Saturday, March 03, 2007

Thoughts on IWR and NIE

The Democratic message has been winning in 2007, but it was weak in 2002.

Allow me to give you an example of my ongoing argument with some other stubborn Democrats who bash John Edwards for his IWR vote and for not reading the classified NIE that nearly always ends with my having the last word.

There was a complete failure on George Tenet's part to allow even a shadow of doubt about the strength of the CIA's WMD evidence to come through in the infamous and incredibly misleading White Paper (declassified 28-page report for Senators outside the Intel Committee).

Democrats didn't stand a political chance against this kind of public misleading regardless of what the classified NIE had to say. Because the White Paper would not publically confirm any of George Tenet's shaky reservations which he'd expressed in private, a Democrat's political achilles heel during such a time as 2002 would have been fully exposed by this damnation of truth known as the White Paper. I see that White Paper as the final nail in the coffin of truth.

Could or should John Edwards have gone with his gut and voted NO (as one-time advisor Bob Shrum admits Edwards wanted to do?) Obviously, Edwards feels, in retrospect, that he should have gone with "NO". But his journey to YES is clearly understandable and, as we've already witnessed by public response, FORGIVEABLE.

Some may tell you that they forgive Edwards, but they now don't trust him. I tell them that I will vote for Edwards not because he's asked for forgiveness, but because of what I believe he will do from this moment on - with the wisdom that has come from hard lessons learned along the way.. I have no doubt that his instinct was right all along, even if his vote wasn't.

Why do you think John Edwards is so careful and determined to call the War on Terror a political "bumper sticker" tool now? I think it's because he was burned, in a political sense, by those war-marketers who used such tools to publically strong-arm Democrats in 2002.


About the White Paper:

Report Says CIA Distorted Iraq Data

The White Paper, released Oct. 4, 2002, and based on a classified assessment given to Congress, was the public's only look at the intelligence that policymakers used to decide whether Iraq posed enough of a threat to warrant immediate military action.
Yet the 28-page public document turned estimates into facts, left out or watered down the dissent within the government about key weapons programs, and exaggerated Iraq's ability to strike the United States, the investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found.
The heavily redacted White Paper section of the Senate report amounts to a pointed critique of the CIA's willingness to present an unbiased and objective account of the Iraqi threat to the American public.
It also raises questions about the CIA's selective declassification of material, a critique that was made by last year's joint Sept. 11 congressional inquiry and by the subsequent independent Sept. 11 commission.


I think that the NIE was hastily prepared and just another "cheap tool" used to market a liar's war. John Edwards could have read every word and memorized every little punctuation mark a thousand times and it wouldn't have changed a thing.

Our Democrats on the Senate Intel Committee were WORKING IN THE DARK and politically vulnerable.

Senator Bob Graham had this to say about Tenet and the White Paper:

What I Knew Before the Invasion by Sen Bob Graham

At a meeting of the Senate intelligence committee on Sept. 5, 2002, CIA Director George Tenet was asked what the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) provided as the rationale for a preemptive war in Iraq. An NIE is the product of the entire intelligence community, and its most comprehensive assessment. I was stunned when Tenet said that no NIE had been requested by the White House and none had been prepared. Invoking our rarely used senatorial authority, I directed the completion of an NIE.
Tenet objected, saying that his people were too committed to other assignments to analyze Saddam Hussein's capabilities and will to use chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons. We insisted, and three weeks later the community produced a classified NIE.
There were troubling aspects to this 90-page document. While slanted toward the conclusion that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction stored or produced at 550 sites, it contained vigorous dissents on key parts of the information, especially by the departments of State and Energy. Particular skepticism was raised about aluminum tubes that were offered as evidence Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. As to Hussein's will to use whatever weapons he might have, the estimate indicated he would not do so unless he was first attacked.
Under questioning, Tenet added that the information in the NIE had not been independently verified by an operative responsible to the United States. In fact, no such person was inside Iraq. Most of the alleged intelligence came from Iraqi exiles or third countries, all of which had an interest in the United States' removing Hussein, by force if necessary.
The American people needed to know these reservations, and I requested that an unclassified, public version of the NIE be prepared. On Oct. 4, Tenet presented a 25-page document titled "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs." It represented an unqualified case that Hussein possessed them, avoided a discussion of whether he had the will to use them and omitted the dissenting opinions contained in the classified version. Its conclusions, such as "If Baghdad acquired sufficient weapons-grade fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within a year," underscored the White House's claim that exactly such material was being provided from Africa to Iraq.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Unrestrained Globalization Ends Camillus Cutlery

