Sunday, March 29, 2009
Moving is not fun, but Stephanie doesn't have much and we sorted it and got it into storage. We have a nice apartment picked out for her next to a hospital which will be great for her. Its not her hospital, which is St. Paul's in Dallas, but its nice to know its there for emergencies. Her new apartment looks like a castle! The rent is outstanding. Its low so it will help her with a lot of financial things that are happening soon with her, including her medical bills.
I'll write more later, but I want all of you to have Stephanie in your prayers. Her prognosis is not good and she needs all the prayers she can get. Thanks all of you for being good friends.
Rev. Moon Exemplifies Right Wing GOP Subsidy of Big Media to Frame Message
THE BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG
By Mark Karlin
Rev. Moon has adopted a relatively low-profile in recent years (if you don't count his bizarre "coronation" by elected officials in a Capitol Hill House of Representatives meeting room a couple years back), but that hasn't prevented the weird religious leader (and close ally of the Bush family) from pouring an estimated 1 - 2.5 billion dollars into subsidizing the Washington Times since 1982.
In 2002, Rev. Moon pronounced "The Washington Times will become the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world." But the reality is that the Washington Times -- like the New York Post and Weekly Standard for Rupert Murdoch -- are investments in obtaining financial regulatory and other favors from Republican administrations in return for helping frame and market the GOP talking points of tax cuts, cultural wars, and Wall Street gambling.
The Washington Times has only about 100,000 subscribers, but its newsboxes are next to the Washington Post throughout D.C., allowing it to appear as an equal -- and to have its banner headlines seen by tens of thousands of D.C. "influencers" every day. Then, it also gives a byline and title for its writers to appear as D.C. pundits on television (just as Bill Kristol is identified as editor of the chronically money losing "Weekly Standard" during his ubiquitous "pundit" appearances on the tube) -- as well as all television reporters need to quote it to provide "balance."
In short, Moon, in essence, shells out hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to use the Washington Times as a public relations vehicle for "framing" the GOP perspective. The Washington Times doesn't have the incendiary flamboyant impact of Rush Limbaugh, but it has played a vital role in moving the "frame" of what is considered "centrist" in the U.S. among D.C. insiders way to the right.
Just last week (March 23), it was announced that the Washington Times is going to launch a radio program: 
The Washington Times is headed for radio. In a partnership announced Monday (March 23) with Talk Radio Network, the paper plans to launch later this spring a nationally syndicated, three-hour, morning-drive radio show (6 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET) aimed at showcasing the paper's investigative reporting and accountability journalism.
The move is part of the paper's strategy to transform itself into a multimedia, multiplatform news company. According to Nielsen Online, unique users of The Washington Times Web grew 39 percent in February, compared to a year ago.
"We believe this unique journalistic team, combined with radio’s ability to give the time and context needed to flesh out breaking stories, will make for a powerful winning combination in talk radio," said Mark Masters, CEO of Talk Radio Network. “Rather than commenting on yesterday’s news, this news show will have the capacity to make, break and drive the news cycle. Like 60 Minutes once did for TV, this show can do for radio. We are very excited and honored to embark in this partnership with The Washington Times investigative team
If you want a little insight into how the pieces of the right wing media echo chamber puzzle fit together, it is worth looking at some of the people under contract to Talk Radio Network:  Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Rusty Humphries, Monica Crowley, and Tammy Bruce. Bruce most recently made an infamous remark calling the Obamas trash, and Tammy Bruce managed to insult the entire nation of Canada a couple of weeks ago, resulting in an unprecedented Ottawa call for an apology from FOX "News."
Talk Radio Network, on its website, describes the new radio venture with the Washington Times this way:
March 23, 2009 - TALK RADIO NETWORK, THE WASHINGTON TIMES TO LAUNCH INVESTIGATIVE RADIO SHOW NATIONALLY.
Talk Radio Network and The Washington Times are partnering to create a nationally syndicated, morning-drive radio show with an innovative new format aimed at showcasing investigative reporting, accountability journalism and live reporting directly from the Times' newsroom inside the nation's capital. The Washington Times Morning Show is set to launch later this spring.
When you read the term "investigative reporting" applied to the Washington Times, think about the Clinton impeachment. To say the least, there was no investigating of the Bush Administration multiple illegalities going on by Rev. Moon's media empire, just cover-ups.
