U.S. ‘Totally’ at Risk of ‘Great Depression No. 2’

Cramer: ‘Dysfunctional’ Banking System Puts U.S. ‘Totally’

at Risk of ‘Great Depression No. 2’
CNBC host promotes taxpayer-funded federal bailout and Fed interest rate cut to stem financial problems.

By Jeff Poor

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The fragility of the U.S. banking system puts the country in a more dire position than many people realize according to CNBC “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer.

Cramer, in his September 11 “Stop Trading” segment on CNBC’s “Street Signs” told host Erin Burnett the situation puts the United States in danger of “Great Depression, No. 2.”

Burnett questioned Cramer’s assertion that banks should be bailed out by the federal government, in turn passing the cost off to the taxpayer. “It’s obvious the bank system is falling apart,” Cramer said. “Let’s save it before it goes to zero.”

Here is the blow by blow:

BURNETT: But, what I’m writing down is some numbers here – more broadly for the state of, of, of bailouts. You had the Bear [Stearns] bailout and they guaranteed the first $30 billion. We don’t know what the costs will be. Fannie and Freddie – numbers are all over the map, no one knows – $50 billion to $500 billion.

CRAMER: We don’t want a Great Depression, what’s the matter with that? We don’t want a Great Depression.

BURNETT: But OK, then you look at a Washington Mutual, you have a few hundred billion dollars in assets here. You got all these deposits. You’ve got to go borrow the money …

CRAMER: That was run by morons.

BURNETT: But my point is – you’ve got to go borrow the money to fulfill your FDIC insurance to $100,000.

CRAMER: Well, no, you just transfer – you close it one day, like my bank was…. I was banking at Crossland. The next day it opens as another bank, what do I care? My $100,000 was insured.

BURNETT: But, you care because taxpayers are the ones who’s going to be the paying you back for the ones who borrowed it.

Cramer argued it was necessary because otherwise, the U.S. would go into a depression:

CRAMER: We don’t want a Great Depression. I mean, we just don’t want one.

BURNETT: But, are we really at risk of a Great Depression? Most people would argue that we’re not in a full-blown recession.

CRAMER: Totally, totally. John Stumpf [president] from Wells Fargo said it was the worst since the Great Depression.

BURNETT: In housing, but that’s not everywhere.

CRAMER: If I wanted clean hands, if I wanted to be Andrew Mellon, I would call for – I would just say, “Listen, let’s just let the Great Depression, Number Two, happen. But, that’s where we are. That’s, we’ve been like that for a while. So, let’s try to avoid it if we can.

Burnett argued the economy was still growing. After one quarter of negative gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2007, the economy has rebounded with two positive quarters. But Cramer said there was a difference between the economy and the banking system.

“Well, one is the difference between the economy and the banking system,” Cramer said. “The economy really picked up in 1936 to ’38 because of armament orders, and World War II turned around the U.S. economy entirely, but there was still, the banking system was still very frail throughout the ’30s.”

Cramer told Burnett he was disappointed in Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who has studied the Great Depression. Cramer added there is a need for another interest rate cut at the upcoming Federal Reserve Board meeting on September 16.

“But you know, look – I hear you on the jobs, I hear you on the economy,” Cramer said. “I don’t really care. I’m talking about a dysfunctional banking system. We don’t want Citi (NYSE:C) to go out of business. We don’t want AIG (NYSE:AIG) to go out of business.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., September 11 mentioned the possibility of another rescue package – this one for beleaguered investment bank Lehman Brothers (NYSE:LEH), based on its impact on the credit markets.

Great Depression references have been used liberally by the media in 2008. Networks have made endless connections to the Great Depression – more than 7


Do I Have to Obey Orders From an Unconstitutional Government?

Do I Have to Obey Orders From an Unconstitutional Government?

George Washington’s Blog

I am a loyal citizen of the United States of America, and I believe deeply in the vision of the Founding Fathers, the rule of law as enshrined in the Constitution, and the liberty that our forefathers fought and died for.

I have therefore felt a duty to obey the laws of the U.S. my whole life.

However, it is likely that the U.S. no longer has a constitutional form of government.

As the Washington Post noted in March 2002, Bush hid from Congress the fact that Continuity of Government (COG) plans were implemented on 9/11 and were still in effect many months later, and stated:

It was unclear yesterday whether any federal documents — prepared either by the current White House or by Bush’s predecessors dating to Dwight D. Eisenhower — specify whether congressional leaders should be told if the plan is put into effect. At least one relatively general document, a 1988 executive order entitled “Assignment of Emergency Preparedness Responsibilities,” said the White House’s National Security Council “shall arrange for Executive branch liaison with, and assistance to, the Congress and the federal judiciary on national security-emergency preparedness matters.”

