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“Politicians are dumb everywhere. There are very few smart, well-meaning politicians.”
– Hecubus

That is a quote from little old me from this story concerning Chicago’s ban on The Nativity Story advertising. As much as I believe that statement, little did I predict that a politician would emerge this quickly and demonstrate so thoroughly his lack of knowledge in matters he had better well have a near-expert understanding. Please meet your new Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Silvestre Reyes, Democrat from Texas, a man who possesses an obvious flair for the obtuse.

Below is an interview conducted by Jeff Stein for the Congressional Quarterly. In his time with the incoming HIC Chairman, Stein asked some fairly basic, and fairly simple questions concerning Islam, Iraq, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. Reyes’ mental acuity is shocking–not in what he knows, but in what he doesn’t (but certainly should) know.

[Of course, Republicans prooved just as moronic in a previous interview under similar circumstances, but they don’t head the House Intelligence Committee either. ]

Now you may say to yourself, “Well, I don’t know all the answers,” or “those are some pretty tough questions.” That’s fine. But your job doesn’t likely require you to know all of the answers to the questions posed by Stein. It’s disturbing that the soon to be leader of the House Intelligence Committee, whose job it is to be intimately familiar with subjects and issues such as Islam, Iraq, Shiites vs. Sunnis, and al-Qaeda, has barely a clue as to what those concepts and entities entail. Reyes doesn’t even do a passable job stumbling his way through the interview with the typical politicized pat answers that all politicians practice religiously when standing in front of a mirror.

But in all honesty, the questions in the interview are not difficult to anyone who keeps up with current world events, and I found myself becoming very angry with Reyes and the intellectual vacuum in which he resides . This man has no clue, and he has no right to sit as Chairman for a committee whose expertise lies in the areas in which he was queried.

Oh well, Nancy Pelosi picks another winner to lead the nation. She would have been much better off choosing Reps. Jane Harman (Calif.), who does have the understanding and expertise necessary for the Chairman post, but Pelosi’s personal issues with Harman prevented her from making the right choice. Way to go, Pelosi.

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Democrats’ New Intelligence Chairman Needs a Crash Course on al Qaeda

Forty years ago, Sgt.
Silvestre Reyes was a helicopter crew chief flying dangerous combat missions in South Vietnam from the top of a soaring rocky outcrop near the sea called Marble Mountain.

After the war, it turned out that the communist Viet Cong had tunneled into the hill and built a combat hospital right beneath the skids of Reyes’ UH-1 Huey gunship.

Now the five-term Texas Democrat, 62, is facing similar unpleasant surprises about the enemy, this time as the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

That’s because, like a number of his colleagues and top counterterrorism officials that I’ve interviewed over the past several months, Reyes can’t answer some fundamental questions about the powerful forces arrayed against us in the Middle East.

It begs the question, of course: How can the Intelligence Committee do effective oversight of U.S. spy agencies when its leaders don’t know basics about the battlefield?

To his credit, Reyes, a kindly, thoughtful man who also sits on the Armed Service Committee, does see the undertows drawing the region into chaos.

For example, he knows that the 1,400- year-old split in Islam between Sunnis and Shiites not only fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq, it drives the competition for supremacy across the Middle East between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.

That’s more than two key Republicans on the Intelligence Committee knew when I interviewed them last summer. Rep.
Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and
Terry Everett, R-Ala., both back for another term, were flummoxed by such basic questions, as were several top counterterrorism officials at the FBI.

I thought it only right now to pose the same questions to a Democrat, especially one who will take charge of the Intelligence panel come January. The former border patrol agent also sits on the Armed Services Committee.

Reyes stumbled when I asked him a simple question about al Qaeda at the end of a 40-minute interview in his office last week. Members of the Intelligence Committee, mind you, are paid $165,200 a year to know more than basic facts about our foes in the Middle East.

We warmed up with a long discussion about intelligence issues and Iraq. And then we veered into terrorism’s major players.

To me, it’s like asking about Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland: Who’s on what side?

The dialogue went like this:

Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?

“Al Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Predominantly — probably Shiite,” he ventured.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.

