and black servants] so that’s where they made black people servants for life. That’s when they put laws in place forbidding them to marry each other. That’s when they created the racism that we know of today.

They did it to keep us divided. And here we are over 400 years later and it is still working.

What we need to do is get that out of our heads. There is no difference between us.
The only difference is that the folks with money wanna stay in power and whether it is health care or something else they would do whatever they need to do to keep that power. It is always about money, Yo’al…

Somehow we got to make the other side of town to work with us. We’ve got to make our communities what they need to be and our young people, I am not picking on you, but you all got to step up to the plate. You are capable of being very, very smart people. You are capable of being all those doctors and lawyers. You are capable of running your own business.

This is one of the things in the position I am in, one of the things that really hurts; one of the programs that we have with the most money in it is for business and industry. And I am sitting up there and I am signing all forms… 6 million, 3 million, 2 million but who is it going to? Not one so far. We are approaching 80 million dollars since October 1, but not 1 dime to a black business.
Not one.

People from the other side of town?

The Obama 2008 Speech on Race gives us explanation to Shirley Sherrod’s remarks:

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination.

That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings….

… But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

So the Department of Agriculture will hire the past – Shirley Sherrod – a woman deeply wounded from the darkest past of racism (her father was killed by a white man and the justice was never served for her and her dad) for outreach on discrimination matters.

The bright side is Shirley Sherrod believes in change. Unfortunately it is a kind of change that is about taking from one and giving to another as the government sees fit.


The most revealing information about Shirley Sherrod is on the next post, "40 Acres and a Mule - Sherrod Style?"
This may tie all of your questions together about this incident.

Friday, July 23, 2010

President Obama Signs into Law Financial ‘Reform’; Families Will Suffer

Law will ‘actually make even credit-worthy families and businesses unable to access the credit they need to invest in their futures.’

President Obama signed into law Wednesday the massive 2,400-page Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act – the most consequential piece of legislation affecting the financial sector since the Great Depression.

Touted as a much-needed solution for Wall Street greed, President Obama said, “Because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes. There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period.”

Yet, before the ink had dried, the first signs of the law’s negative effects emerged.

The three largest credit-rating agencies – Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings – immediately alerted bond issuers not to use their ratings, as they assess their legal exposure created by the bill.

This will affect the $1.4 million bond market, made up largely of consumer loans.

New bond sales – required by law to include credit rating information in all mortgage, auto, student loan and credit card loan documentation — will come to an abrupt halt.

Unfortunately, most Americans are unaware of the new law – much less how it will directly affect their daily lives.

The bill was passed with nearly unanimous opposition by Republicans, citing the bill will hurt families still hurting from the recession.

“Millions of Americans are struggling to find jobs,” said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “And yet all they see in Washington are Democrats passing massive bills that, at their core, seem to have one thing in common: more job loss.

“The White House will declare this bill a victory. But for millions of Americans struggling to find work, for millions of small-business owners racing themselves for all the new regulations they’ll have to deal with, for ordinary Americans who just wanted to see an end to the bailouts, this bill is no victory.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., – co-author of the bill and chairman of the powerful Senate Banking committee – is not sure how the bill will affect the markets.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Dodd admitted legislators were uncertain exactly how the bill will work until it is challenged by another financial crisis.

“No one will know until this is actually in place how it works,” said a teary-eyed Dodd. “But, we believe we’ve done something that has been needed for a long time. It took a crisis to bring us to the point where we could actually get this job done.”

Dodd’s words echoed those of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D- Calif., when asked about the health care overhaul bill: “We need to pass ObamaCare so that the public can find out what’s in the bill.”
House Republican leadership has called for the financial law’s repeal.

“The real pain caused by this bill will be felt on Main Street,” said Republican Study Committee chairman Tom Price, R-Ga. “Ordinary companies will now face much higher costs if they try to hedge against common business risks like rising energy prices. And the new agency, supposedly charged with protecting consumers, will actually make even credit-worthy families and businesses unable to access the credit they need to invest in their futures.

“Dodd-Frank would not have prevented the current financial crisis, and it will not stop the next one. This is not financial reform. House Republicans introduced a plan over a year ago to fix the financial sector with common sense reforms aimed at the actual root causes of the crisis. Democrats instead chose to give Washington unprecedented control over Americans’ economic choices while ensuring the practice of taxpayer bailouts continues uninterrupted.”

Derek V. Baker, director of congressional affairs for Americans for Limited Government, said, “Only in Washington can a bill be signed in to law in response to one of America’s greatest financial collapses with two of the prime culprits of the collapse on hand to receive praise for their efforts. Though there are multiple reasons for the housing market collapse and subsequent financial meltdown that ensued, it is a fact that the government policies aggressive pursued and implemented by Sen. Dodd and Rep. Frank to rig the market and force lenders to meet artificial loan thresholds and quotas were a driving force behind the 2008 financial crisis as well.

“And yesterday, they got rewarded for their efforts with an ‘attaboy’ from the president of the United States.”

White House Backs Bill to Collect Employee Pay Information from Businesses

Thursday, July 22, 2010

By Penny Starr, Senior Staff Writer

( – The Obama administration is backing legislation that includes regulations requiring U.S. businesses to provide to the government data about employee pay as it relates to the sex, race and national origin of employees.

