Tuesday, October 31, 2006

“Huffin & Puffin in the Muffin” Election Style

Round two of the most decrepit politician contest between V. P. Dick Cheney and Congressman Charlie Rangel looks to be in the making. The first event happened last fall as the two physically failing leaders traded barbs, whiffs, and near blows in their quest for the long held Strom Thurmond title.

The name of the event came from the physical condition of the two aged politicians after the walk to the rink in a large domed stadium. By the time each reached ringside, they would have their hands on their knees gasping for air. Once they regained their breath, the fisticuffs could begin.

Last fall the two barbed over their relative physical and mental health. The rematch appears to center around intelligence, tax policy, and family of origin. Rangel called Cheney a “son of a bitch”, later clarifying some people have that as part of their personality.

The Veep called Charlie slow suggesting the Congressman “doesn’t understand how the economy works”. He refused to weigh in on the curse word. Is that due to his greeting to Senator Leahy on the Senate floor to “go fuck himself”? One wouldn’t want to get into a cursing contest with Dick Cheney.

Will it be shotguns at twenty paces for Round Two of the Huffin and Puffin in the Muffin? What’s a political campaign nowadays without drawing a little blood? Ask the Austin attorney who happened to be on the same side as Dick Cheney what happens when one gets in the way?

Time to Turn Off the TV

With $160 million spent to date on negative campaign ads, America will soon choose between two undesirable candidates in many races. Besides wasting money which could be used to meet a true societal need, negative ads drag down our democracy. At a time when the bar for leadership lays on the ground, only the inattentive stumble and trip over it.

When a politician has his hands in a supporter’s pocket, then the metal rod can “jump up” and trip the salivating incumbent intent on obtaining another greenback. Negative ads do two things. They dig a hole for the bar, driving it underground while also serving as a magnet dragging down the person running for office. This combination makes the offenses of greedy influence peddlers seem par for the course.

The last week of the campaign means the public will be inundated with negative TV ads, direct mail pieces and phone calls. It looks like time for another media fast. My request to candidates and their supporters is donate the money you would have spent on negative ads to a local food bank. The public is hungry for something different. Who has the guts to try it?

New Ministry of Information, the Pentagon?

As our world revolves ever more unrecognizable, the Pentagon announced a two pronged approach to keeping the public informed on the war effort. New teams of people will “develop messages” for the 24 hour news cycle and “correct the record”. This is on top of a radio report that the military is restricting soldiers’ access to blogs not spouting the Pentagon line. A gentleman caller reported when military personnel click on websites spouting positions other than the current administration’s a warning notice pops up suggesting the soldier should steer away.

The Pentagon’s public media effort is anchored by a rapid response to quickly answer opponent’s assertions and the implanting of surrogates, usually high level politicians or key interest groups who can come to the aid of the administration’s positions. I wonder how they will conduct rapid response in the case of innocent’s killed in wartime operations as the Pentagon doesn’t track that number? Which politician will fly over to Afghanistan or Iraq to count the dead civilians who had the sheer bad luck to be near an insurgent or in the wrong house?

Big Brother is coming with the management of messages and the propping of puppets mouthing the “right” words in front of the blue curtain. His footsteps grow louder with each passing day…

Thursday, October 26, 2006

BUBAR’ed Iraq in Spotlight

"Bushed Up Beyond All Recognition" Iraq is center stage as the mid-term election approaches. The man responsible held a press conference on the topic where once again he re-wrote history. A few of his comments are worth highlighting.

Iraqi civilians have suffered unspeakable violence at the hands of the terrorists, insurgents, illegal militias, armed groups, and criminals.

The President left out at the hands of U.S. and coalition soldiers. He left out the highly negative side effects of war and internal conflict on the health of a country’s population.

We overestimated the capability of the civil service in Iraq to continue to provide essential services to the Iraqi people.

Actually we disbanded the government and suspended the ruling party known as the Baath Party. Saddam required all civil servants to be members of the Baath Party so in one fell swoop the U.S. wiped out Iraq’s civil service. The Coalition Provisional Authority headed by Paul Bremer became the government. Its plans to rebuild Iraq have been marked by wasteful spending, corruption and woefully underachieved.

As we fight this enemy, we're working with the Iraqi government to perform the performance -- to improve the performance of their security forces, so they can regain control of the nation's capital, and eventually resume primary responsibility for their country's security.

Which security forces, the army, the police, or the various militias running around Baghdad?

The new Iraqi government has condemned violence from all quarters and agreed to a schedule for resolving issues, such as disarming illegal militias and death squads, sharing oil revenues, amending the Iraqi constitution, and reforming the de-Baathification process.

As for sharing oil revenues, the CPA had the chance 3 years ago to set up an Alaska like oil trust to benefit the citizens of Iraq but passed preferring to push production sharing agreements with western oil companies. And President Bush signed an Executive Order saying anyone involved in oil production in Iraq was basically above the law.

A distinguished independent panel of Republicans and Democrats, led by former Secretary of State Jim Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, is taking a fresh look at the situation in Iraq and will make recommendations to help achieve our goals.

This group will try to set the stage for continued western economic development in Iraq. Funds will be tied to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund which carry a set of restrictive covenants ensuring western corporate access.

It's my responsibility to provide the American people with a candid assessment on the way forward.

But since the President hasn’t been candid on the way to the present, why should anyone believe “the way forward”?

We must not fall prey to the sophisticated propaganda by the enemy, who is trying to undermine our confidence and make us believe that our presence in Iraq is the cause of all its problems.

Since when are Johns Hopkins, MIT and the Pentagon’s Inspector General the enemy? While we are not responsible for all, the United States is certainly responsible for some of Iraq’s current problems. Does anyone recall the unaccounted for $8 billion in reconstruction money?

I take responsibility for the decisions I make. I also understand that those of us in positions of responsibility have the duty to bring honor to the offices we hold… But in order to make this country work, and to make democracy succeed, there's got to be high standards, and people must be held to account to achieve those standards.

And leaving out the hospital with the most patient deaths post Hurricane Katrina in the White House Lessons Learned report is a high standard? Maybe, but it could only be from the perspective its owner, the Carlyle Group and their legal counsel. Who says lawyers don’t run our country?

I thank you for your time. See you on the campaign trail.

Yes, the permanent campaign trail…

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bucky Bush’s Excellent Adventure

President Bush’s uncle has made out like a bandit since his nephew got in office. Besides doubling his money in Wellpoint after the signing of the Medicare Modernization Act, Bucky has made some serious money in the defense sector via his role on the board of Engineered Support Systems Inc. In 2005 he flipped some stock options to the tune of nearly a half million dollars. In January 2006 he disposed of 12,657 shares while the stock traded at nearly $43 per share. This was reported as an inside deal but reasonably stood around $544,000.

In 2005 the Pentagon’s Inspector General began an investigation into $158 million in contracts awarded ESS Inc. in 2002. The concern is the government's behavior in awarding the contracts. Who was President at the time?

In 2005 ESSI announced the purchase of a Virginia military contractor Spacelink International LLC. In 2006 Engineered Support Systems merged with DRS Technologies in a $1.9 billion transaction. Prior to the merger Bucky controlled 88,595 shares of the company, with 75,938 of those shares exercisable. His last batch of options had an exercise price of $37.17 per share. At the merger price of $43 per share Mr. Bush stood to make $5.83 per share or $442,000. This part of the story ends here as Bucky did not go on the DRS Board.

So far it looks like Bucky made over $6 million on Wellpoint aided by his nephew’s signing Medicare Part D plus another $1 million from his association with defense contractor ESSI.
How much did he save in taxes courtesy of his nephew’s tax cuts? Three Carlyle Execs saved nearly $1 million in capital gains taxes that same year with the sale of United Defense to BAE Systems. Yes, they get by with a little help from their friends…

Limbaugh to Consult with Frist on Fox Case

The two greatest healing minds in America will put their heads together in an effort to help Michael J. Fox, the actor struggling with Parkinson’s disease. Rush Limbaugh, fresh off self prescribing narcotic painkillers, will phone conference with Dr. Bill Frist, the Senator capable of making complex medical diagnosis off of short segments of videotape.

Ironically, neither Medicare nor Medicaid will pay for a telemedicine visit conducted by a licensed physician. The physical exam has to be conducted in person. Existing telemedicine programs are funded by grants, not by patient visit revenues.

Yet, the two world renowned healers can both diagnose and treat Mr. Fox’s condition from simply watching his movements on a commercial. Limbaugh’s prescription is more painkillers while Frist calls for the Democratic Party to enter a permanent vegetative state. Yes, that about sums it up…

Uncle Bucky Bush’s Wellpoint Adventure

The President’s Uncle sits on the Board of Directors of Wellpoint, a large health insurer who just reported an increase in profits of 27%. The company reported over 1.5 million new Medicare Part D subscribers compared to last year and highlighted the benefits of its acquisition of WellChoice, a former competitor. William H. T. (Bucky) Bush owns 86,874 shares of Wellpoint, c currently trading price of $76 per share.

The President wants insurers to compete with one another, but Wellpoint’s report indicates one less competitor. The President’s uncle has a long history of serving on health insurers boards of directors, but he officially joined Wellpoint’s board in November of 2004 after a merger.

