Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Glock 170, Muzzle Loader 13

The Virginia Tech killer shot 170 rounds in 9 minutes. A civil war muzzle loader could be re-armed every 40 seconds. Besides offering the opportunity to disarm the shooter during this time, far fewer rounds could be delivered. Glock 170, Muzzle Loader 13. Don't you feel safer with more people armed with semi-automatic weapons? I don't....

"And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and train in the ways of war no more."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bonus Letter to Senator McCain!

Mr. McCain Believes in “No Restrictions” on Gun Ownership

In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, America’s leaders continue to fail the people. First, they fail the fallen by speaking at a time when no words can provide solace. When they could just show up and grieve with the students and faculty, America’s world bleeders defend the right to carry weapons. They suggest dangerous people can suddenly explode, which Mr. Cho Seung-Hui obviously did. Yet, records indicate over a year ago Cho was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility as he was a danger to himself and others. A month ago that same man purchased a handgun.

Do you recall any other mentally ill shooters? Summer of 2005 John McCain’s home state of Arizona had one in a WalMart parking lot north of Phoenix. Ed Lui, a schizophrenic patient shot dead two teens retrieving carts. The news never reported on how Mr. Lui got his gun. However his managed care company has a track record of denying patient’s psychiatric medications.

The issues run much deeper than one horrific school shooting. Access to handguns today is very different than when our leaders crafted the Second Amendment. With a muzzle loader how many people could Mr. Cho have taken out? I believe the Bill of Rights guarantees every citizen the right to purchase, own and shoot a muzzle loader. My brother in law hunts with one every year and enjoys the challenge. Are modern day hunters too lazy to get their next meal with firearms used by our original stock? Do they need automatic weapons that fire multiple rounds, each in less than a second?

Care for the mentally ill is the other systemic issue. Employers and the government frequently restrict coverage for mental health diseases, providing less benefits and discouraging the use of certain resources, like inpatient mental health facilities. Arizona contracted out care for their mentally ill, much like the President wishes to do with Medicare and Medicaid. The East Valley Tribune, a Mesa, Arizona newspaper, did a special report on the state’s private mental health care provider and the rash of lawsuits against ValueOptions.

To be clear, Senator McCain is happy for 47 million to be without health insurance as he has done little substantive on this issue. Estimates show some 2 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia. With no restrictions, these 2 million Americans can purchase deadly weapons, capable of killing even police officers. Such an incident also happened in Mr. McCain’s home state.

The point is not to make the mentally ill look like dangerous lunatics. Statistics show the mentally ill more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Nearly one third of people killed by police officers in North America appeared to be in some form of mental health crisis.

Mr. McCain’s recently stated position on weapons clearly supports the Republican mantra of “you are on your own”. Doesn't it just make you feel hopeful, knowing every American can and should own weapons in RepublicanWorld?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lantern Sodden Meets Goal, Signing Off

The author of StateoftheDivision met his goal today and is hereby leaving the blogosphere to many capable hands. After writing over 2,100 letters to President Bush at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Lantern Sodden received his 5th response from the White House! Rather than write another 420 letters hoping for his next communication, Lantern decided to turn out the lights.

Those who wish to reminisce are free to comb through the almost 1,150 posts on this site. The other 1,000 formerly under LetterstoNowhere no longer exist on line. Some can be found in his two paperback collections, New Suits for World Leaders: Emperors, Presidents and Popes and One Fist, Two Fist, Red Fist, Blue Fist: The State of American Politics.

After my many posts exposing the stench of both political parties, I plan to lay low for awhile. The fact that my fifth letter dated April 10th, 2007 dealt with the Military Commissions Act and how President Bush doesn't torture (wink, wink) had nothing to do with it! Now if I can just scape my "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" bumper sticker off my old VW wagon.

Should anyone inquire as to whether I actually wrote these posts, hmmmm, my memory is hazy... But best of luck to all bloggers continuing to shed the light in the darkness and blow away the air freshener hiding the reeking effluent expelled from both Repugnicants and Damnocrats! May the Lantern be with you!

Something’s Not Right

Without a complete list of the deceased, Virginia Tech held a convocation in sorrow for the fallen from yesterday’s horrific act. President Bush attended after the White House reiterated the right to bear arms in the midst of the tragedy. I don’t recall him stressing American’s rights to carry box cutters the day after 9-11.

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine somehow flew back from Japan to attend today’s convocation some 28 hours after the second round of shootings in Norris Hall. Tim spoke of the surviving students, comparing their plight to Job in the Bible. The Governor took the glass half full perspective, noting Virginia Tech’s unique and remarkable community.

President Bush stressed people across the country are asking God to provide comfort for the affected. Some of those praying for comfort saw God's hand in sending planes to strike the Twin Towers. Why would that be divinely ordered and this tragedy not? The worst day of violence in history on a college campus happened on this President's shift. He did not speak to why, but highlighted sources of strength for students to persevere.

Yesterday, a member of the Hokie family turned their own. Today they deal with the aftermath. Is there anything leaders can do? First, consider hushing to honor the dead. Second, tell the truth of what happened and how America experienced its most horrific school shooting. That eventually includes important details like Mr. Cho Seung-Hui’s disturbing writings and how he obtained his deadly weapons. The Hokie family has a right to grieve deeply, then to ponder how their community will respond.

Today’s session may add to that, but let’s hope it doesn’t rush the important work to be done. May our nation learn from this community’s response to such a deeply saddening event.

Virginia Tech Tragedy Perpetrated by One of Its Own

A 23 year old student committed the horrific murders at Virginia Tech yesterday. Cho Seung-Hui, a South Korean English major legally studying in the U.S., pulled the trigger countless times causing death, carnage, mayhem, and in one doctor’s word “amazing” wounds. The University must be in shock that their current nightmare came at the hands of one of their own.

As the world wrestles with the tragedy, more questions will be asked. Some will focus on the shooter’s mental health. Others will target the weapons. How were they acquired and what type of ammunition caused such “amazing” wounds?

Surveying letters to elected leaders last night on, the various political lobbies already spun the events to their advantage. Pro-gun folks made the point that an armed professor or student could have stopped the gunman well before the 32 death toll. Anti-gun letter writers gave almost an “I told you so”, blaming the widespread pandering to America’s powerful gun lobby.

Now is not the time to be defending gun access or screaming for it to be reduced. It’s time for all Americans to hold the hand of the fallen, the wounded, and the grieving. It’s time to pick up a bucket and mop and clean up the residue from conflict that cannot be managed peacefully. We must wash away the dried blood left from our intent to purposefully harm others physically or in spirit.

The roots that grew the horror in Blacksburg exist within each of us. Running to the next battle seems the last thing our country needs to do now. Yet, with America's incapacity for self reflection, that is exactly what we’ll do...