By the way, for a couple of billion dollars -- as the Washington Times tries to claim it doesn't let bias or partisanship get in the way of its "news" coverage -- Rev. Moon can indulge himself in launching a Washington Times blog  that is called, "TheConservatives.com: Reinventing the Right."
Meanwhile, wealthy liberal Democrats don't buy up or create large media outlets; they just support efforts to criticize the corporate press and the likes of Rev. Moon. And the only other daily in D.C. is the pro-war Washington Post, which is the voice of the status quo self-appointed punditocracy. It's like a right leaning Democratic Leadership Council.
You can win elections, but you can't make dramatic change unless you own part of the major media.
Rev. Moon understands that. Why can't wealthy Democrats?
Or is it because many of the wealthiest Democrats really don't want a change in the distribution of wealth in this nation?
THE BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Theoretically, if the government controlled a large entity that is "too big to fail," then the accountability factor would increase. The operators of said entity would have to report to congress and/or other government entities and committees and be subject to scrutiny by the public.. The real sad comment on this whole debacle is that the regulators were in many cases sleeping at the switch or defunded to the point of impotence by a government hell bent on driving the economic engine for all its worth. The Republicans and to a lesser extent the Democrats that played along with them, bear a large blame for what happened. By dismantling all the careful controls on the markets put in place by the Roosevelt Administration in the wake of the Great Depression, the supply-siders brought forth a great period of economic growth. They also made a monster that grew to a point where its failure was inevitable. Bubbles eventually burst, fragile things that they are.
However, the very problem with government at this point is that the partisans are interested in preserving their ideology even at the expense of the people. Witness the governors of the various states who are refusing to accept stimulus money that may, in the end, benefit their own people on ideological grounds. I sense that many of these ideologues will be looking for a job come next election cycle.
The accountability factor is very important. Most board minutes are generally not seen by the public. Corporations conduct their business with a bureaucracy that is interested in the short run. Business lost sight of long term planning and expansion when they could afford it long ago.
A prime example of this is the company which contracts the company I work for. I work for Valor Security, which is a contractor for General Growth Properties, which owns the mall I work at. In 2002, General Growth went on an expansion spree and ended up buying a competitor for $12 Billion (Yes, that's with a "B"). It also bought several other malls and properties throughout the US. Result - the company is $27.1 Billion in debt and is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. The CEO is out, the CFO is out, and hundreds of people who depend on these operations for jobs are at risk. Where were the regulators? Where were the people to tell these idiots they were biting off more then they could chew? It incenses me that the so-called "conservatives" in this country are willing to risk my money and yours in financing these get rich quick schemes and then we end up holding the bag.
The Government probably might not do a better job, but at least we can elect them and hold them accountable. And, in the end, if its "too big to fail" at least there will be some sort of continuity until the problem gets fixed. The government operated system theoretically cannot fail and doesn't lead to an economic collapse.
This whole debacle also speaks to the fact that there should be a maximum size of a business. Maximum limits should be set on percentages of the market and ownership so that if a business goes under, it doesn't take the rest of the economy with it.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
My next thing is getting the little computer I got fixed. Somehow I have it set where it doesn't read any Mass Storage devices hooked up via USB. So I have to get off my lazy but and get tech support on the line and figure out what I did wrong. All in all, I have had mixed sucess with my computers lately.
I have given some thought to running Ubuntu, when my other system is up and running with the network set up properly. For the unitiated, Ubuntu is a Linux based operating system which resembles Windows on the screen. It is free for all to download, play with, and use. Its not a bad idea, but getting the hang of it is gong to be an interesting experience. We bought a laptop for my nephew, and rather than buying Windows to replace the Operating system on it, we (my brother and I) are going to put Ubuntu on it. So I have to get smart with it so that I can pass the knowledge down to my nephew. Hopefully it will be simple to operate. Keeping my fingers crossed.
I have been lately obsessed with the Apollo Program that sent men to the Moon. I got a rather fascinating documentary entitled "In the Shadow of the Moon." It features fascinating interviews with the men who walked on the moon and their impressions of the experience interspaced with films they took on the trips. It has some very interesting footage that I haven't seen before. The special features are even better than the movie because it has even more sequences they didn't put in the finished film.
