Thursday, September 30, 2010

BULLETIN -- AP: 'AIG has reached a deal to repay the government billions of dollars in assistance it received during the credit crisis. The U.S. Treasury will swap debt it currently holds in AIG for common stock and then sell those shares over time.'

Locked and Loaded: The Secret World of Extreme Militias

Camouflaged and silent, the assault team inched toward a walled stone compound for more than five hours, belly-crawling the last 200 yards. The target was an old state prison in eastern Ohio, and every handpicked member of Red Team 2 knew what was at stake: The year is 2014, and a new breed of neo-Islamic terrorism is rampant in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio ... The current White House Administration is pro-Muslim and has ordered a stand-down against Islamic groups. The mission: Destroy the terrorist command post — or die trying. The fighters must go in "sterile" — without name tags or other identifying insignia — as a deniable covert force. "Anyone who is caught or captured cannot expect extraction," the briefing officer said.

At nightfall the raiders launched their attack. Short, sharp bursts from their M-16s cut down the perimeter guards. Once past the rear gate, the raiders fanned out and emptied clip after clip in a barrage of diversionary fire. As defenders rushed to repel the small team, the main assault force struck from the opposite flank. Red Team 1 burst through a chain-link fence, enveloping the defense in lethal cross fire. The shooting was over in minutes. Thick grenade smoke bloomed over the command post. The defenders were routed, headquarters ablaze. (Watch TIME's video "Homeland Security Tradeshow.")

This August weekend of grueling mock combat, which left some of the men prostrate and bloody-booted, capped a yearlong training regimen of the Ohio Defense Force, a private militia that claims 300 active members statewide. The fighters shot blanks, the better to learn to maneuver in squads, but they buy live ammunition in bulk. Their training — no game, they stress — expends thousands of rounds a year from a bring-your-own armory of deer rifles, assault weapons and, when the owner turns up, a belt-fed M-60 machine gun. The militia trains for ambushes, sniper missions, close-quarters battle and other infantry staples.

What distinguishes groups like this one from a shooting club or re-enactment society is the prospect of actual bloodshed, which many Ohio Defense Force members see as real. Their unit seal depicts a man with a musket and tricorn hat, over the motto "Today's Minutemen." The symbol invites a question, Who are today's redcoats? On that point, the group takes no official position, but many of those interviewed over two days of recent training in and around the abandoned Roseville State Prison near Zanesville voiced grim suspicions about President Obama and the federal government in general. (See Obama's troubled first year.)

"I don't know who the redcoats are," says Brian Vandersall, 37, who designed the exercise and tried to tamp down talk of politics among the men. "It could be U.N. troops. It could be federal troops. It could be Blackwater, which was used in Katrina. It could be Mexican troops who are crossing the border."

Or it could be, as it was for this year's exercise, an Islamic army marauding unchecked because a hypothetical pro-Muslim President has ordered U.S. forces to leave them alone. But as the drill played out, the designated opponents bore little resemblance to terrorists. The scenario described them as a platoon-size unit, in uniform, with "military-grade hardware, communications, encryption capability and vehicle support." The militia was training for combat against the spitting image of a tactical force from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), FBI or National Guard. "Whoever they are," Vandersall says, "we have to be ready."

As militias go, the Ohio Defense Force is on the moderate side. Scores of armed antigovernment groups, some of them far more radical, have formed or been revived during the Obama years, according to law-enforcement agencies and outside watchdogs. A six-month TIME investigation reveals that recruiting, planning, training and explicit calls for a shooting war are on the rise, as are criminal investigations by the FBI and state authorities. Readier for bloodshed than at any time since at least the confrontations in the 1990s in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, the radical right has raised the threat level against the President and other government targets. With violence already up on a modest scale, FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and state agencies point to two main dangers of a mass-casualty attack: that a group of armed radicals will strike out in perceived self-defense, or that a lone wolf, trained and indoctrinated for war, will grow tired of waiting. Even the most outspoken militia commanders worry about the latter scenario. Kevin Terrell, a self-described colonel who founded a group of "freedom fighters" in Kentucky and predicts war with "the jackbooted thugs" of Washington within a year, says he has to fend off hotheads who call him a "keyboard commando." Some are ejected from his group, he says, and others are willing to wait a little longer. "You have to have the right fuel-air mixture, the piston has to be in the right position, the spark has to be perfectly timed," he says. "The day will come — sooner than later."

Twisted Patriots
Within a complex web of ideologies, most of today's armed radicals are linked by self-described Patriot beliefs, which emphasize resistance to tyranny by force of arms and reject the idea that elections can fix what ails the country. Among the most common convictions is that the Second Amendment — the right to keep and bear arms — is the Constitution's cornerstone, because only a well-armed populace can enforce its rights. Any form of gun regulation, therefore, is a sure sign of intent to crush other freedoms. The federal government is often said in militia circles to have made wholesale seizures of power, at times by subterfuge. A leading grievance holds that the 16th Amendment, which authorizes the federal income tax, was ratified through fraud. (Read "America's New Patriotism.")

In a reversal of casting, the armed antigovernment movement describes itself as heir to the founders. As they see it, the union that the founders created is now a foreign tyrant. "It's like waking up behind enemy lines," says Terrell. He says he smelled a setup when the FBI arrested nine members of Michigan's Hutaree militia in March and charged them with plotting to kill police. (Their trial is set to begin in February.) Terrell and other leaders put their forces on alert, anticipating a roundup. "There was a lot of citizens out there in the bushes, locked and loaded," he says. "It's only due to miracles I do not understand that civil war did not break out right there."

Some groups, though not many overtly, embrace the white-supremacist legacy of the Posse Comitatus, which invented the modern militia movement in the 1970s. Some are fueled by a violent stream of millennial Christianity. Some believe Washington is a secondary foe, the agent of a dystopian new world order.

Read "The Threat from the Patriot Movement."

See "Five Great Reads on Patriotism."

A small but growing number of these extremist groups, according to the FBI, ATF and state investigators, are subjects of active criminal investigations. They include militias and other promoters of armed confrontation with government, among them "common-law jurors," who try to make their own arrests and convene their own trials, and "sovereign citizens," who respond with lethal force to routine encounters with the law. In April, for example, Navy veteran Walter Fitzpatrick, acting on behalf of a group called American Grand Jury, barged into a Tennessee courthouse and tried to arrest the real grand-jury foreman on the grounds that he refused to indict Obama for treason. In May, Georgia militia member Darren Huff was arrested by Tennessee state troopers after telling them that he and other armed men intended to "take over the Monroe County courthouse," free Fitzpatrick and "conduct arrests" of other officials, according to Huff's indictment and his own account in an interview posted online. Investigators are keeping a wary eye on a related trend, which has yet to progress beyond words, in which law officers and military service members vow to refuse or resist orders they deem unconstitutional. About a dozen county sheriffs and several candidates for sheriff in the midterm elections have threatened to arrest federal agents in their jurisdictions.

Group distinctions are seldom clear because of overlapping memberships and alliances. The Ohio exercise, for example, included a delegation from the 17th Special Operations Group led by Colonel Dick Wolf, a former Army drill sergeant who previously took a unit to join Arizona militia leader Chris Simcox in armed patrols along the Mexican border. Wolf travels around the country to train other groups in such skills as knife fighting and convoy operations. He does not ask about their philosophies. "That's their business," he says.

The Obama Factor
None of these movements are entirely new, but most were in sharp decline by the late 1990s. Their resurgence now is widely seen among government and academic experts as a reaction to the tectonic shifts in American politics that allowed a black man with a foreign-sounding name and a Muslim-born father to reach the White House. (See pictures of Muslim in America.)

Obama's ascendancy unhinged the radical right, offering a unified target to competing camps of racial, nativist and religious animus. Even Patriots who had no truck with white supremacy found that they could amplify their antigovernment message by "constructing Obama as an alien, not of this country, insufficiently American," according to Michael Waltman, an authority on hate speech at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Perennial features of extreme-right scare lore — including imagined schemes to declare martial law, abolish private ownership of guns and force dissidents into FEMA concentration camps — became more potent with Obama as the Commander in Chief.

Threats against Obama's life brought him Secret Service protection in May 2007, by far the earliest on record for a presidential candidate. At least four alleged assassination plots between June and December — by militiamen in Pennsylvania, white supremacists in Denver, skinheads in Tennessee and an active-duty Marine lance corporal at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune — led to arrests and criminal charges before Obama was even sworn in.

"We call it somewhat of a perfect storm," says a high-ranking FBI official who declined to speak on the record because of the political sensitivities of the subject. With an economy in free fall and rising anger about illegal immigration, Obama became "a rallying point" for dormant extremists after the 2008 election who "weren't willing to act before but now are susceptible to being recruited and radicalized."

Theirs is not Tea Party anger, which aims at electoral change, even if it often speaks of war. In the world of armed extremists, war is not always a metaphor. Some of them speak with contempt about big talkers who "meet, eat and retreat." History suggests that even the most ferocious, by and large, will never get around to walking the walk. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center observes that "there are huge numbers of people who say, 'We're going to have to go to war to defend the Constitution or defend the white race,' but 'That will be next week, boys.' "

And yet there are exceptions, and law-enforcement officials say domestic terrorists are equally the products of their movements. Those most inclined toward violence sometimes call themselves three percenters, a small vanguard that dares to match deeds to words. Brian Banning, who led local and interagency intelligence units that tracked radical-right-wing violence in Sacramento County, California, says, "The person who's interested in violent revolution may be attracted to a racist group or to a militia or to the Tea Party because he's antigovernment and so are they, but he's looking on the fringe of the crowd for the people who want to take action." (See the top 10 inept terrorist plots.)

The Supremacist
One such man was James Von Brunn. On June 10, 2009, he pulled up to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, raised a .22-caliber rifle and shot security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns in the chest. Part of Von Brunn's story is now well known, but police, FBI and Secret Service investigators held back a startling epilogue.

Von Brunn was an avowed white supremacist with a history of violence that reached back decades. He had spent six years in prison after an attempt to take hostages at the Federal Reserve in 1981. After finding only disappointment in organized groups, Von Brunn retreated to his website and railed against passive comrades. "The American Right-wing with few exceptions ... does NOTHING BUT TALK," he wrote. At 88 and hospitalized with a gunshot wound he suffered at the museum, Von Brunn did not loom large in the public eye as a figure of menace. He was profiled as a shrunken old man, broke and friendless, who ended another man's life in an empty act of despair. He died seven months later in prison before he could be tried.

What authorities did not disclose was how close the country had come to a seismic political event. Von Brunn, authoritative sources say, had another target in mind: White House senior adviser David Axelrod, a man at the center of Obama's circle. The President was too hard to reach, in Von Brunn's view, but that was of no consequence. "Obama was created by Jews," he wrote. "Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do."

