Observations on the world today.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

W=What T=The 

He's no Zell Miller, but Charlie Rangel is becomming more and more of an embarrassment. The guy is smart, articulate and liberal as the day is long, and yet first he promotes a very wrong-headed suggestion to reinstate the draft, and then this which I learned about via Eschaton:
The event was accepted by True Parents as representative of all states. The awards luncheon was held at the “Windows Over Harlem” in the State Building with 350 in attendance. The Honorable Congressman Charles B. Rangel was given the “Leadership and Good Governance for Peace Award”. The “Living for World Peace” Award recipients were the Rev. Dr. Charles Kenyatta, Honorable Una Clarke, Honorable Dr. Roy Hastick. Also in attendance were Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt Tee Walker, Assemblywoman Geraldine Daniels, Bronx and Manhattan Borough President representatives and a host of dignatiries, clergy and public officials.
(Emphasis mine)

This was a function of the reverand Moon's Unification church. Now, being the recipient of such an award is not in itself a bad thing. But did Rangel have to do this?

I'm with Atrios. WTF?

Well If That Don't Look Like an Asscrack! 

WH2004: General
Graphic from pollingreport.com

It's Called Google 

Power Line: Hillary's Alternative Reality
NBC's Dateline aired an interview by Katie Couric with Hillary Clinton yesterday. It's of little interest, except for this exchange:
Couric: “How do you feel when people say, 'Well the Clinton administration should've done this., they should've responded more forcefully to the USS Cole. There were many things that could've been done prior to the Bush administration taking over, things that weren't done.’"

Clinton: “I think that is one of the questions that this commission should help us answer. It's been said, and I think it's accurate, that my husband was obsessed by terrorism in general and al-Qaida in particular. And they did a lot. But there's always room for analysis about what more could've or should've been done. And I think that's true with the Bush administration.”
I'm not sure who exactly has said that Bill Clinton was "obsessed" with terrorism. Dick Morris, for one, has said that Clinton's eyes would glaze over when the topic was mentioned. But this is the revisionist history that we'll be hearing a lot from now on.
(Emphasis mine)

After reading this, I distictly remembered hearing somewhere that somebody had said that Clinton had been obsessed with terrorism. So, I did a Google search. Here's what I found:
In fact, some senior Bush officials reportedly believed the Clinton Administration was obsessed with Al Qaeda.
Ahh, Bush officials. Of course. Now I remember.


Sibel's Not Alone 

The Village Voice: Nation: Mondo Washington: FBI Whistle-Blowers Go Unheard by James Ridgeway:
In particular the Jersey Girls wanted the commission to closely question Mueller about Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator, who is openly challenging the agency’s veracity in the 9-11 investigation. Attorney General John Ashcroft has put a gag order on Edmonds by making her internal complaint to the inspector general secret. Soon after she came out publicly, Edmonds was fired.

She subsequently told the commission that the FBI had information that an attack using airplanes was being planned before September 11. "Some of our group has met several times with Edmonds, and from what we can tell, we think her claims are extremely credible," Lori van Auken, one of the leaders of the Jersey Girls, told The Voice. "So much so that some of our group hand walked her in to testify before the 9-11 commissioners."

They are also eager to find out more about the unconfirmed story of a second FBI linguist, Behrooz Sarshar, who claims he translated for an FBI informant with information on a supposed Al Qaeda plot to attack the U.S. with planes back in April 2001. "Some of the group have also met with Sarshar," said van Auken. "His claims seem to back up what Edmonds is saying."
Okay, we're getting closer, but the Village Voice doesn't count as a major American media source. Sorry Village Voice.

The Passion of the Shrub 

The Washington Monthly:
Bill Clinton talked about God. Jimmy Carter talked about God. So did LBJ, JFK, Harry Truman, and FDR. Every Democratic president has talked about God. I sure hope Democrats aren't going off the rails now just because Bush mentioned God once in a one-hour press conference.
I sure hope Mr. Drum realizes that this is not a case of one mention in one one-hour press conference.

