Friday, November 25, 2005

Busch Stadium Going Down

I was in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago for a conference. I hadn't been to any such event in a long while - not since library days. Now that's a whole 'nother story, partying librarians. More on that later.

I shared a room with another teacher from a school across town. We got along just fine except for the fact that I had trouble sleeping both nights - probably due to the fact that it was just a strange place, and I'm a light sleeper.

Anyway, I was wide awake both mornings at the crack of dawn, and proceeded to explore downtown St. Louis before the city was awake. It was surprising how few cars and pedestrians were out and about at 6:00 a.m. I swear I saw a coyote walking around down by the arch, and several rabbits hopping around the hotel grounds.

No matter what direction I walked, I was always drawn toward Busch Stadium. Crews were working around the clock wrecking the historic landmark. Though I have never been a big Cardinals fan, I have spent many an hour watching some great baseball at Busch. The arch was a glistening backdrop to perfect symmetry of stadium roof. The pictures don't do it justice.

Next door to old Busch is the new Busch - a stadium built on the model of Camden Yard, a brand new vintage-style baseball field that looks older than the one it replaces. I guess it's a sign of the times that the new stadium will actually seat fewer baseball fans, but stadium revenue is expected to increase due to the construction of larger corporate clubs and boxes. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Missouri taxpayers footed a good deal of the bill for this demolition/construction - but fewer of them will be able to buy tickets to watch a game.

So, here are the early morning pics of the old space-aged Busch coming down. The wrecking ball was banging away, crushing concrete into dust clouds.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

CIA Provided Bush Accurate Intel on 9/21/01

On September 21, 2001 - ten days after the 9/11 attacks - president Bush received a highly classified report from the CIA regarding possible links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. I read about this interesting bit of pre-war intelligence in a piece written by Murray Waas for the National Journal.

While the CIA and FBI took a lot of heat for not doing a better job of tracking the 9/11 terrorists before the attack, the CIA did provide what turned out to be very accurate information regarding the absence of a Saddam/Al Qaeda conspiracy leading up to the 9/11 attack.

It is becoming clear that the Bush administration was intent on cherry-picking their intelligence reports to back up their call for war. When the largest intelligence organization in the world didn't give them what they wanted, Cheney and Co. took their sources from wherever they could. Their groping around for threads from foreign spy networks led them to base some important pieces of their pro-war propaganda campaign on forged documents that somehow circumvented CIA inspection and were sent directly to the White House from some shady Italian spy-for-hire. The document was suppose to confirm that Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase yellow-cake uranium from a contact in Niger. This was the basis from Bush's dramatic "mushroom cloud" warning in his state of the union address (and the beginnings of Plamegate).

Another source was an Iraqi citizen who was interviewed and given a lie detector test by the CIA (more on this in a interesting Rolling Stone piece). This individual, code-named Curveball, supposedly had worked in the Iraqi chemical industry and was desperately trying to obtain a German visa. In his efforts to ingratiate himself with American and German authorities, he gave them what turned out to be totally fabricated information about Saddam's mobile chemical labs and plans to stockpile chemical weapons. Some of this guy's tall tale found its way into Colin Powell's speech before the United Nations - a speech he now regretably describes as "a real low point".

Here's another interesting snippet from the National Journal piece:

"One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources."

According to the CIA, not only was Saddam not working with Al Qaeda, he was trying to figure out ways to keep militant religious fanaticism out of Iraq. The irony is thick when we now see how George Bush and Co. toppled Saddam's secular (albeit unfriendly) regime only to inspire the movement of thousands of Al Qaeda recruits onto Iraqi soil - and for his effort, Iraq is now the terrorist capital of the world.

(For more thoughts on selective intelligence - how the Bush Admin. sliced and diced intelligence leading up to the invasion of Iraq - take a look The Misleaders from Slate.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Words of Wisdom from Jimmy Carter

I remember when this guy was president. He was basically run out of town by his own party when he tried to buck party traditions - sort of backfired on the dems when Ronald Reagan swept to power in 1980. Carter came to Springfield on that election day, and I went to see him at the airport. Not many people showed up, of course. Everybody knew he was going to lose, including Carter himself.