There is one fascinating story by Charlie Duke, whose voice you may remember as the CapCom on Apollo 11 when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. He tells of a dream he had six months before he landed on the moon on Apollo 16. In his dream, he was riding the Lunar Rover on the moon. He and John Young, the mission commander encounter tracks on the surface. They follow them and then come to a rise and behind the rise, the tracks end and before them is another Lunar Rover with two occupants. Duke goes to the rover, lifts the visor of the passenger and he looks upon his own dead face. The other occupant is his companion on the trip is John Young, also dead. He says its the most vivid dream he ever had. I wonder what would have happend if that has actually occoured.
I look at all that was done and what potential there was in the space program. Right now, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, there are huge hunks of Saturn V rocket which were built for the last two Apollo flights, Apollo 18 and 19. We had the potential to explore the moon two more times at the very least and we wasted them. It was simply a line item on a budget ledger, but in my mind as long as the flight hardware was procured, it should have been used. Its so sad that those opprotunities were wasted. Schroters Valley, Marius Hills, Tycho or Copernicus Crater were on the short list on the landing sites for the last two missions. I think it likely that if the program was continued, there would have been only one more flight since the other Saturn V would have been needed to launch the Skylab B which now rests in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and obviusly never launched. It is estimated that only $42.1 million dollars were saved by deleting the last two flights. It would be roughly $400 million in equivelent dollars today. Still, if the hardware was there, we should have gone and not left these relics to rust in the southern sun.
Well, that's the thoughts for me today. I think I need a vacation.
Wall Street's Dangerous Refusal to Learn
By Steven Pearlstein
Wednesday, March 18, 2009; D01
You have to wonder what else has to go wrong, how much more wealth will need to be destroyed, before the people on Wall Street get the message that it's no longer business as usual.
The latest outrage, of course, is over the $400 million in retention bonuses promised to those financial geniuses at AIG's Financial Products unit last year, months before the insurance giant was essentially taken over by the government in a bailout that already has required an injection of $170 billion in taxpayer money.
The legal argument for honoring these ill-considered contracts is that a deal is a deal and that trying to abrogate them will only wind up costing the government even more in legal fees and punitive damages. But that doesn't mean the government and its handpicked new management team at AIG were powerless to renegotiate those contracts long before last weekend's deadline.
After all, if the government hadn't stepped in, AIG would have gone bankrupt and those whiz-bang traders could have lined up with all the other unsecured creditors at the bankruptcy court to see how much money they might receive three or four years down the road. And the government could still put the company into bankruptcy anytime it chooses.
Moreover, the Justice Department would surely have been within its rights to launch an extensive civil and criminal investigation into whether those bonuses were granted as part of an ongoing conspiracy to defraud shareholders -- a conspiracy in which the traders were knowing participants. As part of that investigation, prosecutors could have also prepared a public report to the Treasury, the Federal Reserve and Congress listing the names and home addresses of all the traders who were slated to receive the bonuses, along with a detailed description of their role in creating the mess that brought down the company. There could even be a chart listing their salaries, bonuses and other perks over the past decade.
Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I suspect that when confronted with the prospect of a bankruptcy and a prolonged and public investigation, the sharpies in London and Connecticut might have been receptive to the idea of renegotiating those bonuses in favor of new contracts -- contracts that increased their base pay but tied their bonuses to success in reducing future taxpayer liabilities at AIG.
Unfortunately, none of this seems to have occurred to Eddie "Good Hands" Liddy, the former Allstate executive who was supposedly brought in to dismantle AIG and sell it off in pieces for the benefit of the taxpayers and creditors. So far, all Eddie seems to have served up is a litany of complaints about what a bad hand he was dealt.
A tougher and more creative executive, I suspect, could have found a way to quickly sell off the healthy insurance businesses and the valuable AIG franchise, even if it meant persuading the government to finance the deals or offer some risk-sharing arrangements.
A more hard-knuckled executive would have gone to the counterparties of those derivatives contracts and suggested that it would be a real shame if AIG were forced to file for bankruptcy, and offered some sort of workout.
