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Saturday, May 31, 2008

U.S. Casualties Plunge in Iraq

U.S. Casualties plunged in May and reached near all time low levels.

U.S. military deaths plunged in May to the lowest monthly level in more than four years and civilian casualties were down sharply, too, as Iraqi forces assumed the lead in offensives in three cities and a truce with Shiite extremists took hold.

But many Iraqis as well as U.S. officials and private security analysts are uncertain whether the current lull signals a long-term trend or is simply a breathing spell like so many others before.U.S. commanders also warn the relative peace is fragile because no lasting political agreements have been reached among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities.

Talks on returning Sunnis to the government broke down this week, and tensions among rival Shiite parties remain high despite a May 11 truce that ended weeks of bloody fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City district.

What's important is not merely the raw numbers. What's more important is the dynamic behind them. The main reason they plunged is the the Iraqi military has begun to do most of the heavy lifting in Iraq's biggest trouble spots like Basrah, Sadr City, and Mosul. Furthermore, the May numbers came after March and April saw steep increases to 39 and 52. Violence was up on the whole in both those months as the coalition confronted JAM as well as AQI in Basrah, Sadr City, and Mosul.

Many war detractors used the increase in violence to question the gains of the surge. Now, we see that the hard work the coalition put in those months paid off with significant drop in violence in May.

Iraqi deaths were also halved from April to May from 1088 to 522. The drop in violence comes on the heels of important political progress as well. The Iraqis recently passed an oil revenue sharing law, plan provincial elections in October, and a De Baathification law. All of these are vital steps to the counter insurgency strategy that Petraeus created in July of 2006. Now, it is up to the supporters of the war in Iraq to make sure the public at large knows that the gains are real, tangible, and that victory is now in sight.

Obama Leaves Trinity: The Analysis

Barack Obama officially cut ties with Trinity United Church today. He sent a letter of resignation in yesterday.

Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have resigned their membership at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, after controversies stemming from the congregation created a persistent distraction for Obama’s campaign.

The furor started months ago with the sermons of his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. But Obama’s pastor problems were compounded this week by the Rev. Michael Pfleger, whose videotaped guest sermon at the church Sunday showed
him taunting Hillary Clinton and saying she felt “entitled” to the presidency because she’s white.

This was not only an astute political but like the only move, politically, for Obama to make at this point. The latest comments by Reverend Pflegger simply cemented the idea that the church would continue to be an albatross around his neck unless he did. The church is simply home to too much controversy and Obama couldn't go through the rest of the campaign waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Now, politically, he no longer has to answer for anything that is said there going forward. That certainly makes some sense, however the controversy surrounding his twenty year affiliation will not die down.

For the most part, the dynamic remains problematic for Barack Obama. While he maintained that he left the church because his association with it put undue burden on the church members and staff, we all understand that he left because it was simply untennable for him to stay. This is of course the ultimate political move by a candidate that claims that to be above politics. Furthermore, Obama continued to refer to Reverend Wright's speech at the National Press Club as the sort of tipping point. Except, nothing that Reverend Wright said at the NPC was any different from anything that we had heard in the so called "snippets" that Barack Obama said the media looped of Reverend Wright.

In other words, Barack Obama is frankly in a lose/lose situation here. What he did was politically expedient and everyone knows that. He will lose some points for that, however it was a lot less than waiting for the next inflammatory statement out of the church. The questions that have lingered regarding his twenty year relationship with Trinity United won't go away. What will go away is the fear of what will come out of the church next that he will have to distance himself from.

Nothing really changes from the Republicans point of view. I am of the opinion that the Republicans let the conservative 527's do their dirty work on this matter. If they can keep their distance from this and have it be an issue that is the best move politically. The best way to do that is to let unaffiliated 527's run with this story. In fact, the attacks just changed with this new news. The 527's can and should attack Obama for holding onto his 20 year relationship when it was politically expedient, and then dropping it just the same. The advertisements could even use Barack Obama's own statements of not being the "typical politician" against him right in the advertisement.

So, in conclusion, this was the right move and the only move, however the damage has already been done, and any astute political opponents will still be able to drive a Mack truck through the hole that this whole fiasco left.

My Seventh Favorite All Time Scene

Friday, May 30, 2008

Al Qaeda Decimated WAPO Reports

The right blogosphere is buzzing today about a new report from the CIA that paints a picture of Al Qaeda, totally decimated, and near total defeat. This is frankly not new. Such reports surface from time to time, and frankly, plenty of reports surface that say much the opposite. What's different about this report is that it is cited in the front page of the Washington Post. Normally, positive news about the GWOT is either not cited at all or buried deep in its pages. This particular report is startling in its upbeat analysis.

On balance, we are doing pretty well," he said, ticking down a list ofaccomplishments: "Near strategic defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al-Qaeda globally -- and here I'm going to use the word 'ideologically' -- as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam," he said.

The sense of shifting tides in the terrorism fight is shared by a number of terrorism experts, though some caution that it is too early to tell whether the gains are permanent. Some credit Hayden and other U.S. intelligence leaders for going on the offensive against al-Qaeda in the area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where the tempo of Predator strikes has dramatically increased from previous years. But analysts say the United States has caught some breaks in the past year, benefiting from improved conditions in Iraq, as well as strategic blunders by al-Qaeda that have cut into its support base.

Now, we all know the Democratic mantra. It's summed up rather nicely by Barack Obama.

America's standing has suffered. Our diplomacy has been compromised by a refusal to talk to people we don't like. Our alliances have been compromised by bluster. Our credibility has been compromised by a faulty case for war. Our moral leadership has been compromised by Abu Ghraib. That is a cost of this war. Perhaps the saddest irony of the Administration's cynical use of 9/11 is that the Iraq War has left us less safe than we were before 9/11.

Osama bin Ladin and his top lieutenants have rebuilt a new base in Pakistan where they freely train recruits, plot new attacks, and disseminate propaganda. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan. Iran has emerged as the greatest strategic challenge to America in the Middle East in a generation. Violent extremism has increased. Terrorism has increased.

All of that is a cost of this war. After 9/11, instead of the politics of unity, we got a political strategy of division with the war in Iraq as its centerpiece. The only thing we were asked to do for our country was support a misguided war. We lost that sense of common purpose as Americans. And we're not going to be a truly united and resolute America until we can stop holding our breath, until we can come together to reclaim our foreign policy and our politics and end this war that has cost us so much.


Clearly, if you believe this report, everything that Obama said in this particular speech is just plain wrong. Of course, spin and propaganda become fact if they aren't challenged. The Democrats have tried to use each and every negative report to paint a picture of a failed GWOT policy. When the NIE suggested that Iraq was being used as a "cause celebre" by jihadists, the Democrats pounced on it and milked the report for every last bit of political juice.

The lesson is that perception is reality. The Republicans now have a credible report to make the case that we are safer. They now have the kind of credibility necessary to push back against the scurrilous attacks of the Democrats that make it seem as though everything that has happened over the last seven years vis a vis the GWOT has been a failure. The only question is whether or not they will use it to make their case.

My Sixth All Time Favorite Scene

From my favorite movie of all time, and it has one of the best lines of all time as well...

Rev. Pflegger, Barack Obama, and Trinity United

It appears there may be yet another mini scandal involving incendiary comments from a pastor with ties to Barack Obama. Here is the video.



There is, in my opinion, a right way and a wrong way for opponents of Barack Obama to try and attack him in light of this latest scandal. The wrong way is for more guilt by association. I recently wrote a piece in which I tried to differentiate between fair and unfair attacks of guilt by association. It is one thing to sit in the pews of Trinity for twenty plus years and say nothing while your pastor attacks your country and do nothing. (as Obama did with Wright) It is quite another to be friendly with a pastor, and then have that pastor say something inflammatory. If we are playing that game, the McCain has just as much to answer for with Hagee and Parsley as Obama does with Pfleger.

What struck me about this video is the audience reaction. It is not of horror, shock or discomfort. The crowd was excited, comfortable, and totally enthralled. Now, take a look at a recent sermon by Reverend Moss, current pastor at Trinity.



The crowd reaction here is largely the same to an equally incendiar sermon. Of course, the crowd reaction to any of Wright's most incendiary sermons is largely the same.



