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Wednesday November 17, 2004

Now that the election is over, I hope we'll be hearing much more about the UN Oil for Food scandal. Claudia Rossett has been on the case for some time and reports on new discoveries that the graft and corruption was worse than previous estimates:

With estimates soaring of graft and fraud under the United Nations Oil for Food program in Iraq, we are hearing a lot about the need to "get to the bottom" of this scandal, the biggest ever to hit the U.N. To get to that bottom will need a much harder look at the top--where Secretary-General Kofi Annan himself resides.

That violates all sorts of taboos. But so, one might suppose, does a United Nations that allowed Saddam Hussein to embezzle at least $21.3 billion in oil money during 12 years, with the great bulk of that sum--a staggering $17.3 billion--pilfered between 1997-2003, on Mr. Annan's watch.

These are the record-breaking new estimates released Monday by the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, whose staffers, despite Mr. Annan's refusal to cooperate, have spent the past seven months voyaging deep into the muck of Oil for Food. At a hearing Monday, these investigators surfaced to tell us the theft and fraud under Oil for Food was at least twice as bad as earlier reports had suggested, and that all this is just a preview of yet more appalling disclosures they expect to release early next year. Sen. Norm Coleman, the subcommittee's chairman, underscored the urgency of such investigations, noting not only that the size of the fraud "is staggering," but that some of Saddam's vast illicit stash might right now be funding terrorists and costing American lives.

Some recently disclosed internal AOL documents point to a shocking relevation:

"While we vigorously condemn the illegal theft of internal company documents, we must admit that they are in fact authentic," said a grim-looking Joe Redley, AOL's chief marketing officer. "Further, the facts as stated in the memos recently released to news organizations are in fact true; namely, that it does appear that a sizeable percentage of AOL subscribers do not, in fact, possess computers."

That sizeable percentage is reported to be 40%--that's nearly 10 million subscribers. AOL has not only known of this for at least three years, but has actually pursued such clients.

The fact that they opted not only to keep these clients, but actually pursue such customers with increasing aggressiveness, bespeaks a serious ethical collapse at AOL," said Wired News analyst Mary Kowshik. "It's no wonder they have backed away from offering broadband service to many regions of the country - it is not profitable for them to compete in areas which actually involve offering technical services to people."

So, if you've had days when you have felt that you're not the sharpest knife in the drawer, consider Carl Lewin--and nearly 10 million like him:

"I kind of thought it was like subscribing to the yellow pages," said Lewen. "We kept getting copies of the phone book, so I thought AOL was doing that. I also wanted the virus protection, because it was flu season."

Remember this: corporations do not have consciences. They do not follow a moral or ethical code. Their primary goal is to make a profit and return dividends to their investors. So long as their practices are not illegal, there is no compunction. That said, corporations are made up of individuals. Individual men and women at AOL have been deliberately and knowingly deceiving the morons cognitively challenged among us. The men and women involved in this should be held accountable--if not legally, then morally and socially.

I pray that we will come to our senses and not allow %$#*@& such as the ACLU to continue to denigrate, dismantle and decimate such venerable institutions as the Boy Scouts:

The Pentagon has agreed to warn military bases worldwide not to directly sponsor Boy Scout troops, partially resolving claims that the government has engaged in religious discrimination by supporting a group that requires members to believe in God.

...The original ACLU lawsuit named as defendants the Department of Defense, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Chicago Board of Education. The schools settled, agreeing not to engage in official sponsorship of scouting activities.