Thursday, June 28, 2007

America's Mayor?

Perhaps The Former Mayor Should Stop Finger Pointing
OPINION by CODY LYON

In an April 2007 open letter that was published in the “Huffington Post”, former Colorado Democratic Senator Gary Hart ask former Mayor Rudy Giuliani where he was “on terrorism between January 31st 2001 and September 11?”

The letter, clearly retribution for a string of attacks on Democratic leadership in the years before 9/11 by Giuliani prompted Senator Hart to ask what specific steps the former Mayor had taken to protect the city from terrorism or the effects of such an attack.

“Until you do,” wrote Hart “then I strongly suggest you keep your mouth shut about Democrats and terrorism.”

But a quick stroll down New York’s political memory lane indicates a silent Giuliani is not likely. Instead, Giuliani the politician is more known to dismiss or attack, often with divisive and sometimes hurtful rhetoric. Many observers say that in the past, the former Mayor often used such tactics to further a self serving agenda along with the interests he represented. A number of those who dealt with him directly have said his methods involved bullying and were mean spirited. According to a January 2007 “Newsweek” column by Ana Quindlen, some described Giuliani as a man who considers those who disagree with him “enemies, not opponents, a divider not a uniter.”

There were times when Giuliani did go to great lengths in order to quiet down his critics as he did in 1997 when he tried to get the MTA to remove magazine ads from city buses that lampooned his style. Or when he went after the Brooklyn Museum over a controversial British exhibit that included a piece of work the artist said was the Mother Mary with elephant dung, an obvious affront to the Mayor’s strict catholic upbringing.

More importantly, it would appear that much of America and for that matter New York, paid little attention to the behind the scenes effect of the Mayor’s “zero tolerance” policies since all obvious indications pointed to a job well done-especially if you were a strictly day time person. Crime dropped and the economy boomed in the city. Many simply assumed and accept, that Rudy cleaned up the ‘big bad apple’ removing the homeless, bringing Disney to Times Square and an elimination of pesky squeegee men who terrorized the drivers from Jersey. But while he played a role in making New York a more manageable metropolis, dig a little deeper, and one finds that much of this credit is simplistic and overstated.

For example, more cops had been hired before Giuliani came on the job, the contract with Disney was already in the works, crime was dropping in all American cities and those missing homeless were simply moved away from Manhattan. Besides, as America’s economic engine, New York’s renaissance came in part due to a national expansion, simple economics that trickled down from forces beyond the control of a Mayor. And, as the curtain began to lift and expose the man behind the screen in the later years of his administration, the mayor’s popularity began to wane.

But, then, there was 9/11.

No one can deny the important leadership role that Mayor Gilliani played in the days after September 11. The sense of calm provided by his strong words of comfort and calm were seen as a beacon of hope by many New Yorkers during what proved to be some of the city’s most challenging days. But, soon, as the city moved on, and the former mayor began to show inklings of entering what is proving to be a highly contentious national political campaign, an opening has arisen allowing greater scrutiny and criticism. And, when the former Mayor brings his self righteous style of attack onto the national stage, he should be ready for a volley. The election of a President, is, after all, a decision not to be based on simple rhetoric, or timing.

Like a number of politicians, Rudy Giuliani, has capitalized from 9/11. Most New Yorker’s can’t forget the shameless exploitation of tragedy by the GOP when it brought its convention to a city where most estimates show only 1 in 5 to be declared Republican. And, most will not forget his claim before the cheering throes and a television audience of millions, that as he looked at the burning towers, he said to Bernie Kerik, “thank God George Bush is our President”

But, although Giuliani is Republican, he is a New Yorker not a Texan and his socially moderate ideology often doesn’t square with the Republican ideology of the more conservative elements in his party. So now, it appears his best weapon will be his ‘I was there’ claim of superiority, which he has used to shut down critics of Bush policy, like fellow Republican candidate Ron Paul, who pointed out America’s role in inciting anti-American sentiment while debating Giuliani in a campaign debate.