That’s because the extremist Sunnis who make up a l Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.

Al Qaeda’s Sunni roots account for its very existence. Osama bin Laden and his followers believe the Saudi Royal family besmirched the true faith through their corruption and alliance with the United States, particularly allowing U.S. troops on Saudi soil.

It’s been five years since these Muslim extremists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center.

Is it too much to ask that our intelligence overseers know who they are?

Civil War

And Hezbollah? I asked him. What are they?

“Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah…”

He laughed again, shifting in his seat.

“Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?”

“Poquito,” I said—a little.

“Poquito?! “ He laughed again.

“Go ahead,” I said, talk to me about Sunnis and Shia in Spanish.

Reyes: “Well, I, uh….”

I apologized for putting him “on the spot a little.” But I reminded him that the people who have killed thousands of Americans on U.S. soil and in the Middle East have been front page news for a long time now.

It’s been 23 years since a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed over 200 U.S. military personnel in Beirut, mostly Marines.

Hezbollah, a creature of Iran, is close to taking over in Lebanon. Reports say they are helping train Iraqi Shiites to kill Sunnis in the spiralling civil war.

“Yeah,” Reyes said, rightly observing, “but . . . it’s not like the Hatfields and the McCoys. It’s a heck of a lot more complex.

“And I agree with you — we ought to expend some effort into understanding them. But speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Reyes is not alone.

The best argument for needing to understand who’s what in the Middle East is probably the mistaken invasion itself, despite the preponderance of expert opinion that it was a terrible idea — including that of Bush’s father and his advisers. On the day in 2003 when Iraqi mobs toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Bush was said to be unaware of the possibility that a Sunni-Shia civil war could fill the power vacuum, according to a reliable source with good White House connections.

If President Bush and some of his closest associates, not to mention top counterterrorism officials, have demonstrated their own ignorance about who the players are in the Middle East, why should we expect the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee to get it right?
Trent Lott, the veteran Republican senator from Mississippi, said only last September that “It’s hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what’s wrong with these people.”

“Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion?” wondered Lott, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after a meeting with Bush.

“Why do they hate the Israelis and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference?

“They all look the same to me,” Lott said.

Haunting

The administration’s disinterest in the Arab world has rattled down the chain of command.

Only six people in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad are fluent in Arabic, according to last week’s report of the Iraq Study Group. Only about two dozen of the embassy’s thousand employees have some familiarity with the language, the report said.

The Iraq Study Group was amazed to find that, despite spending $2 billion on Iraq in 2006, more wasn’t being done to try “to understand the people who fabricate, plant and explode roadside bombs.”

Rare is the military unit with an American soldier who can read a captured document or interrogate a prisoner, my own sources tell me.

It was that way in Vietnam, too, Reyes says, which “haunts us.”

“If you substitute Arabization for Vietnamization, if you substitute . . . our guys going in and taking over a place then leaving it and the bad guys come back in. . . .”

He trails off, despairing.

“I could draw many more analogies.”

Yet Reyes says he favors sending more troops there.

“If it’s going to target the militias and eliminate them, I think that’s a worthwhile investment,” he said.

It’s hard to find anybody in Iraq who thinks the U.S. can do that.

On “a temporary basis, I’m willing to ramp them up by twenty or thirty thousand . . . for, I don’t know, two months, four months, six months — but certainly that would be an exception,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, the killing is going on below decks, too, within Sunni and Shiite groups and factions.

Anybody who pays serious attention to Iraq knows that.

Reyes says his first hearings come January will focus on how U.S. intelligence can do a better job helping the troops in Iraq.

It may be way too late for that.

“Stop giving me tests!” Reyes exclaimed, half kidding.

“I’m not going to talk to you any more!”

Queries Vex New Chair of Intelligence

Reuters
Tuesday, December 12, 2006; Page A07

The incoming Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee could not describe Hezbollah and incorrectly described al-Qaeda‘s Islamic roots in a recent interview.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), whom incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) named earlier this month to chair the panel, formally known as the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was asked by a reporter from Congressional Quarterly whether al-Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite. “Predominantly — probably Shiite,” Reyes replied.

