Monday, February 19, 2007

The Importance of A Little Follow Up

The Importance Of A Little Follow-Up
(On Verification)

Years ago, in a tiny Alabama town, Little Billy and his friend Jack, would play together for hours on end when they weren’t at school. Typical country kids, running bare foot and wild when allowed, but on the whole, well behaved with only minor brushes with mischief, until one day, Little Jack, showed his mean streak and approached Billy with a deceptive proposition for trouble.

“Hey, let’s go over and cut some of Ms Jackson’s roses from her bushes,” he said with a wild eyed look on his long red haired, freckled face.

Billy, the more clean cut, tall, sensitive and reserved of the two, knew Ms Jackson’s roses, like her famous corn bread, were a source of pride and joy for the widow. She grew them each year, paying close attention to every detail and once bloomed, the roses were a sight for everyone to behold.

Besides that, Ms Jackson was also a big stout no-nonsense Southern woman who was known to stand on her back porch and shoot at the crows on her muscadine vines. But Jack, always certain and self cofident, was sure they’d get away with some roses, and he used his cocksureness to twist, turn, and in the end, convince Billy that all was okay, and thatin fact, Ms Jackson herself, had once said she didn’t mind if people took her roses.

Unfortunately for everyone, Billy was about to take Jack at his word and follow his foolish pied piper friend into trouble. Truth be told, Jack hadn't told Billy the entire story. Ms Jackson never said, she didn’t care if people cut her roses. Instead, Jack had overheard Ms Jackson tell his Mother that she was happy everyone enjoyed her roses. But, in what was clearly a self-serving and selfish move, Jack convincingly manipulated her words to justify this future mission of mischief to his friend.

So, one afternoon, after a little bit of planning, the two eight year olds, took a pair Jack’s Mother’s sewing scissors, snuck in through a thicket of pine trees, and with stealth determination, ran up to the bushes and began cutting a few of the roses. But, Jack, who was the shorter of the two, stuck his finger with a thorn, and when he shrieked in pain, it signaled nosy Ms Jones across the street, who came to her window, saw the boys in the bushes, and promptly called Ms Jackson, letting her know of the theft in her midst.

Ms Jackson, stormed onto her front porch, yelled at the boys, then rushed back inside and called their Mothers. The two rose thieves, guilty and caught, ran like the wind, with Billy feeling a sense of doom, for what may lay in store.

Beyond the screams and tears, time restricted to his room, the belt his father would wield, the most difficult punishment was yet to come. Billy’s Mother would insist that he apologize. She told him he would have to march over to Ms Jackson’s, knock on her door, look her in the face, and say, how sorry he was for cutting her prized roses.

It would take every ounce of courage, every brave bone in his body, the burying of all his fears to go and face Ms Jackson. But, the day after the crime, Billy, mustered up the determination, filled with resolve and regret, marched over to Ms Jackson’s, knocked on the door, and faced the woman who’s roses he’d violated. Billy looked Ms Jackson in the face, and said, I’m sorry.

But, then, Ms. Jackson said something that made Billy regret what he’d done even more. She told Billy that he should have just asked her permission before cutting her roses. Truth be told, if Billy had followed up and verified Jack's word's with Ms Jackson, she would have given him the okay to cut a few of her flowers.

'Boy, would you believe Jack if he told you the firechief said set the school on fire" said Ms Jackson, insisting one should always ask the reported source of information for such serious matters.

Billy realized his apology was not so much for the lost roses, but instead for not exerting enough effort and respect to ask Ms Jackson’s permission. If Billy had simply not taken Jack’s word at face value in a matter of such importance, especially where Ms Jackson was concerned, he might have avoided what turned out to be a painful chain of events.

In the end, his apology was largely symbolic, apeasing his Mother, but also instilling some character in him through an important lesson learned.

Lesson Learned?

A little following up and verification is always important and can often lead to completely different outcomes.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Beating An Old Horse Named Tragedy

Beating an Old Horse Named Tragedy
By Cody Lyon

Calling the findings of a new Pentagon Inspector General report on Pre Iraqi invasion intelligence, a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities, Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, charged what many war opponents have held as truth. Intelligence used to justify an invasion of Iraq, was manipulated.

In response to the dramatic language Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia countered, saying he was “still trying to figure out why we’re here” arguing that “we’re beating this horse one more time” said Chambliss.