The 9/11 claim to fame has reportedly benefited Giuliani financially as well, thanks to paid speaking engagements where he is said to often speak of those dark days in Gotham. In fact there was a period where he was so busy making money speaking, that he eventually had to resign from the Iraq Study Group according to reports from “Newsday”. He eventually found plenty of time to criticize the group’s conclusions.

And, as far as the Mayor adhering to Gary Hart’s request to silence his critiques of Democrats and their policies concerning terrorism, fugetaboutit.

During a June 27 speech, Rudy Giuliani told a Virginia Beach Va., audience that President Bill Clinton made a big mistake when he didn’t see the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as an “act of terror” versus a mere crime.

Reportedly, Giuliani said “the U.S. Government and then President Clinton did not respond,” and after naming off other terrorist attacks added that “Osama Bin Laden declared war on us and we didn’t hear it”.

If the former Mayor wishes to take this kind of ugly and accusatory rhetoric to the national playing field, he should expect tit for tat.

Mayor Giuliani made a big mistake when he did not insist, and see through to full implementation, in the years before 9/11, that all emergency response personnel be equipped with interoperable radios so that the fire and police departments could communicate with each other during emergency situations, like raging infernos inside tall buildings. According to information documented by “Media Matters” the failings of Giuliani regarding terrorism preparation are clear, as reported by Wayne Barret and Dan Collins in their book “Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11”.

As the book reports, on 9/11, the New York City Fire Department was using outdated VHF radios that were not compatible with the Police Department’s UHF radios. Author’s Barret and Collins said these were the same radios the fire department used back in 1993, when the first attack on the World Trade Center occurred.

The book says that as a result, as many as eight Fire Department companies in the North Tower did not receive the evacuation order via radio or from other first responders. Because the radios were not interoperable, fire department rescuers never heard the police helicopter “pilot warning that the South Tower was about to fall” or “the pilot’s repeatedly warning about the North Tower, some 25 minutes before it fell.

Perhaps this go round, instead of pointing fingers, and shooting down one’s critics, the former Prosecutor and Mayor should come down from his mountaintop, and begin to offer a vision for the future, not an indictment of the past.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

INDEPENDENCE

Independent journalism and ( hopefully) decent, informed commentary require diligent effort, persistence and time. Pursuing a story on one's own, without the backing of a publication (or constraint) or help of an editor, can be a challenging process in more ways than one. With that said, this blog will continue to make every attempt possible to provide as much original content as possible. Thank you for reading, commenting pro or con and for any other contribution you care to make.
CL

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

END GAME: From PBS FRONTLINE

PBS FRONTLINE Producer Michael Kirk and Reporter Jim Gilmore document the latest attempt to take control of the situation in Iraq. Watch the entire program in segments at PBS.ORG.
"On December 19, President George W. Bush said for the first time that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq. It was a dramatic admission from a President who had insisted since the war began that things were under control," FROM PBS FRONTLINE.

With its graphic imagery and meticulous insight from observers, experts and hands on players, this film, by far, offers one of the most disturbing indictments of the widely acknowledged failed policy that has become our modern day equivalent of Vietnam. Hopefully, all Americans will pay attention to the details and truths revealed in this latest stellar FRONTLINE project. -CL

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Would We Pay Attention?

Would We All Pay Attention?

Cody Lyon

OPINION

On one hand, to go there, might be seen as caving into media frenzy, talking about a subject, many are embarrassed to admit they follow, a topic that will surely invite criticism. But, to not, would be missing an opportunity to ask some deeper questions about national priority, fame, and the places Americans obtain information they consider important.

Paris Hilton is headed back to jail. Across the country, thanks to feverish coverage, voices both pro and con, are being raised regarding California Superior Court Judge Michael Sauer’s decision to remand Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca and his release of Hilton to electronically monitored home confinement the previous day.

