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Monday, February 28, 2005

Corruption in L.A.? No Way!

More allegations of corruption in public institutions are surfacing in Los Angeles. What a shock! This time though, it is ensnaring the Mayor. County prosecutors are investigating claims that L.A. Mayor James Hahn's supporters shook down companies wanting to do business with the city by tying contract awards to political contributions. Hahn is not named in the probe and has denied any knowledge of the matter. Here's a piece of the report:


LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Mayor James Hahn's re-election bid has suffered -- along with the image of honesty he worked hard to cultivate -- amid accusations he let corruption and fraud flourish at City Hall.

L.A. mayor's office dogged by scandal

W. House must charge or free terror suspect


By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - A federal judge ordered the Bush administration Monday to either charge terrorism suspect Jose Padilla with a crime or release him after more than 2 1/2 years in custody.

U.S. District Judge Henry Floyd in Spartanburg, S.C., said the government can not hold Padilla indefinitely as an "enemy combatant," a designation President Bush (news - web sites) gave him in 2002.

"The court finds that the president has no power, neither express nor implied, neither constitutional nor statutory, to hold petitioner as an enemy combatant," Floyd wrote in a 23-page opinion that was a stern rebuke to the government. He gave the administration 45 days to take action...

Michael Jackson Trial Begins

The long awaited trial for Michael Jackson on molestation charges began today, and along with the media frenzy that followed.


By LINDA DEUTSCH, AP Special Correspondent

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Michael Jackson (news)'s child molestation trial began Monday with a prosecutor saying the pop star repeatedly groped a young cancer patient, and one of his associates threatened to kill the boy's mother if he told anyone.
District Attorney Thomas Sneddon said the 15-year-old accuser will testify about how Jackson showed him sexually explicit material and molested him...

Prosecutor Says Jackson Groped Accuser


New Information on Al-Qaida



WASHINGTON - New intelligence indicates that Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) is enlisting Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, his top operative in Iraq (news - web sites), to plan potential attacks on the United States, U.S. officials said Monday.

Al-Zarqawi has been involved in attacks in the Middle East but has not been known to have set his sights on U.S. soil. The Homeland Security Department issued a classified bulletin to officials over the weekend about the intelligence...

U.S. Reveals New Intelligence on al-Qaida (AP)

AP Photo Photo

The United States and Its Fiscal Future - Part 1: Defense

The most visible changes in government programs have been in Defense. Over the last five years we have seen the nation come under attack, undertake 2 wars, and create a a new department in Homeland Security. Correctly so, with these changes, large costs have arisen. At this point, the 2005 fiscal budget for the Department of Defense stands at $400 billion and supplemental funding for homeland defense and overseas military operations of approximately $190 billion over the past 3 years. Defense is one of the few programs in the 2006 fiscal budget that is receiving a raise in its funding.

Unfortunately, the reexamination of defense and its responsibilities was forced onto the nation with the events of September 11th, 2001. DOD had failed to shift its focus to these more unconventional threats and remained stuck on threats posed during the Cold War. Today, DOD has revamped itself somewhat and, with an infusion of funds , proceeded to better itself to handle these new threats. Still, it bears the cost of the past. Many of the programs and policies still in place were designed to battle a cold war, not the new threats posed by global terrorism. With these outdated programs draining funding from DOD it raises questions about the affordability and sustainability of the rate of growth in defense spending. To meet the requirements of the 21st century, DOD will have to reassess fundamental aspects of its national security programs such as planning and budgetary matters, organization of its forces, management of all its forces, alternatives to past approaches, acquisition of new capabilities and force positioning. DOD must also identify new capabilities and technologies that are better suited to combat today's threats and learn how to best implement them so as to maintain the military's technological superiority.

If DOD is to successfully adapt to this new world, it must overcome cultural resistance and the inertia of various organizations, policies, and pratices of the Cold War. Siloed organizations must go, allocation of budgets need to be made on proportotional rather than strategic basis. DOD's current approach to planning and budgeting often results in a mismatch between budgets and programs. Also, it does not fully consider long-term implications of these costs and the opportunity cost of choosing one alternative over another. Steps have been taken to address the needs of current defense, but on short-term basis. It still has not determined how it will meet these needs on a long-term approach.

Given the size and mission of DOD, it is one of the most complex and difficult organizations to run in the world. We have witnessed the effectiveness of U.S. forces in combat in the middle east, but we have also seen DOD's dismal performance in managing ongoing operations. Problems in infrastructure, supply chain, financial management, and information technology have contributed to substantial waste and ineffectiveness that have adversely affected mission performance and have resulted in a lack of accountability and transparency for those in charge.
The time for change is now, and the past must be left behind.

For more information on Part 1: Defense visit or go directly to the report:
21st Century Challenges: Reexamining the Base of the Federal Government

Deadliest Attack Yet

A huge blast killed 115 Iraqi civilians and police as they gathered outside a medical clinic awaiting physicals. Over 132 were hurt or injured. This is the single deadliest attack since the 2 year insurgency started.


Torn limbs and other body parts littered the street outside the clinic in Hillah, a predominantly Shiite area about 60 miles south of Baghdad.
Monday's blast outside the clinic was so powerful it nearly vaporized the suicide bomber's car, leaving only its engine partially intact. The injured were piled into pickup trucks and ambulances and taken to nearby hospitals.

115 Dead After Iraq Suicide Blast 115 Dead After Iraq Suicide Blast

PAC Civil Suit Begins

In Texas, the much awaited PAC lawsuit has begun. Five Democrats accuse the political action committee of, which was started by House Majority Leader R- Tom Delay, improperly spending some $600,000 of corporate money to unseat them. The committee has denied any wrong doing. Delay is not being accused and has congressional immunity from testifying. More importantly, the evidence presented in this case might have an effect on the ongoing criminal investigation that has resulted in the indictment of three of Delay's top fundraisers.

DeLay PAC Lawsuit Goes to Trial in Texas

Lebanese Government Resigns Amid Protests

The Real Problem is Medicaid


WASHINGTON - In the nation's capital, the crisis dominating discussions is Social Security (news - web sites). In the 50 state capitals, the crisis is Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor that has seen its caseload and costs soar.

