July 31, 2004
11:14 PM CST
An incredibly interesting article by Dana Priest in the Washington Post today sheds light on exactly where the Bush administration got a lot of its bogus intelligence information on the Iraq-al Qaeda link: a captured al Qaeda commander named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who has since recanted nearly all he has told us. According to The Post:
Ah, but it gets better. It seems that there's some possible connection between this information and what can only be honestly called "torture":
In an October 2002 speech in Cincinnati, for example, President Bush said: "We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and gases." Other senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in a speech to the United Nations, made similar assertions. Al-Libi's statements were the foundation of all of them.
His about-face has not been made public by the CIA or the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which produced a critical investigation of the intelligence community's prewar information on Iraq. The committee describes the case in pages of its report that the CIA refused to declassify.
His capture was notable because it sparked the first debates within the U.S. government over how rough CIA officers could be in questioning al Qaeda members after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That debate, involving the FBI and the Justice Department, led to the formulation of a policy under which CIA officers were given permission to use "enhanced interrogation methods" for some al Qaeda detainees.
Under questioning, al-Libi provided the CIA with intelligence about an alleged plot to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Yemen with a truck bomb and pointed officials in the direction of Abu Zubaida, a top al Qaeda leader known to have been involved in the Sept. 11 plot.
U.S. officials yesterday declined to say whether al-Libi's initial statement was made while he was being subjected to harsher interrogation measures. Nor would they say what may have prompted him to change his story.
Also in the Post is an article about Bush's visit to Ohio today:
Bush has been appearing in front of almost uniformly supportive crowds, with his campaign or the White House carefully dispensing tickets as a tool for weeding out dissent. But there was no disguising or diverting the pain in Dover, once a flour- and steel-milling center, where Bush's eight-bus caravan passed by rain-soaked residents waving signs such as "We Need Jobs" and "Thanks for Stealing My Daddy's Pension."
...Bush's bus, emblazoned "The Heart and Soul of America," was greeted by a barefoot, red-headed girl carrying a poster that said, "My grandpa lost his job! -- your Turn!" Her older sister, wearing flip-flops, brandished one that said, "My grandpa lost his job -- you should too!"
Ouch! Why would they put him out there in such a hostile place? It's all part of a plan, of course, to pitch him as an Average Joe:
The aides said they plan to keep the president in many casual settings in the weeks ahead instead of emphasizing the trappings of office that they had favored when they thought his biggest strength was his role as commander in chief.
So Bush was out in rolled-up sleeves this weekend, saying things such as, "You can't talk sense to these folks," in reference to terrorists. He made a snide aside to "places like Washington, D.C." He visited a Dover candy store and spent about $1.50.
You can't fault Bush for trying to keep his own spending in check; the poor underpaid guy only makes $400,000 a year from his President gig. I wish he'd take that kind of hard line when spending OUR money, though. But the big question is, will this sort of approach work? Probably:
The bus tours produce saturation coverage in local news outlets, and presidential aides said studies show that readers and viewers consider such local accounts more authentic than portrayals of Bush by the national news media.
Frankly, I'm kind of glad Illinois is simply a "blue state" this time around and we're not subjected to this sort of thing this year. Most of the states around us aren't quite that lucky. They're "white states", the sorry bastards...
Finally, The Vatican issued a letter Saturday attacking feminism, which, amongst other things, makes "homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent". Come again? What the...? Feminism??? Aren't you about 30 years behind the curve?
Oh well, at least the letter states that, even though men and women will continue to be different in the afterlife, sex will come to an end. Isn't that a relief? "The temporal and earthly expression of sexuality is transient," it declares. I guess I have to agree with them on that particular point!
July 30, 2004
11:47 PM CST
Amongst other problems that might come into play for the coming elections: energy prices and record deficits. Given our greedy driving habits ("My Other Car Is Also A Hummer!"), we're using more oil than ever. China is drinking it up as well. And the oil market is rife with uncertainty. It all adds up to record oil prices today, $43.80 a barrel on the NY Mercantile Exchange. Meanwhile, the White House has revised this year's deficit projection downwards by $76 billion, to a mere $445 billion. That's still a record, and that's $445,000,000,000 if you type out all of the zeros. On top of $374 billion in 2003, of course...