So, the crowd reaction to Pfleger's most recent incendiary statements, along with that of Moss' and Wright, clearly show a church community that is perfectly comfortable with such thought.

In my opinion, the latest dust up should put to rest any ideas that Wright's most incendiary comments were somehow uncommon. The videos speak for themselves. The Trinity community is one that is perfectly comfortable with the sort of racist, anti American, and incendiary thought that each of the videos bear. That is proven by the overwhelmingly positive crowd reaction to each of them. For Barack Obama to claim that this was thought he was unaware of is just plain disingenuous. For that to be true, he would literally have to be totally unaware of the belief system of the entire church body.

That is the way he needs to be attacked in light of these new videos.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Join the Drilling Campaign

I am on record as blaming almost the entire body politik of the United States for the current crisis over gas prices. As such, don't expect anyone with in the government to come up with any ideas that will resolve the situation in anyway. The Democrats have offered a windfall tax on the oil companies and they have offered to sue OPEC, a foreign entity, for being a monopoly. Those two political stunts may even score them a political point or two, however it will do ZERO to lower gas prices.

Of course, the Democrats are still contributing more to the debate than the Republicans. At least the Democrats have proposed something. The Republicans, on the other hand, have proposed absolutely nothing. The simple fact of the matter is that the government can, today, do something tangible toward reducing the price of gasoline, and there is absolutely no will to do it.

Leave it to a former politician, Newt Gingrich, to propose something the rest of his colleagues refuse to do. Newt has started the "Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay less." campaign. Despite the fact that gas prices have gone over $4 a gallon, the politicians, on both sides, refuse to stand up to the environmentalist and move to make a sensible move toward counteracting the rising price of gasoline.

There are numerous places in and around the United States that we can drill for oil right now including ANWR, the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico, that would immediately increase the world's supply of oil. It is simply unacceptable that we all be held hostage to the whim of environmentalists when we are facing record high oil prices. Technology has advanced so far that most environmental concerns can be addressed, and yet that isn't good enough. At this point, the environmentalists resistance to drilling off shore is nothing more than a show of power. With record high gas prices, political posturing will not be tolerated.

Please go to the link, sign the petition and alert your friends and colleagues.

My Fifth All Time Favorite Scene

Really big basketball fans may remember Shaq's homage to this scene during one of his post game interviews.

Obama's Foreign Policy Unravels (Updated)

Yesterday, I surmised that John McCain had made an astute political maneuver in challenging Obama to take a trip together to Iraq. I've thought about it some more and in reality, it is not so much that McCain acted as a skillful politician. What's happening is that Barack Obama's multiple foreign policy statements are giving all his opponents plenty of room to define him just how they want.

First, let's all remember agains a bit of political wisdom from Dick Morris. He has stated on more than one occasion that the position that is most concise, simple, and easy to explain is the one that will win politically more times than not. Now, on nearly every issue of foreign policy, Barack Obama's position is muddled, not precise, and very difficult to understand.

It really all started in the Youtube debate.




Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

I would

Now, taking aside the validity of the policy, politically what he said passed the Dick Morris test at the You Tube debate. Whether you agree with it or not, back in July of 2007, this policy was clear, precise and easy to explain.

Since then though, this policy has been muddied so much that it is no longer recognizable. The best proof is this youtube search. Just on the first page, there are five different positions taken by Obama or one of his surrogates. At this point, it is not at all clear what Obama plans to do vis a vis Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Today, the right blogosphere is buzzing about this New York Times article. Even as he tries to explain his position here it is nothing if not confusing.



I didn’t say that I would meet unconditionally as John McCain maintained, because that would suggest whether it was useful or not, whether it was advancing our interests or not, I would just do it for the sake of doing it,” he said. “That’s not a change in position, that’s simply responding to distortions of my position.”

He added: “I think if we lay out repeatedly and clearly my position, ultimately I think I’ve got the majority of the American people on my side on this issue.”

So, another words, he won't meet unconditionally but will meet with no pre conditions. Huh...At this point, Barack Obama gets an F on the Dick Morris test of political conciseness, clarity, and terseness with regards to Iran.

On Latin America, Barack Obama has similary problems with clarity. Jake Tapper says it best.



one of the obvious high priorities in my talks with President Hugo Chavez would be the fermentation of anti-American sentiment in Latin America, his support of FARC in Colombia and other issues he would want to talk about."

OK, so a strong declaration that Chavez is supporting FARC, which Obama intends to push him on.

But then on Friday he said any government supporting FARC should be isolated.

"We will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments," he said in a speech in Miami. "This behavior must be exposed to international condemnation, regional isolation, and - if need be - strong sanctions. It must not stand."

So he will meet with the leader of a country he simultaneously says should be isolated? Huh?


So, Obama is simutaneously planning on isolating Venezuela and attempting to sit down one on one with Chavez. Again, huh. Here is yet another failure of the Dick Morris political test.

Ironically enough, Obama shows the least amount of clarity on his position on Iraq. He has been stating that he plans on setting timetables for withdrawal and plans on moving troops out of the theater immediately, but at yet another debate, he wouldn't commit to pulling all troops out by the end of his first term.



So, think about it. Barack Obama makes a commitment to set timetables and begin immediate withdrawals but can't make a commitment to be done withdrawing four years later. The real problem for Obama on Iraq is explained by Morris himself.



Here the Iraq issue opens a real opportunity for McCain, where otherwise his support for the war would be a real negative. Iraq is a lot like Social Security. Everyone knows there is a problem, but any solution is immediately shot down. The issue earned the label “the third rail” in our politics, a status that was underscored when Bush’s momentum from his 2004 reelection was smashed against the rocks of Democratic and elderly opposition to his Social Security reform plan.

So it is with Iraq: He who proposes an alternative is doomed. McCain’s position, that we have to stay until we win, is far from popular, but it’s a lot better than unilateral and immediate withdrawal.

And Obama’s opposition to the war begs a host of questions: Shall we retain any presence? What about al Qaeda? What happens if the government falls? Can we let Iran take over? Obama will dither and seem far from decisive as he answers each of these questions. They will make him look terrible, just as Kerry — in opposing the war after voting for it — looked like a flip-flopper.

The problem for Obama is that while he is in favor of withdrawal he hasn't really explained how it will work logistically. As Morris points out, there are all sorts of hypotheticals that would arise that Obama will need to address in explaining his withdrawal plan. He has already reserved the right to put troops back into the theater if there is a genocide, and that is an almost certainty if we pull out too early. By the time Obama is done explaining each and every hypothetical, his withdrawal plan will be so full of caveats you won't be able to recognize it. Like Morris pointed out, staying in Iraq and winning may not be popular but it is clear, concise and easy to explain.

The pundits will spend the rest of the campaign analyzing and hyperanalyzing Obama's positions, along with John McCain on all of these issues, and I usually don't want to follow the cattle call of pundits. I will make the exception here. I see Obama's clarity problem rooted in two flaws. The first flaw is that Obama is simply not very experienced on foreign policy. He started with what he thought was an idealistic and fresh approach of meeting unconditionally with our enemies. I suspect he didn't expect to be attacked so viciously. Once he was, he frankly didn't know how to counter, and soon it was an unrecognizable mess. The second problem is that he approaches all foreign policy matters, as well as almost all matters period, from the perspective that Bush is wrong. That may work with idealogues, however you don't form a clear, coherent message starting from that position.

Obama's problems with regards to these issues are numerous. All of the inconsistencies and vague answers re inforce exactly what his opponents are trying to portray him as...inexperienced and naive. Furthermore, it is impossible for Obama to assess the damage of all these statements. Most of these will be the subject of numerous campaign commercials and it remains to be seen just how effective they will be. They certainly have the potential to be effective. The best thing Obama can do is move the debate from foreign policy to domestic issues where his positions are a lot clearer.

Update:

Barack Obama's advisor, , said something simply remarkable this morning.




Here is a transcript of the relevant part.

