Monday, December 19, 2005

Drunken Santas run riot in Auckland - Dec 17, 2005 A group of 40 people dressed in Santa Claus outfits, many of them drunk, went on a rampage through Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, robbing stores, assaulting security guards and urinating from highway overpasses, police said Sunday.

The rampage, dubbed "Santarchy," began early Saturday afternoon when the men, wearing ill-fitting Santa costumes, threw beer bottles and urinated on cars from an overpass...

Independent Online Edition > Environment

Last June, September and October were all logged as the warmest ever, world-wide. The past 10 years are all in the warmest 10 ever recorded, apart from 1996 whose place is taken by 1990.

This year Arctic sea ice dropped to its smallest ever extent, the Atlantic suffered a record hurricane season and an unprecedented drought reduced the flow of the Amazon to its lowest ever level. Canada and Australia had their hottest ever weather this year, while India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria suffered heatwaves touching 50C.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Importing Bushocracy to Iraq

Planting stories and bribing reporters in Iraq - why not it's what the Busheviks do here as well: U.S. plants propaganda to tout democracy in Iraq - Americas - International Herald Tribune

Science News Article |

LONDON (Reuters) - The Atlantic Conveyor, a life-giving ocean current that keeps northern Europe warm, is slowing down, scientists said on Wednesday.

If the 30 percent slowdown seen over the past 12 years is not just a blip, temperatures in northern Europe could drop significantly, despite global warming, they added.

Scientists have long forecast that the Atlantic Conveyor that carries warm surface water north and cold deep water back to the equator could break down because of global warming.

According to the theory, rising air temperatures cause ice caps to melt, making the water less salty and therefore less dense so it can't sink and flow back south.

The scientists on Wednesday said this was the first time that observations had put flesh on the bones of the theory.

"This is the first time we have observed a change in the current on a human timescale," oceanographer Harry Bryden said, noting that it had completely shut down during the ice ages.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

This Season's War Cry: Commercialize Christmas, or Else - New York Times

Christmas's self-proclaimed defenders are rewriting the holiday's history. They claim that the "traditional" American Christmas is under attack by what John Gibson, another Fox anchor, calls "professional atheists" and "Christian haters." But America has a complicated history with Christmas, going back to the Puritans, who despised it. What the boycotters are doing is not defending America's Christmas traditions, but creating a new version of the holiday that fits a political agenda.

The Puritans considered Christmas un-Christian, and hoped to keep it out of America. They could not find Dec. 25 in the Bible, their sole source of religious guidance, and insisted that the date derived from Saturnalia, the Roman heathens' wintertime celebration. On their first Dec. 25 in the New World, in 1620, the Puritans worked on building projects and ostentatiously ignored the holiday. From 1659 to 1681 Massachusetts went further, making celebrating Christmas "by forbearing of labor, feasting or in any other way" a crime.

The concern that Christmas distracted from religious piety continued even after Puritanism waned. In 1827, an Episcopal bishop lamented that the Devil had stolen Christmas "and converted it into a day of worldly festivity, shooting and swearing." Throughout the 1800's, many religious leaders were still trying to hold the line. As late as 1855, New York newspapers reported that Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist churches were closed on Dec. 25 because "they do not accept the day as a Holy One." On the eve of the Civil War, Christmas was recognized in just 18 states.

Christmas gained popularity when it was transformed into a domestic celebration, after the publication of Clement Clarke Moore's "Visit from St. Nicholas" and Thomas Nast's Harper's Weekly drawings, which created the image of a white-bearded Santa who gave gifts to children. The new emphasis lessened religious leaders' worries that the holiday would be given over to drinking and swearing, but it introduced another concern: commercialism. By the 1920's, the retail industry had adopted Christmas as its own, sponsoring annual ceremonies to kick off the "Christmas shopping season."

Religious leaders objected strongly. The Christmas that emerged had an inherent tension: merchants tried to make it about buying, while clergymen tried to keep commerce out. A 1931 Times roundup of Christmas sermons reported a common theme: "the suggestion that Christmas could not survive if Christ were thrust into the background by materialism." A 1953 Methodist sermon broadcast on NBC - typical of countless such sermons - lamented that Christmas had become a "profit-seeking period." This ethic found popular expression in "A Charlie Brown Christmas." In the 1965 TV special, Charlie Brown ignores Lucy's advice to "get the biggest aluminum tree you can find" and her assertion that Christmas is "a big commercial racket," and finds a more spiritual way to observe the day.

This year's Christmas "defenders" are not just tolerating commercialization - they're insisting on it. They are also rewriting Christmas history on another key point: non-Christians' objection to having the holiday forced on them.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

An Open Letter To Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald From Former White House Counsel John W. Dean

...Even more troubling, from an historical point of view, is the fact that the narrowness of your investigation, which apparently is focusing on the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (making it a crime to uncover the covert status of a CIA agent), plays right into the hands of perpetrators in the Administration.

Indeed, this is exactly the plan that was employed during Watergate by those who sought to conceal the Nixon Administration's crimes, and keep criminals in office.

The plan was to keep the investigation focused on the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters -- and away from the atmosphere in which such an action was undertaken. Toward this end, I was directed by superiors to get the Department of Justice to keep its focus on the break-in, and nothing else.

That was done. And had Congress not undertaken its own investigation (since it was a Democratically-controlled Congress with a Republican President) it is very likely that Watergate would have ended with the conviction of those caught in the bungled burglary and wiretapping attempt at the Democratic headquarters.

Now, with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican President, you (a Republican appointee) are the last bulwark of protection for the American people. We must hope you will keep faith with them.... The Man Who Sold the War

The road to war in Iraq led through many unlikely places. One of them was a chic hotel nestled among the strip bars and brothels that cater to foreigners in the town of Pattaya, on the Gulf of Thailand. On December 17th, 2001, in a small room within the sound of the crashing tide, a CIA officer attached metal electrodes to the ring and index fingers of a man sitting pensively in a padded chair. The officer then stretched a black rubber tube, pleated like an accordion, around the man's chest and another across his abdomen. Finally, he slipped a thick cuff over the man's brachial artery, on the inside of his upper arm.

Strapped to the polygraph machine was Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a forty-three-year-old Iraqi who had fled his homeland in Kurdistan and was now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein. For hours, as thin mechanical styluses traced black lines on rolling graph paper, al-Haideri laid out an explosive tale. Answering yes and no to a series of questions, he insisted repeatedly that he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad.

It was damning stuff -- just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That's why the Pentagon had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa.

The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon....
You know the drill... read the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

'Woodward Could Be a Boon to Libby'


I believe it was INTENDED as a boon to Libby and the White House writ large. In fact, it seems to me that Woodward's 'revelation' is merely the latest dirty trick to come down the pike.

Would Woodward burn his reputation as a journalist (which, we must admit, was already heavily tarnished among those who actually pay attention to such matters) on defending this White House? We already know the answer in Judy Miller's case... and I suspect the answer is the same for both: YES!


1) Ideologically Woodward had already cast his lot with the Bushites, just like Judy Miller. If you have doubts read his book "Bush at War."

2) Woodward cannot document any of the 'revelations' for which he is now apologizing, no contemporaneous notes, no contemporaneous mentions to anyone -- not even his editor. (Woodward did let his editor in on 'the secret' just one month ago... but for no apparent reason, other than setting up an alibi perhaps?!?) The one journalist he cites as having spoken to about this, Walter Pincus, dismissed it out of hand.
Pincus said he does not recall Woodward telling him that. In an interview, Pincus said he cannot imagine he would have forgotten such a conversation around the same time he was writing about Wilson.