See the top 10 crime stories of 2009.

Read "How Obama's Enemies May Give Him a Boost."

The episode sent a jolt through the FBI and DHS. Von Brunn had demonstrated motive, means and intent to kill one of the President's closest aides. The Secret Service assigned Axelrod a protection detail and took other, undisclosed steps to broaden its coverage. The DHS put out bulletins to state and local law-enforcement agencies on the tactics, warning signs and other lessons of the case. FBI agents need to understand, a senior supervisor says, that "it isn't just the threat from Islamic extremists but also from homegrown or domestic terrorists" with antigovernment agendas — as the bureau had already seen in a small town in Maine.

The Dirty Bomber
The first thing Jeff Trafton noticed at 346 High Street was a "big swastika flag in the living room." Upstairs, where a man lay dead in his bedroom, there were photographs of the victim posed in a black Gestapo trench coat. Any murder was unusual in Belfast, Maine, a town of 7,000 where Trafton is chief of police. This one kept getting stranger. (See the top 25 crimes of the century.)

Who did it was not a mystery. Amber Cummings, then 31, shot her husband James, 29, to death, dropped the Colt .45 revolver and walked to a neighbor's to dial 911. Evidence of her torment at the dead man's hands during years of domestic abuse would later persuade a judge to spare her a prison sentence. (Comment on this story.)

On the day of the shooting, Dec. 9, 2008, the story she told and an initial search of the house brought an FBI forensic team running. James Cummings appeared to have accumulated explosive ingredients and radioactive samples. He had filled out an application to join the National Socialist Movement and declared an ambition to kill the President-elect.

It was hard to tell how seriously to take that threat. On Jan. 19, 2009, WikiLeaks made public the FBI search inventory, which was distributed to security planners for Obama's Inauguration. State police assured reporters, in response, that the Cummings home lab had posed no threat to public safety. (Watch TIME"s video "WikiLeaks Founder on History's Top Leaks.")

A much more sobering picture emerged from the dead man's handwritten notes and printed records, some of which were recently made available to TIME. Fresh interviews with principals in the case, together with the documents, depict a viciously angry and resourceful man who had procured most of the supplies for a crude radiological dispersal device and made some progress in sketching a workable design. In this he was far ahead of Jose Padilla, the accused al-Qaeda dirty-bomb plotter, and more advanced in his efforts than any previously known domestic threat involving a dirty bomb. Cummings spent many months winning the confidence of online suppliers, using a variety of cover stories, PayPal accounts and shipping addresses. He had a $2 million real estate inheritance and spent it freely on his plot.

"He was very clever," says Amber Cummings, who until now had not spoken publicly about her late husband's preparations. "There's a small amount of radioactive material he can legally buy for research purposes. He'd call those companies, and he had various stories. He'd claim he was working as a professor."

On Nov. 4, 2008 — Election Day — Cummings placed his last two orders for uranium, at a total cost of $626.40, from United Nuclear Scientific Equipment & Supplies. The Michigan-based company, which declined to answer questions, offers uranium for sale online in "medium, high, super high and ultra high radiation" blends. In an ironic twist on customer service, United Nuclear wrote with regret to inform Cummings that one of the samples he ordered that day "was already purchased by Homeland Security for training purposes." By way of apology, the company sent a larger quantity, in two chunks.

A vendor in Colorado sold Cummings radioactive beryllium. Cummings produced a third radiation source at home. From standard references and technical manuals, Cummings learned how to extract thorium from commercially available tungsten electrodes by soaking them in a peroxide bath.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, all three metals — uranium, thorium and beryllium — are highly toxic when ingested and cause cancer if inhaled as fine airborne particles. Cummings had none of them in large quantity, and none had the high output of gamma rays that would make for the most dangerous kind of dirty bomb, but he was looking for more-lethal ingredients. A shopping list, under the heading "best for dirty bombs," named three: cobalt-60, cesium-137 and strontium-90. (See pictures of the Times Square car-bomb scare.)

Cummings made his best progress on high explosives. He bought large quantities of 3% hydrogen peroxide, which is commonly sold in pharmacies, then concentrated it on his kitchen stove to 35%. With acids on hand, Cummings had a recipe and all the required ingredients for TATP, a hellishly energetic explosive favored by Middle Eastern suicide bombers.

In 2001, when shoe bomber Richard Reid came close to downing American Airlines Flight 63, he had several ounces of TATP in his hiking boots. Cummings had the ingredients to make many times that much, as well as aluminum powder, thermite, thermite igniter and other materials used to detonate the explosive and amplify its effects. Crude designs Cummings sketched on lined paper suggest that he had a lot to learn about efficient dispersal of radioactive particles. Even so, he was aware of the gaps in his knowledge. "His intentions were to construct a dirty bomb and take it to Washington to kill President Obama," Amber Cummings says. "He was planning to hide it in the undercarriage of our motor home." She says her husband had practiced crossing checkpoints with dangerous materials aboard, taking her and their daughter along for an image of innocence.

Maine state police detective Michael McFadden, who participated in the investigation throughout, says he came to believe that James Cummings posed "a legitimate threat" of a major terrorist attack. "When you're cooking thorium and uranium under your kitchen sink, when you have a couple million dollars sitting in the bank and you're hell-bent on doing something, I think at that point you become someone we want to sit up and pay attention to," he says. "If she didn't do what she did, maybe we would know Mr. Cummings a lot better than we do right now."

See pictures of crime in Middle America.

Read "How Should America Try Terror Suspects?"

Who Would They Fight?
The abandoned state prison in Roseville, with its broken cinder-block walls and crumbling stairwells, made a suitably apocalyptic set for the Ohio militia's August exercise. In the officers' ready room, where back issues of Shotgun News and Soldier of Fortune lay on folding tables, an ancient graffito reading "KKK" had been painted over by one of Kenneth Goldsmith's men. "The Klan in this area, they don't like me at all," Goldsmith says. "They came to me a few years ago to join forces ... I told the guy, 'You think you are from a superior race, is that it?' He said yes. I said, 'You don't look so superior to me.' "

Members of militias around the country say, like Goldsmith, that they resent comparison with white supremacists like Cummings and Von Brunn. They complain of being tarred as members of hate groups by watchdogs at the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. "I can't tell you how much I enjoy being lumped in with sociopathic organizations like neo-Nazis, antiabortion extremists and Holocaust-denial groups," says Darren Wilburn, a private detective in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., who trains with a hard-core militia he preferred not to name. He cites his motto, "Life, liberty and the pursuit of anyone who threatens it," as evidence that he is not looking for trouble as long as trouble keeps clear of him.

The same two points — a defensive posture and ill will toward no one — were repeated with sincerity by many of Goldsmith's men. There were layers of meaning beneath those words, which peeled back as the weekend progressed. The Ohio Defense Force charter declares two missions, which may sound the same to outside ears but mean very different things. One is to help state and local law enforcement upon request. The other is to "assist in the protection of local citizens in emergencies."

An example of the first mission, the most recent one Goldsmith could think of, came after flooding struck Columbiana County six years ago. Chief Deputy Sheriff Allen Haueter says the militia helped direct traffic, leaving sheriff's officers free to respond to emergencies. But Haueter did not authorize them — "Oh, no, no," he says — to carry guns. They could as easily have done the job garbed as candy stripers. (See pictures of America's gun culture.)

Why, then, the paramilitary training that takes up nearly all the militia's time? That question bothers Sheriff Matt Lutz of Muskingum County, where the militia is headquartered. "There is no correlation with them saying they're there to help us in any way and them running around with assault rifles in the woods," he says. "That's what scares people. That just tells me they're preparing for the worst."

As indeed they are. The militia's second mission, protecting local citizens, requires no invitation from the likes of the sheriff. An officer named Ken, who asked that his last name and hometown go unmentioned, says, "You can be a civilized human being and defend yourself without being a bad guy." Against what? "Most likely it will start when the government tries to take our guns," he says.

Craig Wright, 50, a consulting engineer from Mansfield, was one of the face-painted raiders who ambushed the Blue Team's rear-perimeter guards. He learned something important, he says, when he went drinking with fellow members of force Red. "Some of these people are, quite honestly, quite scary," he said. "They might not be well educated, they might not listen to Beethoven, but they can take care of themselves."

And that is what Wright is looking for.

"We're not planning to overthrow the government," he said. "We're planning for what could happen." He proceeded to list, among other scenarios, a pandemic; economic collapse; hunger-driven big-city refugees; a biological, chemical or nuclear terrorist attack; an electromagnetic pulse from the sun that wrecks earthly machinery; invasion by Mexican drug cartels; and an eruption of ash from Yellowstone that "wipes out the breadbasket of the United States." Any one of those would likely give Washington the excuse to declare martial law. If so, Wright and his brothers in arms would fight back. "Hopefully," he said, "if they rule the cities, we'll rule the countryside." (Read "A Brief History of Civil War Reenactment.")

This is a frame of mind that law-enforcement and counterterrorism officials have seen before, and it worries them. "There are a number of militias out there that we call almost defensive in nature, right?" a senior national-security official says. "So they train. They're pulling in arms or pulling in weapons. They're pulling in food. They're preparing bunkers ... They're preparing for confrontation, but they will call it defensive." The official paused as if to play out a scene in his mind's eye. A well-equipped paramilitary force with "a perception of being confronted would strike out and strike out pretty hard," he says. "For a small or even a medium-size law-enforcement agency — anybody, really — there would be some serious, serious issues."

War on the Feds
On the sidelines of the disparate antigovernment movement, its philosophers are edging their followers closer to violence.

Bob Schulz, a leading exponent of the view that the IRS and much of the government it funds are operating illegally, has reached the brink of calling for war. The moment is significant because he is an influential voice among militia groups.

After more than a decade of conventional legal battles, Schulz and a network of allies organized by the We the People Foundation began filing hundreds of petitions for redress of grievances. Schulz had come to believe that the First Amendment's petition clause required governors, legislatures and federal agencies to provide specific and satisfactory answers to accusations of wrongdoing. He filled government dockets with thousands of questions — one petition, for instance, asked the IRS to "admit or deny" 116 allegations of fraud in the 1913 debate that ratified the 16th Amendment. When his petitions went ignored and the Supreme Court declined to hear his case in 2007, he wrote a formal brief accusing the court of "committing treason to the Constitution." The IRS, meanwhile, revoked his foundation's tax-exempt status, alleging that he used it to promote an illegal "tax termination plan" and bringing tax-evasion charges against some of the people who followed Schulz's advice.

See the top 10 tax dodgers.