From Osama bin Laden down, al-Qaeda’s leadership is comprehensively Sunni and subscribes to a form of Sunni Islam known for not tolerating theological deviation.

In fact, U.S. officials blame al-Qaeda’s late leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for the surge in sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

Asked to describe the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, according to a story published online Friday, Reyes responded “Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah” and then said, “Why do you ask me these questions at 5 o’clock?”

The Texas congressman later added: “Speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Reyes, a former Border Patrol agent and an opponent of the Iraq war, was chosen for the intelligence committee post over the panel’s two top-ranking Democrats, Reps. Jane Harman (Calif.) and Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.).

Reyes’s office issued a statement yesterday noting that the interview covered a wide range of topics.

“As a member of the intelligence committee since before 9/11, I’m acutely aware of al-Qaeda’s desire to harm Americans. The intelligence committee will keep its eye on the ball and focus on the pressing security and intelligence issues facing us,” Reyes said in the statement.

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For those who believe that all of the illegal immigration protests of late last Spring and early summer were not detrimental to the pro-illegal immigrant movement, aside from the obvious evidence, one need only look to the recent smack down that transpired with Assembly Appropriations Committee in the Democratic Assembly last week concerning the re-up of the always-doomed-to-fail drivers licenses for illegal immigrants bill (SB1160), brought to the floor once again, and for the seventh time by Senator, moron, and illegal immigration supporter, Gil Cedillio. Well, at least he’s persistent.

Senate Bill 1160 died earlier than anyone expected. The fact that it died in the AAC must be a huge slap to the face of moron Cedillio, especially since the previous iteration of the bill made it all the way to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk the preceding year before it was terminated by our state leader. There wasn’t even vote. Oh yeah, Cedillo’s pissed. See?

“It is absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “My intention and my commitment is to move this bill to the floor. We have the right to have this bill debated, voted on, and moved to the governor’s desk.”

Senator Moron, sorry to burst your the little bubble you live in where illegals dance in gumdrop fields with cotton-candy clouds and rainbows where leprechauns stash their pots ‘o gold, but that isn’t going to happen, at least before elections in November, and most likely until the end of the year. The Republicans and the Democrats both know that this is the politically charged issue in California this year. They will not jeopardize their positions, especially for your moronic propositions.

From the SacBee

…in order for the legislation to be resurrected, the Appropriations Committee would have to meet again — which is unlikely because that would require a two-thirds vote of the Assembly.

Another interesting comment came from Cedillio’s fellow moron, Assemblywoman, Judy Chu, a Democrat from Monterey Park.

She said, “I held the bill with hopes that the Legislature can come back later when the issue can be dispassionately discussed in a way that will allow us to solve the difficult and myriad public safety problems posed by unlicensed drivers and counterfeit IDs.”

Um, the debate on illegal immigrants’ right to apply for a California drivers license is a passionate one. Judy, there will never be a time when this issue can be discussed sans passion. Rationally perhaps. But minus passion? Of course not.

And here’s a suggestion. Upon finding illegal alien unlicensed drivers, arrest them. Maybe even, god forbid, deport them. If there’s one thing I and many other Los Angeles residents noticed during the Day Without an Immigrant protests, the freeways ran smoothly and efficiently. Congestion was no where to be seen on most LA highways. It was a glorious day. I say, bring on more protests.

Moron Cedillio was of course pissed at his fellow Dems including Judy, and the infamous Speaker Moron, illegal alien lover, and general insano, Fabian Nunez who surprisingly sided with the majority in this instance by agreeing to shelve SB1160, at least for the time being. Nunez may be a moron, but he isn’t entirely stupid. He knows as well as anyone, even though, and especially because he’s a member of the Green Party, that elections are swiftly approaching, and if he wishes to maintain a hold on his position some political acquiescence will be prudent.