In an orchestrated effort that included a statement by President Barack Obama and an event at the White House featuring Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the president and his cabinet endorsed the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The House approved the act in 2009, but the Senate did not approve it. In the 111th Congress, both the House and the Senate have offered legislation that covers a wide range of workplace requirements and regulations, including training girls and women to become better at negotiating pay and benefits, and the establishment of a data base of U.S. workers’ pay in both the public and private sector.

At the White House on Tuesday, Biden was the keynote speaker at a Middle Class Task Force event where he told invited guests that the Obama administration is “on the right side of history” by passing legislation to ensure women are paid the same as their male counterparts.

“Women make up nearly half of all workers on U.S. payrolls, and two-thirds of families with children are headed either by two working parents or by a single parent who works,” Biden said.

“Yet, the workplace has, for the most part, not changed to reflect these realities – and it must. Closing the gender pay gap, helping parents keep their jobs while balancing family responsibilities, and increasing workplace flexibility – these are not only women’s issues, they are issues of middle class economic security,” he said.

Biden said Congress should pass the bill, which includes language requiring employers to provide information about employee pay. In Section 8 of the bill, entitled Collection of Pay Information by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it calls for an amendment to Section 709 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

"(f)(1) Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this subsection, the Commission shall--

"(A) complete a survey of the data that is currently available to the Federal Government relating to employee pay information for use in the enforcement of Federal laws prohibiting pay discrimination and, in consultation with other relevant Federal agencies, identify additional data collections that will enhance the enforcement of such laws; and

"(B) based on the results of the survey and consultations under subparagraph (A), issue regulations to provide for the collection of pay information data from employers as described by the sex, race, and national origin of employees."

In a White House-issued press release, the “enhancement of enforcement” is described as “a pledge by the Department of Justice and other enforcement agencies will coordinate and collaborate through investigations, litigation, policy guidance, data analysis, and public education efforts to make meaningful progress in closing the wage gap,” the press release stated.

“Already, the Justice Department, in conjunction with the EEOC and four of its district offices, has launched a robust and intensive pilot program to coordinate the investigation and litigation of charges against state and local government employers,” it added.

But critics charge that the Paycheck Fairness Act will be harmful to small businesses and the economy. The National Association of Manufacturers issued a statement about the bill in April.

“The Paycheck Fairness Act, which purports to prevent instances of illegal gender-based discrimination, could outlaw many legitimate practices employers use to set employee pay rates, even where there is no evidence of intentional discrimination and employers act with reasonable belief that their pay policies are lawful,” the statement said.

“Manufacturers strongly oppose unlawful discrimination in any form, but the Paycheck Fairness Act would impose unparalleled government control over how employees are paid, among even the nation’s smallest businesses,” it added.

“It would drastically alter the Equal Pay Act to allow unprecedented penalties of unlimited punitive and compensatory damages in cases of alleged discrimination,” the statement said.

James Sherk, Bradley Fellow in Labor Policy in the Center for Data Analysis at conservative The Heritage Foundation, said that the law would be a boon to trial lawyers seeking damages from employers for their clients and would allow the courts to “micro-manage” American businesses.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Obama said it was discrimination in the workplace that is harming the economy and American families.

“In America today, women make up half of the workforce, and two-thirds of American families with children rely on a woman's with children rely on a woman's wages as a significant portion of their families' income,” the statement said.

“Yet, even in 2010, women make only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. The gap is even more significant for working women of color, and it affects women across all education levels,” the statement said.

“As Vice President Biden and the Middle Class Task Force will discuss today, this is not just a question of fairness for hard-working women. Paycheck discrimination hurts families who lose out on badly needed income. And with so many families depending on women's wages, it hurts the American economy as a whole. In difficult economic times like these, we simply cannot afford this discriminatory burden.”

New START: Potemkin Village Verification

Abstract: The United States and Russia signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) on April 8, 2010, in Prague. An assessment by the New START Working Group concludes that New START’s verification measures are less rigorous than in its predecessor treaty, simply called START. This is particularly worrisome because as deployed U.S. strategic nuclear warheads come down under New START, national security demands that verification become more, not less, reliable. U.S. Senators, who must decide whether to consent to the ratification of New START, need to pay particular attention to the question about the adequacy of its verification regime to confirm that the Treaty’s 1,550 limit on Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads will be met and to provide transparency into the Russian development and deployment of new strategic nuclear forces. These Senators will need to ask hard questions and get satisfactory answers regarding verification prior to voting on granting consent to the ratification of New START.

Proponents and critics of deep nuclear reductions and the goal of “nuclear zero” agree on the need for increasingly comprehensive and intrusive verification measures as nuclear forces are reduced. As nuclear force levels decrease, the potential leverage from cheating increases. It is therefore difficult to understand why the current Administration, with its stated step-by-step approach to deep nuclear reductions, has negotiated a nuclear arms reduction treaty that eviscerates the verification measures of the now expired START treaty.

The New START Treaty’s verification regime is not even a pale reflection of the verification regime for the original START Treaty. The decline of verification standards is striking when one remembers the late 1990s, when U.S. President William Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin were discussing a START III agreement, limiting strategic nuclear forces to 2,000–2,500 warheads. For this decrease in strategic nuclear forces, increasingly stringent verification measures were considered mandatory. While it is not known what the Obama Administration proposed for New START, they certainly did not come away from the negotiating table with a treaty and a verification regime appropriate for low levels of nuclear forces.