If nothing else, he certainly could have been more upfront with his new owners -- the taxpayers -- about not only the bonuses but also the identity of the counterparties to those derivative contracts, who were the indirect beneficiaries of the government's bailout.
Instead, Eddie has not only left us wondering whose side he's really on, but also, because of the bonus backlash, he has managed to put the entire financial rescue effort in political jeopardy. That's harsh criticism, I realize, especially for a respected business executive who volunteered to leave a comfortable retirement to take a $1-a-year job at the request of his government. But at some point you have to ask whether we've hired Gary Cooper for a role better suited to Clint Eastwood.
Liddy is hardly the only one on Wall Street who can't quite grasp the idea that extraordinary times require a different way of doing things.
One of the reasons AIG gave for offering retention bonuses in the first place was that the employees who had negotiated the infamous derivatives contracts are the best people to help the company unwind those positions at the lowest cost. Indeed, over the weekend, it was reported that some of the employees were being recruited by other banks and hedge funds, which hope to use the inside information to inform their own trading strategies.
This is, of course, a time-honored tradition on Wall Street, whereby uncovering the trading strategies of counterparties can reap huge profits. But it surely speaks volumes that other Wall Street players still think it not just their right but their duty to their investors to try to take advantage of AIG's weakness, even if it is the taxpayers who will suffer.
Then there is Richard "Is This America?" Kovacevich, the chairman of Wells Fargo. Late last week, Kovacevich gave a talk at Stanford University, complaining about how unfair it is that the government forced his bank to take $25 billion in bailout money last year when it could have easily raised private capital -- and then compounded that outrage by changing the terms of the deal and forcing Wells to cut its dividend. Kovacevich said it was "asinine" for the Treasury to order his and other big banks to undergo a special "stress test," explaining that well-run banks like Wells were routinely doing their own stress tests.
Kovacevich apparently believes that because his bank is still relatively healthy, he and his shareholders shouldn't have to assume the same costs and burdens as banks that aren't, particularly when those costs and burdens are imposed by incompetent government officials. That's the way it works in America.
Except, of course, when it doesn't. The reality is that, if the government had not stepped in to take over Fannie, Freddie and AIG; had not recapitalized Citigroup and Bank of America; had not provided the guarantees to allow for the orderly sale of Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns; had not become the buyer of last resort for commercial paper and home mortgages, then the entire financial system would have melted down by now and taken Well Fargo and its arrogant chairman with it. Rather than bellyaching about how un-American it all is, Kovacevich ought to be thanking the government and asking what more he could do to help.
Like it or not, we're all in this together now. It's cooperation and compromise, not the usual every-man-for-himself competition, that is going to get us out of this mess. And the sooner people on Wall Street embrace that reality, the better it will be for everyone.
The original article may be accessed at:
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Its a sad commentary on American business that we are rewarding failure. Yes, these people that basically drove this company into the ground are to be rewarded for remaining on the job at the very least. Sorry, that doesn't cut it with me. A "retention bonus" for someone who screwed my company up is not sound business practice. He probably would be better working for my competitor since he will run that competitor into the ground while the good people that are sound business men run my company competently. These incompetents deserve nothing but a pink slip. They should be given the boot, post haste.
Perhaps that is what is wrong with American business is that we have lost touch with what is sound practice. Those days need to return if trust is to be restored in the financial system. Right now, my money will be removed from the banks since those weasels are not to be trusted with my money. At this point, a mattress seems the safest place to place my money.
Monday 16 March 2009
Journalists from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the 30-foot neon globe that sits atop the newspaper's building. (Photo: Monica Almeida / The New York Times)
Seattle - The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which has chronicled the news of the city since logs slid down its steep streets to the harbor and miners caroused in its bars before heading north to Alaska's gold fields, will print its final edition Tuesday.
Hearst Corp., which owns the 146-year-old P-I, said Monday that it failed to find a buyer for the newspaper, which it put up for a 60-day sale in January after years of losing money. Now the P-I will shift entirely to the Web.
"Tonight will be the final run, so let's do it right," publisher Roger Oglesby told the newsroom.
Hearst's decision to abandon the print product in favor of an Internet-only version is the first for a large American newspaper, raising questions about whether the company can make money in a medium where others have come up short.
David Lonay, 80, a subscriber since 1950, said he'll miss a morning ritual that can't be replaced by a Web-only version.