Read "American Discontent: Why Washington Is Tied Up in Knots."

Last year Schulz convened hundreds of delegates to a second Continental Congress in St. Charles, Ill., drafting Articles of Freedom with "instructions" that state and federal governments halt unlawful operations. Refusal to comply would be "an act of WAR," the delegates wrote, and "the People and their Militias have the Right and Duty to repel it." Several militia leaders are among the authors.

Then, in November and March, Schulz staged vigils at the White House in which he and some of his followers dressed in the mask of the menacing "V" from the film V for Vendetta. (In the movie's final scene, the oppressive seat of government erupts in spectacular flames to the swelling strains of the 1812 Overture.) "If the First Amendment doesn't work," Schulz says, "the Second Amendment would." He asks, "What does a free man do" when all other avenues are closed? "I am struggling with my conscience."

Regardless of what conscience tells them, what chance do would-be armed rebels possibly have of prevailing against the armed might of the U.S.?

One answer comes from former Alabama militia leader Mike Vanderboegh, who wrote an essay that is among the most widely republished on antigovernment extremist sites today. In "What Good Is a Handgun Against an Army?" Vanderboegh says the tactical question is easy: Kill the enemy one soldier at a time. A patriot needs only a "cheap little pistol and the guts to use it," he writes, to shoot a soldier in the head and take his rifle; with a friend, such a man will soon have "a truck full of arms and ammunition." Vanderboegh is hardly a man of action himself, living these days on government disability checks. Even so, when he wrote a blog post in March urging followers to protest the health care bill by breaking windows at Democratic Party offices, they did so across the country. (Read "The War Over Patriotism.")

Another answer comes from Richard Mack, who is holding constitutional seminars for county sheriffs from coast to coast, urging them to resist what he describes as federal tyranny by force. In his presentations, he shows movie clips to illustrate his point, like a scene from The Patriot in which Mel Gibson says, with fire in his eyes, "You will obey my command, or I will have you shot."

Citing a long list of antecedents, beginning in 11th century England, Mack asserts that each of the nation's county sheriffs is the supreme constitutional authority in his or her jurisdiction. A sheriff has the power to arrest and, if necessary, use lethal force against federal officers who come uninvited, and he may "call out the militia to support his efforts to keep the peace in the county."

In his term as sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, Mack became famous for fighting and winning a legal battle against a provision of the Brady Bill that required him to enforce federal gun-control laws. He now says he wishes he had stayed out of court and simply drawn a line in the sand with the ATF. "I pray for the day when the first county sheriff has the guts to arrest the real enemy," he says. Among the enemy, he numbers "America's gestapo," the IRS. Steve Kendley, a Lake County, Montana, deputy sheriff who is running for the top office there on Mack's platform, says he expects federal agents to back off when threatened with arrest, but he is prepared for "a violent conflict" if "they are doing something I believe is unconstitutional." (See TIME's photo-essay "Profiles of 'Open Carry' Gun-Law Advocates.")

The nearest antecedent to Mack's argument, and the only one known to scholars interviewed for this story, is the Blue Book of the Posse Comitatus, by white-supremacist militia leader Henry Lamont Beach, whose organization disintegrated after leading members were convicted of felonies or killed in 1983 during shoot-outs in Arkansas and North Dakota with federal marshals and uncooperative sheriffs. Beach used nearly identical language, saying the county is "the highest authority of government in our Republic" and the sheriff "the only legal law-enforcement office." After TIME emailed Mack extracts of Beach's book, he replied that it "sounds exactly like Jefferson."

Beware the Lone Wolf
Federal law-enforcement agencies want no part of a conversation about angry antigovernment extremists and refused in virtually every case to speak on the record. A few injudicious passages from career analysts at the DHS in an April 2009 report titled "Rightwing Extremism" — which could be misread to suggest danger from ordinary antigovernment opinions or military veterans in general — brought a ferocious backlash. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano distanced herself from the report and forbade further public discussion of the subject. Shortly afterward, the National Security Council staff canceled plans for a working-group meeting on the surge of violent threats against members of Congress.

Yet the months that followed brought fresh support for the study's central finding, that rising "rightwing radicalization and recruitment" raised the risk that lone wolves would emerge from within the groups to commit "violent acts targeting government facilities, law-enforcement officers, banks and infrastructure sectors."

Within 90 days came the Von Brunn shooting; a triple murder of police officers in Pittsburgh by white supremacist Richard Andrew Poplawski; and a double murder of sheriff's deputies in Florida by a National Guardsman, Joshua Cartwright, who attributed his rage to Obama's election.

The specter of the lone-wolf terrorist is what most worries law-enforcement officials, who return again and again to the searing example of Timothy McVeigh. Before destroying the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people, McVeigh cycled through several white-supremacist groups and militias. In the end he decided to act alone, abetted by his friend Terry Nichols.

A top FBI counterterrorism official says the bureau's "biggest concern" is "the individual who has done the training, has the capability but is disenchanted with the group's action — or in many cases, inaction — and decides he's going to act alone." A high-ranking DHS official added that "it's almost impossible to find that needle in a haystack," even if the FBI has an informant in the group. James Cavanaugh, who recently retired from a senior post at the ATF and took part in some of the bloodiest confrontations with the radical right in the 1990s, says the creation of monsters in their midst is the greatest danger posed by organized groups.

The ceaseless talk of federal aggression — and regular training to repel it — "becomes a hysteria where you constantly, constantly practice and nothing happens," he says. "Now most of them wouldn't go out offensively, O.K.? But generally why they're dangerous is that some people can't stand that rhetoric and just wait for it to happen. And they go off the rails, à la McVeigh."
TIME By Barton Gellman

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Breaking news: Beck speaks!

Glenn Beck gives few interviews -- he prefers to monopolize the microphone -- so it's worth looking at what he says when he actually talks to a reporter.

In the upcoming issue of the New York Times Magazine, Mark Leibovich profiles the Fox News megastar. Here are some highlights:

-- Beck talks about being a recovering addict and projects that onto America:

"I think what the country is going through right now is, in a way, what I went through with my alcoholism," he told me. "You can either live or die. You have a choice."

"I said to someone the other day," Beck told me, "I am as close today to a complete and total collapse as I was on the first day of recovery." He calls himself a "recovering dirtbag." There were many days, he said, when he would avoid the bathroom mirror so he would not have to face himself. He was in therapy with "Dr. Jack Daniels." He smoked marijuana every day for about 15 years. He fired an underling for bringing him the wrong pen. And, according to a report, he once called the wife of a radio rival to ridicule her -- on the air -- about her recent miscarriage.

"You get to a place where you disgust yourself," Beck told me. "Where you realize what a weak, pathetic and despicable person you have become."

In short, he trashes himself, as a way of illuminating the path to redemption.

-- Beck, like Bill Clinton, tried to save his mother from physical abuse:

I asked Beck if he could pinpoint the moment he decided to change his life. "Here's something I haven't told anyone before," Beck said. "When my mother was at her worst, she was dating a guy who was abusive. He was a big Navy guy too." It was right at the end of her life. Glenn got between his mother and the man during an ugly fight. "I just came in and stood between them and said, 'Get out of our house.'

The man left, but he came back a few days later and begged forgiveness. "When I sobered up, I remember looking back to that point," Beck told me.

I asked Beck how he knew that his mother's death was a suicide. The man who drowned with her was that same abusive boyfriend, he said.

-- Has he peaked? His ratings are down. From 2.8 million last year to 2 million now.

-- Beck is not the most popular guy at Fox. Leibovich credits my reporting on the subject of how many staffers are concerned that he is becoming the face of the network:

When I mentioned Beck's name to several Fox reporters, personalities and staff members, it reliably elicited either a sigh or an eye roll. Several Fox News journalists have complained that Beck's antics are embarrassing Fox, that his inflammatory rhetoric makes it difficult for the network to present itself as a legitimate news outlet.

-- I also reported on how Fox executives believe they made Beck into the phenomenon he is today. Leibovich has this nugget:

In the days following Beck's Lincoln Memorial rally, which by Beck's estimate drew a half-million people, Ailes told associates that if Beck were still at Headline News, there would have been 30 people on the Mall.

-- Beck is plagued by self-doubt:

"I wrote Sarah Palin a letter last night about 2 in the morning," Beck said on his radio show in September. "And I said: 'Sarah, I don't know if I'm doing more harm or more good. I don't know anymore.' "

A lot of Beck's critics would be happy to answer that question.

How to SEDUCE female CNN reporter!

James O’Keefe Fails to Seduce CNN Reporter

Conservative activist James O’Keefe hates women as much as he hates ACORN. O'Keefe—the “journalist” who made the ACORN pimp tapes and was later arrested at Senator Mary Landrieu’s office—attempted to “punk” a CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau by setting up a “pleasure palace” on a boat, where he hoped to seduce her. The pleasure palace included a condom jar, dildos, and sexy music. “Abbie has been trying to seduce me to sue me, in order to spin a lie about me,” read O’Keefe’s script. “So I’m going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video.” The plan was jettisoned at the last minute after someone tipped Boudreau, who was supposed to interview O’Keefe for a documentary about young conservatives. The document said O’Keefe would “point out the hypocrisy in CNN using the inherent sexuality of these women to sell viewers and for ratings, passing up more esteemed and respectable journalists who aren’t bubble-headed bleach blondes.” The script specifies, "James should have a more sleazy persona than normal." We didn't think that was possible.

Read it at

Oh Canada! The world's oldest profession joins the capital system.

Judge decriminalizes prostitution in Ontario,
BUTT Ottawa (Federal Government) mulls appeal.

Ruling aimed at keeping sex workers safe clears way for legal changes in other jurisdictions
A Superior Court justice gutted the federal prostitution law in Ontario on Tuesday, allowing sex-trade workers to solicit customers openly and paving the way for judges in other provinces to follow suit.

Justice Susan Himel struck down all three Criminal Code provisions that had been challenged - communicating for the purposes of prostitution, pimping and operating a common bawdy house.

The decision will take effect in 30 days unless Crown lawyers return with arguments that are strong enough to persuade her to grant a further delay, Judge Himel said.

Her landmark ruling drew immediate fire in Ottawa, which has little time to regroup and battle the judgment. A domino effect of judicial decisions could quickly topple prostitution laws across Canada, as happened several years ago with prohibitions against gay marriage.

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson asserted that it is the government's prerogative to decide how best to protect prostitutes and the communities in which they ply their trade. "The Government is very concerned about the Superior Court's decision and is seriously considering an appeal," he said in a statement.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak both said they support the feds in seeking to appeal the ruling that strikes down the federal prostitution law.