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Transformation of Romney Almost Complete

Dr. James Dobsonstein thought the conversion would be finished long ago, but a few settings still need adjustment to create his Far Right Monster. The hunter button wouldn’t hold, despite the good Doctor’s turning hard toward the lifetime setting. It kept resetting to “novice, doesn’t even own a gun”.

The latest setback involves raising children. At one end of the dial “it takes a village” while the other requires “a married father and mother with no contraception, who promises to home school the child while once a year celebrating the War on Christmas”. Mitt Romney couldn’t erase the Boston Globe article where he agreed with Hillary Clinton that it takes a village, so the good doctor did the next best thing. He pretended his creation was talking about something else.

“His speech center is not so good. It’s understandable someone could mistake his talk about public-private partnerships as raising children. And I’m talking about heterosexual public-private partnerships, however they can be extra-marital.”

The screwing of the public in those partnerships can be seen in the recent bid for ex-government sponsored Sallie Mae. While the current board members and private equity firms enjoy their after merger cigarette, the public is left to clean up any messes. While board members alone walk away with nearly $1 billion in proceeds, the average taxpayer remains responsible for student loan guarantees.

The State of Executive Pay & Bribing Children

The news reported on more parents resorting to bribing their children to behave appropriately or perform expected tasks, things their parent's just expected. Kids today are given goodies to not act up in restaurants, brush their teeth, get good grades, and sleep in their own bed through the night.

In the business world governing boards call it "pay for performance". In both cases it requires big and bigger bribes over time to induce the desired behavior. One mom noted her child frequently asks "what are you going to give me?"

Some experts shared their concern about rewards being excessive in light of the behavior. One father promised a child a Nintendo Wii game system for scoring a couple of goals in a soccer game. The business counterpart can be seen by perusing the latest Sallie Mae SEC filing.

CEO Thomas Fitzpatrick made $16.6 million in 2006, nearly $14 million in stock and option awards, not altogether different than the Wii video game. What happened to giving kids a fair allowance and then trying to get them to forget about money as they fulfill their individual and family responsibilities? Likewise, what happened to paying employees fairly, giving the a good job to do and the resources to succeed?

Instead the board suite is poisoned by the same disease as many of today's parents. The CEO is but another employee, one with an important leadership job. Is their task no better than potty training that they need to be bribed to perform?

Senate Finance Committee Deep in Pockets of Private Sector Health Companies

As the Congress wrestles with ways to cover more uninsured people while spending existing dollars more effectively, it's encountering some inertia. Members of the Senate Finance Committee received significant campaign donations from health insurance companies and for-profit hospital firms.

Their ties to health insurors slowed the Democrats appetite to cut funding for Medicare Advantage programs to the level of the average Medicare recipient. The 12 percent higher fees paid by the government accrue to health insurance companies. Both Republicans and Democrats benefit from their cozy relationship with WellPoint, United Health, Humana and Aetna. The health insurance sector donated $7.4 million ($4.5 million to Republicans & $2.9 million to Democrats) the last election cycle and $32 million lobbying the last two years.

The Finance Committee's ties to for-profit health care is evidenced by Senator Chuck Grassley's parroting their favorite position, the unfair advantage nonprofit community hospitals have with their tax exemption. Chuck is concerned about huge executive and board member pay.

Here's a hint Chuck. Recall Sallie Mae? The once government services organization moved over to that "more efficient" private sector. Does Chuck know how much they pay their board members annually? Each makes well over $200,000 a year but that's not all. With the proposed Sallie Mae buyout, the least a board member will gross is $7.7 million.

While Chuck and Congress dragged their feet on the growing legions of uninsureds, 80-90% of community hospitals suffered some form of financial distress. This estimate came from Denny Shelton, CEO of for-profit Triad Hospitals as he explained why the company had so many good acquisition candidates.

Just like Chuck Grassley, Evan Bayh, Max Baucus, Kent Conrad, and many more sold out to private sector health companies, your local nonprofit community hospital may soon do the same. Is that what our country needs? No, but when the pocketbook is our only criteria, that's what we get...

The White House Can't Answer a Question

No wonder our country is in its current state. With sniveling, conniving leadership like this, hope must come from elsewhere. White House Press Office transcripts reveal:

Q Does the President not remember having a phone conversation with Senator Domenici about U.S. attorney Iglesias? Or is he clear that one did not take place?

MS. PERINO: I've never asked him that question. I do know that his vague recollection was that he had heard complaints. And then I'll refer you to his statement -- or his answer to a question that he got in Mexico, in which he was asked that question, and he said that he recalls being at a meeting on the Hill in which this issue was brought up -- a meeting of senators on the Hill in which it was brought up. But I've never heard anything about a phone call.

Q So he's never actually answered the question.

MS. PERINO: He answered the question. And I don't know anything about a phone call; I've never heard that -- except for questions from you all.

Q You mean the phone call --

MS. PERINO: I don't know that the President ever received a phone call. I don't have any record of that, or any recollection of it, and I've been dealing with this issue for many weeks.

Q When he was at the meeting on the Hill where it was brought up, it was Senator Domenici --

MS. PERINO: I don't think people remember, necessarily, who it was. And, remember, complaints about voter fraud cases were coming in from various different places.

Q Right. Just to be clear about this, then, Senator Domenici and the President, has there ever been a direct conversation between the two?

MS. PERINO: I don't know. I don't believe so, necessarily, about this particular issue, but remember, when -- the President sees members of Congress all of the time, and as I think I said last week, whenever a senator has the President's ear, whether the issue -- whether the topic of the meeting is the Iraq war supplemental, if they have a chance to talk about other issues, they will. And so I'm not going to rule it out, but I just can't say that Senator Domenici and the President ever had a one-on-one conversation about it.

The Bush administration is simply incapable of providing honest, ethical mutually cooperative leadership, much less a straight answer...

Nation Shocked & Mourning

While America tries to make sense of the horrific tragedy that occurred this morning on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, our President stands once again flat footed. When a leader would focus on the dead, wounded and traumatized students and their families, the White House once pandered to his base. Dana Perino said in this morning's new conference.

As far as policy, the President believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed. And certainly bringing a gun into a school dormitory and shooting -- I don't want to say numbers because I know that they're still trying to figure out many people were wounded and possibly killed, but obviously that would be against the law and something that someone should be held accountable for.

Is there any reason to mention gun access at this time? Details of the identity of the deceased shooter and his motivation remain elusive. So why the point?

Ms. Perino likely didn't know that at least 32 students died, 29 wounded and the shooter killed. However, this leaves the accountable person dead with no societal recourse for justice as prescribed by the President. It's a monumental tragedy. What will George Bush do to prevent such occurrences in the future? I hope it doesn't encourage more people to carry weapons...