According to an NYT review of The Bushes : Portrait of a Dynasty:
For instance the Schweizers quote one unnamed relative as saying that George W. Bush sees the war on terrorism ''as a religious war'': ''He doesn't have a p.c. view of this war. His view of this is that they are trying to kill the Christians. And we the Christians will strike back with more force and more ferocity than they will ever know.''
I mean, come on. Calling Afghanistan a crusade, saying that God called him to be president, going to war in Iraq a day after announcing that he was going to pray to God for peace. Not to mention his support of the sanctity of man/woman marriage because that's how God set the institution up, pushing for faith-based initiatives, and calling the California "under God" pledge decision "out of step with the traditions and history of America." This is not a one-time deal. This pResident has made a career of pandering to the religious right. If we on the left are sniggering at his most recent gaff (which, admittedly, I haven't seen or heard happening either), it's not without provocation.


Friday, April 16, 2004

Ohh, Well That Settles That 

Yahoo! News - No Draft Planned, But Selective Service Endures:
"Selective Service is not getting ready to conduct a draft for the U.S. armed forces -- either with a special skills or regular draft," the agency's said in an online statement at http://www.sss.gov. "Rather, the agency remains prepared to manage a draft if and when the president and the Congress so direct."

Banging Your Heart Against Some Mad Bugger’s Wall 

The Mahablog:
And wasn't the "Office of Homeland Security" supposed to fix the problem of miscommunication between the intelligence agencies? Whatever happened to that?
Maha makes a very good point here. If Homeland Security is already charged with overseeing all of the various agencies under their umbrella, what is the point of creating another conflicting (by definition) overseer? (Administration Considers a Post for National Intelligence Director)

Further, it's all just buying into the crap that there was a wall that prevented all forms of information sharing. Ashcroft went on and on in his testimony before the 9/11 commission about this supposed wall, and Insight Magazine posted a rail against former Deputy Attorney General and current commission member Jamie S. Gorelick for having written this memo. Their description of the memo is:
The Gorelick rules were meant to ensure that "no 'proactive' investigative efforts or technical coverages" of terrorist suspects be carried out on U.S. soil.
But the actual wording of the memo belies this criticism.
If, in the case of the FCI investigation, facts or circumstances are developed that reasonably indicate that a significant federal crime has been, is being, or may be commited, the FBI and OIPR are each responsible for notifying the USAO and the Criminal Division.
(Emphasis mine)

Acts of terrorism on American soil are a federal crime. So no, it's not a problem with the little guys being unable or unwilling to play nice. The problem is with the current administration. There was no wall-problem in 1999 when it came to intelligence gathering to interfere with the millennium plots. What was the main difference between 1999 and 2001?



Thursday, April 15, 2004

Whatever You Do, Condi, Don't Give Up Those Negatives 

The New York Times > Washington > Sept. 11 Panel Cites C.I.A. for Failures in Terror Case:
George J. Tenet and his deputies at the Central Intelligence Agency were presented in August 2001 with a briefing paper labeled "Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly" about the arrest days earlier of Zacarias Moussaoui, but did not act on the information, the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks said on Wednesday.
Al Qaeda Unchecked For Years, Panel Says (washingtonpost.com):
U.S. intelligence services failed to recognize the emergence of the al Qaeda terrorist network until more than a decade after it was founded in 1988, playing down a tide of reports that documented the danger posed by the group, according to findings released yesterday by the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
This revelation from the 9/11 Commission lead Tina Brown to opine:
Maybe part of the thrill of hearing Donald Trump utter the words "You're fired" on "The Apprentice" has to do with the fact that in public life no one ever seems to get canned.
She then remarks:
"In Washington, when people aren't fired it's because they have protection," says Gary Hart, the Cassandra of 9/11 who with Warren Rudman authored the National Security Commission report -- the one that warned in January 2001 that Americans would die in large numbers on American soil unless we woke up. "Two years ago I assumed the director of the CIA, for a start, would be fired for the failures of 9/11. When he wasn't, my antennae went up. I began to assume he had some insurance in the form of warnings he had issued, and indeed it turned out to be true."
Over the Easter weekend, my two brothers and I got into a loud discussion about this (which would have been even louder if we didn't all agree with each other.) We were all baffled by the fact that nobody has had their heads handed to them over this debacle. It struck us that somebody would have been the goat in any other circumstance. Our first suspect was also Tenet, but then we thought that maybe he had something on Bush that forced the administration to be more lenient. Now, I know that Tenet and his people had sent Bush and his cronies numerous warnings.
Articles presented to top officials contained headlines such as: "bin Laden planning multiple operations." "bin Laden public profile may presage attack." "Bin Laden networks plans advancing."
Heck, one of the reports was entitled Bin Laden threats are real. How much more job security does Tenet need.

