Thursday, August 31, 2006

Not Welcome Under Republicans Big Tent, Taxi Drivers!

Senator Conrad Burns keeps delivering the lines. On top of his bragging of his “little Guatemalan” yard man and criticizing Virginia firefighters for doing a “piss poor” job, the Laurel to Senator Allen’s Hardy keeps the repartee going.

Republican Sen. Conrad Burns says the United States is up against a faceless enemy of terrorists who "drive taxi cabs in the daytime and kill at night."

I can only conclude the Republican big tent is open to macacas, little Guatemalan men but no taxi drivers are allowed. Will they be able to drop off their clients for the big elephant show? Conrad would say only if proper security precautions have been taken. I see large concrete planters and taxi sniffing dogs. Won’t their lack of faces give them away?

Medicare’s Sorry Chemo Study Portends What?

The esteemed Senator from Iowa recently lambasted cancer doctors for devising a nefarious program to enrich the already rich via a chemotherapy study. The Inspector General found Medicare’s study to be poorly designed and implemented.

In November 2004, Dr. Mark McClellan bragged about this innovative study.

“We are working with the National Cancer Institute, oncologists, and the cancer community to develop better evidence to design the best possible treatment decisions for our beneficiaries. There are too many unanswered questions in cancer care today fro seniors and people with disabilities, and Medicare will help develop more practical evidence to improve care.”

Some suggest the $300 million paid to oncologists for participating in the study helped make up for an estimated $500 million decrease in their Medicare reimbursement to private oncology offices that provide chemotherapy services for 2005. This could be the reason Senator Grassley blames “greedy physicians”.

I reviewed some of the Medicare communication to physicians’ offices on the study and found several concerns. The document specifically says “we are not mandating a specific approach to collect the data”. It could be collected by the physician or a member of their office staff. While Medicare wants clinical information, it does not specify a clinician collect the information.

My other concern is in regard to the lack of operation definitions for the measures of interest, nausea, pain, and lack of energy. Under each area patients self report "not at all", "a little", "quite a bit", or "very much". This data is subjective and responses will vary by patient with no clarification as to the difference between a little and quite a bit or very much. Were Medicare truly interested in this data, they would have given the patient a log book to record the patient’s experience on all three measures throughout the course of treatment. Definitions would be included that aided the patient in accurately recording their experiences.

That a demonstration project could be so poorly planned and executed is disturbing enough. That it’d been intended as a bribe or a pain reduction strategy is even more discouraging. What does that portend for the Bush administration’s big quality push? Are huge payment reductions just around the corner? With the Bush plans to cut reimbursement for pacemakers is a big cardiac study on its way?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

That Sandbagging Bush Administration Undercounts on Uninsured?

Why did the number of Americans without health insurance for 2004 change in the last 12 months? The August 2005 report issued by the Census Bureau said:

In 2004, 45.8 million people were without health insurance coverage, up from 45.0 million people in 2003

What did the just released 2006 report say the number of uninsured were in ’04?

In 2005, 46.6 million people were without health insurance coverage, up from 45.3 million people in 2004

What happened to half a million people? If the original number was correct and the increase 1.3 million, then America really has 47.1 million uninsureds. This joined the series of unanswered questions posed to my elected representatives.

Defense Contractor CEO Pay Doubles Since 9-11

A study shows CEO’s of companies with extensive defense contracts are being paid almost double what they earned prior to September 11th, 2001. The pay is a combination of salary, bonuses and stock options.

Less than two weeks ago I looked at the needy defense industry, given extra time to fully fund their employee pension programs by Congress.

I found companies doing extremely well. CEO’s claim their performance enabled them to earn their increased income. How come it doesn’t enable them to fund their pension obligations in a manner consistent with other American employers?

The whole method of CEO pay is a farce, based on false assumptions, bad theory. Incentive pay and pay for performance will be the undoing of many organizations, as it encourages sub-optimization. Rather than focus on the work, people focus on their pay, what they need to do to manipulate it. There will be many more Ken Lays and Richard Scrushys. It is predictable.

Bird Flu Government’s Back Up Plan to Deal with Illegal Immigration?

As scientists test for bird flu in Alaska, the Census Department released new data on the number of uninsured in America. The number grew by 1.3 million to 46.6 million people. Nearly 9.5 million uninsureds are illegal immigrants. In July Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, quit covering illegal immigrants.

While they comprise only 20% of our countries uninsured, Republican lawmakers act as if they are the major cause of America’s problem. Normally the 80-20 rule operates the other way, but then again they confuse root cause with proximate cause.

The federal plan to deal with a bird flu pandemic is woefully inadequate. Anti-viral stockpiles and flu shots won’t come close to covering America’s nearly 300 million people. The feds will be lucky to help one sixth of the U.S. population. Government officials ensured they’re in that one sixth in the flu pandemic plan.

The end result is 5/6 of Americans will be on their own, at risk for death and disability from a flu outbreak. Market forces will take over, even if they’re black market. How will the 9.5 million illegal immigrants fare, especially the poor ones no longer on Medicaid?

I don’t think Republicans are purposefully planning for people in America to perish in a bird flu epidemic, yet their woeful product ensures such a result. However, their intentional dropping of illegal immigrants from Medicaid will harm the country’s response to a bird flu outbreak, should one occur. With millions of people trying to lay low and stay under the radar, both surveillance and early intervention become much more challenging.

The Stricken Body Politic

With the fall election campaign ready to kick into full gear post Labor Day weekend, how fares America’s body politic? The right and the left sides still function per orders from the opposite side of the brain. The problem arises from the aftermath of the series of strokes rendering the two sides of the brain incapable of communicating with each other.

The first stoke occurred with the advent of the permanent campaign, where candidates essentially never stop running for office. Every move is couched in win/lose. The following series of strokes happened after selling the elected soul for campaign donations, the parlaying of political influence into financial gain.

With money and prestige as the reward elections became hyper-competitive, rendering larger parts of the brain inoperable. Thus the right side of the body operates on orders from the left which is incapable of communicating with its counterpart. The left side, controlled by the right brain does its own thing. Thus the body politic flails around uncontrollably.

And politicians wonder why people don’t vote? When we find a person in such a state, we call an ambulance. Why shouldn’t we do likewise here?

Early Verdict on Bush Health Care Plans, Money Wasted

President Bush’s recent Executive Order included a mandate to measure and reward quality. A news report suggested an early step in this direction to be a waste of money.

Cancer doctors received about $275 million from the federal government and the elderly last year as part of a yearlong research project that many doctors believe won't produce any useful findings. In a report to be released Wednesday, the inspector general for the Health and Human Services Department cast doubt on whether the money was well-spent. He questioned the integrity of the data that doctors submitted.

"We identified numerous anomalies and gaps in the data and collection methods," said the report from Inspector General Daniel Levinson. Levinson concluded the report by calling the data "unreliable."

Congress appropriated the money, Health & Human Services designed and conducted the study via Medicare and guess who’s being blamed for this? Doctors, yes those greedy doctors are being blamed! The same Senator who wants to tax pimps, whores and non profit hospitals weighed in:

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said taxpayers and beneficiaries were "bilked" because they paid for services that physicians are already supposed to provide.

"It looks like the Medicare program has played games and used demonstration projects, whose legitimate purpose is to test new and innovative ideas for delivering health care, for questionable purposes," Grassley added.

From the article it appears the study designers to be at fault.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regularly carries out research, but the chemotherapy project is by far the biggest. It was estimated to cost $300 million, including the beneficiaries' copays.

Who designed the study and implemented it? Who decided to pay $130 per assessment? Did someone in HHS do this or was it contracted out to the private sector?

Recall the Bush emphasis on quality measures? Medicare representatives used this as their defense.

"We're trying to go from a system that is completely blind to what goes on in the doctor's office to one that is highly informed and very helpful to the practicing doctor and to the beneficiary through transparency and quality measures," said Dr. Peter B. Bach, a senior adviser at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Unfortunately, this crew doesn’t know how to get there. At least that’s the opinion of the Inspector General.

This is the new third new growth industry created by Bush strategies. The first centered fostered widespread education testing, the second innovative intelligence gathering, and now health care price and quality information.

The Bush team operates without profound knowledge. As Dr. Deming, the famed quality guru said:

“We are being ruined by best efforts.” & “We should by guided by theory, not by numbers.”

Bush continues to deliver his best efforts without theory.

Democracy? Not Anymore

When the Vice President can say a list of people under his employ is classified information and a U.S. Senator can keep secret government contracts worth $2.5 trillion something is very wrong in River City.

Meanwhile Dick Cheney derides Russia for controlling information and Donald Rumsfeld accuses China of being nontransparent. Where’s Pogo when you need him?

Who Pays These People to “Serve” in Congress?