I think we would want to go over there and talk to them and see what sort of difficulties they're facing and see how it is that we can begin to carefully remove them and carefully bring them back to their families and bring them back to the United States

This is stunning and remarkable. Barack Obama has just uneqivacably stated that we have lost in Iraq, and any trips would be made only to arrange our retreat. Keep in mind that he has NOT visited the country since the surge began. Thus, he has made his analysis entirely through third sources. Not only is this obscenely irresponsible, admitting it is politically brain dead. Painting him as a naive, intransigent, defeatist is now only a matter of putting these statements into several advertisements.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Human Guinea Pigs, Sham Peer Review, and The Governor III

Introduction: I will be making references that you simply won't be able to follow unless you read part one and part two. Furthermore, I will make references to other cases I have covered. I will provide a link everytime so feel free to link over and get details.

The cruelest of cruel ironies of this story is that the only thing that Tim Goosby could have done to avoid the nightmare that he found himself in is to not have taken the job in the first place. The only other way he could have avoided this nightmare is to have corrupted himself and gotten into bed with the corruptors that he blew the whistle on. Just think about that for a minute and realize that any system structured for such an outcome is one that needs a total and complete overhaul.

The most glaring problem in the system is the obscene amount of power all centered in the hands of the Texas Nursing Board. The entire appeals process beyond the nursing board in Texas is entirely to bring recommendations back to the board itself. If the TNB is corrupt (and it is), then the entire appeals process is irrelevant. In the case of Tim Goosby, a law judge ruled in his favor when he appealed the corrupt verdict. That meant absolutely nothing because the law judge's ruling was non binding. It was only meant as a guide for the TNB which always had the ultimate say. Thus, once the TNB got the motivation to punish Goosby, there was no escaping their wrath.

The second tragic and glaring weakness of the system is the total lack of protection whistle blowers have. Tim Goosby found out about ILLEGAL DRUG TESTING. That isn't merely som clerical error or finding out that someone comes in five minutes late often. Dr. Dan Dugi was testing a drug not yet approved on unsuspecting patients. Tim Goosby faced one of two choices. He either looked the other way and allow this evil to continue, or worse, he blew the whistle and wound up making his own life a living hell. If whistle blowers face absolutely no protection, then what that does is encourage corrupt behavior at hospitals all over the place. The reason that Dr. Dugi so brazenly broke the law is exactly because he knew that he could punish and eliminate anyone that tried to get in his way. The lack of protections for whistleblowers currently not in our legal system encourages the medical field to continue with the kind of corruption we see here.

Lastly, the Texas medical field is corrupt in a manner that should alarm all residents not only in Texas but in the United States. The case of Dr. Shirley Pigott revealed that Blue Cross/Blue Shield has corrupted the entire medical system in order to punish and intimidate doctors it doesn't like. BCBS is the single biggest health insurer in the state of Texas. The cases of Dr. Chris Kuhne and Dr. Bill Rea show that the Texas Medical Board has been completely corrupted and thousands of Texas doctors have faced the wrath of sham peer review as a result. Now, we have the case of Tim Goosby.

This case reveals that the Texas Nursing Board is as corrupt as the other entities, and it punishes some nurse for blowing the whistle, while protecting other nurses that have the right connection.You simply cannot have a system this corrupted with absolutely no consequences beyond "merely" those of the targeted professionals. The medical system in Texas is corrupted at every level. In the case of Dr. Shirley Pigott, BCBS employed the Texas Medical Board, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Association of Family Physicians, to orchestrate its corruption.

What this means is that nearly every single entity that is supposed to make sure that medicine is performed properly in Texas is actually corrupted and creates the opposite effect. Furthermore, the case of Tim Goosby also revealed a governor's office that's either incompetent or corrupt, but ultimately one, that is asleep at the wheel while its entire medical system is totally corrupted.

This affects all aspects of the way in which medicine is performed both in Texas and in the U.S. Everything from health insurance rates, to patient care, to medical professional competence is affected. You simply are not going to solve the "health care crisis" if this situation is not solved first. If the single biggest health care provider is allowed to corrupt the system, and every single government and professional agency is its partner, then there are no fixes unless this is fixed first.

Lastly, aren't doctors and nurses American citizens also? If they are, then I firmly believe that they deserve the same expectation of civil rights as everyone else. How would any of you reading this feel if you tried to do the right thing and as a result had the rest of your life turned into a living hell? Would you feel as though you received the same civil rights that this country was founded on? Why are we all then standing by and allowing all of these doctors to have their civil rights snatched from them by corrupt forces all over their field? To me at least, this is not the least bit acceptable, and it needs to stop immediately. It won't as long the public in general turns a blind eye to it. As the saying goes

evil flourishes when good men stand by and do nothing

Also, please check out other such stories like a doctor in South Carolina that was targeted for reporting on a serial killer nurse, a doctor in Texas targeted by Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the Texas Medical Board's systematic targeting of doctors, and of course the one that started it all the tragic case of obscene corruption at Atlanta's Grady Hospital. Please read them all and demand that action be taken so that the scourge of sham peer review ends.

My Fourth All Time Favorite Scene

Feel free to say the dialogue along with the cast...

The Czech President's Provocative Global Warming Arguement

The minute that I heard the provocative statement of Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, about proponents of global warming, I had an immediate affinity. The statement made a lot of sense to me. After thinking about it a bit, I worried that the statement may in fact be far too provocative and wind up being counter productive. Here is the statement again.

Klaus was speaking a the National Press Building in Washington to present his new book, Blue Planet in Green Shackles - What Is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?, before meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney Wednesday.

'My answer is it is our freedom and, I might add, and our prosperity,' he said.

...

Klaus, an economist, said he opposed the 'climate alarmism' perpetuated by environmentalism trying to impose their ideals, comparing it to the decades of communist rule he experienced growing up in Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia.

'Like their (communist) predecessors, they will be certain that they have the right to sacrifice man and his freedom to make their idea reality,' he said. '

In the past, it was in the name of the Marxists or of the proletariat - this time, in the name of the planet,' he added.



Now, comparing global warming alarm ism to totalitarian communist regimes is of course dangerously provocative. The legitimate point he is trying to make maybe lost in the comparison.

Much of my worldview related to global warming was formed after hearing John Rowe, CEO of Exelon, speak on the subject last year. He started the presentation by stating unequivocally that global warming was now a "settled matter". His evidence for this world view was cited in three studies that backed up this perspective. I was stunned that he could isolate three studies that supported global warming and thus wrap the issue up as "settled matter". Of course, once I heard the rest of the speech I understood his strategy. This was an immediately followed by a half hour of proposed mandates, regulations, other market interventions, that Rowe thought would fix the problem.

This is essentially the point that Klaus is trying to make. Global warming alarmists proclaim global warming to be a ticking time bomb and then use that assertion as an excuse to force eco- friendly solutions on the public. While mandates, regulations, and other forced fixes certainly is not the same as totalitarian communism, it is no doubt a milder form of the same philosophy. While this maybe so, making such a provocative comparison allows his opponents to marginalize him as the demagogue he accuses them of being.

Unfortunately, this very legitimate point may be lost in what will be a much too provocative comparison. I believe Klaus is dead on in his belief that global warming should not be used as an excuse to force mandates down the throats of free people. I just wish he hadn't used such a provocative method of verbalizing his point because I fear it will be lost on those he tries to reach.

McCain's Iraq Political Jujitsu

Over the weekend, John McCain's campaign made a masterful political stroke regarding Iraq. They invited Barack Obama to join McCain on joint fact finding trip to Iraq. This was one of those political moves where the two option were, heads I win, tails you lose. If Barack Obama went on the trip, he might actually find that things are getting better and then would either admit he was wrong or try and spin in a war zone. Neither of those situation was a good one politically for Obama.

On the other hand, Obama could refuse. Then, McCain can claim that 1) Barack Obama is making military decisions without seeing the facts on the ground, and 2) he is more willing to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than General David Petraeus and the men and women that are so bravely fighting for our freedom. Like I said, heads I win, tails you lose. Obama chose the latter.




John McCain’s proposal is nothing more than a political stunt, and we don’t need any more ‘Mission Accomplished’ banners or walks through Baghdad markets to know that Iraq’s leaders have not made the political progress that was the stated purpose of the surge. The American people don’t want any more false promises of progress, they deserve a real debate about a war that has overstretched our military, and cost us thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars without making us safer

The problem for Barack Obama is that this is one of those things that he won't feel the consequences of for months, but when he does, there will be nothing he can do about it. From now on, everytime Barack Obama talks about how he will bring a new foreign policy, John McCain will be right behind him to remind everyone that his foreign policy means a greater willingness to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than General David Petraeus. Just like this ad already does...


