Sunday, March 26, 2006


A homeless beauty and the beast, heroin. A slave to her addiction, young woman squanders her family and her potential

Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Rhonda Bye had a lot going for her -- brains, beauty, feisty strength.

Heroin and crack crushed it all.

The narcotics ruined her looks and attention span, snuffing out her potential both as a young clothing model for Nordstrom and as a computer whiz who could fix office network problems. Three years ago, a slave to her heroin addiction, Bye landed on San Francisco's streets as a homeless panhandler.

Still, she refused to give up, fighting her way through a frustrating maze of city social services to get into housing and drug rehabilitation. She shook off her addiction, and in the last couple months she had been talking about retraining to work with computers again.

But it was too late. Drug abuse and the ravages of street life had damaged her kidneys so badly that, in mid-February, doctors told her she would need dialysis for the rest of her life.
She missed her treatments three times in a row and went into a coma three weeks ago.
On Wednesday, she died. She was 39.

Bye leaves behind two sons and a daughter -- and a lifetime that her family hopes will be an example, in the harshest way possible, of how drugs and homelessness can destroy a person.
"She is an Exhibit A on what heroin and crack does to someone who is unbelievably beautiful, has the sweetest personality in the world, and is even smart," said Bye's brother, Robert Davis of Everett, Wash. "She could have done so much in life, so much. But drugs. ... It was drugs."

Bye lies in the San Francisco General Hospital morgue, the destination of all such indigents who die alone in the city from the ravages of drug abuse. But members of her family, many of whom haven't seen her in years, aren't focusing on that image. They choose to remember her in the days before everything went bad.

"She had such a great smile, back when she had teeth, and such a cute giggle," said her mother-in-law, Kay Vestre of Kent, Wash., who is raising Bye's three children and is a manager for the local child protective services office. "Back before she did drugs, they hired her at my workplace to work on the computer system, and oh, my, was she good. She became a trainer for other technicians."

But that -- like most of the promising things in Bye's life -- was before heroin seized her.
Bye was raised in Washington state, by a single mother who struggled on welfare or low-paying jobs for much of her childhood, her brother said, "but she always had the strength and brains to try to make something of herself."

Throughout middle school, she attended Bellevue Modeling Academy and walked the runway showing off clothes for Nordstrom. She pulled A's and B's in school, he said, "and by high school she was probably the most popular, cutest girl in class."

Then she met David Bye, whom as recently as this winter she called "the love of my life and the most interesting guy I ever met." By 17, she had dropped out of high school, and they were married, their first child on the way.

"The two of them just started doing cocaine a bit, and very slowly over the next bunch of years they lost what they had," Davis said. Jobs came and went, but about six years ago heroin had gripped them both, and they wound up on and off the streets. Vestre got custody of their three children -- and three years ago, things exploded out of control.

David Bye shot a man to death in Seattle in a fight over insurance money, and the couple fled toward Mexico. San Francisco police found them huddled in an alleyway, arrested David Bye and extradited him to Washington. His wife was left on the street -- and there she stayed.
Over the next year, she became a fixture at the Duboce Street off-ramp from Highway 101, the smiling, gentle woman with the ever-ready sign pleading for "just a little help." With her husband out of the picture for the first time since she was 17 -- he was convicted last year of second-degree murder and is serving 32 years in prison -- she was truly on her own for the first time in her life.

"This is not how I wanted to end up," she said one rainy day in 2004 as she begged in traffic. "I want to set a better example for my kids. All I need is a little more of a chance."

That chance came that year, when city Human Services Director Trent Rhorer struck up a conversation with her as she visited with a Chronicle reporter and photographer. He summoned an outreach worker, who signed her up for housing and rehab appointments.

It proved to be the one spark she needed. Bye followed up her many appointments diligently, and nearly three months later, she had a room in the Elm residential hotel and was firmly on methadone treatment to kick heroin.

"Rhonda struck me as someone who genuinely recognized her plight and really wanted to live a better life," Rhorer said. "She was no dummy. But sometimes the toll of drugs is just too much, and it catches up with you.

"What this tells me is that we have to work even harder to get the chronically homeless inside before this kind of damage sets in so deeply."

Her family hoped that she would learn so much from her street ordeals that she could become a counselor someday. Bye herself held that ambition.

"I know how the whole thing works now," she said one day last month in her hotel room, going over brochures of computer training classes. "Man, I could actually help people avoid the crap I've had to live through. Wouldn't that just be great?"

In addition to her husband, brother and mother-in-law, Bye is survived by two sons, David Bye Jr. and Chad Bye, and one daughter, Crystal Bye, all of Kent, Wash.; three other brothers, Billy Davis of San Diego and Sol and Cyrus Davis, both of Washington state; mother and stepfather, Phyllis and Ben Jones of Colorado; and her father, Bill Davis of Washington state.

Bye's family intends to have her cremated and her ashes flown to Washington state to her children.