Who Benefits from Privatization: The Case of Sallie Mae

The Student Loan Marketing Association commonly referred to as Sallie Mae got its start in 1972 as a government sponsored enterprise. It began privatizing in 1997 and completed the process in 2004 when Congress terminated its federal Charter. Republicans held a majority in our nation’s legislature this whole time. President Bush appointed 6 members to the Board when he took office in 2001.

News reports indicate a number of private equity firms are interested in purchasing Sallie Mae. The stock is up over $8 today to $55 per share. Should the deal go through Board members stand to make out like bandits. The board beneficially owns some 17.7 million shares. Board members alone stand to gross nearly $1 billion from the deal.

Assuming the $973 million to be capital gains, how much does the Sallie Mae board save in taxes under the President's lesser taxing of investment profits? The super rich get to pocket nearly $50 million more than they did when they paid 20% capital gains tax.

Does this make you excited about government sloughing off key programs to the private sector for them to be turned around in 3 years and sold to someone else at a huge profit? Oh, and those student loan guarantees given to private lenders by the U.S. government? They don’t go away!

Does it bother you that board members will walk away with millions (in addition to their already substantial annual compensation)? The smallest number of beneficially held shares is 141,000 worth $7.7 million. The largest is over 8 million shares grossing that board member over $440 million.

Sallie Mae along with Citibank just agreed to pay a $2 million fine for corrupt student lending practices. CIT owner of Education Lending Group remains under investigation for its illegal practices while Education Finance Partners just settled for a $2.5 million fine. Seven student loan companies have been under the New York Attorney General’s microscope.

Private equity firms don’t have the same public accountability in reporting investment information to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Does it bother anyone else that a recently fined company will soon enter the shadows of the private equity world?

Yes, another case of Republican privatization where the costs are higher than competing government programs and business goes to politically connected friends who donate huge amounts to election campaigns. The American public should be concerned as education is well on its way, health care is in the Bush administration’s sights and public infrastructure isn’t far behind.

State of the American Polity: People Are Paying Attention

The White House strategists fail to understand the resonance of the Justice Department’s firing of eight attorney generals with the American public as they offer their series of defenses. They vary from “nothing improper occurred” to “they serve at the pleasure of the President” to “this is a routine personnel matter”.

Most Americans have tremendous empathy for the eight AG's as many work in incredibly "political" business organizations where they have to watch their every step. Many show up daily at a job requiring them to navigate a political mine field. “What mood is the boss in today?” “How did the quarterly profits come in?” “Do they portend a hacking of thousands of loyal workers, a routine personnel matter?” “Will I be one of the fallen?”

People hate to see heavy handed leaders canning competent hard working employees for little or no reason. The company’s making billions more doesn’t reach deep into the heart of the average person. Likewise, replacing AG’s to set up the next political election is a cold stone in America’s sternum. More people watch the Justice Department firing story through the corner of their eye than our President thinks.

Everybody hates the pathologically arrogant CEO (a la Bush) and cringes when they have to interact with his slippery, conniving minion (Gonzales). The former’s decisions often have life altering impacts while the latter simply cannot be trusted. The apparently callous firings in the Justice Department, many people fear every day at work. For this reason, most Americans wanting the heart of America to beat again are paying attention.

Bush White House Still Hazy

One might think a month's time would clear the smoke in the White House regarding the firings of eight U.S. attorney generals, but Justice Department Chief Alberto Gonzales still exhales effluent. Over 4 weeks ago Tony Snow used the same foggy excuse, Mr. Gonzales recycled it for Congressional consumption. The Attorney General has “nothing to hide” but isn’t sure what he remembers given that “hazy memory”.

In normal organizations there are files, notes, letters, e-mails, reports, documents, approval forms, schedules, minutes, agendas, and meeting records to jog the memory. Recall Alberto Gonzales already met with Congress on this issue. Did he not prepare for his last testimony, earn a failing grade requiring a redo? Note the month long period he’s had to bone up on what really happened, yet his memory remains "hazy".

Add the missing millions of e-mails and the transparent White House waters look as murky as the Potomac in full flood. From the looks of what’s floating by, a different kind of effluent is being discharged from the Bush administration. The world recognizes it but domestically we seem to have trouble. Have we gotten used to the smell after 6 years?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Big Fish Landed for $4 Million, Small Fish Dangled for Public Viewing

In a classic bait and switch, Andrew Cuomo went from highlighting the bad behavior of a relative small fry to accepting fines from similar "badly behaving" heavy hitters. The news teemed with stories of Student Loan Xpress' illicit business dealings around student loans. Yet who'd already settled with the New York Attorney General, Sallie Mae and Citibank. Each ponied up $2 million in fines for their illegal efforts to steer higher education loans their way.

Why the difference in treatment if all used unethical incentives to get university financial departments to give them special treatment? A look at political donations the last 3 election cycles might provide some insight. Donations from each company’s PAC show CitiGroup gave nearly $1.5 million, Sallie Mae $1.5 million and Education Lending Group $15,500.

The smaller giver may have played the dirtiest in more than one field. While raising nearly $50,000 each of the last two election cycles, very little of ELG’s PAC money made it to actual candidates, other than Randy “Duke” Cunningham. Where did it go?

Did they wash it around to other PAC’s? One $10,000 check was sent in July 2003 to the same address as a Republican political strategy firm, Shockley Public Strategies and its principal, Leslie Beyers. Republican National Committee campaign expenses for 2004 show payments totaling $27,000 to the company for communication services. It also reimbursed Leslie Shockley-Beyers $1,424, Beyer, Leslie $971, and Leslie Beyer $672 for travel expenses.

Will Andrew Cuomo follow the suspicious $10,000 check from Education Lending’s PAC? Doubtful as it may shine the light on huge political donations from American student loan businesses to both Republicans and Democrats.

Citigroup and Sallies Mae get to act like President Bush after a horrific hurricane hit the Gulf Coast. They admit to not doing as much as they could have to run a good operation but promise to do better in the future. The book will be thrown at the smaller company also behaving badly. CIT Group, the parent company of Student Xpress will be treated like the soldiers at Abu Ghraib. Yes, an example will be made of their criminal behavior, while the system hides the much wider abuses…

Student Loan Corruption Reveals What about Our Politicians?

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said inappropriate relationships between student loan companies and higher education institutions are more pervasive than originally anticipated. The list of bribing loan companies and dirty college financial staffers grows as lawyers investigate.

A federal education department official was suspended from his position over the weekend after the N.Y. Attorney General revealed Matteo Fontana owned 10,500 shares of stock in Education Lending Group, the owner of Student Loan Xpress. CIT later purchased ELG for nearly $20 per share. Adding to the current round of damage control, CIT suspended the top three executives in their student loan division.

