Friday, February 29, 2008

OPINION - William F. Buckley, Jr.

Although I am now a Progressive, there is one Conservative I have always admired if not always agreed with; William F. Buckley, Jr.

This Conservative Sage came from a era of intellectual and polite politics. I admire him because he gave concise and logical arguments for the conservative cause, even if I did not agree with them, and was not a conservative ideologue. He disagreed with some conservative issues. He surprised me with his opinion on the Iraq War. Especially in the following interview which I watched at the time.

"Buckley: Bush Not A True Conservative" CBS Evening News Saturday anchor Thalia Assuras, CBS Evening News 6/22/2006


Buckley finds himself parting ways with President Bush, whom he praises as a decisive leader but admonishes for having strayed from true conservative principles in his foreign policy.

In particular, Buckley views the three-and-a-half-year Iraq War as a failure.

"If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced it would be expected that he would retire or resign," Buckley says.

Asked if the Bush administration has been distracted by Iraq, Buckley says "I think it has been engulfed by Iraq, by which I mean no other subject interests anybody other than Iraq... The continued tumult in Iraq has overwhelmed what perspectives one might otherwise have entertained with respect to, well, other parts of the Middle East with respect to Iran in particular."

Then there is this National Review article of 4/28/2007
"The Waning of the GOP" by William F. Buckley, Jr.

The political problem of the Bush administration is grave, possibly beyond the point of rescue. The opinion polls are savagely decisive on the Iraq question. About 60 percent of Americans wish the war ended — wish at least a timetable for orderly withdrawal. What is going on in Congress is in the nature of accompaniment. The vote in Congress is simply another salient in the war against war in Iraq. Republican forces, with a couple of exceptions, held fast against the Democrats’ attempt to force Bush out of Iraq even if it required fiddling with the Constitution. President Bush will of course veto the bill, but its impact is critically important in the consolidation of public opinion. It can now accurately be said that the legislature, which writes the people’s laws, opposes the war.

Meanwhile, George Tenet, former head of the CIA, has just published a book which seems to demonstrate that there was one part ignorance, one part bullheadedness, in the high-level discussions before war became policy. Mr. Tenet at least appears to demonstrate that there was nothing in the nature of a genuine debate on the question. What he succeeded in doing was aborting a speech by Vice President Cheney which alleged a Saddam/al Qaeda relationship which had not in fact been established.

It isn’t that Tenet now doubts the lethality of the terrorists. What he disputed was an organizational connection which argued for war against Iraq as if Iraq were a vassal state of al Qaeda. A measure of George Tenet’s respect for the reach and malevolence of the enemy is his statement that he is puzzled that Al Qaeda has not, since 2001, sent out “suicide bombers to cause chaos in a half dozen American shopping malls on any given day.” By way of prophecy, he writes that there is one thing he feels in his gut, which is that “Al Qaeda is here and waiting.”

But beyond affirming executive supremacy in matters of war, what is George Bush going to do? It is simply untrue that we are making decisive progress in Iraq. The indicators rise and fall from day to day, week to week, month to month. In South Vietnam there was an organized enemy. There is clearly organization in the strikes by the terrorists against our forces and against the civil government in Iraq, but whereas in Vietnam we had Hanoi as the operative headquarters of the enemy, we have no equivalent of that in Iraq, and that is a matter of paralyzing importance. All those bombings, explosions, assassinations: we are driven to believe that they are, so to speak, spontaneous.

When the Romans were challenged by Christianity, Rome fell. The generation of Christians moved by their faith overwhelmed the regimented reserves of the Roman state. It was four years ago that Mr. Cheney first observed that there was a real fear that each fallen terrorist leads to the materialization of another terrorist. What can a “surge,” of the kind we are now relying upon, do to cope with endemic disease? The parallel even comes to mind of the eventual collapse of Prohibition, because there wasn’t any way the government could neutralize the appetite for alcohol, or the resourcefulness of the freeman in acquiring it.