So the question then becomes, what does Condi have on Georgie?


Being Never Mistaken Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry 

New Zealand News - World - Transcript: President Bush's press conference
Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?
*cue crickets*
THE PRESIDENT: I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it. (Laughter.) John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could have done it better this way, or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet.
There are a number of things the fool could have acknowledged. He could have simply said that disbanding the Iraqi army was a mistake. He could have said not securing the Iraqi museums and allowing priceless Iraqi artifacts to be looted was a mistake. He could have said that in hindsight, they maybe should have listened more to men like Richard Clarke, John O'Neill, Scott Ritter and Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.

Of those, the safest thing he could have done would have been to acknowledge John O'Neill was right. The guy is gone. He's dead. He can't come back and benefit from it, and the left couldn't criticize him for admitting that the guy was right.

But to say that he couldn't think of a single thing that he's done wrong? Come on!

Clinton acknowledged mistakes. Reagan acknowledged his mistakes. Nixon, on the other hand, could never admit a mistake, and look what happened to him.


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Tina Fey, Psychic-at-Large 

SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Nation > America's War on Terror -- Staff findings: "Threats and Responses in 2001":
Articles presented to top officials contained headlines such as: "bin Laden planning multiple operations." "bin Laden public profile may presage attack." "Bin Laden networks plans advancing."
From Saturday Night Live this past weekend:
"In response to a request by the 9/11 commission the White House agreed to declassify the president's daily intelligence briefing from August 6th titled 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.' The commission also wants to see the August 20th briefing, 'No Seriously Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States' and also from August 26th, 'Mr. President, Please Put Down the Game Boy, Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.'" -- Tina Fey
Not so far off the mark.

Repudiate That Why Doncha? 

Campaign 2004 turns extreme in Florida with the placement of a newspaper ad calling for physical retribution against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld!

"We should put this S.O.B. up against a wall and say 'This is one of our bad days,' and pull the trigger," the ad reads.
For the record, I oppose this kind of hate-speech. I heard about this yesterday, so I thought I'd mosey on over to Blogs for Bush to see if they were hyping it, and wouldn't ya know:
Does It Get Any Lower Than This?
That's the headline. There is no commentary. Just a reposting of the Drudge sludge and commentary from the rabble.

(By the way, I would post a trackback, but my url has been blocked.)

If you are confronted by this piece by a rabid conservative angry with you as a democrat for supporting a candidate who won't repudiate this kind of thing, here are your talking points. In November of 2003, conservative columnist Kathleen Parker wrote an article in which she quoted an unnamed soldier who suggested that the nine candidates for the party's nomination should be "lined up against a wall and shot." She later edited it to "lined up against a wall and slapped," for the online versions, but not before several papers printed the original.

Did Bush repudiate her? No, he did not. In fact, he was still using her columns to support his policy and campaign as recently as this January.
Columnist Kathleen Parker today looks at the history of the United States’ policy of regime change in Iraq. Writing in The Orlando Sentinel, Parker reminds readers that the policy was ratified by President Clinton in 1998 and that "concern about Saddam's unconventional weapons program was consistent and serious long before Bush reached office."


Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Kerry on Iraq 

A Strategy for Iraq (washingtonpost.com):
We should urge NATO to create a new out-of-area operation for Iraq under the lead of a U.S. commander. This would help us obtain more troops from major powers. The events of the past week will make foreign governments extremely reluctant to put their citizens at risk. That is why international acceptance of responsibility for stabilizing Iraq must be matched by international authority for managing the remainder of the Iraqi transition. The United Nations, not the United States, should be the primary civilian partner in working with Iraqi leaders to hold elections, restore government services, rebuild the economy, and re-create a sense of hope and optimism among the Iraqi people. The primary responsibility for security must remain with the U.S. military, preferably helped by NATO until we have an Iraqi security force fully prepared to take responsibility.
Billmon's only comment after reading this was "If You Can't Say Anything Nice ... don't say anything all all. For once I think I'm going to follow my mother's advice." I don't understand this way of thinking.