The Obama Administration is the only U.S. government since the Reagan Administration that has submitted an arms control treaty for advice and consent without also providing the Congress a report on Russian compliance with past and current arms control agreements. Past reports are well worth reading. They document a disturbing pattern of Soviet/Russian non-compliance with arms control agreements.

Before the full extent of the gutting of START verification provisions was apparent, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton noted, “Verification issues...remain substantially unclear. Moreover, while important in any arms-control treaty, verification becomes even more important at low warhead levels…. At present, we know only that we have lost important START requirements for on-site inspections, telemetry exchanges, and production monitoring.”[1] Verification measures must also be supplemented by a vigorous compliance policy. New START contains neither.

The now-expired START I verification regime itself was not designed for the Obama Administration policy goal of moving toward zero nuclear weapons. The verification measures of START I were designed to provide some confidence that any cheating on a treaty which allowed 6,000 accountable nuclear warheads would not be significant. (Note: because of the counting rules for bomber weapons in START, an actual force of significantly more than 6,000 strategic nuclear warheads could be deployed.) The Moscow Treaty, signed in 2002, did not include a verification regime and relied on established verification measures provided by START. It therefore seems reasonable to expect that the New START Treaty would include verification and enforcement provisions at least as comprehensive as those from START, and perhaps more so.

In 1991, the State Department summarized the key START verification provisions as follows:

—NATIONAL TECHNICAL MEANS (NTM) - START provides for the use of, and non-interference with, national technical means of verification, e.g. satellites. There are explicit provisions prohibiting interference with NTM, or use of concealment measures that impede verification by NTM.

—TELEMETRY - Parties are prohibited from engaging in any practice that denies full access to telemetric information during missile flight tests, with certain limited exceptions. Moreover, Parties are obligated to exchange telemetry tapes, interpretative data and acceleration profiles for every test flight.

—DATA EXCHANGE AND NOTIFICATIONS - Prior to Treaty signature, the sides will exchange data on numbers, locations, and the technical characteristics of START-accountable weapons systems and facilities and will provide regular notifications and data updates thereafter.

—COOPERATIVE MEASURES - Seven times a year, either party may request the other to display in the open road-mobile launchers, rail mobile launchers and heavy bombers at bases specified by the inspecting Party. Additional cooperative measures may be requested following an operational dispersal.

—CONTINUOUS MONITORING ACTIVITIES - START establishes continuous monitoring at the perimeter and portals of each side’s mobile ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] assembly facilities. The US has the right to establish a monitoring facility at Votkinsk, which is the final assembly facility for the SS-25, and at Pavlograd, which is the final assembly facility for the SS-24. The Soviet side has the right to monitor the Thiokol Strategic Operations facility at Promontory, Utah, the final assembly facility for the accountable stage of the Peacekeeper. Such monitoring would also be established at any future facilities at which mobile ICBM assembly takes place.

— ON-SITE INSPECTIONS (OSI) - There are twelve types of OSI and exhibitions. These are: baseline data inspections, data update inspections, new facility inspections, suspect site inspections, reentry vehicle inspections, post-exercise dispersal inspections, conversion or elimination inspections, close-out inspections, formerly declared facility inspections, technical characteristics exhibitions, distinguishability exhibitions and heavy bomber baseline exhibitions.

— COMPLIANCE - Compliance concerns may be raised by either side in the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission (JCIC) or any other appropriate forum.[2]

Of the above provisions from START, only two survived relatively intact in New START: 1) the reliance on national technical means of verification; and 2) the requirement for a compliance commission. Continuous monitoring of mobile ICBM production has been eliminated. Data exchanges and notifications have been substantially reduced. Cooperative measures required by START are completely gone.

Which changes matter most? If the New START verification regime is compared with that of START I, the most significant of the changes are the elimination of verification measures for mobile ICBMs and the weakening of telemetry exchange provisions. Under New START, telemetry exchanges amount to nothing more than a symbolic gesture.[3]

As with the START Treaty, key verification challenges are associated with verifying the number of warheads deployed on ballistic missiles and providing the ability to detect a covert nuclear force, with particular emphasis on verification for mobile ICBMs. Both tasks are difficult and both become more important, not less, as nuclear forces are reduced. The verification of actual (and potential) deployed ballistic missile warheads is made much more difficult by the elimination of START limits on the size and power (e.g., throw weight) of ballistic missiles, and the removal of all constraints on the number of warheads that can be tested on ballistic missiles and deployed bombers.

Concerns with verification provisions contained in START but eliminated from New START, as well as the provisions associated with verification in New START, are discussed in more detail below.

The Demise of the START I Telemetry Regime

The START I Treaty required the broadcast of telemetry from every flight test and provision of telemetry tapes and interpretive data from every flight test.[4] In contrast, New START requires telemetry from at most five flight tests per year. Agreement on the precise number of telemetry exchanges and for which flight tests telemetry will be provided will occur in the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC).[5] Moscow will be free to determine which of its flight tests it will select to meet this goal. The Russians are likely to provide telemetry data on flight tests of Russia’s aging missiles rather than from its development tests of new ICBMs and SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles).

