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Thursday News Round Up

Thursday news roundup

Even if you were paying attention yesterday, you may have missed a couple big news items. First of all, Philip Zelikow, an aid to Condoleezza Rice when she was Secretary of State, messed up. He actually thought that the Constitution was the Constitution. He thought that because we sign treaties and have more than 200 years’ history of not embracing torture that that actually meant something. He thought, amazingly enough, that the Geneva conventions, which we signed, actually bind us to uphold them. That notion is kind of quaint and laughable now, but back in the day, he wrote this memo. Shortly after he wrote it (memo is here), someone, somewhere in the White House decided that they needed to destroy every copy of the memo. They missed a few copies. The importance of this memo, in my mind, is twofold – First, it is possible to be a conservative and not embrace torture. Secondly, it is possible to be a conservative and not embrace everything that came out of George W. Bush’s mouth (or Dick Cheney’s, for that matter).

For some reason, all that stuff having to do with torture seems to be relatively recent in my mind compared to Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath seem to be a distant memory. I don’t know why. Yesterday, five New Orleans police officers were sentenced to relatively long prison terms because they fired on unarmed civilians during a famous incident in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Not only did several officers fire on unarmed civilians who were trying to flee the city via the Daniziger Bridge, but they also tried to cover up the incident. In my opinion, this whole incident stems from a lack of oversight in which many people believed that they were on their own. Simple communications (telephone, cell phone, walkie-talkie, radio) were simply unattainable, not working or functioning incorrectly. People were desperate. In desperate times people do extremely stupid and regrettable things. The role of government is to prevent this feeling of desperation.

 

Fun video: Who would’ve thought you could combine Rita Hayworth and the Bee Gees? Who knew?

By |2012-08-29T22:28:03-04:00April 5th, 2012|Katrina, Legal, Torture|1 Comment

The suspense isn’t killing me (Updated)

For the past four years, the Republican Party has been doing backflips, trying to prove to America that they care about minorities. They’ve been trying to prove that they are an inclusive party. They’ve been trying to come up with the Republican version of Barack Obama ever since Barack Obama was elected to a Senate in Illinois. As far as I know, Allen West is the only Republican Congressman who’s black (I’m sorry I over looked Tim Scott of SC. My apologies.) and there are no black Republican senators. I don’t think that this is because the Republican Party would not embrace a black figure, because they seemed to be plenty happy with Condoleezza Rice and with Colin Powell, before he endorsed Barack Obama and before he said that torture was not the direction that our country should be going.

Three years ago, the Republican Party picked Michael Steele out of relative obscurity in Maryland politics. Michael Steele had no previous experience in the national spotlight and his inexperience showed. There were many times when it was unclear whether Michael Steele was representing the GOP or simply his own interests. So at their first opportunity the GOP gave Michael Steele the boot.

Finally, the Republicans found the perfect candidate – Herman Cain. His resume looked impressive. He ran a successful company. He made tons of money (almost a prerequisite to run for the Republican nomination). He had a conservative talk show, which had a decent sized audience. He had a personable, almost folksy way of talking at campaign events. The bread-and-butter conservatives really like this. He was the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. All of this was really cool!! Herman Cain for President!

Problems with Herman Cain surfaced almost from the start. He seems to do well in these rallies where he can talk off the cuff and get the crowd energized. He seems to have problems with interviews. He seemed to have problems during the debates. During his closing statement in the first Republican debate, Herman Cain quoted the song the movie Pokémon. He said, “A poet once said, ‘life can be a challenge, life can seen impossible, it is never easy when there’s so much on the line.'” Personally, I think if you have to stoop to quoting a cartoon (“I’m strong to the finish, ‘cuz I eat my spinach” – Popeye), your candidacy should be over. Then, Herman Cain came out with his 9-9-9 plan. This seems to be directly derived from the 2004 version of SimCity (“It’s clobbing time” – The Thing). He has no economist to stand up and say “I came up with this plan and gave it to Herman Cain.” He has no team of advisers who said that they were knocking around different ideas for flat taxes and came up with this 9-9-9 plan. By itself, it isn’t really all that crazy, but when he added the Pokémon quote, doesn’t that mean that you’re not a serious candidate (“You’re despicable” – Daffy Duck)? So, Herman Cain continues to campaign and try to sell more books (selling items that personally line your pockets seems to be a theme in this Republican race this year – see Newt Gingrich). He then has a softball question tossed at him. What do you think about president Obama’s handling of Libya? I’m not sure what was difficult about this question. Libya has been in the news for more than six months. I think was reasonable for Herman Cain to ask for a point of clarification, just in case the reporter was trying to ask about a specific aspect of the Libyan policy. Yet, even with prompting, he came up with nothing (“I think I should’ve taken that left turn at Albuquerque” – Bugs Bunny). I won’t even going to the Iran nuclear issue question that Herman Cain also fumbled. The bread-and-butter of the Republican Party since Richard Nixon has been foreign-policy. Yet Herman Cain fumbles and bumbles the most basic foreign-policy questions. Republican voters should have been running for the exits.