Those expecting intelligent analysis and thoughtful strategies from our elected representatives continue to be disappointed. The latest Census numbers on poverty and health insurance just hit the newsstands. Poverty stayed the same at roughly 37 million people while the number of uninsured rose another 1.3 million to 46.6 million.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said immigrants are skewing the health insurance statistics. "As the Census Bureau's report (Tuesday) indicated, the group most likely to be without health insurance in America is, in fact, not American at all," Barton said. "Non-citizens swell the ranks of the uninsured dramatically when they arrive in America with hopes and dreams, but without insurance."

About a third of all immigrants - legal and illegal - were without health insurance last year, according to the Census Bureau's report. About 13.4 percent of people born in the U.S. had no health insurance.

What Joe failed to mention is the number of uninsured illegals increased by only 20,000 from 9,469,000 to 9,487,000 (see Table 8). This means 1.28 million or 98% of the increase in uninsureds came from red blooded American citizens. It appears not many of them arrived last year or the Census Bureau failed to count them. Either way, Joe looks uninformed.

While foreign born non citizens make up 20 percent of the uninsured, Congress has worked hard to insure this problem remains. Just last month Medicaid implemented rules restricting coverage to American citizens.

That leaves 80% of the uninsured full blooded Americans. What plans does Joe Barton have for them to get affordable health care coverage? None. His party’s signature strategy is for people to self insure for the first $1,000 to $10,000 using tax free dollars. Kansas farmer’s experience with such plans shows one third of under 65 farmers carrying significant medical debt.

So while Joe Barton points at the 20% claiming it to be the main factor, Republicans are going to shaft the 80% with more financial responsibility. As we know from last summer the Republican mantra is “You’re On Your Own!”

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bush Record on Health Insurance and Poverty

The U.S. Census Bureau likes to hide statistical changes using two and three year averages. Below are the raw numbers on the number of uninsured since President Bush has been in office.

2001 41.2 million
2005 46.6 million
Total increase 5.37 million
Percentage increase 13%

Switching to poverty, how has the Bush team’s policies performed?

2001 32.9 million
2005 36.9 million
Total increase 4 million
Percentage increase 12%

There you have it, the Bush policies at work!

Rumsfeld Raises Specter of Christian Hitler

Just when I thought Senator Santorum would deliver a Hitler analogy, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld beats him to the punch. Donald delivered the comparison in his speech to members of the American Legion. The news reported on his message.

Rumsfeld portrayed the administration's critics as suffering from "moral or intellectual confusion" about what threatens the nation's security. His remarks amounted to one of his most pointed defenses of President Bush' war policies and was among his toughest attacks on Bush's critics.

Speaking to several thousand veterans at the American Legion's national convention, Rumsfeld recited what he called the lessons of history, including the failure to confront Hitler. He quoted Winston Churchill as observing that trying to accommodate Hitler was "a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last."

"I recount this history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism," he said.

"Can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?" he asked.

"Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America - not the enemy - is the real source of the world's troubles?"

Just to be clear about this blogger’s opinions, I don’t believe pathological narcissists can be accommodated. The question in my mind is which world leaders fit that profile. As I look around I see a number of candidates, the Iranian President and the U.S. President both seem to meet the criteria. Why not conduct a “mental evaluation test off” to resolve which leaders are incapable of mutually cooperative and beneficial relationships?

As for the extremists the main question is what methods work best to identify and neutralize them? War as the primary strategy already seems an abject failure.

The view that American is the source of the world’s troubles is shared by the world, which in this case would be the customer. In a two party relationship, normally things aren’t always one way, unless you happen to be George Bush.

There are moderate leaders in place in most Muslim countries. The question is how to support these people in effective ways to reduce the impact and threat of fundamentalists. Come to think of it, a few Christian nations face the same challenge.

Didn’t Hitler use his Christianity to oppress others? It’s amazing how things come around in a circle. In one short piece, Donald Rumsfeld could come back to where he started, but he won’t as he uses propaganda as well as the one he reviles.

Bush High Deductible Plans Already Used by Farmers

The President’s signature strategy to reform healthcare already is in use by many farmers. To save money, many younger farmers purchase high deductible health plans. A study by The Access Project revealed one in six farmers had high medical debt. Netting out older persons covered by Medicare, the number rose to one in three reporting significant medical bills. Ninety percent reported owing money to doctors and hospitals.

The Bush plan aims to spread the farmer experience nationwide. What does this mean for the average American? More medical debt as businesses and government cut back their responsibility. President Bush is the head cheerleader on high deductible insurance plans and health savings accounts. He’s using his megaphone to make the average citizen less well off. The farmer experience is concrete evidence of this fact.

Republican Tent Big Enough for “Macacas” & “Little Guatemalan Men”

The inclusive Republican Party recently extended invitations to specific groups to come under their broad tent. Senator George Allen invited all “macacas” to come inside while Senator Conrad Burns reached out to all “little Guatemalan men” to join him in the shade.

Monkey and midgets under a big tent, what’s going on here? Does this make VP Cheney and Sec Rumsfeld lion tamers? And Condi, I can see her on the tightrope walk. She needs a net given her myopia.

And who’s the guy in the top hat as it’s hard to tell from a distance? Is that George Bush or Karl Rove? Yes, its Circus time again courtesy of America’s political party system.

Bush to Remember What His Lessons Learned Report Didn’t Mention?

While remembering the victims of Hurricane Katrina will President Bush honor the 24 patients who died in The Carlyle Group’s LifeCare Hospital? His White House Lessons Learned Report completely omits any mention of these deaths. Will he acknowledge them today on the one year anniversary of the storm’s landfall?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Santorum’s Sanitarium

In Senator Rick Santorum’s world terrorists target the U.S. because they hate our freedom, our way of life The problem is several of the terrorist groups have not targeted Americans or our interests abroad. Hamas and Hezbollah do not meet the good Senator’s criteria.

How might that change with the U.S. rush shipping cluster bombs to Israel in the middle of their revenge inspired assault on the fledgling Lebanese democracy? Rick didn’t speak to that, but he did compare the current war on Islamic fascism to World War II. Can a Hitler Ahmadinejad juxtaposition be far behind?

Rumsfeld May Lose His Pluto Platform in Planet Reclassification

Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld may lose his favorite podium from which he analyzes the world scene should Pluto be reclassified as a minor planet. This would cause him to move his sights closer to Earth. Consider his basic comments in the last few days.

1. North Korea is not a military threat to South Korea

2. The United States missile defense system may not be able to handle multiple missiles targeting the West Coast. The dangerous launcher would be North Korea.

How is North Korea a bigger threat to the U.S. than to their southern neighbor? What else did Rummy say?

3. The American people don’t like war, but “terrorist communication” is the reason as they unfairly claim U.S. soldiers kill innocent people

Who killed the 30,000 innocent Iraqi cited by President Bush? As for manipulating the media, who did the Pentagon blame for Pat Tillman’s death in Afghanistan until the 3rd or 4th investigation revealed “friendly fire”?

I’m afraid American’s have a little more smarts than the Bush cabal. Many understand root cause to be deeper than the immediately preceding event. Two thirds of U.S. citizens fail to understand how Iraq is ground zero for the war on terror when Sunni fundamentalist Muslims are fighting Shiite fundamentalist Muslims. The Islamo-fascists aren’t even one group.

Just as fundamentalist Christians feel their world is under attack, ergo last winter’s War on Christmas, fundy Muslims feel likewise. Donald spoke to that today.

4. "The enemy lies constantly - almost totally without consequence. They portray our cause as a war on Islam when in fact the overwhelming majority of victims of their terrorism have been thousands and thousands of innocent Muslims - men, women and children - they have killed."

Bush and Rumsfeld claim to be number junkies, so what’s the total? To date how many innocent people have died as a result of U.S. military action vs. terrorist activity? What’s the total on each side? That’s right the Pentagon doesn’t track that statistic!

Once the Pluto situation is settled, Sec. Rumsfeld will know whether he can keep his perch or needs to move. My vote is to send him further out, Xena the female warrior could need an inhabitant. Might Donald volunteer?

The Group that Can’t Investigate Straight

Let me get this straight, the group that sat on their hands for a month blocking all international attempts to cease violence in Lebanon, the administration that approved a rush order of munitions to the aggressor, actually plans to conduct an investigation into Israel’s us of cluster bombs. This same group has a sorry history in conducting credible investigations.

Its Hurricane Katrina Lessons Learned report doesn’t come close to including the basics of an investigation as it leaves unclear who was responsible for what and how they performed. One might think a hospital with 24 patient deaths would warrant mention in the report, but The Carlyle Group’s LifeCare Hospitals got a free pass.

Numerous internal investigations remain “unfinished”, including the CIA agent leak. The Pat Tillman shooting death is on its 5th 6th iteration. It went from an ambush to a shooting by friendly fire.

Yes, this is the group looking into Israel’s use of cluster bombs, the weapons that keeps on maiming and killing. Want to bet the recipient of $2.4 billion in military aid gets a free pass? My money’s on that. With a wider conflict with Iran on the books there will be no Reagan like ban on selling the Israeli’s such weapons for 6 years.