E-mail Kevin Fagan at

Gas tax on miles, not gallons??!! WTF!!

Volunteers sought to test alternative to gas tax

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

James Mayer

The state is seeking volunteers to test the idea of replacing Oregon's gas tax with a fee based on how far you drive.

The project will test several aspects of charging a per-mile fee at the pump instead of paying the state's 24-cents-per-gallon gas tax. Volunteers for the one-year pilot program will use a mileage-counting device for in-state travel and will buy gas at specific Portland service stations.
Oregon, like other states, has seen a drop in gas tax revenue because of increased fuel efficiency. A task force set up by the 2001 Legislature developed the mileage fee idea.
Shelley Snow, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said the project is the first of its kind in the country.

ODOT is looking for about 280 volunteers. To participate, you must have a vehicle made between 1996 and 2004, and allow all the vehicles in your household to take part. The participating service stations are at Southeast 114th Avenue and Powell Boulevard, and Northeast 102nd and Sandy Boulevard, so residents of those areas are encouraged to volunteer.
To get information on how to volunteer, check the department's Web site at

The project will test the system's ability to accurately collect the fee at the pump. When a purchase is totaled, the gas tax will be deducted and the fee added automatically.
One group will pay a flat fee of 1.2 cents a mile, and a second group will pay a variable fee based on how many miles are driven in rush-hour zones. A third group will pay the gas tax as a control.

-- James Mayer

Oregon to test mileage tax as replacement for gas tax

By Eric Pryne

Seattle Times staff reporter

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Let's pretend someone waves a magic wand and turns every car into a fuel-sipping, gas-electric hybrid. What difference would it make?

The air would be cleaner.

Oil imports would drop.

And the transportation budgets of Oregon, Washington and almost every other state would deflate like a punctured balloon.

Think about it: Most money for highway construction and maintenance comes from state and federal taxes on gasoline. If people bought a lot less gas, highways would get a lot less money.
In Oregon, a state task force has concluded this scenario isn't all that far-fetched. It has proposed a possible long-term replacement for the gas tax, something no one has tried before:
A tax based on how many miles you drive.

The Oregon Road User Fee Task Force has spent two years fleshing out the concept, thinking through how such a tax might be calculated and collected. Now it's ready to test its ideas in the real world.

At the panel's request, Oregon State University researchers have developed technology that can distinguish miles driven in Oregon from those driven elsewhere, then allow a mileage tax to be calculated and paid at the pump in place of the state gas tax.

Next year, the researchers' mileage-recording devices are to be installed on 400 private cars in Eugene. Some of the volunteers will become the first people in the country to pay road taxes based not on how much fuel they burn, but on how far they travel.

A mileage tax has been discussed in Washington, too — not as a replacement for the gas tax, but as a supplement to it. A bill allowing the Regional Transportation Investment District to propose one to King, Snohomish and Pierce county voters cleared the state House of Representatives earlier this year. It died in the Senate, in part because no one could say exactly how the tax might work.
The Oregon task force, whose work has attracted national attention, has gone a long way toward answering that question.
But even if the Eugene field test resolves the technical and administrative issues, tough policy questions about privacy, equity and the environment will remain.
"We know that, if you do this in a certain way, you can actually make it work," says Jim Whitty, the task force's administrator. "But working through these issues is very, very difficult."
Four miles for a nickel?

In 1999, Ford brought some of its alternative-fuel-concept cars to Salem, Oregon's capital, for a demonstration. Bruce Starr, then a Republican state representative from the Portland suburbs, took a spin in a $6 million fuel-cell vehicle. "I got to thinking, 'What happens when you encourage high-mileage vehicles?' " Starr remembers. "That was in some respects the genesis of this."

Starr's epiphany led him to introduce the bill that created the task force in 2001. He became its chairman.

The panel spelled out the underlying problem in a 2003 report. Cars will get more fuel efficient as gas prices continue to climb, it said. More automakers will offer hybrids. The Bush administration plans to spend $1.7 billion over five years to develop fuel-cell vehicles that run on hydrogen.

So Oregon's gas-tax revenues will gradually level off, the task force said. Around 2014, it projected, collections will actually start to drop.

The panel sifted through 27 other options before settling on the mileage tax as a replacement. The other possible revenue sources either weren't user fees, had already been claimed by local government, or wouldn't generate enough money.

It suggested a tax of 1.25 cents per mile to eventually replace the state's gas tax of 24 cents per gallon. For a car that gets average gas mileage — 19.7 miles per gallon in Oregon — the total tax bill would be about the same.

But few cars are average. A 2004 Honda Civic that gets 36 miles to the gallon would pay more tax than today; a 2004 Range Rover that gets 12 would pay less.

Treating them the same is fair, Whitty argues. Each vehicle uses up about the same amount of space on the highway, he says, and there's little difference in the wear and tear they inflict on roads.