However this is only the first level of hand holding and money changing. In a back room are politicians and student loan corporate political action committees. ELG donated 100% to Republican candidates in the last election. The company's PAC contributors included a number of Student Loan Xpress executives. Randy “Duke” Cunningham received $5,000 from ELG for his last election run.

In addition ELG’s campaign reports show a $10,000 donation to “Committee for a Democratic”, 611 Pennsylvania Avenue SE Suite 243, Washington, D.C. 20003. Unable to find a PAC with such a name, I searched the address to find it belongs to Shockley Public Strategies Inc. Leslie Beyer, a Republican with strong Texas and Bush White House roots serves as principal for the firm.

Leslie left the Executive Office of the President in 2002. Did she accept the check for $10,000 from Education Lending Group PAC in July of 2003? Did Mrs. Beyer put it to work to get her ex-boss reelected to the White House? If she didn’t get the check, who did? And where did it end up? How was the Student Loan Xpress money washed through the political system?

It’s becoming clearer whose sleeping with whom in the education/student loan arena. The question is what happened in the back room? What monies or stock offerings greased the skids for private loan companies to make out like bandits off our kids higher education loans? Hopefully Andrew Cuomo is pursuing this side of the equation. However, if he has future political aspirations he might not. Both Democrats and Republicans work hard for their chance to gorge at the corporate money campaign trough. Huge student loan lender Sallie Mae contributed almost $1.6 million over the last three election cycles, with Republicans having a slight edge over Democrats.

Privatization means more companies perform duties branches of government used to conduct. That the companies show their appreciation by donating to political campaigns is just freedom of speech. Funny how the recipients are then free to support bills that benefit their donors. When some malfeasaonce is found, a few bad eggs are tossed ceremoniously. Why don't leaders ask what systems created this widespread bad behavior?

Student loan companies cheat on a broad scale to grow the business while CEO's cheat on their incentive pay by backdating stock options on a widespread basis. Want to bet only a few fall in either category? Andrew Cuomo is already talking settlement with a "significant" student loan lender. My guess is a hefty fine and a few sacrificial firings will do the trick. Sound familiar? It should in our "banana republic".

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Does Bush Really Care about Your Ill Relatives? Sodden Says “Nope”

How can a blogger in West Texas do more than the litany of already written books about the Bush administration’s spectacular incompetence? An Iraqi government insider joined the fray today with his release of “The Occupation of Iraq” published by Yale University Press. It details the massive corruption and widespread incompetence America imported into his country. Did you note the President’s alma mater in the publisher’s name?

Why could the simple revelation of a botched Hurricane Katrina “Lessons Learned” report on hospital evacuations cause the Bush team fits? It’s because Americans have high expectations that the sick and injured are cared for properly.

When the healthcare facilities themselves die, patients need to be rescued by capable Americans ASAP. The Bush team failed in that regard. This the nation already knows. What most people don’t know is the White House investigation doesn’t say who was responsible, how they performed, what broke down, or how to do better next time.

Did you know your local community hospital is responsible for evacuating its own patients regardless of conditions? No local, state or federal emergency operations center coordinated patient evacuations from dead hospitals in New Orleans. A trade group, the Louisiana Hospital Association worked diligently to fill the void left by the various EOC’s. This got not one mention in Bush’s booted follow-up investigation.

But who benefited the most from George Bush’s flat footed tome? It might be The Carlyle Group whose LifeCare affiliate lost 24 patients in the storms aftermath. Their complete absence from the report likely helps them defend those coming wrongful death civil lawsuits. Early legal maneuvers in criminal cases show LifeCare pointing fingers at everyone but themselves. Yet they had a duty to ensure patients were cared for by LifeCare employees only. On that they clearly failed.

Will Americans allow a President who plays politics with hospital patients lives by ignoring the Democratic governor’s plea for rescues? Can they stomach a whitewash report on hospital evacuations that abdicates the federal government of any responsibility for saving seriously ill patients both retrospectively and in the future? President Bush must know everyone has relatives who at some point in their life need hospitalization. Picture a helpless patient in a facility dead from a disaster or terrorism. Your federal government can just let them sit there. It already has and it produced an investigative report that greases the skids for it to happen again.

Does wasting money in other lands pale to wasting sick relatives here at home? If the American public finds out, they will decide...

Friday, April 06, 2007

NASA IG Applying Bush Management Principles Ordered "Back to School"

NASA's Inspector General Robert Cobb committed a series of cardinal sins in his role as an "impartial investigator". Mr. Cobb frequently golfed with the head of NASA, traveled together on department aircraft, and even tipped off officials to his internal investigations. The Integrity Committee which reviews IG's said Robert created "the appearance of a a lack of independence".

Cobb also held up a Texas Rangers investigation into the final disposition of missing jewelry from fallen Columbia astronaut, Laurel Clark. Her husband wanted to use all means to recover the keepsakes, including the television program CrimeStoppers. The NASA IG nixed that idea to save his department's and the Bush administration's face.

Corrective action for the wayward IG is "management training". Does that ring any bells? Karl and company got a round of "ethics training" after the White House leak of a CIA agents name. That and an internal White House investigation, the President assurred us would solve the problem. Yet, that promised follow up investigation never occurred according to Bush's security chief.

Robert Cobb's background included serving as ethics adviser to Alberto Gonzales, then White House Counsel. With nine years experience in the U.S. Office of Government Ethics one might expect more from Mr. Cobb. But this isn't his first brush with the Integrity Committee.

Previously, the committee found Cobb guilty of creating "an abusive work environment". People inside the IG's office described him as abusive, dismissive and a bully. Does that sound familiar? Did he learn how to blow his top and unleash a series of four letter words while working in the White House? Did George, Dick, Karl, Alberto or even Fran Townsend (known for her four letter tirades according to Time magazine) teach Mr. Cobb?

One case shared with the Intergrity Committee is mind boggling. IG auditor Carroll Tom Hassell described how "a person in a South American country" over three days in late 2002 logged into the Marshall Space Flight Center's supposedly secure computer system, stole space shuttle data valued at $1.9 billion and shipped it to a third country. The complaint said Cobb's office refused to report the theft to the Commerce Department as an illegal transfer of intellectual property. The IG's rationale for not reporting was the data still existed on NASA computers.

Robert Cobb is a fractal in the Bush administration. He's simply a reflection of the sorry managment beliefs and practices residing in the White House. The great losses are here and sending a flunkie to "management training" will accomplish little, that is if it even happens...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

How Much Did Matteo Fontana Make on His Education Learning Stock?

The news revealed a federal employee in charge of the student loan database owned 10,500 shares of Education Lending Group as of September 2003. It traded at $9.50 a share at the time giving it a value of over $100,000. The question is when did Matteo sell his shares? Did he hold them until February 2005 when ELG was acquired by CIT Group? If so, Mr. Fontana grossed $200,000 on his holdings given CIT's cash purchase price of $19.05 per ELG share.

