Thursday, January 31, 2008

Democracy a Means or an End for Leaders?

George W. Bush enters his final year in office. It's the President's last opportunity to push his counterparts to actualize the Almighty's freedom, granted to all people, yet withheld by worldly leaders. Numerous questions arise. Is democracy the result of fairly elected governments characterized by a separation of powers? Does it require a free and fair press? Are there certain expectations of behavior like the right to a fair trial and to be held without torture?

Many U.S. allies took giant steps backwards on the Democracy board this last year. Leaders intent on maintaining their lock on power dismantled keystones of freedom in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Kenya. Human Rights Watch adds Bahrain, Russia, Thailand, and Jordan to this list of countries reneging their democratic promises.

HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said it had become too easy for autocrats to get away with mounting a sham democracy "because too many Western governments insist on elections and leave it at that. They don't press governments on the key human rights issues that make democracy function - a free press, peaceful assembly, and a functioning civil society that can really challenge power."

His last statement has me concerned about our democracy here at home. Where is our society that can challenge power? Bush administration representatives won't even answer questions before Congress. What's an individual citizen to do, if those in power are powerless?

On his other points, America has an advertising funded, corporate owned press. There is nothing free about it. The right to peaceful assembly applies only if one stays in the relegated protest zone miles away from any "public event." Also, that public event is invitation only, for like believers. The good seats are parcelled to those showing their support monetarily.

I believe Mr. Roth is missing numerous democratic failures on America's part. As for voting, all Iraqi's need to select a leader is a body part to dip in purple ink. In many parts of the U.S. it now requires a photo ID, driver's license or passport. We have the best democracy in the world, now selected by automobile operators and international travellers.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bush Team Not Free to Use Theory

Dr. Deming said "it is management's job to know." What was he talking about? Knowledge is prediction. Management is in the prediction business. They do so using theory. Leader's predictions come true or not. Testing the theory produces data or information to support or refute it. One can use such information to make adjustments to the theory for future use.

George W. Bush's administration believes it's management's job not to know. The Bush team cannot make predictions until actual situations present themselves. Take Justice Chief Michael Mukasey. During his confirmation hearings, members of Congress clearly wanted to know our country's official position on waterboarding. He couldn't answer because Mukasey didn't yet have the job. Now that he's had it for months, the Attorney General still can't answer the question.

"Those circumstances have not been set out," Mukasey answered. "That is not part of the program. We don't know concretely what they are. And we don't know how that would work." Mukasey added: "It is unresolved, because I have not been presented with a concrete situation."

This is the sign of an adminstration that operates off gut and experience. The Bush team knows and learns nothing.

"Without theory there is nothing to modify or learn,"-Dr. W. Edwards Deming

Monday, January 28, 2008

CBS Says Saddam Feared Iranian Invasion but Got U.S. One Instead

A FBI agent spoke on 60 Minutes about Saddam Hussein's risk assessment prior to the U.S. invasion. The agent released confindential information obtained while the Iraqi dictator was in U.S. hands. My summary of the just released report is as follows:

1) Saddam lied about his weapons of mass destruction to hoodwink those marauding Iranians. He never thought the U.S. would actually invade. Hussein supposedly worried about Iranians invading.

Translation (with caveat): Therefore, the public should be relieved the U.S. acted to beat those crazy Iranians to the punch. (One should not believe George W. Bush to be as pathological as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, even though Bush ordered the actual invasion, the first pre-emptive war in modern history.)

2) Hussein had the ability to restart his weapons program and wanted to do just that.

Translation: For today's world, one only need change one letter in the country's name, the Q to an N. Iran has the ability to restart its nuclear weapons program and wants to do just that! They wanted to invade Iraq, but Georgie's cavalry beat them to the punch. I can picture Bush saying, "Now, they want Israel wiped off the map! C'mon Olmerty, it's time for the world sheriff's to ride into Tehran. This time you be the Lone Ranger and I'll be Tonto. Bring it on Mahmoud, we double dog dare you!"

3) Saddam was crafty enough to hide from U.S. forces for 9 months. This is how he outsmarted the U.S. in the end.

Translation: Start scoping out your manhole, Mahmoud. Your final craftiness will be a very small victory, like Saddam's.

The CBS report came out the day before Bush's State of the Division speech. This morning I bet the U.S. stock market would end on a positive note. George W. likes to see things positively, as he's an optimistic guy.

And I'm positive the FBI agent's report contributes nicely to the themes Bush will address this evening in his address to the country. We were right on invading Iraq, and given the same setup in Iran, we must do likewise. Only this time, I think it be more like what Saddam expected, a month long bombing, similar to Israel's dress rehearsal in Southern Lebanon. The question is who blows back after Israel attacks Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities? Uncle Sam will stand strong and firm to contain Iran's retaliatory impulse, but will anyone else feel compelled to jump in the fray?

Freedom to Invest

The federal government's passing on a project can open the door for private enterprise to step in. In this Virginia case, hopes for a 23 mile Metrorail extension are fading. Who might provide funding for the project? The Carlyle Group, the infamously connected private equity underwriter (PEU).