General Petraeus is a wonderfully commanding figure. But if the enemy is in the nature of a disease, he cannot win against it. Students of politics ask then the derivative question: How can the Republican party, headed by a president determined on a war he can’t see an end to, attract the support of a majority of the voters? General Petraeus, in his Pentagon briefing on April 26, reported persuasively that there has been progress, but cautioned, “I want to be very clear that there is vastly more work to be done across the board and in many areas, and again I note that we are really just getting started with the new effort.”

The general makes it a point to steer away from the political implications of the struggle, but this cannot be done in the wider arena. There are grounds for wondering whether the Republican party will survive this dilemma.

Even though today's conservative ideologues hale him as the Father of Modern Conservatism, they overlook that he was not a sheep.

Monday, February 25, 2008

SCIENCE - Another Sol-Like Solar System?

"Astronomers Discover Solar System That Might Mimic Our Own" by Jenny Marder, PBS News Hour

A global team of professional and amateur astronomers has found a solar system thousands of light years away that looks like a scaled-down version of our own.

Two planets proportionally similar to Jupiter and Saturn are orbiting a star in a constellation called Scorpius, which is 5,000 light years, or 30 quadrillion miles, away.

The finding suggests that solar systems patterned like ours may be common, something astronomers have long believed to be true, said Scott Gaudi, assistant professor of astronomy at Ohio State University and lead author of the study. The study was published in the Feb. 15 issue of the journal Science.

"I think this is very encouraging in terms of the hope that there are other solar systems like our own out there," Gaudi said. "This is a good step in the direction of trying to answer these questions."

Scientists detected the planets using a technique called "gravitational microlensing," which required constant nighttime monitoring of the faraway constellation over a 10-day span. To do so, researchers relied on amateur astronomers Jennie McCormick and Grant Christie, both based in Auckland, New Zealand, to collect data during the American daylight hours.

Microlensing, long considered the "poor cousin" of planet-finding techniques, uses Einstein's theory of relativity to find massive objects in outer space. When a close and a distant star align, the foreground star acts as a lens, magnifying the background star. Gravity of the planets near the background star further distorts the image. Scientists calculate the mass of the planets by measuring the extra distortions in that background star.

"In general, the bigger the planet, the larger the area is that it distorts," said Andrew Gould, professor of astronomy at Ohio State, and one of the study's co-authors. "If the planet is bigger, it will have fluctuations that last longer."

This discovery marks the first time microlensing has been used to find more than one planet. Only four other planets have been detected by this method, which is a tricky and time-consuming process, also requiring tens of thousands of hours of mathematical modeling.

"There's a lot of triage involved," Gould said. "It's really the result of an incredibly chaotic process." Gould also heads the MicroLensing Follow-Up Network, a collaboration of professional and amateur astronomers who assist in collecting data for microlensing events.

There is much that is still unknown about the planets. Astronomers don't know how big they are, what they are made of, or whether other smaller planets orbit the same host star. Any planet the size of earth would have escaped detection by the team because it would be too small to be seen with current technology at that distance.

"To see an earth directly would be like trying to find a firefly within one inch of a search light," said Sara Seager, professor of planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But astronomers do know the mass of both planets and the mass of the star that they orbit. They know that these planets - believed to be gas giants - are the same distance from their sun as Jupiter and Saturn are to ours. And like Jupiter compares to Saturn, the larger planet is triple the size of the other.

"The star itself is smaller and dimmer than the sun," Gaudi said. "The planets are also smaller. But the amount of sunlight is not that different than ours, because the planets are closer."

Microlensing is particularly useful when objects are too far away to be located by more traditional methods, such as radial velocity, or the "wobble" method.

So far, Scientists have found about 270 planets and about 25 multiple-planet systems, mostly using the wobble method. Seager said most of these planets "are just crazy" -- giants compared to earth and clustered closer to their sun than those in our solar system.

