Sunday, July 25, 2004

Lance Armstrong! Enough said!

Kudos go out to Lance Armstrong who, just about 15 minutes ago, won his sixth straight Tour de France, a record that will probably stand for decades and a milestone that cyclists worldwide can only wonder, in awe, about. Armstrong, a soft-spoken, strong-willed individual who overcame, against the odds, testicular cancer in 1998 and who, in 1999, began his trek toward today's mind-blowing win in the world's most grueling, cruel bicycle race, deserves high praise indeed!

His is a story that inspires, in the truest sense of the word. All I can say is, "WOW!"

Friday, July 09, 2004

Crazy George and his crew have a magic spin machine!

Well, it looks like the Bushmeister and his homies are being exposed for the war-mongers they are, although I'm sure the thick-headed, staunch right-wing Bush supporters will dismiss the notion with a hurumph! But a committee of Republican and Democrat representatives has released phase one of its findings on the actions of the government during the lead-up to the war with Iraq, and it's a damning report for ole G.W.B.

But, of course, the magical spinmeisters (Rush Limbaugh and his ilk) will help the brain-damaged among us see through the fallacies of the report and find the tiny gem of truth that holds el presidente up to the golden light bequeathed upon heroes.

Tsk, tsk.

So here's what I was able to capture while listening to a live press conference this morning.

The Senate Committee on U.S. Intelligence (with regard to pre-war intelligence on Iraq) presented its findings and the committee found the intelligence community lacking, to state its conclusions kindly.

Stated another way, however, the CIA, FBI, State Department et al, were inept, incompetent and, in general, buffoons with regard to pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

The intelligence community overstated its intelligence with regard to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction; it made numerous overtatements with regard to whether Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program or developing, for example, an unmanned aerial vehicle, probably for the purpose of delivering chemical agents of war, as Bush stated in his State of the Union just before we sent American troops into battle. There was "an ominous cascade of totally false statements about Iraq and its threat to America" and its relationship to al-Qaida, said Senate Committee Chairman (?) Roberts. It was all "completely overstated or inaccurate."

The intelligence community did not explain the uncertainty it knew to be inherent in its intelligence product to the executive branch or to the Congress.

The pressure on the CIA from on-high was "unprecedented; it was internal and external; but we couldn't state that in our report," Roberts said.

The intelligence communities are charged with telling policymakers the difference between what they know, what they think, and what they are speculating about. In this regard, the intelligence community embraced a "group-think" kind of reasoning that allowed them to unanimously state that Saddam Hussein had active WMD programs. And it was a global failure of the intelligence community.

Assessments were "assumed" rather than questioned - "if uncertainties are not incorporated into the intelligence product then the assumption-train becomes longer as lawmakers try to make judgements based on the intelligence community's analysis."

There were significant shortcomings in almost every aspect of the intelligence community's reports. "We had no human intelligence sources inside Iraq" at the time.

It's a broken corporate culture that cannot be fixed by added funding or a changing of personnel; in a number of cases "the CIA sequestered and prevented information from being shared with other intelligence agencies."

This exacerbated the "assumed judgements that were erroneous at best." The intelligence community's mischaracterizations were not a result of politics or pressure, but it is what the president and Congress used to send the nation to war.

The intelligence communities' advise, "but that information was tarnished."

How do we reform this problem? We must base our recommendations not on expediency. Congress should not legislate change merely for the sake of change. We intend to work with the executive branch and without counterparts in the intelligence comunity and with the men and women who perform this dangerous work in the intelligence community.

We voted to approve this report by a unanimous vote.

As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence I (Sen. Roberts, chairman) have traveled around the world and met many of the men and women who risk their lives to protect us; they are hampered by a broken system. We need to give them an intelligence community worthy of their efforts.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., "There is simply no question that mistakes leading up to the war in Iraq rank among the most devastating losses in intellgence failures in the history of the nation. In effect we used that information to launch that war. We would not have authorized that war knowing what we know now.

Our government didn't connect the dots; the dots themselves never existed.

Tragically, the intelligence failures in this report will effect our nation for generations to come. Our integrity has been damaged if not lost; our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before because of these intelligence failures. This 511-page report is outstanding. It is a tribute to Chairman Roberts, the staff.

That's not to say there aren't areas of disagreement especially on the quesiton of whether the executive branch pressured the intelligence community to reach predetermined conclusions.

There is real frustration about how is it that the administration shaped or misused intelligence by using it to convince the policymakers of the need for war because there is wall between the polciymakers, based upon what has to be thoroughly honest and accurate reporting, insofar as it's possible.