"Are you kidding?" Pincus said. "I certainly would have remembered that."
3) His revelations are easily construed as an attempt to buttress the fairy tales peddled by the White House regarding the leak: the status of Wilson's wife was merely innocent gossip within DC circles, reporters knew early on, and there was no intense focus on Wilson and Plame or concerted attempt to intimidate the CIA via her exposure. (see the Washington Post story drawing these conclusions right here).
"I think it's a considerable boost to the defendant's case," said John Moustakas, a former federal prosecutor who has no role in the case. "It casts doubt about whether Fitzgerald knew everything as he charged someone with very serious offenses." Other legal experts agreed.

Moustakas said Woodward also has considerable credibility because he has been granted "unprecedented access" to the inner workings of the Bush White House. "When Woodward says this information was disclosed to me in a nonchalant and casual way -- not as if it was classified -- it helps corroborate Libby's account about himself and about the administration," Moustakas said.
Woodward's 'revelation' also casts doubt on prosecutor Fitgerald's grasp of the case, implying that key facts in the chronology of the leak are still unknown.

4) Did we mention that Woodward's 'cover' was blown by a 'Senior Administration Official"? Since when did a SAO do anything out of fairness or the public interest? This is coming out now because they believe Woodward's fabrications will help beat back Fitzgerald's investigation.

But why would a Woodward or Miller court public disgrace on behalf of the Bushites? Because both of them are 'true believers': they truly believe in the fundamentals of the Bushite governing philosophy. That philosophy holds that people are ignorant cattle who need to be manipulated by their betters for their own sake, that the world is a nasty place and nasty deeds must be done to make one's way through it successfully, and that the end justifies the means. Mayberry Machiavellis, meet your city cousins, the self-annointed DC elite! As their work and lack of basic journalistic ethics suggests, both Woodward and Miller consider themselves as a breed apart from their journalist 'peers': they consider themselves players, not mere reporters.

Sure, there will be a brief period of disgrace among the SoCalledLibrulMedia to endure, but from their perspective it is a small sacrifice to advance their 'ideals.' And in the end, they will be lionized by the Bushite faithful. Speaking of merely materialist payoffs, imagine some potential rewards that Woodward will extract in consequence of falling on his 'journalistic sword': the sole authorized biography of Bush perhaps...?

Bonus point: We only have Woodward's word (which, however you read the recent 'apology,' is now utterly worthless) that CIA director George Tenet ever said finding WMDs in Iraq would be a 'slam dunk.' What is the probative value of this statement today?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Here it is, an indictment that is so thorough as to serve as an indictment of an entire administration. As others have noted, either this was a conspiracy involving the entire top level of the Bushite regime or classified information was routinely and incompentently splashed about like so many soap suds in a bubble bath. Scooter's deliberate and repeated obstruction and perjury has sufficed to cloud the issue, but in and of itself it indicates that the former option is the prohibitive favorite. Of course, the Bushites are hoping instead that the dust Libby's criminal behavior has kicked up will allow them to portray themselves as 'merely' criminally incompetent rather than intent on treasonous criminality. Quite a situation, when those are your two options for explaining your own government's behavior, eh?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Informed Comment on Syria

Juan Cole is of the opinion that Syria may well have been fairly implicated in the UN report delivered by Detlev Mehlis. However, that does not mean that the Bushite drive to topple the Syrian regime is not being driven by NeoCon ambitions and Bush's own blasphemous beliefs regarding his role as Middle East Messiah. So we may be witnessing one incompentent, bloodyhanded regime tossing another incompetent, bloodyhanded regime a 'gift' in the form of a marketable rationale for another 'wag the dog' and 'rally round the flag' war.
Informed Comment: Some kind readers have requested that I say something about the report of UN-appointed German diplomat Detlev Mehlis concerning the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon. Mehlis is a careful and determined investigator and his findings, which fingered persons in the direct circle of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Asad, are explosive for the area....

Personally, I have been convinced by the series of bombings in Lebanon against anti-Syrian personalities (most recently May Shidyaq, the LBC journalist and interviewer), that high-level Syrian secret police officials are on a rampage. Whereas when Hariri was killed, his was only the second high-profile such assassination, and I found an al-Qaeda hit on him plausible (given his long association with the Saudi royal family), the subsequent string of such killings made that theory less and less likely. Mehlis's report seems to me highly credible. The only question left is whether al-Asad himself is implicated, or whether the Baathist Old Guard (which checked his reformist tendencies) has been operating behind his back. That his brother is implicated, as Mark LeVine says, is pretty damning, though.

The Bush administration wishes to take advantage of the scandal to push the Baath Party out of power. The likely successor in Syria, however, is the Muslim Brotherhood. If you had an MB state in Syria, it would certainly menace the stability of Jordan and very possibly of Saudi Arabia. You'd have a possible Fundamentalist Muslim Axis, stretching from Tehran to Basra to Damascus, then down to Amman and Maan, and over to Gaza. It would have problems of cohesion because of the Sunni-Shiite divide, but on issues like Israel the two can generally agree. Al-Sharaq al-Awsat had a piece not so long ago about how the Israelis had decided that having a weak Bashar al-Asad in power in Syria might be preferable to most likely alternatives. But Bush doesn't have the common sense of the Israeli officer corps, and is better at breaking things than gluing them together.

Who was the real target?

Here is some interesting speculation on the possible motives of the treasonous outing of Valerie Plame. Was it simply a case of Corleone Bush attempting to deliver a horse head to Wilson, thereby sending a more general message of intimidation to the CIA? Or was the CIA operation headed by Valerie Plame -- Brewster Jennings & Associates -- the real target? Their beat was investigating and countering the spread of WMDs and as such this operation would be in perfect position to debunk any false claims intended to mislead the country into war....

I will have to take a closer look at the allegations being pursued against Syria in the Hariri assassination in order to better gauge the validity of the changes and the potential veracity of the scenario discussed below:
Let Justice Be Done- by Justin Raimondo: Everyone assumes Libby and his co-conspirators were really after Wilson, but this now seems unwarranted, especially in light of Fitzgerald's reported focus on the Niger uranium forgeries. If this question of the forgeries is now within Fitzgerald's purview, it opens up the possibility that the conspirators really were after Plame on her own account. If Plame and her associates were hot on the trail of whoever forged the Niger uranium documents, by neutralizing Brewster Jennings & Associates the Libby cabal closed one possible route to uncovering their schemes – and opened up another one.

This drama is playing out in two theaters, one domestic and the other overseas. In Washington, the heavens are falling even before Fitzgerald issues so much as a single indictment, but they're also threatening to take a tumble in the Middle East. The U.S. is ratcheting up its campaign against Syria, even as the principal proponents of confronting Damascus – Libby, Hadley, Hannah, Wurmser, et al. – find themselves in Fitzgerald's sights. In effect, the prosecutor is running a race with the War Party: can they provoke a war with Syria before he brings charges?
OK, so I'm a little late to the party... Others have already identified long before now that there must be something other than mere revenge motivating the Bushites in this matter, something so toxic that they would rather issue mea culpas for insertng the fale uranium claim into Bush's 2003 state of the nation address rather than have things be investigated more thoroughly. And, as Swopa notes below, that is about the only time the Bushites have ever expressed any contrition (unless you count the grudging statements about Katrina, which were still hedged by grumbles about how 'unprecedented' a hurricane in the Gulf was). What could have been so toxic as to have led the Bushites to scream 'Uncle' just in order to change the topic? Perhaps deliberately forging 'evidence' (later referred to as being in the 'British report') intended to mislead the nation into war, a crime that is not only punishable but also treasonous?
As other observers have long since noted, what turned the Niger uranium story into a feeding frenzy in July 2003 wasn't that Joseph Wilson accused Dubya of saying something that wasn't true in his State of the Union speech -- it was that the Orwell Bush administration admitted it, something they had never done before and promptly decided never to do again.