Scientists believe this is because, the wobble method, by its very nature, is more sensitive to finding planets that sit closer to their parent star.

"[Microlensing] is the only technique that can find Saturn-like planets at Saturn-like distances from the star," Seager said. "We're seeing a triumph of a new technique and a vindication for people working so hard to find planets that no other technique can find."

Note the caveat in the article title, "might mimic." This is good science because it is a recognition of sciences' limits.

Also note the use of amateur astronomers which is recognition of these "amateurs" do good science. This is especially true of Astronomy.

CAMPAIGN 2008 - Would the GOP Love to Do This?

I am not saying that the GOP would actually do this, but one has to wonder, seeing what GOP supporters (especially Super Conservatives) are doing in this election cycle IF in their heart-of-hearts they wish they could.

"Putin’s Iron Grip on Russia Suffocates Opponents" by Clifford J. Levy, New York Times

In part

Shortly before parliamentary elections in December, foremen fanned out across the sprawling GAZ vehicle factory here, pulling aside assembly-line workers and giving them an order: vote for President Vladimir V. Putin’s party or else. They were instructed to phone in after they left their polling places. Names would be tallied, defiance punished.

The city’s children, too, were pressed into service. At schools, teachers gave them pamphlets promoting “Putin’s Plan” and told them to lobby their parents. Some were threatened with bad grades if they failed to attend “Children’s Referendums” at polling places, a ploy to ensure that their parents would show up and vote for the ruling party.

Around the same time, volunteers for an opposition party here, the Union of Right Forces, received hundreds of calls at all hours, warning them to stop working for their candidates. Otherwise, you will be hurt, the callers said, along with the rest of your family.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

CAMPAIGN 2008 - The Cost of Being In the Spotlight

"For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk" by Jim Rutenberg, Marilyn W. Thompson, David D. Kirkpatrick, & Stephen Labaton, New York Times

In part

Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

There's more in the full article.

Ah, yes. Being under the microscope. One has to wonder why the McCain people did not see this coming and head it off. After all, they were aware of the problem back "then."

Of course, all the GOP Attack-Dogs will denounce this as a Liberal, Commie, smear campaign when it applies to their own.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

ON THE LITE SIDE - From "America's Finest News Source"

In The Know: New Iraqi Law Requires Waiting Period For Suicide Vest Purchases

"Archaeologist Tired Of Unearthing Unspeakable Ancient Evils" The Onion, Sci & Tech

HASAKE, SYRIA—When archaeologist Edward Whitson joined a Penn State University dig in Hasake last year, he did so to participate in the excavation of a Late Bronze Age settlement rich in pottery shards and clay figurines. Whitson had hoped to determine whether the items contained within the site were primarily Persian or Assyrian in origin.

Instead, he found himself fleeing giant flying demon-cats as he ran through the temple's cavernous halls, jumping from ledge to ledge while locked in a desperate struggle for his life and soul for what seemed like the thousandth time in his 27-year career.

"All I wanted to do was study the settlement's remarkably well-preserved kiln," said the 58-year-old Whitson, carefully recoiling the rope he had just used to clamber out of a pit filled with giant rats. "I didn't want to be chased by yet another accursed manifestation of an ancient god-king's wrath."

Over the course of his career, Whitson has been frequently lauded by colleagues for his thorough, methodical examinations of ancient peoples. He has also been chased by the snake-bodied ophidian women of Al'lat in Israel, hunted down by Mayan coyote specters manifested out of lost time and shadow in the Yucatan, and hounded by the Arctic-sky-filling Walrus Bone Woman of the early Inuits.

"It's true, I've got to stop reading the inscriptions on ancient door seals out loud," Whitson said. "I also need to quit dusting off medallions set into strange sarcophagi, allowing the light to hit them for the first time in centuries. And replacing the jewels that have fallen from the foreheads of ancient frog-deity statues—that's just bad archaeological practice."