But ultimately, why did the Dems decide not to vote to pass this if-you’re-in-support-of-it-you’re-insane bill? Because even though they know that if it were to find its way to the governor’s desk, there would be no way in hell Schwarzenegger would ever sign into law such a ridiculous bill. He’s already proven as much by vetoing the same bill last year. And those legislators who support the bill in their little illegal alien loving hearts, fully understand that the majority of California voters, not to be confused with California residents, are adamantly opposed to licenses for illegals.

Oh, but isn’t the governor’s seat up for grabs this November as well? Don’t illegal immigrants and their supporters have a hope that this bill will be passed if someone else were to become the new California Governor? Hardly. Despite the fact that the moron Phil Angelides supports driver licenses for illegals, the issue is moot because there’s no way in hell he will win in the upcoming gubernatorial election. The man is too out of touch. Of course, there’s a chance I’ll be proven wrong, but somehow, I seriously believe that I will be proven right in the end. The incumbent will continue his reign as Governor, and as a result, no drivers licenses for illegals.

More from the SacBee…

…Cedillo argued there has never been a better time for the legislation, comparing it to civil rights laws that passed during the height of passions in the 1960s.

“This is the best year to move this bill, (which) has the broadest support it has ever had,” he said.

“In the spring, millions of people marched for the rights of immigrants, including driver’s licenses.”

Hello! Cedillo, you are truly a moron. How can this bill have “the broadest support it has ever had” if it didn’t even make it to a vote on the assembly floor? It was scooped like poop from a litter box and flushed down the toilet. How much less support can there possibly be for your precious SB1160?

Apparently, and as I’ve said, there was an enormous backlash due to the illegal immigration protests and marches last Spring as was made evident concerning this issue and how quickly it was stamped out on the Assembly floor.

And speaking of marches, protests, rallies, and circus sideshows, it looks as if we’re in for more this coming Labor Day, courtesy of, once more, “Larry” Nativo Lopez. Again, I was very pleased with all of the protests/marches because they managed to illuminate to many Californians and Los Angeles citizens how detrimental illegal immigration is and continues to be to this state and this country. So bring on more protests, because you’re only hurting yourselves.

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Immigration politics stall license bill

By Aurelio Rojas — Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:01 am PDT Friday, August 18, 2006

Fearing a voter backlash this fall, Democratic lawmakers Thursday derailed legislation to allow illegal immigrants to obtain California driver’s licenses.For the eighth consecutive year, legislation pushed by state Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, that has provoked deep emotions on both sides of the immigration debate has apparently failed.

Unlike last year, when the legislation was vetoed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — who had vowed to do so again — Democrats in the Assembly pre-emptively shelved Senate Bill 1160.

This time, the measure died without a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

“My intention and expectations are to move the bill to the (Assembly) floor and to the governor’s desk as soon as possible,” Cedillo said.

But in order for the legislation to be resurrected, the Appropriations Committee would have to meet again — which is unlikely because that would require a two-thirds vote of the Assembly.

Cedillo blamed Speaker Fabian Núñez and election-year politics for Thursday’s development. A spokesman for Núñez said the decision was made by Assemblywoman Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park.

“My understanding is, it was the decision of the appropriations chair not to bring up the bill,” Núñez spokesman Richard Stapler said.

In a prepared statement, Chu noted that she has voted for the legislation several times because it would improve public safety.

“However, it has come to a point where a rational, productive debate on the issue on the floor is now highly unlikely,” she said.

“I held the bill with hopes that the Legislature can come back later when the issue can be dispassionately discussed in a way that will allow us to solve the difficult and myriad public safety problems posed by unlicensed drivers and counterfeit IDs.”

Earlier this month, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who supported the bill, suggested it might be wise not to give more fodder to Republicans who oppose the measure.

Democrats in tight legislative races also feared they could feel the wrath of voters if they voted for the bill in the charged atmosphere surrounding illegal immigration this year.

State Treasurer Phil Angelides, the Democratic nominee for governor, has endorsed the measure.

But Cedillo argued there has never been a better time for the legislation, comparing it to civil rights laws that passed during the height of passions in the 1960s.

“This is the best year to move this bill, (which) has the broadest support it has ever had,” he said.

“In the spring, millions of people marched for the rights of immigrants, including driver’s licenses.”