Judge Himel, however, found current laws offer little protection. Her judgment pointed at evidence that established violence against sex workers is endemic - from a string of gruesome serial killings by Vancouver pig farmer Robert Pickton, to a rash of missing prostitutes in Alberta and frequent violence against sex trade workers in the Atlantic region.

In her 131-page ruling which took her a year to produce, Judge Himel found that laws set up to protect prostitutes actually endanger their safety, forcing them to furtively engage in hasty transactions conducted in shady locations.

"By increasing the risk of harm to street prostitutes, the communicating law is simply too high a price to pay for the alleviation of social nuisance," she said. "I find that the danger faced by prostitutes greatly outweighs any harm which may be faced by the public."

"We got everything," yelped a York University law professor behind the challenge, Alan Young, as he scanned the judgment seconds after it was released. "We did it.... Finally, somebody listened."

Judge Himel specifically rejected a request from the Crown to suspend the effects of her decision for 18 months on the grounds that doing so would force sex trade workers to continue working under hazardous conditions. She said the 30-day delay gives the Crown one last chance to persuade her that she should suspend her judgment.

Prof. Young said that, in light of how uncompromising Judge Himel's findings were, the Crown faces a tough uphill battle in obtaining an additional stay.

"In 30 days, the ruling kicks in and people can start growing their businesses," he said.

The litigants - Terri-Jean Bedford, a flamboyant dominatrix, and two former prostitutes, Valerie Scott and Amy Lebovitch - expressed shock that they had won any portion of their three-pronged assault on the law, let alone all three.

Ms. Bedford spontaneously leaped from her chair at a Toronto news conference Tuesday afternoon after being asked if she has plans to celebrate. "I'm going to spank some ass. Legally!" Ms. Bedford said, waving her trademark leather riding crop in the air.

"It's a great day for Canada," she added. "It's like emancipation day for sex trade workers."

Ms. Scott said that prostitutes will begin pressing immediately for a regulation regime that includes workers' compensation, health standards and inclusion in the country's income-tax scheme. "We don't have to worry about being raped or robbed or murdered," she said.

"We would like to tell residents and business owners: Don't be afraid," Ms. Scott added. "We are not aliens. Sex workers across the country ... want to work with municipalities and to be good citizens running good businesses."

Regardless of whether or not the decision is appealed, it is likely to plunge Parliament back into a divisive debate over criminalizing the operation of an activity that is itself perfectly legal.

Prof. Young warned the press and public not to fall for an inevitable onslaught of misinformation and scare stories that government officials will issue as it bids to prop up the law.

"This was a big bite out of the heart of government," he said. "They are going to feel this one. I don't know what this means now; whether or not we will see five-storey brothels like the ones in Germany."

However, Prof. Young also said that the public need not fear that prostitutes and pimps are about to run amok in their communities. Nor, he said, should people allow any distaste they may have for prostitution to cloud the central issue in the case.

"This case is all about protecting the security and safety of people working in the sex trade, regardless of what you think of sex-trade work," he said. "We have had a moral aversion to the sex trade for hundreds of years, but any time you can do something that increases peoples' safety, you have done something good."

In her ruling, Judge Himel cited approvingly efforts made by countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Germany to decriminalize and control the sex trade in a safe manner.

She emphasized that several other provisions relating to the sex trade can still be used by police to prevent neighbourhoods from turning sleazy, and to curb child prostitution, procuring or prostitutes who impeded pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

Judge Himel also stressed that pimps who threaten or commit violence against prostitutes can still be prosecuted using other sections of the Criminal Code.

Both sides in the case spent years amassing a vast body of international evidence, including dozens of witnesses.

The Crown argued that prostitution can be equally dangerous whether it is conducted in a car, an open field or a luxurious boudoir. It urged Judge Himel to also reflect on the fact that prostitution is inherently degrading and unhealthy, and should not be encouraged as a "career choice" for young women through a slack legal regime.

Prof. Young countered that prohibiting communication renders prostitutes unable to "screen" potential clients, hire security or move behind the relative safety of closed doors.

Several cities - including Toronto, Victoria, Windsor, Calgary and Edmonton - charge fees to licence body-rub establishments despite the general understanding that many sell sexual services.

Prof. Young ridiculed them on Tuesday for hypocritically reaping licensing fees while pretending not to know that they are fronts for prostitution.

"For a decade, they have been charging exorbitant licensing fees for rub-and-tugs," he said. "Now, at least we won't have to charge them with living off the avails."
Globe and Mail


'Thrill Kill' Soldiers: What Were They Thinking? Mental Health Experts
Say Violent Acts Stem From Complex Psychological Factors

Five U.S. soldiers stand accused of using grenades and rifles to murder three unarmed Afghan civilians earlier this year, and investigators say several of the soldiers even collected the dead civilians' body parts.

In a videotape obtained by ABC News' Brian Ross Unit, one of the accused soldiers, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, confessed to the murders. He said the officer in charge, Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, gave orders to carry out the killings and that Gibbs had no problem murdering innocent civilians.

Mental health experts overwhelmingly agreed the actions the soldiers have been accused of are inexcusable, and they said a number of complex psychological factors may play a role in why soldiers obey their commander's orders -- even when this means committing atrocities. The emotional toll of combat, people's tendency to do whatever they're told to do and the soldiers' fear of their sergeant, whom several of the them portrayed as a "thrill killer," could have contributed to their decision to kill unarmed civilians, they said.

"Sleep deprivation plays a role, there's some question of traumatic brain injury and some question about the use of prescription drugs," said Dr. Jon Shaw, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine who spent more than 20 years in the military. He has no involvement with the accused soldiers.

The attorney for one of the accused soldiers said his client was under the influence of prescription drugs during his videotaped confession. Another of the accused soldiers said drug use -- often hashish laced with opium -- was rampant at their base in Afghanistan.

"There's a serious problem with substance abuse happening among our soldiers," said Dr. Jeffrey Victoroff, associate professor of clinical neurology and psychiatry at teh University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. He added, though, the he doesn't believe substance abuse alone led to murder.

Extreme stress, psychiatrists say, is perhaps one of the biggest factors that can affect soldiers' judgment.

"When you're exposed to that kind of stress, there's a readiness to be more passive and accept external authority, especially in a command structure," Shaw said.

'The Lowest Level of Morality'
"This is a very prolonged conflict and engagement, and there are multiple indications that these army units are worn out," said Dr. Paul Ragan, associate professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Ragan, who served in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, has no involvement with the soldiers.

Ragan said that in a war that's lasted nearly a decade, soldiers in combat could experience a wide range of emotions that influence their behavior.

"They may be suffering from mental fatigue, or may be feeling dispossessed and angry," Ragan said. "Are these men put in impossible situations [in which they] begin to dehumanize the other group and take their rage out on innocents?"

The emotional upheaval may also affect their moral judgment.

"In a group, there's regression to the lowest level of morality," Shaw said.

Role of Commanding Officer Difficult to Ascertain, Say Experts
The parents of another accused soldier, specialist Adam Winfield, said their son felt his life would be in danger if he reported Gibbs.

Mental health experts say that if the stories about Gibbs are true, the situation is very troubling and indicative of a military breakdown.

"There are a huge number of questions," Ragan said. "Where were the good order and discipline? Where's the supervision? It's possible that in a remote area with a fair amount of group-think and coercion, something like this can happen."

The famous experiment by the psychologist Stanley Milgram, in which subjects were ordered to administer a gradually increasing level of electric shock to other subjects who answered questions wrong. The receiving subject was actually an actor, and there was actually no shock administered at all. But the majority of the people in the study were willing to shock another person just because they were told to do so.

When the Blame Game Doesn't Apply
That coercion effect, combined with the multitude of psychological factors and a troubled commander may have led the soldiers to do the unthinkable.

"If you get one bad apple in an authority role, he could lead them to do almost anything," said Victoroff.

But Ragan said it may be difficult to sort out whether the soldiers truly felt as if they had no other choice or if they committed the murders and now blame someone else.

"The defense will have to demonstrate the extent of any kind of systematic intimidation, terrorizing and punishment," Ragan said. "What did the staff sergeant do when someone didn't go along with his orders?"

Shaw said that the soldiers should not blame the murders solely on their commanding officer.

"There are channels in the military where one can get help for this kind of commander who is problematic," he said.

Two of the soldiers said they were sure Gibbs would retalitate if they came forward with their concerns. In his confession, Morlock said he believed Gibbs would kill him, and Winfield's parents said their son also believed he would be killed if he came forward.

The Winfields told ABC News they tried to warn the Army and a U.S. lawmaker, but to no avail.

Ultra Deadbeat Dad Gets 23 Months in Jail

Judge Throws Book at Michigan Man Who Failed to Pay Support
for His 23 Kids

After fathering 23 children, Howard Veal, who may be the biggest deadbeat dad in America, has been sentenced to 23-48 months in jail for failing to pay child support.

"In my entire career I have never seen a case like this where so much was owed to so many and ignored," Kent County Judge Dennis Leiber, who has presided over support cases for more than 20 years, told ABC News.

The Michigan man accumulated a debt of more than $533,000 in child support payments, according to court records. Veal has allegedly failed to support his children beyond a few meager payments. "You are the poster child for irresponsibility," Leiber told Veal at a court hearing, according to The Grand Rapids Press. "You're an insult to every responsible father who sacrifices to provide for their children."

In the last seven years, Veal reportedly paid less than a total of $90 for two of his children's upkeep. In July, Veal pled guilty to failure to pay child support to Sherri Black for his children aged 16 and 11 years old. Of the more than $63,000 owed to Black, the Muskegon High School graduate was asked earlier this year to pay 10 to 100 percent of the child support owed for reduced charges. By late August, Veal had paid nothing.

Black, the mother of two of Veal's children, wrote in a letter that it's heartbreaking to choose between shoes and rent.

With a checkered employment history, the 44-year-old Veal has been living with his current girlfriend, who is the mother of four of his children.

During a presentencing investigation, Veal disclosed he fathered 15 children with a total of 12 women but said he could not remember them all.

Findings by a more comprehensive report ordered by the court alleged Veal fathered 23 children by 14 different women. Children that Veal has also allegedly failed to support.

'Outrageous Case'
Michigan Assistant Attorney General Mitchell Wood wrote the judge to seek sentencing beyond the guidelines: "The Attorney General's Child Support Division has prosecuted thousands of felony nonsupport cases since its inception, but none as outrageous as this. For a decade, between 1989 and 1999, the defendant impregnated at least one woman every single year."

After hearing the facts about the case, the judge said he deviated from sentencing guidelines for substantial and compelling reasons. The guidelines called for no more than six months in jail.