Besides, he adds, the gas tax was effectively a mileage tax 40 years ago, when almost every car got eight to 12 miles to the gallon. The introduction of fuel-efficient cars shifted more of the highway-finance burden to gas guzzlers, but "there was never public policy set for that," Whitty says. "It happened by accident."

Once the task force settled on a mileage tax, it had to figure out how to make it work.
The panel quickly decided Oregonians shouldn't pay tax on miles driven out of state. The problem: Conventional odometers don't make such distinctions.

It also decided the tax should be calculated and paid at the pump, so people wouldn't have to go to a government office or deal with another bill in their mailbox. The problem: Such a collection system didn't exist.

For solutions, the panel turned to Oregon State engineering professors David Kim, a former General Motors research scientist, and David Porter, an information-technology specialist.
They set up shop in an old storage compound, installing computers and a gas-pump simulator that does everything but pump gas. For more than a year, they tested different devices on three 1991 Dodge Dynasties the state once used to collect litter.

In the spring, Porter and Kim announced they had designed a system that did everything the task force wanted.

For vehicles, they crafted a device with an electronic odometer and a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver that determines whether a car is being driven in a predetermined "zone" — inside or outside Oregon, for instance. The miles in each zone are recorded separately.

When the car pulls into a gas station, its mileage data is uploaded by short-range radio frequency to a wireless reader. It sends the numbers to the station's computer, which, in turn, asks a central computer for information on the car's last reported mileage.

Once that data arrives, the gas-station computer does the math. It calculates new taxable miles, computes how much tax is owed and relays that information back to the pump.

All this takes about as long as a credit-card approval, Kim says. After that, the gas station's computer subtracts the gas tax from the per-gallon price displayed on the pump. You fill your tank, pay for the fuel plus the mileage tax, and drive away.

Cars that don't have the odometer-GPS devices — older cars, out-of-state cars — won't have any data for the reader to download. They'll continue to pay the gas tax; the task force has concluded that, while the state could reasonably require the devices on new cars, retrofitting every vehicle in Oregon would be too expensive.

The system's use of satellite-based GPS technology raises the specter of Big Brother, of government tracking where and when you drive. "If you wanted to, you could design a system that would do that," Porter acknowledges.

But he and Kim say their system doesn't; the task force didn't want anything that intrusive.
Their on-vehicle device doesn't store trip details, the professors say — only total miles and the zones into which those miles fall. That's the only information that would be transmitted at the gas pump, they add; no one could use the technology to track you while you're driving, or reconstruct where you've been.

"All that would be stored is a number," Whitty says. "If the police wanted to go into that device, there wouldn't be anything to find."

As an added safeguard, the task force has recommended that collection and dissemination of information about a car's movements without the driver's consent be prohibited by law.
Such assurances don't satisfy David Sobel, general counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C. Oregon's prototype probably presents little threat to privacy, he says — but government officials almost certainly would want something more.
The state would need a record of a car's movements to document the mileage-tax assessment if someone contested it, Sobel says: "Just from a due-process perspective, there will be pressure to retain data."

Privacy isn't the only concern. Chris Hagerbaumer, of the Oregon Environmental Council, says a mileage tax that treats a hybrid and a Hummer the same would discourage consumers from buying fuel-efficient cars.

"The gas tax sends a valuable signal," she says. "I'd hate to see that go away."
Oil companies don't like the task force's plan to collect the mileage tax at the pump, through gas stations' computers.

"They want to go into our proprietary systems," says Brian Doherty, a lobbyist for the Western States Petroleum Association. "Would you open up your million-dollar computer and let them have access to it?"

The task force hopes to install mileage-tax technology at up to five service stations next year for its Eugene field test. It may have trouble finding guinea pigs. "Until we get real comfortable with it, we're not ready to go there," Doherty says.

The task force's timetable calls for the first 20 cars to be equipped with mileage recorders next February. The experiment should be in full swing by fall 2005. Later, the technology would be used to test "congestion pricing" — charging some drivers a higher mileage fee during rush hour, or in particularly congested areas, to see if they drive less as a result.

The test should be finished in early 2007. Then what?

If the experiment works, Whitty says, the task force probably would draft a bill proposing a statewide mileage tax. Starr, the legislator who chairs the panel, doubts it would pass right away.

He says he's comfortable with the system's privacy protections, but the public isn't yet. Cost is another big hurdle, Starr adds: The task force has calculated the on-vehicle devices might add up to $225 to the price of a new car.

It's probably unrealistic anyway for a small state like Oregon to adopt a mileage tax by itself, Starr says, but the task force's work could provide the foundation for a larger state or the federal government to take that leap.

Whitty agrees. "Oregon is the tip of the tail of the dog," he says. "It's hard to wag the dog from that vantage point."

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

Saturday, March 25, 2006

WWII airman found frozen in mountainside

WWII airman found frozen in mountainside to be buried

Associated Press Mar. 24, 2006 07:47 AM

BRAINERD, Minn. - A World War II airman whose body was found frozen in a glacier last fall was to be buried in his hometown Friday, six decades after his plane crashed in the Sierra Nevada.