...or like McCain does himself right here




Everytime Barack Obama says he will commit to pulling troops out, John McCain will be right behind him reminding everyone he is committing to pulling troops out without even going to Iraq to see the situation first hand.

In politics, all jujitsu is a delicate balancing act that can explode and boomerang at any moment. Just because this looks masterful now doesn't mean that it will work out masterfully. As Yogi Berra used to say,



in theory there's no difference between theory and practice but in practice there is

McCain needs to create several dueling narratives and tie them together. The first narrative is one of a naive and inexperienced freshman Senator that simply doesn't understand foreign policy. He needs to tie that inexperience to a naive policy of meeting with our biggest enemies with no preconditions. Furthermore, he needs to tie that to an equally naive belief that retreat from Iraq will have no consequences. Finally, he needs to tie that mindset to an intransigent state of mind that refuses to check things out for himself, and makes decisions from the comforts of Washington. John McCain takes a back seat to no one on credibility on all foreign policy issues. Thus, this is his territory. If he is successful here, he can turn Iraq from his albatross to Obama's.

The Laura Richardson Saga Evolves

Michelle Malkin has broken some very significant news in the evolving saga of Laura Richardson, the Congress woman facing foreclosure.

Here’s another installment in the deadbeat Dem/defaulting Hillary superdelegate chronicles of Congresswoman Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) in case you missed it over the holiday weekend. It’s getting smellier and smellier. Turns out she has defaulted on not one, but three home loans–yet somehow managed to loan her election campaign $77,500. In fact, it appears there is a pattern here of cashing out her homes to fill her campaign coffers. But there has been no uproar in Congress over this lawmaker’s appalling behavior. Why? Because it would upset the bipartisan narrative that all homeowners are victims, all lenders are sharks, and that no bad incentives
to walk away exist.

Take away her status as a Congresswoman and her situation is very, VERY, similar to that of millions of others now facing foreclosure. This new news only reinforces that idea. Richardson falls into two categories of phenomenon that contributed to the mortgage crisis.

The first category was the proliferation of no money down loans. That's exactly what she got on the first home in question. By putting no money down she had significantly less stake in the home. If you don't put any money down, you don't lose any down payment when that home is taken. As such, no money down loans account for a significant portion of foreclosed homes. This is important to understand because the psychology behind the proliferation of foreclosures in no money down loans has nothing to do with being taken advantage of and everything to do with being irresponsible.

The second phenomenon is the phenomenon of buying up several properties all at once. Investing in real estate only became "chic" in the last few years as loans became so aggressive that it was even possible to do that with no money down. Obviously, if Ms. Richardson had three loans foreclosed, more than one of those was for investment purposes. The proliferation of inexperienced real estate investors was another significant factor in perpetuating the mortgage crisis. This is again important for the same reason. High foreclosure rates in this category have nothing to do with being taken advantage of and everything to do with being inexperienced and foolish.

What we are clearly seeing is a Congress woman that made many of the same mistakes that folks that politicians want to hold up as victims made in getting their homes foreclosed. Since this story broke, I have made the assertion that the forces against mass bailouts should make the Congresswoman the poster child for the folks we would be bailing out. The more we learn about her troubling case, the more it becomes a political asset for us.

No money down loans, the proliferation of investment property purchases, along with the explosion of stated loans were the three biggest categories of loans that went into foreclosure. I suspect that Ms. Richardson even received a stated loan because buying up a half million dollar home on her legislator's salary doesn't appear to add up.

Mass bailouts work as a political tool only because those that are to be bailed out are sympathetic. Check out how skillyfully Barack Obama did it yesterday...

Here, in Nevada, we see how so many people are fighting for their American Dream. Because in so many ways, Felicitas and Francisco have lived the American Dream. Their story is not one of great wealth or privilege. Instead, it embodies the steady pursuit of simple dreams that has built this country from the bottom up....

Yet a predatory loan has turned this source of stability into an anchor of insecurity. Because a lender went for the easy buck, they are left struggling with ballooning interest rates and monthly mortgage payments. Because Washington has failed working people in this country, they are facing foreclosure, and the American Dream they sought for decades risks slipping away.

When the folks being bailed out are Felicitas and Francisco, then a mass bail out sounds just fine to millions of compassionate Americans. When the subject of a bailout is a Congress person, then suddenly the perception is different. Yet, perception is probably the biggest difference between the case of Laura Richardson and Felicitas. Ms. Richardson made the same foolish mistakes that millions of others made. Because she is NOT a sympathetic character her case can be used by the forces against mass bailout to show its dangers just as well as the case of Felicitas is now being used to make the case for mass bailouts.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Barack Obama's Eloquent Socialism (UPDATED)

Barack Obama gave a speech today in Nevada that was eloquent, lyrical, and likely its outstanding tone masked the message he was selling: socialism. He gave a speech today that focused again on the housing crisis.

Here, in Nevada, we see how so many people are fighting for their American Dream. Because in so many ways, Felicitas and Francisco have lived the American Dream. Their story is not one of great wealth or privilege. Instead, it embodies the steady pursuit of simple dreams that has built this country from the bottom up.

...

Yet a predatory loan has turned this source of stability into an anchor of insecurity. Because a lender went for the easy buck, they are left struggling with ballooning interest rates and monthly mortgage payments. Because Washington has failed working people in this country, they are facing foreclosure, and the American Dream they sought for decades risks slipping away.

...

The foreclosure crisis has played out in painfully steady but predictable motion. While lenders were taking advantage of folks like Felicitas and Francisco, they were also spending hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying Washington to stay on the sidelines. For President Bush, the answer was to do nothing until the pain out on Main Street trickled up to Wall Street. Then, a few months ago, he rolled out a plan that was too little, too late. Instead of offering meaningful relief, he warned against doing too much. His main proposal for an economy that is leaving working people behind is to give more tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, even though they don’t need them and didn’t ask for them.

...

I do not accept an America where Washington’s only message to working people is: “you’re on your own.”

...

To stabilize our housing market and to bring this crisis to an end, I’m a strong supporter of Chris Dodd and Barney Frank’s proposal to create a new FHA Housing Security Program. This will provide meaningful incentives for lenders to buy or refinance existing mortgages, and to convert them into stable 30-year fixed mortgages. This is not a windfall for borrowers – as they have to share any capital gain. It’s not a bailout for lenders or investors who gambled recklessly – as they will take losses. It asks both sides to sacrifice. It offers a responsible and fair way to help Americans who are facing foreclosure to keep their homes at rates they can afford.


There is absolutely no problem with style or lyricism in this speech. All the problems have to do with substance. It is a substance masked by excellent and eloquent rhetoric.

You'll first notice that Obama states as fact that the bank acted in a "predatory lending" manner, however he never actually says what specifically was predatory about their behavior. We are simply supposed to take this as fact and many will because most people hate banks and mortgage brokers. Furthermore, he links this nebulously lobbyists which we are also supposed to state as fact.

Obama mentions a loan that "ballooned in interest rate". Of course, the loan he is talking about is the Adjustable Rate Mortgage, and I suppose according to Obama, it is predatory lending when an ADJUSTABLE rate mortgage, ADJUSTS. Thus, he believes it is the federal government's responsibility to bail out borrowers from loan terms that are spelled out in their closing paperwork.

Then, he proposes a $10 billion fund for "victims of predatory lending". Of course, this is not only ludicrous but disingenuous. The court system already has a remedy for "victims of predatory lending". If you can prove that your lender acted in a "predatory" manner, then your entire mortgage can be erased. Why create a fund when victims can simply sue to zero out their mortgage balance. The reason is that these so called victims aren't really victims, and if they sued they would lose. Thus, rather than a fund for victims, what he will create is a $10 billion fund for bailing irresponsible folks that didn't understand or care about the terms of their loan.

Second he proclaims that he doesn't believe that America is a society that tells folks they are on their own. Of course, while that rhetoric sounds nice, it is also the hallmark of capitalism. Thus, if he rejects that, it can only mean he favors socialism or even communism.