"The first thing I do every day is get the P-I and read it," Lonay said. "I really feel like an old friend is dying."
Hearst's move to end the print edition leaves the P-I's larger rival, The Seattle Times, as the only mainstream daily in the city. The Times plans to deliver a copy of the newspaper to every P-I subscriber on Wednesday morning, spokeswoman Jill Mackie said.
"It's a really sad day for Seattle," said P-I reporter Angela Galloway. "The P-I has its strengths and weaknesses but it always strove for a noble cause, which was to give voice to those without power and scrutiny of those with power."
Seattle follows Denver in losing a daily newspaper this year. The Rocky Mountain News closed after its owner, E.W. Scripps Co., couldn't find a buyer. In Arizona, Gannett Co.'s Tucson Citizen is set to close Saturday, leaving one newspaper in that city.
And last month Hearst said it would close or sell the San Francisco Chronicle if the newspaper couldn't slash expenses in coming weeks.
The newspaper industry has seen ad revenue fall in recent years as advertisers migrate to the Internet, particularly to sites offering free or low-cost alternatives for classified ads. Starting last summer, the recession intensified the decline in advertising revenue in all categories.
Four newspaper companies, including the owners of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and The Philadelphia Inquirer, have sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in recent months.
While the P-I's Web site ensures it a continued presence in the Seattle news market, it will likely be a pared-down version of its former self - with a heavy reliance on blogs and links to other news outlets.
The P-I had 181 employees, but Managing Editor David McCumber said the Web site would employ about 20 in the newsroom operation and another 20 to sell ads. He said he would not be working on the new site.
Steven R. Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers, said the online P-I would not just be "a newspaper online."
"It's an effort to craft a new type of digital business with a robust, community news and information Web site at its core," Swartz said.
Hearst said the online edition will include some of the newspaper's marquee names, including sports columnist Art Thiel, political columnist Joel Connelly and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist David Horsey. Horsey also is under contract to continue drawing for Hearst's other newspapers.
In February, the P-I Web site had 1.8 million unique visitors and 50 million page views, according to Nielsen Online. Meanwhile the newspaper's print circulation was down to 117,000, from nearly 200,000 in 1998, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
It's unclear how the online-only venture will affect the Times, which is controlled by the Blethen family and has a circulation of 199,000. The Times has had severe financial troubles of its own and has cut 500 positions in the past year.
The P-I has had a feisty rivalry with the Times that intensified when the Times shifted from afternoon to morning publication in 2000. But since 1983, the P-I and the Times have shared business operations in a joint operating agreement in which the Times handles advertising, printing and other business functions for both newspapers in return for 60 percent of profits - or losses.
The Times, which also has been losing money and cutting jobs, has long sought to end the joint operating agreement, arguing it threatened the survival of both newspapers. However, ending the deal could be problematic because now the Times will shoulder losses alone during a weak economy, Mackie said.
The P-I's roots date to 1863, when Seattle was still a frontier town and James Watson founded its precursor, the Seattle Gazette, as a four-page weekly.
The newspaper changed hands, names and offices several times - including when the 1889 great Seattle fire destroyed its office - before newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst bought the P-I in 1921 through a representative. Hearst later revealed his ownership of the newspaper in an editorial, according to the P-I archives.
"Every idea, every movement, every debate in Seattle's civic life was reflected on the front page of the paper," said Leonard Garfield, executive director of the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.
Some of the newspaper's more famous employees over the years included novelist Tom Robbins, columnist Emmett Watson and Frank Herbert, author of the science fiction novel "Dune."
Former P-I columnist Susan Paynter, who retired in 2007 after 39 years at the newspaper, said the P-I pushed the envelope on stories, running early pieces on abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment.
"The P-I was really on the forefront of telling the average person's story and why it mattered," Paynter said.
Horsey, the cartoonist who won the newspaper's only two Pulitzer Prizes in 1999 and 2003, said much would be lost when the print product ceases publishing.
"A daily newspaper tells the stories of a community and lets the people of a city know who they are, who their neighbors are, and the life and issues they share," Horsey said. "When you lose any one newspaper, you lose a piece of that."
