Friday, May 30, 2008

Scotty McClellan TurnCoat Closet Announced in Bush Library

The George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University announced a startling design change. The large multimedia room slated for Press Secretary Scott McClellan has been abruptly downsized to a coat closet. In addition to sharply partisan, razor metal hooks lining the closet walls, it will house the "all hat, but no cattle rack", especially made from the nose wood grown by Scotty while he served the puppeteer Georgepetto.

The McClellan Turncoat Closet will also house the shoe shine stand Scott used to faithfully polish his master's genuine Ostrich skin FootJoy golf shoes. Bush wore those shoes religiously until shortly after Scott retired from public service. In a special reprise, McClellan brushed the left shoe up before George W. recently banged it on the floor of the Knesset while railing against "Nazi appeasers."

President Bush proudly displayed the computer mock up of the redesigned McClellan room. He said, "Should Scott ever need to spend the night there, I want him to be comfortable. It looks spartan, but there's room to lie down. You never know when that book royalty money will run out! This is in honor of Scott's fine service."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Blending of Blue and Red in Lobbying Color Guard

Big business sees the writing on the wall with an angry electorate determined to vote for change. As a result, ex-Clinton staffers now occupy top lobbying jobs, usually titled Vice President for Global Governmental Affairs. The Carlyle Group hired David Marchick several months back. This after adding Clinton Chief of Staff Mack McLarty years ago.

The Washington Post reported J.P. Morgan Chase snatched up Peter Scher as their new V.P. lobbyist. That would be the same J.P. Morgan Chase that acquired Bear Sterns for a song over a spring weekend. Peter worked for Senator Max Baucus, D-Montana, the esteemed Senator who accepted tens of thousands in donations from for-profit health care companies with no facilities in his state. Mr. Scher most recently headed up the D.C. law/lobbying firm of Mayer Brown. To show its credentials in serving the government industrial monstrosity, Mayer Brown recently advised Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell on the leasing of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Those bells you hear in the background aren't angels getting their wings, it's the sound of cash registers ringing. It's devils getting their due. Don't worry, while the cashier is pressing the D key more frequently, there's still plenty of business for R's.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bush Minions Can't Provide Oversight

From intelligence to wartime contracting, President Bush continues to appoint ex-insiders to key "oversight" positions. Earlier this year, George W. tapped ex-Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend and ex-Joint Chief of Staff General Peter Pace for his Presidential Intelligence Advisory Board.

This past week President Bush appointed Grant S. Green and Dov S. Zakheim to the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Which departments spent the most money in those countries since the various wars began? It's the State and Defense Departments, prior employers of both nominees. Grant served as Under Secretary of Management for State while Dov labored as Chief Financial Officer of the DoD.

The latest audit of Iraq spending revealed virtually all of $8.2 paid to private contractors between 2001 and 2006 did not meet U.S. rules for preventing fraud. Both Mr. Green and Dr. Zakheim served from 2001 to 2004, over half the study period. Under their management tutelage these potential abuses occurred.

But it's not the first time George W. Bush placed the fox in an oversight or an investigative position over the chicken ranch. He charged Fran Townsend with conducting a robust study of the White House response to Hurricane Katrina. Like Bush's guitar strumming while levee's failed, Fran's report came in off key.

How does one complete an investigation without any mention of the hospital with the largest number of patient deaths post-landfall? The White House Lessons Learned report was a bust for the general public. However, it garnered a huge sigh of relief by LifeCare Hospital of New Orleans' new corporate owners, The Carlyle Group. I expect similar work from Grant S. Green and Dov S. Zakheim on wartime contracting. Let the corporate protection begin!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bush Rewards Pioneer Durkin with Appointment

President George W. Bush nominated Patrick J. Durkin of Connecticut as a member of the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. The same name showed up on a list of stalwart Bush supporters. Patrick even achieved vaunted Pioneer status in 2000 and Ranger level for 2004. How much business can Patrick steer Credit Suisse First Boston's way in his new role?

At least George W. is consistent, rewarding his loyal supporters as his Presidency winds down. Let's hope it doesn't go out with an Iranian bang.

U.S. Chamber to Take Armed Sides in Fall's Political Fray

U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue plans to ramp up the political involvement of their business lobbying group. He hired ex-White House Homeland Security Adviser Frances Townsend as a senior adviser and consultant. The CEO told The Los Angeles Times, "I’m concerned about anti-corporate and populist rhetoric from candidates for the presidency, members of Congress and the media.” This translates into:

Corporations should pay ever decreasing tax rates, get regulatory and liability breaks, garner ever larger chunks of the federal government via privatization, and be allowed to finally jettison that pesky health insurance benefit.

