Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Senator Grassley Going after Pimps, Whores & Non Profit Community Hospitals

(AP) Senator Chuck Grassley, Chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, has a plan to raise tax revenue. He is trying to make up for lost federal revenue from President Bush’s signature tax cuts for the wealthy. The need could grow more acute should the latest House vote slashing estate taxes become law.

So Chuck’s solution? Tax pimps, whores, drug dealers, and non profit community hospitals. His idea involves going after groups that don’t currently pay taxes, black market or illegal commerce and charitable organizations that have an unfair advantage over for profit tax paying organizations.

If federal enforcement of any current laws whether they be campaign finance, congressional ethics, or immigration laws, are any indication the pimp/whore section of the IRS will be a complete bust. Don’t Republicans want to get rid of the IRS completely? If so, who goes after the pimping whore revenue?

As for taxing non profit community hospitals, it is similar to taxing churches. Because of the need they meet in society, hospitals have gotten a tax break. In the 1960’s Tommy Frist Sr. wanted to do for hospitals what Holiday Inn had done for hotels. But you can’t be a publicly traded stock company and be non profit. Preferring that organizational structure over the tax free non profit community asset model, HCA was formed. And they have cried the last 15 years over the unfair tax burden they shoulder relative to their not for profit competitors, while ignoring their usually much lighter burden of uncompensated care. Since 2001 Senator Grassley received almost $969,000 in donations from the health care sector, with $232,000 from for profit hospital/nursing home and health services/HMO PACs.

Senator Grassley complains of the money being made by some non profit health care organizations. Ask Saddleback Church about their donations and income. In the non profit world of community health centers, President Bush’s signature strategy for caring for the uninsured the message is “No margin, no mission”. It should not be a surprise that many non profit hospitals make money. If they didn’t have a margin they would go out of business.

So what’s really going on with Chuck? Why is he the for-profit hospital shill on this issue? Does he seriously think taxing pimps and whores will raise enough revenue to make up for the likely drastic drop in estate taxes? Or does he want to look like he is doing something, anything, whatever idea pops into his mind aided by whatever donation just popped in his wallet.

If non profit community hospitals end up paying taxes, I can only say one thing. Watch out churches!

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the authors initials

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Surprise on the Flag Amendment Story

(AP) People criticize the 109th Congress for tackling symbolic issues designed to get out the vote this November, while ignoring issues that impact the concerns of most Americans. However, as I read the story about the flag amendment I found myself surprised. The debate goes on with Independence Day just a few days away. Was I shocked and amazed to learn Congress actually was in session with an approaching holiday! Surely the 4th of July merits a week off prior and afterwards like Easter.

Should the measure pass my question is who will be going to the Middle East to enforce the law when the American flag and various U.S. leaders are burned in effigy? Will wholesale armies be poised on the border of all countries needing regime change? Will the torching of an American flag be just the invite needed to invade and clean house?

The fine work of our elected leaders stands on its own, alone in a field. Unfortunately they have placed our country there as well….

Liberal Media Gunning for Bush & Congress

(AP) The top two Associated Press political headlines at the moment are MasterCard worthy, priceless.

Bush Ignores Laws He Inks, Vexing Congress 06/27/2006 13:25:20 EST Congress Questions President Bush's Claims That He Can Ignore Some Laws That He Signs ...

Bush Urges Senate to Pass Line-Item Veto 06/27/2006 12:13:44 EST Bush Urges the Senate to Pass Line-Item Veto, Baits Democrats Who Called for Spending Restraint ...

The first article is about the President's power grab on signing statements. In this practice he attributes his intent to laws passed by Congress. A Senate hearing is exploring this practice, its legality and constitutionality.

In light of this expansion of Executive Power why is Congress even contemplating the second article? Why give the above the law President more authority? It is predictible he will test those limits once they are passed.

As for our elected officials in Washington, they continue to act as if they have never managed a business or household. The House just cut estate taxes as the Pentagon presented a threefold increase in military equipment spending. That line item alone rose to $17 billion.

There is a serious disconnect between Main Street and the two addresses driving U.S. policy on Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House wants to contract all government services possible to the private sector and The Carlyle Group wants to own companies that can deliver. After growing revenues and profits from lucrative government work, The Carlyle Group wants to sell those companies for huge profits and return the proceeds to their mostly Republican investors.

Should the line item veto pass, an instructive exercise will be to examine strikes in light of company investment house ownership. When will our transparent government make such information available?

Serving in Congress Changes People, Removes their Brain & Connections to Real People

(AP) My Representative in the House is Mike Conaway. Prior to serving Rep. Conaway worked as a certified public accountant. For some reason he lost his financial acumen post swearing in for duty. With the federal government already running massive deficits, the good Rep. recently voted to gut estate taxes. His e-mail had this to say:

On Thursday, the House passed the Permanent Estate Tax Relief of 2006, which would permanently reduce the Estate Tax, often referred to as the 'Death Tax'. While I would prefer a full repeal of the Death Tax, this bill is a good first step toward lowering the excessive tax burden that Americans face in life and in death. Taxing death is not good public policy. Too many small businesses and family farms have gone out of business due to the forceful, outstretched hand of the federal government. Americans are taxed in every aspect of their lives and it is past time to draw the line. This new legislation will increase the exemption amount to $5 million per person and would reduce the rate of tax on estates up to $25 million to the much lower capital gains tax rate. The compromise bill became necessary after the Senate failed to garner enough votes to bring a full repeal of the Death Tax to a vote.

Nowhere did my elected Representative say how much revenue would be cut, nor did he say how the government would replace that funding source. I expected more from a CPA, after all my grandfather was one! I have been disappointed by other elected officials seemingly abandoning their prior training. From physicians to judges to certified public accountants, it seems like once elected they become one thing, followers of the party line. Unfortunately neither party today is worth much as the Democrats race to imitate the Republicans who are racing after corporate dollars.

His e-mail also had a testimonial to oil company largess, the Fuel Consumption Education Act will provide public service announcements to citizens encouraging us to reduce demand by driving differently. Who thinks spending our hard earned tax money on such a campaign is useful. I already am driving differently. This year I am not driving to Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina for vacation due to high gas prices. I am not paying for an exorbitantly high airline ticket due to high jet fuel prices. I cashed in a frequent flyer award, my last one on American Airlines. Next trip what will I do? Consult the PSA I shall …fully expecting it to say “if you can’t afford the trip, don’t go!”

Carlyle Bails on 2nd Spanish Business in Last Year

(AP) The Carlyle Group dropped out of a consortia bidding for the Spanish language channel Univision. This enabled a Texas Pacific Group led coalition of investment houses to win the bid for the popular Spanish language broadcaster, Univision Communications Inc.

The Carlyle Group, a politically connected powerhouse investment firm announced its intention last fall to acquire a private university in Mexico City. It expected to close the deal by December 2005. Yet, there is no evidence Carlyle ever inked the final contract. No proud press release shows the Universidad Latinoamericana joined the Carlyle family. The educational property is not listed under the firm’s website portfolio.

So what is the deal with The Carlyle Group and failed bids for Spanish investments? Only they know for sure!

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author's initials

Iraq Study Group Missing the Customer!

(AP) While President Bush appointed a star studded field of ex-public servants from both political parties to advise him on Iraq, one thing is missing, Iraqis! He did created an advisory group full of sellers though. However, should any fledging Iraqi companies wish to be bought out, the President did form the right group!

Highlights of the Iraqi Study Group’s corporate connections are below. Seven of the ten members have strong corporate ties, while three seem dedicated to education and politics.

James Baker Senior Counselor, The Carlyle Group

William Perry Chairman, Global Technology Partners

Robert Gates Chairman of the Independent Trustees, The Fidelity Funds

Vernon Jordan Board member for 10 companies including American Express & Dow Jones, President of the Economic Club of Washington

Leon Panetta Board member for Connetics Corporation & Zenith, ex Board Member of New York Stock Exchange

Chuck Robb served on Board of Visitors at the U.S. Naval Academy, co-chair of Iraq Intelligence Commission, member of President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Board of Trustees of MITRE Corporation

Alan Simpson serves on numerous corporate boards including American Express Funds and Biogen

Ed Meese Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, Adjunct Fellow at The Discovery Institute, Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at the Claremont Institute, Co-Chairman of the Board of Young America’s Foundation, served on Board of Visitors at U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Sandra Day O’Connor Chancellor The College of William & Mary, a post traditionally served as the college’s advocate to the crown

Lee Hamilton member of President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Director of Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

As several of the appointees are in education, what can the Iraqis look forward to learning from this group? Ed Meese’s Young America’s Foundation has a reading list that begins with the Bible. How might that go over in the land of the Koran?

