Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It's definitely not what you know

From the "why am I not surprised" files...

Today's op-ed pages of the New York Times was replete with examples why this country is off its rocker. First there was the editorial explaining how Ohio looks more and more like a banana republic. The Republican nominee for governor there is Kenneth Blackwell. He is also the secretary of state. If the name sounds familiar it's probably because Blackwell was the c-chairman of President Bush's Ohio campaign in 2004. Remember all the trouble with voting machings, the number of machines in Democratic areas, the disqualifying of voters, the eight hour waits in line to vote? All courtesy of Ken Blackwell. Well here we go again. There is phony claim that the Democratic nominee for Governor has a residency problem, not that he doesn't live in Ohio rather that he has more than one home and it's about where he is registered to vote. Experts who aren't running for governor as the Republican nominee say it's not an issue but guess who could "rule his opponent is ineligible to run"? If you guessed Ken Blackwell you'd be right. The county board has ruled 2 to 2 on party lines (what a surprise) to hold a hearing. The matter is now before Mr. Blackwell who claims he won't rule on the matter to avoid any conflict but his assistant will. Any bets on what happens? It's just over folks. The integrity of elections are gone. Secretaries of state like Ken Blackwell or Kathrine Harris who co-chair election campaigns but who also run the elections makes as much sense as appointing Mel Gibson our ambassador to Israel. We had a good run for 230 years but all good things must come to an end.

The I turn the page and there is an opinion piece written by Jeff Stein the national security editor at Congressional Quarterly. During his interviews with people in Congress or say the F.B.I. he asks them a simple question, "Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?" He explains it's not a "gotcha" question, "[a]fter all, wouldn't British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants?" His conclusion after doing this for a while -- "most American officials...don't have a clue." In 2005 during a deposition brought by an Arab-American FBI whistleblower the bureau's counterterrorism chief, Gary Bald, was asked whether he knew the difference between Sunni and Shia. Bald answered, "You don't need subject matter expertise...The subject matter expertise is helpful, but it isn't a prerequisite. It is certainly not what I look for in selecting an official for a position in the counterterrorism [program].” A few weeks ago Stein asked the FBI's new chief of its national security branch, Willie Hulon, who runs Iran, Sunnis or Shiites? Hulon knew Iran and Hezollah were together but when pressed, "He took a stab: Sunni. Wrong. Al Qaeda? Sunni. Right." Yes, I'll sleep soundly tonight knowing the top counterterror guys in the U.S. have a 50-50 chance of getting it right.

Then there are the members of congress. From Stein's opinion piece, "Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence. 'Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?'" Everett answered, "One's in one location, another's in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don't know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something." Hold on a moment folks while I pick my jaw off the floor. Another "tough on terror" Republican, Representative Jo Ann Davis from Virginia who "heads a House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.'s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, was similarly dumbfounded when [Stein] asked her if she knew the difference between Sunnis and Shiites." Answering, and reminding me of the saying," it's better to be thought of as a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt," Davis opened her mouth and removed the doubt. "You know I should. It's the difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunnis are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa. But I think it's the Sunnis who're more radical than the Shia." Gee I wonder who she beat to get elected? Has to be someone born without a brain.

So there you have it. Corruption and incompetence in two pages of the Times. I think rather than trying to think how to fix the problem or waste my time worrying about it, I think I'll take the path of least resistence and just not read the New York Times anymore. As soon as I have no idea who is who or what is what in the world I'll be ready to chair an intelligence subcommittee in the House or apply to become chief of the F.B.I.'s counterterrorism division. Sleep tight.

3 Comments:

Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

Bush didn't know the difference for a long time either and I'm still not sure he does. Since he's playing a shell game, it wouldn't serve his purpose anyway. It's better to call them all "tare-ists" or evil-doers.

Blur the details enough and anything looks like anything. Confuse one group with another and it doesn't matter if you atack the wrong one. So Bush can attack an Iraqi secular Sunni leader for an attack by the Shia from SAudi Arabia and Egypt. It's just like blaming the Chinese for Pearl Harbor.

But I'm not criticizing Bush or his government - not at all - not since he now has the license to kill me for it. I just love Bush.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Heil Bush!

9:38 AM  
Blogger Ellen Beth said...

There are election issues in our very own county. Lake County clerk, Willard Helander, has been known to wear partisan t-shirts while registering voters...a huge no no and informing people whose absentee ballots were challenged months after an election.

9:40 AM  

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