That laundry list should help the Chamber in its efforts to constantly increase members' profits.

President Bill Clinton carved out part of the traditional Republican franchise with his entreaties to American businesses. Now numerous Democrats bear the privatization shield, wearing it proudly. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell just leased out the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 75 years to Citi Infrastructure and its two Spanish partners. Citi stands to gross $160 billion in tolls in exchange for a $12.8 billion upfront payment and a promised $5.5 billion in capital improvements.

Clearly the Chamber, under Fran's wise consultation, will identify the good and bad players amongst the Democratic and Republican candidates. Then they'll put their money to work, likely in a most dastardly way. Everybody put on your life jackets. The Swift Boats are coming.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Saudis & Big Oil Not Responsible for High Oil & Gasoline Prices?

Last week, the Saudi Monarchy noted oil supply to be in line with demand. It defended then $120 a barrel oil saying, "none of our customers are asking for more oil". So what if U.S. President George W. Bush asked for lower prices. Does America getting 14% of our daily addiction from the Saudis mean we're not a customer?

OK, so a major oil producer begs off on its role in ever skyrocketing oil prices, now over $130 a barrel. That means the oil and gas companies play a role, right? Not according to oil execs testifying before Congress. Their ever rising annual profits have no impact. So what if Exxon Mobil's rose 17% from last year. BP is up 60 percent; Shell, 25 percent; ConocoPhillips, 17 percent; and Chevron profits rose 10 percent. Those are just the fruits of capitalism.

Does anyone remember the 2005 Energy Bill, signed to great acclaim? President Bush said the following:

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 is going to help every American who drives to work, every family that pays a power bill, and every small business owner hoping to expand.

The aforementioned oil executives first appeared as a group before Congress on Nov. 9, 2005 -- when oil had risen to $58.93 a barrel. Just four months later, they were back testifying before another committee. By then, oil had climbed to $63.10.

Since George W. signed the Energy bill to help every American, oil more than doubled. Why isn't the program working? Does that portend gloom and doom for the President's economic stimulus, the $600 per person tax rebate? If his comprehensive energy policy did little to impact oil prices over a multi-year period, what chance does his tax refund have? It looks like American families will spend it on gas, the power bill, and on the checked bag fee when they fly.

It looks like the Saudis and Big Oil are doing just fine, making hay in the sunshine. They'd best beware, I feel an ill wind blowing that could turn their fertile fields into a dust bowl.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Celebrate Privatization, Democrats & Republicans Onboard Train

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell announced a $12.8 billion deal leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Citi Infrastructure and its Spanish partners, Abertis Infraestructuras and Criteria CaixaCorp. The governor fawned over the deal and its positive impact on the citizens of Pennsylvania.

The current Pennsylvania Turnpike carries 190 million cars annually and generates $600 million in tolls. Using price increases in the Governor's press release, that number jumps to $750 million in 2009 and rises 2.5% a year from there. That means well over $160 billion will accrue to the partnership over the life of the lease. Don't believe me? It takes roughly 28 years for the annual toll to double to $1.5 billion a year, then another 28 to reach $3 billion annually. By the end of the lease, Citi and company are grossing over $4.5 billion a year. That's not a bad deal for $12.8 billion upfront and $5.5 billion in capital improvements. Of course, other hyenas are drawn to the scent of such a prize kill.

Governor Ed backs Senator Hillary Clinton for President. Her husband did his part to start the privatization ball rolling when he took the feds investigative arm and sold it as U.S.I.S. The Carlyle Group, an infamous politically connected private equity underwriter, acquired U.S.I.S. in 1999. It flipped it for Carlyle's normal huge gains. It looks like Ed wants to help Citi in a similar fashion. It may land him a VP slot on the Democratic ticket. Surprise!

Agent McCain Shows Programming Error in Democratixx

Sometimes the Democratix, a false fronted world juiced by people needed only for their extravagant spending and vote every few years, encounters glitches. Surveillance planes suddenly lose navigational awareness over an enemy country and insiders to key governmental leaders spill the beans about future attacks. But real problems arise when insiders accidentally show errors in the program, clues for those paying attention that they aren't living in a real world but one of programming.

Agent John McCain committed such a slip up when asked about the role of Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran's nuclear program and foreign relations. Like a deja vu in the Matrix, the U.S. Presidential hopeful provided a clue that something changed when he noted:

McCain: I mean, the fact is [Ahmadinejad’s] the acknowledged leader of that country and you may disagree, but that’s a uh, that’s your right to do so, but I think if you asked any average American who the leader of Iran is, I think they’d know.

