Friday, February 24, 2006

Woodward, Leaks and Dubai

Views of Dubai, UAE:
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The United Arab Emirates is a constitutional federation of seven emirates; Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. The federation was formally established on 2 December 1971.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) occupies an area of 83,000 sq km along the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar lies to the west, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Oman to the north and east. The capital and the largest city of the federation, Abu Dhabi, is located in the emirate of the same name.
Four-fifths of the UAE is desert, yet it is a country of contrasting landscapes, from awe-inspiring dunes to rich oases, precipitous rocky mountains to fertile plains.
The United Arab Emirates, one of the world's fastest growing tourist destinations, has all the right ingredients for an unforgettable holiday, sun, sand, sea, sports, unbeatable shopping, top-class hotels and restaurants, an intriguing traditional culture, and a safe and welcoming environment.

Bob Woodward does have the inside slant on high-level politics, and let’s not forget we don’t get something for nothing.

As reported by Murray Waas, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, in a letter to Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, made Woodward's book, Bush at War, Exhibit A in making his case about the Bush administration's "blatant abuse of intelligence information for political purposes."

Waas points out how Bush pushed CIA agents to cooperate with Woodward and quotes a former administration official as saying, "This was something the White House wanted done because they considered it good public relations... This was done for presidential image-making." Huffington Post 2/24/06

And thanks to Arianna for making a whole lot of verbiage easy to digest:

The Pentagon just released its latest quarterly progress report (PDF) on Iraq. The report, entitled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq," is 56 pages long. And since I know how busy you all are, let me give you a shortcut:

turn on CNN.

It's. Not. Going. Well.

A very important column on the subject has been posted on National Review Online by conservative icon Bill Buckley. "The kernel here is the acknowledgement of defeat," he writes. "One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed... The administration has, now, to cope with failure."

I asked where Ramsey Clark was in my last post—“Impeach”
This email arrived same day:

There are now 27 members of the House of Representatives, including John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee who are supporting a bill, H. Res 635, calling for "a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before Congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment."

Well, 27 out of 450 is better than 0.

Hey Bush ain’t all bad. I’m not all good, for that matter. Just mostly—both of us. In the case of the sale of control over significant operations at six major American ports to the United Arab Emirates, Bush seems to have chosen the ethical, moral, right side of the issue. There are a myriad reasons for him to take this side: loyalty to old friends, backing a policy already in place, standing firm in the face of adversity…--but we’re not going to attach judgment to his decision. More importantly, let’s look at the reaction to this weird turn of events at this time.

Americans are apt to be skeptical of the matter of security being taken over by a company controlled by “Arabs” subsequent to the terrorist events of 9/11/01. I put “Arabs” in quotes to indicate that there is no more hegemony in that group than one would find in the designation of “North American” to indicate a tie between someone from Brooklyn and someone from Oaxaca. Still, we’re nervous about Arabs running a port where all sorts of contraband—bombs, weapons, ammunition—could slide by customs and promote harm for citizens.

If that’s the problem, then we should have been “up in arms” by now over the control of ports in the Los Angeles area alone. In a radio interview I happened to catch on my way to getting my daily dosage of bottled water from the market, the former Chief of Police for the Port of Los Angeles (I have no source on this since I just heard it on the radio) explained that, of the 27 ports in the L.A. area, 4 are controlled by American companies! The rest are owned by several foreign entities including Danish, Korean, Chinese, and more. And NOW we’re worried about Dubai?

Chris Dickey’s rundown of American misplaced prejudice highlights this tale of politics vs. rationale: What Price Xenophobia?

Dubai has a commercial vision—it is a commercial vision—that fits perfectly into the realities of the 21st century. It’s an open city for an open world. The United States, on the other hand, looks increasingly wary, withdrawn, insecure and ill informed. Jingoism, xenophobia and thinly disguised racism may help win votes, but they won’t make the United States any safer.

So Bush is right, and congress is wrong, and fearful Americans need to open their arms to the world, and Muslims are not terrorists, and terrorists have no cause, but love to cause murder and mayhem. And you thought it was easy to pick sides. It’s not that simple.