Leo Mustonen was 22 when his AT-7 navigational plane disappeared after taking off from a Sacramento, Calif., airfield on Nov. 18, 1942.

An engine, scattered remains and clothing were found over the following years, far from the plane's intended course, but Mustonen remained missing until last year, when two mountain climbers in California spotted an arm jutting out of the ice.

Authorities in October were able to chip out the remarkably well-preserved body of an airman who was carrying a fountain pen, an unused parachute and 51 cents in dimes, nickels and pennies dated between 1920 and 1942. There was a metal badge attached to his brown U.S. Army Air Forces uniform, but it was heavily corroded.

It took forensic scientists at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii examining the bones, DNA samples and the airman's teeth to officially declare the body as Mustonen.

Mustonen's relatives felt it was important for him to return to Brainerd and be buried with his parents, said the Rev. Andy Smith. Smith was asked to preach at the funeral Friday before Mustonen' burial in the same cemetery as his family.

Leane Mustonen Ross, the airman's niece, said there was no question about bringing him home after the anguish the family suffered not knowing what had happened to him.

It's "certainly nice to know he won't be left alone up in the mountains in a pile of snow," she said in a recent interview. "It's good to give him a decent burial."

Abramoff Has Ties To Slaying Case

Abramoff May Be Subpoenaed in Slaying Case
Mar 24 1:52 PM US/Eastern

By CURT ANDERSONAssociated Press Writer

A judge has approved subpoenas for former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and an ex-business partner to answer questions about the mob-style slaying of the owner of a gambling fleet they bought.
Abramoff and Adam Kidan have insisted, through their attorneys, that they know nothing about the slaying of Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, who was ambushed in his car by a gunman in Fort Lauderdale a few months after the pair bought SunCruz Casinos from him.

A lawyer for Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello, one of three men charged in the 2001 slaying, wants to question Abramoff and Kidan, according to court documents. Circuit Judge Michael Kaplan approved the request Thursday, but the subpoenas had not been issued by Friday morning.

The SunCruz purchase is "at the heart" of the murder case, Moscatiello attorney Dave Bogenschutz said in court papers.

Abramoff and Kidan are not charged in the slaying but are scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in federal court after pleading guilty earlier this year to fraud charges stemming from the purchase. Their lawyers did not return telephone calls or e-mails seeking comment Friday.

Abramoff, once a prominent Republican lobbyist and political fundraiser, has also pleaded guilty to federal charges in a Washington corruption investigation that threatens several powerful members of Congress and their staff members.

As part of their federal plea deals, Abramoff and Kidan are required to cooperate with prosecutors in any state or federal investigation.

Moscatiello, 67, allegedly has ties to New York's Gambino crime family and worked as a consultant for Kidan at SunCruz.

Kidan paid companies linked to Moscatiello about $145,000 while he ran SunCruz. Prosecutors have said they believe Boulis was slain in a battle for control of the gambling fleet out of concern that those payments might dry up.

Moscatiello is charged along with Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari, 49, and 28-year-old James "Pudgy" Fiorillo in the Boulis killing. All three have pleaded not guilty and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Investigators have testified that records show that cell phones belonging to Ferrari and Fiorillo were within 500 feet of the Boulis murder scene moments after the killing and that one was used to call Moscatiello.

Kaplan was scheduled to hear testimony Friday on a motion by Moscatiello and Fiorillo claiming the prosecution's case isn't strong enough to warrant keeping them in custody without bail. Ferrari has not joined in that motion.

Abramoff and Kidan face prison sentences of just more than seven years in the Florida fraud case. They admitted fabricating a fake wire transfer to make it appear they were putting a sizable chunk of their own money into the $147.5 million purchase of the gambling fleet.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Money Talks (2)

Bush uncle benefits from war spending

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — As President Bush embarks on a new effort to shore up public support for the war in Iraq, an uncle of the chief executive is collecting $2.7 million in cash and stock from the recent sale of a company that profited from the war.

A report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission shows that William H.T. Bush collected a little less than $1.9 million in cash plus stock valued at more than $800,000 as a result of the sale of Engineered Support Systems Inc. to DRS Technologies of New Jersey.

The $1.7 billion deal closed Jan. 31. Both businesses have extensive military contracts.

The elder Bush was a director of Engineered Support Systems. Recent SEC filings show he was paid cash and DRS stock in exchange for shares and options he obtained as a director.

Missouri-based ESSI experienced record growth prior to its purchase by DRS through expanded U.S. military contracts — many to supply current U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan — and an aggressive buyout strategy targeted at other defense contractors. The military contracts, some awarded on a sole-source basis, include a $77 million pact to refit military vehicles used in Iraq with armor.

Other ESSI products used in the war include radar and detection services, field medical stations and field electrical generator units.