U.S. Defense manufacturers need to keep sending the green to Republican candidates for their re-election campaigns. Reducing their revenue stream would be an unsightly thing for corporate profits. Companies making cluster bombs in America include AeroJet, Alliant Tech Systems, General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Textron Defense Systems.

General Atomics and Dirty California Politicians

Just days ago State found the “private contractor” responsible for the explosion at a Louisiana military base licensed its technology from a division of General Atomics. In a fun game of the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, I wondered how far I might have to go to find connections to “dirty politicians”.

It turned out not very far as GA donated regularly to the Randy "Duke" Cunningham campaign. This morning’s news indicates the dirty laundry to be much heavier than just "Randy Randy".

A receptionist in Rep. Jerry Lewis’ office parlayed her phone answering expertise into huge lobbying money from defense contractors. Admittedly she grew to the height of the Representative’s defense aide before joining a lobbying firm with another Lewis friend, ex. Rep. Bill Lowery.

Rep. Lewis is the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. The potential case of corruption is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s office. They’ve issued 10 subpoenas and reviewed financial disclosure statements.

Concerning details reported by the AP include:

During the year prior to her departure from Lewis' office, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported, her income dropped by around $11,000, to just $80 below the $112,500 salary ceiling that would have triggered an automatic one-year ban on her lobbying of Lewis.

The day after leaving the Hill, on Jan. 9, 2003, White signed up a major client, General Atomics, along with one of its aeronautics subsidiaries. The companies received several multimillion-dollar earmarks that year in the defense spending bill for the 2004 fiscal year, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, including $3 million for General Atomics to provide anti-terror systems at Liberty Island, home to the Statue of Liberty, and $15.3 million for the aeronautics division to develop unmanned aerial vehicles.

Earmarks are funding inserted into legislation that often get little or no review. Prosecutors are scrutinizing Lewis' earmarks as part of the federal probe.

By the end of 2003, White had signed up about 15 more clients, mostly defense contractors, and was bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees. Her clients were enjoying similar success to General Atomics in getting earmarks. White, her husband lobbyist Richard White, and her firm's clients were donating generously to Lewis' fundraising committees.

During the 2004 election cycle, officials with General Atomics were the second-highest donors to Lewis' campaign committee, giving $18,000; another White client, Isothermal System Research, was third-highest, giving $14,000; and officials with Copeland, Lowery were fourth-highest, giving $13,250, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Tens of thousands more was donated to the political action committee Lewis used to spread campaign cash to other lawmakers as he gunned for the Appropriations Committee chairmanship.

This all happened on the Bush watch, where the incestuous relationships between government and industry rivals anything in history. Who wants to bet, the inquiry shows no illegal behavior? My money is on a clean bill for both the ex-receptionist and Rep. Jerry Lewis as they already have their Cunningham/Abramoff scapegoats. Now that would be comical!

P.S. Rep. Lewis’ top campaign supporter of all time is none other than General Atomics, coming in at nearly $80,000.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Anniversary of Bush’s Losing His Mantra & Street Cred

The one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina arrives next week. In an attempt to look anything other than flat footed for the second time, President Bush made the recovery the topic of his White House radio address.

Americans vividly recall the widespread human suffering, so poorly addressed by a President who left his vacation in Crawford early to “manage” the federal response. After weeks glued to the TV, the people knew deep down our leaders failed us. It broke our hearts and spirits to know something worse than 9-11 could be visited on American citizens through our leaders’ inattention and incompetence. The analogy that comes to mind is a physician treating a lost limb with a band aid.

The White House Lessons Learned report promised to fix that. Returning to the analogy, the report clearly describes the size of the wound, then brags about the heroism of the physician who applied of the band aid. Bush booted the job and his report is a cover up in more ways than one. How did The Carlyle Group’s LifeCare Hospital where 24 patients died post Katrina not warrant one mention in the 300 page report? Which Pennsylvania Avenue address wrote the report?

The Rhetoric of War Accelerates Downhill

For intentional violence, death and destruction to be unleashed, there must be “good reasons”. This morning’s news filled with the rhetoric of war.

Hawk columnist Clifford May had this to say:

Allowing (an Iranian Islamic Superpower) to happen would represent a mistake of historic proportions, akin to enabling the rise of Hitler in the 1930’s……Should a fanatical, oil rich, nuclear armed, terrorist sponsoring superpower arise in the Middle East, the consequences would be dire.

Only a small percentage of Europeans are prepared to do what is necessary to resist tyranny. That leaves the problem for America to solve….To prevail in the current global conflict will be no cakewalk. It will require enormous determination, courage, energy and creativity. There will be casualties. There will be setbacks. Americans will not be loved. They will be reviled—not just by our enemies but also by those we seek to defend.

In the past Americans were up to such challenges. They refused to give up or to give into those they recognized as enemies of freedom. We will soon learn if the current generation is made of the same hardy stuff.

Clifford’s column not only points to the path of war, it greases it with a spirited pep rally. Go America!

Now, what hardy stuff do Americans need to undertake all out war against Iran? Do they need evidence of a threat, an imminent danger? This morning’s news delivered on this as well.

AP Headline: Defying U.N., Iran Opens Nuclear Reactor

This could lead one to believe, Iran has an operating nuclear reactor, one capable of producing material for a nuclear weapon without proper safeguards. Yet the article clearly states “the plant produces heavy water” and “Iran has been a building a heavy water reactor near the plant for two years, but the reactor is not scheduled for completion until 2009.”

How many Americans will skim the headlines, thinking Iranian nuclear weapons to be an immediate danger? Anyone recall Saddam’s searching for yellow cake? The skids are being greased for a roller coaster ride on the Iranian WhipAss, courtesy of Clifford May and the AP.

Once Americans link Ahmadinejad to Hitler, the bar comes down on the bench seat, the car leaves the gate via a catapult launch before crossing the Camel Back and executing a Cobra Roll. Watch out, there are no headrests on this baby, so hold on tight! The challenge will be getting our elected leaders to physically ride the coaster, they’ll just want to appropriate money. The wind might mess up their hair and an election is just around the corner!

My suggestion is save the American taxpayers money. Put Bush and Ahmadinejad in a room and don’t let them out until the issues are resolved, one way or another.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Setup Continues

The news indicates a stepwise deterioration between the U.S. and Iran. Signficant developments this week include:

Bush’s wanting a rapid response to Iran’s refusal to cease uranium enrichment which includes clear consequences.

Israel’s impending delivery of two Dolphin subs capable of firing nuclear missiles virtually undetected

Twelve hundred British troops redeployed to Iraq’s border with Iran to “crack down on weapons smuggling”. Iraqi authorities complained the British departure caught them unaware.

Nukes over Iran's nuclear sites, coming soon...

The Bush/Ahmadinejad pathology almost guarantees it.

More Evidence of Government Industrial Monstrosity

One need not look far to find the sick intertwining of government and industry in America today. Defense, health care, hurricane recovery, education and Iraqi reconstruction are the most obvious offenders.

The data from Katrina reconstruction and Iraqi corruption by American companies shows the Bush mantra of “the always more efficient private sector” to be pure fiction.

The latest picture showing our elected leaders in bed with the private sector, comes courtesy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and America’s Pharmaceutical companies.

The pharmaceutical industry quietly footed the bill for at least part of a recent multimillion-dollar ad campaign praising lawmakers who support the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, according to political officials.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims credit for the ads, although a spokesman refused repeatedly to say whether it had received any funds from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

The officials who described PhRMA's involvement said they did not know whether the industry had given the Chamber money to cover the entire cost of the ads and other elements of an election-year voter mobilization effort, or merely a portion.

It turns out those ads “purchased” by the Chamber for Republican incumbents, had a silent sponsor. In the trade this would be known as a three way.

It’s time to show the American people to going’s on under the sheets. Hopefully, this will result in electing leaders capable of serving the people.

“No Countries Left Un-Nukular”, New Signature Bush Program

Building on the President’s pioneering education initiative the administration formally announced its new standards for international military credibility. “No Child Left Behind” set minimum standards for school systems with a high school education the bar. It prepares the student for any further achievement, college level on up.

“No Countries Left Un-Nukular” recognizes the bar for international respect and credibility lies in a powerful offensive deterrence. It encourages all countries to develop nuclear weapons via two contrasting methods. In one, the U.S. gives full support to countries violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. India and Israel come to mind. Israel will soon receive two German Dolphin subs capable of launching nuclear weapons virtually undetected.

The other strategy is to call countries names, deride their leaders as evil and pathological until they embark on a program to level the weapons of mass destruction playing field. Iran and North Korea fit in this category.

In an odd twist Israel's new subs may just launch the nuclear weapons intended to destroy Iran's fledgling nuclear capability. It could be one big radioactive party.