Whitson added that he hopes one day to excavate an ancient Egyptian monastery or marketplace without hearing the ear-splitting shrieks of the undead while being swarmed by green-glowing carnivorous stink beetles.

"I realize I'm entering grounds that are considered sacred to these people," Whitson said. "But that doesn't mean I deserve to be pelted with poison-tipped darts shot from cavern walls. A simple 'Do Not Enter' sign in hieroglyphics would suffice."

Turning to the subject of his latest incident at a dig site in Peru, Whitson maintains he was not at fault for summoning the forces of evil.

"I was just idly rearranging flint sickle blades that had already been catalogued. Apparently, I spelled out the true name of a long-dead god-priest," Whitson said. "Can't a man even clean up his work area without inadvertently conjuring up a pack of lightning-breathing ocelots?"

Making matters worse, such encounters have had little to no scientific value.

"It's always, 'I will drink your soul' or 'I will chew the flesh from your bones' with these hellish apparitions," Whitson said. "When I ask them if that means the ancient Etruscans did, in fact, add copper to their mixing clay to make their urns more sturdy, they don't even seem to hear me."

Worn down by nearly three decades of peril, Whitson said he plans to move off the front lines to become a museum curator or in-office researcher.

"It's unfortunate," Whitson said. "Nothing quite compares to being out in the field on an actual dig. But the reality is, I'm really starting to hate almost getting killed all the time."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

POLITICS - Lier n' Chief Taken to Task Again

Countdown, 2/14/2008
Keith Olbermann

Bush 'panoramic invasion of privacy' is terrorism

POLITICS - GOP Says Dems "Putting the Nation at Risk"

"House Defies Bush on Wiretaps" by Dan Eggen & Michael Abramowitz, Washington Post 2/15/2008

The House of Representatives defied the White House yesterday by refusing to make an expiring surveillance law permanent, prompting a harsh exchange between Republicans and Democrats as they prepared for an extended, election-year battle over national security.

The episode was a rare uprising by Democrats against the White House on a terrorism issue, and it inspired caterwauling on both sides about the dire ramifications of the standoff.

Republicans said Democrats were putting the nation at risk, while President Bush offered to delay his scheduled departure for Africa today to reach a deal. Democrats responded with charges of administration recklessness and fearmongering.

The conflict erupted on the same day that House Democrats approved contempt citations against White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers over their refusal to cooperate with an investigation into the mass firings of U.S. attorneys.

That vote -- resulting in the first citations ever issued against White House officials -- infuriated the Bush administration and helped torpedo a short-lived political truce with Democrats, who had celebrated the signing of a bipartisan economic stimulus package on Wednesday. Republicans staged a walkout before the vote.

The surveillance dispute centers on the Protect America Act, a temporary law approved over Democratic misgivings last August. It expanded the powers of the government to monitor the communications of foreign suspects without warrants, including international phone calls and e-mails passing through or into the United States. It is set to expire at the end of the day tomorrow.

The Bush administration wants to make the law permanent, while adding legal immunity for telecommunication companies that were sued for invasions of privacy after helping U.S. intelligence agencies conduct warrantless wiretapping. The Senate has approved a bill backed by the White House, but the House has balked at the immunity provision and raised other objections because of civil-liberties concerns.

Without the law, administration officials said yesterday in interviews and statements, the monitoring of terrorist groups overseas will be severely hampered. Telecom firms may also become reluctant to help the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies conduct surveillance, officials said.

"If Congress does not act by that time, our ability to find out who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they are planning will be compromised," Bush said in a hastily arranged news appearance on the South Lawn of the White House. He said that intelligence officials were "waiting to see" if Congress would "tie their hands."

Democrats immediately said that the expiration of the temporary law would have little, if any, immediate impact on intelligence gathering. "He has nothing to offer but fear," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters after Bush's address.