The executive order, signed by President Ronald Reagan, is a precursor to documents outlining the contingency plans in greater detail, which have not been made public. Regardless of whether Bush had an obligation to notify legislative leaders, the congressional leaders’ ignorance of the plan he set in motion could raise the question of how this shadow administration would establish its legitimacy with Congress in the event it needed to step in for a crippled White House.

At least some members of Congress suggested yesterday that the administration should have conferred about its plans, which were first reported in The Washington Post yesterday.

“There are two other branches of government that are central to the functioning of our democracy,” said Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “I would hope the speaker and the minority leader would at least pose the question, ‘What about us?’ “

So What?

Remember that, in the summer 2007, Congressman Peter DeFazio, on the Homeland Security Committee (and so with proper security access to be briefed on COG issues), inquired about continuity of government plans, and was refused access. Indeed, DeFazio told Congress that the entire Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. Congress has been denied access to the plans by the White House (video; or here is the transcript). The Homeland Security Committee has full clearance to view all information about COG plans. DeFazio concluded: “Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right”.

And University of California Berkeley Professor Emeritus Peter Dale Scott has warned:

“If members of the Homeland Security Committee cannot enforce their right to read secret plans of the Executive Branch, then the systems of checks and balances established by the U.S. Constitution would seem to be failing.

To put it another way, if the White House is successful in frustrating DeFazio, then Continuity of Government planning has arguably already superseded the Constitution as a higher authority.”

Indeed, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said that “because of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the American public needs no explanation of [Continuity of Government] plans”.

What Does This All Mean?

Continuity of government documents probably require that Congress be notified of the details of implementation of COG plans. But since the executive is hiding such documents from Congress and the people, so we can’t be sure.

Regardless, the executive has failed to “establish its legitimacy with Congress” or the American people, because it is hiding the documents which created the COG emergency government and which give it emergency powers and specify its obligations.

In other words, even if the COG documents were harmless and say “we will coordinate with Congress and the courts and follow the Constitution”, the fact that the White House is hiding the documents, refusing to disclose what acts it has taken pursuant to extraordinary authority granted by the COG plans, and refusing even to say whether a COG government is still in effect renders the current government unconstitutional and illegal.

I consider myself a law-abiding citizen, and I cherish the Constitution, the rule of law, and the American form government established by the Founding Fathers.

But do I have any duty to obey the orders of a government that cannot even establish its basic legitimacy? A government which is itself violating the Constitution and the rule of law? A government that is trying to dismantle the vision that the Founding Fathers and everything that our forefathers fought and died for?

Do I have to obey illegal orders from an unconstitutional government?

This essay doesn’t even discuss spying on Americans, failure to comply with Congressional subpoenas, signing statements, torture, wars based on false intelligence, or the numerous other unconstitutional acts by this administration. It solely focuses on the unconstitutionality of the COG plans.

And it doesn’t even get into guessing what the Founding Fathers might have thought about this bunch of tyrants.

Terror at home

Terror at home

Written by Eric Lam

June 2, 2006 was a hot and sticky night, and Zakaria and Nada Amara still had a lot of moving in to do when the police smashed open their glass front door.

The high school sweethearts had tried living on their own for a while, but it wasn’t working out. They had only made the decision to move into Nada’s mother’s basement the day before.

Nada, 20 at the time, was unpacking when the shouting started. Men in masks charged in, brandishing guns. There was glass everywhere in the front of the house, the remnants of the shattered door. A SWAT member wrenched her crying eight-month old daughter, Nour, from her arms and another officer forced her to the ground. For several agonizing minutes, she didn’t know where her daughter was. “I just remember being handcuffed and brought upstairs,” Nada said.

There, she saw her 14-year-old sister handcuffed. Her brother was too. But there was no sign of Zakaria, her husband. Since then, she’s only seen him from behind a sheet of glass or across a courtroom. He is now an alleged terrorist, locked away in solitary confinement for more than two years, accused of plotting to blow up Parliament and behead the prime minister.

Amara, a former Ryerson student, and 16 others were arrested in June 2006 by the RCMP and partners of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET). They were charged with dozens of terrorism-related offenses under Section 83 of the criminal code.
Another Ryerson student, 18-year-old Ibrahim Aboud, was arrested two months later.