But the United States having already excelled at the “Nukular” game is elevating the stakes via Space Weapons. By setting a new bar, a higher standard America will be in a position to launch a future program encouraging all countries to invest in methods of war. It could be called “No Space Left Un-Weaponized”.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Escalation Continues as Israel Buys Subs to Launch Nukes

The news reported that Israel will soon have two new nuclear capable submarines. As President Bush said, “the best defense is a good offense” and “what good is an offense if it remains unused”. Not only that terrorists need to be fought “over there” so they won’t make it “over here”. Put all that together and the world is in deep nuclear trouble.

Iran wants nuclear technology to produce power. Their obstinate, pathological leader refuses to work with the international community on his stated aim.

On the other side of the fence are more obstinate, pathological leaders. The United States and Israel have significant nuclear weapon capabilities although Israel hides theirs behind a policy of “nuclear ambiguity”.

The contract to buy the two German made Dolphin submarines was signed July 6th. Germany is picking up 1/3 of the $1.3 billion cost. The German taxpayers just forked over $433 million in taxpayer money for weapons. This pales to U.S. military assistance for Israel in the neighborhood of $2.4 billion.

Less than a week after inking the deal, Israel launched its all out war on Lebanon. One might think adding nuclear capabilities to the region in a time of war to be unwise, unless there is a plan to use such a capacity in the near future? The subs will be delivered "shortly".

A clear message is being sent to President Ahmadinejad. Is he so pathological he cannot see or hear it? His counterpart in the United States has shown his blindness and deafness on numerous issues.

As Gandhi said “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. Well folks, that appears to be where our leaders wish to take us. Stop the planet so we can get off….

Explo Systems, Inc. 3 Steps Away from Duke Cunningham, How Close to Carlyle Group?

An explosion occurred at a Louisiana military base today requiring the evacuation of nearby schools. The contractor charged with safely dismantling military ordinance is Explo Systems, Inc. Information on the company is not widely available as it’s privately held. However, a small town newspaper ran an article about the facility’s open house. Another site listed the square footage the company leases at 237,257 sq. ft.

Otherwise, not much information is available online. Which defense oriented investment house owns this corporation is not yet clear.

However, Explo Systems does license its bomb dismantling technology from a German company, wholly owned by General Atomics, based in San Diego.

The General Atomics donation record to Randy Duke Cunningham is clear.

2004 $10,000
2002 $10,000
2000 No record
1998 $10,000

Did you note Randy’s biggest contributor the 2002 election cycle? It was none other than The Carlyle Group at $23,300.

In 2000 Carlyle gave $5,500 to "Randy Randy". That same election year Carlyle donated nearly $500,000 with 85% going to Republican candidates.

What will come out about this company in light of the incident? If privately held management controls the media, then the public would see very little information.

For the unaware, the aforementioned Carlyle Group made several big forays into the world media market in June. Carlyle is part of a group that purchased VNU, a huge worldwide media company based in New York and the Netherlands. They just hired General Electric’s Vice Chair to work for the company. Carlyle also acquired a stake in Global Media, a web marketing company.

Would anyone like to bet, no bad news regarding any Carlyle Affiliate will hit the stands via VNU or Global Media? They managed to keep their 24 patient deaths in their LifeCare affiliate’s New Orlean's hospital out of the White House Lessons Learned report. That likely relates more to the nearly $500,000 in 2000 campaign donations and Bush Sr.’s past employment by Carlyle than to any media influence.

The question concerning Americans should be, how will the public get the real answers given the incestuous money/relationship ties between the Bush administration and scores of government contractors?

VNU, NV is a leading global marketing information and media company providing "must have" information and industry expertise daily to professionals across the world.

Given Carlyle’s description of VNU, I don’t believe such information would be considered “must have”.

Update 12-3-12:  The Carlyle Group has nothing to do with Explo Systems, however the secretive firm had 6 million pounds of explosives improperly stored.  The discovery caused local authorities to evacuate the town.  One has to wonder how the military conducted quality assurance on Explo's work.  The only word on Explo's ownership is that it is veteran owned.  History shows a series of explosions at Explo facilities 

Diplomats Leak to AP, Iranian Proposal DOA

The conflict escalates between Western world powers and Iran over nuclear technology. Diplomats from two European capitals suggest the six nations comprising the Security Council will reject the Iranian response as it includes no cessation of uranium enrichment.

The diplomats asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the confidential Iranian proposal.

Does anyone else find it odd that career diplomats are leaking information, unless they have been instructed to do so? Welcome to the War of the Words, soon to escalate to the War of the Worlds (if the U.S. and Iranian pathological Presidents get their way).

Bush’s “Just Wait” Retort on Iraqi Democracy Rings Hollow

At last month’s G-8 meeting President George Bush told barb throwing Russian President Vladmir Putin to “just wait” and see the shining democracy of Iraq. The latest statistics reveal significant trouble in the fledgling democracy. Inflation in July rose to 70% when compared to prior year prices. Combined with unemployment up to 50%, Iraq suffers from stagflation, a serious economic malady.

Afghanistan suffers from high unemployment as well, nearly 40%. While both democracies are young, neither appears capable of providing a means for people to make a living. What plans are in place to address these dire conditions?

Bumbling Medicare to Drive Health Care Quality Improvement?

The Bush team continues its fumbling ways as a government operator. Just days ago President Bush issued an Executive Order requiring the government to produce price and quality data. It charged several government departments including Health & Human Services to “develop and identify practices that promote high quality health care”. As Medicare and Medicaid insure nearly 80 million people in the U.S., one might expect their operations to be examples of high quality government operations.

Many health care providers will have to make do next month without a government paycheck or two. The Bush administration says it will not make any Medicare reimbursements to hospitals, doctors and scores of other providers during the last nine days of the current budget year, from Sept. 22-30. By delaying payments, the government moves $5.2 billion in Medicare expenses to next year's budget, rather than the current one.

In a shell game the federal government with Congressional approval is pushing their bills into the next fiscal year. Is this a sign of a quality operation? It gets better.

The federal government erroneously has reimbursed about 230,000 Medicare recipients for monthly premiums they paid this year for prescription drug coverage. For many, the checks - totaling nearly $50 million - have already arrived.

The refund will undoubtedly cause confusion, particularly because it comes with a letter that mistakenly instructs older people that their monthly premiums will no longer be deducted from their Social Security check.

Mark McClellan, who oversees the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said people who get the check need to know two things. One, the money has to be returned. Two, their prescription drug coverage will continue.

"It's very important for people to know their coverage is continuing," he said. "There's no disruption at all."

Medicare officials say they caught the glitch just after the checks were sent out last week. As a result, they sent a second letter Tuesday letting people know about the problem. The average overpayment comes to about $215.

In many cases, older people get their Social Security payment through direct deposit. They, too, should set the extra money aside and not use it for other purposes because the payment will have to be returned, officials said.

How much will this “glitch” cost? Had someone made such an expensive error in private industry, what would be the consequences?

McClellan said his agency will make sure that insurers who administer the new drug benefit continue to get paid for the beneficiaries caught up in the error. He said that his agency was responsible for the error and that the subsequent letter contains an apology.

I wonder what systems exist in the Bush administration to prevent errors in the first place? This significant botch is certainly not the first in Bush’s term in office. While it pales compared to the $8 billion unaccounted for in the rebuilding of Iraq, it's important as Medicare is one of the government groups collaborating on improving quality of health care for Americans.

A key part of the Bush plan involves “pay for performance”. According to Family Practice Management the data for this initiative is not in the solid win category.

Virtually all major payers, including Medicare, are piloting pay for performance programs and will soon be measuring physician performance and offering financial incentives to those who meet quality targets. Although early results of these programs were not entirely positive, and although much debate surrounds this movement, there are no signs of a slowdown.

Yes America, the Bush cabal will bring his deft bull in a china shop touch to our health care system. While it badly needs improvement, the Bush prescription will be lucky to be a placebo. It just might have life threatening side effects.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New Real World “Survivor” Segregated by Race

The latest edition of survivor will break teams up by race. Five Latinos, Whites, African Americans and Asians will compete against each other. All survived grueling pre-screening tests to be selected.

The Latinos competed in Survivor: Other Than Mexican, sponsored the U.S. Border Patrol. Non Mexicans apprehended near the border are driven 200 miles into the U.S. dropped off at a bus station and told to be in federal court another 300 miles away in 3 months. The best inner city illegal immigrant survivors made it on the Latino team.

The African Americans selected excelled last summer in Survivor: Hurricane Katrina. They came from a pool of hundreds of thousands poor blacks displaced by the storm.

The Whites all come from Survivor: Holler Style. Based in West Virginia the candidates all survived coal mine disasters. Some credit their being chosen to quick thinking, fast feet and others to portable oxygen.

