September 30, 2005

Christianity and Gonorrhea

A new study reported in the Times of London compares the more religious society of the USA and that of the more secular UK, Japan, France and the Scandanavian countries.

The study reports:

“Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.
In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”

The USA, more devout, more religious, more Christian, has:

a hugely higher rate of gonorrhea among adolescents;
a considerably higher murder rate;
a higher rate of adolescent abortion;
a higher rate of early childhood mortality;
a "uniquely high" rate of adolescent and adult syphilis;
a higher rate of teen pregnancy.

The author of the study, which was published in the US Journal of Religion and Society, Gregory Paul, says:

“The non-religious, proevolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator. The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.”

Riverbend Returns

Riverbend is back, writing her blog from Iraq. If you haven't read her before, start now. She took a long break from her blog, but has finally returned with some strong posts in the last few days, not the least of which is an excellent analysis of the Iraqi Constitution, the best I have seen.

Here a sample:

Article (16):
It is forbidden for Iraq to be used as a base or corridor for foreign troops.
It is forbidden to have foreign military bases in Iraq.
The National Assembly can, when necessary, and with a majority of two thirds of its members, allow what is mentioned in 1 and 2 of this article.
This one is amusing because in the first two parts of the article, foreign troops are forbidden and then in the third, they’re kind of allowed… well sometimes- when the puppets deem it necessary (to keep them in power). What is worrisome about this article, on seeing the final version of the draft constitution, is its mysterious disappearance- in spite of the fact that it leaves a lot of leeway for American bases in Iraq. Now, in the final version of the constitution, there is nothing about not having foreign troops in the country or foreign bases, at the very least. The ‘now you see it’/ ‘now you don’t’ magical effect of this article, especially, reinforces the feeling that this constitution is an ‘occupation constitution’.

One short piece, written on September 11, 2005, is heartwrenching. She describes the day of September 11, 2001 when she watched the two towers crumble on TV and worried, then, that the bombs would come her way, commenting "it's all they need." She ends this way:

It has been four years today. How does it feel four years later? For the 3,000 victims in America, more than 100,000 have died in Iraq. Tens of thousands of others are being detained for interrogation and torture. Our homes have been raided, our cities are constantly being bombed and Iraq has fallen back decades, and for several years to come we will suffer under the influence of the extremism we didn't know prior to the war. As I write this, Tel Afar, a small place north of Mosul, is being bombed. Dozens of people are going to be buried under their homes in the dead of the night. Their water and electricity have been cut off for days. It doesn’t seem to matter much though because they don’t live in a wonderful skyscraper in a glamorous city. They are, quite simply, farmers and herders not worth a second thought.

Four years later and the War on Terror (or is it the War of Terror?) has been won:


Al-Qaeda – 3,000
America – 100,000


The next time you hear someone say "we are all better off without Saddam Hussein," refer him to this.

September 28, 2005

Kan Do Karl

And now for a little levity....

Click HERE

Blowing Up The UN

Der Speigel has a two-part series updating us all on the "state" of the United Nations. It's a sad story, aptly entitled "Gangs of New York." This promising organization, which had so much potential and has realized so little of it, is doomed to endless failures and a permanently ineffectual existence.

How bad things have gotten is probably best summed up by what George Bush said to Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the UN, upon arriving at the UN a few days ago to celebrate the UN's 60th birthday. After being greeted at his limo by Annan, Bush, pointing to US Ambassador John Bolton, quipped to Annan: "Has the place blown up since he's been here?" Bush actually thought this was funny. If he had been in an airport, he would have been arrested.

That remark, however, is testimony to Bush's basic attitude. In private, over a scotch and soda (or several), Bush would probably be candid about his real view of the UN. Can you guess what he'd say?

September 27, 2005

Buying Jesus' Forgiveness

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, we now have the federal government committing taxpayer dollars to repay Christian relief agencies and groups for their work in helping victims of Katrina. This is basically a faith-based payoff.

On the one hand, Bush shamelessly proclaims faith-based volunteerism is what will save this country, and on the other, he promises to subsidize all those "volunteers" with taxpayer money. It's just a bald-faced way of buying forgiveness from the Christian right for his failure to respond adequately to Katrina.

September 26, 2005

Bush, The Cranky Butt

Have you all seen the National Enquirer story about Bush's alleged drinking? I know, I know, but The National Enquirer actually has pitbull-style investigative reporters.

Here's a revealing piece from Newsweek about a recent White House photo-op with a cranky Bush.

AmericaBlog asks the obvious question:

Now, what would make a man puffy-eyed, cranky and fidgety?

Jamming Christ Down Our Throats

In yet another persistent attempt to destroy America's democracy and eliminate any semblance of church-state separation, the Busheviks are insisting that religious organizations that receive Federal Head Start money can discriminate in hiring. As example, a fundamentalist Baptist born-again church which gets Head Start funds would be permitted to hire only fundamentalist Baptist born-again church members.

If we had to come up with only one example of how destructive of democracy it is to blend Federal money with religious dogma, could we come up with a better example than this?

Couldn't Happen to Two Nicer Guys

Delay and Frist, two peas in a pod, strongarm bullies, mean-spirited, vengeful men are in trouble with the law. They deserve everything that comes to them in the form of justice. They act above the law, arrogantly, and as if power gives them impunity.

Clicking Their Heels Three Times Together

The Right-wing response to protest against the Iraq war is often puerile, and sometimes substantitive, but always fascinating for its insight into the right's disregard for protest and disagreement.

Some Right-wing blogs concentrate on how many communists, hippies and socialists demonstrate against the war. As an old democratic socialist bastard, I understand their upset. We can be really irritating. I only wish I could have been in Washington DC yesterday to add to their anger.

Some patriotic bloggers use photos to get across their point about how stupid, wacky, and moonbat-like all the protesters were. Not pictured are the middle-class, middle-American parents who have lost children in Iraq.

Some were outraged that there were calls for George Bush's impeachment for his being a war criminal. Of course, it's not really important that those calls have something to do with Bush's lying about contravening the Geneva Convention by torturing prisoners and by invading a sovereign country based on a series of lies. But then again, these are the same people who were screaming in the streets for Bill Clinton's impeachment for his lying about getting blowjobs.

And, of course, size matters to the right, and they worry about it constantly. How many people actually showed up at the protest on Saturday is actually proof for some of them that there really aren't that many people opposed to Bush's war. This is really important to them. If you can say it enough times, it becomes true.

Directly related to the size-matters theorists, there are those who twist themselves into ugly little balloon animals with wishful thinking about how there really is not "an intellectually and morally serious antiwar movement." In one fell swoop, the opposition to the Iraq war is neither serious, nor intellectual nor moral. How convenient.

The neocons and pro-war Right want to believe that all is well. They have their eyes closed tight and they are clicking their heels three times over and over again, and wishing for a return to the halcyon days after 9/11 when all was right and when everyone was flying an American flag. Unfortunately, Dorothy, we're not in Kansas anymore.

In the face of all reality, these people wish for something else. Like George Bush, they simply live the illusion, dream the dreams, and avoid the real world.

All the polls demonstrate that the American people are opposed to the war in Iraq.

The latest Fox News poll shows that 55% of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq. Even among Fox News viewers, commonly thought of as very supportive of Bush's Iraq war, 58% of the respondents say we should finish the job in Iraq, while at the same time, 61% also say we should bring our troops home within the next year. How's that for being delusional?

The CBS News poll says 57% of Americans disapprove of the war, and that 61% say that the costs are not worth it.

The CNN/Gallup poll says 59% of Americans disapprove of the way George Bush is handling the war. 52% say that it was a mistake sending troops to Iraq in the first place .

The Harris poll says that 61% of Americans want Bush to bring home most of our troops in the next year. 58% of Americans say that the Iraq war has NOT protected America from another terrorist attack.

Now, having used all these polls as evidence against those who hope against all hope that there is no credible anti-Iraq war movement in the United States, I will concede that polls are crap. Let's give the poll doubters the benefit of the doubt. Put aside polls and just use your senses.

Don't we all have eyes and ears and hearts and minds? Don't we sense shifts in people's opinions, in their feelings, in their guts? Don't we all know people who hung flags out after 9/11, who supported President Bush in that time of national crisis, who supported our going into Afghanistan, but who now oppose his war in Iraq? Don't we all know anti-Bush people who rallied 'round the flag and supported him fighting terror in Afghanistan by going after al-Queda and the Taliban, but who are now very opposed to his war in Iraq? Doesn't each of know at least one conservative with serious doubts about the war? Can't we trust our own senses?