AP Photo

Governors brought a mixed message to a meeting with President Bush (news - web sites) and his Cabinet on Monday: Republicans and Democrats alike are bucking the president's budget cuts to Medicaid, while embracing some of his reforms and pushing for federal willingness that would allow states to experiment more.

Governors to Discuss Medicaid With Bush

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Source: BTK suspect confesses to killings

WICHITA, Kan. - The man suspected in a string of 10 slayings attributed to the BTK serial killer confessed to at least six of those killings, a source with direct knowledge of the investigation said Sunday.
Investigators now believe Dennis L. Rader may have been responsible for as many 13 slayings — including at least one that occurred after the death penalty was enacted in Kansas, the source told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.


Photo Iran, Russia Sign Nuclear Fuel Deal Opposed by U.S.



Russia and Iran signed a nuclear fuel supply deal long opposed by Washington Sunday, paving the way for Iran to start up its first atomic reactor next year.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Free Speech? Or Selective Free Speech?

A friendly Russian press pool seems to be the way to go. Only a select few, either working directly for the government or friendly to the Kremlin, seem to be the ones asking questions in Russia. All friendly questions. Here we have had our share of questionable reporting: plants, mysterious reporters with fakes names and incredible access, propaganda for policies in the form of news reports, etc. But at least when politicians are caught doing naughty business, most have come out against such practices. Whether they are opposed to them or not, who knows? There is at least some accountability for this misbehavior. In Russia it is done blatantly and nothing is being done, or even an admission of wrongdoing is out of the question. So much for free speech.

Russian press freedom seen as selective

The United States and its Fiscal Future - Intro

Starting Monday, I will write a 12 part comprehensive essay, one part per day consecutively, about the effects of our current fiscal policy and economic conditions on the future of the United States. This will be based on the a detailed report from the Government Accountability Office of the United States (GAO). The GAO report, written by GAO staffers in cooperation with the Congress, was released in January by the Comptroller General of the United States, David M. Walker. This report is a comprehensive, non-partisan look at the current fiscal state and the major obstacles that face the country in the coming future. There are 12 major areas in the U.S. government that will be discussed. Each part will be dedicated to one of these areas. It will discuss the nature of each area, its current state and how it applies to today's conditions (remember that a lot of these programs were created a while ago and the world has changed much since then), its cost and benefits, and what possible solutions might be instituted.

The twelve areas that will be examined are:
1. Defense
2. Education and Employment
3. Financial Health Regulation and Housing
4. Health Care
5. Homeland Security
6. International Affairs
7. Natural Resources, Energy and Environment
8. Retirement and Disability
9. Science and Technology
10. Transportation
11. Governance
12. Tax System

The criteria for reexamination of these areas will be based on asking and answering a series of questions that relate to certain issues to see how these government activities fit in the world today. The issues are:

1. The relevance of purpose and the federal role
2. Measuring success
3. Targeting the benefits
4. Affordability and cost effectiveness
5. Best practices
When taken together, these questions address the three major areas regarding government:
discretionary spending, mandatory spending including entitlements, and tax policies. I hope to give some enlightenment, in a simple, understandable way, to those of you who are interested in knowing what lies ahead for our country. I will also make available the GAO report, which is extremely long, for those of you who wish to go directly to the source. Taken as a whole, I think the essay will give a good picture of what may lie ahead for the next generations.

Tel Aviv Blast Threatens Truce

A bomb exploded in a Tel Aviv nightclub killing 4 and injuring 65. The Israeli Government has held back a response, deciding to commit to the cease-fire agreement. These are the types of attacks that will test the strength of the agreement. As I have mentioned before, agreements have been made in the past, only to be broken under similar circumstances to the ones we have right now. These attacks will go on and Israeli patience will be tested. It is up to the Palestinian Government to pressure these, essentially terrorist, factions to stop. They have not done it in the past, and they are hesitant to do it now. Arafat is no longer in the picture, so the new leadership must step up if there is to be any true chance for peace. Personally, I doubt it will happen. There is too much hate between these two groups, the type of hate that goes back centuries. But it never hurts to hope.

Seven held after Tel Aviv terror bombing(CNN)
Palestinian Police Nab 2 Bombing Suspects(AP)

More Money for Halliburton

You would think that after there are questions regarding services provided by the company, that the Government would reconsider giving more contracts to the culprit. At least I would say it is the right thing to do. But hey, who cares about right?
Halliburton could get $1.5B more for Iraq work

BTK Killer Caught

After 25 years he is finally behind bars.


WICHITA, Kan. - Police said Saturday they have arrested a suspect they believe is the notorious BTK serial killer who terrorized Wichita throughout the 1970s and then resurfaced about a year ago after 25 years of silence.

AP Photo Photo
AP Photo

"The bottom line: BTK is arrested," Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams said at a news conference in Wichita with some of the victims' family members.

The BTK killer — a self-coined nickname that stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill" — has been linked to eight killings committed between 1974 and 1986.

Officials did not immediately provide the name of the arrested person, and prosecutors said no charges have been filed.

Suspect in BTK killings arrested in Kansas

Friday, February 25, 2005

U.S. Says 'Thousands' of Anti-Aircraft Missiles Missing(AP)

Panelists Have Ties to Drugs They Voted On

How can they claim to have any credibility in the matter. Of the 32 FDA panelists who voted to reinstate Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra into the market, 10 have ties to the drugs in question. These 10 panelists say, as would be expected, that their ties to the drugs did not influence their vote. That is not the point, the point is that there is a conflict of interest in the matter and the legitimacy of the vote will be questioned regardless of whether it was unbiased or not. There is no way to separate the two. There will always be questions surrounding the reinstatement of the drugs. It is unbelievable to me that these people think that such an issue can be easily ignored, even if there is no reason to be concerned. That is just not way things work.
To further illustrate, here is a breakdown of the voting for each drug by the 10 panelists in question:
10-0 for Celebrex (although the total vote was 31-1 so that is not so iffy)
10-0 for Bextra (final vote was 17-13 with 2 abstentions)
9-1 for Vioxx (final vote was 17-15)

Vioxx and Bextra would not have passed without these votes. Their final votes would have been 14-8 and 13-7 respectively. That would have kept the drugs off the market.
I do not have any vested interest on whether these drugs are allowed back onto pharmacy shelves or not. Maybe the benefits outweigh the risks. Let the consumer decide for himself/herself. What I do not agree with is having people who clearly have interests in seeing these drugs back on the market vote on its approval. There vote might (I emphasize might) not be aimed at what is safest for the patient, but was is better for their pockets.