Before signing off for the evening, here are a few points from a Kerry-Edwards Campaign Fact Sheet dated 7/22:
-- In 1,298 Days, Health Care Premiums Have Increased by $2,600. In the United States, the total family premium for health insurance has increased by $2,630 to $9,068. Out-of- pocket costs and prescription drug prices have also dramatically increased under Bush. George W. Bush has done nothing to address this challenge. (Kaiser/HRET Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits, 2003)
-- In 1,298 Days, Nearly 4 Million Have Lost Health Insurance. Since Bush took office, 3.7 million Americans have lost their health insurance. 44 million Americans do not have health insurance coverage. George W. Bush has done nothing to address the health care challenge. (Census Bureau)
-- In 1,298 Days, 4 Million Young People Dropped Out of High School. Since Bush took office, approximately 4 million young people have dropped out of high school. Bush has had no plan for high schools. (Manhattan Institute)
-- In 1,298 Days, 1.8 Million Jobs Have Been Lost. Since Bush took office, 1.8 million private sector jobs have been lost. George W. Bush has focused on tax cuts for the wealthy that has not helped create jobs. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
July 30, 2004
1:35 PM CST
Sorry for yet another hole in the blog; I'll be posting more this evening if I'm lucky! Not that there isn't a good reason for it, as we've had a bit of excitement lately here at home.
My wife Shawn and I were awakened very early Wednesday morning at about 5:15 AM by our dog Lexie's barking. Since she's a Rottweiler, she has a somewhat commanding bark. We yelled at her a bit, and then all holy hell seemed to break loose outside of the house. What happened was two escaped felons from SC were chased up nearby Interstate 55, they ditched their car about two miles from our house, and one of them ended up in our garage. He was nabbed by a police dog, and his right arm ended up getting rather chewed. The entire day saw an enormous manhunt involving about a hundred cop cars, some helicopters, and an airplane looking for the remaining fugitive. Things were flying over and driving by the house until nightfall.
Here's the local newspaper story about the whole ordeal, and a second story focusing on the second guy...
July 27, 2004
11:13 PM CST
Why is it that going on vacation for a little over a week puts one a month behind? Oh well, at any rate, I'm back.
Getting right to it, it looks like everyone's favorite zany madcap state promises not to disappoint come 11/2/04. Yes, I'm talking about you, Florida! Looks like we can look forward to touch screen voting with questionable security safeguards, no paper trail, and a Department of State rule preventing manual recounts of touch-screen voting machines. Although, with no paper trail, one wonders what would be used for a manual recount. Voting machine logs, perhaps? Couldn't those be fudged as well?
Now that the Democratic Convention is in full swing, it's refreshing to see a rising star from my home state of Illinois get a keynote slot. I'm talking, of course, about Barack Obama. For those of you reading this who also happen to be in IL, are you interested in opposing him now that Jack Ryan had to drop out due to a sex scandal? If so, you had better let the Republicans know, because evidently nobody else wants to face him.
After his "girlie men" fit, Gov. Schwarzenegger finally cried uncle. And instead of doing something really politically dangerous, the agreement simply relies on loans, one-time savings, and accounting gimmicks. Nice. Hopefully he'll be able to return to inane scripts soon. Oh, wait a minute...
p.s. sorry for no more road postings besides that first one. Turns out I was more interested in chasing down songs, amongst other things!
July 17, 2004
9:47 PM CST
I made it! Here's my first blog entry from the road. The lake is lovely and I scared up some Pete's Wicked Ale within a couple of miles of the cabin. So we're settled in quite nicely.
It's interesting to me how this election has wormed its way into the popular culture. And how trying to "destroy" someone usually ends up promoting them. Richard Clarke. Michael Moore. Al Franken. And...Whoopi Goldberg??? Weird. No big point to make here, I'm just entertaining the notion that this election is getting a little more attention than usual.
But beyond the campaign is this interesting bit of news: the 9/11 Commission is going to detail a shocking Iran-al Qaeda (not Iraq-al Qaeda) tie--more direct than was previously known. Does this mean we will be opening a new front on the open-ended "War on Terror" in Iran? Hmmmm...
- The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the embargo placed by the commission on discussing the report until its release, said the panel had recently obtained intelligence showing that Iran had ordered guards at its border stations not to stamp the passports of Qaeda members from Saudi Arabia who were moving through Iran after training at terrorist camps in Afghanistan. The existence of the new intelligence was first reported on Time magazine's Web site.
The officials said the bipartisan commission had uncovered evidence that as many as 10 of the Sept. 11 hijackers traveled through Iran in late 2000 and early 2001 and would have benefited from the Iranian policy, allowing them to enter the United States without an Iranian passport stamp, which could have made them subject to special scrutiny.
The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran and has long accused the Iranian intelligence services of cooperating with terrorist networks, including Al Qaeda; President Bush has described Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil."
Lastly, Tony Blair is on the brink. So is Bush. It will be interesting to see if they can hang on. I certainly hope not...