The Asians come from a number of Pacific countries impacted by the December 2004 tsunami. Survivor: Tsunami winners all excelled at swimming and holding their breath for long periods of time underwater.

Had the show chosen to add an Arab component, it could choose from Survivor: Iraq or Survivor: Lebanon. However, these candidates have some physical limitations due to lack of electricity, safe food, clean water, medical care and drugs.

Anyone who actually thinks this is a good idea would like Survivor: Republican vs. Democrat or Survivor: Rich vs. Poor. As if our country needs another artificial competition based on divisive classifications?

Iran Threat Language Growing Broader than Nukes

As the clock ticks down to the U.N. Security Council deadline, the Bush administration indicates it will give serious consideration to Iran’s response. Meanwhile the House Intelligence Committee had this to say about Iran.

The House Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, issued a report that concluded Iran was a strategic threat and a country focused on developing nuclear weapons capability. It also linked Iran to Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups.

"Iran's support of radical Islamists with weapons and money demonstrates in real terms the danger it poses to America and our allies," said the committee's chairman, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. He said Iran "will not be satisfied until it poses a threat to the entire world."

Who provides the Intelligence Committee with information? The Executive Branch via its National Director of Intelligence.

What else did the report say?

The report also found gaps in the ability of U.S. intelligence agencies to keep up with developments in Iran's nuclear program and suggested hiring more intelligence agents who speak Farsi.

Is this the CYA in case the assessment is later found to be incorrect? It sounds hauntingly familiar and the last case turned into “Shock & Awe”. Will round 2 be of the nuclear kind? If it doesn’t completely take out the bunkers, the leftover hot zone could make the area less desirable for re-use.

If they’re not stopped, they will be a threat to the entire world….

Now who really is the “they”?

McCain Slams Bush’s Iraq

The AP went soft in its byline on Senator McCain’s faulting the Bush administration on Iraq. It said:

Sen. McCain Faults Bush Administration for Not Better Managing Public's Expectations in Iraq

A closer review of the piece indicates McCain said much more.

"I think one of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifices that would be required," McCain said. "Stuff happens, mission accomplished, last throes, a few dead-enders. I'm just more familiar with those statements than anyone else because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be."

The Bush team had the wrong intelligence, strategy and execution. The deteriorating situation indicates this continues to be the case. It’s not just a matter of managing public expectations, the Bush team is legendary for its ability to craft messages.

Is Senator McCain implying the administration knew the difficulty, the sacrifices required and was not honest with the American people? The Saudi foreign minister predicted invading Iraq would result in sectarian violence and destabilize the region. Bush obviously discounted his advice by invading anyway, but did he do so cognizant of the costs?

From McCain’s words I could conclude the Bush administration is manipulative and/or incompetent. Given his track record elsewhere, that is not all that surprising.

Improve the Tone & Discourse: Everybody?

President Bush agreed to stump for cash for fellow Republican Senator George Allen despite his racial slur to a fellow Wahoo from the University of Virginia. Allen called the Virginia born and raised 4th year student of Indian descent, “Macaca”. He also welcomed him to America some 20 years late.

The White House in defending Bush's hand holding with the “Macaca” thrower had this to say:

"Senator Allen apologized," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "And I think it's in everyone's best interest, in this day and age of politics when everyone is trying to improve the tone and discourse, to accept apologies when they're offered."

Now that’s a laugher! Will Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart pick this one up first? And who will they fade in and out in the background, with what quote? Will it be V.P. Dick Cheney saying Democrats issue American Greetings invites to terrorists with a time and date for an Open House? Or will it be President Bush delivering expletive deleteds on foreign policy while talking with his mouth full courtesy of the G-8 bakery chef?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bush to BUBAR Health Care

Fresh from BUBAR-ing education and the Middle East, President Bush turns his attention to health care. BUBAR stands for “Bushed Up Beyond All Recognition”.

With America’s health care system firmly in his sights, President Bush unleashed an Executive Order to make health care more transparent. That would be the cost an individual citizen pays, as both employers and the feds reduce their share.

During the Bush term the number of uninsured increased by over 6.8 million people. With new data due out soon, might the number grow to over 8 million additional uninsureds under the Bushwatch?

The President’s signature “No Child Left Behind” program turned into a profit windfall for education testing companies. Kaplan’s revenue grew exponentially fueled by the Bush testing maelstrom.

His Executive Order sets up the same profit making scenario for health insurance companies. They have the data that will be compiled and sold in the new health care cost/quality information business.

In Bushworld the individual consumer has more power than the government with its nearly 80 million covered lives to “negotiate prices”. With 2-3 million covered by High Deductible Health plans ready to bargain on price, who thinks physician behavior will flip anytime soon?

Secretary of Health and Human Services had this to say, "It will fuel a substantial amount of change in the way health care is ultimately purchased, but it will take time for that to unfold."

Yes, change is coming America, and watch your billfold….

For the Executive Order and my comments (in parenthesis) see below:

The order directs the agencies to:

_Use, where available, health information computer systems that talk to each other. That way, the health records of a veteran living in Maine can be viewed by a doctor working in California if the veteran needs emergency care there during a vacation. (Increase business for electronic medical record companies and those who write interfaces across systems)

_Enact programs that measure the quality of care, and develop those measures with the private sector and other government agencies. (note the private sector, the feds will contract this out, likely to a Bush friend like The Carlyle Group's Multiplan)

_Make available to beneficiaries the prices that agencies pay for common procedures. (The feds already have this data, but they will likely pay someone to compile and share it.)

_Develop and identify practices that promote high-quality health care. (Poorly defined measures, strict focus on outcome, incentive pay, competition, pay for performance will all contribute to the continued sub-optimization of America’s health care system)

"We're all about being cost-conscious," said Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. "It's just the American way. We clip coupons. We check for bargain flights on the Web. We carefully research major purchases. But when it comes to health care, we lack the tools to compare either quality or the costs." (The government already has many of the tools, but they want to get out of the paying business. To shift the responsibility for payment they need to shift the responsibility for purchase. America’s employers are not stepping up to fill the gap, thus it falls to the average citizen.)

Why didn’t Sec. Leavitt mention people scrimping for gas money? Next chunk out the pocketbook?

The Bush Health Care Plan, otherwise knows as “You Are On Your Own!”

Bush’s Brain Strain

The President’s chief medical advisor is currently treating George W. Bush for a major brain strain. The President himself noted the problem after referring to Iran as Iraq in yesterday’s White House Press Conference. He blamed it on “a strained psyche”.

Bush opened the show with his usual banter but in doing so may have pulled something besides a reporter’s leg.

Fancy digs you got here.

Later in the program he commented on his psyche, the strain evident in his voice.

Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated. Rarely surprised. Sometimes I'm happy. This is -- but war is not a time of joy. These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times, and they're difficult times, and they're straining the psyche of our country. I understand that.

Reporters recall hearing a loud pop when the President said the following:

The final history in the region has yet to be written.

It is believed his injury occurred at that moment. The President needs to heal quickly from this medical malady as the confrontation with Iran escalates. In the press conference President Bush used these words to describe the nuclear technology issue with Iran.

The dates -- dates are fine, but what really matters is will…..In order for the U.N. to be effective, there must be consequences if people thumb their nose at the United Nations Security Council.

For the U.S. Presidency to enter such difficult waters, he needs to run on all cylinders, to have all his faculties. Pray for our President that he heals quickly from his latest disorder.

Bumbler in Chief, Turns Fumbler in Chief

President Bush’s handlers worked hard to spin his recent series of gaffes by “noting Bush’s informal style”. The President’s bumbling at the G-8 conference ranged from an impromptu shoulder rub for German P.M Angela Merkel to his unleashing a four letter word which he chased down with a hot buttered roll while continuing the conversation mouth full.

So how are the White House message boys spinning the Bush faux pas?

Informality can be a sign of a special rapport between leaders.

Special rapport? Angela cringed as if hot oil had been poured down her back under Bush’s magic fingers. Tony Blair looked like Lenny’s handler in the Grapes of Wrath. Instead of a cute mouse, the lives in play involved millions in Southern Lebanon and Northern Israel. Not only did George plan with his buddy Olmert to kill the mouse, they left Tony to lead the clean up.

Here’s how good the Fumbler in Chief is. Without any foreign dignitaries, all alone on the podium in front of the press President Bush said yesterday:

And one of the things I will continue to remind our friends and allies is the danger of a nuclear-armed Iraq.

Does the President’s informality extend to calling any country in the region by a cute nickname? He meant Iran but he said Iraq. Sure, innocent mistakes can be made, but in the past the White House website would not such a thing in parenthesis (Correction: the President meant to say ____). How did this latest fumble get translated?

And one of the things I will continue to remind our friends and allies is the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Those spinners must work overtime finding and correcting the U.S. President’s bloopers. To think they won’t get a break until January 2009. That is one American job that is secure.