Can it be that the Right would have us believe that a heartwrenching split in America is neither "serious," nor "moral," nor "intellectual?" Johnson and Nixon, both were faced with an opposition at home and abroad, and both responded poorly to it, As a result, they, and America, paid a terrible price. Bush is now behaving the same way, clicking his heels three times, wishing it would all go away, and encouraging his followers to do the same.

September 24, 2005

Whose Conscience?

Here's what Howard Dean, erstwhile head of the National Democratic Party, has to say about the Democratic Senators voting for John Roberts for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court:

"[H]ow will we win any battle if we don't stand up for what we believe and speak the truth? More importantly, how will Americans know what to expect from a Democratic Congress and Democratic president if we don't fight for our values at every opportunity? Democrats can disagree with Democrats in good faith -- and many do on this issue. But when political calculations silence our conscience, we have abandoned our true values."

But if Patrick Leahy says he is following his conscience in supporting Roberts, exactly whose conscience are we talking about?

September 23, 2005

Bush's Cro-Magnon Brow

While the Bush government has been busy fighting the "war on terror," Mother Nature has been preparing a wake-up call for it. While Bush has been busy filling government with corporate hacks who oppose the Kyoto Protocols, who poopoo global warming every chance they get, who rewrite and edit science reports written by real scientists, and who ignore the realities of the natural world, the natural world has been preparing to fight back. While Bush has waged his failed war for world oil dominance in Iraq, Katrina and Rita are undeniable real life warnings to this blind, deaf and dumb government.

How ironic is it that it will not be al-Queda that strikes at the heart of America's bankrupt, and bankrupting, gang of thieves we call our leaders, but rather that Mother Nature spanks them for their lying ways? What does it mean that the conciousness of Gaia is striking at the heart of the oil industry in this country?

Ross Gelspan writes:

The Hurricane Katrina disaster is also a curtain-raiser for the largest-ever challenge to public planning: the consequences of global warming. If the present complacency continues, we will see more flooding, more breakdown of democratic civil order, more loss of human life and dignity, and more vivid divisions between rich and poor.

His conclusion is bleak:

...the president appointed as our new ambassador to the United Nations one John Bolton, a diplomat who has been consistently antagonistic to much of the UN's body's work. Because a more aggressive UN-sponsored Kyoto Protocol does not fit the president's preconceived agenda, his strategy boils down to sabotaging the authority of the United Nations in the area of climate change. To the president, this sounds like a plan. To the rest of us, it seems a fast track to climate hell.

In 2000, while Al Gore was declaring that confronting climate change should be the "central organizing principle" of human action, Bush Oil Inc. was preparing to undermine and dissipate that principle into oblivion. Bush won. The world lost.

Bill McKibben is more optimistic, but not by much:

Now the National Association of Evangelicals has said that it will lobby Congress about global warming. The hope that it, or anyone else, will go deeper and use climate change as one wedge for a broader, left-right cultural critique of our consumer culture is for the moment just a tantalizing possibility. But given the numbers -- that 70 percent to 80 percent reduction -- it's the kind of movement we need.
There's no guarantee such a force will ever emerge; you can make a decent argument that our hyper-individualism is terminal, and that the chaos that will start to break out as the world's climate comes unhinged will only make it worse. But you could also make a decent argument that this issue is one of the doors into a new and more interesting politics.
A politics that is about living the good life instead of acquiring more things. A politics that is about guaranteeing one another medical care and retirement security and a planet to inhabit. Those tasks all seem beyond the every-man-for-himself ethos of post-Reagan America; they rely on some emergent solidarity. Exactly how it will emerge and who will embody it are not yet clear, but physics and chemistry seem to require it.

Rep. Henry Waxman, perhaps our most persistent government watchdog, "sent a letter to the EPA Administrator today expressing grave concerns about EPA's draft legislation that would allow the agency to waive any provision of the Clean Air Act -- including limits on toxic emissions and the health-based air quality standards -- without any notice or public comment whenever the Administrator chooses to declare an emergency." Read the letter here.

So, as we contemplate the Bush learning curve on global warming, we have further evidence that it may just be a flat line. As we try to be hopeful that some light will shine on Bush's protruding Cro-Magnon brow and on his knuckle-dragging government, it's difficult not to conclude that they probably do not have the capacity to learn from their mistakes.

More Rita In Our Lives

This is my second post in reporting the travails of our student friend, Hitaji, who is trying to get back to her family in Houston.

She and I finally drove to the Burlington airport and went to the Continental Airlines desk to inquire about the confusion in our friend's flight connections. We NEVER received an adequate explanation about why her scheduled flights did not exist. It came down to the ticket agent offering her another set of flights back to Houston, but with no assurance that she would actually get there, or that once she got there, she would actually be able to get from the airport into Houston itself. (Hitaji's daughter, who had come to her graduation ceremony, had gone back to Houston the day before, and said that there were only two taxicabs outside the airport, an unheard of thing. She actually shared a cab with someone into Houston.)

The agent we talked with was defensive and nervous. His hands shook. His answers were automaton-like. All he would say was that his computer said the weather was clear in Houston. We asked him if he had any information about the news we heard that Houston was closed to incoming traffic. We asked him if he could reassure us that she would not spend days sleeping on a chair in the Houston airport. He simply repeated his silly weather report, and delivered an ultimatum that if she wanted to go, she had better decide now because there were other people waiting in line.

We decided to make some calls to Houston to get some up-to-date information.

We tried her daughter whose cell phone rang with no answer, no voice mail. We tried the radio station in Houston where she works. Only voice mail. We tried the cell phone of the station manager, no luck, only voice mail. We tried a police officer friend's cell phone. No luck. Busy, voice mail. We tried Yellow Cab in Houston, a service our friend uses alot (she has no car). It answered and she was put on hold. No one ever came back. She said this never happens. We finally hung up, worrying that the battery on my cell phone would weaken. We tried her son. No answer. We had not been able to reach him since trying the evening before. We then tried her daughter again who answered. Her daughter was at her mother's house, collecting her hard drive and other important items to take to her place. Her daughter said she and her other children did not want her to come back to Houston because tghey know she can't swim and that would worry them. She was safe in Vermont. She also reported that all the lanes of roads were filled with people trying to get out of Houston and that there would be no way for her to get from the airport into town. Our decision was made.

We decided to go back in to the Continental Airlines desk and tell them that they should tell any of their customers if they were going to Houston that, in all likelihood, they would be stuck at the airport. They looked at us, then at each other. They were definitely uncomfortable having us tell them this in front of a line of other passengers. They stared at us blankly. Behind them, several Homeland Security agents gave us suspicious looks. We gave up and left.

When we got back home, the first thing I did was check the Houston Chronicle website, and discovered that, indeed, Gov. Rick "Slick" Perry (don't you just live his shiny ties?) had closed incoming traffic on all major highways into Houton early that morning.

Hitaji was also able to reach one of her sons who told her that everyone was trying to get cash in Houston so they could buy food and water, but that the banks had run out of money. He said the check cashing services were closed also, so people who had paychecks could not get their checks cashed.

At this point, we don't know how hard Houston is going to be hit. I do know that there is a mother in Vermont worried sick about her three children there.

More later.

September 22, 2005

Rita in Our Lives

One of my wife's students, who just graduated and who lives in Houston, stayed over with us last night. Her children live in Houston also, so she is quite worried. The area they live in is not yet under mandatory evacuation order, but it is near areas that are. Given what CNN and the Weather Channel are saying, flooding apparently may reach into areas not predicted. So, the level of insecurity and foreboding is high.

Since early this morning, we have been struggling to get an answer from Continental Airlines about her flights later today from Burlington, Vermont to Philadelphia to New Orleans to Houston, some of which are US Air and some Continental. US Airways has told us that her flights don't exist. Not that they have been cancelled, but THAT THEY DON'T EXIST. We have been on hold for close to three hours with Continental (they told us it would be 70 minutes) because their website also says her flights DON'T EXIST. We have her actual tickets, in hand, printed, booked by Continental for these flights, but these both airlines now say her flights don't exist. Obviously, we can't check flight status for flights that don't exist.

Perhaps Continental Airlines doesn't exist? How about US Air? Do they exist? For that matter, does our friend exist? Or is she the product of some sadistic corporation's idea of a customer?