As is widely known, Hilton’s legal saga began after being stopped by police, and found to be under the influence, with a Blood Alcohol Content level of .08, the legal threshold in California. As is fairly standard under California law, her license was suspended and she received 36 months probation and a $1,500 fine. But, over the next few months, she was stopped twice more by police, found to be driving with the suspended license ultimately finding herself in Judge Sauer’s courtroom where he issued the 45 day jail sentence. Then, after 5 days in jail, the sheriff, at the behest of the Hilton camp, released Paris to home confinement. Observers have said in news reports that many Californians convicted of non violent misdemeanors, end up serving time in home confinement or other alternative environments, in many cases, because of overcrowding. But, according to most news reports, Judge Sauer was furious at the sheriff, and ordered Hilton back to court, and re-issued his 45 day punishment.

As Loyola Law School Professor Laurie Levenson told the “New York Times” “she’s a pawn in a turf fight right now” and “it backfired against her because she’s a celebrity” noting that because of the incredible public attention, it didn’t sit well with the court that she’d been released.

In fact, most legal observers say that in California, low risk offenders often serve only five percent of their jail time, which essentially, Hilton had fulfilled. In addition, many say, it is un heard of, where a judge goes through the trouble of actually ordering a low risk defendant back to jail.

Regardless, the attention meter was running at high speed during the Friday circus surrounding her return to prison.

The arrest at the mansion, trips to court and jail were all covered live by the cable networks from up in the sky, ala OJ. On the ground, minute by minute reports, graphic descriptions of tears, screams and pleas all poured in from reporters. An assortment of Pundits, cable anchors, activists, legal “experts” and even a sheriff from New Mexico, all cawed like crows in a cornfield with, opinions rants and raves on the three cable news networks.

Evidence that a huge swath of America found satisfaction in Hilton’s return to jail was soon evident all over the web. Comments like, “I think she deserves it”, “She’s long overdue”, “Celebrities are no better than the rest of us”, “she’ll serve as an example” and the endless rich bitch girl comments that in the end, quiet frankly, sound just a bit mean spirited.

On Fox News, Rev. Al Sharpton weighed in by phone about what’s good for one is good for all, Geraldo and Shep Smith hollered and giggled and Greta worried that Hilton was ill, or perhaps, “twitching”. But then, of all the pundits, a very interesting comment came from the high priestess of outrageous and offensive right wing ideology herself, Ann Coulter.

Of the madness, Coulter hypothesized, that if this were Tom Hanks, you wouldn’t have all this blood lust.

Perhaps she’s correct. For one, Tom Hanks is a respected and talented actor who, unlike Hilton, earned his status as such. But more significantly, regarding the Coulter comment, Tom Hanks possesses a wholesome Americana Jimmy Stewart like image. Most people can’t help but like him, he embodies nice guy and rarely shows up in tabloids or in gossip columns.

On the other hand, Paris Hilton is the quintessential example of what many Americans claim to hate, a symbol of tawdry excessiveness, seen as spoiled, fame and wealth for no reason, and most of all, the privilege that money affords anyone in America who has it.

But, Hilton, a woman with the genes of Conrad in her system, is, for some reason the object de jour of countless magazines, television programs a virtual all you can eat buffet of guilty pleasure that Americans love to chow down on and the media loves to feed.

But, there is an even deeper sad truth revealed by this celebrity studded legal hoe down. The cable news networks, decided, or perhaps knew, that this past Friday, more Americans would be interested in what was happening in the entertainment capital, than in the capital of government, where the country’s highest ranking military officer, the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, was essentially being laid off, because members of the Bush administration knew that he’d face hostile questioning during re confirmation hearings from an angry Congress over his leadership role in Iraq.

One wonders if the Senate hearings of General Peter Pace, and the answers they may have provided would have, just perhaps, led to a drama that even the nation’s cable news networks would have covered. Perhaps too, the American people would have paid attention.

.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Ultimate War Sacrifice: By Joey Kennedy, "Birmingham News"

A powerful column about Marine Sgt. Nicholas R. Walsh and the ultimate sacrifice of war. Written by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and editorial writer, Joey Kennedy of the "Birmingham News".
al.com link

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Return of the Taliban

Understanding Pakistan's difficult role in fighting the Taliban, and terror.
From PBS FRONTLINE:

Sunday, June 03, 2007

An Old Story Re-Visited-AQ KHAN'S TRAIL


Misplaced Priorities?