If the Iraqi people are looking for business advisors or Western educators, President Bush appointed the right group. Better have Ed Meese keep his Bible under jacket, just to be safe!

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author's initials.

Which William Perry Appointed to Bush’s Iraq Study Group?

(AP) Ex. Clinton Sec. of Defense William Perry made the cut for the President’s group of bi-partisan advisors on Iraq. The question is which Perry will show up for the meeting? Will it be the vilified contributor to the United Nations’ Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission report citing the United States as a cause of nuclear weapons proliferation or the hawkish North Korean missile blaster? Will it be the retired public servant or the Chairman of the Board of Global Technology Partners, an investment house specializing in defense industry acquisitions?

And who will he call for advice? Will he phone his co-author of the Washington Post piece advocating a missile attack on North Korea’s test missile? Mr. Carter happens to sit on the Board of Directors of a company that makes guidance systems for missiles. Would they be using that very system to take out the evil North Korean missile?

Either way, the recently hawkish Democrats that hold Republican like Board positions in key defense industry companies is nothing to cheer about. Imitation may be a source of flattery, but it is taking the United States down a long lonely road away from its foundational beliefs. As Dr. Deming would say minimizing point to point variation takes you “off to the Milky Way”. That appears to be the case in our two party politics.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Political Parties Do the Same Sorry Things

(AP) From teaching Bible Study in public schools in Alabama, to withdrawing troops from Iraq, to the insidious corporate insider network both Republicans and Democrats behave rather similarly. Imitation is said to be the greatest form of flattery and despite public appearances both parties operate much alike.

One, they are against whatever their opponent is promoting. The recent Bible Study curriculum proposed in Alabama is endorsed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans. This very same course has been endorsed by Republicans elsewhere. In a rare case where bi-partisanship would seem in order, there is GOP opposition.

Two, troops will be leaving Iraq in some sort of planned effort. The decision will be made in Washington by politicians despite the President’s rhetoric. Of course, then George W. Bush will claim credit for bringing "our victorious" troops home. What neither side mentions in our national debate is the U.N. resolution that allows the troops to be there. Also left out is the fact that the Iraqi government must submit a request for the troops to stay. The key is to appear to be in charge, the ones dictating policy.

Three, both parties are represented in the insidious financial network that runs through Washington DC. From the Republican dominated Carlyle Group to Presidential hopeful Tom Daschle’s Apollo management, ex-pols are more than well represented on private investment houses. The corporate shops specialize in acquiring and growing government contractor businesses from Defense to Homeland Security to Health care products and services.

Imitation runs deeper than Republican and Democratic representation on Boards of major investment houses. Democrats have recently become hawkish. A few retired Democratic leaders came out with the suggestion of knocking the North Korean test missile off the launching pad. Their ties to companies that make guidance systems or to a niche financial company funding defense industry start ups were not revealed to the mainstream news media.

Months ago Democrats said they would run corporate campaign style operations. They would hire consultants to test messages, conduct focus groups and advise them on winning (which obviously involves causing the other side to lose). For those concerned about “the corporatization” of political campaigns and government this came as a huge disappointment.

There is very little difference between our current Democratic and Republican parties when one looks behind the curtain. However the hand puppet show each side is performing just in front of the blue backdrop occupies just enough people’s attention that it is allowed to continue. When will people wake up and pay no attention to the hand puppet actors but the real play going on in the background?

Bush Administration Confirms Suspicion about Banking Concerns

(AP) Last night I pondered Rep. Pete King’s fiery stance that the New York Times needs to be investigated and prosecuted for revealing the nature of the Treasury Department-CIA monitoring of international financial transactions for terrorist activity. After checking his campaign donations, I found three large money center banking institutions in his top 20 lifetime donors, with JP Morgan Chase sitting at #1.

The New York Times in defending itself shared some of the Bush administration’s concerns with their public revelation of the terrorist money movement program. Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said “part of the government's argument was that the anti-terror program would no longer be effective if it became known, because international bankers would be unwilling to cooperate and terrorists would find other ways to move money.”

Bingo! Now where’s my prize? Please don’t say the government has to monitor my phone, e-mail, computer documents, and financial records to pick out something appropriate, something special just for me. No prizes are necessary as the fun is in the finding. Just ask the intelligence folks! Peace to all.

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author’s initials

Pat Robertson’s Divine Interpretation Needed at White House

(AP) The Reverend Pat Robertson was too busy being interviewed by CBS on U.S. foreign policy regarding the Palestine/Israel land dispute to offer the White House his better known talents of divine interpretation as to why the Lord struck down a White House tree. Why did God send the majestic elm crashing to the ground near the President’s front door?

Instead of shedding important light on God’s message to President Bush, Rev. Pat was suggesting Israel follow his guidance and not give another stinking inch of holy land to terrorists. Then again Pat has been in a slump as far as divine interpretation. He is yet to weigh in on why God smacked his Lear Jet out of the sky and into the drink, killing both pilots.

As for foreign policy, doesn’t Pat know most of our international policy is driven by U.S. business interests? If he has any doubt he should explore the makeup of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations. While it has members from both parties, the Council is dominated by business interests, investment houses and large corporations. Then I remembered Pat is the head of a large media corporation, CBN, so he is qualified to give advice to our nation’s CEO!

In closing the CBS interview Rev. Robertson said in effect the Israelis get to run their own country, that it is their decision. Yet, this seemed to be said grudgingly. If Pat could have the holy lands himself, I sensed that would make him very happy.

Why do people in the Muslim world see the West as arrogant and selfish? It might be because American foreign policy favors U.S. corporations and drives what we want vs. what the people of the country want or need. As for the makeup of the Council on Foreign Relations, will they add Christian media giant Pat to the group? Or might they add some customers of our foreign relations policies to the group? Nahhhh!

P.S. The AP at the beginning of this post represents the authors initials

Making it Right for 9-11 Responders

(AP) The City of New York and its contractors claim immunity from lawsuits from first responders ill from the toxic dust of 9-11. A U.S. Federal Court will decide if immunity from liability for the poor health of thousands of emergency workers should be granted.

Democracy claims to follow the rule of law. President Bush frequently says “if it’s not right, we will make it right.” What happens when the laws discourage or prevent the making of right? The federal court is yet to rule on this case but what is sad for America’s democracy is the lawsuit had to be brought in the first place.

“No Amnesty for War Crimes” Should Go Both Ways

(AP) Senator John Warner is concerned about the new Iraqi conciliation plan offered by Prime Minister al-Maliki. It extends amnesty to opposition and insurgent figures who have not been involved in terrorist activity. U.S. lawmakers are up in arms over the possibility of Iraqi amnesty for killers of coalition soldiers. Senator Warner professed his preference for “no amnesty for anyone who committed an act of violence, of war crimes.”

The distinguished Senator from Virginia also said “I want the Iraqi people to take this decision unto themselves and make it correctly.” My guess is the Iraqi people want all war crimes prosecuted, those committed by opposition/insurgent/terrorist figures and those delivered by their liberators. A complete accounting is in order for true reconciliation to occur. If U.S. lawmakers can focus on the stick in the other’s eye, it makes it much easier to ignore the log in our own.

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author’s initials

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Why Might Pete King Cry Out for Media Prosecution?

(AP) Rep. Pete King of New York is gunning after his hometown newspaper after it published a story on international financial screening to root out terrorists. He is urging the Bush administration, particularly Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to investigate and prosecute the Times, “particularly the reporters, the editors and the publishers.”

Does Pete King have another agenda in his outcry for action? Might he be trying to shelter some of his major donors from an angry customer response? People with large sums of money moving it around internationally, might not want Uncle Sam nosing into their business.

Three of Rep. King’s top lifetime donors are banks, JP Morgan Chase & Co stands at number 1 having given over $62,000 to Pete. Coming in at 18 and 19 are Citigroup at almost $30,000 and Bank of America giving $28,000. For $120,000 in banking PAC donations, what might Rep. King do? Might he blame the media to take some of the heat away from the financial institutions?

Why can’t we aim the Treasury Department/CIA probing software at our elected officials, their donations and subsequent legislation/actions? That would actually be a good use of our taxpayer dollars, much better than suing media companies.

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author’s initials

Friday, June 23, 2006

Aim SWIFT at American Politicians & Their Donations

(AP) As Americans have no expectation of privacy anymore, our politicians should be held to the same standard. If our phone records, e-mails, bank records, and more are accessible to the government legally without a warrant, then turnabout should be fair play.