"I regret your reckless attempt to manufacture a crisis over the reauthorization of foreign surveillance laws," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said in a letter to Bush, in defense of his colleagues in the House. "Instead of needlessly frightening the country, you should work with Congress in a calm, constructive way."

The acrimony reflects the long-simmering anger among some Democratic lawmakers and their liberal allies over their inability to thwart Bush on Iraq policy and terrorism issues since the Democrats took control of Congress last year after the 2006 elections. It also indicates a new willingness to risk election-year attacks by Republicans who say that Democrats are unfit to protect the country.

More on 2nd page of article

Here it is again. Fearmongering by the GOP.

Give up your Constitutional Protected Rights in the name of National Security. We are expected to feel more secure as our Rights are threatened. Unfortunately many American citizens have fallen for this argument; just as other citizens, in other times, have fallen for it as their governments slid into dictatorships.

They ignore that there is a legal way to conduct such surveillance already on the books, but that is not enough for the GOP.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

IRAQ - From the Inside

"LOGIC" McClatchy Trusted Voices

I always believe that logic has no place in Iraq because things move in a very random way in this country but also I have to accept that there is an exception for each role.

When the Americans decided in away or another to depend on the local residents to defend their neighborhood, they knew for sure that they had made a very difficult decision because they were 100% sure that some of residents if not the majority are members insurgents groups and they have their own ideologies which might not agree or meet with the American ideology in any way. Yet, the US army decided to take the initiative and try to use the insurgents.

Of course, there are some positive points in using those people, they know the tactics of the insurgents, some of them know where the insurgents live or meet and others know other important issues like funding or the way the insurgents move or act. All these positive points encouraged the Americans to form what is known the awakening councils or the support councils or any other names I might not have an idea about. The most important aim for the US army was to settle security in Iraq and especially in Baghdad.

Well, I can’t see any logic in the American initiative of using the insurgents to fight Qaida. First because these areas are mixed and we all know about the sectarian tension and violence, the insurgents who join these awakening council may uses their authorities for personal purposes and second depending on the insurgents to fight the insurgents (Qiada or any other groups) doesn’t mean defeating the enemy because for sure some members of the enemy would sneak inside the American formed awakening councils.

believe the Americans tried to follow the steps of the awakening council in Anbar which was created by the sheikhs of Anbar province tribes. The mistake of the Americans was not studying the psychological side of Anbar experience. People of Anbar are almost from one main tribe and they all suffered from Qaida. When they decided to fight Qaida, they gathered their efforts to work as one real team because they wanted to end their suffering. They formed their awakening council and they succeeded because they had an exact goal. There is no way to compare between the awakening council of Anbar and any other awakening council whether its formed by Iraqis or American. Anbar awakening council is the real copy while the others are imitations.

Since almost one weak, the awakening council in one of Baghdad ’s neighborhood and in Diyala province suspended their cooperation with the government. They both accuse the official security forces (police and army) of attacking these councils. The awakening council in Amiriyah neighborhood west Baghdad says that a joint force of the Iraqi and the US armies arrested some of its members. The supporters of the awakening council in Diyala demonstrate for the last four days demanding to depose the police chief of Diyala accusing him with the sectarian violence.

These two examples are the best evidence of the failure of the American experience which (the failure) is very logical result for an illogical initiative. Those councils now demonstrate against the American supported Iraqi government. As I said, those people don’t have a case to fight for and this is a very strong weak point in the infrastructure of such awakening council.

I wish the American army find a good solution for this crisis. I’m afraid the US army decides to form new awakening councils within the current awakening councils who support the Iraqi government. In fact, In fact, I’m afraid that the whole issue would end with forming an awakening government.


"Doctors balk at request for data" by Lisa Girion, LA Times

Physicians object to a letter from Blue Cross seeking information that could lead to policy cancellations.

The state's largest for-profit health insurer is asking California physicians to look for conditions it can use to cancel their new patients' medical coverage.