That's a heckuva investment return for a federal bureaucrat managing a computer database. Now how did he get those shares to begin with? And did the company get preferrential access to potential customers from this arrangement?

Don't count on the Bush administration to come clean or conduct even a cursory examination into the matter. I'm still waiting on why the Bush team completely omitted the hospital with the largest number of patient deaths from its post Hurricane Katrina "Lessons Learned" report. The Carlyle Group likely is most appreciative that Frances Townsend left their newly purchased LifeCare Hospital out of her post mortem on the Bush performance. It's easier to defend their wrongful death civil suits with the feds silent on the matter...

Republican Husband of Asian Indian Slams American Indians

Radio Talk show host Michael Berry also serves as Houston’s Mayor Pro Tem. He’s active in the community, even serving on the board of the Houston Holocaust Museum. One would think these positions would give him a higher perspective but Berry fell off his elected high horse the other morning when on Fox News Radio he lit into American Indians for “whining” about having been “whipped in a war”. This resulted in U.S. citizens paying “large amounts” of welfare to those same Native Americans.

Harris County Republican leader Michael Berry’s fall landed him in deep horse manure. People from all corners informed the ignorant talk show host of numerous errors in his statements. For these he eventually apologized. "I've done my homework and learned that I was wrong, I'm big enough to admit when my facts are wrong."

It’s a good thing Berry is a Republican, otherwise he might be known as "a flip flopper". I wonder how his Asian Indian wife reacted to his American Indian comments? Her people were oppressed by the British in a colonizing manner similar to U.S. westward expansion. One would expect Berry to have more understanding before shooting off his mouth, but that is the state of American politics. Shoot first, ask questions later. Kudos to Berry for forcing down that morsel of humble pie...

More Jack!

Jack Cafferty's questions today included one of my hot button issues. As a past hospital leader I helped evacuate a 165 bed facility on the Texas Gulf Coast prior to a record setting hurricane and suffered through a dead river flooded 700 bed teaching hospital in Southwest Virginia.

Q: How can FEMA regain the confidence of the public?

Answer #1: They could actually rescue hospital patients suffering in dead facilities after the next hurricane. President Bush's "Lessons Learned" report never mentioned the group that did FEMA's job for them. A trade group, the Louisiana Hospital Association coordinated patient rescues.

Of course Bush's report left out more to protect his buddies down Pennsylvania Avenue. LifeCare's 24 patient deaths got not one mention in the White House "investigation". Guess who purchased LifeCare just weeks before Katrina? None other than The Carlyle Group.

Answer #2: They could be honest and change their name to EMPHYSEMA, an acronym for Everyone Manage your own Personal Hell while Yelping loudly for the Selective Emergency Management Agency.

Presidential Candidates Success in Hunting for Ka-ching

With Barack Obama's $25 million and John McCain's $12.5 million, the first quarter Presidential fundraising total neared the $130 million figure. All those campaign hunter-gatherers reaped considerable success on behalf of their candidates. Of course, it is sexier to be the hunter.

Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney proved this with his assertion of his "lifelong hunting experience". Data reveals Mitt only pursued live prey twice in his 60 year life, once as a 15 year old and the other just last year at an outing with major Republican donors. Evidence shows Romney to be anything but a lifelong hunter. So why would he lie?

The better question is why does the American populace want to elect a hunter? It seems our country needs a gatherer or at least someone familiar with cycles. I don't hear any candidates bragging about their experience working on a farm. Growing something takes understanding, planning and patience, something in short supply in our hallowed halls of government. Stephen Covey speaks of the law of the farm. Meanwhile political candidates talk of the power of the blast and how they can pull the trigger.

Planting seeds vs. popping pistols? I'll vote for the grower of people anytime...

New Recess Appointed Belgium Ambassador is PEU

President Bush picked up his Maxwell Smart shoe phone to call an old “Ranger” buddy for help with international affairs. No, not a Texas Ranger but a Bush/Cheney fundraising Ranger, the label given to those who raise over $200,000 for the campaign. Using the old recess appointment trick, Bush slid Sam Fox, private equity underwriter into the ambassadorship of Belgium.

How did the President do this? In a move worthy of a brutally fought 3 am Yale RISK game, Bush feinted by withdrawing Fox from Senate consideration of the Belgium ambassadorship. Then while abusing the Congress for being gone 2 weeks (while a Republican controlled Congress took a break over 3 times as long last fall to the President’s silence), Bush used the double secret recess appointment trick to lodge a multimillion dollar Republican fundraiser into positions career diplomats used to occupy.

For what is Belgium famous? It’s known for diamond trading which has a distinctly Jewish flavor. The U.S. government has a distinctly pro-Israel stance as evidenced by the recent AIPAC meeting attended by “rock stars” from both major parties. Future Presidential candidates competed for the “who loves Israel” prize.

Belgium also serves as a financial center for the European continent. From this base the United States monitors world wide financial transactions for evidence of terrorism. The SWIFT program is based in Brussels, Belgium. In an eerie coincidence another private equity firm, The Carlyle Group purchased a financial software and services company that very country last fall. FRS Global markets unique products that help banks and financial institutions with “regulatory compliance”. Does that include helping Uncle Sam root around in our financial drawers?

For what is Sam Fox famous? Besides taking over distressed companies and turning them around for massive gains, Sam likes to fund a political winner at any cost. Remember the “Swift boat veterans for truth” negative ads against John Kerry? Sam kicked in a yacht load of money to run the ads. This act held up Fox’s nomination in the Senate.

Sam Fox might the perfect ambassador for a dirty playing, heavy handed, Israeli loving government that wants to contract almost any government service to its buddies. The international monitoring program SWIFT should be broadened to include U.S. politicians, their fundraising and legislative voting patterns. But the Bush “open and transparent” government wouldn’t have such a thing.

One would think in America, the freest country on earth, citizens would have easy access to such information to make informed votes. In this case the people’s representatives didn’t even get to vote as King George used a procedural move to get his way.

Don't worry America is still the finest democracy on Earth, with the freest people? Would you believe we're a pretty good democracy, with mostly free people? How about an average country with obedient citizens? OK, a country run by rich landowners who send business to their friends and don't trust the people to select a President by majority vote, thus the Electoral College...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

CNN to Stand for Christian News Network?

Two nights ago I awoke from a dream with the pit in my stomach plummeting, my chest constricted and the sense that the world as I know it, is no more. Little did I know my television would confirm this discomfort. CNN did a bit on the Chocolate Jesus, the life sized statue of a naked Christ made of America's favorite confectionary.