SEC filings show there are two ongoing federal investigations of ESSI — one involving a stop order issued by the federal government on the ESSI contract to supply field generators. The order was issued because of operational problems with the units.

The field-generator contract was a major source of revenue, but SEC files show ESSI did not inform stockholders of the stop order until last June, about seven months after it was issued.

During the interim, several ESSI executives, including Bush's uncle, cashed in stock and stock options worth millions of dollars, SEC filings show.

According to one recent filing, both the SEC and the U.S. attorney in St. Louis are investigating the delayed disclosure and other matters. Unnamed members of the ESSI board and corporate officers have been subpoenaed, according to documents filed with the SEC.

William Bush, 67, SEC filings show, exercised options on 8,348 shares of ESSI stock Jan. 18, 2005, about two months after the stop order was issued. He collected about $450,000 in cash.

Bush, known in the president's family as "Uncle Bucky," joined ESSI's board in 2000, several months before his nephew became president. The Bush uncle heads a St. Louis investment firm and is a younger brother of former President Bush.

William Bush declined to comment yesterday. However, in an interview last year, he said he played no role in ESSI getting federal contracts.

"I don't make any calls to the 202 (Washington, D.C.) area code," he said.

Patricia Williamson, a spokeswoman for DRS, would not comment on the status of the federal investigations. The company has disclosed that it is cooperating in the investigations, which also involve an inquiry into an ESSI insurance contract.

Date of Publication: March 22, 2006 on Page


Good versus evil isn't a strategy
Bush's worldview fails to see that in the Middle East, power politics is the key.

By Madeleine AlbrightMarch 24, 2006

THE BUSH administration's newly unveiled National Security Strategy might well be subtitled "The Irony of Iran." Three years after the invasion of Iraq and the invention of the phrase "axis of evil," the administration now highlights the threat posed by Iran — whose radical government has been vastly strengthened by the invasion of Iraq. This is more tragedy than strategy, and it reflects the Manichean approach this administration has taken to the world.It is sometimes convenient, for purposes of rhetorical effect, for national leaders to talk of a globe neatly divided into good and bad. It is quite another, however, to base the policies of the world's most powerful nation upon that fiction. The administration's penchant for painting its perceived adversaries with the same sweeping brush has led to a series of unintended consequences.

For years, the president has acted as if Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein's followers and Iran's mullahs were parts of the same problem. Yet, in the 1980s, Hussein's Iraq and Iran fought a brutal war. In the 1990s, Al Qaeda's allies murdered a group of Iranian diplomats. For years, Osama bin Laden ridiculed Hussein, who persecuted Sunni and Shiite religious leaders alike. When Al Qaeda struck the U.S. on 9/11, Iran condemned the attacks and later participated constructively in talks on Afghanistan. The top leaders in the new Iraq — chosen in elections that George W. Bush called "a magic moment in the history of liberty" — are friends of Iran. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, Bush may have thought he was striking a blow for good over evil, but the forces unleashed were considerably more complex.

The administration is now divided between those who understand this complexity and those who do not. On one side, there are ideologues, such as the vice president, who apparently see Iraq as a useful precedent for Iran. Meanwhile, officials on the front lines in Iraq know they cannot succeed in assembling a workable government in that country without the tacit blessing of Iran; hence, last week's long-overdue announcement of plans for a U.S.-Iranian dialogue on Iraq — a dialogue that if properly executed might also lead to progress on other issues.Although this is not an administration known for taking advice, I offer three suggestions.

The first is to understand that although we all want to "end tyranny in this world," that is a fantasy unless we begin to solve hard problems. Iraq is increasingly a gang war that can be solved in one of two ways: by one side imposing its will or by all the legitimate players having a piece of the power. The U.S. is no longer able to control events in Iraq, but it can be useful as a referee.

Second, the Bush administration should disavow any plan for regime change in Iran — not because the regime should not be changed but because U.S. endorsement of that goal only makes it less likely. In today's warped political environment, nothing strengthens a radical government more than Washington's overt antagonism. It also is common sense to presume that Iran will be less willing to cooperate in Iraq and to compromise on nuclear issues if it is being threatened with destruction. As for Iran's choleric and anti-Semitic new president, he will be swallowed up by internal rivals if he is not unwittingly propped up by external foes.

Third, the administration must stop playing solitaire while Middle East and Persian Gulf leaders play poker. Bush's "march of freedom" is not the big story in the Muslim world, where Shiite Muslims suddenly have more power than they have had in 1,000 years; it is not the big story in Lebanon, where Iran is filling the vacuum left by Syria; it is not the story among Palestinians, who voted — in Western eyes — freely, and wrongly; it is not even the big story in Iraq, where the top three factions in the recent elections were all supported by decidedly undemocratic militias.