Speaking to a local news channel, Camillus Cutlery historian Tom Williams commented about how unfortunate it is today with the competition that globlization has brought to the small American community's doorstep. He underscored the closing of the 131-year-old company with the fact that all American knife companies are having a very hard time competing today. The costs of doing business in what author Thomas Friedman calls the new "flat earth" have revealed a reality in the way business operates today, independently and together with governmental leadership that has made it incredibly easy for certain businesses to thrive and have made it utterly disastrous for others, especially U.S. manufacturers. Personally, I think it's a shame. I live in the village of Camillus and I have long understood that the Cutlery and its products were once a great a source of American pride and community pride.

Camillus Cutlery labor strike, photo taken August, 2006

For the past year, I would see the pain of the striking workers firsthand, their hopes raised when a labor contract was approved in November, and their sadness and disappointment the very next day when a majority of them were laid off. I saw the writing on the wall, understanding the realities of trying to keep your head above water as a business person in today's dog-eat-workingman atmosphere. I support a more progressive policy that incorporates fairness for all men and women - worker and businessowner alike.

U.S. trade policy should be structured to both promote U.S. competitiveness and to also benefit workers at home in our communties and abroad. Many of you might say , "So the cutlery finally closed. Oh well, that's just the way it is." Many of you are not the workers who took great pride in producing a product that was proudly U.S.-made by a prominent manufacturer in their small community for well over a century. With a realisitically fair U.S. trade policy, Camillus Cutlery wouldn't have had to have come to an end in this manner.

Ironically, U.S. manufacturing unexpectedly rose in February. There is no joy in the village of Camillus today about the news.

The Camwell Doctrine

My Exit Plan:
Congress should limit funding levels to force
redeployment from Iraq

Sent via Democracy For America today.

It's high time for Congress to to attack the funding levels for the Iraq war surge. This week, U.S. intelligence chief Admiral Mike McConnell pointed to the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque as the place in time when everything changed, and was more than likely a point of no return in the Iraq civil war - unless the current surge is successful by miraculous circumstance. And no one other than BushCheneyCo actually believes it will be. We are well past the turning point - the point that revealed utter faiure of the Bush foreign poicy in Iraq.

There is every good and clear reason for our elected representatives to repeal the President's 2002 authority and to cut funding for any request that would make this surge easy for a dangerous executive administration that is virtually promising to ignore the will of Congress on the matter regardless of what foreign policy disaster they try to avert.

An Iraq that is likely to emerge, at long last, through the crusher of the bitter civil war that is now and will be for a long time hence, will owe its final level of stability to a regional need for security and stability. It will never be due to some "gift of liberty" given by God or Bush. Iraq's new democracy, as it is desired by those who live there, will emerge because Bush will have FINALLY left it alone, and not because of his efforts at playing puppetmaster to the entire region.

Kirkuk is about to explode.

The time for Congress to act decisively is now.

Jude Nagurney Camwell

* In other words, Congress - get off your meek, mild horses and do what you're responsible for doing. The nation is watching you for moral leadership and acts of good conscience. No more games.

Seen in Charlotte N.C.



Regional Conference w/Iran: Please Don't Let it Be Bolton

Two points taken from today's guest blogpost at Informed Comment by Gerald B. Helman, who was United States Ambassador to the European Office of the United Nations from 1979 through 1981. The first is included in the content above the fold and is in regard to the upcoming regional conference with Iran and it underscores what many of us - sadly - have already come to realize about the Bush administration.
"The Conference may also offer the US an opportunity over the longer run to establish and institutionalize a more stable security environment in the region, with the US and its forces a continuing and accepted element. The Administration could make preparation of positions for the conference a truely bipartisan effort and even propose some level of Congressional participation. Regretably, this Administration lacks the imagination, courage and time to bring that about."