When it's not possible you have to report your uncertainty about intelligence analysis; it's critical that polcymakers get those doubts as well as your intelligence product. It's generally agreed that virtually everything that has to do with the administration's role in this affair has benn relegated to phase two of the Senate Select Committee's report.

"Our findings are detailed and the conclusions are devastating."

The pre-war intelligence reports with regard to Iraq were not supported by underlying intelligence. The judgments overstated what analysts knew and failed to explain the uncertainty underlying the inteliigence assumptions; in other words, others felt differently about the information being disseminated by the president and members of Congress.

The intelligence community began with a presumption that Iraq had the weapons and never questioned the assumption that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and viewed every piece of ambigious information that supported that conclusion as fact.

Many in the intelligence community felt that the so-called WMDs we're still looking for to this day were, in fact, left over from the 10-year war with Iran.

Our human intelligence collection was inadequate. Not only did we not have people on the ground after 1998, when the U.N. inspectors left Iraq. But what we did have was information from the post-Iraq-Iran war and, hence, were never able to pin anything down with regard to intelligence accuracy.

The administration 's conclusions were wrong as to Iraq's complicity with al-Qaida, including its connection to 9/11.

The debates continued up until two months ago, at least with regard to the vice president.

One possible improvement within the intelligence community would be the addition of a department within the CIA and other intelligence gathering agencies whose job it would be to challenge any and all assumptions made by analysts. We have to have people whose job it is, specifically, to challenge the assumptions these people come up with. A group of contrarians, so to speak, who try and pick apart what those assumptoins mgiht be.

We need to provide more money for the traiing of a good agents, which takes five years. Then we can get into the raw questions such as, do we need to have a CIA director whose power is cloaked in secrecy and limitless by its nature, or do we work on a lateral basis to try and improve the shairng of information within the intelligence communities?

There are a lot of big and little items, some of which can be legislated and some of which cannot.

Do I feel frustrated by the lack of cooperation for the Bush administration? Yes.

But we've got to do it right. And we've got to do it fast.

Time has run out. We have not been able to (include findings about the role of the administration in this intelligence failure) because of the nature of this report, and because of the paucity of our staff, which has to be regarded as another intelligence failure.

It is only an incomplete picture of the natoinal debate on the decision to invade Iraq.

Regretably, I consider the nature of the interaction or pressure or shaping of intelligence by endliess numbers of statements from people high up in the administration, but that whole aspect is being relegated to the seocnd part of our report, and I regret that.

I felt that we could have included that together with this first phase of our report. The central issue, was the intelligence exaggerated by the Bush administration? The committee's report fails to report that the admiistration had already made up their minds that they were going to go to war.

And I believe, in regretting my vote,that there was a predetermination, even going back to the time of Bill Clinton, that the time for negotiating with Iraq had ended and it was time to go to war.

So the justifications for attacking Iraq; that Iraq had WMDs and would use these weapons to strike at the United States, were false!

The key pillars were not supported and should not have been there. The Senate Intelligence Committee was given to us at our request, and we now know that our decision to attack Iraq was based on ancient intelligence and there was an enormous difference between the classified and the unclassified intelligence report, and I don't think that was an accident.

This relentless public campaign to repeatedly demonize Iraq was orchestrated by the administration, so we went to war in Iraq based on false claims.

In short, in a critical time in our history – between 9/11 and August 2001 – our decision-making ability was significantly compromized. ... it has called into question the U.S's action in Iraq, putting men and women in harms' way. This cannot happen again.

And so it goes. I typed, as best I could, the lIve coverage of the Senate Intelligence Committee's Pre-War intelligence on Iraq Report as presented by NPR radio.

And on that note, follow this link to a classic Doonesbury strip. It's worth a chuckle, guaranteed. Just click: "We've reached clarity

I'm out. It's Friday and I've got to get some sleep before work. Sweet dreams to you and yours.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Monday blahs again. But I'm pushing through the muck and mire and WILL find a way to live!

Here's a list of flicks that look interesting. Only one or two are in release, but most will open within the next month or two.

"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead," a Paramount offering starring BMW's driver Clive Owens and the sculpted Charlotte Rampling; "Ladder 49," starring John Travolta; a documentary titled "The Hunting of the President," directed by a guy named Thomasson; Miramax's "Zatoichi," a spin-off of a series of films made in the 1960s about a blind Chinese monk whose skill with a staff and sword are unparalled; "Anchorman," a Will Farrell comedy vehicle that looks really funny for a change; "The Aviator," directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in his youth; and "The Notebook," starring James Garner, Jenna Rowlands and crew of younger actors - looks mighty promising to me.

Well, I've got to get out of this room. I've been inside most of the day laying about and I'm going a bit stir-crazy. So sayonnara (sp?) for now amigos.