Saturday, September 02, 2006


[Related articles:
-AP: Rumsfeld reaches out to Democrats
-Washington Post: Pentagon Cites Spike In Violence in Iraq
-Frank Rich (NY Times): Donald Rumsfeld’s Dance With the Nazis]

Duelling Pageants

The NY Daily News' David Hinckley writes this on the duelling pageants of the Katrina and 9/11 anniversaries...

The merging memories of Katrina & 9/11
...For most of us, 9/11 is history.

Yes, we still wrestle with its ongoing implications for national security, and no, we don't have a Ground Zero memorial yet.

But while we vow never to forget 9/11, just as our parents vowed not to forget Pearl Harbor, the event itself is over.

We want 9/11 in the rearview mirror, and that presumably is where much of television's anniversary coverage will place it.

The message of Katrina coverage is just the opposite: Friend, this one ain't even close to over.

When 40% of New Orleans doesn't have power, 60% of its schools aren't open and miles of its residential streets are piles of dead lumber, that's naturally going to shape the coverage...

...In a few days we will be encouraged to remember 9/11 because remembering honors the victims and reminds us there's a meanness in this world with which we still must deal.

We're being asked to remember Katrina because hundreds of thousands of lives still must be physically put back together.

It's the same story, and it's not.

What he said.

As Tim Grieve said in Salon recently, "We're coming up on dueling anniversaries -- 9/11 plus five, Katrina plus one -- and it's hard to know which one the GOP ought to be anticipating less." Except that the former will be spinned heavily in their favor, though that is only because the myth has trumped reality. As the gang at Wonkette snarked, "the truth is that Sept. 11 wasn’t all that great a day for an administration that was widely seen as a bunch of old Nixon-Reagan Era crooks who had managed to slither into the White House one last time... Americans were so desperate for some kind of leadership that they turned to an opera-loving New York mayor with gay roommates."

Grieve has another great post on this topic: A tale of two presidents?

He states, "Bush may have peaked in popularity after 9/11, and Katrina may have added to his steady slide in the polls... [T]he White House and the Republican National Committee hope that as you head to the polls in November, you'll forget about the president who led his country into a phony and failed war and fiddled while a great American city drowned. They want you to remember the president you saw just after the United States was attacked and just before he actually did anything about it. There was glory in that moment, and the GOP wants it back."

All they have is the bullhorn moment a few days later. It was all downhill from there.

[PS- The Village Voice has a gallery one year after the levees broke.

See also previous entry: Not Learning The Lessons]


As a followup to the new poverty statistics, the Washington Post's E. J. Dionne has a good editorial-

Perfect Storm for the Poor-

In Income Data, Something More Damaging Than Katrina

Recommended read.

An Environmental Success Story- With Lessons To Be Learned (Pt. 2)

I already covered this story (from another source) a week ago, but it's important enough to deserve mentioning again. It is a story that confirms that if people and politicians take decisive action against an environmental threat, we can get results. People claimed 'An Inconvenient Truth' was all just doom and gloom, but also had at its core a message that we have the power to reverse the trends. It takes time, and sacrifice, but it can be done. As Al Gore said in that film, all we lack now is the political will to do it. We need to get it back.

Here's a success story from an earlier crisis...

AP: Earth's formerly thin ozone layer is recovering
Earth's protective ozone layer, which was notably thinning in 1980, may be fully recovered by mid-century, climate scientists said on Wednesday.

Ozone in the stratosphere, outside the polar regions, stopped thinning in 1997, the scientists found after analyzing 25 years worth of observations.

The ozone layer shields the planet from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation, but human-made chemicals -- notably the chlorofluorocarbons found in some refrigerants and aerosol propellants -- depleted this stratospheric ozone, causing the protective layer to get thinner.

The scientists said the ozone layer's comeback is due in large part to compliance with an 1987 international agreement called the Montreal Protocol, which aimed to limit emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals.

"These results confirm the Montreal Protocol and its amendments have succeeded in stopping the loss of ozone in the stratosphere," said Eun-Su Yang of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who led a team that analyzed the data.

"At the current recovery rate ... the global ozone layer could be restored to 1980 levels -- the time that scientists first noticed the harmful effects human activities were having on atmospheric ozone -- sometime in the middle of this century," Yang said in a statement...

Bold added proudly by me.

Friday, September 01, 2006

When In Doubt, Lie

With the majority of Americans against them, the war's defenders have to make up opponents to debate...

Example #1- Dan Senor (former advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority) on Fox News-
Yesterday on The O’Reilly Factor, former administration official Dan Senor told guest host John Kasich that “many leftist centered activists, political activists” — such as — believe “we would be better off” if the United States withdrew from Afghanistan.