Monday, August 21, 2006

BLOATS: Short for Bush’s Leading Quotes

This week the President pulled out his best pitches. With an election but months away, it’s time to hurl heat and this President (like his father) knows how to hurl!

“if we ever give up the desire to help people who live in freedom, we will have lost our soul as a nation, as far as I'm concerned."

Note: only desire is needed, competent execution is unnecessary.

"War is not a time of joy

Note: Please ignore any premature “Mission’s Accomplished” and any jokes where the President searches for weapons of mass destruction under a podium.

A failed Iraq would provide a safe haven for terrorists and extremists and give them revenue from oil sales.

Note: Fundamentalist Islamists would likely shut out Western Oil companies, one of the major reasons the U.S. invaded Iraq. No way will Bush give up this franchise.

I will continue to remind our friends and allies is the danger of a nuclear-armed Iraq. (from the AP transcript)

Note: The President said Iraq while answering a question on Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons. The audiotape on the White House website clearly shows the President saying Iraq, yet their transcript shows Iran. Don’t tell me there is more yellow cake from Niger?

Will we have lost our soul as a nation when our President regularly lies to the people?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Bush Presses War as He Wants One More?

In his radio address Bush praised the stellar results of all out war on defeating terror. He held Iraq and Lebanon high, showing them off for all to see. As the world recoiled in horror, Bush held up the damaged and deformed countries like a proud new papa. Unfortunately the father either caused the children’s condition or failed to stop the abuse.

A step child lingered nearby, the more successful strategy of investigation, surveillance and intelligence. It remained in the background for most of the radio talk despite its resounding success in foiling a British air travel plot.

Why would the President show off all out war, bragging of its critical role in defeating terrorism? Is it because he wants one more?

Iran is looking an awful lot like 2002 Iraq with a U.N. resolution to cut out nuclear technology which could be turned into a weapon of mass destruction. The U.S. wants to turn up the heat ASAP in early September, likely wanting a cease “or else” clause somewhere in the mix.

The coalition of the willing is clear, the United States, Britain and Israel. As Tony Blair warned the people in the Middle East, get ready for some Western ideals.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bush Says Nature of World Determines Laws

In an abrupt about face of last year’s “zero tolerance” for lawbreaking, President Bush now states the nature of the world should drive legal application. Due to a worldwide terror threat, the federal government should not be held to 1970’s laws regulating such behavior.

Yet, this same man stood in the destruction of Hurricane Katrina and said he had zero tolerance for anyone taking food, water, or shoes after a natural disaster. When the nature of the Gulf Coast changed, President Bush had zero appreciation for a new interpretation of laws.

The only common thread I can find in the two situations, President Bush has zero compassion and zero tolerance for not getting his way

Bush Team Health Care Update

While the President’s Bush League Economic Team works to cut entitlement spending, Republican Governor Mike Huckabee had this to say about one Bush strategy to reign in healthcare costs:

"It's just another way in which there seems to be complete tone deafness in Washington to policies that are having a dramatic effect on the lives of the most vulnerable people we've got. It just never ceases to amaze me," Huckabee said.

Bush Not Yet Above the Law, The Supremes to Weigh In

At least a federal court attempted to place some limits on the reign of George W. Bush.

"It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights," the federal judge wrote. "The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another."

Amen, American ideals aren’t dead yet!

Bush's Been Here

No Bravery
by James Blunt

There are children standing here
Arms outstretched into the sky
Tears drying on their face
He has been here
Brothers lie in shallow graves
Fathers lost without a trace
A nation blind to their disgrace
Since he’s been here

And I see no bravery
No bravery-in your eyes anymore
Only sadness

Houses burnt, beyond repair
The smell of death is in the air
A woman weeping in despair says
He has been here
Tracer lighting up the sky
It’s another family’s turn to die
A child afraid to even cry out says
He has been here

And I see no bravery
No bravery-in your eyes anymore
Only sadness

There are children standing here
Arms outstretched into the sky
But no one asks the question why
He has been here
Old men kneel and accept their fate
Wives and daughters cut and raped
A generation entrenched in hate
Yes, he has been here

Lebanon’s Cluster _ _ _ _

Did you fill in the blank above? A number of four letter words would fit, but the correct answer is BOMB.

Now that refugees are teeming back into Southern Lebanon they risk contact with unexploded ordinance. Particularly heinous are unexploded cluster bombs. Two children already died from contact with these deadly remnants.

The risk to health from modern weapons is great. The question of their legality remains. The harm and death they inflict is not however in question.

Leader’s continue to fail the people….

and yes it was a Cluster _ _ _ _ !

Bush League Economic Team

The Bush Economic Team advised by Alan Hubbard, National Economic Council Director, heads into their annual meeting. Rather than Crawford as in years past, the team is avoiding record Texas heat by retreating to Camp David in the mountains of Western Maryland.

They will take up the macroeconomic picture and job growth, financial markets, tax policy, the budget and current and future spending on government entitlement programs. A significant chunk of those government programs goes toward healthcare.

Alan’s group released a report earlier this year on “Cost Drivers in Healthcare”. Did you know one of the major cost drivers for rising healthcare prices is first dollar health coverage? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen first dollar healthcare coverage for 20 years. My deductibles and co-pays have spiraled upwards in order to keep my health insurance affordable. As a leader in a healthcare organization, I saw our hospital do the same thing to keep from increasing the employee portion.

The only group I can envision receiving first dollar health care coverage are corporate executives as they often have a special part of their compensation related to “executive health”. For profit hospitals market such services to corporate boards and CEO’s.

The President’s healthcare plan also wishes to leverage the forces of supply and demand. Bush admits demand exceeds supply currently and is projected to grow dramatically with the aging of the population.

Market theory would suggest supply needs to increase in order to keep prices stable. This is the basis for the Bush energy plan, incentives for oil companies to increase supply. However, the Bush healthcare plan makes no mention of doctor supply.

Even worse, the Bush plan involves a Medicare 5% fee cut for doctors. Many doctors in my hometown already don’t accept new Medicare patients, so supply is constrained for new Medicare beneficiaries. How will this change after a 5% fee cut? As doctors manage their payor mix, will they drop existing patients on Medicare?

The Bush healthcare plan uses the term “modernization” to describe the shifting of administration for Medicare and Medicaid to the private sector. Both programs' administration costs have traditionally run 6-7%. Private health insurers spend 12-15% on administrative costs, roughly double. Moving Medicare and Medicaid to private insurance companies alone takes a significant chunk of funding away from the beneficiaries and apportions it to the administrator.

The President’s economic team did note the employer trend of reducing health insurance benefits or dropping it altogether. The most precipitous drops in employer coverage occurred during the Bush Presidency. It wants to accelerate this trend. It does so by promoting high deductible health plans and health savings accounts.

Note what Mr. Hubbard had to say about health savings accounts in a White House Q & A session:

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: To be honest, when we started out, we started with a blank sheet of paper to figure out what is the best way to approach the. And we ultimately decided that the proposal that we presented to the President -- he decided that the proposal that was presented was a correct proposal.

Not to get into the weeds, but I think some people thought the Hubbard-Cogan book was going to be adopted as the President's package. But as I told you a week or so ago, we certainly studied that -- what Cogan and Hubbard and Kessler proposed. But we considered a number of other approaches. And in the end, the President decided on what we're describing -- what he described last night and what we're describing today.

Employers save 30-40% by switching from high dollar coverage to cheaper plans. Data shows not all employers contribute their employees’ health savings accounts. Workers under these plans are responsible for meeting annual deductibles of $1,000 to $5,000 before most insurance benefits begin.

The President’s signature plan to address high health care costs is like hunting a tiger with a BB gun. With 46 million uninsured, only 1-2 million people are covered by health savings accounts despite rapid growth. Most of those don’t have a funded health savings account. As for the projected take up on HDHP’s and HSA’s, Alan Hubbard had this to day:

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: I'm sure we have those numbers available. I don't have the numbers at my fingertips, in terms of what the Treasury estimates in terms of the take-up. Will that be in the budget that -- I don't know what's actually in the budget. But, again, the President is a big believer in HSAs, and that's why he made the decision to make these tax credits apply to HSAs.
Q Okay, is the take-up rate something that you could check on today?
DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Roy, can we -- I don't know where we stand on that.
MR. RAMTHUN: We can check.
DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Yes, we can check.
Q That would be helpful.

Despite Al’s commitment to release numbers and my writing letters to elected representatives, I have never seen projections for the President’s signature strategy.

The Crackerjack Bush Economic team will discuss healthcare in their retreat. Reading between the lines, the message will be clear. More Americans will be on their own!

Rest assured Alan Hubbard will be looking out for someone’s welfare. Will it be the Carlyle Group’s new affiliate, Multiplan? They say they offer health care cost management solutions where everybody benefits.