For the 3 hours we have been on hold we have heard an announcement from Continental that repeats every 30 seconds or so, accompanied by the same screaming, four-bar rock guitar riff which has brought us to the edge of our sanity. Some idiot who works for Continental must have devised this little ditty thinking real people might like to hear it over and over and over for hours. We are thinking some new age music would be nice about now.

It's getting late, so we may have to just go to the airport and figure it out from there.

I'll keep you all advised.

September 21, 2005

Extra! Extra! Gas Mileage Stickers False!

Is anyone surprised to learn that the gas mileage stickers that we all see on cars, SUVs and trucks are incorrect? Is anyone surprised to learn that the standards used by the EPA to set these gas mileage claims for auto manufactures have been skewed in favor of high mileage figures?

Are you surprised to learn that the average highway speed set by the EPA for gas mileage tests for cars is a laughable 48 miles per hour? Is anyone surprised that the tests are not run by the EPA, but by the auto manufacturers themselves, using EPA standards?

Is anyone surprised that the EPA standards are 30 years old? Does it surprise anyone that 20 years ago the EPA acknowledged that its test standards were flawed, but did nothing about it?

Does anyone still believe that it is a good thing for corporations to own the government, other than corporations and their lapdogs?

Rumsfeld's Freedom Walk

Press coverage of Donald Rumsfeld's Freedomwalk on September 11, 2005, an event designed "to remember the victims of Sept. 11, 2001, to honor U.S. troops and veterans, and to highlight the value of freedom," was sparse, and for good reason. It was, basically, a bust. Attendance was small and the focus was clearly more on waving the flag, on supporting the troops, on the music and having a party, than on rememberance. And supporting the troops was not a valued to be shared by just anyone. Supporting the troops for these people equates directly to supporting Bush, unquestioningly.

Truthout's Chris Hume has filmed and produced a short 7 minute video piece on Freedomwalk which is well worth seeing. While it is shocking to hear people say that they believe there is a direct connection between all the hijackers of 9/11 with Iraq and al-Queda, the more disturbing part of Hume's piece is how one lone mother of a soldier in Iraq, who wears a t-shirt that says "No More Lies, No More Lives," is treated by those attending this event. She is articulate, she cares about her son and other sons and daughters serving in the military, but she has not swallowed Bush's lies about the war. She is cursed, condemned and basically told she shouldn't be at the event.

September 20, 2005

Karl Rove, Bush Reconstruction Czar

The reconstruction effort is going to be massive. The White House is pulling out all the stops. The heavy machinery is being brought in, and the money needed is going to be substantial. The overall strategy of the reconstruction will be impressive, and the specific tactics of it will be complex. All the necessary people will be employed in this monumental job. The White House knows where it must place its resources, and how to best use them. General Karl Rove has been put in charge.

Unfortunately, I am not talking about the reconstruction of the Gulf region, but rather the reconstruction of George Bush.

When I was told, a few days ago, by someone, who heard it from someone else, that Karl Rove has been put in charge of reconstruction in Katrina's aftermath, I thought it must have been something passed on from some political satire in The Onion. You know, some farcical, nonsensical piece about the "boy genius" Karl Rove being called to the rescue with all of his vast experience in emergency relief and recovery, perhaps something zany like The Onion story about Bush appointing a third-trimester fetus to the Supreme Court.

But no, I was wrong. And it has taken several days for it to really sink in. I have struggled with disbelief, digested the reality, and now, fearfully and with growing understanding, I think I see the light. Maybe others figured this out earlier than I, but I was so dumbfounded by the possibility, it simply didn't sink in.

My initial reaction was that I thought I had seen pretty much the lowest depths of incompetence and unmitigated gall from this administration, that Rove as Reconstruction Czar was a result of Bush having slipped into some early form of dementia. But what I see now is that it is probably a stroke of brilliance, albeit a stroke of last resort.

Forget the actual reconstruction. Halliburton engineers will handle that. Forget paying the poor victims of Katrina who are being hired to help in the reconstruction effort. Halliburton has already been given a pass on paying them any kind of fair wage. Forget rebuilding the homes of all of the tens of thousands of working poor in New Orleans. Different, more profitable, kinds of construction will take their place. And besides, those people are being diffused and scattered around the country. Whatever unified voice, whatever shared victimization, whatever horror they experienced is being dissipated. The last thing Rove wants is for them to unite in one voice of outrage. And lastly, watch for the unrelenting smear of local Democratic leaders. Rove will light so many fires under the asses of Democrats they won't know what hit them.

Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove has been unleashed to put the most colorful, beautiful, shiny blossom on this hurricane turd possible. Karl Rove's mandate? Damage control, propaganda spin, rewriting history, guaranteeing GOP success at the polls in 2006, assigning blame elsewhere, reinvigorating the Bush base, and making sure none of the accountability for this huge Bush failure is actually assigned to him. Short-lived lip service about how "we all share the blame" is fine, but, if Karl Rove can do anything about it, the truth of it will not outlive a few days.

This storm brought has almost brought down Bush's house of cards. It slammed head-on into the White House. It has wrecked havoc with Bush's image and jeopardized Bush's place in history. His ratings are at the lowest ever. Placing Rove at the epicenter of the reconstruction effort is further proof that Bush is not so much concerned with the victims, as he is with his own survival. Who better, than the man himself, to take control of what is really a reconstruction of Bush, not America?

September 19, 2005

What if...?

In today's Press Briefing at the White House (as of this writing, not yet posted at the White House site), Press Secretary Scott McClellan responded to several questions from reporters with, and I paraphrase, "that's a what-if question, and I don't respond to what-ifs."

Now I know that if a reporter asked a silly what-if question like "what if the moon was made of cheese?", it probably would not deserve an answer.

But since the real world in which most people live, work and think, is made up of a series of what-ifs, it seems that a reasonable what-if question deserves a reasonable answer.

What if the car breaks down? What if I lose my job? What if we can't pay for child care? What if we lose our health insurance? What if mom or dad get sick? What if our heating fuel price skyrockets, along with our gas prices? What if our home is destroyed by flood, or fire, or hurricane? What-ifs are everywhere, and every human confronts them. Not Scott McClellan, it seems.

In fact, the federal government undertakes thinking about and planning for what-ifs all the time.

The Department of Defense (DOD) studies thousands of what-ifs every year in its strategic and tactical planning around the world. If it isn't doing that, we're all in big trouble.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) studies the what-ifs of terrorist attacks; the where, the when, the how, the possible responses, the who. If it isn't doing that, we're all in big trouble.

The Department of Health and Human Services has people who study what-ifs regarding the outbreak of disease and how well prepared we are to respond. If it doesn't do that, we're all in big trouble.

The Department of the Treasury, through the Secret Service, conducts ongoing intense studies of potential attacks on the President, wherever and whenever he goes. If it doesn't do that, he's in big trouble.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) studies the what-ifs of natural disasters and how to respond to them with both pre-planning and post-disaster rescue, relief and recovery. If it doesn't do that, we're all in big trouble.

And here's the rub.

Had Scott McClellan been the head of FEMA, and been asked by a reporter "What if a Category 5 hurricane hit New Orleans, would he have responded, "I don't do what-ifs?"

Of course, we all know that it's the people of the Gulf Coast region the the United States who are in big trouble.

So, the next time a White House reporter asks a question of Scott McClellan which he then throws back as a "what-if", just tell Scott that "what-ifs" are really important, that the American people deserve to know if the government is thinking about the what-ifs, and to just shut up already, and answer the damn question.

FEMA, Under Bush, Has Been Ongoing Disaster

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, in a special investigation, has exposed FEMA disasters that have long preceded Katrina. This is the same newspaper that called for FEMA Director Mike Brown's resignation last year.

The newspaper has outlined the terrible waste and mismanagement of this agency whose sole purpose is to assist the American people in time of natural and man-made catastrophes.

The newspaper reveals how FEMA has paid out millions of dollars in false claims, not only in Florida, but as far away as Detroit, Los Angeles and Cleveland.

The newspaper found that many FEMA employees receive little training, and that an amazing number of them have criminal records.

The entire investigative report is a sad story that presages what we face today. This story runs counter to everything George Bush and Dick Cheney have said about how safe the American people would be with them in power. It is been an ongoing national disgrace which has ultimately resulted in tragic consequences for all the people of the Gulf region, and the rest of America, as well.