Finally, he says he favors the Dodd/Frank plan. Of course, this may seem like a good idea to someone that knows nothing about the dynamics of mortgages, but unfortunately this diarist knows plenty. The main problem with that plan is that it inexplicably repeats the very mistakes that got us here. We got here because banks took on far too many loans with too much risk. Yet, that's exactly what Barack Obama wants FHA to do now. He wants FHA to take over the loans of these borrowers. In the politically correct world of politics, these borrowers are really just innocent victims that are really perfectly responsible, but in reality they aren't. These borrowers are irresponsible. The problem with the crisis is that loans were created for folks that should have never gotten one in the first place. The answer is NOT for FHA to give them loans they would never qualify for in the open market. By endorsing a policy where the government sets loan terms, Barack Obama takes us one step closer to socialism.

Obama claims they aren't being bailed out and rather "share in capital gain" with the bank. This is nonsense as well. Right now, these borrowers owe more than the home is worth. They have no capital to gain. The government will artificially create capital, and then tell the borrower they have to share that with the bank. If a borrower owes 250k and they can't afford the payment, the federal government will give them a new loan at a new reduced loan amount, artificially. The bank is absolutely getting a bailout. They don't want these loans, and since they owe more than the place is worth, the borrower can't refinance. The federal government is offering a way out without foreclosure. This plan is ludicrous, totally unfair to responsible folks, and frankly it will, in my estimation, bankrupt FHA within three years. Furthermore, it sets as policy that the federal government, not private business, create and set loan terms. This is yet another step towards socialism. It certainly sounds great if you have no idea about any of the dynamics of mortgages.

What Obama's plan is is nothing more than a recipe to take us one step closer to socialism. Borrowers will be bailed out rather than face the consequences of their decisions. Whenever an economy faces crisis, socialistic ideas sound all that much better. That is what Obama is playing to, but it is socialism none the less.

UPDATE:

I notice a lot of people are finding this piece months later through google searches of Obama and socialism. Here are some other pieces linking his policies to Socialism. Here is how I compared Obama's policies to the platform of the real socialist party in America. Here is an analysis of his class warfare politics. Finally, here is a comparison between Barack Obama and Karl Marx.

My Third Favorite Scene

Some quick backstory here. My freshmen year in college our dormitory reserved one channel for requested movies. Each month there was eight or nine to choose from The first month, September, it was A Few Good Men and eight other films of little consequence. As such, that particular station became a nearly endless loop of A Few Good Men for the month of September. Some may think that this would be a problem. After all, how many times can you watch the same movie over and over. Well, as it turns out, A Few Good Men is like a fine wine. It only gets better with age. In fact, my friends and I enjoyed the movie more and more the more we memorized. As such, I can do nearly the entire movie from memory now, and I am deep into three digits in terms of times watched, and yes, it gets better every time.

Grady Hospital: Making a Scandal Disappear

At the end of last year, there appeared to be hope that the public would start to pay attention to the obscene corruption at Grady Hospital. The hospital was in desperate need of hundreds of millions of cash infusion or facing the real possibility of closing. At roughly the same time, JCAHO threatened to revoke Grady's accreditation. The step by JCAHO was nearly unprecedented. This was a step that JCAHO only took once previously with King Drew Hospital in Los Angeles. Furthermore, the Georgia Legislature started a political game of chicken with the hospital over the much needed funding. Then, at the beginning of 2008 the hospital CEO, Otis Story, resigned under mysterious circumstances. There were rumors that the legislature would hold hearings, and for a month or two the media in Atlanta was fairly engaged.

All of this was the set up at the end of last year for what appeared to finally be the moment when the light would shine on all the atrocities going on at the hospital. That appears to be false hope. At the beginning of April, it was announced that a private philanthropic group would infuse the hospital with money. With the hospital no longer facing the possibility of shutting down, the media attention all but dried up.

Of course, this is entirely due to the media's, ignorant or willful, false narrative. The issue was never really about whether or not Grady would be infused with cash or not. The issue should have always been how this massive hospital found itself in the position to simultaneously face a multi hundred million dollar short fall and be threatened with revokation of their license by JCAHO.

The media's lack of interest in the story frankly ought to be criminal in its obscenely corrupt lack of interest. First, if Grady is a public hospital, why did it need a private donor to infuse it with cash? It's because even the state legislature could no longer continue to drop public money down the corrupt money pit that is Grady Hospital. Apparently, the media can't be bothered to explore that portion of the story.

Second, why did Otis Story get fired? Sources tell me that he wouldn't go along with the corrupt practices that are standard operating procedure there. Of course, only the powers that be and Story know and they aren't talking. What is an undeniable fact is that Grady seems to have a startling pattern for employing CEO's with rather short tenures. This also seems to be a fact the media in Atlanta can't be bothered with. Furthermore, Story was replaced by Pam Stephenson. Pam Stephenson is now simultaneously the hospital CEO, head of the board, and a member of the Georgia legislature. Of course, no one seems to be bothered by this inherent conflict of interest even though it was this exact sort of conflict of interest that lead to the scandal surrounding State Senator Charles Walker and Grady Hospital.

Then, there is the entity that was the source of the funds. Why it was none other than the Woodruff Foundation. That would be the exact same Woodruff that is the namesake for Emory University's medical school as well as nearly half the buildings in campus. (it's named after Robert Woodruff former CEO of Pepsi) Of course, Emory is the single biggest source of employees at Grady Hospital and Grady is the overwhelming source for medical training at Emory. Apparently we have yet another inherent conflict of interest that no one seems to be bothered by.

Next, there is the new non profit 501 (3) C board that has taken over at Grady Hospital. What is this board and what is their function? We'll likely never know because its structure is such that it can be public or private whenever it wants to be, and thus, it is nearly impossible to oversee it. Would anyone really be surprised if several members of the board could also be found on the very Woodruff foundation that gave Grady the much needed funds? Is their behavior appropriate? We'll never know because it will be near impossible to investigate them.

Finally, there is the JCAHO threat. What happened to it? Last year, JCAHO was threatening to revoke Grady's accreditation. Since then, absolutely nothing has happened. In fact, the JCAHO report that lead to the revokation threat wasn't even released to the public. Isn't that report a matter of public interest? Why hasn't it been released? We'll never know what's in it because the media is totally uninterested in finding out.

What's really obscene about the entire turn of events is that the same corruptors that put Grady in a position for this massive bailout, then continued to corrupt it so brazenly and no one seemed to be bothered. Pam Stephenson's dual roles are a matter of public record. So is the ties between the Woodruff foundation, Emory University, and Grady Hospital. No one ever explained what exactly the 501(3) C would do and why that would improve the situation. In other words, the public and the media stood by while Grady Hospital created a useless and irrelevant board that addressed nothing while at the same time taking absolutely no steps to address any of the inherent problems at Grady Hospital.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That appears to be the mindset of the citizens and the media in and around Atlanta regarding Grady Hospital.

Obama's Evolving Aushwitz Gaffe

The right blogosphere about some of the comments made in the preceeding video. It all started when A CBS news report had this item in their blog.

Obama also spoke about his uncle, who was part of the American brigade that helped to liberate Auschwitz. He said the family legend is that, upon returning from war, his uncle spent six months in an attic. “Now obviously, something had really affected him deeply, but at that time there just weren’t the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain,” Obama said. “That’s why this idea of making sure that every single veteran, when they are discharged, are screened for post-traumatic stress disorder and given the mental health services that they need – that’s why it’s so important.”

The reporter, Maria Gavrilovic, reported the news straight. The problem is that Obama's recollection has factual errors. Here is the history from Ace of Spades...

Auschwitz of course is in Poland. It was liberated by the Red Army on Jan 27 1945. Poland, on most maps is usually placed to the east of Germany, although we may need to investigate the geography textbooks the Messiah used as a child...

The Allies were wrapping up the battle of the bulge in late January of 1945 -- the Rhine crossings were still well into the future when Auschwitz was liberated. The
first, the Remagen railway bridge which was discovered intact, was crossed on
March 7 1945
.

Furthermore, the inaccurate information doesn't stop there. Obama says this happened to his uncle, except his mother is an only child...

questioning nature — were already taking shape years earlier in the nomadic and sometimes tempestuous Dunham family, where the only child was a curious and precocious daughter of a father who wanted a boy so badly that he named her Stanley — after himself.