But when pressed by Kasich, Senor couldn’t name any progressives who have advocated pulling out from Afghanistan and admitted that has called for withdrawal from Iraq, not Afghanistan.

Example #2- The White House media strategy in general-
Bush suggested last week that Democrats are promising voters to block additional money for continuing the war. Vice President Cheney this week said critics "claim retreat from Iraq would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone." And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, citing passivity toward Nazi Germany before World War II, said that "many have still not learned history's lessons" and "believe that somehow vicious extremists can be appeased."

Pressed to support these allegations, the White House yesterday could cite no major Democrat who has proposed cutting off funds or suggested that withdrawing from Iraq would persuade terrorists to leave Americans alone.

(David Weigel explores a similar false argument in the American Spectator.)

Facts are pesky things. I just hate them, don't you?

[PS- Mother Jones has an excellent 'lie by lie' timeline of the Iraq war:
Lie by Lie: Chronicle of a War Foretold: August 1990 to March 2003]

Iran: A Different Perspective

With news today that "Iran shows no signs of freezing uranium enrichment, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday in a report that opens the way for U.N. Security Council sanctions against Tehran," we have to be ready for the administration and their allies to heighten the war rhetoric in the next month or two. The usual suspects (read: Fox News, Drudge Report) have been laying the groundwork for months. We also know that key Republican leaders in Congress have expressed anger that the intelligence community has not given them a smoking gun to justify action.

I don't know what to make of the Iran situation, I'm no expert, but only the most deluded and/or trigger-happy crowd would believe that our current leadership knows what they're talking about here. The White House is arguing that Iran's defiance of the U.N., as well as their financial backing of Hezbollah's terrorism, makes them "a grave threat" and that "there must be consequences for Iran's defiance" (and other things sounding similar to 2002 speeches on Iraq). Should there be consequences? Sure. Is it time for some Bush-style shock and awe justice? Notsomuch.

In terms of our foreign policy, this crowd has gotten everything wrong and now they're using a mix of fear and a 'trust us' argument to try and sell another war that seems very suspiciously timed (and would likely be as ill-planned and executed as the current two). And considering those in the conservative base advocating this war lean toward a 'Hulk Smash!' approach ("wipe them out"), I don't think anything short of WWIII will satisfy them.

So with that said, I think it's important to look at the other side of all this, since the media will likely once again side with the neocons as the road to war heats up. Don't wanna appear biased now! Blogger Matthew Yglesias wrote a good piece on Talking Points Memo this week and, since he says it better than I can, I'll just quote him at length-
...[Y]ou would [expect that Teheran would feel like a garrison town] if you've been following the media's dubious, highly-spun coverage of the issue. But you wouldn't if you asked yourself some basic questions. For example, if Iran is preparing to mount a Hitler-style bid for world domination they must be engaged in a big military build-up, right? But there is no such build up. Maybe there's no need for a build-up because the Iranian military is already so vast and mighty? Well, no. Iran has a defense budget of about $6 billion a year.

...Lets compare our would-be regional hegemon to its neighbors. Well, Israel spends $9.6 billion and Saudi Arabia spends $25.2 billion. Pakistan, immediately adjacent to Iran and nuclear armed, actually has engaged in a recent defense buildup. What kind of quest for hegemony is Iran supposed to be on? Ignorant American pundits and television personalities may be unaware of these facts, but surely Iranian military and intelligence officials have noticed that Iran has no capacity whatsoever to conquer the region.

Meanwhile, the freaky and unpredictable Iranian regime has actually been in power for a very long time. Since before I was born. The regime is not only long-entrenched, but quite corrupt. Mightn't this lead you think it's being run by reasonably comfortable men who enjoy the fruits of power, intend to stay in power, and know a thing or two about maintaining their power rather than by irrational lunatics who've been waiting in the wings for 27 years preparing to spring their bid for world domination upon us without first having acquired so much as a single modern tank?

And then there's the small matter that our purported would-be Hitlers in Teheran were trying to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with the United States as recently as 2003. Their proposal was rejected by the Bush administration. Not rejected, I remind you, because the Bushies found the details of the proposal inadequate and Teheran refused to compromise further. No! It was rejected without any effort at negotiation because, at the time, the administration was busy threatening to overthrow the government of Iran as the second or third item in an ambitious plan to overthrow every government in the region.

So, here's Iran. Outgunned by its two leading religio-ideological antagonists, Israel and Saudi Arabia, in the region. One immediate neighbor is Pakistan, with a larger population base and a nuclear arsenal. Another immediate neighbor, Afghanistan, is occupied by soldiers under the command of an American president who has spurned peace offers and threatened to overthrow the Iranian government. A second immediate neighbor, Iraq, is occupied by a larger number of soldiers from the same country. The Iranian military's equipment is outdated and essentially incapable of mounting offensive operations. So Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. Under the circumstances, wouldn't you? Don't you think a little deterrence capability would serve the country well under those circumstances?...