"When you create a human being, I think you have a fundamental responsibility to provide for that child with necessities like food, clothing and shelter," says Judge Leiber. "Those were the thoughts running through my mind when I saw a man that was spectacularly irresponsible."

Veal says he's been out of work and pays what he can. At least 14 additional child support cases are pending against him.

The case has lighted up the online comment boards in Michigan, where unemployment tops 13 percent. The Kalamazoo Gazette, in an opinion piece on its Website, said the tough sentence doesn't solve much.

"Explain how it makes sense to take a man who can't or won't pay child support and stick him in jail for up to four years where taxpayers will then have to pay more than $30,000 a year to feed and house him?" wrote Joyce Pines.

But the Saginaw News said that enough is enough. "We're with the judge in our astonishment at the breadth of the accusations in this case. The father says he tried to make child support payments from his unemployment checks. But come on! there's no way that 23 children could be even partially supported on that kind of income.

"Bottom line: All parents have a moral, civic and financial duty to provide for and nurture their children."


'On April 1, 2008, Rep. Phil Gingrey paid Mitchell Hunter, his former chief of staff, $6,000 for campaign consulting fees.

That payment came one day after the Georgia Republican signed a letter to the Appropriations Committee requesting an earmark for the National Center for State Courts, which had recently hired Hunter as a lobbyist,' writes Roll Call ace investigative reporter Paul Singer.

'The center got its earmark that year - $100,000 to help state courts implement federal rules - and paid Hunter $100,000 for lobbying services. Gingrey paid Hunter $28,650 for 'campaign strategy' and 'fundraising consulting' in 2008 ... Gingrey has paid Hunter's firm another $54,090 since then.

Hunter said there is absolutely no connection between his work for Gingrey's campaign and his lobbying services. Both Hunter and Gingrey's office said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) was the lead sponsor of the 2008 earmark for the court center, which is in his district. ... For fiscal 2010, the center received a second earmark for $500,000 with the support of nearly two dozen House Members and Senators; Gingrey was not among them.

Nevertheless, Congressional watchdogs say it is highly unusual for a lobbyist seeking earmarks for a client to also serve as a paid fundraiser or campaign consultant to a Member who is supporting those earmarks.
The arrangement would seem to make it difficult to keep the Member's official duties separate from the activities of the campaign, they said.'

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why you & your vote count for nothing!

New 'Super Pacs' bringing millions into campaigns

A new political weapon known as the "super PAC" has emerged in recent weeks, allowing independent groups to both raise and spend money at a pace that threatens to eclipse the efforts of political parties.

The committees spent $4 million in the last week alone and are registering at the rate of nearly one per day. They are quickly becoming the new model for election spending by interest groups, according to activists, campaign-finance lawyers and disclosure records.

The super PACs were made possible by two court rulings, including one early this year by the Supreme Court, that lifted many spending and contribution limits. The groups can also mount the kind of direct attacks on candidates that were not allowed in the past.

Three dozen of the new committees have been registered with the Federal Election Commission over the past two months, including such major players as the conservative Club for Growth, the Republican-allied American Crossroads and the liberal women's group Emily's List.

FEC records show that super PACs have spent more than $8 million on television advertising and other expenditures, almost all of it within the past month. Groups favoring GOP candidates have outspent Democratic supporters by more than 3 to 1, mirroring an overall surge in spending by the Republican Party and its allies in recent weeks, records show.

The super PACs have "opened the door to the clearest, easiest way to spend unlimited funds on an election," said Trevor Potter, a former FEC chairman who served as general counsel to GOP presidential candidate John McCain in 2008. "This is pretty much the holy grail that people have been looking for."

The new committees are part of a complicated patchwork of fundraising operations that fuel political campaigns. They range from committees formed by individual candidates to the political parties and interest groups. The system relies heavily on political action committees, or PACs, which are mostly used to donate funds to indvidual campaigns and must adhere to strict limits on donations.

But the super PACs, officially known as "independent expenditure-only committees," are free of most of those constraints. The only caveat is that they are not allowed to coordinate directly with candidates or political parties. The groups must disclose their donors, although most have not done so yet because they are so new and will not file their first disclosure reports until mid-October.

Among super PAC spending, more than half has come from American Crossroads, a pro-Republican group founded with the help of former George W. Bush administration adviser Karl Rove. Donations to the group include $400,000 from American Financial Group, a publicly held company, which could make the contribution because of the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That ruling lifted restrictions on corporate spending in elections.

In two days last week, American Crossroads' super PAC reported spending $2.8 million on ads attacking Democratic candidates, including Rep. Joe Sestak (Pa.), Jack Conway (Ky.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.). "Harry Reid," one ad intones, "extremely out of touch with Nevada."

The super PAC is just one part of the American Crossroads operation, which also includes a nonprofit advocacy arm called American Crossroads GPS that does not have to disclose its donors under U.S tax laws. Overall, American Crossroads says it has raised about $32 million, divided evenly between its super PAC and nonprofit arms.

"There are some donors who are interested in anonymity when it comes to advocating for specific issues," spokesman Jonathan Collegio said.

Indeed, donor disclosure is the main reason that some trade groups, unions and other organizations might limit their use of super PACs, experts said.

Otherwise, the model offers a number of clear advantages.Unlike regular political action committees, there are no limits on how much money can be raised or spent. And unlike some other types of committees, super PACs can explicitly urge voters to oppose or support a candidate in an election.

"For people who want to get involved in the election and don't mind doing it openly and transparently, this is the route they're going," said Brett Kappel, an election lawyer at the law firm Arent Fox. "The people who are more bashful are giving to nonprofits."

The rise of super PACs is just one reason that 2010 is shaping up to be a record-breaker for a midterm election. Interest groups and political parties have reported more than $104 million in independent spending, and that does not include tens of millions more spent by groups that do not have to report advertising to the FEC.

The super PAC model emerged with little fanfare this summer from a pair of FEC advisory opinions, which were issued in response to inquiries from the Club for Growth and another group, Commonsense Ten, which supports Democrats. The FEC said the super PACs were allowed because of the Citizens United decision and a subsequent appeals court ruling, which struck down limits on individual contributions to independent groups.

David Keating, the Club for Growth's executive director, said old rules that were being applied to independent groups - including limits on explicit appeals to both donors and voters - were awkward and forced the organizations to be vague about their intentions.

"What's really liberating about this particular type of organization is that you can actually talk to people honestly about what you want to do," said Keating, who is also head of, the conservative group involved in the appeals court case. "Raising money is also a lot easier and more on the up-and-up for everyone involved."

President Obama and other Democrats have railed against the Citizens United ruling because they say it could unleash a tide of corporate and special-interest money into the political process. Since the ruling, Democrats have tried to impose disclosure requirements for companies, unions and others - much like those now required for super PACs - but have been blocked by Republicans.

In addition to American Crossroads, leading super PACs include the Club for Growth ($1.9 million); Women Vote! from Emily's List ($400,000); and the Patriot Majority ($700,000), which was formed by a Democratic strategist to counter the tea party movement. Several major unions have formed super PACs in recent weeks, along with the Texas Tea Party Patriots and other conservative groups, records show.

The number of new entrants is expanding almost daily. Last Tuesday, a new group called We Love USA registered its super PAC with the FEC, listing Nancy Watkins of Tampa as treasurer. Three days later, she filed notice that the group had made its first expenditures, totaling $33,000, for an outdoor media campaign against Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.).

Watkins did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment. The Klein campaign, which is fighting a tough race in South Florida against GOP candidate Allen West, said it had never heard of Watkins or the We Love USA PAC.
Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam
Washington Post

Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion

Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion,
survey says nonbelievers know more, on average, about religion than most faithful.
Jews and Mormons also score high on the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey.

If you want to know about God, you might want to talk to an atheist.

Heresy? Perhaps. But a survey that measured Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists and agnostics knew more, on average, than followers of most major faiths. In fact, the gaps in knowledge among some of the faithful may give new meaning to the term "blind faith."

A majority of Protestants, for instance, couldn't identify Martin Luther as the driving force behind the Protestant Reformation, according to the survey, released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Four in 10 Catholics misunderstood the meaning of their church's central ritual, incorrectly saying that the bread and wine used in Holy Communion are intended to merely symbolize the body and blood of Christ, not actually become them.

Atheists and agnostics — those who believe there is no God or who aren't sure — were more likely to answer the survey's questions correctly. Jews and Mormons ranked just below them in the survey's measurement of religious knowledge — so close as to be statistically tied.

So why would an atheist know more about religion than a Christian?

American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.

"These are people who thought a lot about religion," he said. "They're not indifferent. They care about it."

Atheists and agnostics also tend to be relatively well educated, and the survey found, not surprisingly, that the most knowledgeable people were also the best educated. However, it said that atheists and agnostics also outperformed believers who had a similar level of education.

The groups at the top of the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey were followed, in order, by white evangelical Protestants, white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, people who were unaffiliated with any faith (but not atheist or agnostic), black Protestants and Latino Catholics.

Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists were included in the survey, but their numbers were too small to be broken out as statistically significant groups.

Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University and author of "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn't," served as an advisor on the survey. "I think in general the survey confirms what I argued in the book, which is that we know almost nothing about our own religions and even less about the religions of other people," he said.

He said he found it significant that Mormons, who are not considered Christians by many fundamentalists, showed greater knowledge of the Bible than evangelical Christians.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a Methodist minister from Leawood, Kan., and the author of "When Christians Get it Wrong," said the survey's results may reflect a reluctance by many people to dig deeply into their own beliefs and especially into those of others.

"I think that what happens for many Christians is, they accept their particular faith, they accept it to be true and they stop examining it. Consequently, because it's already accepted to be true, they don't examine other people's faiths. … That, I think, is not healthy for a person of any faith," he said.

The Pew survey was not without its bright spots for the devout. Eight in 10 people surveyed knew that Mother Teresa was Catholic. Seven in 10 knew that, according to the Bible, Moses led the exodus from Egypt and that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

The question that elicited the most correct responses concerned whether public school teachers are allowed to lead their classes in prayer. Eighty-nine percent of the respondents correctly said no. However, 67% also said that such teachers are not permitted to read from the Bible as an example of literature, something the law clearly allows.

For comparison purposes, the survey also asked some questions about general knowledge, which yielded the scariest finding: 4% of Americans believe that Stephen King, not Herman Melville, wrote "Moby Dick."
Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times

The Worst Drivers In America

Which state has the deadliest, least-skilled motorists on the road? The Daily Beast crunches new crash data, ranking all 50—and discovers a huge gap between how Republicans and Democrats drive. Plus, America's 75 Worst Commutes

Does who you vote for correlate with the type of driver you are? That’s one of the strange correlations that came out of The Daily Beast analysis of nationwide accident records, designed to answer the common question: Which state has the worst drivers?