This coming from a man who whipped the same horse for his own political gain, back when he blasted decency from the Georgia Senate race in 2002. As you may recall, Chambliss ran television attack ads filled with suggestive simultaneous images of Saddam, Osama and his Democratic opponent, Max Cleland, a US war vet who lost limbs in Vietnam, but as a Senator, happened to be critical of Bush Administration policy.

Regardless, Chambliss’ question is legitimate. What purpose does it serve for the Senate to beat this sore old horse one more time and study and air the findings of Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble?

The answer is simple.

The American people deserve to know if their trust was violated. What could be wrong with finding out whether arrogance and reckless cherry picking of key intelligence was used to sell fear, subsequent foreign policy and military action. Beating this horse once again might lead all Americans to some conclusive, probably painful, but necessary answers about how we arrived at our latest tragedy, Iraq.

The dots continue to be confirmed and connected.

Think back to a 2002 "CBS News" report by correspondent David Martin that reported just hours after the planes of 9/11 had struck New York and the Pentagon Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s began instructing aides to find links between Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

According to the cited notes taken by Don Rumsfeld’s aides, the Defense Secretary said he wanted the “best information fast” that would “judge whether good enough to hit Saddam Hussein”.

“Go massive” and “Sweep it all up. Things related and not” said Rumsfeld in the notes according to the CBS.

The new Gimble report shows how those instructions might have shot down the chain of command to then Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz. According to the report, Wolfowitz then instructed Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith to access links between Al Queda and Iraq.

The group went to work, digging for links.

According to the “Washington Post”, in July 2002, the Feith led group then put together a position paper that was later transformed into a briefing.

But red flags were raised about the report/briefing’s contents, accuracy and verifiability.

The CIA was warning that portions of the briefing were flawed, the most high profile nugget of information being the highly publicized story that there had been contacts between 9/11 hijacker-terrorist Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence agents.

Gimble said, when the Feith report was complete, the CIA called the ‘Atta’ part of the report “contradictory at best”.

In fact, according to the “Los Angeles Times”, Gimble’s Inspection says analysts from the CIA and other agencies actually disagreed with “more than 50% of 26 findings the Feith Pentagon team laid out in its eventual position paper”

But the team forged ahead turning the requested information over to high-level members of the Bush Administration.

Armed with what now appears to have been flawed evidence, the stage was set for one of the most deceptive, misleading, spook based sales campaigns ever offered to a 9/11 tragedy soaked, traumatized and confused nation.

The Administration led a PR offensive intent on implying links between 9/11 and Iraq, a campaign that manifest itself in speeches, television appearances and press conferences.

From the 2001 “Meet the Press” Cheney quote where he said it was “pretty well confirmed” that Atta met with a senior Iraqi agent to his later assertion that “the Iraqi intelligence service had a relationship with al Queda stretching back through most of the of the 90’s” the Vice President was in sell mode.

And the President was close behind.

During a March 2003 prime time news conference President Bush himself mentioned September 11th eight times as he appeared to ‘justify’ Iraqi war plans with the American people. The President mentioned Saddam Hussein several more times than that, often in the same sentence that he spoke of September 11th. And, then there is a certain passage within the State of the Union speech, now flagged as flawed.

In what could be seen as one of the more exploitive moments in American history, the Republicans decided to co-opt tragedy for political gain and use the city where much of the events of 9/11 took place, as a vivid backdrop of tragedy, a shameless launching pad for what now appears as justification for why more tragedy was on the way.

Unfortunately, much of the press and doubtful politicians were neutered or intimidated, and in the end, the selling of tragedy was a smashing success, as much of a bruised nation bought flawed, un-tested merchandise. This is a sale that eventually led to the violent quandary that has now cost thousands of American lives, thousands more innocent Iraqis, taxed our defense forces, cost billions of dollars and divided our own people.

So, as Americans hear and read subtle suggestion of justification for future conflict, how critical should we be of rhetoric coming from tragedy and fear salespeople, politicians like the Senator from Georgia who now complains of beating horses?

Keep in mind, that in November 2001, Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss once told emergency responders in Valdosta Georgia that the sheriff “should arrest every Muslim that crosses the state line.”