The FDA says it screened the panelists for conflicts of interest, but clearly they did not do a good job. If these financial ties are not a conflict of interest, then what is?

Panelists in FDA Drug Vote Tied to Makers(AP)
Conflicts of Interest on COX-2 Panel(CSPI)

Halliburton Gets Bonus

Why is it that of all the companies working under contract in Iraq, Halliburton always seems to be the one getting the paid the most, audited the most, questioned the most? Yet they still manage to get a performance bonus? A company on Wall Street with that many question marks would not be able to turn the corner without getting investigated. And let's face it, Halliburton definitely has some questionable business practices (questionable, nothing has been proven) and ties to the White House (Vice-president Cheney still receives deferred payments from when he was CEO).

Halliburton gets bonuses for U.S., Army work(Reuters)

A Lot of People!!!


UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The human race is expected to swell from the current 6.5 billion to 9.1 billion people by 2050, with populations exploding in hungry developing countries and stagnating in rich nations, the United Nations predicted on Thursday.

The increase of 2.6 billion people is equivalent to the combined populations of China and India today, according to the U.N. Population Division's "2004 Revision" report. The growth is...

UN Predicts 9.1 Billion People on Earth by 2050

U.S. Death Toll in Iraq Approaches 1,500(Reuters)

Less or Really Less?

This report states, in percentages, that fewer American troops are being killed per attack, even though attacks have risen to an average of 25-30 a day. The number has dropped from 90% to about 25%. That is always good to hear, but I think we would all prefer the actual number of deaths as opposed to percentages. OK, if before 9 out of 10 being killed in attacks were Americans, then that is 90%. Today, if 12 out of 48 killed are Americans, that is 25%, but more Americans than before. I am not saying this is what is happening. They have not released actual numbers. That is why I would rather have actual figures than percentages. The latter can be manipulated to sound better. Maybe the drop in percentage of American deaths is not due to less Americans dying, but more Iraqis (which is not crazy to think since you hear of them getting killed by the dozens on a daily basis). All I am saying is be wary of percentages, unless you have all the numbers.

Pentagon reports fewer U.S. casualties(USA Today)

Senate Wars

A large war is brewing in the Senate, and this one is being caused by the Republican party. If the party takes the action it is thinking about, the Nuclear Option, I fear a line will be crossed that there is no coming back from. Democrats will retaliate in other ways, and we will end up with a lame duck Congress.
Sen. Specter Urges Caution on Bush Judicial Showdown

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Pope Has Tracheotomy to Help Breathing(AP)

Russia, Iran to Ink Deal Saturday

It is interesting that while President Bush and President Putin met in Slovakia today, Russia is still plowing ahead with its agreement with Iran to help in the construction of a nuclear reactor. Russian President Putin agreed that Iran must not develop nuclear weapons. The deal is set to be inked on Saturday, and in it there is a provision obliging Tehran to repatriate all spent nuclear fuel from the Bushehr reactor back to Russia. The Russian government hopes this will help ease U.S. fears that the remaining fuel will be used for developing nuclear weapons. Really at the heart of this is money. Russia stands to receive about $20 million from shipping fuel and at least $10 million from repatriation of the fuel. Income stream is also expected to rise in the next few years. The reactor employs hundreds of Russian scientists and engineers. It is expected to go fully online in 2006.

It should not be terribly surprising that Russia is assisting Iran. Last year the EU's big three offered help to build an atomic reactor in Iran, and if Russia had not jumped on the opportunity somebody else would have. The potential market was just too big for Russia to let EU rivals gobble it. France is also known to have business relations with Iran. It is likely that their concerns about Iran are more related to their business matters than the U.S. concerns about nuclear development. It is needless to say that the United States government does not have business ties with Iran, although some companies here have, among those is Halliburton.

Russia Set to Sign Nuclear Deal with Iran, Irk U.S.(Reuters)

Bush, Putin Agree on Iran

President Bush has had an impressive run in his visit to Europe. Now he can add one more hit to his streak. It seems that Bush has convinced Russian President Putin that Iran should not have nuclear weapons. As early as Monday, Putin supported Iran's pursuit of a nuclear reactor and assured that Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons, but it seems that today Mr. Bush's powers of persuasion came in very handy. It was not clear how the other issue of concern to the U.S. was handled, that of Putin's power consolidation that has Washington a bit nervous. Regardless, Mr. Bush has had a successful European tour so far, helping to mend some of the wounds created by the Iraq war. France, Germany and now Russia, the three biggest opposers to the war, have agreed to put their differences with the United States in the backburner and assist with Iraq. Now, let's be clear, that assistance will not come in the form of troops, which would be what the U.S. needs the most, so even though Bush has had success in talking to European leaders, it does not mean that American troops are coming home. Europe still believes this is America's mess and they will not risk their people's lives, but they will assist economically. But for those who are skeptical, this can be considered a victory for Bush.

Bush, Putin agree Iran should not have nukes(AP)
Bush, Putin to sign counterterrorism accords(CNN)

Pope Back in Hospital

A frail Pope was rushed back the hospital in Rome. Pope John Paul II had been hospitalized about 7 days not even two weeks ago. According to Vatican officials, the Pope had a relapse of his flu from last time. Rome has been particularly wet and cold these last few days, which contributed to the Pope's relapse. He seemed to be getting stronger, having made his longest public appearance yesterday since being released from the hospital the first time around. This relapse will only serve more speculation about the Pope's mental condition and the possibility of him resigning the post.

Pope rushed to hospital with flu relapse(AP)
Pope sick again, taken back to hospital(CNN)

Syria to Pull Out of Lebanon

After much public outrage and serious pressure from the United States, Syria has decided to abide by the 1989 agreement and withdraw its troops from Lebanon. They have also offered to help in the investigation of former PM Hariri's assassination. Since 1976 Syria has kept a troop presence in Lebanon, at times reaching 35,000 troops,. They had been scheduled for a complete pull out in 1990, but that never happened.