Past bragging rights, the ramifications are deadly: There were more than 30,000 fatal crashes in the U.S. last year, including more than 5,000 deaths just from “distracted driving,” such as cellphone use, according to data released last week. In trying to get some definitive answers, The Daily Beast used crash data—because accidents provide an objective way to define someone as a bad driver, or not—and focused on fatal crashes, using the most recent available data (2009) since those are uniformly reported state-by-state. From there, we specifically measured fatal crashes where driver mistake was a key factor: DUI, blowing through stop signs, careless or inattentive driving and the like.

To ensure that tiny Rhode Island and mighty California were measured evenly, we averaged these driver-caused fatal crashes by the number of total number of drivers licenses issued in each state. And to make sure that we weren’t penalizing states where the average motorist drives more—and thus gets into more accidents—we also factored in how many miles each driver in the state logs, and how much time they spend in their car, adjusting the numbers accordingly.

Within those rankings, some correlations were not shocking—18- to 20-year-olds are the largest menace to roadways in almost every region and state.

What was more surprising: how the breakdown between states with more dangerous drivers and safer drivers fell almost completely along the lines of the 2008 McCain-Obama election, with the Republicans again coming up on the short end. Nine of the 10 worst-performing states went for McCain, while nine of the 10 best performers voted for Obama. (Delaware and Mississippi were the respective outliers.)

While this ranking won’t singlehandedly end the stereotypes about “California drivers” or “New York drivers,” it should help: “Louisiana driver” or “Kentucky driver” would be a more apt critique. And who’s the worst of all?

America's 75 Worst Commutes
by The Daily Beast
January 19, 2010 | 2:23am
Richard Vogel / AP Photo They are the highways to hell in the country’s most gridlocked cities. The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to determine your ultimate morning nightmares. How did your commute rank?

Bumper-to-bumper traffic is America’s collective nightmare, and like the movie Groundhog Day it repeats on a daily basis.

Congestion consumes billions of gallons of fuel, wastes hundreds of billions of dollars in productivity and causes billions of stress headaches. Yet over 100 million automobile commuters each day feel like they have little option. “We put so much of our national wealth and our identity into the whole motoring thing,” says James Howard Kunstler, author of Geography of Nowhere, “that we can’t imagine doing something different.”

Anthony Downs, author of Stuck in Traffic has identified four reasons for America’s congestion problem, also applicable to most European and Asian economies: first, most of us work during the same hours of the day; second, the country’s economic success has allowed households to buy multiple cars; third, there are more people now than when most roadways were conceived; fourth, more cars means more accidents which means more delays.

In other words, this problem isn’t going anywhere. So the Daily Beast set out to figure out the worst of the worst. The true Highways to Hell. It was a two-step process, done with data from traffic-tracking firm INRIX, which culls information nationwide from more than 1.5 million GPS units, mostly in freight trucks.

Our first step was ranking the metropolitan areas with the worst rush-hour congestion. The order is based on the peak hour Travel Time Index (TTI) for the metropolitan area each highway is in. TTI is a measure of how much longer it takes to complete a road journey during peak congestion hours compared to free-flow hours. (Peak hours are defined as 6 a.m. to 10a.m., and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) Speeds during non-peak hours are used by INRIX to establish this free-flow baseline.

After determining the 75 worst metro areas, we then found the worst highway in each, defined as the most hours of bottleneck congestion, as reported by INRIX. The rankings then provide a still deeper look—at the most congested bottleneck segment for the worst highway in each area.

How does your commute fare? Read on.

#1, Hollywood Freeway, Los Angeles
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 686
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, Vermont Avenue
Length of worst bottleneck: .64 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 77
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 14 mph

The expert opinion: "I recall they would say things like it's a 20-minute trip downtown on the Hollywood Freeway,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief executive Art Leahy says on traffic when he was growing up in Los Angeles. “No one anticipated the congestion that would emerge."

#2, Lunalilo Freeway (H-1), Honolulu
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 347
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, S Vineyard Blvd/Ward Ave
Length of worst bottleneck: .82 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 36
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 16.4 mph

The expert opinion: “There are only three lanes in either direction on Lunalilo Freeway through town, making it slow wherever there is a merge,” says KSSK traffic reporter Jason Yotsuda in an email. “Not much can be done there.”

#3, Capital Beltway, surrounds Washington DC
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 194
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, Exit 2A-B
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.26 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 31
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 21.2 mph

The expert opinion: “It’s a rough road,” says Adam Tuss, transportation reporter for WTOP 103.5. “It has lots of twists and turns, people speed on it and it’s got a lot of slow points too. It’s certainly not a freeway without its challenges.”

#4, I-35, Austin
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 460
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, Riverside Dr
Length of worst bottleneck: .92 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 47
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 16.2 mph

The expert opinion: “It’s the most traveled stretch of roadway of Austin and in the state,” says Joe Taylor, traffic reporter for News 8 Austin. “It’s quirky. It was designed for a small town, and we’ve grown into a very large city.”

#5, James Lick Freeway (US 101), San Francisco
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 190
Worst bottleneck: I 80 Northbound, 4th St/5th St
Length of worst bottleneck: .52 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 46
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 12.9 mph

The expert opinion: “I think it’s probably worse in the afternoon than in morning drives,” says Kim Wonderley, traffic reporter at KCBS 740. “There is another stretch of 280 that hits it and from that point up into San Francisco where it ends up joining Interstate 80 it’s a pressure point, no doubt about it.”

#6, Cross Bronx Expressway, New York City
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 421
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, Bronx River Parkway/Exit 4B
Length of worst bottleneck: .36 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 94
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 11.2 mph

The expert opinion: “There’s an old phrase that we used to have: too many cars and not enough roadway, and that fits the Cross Bronx to a T,” says Tom Kaminski, traffic reporter for WCBS 880 in New York City. “There’s no room to expand, there’s no way to throw in an additional lane or an additional shoulder—people have started changing their driving habits whenever they can.”

#7, I-5, Seattle
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 256
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, 45th St/Exit 169
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.46 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 34
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 21.3 mph

The expert opinion: “We have one major problem in downtown Seattle, and that is physical restraints,” says Paul Tosch, traffic reporter for KOMO 1000. “We only have so much room to put more freeway through downtown Seattle because we have water to one side and all the downtown buildings to the other. And I mean we don’t have room for one more lane.”

#8, I-95, Bridgeport, CT
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 272
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, US 1/Connecticut Ave/Exit 14
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.4 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 27
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 22.7 mph

The expert opinion: “If there’s a car crash it can take people forever to get home,” says Tommy Edison, traffic reporter for STAR 99.9. “It can be downright horrible.”

#9, Kennedy Expressway, Chicago
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 712
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, I 90/I 94/Edens Expressway
Length of worst bottleneck: .2 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 64
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 17.2 mph

The expert opinion: “There’s no such thing as rush hour. It’s rush period, rush day,” says Roz Varon, traffic anchor for ABC 7 News This Morning. “With the Kennedy, that thing will stay congested until 10 or 11 a.m. and start backing up again at 1 p.m.”

#10, Airport Expressway (State Road 112), Miami
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 183
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, 72nd Ave/Milam Dairy Rd
Length of worst bottleneck: .46 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 22
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 16.3 mph

Commuter Buzz: ''Southbound, northbound, eastbound, westbound. It means detours,'' state Department of Transportation spokesperson Tish Burgher told the Miami Herald July 14, 2009, after surrounding roadwork was expected to force traffic onto State Road 112.

#11, Bayshore Freeway (US 101), San Jose
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 231
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, Old Middlefield Way
Length of worst bottleneck: .34 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 27
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 20.2

Commuter Buzz: “There are stretches that look like a fault line with jagged edges,” says Mike McPherson.

#12, Loop 610, surrounds Houston
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 189
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, Farm-to-Market Rd 1093/Westheimer Rd/Exit 8
Length of worst bottleneck: .16 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 34
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 21.9 mph

Commuter Buzz: “That is the inner loop that defines for us what the, quote, inner city of Houston is, which is a gigantic space,” says Professor Stephen Klineberg of Rice University.

#13, I-10, Baton Rouge
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 93
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, Bluebonnet Rd/Exit 162
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.55 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 19
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 20.6 mph

Commuter Buzz: “There is a lot of congestion already between Addis and the (Interstate 10 Mississippi River Bridge),” says Louise Crochet. “It makes more sense to spread traffic out.”

#14, Southeast Expressway, Boston
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 305
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, Highway 203/Gallivan Blvd/Exit 12
Length of worst bottleneck: .98 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 45
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 18.7 mph

Commuter Buzz: “You leave the house at 5:40 [a.m.], and you’re still hitting traffic?’’ says Jay McQuaide. “The last year for me, commuting between Andover and Boston, is the worst it’s ever been, much worse than the Big Dig construction years.’’

#15, Loop 820, surrounds Dallas-Fort Worth
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 172
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, Rufe Snow Drive/Exit 20
Length of worst bottleneck: .85 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 41
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 20.1 mph

Commuter Buzz: "Coming back home, 5:30 or 6:00 p.m., it takes a long time to get home if you're coming 820," says Mark Quintero. "I try to avoid it when I can."

#16, I-5, Portland, OR
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 238
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, Marine Dr/Exit 307
Length of worst bottleneck: .76 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 23
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 14.8 mph

Commuter Buzz: “As anyone who drives on Interstate 5 or listens to the traffic reports knows, I-5 and most of the Portland freeway system is already congested at peak hours,” wrote Gerald Fox. “There are numerous choke points and frequent incidents delaying traffic throughout the region.”

#17, I-494, Minneapolis-St. Paul
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 184
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, Lyndale Ave/Exit 4
Length of worst bottleneck: .49 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 32
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 19.8 mph

Commuter Buzz: In addition to Lyndale Avenue, the I-494/Hwy 169 interchange has, "been a bottleneck for years," says Jim Gates.

#18, I-264, Virginia Beach
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 97
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, City Hall Ave/Exit 10
Length of worst bottleneck: .15 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 28
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 8.9 mph

Commuter Buzz: "We're the second-largest region in the state by population and we had a year in which there's no interstate funding—I just didn't want to set that precedent," Aubrey Layne told the Virginian-Pilot in December 2009, after securing a $7.7 million in state funds for updates to the I-64/264 interchange.

#19, San Diego Freeway (I-5), San Diego
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 97
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, Manchester Ave
Length of worst bottleneck: .83 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 14
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 28.4 mph

Commuter Buzz: "People were jumping the median and stuffing dollar bills in their shirts," Cal Walker told NBC after drug suspects tossed $17,000 onto the freeway last March.