Sunday, February 04, 2007


He’s so full of love that he just keeps on sharing the hate. Not to be cliché, but Right wing poster man, former ten commandments waving, former Alabama state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore has written an op ed piece that’s so far to the right it’s just plain wrong. Published in “WorldNetDaily”, Moore decries Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas’ and her H.R. 254, a bill that proposes to extend federal hate crimes law protections to lesbian and gay people across the country. In his short “federalist club” inspired sermon, Moore points out legal and historical justifications for his opposition to such protections. But then the ten-commandments judge man broke one and told what some would call a lie.

“Hate crime legislation today is being used in our own country and around the world to prohibit Christians from expressing their beliefs” said Moore in his “What’s not to Love about Hate Crimes” column.

Don’t those Fred Phelps ministry people prove that argument false? Those are the folks who show up at funerals of gay people, and more recently, that is until they were chased off by the government, military members funerals. When they show up, not only do they express their beliefs, they hold signs and harass family members of the dead about their loved ones burning in hell. If that doesn’t show you that the First Amendment is alive and well, nothing will.

Judge Moore, an obvious attention monger, is the former boxer, former Etowah County Judge, former Governors candidate, who earned fame by installing a giant washing machine size replica of the ten commandments in the state’s Supreme Court building. When he was ordered to get rid of it, he refused, and soon, the Alabama Supreme Court building became a mecca for right wing disciples who came to the steps to pray, cry and sing, a vigil of sorts, in a state that has seen more political showdowns than Jerusalem. In the end, Moore’s challenge to the constitution failed, he was ousted from his office, and the now famous washing machine size concrete holy tablets were placed inside a giant janitorial closet. And, if Moore had his way, all the gays would be in there with it.

But, the gays are out and on the move. And it’s not hard to find somebody who would like to whip up on there heads. And, although Moore and those who subscribe to his beliefs would like to think violence that is motivated by the hatred of those who are different, including gay people, is not a serious problem, they are wrong.

In 2001, The National coalition of Anti Violence Programs, using data from just 25 cities or other jurisdictions from across the country, reported 1,965 incidents of hate bias crimes that were motivated by sexual orientation. But, a 2005 report compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics that analyzed over three years of statistics from the biannual National Crime Victimization Survey found that the level of hate crimes runs between 19 and 31 times higher than the actual numbers reported. One of the reasons hate crimes are underreported, has been linked to a lack of national uniform in the reporting process.

What Judge Moore fails to understand as he speaks his love the sinner hate the sin message, is that hate crimes laws also raise awareness, and serve as statements to the public including potential hate crime perpetrators, that people who are different from the majority, are worthy citizens, just like Roy Moore is, and that they are entitled to the same protections offered by the law. Unfortunately, in every corner of this nation, including a big city like New York, there are individuals who feel they can get away with inflicting violence upon those they feel are not worthy of those protections. Thousands of Lesbian and Gay people know this all to well. This is an unfortunate legacy and part of the baggage that comes with being gay in many societies, including America.

Judge Moore, while you may say that you are fighting for the right to “speak out in love” or as you analogized, that hate crimes legislation lead to an Orwellian mind control system, it appears more likely that you have a problem with homosexuality, and the very idea of sexual orientation being singled out as worthy of any legal protection, even protection from violence, all of this probably makes you very uncomfortable. On the other side, when the passions, reactions and whatever Politically correct finger pointing is checked at the door, and one has a closer look at your arguments, an even more baffling and disturbing picture emerges. Judge Moore, a devout Christian, is opposed to a bill that may, just might, prevent or at least cause an individual to think twice before he carries out an act of violence against a person that he thinks may be gay or lesbian. Judge Moore, who placed the largest model of ten-commandments, a book of laws handed down from God to Moses as he led his people to the promised land, is going to say that people should have the right to “speak out” against entire classes of people as you call it. Speaking out, my fellow Alabamian, was responsible for some of the most notorious hate motivated crimes in the civil rights movement, much of which took place in the heart of dixie. A number of people have would probably agree, that although he repented, George Wallace went to his grave with blood-stains on his lips from his speaking out during the early 1960’s, as he gave a verbal wink and a nod, to violence.

So Judge Moore, please re think your loving argument, and realize, that no one is asking you to accept anyone’s lifestyle, they are only asking that every citizen have the same dignity and with that dignity, a message to the community, that violence motivated by hate, is especially wrong.