I've always respected old Jimmy. He was a knowledgeable and thoughtful man - an honest man. He was ridiculed for his beliefs at a time when politicians didn't wear their religion on their sleeve. Now, he is starting to speak out about the mixing of religion and politics and the lack of moral and ethical leadership from the GOP and the Bush administration. Here's a link to his editorial in the L. A. Times entitled: This Isn't the Real America.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

State of the Union

A friend at work who happens to be a Republican said an odd thing to me the other day.
"I guess you're feeling pretty good about all the trouble Bush is in right now," he said. I felt a little insulted, since he was attributing what I consider a Republican character trait to me - petty political vindictiveness. It always seemed to me that the GOP was the party that would stop at nothing to destroy political opponents - ala Bill Clinton, whose own "scandals" (Whitewater - in which he was accused of losing several thousand dollars in a screwed up land deal; Travelgate, where Clinton appointed friends to White House travel office positions, gasp!); somehow evolved, through the office of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr via office gossip Linda Tripp, to a case that eventually had the leader of the free world lying about blow jobs in the Oval Office. The result: for only the second time in American history, a president was impeached. Over what? Tell me again how many lives were lost in all these terrible "scandals"?

I remember the frothing indignation that reigned supreme in the halls of Congress during Clinton's second term. The GOP literally put their own political agenda ahead of national security during those years. I blame them for distracting an entire nation over petty political vindictiveness - and all this while Osama bin Laden was building a terror network centered in Afghanistan.

Then, after the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to George Bush (even though he lost the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes), we see an opportunistic group of shadowy right-wing foreign policy wonks take control of an administration and set about to knowingly dupe Congress and the American public, utilizing trumped up fear-mongering and forged intelligence documents, into an unprecedented pre-emptive war against a third world dictatorship that posed no threat whatsoever to this country (but did possess huge oil reserves).

This could only happen under the weak and blissfully arrogant "leadership" of a man like George W. Bush - a man who, according to the chief of staff of his own State Department was "not well versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either".

Even before 9/11, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their little cadre of neoconmen were hard at work planning the Iraqi invasion. They sold the idea to our clueless leader with remarkable ease ("He tried to kill my dad"), and the die was cast. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who was later fired for not towing the party line, was astounded by how, just ten days after the inauguration, discussion of regime change in Iraq monopolized the first cabinet meeting. "For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap," O'Neill later told an interviewer.

As the Bush administration ignored urgent warnings from counter-terrorist expert Richard Clarke and Arab leaders like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Cheney and Rumsfeld and their neocon buddies remained steadfast in their push to invade Iraq. They were confident, given past marketing successes, that the case for war against Iraq would be easy enough to sell. The war machine that they helped assemble during the Reagan/Bush years would easily and swiftly crush the Iraqi army, no problem there (Shock and Awe/Mission Accomplished, right?) - and the Iraqi people will welcome us with open arms. The problem was, the CIA was not able to produce any definitive evidence of immediate threats posed by Iraq.

What to do . . .

And then came 9/11 - the day that changed everything. A shocked nation looked to their president for leadership, and he filled this role well in the first few months. The invasion of Afghanistan made sense - this was the center of the terrorist universe, and the U.S. was universally supported in this military action. The Taliban was quickly defeated, terrorist bases were destroyed and Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants were on the run - and somebody in the Bush "braintrust" realized the window of opportunity had flown open. Would there ever be a better time to launch the assault on Baghdad? Many Democrats and even a few Republicans in Congress (not to mention Bush's own Secretary of State, Colin Powell) were instinctively against such a potentially disastrous foray into the heart of the Middle East, but only a few had the balls to speak up - many, like John Kerrey, chose to back the war out of political expediency, fearing their objections would be seen as unpatriotic.

Now, years later, we see the truth beginning to filter out, as it always does in time. No, I don't gain any satisfaction whatsoever that Bush is in trouble. I wish he had never gained high political office. He's a weak man who has always been bailed out when things didn't work out for him. This time, however, the stakes are just a bit higher. It just saddens and scares me that the American public can be so malleable, so easily duped, so easily led astray by a bunch of political ideologues linked to a very effective GOP propaganda machine. The end justifies the means with these people. They now openly condone torture, operate secret prisons, arrest and hold suspects without charging them - and think nothing of slaughtering politically anyone gets in their way. This is precisely how police states are manufactured, how tyrants gain power. I now know, without a doubt, that it can happen here. No, I couldn't care less what happens to George Bush. I worry about the world my kids will inherit.

The Words of a Prophet 2019 A.D.

Prophet of God I was called upon by God* today to visit a Christian church in Springfield, Missouri. I don't care if you don'...