The START I Treaty contained very strong restrictions on the encryption of telemetry.[6] These have been eliminated for New START. Thus, it is clearly legal to encrypt all telemetry for every flight test for which a party does not intend to provide telemetry tapes. This is very likely to be the case for all flight tests for new development or modern Russian ICBMs and SLBMs. Our understanding of the new and modified Russian missiles is therefore likely to decline dramatically over time. This will have profound implications. The demise of the START I telemetry regime will deny the United States the technical information needed to make intelligent decisions with regard to Moscow’s compliance with the Treaty and to evaluate the potential threat posed by Russian nuclear forces.

Reducing the Number and Effectiveness of Inspections

The total number of inspections has been dramatically reduced in New START. Under START there were 12 different types of inspections.[7] In New START there are two[8] types of inspections that apply to both the United States and Russia. Several “special” inspections are accorded to Russia and involve only the inspection of sites in the United States. Russian Chief of the General Staff General Nikolay Makarov observed, “The previous treaty stipulated no less than 28 inspections per year. There will be 18 annual inspections now, in units on and off combat alert.”[9]

Inspections to verify the “elimination” of nuclear weapon delivery systems have been fundamentally changed from those in START I. Of significance is the elimination of the START requirement to allow the other party to observe the destruction of all stages of a mobile ICBM; this has been replaced with the lesser provision of, twice a year, permitting the other party to view the debris from half the eliminated first stages.[10] This opens up the possibility that the debris will be reused in subsequent displays, creating the illusion of eliminations that may not have happened and cannot be verified.

For those inspections that remain in New START, the few inspections that produce data will be largely irrelevant to verifying compliance with the Treaty. Both types of inspections allowed in New START are stated as being for the purpose of counting non-deployed ICBMs.[11] However, counting provisions will not provide a comprehensive means of determining relevant counts toward treaty limits. START I limits on non-deployed mobile ICBMs are missing from New START.[12] And, inspections at bomber bases under New START serve no apparent purpose associated with verification—bombers are each counted as having only one warhead regardless of how many warheads they actually carry.

Short-notice verification inspections have essentially been abolished, providing more time to hide or remove items from the inspection site. Under START I, the inspected party had nine hours after the declaration of an inspection at a site to be ready to receive the inspectors.[13] Under New START, the time allowed for site preparation has been expanded to 24 hours after the declaration of an inspection at a site.[14] This is a major difference that degrades verification.

The evisceration of the inspection regime with regard to monitoring mobile ICBMs is glaring. START I provided that, “Deployed road-mobile launchers of ICBMs and their associated missiles shall be based only in restricted areas. A restricted area shall not exceed five square kilometers in size and shall not overlap another restricted area. No more than ten deployed road-mobile launchers of ICBMs and their associated missiles may be based or located in a restricted area. A restricted area [RA] shall not contain deployed ICBMs for road-mobile launchers of ICBMs of more than one type of ICBM.”[15] All of these restrictions are gone in New START. Now, there is no limit on the size of missile bases.[16] New START states that, “The inspected Party shall not remove mobile launchers of ICBMs from basing areas.”[17] The entire country can now be a missile base.

Increasing reliance by Moscow on mobile ICBMs and past treaty violations associated with mobile missiles compels increased vigilance here, not less. Russian violations of START I inspection procedures relating to mobile ICBMs included the following:

“Russia prevented U.S. inspectors from exercising their Treaty right to measure launch canisters for SS-24 ICBMs contained in rail-mobile launchers that are located within the boundaries of an inspection site, in contravention of paragraphs 1 and 6 of Annex 1 to the Inspection Protocol.”

“Notwithstanding the interim policy arrangement, Russia’s practice of locating deployed SS-25 road-mobile launchers outside their declared RAs for long periods of time constituted basing in a manner that violated the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 9 of Article VI of the Treaty.”[18]

The 2005 State Department arms control compliance report to Congress documented these violations. It stated, “Russia’s practice of locating deployed SS-25 road-mobile launchers outside their declared RAs for long periods of time constituted basing in a manner that violated the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 9 of Article VI of the Treaty.”[19] Eventually, Russia agreed to allow inspections, including reentry vehicle inspections, at the facility where the missiles and launchers were illegally deployed.[20] From the standpoint of verification, the importance of this issue is that it demonstrated Russian ability to operate mobile ICBMs for extended periods of time from facilities very unlike their normal bases. This has significant implications for the feasibility of a covert mobile ICBM force under New START’s seriously degraded verification regime.

Negotiators for the Obama Administration apparently were unconcerned about potential cheating by Russia. Under the New START Treaty, “Mobile launchers of ICBMs located at a maintenance facility may not be designated for inspection to confirm the declared number of reentry vehicles emplaced on deployed ICBMs contained on such mobile launchers of ICBMs.”[21] This opens up a loophole that has the potential to undermine the already weak New START verification regime. Maintenance facilities and the mobile launchers and warheads within are off-limits to inspectors.

Since the New START database is currently completely blank, we do not know how the Russians will declare even their existing mobile missile facilities. If they classify many of them as maintenance facilities, the deployed missiles present at these facilities would be exempt from reentry vehicle inspections and the number of warheads present, included those loaded on missiles, could not be confirmed.