There are PDF files of the entire investigative report at the newpaper's site above.

The Real George Bush

In recent days, I have seen more discussion in the press of what George Bush is really like, behind closed doors. He is beginning to show it in public.

George Packer has described Bush's "brittle inflexibility" and Evan Thomas of Newsweek his dislike of dissent. Here's what Thomas had to say: "Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him."

Michael Shaw of BagNewsNotes comes right out with "tempermental, stubborn, impatient and callous."

It's really beginning to show on Bush's face. His swagger is not as John Wayne-ish. He certainly does not have any of that post-9/11 jauntiness and patriotic zeal. There is no applause. Americans have not put out their flags united behind him.

I suspect that, in private, it's pretty unpleasant to be around him.

Here are four photos of Bush at the United Nations on September 14, 2005 (many thanks to BagNewsNotes for these photos).

In the top photo, he is voting, an act of active participation, but with a look on his face that is bored and snide all at the same time.

In the second photo, he is listening with what can only be called a look of disdain. He'd really rather be back at his ranch riding a horse or something. It's almost as if he is thinking "this isn't fun anymore."

In the third photo, he is listening again, but I think his face reflects the fact that he has lost the train of what the speaker is saying. In the same way he loses himself even when speaking from a script, he has lost himself in his listening process. Like "oops, just what the hell is this guy talking about?"

In the bottom photo, Bush is showing his real unhappiness with his situation. He is in a major pickle and he knows it. He could care less about the UN, about the rest of the world, about kicking Kofi Annan's butt, because all he can think about is the deep doodoo in which he finds himself in Iraq and in the aftermath of Katrina. It was all so much fun, up until now.

September 18, 2005

Other Voices and Viewpoints

Here is a list of recent pieces I recommend highly.

Frank Rich explains how Katrina has been the perfect storm to unmask George Bush, once and for all. Here's a sample:

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.
Read about a long-time FEMA employee and union leader who warned early on about the potential for a FEMA disaster. Here is a sample:

As Hurricane Katrina bore down on the Gulf Coast three weeks ago, veteran workers at the Federal Emergency Management Agency braced for an epic disaster.
But their bosses, political appointees with almost no emergency management experience, didn't seem to share the sense of urgency, a FEMA veteran said.
"We told these fellows that there was a killer hurricane heading right toward New Orleans," Leo Bosner, a 26-year FEMA employee and union leader told CNN. "We had done our job, but they didn't do theirs."


An interesting viewpoint of American conservative reaction to George Bush's pledge to pull out all the stops in hurricane relief from the Guardian in the UK. Here's a sample:

The promise of arguably the biggest federal government project since Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal triggered a reaction among fiscal and "small-government" conservatives. "This is a shocking expansion of the federal role in disaster relief," said Stephen Slivinski, director of budget studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian thinktank. "The fear is these programmes that are supposed to be temporary will find a permanent home in the budget."


And finally, a piece by Ralph Nader about John Roberts and corporate personhood. Here is a sample:

What a triumph for the most dominant powers in and around our nation. Judge Roberts got away without having important questions asked regarding the interface between corporations, the Constitution, the election laws, the regulatory agencies as they relate to workers, consumers, the environment, manipulated communities, the double standard justice system and the pertinent practices of corporate law firms.

September 17, 2005

Bush Wage Cuts For Relief Workers May Be Illegal

Reprinted from Secrecy News from the Project on Government Secrecy of the Federation of American Scientists

On September 8, President Bush issued a proclamation suspending the minimum wage requirements for relief workers engaged in Katrina recovery operations. But, in order to do so, he relied upon a statutory authority that has been dormant for thirty years and that appears to be legally inoperative.

"I find that the conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina constitute 'national emergency' within the meaning of section 3147 of title40, United States Code," President Bush declared on September 8 as he removed the Davis Bacon Act wage supports for workers in Louisiana, and portions of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

But this emergency statute was one of numerous authorities that were rendered dormant by the National Emergencies Act of 1976, and that can only be activated by certain procedural formalities that were absent in this case. In particular, the President must formally declare a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act, and he must specify which standby legal authorities he proposes to activate so as to permit congressional restraint of emergency powers.

Strangely, however, President Bush proceeded as if the National Emergencies Act did not exist. The September 8 presidential declaration was "an anomaly," according to a new Congressional Research Service assessment, and it did not follow "the historical pattern of declaring a national emergency to activate the suspension authority.

"The propriety of the President's action in this case may beultimately determined in the courts," the CRS report stated delicately.The newly updated CRS report, written by Harold C. Relyea, traces the evolution of emergency powers and includes a tabulation of declared national emergencies from 1976-2005.

You can read it here.

The President's September 8 proclamation is here:

Why would the President deviate from established practice in this way? One subject matter expert consulted by Secrecy News rejected the idea that there was any self-interested motive at work, and noted that the President had properly invoked the National Emergencies Act in previous cases."I think it's just poor staff work at the White House," he said. But if it was an innocent mistake, that doesn't mean it is an inconsequential one."The hell-to-pay could come if a union or some affected worker decides this [wage cut] was improperly done" and files a lawsuit to challenge it, a possibility implicitly raised by the CRS above. Meanwhile, taking the President's proclamation at face value, Rep. George Miller and several dozen other members of Congress introduced a bill to undo what the President has proposed. H.R. 3763, introduced on September 14, would "reinstate the application of the wage requirements of the Davis-Bacon Act to Federal contracts in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina."

Bombs vs Bottled Water

The Washington Post reported today, on its front page, that US strategic planning is "shifting" and that there are "new times in the Pacific." (While this story is important, also, for its warning to the American people that the Bush government is on a collision course with China in the Pacific, that is a story I will address in a future piece.)

Here's the opening paragraph of the story:

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- A dull-gray B-2 bomber sat poised in a typhoon-proof air-conditioned hangar, its bat wings stretching 172 feet across. The bomb bay was fitted for 80 GPS-guided bombs, at 500 pounds each, that could be delivered to any target in Asia within a few hours.

Imagine that. We can spend the money to protect our war-making machines from hurricanes, but we couldn't spend the money to protect the New Orleans levees from hurricanes.

Imagine that. We can drop eighty 500-pound bombs anywhere in Asia within a few hours, but we can't drop bottled water to Americans in New Orleans in a few days.

After 9/11, in return for huge sums of money from the American taxpayer, resulting in the largest federal deficit in history (and it will get a lot bigger), the Bush government created a sprawling new department to defend the motherland; contrived a complex reorganization of our intelligence community; invaded Afghanistan to destroy Al-Queda and the Taliban; and invaded Iraq to defend the world against Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. The Bush government has reassured the American people all along, taking pains to demonstrate a level of preparedness against terror attacks as a result of all of its actions.

The motherland has not been protected, the intelligence community is still in disarray, Al-Queda and the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan, and Iraq is a quagmire of immense proportions.

Had New Orleans been a terrorist attack, would the response have been different? Of course, we'll never know. But what we do know is that all the money spent for emergency preparedness by the Bush administration gave us no protection against mother nature. Here's my question to George Bush:

After all we have given you, George, why aren't we any safer than before 9/11? Your military brags about being able to drop bombs anywhere in Asia in a few hours, but why can't you drop bottled water anywhere in America in a few hours?

The Washington Post also reported on its front page a story about Bush warning that to pay for the mammoth costs of Katrina recovery (estimated to be over $200 billion), there will have to be spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

Here's how it is reported:

Amid growing concern among congressional Republicans about the huge cost of the planned reconstruction effort, Bush said the federal government can foot the bill without resorting to a tax increase. "You bet it's going to cost money. But I'm confident we can handle it," Bush said. "It's going to mean that we're going to have to cut unnecessary spending."

He doesn't say where the cuts will be implemented, but I think we can guess where they are not going to occur. It won't be in homeland defense, overseas defense, corporate welfare programs, giveaways to agri-business, intelligence-gathering, defense contractor subsidies and no-bid contracts, or in Congressional pork.

Bush says increasing taxes is out. He won't eliminate his tax cuts for the rich. He won't increase corporate taxes. But Bush said that we will have to cut "unnecessary" government programs. Is he actually admitting that he has approved unnecessary government programs? He did not mention what those "unnecessary" programs are, but I am sure we will find out.