It sounds just like the Bush team is looking for! What they don’t mention are their administrative costs or their profit margin, items much smaller in the less modern Medicare and Medicaid.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Son’s Love

The flood waters rose rapidly. The aged mother and son struggled with what to do as the murky brown water rose. He found a boat nearby loading his 91 year old wheelchair bound mother inside. A policeman directed them to a place where food and shelter could be found.

The refugees did as directed only no food or water was to be had. The 91 year old woman faded in the high heat and humidity. With no medical care available, she expired before a full day ran. The son watched over her wheelchair draped body for 4 days before being forced to evacuate.

The care he showed his mother could touch the world deeply. The people can cry out demanding more from federal, state, and local authorities who last summer showed their incapacity in delivering basic services to the stranded. They could tell the government of the people to stop intentionally causing harm to other’s loved ones by training in war no more. What will the people do? What will you do? How many days will you sit with the fallen?

Air Travel Not Suited for Actively Mentally Ill

The "be wary" sign for mentally ill travelers came last November when agents gunned down Roberto Alpizar in the Miami Airport. His high anxiety state and unpredictable behavior required but one response in the eyes of federal air marshals, shoot to kill.

Watching security experts train transportation safety personnel on recognizing outward signs of anxiety, an indicator of lying, caused my stomach to sink earlier this week. Many of those same symptoms are exhibited by people in active mental crisis.

This morning that sinking feeling returned as I read of an emotionally ill Vermont woman, expected to be charged with interfering with the crew on a trans-Atlantic flight. While her behavior was disruptive and concerning, the article revealed much about the safety of our air travel system. Authorities apparently disagree as to whether the passenger had any “banned” items in her rather large handbag.

On Wednesday, George Naccara, security director for the Transportation Security Administration for Massachusetts' airport, had specifically denied she was carrying a screwdriver or any liquids such as Vaseline.

On Thursday, Gail Marcinkiewicz, spokeswoman for the FBI in Boston, confirmed on Thursday that Mayo, a U.S. citizen, was carrying banned items in her carry-on bag, including a screwdriver, an unspecified number of cigarette lighters and matches.

They did agree she had no connection to terrorism, but they didn't say how she got banned items past the stepped up U.K. security screens. What is clear is the woman’s behavior.

Passengers said the woman appeared to have emotional problems. Several passengers said Mayo made repeated trips to the bathroom. "She was in a frenzy," passenger Martin Drinkwater of London told The Boston Globe. "She then pulled her trousers and knickers down and squatted on the floor."

This required her to be tackled and handcuffed, for the plane to be diverted, and for several F-15’s to escort it into U.S. airspace. While these strategies may be very appropriate for a terrorist, they are not useful for managing someone in an active mental health crisis. I have doubts that our federal government truly cares about this distinction.

Health Care & Pension Message to Americans “You’re On Your Own”

The Bush strategy for health care and retirement is for Americans to shoulder a greater responsibility for those costs. In health care Bush encourages businesses to offer high deductible health plans which require workers to pay huge annual deductibles as well as copays. Employees can use tax free money set aside in health savings accounts to pay those bills.

Today President Bush signs a bill he calls "the most comprehensive reforms to America's pension system in over 30 years."

It attempts to shore up the nation’s flagging pension system, mostly at the expense of the worker. American and Continental airlines gain more by dropping their current defined benefit plans and switching to defined contribution. How should one of their employees feel about a bill that encourages their employer to cut their retirement benefits?

Defense contractors doing big business with the Pentagon get a break. Do they need it?

Stock Price per share performance from March 2003 to August 2006

General Dynamics more than doubled from $30 to $68
Lockheed Martin nearly doubled from $45 to $83
Northrup Grumman rose from $42 to $66
Raytheon climbed from $26 to $47
BAE Systems nearly tripled from £120 to £357

Net Income Growth from 2003 to 2005

General Dynamics up nearly 50% from $1 billion to $1.46 billion
Lockheed Martin nearly doubled from $1 billion to $1.82 billion
Northrup Grumman rose handily from $866 million to $1.4 billion
Raytheon soard from $365 million to $871 million
BAE Systems climbed from £12.5 billion to £15.4 billion

From 2003 most have seen their stock price double, their net income grow by at least 50%, and a number had record profits last quarter. Given their stellar financial performance, why has management not funded their pension obligations? Why do they need 3 more years than the average U.S. company to meet their commitments to their employees? Is this more insider favor granting from our pocketed U.S. politicians?

For a small case example of how the Bush administration really feels about pensions look how the Department of Energy is cutting benefits for workers at the Hanford Plant. All new contract workers on site would be ineligible for the Department of Energy’s defined benefit and health care benefits.

White House “Setting the Record Straight” on SOD’s Allegations

The White House intends to set the record straight regarding assertions by the blogger State of the Division that it purposefully omitted any mention of The Carlyle Group’s LifeCare Hospitals and their 24 patient deaths in its post Hurricane Katrina Lessons Learned Report.

As the White House did not actually learn any lessons from its investigation, the blogger’s assertions are spurious at best and politically motivated at worst. As an independent blogger, State of the Division wishes to promote the wide spate of independent candidates running across the country. Evidence shows he lives in a state with 2 independent candidates for governor. Texas has Kinky Friedman and Carol Strayhorn. State’s parents grew up in Connecticut, home of the now independent Joe Lieberman. His axe is obvious.

While he did help evacuate a hospital prior to a powerful hurricane and worked through a flood that robbed a 725 bed teaching hospital of power, these were back in the 80’s. Such ancient history is not a foundation for current disaster management. Cell phones were big and clunky, communism the threat, Saddam a trusted friend, and Japanese automakers were kicking the "hot buttered roll word" out of American auto manufacturers. Senior President Bush was in the White House and his no good son George was partying hard, drinking heavily and doing drugs. Experiences from that era count for nothing.

While State is correct that no mention of the LifeCare deaths exists in the Lessons Learned report, the White House traced the problem to an electronic malfunction. The original report had such information but a blip occurred during editing. The same electronic pulse that caused Air Force One to suddenly dip to 10,000 feet over New Orleans reoccurred during the creation of the report knocking Frances Fragos-Townsend across the room. When she got back to her computer the section of the document on LifeCare deaths disappeared. In its’ place stood a thank you note from none other than Lou Gertsner, CEO of Carlyle and directions on where to pick up the check. It is just a short walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to Carlyle’s headquarters.

The White House hopes this clears up the blatantly true, but widely ignored allegations of State of the Division.

P.S. This is a fictional response from the White House, not true, intended for humorous purposes. The part about LifeCare deaths missing from the Lessons Learned report is sadly accurate.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

“Slash & Burn” vs. “Cut & Run”

President Bush did his best to lower the level of dialogue on how best to respond to America’s ever growing terrorist threat under his watch. He suggested his opponents’ strategy of “cut & run” would invite terrorists to America’s shores, as if his knuckle dragging on Lebanon wasn’t a big American Greetings invitation to Hezbollah and Hamas. Up until now, neither group had American citizens or interests in their sights.

Now that Bush has advertised his terrorist open house invitation for the Nth time since mouthing “Bring it on”, he has the temerity to lambast his opponents for being weak on terrorism.

From my perspective, the only strategy at issue is bombing countries that have some terrorists in them back twenty years and occupying their soil with foreign troops. Otherwise, both sides back vigorous intelligence and investigative activities to root out terrorists.

The Bush clan is willing to break the law to find the bad guys, also planning to break the law. Methods include torture, holding people without charges or trials, using hearsay evidence, and rooting through mountains of personal information to identify suspicious activity.

It seems the Bush team is willing to slash and burn a country, a group of people, or an individual to defeat “terrorism”. The country part has seen less than stellar results to date. While no official data is available from intelligence sources, my guess is the estimated number of terrorists intent on harming the United States has grown since the Bush invasion of Iraq. It likely got another big boost from the Israeli stomping of democratic Lebanon.

I want Bush to quit the “slash and burn” tactics inviting terrorists to our shore. Then it won’t matter as much if we “cut and run” or not.

Terrorism and The Carlyle Group

The recent uproar over the Bush administration’s screening of international financial data for terrorist links revealed the existence of the SWIFT program. Information showed the top secret effort to be based in Brussels, Belgium.

Given the Bush mantra that the private sector can do things much more efficiently than government, rest assured the feds contracted out this work. That the Bush leadership style insures poor operational results is the topic for another story.

Who might be conducting this work on behalf of our federal government? Could a recent news release shed any light on this question? The Carlyle Group just closed on a deal giving them part ownership of FRS Global, a financial services and software company based in Brussels, Belgium.

FRS markets a unique set of enterprise risk and regulatory compliance solutions for financial institutions. Sharing data with the feds certainly fits under “regulatory compliance”. The base of their unique video shows data capture, data foundation and analytics specific to regulatory requirements.

In summer of 2005 FRS purchased a software product with unique capabilities from Providus. The press release states “As a combined entity, we will be well positioned to play a role in facilitating the pending convergence of regulatory compliance and risk management practices around the globe”.