Did the President ever ask his Uncle for advice on the design of Medicare Part D? Whether he did or not, Wellpoint’s stock is up 100% since his nephew signed the bill enabling the new prescription drug program on December 8, 2003. That amounts to an increase in Uncle Bucky’s portfolio of $3,300,000. His stake in Wellpoint is valued at over $6,600,000 thanks in part to his Executive Office relation.

Bucky serves on other boards as well as stated by his online bio. They include Maritz Inc., Mississippi Valley Bancshares, Inc., and Engineered Support Systems, Inc., all of St. Louis; Wellpoint Health Networks of Thousand Oaks, California, DT Industries, Inc. of Dayton, Ohio, and the Lord Abbett Family of Funds of New York. He has served and continues to serve on a variety of other smaller, private company boards.

How has government policy enriched the President’s Uncle outside of health insurance? That’s the topic for another post…

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Axis of Evil: Bush Predicted or Produced?

Secretary Rice bestowed the Karnak the Magnificent label on President George W. Bush for his Axis of Evil label given in 2002 to North Korea, Iran and Iraq. In an interview with Sean Hannity Condi said:

"You think of some of the world reaction to the president's use of the word 'axis of evil,' and then you see how events have been unfolding," Hannity remarked. "It was a pretty good analysis, wasn't it?" Rice replied. "It really was."

Bush said the three countries were state sponsors of terror and wanted to acquire weapons of mass destruction. It took an invasion of Iraq to find out Bush applied the label in error. However the President and the V.P. continued for nearly 3 years to inaccurately claim a Saddam/al-Qaida connection.

As for Iran, President Ahmadinejad wasn’t in office in 2002. Instead Mohammad Khatami, a reformer stood in the seat of power. This Iranian leader reached out to Bush with reconciliatory overtones in 2003. The U.S. summarily rejected the olive leaf, adhering to his Axis of Evil label. What role did this snub have in the Iranian people electing a hard liner in 2005? Only the Iranian people can tell us. They do remember the United States unwavering support for the Shah and consider his overthrow much the way Americans consider July 4th and the Declaration of Independence.

As for North Korea, their pathological leader qualifies for whatever label given him at any point in any day.

From here Bush is 1-1-1. Iraq is the loss in many more ways than one. Iran is the tie as it is difficult to tell if the Bush rhetoric is the chicken or the egg. His one win is North Korea with its nutcase leader. That a pathological leader can recognize darkness in the other is no surprise. As Bush ushers in space weapons and a new modern nuclear warhead that may or may not need testing, he and Kim Jong-il resonate like two tuning forks in full vibration.

If Condi is going to be NFL Commissioner one day, she needs to bone up on what makes a win and what constitutes a loss. Her comments today rival her prior root cause analyses. And did Dick Cheney ever figure out to do a plan with timelines?

Bush Meets with Small Business Owners & Community Bankers?

When the President says he met with several small business owners and community bankers what comes to mind? I don’t picture the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats NBA team who last year announced a joint venture with The Carlyle Group (Bob Johnson) or the principal of an investment firm who serves on a number of corporate boards (Dwight Bush).

Yet, those gentlemen are two of the people the President spent time with yesterday. Which are they, the small business owners or the community bankers? By virtue of its stake in RLJ Companies, President Bush visited a branch or affiliate of The Carlyle Group. With $44.3 billion in managed investments, there’s not a small business owner or community banker in sight.

Don’t forget the community bank’s deal with Goldman Sachs on college loans through UTB Education Finance LLC and their desire to get accredited as a minority bank by the Treasury Department. This encourages major corporations to put excess cash in the program as a way of encouraging minority banking.

Once again Americans can see how the Bush team distorts the very programs intended to help people get a leg up. It simply churns money and business from the ultra rich to the mighty rich. A Carlyle Affiliate getting minority banking status? It appears they want to squeeze every penny from the feds while their Charlie McCarthy doll is in office.

Oil Prices, Next Steps Higher?

As the election nears, big oil needs to prepare the populace for rising gas prices. Their third quarter earnings Republican election sacrifice needs to end soon. How will they get prices beginning to move in the other direction?

Earlier they stated an offline production facility’s longer than necessary repair from Katrina damage would send prices upwards. After reasonable people laughed this off, they came back with an expert industry opinion.

The oil market is "nearing the exhaustion of its immediate-term downtrend," said Citigroup analyst Tim Evans.

Post November 7th, what will happen to oil and gas prices? Will they bounce off the floor? And post January 1, when America or its proxy bombs Iranian nuclear facilities, what will they do? Will they go through the roof?

“Deer in Headlights” Looks in New Orleans

More than just President Bush sported a “deer in the headlights” look post Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. It appears the poor, low income black residents of the Ninth Ward got spotlighted by those insurance adjusters. Blinded by their terrible settlement offers but without resources on which to live while appealing through the state insurance commission, they took the paltry offers and moved on, many unaware of the existence of state assistance in appeals.

Whites took advantage of the state’s help on a 3 to 1 ratio to black citizens. In cases where the state could help both groups get an additional $40,000 in settlement money. Overall, $14.9 billion out of $25.3 billion in insured losses have been paid out according to estimates.

What defense does the insurance industry have for these discrepancies? In their best Abu Ghraib form they blamed low level employees or “bad adjusters” before breaking into a Bush like “unprecedented event” excuse.

Now who gave how much money to Bush/Cheney in 2004? Weighing in at $3.2 million is the insurance sector! The question is who is teaching who here? Either way the public knows, our interests are not at the heart of either group. Mr. Edinburgh, a 75 year old resident of the Ninth Ward said it best.

"The best thing I can do is take the money I did receive and go to work," says the old man, his eyes clouded with cataracts. "Am I satisfied? Hell, no, I'm not satisfied ... Am I mad? Hell, yeah, I'm mad. But to complain about it, what's the use?"

Complain, no but Mr. Edinburgh can vote…

Break for BushCo: Major Oils Profit to be Down $2.17 Billion from Last Year

Simply livid voters will be turning out to the polls in two weeks thanks to big oil dropping the price of gasoline at the pump. The margin sacrifice the companies endured still mean big profits of over $30 billion for the 5 biggest firms, but compared to last year they left $2.17 billion on the table.

Had they set another profit record then legions of enraged voters would be checking the box of any non-incumbent candidate. Voters still may do such a thing given widespread government corruption and the Mark Foley scandal but incumbents have a chance to stay in office given the sacrifices made by big oil.

Will they send a thank you note, especially the Republicans garnering 83% of those $13.5 million in oil and gas political donations? Why does one party have a bigger feeding frenzy at the oil & gas corporate money trough? Kay Bailey Hutchison must be getting rather rotund with over $250,000 in slop from big oil…

Justice Department Investigations: Do They Go Ever Go Up?

The news reported about Justice Department investigations of a number of Congresspersons, Republicans and Democrats. The Justice Head, Alberto Gonzales said:

"We can't look at what party someone is a member of in deciding whether or not to pursue an investigation. We have to follow the evidence wherever it leads."

While he has called government corruption prosecution one of his top priorities, his focus to date has been on the Legislative branch. Does he ever investigate any of his brothers or sisters in the Executive? Has he looked into why President Bush left out the hospital with the largest death toll in Hurricane Katrina? Why did he or Frances Townsend omit any mention of Carlyle Group affiliate LifeCare’s 24 patient deaths?

The evidence of the 24 deaths is clear. A simple search of the White House Lessons Learned report will find no mention of LifeCare, Memorial Hospital, Tenet Healthcare, or the Louisiana Hospital Association (the trade group that coordinated the evacuation of hospital patients while FEMA fumbled). So who will look into this suspicious evidence available to the common citizen? Will Alberto’s crackerjack team be told to stay away?

The aggressive pursuit of Republican lawmakers by Bush administration prosecutors is a sign of the independent streak of career attorneys inside the public integrity unit, said Paul F. Rothstein, a legal and government ethics professor at Georgetown Law School.

"A lot of them are nonpolitical - they do have a taste for rooting out corruption and wrongdoing," Rothstein said. "There are some tensions coming from it. ... It's probably a very delicate and agonizing situation for the political appointees at the top" of the Justice Department.

Do those Justice Department investigations ever go up?

White House on Iraq: No More B.M.’s! (Big Moves)

In the new Middle Eastern democracy of Iraq, sewage flows more than just in the “green” streets. The White House is building on this fact as it shifts its strategery from “Stay the Course” to “No Big Moves”.

Tony Snow loves abbreviations so this will be shortened to “No B.M.’s!” That this administration’s Iraqi policy has turned to sh_t, by failing at most turns, makes the new slogan and abbreviation especially symbolic. Shout it out loud with me “No B.M.’s! No B.M.’s! No B.M.’s!” Doesn’t that make you feel better?

Corruptible Ollie Defends Corrupt Nicaraguan Ruling Party

The White House advisor who led America’s tampering in Nicaragua in the 1980’s recently visited the site of his nefarious schemes in order to offer “political advice”. Oliver North never spent a night in jail for any of the frauds he perpetrated or for his lying to Congress.

The “wisdom” he dispensed sounded very similar to Sec. Rumsfeld’s advice, given to military leaders last fall. The message? Essentially don’t elect Ortega or else there will be some U.S. instigated trouble. North warned Nicaraguans from returning to a past of war and foreign intervention.