Translated: "All you battery people know what I'm talking about..... Have I unwittingly revealed the program? Shit, you people don't know squat. You're the juice for the economy and not pulling your weight at the moment. I only put up with you to garner your vote, so give it to me, dammit!"

Another glitch in the Democratix. May the people wake up...

Feckless Checks Lead to Imbalances

Two news stories raise questions as to whether government is accountable via the system of checks and balances set in place by our founding fathers. The first involves the FBI, courtesy of the Washington Post. An agency watchdog reported FBI officials should have moved more quickly to sound alarms about abusive interrogation practices its agents witnessed in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only did FBI agents not serve as a check against the behavior of their counterparts in the CIA (including contractors) and the Defense Department, the Pentagon held up the investigative report for years.

The second report comes from across the pond, but speaks to an ever widening intelligence net cast by the Bush administration. The Times Online reported:

A massive government database holding details of every phone call, e-mail and time spent on the internet by the public is being planned as part of the fight against crime and terrorism. Internet service providers (ISPs) and telecoms companies would hand over the records to the Home Office under plans put forward by officials.

U.S. intelligence gathering has grown like Jack's beanstalk since 9-11 and one of the primary benefactors has been Booz, Allen & Hamilton. They announced a sale of their government consulting and services division just days ago. The buyer of our "Big Brother' supplier to the federal government? The infamous, politically connected Carlyle Group.

Does anyone else find it odd that government is spending billions on intelligence and citizens have to dig to find out relationships between elected officials and the benefactors of their legislation, appropriations and/or regulatory actions? Would anyone care to bet that members of Parliament are exempt from the UK "Big Brother' database? What's good for public geese isn't good for your elected ganders. Now, doesn't that get your dander up?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Invest Now for Future Political Dividends

The 2008 Presidential race is expected to cost upwards of $1 billion. Both political parties expect wide open wallets from supporters to promote their candidates. Large donations bring access to candidates, the chance to influence policy, and an opportunity to further advantageous legislation, regulations or funding via budget items. President Bush turned this practice into a science with his Pioneer and Ranger designations for campaign heavy hitters.

Now John McCain looks to emulate George W. by going after those same donors. Barack Obama's campaign now turns their noses at the prospect of accepting federal funding post Democratic Convention. The two men who swore to get big money out of politics gave it a bear hug instead. Sad days, indeed!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bush Bangs FootJoy at Knesset

President Bush's speech at the Israeli Knesset came with at least two exclamation points. Rather than pound the podium with his fist or finger, George W. wanted to emphasize his sacrifice for the war on terror. Thus, he pounded his closet bound, Ostrich skin custom FootJoy golf shoe. He stopped swinging the club a month or two after hearing a UN official was killed in a Baghdad bombing.

But his second point centered on how Democratic "appeasers" would enable the modern day Iranian Hitler to rise again. Bush completely missed Hitler's merging of business and government power to both trick, control and manipulate the masses. And he denied his own family history of corporate support for Adolf and his enablers.

While the sharp echo reverberated in the Knesset chambers and around the world, it hid the sound of ink pens signing on the dotted line. In an unparalleled merger the infamous politically connected Carlyle Group plans to buy the government services division of Booz, Allen & Hamilton, a huge consulting and intelligence provider for the feds. While Bush points the fingers at verbal "appeasers", he stands cheering as coach for the government industrial monstrosity, otherwise known as creeping American fascism. (Disclaimer: Obviously, President Bush didn't bang a FootJoy on the podium, but I bet he wished he did!)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bush Must Be Quarantined!

To prevent a widespread outbreak of Hitleritis amongst the many dignitaries and influential business leaders celebrating Israel's 60th Anniversary, President George W. Bush must be quarantined immediately. His speech to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, contained a pronounced symptom of a most deadly condition, Hitleritis. The disease ravaged Washington, D.C. the summer of 2005. People infected are known to become feverish, make inane comparisons to Adolf Hitler, or invoke the Nazi menace in some current day situation.

George W. Bush compared any American diplomatic efforts with Iran as Hitler appeasement. The hyper competitive, heavy handed, frequently tongue tied leader invoked the Hitler comparison domestically, setting a rhetorical trap for Democratic Presidential front runner, Barack Obama. He didn't lay it for Hillary as she already threatened to obliterate Iran.

Barack can't win in this situation. They paint Obama as arrogant for making the comment about him. If he does not respond to this obvious dig, Barack's a wimp. Meanwhile, George W. gets off Scott free for making the analogy when he clearly deserves to be quarantined.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Feds Plan to Play God

While scientist Craig Venter intelligently designs new organisms by creating DNA, the Bush administration wants to provide guidance to health care decision makers who should live and die in a health care crisis. The assumption is a scarcity of medical resources will require providers to prioritize who receives care and who is left untreated.