Verification of the Number of Deployed Warheads on ICBMs and SLBMs

Verifying the number of warheads deployed on ballistic missiles is one of the central verification tasks common to nuclear arms control treaties. As noted above, the exemption of mobile ICBMs at maintenance facilities from reentry vehicle inspections has the potential to exempt a portion of, and even the entire, mobile ICBM force from inspections. The MIRVed version of the SS-27,[22] the missile that the Russians call the RS-24, is a mobile ICBM.[23] The Russian Defense Ministry has stated that, “The new RS-24 system can carry up to 10 different nuclear [war]heads and plans are for it to replace the old R-18 and R-20 systems.”[24] The New START treaty would allow the Russians to exempt them from inspection by declaring their bases to be maintenance facilities; if so, a large portion of the Russian inventory of deployed nuclear warheads would not be counted.

Some inspections in both START and New START require the visual counting of the number of reentry vehicles actually deployed on U.S. and Russian missiles. START allows the inspected party to place covers over the reentry vehicles (RVs). However, such covers must not hamper inspectors in ascertaining that the front section contains no more RVs than the number of warheads attributed by START to a missile of that type. In the past, Russia violated this provision. As noted in the most recent (2005) State Department compliance report, “Russian RV covers, in some instances, are too large; consequently, they fail to meet this requirement.”[25] One would have hoped that the negotiators for the Obama Administration would have made an effort to correct the problematic START I procedure and limit the size of RV covers. That did not happen.

Limits on the Size and Power of Ballistic Missiles Have Been Eliminated

The numerous collateral constraints on maximum warheads deployment per missile, missile launch weight limitations, throw-weight limitations, and limits on reentry vehicle testing which were the basis of effective constraints in START I, are missing from New START.

The elimination of all the START I restrictions on the size and power of ICBMs and SLBMs and the restrictions on the maximum number of warheads actually released from missiles during testing raises new concerns over the maximum number of warheads deployable on a ballistic missile. The elimination of the previous requirements for disclosure of ICBM and SLBM launch, throw-weight and the maximum number of warheads tested will make estimating this information for newly developed Russian missiles more difficult (and could raise additional concerns if existing Russian missiles are loaded with smaller and lighter warheads).[26] The virtual elimination of the START telemetry regime makes it easier for Russia to hide such actions.

The Senate should take a particularly good look at the implications of the 8th Agreed Statement in New START on “extra objects” deployed on ICBMs and SLBMs. START I required proof they were not nuclear warhead reentry vehicles.[27] New START deletes this requirement. New START provides that, “The Parties shall have the right to confirm that such nonnuclear objects are not nuclear-armed reentry vehicles, using procedures contained in the Annex on Inspection Activities to this Protocol.”[28] These procedures involve the use of neutron detectors to determine that the extra objects are not nuclear.[29] The problem with neutron detectors is that they may not be adequate for detecting nuclear warheads based upon highly enriched uranium. According to a newly published Defense Threat Reduction Agency report, “discovery rates of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) remain low partly due to over-reliance on electronic radiation portal monitors, which often fail to detect HEU….”[30] In light of unlimited Russian throw-weight of missiles allowed under New START, the effectiveness of the allowed radiation detection equipment may be very important for the effectiveness of the regime. With neutron detectors, Russian nuclear warheads based on HEU designs may register as non-nuclear.

The combination of unlimited ballistic missile throw-weight, the ability to flight test an unlimited number of reentry vehicles on ballistic missiles, a new heavy ICBM, oversized RV covers, or highly enriched uranium nuclear warheads declared to be non-nuclear objects creates the possibility of almost unlimited cheating. This is not a theoretical threat. Russian missiles are routinely reported in the Russian press as being able to carry many more warheads than Moscow declared under START. Under START, the Bulava 30 was declared to be able to carry a maximum of six warheads per missile.[31] Russian sources now claim that Moscow can load 10 warheads on the Bulava 30 (and the MIRVed SS-27). According to one Russian press report the intent was to integrate “10 super-lightweight warheads for the Bulava’s nose section….”[32] Also, during the New START negotiations ITAR-TASS, a Russian government news agency, reported that, “An SS-18 missile can deliver up to 36 warheads, whereas a Minuteman-III missile could deliver no more than 3 warheads.”[33] (Note: the SS-18 was accountable at 10 warheads under START I.)[34] Without telemetry we may not be able to detect the development of small reentry vehicles of the type reported in the Russian press if the Russians test in a manner that minimizes our collection.

The Abolition of the START Verification Regime for Mobile ICBMs

In additional to abolishing all START limitations on mobile ICBMs, New START also abolishes the dedicated verification regime for mobile ICBMs. Most significantly, this includes the right under START I to “continuous monitoring activities at production facilities for ICBMs for mobile launchers of ICBMs to confirm the number of ICBMs for mobile launchers of ICBMs produced.”[35] This START I provision allowed an exact count of the number of mobile ICBMs that exited production facilities. Also gone are the START requirements for “cooperative measures” to enhance the capability of national technical means (NTM) to monitor mobile missiles at ICBM bases (called “restricted areas” in START I), the restriction on the size of ICBM bases, the restriction on the size of deployment areas for road-mobile ICBMs, and the restriction that limits an ICBM base to one type of mobile ICBM.[36] Also eliminated is the START I provision that granted each party the right to “conduct suspect-site inspections to confirm that covert assembly of ICBMs for mobile launchers of ICBMs or covert assembly of first stages of such ICBMs is not occurring.”[37] According to Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher, mobile ICBMs would be verified through, “data exchanges, exhibitions, and inspections that will be part of it, and national technical means will be part of it.”[38] If considered sufficient, these provisions would not have been necessary for the START Treaty.