Who will be hurt by Bush spending cuts? It will be the middle class, the working poor, and the unemployed. It will be the African-American community, students, public works programs, health care programs, child care and educational programs, social support programs of every kind. The time is ripe for him to drown that part of the government in the bathtub that he thinks deserves drowning.

I worry that there will come a day when all the government has left to drop on the American people is bombs, because all the water will be gone.

September 16, 2005

One Nation, Under Gods

Here's how the Christian Coalition is covering the lawsuit which is challenging the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance (a 20th century construct) in classrooms in Sacramento, California. This will be a case that newly confirmed Chief Justice John Roberts will undoubtedly decide on.

The basic claim mounted in defense of the pledge is that those two words ("under God") do not "establish religion" which is, under the Constitution, the litmus test. In defense of those two words, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's words are used to support their position. She said that eliminating references to divinity in the nation's symbols, songs, mottos, and oaths "would sever ties to a history that sustains this nation even today."

Mat Staver, of Liberty Counsel, is quoted saying this: "If the Pledge established or tended to establish a religion, then that would have happened during the past 50 years of its existence." According to Christian Coalition story, Staver goes on to cite "that despite the fact the Pledge has been recited in classrooms, private meetings, and public events, not once has it tended to establish a religion."

Of course, that is exactly what it has tended to do. Repeated referral to what everyone understands as the Christian divinity "God", in classrooms, private meetings, and at public events, is designed specifically to advance the goals of Christian organizations in this country that are working to imbue the American government with Christian tenets and values, as defined only by them. If it doesn't serve their purposes in establishing a religion, why are they so vehemently defending its use? If it is not the Christian God referred to in the pledge, then which God is it? Who added those two words to the pledge? Muslims? Not even close. It was the membership of the Knights of Columbus (hardly a non-sectarian organization) that strongarmed Congress to make the change in 1954.

I have a modest proposal which would test their proposition that the pledge of allegiance is not intended to advance any religion. Let's amend the pledge to read "under all Gods" and see how they react to that.

Wiretapping Mosques

Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachussetts, is suggesting that we are not doing enough to be vigilant in the "war on terror." He is not suggesting that Katrina demonstrates this fact. He is suggesting that, among other things, we need to increase our internal efforts and concentrate them on doing things like wiretapping mosques in America.

Here's a guy who described himself as "red-state folk," elected in one of the most blue states in the US, making a pilgrimage to Washington DC, and speaking before an admiring crowd at the Heritage Foundation, boot-licking his way through a speech that could have been given by Dick Cheney. In a single-minded disregard of the reality of the Bush administration's massive homeland security failures in the wake of Katrina, Mitt is pushing for ever greater restrictions on the civil rights of Americans, and increased intrusions into their privacy.

Mitt's initial instincts about Katrina were good when he said, in the immediate aftermath, that the national government's response was "embarrassing." But, in a realization that he will need those Washington "folks" to support his political future, he has, since then, focussed his criticism on local officials.

In all likelihood, he is positioning himself for a run at the Presidency in 2008. His challenge, of course, is how he can make himself more red than guys like Santorum and Lott. Can you imagine the historical irony of a Massachussetts Republican elected President?

Tip of the old hat to PJB.

September 15, 2005

Barbour vs. Blanco

In this report from USA Today, it is clear that there was a significant difference between George Bush's response to Kathleen Blanco, Governor of Louisiana, and his response to Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi.

The fact that Barbour is an old pal of Shrub's played an enormous role in Bush's response, not to mention the fact that Barbour was Chairman of the Republican National Committee, a Republican White House political advisor, and a Republican corporate lobbyist.

Why did Bush called Barbour several times before he even answered a call from Blanco?

One of the criticisms of Blanco has been that she did not "specifically" request 30,000 federal troops, or 50,000 federal troops, or whatever it was she was supposed to have said to Bush to trigger his positive response. Apparently, when she said, "We need everything you have", that was not enough. Apparently, she did not know the right password, or the secret codeword. Declaring an official State of Emergency, three days before the hurricane hit, was not enough. The Republicans have been able to say -- "oh, oh, she didn't say the right word." Can you imagine Bush playing that kind of game with Barbour had Barbour said "send me everything you got, George"? In fact, what did Barbour actually say to Bush and what did Bush actually say to Barbour when he called him? Is there a record of that?

Barbour delivers for Bush -- votes, money, and favors.

Blanco is a Democratic Governor who opposed Bush twice, and whose legislative efforts in Louisiana (although mostly unsuccessful) have been anathema to the Bush political dogma.

Could it be that the perception that Barbour has reacted more forcefully, more quickly, and more heroically has something to do with his insider status?

Isn't there something basically un-American about a President reacting to a national catastrophe of this scale on the basis of political favoritism?

None of this addresses two other questions which loom large in my mind: 1. how has the fact that Blanco is a woman affected Bush's response; and 2) how has race played out as a factor in Bush's slow response to the victims in New Orleans? From a purely political point of view, the last thing White House Republicans would want would be a Blanco or Nagin viewed as a Democratic Giuiliani. Let's not forget that the first photos of Bush during his first visit to the Gulf region were with the two white Republican governors of Mississippi and Alabama.

It is not surprising that Bush's response to Barbour's insider status, imbued with good-old-boy, white, corporate country-club values, goes a long way in explaining why Governor Blanco, Mayor Nagin, and the people of New Orleans got short shrift.

Tip of the hat to Lakshmi Chaudry via Atrios.

September 14, 2005

Katrina's Toxic Secrets

What we are not hearing about may kill us; at least some of us. The toxins that have been mixed in with the water that inundated New Orleans is a deadly stew of poisons that the Bush government would rather no one talk about. The very fact that this toxic mix is being pumped back into Lake Pontchartrain and then into the Gulf of Mexico is also being ignored. But not by everyone.

Hugh Kauffman, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency who specializes in emergency response, spilled the beans on Air America radio. Kauffman said: "All of the oil and chemical companies that own storage tanks, facilities in that area that were flooded or impacted are required to publish with our regional office in Dallas instantly—whenever there’s a release; whenever there’s a breakage from pipelines, from storage tanks, refineries. The regional office, under orders, is not releasing that information to the public..."

It's also been more than a week since the Times-Picayune and the Society for Environmental Journalists filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the Environmental Protection Agency to release information it has regarding the specific toxins that were leaked by chemical and oil companies into the water that flooded New Orleans. According to the Society for Environmental Journalists, "The federal government's compliance with FOIA began to deteriorate in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to an SEJ report -- "A Flawed Tool -- Environmental Reporters' Experiences with the Freedom of Information Act" -- released Monday."

To make matters worse, the SEJ says that not only have government delays in responding to FOIA requests increased, but when responses finally do come, huge amounts of data are deleted.

September 13, 2005

Another Man-Made Disaster

While we concentrate on Katrina and think about all the things we, as human beings, could have done to prevent that disaster, all around us, every day, additional man-made disasters are in the making. Here is one example of the terrible devastation that we are allowing.

In Tasmania, the large island south of the Australian mainland, one company, Gunn Ltd., is clear-cut logging the oldest growth rainforest in the world.

Above is a view of Australia and Tasmania below it (New Zealand is to the right), showing just how little of this continent is covered in green growth.

Below is a photo of some of the clear-cutting in Tasmania.

Read more about it here and see more photos. It is compelling evidence of the waste of modern society, and the destruction and pillaging of our eco-system that results.

Bush-Cheney Pals to the Rescue

In the aftermath of Katrina, one thing is clear: Halliburton, Kellogg, Brown & Root, Bechtel, and Shaw Group, all Bush-Cheney pals, will clean up, figuratively and literally. USA Today reports.

Joseph Allbaugh, Bush 2000 campaign worker, former FEMA director, pal of Michael Brown, will make out like a bandit, helping them all. The Hill tells us how. (Is that a dead ferret on his head?)

September 12, 2005

Captivating Caption

From SkyNews (UK)

Bush's Three Strikes: A Canadian View

Republicans and Fox News insist on pointing at 9/11 as a high point for the Bush administration. George Bush rallied the people around himself in a patriotic fervor, images of the rolled up sleeves with a bullhorn at ground zero, American flags everywhere. Bush, our captain!

Afghanistan and Iraq are Bush waging his war on terror, wiping out al-Queda's refuge and training ground, eliminating the Taliban in the process, and bringing down one-third of the axis of evil, Saddam Hussein, and supposed ally to bin Laden. America bringing freedom and democracy to Afghan and Iraqi men and women.