So what prompted that isolated (and promptly orphaned) lapse of apparent honesty?...

Giving in to Wilson's criticism started a media firestorm about how the sentence got into the speech in the first place -- but apparently the Bushites preferred that to having people take a closer look at the "British report."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

We've Been Here Before

Anna Quindlen gets it... this is not about just one leak, it is about a perversion of our form of governance by using character assassination, cultivation of fear and deliberate intimidation to make a mockery of constitutional guarantees of democratic governance. What good is a a right to free speech if everyone is afraid to exercise if for fear of being labeled unpatriotic. It should be treason to lie a country into war, and if Prosecuter Fitzpatrick is as able as he is reputed, those guilty will soon be sweating it out under indictment.

During each election cycle, we ponder the question of whether character matters. Of course it does. Does anyone doubt that the continued prosecution of this war has to do with the personality of the commander in chief, a man who is stubborn and calls it strength, who wears blinders and calls it vision? When he vowed to invade Iraq, the advisers he heeded were those who, like him, had never seen combat. The one who had was marginalized and is now gone. The investigation of who leaked what to whom, of what the reporter knew and how she knew it, may be about national security and journalistic ethics, but at its base it is about something more important: the Nixonian lengths to which these people will go to shore up a bankrupt policy and destroy those who cross them on it.

The most unattractive trait of the American empire is American arrogance, which the president embodies and which this war elevated.

t r u t h o u t - Frank Rich: Karl and Scooter's Excellent Adventure

AS I mentioned at the time, a neglected but major impetus behind the Iraq War was the desire for a 'splendid' little war with which to cement the GOP's political hegemony. Frank Rich has kept his eye on this aspect of the emerging scandals. Iraq is about more than just oil or geopolitics or 'starving the beast' -- it is a GOP attempt to transform American politics for decades to come. American democracy as defined by the FDR's New Deal is the ultimate target of Bushite shock and awe.

For Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush to get what they wanted most, slam-dunk midterm election victories, and for Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney to get what they wanted most, a war in Iraq for reasons predating 9/11, their real whys for going to war had to be replaced by fictional, more salable ones. We wouldn't be invading Iraq to further Rovian domestic politics or neocon ideology; we'd be doing so instead because there was a direct connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda and because Saddam was on the verge of attacking America with nuclear weapons. The facts and intelligence had to be fixed to create these whys; any contradictory evidence had to be dismissed or suppressed.

Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney were in the boiler room of the disinformation factory. The vice president's repetitive hyping of Saddam's nuclear ambitions in the summer and fall of 2002 as well as his persistence in advertising bogus Saddam-Qaeda ties were fed by the rogue intelligence operation set up in his own office. As we know from many journalistic accounts, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby built their "case" by often making an end run around the C.I.A., State Department intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Their ally in cherry-picking intelligence was a similar cadre of neocon zealots led by Douglas Feith at the Pentagon.

This is what Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's wartime chief of staff, was talking about last week when he publicly chastised the "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" for sowing potential disaster in Iraq, North Korea and Iran.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

BBC - Press Office - George Bush on Elusive Peace

President George W Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq - and create a Palestinian State, a new BBC series reveals.

Nabil Shaath says: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Judge Orders Release of Abu Ghraib Photos

A federal judge ruled today that graphic pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison must be released over government claims that they could damage America's image. Last year a Republican senator conceded that they contained scenes of "rape and murder" and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said they included acts that were "blatantly sadistic."

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ordered the release of certain pictures in a 50-page decision that said terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven they "do not need pretexts for their barbarism."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Daily Kos: Building the broader movement

Amy Sullivan has an interesting take on the role Choice groups have had in damaging their own cause....

Daily Kos: Cheers and Jeers: Tuesday

Daily Kos: Cheers and Jeers: Tuesday"Bush is keeping track of Hurricane Rita as it hits his home state of Texas. That's Bush's worst nightmare: an electric chair with no power."
--Jay Leno

"Hurricane Rita is supposed to make landfall in Texas, which is good for Barbara Bush because she can insult survivors closer to home."
--Bill Maher

"Yesterday President Bush made his fifth visit to the area that received the most damage from Hurricane Katrina. In other words, the White House."
--Conan O'Brien

"The president believes the government should be limited not in size, Jon, but in effectiveness. In terms of effectiveness, this is the most limited government we've ever had."
--Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddry

"Now here's some sad information coming out of Washington. According to reports, President Bush may be drinking again. And I thought, `Well, why not? He's got everybody else drinking.'"
--David Letterman

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Message: I Care About the Black Folks

ONCE Toto parts the curtain, the Wizard of Oz can never be the wizard again. He is forever Professor Marvel, blowhard and snake-oil salesman. Hurricane Katrina, which is likely to endure in the American psyche as long as L. Frank Baum's mythic tornado, has similarly unmasked George W. Bush.

The worst storm in our history proved perfect for exposing this president because in one big blast it illuminated all his failings: the rampant cronyism, the empty sloganeering of "compassionate conservatism," the lack of concern for the "underprivileged" his mother condescended to at the Astrodome, the reckless lack of planning for all government operations except tax cuts, the use of spin and photo-ops to camouflage failure and to substitute for action.

Jailed Reporter Is Distanced From News, Not Elite Visitors

Locked in the Alexandria Detention Center for the past 11 weeks, New York Times reporter Judith Miller is cut off from the world. She has no Internet access and precious little opportunity to view CNN. Her phone calls are limited, friends say. Her daily newspaper arrives a day late.

But for 30 minutes nearly every day, the world comes to her: A parade of prominent government and media officials, 99 in all, visited Miller between early July, when she was jailed for refusing to be questioned by a federal prosecutor, and Labor Day, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Senator Bears Witness And Bares Emotions

Landrieu was at once gracious and defiant, thanking the president and then -- in her floor speech -- ridiculing his statement last week that no one "anticipated the breach of the levees."

"Everybody anticipated the breach of the levee, Mr. President," Landrieu said. This included the clay figurine, Mr. Bill, from "Saturday Night Live." Landrieu is a friend of Walter Williams, a native of New Orleans and Mr. Bill's creator, and he had deployed the high-voiced and squishable icon in public service announcements about Louisiana's coastal erosion problems before the storm. "How can it be that Mr. Bill was better informed than Mr. Bush?" Landrieu asked in her one hint of a laugh line all day.

No one laughed.

White House Briefing

Late Night Humor: From the "Tonight Show With Jay Leno": "Actually, today, President Bush sent Vice President Dick Cheney to New Orleans. Is that what we need down there? Another person requiring emergency medical help?"

From Jon Stewart on the "Daily Show": "Little observation: When people don't want to play the blame game? They're to blame."

Newsflash: Katrina Wasn't a Hurricane

Leave it to insurance companies to waste no time finding a way to let themselves off the hook. At we are already hearing from Katrina survivors who are being told that their insurance won't cover them because "it was a flood not a hurricane" that caused the damage and they (along with about 60% of folks in New Orleans and the Gulf region) don't have flood insurance.