Data exchanges do not verify anything. They only provide data that must be verified. No cheater would be expected to provide accurate notifications of activity that was to be hidden. Exhibitions are not related to monitoring the number of mobile ICBMs, but rather confirming the accuracy of declared dimensional data for mobile ICBMs and their launchers. Inspections merely provide a snapshot in time of the number of mobile launchers located at mobile ICBM bases. Verification of numbers of mobile ICBMs requires active measures to lessen the likelihood of covert bases. The elimination of declared mobile ICBM deployment areas makes finding covert bases much more difficult for national technical means. With New START, mobile ICBMs could be located almost anywhere in Russia.

The prospect of cheating by Russia is not hypothetical. During the Reagan Administration the Soviet Union was believed to have covertly deployed the SS-16, their first mobile ICBM.[39] U.S. NTM was not adequate to reach a “definitive conclusion” on the issue.[40] The last available compliance report from the State Department recorded several violations by Russia of verification procedures for the START Treaty relating to mobile ICBMs. The report concluded:

“Russia prevented U.S. inspectors from exercising their Treaty right to measure launch canisters for SS-24 ICBMs contained in rail-mobile launchers that are located within the boundaries of an inspection site, in contravention of paragraphs 1 and 6 of Annex 1 to the Inspection Protocol.”

“Notwithstanding the interim policy arrangement, Russia’s practice of locating deployed SS-25 road-mobile launchers outside their declared RAs for long periods of time constituted basing in a manner that violated the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 9 of Article VI of the Treaty.”

Road Mobile Launcher Accountability: “Russia continues to violate START provisions relevant to these obligations.”[41]

The last of these is particularly important. According to the State Department report, “Russia has failed to declare certain road-mobile launchers of ICBMs when they first leave their production facility, as required by the Treaty. Russia has moved some of these launchers to an undeclared ‘break-in’ area located over 60 miles from the production facility without declaring that they have left the production facility and are accountable under the Treaty.”[42] The undeclared departure of mobile launchers from a production facility was a violation of START; it also would be a violation under New START. An important consideration is whether this type of violation would be detected under the New START regime. Probably not. On-site portal monitoring has been eliminated and all of Russia is now a mobile ICBM deployment area.[43]

Virtual Elimination of Delivery Vehicles

The START I requirements for treaty-compliant elimination for launchers have been weakened significantly. Under START, specific procedures were required for a weapon to be eliminated and removed from accountability. For example, gone is the START I requirement to cut off the last 0.78 meter of a mobile ICBM launcher.[44] This action was designed to complicate attempts to restore the launcher and improve the ability to detect restoration. This was considered one of the most important of the START I elimination requirements because the elimination procedure damaged the launcher beyond repair. For elimination of mobile missile launchers under New START, a party to the treaty can use almost any procedure without serious consideration of verification or irreversibility potential. Cutting a wire would probably be enough to comply with New START. Without well-defined elimination procedures, most “eliminated” launchers could easily be restored to service.[45]

For solid fuel ICBMs, including mobile ICBMs, inspectors do not have the opportunity to observe eliminations (as was the case for mobile ICBMs under START[46]). Instead, they are allowed to view a portion of debris from elimination.[47] New START provides that:

A Party carrying out an elimination of solid-fueled ICBMs, solid-fueled SLBMs, or mobile launchers of ICBMs shall conduct, within a calendar year, two accumulations of eliminated solid-fueled missiles and two accumulations of eliminated mobile launchers of ICBMs at the appropriate conversion or elimination facility. These accumulations shall be conducted in such a manner that no less than 50 percent of the total number of missiles and no less than 50 percent of the total number of mobile launchers of ICBMs scheduled for elimination during a calendar year will be made available for inspection during the two inspections conducted during the period of time specified in subparagraph (a) of this paragraph at each appropriate facility. Each such accumulation shall contain approximately 25 percent of the total number of solid fueled ICBMs or solid-fueled SLBMs, or approximately 25 percent of the total number of mobile launchers of ICBMs, scheduled for elimination during the corresponding calendar year.[48]

Under START I the entire mobile missile had to be eliminated with inspectors present during final stages of elimination.[49] New START procedures to observe debris, instead of observing actual eliminations, appears ridiculous if this measure is intended to provide verification. Even worse, is the provision that limits observation of debris to only half of the missiles.