July 16, 2004
9:39 PM CST
I'll be leaving on vacation tomorrow, so posts will be slim and possibly completely lacking for the next 10 days. I'll be spending some quality time on the Lake of the Ozarks with the wife and dog and a zillion bugs that will eat me alive. I have plenty of DEET, though, and I'll be in songwriting mode with the SediStudio Mobile rig. By this time tomorrow, I'll be away from it all. Thanks to Rich and Alice (once again) for setting us up for a week of solitude...
More details are emerging about the care we've taken with Iraq's assets after invasion:
- U.S. authorities in Iraq didn't know how much oil Iraq was producing and selling because its oil facilities lack proper metering equipment. In addition, unknown quantities of Iraqi oil were smuggled abroad or bartered to Syria in exchange for electricity.
Gosh, who would benefit from such a thing?
- Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., focused on complaints by the international watchdog board that it continues having difficulty getting documents from the CPA and Pentagon. The watchdog board plans a special audit of Iraqi funds that were spent on no-bid or restricted-bid reconstruction contracts awarded to Halliburton and others.
And speaking of Iraq, one would have hoped that today would have brought better news, especially given the last few days/weeks/months. But it didn't. More bomb attacks, dead children, another headless corpse, etc. Remember, the neocon plan is that a wave of democracy will sweep across Iraq and then the entire Middle East. But, frankly, I think we have a better chance of pigs flying out of Cheney's ass before we see that.
Across the pond, Bush's best buddy, Tony Blair, recently came up a bit short in the mid-term byelections. Let's hope it's a sign of things to come: "...the results underline a reality for Tony Blair: a day after pleading with Commons and the country to let him move on from a misguided war, voters showed he cannot."
Now it's off to do some final packing; at the very latest, I'll be back online 7/26/04...
July 14, 2004
11:31 PM CST
Bush made a big deal last year of a five-year, $15 billion initiative to combat AIDS in developing countries. Sounds noble, doesn't it? Instead, he's pushing his notion that abstinence is the answer and cutting the budgets. There is more than a little anger at our lack of action after such big words just a year ago. And of the money we do spend, "...one third of treatment funding from the US to developing nations was dedicated to abstinence programs, The Sydney Morning Herald reported." Read more about this here...
Today's news from Iraq brought word of another suicide bombing, assassinations, and various other forms of violence. The Philippines moved towards pulling out their 51-strong contribution to the Coalition of the Willing, and a Bulgarian hostage has supposedly been killed. And so the violence continues. At least now we can blame it on "The New Administration".
- "This is a naked aggression against the Iraqi people," interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said as he toured the bombing scene. "We will bring these criminals to justice."
"Naked aggression". Yep, that's our guy! I bet we taught him that one.
Here are two interesting pieces from The Independent (U.K.):
How 'patchy' intelligence became proof Saddam possessed WMD (UK Politics)
Gay marriage vote strategy backfires on Republicans (US Politics)
July 13, 2004
11:27 PM CST
Since I'm preparing for vacation, I've precious little time for blogging this evening. But I read this interesting piece earlier by Kenneth Neill, and thought I'd pass it along. Highly recommended: LETTERS FROM MEMPHIS: Ted Sorensen.
- George W. Bush's campaign for re-election is very special, perhaps unprecedented in American history. With the possible exception of Herbert Hoover -- who was so dead a political duck in 1932 that no Republican in his right mind wanted to challenge him -- we have never had a President so thoroughly disgraced run for re-election. Never before has a man whose administration has been such an abject failure had the unmitigated gall to ask the American people for "four more years." Folks like Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce knew better; George W. Bush does not. The historians will someday marvel at this.
Damn, I love a good Millard Fillmore reference...
July 12, 2004
10:43 PM CST
It's a daily event: Bush playing the terrorism card while defending the war in Iraq. Today it was during a visit to Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Now he's citing success with Libya, just to murk up the waters. Yes, they've agreed to allow arms inspectors into the country and we've resumed diplomatic relations, but to my knowledge, nothing has yet actually taken place. We shall see...
Meanwhile, Bush has unveiled his clever new jobs program in the road construction and logging industries. He does have a point, though. I mean, who can see a majestic pristine forest and not have the urge to just whack that sucker down? I mean, those trees, man, they're just ASKIN' FOR IT!
Under the heading of "you just can't make this stuff up", some interesting facts have come out in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report. How about an Iraqi defector with the code-name "Curveball" who turned out to be spewing crap?
- Analysts concluded that Iraq had a mobile biological weapons program based mainly on the since-discredited claims of one Iraqi defector code-named ``Curveball.'' The report said American agents did not have direct access to Curveball or his debriefers, but the source's information was expanded into the conclusion that Iraq had an advanced and active biological weapons program.
According to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a CIA official wrote to a subordinate who had raised questions about the source: "Let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn't say, and the Powers That Be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he's talking about."