“This group took steps to acquire three tonnes of ammonium nitrate and other components necessary to create explosive devices,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Mike McDonell said in a release the day after the arrests. “At all times, the focus of our investigation was the safety and protection of the public.”

One minute, Zakaria and Nada Amara were just another young couple from suburban Mississauga, trying to make ends meet. The next, the police stormed into their house and changed their lives forever.

One minute, Aboud was a recently-graduated high school student, preparing to start classes at Ryerson. The next, he was on bail under strict conditions. For two years, he could only leave his house alone to go to school, and at Ryerson, he suspected that people knew that he was facing terrorism charges.

In April, Aboud joined six other accused in having his charges staid. He’s free for now, but for the next year, he can still be re-prosecuted.
Amara, however, sits in solitary confinement in the Don Jail, awaiting his trial. He faces life in prison if convicted. His lawyer, David Kolinsky, will begin pre-trial motions this month. He is hopeful that jury selection will take place in fall 2009.

Now, the Eyeopener takes a closer look at the time leading up to the arrests, the ordeal these two students have faced, and the families anxiously waiting on the outside.

Nada Farooq didn’t know Zakaria Amara very well when he proposed to her, but something made her say yes anyway.

It was the fall of 2003, and Farooq and Amara were starting grade 12 at Meadowvale Secondary in Mississauga, Ont.

The 16-year-olds had first met in grade 10, in an ESL class, and Amara delighted her with his goofy jokes and good nature. Amara was shy around girls and kept his head down as he walked the halls of his high school.
When he saw Farooq in a hijab for the first time, he decided she should be his wife. His mind made up, Amara popped the question over MSN Messenger, a popular online chat program.

“I am inclined to marry you, what do you think?” he wrote.

“Uh, OK,'” Farooq typed back. She was stunned, but agreed. Muslims weren’t allowed to date, so if they wanted to get to know each other, the proper way to do it was to marry.

“There was an innocent aspect to him,” she said. “He barely knew how to do things, how to do anything wrong. That’s what made me fall in love with him.”

Their parents allowed the marriage but “weren’t exactly happy” at how fast the couple got engaged. They legally married in January 2005, and moved into a one-bedroom apartment.

To support his family, Zakaria became a watch salesman and later a gas station attendant while attending engineering classes at Ryerson part-time. Nada, who got pregnant soon after they moved out, went to school at U of T until she gave birth to their daughter, Nour. She took a break from university to care for her newborn.

The pair moved into a larger, two-bedroom apartment in Meadowvale and Zakaria switched to Humber College so he could quickly land a well-paying job. The university degrees would have to come later.
“Just trying to get over all these obstacles coming our way, we could never soar. It was always something,” Nada said.

At the same time, the couple was rediscovering their religion. Not particularly devout as children, the two adopted a passionate attitude towards their Muslim faith in high school.

Nada remembers watching her husband talking to teachers about Islam after class, and it stirred new feelings in her. “Wow, that’s actually my religion, maybe I should learn about it. That’s how I got into practicing my religion,” she said.

In blog posts uncovered by Globe and Mail reporters Omar El Akkad and Greg McArthur in 2006, the full extent of the Amaras’ devotion becomes apparent.

Nada requested a clause in a prenuptial agreement that forced Zakaria to go to war if jihad was declared. “[And] if he ever refuses a clear opportunity to leave for jihad, then I want the choice of divorce,” the Globe reported Nada as writing in one of 6,000 online posts.

According to the Globe, she used a picture of the Koran and a rifle as her online avatar, and wanted to name her child after a Chechnyan militant if it was a boy. The Amaras also talked about moving to a Muslim country prior to the arrest, because it would be easier to practice their faith there.

Despite the Globe’s assertions that the Amaras were radical anti-westerners, Nada says she loves Canada. “When we hear about the Olympics we cheer for Canada, but it’s hard when your own country thinks you’re the enemy,” she said. “I don’t care if half of Canada doesn’t like me. These are my people.”

Since the arrests, Nada has become a pariah within the Muslim community. People have left threats at her front door and cursed at her and her daughter when they walk on the street. It’s gotten so bad, her family is considering moving. But Islam is an important part of her life and she’s not about to let that go. “Even among Muslims, some don’t like people who extremely practice [their faith],” she said.

She’s not alone.