The New START verification regime is not sufficient to detect large-scale cheating by the Russian Federation. As past experience has shown, inadequate verification measures are likely to be exploited. If Russia has the necessary resources, it can deploy many more warheads and missiles than allowed by the treaty with little risk of detection. To state that this Treaty begins to establish a basis for further reductions leading toward eliminating nuclear weapons is absurd. If the current Administration intends to pursue deeper nuclear reductions leading to nuclear elimination, verification regimes more intrusive and demanding than the now-expired START verification regime will be needed. The weak verification measures in the New START Treaty are a step in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cash for Clinton — in the U.N.'s New Haiti Peacekeeping Budget

May 25, 2010

The United Nations' peacekeeping mission in battered Haiti is one of the most expensive in the world — and it's about to get even more so. One of the reasons being given this time is the need to add support for the U.N.'s special envoy to Haiti, former President Bill Clinton.

Just exactly how much more expensive, however, the U.N. is not prepared to say. It now claims the situation is too "fluid" for the world organization even to produce a detailed budget covering the next six months — half the period normally covered in its normal financial calculations.

Nevertheless, in a back-of-the-envelope estimate that he has sent to the U.N. General Assembly, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is asking for $380.4 million to cover the period from July 1 to December 31 of this year.

That would be $760.8 million at an annualized rate — roughly double what the U.N. allocated for the mission in its first full year of operations, starting in 2004.

In a terse, six-page submission to the U.N. General Assembly, Ban says a "comprehensive and integrated planning effort" is still required to add up the real budget figures for Haiti the 2010-2011 period. (U.N. budgets for peacekeeping run from July 1 to June 30 of the following year.)

But even so, his sketchy six-month total would be $28.4 million higher, on an annualized basis, than the record-breaking $732.4 million budget for the 12 months that end June 30.

That budget included a 20 percent overall hike to account for emergency operations in the wake of Haiti's devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

And if history is any guide, it will soon grow even further, after the "comprehensive and integrated planning effort" that Ban promises. Traditionally, peacekeeping budgets — as do most other U.N. budgets — expand in the period between preliminary estimates and later, more detailed accounting.

Among other things, the latest peacekeeping estimate includes more than $800,000 that the Haiti mission is spending as its share to support the efforts of the U.N.'s special envoy in Haiti, former President Bill Clinton.

According to a spokesman for U.N. peacekeeping, Clinton's expanded role will include taking the lead over "international coordination efforts. He will also "provide strategic guidance to the U.N.'s involvement in the recovery and relief efforts that have now become a key focus" of the peacekeepers.

Ironically enough, the latest Haiti budget estimate is the organization's effort to show that the U.N. is tightening its belt in the wake of its post-earthquake, even as the number of soldiers, police and U.N. civilian staffers has surged to some 15,000.

In response to questions from Fox News, a U.N. peacekeeping spokesman replied that the bigger post-earthquake numbers were "one-off requirements and they were not intended to be a permanent requirement."

But there are signs of fudging. In a few brief paragraphs justifying its seat-of-the-pants estimates, Ban's submission says the much smaller numbers for support costs for the mission take into account "standard" reimbursements for troops and police, but "exclude, at this stage, direct costs such as rotational travel," which presumably includes mandatory R and R for the forces in place — which was included in its last budget — as well as future troop and police replacement.

The Haiti mission's first post-earthquake spending request included $5 million for planning and initial preparation for a "longer-term reconstruction program" for U.N. peace-keeping facilities, which were themselves partially destroyed in the quake. The bill for that reconstruction is likely to be hefty: simply replacing damaged U.N. peacekeeping equipment and supplies cost $20.25 million in the first post-quake budget.

But the new estimates for the next six months still don't include any reconstruction spending. That tab, according to the U.N. peacekeeping spokesman, would be "outlined in the context of the full detailed budget for the 2010-2011 period," when it appears in "forthcoming months."

The same kind of alleged austerity has been applied to emergency U.N. spending in support of the beleaguered citizens of Haiti themselves. In its post-quake figuring, the U.N. included some $12.9 million for so-called "community violence reduction" programs and "quick-start" cash-for-work programs for Haitians who had lost work and sustenance in the disaster, over and above about $3 million already budgeted.

In the latest figuring, the quick-impact and community violence reduction total for the next six months has been cut by half, to $6.5 million. According to the U.N. peacekeeping spokesman, the $12.9 million earlier hike was only required to respond "to the most urgent needs of the mission's community violence reduction efforts, in order to minimize the risk of a descent into lawlessness in the most at-risk areas of Haiti."

That risk has apparently gone down significantly. The new figure, says the spokesman, "is commensurable" with the overall spending for 2009-2010.

By coincidence, the $6.5 million that the U.N. peacekeepers intend to spend on the most stricken Haitians over the next six months is exactly the same as the amount they intend to keep spending — but in three months — on an 11,000-ton Venezuelan passenger vessel, the Ola Esmeralda, moored in Port au Prince harbor.

The Ola Esmeralda provides comfortable, subsidized housing, hot meals and laundry service for a relatively small number of U.N. peacekeeping officers, police and other Haitian rescue personnel. According to the U.N. peacekeeping spokesman, about 280 U.N. staffers were living on the vessels of May 19, which has capacity for 482 passengers.

As Fox News revealed in April, Ola Esmeralda was rented for $72,500 per day — or $6.5 million for a three-month contract — by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). WFP's contractor was a Miami-based firm called Lighthouse Ship Management LLC. But the actual owner is a firm called Servicios Acuaticos de Venezuela, C.A., or Saveca, three of whose top five officials are retired Venezuelan naval or Merchant Marine Officers.