Apparently computer programs can look through large amounts of data to find objects and persons of interest. This capability can be aimed at the White House and Capital for the edification of the American people.

What is the relationship between the amount of campaign donations and a Congressional hearing on an industry’s pet issue? What minimum level needs to be attained to turn interest into action via the introduction of legislation to benefit donor companies and heavy gifting industries? What is the time lag between receipt of funds (the actual cashing of the check) and a phone call or letter on that corporations behalf? How many key committee members have to be hit for the vote to swing that industry’s way? What is the relationship between Bush/Cheney Pioneers, Rangers, and Super Ranger status and favorable legislation or executive action?

How many ex-elected officials and ex-appointed government servants are sitting on company boards? How many of those are advising the administration policy wise? How many retired Generals and Admirals are serving on boards of businesses selling to the U.S. military? How many ex-governmental officials are lobbying their ex-coworkers and bosses at salaries 5 to 10 times their previous pay?

Aim SWIFT at the American government, the people deserve to “See What Insidious Financial Transactions” are occurring with our tax payer and consumer dollars.

History Shows Liberty Can Be Delayed & U.S. Can Be the Delayer

(AP) By changing 6 letters to 4 in President Bush’s speech on liberty, one gets a drastically different picture. The U.S. Executive said “The lesson of the Hungarian experience is clear, liberty can be delayed, but it cannot be denied. The desire for liberty is universal.”

By changing Hungary to Iran, the story remains true but becomes the U.S.’s current nightmare. Iran haunts the U.S. in part from the CIA engineered overthrow of democratically elected leaders during 1953-4. The overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadegh paved the way for the dictatorial and oppressive Shah to rule until his overthrow in 1979.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution arose from the very desire for liberty of which President Bush speaks. Most Americans find this thought offensive or horrific as part of their revolution involved the taking of hostages from the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Those memories are a dark vision in our national nightmare. Yet to most Iranians it is as important as our tossing tea in the Boston Harbor.

The Bush Administration believes in regime change, having already done so in Iraq. It is very concerned about democratically elected governments in Venezuela and Bolivia because of their populist stands. Last fall Sec. Rumsfeld spoke of the threat of leftists taking over in Nicaragua but he failed to mention the surreptitious method by which they would gain control, upcoming elections! He did take the time to meet with their military leaders. Did he appropriately nod and wink in response to what they should do if the wrong candidate won? What other underhanded efforts might the CIA, the DIA, or any other covert U.S. group with a black box budget have in the works?

The history of U.S. sponsored regime change is not one of long term success. It may bring short term stability, the kind which pleases American corporations. The Iranian and Guatemalan overthrows in the 1950’s were conducted expressly for business interests. Prime Minister Mossadegh,Time's Man of the Year in 1951, made the mistake of nationalizing some of their country’s oil resources. Anglo-Iranian Oil Company survived as a British company courtesy of President Eisenhower’s intervention. The United Fruit Company benefited from America’s tampering in Guatemala. Established democracies fell for oil and bananas, pushed by the CIA.

As President Bush is a strong student of history, this information is not new to him. It’s just the version he prefers not to acknowledge, much less share. For many outside the U.S., especially in the affected countries, this information is fresh in their minds despite its occurrence over 50 years ago. Yet it is mostly absent from the greater American psyche.

Yes liberty can be delayed, and what plans does the U.S. have to do so in countries with democratically elected leaders we don’t like?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Strange Convergence on Stories

(AP) CNN just shared advice from ex-Defense Secretary William Perry to Vice President Dick Cheney to the effect the U.S. should declare its intention to preemptively destroy the North Korean long range test missile before it can be launched. Sec. Perry and Ashton Carter wrote an op-ed piece with that advice in today’s Washington Post. Their solution, use a cruise missile to take out the test.

In researching the story on the Independent Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, I came across William Perry’s name as he helped craft the document. In looking over the Commission’s report and related information, I found President Bush withdrew the U.S. from the ABM Treaty with Russia in 2001. At the time John Rhinelander, a negotiator of the treaty “predicted that the withdrawal would be a fatal blow to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement and would lead to a world without effective legal constraints on nuclear proliferation.” Hindsight shows this concern to have developed.

In researching Dr. Perry I found he has corporate ties similar to most Republican ex-officials. His Board Directorship at Anteon Corporation just ended with its acquisition by General Dynamics but he remains Chairman of Global Technology Partners. His co-author of the Washington Post piece, Ashton Carter is also on the Board of Global Technology Partners, a defense oriented investment firm. In the past Mr. Carter served on the Advisory Board of Draper Laboratories, a high tech government contractor that designs accurate and reliable guidance, navigation and control systems for the Department of Defense and NASA. In 2000 they opened a venture capital division called Navigator Technology Ventures while in 2003 they opened a biomedical division.

In 2002 a Rear Admiral in the Navy gave a Draper employee an award for his achievements “fundamental to providing credible and affordable sea based missile deterrent systems”. So where might this Perry/Carter recommended missile come from, maybe a naval ship? And whose system will be shot, possibly one built or designed by Draper Laboratories?

Mr. Carter is also a member of the Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism. They summarized their now 4 year old report for the House of Representatives. Note the last member of the committee was L Paul Bremer III, working as a consultant for a large insurance broker. How did this qualify him to serve as the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, in charge of securing and rebuilding a recently freed Iraq? Did you also notice their recommendation to establish a Homeland Security Institute to evaluate new technologies? It would be a “dedicated, non-profit contractor operated organization which would hire experts to analyze and evaluate new technologies”. And might the Draper Lab or might Mitretek, one of the other non-profit labs with which Mr. Carter is associated, just fit the bill?

If anyone is wondering the impact of business interests in U.S. foreign policy, just take a gander at the Council on Foreign Relations Board of Directors makeup. At the table are The Carlyle Group, The Blackstone Group, CitiGroup, and Rockport Capital. Private investment companies Perseus LLC and Mecox Ventures are represented as are at least 3 firms doing strategic consulting for businesses. Several big American companies have a seat, Boeing, C.V. Starr (the parent company of AIG, the giant insurer), TimeWarner, and NBC News (a division of GE). A token of two nonprofit agencies includes CARE and the Doris Duke Foundation. The rest are media, academic, or legal representatives. The Board is heavily weighted towards business interests, thus also is American foreign policy.

So which businesses win given the escalating nuclear concerns in the world today? And can they trace their growth to President Bush’s cancellation of the ABM treaty? Many educational testing companies credit their phenomenal growth the last 4 years to the President’s No Child Left Behind initiative, yet recent data indicates 7,000 children a day drop out of America’s school systems. The investment houses are getting their ducks in a row to make big money off this administrations health care fixes. So five years from now, when ex. Sec. Tommy Thompson recommends a bird flu shot, will he be doing so because he is Chairman of the Board of a fledging company a major investment house wishes to push from the nest? If so, how much reward will he reap?

Bob Novak Left Out a Key Part of the Story

(AP) In slamming the United Nation’s Deputy Secretary General’s comments as distinctly partisan and inappropriate, Robert Novak failed to mention key happenings just the week prior. He did key in on Mark Malloch Brown’s remarks to two “left of center think tanks, one of them with particularly close ties to the Democratic Party”. Bob seemed particularly upset about Mr. Brown’s criticism of mainland America’s news source being Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, known for their U.N bashing and stereotyping. Heck, even the National Rifle Association recently jumped on the U.N. over its efforts to restrict the illegal sale of small arms.

Mr. Brown apparently noted the similarity between U.N. corruption and that found in the Republican Party. I’ll add corruption found in America’s hallowed halls of government, most of it inspired by corporate and individual greed.

Also not making the news a second time was the June 1 release of the Independent Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission report criticizing the United States role in the proliferation of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons worldwide. The story lasted mere hours on my internet service providers’ news site and I noted it that day on my blog. Later, I found the actual report and realized why it had been deep-sixed in mainstream America. It also helped explain our U.N. representative’s severe bite to Mr. Brown’s comments. Bob Novak followed up John Bolton’s attack with today’s column. Yesterday President Bush cited any assertion that the United States is making the world a more dangerous place as “absurd”.

What American served on the almost invisible and now discredited report? William Perry was one of the 11 world leaders to craft the Independent Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission report. He served as Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton.

President Bush has already met twice with past Secretaries of State and Defense representing both Republican and Democratic administrations. Does Dr. Perry qualify as one of the esteemed ex-Secretaries capable of advising the current administration? Apparently not, according to the New York Times.