Nightly News with Brian Williams

While we were attempting to take pictures of the National Guard (a unit from Oklahoma) taking up positions outside a Brooks Brothers on the edge of the Quarter, the sergeant ordered us to the other side of the boulevard. The short version is: there won't be any pictures of this particular group of Guard soldiers on our newscast tonight. Rules (or I suspect in this case an order on a whim) like those do not HELP the palpable feeling that this area is somehow separate from the United States.

At that same fire scene, a police officer from out of town raised the muzzle of her weapon and aimed it at members of the media... obvious members of the media... armed only with notepads. Her actions (apparently because she thought reporters were encroaching on the scene) were over the top and she was told. There are automatic weapons and shotguns everywhere you look. It's a stance that perhaps would have been appropriate during the open lawlessness that has long since ended on most of these streets. Someone else points out on television as I post this: the fact that the National Guard now bars entry (by journalists) to the very places where people last week were barred from LEAVING (The Convention Center and Superdome) is a kind of perverse and perfectly backward postscript to this awful chapter in American history.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

W's mom touts Astrodome

Former First Lady Barbara Bush was about the most chipper visitor yesterday to the Houston Astrodome, where thousands who fled the Hurricane Katrina disaster are sheltered.

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them," the Bush family's matriarch chuckled as she spoke on National Public Radio's "Marketplace" program.

Monday, September 05, 2005

'Wash Post' Runs A Key Katrina Correction

The BushCo personal destruction machine swings into action:
In its Sunday edition, the Washington Post quoted a "senior Bush official" [Karl Rove, hard at work] who said that "as of Saturday [September 3rd, Louisiana Governor] Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency." This, of course, was meant to make the governor look foolish and spread the blame around for the disastrous response to the disaster, though it was hard to imagine on what grounds the newspaper would quote an unnamed source in this case. [...Given that a matter of the public record can be easily verified through a little simple research.]

Several hours of blogosphere howling ensued. Later in the day, the Post ran this correction, or rather, 180-degree turn:

"A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.
[Katrina made landfall on August 29.]

Oh, and that other fiasco?

Insurgents Seize Key Town in Iraq: Abu Musab Zarqawi's foreign-led Al Qaeda in Iraq took open control of a key western town at the Syrian border, deploying its guerrilla fighters in the streets and flying Zarqawi's black banner from rooftops, witnesses, residents and others in the city and surrounding villages said.

A sign newly posted at the entrance of Qaim declared, "Welcome to the Islamic Kingdom of Qaim." A statement posted in mosques described Qaim as an "Islamic kingdom liberated from the occupation."...

Viewpoint: Has Katrina saved US media?

...[In the U.S.] National politics reporters and anchors here come largely from the same race and class as the people they are supposed to be holding to account.

They live in the same suburbs, go to the same parties, and they are in debt to the same huge business interests.

Giant corporations own the networks, and Washington politicians rely on them and their executives to fund their re-election campaigns across the 50 states.

It is a perfect recipe for a timid and self-censoring journalistic culture that is no match for the masterfully aggressive spin-surgeons of the Bush administration.

'Lies or ignorance'

But last week the complacency stopped, and the moral indignation against inadequate government began to flow, from slick anchors who spend most of their time glued to desks in New York and Washington....

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Falluja Floods the Superdome

...As always, the president's first priority, the one that sped him from Crawford toward California, was saving himself: he had to combat the flood of record-low poll numbers that was as uncontrollable as the surging of Lake Pontchartrain. It was time, therefore, for another disingenuous pep talk, in which he would exploit the cataclysm that defined his first term, 9/11, even at the price of failing to recognize the emerging fiasco likely to engulf Term 2....

United States of Shame

...It would be one thing if President Bush and his inner circle - Dick Cheney was vacationing in Wyoming; Condi Rice was shoe shopping at Ferragamo's on Fifth Avenue and attended "Spamalot" before bloggers chased her back to Washington; and Andy Card was off in Maine - lacked empathy but could get the job done. But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.

When the president and vice president rashly shook off our allies and our respect for international law to pursue a war built on lies, when they sanctioned torture, they shook the faith of the world in American ideals.

When they were deaf for so long to the horrific misery and cries for help of the victims in New Orleans - most of them poor and black, like those stuck at the back of the evacuation line yesterday while 700 guests and employees of the Hyatt Hotel were bused out first - they shook the faith of all Americans in American ideals. And made us ashamed.

Who are we if we can't take care of our own?

'My Pet Goat' -- The Sequel

This time, during a catastrophe, the president did not merely dither for seven minutes, but for three days, and his top advisors followed suit. While the media has done a good job in portraying the overall failure of leadership in this weeks hurricane's disaster, it has not focused enough on this deadly dereliction of duty.

While a rising chorus in the press has taken the White House, FEMA and the Pentagon to task for performing miserably in their response to the human disaster on the Gulf Coast, few have focused on the most telling aspect of the entire failure. It’s not just incompetence. It’s a shameful lack of concern: The 9/11 “My Pet Goat” dithering on an administration-wide scale.

Simply stated, the president and his top advisers chose vacation over action.

While the media has done a good job in portraying the overall deadly failure of leadership, it has not focused enough on this deadly dereliction of duty....

This is not mere incompetence, but dereliction of duty. The press should call it by its proper name.
Click on the link and read the whole article, this is a must read!

Bush's New Orleans tour a 'photo-op'

Bush's New Orleans tour a 'photo-op'A Senator from the southern US state of Louisiana has branded President George W Bush's visit to a busted levee in New Orleans a mere photo-op, and slammed his government's response to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy.

Mary Landrieu rebuked Mr Bush for failing to heed her call to name a cabinet-level official to lead the federal response to the hurricane, the one of the worst natural disasters in American history.

"Perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street Levee," said Senator Landrieu, a Democrat.

"Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe.

"Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity.

"The desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment.

"The good and decent people of south-east Louisiana and the Gulf Coast - black and white, rich and poor, young and old - deserve far better from their national government."

Compassionate Conservative

Hastert: New Orleans "could be bulldozed": It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's 7 feet under sea level, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said of federal assistance for hurricane-devastated New Orleans.

"It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," the Illinois Republican said in an interview Wednesday with the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill....

Hastert, in a transcript supplied by the suburban Chicago newspaper, said there was no question that New Orleans residents would rebuild their city, but noted that federal insurance and other federal aid were involved. "We ought to take a second look at it. But you know we build Los Angeles and San Francisco on top of earthquake fissures and they rebuild, too. Stubbornness."

Asked whether it made sense to spend billions rebuilding a city that lies below sea level, he replied, "I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me."...

blah, blah, black sheep

The ten most frightening words in the English language?


Rehnquist text message from New Orleans

Black fury at Bush over rescue delay

In an extraordinary outburst during a live television fundraising concert broadcast on America's NBC network, the rapper Kanye West said: 'Bush doesn't care about black people. It's been five days [waiting for help] because most of the people are black. America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. We already realised a lot of the people that could help are at war right now.'
Naturally, his statements critical of Bush was censored by the network.
The Show Didn't Benefit by Censors - Los Angeles Times: AS we enter the celebrity telethon phase of the Katrina tragedy, NBC's "A Concert for Hurricane Relief" stands as a blueprint for its own kind of institutional failure.