Syria committed to withdraw from Lebanon(AP)
Syria Ready to Work with U.N. on Lebanon Pullout(Reuters)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

ID Efforts for 9/11 Victims Ends

In a sad story, approximately 1,100 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the WTC will not be indentified. Forensic experts on the case have ended their effort mainly because of the lack of DNA samples to match the victims with, making identification virtually impossible. It saddens me that these families will not have true closure in this terrible event and my heart goes out to them.

Nearly Half of NY Sept. 11 Dead Cannot Be Identified - (Reuters)
9/11 identifications come to an end (CNN)

Snow: Public Skeptical on Social Security (AP)


Treasury Secretary John Snow acknowledged Wednesday that the Bush administration has not yet succeeded in selling its plan for Social Security to the American people, and said backers would continue to travel the country educating people about the program's problems. President Bush...

Latest Iran Related Stories

Iraq's FAQ

An interesting Q&A about Iraq's future. If you are wondering what are the most important issues and people I recommend reading this:

FAQ: After the Election (CBC)

Allawi Forming Coalition to Fight for PM(AP)

Bush Says Diplomacy Just Starting on Iran


(Reuters) - President Bush said Wednesday that European diplomatic efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear program were only just beginning and that comparisons with Iraq were wrong. "Iran is not Iraq. We just started the diplomatic efforts and I want to thank our friends for taking the lead. We will work with them to convince the mullahs that they need to give up their nuclear ambitions," Bush told a news conference. Bush has...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Realistic Budget?

As I have said previously, Bush's Budget proposal is unlikely to be approved. There is even opposition within his own party. One wonders if the White House really expects Congress to approve such a budget, or are they just testing the waters? If they expected it to be well received, then they truly are disassociated from reality. With some Senators up for reelection in 2006, they will fight to protect those programs dearest to them even if they discord with the President's budget.
Bush Plan to Kill Funding Faces Long Odds(AP)

The Governator of Cahleefoonia and the Girlie Men

Not the most tactful politician, but certainly entertaining.
Schwarzenegger Remarks on Women Anger Many(AP)

Is an Apology Enough?

Does this make up for the other thousands of abuse case? The preist in this particular incident once told his victim: "who are they going to believe - you or a priest?" I think that question answered itself.
Archbishop Apologizes to Sex Abuse Victim(AP)

Most people do not get this much money. Why should he?
FBI Informant Who Set Self Afire Testifies(AP)

Man Charged in Alleged Plot to Kill Bush(AP)

Monday, February 21, 2005

North Korea Said Hints at Return to Talks (AP)

All Volunteer Army?

This should come as no surprise, seeing that Iraq is not bringing about the best news in the world, and this is were most new recruits would be headed.
Army Having Difficulty Meeting Goals In Recruiting

Let Bygones Be Bygones

It might be true that Mr. Wead did not intend for those tapes to become public, but the fact that they did and the questionable timing will always say otherwise. On a personal note, I do not agree with a lot of what President Bush says or does, but I do not look back at his youthful indiscretions (which we all have had) and criticize him for committing them. We have all been young and stupid, some more than others, but what makes us what we are today are our experiences and how we have chosen to incorporate them in our lives. Have we learned from our mistakes? If we have, maybe we would not be the same had we not had them. We can choose to make ourselves better through the process of living or we can just go on living without regards to the consequences of our actions. Admitting one's mistakes is the first step to recovery. Mr. Bush has not denied his indiscretions and seems to have learned from them. Maybe an outright admission of his mistakes such as Clinton or Gore have done might not be bad, but then again what if tomorrow you catch your kid snorting cocaine in the bathroom and his response is: if the President can do it, why can't I? Would you still think Mr. Bush's admission was a good idea? How many parents do you know that will tell their kids they have tried drugs at some point in their lives? Probably not many. This is the same situation except we are the kids this time. We know he has done these things, but the real question is: is his admission or denial really going to do any good? Let the past be the past. I know most people think that way, except of course in politics.

Author: Bush tapes not meant for public(CNN)

Al-Qaeda Alive and Well

Even with Iraq, Iran, N.Korea, Syria, ect. let's not forget who it is we should really be after... Al-Qaeda. And they are not going away.
Qaeda Chief Blasts U.S.; Threatens More Attacks(AP)

The questions is: Will Bush accept them?
N.Korea Sets Conditions for Nuclear Talks - Report(Reuters)

A large obstacle in securing WMD:
US senator: half of Russia nuclear materials not accounted for(AFP)

Sunday, February 20, 2005

U.N. refugee chief quits after sex harrassment inquiry

Officials: Iraq coalition forces may change

Bush to Jab Putin Over Democracy in Private

As Russia has taken a turn from democracy recently, President Bush has been criticized for not taking a harder line with Russian President Putin. After a tough speech on democracy at his inauguration, all the talk now is putting pressure on Bush to follow through. Both leaders meet Thursday in Slovakia, where Bush has said he will ask Putin about some of the policies he has put in place. Among the concerns that many have about Russia are:

-the accretion of power within the Kremlin, with a law scrapping elections for provincial governors and allowing the president to nominate them and provincial assemblies to vote on them the latest example;
-increasing state control of television networks, depriving Russians of an independent mass media to hold politicians to account;
-use of the judiciary to intimidate political opponents, with what is widely seen as a politically motivated prosecution of Yukos oil company founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the dismemberment of his firm being the most dramatic example.

The White House is aware that Putin is not too keen on public criticism so they have decided to take a more sensitive approach and have the President speak to Putin in private about U.S. concerns.

U.S., Insurgents Talk Secretly

U.S. Diplomats and Intelligence officials are said to be meeting with Sunni insurgents in an effort to stop the violence in Iraq. Time magazine cites Pentagon and other sources. The White House has no comment on the report. Sunni's apparently claim that Iran is controlling the new assembly and they want fair representation. Maybe they should have voted. Just a thought.
Report: U.S. in Secret Talks with Iraqi Insurgents(Reuters)

Ignorance Is Bliss! No it Is not, It is Stupid!