The second is a rumor from below the fold. A commenter asks if there's any truth to the rumor that former UN Ambassador John Bolton will be appointed the American representative for this regional conference. If it's true, I believe it would be an accurate predictor of the expected (non) results of the regionl conference as made in the first point by Dr. Helman above.

In a recent National Interest article [subsc req] titled UN, Rediscovered, Derek Chollet makes the astute observation:
In many ways personnel is destiny, and the new faces could move the relationship from an era of bitterness, suspicion and isolation to one of sustained, positive engagement and realistic expectations.
If personnel is destiny and Bolton is put in charge, I don't think I'd have to spell out the end of the story for you. After too many years of Bolton's stormy history, you're smart enough to figure it out for yourself.

No Free Pass for the Politics of Religious Sloganeering

In an outstanding post by Lydia Cornell titled No Human Power, she speaks about the travesty and the danger of mixing religion with politics.
"To me the worst thing Bush did was proclaim himself a Christian without having an inkling of what the Great Peacemaker stood for."
This reminds me of something I read from Obery Hendricks. He'd written these words just before the 2006 elections:

The Gospel of Luke tells us that in his inaugural sermon Jesus announced the purpose of his earthly ministry with these words, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." Throughout the Gospels Jesus makes it clear that care of the poor and vulnerable is one of his deepest concerns, so much so that he gave this as the primary yardstick of faith in him: "As you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to me." In other words, the Jesus that George Bush claims as his Lord not only taught that we can meet our neighbors' needs if we have the will; he also taught that we must have the will.

In the coming election season, President Bush and politicians aligned with him who also trumpet their Christian faith will try to trade on that faith to garner votes. They will try to hide their abandonment of America's most vulnerable citizens behind distracting religious sloganeering and hot-button issues like gay marriage. But we must not allow it. We must remind Bush and his congressional cohorts that the Christian faith they profess calls for them to make alleviation of the suffering of the Gulf Coast poor - indeed, of all America's poor - this nation's immediate domestic priority.

In Mark's Gospel Jesus asks, "Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" That is the question we must ask President Bush and those politicians who strut their Christian faith while ignoring the care for the needy that their faith demands: "How can you call Jesus ‘Lord,' and not do what he says?"

We must not allow it.

UN Human Rights Chief Blasts U.S.

JTW News:
"I hope that we will see the American judicial system rise to its long-standing reputation as a guardian of fundamental human rights and civil liberties and provide the protection to all that are under the authority, control, and therefore in my view jurisdiction of the United States," Louise Arbour said on Wednesday.

The UN high commissioner for human rights was referring to the Military Commissions Act approved by the US Congress last year and last month's federal appeals court ruling that Guantanamo Bay detainees cannot use the US court system to challenge their detention. The case is likely to go to the Supreme Court.

I can hardly believe that it's my country that Ms. Arbour is talking about when she says:
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, the U.S.-led "war on terror" has undermined the global ban on torture, this weakening American moral authority on human rights, worldwide. "The principle once believed to be unassailable -- the inherent right to physical integrity and dignity of the person -- is becoming a casualty of the so-called War on Terror," Arbour said in a statement on Human Rights Day.

Arbour is also a former Canadian Supreme Court justice and a chief prosecutor for the U.N. war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia. She praised past U.S. leadership on expanding political and civil rights, because it allowed the Americans "to lecture others about their performances." "To the extent that there's a perception that there is a withdrawal from the high-water mark of commitment to civil and political liberties, I think it makes it a lot more difficult for the United States to exercise that kind of moral leadership on all human rights issues," Arbour said.