In the long term, the future of the Middle East may well be determined by those in the region dedicated to the hard work of building democracy. I certainly hope so. But hope is not a policy. In the short term, we must recognize that the region will be shaped primarily by fairly ruthless power politics in which the clash between good and evil will be swamped by differences between Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Persian, Arab and Kurd, Kurd and Turk, Hashemite and Saudi, secular and religious and, of course, Arab and Jew. This is the world, the president pledges in his National Security Strategy, that "America must continue to lead." Actually, it is the world he must begin to address — before it is too late.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, secretary of State from 1997 to 2001, is the author of "The Mighty and the Almighty -- Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs," to be published by Harper Collins in May. This essay appears by special arrangement with the Financial Times.

Not A Good Idea....


PHILADELPHIA -- The Internal Revenue Service is quietly moving to loosen the once-inviolable privacy of federal income-tax returns.

If it succeeds, accountants and other tax-return preparers for the first time would be able to sell information from individual returns -- or even entire returns -- to marketers and data brokers.
The change is in a set of proposed rules the Treasury Department and the IRS published in the Dec. 8 Federal Register, where the official notice labeled them "not a significant regulatory action."

IRS officials portray the changes as housecleaning needed to update outmoded regulations adopted before it began accepting returns electronically. The proposed rules, which would become effective 30 days after a final version is published, would require a tax preparer to obtain written consent before selling tax information.

Critics call the changes a dangerous breach in personal and financial privacy. They say the requirement for signed consent would prove meaningless for many taxpayers, especially those hurriedly reviewing stacks of documents before a filing deadline.

"The normal interaction is that the taxpayer just signs what the tax preparer puts in front of them," said Jean Ann Fox of the Consumer Federation of America, one of several groups fighting the changes. "They think, 'This person is a tax professional, and I'm going to rely on them.' "
Criticism of the proposal also came from U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. In a letter March 14 to IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, Obama warned that, once in the hands of third parties, tax information could be resold and handled under even looser rules than the IRS sets, increasing consumers' vulnerability to identity theft and other risks.

The IRS announced the proposal in a news release the day before the notice was published, headlined: "IRS Issues Proposed Regulations to Safeguard Taxpayer Information."
The announcement did not mention potential sales of tax information.

IRS spokesman William M. Cressman said, "The heart of this proposed regulation is about the right of taxpayers to control their tax return information. The idea is to emphasize taxpayer consent and set clear boundaries on how tax return preparers can use or disclose tax return information."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Okay, that sounded kind of bad, but the house is nice and warm and cozy, and the water is hot, and my kids are safe. I paid the rest of the money the extorted out of me by check over the phone, and they came out this morning to turn the gas back on. The guy was nice enough to make sure the furnace and the water heater lit up okay. He got the water heater to light up, but it was a bit stubborn, and took a few minutes. The furnace has a automatic igniter, so I just cranked up the thermostat until it turned on, and clickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclick

it ignited, and everything is just fine and dandy. We got our state refund check in (already?!) and it was for four hundred something, and I had the rest in the account, so I had the money in the bank to do it. BUT, I had already sent checks out to the other bills (I do them at once, or at least try to), so the money was aleady "spoken for" so to speak. SOOOOOOO, I have to get more money before the checks bounce!!!!!!

Well, I figured out that on also. I have taken out a loan on my PSP (GM retirement account) and I will have the payments taken out of my work checks for the next two years. I don't have the credit for any other type of a "normal" loan from a bank, so this will have to work. THE KEY HERE IS THIS:


keep it our savings account, and forget about it. It is not there (for all practical purposes).


'nuff said.


"nuff said.


not part of it this month, and the rest next month, PLUS the late fee for not paying the whole thing, that just gets you behind, and before you know it, your cut off!!

5. BE MORE RESPONSABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


It started out like any other day. And then I was leaving for work, and I noticed the thermostat was down to 68 degrees, and something was wrong because we always keep it around 72. So, I check the vents, and there is no air. The furnace is turned on, so what the hell? The furnce is running, but sounds different. I shut it off, reset it, and turned it back on. No air from vents. It's running, and making a clicking sound. The pilot is trying to ignite, but there is a reason why it's not. No gas. I finish getting ready for work, Angi calls the gas company, and they say they shut us off. No, note, no call or anything. Right before she was able to talk to an actual REAL live human, (instead of the comp. who says "please press 1 for....." ), I checked outside and YEP, the gas valve was shut off and locked.

They did not get their check in time, so I now have to pay over SEVEN HUNDRED FUCKING DOLLARS before they EVEN TURN US BACK ON. The bill I owed????


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Top Ten

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Tired... Very Very Tired...

WOW, it has been busy around here, okay, not THAT busy. Anyways, work has been busy, busy, busy. I worked 4 hours last Sunday, and also we have worked 9-10 hours every day this week (almost), and then I had to stay over four EXTRA hours on Friday night, (actually Saturday morning). So Friday, I had a thirteen hour day (whew)!! On the bright side, I should get a sweet check, and boy do I need it, (who doesn't??). Angi's mom spent a few days over here this week, and helped with the kids while I worked, and Angi had to go to the doctor, and she has to have her leg removed. Well, just a big vein in it, and it's kind of gross, but she has to get it done, because I will not let it go until she does. I am just riding her ass because if she oes not get the operation done, then the vein could cause a blood clot in her main artery in her leg, and then she would die, and that would just plain suck. So we have to wait at least a month for insurance to approve it (hopefully), and then schedule the operation after that, so we will see how it goes. I'm tired!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

It's March???