By censoring Grammy-winning rapper Kanye West's remarks critical of President Bush during its West Coast feed of the program Friday night, the network violated the most moving and essential moment in an otherwise sterile, self-serving corporate broadcast.

"It would be most unfortunate," the network said in a statement defending its action, "if the efforts of the artists who participated tonight and the generosity of millions of Americans who are helping those in need are overshadowed by one person's opinion."

Excuse me, but whose tragedy is this: NBC's or America's?

NBC may have been nervous about West's comments, including the notion that America and its president are unresponsive to the needs of the poor. But you can be sure those remarks would have been cheered more than anything else in the program by the black parents and children still trapped in the New Orleans Convention Center and the Superdome if they had been able to hear them.

The line NBC stopped us from hearing on the West Coast: "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

The puzzling thing is why NBC axed that, but allowed another provocation, potentially more disturbing, to stay in: "We already realized a lot of the people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way, and they've given them permission to go down and shoot us."

West was apparently referring to the National Guard troops who were sent to New Orleans to help the flood victims and stop the looting.

The show was aired live on the East Coast, where West's full comments were heard.

There was a several-second tape delay, but the person in charge "was instructed to listen for a curse word and didn't realize [West] had gone off script," NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks told Associated Press.

Whether we agree or disagree with West's impassioned riff on media and government racism, the network's relentless self-promotion was by far the more offensive part of the broadcast.

Bush sends marines as flood fury grows

Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, also appealed to Bush to bring home a Louisiana National Guard unit, the 256th Brigade Combat Team, which is serving in Iraq. 'They are urgently needed back home. We have never needed them so much,' she said.

Bush also signed a $10.5 billion emergency aid package for the stricken area. But he is struggling to restore his personal credibility after liberals and conservatives joined forces to criticise the federal relief effort.

Louisiana Senator David Vitter, a Republican, said the federal response had been 'an abject failure'. Attacks on the Bush administration's tardy reaction to the disaster also came from unexpected quarters in the media; even conservative commentators on the usually loyal Fox News channel lambasted the President's performance.

You're on your own, Britain's victims told

British families trapped in New Orleans last night claimed that US authorities had refused to evacuate them as Hurricane Katrina approached the city.

Although assistance was offered to US residents, British nationals were told they would have to fend for themselves. According to those who remain stranded in the stricken city, police had visited hotels and guest houses on the eve of the hurricane offering to evacuate Americans, but not Britons.

The order meant UK holidaymakers without cars were left helpless in the face of the hurricane. Some have been trapped in hotels and guest houses since the hurricane struck at 7am local time last Monday.

One family from Liverpool, trapped in a flooded section of the city, told relatives yesterday of their bewilderment when they realised US citizens would be offered preferential treatment.

Gerrard Scott, 35, spoke to his brother Peter from the Ramada Hotel in New Orleans where he has been stranded without assistance with wife, Sandra, 38, and seven-year-old son Ronan for the past six days. 'Those that didn't fit their criteria were told to help themselves. The police said they were evacuating Americans, and took away the majority.

'The British who were left all thought the police would come back, but nobody has. They have just been left,' said Peter Scott last night. Among the 30 or so people still inside the Ramada Hotel is a woman recovering from breast cancer who had been confined to a hotel room by herself because of fears over her immune system....

Chertoff: 'Katrina scenario did not exist'

Defending the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued Saturday that government planners did not predict such a disaster ever could occur.

But in fact, government officials, scientists and journalists have warned of such a scenario for years....

Last week, Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told CNN his agency had recently planned for a Category 5 hurricane hitting New Orleans.

Speaking to "Larry King Live" on August 31, in the wake of Katrina, Brown said, "That Category 4 hurricane caused the same kind of damage that we anticipated. So we planned for it two years ago. Last year, we exercised it. And unfortunately this year, we're implementing it."

Brown suggested FEMA -- part of the Department of Homeland Security -- was carrying out a prepared plan, rather than having to suddenly create a new one....

Chertoff argued that authorities actually had assumed that "there would be overflow from the levee, maybe a small break in the levee. The collapse of a significant portion of the levee leading to the very fast flooding of the city was not envisioned."

He added: "There will be plenty of time to go back and say we should hypothesize evermore apocalyptic combinations of catastrophes. Be that as it may, I'm telling you this is what the planners had in front of them. They were confronted with a second wave that they did not have built into the plan, but using the tools they had, we have to move forward and adapt."

But New Orleans, state and federal officials have long painted a very different picture.

"We certainly understood the potential impact of a Category 4 or 5 hurricane" on New Orleans, Lt. General Carl Strock, chief of engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Thursday, Cox News Service reported.

Reuters reported that in 2004, more than 40 state, local and volunteer organizations practiced a scenario in which a massive hurricane struck and levees were breached, allowing water to flood New Orleans. Under the simulation, called "Hurricane Pam," the officials "had to deal with an imaginary storm that destroyed more than half a million buildings in New Orleans and forced the evacuation of a million residents," the Reuters report said.

In 2002 the New Orleans Times-Picayune ran a five-part series exploring the vulnerability of the city. The newspaper, and other news media as well, specifically addressed the possibility of massive floods drowning residents, destroying homes and releasing toxic chemicals throughout the city. (Read: "Times-Picayune" Special Report: Washing away)

Scientists long have discussed this possibility as a sort of doomsday scenario.

On Sunday, a day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Ivor van Heerden, director of the Louisiana State University Public Health Research Center in Baton Rouge, said, "This is what we've been saying has been going to happen for years."

"Unfortunately, it's coming true," he said, adding that New Orleans "is definitely going to flood."

Also on Sunday, Placquemines Parish Sheriff Jeff Hingle referred back to Hurricane Betsy -- a Category 2 hurricane that struck in 1965 -- and said, "After Betsy these levees were designed for a Category 3."

He added, "These levees will not hold the water back."

But Chertoff seemed unaware of all the warnings....

Chertoff also argued that authorities did not have much notice that the storm would be so powerful and could make a direct hit on New Orleans.

"It wasn't until comparatively late, shortly before -- a day, maybe a day and a half, before landfall -- that it became clear that this was going to be a Category 4 or 5 hurricane headed for the New Orleans area."

As far back as Friday, August 26, the National Hurricane Center was predicting the storm could be a Category 4 hurricane at landfall, with New Orleans directly in its path. Still, storms do change paths, so the possibility existed that it might not hit the city.

But the National Weather Service prediction proved almost perfect.

Katrina made landfall on Monday, August 29.

Thousands Await Help While Feds Shift Blame

Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting,White House Shifts Blame to State and Local Officials: Tens of thousands of people spent a fifth day awaiting evacuation from this ruined city, as Bush administration officials blamed state and local authorities for what leaders at all levels have called a failure of the country's emergency management.

President Bush authorized the dispatch of 7,200 active-duty ground troops to the area -- the first major commitment of regular ground forces in the crisis -- and the Pentagon announced that an additional 10,000 National Guard troops will be sent to Louisiana and Mississippi, raising the total Guard contingent to about 40,000....

Living Paycheck to Paycheck Made Leaving Impossible

Living Paycheck to Paycheck Made Leaving Impossible: A 47-year-old grandmother was rocking a grandchild.

"These people look at us and wonder why we stayed behind," said Carmita Stephens. "Well, would they leave their grandparents and children behind? Look around and say, 'See you later'?" She gave a roll of the eyes behind the raised voice.

"We had one vehicle. A truck. I wanted my family to be together. They all couldn't fit in the truck. We had to decide on leaving family members -- or staying."

