*The Patraeus Report ~ Theater of the Absurd - General David Patraeus reported on the merits of a tactic, the surge, that proceeds under the assumption that there is a military solution to the civil war in Iraq. The claim that the Iraqi government is being given time to reconcile differences and work out a plan to share oil revenues is disingenuous. During the surge the Iraqi government has become even more dysfunctional and anticipated oil revenue sharing agreements have fallen apart. The General and the President would also like us to believe that we are fighting terrorism in Iraq but al Qaeda is a very small presence there. The vast majority of the violence is between and within Iraqi factions with American forces ensnared in the middle. The current political and military approach to Iraq offers no viable resolution. In order to protect his imagined legacy Bush’s only alternative is stay his course until this dangerous and chaotic impasse can be foisted on the next president. And that is the true report.
*Out to lunch – General Patraeus’ “independent” report to congress reminded me of the General’s “independent” report in 2004, just prior to the election that gave Bush a second term. At that time he said “there was tangible progress in Iraq and Iraqi leaders are stepping forward.” It is 3 long years later and General Patraeus continues to carry Bush’s lunch. The bread is stale and the baloney is rancid.
* Readers who would like a detailed and documented account of what is misleading to incorrect in the General’s testimony of conditions in Iraq can find it at this link: MoveOn.org
*Technological breakthrough - One of the long-standing deceptions of the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program is the White House claim that they fully briefed Congress prior to conducting these activities. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham (D-FL), when he claimed that the WH did not inform him of spying on Americans in his briefings, was told that he “misremembered”. The WH then provided him with dates on which he was briefed. Graham checked his records and found that on most of the dates there were no meetings and on some of the dates he was not even in Washington. Since secrecy is a trademark of this administration few people know that they now communicate via mental mail. Meetings are no longer necessary. I wonder if a headache will slow downloads? Will CAT scans replace virus scans? Will mind readers now be called hackers? Will “misremembered” become a word?
*Possible good news for the environment – The auto industry, with support from the EPA, has tried to block 13 other states from adopting California’s rules that intend to reduce greenhouse gases emitted by automobiles and light trucks. Ruling in a lawsuit against Vermont’s standards on those heat-trapping gases Judge William K. Sessions III rejected a variety of challenges from auto manufacturers, including their contention that the states were usurping federal authority. Under the federal Clean Air act the EPA must still grant waivers to the states before such rules can take effect in place of federal rules. It does seem somewhat convoluted that to protect the air we breathe states have to overcome not only industry’s myopic self-interest but also the federal agency responsible for our environment. Until there is a new administration we can only hope for the best.
*The invisible injury - Marilynn Marchione, AP Medical Writer, has a story about thousands of U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI). These blast-caused head injuries are different from head injuries doctors normally treat that are caused by falls and car accidents. It is called “invisible” because it rarely shows up on CAT scans and other tests. People with this form of TBI have frequent headaches, dizziness, and trouble concentrating and sleeping. They may be depressed, irritable and confused, and easily provoked or distracted. Speech or vision also can be impaired. Treatment is further complicated because it can overlap with post-traumatic stress disorder. The physical and mental injuries incurred by many of our military men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will require our nation’s care through most of the 21st Century. The planning and budgeting of this care must begin now.
*On Wednesday the Huffington Post, Slate Magazine and Yahoo did an online interview with the Democratic presidential candidates. Interesting and provocative questions were posed by Charlie Rose, Bill Maher and average citizens. It is worth a look. Click on this link: Huffington Post Mashup
*Let’s remember - Until two weeks ago President Bush put his hands over his ears whenever anyone mentioned the Iraq war and Viet Nam in the same sentence. Apparently an advisor to the president came up with the sound bite that we cannot leave Iraq like we left Viet Nam. What resulted was that Bush’s acolytes joined him on TV and wrote articles parroting the warning. Eugene Robinson writing in the Washington Post had a keen response. “George W. Bush wants us to remember Vietnam? Fine, then let's remember those iconic images -- the Viet Cong prisoner being executed in cold blood with a pistol shot to the temple, the little girl running naked and screaming from a napalm attack. Let's remember how little we really understood about Vietnamese society. Let's remember how wrong the domino theory proved to be. Let's remember how much damage prolonging an unpopular war did to our armed forces and our nation, and how long it took us to recover.” History will remember Iraq in this context. History will not put its hands over its eyes.
*My thoughts on George W. Bush’s 8th Major speech on Iraq –
*The good book or the bad book? - An interesting development has been taking place in federal prisons. The Bureau of Prisons has directed chaplains to clear the shelves of any books, tapes, CDs and videos that are not on a list of approved resources. A DOJ Inspector General report recommended steps that prisons should take, in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, to avoid becoming recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups. A Christian and an Orthodox Jew in a NY prison have filed a class-action lawsuit claiming the action violates their free exercise of religion. As noted in the NY Times article, “…an administration that put stock in religion-based approaches to social problems has effectively blocked prisoners’ access to religious and spiritual materials — all in the name of preventing terrorism.”
*The vaporization of Darth Vader– President Bush’s nominee for General Counsel to the CIA, John Rizzo, is not acceptable to the Senate Intelligence Committee as they have requested that his name be withdrawn. Mr. Rizzo’s 2002 memo defined torture as pain "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of body function, or even death." Anything less is okay. It makes one “proud” to be an American.