I was reading this article on how presidents throughout history were ranked, and I was angered to see that George Washington was ranked 6th, under Clinton, Reagan and Bush. Truman and others were not even in the top. What a complete ignorance and understanding of history we have in this country. The majority of presidents that were ranked high were very recent, so I will make the crazy suggestion that maybe the reason people voted the way they did is because those are the only ones they can remember. Or maybe that is not so crazy. Ask a regular person on the street what was FDR's greatest achievement, ask how long George Washington was president? Harry Truman is one of the most important presidents we've ever had and he's not mentioned. How can people possibly opine with so much ignorance and a lack of understanding of this country's fundamental history. It is a shame that our youth does not know about those who built this country into what it is today. And this is the generation that will lead this nation in 30 years opr so. Scary.
Washington Lags in Polls of Top Presidents(AP)

Secret Bush Tapes Reveal Stretegy and Drug Use

A secret recording by an old Bush friend was obtained by the New York Times. In it President Bush talks about his strategy for the White House, rival John McCain, and his much speculated drug use. In fairness to him, the admission has to be put into context. He stated that he would not admit he used drugs because he does not want another kid doing what he tried. Over 60% of this country's population has at one time or another tried a drug. Most will tell their kids that they didn't use drugs, and a some will say that they never inhaled. Kids will know the former is not true, but they they will undestand the intentions behind the white lie, while the latter will just insult their intelligence and anger them, just like it did us in 1998. In the tapes Bush also discusses how to court the evangelical vote when he considers himself a sinner, just like homosexuals, and cannot differentiate between sins. The conversations were recorded by Doug Wead, a former aide to George W. Bush's father, beginning in 1998. The White House has not denied the authenticity of the tapes.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Washington Post reports that the poorest Americans would suffer the most under Bush's proposed Social Security plan:

Still Canceled

No Progress Made in NHL Talks(AP)

The Medicaid Mess

Among the programs that President Bush has proposed cutting is Medicaid, the states' healthcare program. The cuts would amount to about $40 billion, also limiting some payments. Medicaid usually covers about 50 million, mostly poor, people nationwide. The proposed cuts would leave states scrambling to find money to support the program. This budget cut is so controversial that it has Governors from both parties uniting to fight against it. They want no cuts and more flexibility in spending. Bush says that some states are misusing Medicaid funds and fraudulent claims are rampant. But, is cutting the program so drastically a realistic solution? No.

Governors Unite Against Medicaid Plan(AP)

A Serial Trend?

This is a growing problem in the Army that so far the Pentagon has ignored. There are as many as 10 serial rapists in the military who are believed to have committed 300 or more sex offenses. Yet, when a woman comes forward this is what happens to her:
Lt. Recalls Treatment After Rape Charge(AP)

Friday, February 18, 2005

There are no ends to how horrible some people can be:
E-mail scam targets families of Iraq war dead(CNN)

The NASA Connection

Even NASA is implicated in some questionable use of government resources. Sean O'Keefe, the outgoing Administrator of NASA is being investigated for allegedly misusing company airplanes and using funds to pay for vacations with subordinates. I bet you it was nice, if there is truth to the allegations, to ride around in some of those advanced aircrafts NASA is famous for(although I do not think they used those specifically, but it sounds more fun). On a more serious note, if the investigation brings forth truth to the rumors, if NASA was misusing funds, why should they be entitled to an increase in funding, as proposed by the 2006 Federal Budget when so many others are being cut or eliminated? I know that President Bush wants to go to Mars, explore the solar system and all that. But is it not more sensible to get a handle on problems in your own planet before you venture into others? At least I think it more sensible.

Where's the Coalition?

As Iraq remains a violent battleground, more and more coalition members (remember those fifty nations that contributed a whopping 10,000 troops or so?) leave:
Bush's Iraq Coalition Shrinking(AP)

Here are some links to happenings in Iraq:

Five Blasts Kill at Least 35 in Iraq(AP)

Is a Draft In the Horizon

It wouldn't improve the quality of a soldier, but it certainly would improve the number of soldiers and that is what the Army is interested in. We will see if Bush keeps his promise to not institute a draft, specially now that tensions are growing in several hot spots.

Top Army Recruiter: Draft Wouldn't Help(AP)

More Priest Abuses

How disgusting is this going to get? It begs the question why do these men become priests? So many of them involved in these abuses, and they call themselves men of God? What is even more disturbing is the fact that the Catholic Church tried to keep this quiet. They shuffled accused priests around. They cannot claim that it was one bad apple in the bunch. You now have over 1000 priests accused of molesting children. It is systemic, and the Church is to blame for allowing this to go on. What disgraceful behavior by one of the most powerful institutions in the world, one that certainly does not have the best track record (The Inquisition anyone?). How can anyone possibly trust the Catholic Church anymore? I'm a Catholic, although non practicing, but still a Catholic and I find this so sickening that I have thought about renouncing the Church altogether. Should I?

Bush signs class-action bill into law(CNN)

Russia's Putin Supports Iran's Nuclear Reactor Plans

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed support for Iran's pursuit of a nuclear reactor. Both Russian and Iran have mutual interests. But while Russia is sure that Iran's nuclear ambitions are not weapons related, Washington is not so sure. You can rest assured that this subject will be on the table when Bush and Putin meet Thursday in Slovakia. This is an unfortunate turn in an already tense situation. Putin recently has been criticized by Washington for turning his government away from democracy. This action cannot be good for Russia and U.S. relations. We will have to wait and see how the waters settle on this sensitive situation. Putin has already expressed his pessimism in reaching an agreement with Washington in the upcoming meeting. One has to wonder how anything can be achieved if it is approached with a sense of pessimism.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

How to Fix SS? Let The Poor Pay For It!

I have voiced my opinion that raising the amount of taxable income for Social Security is a good idea. The President has not ruled it out. It would add a lot of solvency to the system and ease the way for the private accounts Bush is suggesting. What is so crazy about this idea? Well, the fact that the rich would shore up the money. Once again, rich people do not want to sacrifice to actually help the country. I suppose they want the poor to pay for it. Oh, I forgot, the poor do not make more than $90,000 a year. You cannot tax what they do not have. Certain politicians have said that this option is by far the most unpopular, specially with Republicans. Well, if Republicans really want to fix Social Security they better get with the program their President is pushing or stop pretending they want to overhaul it. Everyone will have to sacrifice for this one. Be an American, not a Capitalist.

Iran Blames U.S. for Nuclear Blast Scare

The Fighting Has Begun. Democracy?