"My hope is that the people of Nicaragua are not going to return to that. That's not good for your country. That's not good for my country," he said, adding: "My hope is that the election here is a coalition of people who believe in democracy."

As the ruling party has been found guilty of corruption, why would people "who believe in democracy" keep corrupt rulers in power? Wouldn’t democracy encourage a change in such situations?

Actually Ollie wrote a newspaper column recommending the opposite, even criticizing State Department officials for weighing in on the corruption. He wants the party in power to stay in power, corrupt or not.

Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld visited last fall warning of the dire threat to Nicaragua’s democracy as he met with military leaders. That threat? Elections! Can we expect a Thailand like military coup if Daniel Ortega wins the popular vote based on Rumsfeld’s mentoring?

What does this portend for America’s democracy where the public is fed up with corrupt leaders who buy and sell influence? Will a regime change here be met by a military coup? We likely have until ’08 to find out, but Nicaragua’s elections are right around the corner. If Ortega wins will North’s prediction of “war and foreign intervention” return? If so, will it be U.S. led or backed?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Hearsay, Torture and Death American Style

An Outer Banks hotel clerk lied to a Naval Petty Officer about a gang rape. Acting on the hearsay, the young man administered a little homespun justice by kidnapping a Marine in question and later killing him. The assailant posed as a Naval Criminal Investigation agent attempting to get information about the rape. In the process he slit the innocent man’s throat and later buried him.

The sailor pleaded guilty to premeditated murder, kidnapping, impersonating a Naval Criminal Investigation Service agent and obstruction of justice. Had this sailor acted similarly with an unlawful enemy combatant, there would be no crime. Next time he needs to get President Bush or Secretary Rumsfeld to declare his target an unlawful enemy combatant. There is nothing in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that prevents them from giving an American citizen such a designation.

At that point hearsay, torture, impersonating any kind of intelligence officer even from another country is “a OK”. Should a death happen, my guess is no one would know about it. I’ll have to go back and see what it says about combatants who die in U.S. custody. Who do they inform and who has rights to the body of the deceased? Ooopss, I meant ashes as the government wouldn’t want to release any evidence of torture.

Bob Bennett Calls Anyone Criticizing America “Apes”

From the Middle East to Europe, countries critical of American government still love the quickly slipping away American ideal. OK, ex. Education Secretary of fallen morals fame Bob Bennet didn’t exactly say that, but it was close.

I don't think the rest of the world has lost faith in our democracy and government. It is fashionable in some precincts to condemn the United States. We have not been popular in the Middle East for many years, and the university class (in Europe, especially) has a "sophisticated" view that is aped by academia in much of the U.S. professoriate.

But many millions of people around the world love America, Americans and the things America represents. If [people] virtually anywhere in the world ... saw a group of soldiers coming over the hill and could pick which flag they were carrying, the American flag would still be the choice of many.

Notice he said soldiers coming over the hill. Why not just people or tourists? Why does it have to be someone with a gun? How would Bob’s analogy play out in Iraq right now? The country has had over 3 years of American liberation. You’d think one with direct experience of American soldiers would be in the best position to choose. That is if they aren’t being held in a detention center without charges!

Ask Bob why people in other countries are better educated about the fading ideal of America than our own citizens. What does that say about our education system, including his for-profit education ventures being pushed by the Republican administration? How can people living in Europe, the Middle East or the third world be more disappointed than us about our loss of liberty? Because the darkening of America, darkens the whole world and Bob casts his own long dark shadow…

That Leading Middle Eastern Democracy

Israel came out full throttle over the weekend with a number of announcements. First, it will continue its flights over war ravaged Lebanon in violation of the cease fire agreement.

Second, the Israeli Prime Minister recruited into his political block a leader favoring scouring Israel of all Arabs. The new deputy prime minister will be in charge of strategic threats, like Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Third, Prime Minister Olmert said he wants to restart talks with the Palestinians. Will he involve his new deputy in the “piece process”?

Fourth Israel acknowledged it used white phosphorous bombs in Lebanon which cause severe chemical burns. Doctors reported their use at the time of the Israeli invasion based on burns to people and children. Why did it take the country months to admit their use? The United States used similar weapons in Fallujah. The Geneva Conventions ban their use on civilians or in civilian areas.

Fifth, Israel called for the world to stop Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Olmert states the Iranians “have to be afraid” of the consequences of their intransigence. What does the new hard liner have in mind for Israeli responses to such a strategic threat?

This is a Bush’s model for a peaceful democracy in the Middle East? Dang, no wonder the world is in such trouble…

Bush’s Clear Enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan

While the United States fights “terrorists” in Afghanistan and Iraq, the people in those countries apparently on the same side fight each other. Two weekend battles point to this “enemy confusion”.

Sunday two Afghan warlords loyal to the government fought leaving 12 people dead. Police and Afghan troops separated the hundreds of combatants armed with heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and small arms. The cause of the fighting was not “immediately known”.

Two Shia factions clashed in Amarah for two days, one the Mahdi Army militia controlled by Shia cleric al-Sadr and the other local police loyal to al-Hakim’s Badr Brigades. The Iraqi military retook the city with recently withdrawn British troops on stand by.

Yes, people “on the same side” fight each other in Afghanistan and Iraq. Loyal government warlords faced off in one country while rival Shia groups gunned it out in the other. The gifts of democracy are not readily apparent in either Bush led initiative.

Washington Warfare Already in Evidence Mr. Bush

The White House’s prediction of Capital warfare should Democrats take one or both houses of Congress is 20/20 hindsight as it started in the late 1970’s with the idea of the permanent campaign. In the past candidates stopped running and actually governed once elected to office. Now, everything is couched in political advantage.

Negative campaigns heat up the last few weeks before an election. Dirty tricks this time came from a California Republican who sent Spanish letters to Democratic voters stating immigrants voting could end up in jail.

Another Republican ad showed their opponent talking on a phone sex line when records show the number to have been misdialed on a business trip. The verbal porn ad was sponsored by the National Republican Congressional Committee. It even offended the Republican candidate it purported to help.

One citizen found the ad so offensive she pondered not voting at all. Then she recalled she needed to exercise her right. Which brings to mind a question, would Republican undertake campaign strategies so offensive that it encourages opposition supporters to stay home? If the answer is yes, then what difference does it make if the Democrats have one or both houses of Congress as the relationship is already open warfare?

The issue is not contentiousness as we have that in spades. It is in ability to push an agenda vs. actually leading and serving on behalf of the American people. I hope Congress becomes a counterbalance to this President. It will give him an opportunity to show off his “Uniter, Not a Divider” skills that got him elected the first time (before they got sucked into the dark hole of Washington warfare).

Never mind President Bush’s sword waving the last few weeks of the campaign. He is the armless, legless knight from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Yet he keeps calling the other names. Strange days indeed…

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Once Again, Bushies Fail to Conduct Proper Investigation

Columnist Armstrong Williams negotiated a deal to settle a case where he received $240,000 by the Education Department to promote President Bush’s No Child Left Behind agenda. In the settlement Mr. Armstrong admits no wrongdoing and pays back the Education Department $34,000 prosecutors determined had been overpaid.

Guess what the Justice Department did not examine? They did not explore the undercover nature of using taxpayer dollars to promote the President’s agenda. Congressional auditors concluded the Education Department engaged in illegal "covert propaganda" by hiring Armstrong without stipulating he disclose his the payment nature of his relationship. The Justice Department probe did not examine if Mr. Williams improperly promoted the Bush administration’s agenda. If you don’t look, you can’t find and the Bushies hate looking.

Meanwhile No Child Left Behind sits side by side in the news with that other extrinsic motivation program, stock option grants. Why would one drive widespread cheating by corporate executives over a 12 year period while the other (only five years old) has 700 Texas schools under the microscope for similar behavior?

Our elected leaders would rather keep their heads in the sand. Want to bet No Child Left Behind gets a quick renewal post election? We need to grow that next batch of CEO’s and what better way to teach them cheating then when they’re young. And if a school is suspected of improper activity, send in a team to look at anything but that. Follow our Presidential leader….

What Did Bush Do about Dual Eligible Problem?

Just the other day President Bush repeated his 2005 pledge that seniors will no longer have to “choose between food and medicine”. Yet in February of 2006 he acknowledged that low income seniors and the disabled still faced this difficult choice.

Now, needless to say, when you have a change that size there's going to be some things that need to be adjusted in the system. And you probably read about kind of the dual- eligible problem.

So what did you do Mr. President to change things for low income seniors and the disabled? After all, two days ago you said:

It's a plan that I'm real proud of…. you no longer -- poor seniors, particularly -- you no longer have to choose between food and medicine, because there's a new way forward.

Your words, Mr. President. What happened between February and October of 2006 to address the out of pocket costs for low income seniors and the disabled? If nothing, then nearly 2 million people still have to choose between food and medicines. If that’s the case, does your repeating an inaccurate mantra make you a liar?

More Orwellian Speak

As the elections near with an angry voting public, Republican strategists seek to lay blame on the ephemeral “Washington”.

“There's no question that the Republican coalition is stressed over the way Washington has been handling fiscal matters, the Foley affair, the Iraq war," said GOP consultant Scott Reed. "All of these are coming together at the same time."