Kerry is right in the sense that we cannot simply pull out of Iraq. While it would be great for our troops to get the chance to come home, and while it is awful that they are stuck in a quagmire of Bush's making, we have an obligation as a nation to fix our mess by whatever means possible, and Kerry has some general ideas for how to go about that. It's unreasonable to expect him to have specifics. He - like the rest of us - doesn't have all of the facts.

That's not his fault. Hmmm? Now I wonder whose fault that would be?


Seeing the Light, but Maybe Still Blind 

This post from Political Animal leaves me a little dubious.
On Saturday I mentioned that I had seen an uptick in my mail from Republicans who have finally had enough and no longer support George Bush. As a followup, I thought I'd share some of the comments to that post. You can decide for yourself how seriously to take them:
He goes on to list seven bulleted blurbed examples, including this one:
• Ev: "My profoundly Catholic, conservative father-in-law told me he will not be voting for Bush this time, and it's because of Iraq. He says he likes Bush, but the problem is the 'bunch he brought in with him.'"
That's neither an endorsement of Kerry nor a nod to the liberal POV. Such a person might vote for Kerry to get rid of Bush, but they won't be happy with their choice. And they won't vote for Kerry's reelection or for a democrat challenger in 2008 should Shrub (shudder) win this election.

Sure, their vote is needed and appreciated, but it's fleeting.

And another thing. How many of these votes are counter-balanced by former liberals shifting allegiances because of the whole war/patriotism thing the republicans have so successfully co-opted? Granted, in my own experience, I can't think of any; but perhaps my experience is limited.

Give Me a Ticket on a Non-Commercial Aeroplane 

John Ashcroft is in the hotseat today. This article, Salon.com | 10 questions for John Ashcroft, has two questions which I personally would really, really, REALLY like to hear the answers to:
5) Beginning in the summer of 2001, Ashcroft stopped flying commercial airlines and traveled exclusively by private jet because of an FBI "threat assessment." What, exactly, did the threat assessment say? Why is the threat assessment still being withheld from the public?

8) Why, in the days after 9/11, did Ashcroft, along with White House and State Department officials, allow two dozen members of the bin Laden and Saudi royal families to circumvent FAA restrictions forbidding flights and leave the country without full FBI questioning?
The second one, I want to hear the answer simply to feed the conspiracy-theorist curiosity in me. The first question, though, is extremely significant.

The clear implication is that there were specific indications that terrorists were targeting commercial airlines. Sibel Edmonds, the Turkish/American former FBI translator, said as much in the interviews she has given about her testimony before the commissions. If that was the basis for Ashcroft's threat assessment decision, it demonstrates incredible ineptitude on the part of this administration. It means that one of the following scenarios occurred:
• Bush had been specifically warned about hijacking threats and ignored them.
• Condaleezza Rice knew of the threat but did not share it with the president, which makes her sworn testimony to the commission a lie.
• Ashcroft kept the information to himself, but considered it significant enough to take his own security precautions. Screw the rest of us.
Whichever one it was - even if it was the third - the buck stops with Bush. Had he "shaken the trees" after seeing the August 6 PDB, Ashcroft would have had to tell him about the chatter which inspired him to stop flying commercially.