The UN Commissioner of Human Rights "decried two practices in particular: holding prisoners in secret detention centers, which she said was a form of torture, and rendering suspects to third countries outside normal extradition procedures, that is, without independent oversight." Arbour said "There are a lot of human rights that can be set aside in cases of emergency, lots of them, but not the right to life and not the protection against torture." The United States has denied practicing torture but it has avoided denying or confirming a Washington Post report that the CIA runs secret centres in Eastern Europe to interrogate terrorism suspects."

The United States has also come under heavy criticism for prisoner abuse and torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. The heavy loss of civilian life and the conduct of U.S. troops have been heavily criticized in the on going occupation of Iraq. Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair has admitted, "Iraq is a disaster."

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Kirkuk Referendum Postponed 2 Years

According to

A referendum on the status of the oil-rich northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk has been postponed for two years, AsiaNews reported Feb. 28. Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi reportedly made the decision, which has not been formally announced, during a visit to Ankara, Turkey, on Feb. 21. The referendum had been scheduled to take place this year and will decide whether Kirkuk will remain a Sunni Arab province or join the Kurdish autonomous region. Kirkuk holds 70 percent of Iraq's natural gas reserves.
Kirkuk is a powderkeg, and postponing this referendum may postpone the long anticipated eruption of hostilities over oil that would put the U.S. smack dab in the middle of an even more vicious civil war in Iraq.

The nation of Turkey doesn't want to see Iraq's Kurdistan region annex Kirkuk, and has signaled to Washington and Baghdad the military consequences of holding the referendum by threatening cross-border military incursions to ostensibly root-out PKK strongholds in Iraq. According to a Stratfor report, the recent approval of the Iraqi oil law legislation agreement is "a done deal -- so long as the stickiest issues that have held up Iraqi development for the past four years get resolved in the following two months. The survival of this oil deal will heavily revolve around what the Kurds get in return for allowing the legislation to move forward." What the Kurds want is this referendum, and the speculation that it's been postponed will complicate matters for the already-exhausted President (Kurdish leader) Jalal Talibani.

There is a rather disturbing report from Turkish Weekly online that claims a former U.S. employee named Scott Sullivan recommends that Turkey should "strike immediately" to take Kirkuk.
If Turkey takes Kirkuk now, Turkey can count on the support of Syria and Saudi Arabia, including participation in a Turkish-led peacekeeping force. If Turkey waits, the U.S. is provided the opportunity to co-opt or coerce both against Turkey.

Interestingly, the discussion of this referendum postponement is out on Google News from many news sources, but as of now, it is not anywhere in the American MSM.

Yesterday, U.S. intelligence chief Admiral Mike McConnell pointed to the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque as the place in time when everything changed, and was more than likely a point of no return in the Iraq civil war - unless the current surge is successful by miraculous circumstance. And no one other than BushCheneyCo actually believes it will be.
"The current security and political trends in Iraq are moving in a negative direction, particularly after the February 2006 bombing of the Mosque at Samara," he said.

He said the latest US intelligence estimate paints a grim picture of the future.

"Unless efforts to reverse these conditions gain real traction during the 12 to 18-month time frame of this estimate, we assess that the security situation will continue to deteriorate at a rate comparable to the latter half of 2006," he said.
There is every good and clear reason for our elected representatives to repeal the President's 2002 authority and to cut funding for any request that would make this surge easy for a dangerous executive administration that is virtually promising to ignore the will of Congress on the matter regardless of what foregn policy disaster they try to avert.

At the blog, Mash has long argued that a post-withdrawal Iraq will not lead to chaos, but is more likely to lead to stability:
The only remaining outcome for Iraq is then a negotiated settlement. The negotiated settlement may however come after an attempt at all out military victory is fought to a stalemate. The negotiated settlement will happen not because it is the preferred outcome, but because it is the only viable outcome. A negotiated settlement will certainly have to include the major regional players such as Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. The negotiated settlement will come after realization by the Arab states, and acceptance by Iran, that Iraq is, and historically has been, the Arab bulwark against Persian influence. Iran will find once again that the Iraqi Shia are not Iran’s fifth column in Iraq. An American departure from Iraq will eventually lead to a restoration of the balance of power in the region between the Arabs and the Iranians.