She shifted the grandchild in her arms. "I'm living paycheck to paycheck. My mother passed away this year. I was helping take care of her. My real job was as a private-duty caregiver. I had one patient. He died two weeks after my mother passed, on May 6." She calculated that the family made a little more than $2,500 a month -- but that included help from her son Jamel's job. "He's missing now," she added. "So is Eric Stephens, my husband."

They were soon to be Texas-bound. "And I don't even like Texas," she said.

Living Paycheck to Paycheck Made Leaving Impossible

To those who wonder why so many stayed behind when push came to water's mighty shove here, those who were trapped have a simple explanation: Their nickels and dimes and dollar bills simply didn't add up to stage a quick evacuation mission.

'Me and my wife, we were living paycheck to paycheck, like most everybody else in New Orleans,' Eric Dunbar, 54, said Saturday....

He offered a mini-tutorial in the economic reality of his life.

"I don't own a car. Me and my wife, we travel by bus, public transportation. The most money I ever have on me is $400. And that goes to pay the rent. And that $400 is between me and my wife." Her name is Dorth Dunbar; she was trying to get some rest after days of peril.

Dunbar estimated his annual income to be about $20,000, which comes from doing graphic design work when he can get it. Before the storm, when he and his wife estimated how much money they needed to flee the city, he was saddened by the reality that he could not come up with anywhere near the several thousand dollars he might need for a rental car and airfare.

"If I took my wife out to dinner, it was once a month," he said, sounding as if even those modest good times had come to an abrupt end. "We'd go to Piccadilly's. Never any movies. Really, it's a simple life. I go to work, come home, talk to my wife, go to bed, then back to work again. A basic existence."...

Storm Exposed Disarray at the Top

Storm Exposed Disarray at the Top: ...DHS [Department fo Homeland Security] did not ask the U.S. military to assist in pre-hurricane evacuation efforts, despite well-known estimates that a major hurricane would cause levees in New Orleans to fail. In an interview, the general charged with operations for the military's Northern Command said such a request to help with the evacuation "did not come our way."

"At the point that we were all watching the evacuation and the clogged Interstate 10 going to the west on Sunday, we were watching the storm very carefully," Maj. Gen. Richard Rowe said. "At that time, it was a Category 5 storm and we knew that it would be among the worst storms to ever hit the United States. . . . I knew there was an excellent chance of flooding."

Others who went out of their way to offer help were turned down, such as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who told reporters his city had offered emergency, medical and technical help as early as last Sunday to FEMA but was turned down. Only a single tank truck was requested, Daley said. Red tape kept the American Ambulance Association from sending 300 emergency vehicles from Florida to the flood zone, according to former senator John Breaux (D-La.) They were told to get permission from the General Services
Administration. "GSA said they had to have FEMA ask for it," Breaux told CNN. "As a result they weren't sent."...

Fish rots from the head down

"It's such an irony I hate to say it, but we have less capability today than we did on September 11," said a veteran FEMA official involved in the hurricane response. "We are so much less than what we were in 2000," added another senior FEMA official. "We've lost a lot of what we were able to do then."

Storm Exposed Disarray at the Top

Storm Exposed Disarray at the Top: The killer hurricane and flood that devastated the Gulf Coast last week exposed fatal weaknesses in a federal disaster response system retooled after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to handle just such a cataclysmic event.

Despite four years and tens of billions of dollars spent preparing for the worst, the federal government was not ready when it came at daybreak on Monday, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior officials and outside experts.

Among the flaws they cited: Failure to take the storm seriously before it hit and trigger the government's highest level of response. Rebuffed offers of aid from the military, states and cities. An unfinished new plan meant to guide disaster response. And a slow bureaucracy that waited until late Tuesday to declare the catastrophe "an incident of national significance," the new federal term meant to set off the broadest possible relief effort.

Born out of the confused and uncertain response to 9/11, the massive new Department of Homeland Security was charged with being ready the next time, whether the disaster was wrought by nature or terrorists....

Editorials Slam Federal Response

--San Antonio (Texas) Express News

'On Tuesday, one day after the hurricane struck, Bush delivered a speech on the 60th anniversary of V-J Day, determined to stick to his agenda. Nothing would interrupt his schedule. Not even a catastrophe.

'It was a telling moment. When the country needed a president, it got a politician. There is a big difference. A politician provides rhetoric; a president provides comfort and reassurance....

'Times-Picayune' Calls for Firing of FEMA Chief and Others

We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, "What is not working, were going to make it right."

Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism....

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a "Today" show story Friday morning.

Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame....

Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, "We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day."

Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, "You’re doing a heck of a job."

That’s unbelievable.

There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too....

Saturday, September 03, 2005

New Orleans crisis shames Americans

...The uneasy paradox which so many live with in this country - of being first-and-foremost rugged individuals, out to plunder what they can and paying as little tax as they can get away with, while at the same time believing that America is a robust, model society - has reached a crisis point this week....

New Orleans crisis shames Americans

...The truth was simple and apparent to all. If journalists were there with cameras beaming the suffering live across America, where were the officers and troops?...

The Washington Looting of New Orleans

...New Orleans will not be lost forever like Atlantis. Salvaging New Orleans could prove to be a process which fuels the revamping of the corrupted Washington decision-making process. It could spur the salvation of all cities which collectively constitute the core of our modern American civilization. The process must begin with less focus on bread and water looters and more scrutiny of the Washington leadership which has for decades allowed the continuous looting of the federal treasury to enrich the small percentage of the population not dependent on cities....

Bill Clinton, Suck-Up-in-Chief

What the hell was Bill Clinton thinking, standing there next to President Bush and providing verbal cover for the administration's ludicrous claims that the problems plaguing New Orleans were unforeseeable?...

The big disconnect on New Orleans

Diverging views of a crumbling New Orleans emerged Thursday, with statements by some federal officials in contradiction with grittier, more desperate views from the streets....

The Rebellion of the Talking Heads

Newscasters, sick of official lies and stonewalling, finally start snarling. By Jack Shafer

Friday, September 02, 2005

Local Officials Criticize Federal Government Over Response

New York Times: Mr. Compass said the federal government had taken too long to send in the thousands of troops - as well as the supplies, fuel, vehicles, water and food - needed to stabilize his now "very, very tenuous" city.

Col. Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans, concurred and he was particularly pungent in his criticism. Asserting that the whole recovery operation had been 'carried on the backs of the little guys for four goddamn days,' he said 'the rest of the goddamn nation can't get us any resources for security.'

'We are like little birds with our mouths open and you don't have to be very smart to know where to drop the worm,' Colonel Ebbert said. 'It's criminal within the confines of the United States that within one hour of the hurricane they weren't force-feeding us. It's like FEMA has never been to a hurricane.' FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?

'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues: New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Wesley Clark

TPMCafe || It all comes back to leadership: "In short leadership is everything we are not getting from this White House. Instead of challenging us to push ourselves to accomplish great things, we get platitudes. We can do better than that."

New Orleans in Anarchy With Fights, Rapes

New Orleans in Anarchy With Fights, Rapes: ...An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered up by a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.

'I don't treat my dog like that,' 47-year-old Daniel Edwards said as he pointed at the woman in the wheelchair.

'You can do everything for other countries, but you can't do nothing for your own people,' he added. 'You can go overseas with the military, but you can't get them down here.'