SB 1160 would create special driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants that have a different appearance from regular licenses.

The immigrant licenses would not be valid for identification or purposes other than driving.

Republicans contend issuing such licenses would weaken efforts to stop illegal immigration. In 2002, Gov. Gray Davis signed another license bill introduced by Cedillo that would have allowed illegal immigrants to obtain regular licenses.

But during the 2003 campaign in which Davis was recalled, Schwarzenegger criticized the measure.

Shortly after he was elected, Schwarzenegger signed a bill repealing it, saying he would sign a revised version as long as it contained stronger security provisions.

Last year, however, Schwarzenegger said he wanted to wait until rules are developed under the federal Real ID Act of 2005, which requires every state to issue driver’s licenses that comply with a national standard.

His administration is still awaiting formulation of the regulations.

Cedillo argues the Real ID Act allows illegal immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. He maintains that the governor has the authority to come up with a compromise in the interim.

“My bill conforms to federal law,” he said, noting illegal immigrants would not receive regular licenses. “I’m going to keep fighting for it.”

Illegal-immigrant license bill crashes

By Edwin GarciaMEDIANEWS SACRAMENTO BUREAU
Inside Bay Area

SACRAMENTO — California’s illegal immigrants won’t get a chance to apply for driver’s licenses anytime soon, based on the surprising decision Thursday by a powerful legislative committee that effectively shelves the measure yet again.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee, which typically announces decisions with little discussion and without a roll call vote, put the measure on hold. In political lingo, however, the action signifies the bill has all but died — unless committee members agree to reconsider over the next two weeks, which typically doesn’t happen.

This was the seventh time in seven years that Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, tried to pass the measure, which would establish a special license for the state’s more than 2 million undocumented drivers.

His most recent efforts have been passed by the Legislature only to be vetoed by governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis. This time the bill was shot down by a Democratic-controlled committee.

Political insiders suggested the measure was too controversial for an election year. The bill is opposed by Republicans — and a majority of voters — who say it would reward people breaking immigration law.

Republican Schwarzenegger, who is running for re-election, has said he would veto the bill. His Democratic opponent, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, supports the measure.

Appropriations committee chairwoman Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, said she “strongly supports” the public safety premise behind the bill, but said a “rational, productive debate” on the Assembly floor was unlikely.

“I held the bill with hopes that the Legislature can come back later when the issue can be dispassionately discussed in a way that will allow us to solve the difficult and myriad public safety problems posed by unlicensed drivers and counterfeit ID’s,” Chu said in an e-mailed statement.

“As far as I am concerned, this issue is not dead and I would encourage my colleagues to continue to advocate for a fair and sensible solution.”

The response angered Cedillo.

“It is absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “My intention and my commitment is to move this bill to the floor. We have the right to have this bill debated, voted on, and moved to the governor’s desk.”

Assemblyman Chuck Devore, R-Irvine, said the committee made the right move, considering the bill is unpopular with the voting public. Slightly more than half of California’s adults oppose giving licenses to illegal immigrants, according to a Field Poll released in March.

“I think they understand this is a little bit of a political hot potato,” Devore said.

Mike Spence, who has led a statewide effort to bar illegal immigrants from receiving licenses, was surprised the committee held the measure, SB1160, which previously was approved by the full Senate.

“Obviously they know that a majority of Californians oppose licenses for illegals,” said Spence, president of the California Republican Assembly. “And they didn’t want to give the governor an issue in vetoing it, because they know this hurts Angelides because he’s on the wrong side of immigration in California.”

The national president of the Mexican American Political Association chided Democrats for keeping the bill from moving forward.

“They represent themselves as the party of opposition to anti-immigrant politics of the Republicans and they’re demonstrating that they’re no different in essence,” said Nativo Lopez, who belongs to the Green Party.

Jose Sandoval, who has led a San Jose-based drive to gather thousands of signatures in support of licenses, said the effort organized by Voluntarios de la Comunidad will continue.

“The people are going to feel very sad about this situation,” he said, “but they won’t give up.”

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