The 24 hour news network interviewed the creator of the artwork and a Catholic "representative". They picked fundamentalist Catholic League head Bill O'Donahue to interview. Now they are running a series on "What is a Christian?" After reading the Chocolate Jesus transcript from Anderson Cooper 360, I really want a less hypersentive world, one more accepting of other's religious beliefs. The current win/lose version is a recipe for hate and violence. Read it and see how you feel:

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Cosimo, I want to start by asking you what your intention was with -- with this -- this piece of art.

C. CAVALLARO: My intention was to celebrate this body of Christ, and in a sweet, delicious, tasteful way.

COOPER: Why -- why use chocolate?

C. CAVALLARO: Because it's a substance that I like. And it's sweet. And I felt that the body of Christ, the -- the meaning of Christ, is about the sweetness.

COOPER: Were you trying to shock, I mean, to -- to cause attention?Often -- usually, when Christ is shown, he's wearing some form of clothing. This is a naked Christ, which has also caused some concern.

C. CAVALLARO: No more than the religion, the way they use it. I was just using it as an iconic figure. I mean, that my intentions was to shock people, no. I was -- my intention was to have them taste the -- and feel what they're looking at in their mouth.

COOPER: Bill, you call this exhibit hate speech. You said it's -- quote -- "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever."What specifically offends you about it?

DONOHUE: Well, of course, asking the public to come in and eat Jesus, with his genitals exposed, during Holy Week I think would be self-explanatory. If we took an image of this artist's mother, and made her out in chocolate, with her genitals exposed, of course, to be equal, and then asked the public to eat her on Mother's Day, yes, he might have a problem. Maybe he wouldn't. But you know what bothers me? It's not even the artist. I mean, we have a lot of these loser artists down in SoHo and around the country. What bothers me is that this guy Knowles, who is an artist in residence, the owner, the president and CEO of an establishmentarian site, the Roger Smith Hotel, 47th and Lexington, in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, that is what bothers me, because now we have the establishment kicking in.And to put this out during Holy Week, on street level, when kids can walk in off the street, these people are morally bankrupt. And my goal is to make them financially bankrupt.

COOPER: Cosimo, do you understand the outrage this has caused? I mean, do you think it's overreaction? Do you get it?

C. CAVALLARO: Yes, I get it. I think it's an overreaction. You just heard the gentleman calling artists losers, or me a loser. I think what he's -- his assault is on the public at large, artists, and freedom of speech, and every Catholic. I'm a Catholic, and I'm a Christian. And I think this gentleman doesn't even represent the people that are in his faith.

DONOHUE: That's funny. You said I put out a fatwa, right? Or the -- or the -- that was the -- the guy who ran the lab, says I put out a fatwa. I put out a news release. So, you're accusing me of being like the Taliban; is that right? C.

CAVALLARO: Who, me? You're not that intelligent. (LAUGHTER)

DONOHUE: Oh, no, let me tell you something. You're -- you're lucky I'm not as mean, because you might lose more than your head.

COOPER: Cosimo, did you want people to eat this? Was that part of this?

C. CAVALLARO: No.Did you hear what this gentleman is saying, that I would lose my head?

DONOHUE: No, I -- you heard what I said. I said you're -- you're lucky I'm not like the Taliban, because you would lose more than your head, which is why...

C. CAVALLARO: Right. So, therefore...(CROSSTALK)

DONOHUE: ... guys like you wouldn't do this against Mohammed during Ramadan. (CROSSTALK)

C. CAVALLARO: No, because I'm a Christian. And I'm not trying to...

DONOHUE: Oh, you're a Christian. Please. Don't lie about it, all right? Don't lie about it.

C. CAVALLARO: I'm not lying. No, I'm not lying about it.


C. CAVALLARO: I want to ask you a question, Mr. DONOHUE.


C. CAVALLARO: Where do you think I should exhibit this? Because you -- you have bamboozled an art gallery.


C. CAVALLARO: And you have bamboozled an establishment. You have put fear in people to listen to your rhetoric and to believe -- just because a man has got his arms extended and he's made in chocolate -- it's your Christ -- and it's offensive.

DONOHUE: That's right. (CROSSTALK)

C. CAVALLARO: And, by the way -- excuse me. I'm going to talk to you for a minute. You keep quiet.

DONOHUE: And you want the public to eat him.(CROSSTALK)

C. CAVALLARO: Now, you go to the Catholic Church...(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Let Cosimo finish his point.

C. CAVALLARO: You go to the Catholic Church, and you're going to see statues from Michelangelo that are nude. Are you going to clothe them for the Holy Week?


C. CAVALLARO: And are you telling me that, apart from the Holy Week, we could do anything we want to do with the genitalia? What are you talking about?


COOPER: OK. Let Bill answer.

DONOHUE: All right. All right, first of all, Leonardo, you're not. But, quite frankly, where should you have this displayed? In New Jersey is where New Yorkers put their garbage. There's a big sanitation dump. That's where you should put it.

COOPER: Bill, let me read you something that David Kuo, the former presidential assistant to President Bush, who worked in the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives, said in reference to your protest.He said -- quote -- "Instead of getting all amped up over this art, Christians should be spending time facing the real and very challenging Jesus found in the Gospels, and encouraging others to do the same."(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Are you making a bigger deal out of this than it deserves?

DONOHUE: No, no, no, no.

COOPER: And doesn't this, in fact, give this more attention than it ever would have received otherwise?

DONOHUE: If, in fact, it was at some dump in SoHo, I probably wouldn't pay too much attention. But the fact that the Roger Smith Hotel...(CROSSTALK)

C. CAVALLARO: ... dump in SoHo.

DONOHUE: ... right here in New York City is doing this thing, no. If I don't pay attention to it, then I -- my people should ask for me to be fired.By the way, I am delighted with the response from Jews, Muslims, and others, not just Catholics and Protestants, with this. People are basically saying, enough is enough. This is absolutely revolting. And what you're saying, sir, is totally disingenuous. No one believes it. I don't even think you believe it.

COOPER: But, Bill, doesn't -- doesn't -- I mean, don't people have a right to express themselves? And isn't that what art is about? Aren't artists supposed to provoke thought?

DONOHUE: That's right. And, if we -- and if we put a swastika out on a stamp in the United States, we could call that art. It was an art exhibition. I don't think Jews would go for that. Just because art is art doesn't mean that it is a right that is absolute. Art can be insulting and it can be offensive. And when these people are whining, claiming victim status, as this guy is doing, because of my exercise of my First Amendment right of freedom of speech -- I didn't call the cops to come in and censor this. I'm simply saying I called up about 500 of my friends and -- running different Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and non- sectarian organizations to boycott the Roger Smith Hotel. They're morally bankrupt. I want to see them financially bankrupt.

COOPER: Cosimo, I want to give you the final thought. Do you plan to -- to display this elsewhere?