And now Katrina, the worst national disaster in US history coming on George Bush's watch, and giving him one more opportunity to appear heroic and patriotic.

The only problem is that, in each case, Bush has failed Americans, in spite of Fox News' and Karl Rove's gargantuan efforts to prop him up.

Eric Margolis, in the Toronto Sun, explains just how George Bush has let Americans down.

Rehnquist, Bork and the Civil Rights Act of 1964

An old friend of mine sent this to me over the weekend:

I'm reading a fascinating book, JUDGMENT DAYS by Nick Kotz. The volume is
subtitled: "Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr and the laws that
changed America."

Chapter 6 is entitled "An idea whose time has come," and deals with the
final struggle to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Much time is spent on
working around the backward southern Democrats and getting the Republicans
to come around to accepting the inevitable and to stop standing in the way
of progress. The forces had to break through a 75-day talkathon, the
longest Senate filibuster since the adoption of the cloture rule in 1917.
(The vote for cloture on 10 June 64 was 71-29; the final vote on the bill,
the next week, was 73-27.)

page 152 (on the Senate's final passage of the Civil Rights Act):

"Barry Goldwater of Arizona, two weeks away from becoming the Republican
presidential nominee, voted no, rejecting Everett Dirksen's plea that he
support the bill for the good of the Republican Party. Goldwater replied
that the civil rights bill was unconstitutional - advice he had received
from a little-known lawyer named William Rehnquist and a young Yale law
professor named Robert Bork."


I wonder if Bush nominee John Roberts would have concurred?

September 11, 2005

Victims Should Work For Less

In response to my piece about Bush's waiver of the Davis-Bacon Act where I said, among other things:

It's profoundly revealing how in the midst of this terrible crisis, someone in the adminstration (perhaps Cheney himself?) was probably approached by Halliburton and other companies like them and told that it would be helpful if the President suspended the requirements of the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. And in response, Bush reacts like a trained monkey.

Anonymous, someone who commented on my piece, said this:

This is complete conjecture. All we know is that there are not enough people to help with the rebuilding. It's a shame that people wouldn't help rebuild their communities unless they are paid some prevailing wage.


Here's my response to anonymous (which is a category I don't like, by the way, because it lets people say things without being accountable -- sound familiar?)

My response:

I made it clear that it was conjecture by including the question mark and the word "probably." But it's probably closer to the truth than "Anonymous" would want us believe. Someone had to have the bright idea to request a waiver. And it certainly wasn't the victims who need jobs. So whose bright idea does anonymous think it was? It was either the corporate world that had the idea, or it was the Bush government that had the idea.

Anonymous believes that people who have lost their homes and jobs are not worth paying prevailing wage, anyway. I suppose anonymous would have all the victims become volunteers and "help" rebuild roads and bridges (which is what the Davis-Bacon Act applies to in the first place) for nothing. Amazing, not only should the victims pay with their homes, jobs, and lives, but they should work for less, so corporate vultures can make a higher profit from the disaster.

Translation of the Prevarication

Here are some of the things Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, said in his announcement that Mike Brown, the head of FEMA, was being brought back to Washington DC, followed by my editorial translation, basically amounting to what Chertoff was really saying, but couldn't.

"The effort to respond and recover from Hurricane Katrina is moving forward." (Finally)

"We are preparing to move from the immediate emergency response phase to the next phase of operations." (We're bringing in some professionals now)

"Importantly, we must have seamless interaction with military forces as we move forward with our critical work in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes." (We discovered this only after Mike Brown blew it)

"At the same time, we are still in hurricane season and need to be prepared to deal effectively with the possibility of future hurricanes and other disasters." (There just might be more disasters on the way, we think, maybe)

Therefore, I have directed Mike Brown to return to administering FEMA nationally, and I have appointed Vice Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard as the Principal Federal Official (PFO) overseeing Hurricane Katrina response and recovery effort in the field. (We are bringing Mike Brown back to Washington DC and taking his phone and computer away from him)

Joe Picciano will continue to be deputy PFO in Baton Rouge to support Admiral Allen's efforts. (Joe actually has substantial experience in disaster relief, just look at his bio)

Hurricane Katrina will go down as the largest natural disaster in American history and Mike has done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented challenge. (Given his utter inexperience and incompetence)

I appreciate his work. (Despite the fact that I am gagging while I say this)

I also appreciate the tireless efforts of the men and women of FEMA, as well as our federal, state, and local partners. (I sure hope this helps)

Vice Admiral Allen is doing an exceptional job, and he has my full support in the important work ahead. (OK, now take your eyes off Mike Brown, forget him, and talk about this guy, please)


Learning on the Job

September 10, 2005

Bush Administration is America's Weapon of Mass Self-Destruction

In the face of what has happened on the Gulf Coast of America, should we be surprised that the Department of Defense is persisting in its "Freedom Walk" on Sunday, September 11 to commemorate and remember the victims of 9/11?

Should we be surprised to learn that it is a "permitted" event, meaning that it is open only to those approved by the organizing group, in this case, the Pentagon?

Is it surprising that Clint Black, famous for his patriotic song "Iraq and Roll," will be the featured entertainer, and will, thus, attempt to connect, yet again, Bush's Iraq war with 9/11?

The Bush administration is ever ready to use government for its selfish interests. It continues to use 9/11 as justification and cover for almost everyhting it does to hurt Americans. It manipulates policy and legislation in ways that benefit its corporate sponsors. It restricts ways in which Americans can protest government, so it can dodge any responsibility or accountability. It uses government to censor science which doesn't fit its narrow religious beliefs. It eliminates bankruptcy protections for Americans at a time when more and more are threaterned with economic implosion. It uses government to deny contraception for people in AIDS-torn Africa, again in the service of its narrow religious beliefs. It sponsors and encourages huge exports of jobs away from its own people to benefit the bottom lines of its corporate cronies. It provides sinecures in government for incompetent hacks as payback for favors. It cuts prevailing wage laws in the wake of America's worst national disaster to help the likes of Halliburton. It stands by while oil companies gouge Americans at the pump. It encourages bigots like Pat Robertson. It cuts budgets for real homeland security from hurricanes like Katrina, while it pumps billions into the budgets of defense contractors and its own selfish war in Iraq.

The Bush administration has become America's weapon of mass self-destruction. It has selectively employed Grover Norquist's wish to drown government in the bathtub, by literally drowning the American people, while using government for its own corrupt purposes.

The victims of Katrina are more than just the dead, the dying, the displaced, and the abandoned of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The victims are the American people as a whole.

We have elected this government twice (although there may be some evidence ot the contrary) and given it permission to undercut its own people. The Democratic opposition has been complicit in some of it -- giving carte blanche to Bush in Iraq, voting to take away bankruptcy protections for the American people (even Hillary Clinton voted for it), and supporting Bush's energy policy. Some say we deserve the government we vote for.

While I hesitate to use the prevalent phrase "tipping point", it fits the time. Now should be the tipping point for change in America. In the aftermath of Katrina, evidence of the Bush government's incompetence, its bankrupt and greedy policies, and its callous disregard for the personal and economic safety of the American people is more glaringly clear than ever. If it isn't the "tipping point" then we need to simply give it a good shove.

If we do not exploit (in the best sense of that word) this terrible example of how bad this Bush government really is to make changes in 2006, and then again in 2008, then we really will deserve the goverment we vote for. Let's not forget the Democrats who have been bought and paid for as well. We need to deal with them, too.

September 09, 2005

Blaming Blanco

Republicans in and out of government have been blaming Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco for not declaring a state of emergency in Louisiana in a timely fashion. Reports in newspapers and statements from people like Newt Gingrich have been responsible for repetition of the lie.

Here is the State of Emergency declaration that Governor Blanco signed on Friday, August 26, 2005, three days before Katrina hit.

Bush Acts Fast When Cutting Wages

When it comes to responding to Katrina, Bush was dull and slow. But when it comes to helping out contractors like Halliburton which will be working in the areas of devastation, Bush quickly suspends federal law so that these companies can pay below prevailing wages.

It's profoundly revealing how in the midst of this terrible crisis, someone in the adminstration (perhaps Cheney himself?) was probably approached by Halliburton and other companies like them and told that it would be helpful if the President suspended the requirements of the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. And in response, Bush reacts like a trained monkey.