Damn, this year is flying by!! Must be all the boredom. Still not a lot going on here. We will get our tax refund in about 9 weeks or so, so that is exciting, and that about covers it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign

March 7, 2006
Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign (story link)

Brian Pickrell, a blogger, recently posted a note on his Web site attacking state legislation that would force Wal-Mart Stores to spend more on employee health insurance. "All across the country, newspaper editorial boards — no great friends of business — are ripping the bills," he wrote.

It was the kind of pro-Wal-Mart comment the giant retailer might write itself. And, in fact, it did.

Several sentences in Mr. Pickrell's Jan. 20 posting — and others from different days — are identical to those written by an employee at one of Wal-Mart's public relations firms and distributed by e-mail to bloggers.

Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.

But the strategy raises questions about what bloggers, who pride themselves on independence, should disclose to readers. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has been forthright with bloggers about the origins of its communications, and the company and its public relations firm, Edelman, say they do not compensate the bloggers.

But some bloggers have posted information from Wal-Mart, at times word for word, without revealing where it came from.

Glenn Reynolds, the founder of, one of the oldest blogs on the Web, said that even in the blogosphere, which is renowned for its lack of rules, a basic tenet applies: "If I reprint something, I say where it came from. A blog is about your voice, it seems to me, not somebody else's."

Companies of all stripes are using blogs to help shape public opinion.

Before General Electric announced a major investment in energy-efficient technology last year, company executives first met with major environmental bloggers to build support. Others have reached out to bloggers to promote a product or service, as Microsoft did with its Xbox game system and Cingular Wireless has done in the introduction of a new phone.

What is different about Wal-Mart's approach to blogging is that rather than promoting a product — something it does quite well, given its $300 billion in annual sales — it is trying to improve its battered image.

Wal-Mart, long criticized for low wages and its health benefits, began working with bloggers in late 2005 "as part of our overall effort to tell our story," said Mona Williams, a company spokeswoman.

"As more and more Americans go to the Internet to get information from varied, credible, trusted sources, Wal-Mart is committed to participating in that online conversation," she said.
Copies of e-mail messages that a Wal-Mart representative sent to bloggers were made available to The New York Times by Bob Beller, who runs a blog called Crazy Politico's Rantings. Mr. Beller, a regular Wal-Mart shopper who frequently defends the retailer on his blog, said the company never asked that the messages be kept private.

In the messages, Wal-Mart promotes positive news about itself, like the high number of job applications it received at a new store in Illinois, and criticizes opponents, noting for example that a rival, Target, raised "zero" money for the Salvation Army in 2005, because it banned red-kettle collectors from stores.

The author of the e-mail messages is a blogger named Marshall Manson, a senior account supervisor at Edelman who writes for conservative Web sites like Human Events Online, which advocates limited government, and Confirm Them, which has pushed for the confirmation of President Bush's judicial nominees.[Text: A PDF copy of an e-mail exchange between Mr. Manson and Rob Port, of]

In interviews, bloggers said Mr. Manson contacted them after they wrote postings that either endorsed the retailer or challenged its critics.

Mr. Beller, who runs Crazy Politico's Rantings, for example, said he received an e-mail message from Mr. Manson soon after criticizing the passage of a law in Maryland that requires Wal-Mart to spend 8 percent of its payroll on health care.

Mr. Manson, identifying himself as a "blogger myself" who does "online public affairs for Wal-Mart," began with a bit of flattery: "Just wanted you to know that your post criticizing Maryland's Wal-Mart health care bill was noticed here and at the corporate headquarters in Bentonville," he wrote, referring to the city in Arkansas.

"If you're interested," he continued, "I'd like to drop you the occasional update with some newsworthy info about the company and an occasional nugget that you won't hear about in the M.S.M." — or mainstream media.

Bloggers who agreed to receive the e-mail messages said they were eager to hear Wal-Mart's side of the story, which they said they felt had been drowned out by critics, and were tantalized by the promise of exclusive news that might attract more visitors to their Web sites.
"I am always interested in tips to stories," said one recipient of Mr. Manson's e-mail messages, Bill Nienhuis, who operates a Web site called

But some bloggers are also defensive about their contacts with Wal-Mart. When they learned that The New York Times was looking at how they were using information from the retailer, several bloggers posted items challenging The Times's article before it had appeared. One blog, Iowa Voice, run by Mr. Pickrell, pleads for advertisers to buy space on the blog in anticipation of more traffic because of the article.