A visionary leader would see the implications, the nuances, the details, and try to make them clear for the rest of us. A dictator throws out platitudes and hopes whatever sticks on the wall keeps him in power.

"This deal would not go forward, if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America,"—Bush on Port Sale

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Woodward, Terrorists, and Cheney

In case you weren’t scared when you woke up this morning, here’s some frightening scenarios from none other than Bob “Keep my sources secret” Woodward (Thanks to Huffington Post):

Woodward said the possibility of "the Mideast imploding," cannot be dismissed, and that his darkest fear, shared by some in the intelligence community, is that terrorists are waiting until "multiple, high-stakes attacks" can be launched on U.S. cities and targets.

He said, "9-11 will be a footnote, but it could happen, and if it does, we will become a police state." –

As Woodward himself wrote about his first meeting with Mark Felt:

In 1970, when I was serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and assigned to Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, the chief of naval operations, I sometimes acted as a courier, taking documents to the White House. --How Mark Felt Became 'Deep Throat’ Washington Post

Make no mistake about it, Bob’s an old hand at sharing info with the intel community, and according to the blog “Rigorous Intuition,” possibly even protecting it:

Former intelligence briefer Bob Woodward obligingly led the [Watergate] investigation away from the intelligence community…

No matter what we might think of Woodward’s latest principles in handling sources and secret information, with respect to his not being entirely forthcoming in the Plame outting fiasco—he’s still a voice worth listening to. With that in mind, here’s a really scary notion:

He noted that Republicans have a long track record of nominating "old war horses."

Given that, and depending on how things in Iraq proceed, "You're going to think I'm crazy, but you heard it here first. I think they could nominate Dick Cheney." --

Speaking of “old war horses,” how’s Ramey Clark coming along with the “Impeach Bush” movement? Can’t happen too soon, and take Cheney with him…

Monday, February 13, 2006

Blame Bush, or Congress?

The issue is not whether George W. Bush has committed impeachable acts. The issue is why congress hasn’t initiated hearings by the House Judiciary Committee to determine the exact nature and extent of these offenses.

A new book describes a meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bush 3 years ago prior to the invasion of Iraq. The gist of the meeting was that they

…were not sure there was enough evidence to convince the Security Council. Without the council's explicit authorization, their plans for an invasion to depose Saddam Hussein could be difficult to defend under international law.

Bush proposed an alternative: paint a U.S. spy plane in United Nations colors and see if that didn't tempt Hussein's forces to shoot at it. In any case, he said, the war was "penciled in" for March 10 and the United States would go ahead with or without a second U.N. resolution.Blair replied that he was "solidly with" the president.

This is the latest in the long list of scenarios of lying Bush has told to congress and the American public for his personal campaign to invade and occupy Iraq. The untold damage in blood, money, and worldwide morale this futile enterprise has cost is worth immediate action by congress.

Added to this debacle, Bush is also accused of illegally authorizing surveillance of American citizens without court-issued warrants in the name of national security in the war on terror. The existence of a legislated secret court to issue these warrants, known as FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act)
which was mandated subsequent to the Nixon abuses under Watergate of similar illegally-authorized surveillance, vitiated the need for Bush to authorize any warrant-less bugging. Why did he not access these warrants which would have been secret anyway? Is it possible he was authorizing surveillance to gather more than just “foreign” intelligence? Was he on a fishing expedition in order to provide access to information he needed to gain additional power? Shouldn’t congress be chomping at the bit to find answers to these questions?

Does any of the following seem familiar?


…Endeavoring to misuse the Central Intelligence Agency, an agency of the United States.

…Making false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation has been conducted with respect to allegation of misconduct on the part of personnel of the Executive Branch of the United States

…He misused the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, and other executive personnel, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, by directing or authorizing such agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office

…Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial and removal from office.

The Republican-led congress is not anxious to start impeachment hearings against their leader. Despite rumblings that even Bush’s congressional base sees problems with the NSA surveillance program, and now new reports that Libby, Cheney’s right hand man, says he was ordered to leak classified information to the press by his superiors of which there are two—Cheney and Bush--action has yet to be taken.

