Friday, September 30, 2005

Judith Miller Will Testify

This had better be good.

Surprisingly, the Times (of New York) leads with the story.

Polls suggest 8 -9 point lead for congressional Dems

The Labour Party Quashes Debate

Longtime member dragged from conference for 'heckling'.

How did it come to this?

JUDGE orders release of abuse photos

Dozens more pictures of prisoner abuse by American troops in Abu Ghraib will be released after an order by a federal judge in New York yesterday.

District Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected government arguments that the images would provoke terrorists and incite violence against troops in Iraq.

He ordered the defence department to release 74 photos and three videos provided by Sergeant Joseph Darby, some of which were leaked last year and set off the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, potentially opening the military up to more embarrassment from a scandal that stirred outrage around the world.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Delay Steps Down (Temporarily?) As House Majority Leader

To be replaced (temporarily?) by Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt.


Thank you, Travis County.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Could John Bolton be in Fitzgerald's sights?

Monday, September 19, 2005

That (Reich)stag is hung like a horse!

Too broad?

On the subject of Germany's hung parliament, I found this commentary from the Times (of London) to be the most poignant. This despite that paper's normal coverage of the election from a rabidly Murdochite anti-social democracy stance. Anyway:

On the spot: What Schröder is up to
By Times Online

Gerhard Schröder was publicly jubilant despite his party's defeat at the polls in the German election last night. Roger Boyes, correspondent for The Times in Berlin, explains the wily political operator's plot to turn defeat into victory.

"By claiming victory today, Gerhard Schröder is bluffing - he's basically trying to disorientate Frau Merkel. His ambition is to reach a position where there is a grand coalition ,with himself as Chancellor, despite his party's second place. He is playing a typically complex tactical game to get there.

"When a party obtains a majority in an election in Germany, as the CDU has done, it has two immediate briefs: it must appoint a Chancellor and it must form a stable government.

"Herr Schröder believes that Frau Merkel is not able to form a stable government unless it is in a grand coalition with his SPD. He is saying that once she has been turned down by the Greens and the Liberals she will come to him, and he will not play ball.

"He believes that Frau Merkel will eventually be forced to ask him to join her, at which point he will say 'no'. Frau Merkel will then have to tell the President that she has failed to form a government, and the President will turn to Herr Schröder and ask him to try.

"Herr Schröder believes that he can argue that he is the people's choice, whatever the arithmetic may say.

"It is very much in his interests to have protracted negotiations as he remains Chancellor with all of the trappings and status that entails, while day-by-day Frau Merkel's standing will diminish.

"Ultimately, Herr Schröder thinks that she will be forced to accept a grand coalition with him as Chancellor, or she will be forced to go.

"He's playing a tactical game and he thinks he will still emerge as the ruler of Germany."

Conservatives call for repeal of estate tax burden on Katrina survivors

Of course, it may be hard for them to find any victims of the hurricane who were also victims of the 'death tax'. Only 709 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabam combined paid it in 2003! By definition, these are the wealthiest estates from the region. Somehow I doubt their heirs were stuck in attics or floating around on doors... Just a hunch. Of course, they could donate that money to rebuilding Trent Lott's mansion, so that Bush can sit on his porch!

New Orleans Musicians Relief Effort

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Facade Is Beginning to Crack

Major Repubican figures are coing out of the woodwork, for the first time, to criticize the administration vocally.


"There was more than enough warning over time about the dangers to New Orleans,"

"Not enough was done. I don't think advantage was taken of the time that was available to us and I just don't know why."


Powell also now regrets the speech he made to the UN in the lead-up to the Iraq War, which is now understood to have contained faulty intelligence.


Gingrich has been surprisingly critical of the Bush Administration, ironically arguing for the social role of the government with people (using the word broadly) like Bill O'Reilly, who crassly suggested that it was the people of New Orleans' own damn fault.

“For the last week the federal government and its state and local counterparts have consistently been behind the curve,” he wrote fellow Republicans this week. “The American people overwhelmingly know that the current situation is totally unacceptable,” and for that reason, “it is a mistake to get trapped into defending the systems and processes which clearly failed.” He observes in another memo, “While the destruction was unprecedented, it was entirely predictable.”


is now in a dispute with the administration over an amendment to the military appropriations bill that would define torture within American detainment camps. As someone who was himself tortured, this is laudable.


is up to their necks. Cheney shrugged off a heckler with good humor (or the closest he gets to it), when recently any detractors or critics would have been kept out of earshot. Bush has apparently given up on leading the Katrina inquiry himself, and has realized that Americans want someone with credibility to look into the matter. Over three quarters of Americans want the sort of independent inquiry that the Democrats are calling for. And, of course, FEMA director 'Brownie' has been sacrificed, and replaced by someone with some actual experience.