Associated Press Writer Donna Gordon Blankinship contributed to this report.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 6:34 pm
Rainn Wilson (a.k.a The Office's Dwight Schrute) has just launched the website SoulPancake.com, which is part-blog, part-online community to discuss philosophy and spirituality. Says Wilson in an introductory video: "I am sick of spirituality being airy-fairy, hippy-dippy, and precious. I want to de-lameify talking about God and religion."
Well, hoorah for that, I say. But why is America's favorite office nerd so into talking about God? Wilson is a member of the Baha'i faith, and lately he's been increasingly vocal about protesting religious persecution in Iran, where seven Baha'i leaders have been imprisoned and are about to be put on "trial." They've been charged with everything from being spies for Israel to insulting Islam, and it's not the first time Iran has targeted the faith tradition.
He's gotten the attention of at least some U.S. lawmakers. Yesterday Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced a resolution condemning the government of Iran for persecuting Baha'i. Meanwhile, Wilson and his buddies over at SoulPancake are tackling lighter fare, like writing haikus about why suffering exists and brainstorming questions they'd ask God if they got the chance. Good stuff.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Bud Kennedy: Should Chuck Norris be president of Texas?
Now, Chuck Norris is predicting that Texans might rise up and declare our independence — and that he might run for president.
As if we don’t have enough trouble in Austin, Norris wrote Tuesday in his syndicated column that some American state like Texas might "stand and secede" from the "wayward federal government."
He added — tongue-in-cheek, he wrote — "I may run for president of Texas."
If Walker, Texas Ranger, wants to be president — are we powerless to stop him?
I’ve heard the jokes.
But I might point out that Texas tried to cut out once already.
That was an epic failure.
Norris wrote that Texans might rebel "if the state of the union continues to turn into the enemy of the state."
Quoting Patrick Henry and John Adams, Norris wrote that Congress and the president "stampede" the Constitution in favor of "desires, partisan politics and runaway spending."
He’s kicking mad that the United States has somehow "bastardized" religious freedom by having a secular government. He quotes a 1776 Adams letter saying that the Constitution works only for "a moral and religious people."
Norris added that he thinks the Republicans are taking the nation the same direction as the Democrats, "just slower."
He used the s-word: "Other states might stand and secede, but Texas has the history to prove it." He ominously described "thousands of cell groups" ready to join.
Before we all gather arms to establish One Nation Under Chuck, it’s time for a reality check.
First of all, Chuck Norris is — as Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele might say — an entertainer.
His new book is Black Belt Patriotism: How to Reawaken America. The Tuesday column about secession includes a paragraph inviting readers to a martial-arts event in Houston this weekend benefiting his charity foundation.
Plus, here’s one tiny detail.
Norris might not be eligible to be president of Texas.
He’s a native-born Oklahoman.
At the Wilson Historical Museum in Wilson, Okla., where Norris went to school, a woman answering the phone laughed when I told her that he wants to be president of Texas.
"He’s gone goofy," she said sweetly, saying she wouldn’t give her name because "he’s got kinfolks here."
If Texas declared independence, she’d need a passport to cross the Red River at Gainesville.
And, of course, we’d have to build a border wall.
"I think he’s been hit in the head too many times," she said.
I couldn’t find Norris for comment.
He knows where to find me.
Report: 'Dirty bomb' parts found in slain man's home
Agency says radioactive materials recovered in home of man allegedly slain by his wife
According to an FBI field intelligence report from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center posted online by WikiLeaks, an organization that posts leaked documents, an investigation into the case revealed that radioactive materials were removed from Cummings’ home after his shooting death on Dec. 9.
The report posted on the WikiLeaks Web site states that “On 9 December 2008, radiological dispersal device components and literature, and radioactive materials, were discovered at the Maine residence of an identified deceased [person] James Cummings.”
The section referring to Cummings can be read here.
It says that four 1-gallon containers of 35 percent hydrogen peroxide, uranium, thorium, lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium, boron, black iron oxide and magnesium ribbon were found in the home.
Also found was literature on how to build “dirty bombs” and information about cesium-137, strontium-90 and cobalt-60, radioactive materials. The FBI report also stated there was evidence linking James Cummings to white supremacist groups. This would seem to confirm observations by local tradesmen who worked at the Cummings home that he was an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler and had a collection of Nazi memorabilia around the house, including a prominently displayed flag with swastika. Cummings claimed to have pieces of Hitler’s personal silverware and place settings, painter Mike Robbins said a few days after the shooting.