#20, Schuylkill Expressway, Philadelphia
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 205
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, Montgomery Dr/Exit 341
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.53 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 34
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 22.9 mph

Commuter Buzz: "Frankly, we don't need any more rain," Gary Szatkowski told the Philadelphia Inquirer, after a 2009 that saw a rain-induced mudslide close part of the Schuylkill.

#21, Baltimore Beltway, surrounds Baltimore
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 152
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, I 70/Exit 16
Length of worst bottleneck: .46 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 13
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 24.3 mph

Commuter Buzz: "I think it's going to be a real pain in the butt," Victor Williams told WBAL TV about a drawbridge repair project that has shut down part of the Beltway.

#22, I-75, Atlanta
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 250
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, US 41/Northside Dr/Exit 252
Length of worst bottleneck: .8 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 23
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 23 mph

Commuter Buzz: “I wish they would make a ‘Grand Theft Auto: Atlanta’ so I could blow up the video game version of Interstate 75. It would be good therapy,” a commenter wrote on the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s online rant forum The Vent last November.

#23, I-275, Tampa
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 235
Worst bottleneck: Northbound Himes Ave/Exit 23
Length of worst bottleneck: .39 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 28
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 21.1 mph

Commuter Buzz: “We all know that mish-mash south of Tampa International Airport—where Interstate 275 connects with the Veterans and Memorial Highway and State Road 60,” says Jessica Balanza. “It has been a mess for the longest time, and I don't foresee it clearing up anytime soon.

#24, I-25, Denver
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 166
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, Park Ave/Exit 213
Length of worst bottleneck: .6 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 27
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 19.7 mph

Commuter Buzz: "It's not going to prevent all slides and that's what's important to remember. You still have to be careful and drive safely. But what it does is add a little extra traction for you on flyovers," Mindy Crane told 9News after the state began installing traction pavement to combat icy conditions.

#25, Riverside Freeway, Riverside, CA
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 160
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, Lincoln Ave
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.24 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 24
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 28.3 mph

Commuter Buzz: "What we fought for was safety, but what we got was gridlock," Gary Grant told the Valley News after a project to straighten Riverside County highways and roads ended up attracting more drivers.

#26, Ronald Reagan Freeway, Oxnard, CA
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 67
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, Stearns St
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.51 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 33
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 17.4 mph

Commuter Buzz: Despite road flooding in the Oxnard area from a storm Jan. 19, hydrologist Scott Holder told the Ventura County Star, “It’s not looking like it’s going to be a recurrence of the 2005 flood. We could have some minor localized flooding along some of our streams, depending on how much rain we get.”

#27, I-10, New Orleans
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 93
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, Bonnabel Blvd
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.27 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 38
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 25.6 mph

Commuter Buzz: "The New Orleans Regional Transportation Management Center allows us to use the resources we already have to improve communication among motorists and allow them to make smarter, more informed decisions as they travel," Louisiana DOTD Secretary William Ankner told New Orleans City Business Dec. 8, 2009, regarding a new traffic monitoring facility on I-10.

#28, I-91, New Haven
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 147
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, I-95
Length of worst bottleneck: .47 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 63
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 13.4 mph

Commuter Buzz: A recently approved $26 million high-speed rail project is expected to, “take a tremendous load off crowded Interstate 91 and bring new visitors, new business and new development to the entire corridor,” Gov. M. Jodi Rell said in a statement.

#29, Papago Freeway (I-10), Phoenix
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 98
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, Dysart Rd/Exit 129
Length of worst bottleneck: 2.08 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 18
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 28.8 mph

Commuter Buzz: "I would think with the holiday traffic I would have hit (gridlock) and I didn't,” Patty Sloan told The Arizona Republic Jan. 8, 2010, after new lanes were opened on I-10.

#30, Penn Lincoln Parkway (I-376), Pittsburgh
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 107
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, Braddock Ave/Exit 7
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.07 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 24
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 15.9 mph

Commuter Buzz: "It's tough to do with a road built in the '50s and '60s,” PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler told the Pittsburgh Gazette after a 70 mile stretch of highway from Pittsburgh to I-80 in Mercer County was dedicated to join I-376 after improvements bring it up to highway standards.

#31, Capital City Freeway, Sacramento
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 140
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, H St
Length of worst bottleneck: .24 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 27
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 15.5 mph

Commuter Buzz: "You never want to be running out in the freeway," Officer Liz Dutton told the Sacramento Bee after a woman was killed on the Capital City Freeway. "Ever."

#32, I-15, Las Vegas
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 119
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, Lake Mead Blvd/Exit 45
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.64 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 21
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 25 mph

Commuter Buzz: "You have express lanes ending there, traffic merging in, traffic trying to get off and the Spaghetti Bowl backing up," says Trooper Alan Davidson about the I-15/Sahara Avenue intersection. "Some people aren't paying attention and have to take evasive action to slow down or make a quick lane change so they don't rear-end somebody."
#33, I-84, Hartford, CT
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 112
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, US 44/Connecticut Blvd/Exit 53
Length of worst bottleneck: .16 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 18
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 17.1 mph

Commuter Buzz: "We have assured through this settlement that every penny necessary to assure proper completion of the work is done without additional taxpayer money being spent," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal told the New Haven Register after settling a suit against three contractors that flubbed repair work on I-84.
#34, I-94, Milwaukee
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 50
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, US 41/Exit 308
Length of worst bottleneck: .62 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 15
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 18.6 mph

Commuter Buzz: “It’s not detrimental. It just creates issues with schedules,” Greg Schmidt told The Daily Reporter regarding soil strength issues on a segment of I-94 that needs rebuilding.

#35, East Independence Blvd, Charlotte, NC
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 33
Worst bottleneck: Stallings Rd
Length of worst bottleneck: .75 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 12
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 20.6 mph

Commuter Buzz: “We had people in here last night wanting to sign after midnight,” said Dewayne Moser of Keffer Hyundai on East Independence Boulevard, during April’s Cash for Clunkers program.

#36, I-75, Cincinnati
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 86
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, Ronald Reagan Cross County Hwy/Exit 10
Length of worst bottleneck: .46 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 16
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 21.6 mph

Commuter Buzz: "The main gist is widening, adding more lanes for traffic to flow easier," Ohio Department of Transportation spokesperson Liz Lyons told The Cincinnati Enquirer Nov. 2, 2009, about new construction on I-75.

#37, I-65, Birmingham, AL
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 48
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, Highway 149/University Blvd/Exit 259
Length of worst bottleneck: .34 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 8
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 18.5 mph

Commuter Buzz: "Situations like this are extremely rare, but it will require a short-duration lane closure to make repairs,” ALDOT spokesman Tony Harris told ABC 33/40 after heavy rains caused a sinkhole.

#38, Loop 410, surrounds San Antonio
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 71
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, I 35 (San Antonio)
Length of worst bottleneck: .45 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 29
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 13.9 mph

Commuter Buzz: “It's like, ‘Wow.' I'm breathing a sigh of relief,” Kathy Babb told The Express-News about upcoming construction on Jones Maltsberger Road that will increase access to U.S. 281, which bisects Loop 410. “For all the people who use that intersection, it seems so ridiculous that it was left unimproved.”

#39, Edsel Ford Freeway (I-94), Detroit
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 174
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, Linwood St/Exit 214
Length of worst bottleneck: .34 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 21
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 24 mph

Commuter Buzz: "It's flat and straight and people like to fall asleep out there," says Michigan State Police Sergeant Chris Pascoe of I-94 outside the Detroit city limits.

#40, I-10, El Paso
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 39
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, Ranch Road 2316/McRae Blvd/Exit 28A
Length of worst bottleneck: .96 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 12
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 26

Commuter Buzz: "It's going to be a nightmare to get in and out, I bet," resident Pamela Ross told the El Paso Times, referring to the city’s $9 million plan to add pedestrian amenities to Oregon Street, a major upheaval expected to affect people commuting to downtown El Paso. "But I guess it's all for the common good. I'll just put up with it."

#41, I-195, Providence
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 135
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, Warren Ave/5th St/Exit 5
Length of worst bottleneck: .57 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 25
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 16.8 mph

Commuter Buzz: We are now entering a phase where the I-195/I-95 split will unfortunately change several times as we continue building the Iway,” DOT Director Michael P. Lewis said in a statement. “Southbound Route 95 congestion is expected to increase, so we recommend that drivers consider alternate routes.”

#42, I-90, Cleveland
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 59
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, Chester Ave/Exit 173
Length of worst bottleneck: .24 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 15
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 15.7 mph

Commuter Buzz: Add a dash of rain, and the road can act like "a section of ice," Brian Beal told The Cleveland Plain Dealer, describing the hazardous pavement sealant that was applied to parts of Interstate 90 last winter.

#43, I-26, Charleston, SC
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 48
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, Ashley Phosphate Rd
Length of worst bottleneck: .17 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 13
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 19.8 mph

Commuter Buzz: "Trucks out of the Charleston port will have to reroute, and small businesses are bound to benefit," David Melton told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, referring to the I-385’s temporary closing, which will divert more traffic to I-26. "I've already seen a 20 to 30 percent increase in business. We're not trying to take anything away from Greenville businesses, and at least the money's not going out of state."

#44, I-40, Nashville
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 94
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, I 65/Exit 210
Length of worst bottleneck: .37 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 14
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 12.4 mph

Commuter Buzz: "These people can't even hardly talk on the phone, especially in the summertime when they got the doors open," Councilman Buddy Baker told WSMV TV of homes that abut I-40.

#45, I-270, St. Louis
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 89
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, Dougherty Ferry Rd/Exit 8
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.26 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 15
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 24.5 mph

Commuter Buzz: "Replacement of the current design with the diverging diamond interchange will not only improve the flow of traffic along the 270-70 corridor, but it will also be a national example of innovation in highway safety and design," Maryland Heights Councilwoman Mary Nichols told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

#46, I 4, Orlando
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 139
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, Kaley Ave/35th St/Exit 35
Length of worst bottleneck: .48 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 29
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 19.9 mph

Commuter Buzz: "You can not build enough lanes on Interstate 4 to take care of the problem," Senator Ben Nelson said in Orlando. "We need to go to alternative forms of transportation."

#47, I-24, Chattanooga
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 20
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, US 27/Rossville Blvd/Exit 180
Length of worst bottleneck: .68 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 5
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 21.4 mph

Commuter Buzz: "That's just the 5 o'clock traffic…It's horrible," Carol Underwood told the Chattanooga Times Free Press of her morning commute on the I-24—a 40-minute drive across 15 miles. “We're not going to change careers," Underwood added, pointing out that the delayed commute is the price she pays for living and working where she likes.