Blue Cross of California is sending physicians copies of health insurance applications filled out by new patients, along with a letter advising them that the company has a right to drop members who fail to disclose "material medical history," including "pre-existing pregnancies."

"Any condition not listed on the application that is discovered to be pre-existing should be reported to Blue Cross immediately," the letters say. The Times obtained a copy of a letter that was aimed at physicians in large medical groups.

The letter wasn't going down well with physicians.

"We're outraged that they are asking doctors to violate the sacred trust of patients to rat them out for medical information that patients would expect their doctors to handle with the utmost secrecy and confidentiality," said Dr. Richard Frankenstein, president of the California Medical Assn.

Patients "will stop telling their doctors anything they think might be a problem for their insurance and they don't think matters for their current health situation," he said. "But they didn't go to medical school, and there are all kinds of obscure things that could be very helpful to a doctor."

WellPoint Inc., the Indianapolis-based company that operates Blue Cross of California, said Monday that it was sending out the letters in an effort to hold down costs.

"Enrolling an applicant who did not disclose their true condition (and the condition is chronic or acute), will quickly drive increased utilization of services, which drives up costs for all members," WellPoint spokeswoman Shannon Troughton said in an e-mail.

"Blue Cross feels it is our responsibility to assure all records are accurate and up to date for HMO providers," she said. "We send these letters to identify members early on in the process who may not have been honest in their application."

Blue Cross is one of several California insurers that have come under fire for issuing policies without checking applications and then canceling coverage after individuals incur major medical costs. The practice of canceling coverage, known in the industry as rescission, is under scrutiny by state regulators, lawmakers and the courts.

Patients in a raft of lawsuits accuse the insurers of canceling coverage over honest mistakes and minor inconsistencies on applications that they contend are purposely confusing. Victims of cancer and other serious medical problems often are unable to get new coverage once their insurance has been rescinded and they may go without treatment when they need it most. Suddenly swamped by medical debt, some people have lost homes and businesses.

Insurers say the cancellations are an important weapon against fraud and occur rarely.

Physician groups and doctors who received the letter told The Times they never had seen anything like it. Also unfamiliar with such letters was Don Crane, executive director of the California Assn. of Physician Groups, which represents many of the large HMO-style medical groups.

"I have not heard any dialogue on this business of underwriting or ferreting out existing" conditions, Crane said.

But WellPoint's Troughton said this was nothing new. "This is something that has been in place for several years and to date we have not received any calls or letters of concern for this service," she said.

It was important, Troughton added, "to note that participation in this outreach effort is voluntary on the part of the physicians."

The California Medical Assn. sent a letter to state regulators Friday urging them to order Blue Cross to stop asking doctors for the patient information, saying it was "deeply disturbing, unlawful, and interferes with the physician-patient relationship."

The letters go out to some physicians who care for Blue Cross' share of the state's estimated 3 million people with individual policies.

Troughton said Blue Cross sent the letters to medical groups that operate, in effect, as health maintenance organizations. Blue Cross pays such groups a set amount per patient each month. With a few exceptions, the groups are then responsible for arranging and providing patients' medical care and take on a substantial piece of the risk.

Troughton said "in the past" physicians in such medical groups had requested information on patients' pre-existing medical conditions because anything that had not been disclosed could affect the medical group's finances.

She disputed the notion that the letters could improperly breach patient confidentiality. She said the sharing of medical information with medical groups was within federal law because it fell under "patient, treatment and operations" guidelines.

Blue Cross doesn't always cancel the policies of patients with discrepancies in their applications, Troughton noted. Sometimes it may offer them another plan, she said.

Lynne Randolph, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Managed Health Care, said the agency would review the letter. Blue Cross is fighting a $1-million fine the department imposed in March over alleged systemic problems the agency identified in the way the company rescinds coverage.

A spokesman for state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said the Insurance Department had not received any complaints about Blue Cross' letter. But because the medical association had sent a copy of its complaint to the department, the letter is "on our radar now," spokesman Byron Tucker said.