Now that the election results have been certified in Iraq, the fighting over who will get the top positions has started. This most likely means that parliament will not convene for several weeks. The majority Shiites and second place Kurds have the most seats in parliament, 140 and 75 respectively, while the Sunnis only have 5 seats. Shiite and Kurd leaders said they have been reaching out to Sunni leaders who boycotted the election as Interim PM Allawi spoke to the importance of including Sunnis in the government process. The legitimacy of the the Iraqi parliament will be heavily dependant on the participation of the Sunnis. They compose a sizable percentage of the population and their acceptance of this government as legitimate is crucial if any stability is to be achieved. The National Assembly is expected to last 10 months when a new government will be elected. The main purpose of the assembly is to draft a constitution.

Wrangling Over New Iraq Government Begins(AP)
Shiite alliance wins majority of Iraq assembly seats(CNN)

Class Action Bill To Go To Bush

The class action legislation bill was passed in Congress. We will have to wait and see how well it works. The bill has been criticized by Democrats who claim that the legislation protects big corporations and hurts trial lawyers who donate heavily to the Democratic party. As with everything in Washington today, the bill is politicized. It is almost impossible to promote a bill that receives praise from both parties. It is a shame that because of this political bickering the country as a whole gets hurt, while one party benefits and the other weakens.

Congress OKs bill transferring big lawsuits to federal courts(CNN)

Who Supports SS? Who Does Not?

It makes sense, since the people most immediately affected by an overhaul of Social Security would be those receiving it or soon to be receiving it. Younger folks, if they are smart, will plan ahead as if Social Security isn't going to be there, even though it will be in some form. It will be interesting to see how the President promotes his plan in different age groups.

Age defines perception, reception of Bush's plan(USA Today)

Former top U.S. man in Iraq tapped as Intelligence Czar.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

It only took them 2 years to admit the obvious:
Iraq Conflict Feeds International Terror Threat -CIA(Reuters)

CIA, FBI Report to Top Panel

No surprise here. The biggest threat the U.S. faces is... Al-Qaida. CIA and FBI directors admitted what most people with any understanding of terrorism know: it's not if, it's when an attack will occur, and it will most likely be in our soil. While we are fighting two wars abroad, one of them by choice, our national security remains a question mark. A lot of the money that has been spent in Iraq and Bush's tax cuts could have been allocated to protect our own soil. Right now, police officer programs are being cut, firefighters are underpaid, there are not enough border patrols, not enough intelligence analysts, you name it and it is most likely undermanned. We have not even named the new Intelligence Czar. In that respect, it is unfair to criticize the President. He has had to newly nominate more than half his cabinet, and this particular position is a very sensitive one that demands attention. We need to focus here, protect our borders, our cities. Make sure that we have the best possible security we can. And tat will still not be enough, but it will be safER.
Among other rising concerns were Iran and North Korea, finding the
"end of the trail" of the nuclear black market run by disgraced Pakistani scientist, A.Q. Khan, and also concern about a possible sleeper cell inside U.S. soil. CIA Director Goss also could not give assurances that nuclear material missing from Russia did not pose threat to the United States. Overall, it was a sobering account of the threats this nation faces in this turbulent time.

Iran, Syria to Unite to Face Threats

Iran and Syria have said they will support each other to face challenges and threats, mainly aggression from the United States. Syria's ambassador to the United States stressed that it was not an anti-American alliance and said Syria was trying to improve its relations with Washington. The White House has called on both countries to abide by international agreements, that their problem is not with the U.S., but with the international community. Washington has called back the U.S. Ambassador to Syria for an emergency meeting and to show the displeasure for the killing of former Lebanese PM Hariri.

Syria and Iran Say Will Build 'Common Front'(Reuters)

While all this is happening:
Envoy insists Syria cooperating with U.S.(CNN)

A Good Start?

I think this is a sensible idea that will help in solving the insolvency problem with Social Security. Most likely the change will not be enough, but it would be a good start. Please notice that they are talking about raising the amount subject to the current tax, which is up to $90,000 of income, not raising the tax itself which stands at 12.4% split between workers and employers.

Blogosphere politics (U.S. News and World Report)

Nation's Top Economist Issues Warning On SS

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned that the Social Security System needs adjustments to meet the demands of a changing demographic. Greenspan voiced support for the idea of introducing private accounts into the system, but warned of implementing them too fast. He also accepted that private accounts do not fix the insolvency problem, which is the real concern facing SS in 2018. Private accounts should be viewed as an alternative not a solution. So, while private accounts might increase the return on investment for future retirees, they will not solve the main issue which is the pay-as-you-go problem. In addition, Greenspan is expected to elaborate on the economic effects that President Bush's proposal will have. Greenspan is also urging action on the nation's severely ill Medicare Program.

Greenspan: Private accounts OK, but advises caution(CNN/Money)

Iran Rebukes U.S. Drones

As Syria escalates, Iran does not get any better:

Iran Threatens to Shoot Down U.S. Drones(AP)
Iran Will Know How to Build Bomb in 6 Months -Israel(Reuters)

The Israeli claim that Iran will have a nuclear bomb in 6 months should be taken with a grain of salt. Regardless, it should be investigated thoroughly.

Syrian Situation Worsens

The situation with Syria is escalating to an alarming level. The funeral for former Lebanese PM Hariri, which attracted hundreds of thousands, became a rallying point against their neighbor. The United States has recalled its Ambassador to Syria to cut relations and pressure their Government. Secretary of State Rice stopped short of blaming Syria for the assassination but did criticize their troop presence in Lebanon saying that it was a destabilizing factor. Syria's Ambassador to the U.S. fired back by saying that the United States' suggestion that Syria's Government supports terrorrism is akin to the U.S. claim that Iraq had WMD. Among other concerns the U.S. has about Syria are "the continued presence and operational activities of international terrorist groups, and of the Iranian regime on and through Syrian territory, and the use of Syrian territory by the Iraqi insurgency," as said by U.S. State Dept. Richard Boucher. As of yet, it is still unclear who killed Hariri.