...Of course it would be better to find a way to persuade, cajole, whatever Iran out of going nuclear -- the spread of nuclear weapons is, as such, bad for the USA. But there's no need -- absolutely no need -- for this atmosphere of panic and paranoia.

Note that he's arguing with facts... not the emotional appeal we get from the right.

There's a diplomatic solution to this, if anyone cares to find it. And that may be a big 'if'.

[PS- Neocon all-star Charles Krauthammer really loves those Hitler analogies.]

Odds and Ends

Another series of news/commentary flying under the radar amidst the madness-

First up, good news from the United Nations! Reuters reports that "The U.N. Security Council on Thursday voted to create a United Nations peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region, despite the Khartoum government's strong opposition... The United Nations wants to replace or absorb an African Union force in Darfur, which has only enough money to exist until its mandate expires on September 30 and has been unable to end the humanitarian crisis in the lawless west of the country, which the United States has called a 'genocide'." Of course, it must be noted that "the troops will not be deployed until Sudan agrees".

In other positive news, U.S. Muslims speak out against the extremists in their religion.

An Iraqi public opinion poll finds that "91.7% of Iraqis oppose the presence of coalition troops in the country, up from 74.4% in 2004. 84.5% are 'strongly opposed'. Among Sunnis, opposition to the US presence went from 94.5% to 97.9% (97.2% 'strongly opposed'). Among Shia, opposition to the US presence went from 81.2% to 94.6%, with 'strongly opposed' going from 63.5% to 89.7%. Even among the Kurds, opposition went from 19.6% to 63.3%. In other words, it isn't just that Iraqis oppose the American presence - it's that their feelings are intense".

Why are we there again?

Meanwhile, an AP/Ipsos polls finds 60% of America say the war increases the risk of terrorism.

And U.S. military leaders plan to spend $20 million to buy good PR for the war.

In other news, Pat Buchanan really hates minorities.

Republican Senator Conrad Burns said that the United States is up against a faceless enemy of terrorists who "drive taxi cabs in the daytime and kill at night." Take a bow, Senator, you earned it.

Is the GOP planning to play the race card as the elections approach?

Two old coot Senators- Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Robert Byrd (D-WV)- were unmasked by a bipartisan blog effort to uncover who in the Senate was blocking legislation to create a public, user-friendly database of all government spending (in short: pork accountability). Kudos to the bloggers and fingers crossed for the bill's passage.

When asked if he was worried his candidacy might hurt the chances of Democratic congressional candidates in Connecticut, Sen. Lieberman said "They should have thought of that during the primary, but here we are." Gosh, I can't imagine why you lost that election, Joe.

Barry Goldwater... liberal hero?

Powerline's John Hinderaker wants Bill Frist for President. Please God, please God, let the Republicans be stupid enough to nominate this moron in 2008. Why that'd be like the Democrats... being stupid enough to nominate Hillary Clinton.

Finally, Robert Scheer doesn't think Bill Clinton should celebrate his 'welfare reform'.

The UK Plot: Don't Believe The Hype? (Pt. III)

My cynical side has me following the liquid-bomb/plane plot, trying to see if this plot (which is increasingly falling out of the spotlight) was what it was hyped to be. Here's the latest news on the arrested terrorists-
Five suspects who have not been charged in an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners with liquid explosives can be held for another week, a judge ruled Wednesday...

...Of the 25 people originally arrested in raids earlier this month, 15 have been charged. In addition to the five who remain in custody without charge, five others have been released.

Eleven have been charged on those counts of conspiracy to murder and preparing to commit terrorist acts. Four others are accused of lesser offenses, including withholding information about a planned terrorist act from police...

Bold added by me where emphasis was needed.

Dangerous terrorists? Yes. Imminent, code-red threat to national security? Maybe not.

More from the NY Times-
...[F]ive senior British officials said, the suspects were not prepared to strike immediately. Instead, the reactions of Britain and the United States in the wake of the arrests of 21 people on Aug. 10 were driven less by information about a specific, imminent attack than fear that other, unknown terrorists might strike...

...In fact, two and a half weeks since the inquiry became public, British investigators have still not determined whether there was a target date for the attacks or how many planes were to be involved. They say the estimate of 10 planes was speculative and exaggerated...

...Despite the charges, officials said they were still unsure of one critical question: whether any of the suspects was technically capable of assembling and detonating liquid explosives while airborne...

..."In retrospect,"’ said Michael A. Sheehan, the former deputy commissioner of counterterrorism in the New York Police Department, “there may have been too much hyperventilating going on.”

Okay then. So do I still have to throw away my toothpaste before I fly?

I'll give Homeland Security this... at least they are actual terrorists, unlike the last time.

UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune has an excellent article with more facts:
Questions raised over some terror plot charges

Thursday, August 31, 2006

"That About Which Mr. Rumsfeld Is Confused... Is Simply This: This Is A Democracy."

For those interested, here is a link to Keith Olbermann's response to Sec. Rumsfeld's speech-

Crooks and Liars (video/transcript):
Keith Olbermann Delivers One Hell Of a Commentary on Rumsfeld

Related reading/editorials:
-Boston Globe: Loose lips sink history
-LA Times: Pipe Down, Rummy
-Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Iraq War: The false specter

-AP: The new GOP buzzword: Fascism
-Arianna Huffington (HuffPost): What Keeps Don Rumsfeld Up at Night? Hint: It's Not the Body Count in Iraq

Sean Hannity: Stopping Democrats "Worth Fighting And Dying For"

Complaining on Tuesday's show about how our country will fall into economic ruin and lose to terrorists if Democrats win the fall elections, Sean Hannity said "This is the moment to say that there are things in life worth fighting and dying for and one of 'em is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn't become the speaker. I mean, look. I want to talk to you Republicans out there, both candidates and voters. Here's some unsolicited advice: Ignore the polls, ignore the media, ignore the pundits. It's 70 days to go. The end is not here yet. We still can turn this thing around. Your future is in your hands, and it's up to you to go grab it."

He added, "It's time to confront the left."

Consider this a sneak preview of what to expect as November approaches.

Reading that quote from Hannity immediately reminded me of some incredibly spot-on and prescient remarks from bloggers all the way back in March after Sen. Feingold introduced his resolution to censure President Bush. The far-right base/Bush cultists tried to use that to rally the troops too, though the Democrats' refusal to support Feingold made that a moot point. At the time blogger/lawyer Glenn Greenwald said-
There is a palpable increase in the level of extremism and desperation among Bush followers as the Commander in Chief's approval ratings fall lower and lower and as the views which Americans have of both him and his party become more hostile. This is going to be a significant dynamic -- as their power slips further and further away, Bush followers are going to resort to increasingly radical and rage-fueled measures to keep it...

...Many of them have become convinced -- or convinced themselves -- that it is literally a matter of their immediate and personal survival that the country be controlled by Republicans devoted to the neoconservative mindset. Many of them actually believe that if those who deviate from that worldview gain political power, that they will be irradiated or blown up by Al Qaeda. And then still others are just so filled with rage and contempt for "liberals" (meaning anyone who is not a Bush supporter) that those sentiments are, by themselves, sufficient to push them into extreme and irrational thought as they lose more and more power.

Of course, with many moderate Republicans (like Connecticut's Rep. Shays) turning against the President's disastrous 'stay the course' policy, this will be harder to pull off. It's hard for the RNC to run ads calling critics of the war 'defeatists' when that group now comprises over 60% of the country. The silent majority are now those who are demanding a change; the real fringe is Hannity's ilk.

Blogger Andrew Sullivan, also in March, got to the point even better than Greenwald-
But you only have to watch O'Reilly or read Powerline or listen to Sean Hannity or David Horowitz to know that the only thing that really gets them fired up any more is loathing of liberals. The only way the GOP base will be motivated to vote for an incompetent, exhausted, fiscally insane administration is if they get to vote against "libruls". Michael Moore, the Daily Kos, Paul Krugman, George Clooney, et al. are therefore the GOP's last, best hope this fall. ... My gut predicts a huge swing against the GOP this fall. So watch out for the anti-left hate and hysteria from Republicans. It's coming. It's all they've got left.


Buckle up the safety belt, folks. The Republicans are not gonna go down without a fight.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Big Fool Says To Push On

Are you a morally and intellectually confused Nazi appeaser? Read on to find out.

This week (with more just around the corner victory pronouncements- this time they mean it!- from military leaders), the two people most directly responsible for starting this war- and for all its failures/atrocities- launched a concerted attack on the war's critics, likely intended to get said critics to blink if they bark loud enough. The argument was short on substance, but full of the red meat that has previously fired up their diminishing base. No talking point stone was left unturned.

First up- Vice President Cheney. Salon's Tim Grieve's has the the highlights of Cheney's speech Monday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno. Lots of 9/11-related fearmongering ensued. He immediately dismissed those who disapprove of the war (aka- the majority of Americans) by stating "there is a difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism. We have only two options in Iraq -- victory or defeat. And this nation will not pursue a policy of retreat."

Translation: 'Healthy debate = stay the course'.

I am reminded of a parody White House address from January in which 'President Bush' says "It must be legitimate, respectable debate. For example, some say we are making great progress in Iraq. Others say we are making great strides. This is a appropriate debate". Reality often outpaces satire in this administration.