The e-mail messages Mr. Manson has sent to bloggers are structured like typical blog postings, with a pungent sentence or two introducing a link to a news article or release.

John McAdams, a political science professor at Marquette University who runs the Marquette Warrior blog, recently posted three links about union activity in the same order as he received them from Mr. Manson. Mr. McAdams acknowledged that he worked from Wal-Mart's links and that he did not disclose his contact with Mr. Manson.

"I usually do not reveal where I get a tip or a lead on a story," he said, adding that journalists often do not disclose where they get ideas for stories either.

Wal-Mart has warned bloggers against lifting text from the e-mail it sends them. After apparently noticing the practice, Mr. Manson asked them to "resist the urge," because "I'd be sick if someone ripped you because they noticed a couple of bloggers with nearly identical posts."

But Mr. Manson has not encouraged bloggers to reveal that they communicate with Wal-Mart or to attribute information to either the retailer or Edelman, Ms. Williams of Wal-Mart said.
To be sure, some bloggers who post material from Mr. Manson's e-mail do disclose its origins, mentioning Mr. Manson and Wal-Mart by name. But others refer to Mr. Manson as "one reader," say they received a "heads up" about news from Wal-Mart or disclose nothing at all.
Mr. Pickrell, the 37-year-old who runs the Iowa Voice blog, said he began receiving updates from Wal-Mart in January. Like Mr. Beller, of Crazy Politico, Mr. Pickrell had criticized the Maryland legislature over its health care law before Wal-Mart contacted him.
Since then, he has written at least three postings that contain language identical to sentences in e-mail from Mr. Manson. In one, which Mr. Pickrell attributed to a "reader," he reported that Wal-Mart was about to announce that a store in Illinois received 25,000 applications for 325 jobs. "That's a 1.3 percent acceptance rate," the message read. "Consider this: Harvard University (undergraduate) accepts 11 percent of applicants. The Navy Seals accept 5 percent of applicants."

Asked in a telephone interview about the resemblance of his postings to Mr. Manson's, Mr. Pickrell said: "I probably cut and paste a little bit and I should not have," adding that "I try to write my posting in my own words."

In an e-mail message sent after the interview, Mr. Pickrell said he received e-mail from many groups, including those opposed to Wal-Mart, which he uses as a starting point to "do my own research on a topic."

"I draw my own conclusions when I form my opinions," he said.

Mr. Pickrell, explaining his support for Wal-Mart, said he shops there regularly and is impressed with how his mother-in-law, a Wal-Mart employee, is treated. "They go real out of their way for their people," he said.

Wal-Mart's blogging initiative is part of a ballooning public relations campaign developed in consultation with Edelman to help Wal-Mart as two groups, Wal-Mart Watch and Wake Up Wal-Mart, aggressively prod it to change. The groups operate blogs that receive posts from current and former Wal-Mart employees, elected leaders and consumers.

Edelman also helped Wal-Mart develop a political-style war room, staffed by former political operatives, which monitors and responds to the retailer's critics, and helped create Working Families for Wal-Mart, a new group that is trying to build support for the company in cities across the country.

At Edelman, Mr. Manson, who sends many of the e-mail messages to bloggers, works closely on the Wal-Mart account with Mike Krempasky, a co-founder of, a conservative blog. Both are regular bloggers, which in Mr. Manson's case means he has written critically of individuals and groups Wal-Mart may eventually call on for support.

Before he was hired by Edelman in November, Mr. Manson wrote on the Human Events Online blog that members of the San Francisco city council were "dolts" and "twits" for rejecting a proposed World War II memorial and that every day "the United Nations slides further and further into irrelevance." After he was hired, Mr. Manson wrote that the career of Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island was marked by "pointless indecision."

Wal-Mart declined to make Mr. Manson available for comment. Ms. Williams said, "It is not Wal-Mart's role to monitor the opinions of our consultants or how they express them on their own time."

In a sign of how eager Wal-Mart is to develop ties to bloggers, the company has invited them to a media conference to be held at its headquarters in April. In e-mail messages, Wal-Mart has polled several bloggers about whether they would make the trip, which the bloggers would have to pay for themselves.

Mr. Reynolds of said he recently was invited to Wal-Mart's offices but declined. "Bentonville, Arkansas," he said, "is not my idea of a fun destination."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Everything Is Fine

I guess it has been a while. Well, that would be my own fault, but there is nothing going on here. For instance, tomorrow we are finally getting our taxes done. (happy, happy, joy, joy!) The good thing about getting them done, is the fact that the sooner we get them done, the sooner we get them back! I always overpay, because I wouls rather get a check, than send a check, you know what I mean. I always claim single with no kids, so our return should be pretty sweet!! I hope it tops last year, but we shall see. (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) I told you, our life is boring! I also am going to change the Jeep, and the Yukon's oil, and clean up the house, and get rid of more old stuff, (for instance, clothes that I have not worn in YEARS), and stuff like that. Have a good weekend!!!!! I got stuff to do!!!!