For more information got to:
Hariri buried amid chaotic scenes(CNN)
Lebanese Vent Wrath on Syria at Hariri's Funeral(Reuters)
Mourners in Lebanon Mount Syria Protests(AP)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

New Homeland Security Secretary confirmed 98-0 in the Senate.
Chertoff confirmed as Homeland Security secretary(CNN)

After several scandals involving popular drugs in the market, the FDA has begun taking steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.
FDA Creates Drug Safety Oversight Board(AP)

They Still Do Not Learn

The FBI has been conducting activities outside the United States, a turf normally covered by the CIA. What is worrisome is the fact that the FBI did not notify the CIA about the activities. FBI sources called the cases anomalies, but problems have already arisen in Germany and elsewhere. You would figure that after 9/11 this stupid rivalry would have been dropped in the interest of national security. This raises the potential for conducting duplictate activities, wasting money and having agents stumble onto each other's operations, possibly risking exposing their cover, among other things. The FBI's role has expanded dramatically since 9/11, when intelligence failures and lack of interagency communication permitted the attacks, so some of its intelligence gathering has crossed paths with the CIA's.

CIA Director Porter Goss and FBI Director Robert Mueller will most likely face questions on a number of issues Wednesday when they discuss global threats against the United States before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sources: FBI Conducting Operations Abroad(AP)

This used to be Sunday School and everyone was alright with it. Why not keep as Sunday School? God will most certainly not punish you.

It Pays To Be A Big Donor

A rare look into the priviledges of being a big-time political donor. Its rewards, how the ropes are handled, whom they speak to, etc. It is a fascinating exploration of inner city workings on Capitol Hill.

I Did It, But He's Responsible!

Once again, they are pressuring reporters that did not even write the revealing article. Got to the source: Robert Novak.
Court: Reporters Must Testify in CIA Leak Case(Reuters)
Appeals Court Upholds Ruling in CIA Leak(AP)

Bush resends 20 judicial nominees(CNN)

Frank The Tumor Is Dead

On a follow up to the story I mentioned a few weeks ago, David Dingman-Grover, who had a tumor growing on the base of his skull, is now cancer free. He named the tumor Frank after the Frankenstein monster. After his parents raised enough money on Ebay by selling sticker that said "Kill Frank The Tumor", they were able to pay for Davids biopsy and on February 2nd, David had a procedure done to remove Frank. David is now cancer free. This is an uplifting story that touched me. It also shows that we are still good at heart, even in this bitterly divided and violent era we live in.

A Crazy Conservative? Or Just Crazy?

Conservative Republican Alan Keyes kicked his daughter out of the his home and cut her college funding. She must have done something really bad right? Maybe flunked out? Actually, she is gay. And that doesn't sit well with Mr. Keyes, so he throws her out and short changes her education. His own daughter. What does that say about a man? It is a difficult situation without a doubt. But she is still his daughter. Vice-president Cheney has a very similar situation and he has certainly taken a more sensible approach to it. Then again, it seems to me that Cheney has a better head on his shoulders than Keyes. Remember, Keyes was the one that said that homosexuality was "selfish hedonism" and that Vice President Dick Cheney's gay daughter was a sinner. If I'm not mistaken, we are all sinners, that is why we are baptized as babies, to wash the original sin. Keyes was also the one who criticized Hillary Clinton for running for the senate in New York where she is not from, and then he runs for the senate in Illinois, where he is not from. But I guess in his mind it is all right. Looks to me like Mr. Keyes has a double standard, if he does something it is all right, but if it is someone else it is not. You cannot have it both ways Mr. Keyes.

Daughter of conservative Republican calls herself 'liberal queer'(CNN)

Monday, February 14, 2005

A Good Laugh

I have always said that we can be incredibly stupid in our language for justice, or more accurately punishment. I always laugh when I hear someone sentenced to a hundred life terms, or similar. What is the person going to do? Resurrect and go to jail again? Or maybe we can leave his remains in the cell using taxpayers money until 100 generations have passed. Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? I say sentence them to life in prison without the possibility of parole, that's it. It achieves the same purpose and it doesn't make us look like idiots. That being said, Spain takes the cake on this one:

9-11 Suspects Face 74,000 Years in Prison(AP)
Prosecutor Seeks 222,000 Years for Qaeda Suspects(Reuters)

I still cannot stop laughing.

Former Lebanese PM Killed in Car Bomb:
Huge blast kills Lebanese ex-PM(CNN)

Does Your Vote Count?

Once again, these are the things that I find hard to believe. We manage to waste money on questionable programs like the missile defense system, but we cannot invest the time and money to fix our voting system which is the backbone if this country's democracy.

USA Today Report:
States fall behind on voting-system improvements

The Budget and The Shadow Budget

The President's pledge to bring the federal deficit down by half in 2009 is a difficult task in itself. Now the Washington Post reports that once he leaves office he will leave an even bigger financial imbalance for the next President to take on. Bush's budget proposals for the next two years will bring down the deficit, but when he leaves office the cost of his Medicare prescription program, his tax cuts, and his Social Security plan, if approved, will balloon in the next President's term. As an example, Medicare's drug program cost in the next 2 years will be about $79.5 billion, but in the five years after Bush leaves office, it will be $675 billion. Many of the proposals the President is pushing only add small portions of their total cost to his budget, but they add the rest to the next President's term. Several members of Congress that have their eye on the 2008 election are expressing concern about the President's shadow budget that follows the official budget. Congress, known for not taking a good look at the long-term costs of implementing some proposals, seems to have picked this one out, specially those who would like to run for the presidency in 2008 and not inherit a time bomb when they come in.

Washington Post Report:

Why Tackle A Hot Potato?

This is a very interesting introspective into the President's possible reasons for taking on Social Security Reform. It very much supports some of the arguments I made when I wrote my opinions on Social Security on January 25. I highly recommend reading this article:
Bush Hawking Remedy for Social Security(AP)

More Air Force Contracts to Be Probed(AP)

Smart Spending?

At a time when we have outrageous federal spending and an enormous federal deficit, the Administration still manages to waste money on experimental missile defense systems that cost about $85 million per test. Today another one failed when the interceptor missile failed to take off from one of the Pacific Islands. During the Reagan era there was another attempt at a similar system, Star Wars it was dubbed, and it was a dismal failure that cost taxpayers an incredible amount of money. To its credit, this system is 5 for 8 in its attempts, but this is the second consecutive failure under almost identical circumstances. No new date has been scheduled for another launch. Everytime there is a failed attempt it means a big setback and another chunk of money is needed to keep funding the program. Why do we, as taxpayers, have to put up with this? Is it not more sensible to use this money to fund police officer pay, border patrols, education, among other things?