Bush's Transportation Department has a clearly stated bias toward private-public partnerships. Secretary Mary Peters and Undersecretary D.J. Gribben believe strongly in such projects. D.J.'s prior employer, Macquarie is a partner in several U.S. toll roads.

The Washington Post noted federal denial to be a strong reason for regional business and political leaders to consider private funding. That begs the question. Could Bush's team not fund a project so their friends could get the work? He's been known to send government work to his friends by action. Does he do likewise via inaction?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Something Stinks in Pakistan

Given their recent rhetoric, either George W. Bush or Pervez Musharraf is hiding something. Today's news revealed Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, and Gen. Michael Hayden, CIA director, met with the Pakistani President on January 9th. After the meeting Pervez made a number of "uncooperative comments".

January 11th-President Pervez Musharraf said U.S. troops are not welcome to join the fight against al Qaeda on Pakistani soil. Musharraf warned in an interview published yesterday that Pakistan would resist any unilateral military action by the United States against militants sheltering in its lawless, tribal regions close to the Afghan border. He said U.S. troops would "certainly" be considered invaders if they set foot in the tribal regions without his permission.

Contrast this with Bush's Fighting to the Finish position, illuminated by Fran Townsend on a FOX News special, "The president has made perfectly clear that he wants Bin Laden brought to justice before he leaves office.”

January 22nd-"The 100,000 troops that we are using ... are not going around trying to locate Osama bin Laden and Zawahri, frankly," Musharraf told a conference at the French Institute for International Relations. "They are operating against terrorists, and in the process, if we get them, we will deal with them certainly."

This statement is odd, especially given the fact that bin Laden declared war on Musharraf in September 2007

January 25th- "Unfortunately there is a degree of, may I say, intellectual arrogance that I see in the West which thinks that these developing countries are some kind of people who do not know how to govern, they do not know anything."

So what's going on? Is Pervez hitting the fringe like past U.S. sponsored dictators, the Shah of Iran and Iraq's Saddam Hussein? Is Musharraf saying one thing to his public while doing another behind the scenes. The secret visit by McConnell and Hayden indicate something's up. How many billions did they dangle for landing bin Laden? And what better way to throw the Islamists off track, than to say "we're not looking for you" and neither is the U.S.

Something fishy is going on between Bush and Musharraf. Head fakes or break aways? It's hard to tell in today's divided world.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wolfie's Back in Time for Iran

The State Department announced Mr. Paul Wolfowitz's appointment as chairman of the International Security Advisory Board. It issued a statement saying Wolfowitz will provide analysis and insight into current issues for the secretary of state on a regular basis. Paul served as one of the chief architects of the Iraq War and rejoins the Bush administration in a critical advisory role. He'll sit next to other old neocon buddies , just in time for the next New American Century chapter on Iran.

The International Security Advisory Board is sponsored and overseen by the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security. Does this mean Bush contracted with Wolfie to oversee the Board, as he's now its chairman? The current undersecretary, John Rood, is only an acting appointment and looks somewhat green to be steering a veteran board. Also, with Nick Burns on his way out, there will be one less diplomat to deal with Iran. The new man is a well known warmonger.

Notice the overlap between the PNAC and the ISAB: Paul Wolfowitz (new chairman), R. James Woolsey, and William Schneider Jr. They're joined by Robert Joseph, the former National Security Council official in charge of Iraq WMD intelligence. Bob Joseph is the guy who put the Niger claim into the SOTU, apparently pressuring Alan Foley to keep it in there after Foley objected. I feel some neocon ass kicking coming on, led by our Israeli friends.

Bonds & Bush Team Say Justice Doesn't Apply to Them

Barry Bonds asked that perjury charges against him be dropped because his interrogators asked "vague, ambiguous and confusing" questions. The Bush administration wants Congress to grant telecommunications companies immunity from spying on American citizens. Neither Bush nor Bonds will admit or deny their actions. They simply want a third party to make it go away.

Yes America, these are our role models. How many kids will grow up expecting to be let off for cheating, to not be charged for stealing? Will they look for some third party to wipe it all under the rug with a dismissal or rule change? Freedom and justice for all, just turned into "for some." It even has its international counterpart. Britain's head of overseas intelligence warned that Saudi Arabia likely would stop sharing vital information on terrorism if prosecutors pursued an investigation into alleged corruption in an arms deal, lawmakers disclosed. It involved members of the Saudi royal family and BAE Systems.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why It's Clinton's Fault

The National Emergency regarding terrorists disrupting Middle East peace efforts began on President Bill Clinton's shift. He declared it in 1995 and expanded the emergency to include Usama bin Laden in 1998. George Bush just renewed the declaration.

And what's happened to Usama? Intelligence experts believe he is hiding in a lawless region of Pakistan. The United States has given Pakistan $10 billion in assistance in the war on terror. Their President Pervez Musharraf toured Europe and spoke to his efforts to find bin Laden.