For those actually paying attention, Washington has a Republican President and GOP majorities in both houses of Congress. So a better description is the party in power (Republican) is being held accountable for fiscal matters, the Foley affair and the Iraq war.

The news suggests the White House braces for “guerilla warfare” should Democrats pick up majorities in one or both houses. Why would this be a problem for a President who says he is “a uniter, not a divider”? And how could a party “soft on terrorists” all of a sudden show its “guerilla stripes”? Is it due to their imitation of the Republican party on many issues? Who thought you’d see a gun loving, gay hating, free market worshiping, Democrat? Yet, they do exist. The South is rising again, this time on a national basis.

Bush Doubly Embarrassed by “Teacher Incentive Fund” Timing

The bonus money for teachers in the President’s No Child Left Behind education program couldn’t be doled out at a worse time. Bush’s signature initiative sets high standards and pays educators for achievement measured by test scores and classroom evaluations. While No Child Left Behind passed in 2001 a different incentive plan, corporate stock options have a 12-15 year record. Stock options work on the same assumption as teacher bonuses. The better students or stock prices perform, the more pay for those responsible.

Bush’s face should be beet red as American corporate chiefs cheated on a widespread basis by backdating stock options. Apple’s corporate star, Stephen Jobs recently apologized for his role in mishandling options while 3 other CEO’s got canned. As many as 30% or 2,000 publicly traded companies manipulated their stock option grants to maximize executive pay. The Texas Education Agency is holding up bonuses for 700 schools as it investigates possible cheating. It is spending $500,000 a year just to analyze the test data for malfeasance.

Some say the President is shameless for giving out $42 million in bonuses right before an election. A teacher lobbyist even called the timing “suspicious”. Yet, half the money appropriated for bonuses is being carried over as many applicants didn’t qualify. That doesn’t sound like a resounding success.

While teachers are smart, they may not be willing to sell their souls and cheat for a performance bonus like America’s CEO’s. That or the program hasn’t been in operation long enough to distort behavior. Wait 12-15 years and see if 30% of schools are cheating to get their No Child Left Behind bonuses. If so, America can be proud that teachers are as crafty as our corporate execs. Will we still worry about an “education gap” in that case?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Biplomat Calls it Like He Sees It

While the President met with key architects and implementers of his Iraq policy with little inclination for major changes, a member of the Bush team called his boss’s efforts in that same country “arrogant” and “stupid”. Alberto Fernandez, director of public diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs of the State Department used those adjectives to describe the United States effort in Iraq during an Al-Jazeera interview. My guess is he didn’t count on the U.S. media picking it up just weeks before an election.

Bush stupid and arrogant? I’ve thought that for a long time, but to hear it from one of his key State Department employees, now that’s refreshing. Time to throw out his stupid and arrogant cohorts in Congress…

Log Blind Rice to Need Seeing Eye Dog?

As Sec. Rice wanders the globe with countless logs in her eyes, her ability to see has become quite limited. One eye is blocked by the United States position against others having nuclear weapons while not signing the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty and soon picking a design for a modern nuclear warhead that may or may not require actual testing. The other eye is shielded by exporting a version of democracy without a free press while limiting press freedoms here at home. Bosnia got a higher ranking than the U.S. by Reporters without Borders in their last analysis.

In the midst of her stumbling, Condi lectured Russia on its shrinking press freedoms. She mentioned the name of a Russian investigative reporter killed recently. The reporter had investigated the government’s security services abducting, torturing and killing innocent people. Apparently Condi has forgotten about America’s role in abducting and torturing innocent people from Canada and Germany, not to mention the Chinese Uighurs.

While Condi cannot find root cause in international conflicts, her boss knows them well when it comes to government leaked confidential information. Rather than shoot the journalist as in Russia, the U.S. charges the leader with a crime. Should the act be treasonous, the punishment could be the same as Russia’s. It just might take a little longer. With the new Military Commissions Act of 2006 the journalist giving support and aid to terrorists can simply disappear, with no right ever to come to trial.

Ooopsss, that was a bad fall Condi. Someone help her up, and please get our Secretary of State that seeing eye dog. She is log blind.

Knuckle Dragging U.S. Needs to Catch Up with U.N.

Condi Rice has some work to do to show up at the United Nations Security Council as the U.S. hasn’t been pulling its weight. The Secretary of State commented that the Council is very engaged in nuclear nonproliferation efforts. It’s a shame the United States has fallen behind in that area. America hasn’t signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty along with North Korea, Pakistan, India and Israel. In a month the Defense Department will approve the design for the next generation nuclear warhead.

Going beyond nuclear nonproliferation, President Bush this past week essentially laid claim to space. His document left out any Defense Department assignments as they are classified but his overall strategy left more than wiggle room for space weapons long reported to be under development. And what specific concrete action is the United States taking in response to last summer’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission Report (other than having John Bolton use the sheets of paper in his outhouse)?

Party of Morals Running Desperately Low on “Get Out of Jail Free” Sinner Cards

The Republican Party has long claimed to be the Party of Morality. It appears they talk a good game but many fail miserably in achieving their GOP goals. The news is full of Republican child predators, philanderers, tax cheaters, illegal campaign actors, and assaulters. This does not include the President who lies on a regular basis. (For proof run down any dual eligible in your community and find out how much “better off” they are under Medicare Part D despite the President’s promises last fall.)

What’s the GOP defense for all those failing to meet the bar of basic morality? Sinners!

White House spokesman Tony Snow explained why President Bush had agreed to campaign on behalf of a confessed adulterer. Bush "believes that we're all sinners, we all seek forgiveness, and in this particular case, he's supporting Don Sherwood's candidacy"

The Grand Ole Party is full of sinners? How can they be the party of morality then? What gives them the leg up on the batch of Democratic sinners? With President Bush does one just need to present their sinner card for forgiveness? What happened to Michael Brown? Did he lose his please forgive my transgressions card and have to resign post Katrina debacle?

Here’s my assessment. The label of “morality” for Republicans is like a mascot, like the Redskins for the Washington football team. There isn’t a real Redskin on the helmet, but a depiction. I doubt the person dressed as a Redskin is truly a Native American. Morality is like that for the Republican Party, especially if it is made up of all sinners. It’s simply a lapel pin, a cheer, a bumper sticker. How much of a sin is it to claim to be something you’re not? I feel a big round of repentance coming on!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Local Non-Profit Health System Throws in the Towel

Shannon Health System sold out yesterday to Triad Healthcare, a spin off from HCA in one of their past profit making machinations. Sure Shannon’s Len Mertz and Triad’s Dennis Shelton are selling the measure as a merger, but if approved, the bottom line shows San Angelo will cease to have a nonprofit community hospital in our midst. The 400 bed facility plans on changing stripes refitting its over 100 doctor physician clinic, emergency helicopter capable trauma center and 2,000 employees.

Why would this nonprofit with its rich history and substantial support from the Shannon Trust be taking such action? As a past employee, I expected Shannon to be the last to fall but it isn’t by a long shot. One serious look at the Bush healthcare tea leaves gives some indication. The number of uninsured has grown by some 7 million on the Bush watch to nearly 47 million people. This problem is particularly acute in West Texas as some 28% lack health insurance.

Bush’s signature program to stem the bleeding is a band aid on a lost limb. High deductible health plans combined with health savings accounts began in 2004 and in two years now cover 1.17 million people. From 2004 to 2005 the number of uninsured grew by 757,000.

With one third of companies not contributing one dollar to their employees HSA’s, medical debt for people under such plans has grown rapidly. Triad Healthcare, a party to the merger, reported disappointing earnings for the third quarter for this very reason, more unpaid medical bills. Companies like Triad have been known for limiting their exposure to such accounts, but any hospital with an emergency room is vulnerable.

The merger talk makes clear the new for-profit private entity will be 55% owned by Triad, despite their bringing fewer assets to the table. In their presentation Triad’s CEO noted the nonprofit nature of the Shannon Trust remains the same and that the hospital will still provide emergency care to indigents as is currently required by law. What Denny Shelton didn’t say is several measures have been proposed by members of Congress allowing hospitals to restrict access to any level of care based on unpaid bills.

While such proposals haven’t passed, Congress’ clear bias towards for-profit hospitals can be seen by the summer 2005 House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the unfair advantage community hospitals have as they don’t pay taxes. It happened that Chairman Bill Thomas received $30,000 in for-profit hospital donations in 2004, $15,000 of it from Triad Hospitals, Inc. The merger removes this concern in San Angelo as the new entity will pay local property taxes.

Having the merged entity as a privately held company shelters it from SEC reporting requirements. Behind this shadow, the public is unaware of key operational aspects. They don’t even have to make public their earnings. The 55% contribution to Triad will be rolled up into a division or company wide report so one can’t even extrapolate backwards as to its profitability.

Triad has clear expectations in that area. With the $38 million hit they just booked as increased self pay medical debt, they need to grow revenues and profits by adding facilities. Denny threw out a vision of keeping people home for care, thus growing the employee base over time. Yes, some wealthy folks go out of the area for cancer treatment and cardiac care, but most already stay home for care. As an asterisk he suggested any position reductions until that happened would “short term” in nature.