With 47 million Americans without health insurance, a projected shortage of up to 238,000 physicians by 2025, emergency rooms already stretched to their limit and little excess hospital capacity, it won't take much of an outbreak to tax the system. The stockpile of bird flu vaccines is rather paltry for our nation of 300 million people. The federal plan calls for stockpiling drugs to treat 44 million Americans, only 15% of the population. States were encouraged to do likewise. By taking advantage of federal subsidies an additional 31 million could be covered. That brings the total to 75 million, only 25% of the population. That leaves 75% or 225 million citizens on their own. Consider who won't get treated.

Those out of luck are the people at high risk of death and a slim chance of long-term survival. But the recommendations get much more specific, and include:

— People older than 85.
— Those with severe trauma, which could include critical injuries from car crashes and shootings.
— Severely burned patients older than 60.
— Those with severe mental impairment, which could include advanced Alzheimer's disease.
— Those with a severe chronic disease, such as advanced heart failure, lung disease or poorly controlled

That last one will provide the biggest chunk of the 225 million Americans left out in the case of an H5N1 flu outbreak. With 21 million diabetics and 41 million pre-diabetics, that chronic condition offers a potential 62 million left behinders, at least care wise. Never mind that over 1/5 of people over 60 have diabetes. Lung and heart disease can take care of another 30 and 24 million people respectively. Hypertension will knock out 31% of the population between age 20 and 74. It disproportionately impacts minorities and the poor.

Let's not forget that chronic conditions impact the elderly at a greater rate. So while doctors are deciding who lives and dies, age and race discrimination will be in play. The report went on to say:

"If a mass casualty critical care event were to occur tomorrow, many people with clinical conditions that are survivable under usual health care system conditions may have to forgo life-sustaining interventions owing to deficiencies in supply or staffing."

This wording came out just in time for The Carlyle Group as it goes into a potential 24 wrongful death lawsuits from its LifeCare affiliate post Hurricane Katrina. They lived through an unprecedented disaster where first responders flipped the usual triage rescue protocol. This report should come in handy to the LifeCare legal team as it points its finger at rogue physicians and FEMA.

It could even help first responders who left two patients at a non-LifeCare hospital to die. The pair simply wasn't worth rescuing. Just as 225 million Americans aren't worth planning to save in the case of an H5N1 flu outbreak. So much for serving the people. It's time for government to have some Jeffersonian fear of the people.

'When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; When the government fears the people, there is liberty.' Thomas Jefferson

Welcome to tyranny...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Inane McCain

There's a new quality guru in the house, Senator John McCain. He knows better than to ask why five times to get at the root cause of a problem. The I35W Bridge in Minneapolis, MN collapsed not because of weight or a design problem. No, the weak link in the chain was not a support plate, but Congressional earmarks! John McCain didn't need to ask why once. He simply offered a line that supports his campaign platform.

"The bridge in Minneapolis didn't collapse because there wasn't enough money," McCain told reporters while campaigning in Pennsylvania. "The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects."

John McCain's comment seems part of the trivial many vs. the vital few, concepts taught by Dr. Juran? There you have it, leadership without knowledge. As Dr. Deming said, "Will they ever learn?" McCain followed up by saying in effect, it's management's job not to know. Might we get another President who drives in fear and delegates blame? I don't think our country could survive twelve years of bleedership.

Leaders Intent on Solving Problems with Violence

Iranian mushroom clouds may be only months away according to an updated Israeli intelligence assessment. The world now knows Israel's intelligence can pick up a Syrian nuclear plant near completion, while the U.S. didn't know squat. Meanwhile, another American carrier group heads to the Persian Gulf.

Israel celebrates Holocaust Remembrance Day while the world paints Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the next Adolf Hitler. The Jerusalem Post reported:

President Shimon Peres said that until this very day, he could not grasp how the Holocaust - where one third of the Jewish people was wiped out - could have happened, and how other nations stood silently by, or worse, assisted in the mass murder, adding that if Hitler had succeeded in building nuclear weapons, the world could have been destroyed.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert blasted Holocaust deniers for trying to strip the creation of the State Israel of its legitimacy by denying the existence of the Holocaust, and said that no force in the world was stronger than the Israeli spirit.

The emotional, logic matrix already exists in Israel to attack Iran. The United States is moving its excess military capacity around as it works to frame Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in much the same terms as Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Will the U.S. go it alone or with a coalition of the willing?