The letter is "extremely troubling on several fronts," Tucker said. "It really obliterates the line between underwriting and medical care. It is the insurer's job to underwrite their policies, not the doctors'. Doctors deliver medical care. Their job is not to underwrite policies for insurers."

Anthony Wright, executive director of HealthAccess California, a healthcare advocacy organization, said the letter had put physicians in the "disturbing" position of having to weigh their patients' interests against a directive from the company that, in many cases, pays most of their bills.

"They are playing a game of 'gotcha' where they are trying to use their doctors against their patients' health interests," Wright said. "That's about as ugly as it gets."

Here's the bottom line. Citizens of California, and one has to assume those in other BlueCross states, will have to believe that this letter is only a "weapon against fraud." Yap, it could not be abused as a tool to fatten corporate profits.

We need to remember that poor ol' BlueCross needs more, and more money for the CEO's salary and Golden Parachute, not to mention ever increasing dividends to stockholders. Just making a profit is not good enough. BlueCross NEEDS MORE, and MORE, and MORE.....

Women, beware of NOT knowing you were 2mths pregnant the month you signed up for BlueCross. You should have known! Oh, BlueCross will offer you a different plan, like in $$$$ Plan.

WAR ON TERROR - Deficiencies

"U.S. deficient against Muslim insurgents, study says"

The U.S. military is seriously deficient in meeting "the threat of Islamist insurgencies," says a Pentagon-commissioned study released Monday.

The Rand Corp. report characterizes "U.S. military intervention and occupation in the Muslim world" as "at best inadequate, at worst counter-productive, and, on the whole, infeasible." The Pentagon asked the nonprofit research organization to review strategies to thwart insurgents.

The United States should instead focus its priorities on improving "civil governance" and building "local security forces," according to the report, referring to those steps as "capabilities that have been lacking in Iraq and Afghanistan."

"Violent extremism in the Muslim world is the gravest national security threat the United States faces," said David C. Gompert, the report's lead author and a senior fellow at Rand. "Because this threat is likely to persist and could grow, it is important to understand the United States is currently not capable of adequately addressing the challenge."

The Pentagon did not respond to calls Monday from CNN seeking comment.

The report is titled "War by Other Means: Building Complete and Balanced Capabilities for Counterinsurgency."

It focused on the increase of about 30,000 U.S. troops in Iraq over the past year -- the "surge" -- which supporters have credited for a decrease in insurgent attacks.

But "it would be a profound mistake to conclude from [the troop increase] that all the United States needs is more military force to defeat Islamist insurgencies," Gompert said. "One need only contemplate the precarious condition of Pakistan to realize the limitations of U.S. military power and the peril of relying upon it."

The study notes that U.S. military interventions can be risky as well as costly because of the tenacity of jihadists, "infected by religious extremism." It says massive military interventions against insurgencies usually fail.

Looking at some 90 conflicts since World War II, the report concludes that establishing "representative, competent and honest" local government is the way to go.

"Foreign forces cannot substitute for effective local governments, and they can even weaken their legitimacy," said co-author John Gordon. The study says the United States would have more success if the insurgency were defused early and it must develop ways to interpret early "indicators and warnings."

Along with building "effective and legitimate local governments," the report says the United States must do a better job of organizing, training and equipping local security forces, and gathering and sharing information.

To beef up counterinsurgency efforts, local governments must develop "job training and placement of ex-combatants; an efficient and fair justice system, including laws, courts and prisons; and accessible mass lower education," it says.

"When it comes to building these and other civil capabilities abroad, the United States is alarmingly weak," Gompert said. "To fix this problem, the federal government will need a dramatic increase in civilian capabilities, new organizational arrangements, and more flexible personnel policies."

More money in foreign aid, more civilian professionals and help from U.S. allies and international groups are needed, the report said.

Other observations from the report include:

  • American military forces can't keep up with training local militaries to match the growth of Muslim insurgent groups and that must improve. Police should be trained by professional police trainers.