"The Davis-Bacon law requires federal contractors to pay workers at least the prevailing wages in the area where the work is conducted. It applies to federally funded construction projects such as highways and bridges. Bush's executive order suspends the requirements of the Davis-Bacon law for designated areas hit by the storm. "

We certainly wouldn't want people to take advantage of this "national emergency" and work at a decent wage in rebuilding the Gulf Coast area. And besides, the Bush government needs to find some way of thanking Halliburton for helping out, doesn't it?

September 08, 2005

The Big Lie In One Photo

This photo is a lie. These firefighters who wanted to help people were, instead, diverted so they could have their picture taken near GEORGE BUSH WHILE HE IS ROLLING UP HIS SLEEVES. It's a sickening photo that would shame most men, but not George Bush. His handlers are masters of this kind of Orwellian lie.

John Kerry never served in Vietnam. George Bush was a Vietnam war hero. It's the same story. No one is accountable, least of all George Bush.

Who Are The New Orleans Left Behind?

It's only a guess, but I think I know who the forgotten people of New Orleans are. I have no evidence, and I have not done any studies. Other than my own educated guesses and anecdotal evidence from watching the news, here's my guess about who the dead, dying, and left behind are:

-- they are African-American (we'll know exactly how large a percentage, at some point);
-- they are elderly;
-- they are the infirm and the ill;
-- they are dishwashers in hotels and restaurants;
-- they are busboys and waiters;
-- they are hotel maids and janitors;
-- they are musicians;
-- they are handymen and day laborers;
-- they are drug addicts and alcoholics;
-- they are the unemployable;
-- they are people working for minimum wage or less;
-- they are the mentally challenged and emotionally disturbed;
-- they are the carless;
-- they are the homeless;
-- they are single mothers working two or three jobs;
-- they are nightclerks and nightwatchmen;
-- they are horse carriage operators;
-- they are panhandlers;
-- they are street entertainers;
-- they are street vendors;
-- they are prostitutes;
-- they are gang members and drug dealers;
-- they are the poor of our country.

They were this country's left behind.

FEMA Urges Americans To Donate To Pat Robertson

Here's FEMA's internet website on August 31, 2005, where it lists 17 organizations to which it recommends people donate for hurricane relief. In the top three is Operation Blessing, an organization founded by Pat Robertson, and which has had its share of problems.

Operation Blessing claims to be a "member" of, among other organizations, FEMA and USAID. Now I don't seem to remember when Congress approved those two federal government agencies actually having "memberships."

Of the 17 organizations on the FEMA recommended list, 15 of them are self-avowed Christian organizations. Convoy of Hope, for instance, which, at first blush, seems to be an organization that simply provides relief, describes itself this way: It began by networking with churches within communities to hold an outreach that would give away groceries, help people find jobs, and present the Gospel. So, it's "Here's a blanket. Want some soup? and, by the way, have you met Jesus?


Here's that same FEMA page today, after FEMA was shamed into making changes. FEMA added in a much more representative listing which includes other religious and non-sectarian organizations like Humane Society of the United States, United Jewish Communities, Feed the Children, and B'nai B'rith International.

Another interesting organization on the list to which citizens are urged to make cash donations is the Corporation for National and Community Service which describes itself as an independent federal agency. If memory serves me correctly, I make cash donations to the federal government in the form of taxes. Even in its description of what it does with its General Funds, this "Corporation" puts it this way:

Supporting operations and systems such as faith-based and community initiatives, technical & training assistance, research & development, recruitment and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

The very first thing on this independent federal agency's list of what it does is support faith-based initiatives!

Thanks to Rep. John Conyers and PJB.

September 07, 2005

Barbara Bush: Schrub's Role Model

So many of the people in the arenas here, you know, were underprivileged anyway. This is [chuckle] working out well for them.

Yeah, all those poor black people are making out like bandits.

What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas.

God forbid, all these traumatized people would not want to return to the place they experienced hell in.

Tip-of-the-Hat to Ken.

Katrina in 2002

A transcript from Bill Moyer's show NOW in which experts describe Katrina, in 2002.

What Does Code Yellow Mean?

I have one question about the federal response (or lack thereof) to Katrina that I think needs exploring in a big way. Just what does the Department of Homeland Security's color-coded alert system really mean? Given the lack of response and preparedness to Katrina, just what protection did this Code Level alert give us?

Here is the defintion of Code Yellow from the Department itself:

Elevated Condition (Yellow). An Elevated Condition is declared when there is a significant risk of terrorist attacks. In addition to the Protective Measures taken in the previous Threat Conditions, Federal departments and agencies should consider the following general measures in addition to the Protective Measures that they will develop and implement:
Increasing surveillance of critical locations;
Coordinating emergency plans as appropriate with nearby jurisdictions;
Assessing whether the precise characteristics of the threat require the further refinement of preplanned Protective Measures; and
Implementing, as appropriate, contingency and emergency response plans.

So, under this elevated condition yellow, the federal government was supposed to have coordinated "emergency plans as appropriate with nearby jurisdictions," and implemented, "as appropriate, contingency and emergency response plans."

I know this was not a terrorist attack, but still, wouldn't you think our level of preparedness for something big would have been much better?

Can we presume that had this been a terrorist attack in New Orleans, it all would have been responded to much more quickly and effectively? Can we presume that if the levees had been blown up by terrorists on a sunny day in New Orleans that the federal response would have been swift and massive? We would all hope so. And we would wish it so, in part, because our government has set up this color coding response system to terrorist attacks and told us that there are good reasons for it. I mean, some deep thinking went into this, didn't it?

Here is a summary of the failures by government before and after Katrina from the BBC. I suspect that any final report from any commission is going to come to most of the same conclusions as this piece of journalism does just nine days after the event.

Finally, the photo of all those buses sitting in water is pretty disturbing when you think about all the people in New Orleans who had no way to get out but would like to have gotten out. Why is it that local and state officials could not have found a way to have mobilized these buses to have gotten more people out on Saturday and Sunday before Katrina struck?

September 06, 2005

Don't Blame Me

Do you notice how it's the people who are the prime targets for blame and criticism for the lack of effective response to the aftermath of Katrina who are the same people who are proclaiming the loudest that now is not the time to assign blame or criticism?

It's perfectly understandable why anyone who responded poorly, slowly, ineffectively, incompetently, ignorantly, and with insensitivity would want any of that talked about.

If I were George Bush, Dick Cheney, Mike Brown, Mike Chertoff, Donald Rumsfeld, Scott McClellan, or Condi Rice, I wouldn't want to talk about it either.

September 05, 2005

The National Geographic's Famous Prediction

Here is the famous article from last year, from the National Geographic magazine. It is must reading to understand the background to this catastrophe.

This Turd Won't Blossom

Boy, was I wrong! When I wrote this piece on August 29, I assumed, wrongly, that Bush and Rove would take huge advantage of the hurricane as a convenient little diversion from other less heroic issues like the failures in Iraq and the Bush social security privatization fiasco. Bush's nickname for Karl Rove is "Turd Blossom." Presumably, Bush thinks that Rove can make even a turd blossom, even though this Rove nickname might not reflect well on George Bush himself. Regardless of this Rove reputation, in the case of Katrina, Rove has failed Bush utterly and the turds remain, simply, turds.

In a stunning and revealing article about the American press response to Katrina and the aftermath of failures, the BBC explains to the people of the world how the reality that is Bush's Katrina-gate is giving spine to American journalists where there was none before.

The depth of the problems for Bush and the Republican Congress is impossible to gauge at this point, but it very well could prove fatal in 2006. It certainly ought to prove fatal, given the magnitude of this failure.

If generals like Mike Chertoff (DHS) and Mike Brown (FEMA) were responsible for similar failures on the battlefield, any commander-in-chief worth his salt would have fired them on the spot. That these two buffoons continue to be in charge is a national disgrace.

To understand the dullness of Bush's response to this disaster, listen to his clumsy and artless words, spoken during his first visit to the Gulf region:

"This is a storm that's going to require immediate action now." (finally, four days after the storm passed)

"I know the people of this part of the world are suffering, and I want them to know that there's a flow of progress." (yeah, but where's the food and water?)

"I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen. (no kidding?)

"I understand the devastation requires more than one day's attention." (was this necessary for him to say? or maybe it was, because many people really aren't sure )

"It's going to require the attention of this country for a long period of time. ... And therefore, there will be a national response." (well, that's a surprise because alot of people thought Bush was going to leave it up to Haley Barbour to do the rescues and clean-up)

"And I look forward to continuing to work with the governor and the mayor and the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to do our duty to help the good folks of this part of the world get back on their feet." (to do our duty to help the good folks of this part of the world? who talks like that?)