Also interesting is William Perry’s ties to the military contracting industry and to an investment house, Hambrecht and Quist. After leaving the Pentagon in 1997 he rejoined Hambrecht as Senior Advisor. I noted that Frank Carlucci, of The Carlyle Group fame, got an invite to ex-Secretaries confab. Mr. Carlucci is the ex-Secretary of Defense under President Reagan and has the title of Chairman Emeritus with Carlyle. Interesting that one ex-Defense Secretary with an investment house pedigree got an invite, while the other did not.

A 2003 biography shows Mr. Perry also serving on the board of Anteon Corporation, several high tech companies and as chairman of Global Technology Partners. Just two weeks ago, Anteon was acquired by General Dynamics, a huge military contractor. Sec. Perry’s stake in the buyout, 18,500 shares at $55.50 per share (including options) amounts to just over $1 million.
Dr. Perry is chairman of Global Technology Partners, the Democratic version of The Carlyle Group. Both are investment houses looking to make serious money by buying undervalued companies and funding start ups in growth industries. Both have a defense and government contracting focus. The Carlyle Group significantly expanded their interest in health care in the last year. Also on the Global board is Paul Kaminski, another Board member for Anteon. Dr. Kaminski controls just over 41,500 shares (including options) making his merger booty a cool $2.3 million.

Based on what I have learned, both Republicans and Democrats are deeply intertwined with America’s corporate structure, often leading them. Politicians on both sides are shaping policy to further American corporate interests with little regard to its impact on the common citizen. The story is being presented as the United Nations picking the Democrats side, however that is just the street corner skirmish.

The war Bob Novak fails to mentions involves corporate media, defense industry allocations, homeland security needs, public infrastructure investments, even health care insurance and services. The Government Industrial Monstrosity is here. Republicans and Democrats compete to deliver business to their friends and insiders. From security fingerprint identification to your preferred provider organization, the Carlyle Group can meet the government’s needs. People from both sides are sucking the people via their public “service”. It is time to take the leeches off.

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author's initials.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

First Bolton, Now NRA Goes After UN

(AP) The National Rifle Association believes “people kill people” all over the world regardless of their access to small arms such as pistols, assault rifles and machine guns. The United Nations feels otherwise and scheduled a follow up conference to review progress on a 5 year old initiative to restrain the spread of illegal small arms, especially in conflict zones. The UN found “conflicts are made more deadly and intractable by the availability of illicit small arms.”

For five years the United States as well as all UN member states supported the program. Only recently did the National Rifle Association become involved in a large letter writing campaign. They plan to use Independence Day, which occurs during the progress update conference, to draw attention to their discontent with limiting gun owner’s rights.

While the U.S. ostensibly supports limiting access to small arms, it is currently rather pissed off at the U.N. over big weapons. The recent Independent Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission pointed a big finger at the U.S. over its role in chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons proliferation. President Bush and John Bolton gave the finger back. How this will roll over to the NRA and small weapons remains to be seen? However there is a history of President Bush rolling over for the NRA, so watch out, anything can happen!

Concerns about Weapons Development & Testing

(AP) Given the world’s concerns about weapons of mass destruction, a number of recent developments are most disturbing. One international leader said with his Texas twang:

"It should make people nervous when non-transparent regimes who have announced they have nuclear warheads, fire missiles. This is not the way you conduct business in the world."

Who is non transparent in regards to their military capabilities? The list includes China, Israel, Pakistan, India, Iran, North Korea, and the United States. All have stated that some measure of uncertainty should be present to deter any possible attackers. Non transparency is a critical part of war planning. As for testing of missiles and nuclear warheads, that too is part of war. Today the United States tested a missile defense system in conjunction with Japan, thus firing a missile.

Who is undermining the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Independent Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, and the Nuclear Non Proliferation Agreement? The United States comes to mind. Shortly after the American media deep-sixed the Independent Weapons of Mass Destruction Commissions report, John Bolton came out in full frontal attack mode. Our UN ambassador had to get some payback in for Hans Blix’s citing the United States “non-support for banning nuclear weapons tests contributes to other countries efforts to seek and test nuclear bomb capabilities”.

What nation has declared their intention to weaponize space? Only one, the United States. In 2002 the U.S. withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to conduct such testing. So what should make people nervous now President Bush? Shouldn’t you be conducting business differently in the world? American scientists think so. They suggest “weaponizing space can bring unintended consequences, including the acceleration of weaponization by others". Sound familiar?

When asked if the United States was the biggest threat to global security President Bush responded “That’s absurd”. Evidence says otherwise. Watch the Bolton delivered payback to groups citing the U.S. as a threat and the bribes to those calling us leaders of global freedom and democracy. This author thinks there is not enough U.S. taxpayer money to turn the tide of worldwide public opinion with payola. But that won’t keep Bush from promising it anyway!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tommy Thompson to Run for Senate? Nah, He Already Did His Time!

(AP) Tommy Thompson, ex Governor of Wisconsin and Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Bush Administration, passed on running against Herb Kohl for a Senate seat. Tommy’s office said he was “enjoying his work in the private sector and decided against a return to public office at this time.”

Translated, this means Tommy has been raking it in since retiring from Health & Human Services in January 2005 and he has no intentions of leaving his personal gravy train. Just after quitting the Bush administration Tommy got numerous offers for work and he took many of them. In February 2005, ex. Sec. Thompson became President of Logistics Health Incorporated, a provider of medical readiness and homeland security solutions. LHI is owned by TA Associates, a Boston based investment house. When TA decides to cash in their investment, how much money will Tommy rake in?

Sec. Thompson also joined Deloitte & Touche’s consulting practice as Chairman of the company’s Center for Health Solutions and became a General Partner in the legal lobbying firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Life is too good to take that huge pay cut to be a Senator. The democratic capitalistic idea is to put in the time in “public service” and then to cash in personally. Tommy seems to be doing this quite well at the moment.

Making the jump with Tommy to Akin Gump was Ladd Wiley, the Governor’s longtime counsel in Wisconsin and later at HHS. Had Tommy made the run for the Wisconsin Senate seat how much would it have cost him? And what would Ladd have done, follow his longtime mentor or stay at Akin Gump? How much would it have cost Ladd?

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author's initials

Monday, June 19, 2006

Rep. Thomas to Set Up His Cushy Retirement with Estate Tax Bill

(AP) Who will hire Rep. Bill Thomas, Chair of the House Ways & Means Committee when he retires from Congress this year? Will it be a law firm that specializes in estate planning or an investment house that puts trust fund money to work? Might it be a large for profit health care company wishing to thank the Chair for his hard work on their behalf over the years?

Regardless of which cash cow Rep. Thomas chooses to milk, he has one last assignment courtesy of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (of the HCA for profit hospital Frist family). Mr. Thomas has been charged with reducing taxes on inherited estates. Current law provides for a one year gutting of that revenue source for the federal government. Senator Frist doesn’t plan to die in the next year, so he would like the tax cut extended for his heirs to benefit from drastically reduced inheritance taxes.

Ever the good soldier, Rep. Thomas gave the Republican salute and is tarrying onward with a July 4th deadline. Did you know it is American to cut taxes in the midst of record deficits? Fly the flag as I can feel a big dose of patriotism coming. How come the ones who seem to benefit are the ones making the laws? That may not patriotism after all, I hope I can make it to the bathroom….

Heterosexual National Guard Ordered to New Orleans

(AP) Governor Blanco ordered National Guard troops to New Orleans in response to recent violent outbursts. Per the Pentagon’s policy on homosexuality being a mental illness, only heterosexual Guard members will be deployed. The Governor’s office viewed this as a double safety precaution given Rev. Pat Robertson’s assertion that New Orleans was smote by God for its homosexual debauchery.

The Guard members also hope to have a positive influence on New Orleans youth. Having heterosexual troops will allay any of the fears that served as the basis for Arkansas banning homosexual foster parents. Sending hetero soldiers should help area “children’s moral and spiritual welfare”. The Governor should be quite proud as her strategy appears to be a winner on all fronts for homosexual hating Christian Republicans. You mean she is a Democrat?

P.S. This post is fiction, untrue, made up except for the parts about the Guard being deployed to New Orleans, the Pentagon policy on homosexuality being a mental illness and Arkansas banning gay foster parents. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author’s initials.

Defense Department Instruction Classifies Homosexuality as Mental Disorder

(AP) A Pentagon document calls homosexuality a mental disorder over 40 years after the medical profession abandoned that position. Homosexuality is listed alongside mental retardation and personality disorders in a policy on physical defects, retirement and discharge options. A Pentagon spokesman said the policy is under review.