C. CAVALLARO: Yes, I do, hopefully. And I would like to add to the gentleman who referred to the swastika, he's actually acting like a Nazi. (LAUGHTER)

C. CAVALLARO: And I -- I would like to ask one question.Where do you suggest that I exhibit this? Because you basically pulled it out of a gallery for me. So, where do you think...

DONOHUE: No. I -- I told you...(CROSSTALK)

C. CAVALLARO: Where -- no, excuse me.Where do you suggest that an artist should exhibit his work that you don't infringe on?

DONOHUE: Well, you know, go to some dump down in SoHo, where...


DONOHUE: ... nobody will pay attention.

C. CAVALLARO: Is there a church in SoHo that's a dump, too, because...

DONOHUE: Oh, you would like to...(CROSSTALK)

C. CAVALLARO: No, let me tell you something.

DONOHUE: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

C. CAVALLARO: There's two priests that have wanted to exhibit this in their church.

DONOHUE: Is that right?

C. CAVALLARO: Yes, absolutely.DONOHUE: Give me their names.

C. CAVALLARO: I will not, because you're a bully. (LAUGHTER)

C. CAVALLARO: And you know what? I believe that there's people in your organization that would like you to resign.

DONOHUE: Is that right?

C. CAVALLARO: Absolutely. And you're...

DONOHUE: Well, how come -- I haven't heard from them.

C. CAVALLARO: I got to tell you something, there's more filth that comes out of your mouth...

DONOHUE: Is that right?

C. CAVALLARO: Yes -- than I have seen...(CROSSTALK)

DONOHUE: Look, you lost. You know what? You put your middle finger at the Catholic Church, and we just broke it, didn't we, pal?

C. CAVALLARO: No. You're wrong. You're wrong.

DONOHUE: Yes, we did. You lost.

C. CAVALLARO: I have a lot of believers.

DONOHUE: We -- we won. You're out of a job.

C. CAVALLARO: And I'm a Christian. And there's a lot of people like me, who are opposed to what you're doing, because you made a big...

DONOHUE: Yes? But I got a job, and you don't.

C. CAVALLARO: You made a -- "I got a job, and you don't"?


C. CAVALLARO: You're acting like a 5-year-old.

DONOHUE: I got a job, and you don't.

C. CAVALLARO: You're talking -- you're acting like a 5-year-old. And I feel sorry for you.

COOPER: All right. We're going to -- we're...

DONOHUE: Well, I won on this, and you lost, didn't you?

COOPER: Well, let's -- let's leave it there. You both expressed your opinions.Bill DONOHUE, appreciate you being with -- and, Cosimo Cavallaro, appreciate it as well. Thank you, sir.

C. CAVALLARO: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Thank you.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"Responsible" Bush Cuts Payments to County Hospitals while Upping Medicare Funding for Private Insurers

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced two regulatory decisions. One increases payments to private insurance companies for their Medicare Advantage plan recipients, while the other cuts funding for government owned hospitals serving the uninsured. Health insurance stocks rose broadly on the announcement. In contrast local and state owned hospitals have no stock to fall.

The move to increase payments to health insurers for Medicare Advantage took the market by surprise. Recent reports indicated a payment cut to be on tap, rather than a payment increase.

Should Susan Bayh, the wife of Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, waited before flipping her WellPoint stock options? She turned them in January for a net gain of $112,000. Had she made the same move today, Susan could have netted an additional $14,000.

Hospitals under the Bush plan stand to do much worse than Mrs. Bayh. With the regulation change, the feds expect to save nearly $4 billion over 5 years. How much will private insurers get under their fee increase? I’m still searching for that number, but if I find it you’ll be the first to know.

Yet Another Hand Holding Insurance Salesman

The images of the financial advisor lounging on the beach at your retirement home and attending your daughter’s college graduation will soon be joined by your health insurance agent taking high fat food off your kitchen table and imploring you to finish that 5K run with a sprint. That’s right, huge insurer WellPoint incentivized its employees to improve the health of the 34 million people it covers.

They picked 20 monitors and compiled them into a patient index. The various patient indexes are combined for an overall company score. If WellPoint meets its 2010 improvement goal then 42,000 employees will see the result in their bonus check.

The company’s chief medical officer said linking employee bonuses to care improvements will "get everyone energized about improving health care in our company.” Yes, but which way will this energy go? Corporate chiefs used 30% of their stock option energy to cheat by backdating. Some 700 Texas public schools had their No Child Left Behind bonuses held up due to suspicious test results.

Will the 42,000 work to rewrite their insurance products to cover the most effective treatment options? Will they simply choose not to write policies for even marginally unhealthy patients? A healthier patient to begin with brings “better outcomes”.

Will the 42,000 call you at breakfast to find what’s on the table? Will they meet you at the grocery store to monitor your food choices? Will they jog next to you at the gym making small talk like “how’s the weight?”

Or will 12,000 act like corporate big dogs by lying and cheating to meet their performance target?

Keep in mind other efforts to improve the quality of health care. One insurance company ranks and rates doctor performance in a manner similar to that called for by Medicare Super Chief Mike Leavitt. When one physician fell from the “best in class” status, he investigated why. The company cited his poor performance with diabetic patients. After a search of patient records, the doctor found 30% of his patients cited by the insurer didn’t even have the disease.

Who else will soon enter your living room based on inaccurate or erroneous information? Who is really looking to help you get healthier and who is looking to pad their personal compensation? This system (like all extrinsic motivation efforts) will be gamed. Watch as 2010 nears for the specific creative measures used by WellPoint employees as they spin the wheel faster to reach the cheese…

Monday, April 02, 2007

Presidential Update

Spring arrived with the U.S. Presidential field sprouting ample green and growing wildly. A few more Tom’s joined the already crowded 2008 Presidential race the last few days, ex Wisconsin governor and HHS chief Tommy “Implantable Human Chip” Thompson and Colorado Congressman Tom “O’Bomber Mecca” Tancredo.

The green came from the millions raised by front running candidates, shattering previous campaign fundraising records. Hillary Clinton netted $26 million, Mitt Romney $23 million, Rudy Guiliani $15 million, John Edwards $14 million, Bill Richardson $6 million, Chris Dodd $4 million, Joe Biden $2 million and Tom Tancredo over $1 million. That’s nearly $90 million without Barack Obama’s or John McCain’s significant sums (as they are yet to be released).

Let me get this straight. For the period of January to March 2007 candidates raised well over $100 million to fund their Presidential aspirations some 20 months away? It looks those billion dollar predictions will be on the low side. Now why would so much money flow into candidates campaign coffers? It’s clear they expect returns on their investment…

Sunday, April 01, 2007

No Wonder Bush Team Can’t Do a Credible Investigation!