"Here's what I believe. I believe that the great city of New Orleans will rise again and be a greater city of New Orleans. (Applause.) I believe the town where I used to come from, Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself -- occasionally too much -- (laughter) -- will be that very same town, that it will be a better place to come to. That's what I believe. I believe the great state of Louisiana will get its feet back and become a vital contributor to the country. (I am surprised he didn't say vital contributor to the Republican Party. And does he really think the victims think it is funny that little Georgie Bush used come to New Orleans to get drunk?)

And if Bush says "the good folks" one more time, I am going to be forced to jab knitting needles into my ears.

The rest of the world is appalled. Here is a sampling of response:

Mexico's El Universal
The slowness with which the USA's federal emergency services have joined the rescue operation has already generated great political tension... There is no doubt that the lack of well-timed responses to assist the population will have political costs for President Bush's Republican Party in the next federal elections.

Argentina's Clarin
Katrina had more than the power of the wind and water, because, now, when they have subsided, it can still reveal the emptiness of an era, one that is represented by President George W Bush more than anyone.

Spain's El Pais
Up until Monday, Bush was the president of the war in Iraq and 9/11. Today there are few doubts that he will also pass into history as the president who didn't know how to prevent the destruction of New Orleans and who abandoned its inhabitants to their fate for days. And the worst is yet to come.

Spain's La Razon
Proving that even the gods are mortal, it is clear that the USA's international image is being damaged in a way that it has never known before. The country will probably be able to recuperate from the destruction, but its pride has already been profoundly wounded.

France's Liberation
Bush had already been slow to react when the World Trade Center collapsed. Four years later, he was no quicker to get the measure of Katrina - a cruel lack of leadership at a time when this second major shock for 21st century America is adding to the crisis of confidence for the world's leading power and to international disorder. As happened with 9/11, the country is displaying its vulnerability to the eyes of the world.

France's Le Progres
Katrina has shown that the emperor has no clothes. The world's superpower is powerless when confronted with nature's fury.

Switzerland's Le Temps
The sea walls would not have burst in New Orleans if the funds meant for strengthening them had not been cut to help the war effort in Iraq and the war on terror... And rescue work would have been more effective if a section of National Guard from the areas affected had not been sent to Baghdad and Kabul... And would George Bush have left his holiday ranch more quickly if the disaster had not first struck the most disadvantaged populations of the black south?

Ireland's The Irish Times
This is a defining moment for Mr Bush, just as much as 9/11 was. So far his reputation for prompt and firm crisis management has fallen far short of what is required.

Saudi Arabia's Saudi Gazette
The episode illustrates that when the normal day-to-day activity of society disintegrates, the collapse of civilisation is only a few paces behind. We all walk on the edge of the abyss.

Musib Na'imi in Iran's Al-Vefagh
About 10,000 US National Guard troops were deployed [in New Orleans] and were granted the authority to fire at and kill whom they wanted, upon the pretext of restoring order. This decision is an indication of the US administration's militarist mentality, which regards killing as the only way to control even its own citizens.

Samih Sa'ab in Lebanon's Al-Nahar
The destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina... has proved that even the No 1 superpower in the world is helpless in facing nature's 'terrorism'.

Pakistan's The Nation
To augment the tragedy, the government of the world's richest nation defied the general expectation that at the first sign of the storm it would muster an armada of ships, boats and helicopters for the rescue operation. For nearly three days it sat smugly apathetic to the people's plight, their need for food, medicine and other basic necessities.

Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po
This disaster is a heavy blow to the United States, and a lesson which deserves deep thought... [It] is a warning to the Bush administration that the United States must clear its head and truly assume its responsibility to protect nature and the environment in which humankind lives.

Ambrose Murunga in Kenya's Daily Nation
My first reaction when television images of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans came through the channels was that the producers must be showing the wrong clip. The images, and even the disproportionately high number of visibly impoverished blacks among the refugees, could easily have been a re-enactment of a scene from the pigeonholed African continent.

Thanks to PJB and the BBC.

Castro More Competent Than Bush

In September of 2004, a category 5 hurricane hit Cuba, a million and a half Cubans were evacuated by the Castro government to higher ground and, despite 20,000 homes being destroyed, no one was killed.

September 04, 2005

America's Arrogant and Heartless Royalty

As of Friday, September 2nd, Vice President Dick Cheney was still on vacation.

Condoleeza "Imelda Marcos" Rice was on a shopping spree for shoes in New York City on September 1st, three days after the disaster hit.

Here is how Bush handled the catastrophe:

During the hurricane, he had a birthday party with John McCain. After the hurricane had passed, he flew to California to give a speech about how he is like George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt. He then flew back to his Crawford ranch for one final vacation day (I believe he was really pissed by the inconvenience of Katrina) , and then, the next day, left Crawford and flew over the Gulf region to "survey" the devastation on his way back to Washington DC. (no doubt, cluck clucking the whole time). Finally, on Friday, five full days after the hurricane struck, he visited the Gulf region for a brief moment, and fled back to Washington DC.

When Bush did visit the Gulf region, relief for victim's was delayed.

Laura Bush visited evacuees at the Cajundome who, as a result, had to wait to get fed.

These people look, sound and act a lot more like King George than they do like George Washington.

Bush's War on America

In his latest speeches, Bush has been comparing the "War on Terror" to all of the best wars; namely, the wars against King George, against Nazism, against fascism, against communism. He and Cheney (in his speeches) both have suggested, oh so coyly, comparisons of themselves with Washington and Roosevelt, fighting the good fights, standing against the tide of evil.

They need these stretches of the imagination (some might call them figments or delusions) to continue to justify their persistent adherence to the claim that we must persevere in Iraq, regardless of the cost. Their War on Terror is not working, and their war in Iraq is certainly falling apart before their very eyes. Afghanistan is almost back to where it was with the Taliban.

The real war that is being fought more successfully, however, is a war against the American people, camouflaged by this ongoing War on Terror. This War on America began well before 9/11, but has been well served by the cover 9/11 has given it. The War on America is a combined attack on the distribution of wealth and the social fabric of our country.

The social war consists of, among other things, Bush's support of the efforts to overturn Roe v Wade, his support of reintroducing prayer into the schools, his opposition to all forms of birth control, his undermining of the separation of church and state, his consistent support of Congressional candidates with fundamentalist Christian ideologies, his war on gay America, and his administration's efforts to rewrite textbooks to include intelligent design as an alternative to science. There is more, to be sure.

His economic war against America has a more painful and direct impact than his social war. His tax cuts for the rich and the super-rich have stuck it to the lower and middle classes of America in a way that could not be clearer about where Bush's priorities are. What's perplexing about these tax cuts is that it seems as though he successfully sold the idea to enough middle class Americans that they voted for him, against all of their self-interests. They bought the idea that if the rich and super-rich have lower taxes, they will pass that on to the rest of America in the form of new jobs.

When Congress reconvenes soon, one of the first legislative efforts will be the estate tax and its repeal. The House has already passed it, and now the Senate will act. When passed, and I believe it will (unless some courageous Democrats filibuster), it will, in the words of Hendrick Hertzberg in The New Yorker, shift "some $1.5 billion a week -- about the same as the Iraq war -- from the public treasury to the bank accounts of the heirs to the nation's twenty thousand biggest fortunes." More than any other issue before Bush, this one demonstrates whom he secretly regards as his real constituency.

His monumental efforts in support of the privatization of social security, which would result in the surrender of America's retirement plan to Wall Street, is another reflection of that allegiance.

Finally, Bush's successful bankruptcy reform legislation has sent a clear message to the American people. Capitol One's profits mean more to Bush than the petty problems Americans face with loss of jobs, business failures, catastrophic illnesses, or losing everything they own in a hurricane.

Bush's war on Iraq is a failure. His war on America is going well.

Replacing Rehnquist

Chief Justice Rehnquist is dead.

My bet is that Alberto "what's-wrong-with-a-little-torture" Gonzalez will be Bush's second new Supreme. Before the end of his term, he'll get his trio of new Supremes and, as a result, thoroughly ruin this country.

That is, unless we can overthrow his Congressional majority in 2006. Aren't the American people sick enough of Bush's incompetence and lies, and his cronies in Congress, to make that happen?