It's possible that Obama was told the story wrong, or simply remembers it wrong, about which camp his relative's unit entered, but I am having trouble believing that he doesn't know which relative it is. This is yet another in what is becoming a plethora of gaffes. Also, Jeff Emanuel does an excellent job of recounting the numerous factual errors Barack Obama has made when trying to put someone in his family in th middle of historical events.

You will all remember the bruhaha surrounding John McCain mixing up Sunni and Shia. We simply never see the same interest from the MSM over most of Obama's gaffes (San Fran bitter excluded). As such, he is allowed to make mistakes at what is now becoming an alarming rate and the media is simply uninterested in the errors.

Update: Obama says that it was his grand uncle not his uncle and that the camp was not Auschwitz but Ohrdruf. I can buy that and frankly I have nothing to the contrary. I will say the Dems no longer have any credibility in bringing up McCain's Sunni/Shia flub. Obama just made two mistakes in the course of one speech.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day



In between barbecues and other family get togethers, don't forget what this day is for. Take a minute to pray for all those in harm's way all over the world.

Election 2008: Totally Unusual and Unpredictable

This is the first Presidential election with no incumbent President or Vice President since 1952. That is only the beginning of the dynamic that makes this election unusual and totally unpredictable.

Everything it seems is going against the Republicans this season. The right track/ wrong track numbers are somewhere in the neighborhood of 20/80%. They've lost three special Congressional elections in districts that they never thought they would have trouble in. Party identification is down, and their are being outspent and outraised by their counterparts exponentially.

The Republicans have taken the hit for the poor economy, high gas prices, the mortgage crisis, and an unpopular war. The Democrats are licking their chops for unprecedented gains.

On the other hand, the Republicans have nominated the one candidate that might even win this year. John McCain is a war hero with a long history of being a moderate. Furthermore, the Democrats have nominated (nearly) the one candidate that could lose this year. Up until the Wright controversy broke, the charismatic Barack Obama seemed unbeatable himself. Since then it has been one gaffe after another followed by several scandals. Now, he limps into the general primary season weak and flawed.

Of course, Barack Obama has a very solid card in his back pocket, George Bush. It may not matter how flawed he is because the party of George Bush may just simply have no chance to win in November.

This is the set up for a totally unpredictable and unusual election 2008. We have a hopeless party picking the perfect nominee, while the party sitting pretty is picking the worst nominee it could. What will happen is anyone's guess.

My Second Favorite Scene

What can I say, nothing beats Coen Brothers and Miller's Crossing is my personal favorite.

Barack Obama's Curious Latin American Philosophy

Yesterday, I pointed out a minor gaffe by Barack Obama regarding Hugo Chavez. In a speech on Latin America, Obama blamed Bush for the election of Hugo Chavez. Of course, Bush was still Governor of Texas in 1998 when Hugo Chavez was elected.

It turns out that this was not his biggest gaffe. Jake Tapper picks it up...

On Thursday Obama told the Orlando Sentinel that he would meet with Chavez and "one of the obvious high priorities in my talks with President Hugo Chavez would be the fermentation of anti-American sentiment in Latin America, his support of FARC in Colombia and other issues he would want to talk about."

OK, so a strong declaration that Chavez is supporting FARC, which Obama intends to push him on.

But then on Friday he said any government supporting FARC should be isolated.

"We will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments," he said in a speech in Miami. "This behavior must be exposed to international condemnation, regional isolation, and - if need be - strong sanctions. It must not stand."

So he will meet with the leader of a country he simultaneously says should
be isolated? Huh?

Here is how the campaign responded to the perceived inconsistency.

The Obama campaign says there's nothing unusual about proposing the isolation of a country at the same time a President talks about meeting with its country's leader. (The Obama campaign cites how the U.S. is talking to North Korea via the Six-Party talks as an example. Though it might be observed, those diplomatic efforts are quite different than a presidential-level meeting.)

Here is an excerpt of what Obama sees wrong with our Latin American policy and what he would do to resolve it.

Since the Bush Administration launched a misguided war in Iraq, its policy in the Americas has been negligent toward our friends, ineffective with our adversaries, disinterested in the challenges that matter in peoples’ lives, and incapable of advancing our interests in the region.

...

That is the record – the Bush record in Latin America – that John McCain has chosen to embrace. Senator McCain doesn’t talk about these trends in our hemisphere because he knows that it’s part of the broader Bush-McCain failure to address priorities beyond Iraq. The situation has changed in the Americas, but we’ve failed to change with it. Instead of engaging the people of the region, we’ve acted as if we can still dictate terms unilaterally. We have not offered a clear and comprehensive vision, backed up with strong diplomacy. We are failing to join the battle for hearts and minds. For far too long, Washington has engaged in outdated debates and stuck to tired blueprints on drugs and trade, on democracy and development -- even though they won’t meet the tests of the future.

...

It’s time for a new alliance of the Americas. After eight years of the failed policies of the past, we need new leadership for the future. After decades pressing for top-down reform, we need an agenda that advances democracy, security, and opportunity from the bottom up. So my policy towards the Americas will be guided by the simple principle that what’s good for the people of the Americas is good for the United States. That means measuring success not just through agreements among governments, but also through the hopes of the child in the favelas of Rio, the security for the policeman in Mexico City, and the answered cries of political prisoners heard from jails in Havana.


The first and most fundamental freedom that we must work for is political freedom. The United States must be a relentless advocate for democracy.


Now, my first question is what about the issue of free trade Senator. The so called "failed policies" that Obama refers to created one of the biggest trading alliances in the world in CAFTA. It is a free trade agreement so lucrative to Latin America that Barack Obama has blamed it for the declining job growth all over the heartland. Certainly, if it is that lucrative to our trading partners, the Bush administration hasn't been as the Senator proclaims

disinterested in the challenges that matter in peoples’ lives, and incapable of advancing our interests in the region.

If anything, he has been to interested in their challenges. So, interested in fact, that the Senator has seen it boomerang on our own economy. Obama's double talk continues...

Instead of engaging the people of the region, we’ve acted as if we can still dictate terms unilaterally.

Of course, CAFTA was agreed upon by more than ten nations, all of which are considered in Latin America (besides the U.S. itself), and yet Obama wants to renegotiate that agreement along with NAFTA. Who exactly is "dictating the terms unilaterally" here?

Furthermore, he refuses to allow the passage of our free trade agreement with Colombia. Colombia has bent over backwards to finalize the terms of this agreement. Furthermore, Colombia is a beacon of democracy and a counterweight to the leftists totalitarians in Venezuela, Bolovia, and Cuba in the region.

Barack Obama makes no mention of the importance of free trade for Latin America. I suppose he thinks that those impoverished nations can rise from third world status without access to the biggest market in the world.

Then, there is the gaffe in which he simultaneously says that Venezuela needs to be engaged and isolated. This is all part of a perverted geopolitical worldview that Obama has that sees engagement with our enemies while we punish our biggest allies where it hurts most...free trade.

Here's the thing that Obama doesn't seem to realize. Any one on one meeting with the likes of Hugo Chavez will have at its center for Chavez more free trade with the U.S. While Chavez may spew anti American vile, he does know where his proverbial bread is buttered, the U.S. market.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bush Responsible for Chavez Coming to Power?

According to these comments Barack Obama, President Bush is responsible for the vacuum that lead to Hugo Chavez coming to power. Here is the relevant portion...

No wonder, then, that demagogues like Hugo Chavez have stepped into this vacuum. His predictable yet perilous mix of anti-American rhetoric, authoritarian government, and checkbook diplomacy offers the same false promise as the tried and failed ideologies of the past. But the United States is so alienated from the rest of the Americas that this stale vision has gone unchallenged, and has even made inroads from Bolivia to Nicaragua. And Chavez and his allies are not the only ones filling the vacuum. While the United States fails to address the changing realities in the Americas, others from Europe and Asia – notably China – have stepped up their own engagement. Iran has drawn closer to Venezuela, and just the other day Tehran and Caracas launched a joint bank with their windfall oil profits.