Just last summer The Carlyle Group closed another acquisition, LifeCare Hospitals. Several weeks later, Hurricane Katrina struck and 24 patients died in the LifeCare Unit in Memorial Medical Center. President Bush chose to leave this important fact out of his White House Lessons Learned report. That likely will help the Carlyle attorneys facing wrongful death lawsuits.

If FRS does provide the SWIFT analysis, this case serves as another example of the expansion of the military industrial complex into the government industrial monstrosity. That Bush’s buddies get large chunks of the business is just the way the ball bounces.

The recent British airport security scare will likely help another Carlyle affiliate, QinetiQ. The company was born out of British intelligence several years ago. It specializes in using human science in the provision of more secure travel environments. How might their homeland security division make out with the new revelations of chemical bombs? Swimmingly, would be my guess.

Note to King Abdullah, Bush Doesn’t Care about Moderates

King Abdullah of Jordan issued new calls for Israel-Arab peacemaking to deal with the real root causes of the Israel-Lebanon war. He is concerned the conflict weakened moderate Muslim leaders.

Bush will ignore his calls for several reasons. First, the U.S. President has been AWOL on Middle East peace, starting a pre-emptive war in the region and virtually ignoring the Israel-Palestine issue. For him to strongly lead in resolving that issue would mean admitting his first grader root cause analysis citing the Hezbollah kidnapping as the source of the war, did not deserve the A+ and the gold star he wore on his forehead for a day.

The second reason Bush will ignore King Abdullah's plea is he doesn’t listen to moderates. The President’s Secretary of Faith, Rev. Pat Robertson visited the region to pray with a leader in the conflict. Pat walked right past the Christian leader of Lebanon to join hands with Jewish Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert. Together they prayed for victory. Later Pat groveled for re-inclusion in the Christian theme development next to the Sea of Galilee. It doesn’t do to have Katyusha rockets raining down where manna should be falling.

One might think King Abdullah and Saudi Foreign Minister al-Faisal would be used to President Bush ignoring their advice. It must gall them to meet with George knowing their predictions came through every time. Bush is 0 for 3 on the Saudi minister's advice. Do they call George the strike out King?

The Sorry State of Leadership in the World Today

Last night I lamented to a friend how disturbed I am over the poor state of leadership throughout the world. Itchy trigger fingers driven by a pre-emptive strike mentality have become the primary method for change, for instituting “freedom and democracy”. According to the U.S. State Department Lebanon already had it but the Israeli invasion happened anyway.

This morning Juan Cole’s Informed Comment summed up my thoughts rather well. I include his words below.

Since the United Nations resolution calling for a halt to hostilities, Prime Minister Olmert, President Bush, Secretary-General Nasrallah, President al-Asad and President Ahmadinejad have all been procliaming the war a personal victory.

I don't know why they would want to claim it.

It was such a stupid war. It was thick-as-two-blocks-of-wood strategy on all sides. It was moronic for the Israelis to plan it out last year. It was idiotic for Hizbullah to cross over into Israel, kill soldiers, and take two captive. It was brain dead for the Israeli officer corps and politicians to think they could get anything positive out of bombing Lebanon back to the stone age and making a million people homeless. It was dim-witted for Hasan Nasrallah to threaten Israelis with releasing poison gases from Haifa chemical plants on them. It was obtuse for the Israelis to confront a dug-in guerrilla movement with green conventional troops marching in straight lines. It was dull of Hizbullah to fire thousands of katyushas into open fields where they mainly damaged wild grass. The few times when the rockets managed to kill someone, it was often an Arab Israeli civilian. Stupid.

How leaders continue to fail the people they “serve”…..

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Will San Angelo Be Attacked Next in War on Terror?

In the last year my community of 100,000 people found it harbors a terrorist group, the Ku Klux Klan. This extremist group has a history of using terror tactics to push its radical religious ideology. Given the recent events in the Middle East I am concerned the U.S. military may bomb San Angelo back twenty years to root out this terrorist threat.

Israel devastated Lebanon, a country of over 4 million people to get at 5,000 Hezbollah guerillas. Applying that same percentage to my hometown, it means a world power would devastate a community of 100,000 to root out 125 guerillas.

Does the Department of Homeland Security know how big the Klan chapter is in San Angelo? Do they know the leader’s real name as he won’t use it in media interviews? Is the chapter big enough yet for a full scale invasion?

Please write me back with answers to these important questions. I need to know if I should sell the house and move to a safer part of the country. Please include the Klan free zones with your response.

Advice from Federal Information Center on Questions Regarding White House Lessons Learned Report

After four months, the Federal Government gave me an official reply regarding my concerns about the White House Lessons Learned report. The Federal Information Center informed me how to go about getting my questions answered. The list they provided sounded awful familiar.

1. Write the President. Did that, no reply from President Bush or White House staff.
2. Contact Senators. Check, no response from Senators Hutchison or Cornyn.
3. Contact Representative. Ditto. no answers from Rep. Mike Conaway.
4. Contact State Governor. Regarding a White House report? No thanks.
5. Contact U.S. Government agencies directly. Did that. FBI, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security. No response to date.

The laugher is the DOJ sent my inquiry to the Federal Information Center. The FIC then suggested I contact federal agencies directly. Are my questions in an endless loop?

How many of the above have subpoena power? The first three will just give me the official White House line, after all they authored the report. It is their friends that may have benefited from insider influence. The only one that makes sense is number 5 and all have punted to date.

I wish others better luck getting their concerns and question addressed. The system does not appear to be set up to do so.

If Israel Won, then Katrina Kicked Butt!

After a month long pummeling of its democratic neighbor to the north, a tentative cease fire marks a break in the violence. Both sides and their proxies claim victory.

Israel unleashed their revenge inspired war machine to destroy Hezbollah’s 3,000 to 5,000 guerillas and get back two captured soldiers. Their aims changed as the conflict progressed. By the end, Israel’s goal shifted to a non Hezbollah military presence in Southern Lebanon.

With their original aims unfulfilled, what really was accomplished? It appears nearly 1,000 deaths, about a million people driven from their homes, and billions in destruction. Does that sound familiar to anyone living on the Gulf Coast? Yes, it has that Hurricane Katrina ring.

If Israel won by unleashing the destructive forces of military power, then Mother Nature kicked ass with her hurricane whipped wind, waves and storm surge. The sad part about the Lebanese destruction is it was purely man made.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Nobody Won! Unless You Like Spilling Blood?

The various “world bleeders” scramble to their bully pulpits to proclaim victory after a month of senseless destruction in Lebanon and Israel. Here’s the list of people claiming victory on behalf of one side or the other:

President George W. Bush said Hezbollah guerillas suffered a defeat at the hands of Israel and he blamed the guerrilla group for the devastation. "There's going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon"

Prime Minister Olmert claimed success, saying the offensive eliminated the "state within a state" run by Hezbollah group and restored Lebanon's sovereignty in the south.

Hezbollah Leader Sheik Nasrallah claimed a "strategic, historic victory."

Over 1 million displaced, nearly 1,000 killed, damage in the major billions…who could declare this a success and still look in the mirror? Yep, only a World Bleeder.

Bush Claims Israeli Military Defeated Terrorist Group?

President Bush claims the Israeli military defeated Hezbollah’s guerillas in its month long offensive on the democratic state of Lebanon. The President likes data, so what military measures clearly indicate a landside victory by the instigators?

What did Mr. Bush see in lost lives, number of refugees and damage to infrastructure that lead him to believe Hezbollah suffered a resounding defeat? How many of the 3,000 to 5,000 guerillas did Israel take out? Was Israel able to capture the Hezbollah leader?

Actually the comparisons feel more like Afghanistan and the United States action in the war on terror. Osama bin Laden remains free, his al-Qaeda network reformed and re-invigorated from the West’s dalliances into the Middle East.

The people doing the suffering will decide who is responsible, despite the President’s assertions. As they pick up the remnants of their lives will they find any bomb fragments that say “Made in the U.S.A.”?

Olmert Claims Sole Responsibility?

Israeli Prime Minister’s admission that he is solely responsible for attacking a democratic neighbor may just come back to haunt him. Will they garnish his wages to repay the cost of over $2.5 billion in property damage? How many murders will Ehud Olmert be charged with? Saddam is currently on trial for much the same thing.

I don’t buy his remarks. Ehud does not deserve to be solely responsible. It’s not because the U.S. and Israel conduct joint planning twice a year on military strategy and terrorism. In my mind if Mr. Olmert were solely responsible, he would have challenged Mr. Nazrallah to a duel and left the innocents out of it.

When the people become disposable, the leaders have gone. In their place are self serving, egotistical, hotheads eager to push the button on violence as the means to get their way.
When the people are invaluable, leaders would easily sacrifice themselves for the greater good. It is time for the people to be invaluable, not people in “important positions” who parade around as such.