Triad will cut jobs and maybe even services to make up for their new $2 million local tax bill. Historically for-profit hospitals have fewer trauma designated facilities and air ambulances than their nonprofit counterparts as these are expensive. What will happen to Shannon’s AirMed?

So many questions popped into my mind as I read the article. What will happen to Legacy Health Insurance? The President’s plan has health insurers competing against each other while hospitals and doctors compete on price. What happens when there is only one entity for all this? With one local charge master, patients will need to check prices at out of town hospitals to fulfill the President’s vision (which runs contrary to Denny’s plans).

What happens to all Shannon’s Community Health and Wellness grants awarded to an integrated nonprofit community hospital system? Will the Feds take back their $3 million abstinence grant as the system becomes for-profit? Many awarding agencies only give to 501©3’s or nonprofits with similar status. The new entity will not be eligible for funds from the San Angelo Health Foundation. If the will isn’t changed, two foundations with roots as local nonprofit hospitals will have millions but no inpatient facility to support.

San Angelo’s Community Medical Center sold out to HCA in 1995 as then CEO Robert Butler didn’t have a vision for managed care. Now our Shannon Health System is selling out because it doesn’t have the will to endure the Bush health care “blanket party” while remaining true to its mission. Asking the court to amend the will of J.M and Margaret Shannon seems strange. If the Shannon’s could talk with us now, what would they say? Would they be surprised that health care in the U.S. is returning to the pioneering days where people are left to struggle on their own, saddled with high medical bills they can’t afford?

The other question is what will the community of San Angelo do? This is the third time a nonprofit hospital sold out. St. John’s did so in the early 1990’s when it sold to Quorum Health Group, the proceeds went to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio. I worked for Quorum in Atlanta, Georgia at the time. Community’s sale funded the San Angelo Health Foundation which has done much good but is limited in the health care uses of its significant financial assets. Now another community asset is slated for transformation. How will our community truly benefit? While the deal is a rational response to the Bush health care agenda, it’s hard to see from here how San Angelo and West Texas will benefit.

When Dr. Dan Stultz took the job as President of the Texas Hospital Association, I took heart that he would be fighting for nonprofit community hospitals on a statewide basis. Little did I know we wouldn’t have any left in San Angelo.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Did Clinton Counsel Foley’s Priest?

A familiar refrain echoed from the priest accused of molesting Rep. Mark Foley while a 13 year old boy. The Clintonesque denials of sex were followed by admissions of being naked in a sauna together and being naked in a room during an out of town trip. The priest admitted to suffering from a nervous breakdown, taking pills and alcohol, and maybe doing something the young Foley “did not like”.

An expert on priest sex abuse said the abusers often rationalize their activities are non-sexual unless they are actual intercourse, which then breaks their vow of celibacy. Do priests happen to wear blue vestments? What happens when they get stained? Do they save them as evidence for later testing?

Did anyone else note the similarity to the great Democratic denier of sexual relations? Of course other analogies are readily apparent. Why do homosexuals join groups that vilify them as in the case of Republicans and the Catholic Church? One cites the threat of gay marriage as greater than terrorism, while the other calls gays “intrinsically disordered”. Yet if every gay within jettisoned the party or the church, both would suffer a huge brain drain. Strange days are these…

Ill Health of U.S. Democracy Weeks before Election

What has the American democracy been smoking? Do we have lung disease as the electorate coughs up mountains of phlegm from elected leader indiscretions? The latest loogey comes courtesy of a Republican candidate’s dirty tricks in California. His campaign forged the logo of a group concerned about illegal immigration in a Spanish letter sent to 14,000 Democratic households. It threatened immigrants with jail time for voting.

A recently released poll reveals other dark spots on the electorate’s lungs. Half of Americans believe most Congressmen are on the take. Over one third, 36% believe their Congressional representatives are corrupt.

This is the cover story on the latest issue of the Rolling Stone magazine. The Worst Congress Ever details the practices that sent our American democracy to the brink of the precipice. Will the electorate bring us back from the edge of the cliff come November 7th?

If they vote for change will it translate into reality? Most (61%) believe electronic voting systems will not count all votes, either a result of hacking or direct action by those in charge of conducting the count. Only 31% have complete confidence in an accurate vote count.

While not yet sick enough to be hospitalized, the American democracy doesn’t have far to go. If the ambulance is called everyone hope Uncle Sam has an employer funded health savings account to cover his patient liability. And should he need a pacemaker or motorized wheelchair, those are getting harder to come by! Keep your fingers crossed for our emphysemic democracy. The next major cough could be a real lunger!

Pope Declares Catholic JIKYA in Canada, Similar to Jihad

Pope Benedict XVI keeps pushing the Catholic brand, this time by berating his subordinates in Canada’s Catholic Church. The Pope wants the church’s voice to be much louder in public policy debates. The Papal CEO plans on leveraging the work done by Neil French, formerly of worldwide ad agency WPP.

Last year Neil proposed a series of colored bracelets with catchy sayings to promote tired key Catholic positions. Dressing them up in a sound bite with bright initialed wrist adornments should help spread the word. One particular message will help the Pope and his bishops accomplish his objectives in Canada.

In order to get Catholic politicians not to pass legislation that contrast with church teachings, Neil proposed a puke colored bracelet with the initials “JIKYA” which stands for “Jesus is Kicking Your Ass”. The Pope distributed the wristlets rather forcefully when he met with his Canadian protégées. However, he did spare his subordinates the exorcism that normally follows the awarding of a JIKYA to an offending politician.

The head Canadian Catholic took his berating from the Pope and in turn decided to vilify the people of the Great White North. He called them without morals, a selfish and hedonistic society. Canada? Where people keep their doors unlocked and the murder rate borders on zero? What would this wise Archbishop say about the United States and its worship of violence and free markets?

The Archbishop knows even armed with a Papal JIKYA and thousands of puke colored bracelets he has a tough sell and is looking for allies. He said “Our allies in this are fundamentalist Christians and Muslims. We really need in Canada to support families.” My advice to the Archbishop, don’t let your new allies know the church’s position on who gets the final reward. Better hide those “Who Would Jesus Exclude” bracelets.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Revisiting Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission Report

This past summer the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission presented its findings to the United Nations. A thud resounded from the report hitting the floor as it fell through U.S. Ambassador John Bolton’s hands. The way he and the United States responded one might think the report radioactive. Shortly thereafter, everyone piled on attacking the U.N., including the National Rifle Association.

Several recent revelations warrant revisiting the report. Condi Rice asserts that North Korea is a rogue state when the U.S. and Israel are yet to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The U.S. announced it would pull out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia in late 2001 with other nations expressing concern about it causing a new arms race. The WMDC report mentions this development under the section on missile defence.

“Other specific causes for concern include the June 2002 withdrawal from the ABM Treaty by the United States, its pursuit of a multi-layered ballistic missile defence system, and various research and development activities under way in the U.S. and other states that may lead to the testing and deployment of weapons in space.” (page 144)

“Concerns have continued to grow internationally that the US pursuit of ballistic missile defences is likely to increase nuclear dangers and reduce international security. The potential value of these systems is not in proportion to the risks they pose to the international community, including the states possessing such systems.” (page 145)

Also, President Bush unveiled his space claims today, which provide for capabilities to ensure freedom of action in space and deny those same capabilities to our adversaries. Defense Department plans in space are classified and not included in the President’s public Executive Order. The report clearly shares its concern over space weapons.

“Another cause of concern is that the Conference on Disarmament has for many years been unable to agree to commence negotiations on a treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space.” (page 144)

WMDC Recommendation #45 All states should renounce the deployment of weapons in outer space. (page 148)

The American public should be aware of the greater picture as the world descends into a new arms race. The United States is not practicing restraint, much less taking the lead in reducing the threat from Weapons of Mass Destruction. Under President Bush’s leadership, a new generation of WMD’s are currently under development. Can you say Space Cowboy?

Bush Extends U.S. Imperialism into Space

The United States Cowboy President just publicly staked his claim to space. He filed the paperwork a month ago with an unpublicized Executive Order. The Bush order has a one two punch.

First, America’s enemies are denied access to space for hostile purposes. Does this mean George annexed all the air above those countries? Or did he lay a claim to all non-atmospheric space above the Earth? If he did, does he become President of the Universe? And how would a past Mr. Universe, Arnold the Governator feel about such a claim?

Second, the United States opposes any development of treaties or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space.

While the White House said the policy “does not call for the development or deployment of weapons in space”, it does not expressly prohibit such a thing either.

"This policy emphasizes that the United States is committed to peaceful uses of space by all nations and that space systems enjoy the right of free passage," National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said. He said the United States maintains the right of self-defense and the protection of its interests and assets in space.

Now we are back into the muck of Bush speak. The atomic bomb was developed as a weapon of self defense. Israel won’t even say whether they have such a capability, preferring the speculation to work as a defensive measure. Yet, it only takes the push of a button or the redirecting of the targeting device to turn it from defensive to offensive.

One line in the report opens space wide for future militarization.

Develop capabilities, plans and options to ensure freedom of action in space, and, if directed, deny such freedom to adversaries.

That is the Bush pinched war driven, freedom pushing turd floating in the space bowl. Space weapons here we come!

Why would I suggest such a thing? The report itself says defense related space activities shall be classified consistent with several other Presidential Executive Orders.