Dismissing numerous calls for withdrawals and/or timetables, Cheney adds that "I realize, as well, that some in our own country claim retreat from Iraq would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone. But the exact opposite is true." That no one has actually made that argument is irrelevant to Cheney.

Grieve's response says it best-
If anyone is advocating withdrawal based on arguments like these, we haven't been hearing them. The case for withdrawal is pretty simple: We shouldn't have invaded Iraq in the first place, and the cost of staying there -- in lives, in money, in the lost opportunities to deal with Osama bin Laden or Iran or North Korea -- far exceeds whatever marginal benefit there may be in staying the course, which is serving mostly to make Americans a target and create a dangerous sort of codependency on the part of the Iraqi government and its fledgling security forces.

Cheney didn't engage with that argument Monday, and why should he? It's easier to fight against caricatures than to debate whether an additional 50 or 100 or 2,600 dead Americans will bring security to Iraq or transform the Middle East. It's easier to debate a straw man than a real one.

This is their speciality; and it speaks volumes on how unseriously they take all this.

On a related note, Rep. Barney Franks (D- MA) this morning has an editorial in the Boston Globe, which masterfully smashes the myth that Iraq war critics are pacifists against dealing with terrorism. Entitled "Afghanistan Ignored", the piece reminds readers of the overwhelming support for that war and chides the White House for not only abandoning that war, but also for using the false 9-11/terrorism connection to defend their lie-fueled war in Iraq, stating their rhetoric "uses the big lie to defend the war in Iraq on grounds that in fact describe the war in Afghanistan". Recommended read.

Next up- Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who actually managed to top Cheney in terms of sheer hubris. Speaking to veterans at the American Legion's, he said critics were appeasers to "a new type of fascism" like that of the Nazis and lack the "perspective of history" (see video). Rumsfeld joined Cheney in continuing the false, but politically lucrative, connection to 9/11, stating that Bush "remains the same man who stood atop the rubble of lower Manhattan, with a bullhorn, vowing to fight back." He continued on to state that critics of the war (again, the majority of Americans) suffer from "moral or intellectual confusion" and are "quitters" who lack the guts to fight back.

Translation: 'It's not our fault, it's your fault for not supporting us enough.'

I think Rumsfeld may have finally jumped the shark. Methinks he could benefit from some historical perspective.

And so, while thousands of American troops sit in the desert babysitting a civil war, this is what we get from our leaders at home: not a plan or a course correction, but a continued series of ad hominem attacks and rhetorical jingoism. Those holding onto hope for any semblence of victory need to accept that it's not coming... not as long as the President and his administration are more concerned with winning a political war at home than the one they started in the Middle East. As Tim Grieves lamented, it's easier to fight caricatures than to have a real debate.

[PS- Reality continues to outpace satire in the Bush administration.]

[PPS- YouTube flashback to an old Spiro Agnew attack on Vietnam critics and the media. See if it sounds familiar.]


It's on the rise.

From Think Progress new census info paints a depressing picture-
– In 2005, 46.6 million people were without health insurance coverage, up from 45.3 million people in 2004.

– The percentage of people without health insurance coverage increased from 15.6 percent in 2004 to 15.9 percent in 2005.

– For full-time, year round workers, the median earnings of men declined 1.8 percent to $41,386, and the median earnings of women declined 1.3 percent to $31,858.

– In 2005, 37.0 million people were in poverty, not statistically different from 2004.

They analyze the information in chart form here: here.

NY Daily News Editorial: America's wealth of poverty

[Related- I highly recommend James McMurtry's 'We Can't Make It Here' (free download), one of the best protest songs I've heard in years. The uncensored version is available on his album 'Childish Things'.]

Somewhere, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove Are Smiling...

A major revelation in Plamegate comes not with a bang, but a mere whimper-

NY Times: First Source of C.I.A. Leak Admits Role, Lawyer Says
Richard L. Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state, has acknowledged that he was the person whose conversation with a columnist in 2003 prompted a long, politically laden criminal investigation... Mr. Armitage did not return calls for comment. But the lawyer and other associates of Mr. Armitage have said he has confirmed that he was the initial and primary source for the columnist, Robert D. Novak, whose column of July 14, 2003, identified Valerie Wilson as a Central Intelligence Agency officer.

The identification of Mr. Armitage as the original leaker to Mr. Novak ends what has been a tantalizing mystery. In recent months, however, Mr. Armitage’s role had become clear to many, and it was recently reported by Newsweek magazine and The Washington Post...

...The book quotes Carl W. Ford Jr., then head of the intelligence and research bureau at the State Department, as saying that Mr. Armitage had told him, “I may be the guy who caused this whole thing,’’ and that he regretted having told the columnist more than he should have.

Until Scooter Libby's trial begins, this is likely the end of this scandal.