The Independent Weekly: Disaster in the making

This was published on September 22nd, 2004:
The Independent Weekly: Disaster in the making: As FEMA weathers a storm of Bush administration policy and budget changes, protection from natural hazards may be trumped by "homeland security"
Thanks to Josh Marshall

Can you guess when was this written?

I'll give you a hint, it was not in 2005:
It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV 'storm teams' warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however--the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level--more than eight feet below in places--so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't--yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City.
So much for Bush's lame "no one could have anticipated..." excuse.

And, by the way, isn't Bush's job to plan for contigencies, particularly when it comes to 'protection of the Vaterland'? Oh yeah, he was on v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n.

But then BushCo is on a permanent vacation from reality at all times.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Who Will Say 'No More'?

Who Will Say 'No More'? -- Gary Hart: "Waist deep in the Big Muddy and the big fool said to push on," warned an anti-Vietnam war song those many years ago. The McGovern presidential campaign, in those days, which I know something about, is widely viewed as a cause for the decline of the Democratic Party, a gateway through which a new conservative era entered.

Like the cat that jumped on a hot stove and thereafter wouldn't jump on any stove, hot or cold, today's Democratic leaders didn't want to make that mistake again. Many supported the Iraq war resolution and -- as the Big Muddy is rising yet again -- now find themselves tongue-tied or trying to trump a war president by calling for deployment of more troops. Thus does good money follow bad and bad politics get even worse.

Frank Rich

We have long since lost count of all the historic turning points and fast-evaporating victories hyped by this president. The toppling of Saddam's statue, "Mission Accomplished," the transfer of sovereignty and the purple fingers all blur into a hallucinatory loop of delusion. One such red-letter day, some may dimly recall, was the adoption of the previous, interim constitution in March 2004, also proclaimed a "historic milestone" by Mr. Bush. Within a month after that fabulous victory, the insurgency boiled over into the war we have today, taking, among many others, the life of Casey Sheehan.

It's Casey Sheehan's mother, not those haggling in Baghdad's Green Zone, who really changed the landscape in the war this month. Not because of her bumper-sticker politics or the slick left-wing political operatives who have turned her into a circus, but because the original, stubborn fact of her grief brought back the dead the administration had tried for so long to lock out of sight. With a shove from Pat Robertson, her 15 minutes are now up, but even Mr. Robertson's antics revealed buyer's remorse about Iraq; his stated motivation for taking out Hugo Chávez by assassination was to avoid "another $200 billion war" to remove a dictator.

In the wake of Ms. Sheehan's protest, the facts on the ground in America have changed almost everywhere. The president, for one, has been forced to make what for him is the ultimate sacrifice: jettisoning chunks of vacation to defend the war in any bunker he can find in Utah or Idaho. In the first speech of this offensive, he even felt compelled to take the uncharacteristic step of citing the number of American dead in public (though the number was already out of date by at least five casualties by day's end). For the second, the White House recruited its own mom, Tammy Pruett, for the president to showcase as an antidote to Ms. Sheehan. But in a reversion to the president's hide-the-fallen habit, the chosen mother was not one who had lost a child in Iraq.

It isn't just Mr. Bush who is in a tight corner now. Ms. Sheehan's protest was the catalyst for a new national argument about the war that managed to expose both the intellectual bankruptcy of its remaining supporters on the right and the utter bankruptcy of the Democrats who had rubber-stamped this misadventure in the first place.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

What makes this great satire...

is that it is essentially a mad-lib: all the boilerplate is taken from actual administration press events. And if you think Mrs. Rumsfeld has it tough, how would you like to be the human equivalent of what Rummy has been visiting these last several years?

Rumsfeld Makes Surprise Visit To Wife's Vagina: WASHINGTON, DC: Amid rumors of sagging morale on the home front, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld greeted his wife Joyce Monday with an unanticipated visit to her vagina, according to the Pentagon....

Coming soon to a school near you

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

KANSAS CITY, KS: As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held 'theory of gravity' is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down." said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University....

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Informed Comment

Fisking the 'War on Terror'

Hiroshima Film Cover-up Exposed

Editor and Publisher SPECIAL REPORT: In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Japan almost 60 years ago, and then for decades afterward, the United States engaged in airtight suppression of all film shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. This included footage shot by U.S. military crews and Japanese newsreel teams. In addition, for many years all but a handful of newspaper photographs were seized or prohibited.

Writers Group Won't Give Judith Miller 'Conscience in Media' Award After All

from Editor and Publisher: The board of The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) has voted unanimously to reverse an earlier decision to give its annual Conscience in Media award to jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller, E&P has learned.

The group's First Amendment committee had narrowly voted to give Miller the prize for her dedication to protecting sources, but the full board has now voted to overturn that decision, based on its opinion that her entire career, and even her current actions in the Plame/CIA leak case, cast doubt on her credentials for this award....

The earlier vote by its First Amendment committee had already prompted at least one member of that panel to quit her position.

Anita Bartholomew, a freelance journalist who has contributed to Reader's Digest, wrote in a resignation letter, "The First Amendment is designed to prevent government interference with a free press. Miller, by shielding a government official or officials who attempted to use the press to retaliate against a whistleblower, and scare off other would-be whistleblowers, has allied herself with government interference with, and censorship of, whistleblowers. When your source IS the government, and the government is attempting to use you to target a whistleblower, the notion of shielding a source must be reconsidered. To apply standard practices regarding sources to hiding wrongdoing at the highest levels of government perverts the intent of the First Amendment.”

Sunday, July 17, 2005

How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart

How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart - by Steven Greenhouse: Combining high quality with stunningly low prices, the shirts appeal to upscale customers - and epitomize why some retail analysts say CEO Mr. Sinegal just might be America's shrewdest merchant since Sam Walton.

But not everyone is happy with Costco's business strategy. Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco's customers but to its workers as well.

Costco's average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam's Club. And Costco's health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish.

One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco 'it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder.'

Mr. Sinegal begs to differ. He rejects Wall Street's assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street's profit demands.

Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, he said. And Costco's customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like that low prices do not come at the workers' expense.

'This is not altruistic,' he said. 'This is good business.'

He also dismisses calls to increase Costco's product markups. Mr. Sinegal, who has been in the retailing business for more than a half-century, said that heeding Wall Street's advice to raise some prices would bring Costco's downfall.

'When I started, Sears, Roebuck was the Costco of the country, but they allowed someone else to come in under them,' he said. 'We don't want to be one of the casualties. We don't want to turn around and say, 'We got so fancy we've raised our prices,' and all of a sudden a new competitor comes in and beats our prices."

At Costco, one of Mr. Sinegal's cardinal rules is that no branded item can be marked up by more than 14 percent, and no private-label item by more than 15 percent. In contrast, supermarkets generally mark up merchandise by 25 percent, and department stores by 50 percent or more.

"They could probably get more money for a lot of items they sell," said Ed Weller, a retailing analyst at ThinkEquity.

But Mr. Sinegal warned that if Costco increased markups to 16 or 18 percent, the company might slip down a dangerous slope and lose discipline in minimizing costs and prices.

Mr. Sinegal, whose father was a coal miner and steelworker, gave a simple explanation. "On Wall Street, they're in the business of making money between now and next Thursday," he said. "I don't say that with any bitterness, but we can't take that view. We want to build a company that will still be here 50 and 60 years from now."

IF shareholders mind Mr. Sinegal's philosophy, it is not obvious: Costco's stock price has risen more than 10 percent in the last 12 months, while Wal-Mart's has slipped 5 percent. Costco shares sell for almost 23 times expected earnings; at Wal-Mart the multiple is about 19.