Saima Mohammad, 23, the sister-in-law of Fahim Ahmad, another of the accused, used to wear a veil like Nada. But she has since taken it off, tired of being harassed since she put it on in grade 7.

The other day while taking the subway to school, a man came up to her and said she was “dressed like a slut.”

When Aboud started classes at Ryerson the month after his arrest, he was certain his classmates and professors knew who he was. Luckily, they didn’t give him much hassle.

“I just want to have a normal life,” he told the Eyeopener at the time.
His bail conditions, however, caused him problems. He wasn’t allowed to leave his house alone, except to go to school. When Muhammad Ali Jabbar, president of the Ryerson Students’ Union, organized a party to break fast for Ramadan at his house, Aboud had to decline. Jabbar thought he’d been slighted. “I didn’t know who he was. He said ‘No,’ without any reason,” Jabbar said. “I thought, ‘How rude.'”

Later, he discovered the reason Aboud kept turning him down. “It brought tears to my eyes. A harmless first-year student was treated like this, where he couldn’t even go out to meet his friends,” he said.

The Amaras, Mohammad, and Jabbar all say they have been interviewed extensively by CSIS. They all call it racial profiling, and even argue that Fahim Ahmad lost a security guard job because of the civilian spy agency.

CSIS didn’t return the Eyeopener’s calls, however RCMP spokesman Sgt. Marc LaPorte said that CSIS and the Mounties have extensive national-security related investigations in the GTA, not always related to Muslims.

The RCMP has an an obligation to follow up on every lead when it comes to national security. “This isn’t like organized crime where if you have three targets you can focus your investigation on one target,” he said. “We take every piece of information seriously.”

Every morning, Zakaria Amara wakes up to the same four walls. He’s been living in a six-by-10-foot cell for the better part of two years, trapped with nothing but his thoughts and his religion. “Honestly, after two years this is reality. Outside is a fantasy,” he said. “You just never know if they’ll put something in your food. It’s jail.” As often happens, he’ll get his hopes up.

Amara has lost faith in the system, comparing his experience in court to going 12 rounds against Mike Tyson with his arms tied behind his back.
Still, he refuses to give up.

“My belief in God and my confidence in the case [keep me going],” he said. “The truth will come out, whether today, tomorrow, a year, or 10 years from now.”

Aboud has kept a low profile these last two years. When he started classes at Ryerson, he felt comfortable here.

“I’m feeling safe at Ryerson and I don’t feel anything was wrong [because] people have been talking to me,” he said two years ago. On the advice of his lawyer, he declined to be interviewed for this story.
Each morning, Nada wakes up before dawn to pray. Then, she sleeps in. Nour, turning 3 in September, is an energetic toddler, and the rest of Nada’s day revolves around her daughter.

She’s still living in her mother’s basement, looking for work and starting university classes. She’s found it difficult to get a job because people are uncomfortable with her veil.

Each day at about 4 p.m., Zakaria calls from prison. They chat about what they are doing that day, about the case, sometimes even about what they might do if he gets let out. Then, he gets 20 minutes with his daughter.

“She’ll kiss the phone if she wants to kiss daddy, or when she plays hide and seek she’ll hide the phone,” Nada said. When the little girl gets a new toy, she will wave it in front of the receiver. “She thinks he can see her through the phone. In the background, I’m explaining to him what it is, telling him to go along with it.”

When Nour asks her why her father can’t hug her like the other kids, she doesn’t know how to answer.

“She thinks he lives in a separate house,” she said. “When we go visit him, she doesn’t really get it.”

When Nour plays with the children of Fahim Ahmad, the girls will hold toy phones to their ears and pretend their fathers are on the line.

Nour means “light,” in Arabic. So when Amara says he hasn’t felt the light on his face in a long time, he means more than just fresh air.
Amara has asked his family to stop visiting him because it hurts too much to see them but be separated by thick glass. “When they do come it’s the most painful part of the whole experience,” he said.

But Nour still thinks about her father every day, and before she goes to bed each night, Nada watches as she always prays for the same thing. “She says, ‘Daddy, please come home.’ She never forgets.”

Albanian witness in U.S. arms probe dies suddenly

Albanian witness in U.S. arms probe dies suddenly

By Benet Koleka Fri Sep 12, 7:00 PM ET

TIRANA (Reuters) – Albania‘s government said on Friday it was looking into the sudden death of an arms industry figure who was helping prosecutors investigate a weapons sale to the United States and an explosion that killed 26 people.