  • American military prowess should focus "on border and coastal surveillance, technical intelligence collection, air mobility, large-scale logistics, and special operations against high-value targets."

  • A new information-sharing architecture should be created. This "Integrated Counterinsurgency Operating Network" would promote "universal cell phone use, 'wikis' and video monitoring."

  • "Pro-America" themes should be dropped "in favor of strengthening local government" and emphasizing the failure of jihadists to meet people's needs.

  • U.S. allies and international organizations, such as NATO, the European Union, and the United Nations could help the United States in areas such as "building education, health and justice systems, and training police and" military forces that perform civilian police duties.

Reminder, this is "a Pentagon-commissioned study."

Looks like Emperor Bush failed to keep a tight leash on Rand so they would come out with an all-is-rosie, and thank God for Bush, report.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

NATIONAL GUARD - Cost of the Bush War

"A depleted National Guard" Boston Globe Editorial 2/11/2008


THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION opted to fight two land wars with an overextended service corps, and one harmful side effect of this decision has been the regular deployment of state National Guard units in these conflicts. This is not the purpose for which the Guard is intended, and it has left units far short of the vehicles and equipment they need to assist in homefront emergencies. Over the long term, this practice also runs the risk of hurting recruitment and reenlistment of Guard members.

A report released earlier this month by a congressional commission said that the Massachusetts Army National Guard at the end of last year had just 46 percent of its needed military equipment. Even worse, it had just 40 percent of the dual-use trucks, radios, generators, and medical equipment needed both in combat and in civilian emergencies. The state official in charge of homeland security, Juliette Kayyem, says that figure somewhat overstates the shortage the state Guard faces for civil emergencies, but the report leaves little doubt that many states would be hard put to respond to major disasters.

One indication that the Pentagon at least understands the strain that has been placed on both regular units and the Guard came Wednesday, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate that the top US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is not the sole adviser to President Bush on the war. The clear implication was that decisions on troop levels in Iraq would reflect not just Petraeus's estimation of what is needed but also the opinions of Pentagon officials of what the military - active duty, the Reserve, and the Guard - can sustain.

Again and again, Emperor Bush worries about the war but is raping our military to support it.


The Bear Facts

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Friday, February 08, 2008

IRAQ - Mosul

"Iraqi insurgents attack during NBC interview" by David Edwards and Nick Juliano, The Raw Story

Mosul now more dangerous than two years ago, soldier says

As the war in Iraq largely slips from the front of Americans' minds, a new report from Mosul demonstrates the daily hardships and constant threat of attack still faced by US troops trying to pacify the country.

NBC's Richard Engel is in the middle of an interview with one member of the Army's 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment when their combat outpost in Mosul comes under attack. Engel and the soldier he is interviewing -- both outfitted in helmets and body armor -- flinch as the first bullets fly toward the makeshift base.

"It's clear the war here is as intense as ever," Engel says, narrating his piece.

He asks the soldier if the attacks are a "constant problem."

"Yes," the soldier says grimly.

A 10-man team of insurgents attacked the base, and the US troops fan across the city searching for them. They come up empty-handed as visibly frightened residents of the city nonetheless offer no cooperation to the Army.

As al Qaeda insurgents have been driven out of Anbar provence, they have apparently regrouped and found a foothold in Mosul, a crumbling, depressed city in northern Iraq. The city also apparently has provided a cache of new recruits for the insurgency.

Over the several days Engel spends in Mosul, the soldiers face several attacks from insurgents, using guns and improvised explosive devices to target the US troops before they slip back into the general population.

Sgt. Robert Johnson, on his third tour in Iraq, "says Mosul is more dangerous now, than when he was here two years ago," according to Engel.

"After this, I don't want to come over here no more," Johnson says. After tours lasting nine, 16 and 15 months, "my body is getting weary."

The article has the video from, broadcast February 6, 2008.