Follow the Uranium

by Frank Rich: WELL, of course, Karl Rove did it. He may not have violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, with its high threshold of criminality for outing a covert agent, but there's no doubt he trashed Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame....

Even so, we shouldn't get hung up on him - or on most of the other supposed leading figures in this scandal thus far. Not Matt Cooper or Judy Miller or the Wilsons or the bad guy everyone loves to hate, the former CNN star Robert Novak. This scandal is not about them in the end, any more than Watergate was about Dwight Chapin and Donald Segretti or Woodward and Bernstein. It is about the president of the United States. It is about a plot that was hatched at the top of the administration and in which everyone else, Mr. Rove included, are at most secondary players.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

It Is an Insult to the Dead to Deny the Link with Iraq

by Seumas Milne, editor of the comment section in the Guardian: ...The wall of silence in the US after the much greater carnage of 9/11 allowed the Bush administration to set a course that has been a global disaster. And there is little sense in London that the official attitude reflects the more uncertain mood on the streets. There is every need for the kind of public mourning that will take place in London today, along with concerted action to halt the backlash against Muslim Britons that claimed its first life in Nottingham at the weekend. But it is an insult to the dead to mislead people about the crucial factors fueling this deadly rage in Muslim communities across the world.

The first piece of disinformation long peddled by champions of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is that al-Qaida and its supporters have no demands that could possibly be met or negotiated over; that they are really motivated by a hatred of western freedoms and way of life; and that their Islamist ideology aims at global domination. The reality was neatly summed up this week in a radio exchange between the BBC's political editor, Andrew Marr, and its security correspondent, Frank Gardner, who was left disabled by an al-Qaida attack in Saudi Arabia last year. Was it the 'very diversity, that melting pot aspect of London' that Islamist extremists found so offensive that they wanted to kill innocent civilians in Britain's capital, Marr wondered. 'No, it's not that,' replied Gardner briskly, who is better acquainted with al-Qaida thinking than most. 'What they find offensive are the policies of western governments and specifically the presence of western troops in Muslim lands, notably Iraq and Afghanistan.'

The central goal of the al-Qaida-inspired campaign, as its statements have regularly spelled out, is the withdrawal of US and other western forces from the Arab and Muslim world, an end to support for Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and a halt to support for oil-lubricated despots throughout the region. Those are also goals that unite an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere and give al-Qaida and its allies the chance to recruit and operate - in a way that their extreme religious conservatism or dreams of restoring the medieval caliphate never would. As even Osama bin Laden asked in his US election-timed video: if it was western freedom al-Qaida hated, "Why do we not strike Sweden?"

The second disinformation line peddled by government supporters since last week's bombings is that the London attacks had nothing to do with Iraq....

Rove-gate: Who Leaked to the Leakers?- by Justin Raimondo

by Justin Raimondo: "The fast developing scandal seemingly centered around Rove and a few journalists has only begun to unfold. By the time it is over, we'll have the War Party - or, at the very least, a few high profile representatives - in the dock, and then the fun will really begin."

Friday, July 15, 2005

pretty hate machine

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: : I think it's only late in the evening, when the email traffic slows and the other distractions fade, that I can really see and marvel at the collosus that is, as Brock calls it, the Republican noise machine, with its ferocity that is only surpassed by its nihilism.

Now we can see in full view what we've seen again and again in recent years, the favored tactic: terror by grand moral inversion, the lie so total and audacious that it almost knocks opponents off their feet.

John Kerry decorated war hero? No, coward and showboat....

Sunday, July 10, 2005

New Spielberg project tackles terrorism

First he tackled the Holocaust, courting controversy but then silencing many of his critics with a masterpiece of cinema in the form of Schindler's List.

Now director Steven Spielberg is taking on another Jewish issue, with a film on the aftermath of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
Production has already started on the film - still untitled - which chronicles a bloody series of assassinations carried out by Israeli secret agents against the Palestinian terrorists responsible for the 1972 killings.

The incident is one of the most controversial issues in modern Israeli and Jewish history. The series of assassinations ended in scandal when it was revealed that Mossad agents had murdered an innocent Moroccan waiter in Norway after a case of mistaken identity.
Spielberg's project has been surrounded in secrecy, mindful of the dangerous territory the film will touch on and nervous of being seen either to condone or condemn the Israeli action. In a carefully worded statement released by his studio last week, Spielberg said the film would look at '...a defining moment in the modern history of the Middle East'.
He said he would seek to humanise the bloody events. 'Viewing Israel's response to Munich through the eyes of the men who were sent to avenge that tragedy adds a human dimension to a horrific episode that we usually think about only in political or military terms,' he said.

The film will begin with the terrorist attacks. Though German police persuaded the Palestinian terrorists out of the Olympic village, a shoot-out at an airport resulted in the death of all 11 athletes, one policeman and five of the eight terrorists. The main plot of the film then follows the vengeful Mossad teams as they track down members of Black September and eliminate them, one by one. But as the assassinations continue, some of the characters develop doubts about their mission and the moral quagmire of revenge in which they have become trapped.

Lessons of Ireland not applied to Middle East

The price of occupation by Taqiq Ali: During the last phase of the Troubles, the IRA targeted mainland Britain: it came close to blowing up Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet in Brighton. Some years later a missile was fired at No 10....

The bombers who targeted London yesterday are anonymous. It is assumed that those who carried out these attacks are linked to al-Qaida. We simply do not know. Al-Qaida is not the only terrorist group in existence. It has rivals within the Muslim diaspora. But it is safe to assume that the cause of these bombs is the unstinting support given by New Labour and its prime minister to the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One of the arguments deployed by Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, when he appealed to Tony Blair not to support the war in Iraq was prescient: 'An assault on Iraq will inflame world opinion and jeopardise security and peace everywhere. London, as one of the major world cities, has a great deal to lose from war and a lot to gain from peace, international cooperation and global stability.'

Most Londoners (as the rest of the country) were opposed to the Iraq war. Tragically, they have suffered the blow and paid the price for the re-election of Blair and a continuation of the war.

Ever since 9/11, I have been arguing that the 'war against terror' is immoral and counterproductive. It sanctions the use of state terror - bombing raids, torture, countless civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq - against Islamo-anarchists whose numbers are small, but whose reach is deadly. The solution then, as now, is political, not military. The British ruling elite understood this perfectly well in the case of Ireland....

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The struggle against terrorism cannot be won by military means

Guardian Unlimited : "In the absence of anyone else owning up to yesterday's crimes, we will be subjected to a spate of articles analysing the threat of militant Islam. Ironically they will fall in the same week that we recall the tenth anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica, when the powerful nations of Europe failed to protect 8,000 Muslims from being annihilated in the worst terrorist act in Europe of the past generation.

Osama bin Laden is no more a true representative of Islam than General Mladic, who commanded the Serbian forces, could be held up as an example of Christianity. After all, it is written in the Qur'an that we were made into different peoples not that we might despise each other, but that we might understand each other.

Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally 'the database', was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians. Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden's organisation would turn its attention to the west.

The danger now is that the west's current response to the terrorist threat compounds that original error. So long as the struggle against terrorism is conceived as a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed to fail. The more the west emphasises confrontation, the more it silences moderate voices in the Muslim world who want to speak up for cooperation. Success will only come from isolating the terrorists and denying them support, funds and recruits, which means focusing more on our common ground with the Muslim world than on what divides us."