BY CODY LYON

RE PUB FROM 2004

On December 2, 2004 a high level United Nations panel issued a warning of diminishing international barriers to the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The 16 member panel that included former United States security advisor Brent Scowcroft, had been commissioned by UN Secretary Kofi Anan.

Titled “High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change”, the report warns that the world is “approaching a point at which the erosion of the non-proliferation regime could become irreversible resulting in a cascade of nuclear weapon proliferation.” The report points out barrier breakdowns that increase the likelihood of terrorists obtaining nuclear weapons.

The UN report confirmed that the list of nuclear-armed nations was growing. It also become clear that one of America’s allies in the war on terror, Pakistan, had been the main supplier of these products of mass destruction, which in the end, created a complicated, tense yet apparently necessary relationship between the two nations.

In the course of just a few years, as the United States responded to the events of 9/11, the world had become a more lethal place. The idea of clearly defined, traceable and easily identified possessors of weapons of mass destruction had become increasingly blurred.

“The nuclear barriers may not be crumbling, but there are certainly worrisome cracks” said Mellissa Flemming, spokesperson at the International Atomic Energy Association in Vienna.

Flemming said that when the IAEA discovered “a sophisticated black market in nuclear technology, we realized that nuclear technology was basically up for grabs.”

According to a number of sources, one major base of this new international nuclear bazaar was perhaps one of the United States' closest allies.

In October 2003, The Italian Coast Guard seized a German flagged ship named the BBC China. On board, authorities found aluminum tubes, molecular pumps and gas centrifuges allegedly meant for enriching uranium for Nuclear weaponry.

That vessel was headed for Libya.

That same year, authorities eventually traced the technology and equipment back to Pakistan.

It was in 2003 that Pakistani Scientist, Dr. A.Q. Khan had been identified as a major player in the nuclear black market. In February 2004, IAEA officials said Khan had sold technology and equipment to companies in at least five countries, including Iran. Khan, known as the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, confessed his actions but was almost immediately pardoned by President Pervaz Musharaf.

Pakistani officials placed Khan, a hero to many Pakistanis for his role in equalizing the nuclear playing field with India, under house arrest. Officials there have not allowed any foreign interrogators access to Khan, some say, because of potential internal outcry from that country’s citizens.

The exposure of an open clandestine nuclear market was chilling to a number of experts.

“Khan’s black market nuclear bazaar exposed a leaky export control system and willingness for customers like Libya and Iran to clandestinely pay millions of dollars for sensitive centrifuge parts” according to IAEA’s Mellisa Flemming.


The 2004 UN report reflects the concern felt by nuclear proliferation experts around the world. According to one of the world’s leading proliferation experts, this could lead to a very troubling outcome that includes increasing threat of tangible nuclear terrorism.

“It is inevitable that we will see a terrorist with nuclear capability within the next decade” according to Joseph Cirincione, Director of the Non Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

Cirincione backs up the UN report’s warnings that barrier breakdowns like the one illustrated through the Khan network, increase the likelihood of a terrorist with nuclear capabilities.

“There are groups out there intent on mass destruction” warned Cirincione of terrorist groups who actively seek out nuclear weaponry.

But, Mellisa Flemming at the IAEA, cautions against jumping to dire conclusions. She says the technology involved in making a nuclear weapon may be beyond the capabilities of a terrorist network.

“Whether terrorists, without the backing of a country, could make use of the goods on offer is questionable” said Flemming.

She notes that the centrifuge parts and designs of the kind that Khan was selling, require a tremendous amount of money and expertise to master. Further, there is the challenge of obtaining the nuclear material itself.

“Nuclear material is the required ingredient, and it does leave trails” insisting “there is no evidence of non-state actors who were customers” said Flemming.