Monday, April 12, 2004

Update on Yesterday's Blog: ABB or ADD, That is the Question 

Yesterday, I posted a suggestion that Bush's PDB might actually be dumbed down for his benefit. I noted that I had never seen another PDB and therefore had nothing to compare it against. Well, now I have. Ten Johnson-era PDBs have been declassified and are avaiable online from the National Security Archive here. Johnson's PDB's were all current intel presented in a very dry, matter-of-fact, conversational style. For example, a PDB from May 16, 1967 was presented as follows:
Nasir is going all out to show that his mutual security pact with Syria is something which the Israelies should take very seriously. Large troop contingents were seen moving through Cairo yesterday and there are other signs of a wide-scale mobilization.
Contrast that with:
Although Bin Ladin has not succeeded, his attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Ladin associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.
I get the impression that when the CIA was talking with Johnson, they felt they were talking with someone who could put together the pieces, but with Bush they had to spell everything out in short, easily remembered factoids. Of course, one could chalk that up to the writing style of the person presenting the brief, but as the CIA points out in chapter 7 of their own description of how the briefings are designed:
The obvious but sometimes elusive key for the CIA, and particularly its director, is to grasp each new president's needs and operating style and accommodate them during the transition and beyond.
So one has to wonder if perhaps all of the current president's PDBs are written as historic primers leading up to the significant and pertinent information contained at the bottom of the page -- the single page I might note. Johnson's briefings sometimes went on for pages.


One More Point About Condi 

CNN.com - Transcript of Rice's 9/11 commission statement - Apr 8, 2004:
RICE: I think it actually wasn't by chance, which was Washington's view of it. It was because a very alert customs agent named Diana Dean and her colleagues sniffed something about Ressam. They saw that something was wrong. They tried to apprehend him. He tried to run. They then apprehended him, found that there was bomb- making material and a map of Los Angeles.

Now, at that point, you have pretty clear indication that you've got a problem inside the United States.

I don't think it was shaking the trees that produced the breakthrough in the millennium plot. It was that you got a -- Dick Clarke would say a 'lucky break' -- I would say you got an alert customs agent who got it right.

And the interesting thing is that I've checked with Customs and according to their records, they weren't actually on alert at that point.

So I just don't buy the argument that we weren't shaking the trees enough and that something was going to fall out that gave us somehow that little piece of information that would have led to connecting all of those dots.
Of course, this was not the only successful thwarting of the millenium plots, but so many others have made that point. A point which I think has been overlooked is that Rice claims Diana Dean was not on alert because of the Clinton administration's hyping of the terror threat implicit in the millenium. I'm not so old that I have forgotten 1999. I don't think many of us are that old that we have forgotten four years ago. Y2K warnings were everywhere, but they were always coupled with warnings that al Qaeda-type terrorists might also take advantage of the significant calendar synchronicity and huge celebrations. In fact, Internationally speaking, several such plots were unearthed.

So to suggest that border guards were not on heightened alert is disingenuous to the point of mendacity.


Sunday, April 11, 2004

Jane is a Terrorist. Terrorize, Jane, Terrorize. 

FOXNews.com - Top Stories - Raw Data: Text of Released PDB
Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin since 1997' has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Ladin implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America."

After US missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Ladin told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a [deleted text] service. An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told an [deleted text] service at the same time that Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative's access to the US to mount a terrorist strike.

The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of Bin Ladin's first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the US. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that Bin Ladin lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own US attack.

Ressam says Bin Ladin was aware of the Los Angeles operation.

Although Bin Ladin has not succeeded, his attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Ladin associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.

Al-Qa'ida members — including some who are US citizens — have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks. Two al-Qa'ida members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our Embassies in East Africa were US citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.

A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Ladin cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar' Abd aI-Rahman and other US-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks
with explosives.
And still right-wingers are trying to say this was a vague and historical briefing.

Okay, so here's the thing, if the president is being briefed daily, what would even be the purpose of a "vague and historical" PDB? By it's nature, shouldn't a PDB be an update of current events? Although there does seem to be some of that vague history in this document. A little too much perhaps.

Admittedly, I've never seen a PDB before, so I have nothing to compare it against, but if this is indicative of how Bush was brought up to speed, I'd say it suggests that his PDB's were peppered with historical background as a sort of reminder for why the current intel is relevant. It's almost written as if to explain what led to the relevant events he is being told about for that given day.

I was talking about this with my brother, and I said it would be interesting to see the first briefing Bush got right after the inauguration. To which my brother quipped, "The government is made up of three branches; the executive, legislative and judicial. You are now the head of the executive branch."


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