Saveca claims on its website to have an "alliance" with a firm owned by the government of Venezuela's anti-American Marxist strongman, Hugo Chavez.

A WFP spokesman told Fox News at the time that Ola Esmeralda won its contract strictly on the basis of cost competitiveness, among ten contending vessels.

In April, Ola Esmeralda was moored with a smaller companion vessel, the Sea Voyager — known in some official U.N. documents as the Love Boat — which WFP was renting for another $40,000 per day.
The Love Boat's contract has since expired, and it has left Haiti.

The U.N. peacekeeping spokesman says the Ola Esmeralda, on the other hand, is needed as a "stop-gap measure." The latest U.N. budget shows its contract running through August 31.

If it does, the U.N. will have spent about $13 million overall on renting the ship.

That is about the double the amount that the peacekeepers intend to spend on community violence reduction and emergency cash-for-work programs for all of Haiti's 9.5 million devastated citizens during the next six months.

Gold Coin Sellers Angered by New Tax Law - Amendment Slipped Into Health Care Legislation Would Track, Tax Coin and Bullion Transactions

July 21, 2010

Those already outraged by the president's health care legislation now have a new bone of contention -- a scarcely noticed tack-on provision to the law that puts gold coin buyers and sellers under closer government scrutiny.

The issue is rising to the fore just as gold coin dealers are attracting attention over sales tactics.  Section 9006 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will amend the Internal Revenue Code to expand the scope of Form 1099. Currently, 1099 forms are used to track and report the miscellaneous income associated with services rendered by independent contractors or self-employed individuals.

Coin Dealers Flipping

Starting Jan. 1, 2012, Form 1099s will become a means of reporting to the Internal Revenue Service the purchases of all goods and services by small businesses and self-employed people that exceed $600 during a calendar year. Precious metals such as coins and bullion fall into this category and coin dealers have been among those most rankled by the change.

This provision, intended to mine what the IRS deems a vast reservoir of uncollected income tax, was included in the health care legislation ostensibly as a way to pay for it. The tax code tweak is expected to raise $17 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Taking an early and vociferous role in opposing the measure is the precious metal and coin industry, according to Diane Piret, industry affairs director for the Industry Council for Tangible Assets. The ICTA, based in Severna Park, Md., is a trade association representing an estimated 5,000 coin and bullion dealers in the United States.

"Coin dealers not only buy for their inventory from other dealers, but also with great frequency from the public," Piret said. "Most other types of businesses will have a limited number of suppliers from which they buy their goods and products for resale."

So every time a member of the public sells more than $600 worth of gold to a dealer, Piret said, the transaction will have to be reported to the government by the buyer.

Pat Heller, who owns Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., deals with around 1,000 customers every week. Many are individuals looking to protect wealth in an uncertain economy, he said, while others are dealers like him.

With spot market prices for gold at nearly $1,200 an ounce, Heller estimates that he'll be filling out between 10,000 and 20,000 tax forms per year after the new law takes effect.

"I'll have to hire two full-time people just to track all this stuff, which cuts into my profitability," he said.  An issue that combines gold coins, the Obama health care law and the IRS is bound to stir passions. Indeed, trading in gold coins and bars has surged since the financial crisis unfolded and Obama took office, metal dealers said.

The buying of actual gold, as opposed to futures or options tied to the price of gold, has been a particularly popular trend among Tea Party supporters and others who are fearful of Obama's economic policies, gold industry members such as Heller and Piret said. Conservative/libertarian commentators, such as Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck, routinely tout precious metal on the air as being a safe, shrewd investment in an environment in which the financial system -- and paper money backed by the rest of the world's faith in the U.S. government's credit -- is viewed as increasingly fragile.

The recently revealed investigation by California authorities into consumer complaints against Goldline International, which has used Beck as a pitchman, and Superior Gold Group (which has not) has put a spotlight on what one liberal leaning politician, Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., calls the "unholy alliance" between gold coin sellers, such as Goldline, and conservative talk personalities, such as Beck.

Beck, who through his spokesman, Matt Hiltzik, declined to comment for this story, and Goldline marketers portray gold coins as a better alternative to owning bullion in the event that the U.S. government ever decides, as it did under FDR in 1933, to make it illegal for private citizens to own physical gold. At that time, the U.S. dollar was still pegged to the price of gold; the gold standard was abandoned during the Nixon administration.

Rep. Daniel Lungren, R-Calif., has introduced legislation to repeal the section of the health care bill that would trigger the new tax reporting requirement because he says it's a burden on small businesses.

"Large corporations have whole divisions to handle such transaction paperwork but for a small business, which doesn't have the manpower, this is yet another brick on their back," Lungren said in a statement e-mailed to "Everyone agrees that small businesses are job creators and the engine which drives the American economy. I am dumfounded that this Administration is doing all it can to make it more difficult for businesses to succeed rather than doing all it can to help them grow."

The ICTA's Piret says identity theft is another concern because criminals may set up shops specifically to extract personal information that would accompany the filing out of a 1099.

The office of the National Taxpayer Advocate, a citizen's ombudsman within the IRS, issued a report June 30 that said the new rule "may present significant administrative challenges to taxpayers and the IRS."