Of course, Chavez came to power in an election in 1998. I am reminded of the line by Tom Cruise' character in A Few Good Men

maybe if we work really hard, we can get Dawson (or in this case Bush) charged with the Kennedy assassination

I think if the Democrats work really hard soon they can get their followers at least to believe the Kennedy assassination is Bush's fault as well. I suppose that face to face meetings with Chavez and rejecting free trade deals with friends in the region like Colombia is the way to make sure that tyrants like Chavez don't come to power.

Human Guinea Pigs, Sham Peer Review, and the Governor II

Introduction: Please take a look at part one of this series prior to reading this part.


The video linked here includes testimony from Tim Goosby, a nurse anesthetist, in front of Congress just a couple weeks back. Mr. Goosby is an independent registered nurse anesthetist.

Goosby's story starts in in mid 2003 when he was approached by the CEO of Cuero Community Hospital, Jim Buckner, to become the new nurse anesthetist. Cuero Community Hospital is the lone public hospital in Cuero, Texas. Cuero is a small town of only a few thousand folks, mostly Hispanics, poor, and many times illegal. The job offer came with one caveat. The hospital's other nurse anesthetist, Mark Crawford, had recently been caught stealing drugs as well as overbilling Medicare. While these were serious violations of ethics and standards, Crawford wasn't going to fired. Rather, after undergoing psychological evaluations, a temporary leave, along with other punishment, Crawford would return to the hospital and they would share duties.





Within a few month's of Crawford's return to the hospital, Goosby was approached by multiple nurses with new claims that Crawford hadn't changed his behavior. In fact, now the nurses claimed that Crawford was even doctoring prescriptions that Goosby had signed. Goosby immediately approached Crawford with the accusations.





Crawford immediately denied everything. Goosby demanded that he see all of Crawford's patient records. To this, Crawford replied








you will never see the patient records



Finally, after enough grilling, Crawford admitted to everything he was accused of. Goosby immediately went to the CEO, Jim Buckner, with what he had found. Buckner decided to arrange a meeting of all the hospital medical staff so that Goosby could present his evidence to them.





At the staff meeting, a small group of doctors, headed by Dr. Daniel Dugi and Dr. Tim Spradlin, continued to ask the same question of Goosby. Did he tell anyone outside of the hospital what he discovered about Crawford? Of course, he hadn't yet. The next day after a mysterious meeting with Dugi and Spradlin, Mark Crawford left the hospital as well as the town of Cuero never to be heard from in those parts again. (Of course, he later resurfaces in other parts of Texas as the link clearly shows).





As Goosby later found out, Dr. Dugi along with Dr. Spradlin, lead a pseudo mafioso group of doctors that became the de facto rogue administration, and the real administration was too weak to do anything to stop them. The next few months were a living professional hell for Tim Goosby courtesy of Dr. Dugi and his group of medical mafioso. They spread rumors attacking his character. They tried to turn the rest of the staff against him. All of these things were much easier to do given that Goosby was the "new guy" while Dugi, Spradlin, et al had each been at Cuero for many years. Furthermore, Goosby was now doing the work of two nurse anesthetists he was being worked to death. Cuero, like most hospitals, needs the staff's approval before any new medical staff member is hired on. Of course, Dugi made sure than no new nurse anesthetist was hired on.





Within months, Goosby found out why he was being targeted so viciously. Several nurses again approached Goosby. They claimed that Dr. Dugi was making them perform illegal drug tests on patients. Dr. Dugi was associated with a company called Activ Group, Inc. and the two entities had formed a partnership to bring the drug Providex to market. Only, according to the nurse, they weren't going through normal FDA channels to test the drug, but rather they were using the patients at Cuero as human guinea pigs.





Goosby immediately took what he learned to the hospital CEO, Jim Buckner, as well as the head of nursing at Cuero, Judy Krupala. His concerns were rejected by everyone he approached.





Meanwhile, in mid 2004, he was sent in to perform a fairly standard anesthesic procedure. A patient, who also happened to be a fellow nurse at the hospital (obviously due to doctor patient privilege the name can't be revealed), was undergoing a biopsy on his chest. Goosby was sent in to administer the anesthesia. The standard procedure in such a case for the nurse anesthetist to do two things prior to administering the anesthesia: 1) explain the consent form and have the patient sign it and 2) explain the assessment form and have the patient sign it. Goosby insists that both of these things were done just as they were done in thousands of procedures he performed prior.





Within months, this same nurse/patient accused Goosby of not providing these two forms to them. Goosby insisted to the CEO that of course he did, and he even provided the signed consent forms. The CEO backed up Goosby, however at the behest of Dugi the matter was still referred to the Texas Board of Nursing. This started an ordeal for Goosby that continues today.





What Goosby found in the TNB was an organization no less corrupt than the hospital that referred him. Unfortunately for Goosby, he had a DUI charge from a few years earlier that he failed to report to the Texas Nursing Board when he first went to work in the state. While this is a legitimate charge the normal penalty for such a failure is $250. Instead, this charge was used as the basis of what eventually lead to Goosby having to surrender his license in Texas for a year.





After receiving formal written charges, Goosby faced the board in an oral hearing known as an Informal Settlement Conference. Despite presenting the board with copies of the two forms in question and having the patient recant their story under examination, the board still ruled against Goosby. Instead, the TNB used his failure to report the DUI as the subject of an order to remove his license. Of course, such a draconian punishment goes against their own guidelines. (as I said earlier, such an infraction normally results in a $250 fine)





Goosby appealed the decision to a law judge. (this is standard procedure) In front of the law judge, Goosby's attorney referenced a prior decision, Turner Vs. Texas Board of Nursing, in which another nurse was similarly punished outside the guidelines of the case. The law judge sided with Goosby, however there is a serious problem in the manner in which the TNB operates...as Goosby would soon find out. While the law judge can make their ruling, the TNB doesn't have to accept that ruling. Ultimately, what they say is final, and the judge's ruling is only meant to be used as a guide. Of course, in the case of a corrupt board, like the TNB, such a rule puts far too much power in the hands of the corruptors.





Thus, despite having the ruling of the law judge on his side, Goosby was stuck. He could continue to appeal his punishment to the same law judge but the same corrupt nursing board would continue to reject that ruling and insist on their own. In the meantime, the long legal battle had drained nearly all of his financial resources. In fact, at one point, Goosby was approached by the TNB attorney, Liz Higginbotham, and told that they were determined to remove his license, and that he could either surrender it while he still had money or when he was broke. Goosby agreed under the condition that there be no mention that he administered anesthesia without consent or advisement, the two significant charges. Thus, in 2005, Tim Goosby lost his license to practice nursing in Texas for failing to report a prior DUI to the board.





Finally, after nearly two years of fighting the TNB, Goosby agreed to surrender his nursing license in the state of Texas for a period of one year. Of course, this opened up its own pandora's box. Once his license was removed in Texas, other states began to ask questions as well. Suddenly, his license was being threatened in a number of states including: Illinois, Colorado, and his home state of Wisconsin. Defending himself in all of these other states put further financial hardship on Goosby.





Nearly broke, Goosby was given a carrot by the state of Wisconsin. If he got his license restored in Texas, he would be allowed to work in Wisconsin. Of course, he needed to go back to the same corrupt TNB to do it. Through his attorney, he reached out to the TNB. The TNB agreed to restore his license under one condition. Goosby had to face the board and he couldn't speak.





At the hearing, the board once again accused him of administering anesthesia without consent or advisement, two things they promised to remove from his record, and then took it a step further. They now accused Goosby of being a drug addict. In his re instatement order, Goosby was accused of a laundry list of misdeeds including drug use. He was given 90 days to sign the order.





Upon the advice of colleagues, he was told under no circumstances to sign the order. Signing it would be a death sentence to his career. As soon as that order was posted on the TNB site, his license would be threatened by every other state. Instead he was told to reach out to the media. That is what he did.





As such, he became the main source for this investigative series by KPRC of Houston investigative reporter Stephen Dean's expose of illegal drug testing at Cuero Community Hospital. While Dean was painstaking in his coverage of Dr. Dugi's illegal drug testing, the corruption perpetrated at the TNB to Goosby became nothing more than an afterthought in the story.








That nurse, Timothy Goosby, is now licensed to practice in Minnesota. He said he surrendered his Texas nursing license and was forced out of his job at Cuero Community Hospital in retaliation for reporting the drug testing.