Is it a remnant from the past having somehow missed the updating process? The American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. I understand government moves slowly, but for such a policy to be 43 years behind science brings to mind past religious foot dragging. It has a way to go to beat the Catholic Church and Galileo.

Or is it new wording set to spread and have a wider impact? Numerous initiatives around the country are working to restrict the rights of homosexuals. Arkansas just banned homosexual foster parents citing danger to “children’s moral and spiritual welfare”.

Does the military hope to ban homosexuals altogether from military service? Will states act to remove natural children born to homosexuals to protect the children? What is the plan, how far do they want to go? Is this step 1 of many or just an error? After watching the Texas Republican platform the last few years, my money is on step 1.

From Washington to Which Street: Wall Street or K Street?

(AP) Yet another Bush administration official finds their way from government service to the world of corporate finance. The #2 man at the State Department, Scott Zoellick announced his plans to step down for a position with Goldman Sachs Group, a Wall Street investment house. Scott said he wants to grow investments around the world.

Other notables who shifted gears include past Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and his Medicare chief Tom Scully. Mr. Thompson joined the Board of Directors of VeriChip after saying he planned to work in the private sector. Mr. Scully may have inspired his ex boss with his shifty move a year earlier as Tommy ended up at the DC lobbying firm of Akin, Gump as a general partnerand is doing consulting work for Deloitte & Touche. Later Logistics Health Incorporated appointed Mr. Thompson as President of the provider of medical readiness and homeland security solutions. LHI is owned by a Boston based investment house, TA Associates. Should the company be sold or taken public, how much would Tommy make?

After months of being courted, Tom Scully landed a lobbying job with Alston & Bird, a D.C. firm noted for its insider connections from ex-Senator Bob Dole to the more recently employed ex-Senator Tom Daschle. Tom also became a Senior Advisor for Welsh, Carson, Anderson, & Stowe, an investment house with a strong healthcare niche. He later parlayed that role into a General Partnership position with WCAS and sits on 4 of their corporations’ board of directors.

Where will Scott McClellan or John Snow end up? What will Tom DeLay and Bill Thomas do post retirement? Will they end up like the over 90 Homeland Security officials who jumped from government service to the private sector, selling goods and services to their old bosses and co-workers? Will they start their own lobbying firms like Joe Allbaugh who traces his history with President Bush back to Texas alongside Karl Rove?

For those who believe the corporate connections to only be a Republican problem consider an analysis of 100 former Clinton advisors. It shows a similar pattern. How will the Bush record compare? We have two more years of moves before that analysis can be completed. However, the early results are more than discouraging. For those interested in the current rules, check out the article on “revolving door” restrictions. The Bush Administration has 229 government servants turned lobbyists according to Public Citizen.

Tom Ridge landed on the Board of Directors of Savi Technology, which was just acquired by Lockheed Martin. If Tom held Savi stock he likely made out like a bandit. Christine Todd Whitman started her own lobbying firm and in the past used her influence on behalf of Citgo Petroleum. John Ashcroft founded his own firm, the Ashcroft Group while joining other ex-Congressmen in doing work for Bryan Cave. It is good to know that an ex-House Ethics Committee Counsel can jump back and forth from the private sector to government service and finally land a partnership in a cushy lobbying firm like Patton & Boggs. It makes one wonder are there any rules?

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author's initials

Bush/Cheney Shoot Familiar Refrains Once Again

(AP) The Bush White House unleashed its favorite weapons again today. When put in a difficult spot the Executive Office defends itself with “I don’t think anybody anticipated”. Vice President Cheney pulled the trigger on this statement regarding the level of violence in Iraq. President Bush shot the same round last August regarding the levee failures in New Orleans.

The second shot came from Tony Snow, the White House Press Secretary on the situation in Iraq. He used the “most people realize” weapon in saying a pullout would be an unmitigated disaster. Those that are not in the “most camp” are obviously misinformed or stupid.

What if the presence of U.S. troops were a significant cause of the violence in Iraq? Would a public health department keep bird flu patients in the general population? Of course not, they would quarantine or remove those infected as they cause the spread of disease. To the extent the insurgency is driven by U.S. troop presence, “most people” realize violence won’t decrease and that staying is the “unmitigated disaster” for the long suffering people of Iraq. .

Hazelton PA Volunteers for Bush’s First Predator Stimulus Minimization Center

(AP) In an unusual move the Hazelton city council passed measures guaranteed to fill President Bush’s signature strategy for keeping Americans safe at home, removal of predators from the streets. The city 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia is targeting illegal immigrants who take good paying American jobs in their initial street cleaning effort. Mayor Lou Barletta, a Republican said “Illegal immigrants are destroying the city. I don’t want them here, period.”

The measures enacted include revoking business licenses of companies that employ illegal immigrants, imposing $1,000 fines on landlords who rent to illegals, and making English the official city language. Reactions to the plan vary from a standing ovation for the mayor when he entered a diner for lunch to a legal immigrant suggesting “the mayor is confusing illegal people with criminals”.

President Bush expects the Halliburton contracted facility to be completed in 16 months after which he will inaugurate the first Predator Stimulus Minimization Center. This PSMC will be designed without jobs or employment for the illegals serving time. Only English will be spoken. Detainees breaking the English only rule will be subject to abuse that does not elevate to torture, courtesy of in training CIA and Defense Intelligence agents.

P.S. Most of this post is untrue, fiction, made up except for the part about the Hazelton crackdown on illegal immigrants and Halliburton's contract to construct detention facilities. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author’s initials.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Klan is Back in Midland, Texas

(AP) The homegrown terrorist group with a long history of violence against citizens, made its debut in President Bush’s childhood hometown. Twenty five Klansman verbally squared off with approximately 500 counter protesters. The majority of the Klan drove up from San Angelo, the location of their local chapter with 15-20 members. The last time the San Angelo Chapter protested was November 2005 at an anti-gay marriage rally in Austin. Steven Edwards founded the chapter in 2000, later acknowledging that is not his real name.

Other Klan supporters turned out at the Midland rally. A member of San Angelo’s American Nazi Party turned out to support their position on immigration. Some counter protesters acted peacefully, but a few acted out and were arrested. A Klan opponent had this to say “I don’t think anyone will stop the Klan, but we are sure going to try.”

Isn’t Homeland Security supposed to stop homegrown terrorists? They can start by investigating the man with the alias.

Bush’s Contracting Bonanza Benefits Ex-Administration Officials

(AP) Over 90 ex government officials in Homeland Security are now working for contractors in that very industry. The ex-Bush officials now sell security products and services to the department they once helped manage. In return for their contacts, insider knowledge and influence the turncoats get high salaries and generous perks.

A former inspector general in the Homeland Security Department called the relationship “almost incestuous”. The Bush administration response “loopholes in federal law make it easy for former bureaucrats to quickly capitalize on their government work”.

Ask Tom Scully, the ex-Medicare chief who negotiated with future employers while working on the new prescription drug benefit. He jumped through that same loophole in 2004, landing with Senators Dole and Daschle at Alston & Bird, a D.C. lobbying house. Might retiring Representatives Tom Delay and Bill Thomas also end up with those high salaries and generous perks? Count on it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Rep. Jefferson Stripped of Right to Milk For-Profit Healthcare Donors by Expulsion from House Ways and Means Committee

(AP) Representative William J. Jefferson’s removal as member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee portends badly for the level of slop in his campaign money trough. Might it begin to fall precipitously? A frequent liner of committee members’ election pockets is the Federation of American Hospitals, the for profit hospital trade association. Other individual companies are also large contributors, frequently to Chairman Bill Thomas.

The FAH donated to 31 of the 41 Ways and Means committee members over the last 2 election cycles. Large donations went to Chairman Thomas and Nancy Johnson, chairman of the Health Subcommittee. Three of the top eight industries donating to committee members are involved in health care, health professionals, pharmaceuticals, and hospitals/nursing homes. In the current election cycle these groups have donated approximately $3,000,000 to committee members.

Their Senate counterpart, the Senate Finance committee has a similar record of gorging at the election money trough. The last two election cycles the FAH lined the re-election pockets of 12 of the 20 members. The Finance Committee’s contributions from health related industries amounts to over $7,000,000 for the current election. The three groups are ranked 6, 10, & 15 on the Finance Committee’s slate of donors.

Since 2001 the Federation has pumped more than $10 million into lobbying efforts. Broadening the scope beyond the FAH, I explored all health care donations to members of the House Ways & Means Committee in the current election cycle. The 2006 health related PAC & individual campaign donations total $3,420,285. With 41 members, this averages to roughly $83,500 per committee representative. Chairman Bill Thomas did much better than average, hauling in $234,450 from the health industry. Health Subcommittee Chair Nancy Johnson did more than twice as well as her boss with $540,000 in health related contributions. Do bills need to originate in the subcommittee to make it further in the legislative process?