Sad also that apparently everyone knew who the third man was all along (including the prosecutor?) and continued to play dumb for the public for years. The administration insists this was all just 'gossip' and no big deal and yet they have spent the last three years covering it up. It just doesn't add up. More than likely, we won't know the full story until after Bush has left office.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Not Learning The Lessons

A couple of odds and ends about the Katrina anniversary as a followup to my last post. Harry Shearer- who has been on top of this story all year better than any real journalist outside Louisiana- laments that the news coverage is solely focusing on the emotion of the story and not delving into the substance. Sounds like par for the course for that lot, though. They'll be back to John Karr tomorrow. (Sidenote: the complete absence of Katrina posts on the conservative sites I visited today- Drudge, Malkin, Powerline, etc- speaks volumes).

One journalist who does seem to get it is Newsweek's Jonathan Alter. He wrote a column for the current issue that addresses in detail the substory of Katrina I focused on earlier... the class/race issues that Katrina exposed and how we failed to remember that moment and act upon it. He writes-
A year ago, in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, NEWSWEEK published a cover story called "Poverty, Race and Katrina: Lessons of a National Shame." The article suggested that the disaster was prompting a fresh look at "The Other America"—the 37 million Americans living below the poverty line. "It takes a hurricane," I wrote. "It takes the sight of the United States with a big black eye—visible around the world—to help the rest of us begin to see again." I ended on a hopeful note: "What kind of president does George W. Bush want to be? ... If he seizes the moment, he could undertake a midcourse correction that might materially change the lives of millions. Katrina gives Bush an only-Nixon-could-go-to-China opportunity, if he wants it."...

...Well, it turned out that the critics were largely right. Not only has the president done much less than he promised on the financing and logistics of Gulf Coast recovery, he has dropped the ball entirely on using the storm and its aftermath as an opportunity to fight poverty. Worker recovery accounts and urban homesteading never got off the ground, and the new enterprise zone is mostly an opportunity for Southern companies owned by GOP campaign contributors to make some money in New Orleans. The mood in Washington continues to be one of not-so-benign neglect of the problems of the poor...

...If the president was MIA, Congress hasn't been much better. Consider the estate tax and the minimum wage. The House in June passed a steep reduction of the estate tax (so as to apply only to couples leaving more than $10 million to their heirs) that would cost the Treasury three quarters of a trillion dollars over the next decade. Last time I checked, that was real money. Senate Republicans tried to push it through by linking the bill to an increase in the minimum wage, which has not been raised in nine years. The idea was to get credit for giving crumbs to the working poor—but only if the superrich receive hundreds of billions of dollars. Fortunately, the bill failed. Unfortunately, other tax cuts for the wealthy keep moving through the system, ballooning the deficit and drying up money for everything else. Meanwhile, the GOP wants to make welfare reform (now 10 years old) more punitive, which will increase suffering...

...After all the heat he took last year, how could Bush have blown the aftermath of Katrina? It's not as if he lacks confidence in the power of his office. He believes he can fix Iraq and transform the Middle East. He aspires to spread democracy to the far corners of the globe. But the fate of an American city and millions of his impoverished countrymen are apparently beyond his control, or perhaps just his interest.

It's almost assuredly the latter; we're the most powerful country on earth, there's no question that the President and the Congress could have successfully acted on this issue if they wanted to (we've come out of much worse situations- wars, a Great Depression- the better). They didn't want to.

Finally, once again the editorial page of the NY Post continues to surpass all other print media outlets as the top Bush apologist with another ludicrous editorial (I recently lambasted their writeup on the warrantless wiretapping ruling). Snarking that instead of a "National Day of Remembrance" today is actually a "National Day of Misinformation", they proceed to insist that the federal response was actually really good and the liberal media just lied to everyone. This sort of removal from reality brings to me flashbacks to Barbara Bush in the Astrodome, chuckling about those displaced that "So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this... is working very well for them."

To prove their point about how great the response was, they cite that "The Coast Guard, state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and National Guard rescued 70,000 people. They pre-positioned food and supplies and set up medical facilities that treated 5,000 victims (and delivered seven babies)." Impressive numbers on the surface, yes, but that's not the whole story- it leaves out the first several chapters of this sad tale. No one claimed that rescue missions never arrived to New Orleans. Those rescues may have occurred, but the Post purposely ignores that they arrived too late and ill-organized... at the cost of hundreds and hundreds of lives that did not need to be lost. That was the story of Katrina- people stranded on roofs or in the Superdome for days before the federal government (who admitted they only knew what was happening by watching CNN) even managed to find their way to one of the country's largest port cities. Some organizations (the Coast Guard) did far better than others (FEMA, etc), but to insist that the response was the "largest, most successful aerial search-and-rescue operation in history" is insulting and unreal.