He surrendered his license for failing to disclose two drunk driving arrests when he applied for his Texas license. He told Local 2 Investigates the infraction was only discovered when the people involved in the drug testing started filing several accusations against him in response to his being a "snitch."



While Goosby refused to sign the order, the TNB put it up on their site regardless. In an ironic twist of fate, this lead to small bit of redemption for Goosby. The charges were so serious now that many other states did thorough investigations. As such, what they found was what you are reading...that the TNB orchestrated on Tim Goosby a sham peer review. In fact, the state of Illinois used the term "railroaded" in describing the case. The state of Wisconsin allowed Goosby to work in the state though his prior license revokation makes him a significant insurance liability.





Meanwhile, Jim Buckner waited until 2008 to finally speak on the record about some of the things that happened at Cuero Community Hospital. That just happened to be the statute of limitations on many of the crimes he witnessed. In the Dean expose, Buckner said that he left the hospital as a result of what he saw there regarding the drug testing. (It just apparently took him nearly five years to see it) He was replaced as CEO by a gentleman named Darly Stefka. Stefka was the head pharmacist at Cuero when the illegal drug testing was going on.



The pharmacist in charge when the drug was first added to the "formulary," or list of medicines being dispensed to patients by the hospital, has now been elevated to CEO of Cuero Community Hospital.


Darryl Stefka, Cuero Community Hospital's current CEO declined to answer questions on camera, but he insisted the drug's use was "very legitimate." When asked whether it was tested on patients without their knowledge, he answered, "I'm sure they knew."



Mark Crawford popped up on the radar of the TNB in 2007, Crawford was caught at a hospital in El Paso doing many of the same things that he did at Cuero. He was let off with a warning and a fine. There is one case that you won't find on the TNB site. Bridget Hughes was caught stealing 50 triplicate prescriptions, forging signatures, and using them for her own use. For this, her license to write prescriptions was removed for one year, but she was still allowed to keep her license to be a nurse. Hughes was the head nurse for Dr. Keith Miller, former head of the Texas Medical Board Disciplinary Committee. The disposition of her case has "mysteriously" been removed from the TNB site. (though as soon as I figure out how to transfer my copy from PDF, it will be placed back up on the internet)



Finally, Goosby took his pleas all the way to the governor's office of Rick Perry. Goosby pleaded with the governor's office to have the TNB investigated. According to a letter dated May 7, 2008, Dede Keith, (click download original attachment) in the communications office, told Goosby that the governor's office would share Goosby's concerns with Katherine Thomas, head of the Texas Board of Nursing. In other words, the Texas Governor's office thought it would be appropriate if the exact same corrupt TNB investigated itself.

Here is part three and the conclusion of the piece.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eric Gagne and the Lessons of Cheating

Eric Gagne was a struggling marginal pitcher when he burst on the scene in 2002 in his new role as closer for the Dodgers. For the next three years, he dominated in ways never seen before. He still holds the all time record for consecutive saves with the herculean total of 84. In 2003, he won the Cy Young award with 55 saves and a 1.20 ERA. I happened to catch Gagne pitch once in 2003. He finished the ninth against then Cub, Eric Karros. He started Karros off with a fastball that the stadium gun clocked at 99 MPH. His next two pitches were both change ups. One change up was clocked at 74 and the next at 72 MPH respectively. I still remember the ridiculous amount of drop that his last change up had. He made Karros look silly and it redefined the term "pull the string" normally associated with change ups. Gagne's career sputtered through a series of injuries and lack of production following the 2004 season and he continues to be a struggling, if not well paid, closer/middle reliever today.

As it turns out, it is very likely that any success that Gagne has had was most likely manufactured. Eric Gagne was one of the hundreds of names mentioned in the Mitchell Report. While there is certainly no proof, I have the strong suspicion that his success coincided with his meteoric rise. His fall also coincided with the time period that baseball finally began to test for steroids seriously.

The implications of the story of Eric Gagne and hundreds of others like him are huge and they aren't talked about nearly enough. Gagne most likely cheated his way into millions of dollars. It is of course unclear when (or even for sure if) he cheated, however it certainly appears to me that his best years were also years he cheated in. He no longer throws the fastball in the high nineties. Thus, the difference in velocity between that and his change up is no longer the obscene 25 miles that I used to see. It appears that the un hittable closer that we witnessed in 2002-2004 was created chemically.

Again, the implications of this are massive. Gagne was a marginal player that struggled to make a major league roster prior to 2002. Then, out of the blue, he became one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. This year he is being paid 10 million dollars. Without performance enhancing drugs, he likely would have long been out of the league. Instead, he is being paid 8 figures to struggle and rehabilitate.

If my suspicions are accurate, he not only cheated his way into fame, fortune, and baseball immortality, but worse than that, he took the spot of someone who didn't fall to the same urges. Because Gagne did not resist those urges, he is now rewarded with a Cy Young, a place in baseball's record books, and ten's of millions of dollars. He didn't just cheat to gain an edge, but he cheated to manufacture a life. Meanwhile, this life that he created took the place of someone else who didn't fall to those same urges. Not only is that unfair, but frankly it is tragic. How do we teach the lessons of cheating to our youth when clearly they paid off so well for Eric Gagne?

"I had to figure out just like every other American"

Those were the words spoken by Laura Richardson in a lengthy interview in the aftermath of it first being exposed that she had recently gone into foreclosure. Of course, she is not like "every other American" but rather a politician and an ambitious one at that. Here is more of the story...

I'm Laura Richardson. I'm an American, I'm a single woman who had four employment changes in less than four months," Richardson said. "I had to figure out just like every other American how I could restructure the obligations that I had with the income I had."

Richardson bought the 1,600-square-foot home in Sacramento's desirable Curtis Park neighborhood for $535,500 in January 2007. It was sold at auction earlier this month to a Sacramento mortgage lender who paid $388,000, according to the Sacramento County Recorder's Office. A default notice sent to Richardson in March put her unpaid balance at $578,384.

Richardson provided the AP with an April letter, which appears to be from Washington Mutual Home Loans, telling her there was a hold on foreclosure sales on her property until June 4. She also provided an e-mail dated Thursday, which she said was from Washington Mutual, that appeared to acknowledge an agreement "to facilitate the recission of foreclosure sale" but gave no financial details.


Now, it appears that Richardson will look to gain sympathy in her plight. That is natural and probably a wise political move. Frankly, I have nothing against Ms. Richardson personally. On the other hand, she is a great example of the excess that has happened to create the mortgage crisis. As I pointed out earlier, the forces, like me, that are against mass bail outs need to make Ms. Richardson the face of the mortgage crisis. It isn't because she is so different from everyone else, but rather it is because she is so similary.

When Ms. Richardson proclaims that she had four jobs in four months that was entirely at her doing. She decided to run in the special election to replace Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald in April of 2007. She knew that running for Congress would be financially risky and she knew that she was carrying this massive mortgage debt.

As I mentioned in my previous piece, what is striking about her case is how similar it is to most borrowers. Because of her status as a Congress person, she is likely not to get the sort of sympathy that most in the media give the typical borrower. Thus, we, who are against any sort of mortgage bailout, can finally point to a borrower who isn't sympathetic.

The details of her foreclosure are not altogether that important to me. Once you fall behind as Richardson did, you are at the mercy of the bank. What we need to find is a few things. First, did she prove her income in getting this loan or was it stated? Did she claim that the property would be lived in or did she say it would be used for investment purposes? How in the world did she qualify for such an expensive home on her State Senator's salary?

The case of Representative Laura Richardson is a window into the massive excess and out and out fraud that created the mortgage crisis. Somehow she was able to get a no money down loan on a half million dollar plus property on her State Senator's salary. For some reason she decided to take on the financially draining task of running for U.S. Congress while holding on at least to this mortgage and another one. (she also maintains a condo in her own district)

Once these questions are answered I firmly believe that the forces against mortgage bailouts can use this case as the poster child against further bailouts. Now this maybe a contrarian thought given that her home has already been foreclosed in, but in fact, it has merit. Once the details of this case come out, I am confident that not only will it show that Ms. Richardson bought outside her means, but that the only thing left for the bank to do was foreclose. Once that comes out, this case can become the poster child against any mass bailouts.