With Bush now a lame duck (and lets face it, Iraq had already done the job for him, and the withering in the face of Social Security reform did the rest), Republicans are lining up to position themselves for re-election in an America where people want, not ideology, but good stewardship. This is an area where Democrats have, in the last 15 years, held the advantage. Republicans must, between now and the midterm elections, distance themselves from the neocon regime in order to get elected. This is another nail in the coffin of neoconservatism. Americans want levees that do their jobs, not special congressional sessions to deal with individual brain-dead women. Government that takes care of the American people, not giving away tax breaks to billionaires and fighting a war of convenience littered with profiteering, corruption, and ugly scenes of prisoner abuse.

Remember Hurricane Katrina. It was the storm that cracked the teacup of the worst presidential administration in a hundred years, if not in American history.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Not just Brown ... Neocons choose ideology over expertise

INCOMPETENCE AT FEMA RUNS DEEP: The Washington Post reports that "[f]ive of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters." The top three officials -- Brown, Chief of Staff Patrick J. Rhode and Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks D. Altshuler -- "arrived with ties to President Bush's 2000 campaign or to the White House advance operation." Because of high turnover in recent years, "nine of 10 regional directors are working in an acting capacity." The result: "[E]xperts inside and out of government said a 'brain drain' of experienced disaster hands throughout the agency, hastened in part by the appointment of leaders without backgrounds in emergency management, has weakened the agency's ability to respond to natural disasters."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Recent Poll Results

93% of Americans think that Hurricane Katrina is the worst natural disaster of their lifetimes.
67% of Republicans think that Bush's handling was 'excellent' or 'good'.
59% of Americans think that Bush is doing a 'fair' or 'poor' job as president.
56% of Americans think that New Orleans will never recover from Hurricane Katrina.
55% of Americans think that private charity has done a good job with the relief effort.
50% of Americans have an 'unfavorable' opinion of President Bush.
49% of Americans have a 'favorable' opinion of President Bush.
43% of Americans think that Bush's handling of the hurricane was 'poor'.
38% of Americans think that no one is really to blame for the botched relief effort.
34 % of Americans think that New Orleans should not be rebuilt as a major city.
24% of Americans think that President Bush has done a 'terrible' job at responding to the disaster.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Letter from the Times-Picayune to President Bush

We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, "What is not working, we’re going to make it right."Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism.

Bienville built New Orleans where he built it for one main reason: It’s accessible. The city between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain was easy to reach in 1718.How much easier it is to access in 2005 now that there are interstates and bridges, airports and helipads, cruise ships, barges, buses and diesel-powered trucks.

Despite the city’s multiple points of entry, our nation’s bureaucrats spent days after last week’s hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city’s stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a "Today" show story Friday morning.

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

We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame.Mayor Ray Nagin did the right thing Sunday when he allowed those with no other alternative to seek shelter from the storm inside the Louisiana Superdome.

We still don’t know what the death toll is, but one thing is certain: Had the Superdome not been opened, the city’s death toll would have been higher. The toll may even have been exponentially higher.It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been clear to our government, Mr. President. So why weren’t they evacuated out of the city immediately? We learned seven years ago, when Hurricane Georges threatened, that the Dome isn’t suitable as a long-term shelter. So what did state and national officials think would happen to tens of thousands of people trapped inside with no air conditioning, overflowing toilets and dwindling amounts of food, water and other essentials?State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn’t have but two urgent needs: "Buses! And gas!"

Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially. In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, "We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day."Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, "You’re doing a heck of a job."That’s unbelievable.There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too.

We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. We’re no less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued.No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New Orleans couldn’t be reached.Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to make our beloved communities work right once again.When you do, we will be the first to applaud.

Help is coming, help is coming, one day late... Posted by Picasa

God Help Us

We brought this on ourselves. God help us.

The rich got richer while the underclass were disenfranchised. God help us.

People bought SUVs while the polar ice caps melted. God help us.

We invaded foreign countries while New Orlean's repeated calls for help to modernise the levee system were ignored.

God help us all.

On the bright side, after the end of human civilization, the planet will correct itself and normalize within 100,000 years.

Oh well, we probably would have been wiped out by a meteor anyway.

More craziness

... and 43% (imagine which 43% that is) think that New Orleans should be 'rebuilt elsewhere'! Insanity.
Hey, maybe we should rebuild Fairfax or Westchester Counties elsewhere - like in the middle of Watts!

This whole thing makes me angry, very angry, ashamed, shocked, sad and very anxious for what this says about us and our fabled 'can-do' spirit.