We must remember that the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan has embraced this idea that they are morally superior to the rest of us. They have courted the religious right. A Republican candidate who seems to have a new woman alleging unwanted sexual advances every week should be nauseating. Then, this week, we have a woman who basically stated that she’s had a 13-year sexual affair with the guy who is running to be the nominee of the “family values” party. Sure, it would be easy to dismiss this woman as Herman Cain has dismissed all of the other accusers. This woman had Herman Cain’s phone number in her cell phone. She sent a text message to that number and only a couple minutes later Herman Cain called back. (“That’s all folks!” – Porky Pig.)

For the last three or four days Herman Cain has been “evaluating” his candidacy. Why? The rest of us have moved on. Sure, some time later on today Herman Cain is supposed to make a big announcement. Do we care? My answer is no. I don’t think that Herman Cain was ever a serious candidate for president. I hope he sold the books that he wanted to sell. I have no animosity or malice towards Herman Cain. He just should not run for president. The thousands and thousands of Americans who were duped into supporting this man should have their money refunded. (Somewhere on my blog, somebody posted a comment telling me that Herman Cain was going to “kick Barack Obama’s butt” in the general election. I wonder what that shortsighted supporter is thinking now.)

Update: Cain has suspended his campaign. (“Are you still here? The movie is over. Go home.” – Ferris Bueller. [I couldn’t think of any more great cartoon quotes. Sorry.])

By |2011-12-03T15:29:55-04:00December 3rd, 2011|Elections|7 Comments

9/11 – The Sweet Deception

When the twin towers fell, the Pentagon was on fire as the fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania and the Bush administration had a huge problem on their hands. On one hand, they had to convince the American public that they weren’t asleep at the wheel. On the other hand, they had to convince America that they were on the job in keeping us safe. It is somewhat like that old Richard Pryor routine where he asks, “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?” America could clearly see that the Bush administration failed to keep us safe. We could see the smoldering Pentagon and the 24/7 news coverage of the fallen twin towers. Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor, famously stated, “I don’t think that anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.” Although these words are strong, seeing Condi Rice deliver these words are even more powerful.

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On the surface, this seems reasonable. If you’re a guy who works on the assembly line and doesn’t follow the news extremely closely, this makes perfect sense. You can’t recall any time that someone was trying to use a passenger jet as a missile. This was a deliberate attempt to throw you and the American people off the trail. The goal is not for you and me to imagine this or that, the goal is for the Bush administration to use all the information at their disposal to try to prevent something catastrophic like 9/11.

In 1994, Algerian terrorists tried to fly a plane into the Eiffel Tower. The plot was foiled by a French SWAT team while the plane was being refueled in Marseille. The plane was getting three times as much fuel as it needed, which tipped authorities off to their real intent. The Bojinka Plot, which I mentioned yesterday, also included one of the 12 planes to fly into the Pentagon and another of the planes to fly into CIA headquarters in Langley. Abdul Hakim Murad trained at a flight school in Norman, Oklahoma. He became an informant when he was captured in Manila. He told police that the plan was to board an American aircraft as a passenger, hijack it and then fly the plane into CIA headquarters. He specifically said that it was a suicidal mission. Remember that this plot was foiled in 1995. In August 2001, US officials intercepted intelligence suggesting that terrorists wanted to bomb the US Embassy in Nairobi. They were either going to bomb the embassy using a plane or using the plane as a missile.

In light of this information, Condoleezza Rice’s statement seems less genuine. It seems more crafted to throw the American people off the scent of incompetence. Now, to be fair, the FBI and the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community together form a huge and unwieldy beast. The one thing that 9/11 has taught me is how difficult it is to get information to those who can really use it. Still, the Bush administration could’ve admitted to us that they were truly focused on Al Qaeda, bin Laden and terrorism. That kind of honesty, I would’ve respected.

9/11 has taught me that our government can be extremely deceptive. Before 9/11, I thought that our government basically gave us the straight scoop. Maybe I was naïve. Now, everything that comes out of our government I question. Basically I say, prove to me that you’re telling the truth. What are the lessons that you learned from 9/11?

A lot of the information from this post comes from the fabulous book, Intelligence Matters, written by Senator Bob Graham.

By |2011-09-05T13:51:12-04:00September 5th, 2011|9-11, National Intelligence|Comments Off on 9/11 – The Sweet Deception
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