An application for membership in the National Socialist Movement filled out by Cummings also was found in the residence, according to the report. Cummings’ wife, Amber B. Cummings, 31, told investigators that her husband spoke of “dirty bombs,” according to the report, and mixed chemicals in her kitchen sink. She allegedly told police that Cummings subjected her to years of mental, physical and sexual abuse. She also said that Cummings was “very upset” when Barack Obama was elected president.
A “dirty bomb” is a type of “radiological dispersal device” that combines a conventional explosive such as dynamite with radioactive material, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Web site. “Most RDDs would not release enough radiation to kill people or cause severe illness,” the NRC says, adding that “a dirty bomb is in no way similar to a nuclear weapon” because its effects occur in a very limited area compared to a nuclear explosion.
The report noted that “uranium, thorium, cesium-137, stontium-90 and cobalt-60 are radioactive isotopes and 35 percent hydrogen peroxide is a necessary precursor for the manufacture of peroxide-based explosives. Lithium metal, thermite and aluminum are materials used to sensitize and amplify the effects of explosives.”
The report stated that the uranium component was bought online from a U.S. company that was identified in the investigation, but not in the report.
John Donnelley, an agent at the FBI’s Boston office, declined Tuesday to comment on the report. Donnelley said some FBI reports are provided to law enforcement agencies and sometimes get released to media outlets.
“I wouldn’t be prepared to speak on that,” Donnelley said. “I have no comment.”
The Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center is an intelligence gathering office affiliated with Washington, D.C., law enforcement. Telephone and e-mail messages left with the center Tuesday were not returned.
State police have identified Amber Cummings as the person who shot James Cummings. The couple’s 9-year-old daughter was present the morning of the shooting in what police have described as a domestic violence homicide.
Amber Cummings, who is staying in the Belfast area, has not been charged in the case, although the Waldo County grand jury currently meeting in Belfast could take up the matter during its session this week. While state police have acknowledged that the 29-year-old Cummings was killed by a gunshot, the results of the autopsy have been impounded, as have the search warrants executed at Cummings’ High Street home following the shooting. Authorities spent days searching the home, according to neighbors.
Lt. Gary Wright, who heads up the Maine State Police Criminal Investigation Division team working the case, declined to comment on any aspects of the case when contacted Tuesday.
“We’re not going to comment on anything,” Wright said Tuesday evening. “It’s an open homicide investigation and we’re not going to comment. That’s our standard policy.”
Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, also had no comment on the report. “This is an active, open homicide investigation,” he said Tuesday evening, “and as a result, it’s inappropriate to get into confirming or denying aspects of that.”
Maine Deputy Attorney General William Stokes also declined to comment on the report Tuesday.
David Farmer, spokesman for Gov. John Baldacci, said Tuesday that it was inappropriate for the governor to comment on an open investigation. When asked about the copy of the field report sent to him by the Bangor Daily News, he said, “At this point, I have been unable to confirm the authenticity of the documents you sent to us.”
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ staff said there was no one able to comment on the report Tuesday night.
Telephone messages left with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were not returned Tuesday evening. Robbins, who worked on the house for a month last summer, described Cummings as an angry person who was verbally abusive to his wife. He said Cummings apparently was independently wealthy and did not work. Robbins said Cummings talked incessantly about his love of guns and his fascination for Hitler. He said Cummings repeatedly berated his wife about home-schooling their daughter. He said Cummings had a controlling personality and wanted to know his wife and child’s every move.
Cummings grew up in California and lived in Texas before moving to Maine in August 2007. Although Robbins said Cummings told him he made his money in Texas real estate, it appears that the actual source of his wealth was a trust fund established by his father, a prominent landowner in the Northern California city of Fort Bragg. An Internet search of the James B. Cummings Trust indicated that it has an annual income of $10 million.
The FBI field intelligence report was apparently first reported on by unattributable.com, an online magazine which covers and blogs on current events.
BDN writer Dawn Gagnon in Bangor contributed to this report.Copyright ©2009 Bangor Publishing Co.
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