However, 64% of Americans found the federal government's response made them feel 'hopeful'!
Only 45% were angry about this insane tragedy! 27 percent even felt 'proud' as the people who did everything the authorities said sat in 120 degree heat in the Superdome and Convention Centers while armed thugs raped women and children, and babies and old people died.

And all the while the talking heads congratulate themselves. Makes me want to puke.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Hurricane Katrina -

Bush's handling of
Approve - 46%
Disapprove - 47%

Federal government's handling
Excellent or good - 48 %
Not so good or poor - 51% delivering food, water and medical help
Excellent or good - 43%
Not so good or poor - 56%

What's worse, 55% of people are saying that Bush should take none or only some of the blame for this fiasco. (Source -

What planet is America on? What the hell? We should be storming the Bastille here.
The response to this disaster by neocon-led America, Inc., has been like that of the Brits during the potato famine - 'it wouldn't be financially sound to help these people'. Too little, too late.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Global warming = more hurricanes?

“The general scientific consensus on climate change and hurricanes is this: Hurricanes won’t necessarily become more frequent, but they will become more intense. While ocean and atmospheric circulation is the engine of a hurricane, heat is the fuel. ‘In order to form, a hurricane must have ocean temperature of at least 80 degrees down to a depth of 164 feet,’ says Curry. ‘Sea surface temperatures all over the tropics are running 1.8 to 3.6 degrees above normal. This is due to global warming.’ Thus, when other factors line up to form a storm, a warmer ocean means it will be all the more powerful and destructive.”
And that is indeed what some scientists are now saying (though others remain skeptical). Katrina was one of the strongest hurricanes ever encountered in the Gulf of Mexico, and it wasn’t alone. A study in the July issue of Nature reported that large tropical storms have increased by 50 percent in both the Atlantic and Pacific over the past 30 years. “These have been linked to rises in the temperatures of the ocean surfaces and warmer air temperatures,” said the Times of London’s online edition.

Act of God or Man?

New Orleans: Loss of wetlands opens floodgates to disaster
By David Usborne

The worst has happened in New Orleans and not everyone is surprised. For years, specialists have warned that the city, built partly below sea level and in an area of radically depleted wetlands, was a natural disaster waiting to happen. And when it did, they said, we would have no one to blame but ourselves.
That the Crescent City is where it is does not make sense in the first place. But the first European settlers, in 1718, made the same calculation that generations have made ever since. The site was right for commerce, and commerce means dollars. In the battle between dollars and nature, you know who wins.
What has happened in recent decades has made matters worse. Not just in New Orleans but all along the Gulf Coast, human encroachment has accelerated without pause. This has meant taming natural water flows - including the gradual straightening of the Mississippi itself - and draining wetlands.
Among those lamenting past mistakes is John Barry, the author of Rising Tide, a book about the Mississippi flood of 1927. "People have said for a long time that we can't continue to do the things we're doing, but the reality is that we don't take natural disasters seriously until they happen," he said.
Arguments are already breaking out over the connection between global warming and Katrina. Most agree the rising sea levels and temperatures may have contributed to the damage it caused. But many scientists say the real problem is what has been wrought on the ground in the Gulf Coast region itself. And most serious of all may be the loss of the wetlands. Wetlands, along the edges of rivers and near the coast itself, are vital for absorbing and storing floodwaters. As such, they provided New Orleans with a natural defence against storm surges such as the one generated by Katrina.
But, according to the US Geological Survey, Louisiana has lost 1,900 square miles of wetland in the past seven decades - an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.
The draining of the wetlands to make way for roads, malls, beach communities, marinas and condominiums has also meant shrinkage of the shoreline. Louisiana, in fact, loses 25 square miles of coast every year.
General Robert Flowers, the head of the Corps of Engineers until last year, is concerned by the loss of a "natural storm protection", along Louisiana's coast. "With that loss of wetlands ... we had to build hurricane protection. I think a longer-term solution that replenishes Louisiana's wetlands will better serve us."
It was to protect the city from hurricanes and disastrous floods that the levees and dams have been built. There are thousands of miles of them alongthe river. They usually do a fine job.
Except there is a bad side-effect. The millions of tons of silt that flow down the Mississippi would once be deposited all along its edges and in the flood plains when it broke its banks. Those deposits that once replenished the Delta region are now missing and the Delta, along with New Orleans, is sinking. Barrier islands that protected the city are shrinking for the same reason.
More people live in hurricane territory than ever before. More people to be hurt and more property to be damaged. Professor Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said: "We have to put stuff in harm's way for there to be a disaster, and we're good at doing that."