Recall the Bush CIA prison position? Their weapons in space lines have a familiar ring. The Bushies do what they want, when they want. The international word for it is unilateral. The pattern should be very clear by now.

Notice Bush waited until Kofi Annan's shift at the United Nations ended before making a public announcement. Kofi's replacement, Mr. Ban has his hands full at the moment with North Korea. Will an emergency UN Security Council meeting be called to delve into the United State's intentions in space? My guess it will take longer than the month it took to call a meeting while Israel pummeled the fledgling democracy known as Lebanon.

Condi’s Convenient Omission: U.S., Israel Not Parties to Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

While the world rightfully expresses outrage at North Koreans nuclear weapons test, a convenient fact remained buried. A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty banning such tests cannot come into force until others sign on. Those failing to ink the treaty include the noted offender North Korea along with U.S. allies Pakistan and India. However, the United States is yet to sign.

America has clear plans to replace and modernize its nuclear weapons stockpiles. The design of the Reliable Replacement Warhead will be chosen next month. Will those need to be tested at some point? Will the United States need to show it has a massive kiloton capability? Will it wave its 6.8 magnitude test data to show North Korea that their nuke test was wimpy? When that happens what will Condi say?

Also, what about Israel, long rumored to have nuclear weapon capabilities? Are they being asked to sign the Comprehensive Test ban? A report this morning said Israel had not announced tests for their suspected nuclear weapons. Is there any seismic data indicating Israel has tested? Are there any air samples showing the Jewish state’s detonation of an underground nuclear test? Condi failed to cover these questions in her recent round of diplomacy.

Hastert & Reid “Gingerly Pampered” Over False Ethics Reporting

While House Speaker Dennis Hastert accuses Democrats of gingerly pampering suspected terrorists, he and fellow Congressional leader Senator Harry Reid are receiving similar treatment for their inaccurate ethics reports. Is it a coincidence that an attorney and a Master’s educated teacher both fail to report third parties in their land deals?

Congress recently passed a law making false reporting under Medicaid a serious crime with major financial penalties. Yet, they don’t apply the same standards to themselves.

As for the Democrats gingerly pampering the terrorists, at least they give them Pampers. I’m not sure a wet pair will provide any insulation as they are hosed down in those below 50 degree cells. Will the Democrats purchase blue or pink pampers for those terrorists? Blue would match the color of their skin, but pink is now hot with local law enforcement in Mason County, Texas.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Rice Misses Root Cause Once Again on Nuclear Arms Race

Secretary Condoleeza Rice remains flat footed. After performing a crude root cause analysis on the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, she follows up with similar poor quality work.

Condi said North Korea’s nuclear weapons test could set off an atomic arms race. Where was the Secretary in 2001 when the United States pulled out of the anti ballistic missile treaty with Russia? Concerns expressed at that time included America’s action could hasten China’s modernization of its nuclear weapons.

Senate leader Tom Daschle said he was concerned withdrawal from the ABM treaty could "rupture relations with key countries around the world," and raises serious questions about future arms races involving other countries.

European leaders expressed concern about the United State’s move towards unilateralism. Bush administration officials made efforts to ease worries in other nations as well. During stops in Berlin, London and Paris, Sec. of State Colin Powell tried to quell European concerns about the consequences of scrapping the treaty, including an arms race.

Norway's deputy foreign minister, Kim Traavig, meanwhile, said the move "risked having serious consequences for the strategic stability that had been created in 1972."

Norway, a NATO member, was more reticent than its Scandinavian neighbor Sweden, which stated that the US decision could lead to new weapons' development and an increase in nuclear proliferation.

In defending the move, Bush cited the greatest threat our country faced was the development of nuclear weapons by rogue states. Despite his grave concern expressed five years ago and best efforts, one of those rogue states appears nuclear capable.

Odd Publicity around the Revelation of Foley’s Priest Abuser

I can understand Rep. Foley’s need to share the name of his abuser with the Catholic Church as part of his therapy and recovery process. I appreciate the Church wanting to know such information in case this predator is yet to be identified. What confuses me is the public splashing of this revelation? Shouldn’t this be a privately shared bit of information requiring no media attention?

If Mark is focusing his energy where he needs to, the outside world should have disappeared. At some point in his recovery process, key family members and friends will enter the picture. An attorney or Republican operatives should be nowhere in sight until his course of treatment is completed. That is obviously not the case.

What impact this will have on Mark’s course of treatment remains to be seen. It is proof again that political parties in America will eat their young to survive. Is that a family value?

Jack Cafferty’s Question about Bush Team Mocking Evangelicals

For once President Bush’s team quit mocking the ideal of America and focused on one of its largest support groups, evangelicals. The question and my answer are below.

Q: How damaging are claims that Bush administration officials mocked evangelicals behind their backs?

A: Why should anyone be surprised if the Bush cabal lit a bag of poo and tossed it on the evangelicals' porch? It's all they know how to do. With Bush you can count on the trick and not the treat.

Which Political Shell Company Sent Letter Threatening Hispanic Immigrants with Jail for Voting?

In the game of dirty tricks, some organization sent out a letter in Spanish to Southern California residents “informing” them that immigrant voting could result in jail time. America has a long rich history of not only turning out desirable voters, but discouraging the undesirables to stay home. A new flood of tactics emerges every campaign cycle. Republicans have purposefully hired telemarketers to jam phone lines arranging rides for their rivals, while Democrats have knifed the tires of vans intended to transport opposing voters to the polls.

Of course the company will be a brand new venture and may even be dissolved post campaign. The key will be in tracking the people behind it. Who is trying to manipulate the American people? Who believes encouraging Hispanics to stay home will help their party’s chances of victory? Newer immigrants paying attention to the behavior of our elected leaders, likely feel the same as the rest of the population.

Send ‘em all home, it’s time for a new batch. While they may be green, they can’t do worse than the current crew.

Bush Gets His Wish, Yet another War Declaration

North Korea continues to lower the bar of leadership in our world today. That is difficult to do in light of the President’s signing of the Military Commission Act of 2006 just this morning. However, to kidnap people off the street on the basis of hearsay, hold them indefinitely without trial, refuse access to legal representation, expose them to coercive techniques, and then not share the reasons/evidence against them one must have an enemy.

North Korea kindly stepped up to the plate. The main problem is Asian secular communists don’t meet the profile of Islamic jihadists seeking to renew the Caliphate. So President Bush must either redefine the picture of America’s enemies after all that hard work, or he needs to tie the two together without bringing in any current U.S. allies.

How can the War President accomplish such a thing? Will he fabricate new evidence linking North Korea’s nuclear program with Iran’s? Is a call into Colin Powell to come check out the new satellite photos? If he goes back to the Pakistani nuclear physicist, Khan, then Bush’s seat could get hot when asked who financed Mr. Khan’s program. But we know George doesn’t do history, he relies on proximate cause.

Once Israel got the bomb, the big oil money in the region wanted a counterbalancing force. Pakistan seemed the right place to do it in light of Iran and Iraq’s history of conflict.

Tying Iran to North Korea is simply a detail to work out for Bush. The good news for a Machiavellian leader is another war has been declared! Bush, Jong-il, Ahmadinejad and Olmert all seem bent on war. Who’s to stop them?

Hollywood Joins K Street in Tax Fraud Schemes

Actor Wesley Snipes joins the Wyly brothers, one of Presidential Pioneer fame in defrauding the government of taxes owed. The actor has been charged with eight counts of tax fraud, while the Wyly’s practices simply took up 2/3 of a 300 page Congressional report. Is a $100,000 contribution to the Bush/Cheney ticket the reason for the difference?

Ironically their tax advisors shared opposing advice. The Wyly’s were led to belief conducting transactions offshore sheltered them from taxation while Wesley Snipe’s “accountants” advised only foreign income required paying taxes.

The Wyly’s used their Bermuda company to shelter transactions from domestic taxes. As Wesley Snipes cannot be found, might he be hanging out with Sam or Charles trading tax advice?

Flood Wall of Congressional Indiscretion to Wipe Out Incumbents?

Just weeks before November 7th, the heavy rains of legislative indiscretion continue to pour on the electoral landscape. The drops include House and Senate leaders’ failure to accurately report land deals, turning the other cheek for inappropriate behavior with Congressional pages, investigations into the buying and selling of influence, and spending most of the year out of session. As the water pools behind the dam of voter endurance, pressure builds with new revelations of poor behavior and negative campaigning.

When the protective barrier burst and the wall of water released, what will happen? Will voter disgust wipe out all or most incumbents? How will the landscape be changed? Bush hasn’t the vision to build an ark. He is too busy applying a fully logged eye for an eye, as evidenced by his bill signing this morning. While our “leader” idly watches another epic flood scene, how many of his own brethren will drown? Will he dip his wings to view the carnage once again?

The Man Really Responsible for that Saddam al Qaida Connection? John Mark Karr!

In a Bush like wave of denial John Mark Karr rode the news channels last night. From Larry King to Fox News John Mark and his attorney rewrote recent history with implausible denials. Do Bush, Cheney, Rice and Karr not think people watch their speeches or listen to their words? They must not. The Bushies know where to go for their next pathological liar.