The urgency of probing Bush’s abuses of power is immediate in that inaction is costing lives every day in Iraq, and the diffusion of military and intelligence focus from protecting Americans from the onset of another domestic terrorist event continues with undue monetary and personnel deployment in Iraq. It has been stated repeatedly by Bush supporters and opponents who are terrorist experts, and who are in agreement on this point—there are terrorist cells in dozens of countries around the world, including within the US.

The insurgency potshots in Iraq which are disconnected from the game of causing mayhem on US soil are not worth containing anymore. But while Bush and Cheney maintain power, and their lust for a base in the Middle East, little will change in US policy on the Iraq occupation in the near future, or fast enough to prevent disaster in the US.

Congress cannot take action too soon to start formally investigating the offenses of the Bush administration. We the people cannot afford to sit back and hope for a better solution to this quagmire—we must be on the backs of our representatives to do their sworn duty to represent us, and in so doing, protect us all better than they have been doing so far.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Hastert and Frist – Criminals Arm in Arm

Senator Bill Frist, darling of the pharmaceutical lobbyists and majority leader of the Senate, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, “engineered a backroom legislative maneuver to protect pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits, say witnesses to the pre-Christmas power play.

It’s not that secret—in this blog December 20, 2005, I reported,

Frist is sleazing into this appropriations bill an item that gives drug makers freedom from liability while they make billions of dollars on their products:

Companies making vaccines to protect against biological agents or pandemic viruses would be shielded from lawsuits, even if they are negligent or reckless, under a provision inserted into a military spending bill by Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader…

The potential fallout is as follows:

“The legislation, called the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, allows the secretary of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency, which then provides immunity for companies that develop vaccines and other "countermeasures."

Beyond the issue of vaccine liability protection, some say going around the longstanding practice of bipartisan House-Senate conference committees' working out compromises on legislation is a dangerous power grab by Republican congressional leaders that subverts democracy…

"It is a travesty of the legislative process," said Thomas Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

"It vests enormous power in the hands of congressional leaders and private interests, minimizes transparency and denies legitimate opportunities for all interested parties, in Congress and outside, to weigh in on important policy questions."

…Frist has long advocated liability protection for vaccine makers, and it was widely reported that he would attempt to attach the legislation to the Defense Appropriations bill because it is considered must-pass legislation.” 2/09/06

I don’t like to sit in judgment of others who stand to gain from doing favors, since I’m not sure what my refusal threshold would be—everyone’s got a price. I like to think that as a defender of the public trust, who has taken an oath of office, that I would be above any kind of influence other than my conscience, no matter what. But I have been accused of being a dreamer.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Algebra is Ruining our Children

The Los Angeles Times series on dropouts at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys spurred at least 2 commentaries about school curriculums. My response to one of the editorials, "Karin (Johnny) {gt} 95%" included a quote from Roger Schank, an authority on learning. Here is the letter:

Ms. Klein comes so close to grabbing the brass ring of what's wrong with the cumpulsory school system in this country, that my criticism may seem like nit-picking. She says, "schools are structured to help administrators feel organized, not to help children learn."

Close, but in fact, these "administrators" don't want to make this mistake--it's more along the lines of the worst excuse for any policy in any field: we've always done it this way. I have long wondered what the reason is for every student in America to understand algebra. In the 1950's, as a student I was told we were losing pace to the Russians in math and science. So in order to keep up, since then, schools have been ramming advanced math concepts down the throats of> willing and unwilling young people because someone somewhere once said, "It helps you think more clearly,"--a totally unscientific and unproven theory at best.

My childrens' curriculum includes NO music. My daughter's kindergarten teacher told me she needed to be able to count to 100 by the end of the year. I told her I was convinced my daughter would be able to read, write, and add and subtract by the time she graduated high school. I said that what she left out of the teacher-parent "conference" was any notion of how my daughter was relating to the other children in her class, which to me was the priority issue.

Roger Schank, world-reknowned authority on cognitive learning and teaching, sounds revolutionary in his education ideas, but he simply takes Ms. Klein's program one logical step further: "What kid would choose learning mathematics over learning about animals, trucks, sports, or whatever? Is there one? Good. Then, teach him mathematics. Leave the other children alone."