The Kurds of Iraq will once again be denied an independent homeland. But that denial will likely come at a price for Turkey. Turkey may be forced to give autonomy to its Kurds as a condition for Kurdish guarantee of Iraq’s territorial integrity.

The Iraq that is likely to emerge through the meat grinder of civil war will owe its stability to a regional need for stability, not to some gift of freedom given by George W Bush. Ironically, Mr. Bush is likely to see this precarious yet stable Iraq emerge from the ashes of his failed policy. Yet, it will emerge because Mr. Bush will finally have left it alone, and not because of his efforts at playing puppet master to the Arabs.

New Day

Healthcare and Politics in America

A 12 year old boy's death in Maryland underscores the dire need for healthcare reform in this nation.

Unless things significantly change under new federal leadership in 2008, "a rise in out-of-pocket expenses, such as the copays for medicine, from about $850 this year to about $1,400 in 2016, a 5.3 percent annual increase. The cost of health insurance is projected to rise even more quickly during that same time -- 6.4 percent annually. Over the coming decade, spending on healthcare will continue to outpace the overall economy." [source: Boston Globe]

Mark Green makes the important point that, in order for our government to represent the large majorities in favor of universal healthcare, it's essential that "progressive patriots erect stronger levees to withstand the oceans of money, lobbyists and lawless officials threatening to drown America's constitutional traditions." Theocrats and plutocrats posing as populists will continue to undermine our now-sick (and getting sicker) democracy and will undermine any honest effort for the healthcare reform the majority of Americans desire as long as we allow them to maintain their not-so-clever disguises. Mr. Green says:
At a December colloquium on this subject in New York City, Bill Moyers (in a speech published in the January 22 Nation) observed that what America needs is not just a "must do" list from liberals but "a different story," one with the power to inspire us and challenge the prevailing conservative narrative of private = good, public = bad.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Etheridge and Gore Soar at Oscars!

Congratulations to Melissa Etheridge for receiving the Oscar award for her song from "An Iconvenient Truth" titled "I Need To Wake Up." A video of the song can be seen here.

Congratulations to Al Gore for "An Inconvenient Truth's" Oscar for Best Documentary. You can see the video of his "formal announcement" here

I was very happy to see Alan Arkin, one of my all-time favorites, get the Best Supporting Actor award and to have heard his gracious award acceptance speech.
"Acting for me has always been and always will be a team sport. I cannot work at all unless I feel a spirit of unity around me." - Alan Arkin, who won best supporting actor for "Little Miss Sunshine."
One of the funniest lines I heard all night was during the pre-Oscar show on ABC when Access Hollywood's annoying Chris Connelly asked Steve Carell about what it was like filming "Little Miss Sunshine" and Carell went on in his imitable way about Kinnear's smelly sweat problem and how it made the hot van a tad uncomfortable at times.

Headlines - Libby Trial Juror Dismissed, Mistrial Averted

Libby Trial- Juror Dismissed

Aldon Hynes is covering the Scooter Libby trial in D.C. this week. You can read the blow by blow at his Orient Lodge.
People are already talking about mistrial. How many jurors were tainted? Is it enough to make a fair verdict unlikely?

Another comment, I don’t know why they didn’t sequester these guys.

Current court room chatter is that someone heard a joke on late night TV and repeated it to the other jurors.

Meanwhile, a reporter asks me about my blog and wishes for the freedom that we bloggers have.

Update/Daily Kos: Potential Mistrial In Libby Trial Averted


Kevin Hayden - Why Al Sadr? - The NY Times provided a multi-author overview of Moqtada Al-Sadr today that describes his efforts at the current juncture in this long war that I consider a must-read. [..] While friendly to Iran, he’s known to be a nationalist that doesn’t want Iraq’s government to be Iran’s puppet. Nor does he want it to be America’s puppet. [..] considering that Al-Sadr had no past of anti-American animosity and the circumstances he’s had to contend with since, defending a population where unemployment rates have ranged from 33% to 60%, I have to admit he’s impressed me greatly. He’s navigated amid sharks, he’s had SCIRI, the Sunnis, Al Qaeda, the US military and Bush aiming at him. And he’s survived. As one of the two most popular figures in the country. [..] I still think, if he’s negotiated with without betrayal, he may hold some keys that can unlock progress towards a functional country...