John Mark Karr responded to Larry’s question as to why he would admit to killing JonBenet with “I don't recall ever saying that I did anything, so that's where I'm confused about the question as well.”

President George W. Bush said this morning at bill signing “The Military Commissions Act will provide a fair trial in which the accused are presumed innocent, have access to an attorney and can hear all the evidence against them." None of these are guaranteed, so not in all cases will the law “provide”.

Will we see the Creepy Ticket of Cheney/Karr in ’08? “Vote for us, we can lie our asses off on TV!”

Lawyer’s Get More Lawyers, Prisoners Shut Out

While Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, an attorney by profession, blames his lawyers for more “clerical errors”, President Bush puts pen to ink on a bill that clarifies the “rights” of people detained by the U.S. Absent from the list is the right to have legal counsel, to be protected from coercive interrogation techniques or hearsay, to hear all the evidence against them, and to even have a trial!

Not only does the U.S. have the best democracy money can purchase, justice for those in military or CIA custody is optional. Which set of attorneys wrote this bill? Read the whole thing if you can stomach it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Reid & Hastert’s Land Deals Don’t Pass the Smell Test

What happens when leading legislators of both parties fail to report their interest in third party corporations and their resulting land deals? Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid both left their corporate interest off their Congressional Ethics reports. Both men are highly educated, Harry received a law degree and Dennis a Masters in Education. One would think both men smart enough to report their holdings accurately, so why didn’t they?

Denny did his deal with the Treasurer of the local Republican Party, making $1.8 million in the process. During this time Speaker Hastert introduced an ear mark funding the Prairie Parkway, a north south road with interchange access not far from the property.

Harry purchased his land from a developer working on a government land swap supported by Senator Reid. After selling it to the unreported corporation, developers again purchased the land netting Harry $1.1 million.

Look at the excuses both elected officials offer for their “oversight”

Reid said he believed the 2001 sale did not alter his ownership of the land but that he agreed to file the amended reports because "I believe in ensuring all facts come to light." (This from an attorney?)

Reid blamed the AP story as the "latest attempt" by Republicans to affect the election. AP reported last week that it learned of the land deal from a former Reid adviser who had concerns about the way the deal was reported to Congress. (Typical politician, sounds rather Hastertish given the Mark Foley debacle, especially as Reid isn't up for re-election)

Hastert denied that he pushed for federal funding for a proposed highway in northeastern Illinois so he and his wife could reap about $1.8 million from land deals near their home in Kendall County. (Did he declare his conflict of interest and not vote for his own earmark? That’s right Congress does not vote on earmark’s, they just slip them in!)

In defending himself, Hastert told The Associated Press the land in question was 5.5 miles from the proposed highway. "So, it has nothing to do with the Prairie Parkway," the Yorkville Republican said. "I owned land and I sold it, like millions of people do every day." (It’s not the land deal, it’s the improper Ethics reporting)

These are America’s leaders? It looks like we need at least two new ones. Are the people of Illinois ready to choose somebody else besides Dancing Denny? Nevadans can’t send Harried Harry packing until 2010, but maybe the Democrats will choose a more elevating leader than an attorney who inadvertently makes clerical errors on minor issues like land ownership.

Bush & Rice Still Speaking?

President Bush’s comments of open ended support for Iraqi Prime Minister al Maliki came in a 15 minute phone call between the two leaders. The Iraqi PM shared his concern that he had only a two month period to make good.

President Bush personally assured Iraq's prime minister Monday that he has no plans to pull U.S. forces out and to ignore rumors that a deadline would be enforced against the fledgling Baghdad government.

The president's pledge came in a 15-minute morning phone call with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who told Bush he was concerned because he had been hearing that the United States was giving him a two-month timeline to operate on his own.

The President’s comments appeared to also be in response to Senators John Warner and Chuck Hagel’s recently stated concerns.

"He said that rumors sometimes can undercut confidence in the government and also its ability to work effectively in fighting terror," said Bush spokesman Tony Snow. "And the president said, `Don't worry, you still have our full support.' "

Is the Iraqi leader familiar with FEMA Director Michael Brown post Hurricane Katrina? Brownie went from full support to pariah in the span of days. When the President needs a fall guy, the foundation can disappear quickly.

Snow said he wasn't clear where the rumors were coming from.

Does Tony not read the news? Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice delivered such a message during her recent surprise visit to Iraq less than two weeks ago.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, making an unannounced visit to Iraq, said Thursday that its leaders had limited time to settle political differences spurring sectarian and insurgent violence.

Have the President and his Secretary of State quit speaking? Or, is al-Maliki doing "a heckuva job" and next in line for a Brownie?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

No Stock Option Grants Left Backdated

The President’s signature program for education has the same motivational underpinnings as executive stock options, the better the performance, the better the pay. No Child Left Behind rewards schools that set high standards and holds educators accountable for meeting them. Those that perform receive bonuses, while the laggards lose resources.

Corporate America’s version of pay for performance is often accomplished through stock options, their use widespread since the mid 1990’s. With a dozen years of use, how have stock options performed as a motivational tool?

Studies show that almost 30% of publicly held companies cheated or manipulated their stock option grants. CEO’s are stepping down left and right, my guess is in an effort to avoid criminal prosecution. Today, a biggie joined the list, none other than William McGuire, the Chairman and CEO of UnitedHealth whose options were worth $1.6 billion at the end of 2005.

An investigation showed most of the 29 option grants between 1994 and 2006 “were likely backdated”. They also found 8 instances where the option grant happened to be the lowest stock price of the quarter prior to 2002 when Sarbanes Oxley went into effect.

If an extrinsic motivation program in business caused such widespread cheating over its twelve year life, what can we expect from education? Texas already is holding up bonus money for 700 schools as it investigates suspected malfeasance.

As No Child Left Behind comes up for renewal, will our elected leaders notice the glaring problems with extrinsic motivation systems? Of course not, the election money trough ensures they remain the fish unaware of the water. Time to vote some new fishies in, we just need some not Republican or Republican Lite (used to be known as Democrats).

Olmert Tried to Meet with Abbas, Open Wide for Unilateral Peace

Earlier this year Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert put a clock on any negotiations with Palestinian leaders towards a negotiated peace in the Palestinian Territories. Could he not find a reasonable leader to meet with, peace would proceed on Israel’s terms and timetable. It appears close to such a point with the recent comments from Olmert himself:

"We offered to meet with Abu Mazen (Abbas) , but apparently he is not interested"

How much longer will Ehud wait before imposing his unilateral plans? Will it coincide with Israel’s bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities? The Israeli Foreign Secretary indicated the world had only months before Iran reached a critical competency. It wouldn’t do to have an active ongoing peace process with Palestinians or the Arab League until after “bombs over Tehran”.

High School Students to be Ethics Trained by Businesses?

The Josephson Institute for Ethics released results from a study of high school students today.

61% have cheated on an exam in the past year
28% have stolen from a store
23% have stolen money from a parent or relative
39% have lied to save money

The researcher said fewer than 2% of cheaters are caught with less than half punished. He commented “It puts huge pressure on the workplace to retrain these kids.”

There is a problem should those kids work at any publicly traded company as a different study indicates approximately 30% manipulated their stock options over a 10 year period. The methods of cheating on their executive incentive compensation systems vary from backdating options to fraudulently giving them to non-existent employees.

Will only 2% of unethical business execs be caught with less than half punished? If so America would be surprisingly consistent.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Countdown to Military Commissions Act of 2006

Three days until President Bush’s planned signing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Three days until America officially becomes the very thing we say we fight.

The bill includes a long worded justification for the use of hearsay, calls the judicial review of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 unprecedented (sounds Katrina like to me), and highlights the Presidents memorandum in February of 2002 citing no compulsion to treat agents of al Qaeda under Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

The act also legislates compliance with current U.S. and international law. Isn’t that the job of the judiciary? In addition to the Unitary Executive, we now have the Judicial Legislative.
Here are some of the best parts of the bill:

“The Act makes clear that the Geneva Conventions are not a source of judicially enforceable individual rights”

“An unlawful enemy combatant means an individual determined by or under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense … to have supported hostilities in aid of such a force or organization so engaged”. (Yet, no definition of support or aid are in the bill)

“A military commission established under this chapter is a regularly constituted court, affording all the necessary judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples for purposes of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions”

When did civilized people decide suspending habeas corpus, use of coerced testimony, inclusion of hearsay and restricting access to evidence constitute necessary judicial guarantees? It actually sounds like uncivilized judicial processes, even Saddamish.

But there’s more. Should an unlawful combatant be spirited off the streets of a foreign country, make it through his or her detention in a secret CIA prison to Guantanamo Bay, they would have the right to legal counsel? Not yet, hold on there partner. Only after charges have been sworn is a defense representative assigned “as soon as practicable”.

The whole torture/coercion issue is danced around complete with references to the U.S.’s ever evolving definition of torture. What is interesting is no accommodation is made for the most popular defense on Capital Hill nowadays, mental health problems including alcoholism. While Mark Foley and Bob Ney plead addiction, no combatants will have that opportunity.
“Mental disease or defect does not otherwise constitute a defense”.

I’m afraid I didn’t have the mental clarity or determination to continue reading the act, stopping just over halfway through. Might I pick up the later half later? I kind of doubt it, the first half was discouraging enough.