U.S. Missile Defense System Flunks Test(AP)

The President is set to ask Congress for $82 billion to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This comes less than weeks after he presented his 2006 Federal Budget to Congress. The $82 billion was not included in the budget even though it was known he would ask Congress for it. The inclusion of this funding request would bring the federal budget deficit to an estimated $427 billion, a new record.

Bush Wants $82B More for Iraq, Afghan Costs(AP)

President Bush and AG Alberto Gonzales Posted by Hello

Patriot Act Renewal Efforts

President Bush has begun calling for Congress to renew certain key elements of the Patriot Act that are set to expire at the end of the year. The Patriot Act was enacted soon after the 9/11 attacks in New York City. The act has come under heavy criticism in the past years because of the wide range of powers that it gives law enforcement agencies in conducting surveillance, holding material witnesses, and allowing secret proceedings in immigration cases among others. When the act was first passed into law, many lawmakers did not even bother to read the entire act or felt pressured into signing it because of the emotional state the country was in after the terrorist attacks. After some of the provisions in the act were used for questionable actions, a large number of lawmakers and civil rights groups have come out oppossing it. Bush has begun his campaign to have it renewed before the provisions expire. This time, though, he will face a stiff challenge in renewing it now that it has been in action, with questionable methods and results, for a few years. It will be a difficult sell for the President.

For more information go to:
Bush urges renewal of Patriot Act(CNN)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Jose Canseco and Mike Wallace during 60 Minutes' interview Posted by Hello

Is Canseco Credible?

Jose Canseco's 60 minutes interview aired today. In it he made serious allegations of steroid use by some prominent MLB players. These allegations are also mentioned in his new book "Juiced". Canseco has been in jail, has violated his parole, has been a substance abuser, has been called a greedy man (at one point charging $2,500 a day for fans to spend a day with him in his South Florida home during his house arrest), and is considered by many as scum. So after all this, is he credible? Maybe, maybe not. But if there is anything that this man could possibly have any credibility remaining on, it would be this. He is an admitted steroid user and still encourages it for certain individuals. We have seen in the last year all these allegations surface and some proven true. None have been more ridiculous than Barry Bonds' claim that he did not know he was using them. Jason Giambi of the Yankees admitted to a grand jury that he used them. Others, mainly Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez have been named and have categorically denied the allegations. This is to be expected. But are we to believe that some of these players have not used steroids? In a time when MLB did not test its players? When Commissioner Bud Selig and club owners turned a blind eye to the stories? When the difference between a good season and a great season could mean millions? When the consequences of getting caught were minimal and the potential benefits could make you rich? Does that sound crazy to you? When we see the performance of some of these players spike suddenly in a particular year and then return to his averages the next (look at Bonds' numbers in '01 when he hit 73 HRs and then '02 and '03), you start asking yourself what was different that year? Canseco might be a scumbag and a snitch, but he is only bringing an inside voice to this MLB embarrassment. A lot of people are not surprised by his allegations. The real question about Canseco is what are his motivations? Why now? Is he broke? Is he desperate for money? Why has he decided to break the bond of his Major League fraternity? The allegations have always been suspected, but his coming out says more about him than it does about the people he is accusing, whether they used steroids or not. For a man that has been very high, he has fallen so low.

More on this story:
Canseco Insists He, McGwire Used Steroids(AP)
Canseco on 60 Minutes: Steroids made career possible(CNNSI)

Biden Urges Different Course With Iran

Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) has come out and urged the Bush Administration to participate in the EU talks with Iran. Bush has taken a harder stance on Iran than the EU, and has refused to rule out any type of military action. The problem this stance creates is that it does not leave many options on the table. With the military overextended and most likely unable to deploy in Iran and with the limited amount of intelligence available, it seems that the government is persuing an aggressive course of action without having the military might to uphold it. Biden, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has expressed concern about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's talk regarding Iran. He believes it leaves very few options available, and it is impeding the EU effort.

For more information go to:

Senator Urges U.S. to Join European Effort on Iran(Reuters)

Iran Intelligence Gathering Steam

As tensions increase with North Korea and Iraq remains unstable, the Government is conducting intelligence gathering operations in Iran. Recently, a large portion of the intelligence from Iran was deemed unreliable, which has prompted intelligence agencies to move more aggressively to try and gather more accurate information about what Iran is up to. Among the methods used was flying unmanned drones into Iranian territory and obtaining aerial photographs. Special Ops. teams are believed to have been at work in Iran since last year.
Report: U.S. Using Drones to Check on Iran (AP and Washington Post)
Officials debate spying history in Iran(CNN)

Meanwhile, Iran remains defiant toward The United States and the EU, and has rejected demands by the EU to stop work on a water nuclear reactor and opt for a light-water reactor.

More Problems for Social Security

It seems that every day there is more opposition to the President's Social Security Reform plan.
Some Senators are also admitting that the unpopular plan cannot be forced onto an unwilling american public. There is skepticism on both sides of the aisle in Congress, and with many lawmakers up for reelection in 2006, they are dubious about handling the hot potato. The President, on the other hand, is aggressively promoting his plan. He is currently on the eighth state of his Social Security tour.

For more information visit:
Lawmakers Divided Over Social Security(AP)

And for a good laugh at the whole issue go to:
CNN Cartoon Clicks

Irresponsible Financial Management

This article gives you an idea of the irresponsible handling of some of the money allocated to Iraq. How can the government possibly keep track of the money without any records?

Iraqi Election Breakdown

Breakdown of the voting in Iraq:
Shi'ite Bloc Wins Iraq Polls, Sunnis Marginalized(Reuters)
Shiite alliance wins plurality in Iraq(CNN)

China To Speak To North Korea

Now that North Korea has taken more aggressive stance on its nuclear weapons program, it is vital for China to involve itself in the negotiations. Since the Bush Administration has refused to have one on one talks with North Korea, they must rely heavily on chinese influence in the peninsula. It seems China has responded and it plans to speak with the North Koreans about the situation. Because of China's geographic position, they can exert a lot of pressure and influence in North Korea. The US is in no position (militarily) to exert force on North Korea and the Koreans know it, so they upped the stakes. Now the US is forced to turn to China for assistance. We'll see how this chess match plays out.

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