The Senate Finance Committee is a fundraising juggernaut relative to its House counterpart, raising over $8.7 million from health care interests. This averages $435,000 per Finance Committee member. Chairman Chuck Grassley netted roughly $969,000 from the health care sector.

Representative William Jefferson must be disappointed to be out of the game so early, only halfway up the seniority chart for his Democratic team. As a below average health sector fundraiser, getting only $55,700 in 2006 donations, William looked as if had found a niche in dialysis. Then the House yanks him out of the game! Without that cushy Ways & Means assignment how is Rep. Jefferson gonna rake in the campaign ka-ching? My guess is he was booted to keep the cash flowing for the other members. Now who wants to work on their dialysis fielding? Batter up!

The Real Reason They Want Rep. Jefferson Gone from Ways & Means Committee: Turn Off that Spotlight!

(AP) In a transparent attempt to save their corrupt leaders’ hides, the House jettisoned Rep. William Jefferson from the House Ways & Means Committee. Are they hoping a quick toss overboard will turn the spotlight away from the money for legislation pattern evident the last few years? Will it enable powerful chair Bill Thomas to slink into retirement without a Tom Delay like investigation?

Just last summer Chairman Bill held a hearing on the unfair advantage non profit community hospitals have as they are “tax-exempt”. This happens to be the long standing position of the Federation of American Hospitals, the for profit hospital trade group. Also, the chair happened to receive $30,000 in for profit hospital donations in 2005. It was most gentlemanly of Rep. Thomas to pay them back with a hearing on their pet issue.

Earlier this year the House passed a bill improving government payment for kidney dialysis services. The Senate introduced a similar measure in March. A group of patient leaders and family members gathered in early May to encourage members of Congress to support the measure. In doing so they celebrated the inventor of the kidney dialysis machine and Rep. William Jefferson, a sponsor of the bill in the House. Nearly two weeks after their joyful gathering, the FBI raided Rep. Jefferson’s office, executing a search warrant.

Kidney dialysis has grown into big business with numerous corporate deals occurring this past year. A large European company, Gambro Health Care sold all their U.S. clinics to Davita Inc, a large domestic kidney dialysis corporation. As part of the deal, a number of clinics had to be sold. A Welsh, Cason, Anderson, & Stowe affiliate, Renal Advantage stepped up and purchased the 70 clinics in question.

WCAS is an investment house with a strong healthcare niche and insider political connections. Tom Scully, the ex. Medicare Chief is Senior Advisor for the firm as well as a lobbyist for Alston & Bird, sharing offices with Senators Bob Dole and Tom Daschle. Another investment house is known for its incredibly strong insider political connections to the White House, The Carlyle Group with its corporate offices just down Pennsylvania Avenue. Carlyle announced last year their intent to beef up healthcare acquisitions and recently hired William Johnston as a Senior Advisor to their Health Care Team. Mr. Johnston’s executive background is in kidney dialysis, having negotiated the sale of Renal Care Group to a European company, Fresenius Medical Care in March 2006.

The amount of kidney dialysis corporate deal activity is interesting in light of the likely Congressional legislation. What might the companies desire from the federal government, especially those needing to generate returns for their shareholders? Aspects of the bill include an analysis of in home vs. in center dialysis. One company, Davita has already weighed in on the impracticality of home dialysis given current reimbursement rates. Their answer would be to increase reimbursement for home rates or to keep people coming to Davita’s centers for treatment.

Another issue is automatic payment increases for dialysis care based on some inflationary gauge. This would be most attractive to the for profit companies as Medicare and Medicaid price increases would be automatic, not subject to political processes. The Kidney Care Quality & Improvement Act is co-sponsored by Senators Rick Santorum-R and Kent Conrad-D in the Senate and by Representatives William Jefferson-D and Dave Camp-R in the House.

What weight might Davita have as it approaches influential members of Congress? It gave Rep. William Jefferson $4,500 for his current re-election campaign. That influence dissipated with the invasion of Congressman Jefferson’s office and the stripping of his key committee appointment. So who is left? And what contributions have other major dialysis companies made to influence legislation favorably?

We can begin by examining donations from the 4 companies’ mentioned thus far, Davita, Gambro Healthcare, Fresenius Medical Care, and Renal Care Group. How much did their company political action committee give to the 4 sponsors of the visionary dialysis legislation? Donations from the 2004 and 2006 campaigns are included in this analysis. In every campaign all four companies supported Dave Camp. His contributions totaled $14,500. Rep. Jefferson raised the smallest total of $9,000 with $6,500 of that from Davita alone.

Senators Conrad and Santorum were consistently supported by all four companies, although the foreign companies got heavier into the game in the 2006 campaign. Supported 7 out of 8 opportunities, Kent Conrad raised $28,000 from dialysis companies. While getting support 1 less opportunity, Rick Santorum took home the fundraising title, netting $31,200 from kidney dialysis for profit ventures.

For those who don’t believe money influences legislation, why would kidney dialysis companies donate so regularly, in such large amounts and to specific legislators on key committees that can advance their positions? In 2004 the four companies donated almost $174,000 to members of Congress. This increased over 18% in the current campaign to $205,000 and this election cycle still has 6 months to go.

Should the automatic payment increase pass, the Carlyle Groups and Welsh, Carson, Anderson, & Stowes of the world will be most happy. The question is how fast will they sell their rising stars and at what return? Remember who is behind the gorging at the campaign money trough. While Republicans dine more conspicuously, there are plenty of Democrats with dirty bibs.

Senator Max Baucus-D regularly feeds at the for profit healthcare trough, getting $31,400 from Davita between 2001 & 2006. To date in his 2006 campaign Sen. Baucus received over $65,000 while Kent Conrad posted over $57,000 from for profit healthcare companies. These represent two influential votes on the Senate Finance Committee.

The Chair of that committee, Senator Chuck Grassley-R just wrote the IRS asking the Commissioner to treat non profit community hospitals like the recently taken to task credit counseling agencies. Sen. Grassley ordered the IRS to closely scrutinize “tax exempt” hospitals for their unfair advantage relative to their for profit counterparts. Chuck’s underling Sen. Bill Frist likely was very pleased by this development given his family’s long history of running HCA, the largest for profit hospital chain.

If anyone believes a fair investigation could come from this, one only need consider the ongoing study of Senator Frist's sale of HCA stock while working on health care legislation. To date there has been no report, no conclusions, no results, and if necessary no penalties. Thus there is no justice, but we do have the best democracy money can buy.

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author's initials

Pentagon Abuse Investigation Points to Leadership Failures

(AP) The Pentagon’s conclusions regarding prisoner abuse cases counter President Bush’s assertions that abuse is the result of "a few bad apples". Two reports cite inadequate resources, lack of oversight and lack of proper guidance as to what constituted appropriate treatment vs. abuse. All three factors cited by the Pentagon are leadership responsibilities as the command provides resources, oversight, training, supervision and guidance. The White House could not be reached for comment in reconciling the contradictions between the Pentagon reports and the President’s repeated assertions.

P.S. The AP at the beginning of this post represents the author’s initials.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Those High Dollar Democrats and Republicans

(AP) Two Bush longtime patrons, Sam and Charles Wyly are the Chair and Vice Chair of Michael’s Stores Board of Directors. The company is currently under SEC investigation for its granting of stock options for the last decade. Months ago it hired J.P. Morgan to solicit buyout offers. At least two consortia have expressed interest. One is composed of Bain Capital, the Blackstone Group, The Carlyle Group, and Thomas Lee Partners. Carlyle is the famous politically connected investment house with insider connections to the Bush White House.

The other potential bidder includes Apollo Management LP, KKR, and Texas Pacific Group. Former Senator Tom Daschle, in the Democratic ring for a Presidential nomination, serves on the Apollo board.

It is unclear how the SEC investigation will impact the company’s desirability in the eyes of potential suitors. If the past pattern of influence buying holds, the “investigation” will find no serious violations, freeing the company for a clean sale.

Charles Wyly owns over 6 million shares of Michael’s Stores while his brother Sam owns over 4.8 million shares. Today it closed at nearly $38 per share, making Charles’ holding worth nearly $230 million and Sam’s $182 million. With those sales proceeds the Wyly’s will be able to continue to fund the Republican money machine. Do I see some sibling Super Rangers in the near future?