But, that doesn’t appease the concerns of a number of leaders, including a New York congresswoman who expresses concern about the dangerous black market activities of Dr. Khan and Pakistan.

“It would be na├»ve and dangerous to assume that terrorists are incapable of acquiring nuclear materials or weapons, whether from a rouge nation, or on the black market, or by theft” said New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.

She believes that U.S. officials should still be in direct contact with Pakistani scientists, especially those associated with Khan, and persuade them to reveal a detailed and complete trail of his role in nuclear technology proliferation.

“The more we know about this black market network, the more likely we are to prevent nuclear material from falling into the wrong hands” said Congresswoman Velazquez.

However, Pakistani officials claim that the network has been completely destroyed and that they are offering a full accounting of the trail of proliferation.

“The government of Pakistan has completely broken the ring of A.Q. Khan’s networkand Pakistan has provided all details to the IAEA” according to Haroon Shaukat, Consul General of the Pakistani Embassy in New York.

From the perspective of the IAEA, Pakistan has been cooperating and providing valuable information on the those on the receiving end of Kahn’s market.

“We are presently working out modalities with them to get more information” said Flemming.

But, as to whether or not, the United States should exert greater pressure on Pakistani leaders to obtain direct access to Khan, Flemming is ambivalent.

“We are not in a position to judge US policy on this issue.”

Even still, one of the more puzzling aspects of the Khan tale was his rapid pardon by President Pervaz Musharaf. Khan, one of the most instrumental and known figures in the spread of nuclear technology to nations some consider hostile to western interests, is now under house arrest, and not available for any sort of interrogation by anyone outside of Pakistan.

Some observers find this suspicious.

“The confession and quick pardon of Khan was staged” said Joe Cirincione at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Cirincione says US officials have not been able to question Khan directly because of internal politics in Pakistan.

He goes on to say that the “staged confession” and the house arrest is part of a greater cover-up meant to protect military officials who may have known or even participated in the sales of nuclear technology.

“It is inconceivable that this was a private citizen affair” and that the nuclear proliferation conducted by Khan “could not have been done without the knowledge of military and political officials” said Cirincione.

“There was a deal for Khan to take the blame in public, and that’s why we saw the fastest pardon since Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon.”

Khan’s network of proliferation was vast. It involved the shipping of materials through a large distribution network that reached far beyond clandestine labs and backrooms and countries beyond Pakistan. It would strike many as an obvious point of urgent interest for United States intelligence officials.

But the State Department, at least publicly, has not confronted Pakistan’s alleged complicity.

Cirincione’s claims, as well as other evidences of a larger network are dismissed by the State Department and other officials who argue the fragile alliance with Pakistan is more important considering that country’s role in the fight against terrorism by extremist factions.

“It is more fruitful for the United States to work through diplomatic channels with Pakistani officials in the matter of the Khan black market network” according to Sara Styker, Asia Expert at the State Department.

According to the State Department’s Stryker, “the cooperation US officials have received from Pakistani officials has helped us in eliciting vital information” and that “we are now focused on results”. Stryker points to success in Libya, as evidence that the information provided by Pakistan has been helpful in disarming dangerous nations and stopping nuclear proliferation. She says she understands concerns like those expressed by Cirincione, but notes that Khan is under house arrest, and out of the proliferation business.

Indeed, after the exposure of the Kahn network, Libya opened itself up for nuclear weaponry inspection and pledge cooperation with western interests.

Cirincione still has serious doubts. “The Bush administration apparently believes the Pakistanis have done all they can do” and “I take that as a very troubling sign that we are not doing all that we should be doing.”

Cirincione says that “while the Bush administration was focused on the Axis of Evil, we should have been paying attention to our ally, Pakistan.” “If it was not for Pakistan, Iran would not have nuclear technology now, the same holds true for Lybia, maybe others” said Cirincione. He argues that the US placed other security issues, including President Musharaf’s stability, above our own real security issues. “We’ve placed nuclear proliferation second” and “that has come back to haunt us in the past, and I think it will again this time”. Edit Text