*Investment tip of the week; buy pork - A Business Week analysis of earmark and lobbying data demonstrated how lucrative hiring a lobbyist can be for a company looking for federal money: “On average, companies generated roughly $28 in earmark revenue for every dollar they spent lobbying. And those at the very top did far better than the average: More than 20 companies pulled in $100 or more for every dollar spent.” The influence of large corporations on our federal government and elected representatives far outdistances the interests and influence of American citizens. This situation highlights the serious need for public financing of elections so that politicians are not so needy of private-interest money to fund their campaigns.
*Risky investment of the week - Hillary Clinton has decided that instead of returning $27,000 to Norman Hsu (his direct contributions), she will return the $850,000 he raised on her behalf. Hsu has been a fugitive from fraud charges in California since the 1990’s. Mr. Hsu must be a long-range planner. He helps Senator Clinton get elected president and hopes that 8 years later she pardons him.
*Risky investment of the year ~ Greed trumps due diligence – Source Funding Investors is a fund with about 100 investors. Earlier this year the fund invested $40 million in a company that was pooling money to make short-term loans to private-label fashion designers in the U.S. to buy garments made in China with the prospect that returns to investors would exceed 40%. Investors were informed this week that their investment is in jeopardy since checks received from the company invested in were bouncing for insufficient funds. Did I mention that the company with insufficient funds is run by Norman Hsu? Here is a fugitive from the law for fraud promising a 40% return on investment and a group hands him $40 million bucks. I wonder if the fund manager’s name is Gomer Pyle?
-Leader of country resigns due to scandal, incompetence and gaffes. No, you wishful thinkers, it is Shinzo Abe of Japan.
-In the Philippines resignation was not an option for ex-president Joseph Estrada. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison for illegally acquiring wealth while in office. If this trend of prosecutions continues the United Nations will be wiped out.
-Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly removed his prime minister and cabinet this week. The American political system makes this option very difficult to implement.
-Potential nominees being floated by Bush to replace Gonzales at the Justice Dept. are likely to sink. They are at least as partisan as the resigning Attorney General and not what America and the Justice Dept. need to restore some semblance of confidence and credibility in the administration of our justice system. The question now is whether the Senate Democrats exert their will to ensure that Bush nominates an independent, less political candidate for Attorney General.
-When Gen. Patraeus was asked if the efforts in Iraq will make America safer he looked like a deer caught in a car’s headlights before admitting that he was not sure. The response left Americans hesitant.
-Imagine 4 million Americans being displaced. That number would come close to removing the population of New York or Chicago or Philadelphia. The Iraq war has displaced 4.2 million Iraqi citizens or 13 % of the Iraqi population. Thirteen percent of the U.S. population would equal 42 million individuals. It is very difficult to imagine.
-Presidential candidates John Edwards and Hillary Clinton are now doing criminal background checks on all donors. It will be interesting to see if other Republican and Democratic candidates follow this policy. The lure of money is intoxicating.
-House GOP Leader John Boehner tells CNN that America’s loss of life in Iraq is a small price to pay if we defeat al Qaeda there. Nothing is expensive when someone else pays for it.
*A healthy bit of health news:
-Burger King will offer a healthier alternative for children under 12 – broiled chicken tenders and apples cut to look like French fries. For people over 12 BK will offer a triple burger covered in double cheese and quadruple bacon served on a sticky bun. The manufacturer of Lipitor breathes a sigh of relief.
-High blood pressure leading to cardiovascular disease has been added to high cholesterol and an adult form of diabetes being diagnosed in young Americans. The childhood obesity epidemic taking place in our country will make severe demands on our healthcare system for the next several decades
-Rep. Tim Murphy (D-PA) is sponsoring the "Healthy Hospitals Act of 2007". The bill will make patients safer during hospital stays by requiring public disclosure of hospital-acquired infection rates. You can send a letter to your representative asking that they co-sponsor this bill by clicking on this link.
-Healthy San Francisco is the first effort by a locality to guarantee care to all of its uninsured, and it represents the latest attempt by state and local governments to patch an inadequate federal system. This effort is worth following. It is financed mostly by the city, which is gambling that it can provide universal and sensibly managed care to the uninsured for about the amount being spent on their treatment now, often in emergency rooms.
*Less is more or more is less, more or less - In his speech this week President Bush said that there were 36 countries in the Iraq coalition of multi-national forces (even though the Pentagon claims 25 countries with a military presence). As of this writing only 34 countries could be identified by researchers for having at least one person in Iraq. As of next month the number will be 33 as Iceland will pull its entire contingency out of Iraq– all one person. Some other countries with larger contingencies include: Hungary 16, Italy 8, Netherlands 10, Portugal 10, Slovakia 2, Turkey 2, Canada 2, Japan 2. For the record, total coalition forces apart from the U.S. total 11,685 or 7%.
*Yes, we got no bananas - The Justice Dept. has announced it will not prosecute executives of Chiquita Banana for paying bribes of $1.7 million to Columbian paramilitaries that are designated as terrorists by the U.S. government and responsible for thousands of deaths. I guess you have to be an al Qaeda guy to really be a terrorist. Chiquita did pay a $25 million fine and promised to adopt a large-scale integrity program. I did not know that integrity had scales. I have to stop thinking in absolutes.
*Faith in the faith-based administration - Last week the Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, testifying under oath at a Senate hearing, claimed the new expansive FISA legislation passed by Congress in August (Protect America Act) had helped to thwart an alleged terror plot in Germany. A government official later told the NY Times that McConnell was wrong, and that the intelligence had been collected under the old FISA law which required warrants. McConnell then issued a statement saying, “…information contributing to the recent arrests was not collected under authorities provided by the Protect America Act.”
*Thou Shall Not Lie. Excerpt from the Ten Commandments