Television pictures showed businessman Kosta Trebicka, his head covered in blood, sprawled on his back on a dirt road in a remote area of eastern Albania, where he had been hunting. His off-road car was nearby, and appeared to be damaged.

“We have identified the corpse of citizen Kosta Trebicka,” Interior Minister Bujar Nishani told a late evening news conference. “We shall make public the conclusions of experts as soon as they reach them,” he added.

Nishani was responding to opposition leaders who said the death looked suspicious.

Trebicka was involved in repackaging ageing Chinese ammunition that was being sold from Albania to AEY Inc, a U.S. firm contracted by the Pentagon to supply the Afghan army.

He turned whistleblower after the Albanian defense ministry removed him from the contract and appointed another company in his place.

It was at this second company’s plant in Gerdec, near Tirana, that 26 people were killed in an explosion of artillery shells in March. An Albanian official involved in the sale of ammunition to AEY Inc. and two businessmen are in jail pending trial for multiple murder over the blast.

“We must know as soon as possible whether Kosta Trebicka died accidentally or was killed by criminals that have started hunting the people that know a lot about the Gerdec blast,” the main opposition Socialist Party leader Edi Rama said.

AEY Inc. has been suspended from federal work in the United States after the U.S. Army found out that ammunition it was sourcing from Albania and supplying to Afghanistan consisted of Chinese gun cartridges that were more than 40 years old.

Officers of the company have been charged by a federal grand jury with trying to defraud the U.S. government in a $298 million contract to supply the Afghan army.

Trebicka was to be the key witness in Albania’s investigation into the affair.

Former Albanian defense minister Fatmir Mediu has had his parliamentary immunity quashed to allow prosecutors to determine whether “his actions brought illegitimate profit to the private companies involved in the process of dismantling ammunition.”

FDIC Insurance Fund – It Doesn’t Actually Exist

FDIC Insurance Fund – It Doesn’t Actually Exist

Vernon Hill

When FDIC head Shelia Bair says her agency might have to bolster the FDIC’s insurance fund with Treasury borrowings to pay for the new spate of bank failures, a lot of us, this 40-year banking veteran included, assumed there’s an actual FDIC fund in need of bolstering.

We were wrong. As a former FDIC chairman, Bill Isaac, points out here, the FDIC Insurance Fund is an accounting fiction. It takes in premiums from banks, then turns those premiums over to the Treasury, which adds the money to the government’s general coffers for “spending . . . on missiles, school lunches, water projects, and the like.”

The insurance premiums aren’t really premiums at all, therefore. They’re a tax by another name.

Actually, it’s worse than that. The FDIC, persisting in the myth that its fund really is an insurance pool, now proposes to raise the “premiums” it charges banks to make up for the “fund’s” coming shortfall. The financially weakest banks will be hit with the biggest tax hikes.

Which makes absolutely no sense. You don’t need me to tell you the banking industry is on the ropes. The last thing it needs (or the economy needs, for that matter) is an expense hike that will inhibit banks’ ability to rebuild capital, extend new loans, or both. If the FDIC wants to raise its bank tax once the industry has recovered, I suppose that’s fine. But to raise taxes on the industry now is perhaps the dumbest thing the agency can possibly do. At the margin, the FDIC will be helping bring about more of the failures it says it wants to prevent.

But this is the government we’re talking about, so logic goes out the window. First, the FDIC insists its mythical bank insurance fund exists, when it really doesn’t. Then the agency does what it can to run the imaginary fund’s finances straight into the ground. Your tax dollars (sorry, “premiums”) at work.

‘Jim Crawford’ Republicans

‘Jim Crawford’ Republicans

Jonathan Alter

It was a mainstay of Jim Crow segregation: for 100 years after the Civil War, Southern white Democrats kept eligible blacks from voting with poll taxes, literacy tests and property requirements. Starting in the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court declared these assaults on the heart of American democracy unconstitutional.

Now, with the help of a 2008 Supreme Court decision, Crawford vs. Marion County (Indiana) Election Board, white Republicans in some areas will keep eligible blacks from voting by requiring driver’s licenses. Not only is this new-fangled discrimination constitutional, it’s spreading.

GOP proponents of the move say they are merely trying to reduce voter fraud. But while occasional efforts to stuff ballot boxes through phony absentee voting still surface, the incidence of individual vote fraud—voting when you aren’t eligible—is virtually non-existent, as “The Truth About Vote Fraud,” a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, clearly shows. In other words, the problem Republicans claim they want to combat with increased ID requirements doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, those ID hurdles facing individuals do nothing to stop the organized insiders who still try to game the system.