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author's initials

Bush & Clinton Fundraising, Two Sides of Same Coin

(AP) Both President George Bush & Bill Clinton used the White House for fundraising purposes. Bill Clinton had the Lincoln Bedroom fundraising flap. Overnight guests contributed $5.4 million during the 1996 political campaign.

George Bush has the Pioneer, Ranger and now Super Ranger designations. The benefits include virtually unlimited access to the White House and its staff. Pioneers raise $100,000, Rangers $200,000 and Super Rangers $300,000.

Twenty four of President Clinton’s overnight guests gave $100,000 or more. It appears only four would have made Ranger by donating over $200,000. President Bush had 568 Pioneers donating to his 2000 and 2004 campaigns. 221 Rangers ponied up for the 2004 campaign while 69 achieved Super Ranger status.

The most recent Bush fundraisers charge $10,000 for contributors to have their picture taken with the President. As both parties grovel at the campaign trough it seems worthy of recalling the Republican stance on the Lincoln bedroom “scandal”.

Republicans accused the president of using the White House to raise campaign funds and sought an independent prosecutor to investigate the fund-raising. Bill Clinton’s defense was “We got strict advice about -- legal advice -- about what the rules were and everyone involved knew what the rules were. Did we hope that the people that came there would support me, particularly after we got into a political season? Of course we did. But there was no solicitation during the events and the guidelines, which I believe were made available to you also yesterday in the documents, made it clear that there was to be no price tags on these events." Republicans disagreed with this assertion citing the use of government property and government assets for political purposes.

The Associated Press reported in March 2004 “President Bush opened the White House and Camp David to dozens of overnight guests last year, including foreign dignitaries, family friends and at least nine of his biggest campaign fund-raisers, documents show.”

Why aren’t the Republicans up in arms about the use of the Presidency and the White House for their fundraising? Isn’t what’s good for the goose, good for the gander?

9/11 Criminal Behavior Unpunished, Layers of Whistleblowers Pay the Price

(AP) A disaster supply management company stole items donated for 9/11, shipped them to Minnesota and sold them on the open market. Employees of Keiger Industries said they saw the company steal 45 tons of goods valued at several hundred thousand dollars, including donated bottled water, clothes, tools, and generators. After reporting their concerns to a company executive, the two men were ordered to keep quiet. Instead they went to the FBI.

The whistleblowers paid the price, losing their job, receiving death threats, and getting blackballed from the disaster relief industry. They hoped justice would be done but to date no charges have been filed for the theft of items in question and the FBI has curious reason for not doing so. It claims it would have to prosecute FBI agents, a top FBI executive and the Secretary of Defense for making off with 9/11 souvenirs.

The lead FBI agent on the case, Jane Turner said the government became “very conscious of the fact that if they proceeded in one direction, they would have to proceed in the other, which meant prosecuting FBI agents." As a result of the FBI’s inaction Ms. Turner became a whistleblower alleging the bureau tried to fire her for bringing the stolen artifacts to light.

End result of the case, the company has not been charged with the thefts to date. The two KEI employee whistleblowers received $30,000 each from a civil suit against KEI. The lead FBI agent turned whistleblower retired in 2003. Sec. Donald Rumsfeld gets to keep his momento of 9/11 taken from the Pentagon. All 16 government employees with 9/11 souvenirs are neither disciplined or prosecuted. The FBI donated the unsold stolen 9/11 supplies found at KEI’s warehouse to the Salvation Army.

Recently the government went to the Supreme Court to stem the rights of whistleblowers. Apparently President Bush’s strategy is not to stem the illegal or unethical behavior, but to prevent it from seeing the light of day. It certainly calls to question his stated "zero tolerance" for people stealing things after a disaster.

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author's initials

Thursday, June 15, 2006

First Wave Due to Enter Predator Stimulus Minimization Centers, 2nd Group Identified in Arkansas

(AP) President Bush announced a crackdown on illegal immigrants of the most dangerous kind. Federal agents rounded up over 2,100 illegals the last three weeks going after child molesters, violent gang members, and past deportees who re-entered the country. This group will be the first to enter the President’s Predator Stimulus Minimization Centers. Child molesters prey on children, violent gang members on unsuspecting citizens, and past deportees prey on Americans looking for good paying jobs.

A second group of harmful people is next on the slate for detention in the President’s centers, designed to keep the average and normal American’s marriage safe. Homosexuals of any legal immigration status are scheduled to join the dangerous illegal aliens. As the state of Arkansas noted in determining its foster parent rules, homosexuals endanger "children’s moral and spiritual welfare". The gay roundup will start in Little Rock and work its way out concentrically, until all of Arkansas is covered.

The President anticipates a third wave joining those detained for the safety of others, child molesters that are legal citizens but not Roman Catholic Priests. Negotiations with the Vatican are ongoing as to how those dangerous "men of God" will be quarantined from the general population. Once those details are hammered out, the White House will announce the deal with much fanfare. Tony Snow hinted at a banner that says “Mission Accomplished: Americans Safe at Home”.

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post signifies the author’s initials and much of this post is fiction, untrue, made up. Only the first 2 sentences are true.

Michael Gerson Gets Pulitzer as He Leaves White House

(AP) President Bush’s longtime chief speechwriter is leaving, the latest in high profile retirements within the White House. Michael Gerson’s contributions included fusing spiritual language into the President’s speeches. Michael was promoted from speechwriter to senior advisor in Bush’s second term. He is leaving to pursue other writing and policy work.

Mr. Gerson’s timing is impeccable as he just won a Pulitzer Prize for his broad and deep fiction compilation, crafted in his term at the White House. From “first dollar health care coverage” to “no senior will have to choose between medicines and food, rent, and electrical bills”, President Bush delivered Michael’s fine fictional prose.

The award should increase Mr. Gerson’s employability on K Street. Numerous business and trade groups would love to hire an insider with such storytelling capalities. Might the Carlyle Group hire him? They need someone to explain why their subsidiary, LifeCare Hospitals’ 24 patient deaths post Hurricane Katrina were completely omitted from the White House’s Lessons Learned Report. Do Michael Gerson’s skills also include editing? If so, Carlyle owes him a favor, and a cush job might be a nice way to pay the accomplished author back!

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post is the author’s initials and this post is fiction except for the parts about Mr. Gerson leaving and the Lesson’s Learned report omitting the LifeCare deaths. Those are true!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bush Calls Democrats Terrorists or Did He Call Terrorists, Democrats?

(AP) President Bush on Monday, June 12th had this to say about terrorists in Iraq. “But the enemy doesn't stand for anything. They have no message of hope. They have no positive philosophy.” Had I jumped in on just these words, I likely would have thought the President to be referring to Democrats. His remarks were on the insurgency in Iraq.

This morning in a Rose Garden Press Conference he said something different. “But al Qaeda is real; their philosophy is a real philosophy; they have ambitions. Their stated goal is to drive us out of Iraq before a government can defend itself and govern itself and sustain itself, so they can have safe haven from which to launch further attacks.”

The insurgency does not stand for anything, terrorists don’t stand for anything, Democrats don’t stand for anything, thus terrorist insurgents equal Democrats. Now al Qaeda has a real philosophy but it is mean and filled with hate. It only tears down and has nothing substantive to offer, much like the Democrats. Was that President Bush’s aim in these two talks, to plant straw men and let the public connect the dots?

One need only look at the body count under the current U.S. administration to know what the homegrown version of terrorist looks like. American ideals of a fair trial and freedom from torture have gone over the falls in a wooden barrel. And the barrel’s packer acts like he had nothing to do with it when he blames the Supreme Court for the delay in giving detainees trials and says America does not torture while issuing signing statements giving him the right to do so. Will the barrel rise to surface after hitting the water? The Army’s new Field Manual might just sink it completely. If our President is hunting for terrorists he need only look in the mirror.

Southern Baptists Consider Exit Strategy from Public Schools = Wallet Fattening for Political & Corporate Heavyweights

(AP) A committee of the Southern Baptist Convention will report on a resolution encouraging the denomination to develop an exit strategy from public schools in favor of home schooling or private education.

Little do they know they are playing into the same hands that count on their votes at election time! Behind the Republican Party’s religious front lies a framework of interconnected business interests. Do the Southern Baptists know how many leading Republicans are involved with for profit education companies?

Bill Bennett (of fallen morals fame) co-founded K12, Inc. which “delivers comprehensive learning programs that include curriculum, tools, materials, and an innovative lesson delivery system”. That it is owned by Knowledge Universe, a for profit investment company specializing in education is not mentioned. In addition to K12, KU owns Kinder Care Learning Centers and LeapFrog. Launched with public fanfare, Knowledge Universe has become a shadowy, secretive organization.