Does anyone else wonder why the Bush team botches investigation after investigation? The answer might be found in recent comments by White House spokesperson Dana Perino. She characterized private, un-sworn and un-transcribed testimony as being “extraordinarily forthcoming”. Ask any attorney general if they can make a case on such testimony.

The list of other booted studies or complete non-investigations include:

The White House whitewashed their inactions after Hurricane Katrina in their “Lessons Learned report”. It earned a huge sigh of relief from the Carlyle Group as their brand new affiliate LifeCare Hospitals had the highest patient death toll in the storm’s aftermath. This warranted not one mention in the Bush post mortem.

The non-investigation of secret CIA prisons throughout the world and any prisoner treatment that occurred under “the program”. Allegations of torture arising in current military tribunals are referred to the Pentagon for investigation. This is the same Pentagon that repeatedly flubbed ex-NFL star Pat Tillman’s friendly fire death investigation. Our European friends conducted a study on American secret CIA prisons without us.

A United Nations group requested for three years to investigate prisoner conditions at Guantanamo Bay only to be offered the official tour. Requests to meet with prisoners were denied. International experts refused to come as this is a key step in determining whether torture actually occurred.

The non-investigation of the White House leak of a CIA agent’s name. This later resulted in the conviction of the Vice President’s Chief of Staff for perjury. The President promised to look into the matter but no internal findings were ever released. That’s because Bush’s promised internal investigation never happened.

Attorney General Gonzales serves at the pleasure of a flat footed leader and it appears Alberto imitated Bush the last few weeks. Complete with contempt of Congress he told them he had “no role” in the firings. Documents and testimony of his underlings revealed otherwise, which sent Alberto into a fierce round of word parsing. The good news is Mr. Gonzales will stay on the job with the full confidence of the President and lead the investigation now hot on the heels of truth. However this requires basic memory capabilities, something currently in doubt for the nation’s top lawyer.

What’s good for the Bush clan should be good enough for every forgetful criminal. People suspected of a crime should give private, un-sworn and un-transcribed testimony. That might be good enough to get the latest round of Congressional investigations off the desks of Attorney Generals. Rep. Jerry Lewis and ex-House Ways and Means Chair Bill Thomas likely would send Alberto a thank you note…

Bush Worried about Matter, Anti-Matter Meeting

In Bush's world lines are drawn, sides are as clear as matter and anti-matter. Domestically Republicans are the matter and Democrats the anti-matter. When they collide major combustion occurs. They net each other out leaving the voters with nothing more than a concussion blast.

Internationally the democratic, capitalist West is matter and the Axis of Evil composed of anti-matter. Iran and Syria are the only two remaining countries from the "old axis" list. North Korea followed Libya by just changing its evil ways while Iraq has been freed to flourish as a democracy. However, inching their way towards anti-matter status are the Russians and Chinese.

The reason the Bush team won’t meet with Iran or Syria is he doesn’t want the two opposing explosive forces coming into contact. So what happens when an anti-matter Democratic leader travels to Israel to meet with their clearly material Prime Minister Ehud Olmert? Once there House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not explode, she promised to carry the Israeli message to Syria. So why didn’t Nancy and Ehud cancel each other out?

It turns out Nancy was converted at a recent AIPAC meeting. Speaker Pelosi is now a card carrying materialistic, capitalistic fan of America’s greatest ally in the Middle East. So President Bush doesn’t need to worry about Nancy meeting with Syrian leaders. She won’t add any anti-matter to their stockpile. Let’s just hope she wears one of those special suits that Christopher Hill wore to negotiate with the North Koreans when she delivers Ehud Olmert’s message. I’d hate to see a matter, anti-matter conflagration. It could mess up her hair and ruin Bush's cute nickname for her, "Pelo-chia-pet".

What happens if Nancy segways over to Iran to negotiate the British soldier release? President Bush just recalled America's tragic history with Iran by calling them “hostages”. In an odd twist, 200 Iranian students protested outside the British embassy chanting “Death to Britain” and throwing stones. If someone wanted the grease the skids for a Western attack on Iran, these images would be invaluable.

Likewise, Ms. Nancy Pelosi recently dropped any Congressional restrictions on attacking Iran. This happened during the huge AIPAC Policy and Issues convention in Washington D.C. What about Nancy’s recent meeting partner, Israeli P.M. Olmert? Just the other day he said now is "not the right time" to invade Gaza to root out a reportedly growing Hamas military threat. What is more pressing for the Jewish state? Do they have their eye on the Iranian ball as well? It’s perilously close to the nuclear technology no going back date offered by Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni sometime last fall.

There’s so much matter and anti-matter. It’s just a question of when and where it will meet…

Bush’s “Worst of the Worst” Worked for British Intelligence

After five years in U.S. custody, several rendition flights and his time “in the tropics” at Guantanamo Bay, a British citizen was released from the infamous terrorist holding facility. Bisher al-Rawi’s freedom came from the urging of the British government as he’d previously been an informant for MI5.

Now free, the ex-prisoner alleges he’d been tortured in U.S. captivity. His brother claimed CIA agents threatened him with rape and torture.

After reading both U.S. and British news on the story, I noted several glaring differences.

1. The British account mentions the torture allegations, the U.S. does not. It does refer to his stay as “profoundly difficult”.

2. The UK version clearly states the MI5 cooperation happened prior to his imprisonment while the U.S. version glosses over past cooperation, making it sound like a condition of release.

3. The British account mentions his Iraqi citizenship and his residence in country for 19 years. This gets no mention in the American story.

4. The Guardian story clearly relates the conditions of his capture in Gambia while trying to set up a peanut processing factory with his brother. The AP version only mentions arrest in Gambia for having suspicious electronic equipment, later proven to be a battery charger.

5. The UK version notes his being taken to Bagram Air base in Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo Bay. The US says he went through Cairo to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan, then on to Guantanamo.

The U.S. story states the reason they held the prisoner was his association with his association with an al-Qaeda linked radical cleric, Abu Qatada. It was this association MI5 mined through Mr. al-Rawi. So the very work he did helping British intelligence landed him in Guantanamo Bay!

If anyone tells you the heavy hand of Western might lands only on the deserving, think again. I bet another condition of his release is waiving any rights to sue for wrongful imprisonment or torture.

As the world reaches out in compassion for the 15 British soldiers who understandably lie after less than two weeks in Iranian custody, let’s consider the impact on years of confinement in U.S. facilities under conditions specifically designed to break the human mind/spirit. Might they also lie or say exaggerated things like those British Navy soldiers? I’ll close with a statement by the now freed prisoner.

"The hopelessness you feel in Guantanamo can hardly be described. You are asked the same questions hundreds of times, Allegations are made against you that are laughably untrue, but you have no chance to prove them wrong. There is no trial, no fair legal process."