John Edwards, 2008 Candidates

Quote of the Day:
Whoever blogged for Edwards was signing up for a lot of bad hair days, and it wasn't going to be me.

Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise, from a article titled Why I Refused to Blog for John Edwards

At Daily Kos, David Mizner is saying that John Edwards is doing something important. "It’s so important that it’s eluded the attention of the political press. While pundits handicap the horserace and assess hairstyles, Edwards is quietly yet thoroughly rejecting the economic philosophy that’s dominated the Democratic Party for the last fifteen years."

My comment:

We cannot forget that this is a time when the percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, with millions of working Americans falling closer to the poverty line. This is a time when the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen. The plight of the severely poor in this country is a truth that cannot be discounted, especially given the most recent economic expansion.

Ask yourself what's wrong with the picture. Sound economic theory would lead you to believe that governments should run a surplus in good times and a deficit in bad times. Game-playing with politics has warped sound economic theory. An overwhelming deficit has been run up in recent years, disproportionate to the "comeback" rate of economic expansion. Overall, in the past 15 years of continuous economic growth in this country, we've had too few years of government surpluses to show for it. It's time for new thinking and some moral leadership on the issue of how we should deal with the economy. Rubin and the entire Clinton administration worked hard to balance the budget and should be commended for what they did in their time. We can't depend on the shaky economic structures that once brought us stock market bubbles and Enrons to solve the problem of millions of Americans who've sunk into deep poverty. If that is what we are leaning upon because we have a fetish about balancing our budget, we're missing an opportunity for finding a lasting solution that keeps us on solid ground while we raise others up - n a way that raises all of us up.

American health care spending is nearly twice what other developed countries spend as a percentage of GDP. Edwards is laying it on the line for us. We can keep playing political games that provide a temporary and pretty frame for budget-balancing "success" or we can make meaningful change in the way we approach justice, equality, and opportunity when we consider our approach to the budgets. This is a new day.


In The Shadows: Unknown Craftsmen of Bengal - For her new book, In The Shadows: Unknown Craftsmen of Bengal, Payal Mohanka chose six villages which made products like wigs, lights, polo-balls, boats, shuttlecocks and jeans. Each of the villages featured in the book were involved in making one of the products. The craftsmen, she says, have been passing on their skills to the next generation, trying to keep alive a family tradition despite their abject poverty. It is these products that give these villages an identity. [..]“Most people associate poverty with lack of skill, yet the villagers are so skillful. There is such a contrast between what they make and resemble," said Nobel Laureate, Professor Muhammad Yunus, who recently helped to launch the book. [link]

Former Child Soldier Haunted by Past - Sierra Leone emerged from the 11-year war in 2002. Beah visited the country last year, and was dispirited to see how little had changed. There's still a great deal to rebuild and tremendous poverty. Beah says the political corruption worries him most, because it's often a prelude to more conflict.


AP: Scholars Criticize New Jesus Documentary -
Archaeologists and clergymen in the Holy Land derided claims in a new documentary produced by James Cameron that contradict major Christian tenets, but the Oscar-winning director said the evidence was based on sound statistics.[..] "The Lost Tomb of Christ," which the Discovery Channel will run on March 4, argues that 10 ancient ossuaries -- small caskets used to store bones -- discovered in a suburb of Jerusalem in 1980 may have contained the bones of Jesus and his family, according to a press release issued by the Discovery Channel.[..] One of the caskets even bears the title, ''Judah, son of Jesus,'' hinting that Jesus may have had a son. And the very fact that Jesus had an ossuary would contradict the Christian belief that he was resurrected and ascended to heaven.

to be cont'd