Another Snow Job on Ney Guilty Plea

Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and making false statements in connection with bribes taken from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ney acknowledged taking payola in the form of trips, tickets, meals, and campaign donations in return for official actions on behalf of Abramoff’s clients.

Ney’s guilty plea was accompanied by a request for alcohol treatment. This sounds familiar as Rep. Mark Foley, R-Florida is currently in an addiction treatment facility while his long running pederasty behavior remains under investigation. The evil drink made them do it, which brings us to Tony Snow’s ridiculous comment on the Ney case.

The White House spokesman said Ney's criminal activity "is not a reflection of the Republican Party."

Tony couldn’t be more wrong. The buying of influence is a fractal within American government today, seen at virtually every level. The reflection is magnified as one reaches higher into the political power structure. President Bush initiated his Pioneer, Ranger and Super Ranger donation classifications for such purposes. Karl Rove’s recent $5 million fundraising challenge came from one wealthy supporter, likely ensuring his or her profound influence on governmental policy.

While the Republican Party is clearly in the mirror despite Tony’s assertions, the Democrats reflection can be seen as well. Apparently Max Baucus, D-Montana represents the state of healthcare on a national basis, as for-profit hospital chains donate to him regularly with no facilities in his state.

Ex. Senator Tom Dachle looks awful James Bakerish with his high dollar lobbying job at Alston & Bird and his board seat on a the powerful investment house, the Apollo Group. Ex. Secretary of State James Baker hangs his hat at Baker Botts and been a board member of the now Investment Hall of Fame member, The Carlyle Group.

Ex. President Bill Clinton just announced a billion dollar fund investing in green companies and earth friendly technology. This is an investment fund with clear aims in getting returns on their principal like the Carlyle’s and Apollo’s.

Imitation may be the greatest sort of flattery, but the corporatization of both political parties is an unwelcome development for the average citizen. That Tony Snow would deny this is evidence of his having been bought by the system and his desire to perpetuate the trading of power and influence.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Shays Shades: Tawdry vs. Torturous Abu Ghraib?

Rep. Chris Shays fired a few low blows himself as he attempts to move Republicans further from two recent revelations, Rep. Foley’s pursuit of underage male pages via sexually explicit e-mails and President Bush’s rewriting the definition of torture while giving himself permission to authorize more “severe measures”.

Shays thought if he put both Republican revelations together, they might cancel each other out in the world of public opinion. At a debate, the incumbent wearing his Republican glasses through which he views the world said:

"Now I've seen what happened in Abu Ghraib, and Abu Ghraib was not torture…It was outrageous, outrageous involvement of National Guard troops from (Maryland) who were involved in a sex ring and they took pictures of soldiers who were naked….And they did other things that were just outrageous. But it wasn't torture."

What definition of torture was Chris Shays using? It must have been the new, Bush approved version because the horrors of Abu Ghraib clearly met the old definition which banned “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment”.

Rep. Shays failed to mention the Major General sent from Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib to force more actionable intelligence from its detainees. Did Geoffrey Miller operate a sex ring on the Cuban Naval Base prior to his Iraqi assignment? If it’s just a porno ring, why all the other “stuff”?

The American Civil Liberties Union released documents describing complaints of serious abuse of Iraqi civilians, including reports of electric shocks and forced sodomy, and accused the military of not thoroughly investigating the cases.

The documents list dozens of allegations of abuse at American detention centers - the use of cigarettes to burn prisoners, aggressive dogs, electric shocks, sexual humiliation and beatings - that began at about the same time such acts were occurring at Abu Ghraib prison.

How many sex rings use cigarettes to burn prisoners, aggressive dogs, electric shocks and beatings, Mr. Shays?

The Congressional Chucky Max Show Hosts Sesame’s Grover

The two “leaders” of the Senate Finance Committee squared off once again over despicable behavior by non profit organizations. Senators Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and Max Baucus, D-Montana continued their pugilistic verbal battle over “non-profits” just weeks before an election.

This would be the same Chuck Grassley that not long ago advocated taxing pimps, whores, and non profit community hospitals. Yes, Max Baucus is the same Montana pol who took tens of thousands in donations from for-profit hospital chains without having one of their facilities in his whole state.

The fight is over political non-profits who served as a drop box for Jackie Abramoff. Lobbying is an express no no for groups with non profit status. At least three famously connected groups helped launder Jack’s money.

Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform took $1.5 million from Jack’s client before passing more than two thirds of it to ex. Christian coalition chief Ralph Reed for lobbying assistance to block a rival tribe’s bid for a casino. The client said funds were sent through ATR as a conduit with the non profit taking “a fee”.

Another Grover venture, The Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy started with former Interior Secretary Gale Norton took at least $250,000 from Jack’s clients to lobby the Interior Department.

And Chuck’s response as the lead Republican on the Finance Committee? Senator Grassley said he would consider the report but it should have looked at more non profit groups. It is a shame the Senator cannot be consistent in his public service. In questioning the “tax exempt” status of non profit community hospitals in the U.S., Chuck surveyed 10 out of some 3,500 non profits. How did he pick the ten? Did his friends at the Federation of American Hospitals, the for-profit lobby, help him find the ones that apply “for profit” like financial management and collection policies?

Max was quoted as saying “"Nonprofits should not function as de facto lobbying firms. Lobbying for a fee, public relations, and disguising sources of money are not charitable or social welfare activities.” I agree with Senator Baucus there, but still wonder what his response would be to all his for-profit healthcare donations from companies that don’t do business in his state? (Included is a link to Chuck’s list for fair and balanced purposes)

Grover’s crying foul, saying the report is politically motivated. If Mr. Norquist’s non profit were a Muslim charity, he would be in jail as funds were used for downstream illegal activity at a minimum. Will the feds investigate these groups under RICO? Time will tell, but my money is this current crew won’t. What say you to giving a different spate of legislators a chance? It’s only weeks away….

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Is That Republican Optimism Shining?

Rep. Chris Shays put on his sunny hat in exploring his co-hort’s reprehensible behavior of sexual explicit e-mails with underage male pages. In response to repeated attacks by concerned mothers and most normal people, Rep. Shays added at least no one died as in the case of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick.

Count me confused. Didn’t a conservative radio host just praise a charged newspaper writer as normal for molesting teenage girls? Wasn’t Ted Kennedy with an above age female when the driving accident happened? Wouldn’t Teddy’s normal sexual expression of two consenting adults of the male female variety be cause for Republican celebration? Ooopss, I meant celebation!

What is wrong with world leaders today? Everywhere I turn someone is getting in a dig at somebody else. Who elects these nutjobs? How do they get to stay in power playing perpetual games of win/lose?

Something is shining from the Republican party, but I don’t think it’s the sun. It looks more like a full moon with all the howling going on….(any mooning will be done by adults. That means no underage boys with their pants down!)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Harry Reid Pulls a Hastert

Nevada Senator Harry Reid failed to properly show an organization in which he had an interest that later profited from the sale of land. The Senate Minority Leader follows House Speaker Dennis Hastert in failing to report his interest in the third party while profits for both exceeded $1 million.

Why can’t they put on paper what they actually own and through what corporations? Their failure to do so looks slippery. But then again so does most of Congress and the White House has already been anointed with oil…

Nary a Mention of Smoke & Mirrors

The administration shifted 9 days of 2006 Medicare expenses into 2007, yet this received not one mention as President Bush crowed about reducing the federal deficit ahead of schedule.

Bush called the 2006 outcome a "dramatic reduction" in the deficit which allowed him to fulfill his 2004 campaign pledge of cutting the deficit in half earlier than his original 2009 target date.

The pledge to cut the deficit in half was based on the administration's forecast that the 2004 deficit would hit $521 billion, a figure that proved to be too pessimistic by more than $100 billion. However, the administration has continued to use the forecast number as its benchmark for deficit reduction.

The end result is the $247.7 billion dollar deficit is understated by the nearly $10 billion punted into 2007 and the cut is much less "than half" as the President claims. Why do I continued to be surprised by his dishonesty?

Bush’s “Discredited Study” from Johns Hopkins Epidemiologists

In his Rose Garden Press Conference President Bush dissed the recently released estimates of civilian deaths post U.S. invasion of Iraq. He faulted the studies assumptions. Yet the research was funded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, conducted in conjunction with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health epidemiologists, and published in a British medical journal, The Lancet.

According to the survey results, Iraq's mortality rate in the year before the invasion was 5.5 deaths per 1,000 people; in the post-invasion period it was 13.3 deaths per 1,000 people per year. The difference between these rates was used to calculate "excess deaths."

The Bush administration is well aware that the greatest threat to world health is conflict or war as it reduces access to food, medicines, health care and basic sanitation. The lead speaker, Dr. Mae Jemison shared this with Department of Health and Human Services representatives at the National Meeting for Community Health Centers in Miami Beach last September. Does the Bush administration not listen to its own people?

While people can argue over the exact numbers, the general inference from the study is well established. Internal conflict and war significantly deteriorate the health of a population. Why is Bush continually surprised and defensive about this? Is it because he has two more wars in his back pocket?

The people of Korea already suffer for the pathology of their leader. Iran has an educated populace and decent employment. The Middle Eastern Islamic Republic stands to loose much more health wise should an outbreak of violence occur.