#48, I-95, Jacksonville
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 45
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, Palm Ave
Length of worst bottleneck: .57 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 10
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 21.5 mph

Commuter Buzz: "There is a lot of congestion coming out of Clay County," Joe Mobley, vice president of The Fiorentino Group, told the Jacksonville Business Journal in June 2009. "The First Coast Outer Beltway could provide another option for people to get to work."

#49, I-65, Louisville
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 62
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, Court Ave
Length of worst bottleneck: .18 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 18
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 19.3 mph

Commuter Buzz: “My legs get tired, moving just a little bit and pushing on the brake. My neck gets tense. (It's) just frustrating. It's monotonous and it's a pain,” says commuter Rosemary Harvey.

#50, I-40, Raleigh, NC
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 45
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, US 1/US 64/Exit 293
Length of worst bottleneck: 2.61 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 8
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 27.9 mph

Commuter Buzz: “You just get so stiff and tired and sore before you get to work,” Wes Evans told The Citizen-Times, referring to the approximately two hours of daily driving added to daily commutes on the I-40—the result of a massive rockslide that has created numerous detours.

#51, I-84, Boise City
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 10
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, Highway 69/Exit 44
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.72 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 10
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 17.5 mph

Commuter Buzz: "Just pretend like there's an egg underneath the gas pedal under your break," says driver Travis Hymas. "Don't push anything too hard and you'll be alright."

#52, North Freeway, Columbus OH
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 14
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, I-670/Exit 109
Length of worst bottleneck: .73 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 7
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 22.7 mph

Commuter Buzz: “Ironically, this morning on my way in, I was behind a gentleman who was driving extremely slow and I was thinking to myself he’s more of a hazard than someone who is going reasonably slow,“ driver Lisa Hartong told NBC4i of 2010’s first weather-induced morning traffic jam.

#53, I-235, Oklahoma City
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 34
Worst bottleneck: Southbound, Harrison Ave/6th St/Exit 1
Length of worst bottleneck: .4 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 8
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 16.1 mph

Commuter Buzz: "It's pretty wet," driver Mike Raglin told KOCO 5, describing the roads after early-morning storms. "We had a couple of folks running into each other and stuff."

#54, Highway 201, Salt Lake City
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 10
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, S 7200 W
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.52 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 10
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 21.3 mph

Commuter Buzz: "It looks like the road is wet from here, and you never can tell if it's wet or if it's dry," Trooper Mary Kaye Lucas told KSL5 of a November blizzard that blanketed Highway 201. "The road has little grooves in it, and the water will get in between those grooves and make the road a lot more treacherous than it initially appears."

#55, I-240, Memphis
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 23
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, Poplar Ave
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.6 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 10
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 22.6 mph

Commuter Buzz: "Funding for Memphis' I-240 widening and sound wall project was removed from the state's budget, but allocated and spent for similar projects in Nashville and Knoxville,” Tim Cowan told The Commercial Appeal. “We need legislators to demand equal treatment for this part of the state."
#56, I-65, Indianapolis
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 19
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, 82nd St/Exit 1
Length of worst bottleneck: .9 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 9
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 20.1 mph

Commuter Buzz: "The car in front of me slowed down. I slowed down so I didn't hit that guy and I started wobbling a little bit,” one driver told WTHR after a snow-induced accident. “Once it started wobbling I couldn't straighten it out. Ran into the other fellow and I went off on the slope and I guess he went off on the other side."

#57, US 22, Allentown, PA
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 22
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, Highway 987/Airport Rd
Length of worst bottleneck: .76 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 11
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 21.1

Commuter Buzz: “There's simply not enough road surface to be had,” explains Dan Hartzell, aka The Road Warrior for The Morning Call. “Motorists will not remain in single file, going slower than they wish, if a lane is available for passing, whether it be to the left or right.”

#58, I-70, Kansas City
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 47
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, Van Brunt Blvd/Exit 6
Length of worst bottleneck: .79 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 13
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 17.1 mph

Commuter Buzz: “I'm just glad to see that [the Missouri Department of Transportation] is doing a common sense project, widening I-70 to three lanes all the way through, which should ease the flow of traffic,” says one commuter.

#59, I-30 Little Rock, AR
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 26
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, Cantrell Rd/2nd St/Exit 141
Length of worst bottleneck: .27 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 11
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 20.4 mph

Commuter Buzz: "I don't get paid until the 30th, and I used the last bit of money for gas to get to Hope and now I-30 is flooded." Nicholas Rogers told THV 11, after heavy rainfall thwarted Christmas travel plans.

#60, I-10, Tucson
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 130
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, 22nd St/Exit 259
Length of worst bottleneck: .71 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 36
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 19.8 mph

Commuter Buzz: “It can be closed for hours by traffic accidents (once you leave Phoenix, there’s no alternate route). Anyone who wants to come to Tucson for just 36 hours—and spend four (or many more) hours on I-10—should instead take a flight to our convenient, uncrowded airport,” Jerry Peek wrote on the New York Times Web site.

#61, Coronado Freeway, Albuquerque
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 25
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, San Mateo Blvd/Exit 161
Length of worst bottleneck: .9 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 9
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 25 mph

Commuter Buzz: “There are some people out there driving like maniacs,” says one motorist. “A word to all drivers out there who have to use detour roads, PLEASE, drive carefully and slower through neighborhoods you don't know.”

#62, I-83, Harrisburg, PA
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 64
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, 17th St/Exit 44
Length of worst bottleneck: .15 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 12
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 20.2 mph

Commuter Buzz: “Always wondered if the City could be held liable for auto repairs... namely front end work and shocks that blow out way too quickly from driving on these roads,” says “Jersey Mike”.

#63, I-290, Worcester, MA
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 20
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, Hwy 9/Exit 17
Length of worst bottleneck: .37 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 9
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 23 mph

Commuter Buzz: “The MAJOR problem with these Highways is not the roads themselves but the JERKS who drive on it,” one driver posted under an article on the Worcester Telegram & Gazette website about the need for physical improvements on the I-290. “Weaving in and out, riding your butt even if you're going 80, 85 mph.”

#64, Crosstown Expressway, Tulsa
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 6
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, I 44/Highway 66
Length of worst bottleneck: .98 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 6
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 16.1 mph

Commuter Buzz: Tulsa World reader Daven suggested politicians see roads firsthand to encourage increased spending on improvements. “Just drive him on the part of the [Inner Dispersal Loop] that has not been repaired and he will see real quick why that was needed. Given that he doesn’t fall into a pothole.”

#65, I-75, Cape Coral, FL
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 19
Worst bottleneck: Northbound—Alico Road/Exit 20
Length of worst bottleneck: 3.9 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 9
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 21.8 mph

Commuter Buzz: “You're putting your life on the line every time you drive I-75,” posted one reader.

#66, I-490, Rochester, NY
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 14
Worst bottleneck: Inner loop westbound, Washington St/Exit 14
Length of worst bottleneck: .27 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 9
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 18 mph

Commuter Buzz: “The closing of the Lake Champlain Bridge is a wake-up call. New York has ignored its infrastructure for decades, putting New Yorkers and New York businesses in jeopardy,” state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told

#67, I-271, Akron, OH
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 4
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, I-480/Cuyahoga-Summit County Line
Length of worst bottleneck: 2.51 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 4
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 28.1 mph

Commuter Buzz: "The traffic mess has not been as bad as I thought it would be," Bob Zarle told the Akron Beacon Journal in November 2008 during a construction period. "You see progress constantly, and you see people working everywhere. It's like an ant's nest."

#68, I-205, Stockton, CA
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 28
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, Tracy Blvd
Length of worst bottleneck: 1.68 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 13
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 25.8 mph

Commuter Buzz: “A lot of people I knew were having a time of it trying to get to work on the congested roads,” John Harris told the Manteca Bulletin, referring to a half cent sales tax that has provided millions to improve San Joaquin County roads, including I-205.

#69, I-75, Dayton, OH
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 46
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, Highway 48/Grand Ave/Exit 54
Length of worst bottleneck: .67 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 12
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 17.4 mph

Commuter Buzz: After an accident caused by icy roads, commuter Gwen Hymen offered some sage advice for WHIO TV viewers. “I know a lot of people that get in their cars and go, and that messes up your car. I warm mine up an hour before I go.”

#70, I-40, Knoxville, TN
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 12
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, I 275/Exit 387
Length of worst bottleneck: .64 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 6
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 25.3 mph

Commuter Buzz: A silver lining amidst a commuter hell: “I’d say we’ve had at least a 20 to 30 percent increase in business since the rock slide,” diner owner Genia Hayes-Peterson told The Tennesean, after traffic on I-40 was rerouted.

#71, I-690, Syracuse, NY
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 9
Worst bottleneck: Eastbound, Exit 7
Length of worst bottleneck: .11 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 9
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 28.5 mph

Commuter Buzz: “Who can even drive 55 in that area, what is there, only one lane open? [You’re] lucky in rush hour if you do 45,” says one commuter.

#72, I-15, Ogden, UT
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 45
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, Center St/Exit 317
Length of worst bottleneck: .19 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 11
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 20.8 mph

Commuter Buzz: “It's just like a movie. You see everything in your car flowing with you, with the car. It's pretty cool, but I don't wish it upon anyone," says motorist Cody Graham. "Whatever you do, if you're hitting ice, don't hit the brakes. That's what I learned tonight."

#73, I-26, Columbia, SC
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 16
Worst bottleneck: Westbound, Saint Andrews Rd/Exit 106
Length of worst bottleneck: .58 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 6
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 26.5 mph

Commuter Buzz: “We have not determined what the possible fixes are, but if there is a possible funding mechanism, we can look at addressing that. There are issues there,” Randall Young told the Times and Democrat, of remedies to congestion at the I-95/I-26 interchange.

#74, I-55, Jackson, MS
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 8
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, Daniel Lake Blvd/Exit 90B
Length of worst bottleneck: .7 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 4
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 26.3 mph

Commuter Buzz: “The oil comes up on the roadway and things get real slick,” says Chris Barnhart of driving in rain on I-55. “If you don't wear your seat belt, you're not going to give it a chance to save your life. That's just a fact."

#75, I-95, Richmond, VA
Weekly hours of bottleneck congestion: 11
Worst bottleneck: Northbound, US 1/US 301/N Belvidere St/Exit 76
Length of worst bottleneck: .19 mi
Weekly hours of congestion on worst bottleneck: 6
Speed of worst bottleneck when congested: 25.2 mph

Commuter Buzz: “If our state is as cash-strapped as politicians profess, and if our road needs are as dire as advertised, we need to restore tolls on Interstate 95,” Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams wrote.