The motive here is political, not racial. Republicans aren’t bigots like the Jim Crow segregationists. But they know that increased turnout in poor, black neighborhoods is good for Democrats. In that sense, the effort to suppress voting still amounts to the practical equivalent of racism.

In Crawford, the court upheld an Indiana law essentially requiring a passport or driver’s license in order to vote. But more than two thirds of Indiana adults have no passports and nearly 15 percent have no driver’s licenses. These eligible voters, disproportionately African-American, will need to take a bus or catch a ride from a friend down to the motor vehicles bureau to make sure they obtain a nondriver photo ID. Otherwise, they cannot vote in Indiana this year.

To get an idea of how many African-Americans nationwide lack driver’s licenses, recall Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when thousands were stranded without transportation. “Crawford Republicans” could make the old “Jim Crow Democrats” look like pikers when it comes to voter suppression.

Consider Wisconsin, a swing state. Republicans officials there are suing to enforce a “no match, no vote” provision in state regulations, where voters must not only show a photo ID, but establish that it matches the name and number in the Department of Motor Vehicles or Social Security Administration database. (Democrats are resisting the suit.) These lists are riddled with errors in every state, as the Brennan Center has proven in its report, “Restoring the Right to Vote.”

How error prone? Florida wrongly purged tens of thousands of law-abiding, mostly Democratic, voters from the rolls in 2000, claiming they were felons. (This, among other things, cost Al Gore the presidency). Even after the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and worldwide attention, the Florida software is still flawed. It requires only an 80 percent match to the name of a convicted felon. “So if there’s a murderous John Peterson, the software disenfranchises everyone named John Peters,” Andrew Hacker writes in a recent New York Review of Books.

Voters caught in these snafus can have their rights restored but not if they fail to straighten things out before Election Day. Otherwise they are granted “provisional ballots” that are sometimes counted and sometimes not. Even obtaining a provisional ballot can require an appearance in front of a judge in some states. Faced with the hassle, most voters just give up.

The ability of actual felons to get their right to vote back varies by state. It’s especially hard for felons to vote in Virginia; a bit easier in Pennsylvania and Michigan. (Other countries are far more generous to ex-convicts, figuring that having paid their debt to society they should be allowed to vote again.)

All of this would seem to favor John McCain over Barack Obama this year, but some voting-rights trends are pointing in the opposite direction.

In Ohio, where the governor and secretary of state changed in 2006 from Republican to Democrat, a new law allows voters to register to vote and fill out an absentee ballot at the same time between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6. This will mean a week of furious campaigning and early voting in a key state.

Advantage Obama. With 470,000 students enrolled in Ohio’s public colleges and universities (and nine out of 10 are Ohio residents), expect a bumper crop of young voters.

The combination of voter suppression and early voting make turnout predictions perilous. And without knowing turnout, most polling is deeply flawed.

So about the only thing we know for sure this year is that with the Crawford decision we are seeing a return to the days when one political party saw a huge advantage in preventing as many poor people as possible from voting. That’s understandable politically, but also un-American.

Berlin Protests Comments by US Ambassador to Sweden

Berlin Protests Comments by US Ambassador to Sweden

The German Foreign Ministry presented an official protest to the US embassy in Berlin, expressing annoyance at comments by the US ambassador to Sweden that criticized a joint German-Russian Baltic Sea gas pipeline.

According to the Friday, Sept. 12, issue of the German daily Handelsblatt, a senior German Foreign Ministry official presented an official protest to the US embassy in Berlin about an op-ed piece written by US ambassador to Sweden, Michael M. Wood, that was published in a Stockholm newspaper.

Citing the example of Russian-energy consumer Ukraine, the article suggested that the pipeline posed a security threat to the region in that it would allow Moscow to use energy as a means to gain political leverage.

The German Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the Handelsblatt report.

Environmental concerns cloud project

In Sweden, the project has also been criticized by some lawmakers over environmental concerns, including potential hazards posed by chemical weapons dumped in the sea after World War II.

Earlier Thursday, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said the pipeline did not pose a threat, telling reporters that the 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) pipeline instead had to be studied from an environmental and economic perspective, Finnish news agency STT reported.

The pipeline envisaged by the Nord Stream AG consortium is planned to run from Vyborg in Russia to Greifswald, Germany. The consortium has ruled out a land-based route.