Furthermore, they complain about bias and then attempt to make the lackluster Nagin the sole scapegoat for all the government failures. They go so far as to state that the idea that Bush blew it during Katrina "is nearly as destructive to the picture of what happened as the storm itself". WOW. That's some serious cult-level hubris. Perhaps the Post editorial writers need to revisit the timeline and remember that, as Katrina approached, the President actually traveled in the other direction, first to Arizona where he gave a speech on Iraq and then later ate cake with John McCain, and then to San Diego where he played guitar in a military photo-op, and then returned back to Crawford. Days after the storm, and after flying over the damage in Air Force One, he finally arrived in the region on September 2nd... only to stage several more photo-ops, make jokes about Trent Lott's porch, and tell Brownie he did a heck of a job. I'm sorry for mentioning that, though, as doing so is apparently as destructive as the storm itself. They also blow off that infamous Air Force One picture- and the message that it sent to Americans. Given that it is universally agreed by most people in this country that Katrina/New Orleans represents one of the greatest failures of Bush's presidency- and of government in general- it is mindblowing to see the lengths his cult followers will go to erase that.

They close by stating we have "much to learn from Katrina". They are 100% right. But if we can't even agree upon what the reality is, then that ain't gonna happen.

This was a seminal moment in modern American history. It spoke volumes about the fragile state of our national infrastructure, the state of our government after years of modern conservativism in control, how we as nation deals with class/race, and how the war on terror has impacted our national priorities and resources. It is clear that, as with 9/11, we will be too busy having rhetorical battles to ever learn the lessons and move on. And that's just sad and pathetic.

White House To Be Subpeonaed In Domestic Spying Case

Good luck with that, lawyers. Can you say 'stonewall'?

U.S. Newswire: Lawyers Will Subpeona Bush White House in Phone Company Spying Case
...Two lawyers who brought the first lawsuit against the Bush Administration, Verizon and ATT for illegally examining the phone records of virtually every American citizen will announce today that they are serving subpoenas on the Bush White House and on Verizon.

"We are subpoenaing the White House because we have developed evidence that the Bush Administration began unlawful efforts to obtain Americans' private phone records prior to 9/11/01 and the White House must disclose documents relevant to that claim," said Afran. "We believe that Verizon had extensive involvement in illegally disclosing the records of millions of Americans."

"We are going to determine with these subpoenas whether the Bush administration has unlawfully targeted journalists, peace activists, libertarians, members of congress or generated an 'enemies list' by creating the most massive domestic spying operation in America's history," said Mayer.

The subpoenas come on the heels of two federal court decisions that were major blows to the Bush Administration warrantless spying program...

Why does our judiciary hate America?

One Year Later

"I want to thank you all for -- and, Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job. The FEMA Director is working 24 -- (applause) -- they're working 24 hours a day."
-President George W. Bush (September 2, 2005)

"The politics of all this are very simple. If we come out of this crisis and in the next couple of years don't have a national conversation on the following issues- race, class, petroleum, the environment- then we, the news media will have failed, by not keeping people's feet to the fire."
-Brian Williams, NBC News (October 2004)

"It’s amazing, isn’t? It’s amazing what the world looked like then and what it looks like now."
-President George W. Bush (August 28, 2006)

As I'm sure everyone will be reminded today by the news (as they take a break from 24/7 John Karr coverage to pretend they still care about the story of the Gulf Coast), and ignored by the right-wing blogs, it is the one-year anniversary of when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. The storm itself had the strongest impact in Mississippi and Alabama, but when the levees broke in New Orleans, a second disaster struck. We watched the horror in all three states live on television for days. I am not going to write a long post on this, as I have already blogged about the impending anniversary a few times in the past week or so. Instead, I think reflection is in order.

I think the two blog entries I wrote on September 1st and on September 3rd last year still hold up. Everything I really want to say on this matter is covered in those entries and I refer readers back to them. A year later, my feelings haven't changed one bit.

I said then, defending the political debates that came out of Katrina, that "We need to remember this moment." That we have failed to do that to some extent is important; these people need to know they didn't suffer for nothing.

The people of the Gulf Coast- Americans, human beings- were all but abandoned by all forms of government and today are still struggling to pull their lives back together. I know all our thoughts are with them in these efforts. No one expected an immediate recovery, or miracles, but they certainly deserved more than the bare minimum. Brian Williams was right- if we don't have a national conservation on the socio-political factors that contributed to this disaster, then we really did fail. I won't be holding my breath.

I also want to post some pictures... and some related links to this story-


-This Modern World: Katrina : A Timeline

-Think Progress: One Year Later: The Real State Of New Orleans

-NY Times: Year After Katrina, Bush Still Fights for 9/11 Image

-Newsweek: New Orleans Blues: Can Nagin Save New Orleans?