President George H. W. Bush and many members of his administration worked for a Washington, D.C. based investment house. The Carlyle Group even has a Pennsylvania Avenue address for its corporate headquarters. Carlyle just signed a deal to purchase Oriental Trading Company the largest direct marketer of party supplies including school supplies and children’s arts and crafts. It outsources product manufacturing to China, where Carlyle has a fast growing presence. The company specifically mentions individual consumers, teachers, schools and churches as key customer groups.

Carlyle has in its portfolio BlackBoard, Inc. which allows education providers to put their services online and Varsity Group, Inc a leading retailer of textbooks. In 2005 the company purchased Wall Street Institute from Laureate Education, formerly Sylvan Learning Centers. WSI is a global provider of English language instruction services. The company’s press release noted “Founded in Italy in 1972, WSI has become a global operator and franchisor of English language instruction services with more than 285 centers and operations in 24 countries.” Might they in a position to benefit from the mandatory English training for newly legal immigrants?

Carlyle also owns Comark Building Systems which manufactures modular buildings for military, government, and education markets. Might the private sector be able to provide to an interested church the whole package for a new private, faith based school? From curriculum to textbooks to school supplies to the building itself, American for profit corporations are ready to serve.

Mr. Lou Gertsner, the Chairman of the Carlyle Group, has a strong interest in education. His press announcement from Carlyle announcing his employment included the following, “A lifetime advocate of the importance of quality education, Mr. Gerstner co-chairs Achieve, an organization created by U.S. governors and business leaders to drive high academic standards for public schools in the United States.” Two of Achieve’s Board members are in severe legal trouble, Governor Bob Taft of Ohio and Governor Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky. Gov. Taft is in trouble for not reporting thousands of dollars in free golf games and other gifts and is currently under the microscope for his role in mismanaging state investments. Gov. Fletcher is under indictment for giving protected state jobs as political favors.

Apparently that effort did not please Lou Gertsner as shortly after the press announcement he started his own initiative to improve education. His bio states “A lifetime advocate of the importance of quality education, Mr. Gerstner created in 2003 The Teaching Commission to develop specific policy recommendations to deal with the teaching crisis America is facing.” One of the people Lou selected for the Commission, Mrs. Barbara Bush, the President’s mother. She is founder and honorary chairman of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

In soliciting venture capital proposals Carlyle is only seeking education deals in the U.S., not in Europe or Asia. What makes the U.S. education market ripe for venture capitalists to make money? Is the trend toward non public education, the wave the Southern Baptist Convention appears ready to surf?

Since when did education become big business one might ask? Sylvan Learning Centers was sold to Laureate Education, Inc. Laureate decided to focus on worldwide higher learning spinning off the secondary and elementary education to Educate, Inc in 2003. The primary owner of Educate is Apollo Advisors, L.P. described by Hoover’s as a vulture investment house. Apollo owns over 22.5 million shares of Educate, traded as EEEE. The company includes The Learning Center, Sylvan Online, Hooked on Phonics and Catapult Learning, a tutoring service.

While the Carlyle Group is full of ex-Republican political insiders, other investment houses have their connections. An Apollo subsidiary recently appointed ex-Senate Majority Leader, Tom Daschle to their board in March of 2006. Tom happens to share lobbying office space with Senator Bob Dole and ex Medicare chief Tom Scully in the offices of Alston & Bird in Washington, D.C. Despite spending significant time rubbing elbows with conservative Republicans in the workplace, Mr. Daschle has indicated he is ready to re-enter the fight, throwing his name in the Presidential ring for 2008. Or maybe he missed the corporate money trough, constantly filled by lobbyists and corporate contributors.

It appears lots of people are making money off the government’s shifting of education functions to the private sector. One company, Kaplan saw its revenue grow from $494 million in 2001 to almost $1.5 billion in 2005.

That the faithful are helping fatten the wallets of those in power is a time honored tradition. That our “feuding leaders” can get together outside the halls of government to make money is another time honored tradition.

While they appear to be on different sides, it appears both Republicans and Democrats have but one backer, one benefactor and it is not the common man, much less the average citizen.

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post represents the author's initials

Update 11-15-14:  Eight years later finds profiteers have exited (cashed in) on the K12s and actual performance fell short of promises.  

Bush Suggests Oil Trust 3 Years After Nixing Idea Himself

(AP) President Bush suggested an Alaska like oil trust to the new Iraqi Prime Minister during his surprise one on one visit to Baghdad. The trust would ensure all Iraqis have a stake in the country's oil revenues. Citizen's in Alaska have participated in their state's rich oil resources for decades.

Three years ago President Bush, as the Commander in Chief and employer of Paul Bremer of Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority, nixed that very same idea. Instead he issued an Executive Order declaring Iraq's oil industry and any companies or persons working on its behalf to be above the law. No lawsuits could be brought against the oils for any reason.

When a democracy makes a rule of law that a whole industry is "above the law", is it still a democracy? When a President acts like he is offering a good idea to a new leader when he rejected that very same idea years before, is he being sincere? How might 3 years of Iraqis receiving oil revenue checks have changed behavior in that country?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Karl’s Free to Make November Elections Most Malodorous

(AP) Free from possible charges in the investigation of the White House’s outing of a CIA agent, Karl Rove can now turn his full attention to the November elections. Expect rancor, polarization, demeaning personal attacks, even illegal behavior as the architect designs the upcoming elections for Republican advantage.

Expect obscene amounts of money to be raised and spent on attack campaigns. Watch as democracy plummets once again from its elevating ideal of electing leaders who serve into voting for the least disgusting, self serving candidate, neither of which you would invite to dinner for pleasant and civil conversation.

Karl found out the good news last night after landing in New Hampshire for a fundraiser. The state Republican Party could use the donations, having spent over $700,000 defending James Tobin for illegal acts by interfering with an election. That Mr. Tobin is a Bush fundraising heavyweight, achieving Ranger status, is usually left out of news articles on his conviction.

While raising money, Karl pointed directly at issues he will use to divide Americans this fall, the American economic juggernaut and the war in Iraq. He believes the economy is strong and Republicans should not hesitate to promote its vigor. Karl also said the party should not have any qualms defending the war in Iraq. And the best to defend is to conduct an offensive, personal attack so Karl lit into Rep. John Murtha and Sen. John Kerry.

What will the American people do this fall? How many will tune in and how many will turn off? Karl’s plans are for his supporters to tune in and vote like crazy. Turning off large numbers of people to “democratic” elections might not be such a bad strategy after all.

P.S. The AP at the beginning of the post signifies the author's initials.

U.S. Developing New Nuclear Weapon: Another Reason to Deep Six U.N. Report

(AP) As the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission gave their report to the United Nations on June 1st it fell to the floor in a resounding thud. The American media silence was followed up by our U.N. Ambassador’s blasting the U.N. on a related issue. The press release for the WMDC report states:

The Commission’s members state that common global efforts to achieve arms limitations and disarmament have stagnated. After 50 years of cold war, we even see the risk of arms races involving new types of nuclear weapons, space weapons, and missiles.

The United States approved the development of a new nuclear weapon in 2005 to replace its aging arsenal of over 6,000 nuclear warheads. The measure to develop the reliable replacement warhead was included in the defense appropriations bill passed with bipartisan support. No mention has been made of its compliance with the United States commitments under the nuclear nonproliferation agreement.

Despite previous agreements not to weaponize space, the United States made this a prime objective in 2005. The pattern of behavior suggests America is leading the arms race once again. That other countries are following suit is clear. It is evidenced in China’s military buildup, numerous countries developing nuclear weapons outside the nonproliferation agreement, and leaders on most continents devoting a greater percentage of their budget to the military and weapons.

The Commission made 60 recommendations to reduce the worldwide threat of weapons of mass destruction beginning with nuclear weapons.

At the top are recommendations that all governments must accept the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that was agreed on 10 years ago, that states currently possessing nuclear weapons must reduce their arsenals and that they stop producing plutonium and highly enriched uranium for more nuclear weapons.

The world must aim at achieving a ban both on the possession and the use of nuclear weapons, in the same way as bans that apply to biological and chemical weapons. All states, even the great powers, must prepare to live without nuclear weapons and other weapons of terror.

The United States is not prepared to do such at a thing at this time, thus the report rapidly disappeared from view, followed up by a John Bolton attack on the United Nations. The Commission called for a summit in New York to work on the 60 recommendations. Will it ever occur? If not, who is working against it?