"The 100,000 troops that we are using ... are not going around trying to locate Osama bin Laden and Zawahri, frankly," Musharraf told a conference at the French Institute for International Relations in Paris.

How's that for a return on investment? Laughable, yes. Now, will Pervez crack us up later with, "I've been looking of Osama with an O, and the U.S. wants the one beginning with U. I think he might be hiding under this podium..."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

FW Ready to Scatter Its Offal this Election Season

Freedom's Watch sat silently by as oppressive governments exterminated Burma's Buddhist monks and Pakistan's protesting lawyers, groups attacked in their pursuit of freedom. But FW found their greater calling. They now want to tamper with domestic elections. The Supreme Court's knocked out restrictions on "issue ads", thus opening the door wide for Freedom's Watch to scatter its offal this election season. And whose version of reality will they push? Clearly a one sided version.

I suggest every American take off their George W. Bush rose colored glasses and flush the "issue ad" effluent produced by both parties. Vote every incumbent out. That's the only way either party will get the message. That might be the only way to get our real freedom back...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Public Not Free to Know Anything Other than Bush's Rose Colored Reality

The White House promised more than one thorough investigation into its actions between 2003 and 2005. The CIA agent name leak internal investigation never occurred. The Hurricane Katrina Lessons Learned report was a whitewash. President Bush's open and transparent government repeatedly resisted requests to review White House e-mails related to both topics.

Congress wanted to see communications regarding Hurricane Katrina. The White House's excuse for not providing such information, "providing the documents was impractical because it would require reviewing more than 71 million e-mail messages." So Congress requested just those between Homeland Security Adviser Frances Townsend and Chief of Staff Andy Card. The White House rejected that, suggesting it would "impinge on the separation of powers of the legislative and executive branches."

It turns out all those e-mails might not be available, given that 5 to 10 million e-mails between March 2003 and October 2005 are potentially lost. So what communications did Frances Townsend get or send during the critical gap between Katrina's landfall in late August and the end of October? Many people and organizations had a crucial interest in coming out of the Fran led investigation untarnished.

Reading Mrs. Townsend's report, two hospital companies have to be grateful for their omission. Tenet and LifeCare Hospitals shared the same building, Memorial Hospital. LifeCare had the largest patient death toll of any hospital post landfall, losing 24 patients. Fran's report makes no mention of Memorial Hospital, Tenet Healthcare or LifeCare Hospitals. Tenet and LifeCare upped their lobbying budgets substantially for 2005 and 2006. Between the two companies they spent $1.8 million on lobbying services.

The White House Lessons Learned report is not a credible investigation. It doesn't say who was responsible for what, assess how they performed and put in place specific plans to address identified problems. It tells a few hero stories and calls the event "an unprecedented disaster". So who benefits from this shoddy investigative work?

Obviously the White House wants to heal from the bone bruising it took over George W.'s response. Writing an incomplete report hardly helps their case. However, a neighbor just down Pennsylvania Avenue is grateful for Fran's sloppy work. The Carlyle Group closed on its purchase of LifeCare just weeks before Katrina sideswiped New Orleans. Even with their incredible political connections, LifeCare patients steamed in a toxic gumbo for up 5 days before rescue. It helps Carlyle to have the feds silent on evacuation performance as they face up to 24 wrongful death civil cases.

Carlyle tried to paint a Memorial physician as responsible for numerous patient deaths, but a grand jury didn't buy it. When their Hazelwooding attempt failed, LifeCare attorneys went after the federal government itself. They claim as soon as FEMA evacuation teams set up in the New Orleans area, patients became "wards of the federal government." How's that for gratitude? In the end, LifeCare CEO Earl Reed joined FEMA's Michael Brown by going on to bigger and better things. Someone had to take the fall and it wasn't going to be George W., Frances, or any Carlyle bigwigs.

Fran continued to watch President Bush's back until January 4th, 2008 when she too joined the private sector. Her gushing closing compliment to George W. had been rehearsed months before in Saudi Arabia. "There are some men who lift the age they inhabit, till all men walk on higher ground in that lifetime." Unfortunately only 12% of Saudis view "such a man" as Bush positively. Both Fran and Karen Hughes failed to sway their target audience in the deeply skeptical Middle East.

But in testimony to Mrs. Townsend's domestic influence, most of the big White House power players turned out for her going away party. The coverage indicated Fran hired Williams & Connolly to advise her next career moves, specifically Bob Barnett. Mr. Barnett's bio shows a number of A list clients, including senior members of The Carlyle Group. Funny, Fran leaves their LifeCare affiliate out of a critical government report and hires an attorney who serviced a number of Carlyle's senior managers.

When Frances submitted her resignation letter, she stated she wanted to work doing "global risk management for a large bank or financial services firm". It seems she already helped Carlyle manage their risk exposure. Might they be her future employer? Time will tell, but don't expect honesty and truth from the remaining Bush players. They're off writing their own reality.