Finally, I end with a recommended link to a quote from a former New Orleans resident who wrote in to Talking Points Memo. They state that "I don't understand how anyone can look at either of those two places ever again [the Superdome and the convention center] and not be shattered by the absolute abandonment of the poor by their government in the days after Katrina... I feel like the knowledge of that is slipping away somehow. I feel like people think oh, that's just in New Orleans, you know, that crazy banana republic down South. But you rip the lid off any major urban setting in this country the way the lid was ripped off N.O., and I think you get the same thing. But we aren't really talking about that. I think that Katrina proved that America has absolutely abandoned its underclass. We don't like poor people. And that serves up a big dollop of shame to go with my sorrow.

Yes, New Orleans was built in a f------up way in a f------up place. And yes, the local and state govt has done nothing at this point to get things -- anything -- going again. And yes, we need to knock some Corps of Engineers heads because of the levee situation. And yes, the insurance companies are screwing OLD PEOPLE every which way they can to get out of paying. And yes, Nagin is a jackass and Bush is a nincompoop... I think as an aggregate, though, we suck. Because, so far, we've been unwilling to look in the mirror of New Orleans and see what we have allowed to happen."

'Nuff said. And I'll have more thoughts on that later.

Odds and Ends

Some quick news briefings while I continue to recover from my trip-

Tropical storm (hurricane?) Ernesto heads toward Florida, bringing Katrina-fueled worries.

The head of Hezbollah continues to win the PR war... claims he totally regrets that war broke out after the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. "We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not," Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in a TV interview.

Meanwhile, the European Union pledges thousands of peacekeepers to Lebanon.

And Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad invites President Bush to join him in a televised debate.

Former Vice President Al Gore warns that "democracy is under attack" and places blame on media entities who facilitate the dumbing-down of political dialogue. "That same phenomenon [of over-packaging and marketing] has now happened to democracy," he said.

On a related note, voters agree that the political system in the U.S. is "badly broken."

Finally, many remainings pieces in the Plame leak mystery may be falling into place as new revelations finger former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as the one who may have leaked Plame's identity to Robert Novak. However, there are many questions as to the level of Armitage's involvement in the larger story, particularly whether he knew what he was doing or whether he was just passing along 'gossip'. Many see what Armitage did as having been separate from the Cheney/Libby/Rove actions taken in retaliation against Joe Wilson.

And thus the saga continues...

Our Unappealing '08 Candidates

There's been a lot of stories in the news lately about the two supposed frontrunners for the 2008 presidential race: John McCain and Hillary Clinton. Neither candidate inspires me in any way and reinforces my belief that the next election will be a disaster. After everything that has happened in the last six years, we need a major change. Neither of these two represents that. They are both running on ego and would only be reluctantly supported by their respective bases. I can only hope that there's a shift in the next year or so and these two names don't end up on the '08 ballot. This election lineup seems appealing only to Beltway insiders and fans of predictability.

First up, John McCain- the 'maverick' the media loves to love- continues to suck up to his his new buddies in the religious right, telling Tim Russert that they have "a major role to play in the Republican Party" and reversing his position that Jerry Falwell is an 'agent of intolerance'. Why, he may even speak at Bob Jones University too! Anyone who would sacrifice his strongest beliefs like that (and would make faustian bargains with the same people who attacked his family six years ago) is not someone I would trust as President.

Arianna Huffington wonders if Sen. Hagel has hijacked the Straight Talk Express as McCain continues to distort the truth while speaking in support of the war. As Jon Stewart asked McCain himself last April, "Has the Straight Talk Express been rerouted through Bullshit Town?"

One blogger strongly insists... McCain’s beatable.

On the donkey side, Time Magazine covered Hillary Clinton the only way they know how... by running a cover story asking viewers to choose 'Love Her' or 'Hate Her' and mail in their votes. Sen. Clinton will always be reported in these polarizing terms, perhaps with some good reason. Just further proof that she has far too much baggage for the Democratic party to allow her to run. Because of ego, she will. The Democrats' only hope is that primary voters are smart enough to stop her.

Finally, Rolling Stone magazine asks the question- "Bloomberg '08?" Some people are actually apparently considering this. I like Bloomberg and all, but I doubt Middle America could actually be convinced to vote for a single Jewish liberal, even if he was a Republican. Put fellow single Jewish liberal Russ Feingold on the other end of the ballot and maybe we have an election.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Vacation Pictures

If interested, below are links to pictures from my trip to Washington DC-

Day One

Day Two


I have returned from Washington DC... 'twas a good trip.

Will be back to blogging later when I fully wake up. In the meantime, enjoy from Bill Maher's season premiere this past weekend, a fine return to form with 'New Rules'!

[PS- Watch Christopher Hitchens flip out- literally- during the show.]