In other word, Ms. Klein, you're right about the need to re-think how we educate our children, and first and foremost we must acknowledge that in our human infinite diversity, everyone can't learn everything equally, and some children should not be taught algebra.

In addition, Schank has said this about the school system in this country:

School is bad for children:

Schools are structured today in much the same way as they have been for hundreds of years. Schools should simply cease to exist as we know them.

The Government needs to get out of the education business and stop thinking it knows what children should know and then testing them constantly to see if they regurgitate whatever they have been spoon-fed.

We need to stop producing a nation of stressed-out students who learn how to please the teacher instead of pleasing themselves.

We need to produce adults who love learning, not adults who avoid all learning because it reminds them of the horrors of school.

We need to stop thinking that all children need to learn the same stuff. We need to create adults who can think for themselves.

Call school off. Turn them into apartments.

Schank's solutions are included in several dozen books he has written, and in his teachings to corporations worldwide on how to efficiently have employees learn their jobs. He is a major success, so his criticisms are worth paying attention to. Then it's time for the forward thinkers, and there are some, in our school's educational systems, to start making the changes in order to stop wasting our childrens' time, and minds.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

SOTU -- Sense of Deja Vu

My first reaction to the President's speech is that we didn't hear anything new, and we didn't get any real answers.-- SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD Huffington Post 1/31/06

We meet at a time when we face great problems at home and abroad that will test the strength of our fiber as a nation…

It was 5 years ago on the steps of this Capitol that I took the oath of office as your President. In those 5 years, because of the initiatives undertaken by this Administration, the world has changed. America has changed. As a result of those changes, America is safer today, more prosperous today, with greater opportunity for more of its people than ever before in our history…

…we have organized a massive national effort to protect the environment.
Overall, Americans are living more abundantly than ever before, today. More than 2 1/2 million new jobs were created in the past year alone….

Despite this record of achievement, as we turn to the year ahead we hear once again the familiar voice of the perennial prophets of gloom telling us now that because of the need to fight inflation, because of the energy shortage, America may be headed for a recession…

We will break the back of the energy crisis; we will lay the foundation for our future capacity to meet America's energy needs from America's own resources.
We will establish a new system that makes high-quality health care available to every American in a dignified manner and at a price he can afford.

We will make an historic beginning on the task of defining and protecting the right of personal privacy for every American.

As you know, we have committed ourselves to an active role in helping to achieve a just and durable peace in the Middle East…

I urge again that the energy measures that I have proposed be made the first priority of this session of the Congress. These measures will require the oil companies and other energy producers to provide the public with the necessary information on their supplies. They will prevent the injustice of windfall profits for a few as a result of the sacrifices of the millions of Americans. And they will give us the organization, the incentives, the authorities needed to deal with the short-term emergency and to move toward meeting our long-term needs….

the time is at hand this year to bring comprehensive, high quality health care within the reach of every American. I shall propose a sweeping new program that will assure comprehensive health insurance protection to millions of Americans who cannot now obtain it or afford it, with vastly improved protection against catastrophic illnesses. This will be a plan that maintains the high standards of quality in America's health care. And it will not require additional taxes….

I look forward again to working with this Congress in establishing a new set of standards that respect the legitimate needs of society, but that also recognize personal privacy as a cardinal principle of American liberty….

...we will be working with the other nations of the world toward agreement on means by which oil supplies can be assured at reasonable prices on a stable basis in a fair way to the consuming and producing nations alike….

We cannot afford to neglect progress at home while pursuing peace abroad. But neither can we afford to neglect peace abroad while pursuing progress at home. With a stable peace, all is possible, but without peace, nothing is possible….

…As you know, I have provided to the Special Prosecutor voluntarily a great deal of material. I believe that I have provided all the material that he needs to conclude his investigations and to proceed to prosecute the guilty and to clear the innocent...

I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end…

…Now, needless to say, it would be understatement if I were not to admit that the [last year] was not a very easy year for me personally or for my family….

…we can and we will make [this] year…a year of unprecedented progress toward our goal of building a structure of lasting peace in the world and a new prosperity without war in the United States of America. --President Nixon 1974 State of the Union Address

Nixon resigned in August, 1974
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