Friday, September 30, 2005

A Matter of Honor

Woah. I'm late to the game. But check out this letter to Senator McCain from a Captain Ian Fishback. It was published in the Washington post Wednesday, 9/28. I'll drop a few quotes, then include the entire letter.

"I have been unable to get clear, consistent answers from my leadership about what constitutes lawful and humane treatment of detainees. I am certain that this confusion contributed to a wide range of abuses [...]. I and troops under my command witnessed some of these abuses in both Afghanistan and Iraq."
"When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States?"
"Will we confront danger and adversity in order to preserve our ideals, or will our courage and commitment to individual rights wither at the prospect of sacrifice? My response is simple. If we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession. I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is "America.""
Finally, we have a whistle blower. Right on, Captain Fishback!

But its not as simple as that. Andrew Sullivan blogs about the allegations that Rumsfeld has demanded that he be "broken" and discredited. Check out his post, Targeting Fishback and be sure to read the full letter below.

A Matter of Honor

The following letter was sent to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sept. 16:

Dear Senator McCain:

I am a graduate of West Point currently serving as a Captain in the U.S. Army Infantry. I have served two combat tours with the 82nd Airborne Division, one each in Afghanistan and Iraq. While I served in the Global War on Terror, the actions and statements of my leadership led me to believe that United States policy did not require application of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan or Iraq. On 7 May 2004, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's testimony that the United States followed the Geneva Conventions in Iraq and the "spirit" of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan prompted me to begin an approach for clarification. For 17 months, I tried to determine what specific standards governed the treatment of detainees by consulting my chain of command through battalion commander, multiple JAG lawyers, multiple Democrat and Republican Congressmen and their aides, the Ft. Bragg Inspector General's office, multiple government reports, the Secretary of the Army and multiple general officers, a professional interrogator at Guantanamo Bay, the deputy head of the department at West Point responsible for teaching Just War Theory and Law of Land Warfare, and numerous peers who I regard as honorable and intelligent men.

Instead of resolving my concerns, the approach for clarification process leaves me deeply troubled. Despite my efforts, I have been unable to get clear, consistent answers from my leadership about what constitutes lawful and humane treatment of detainees. I am certain that this confusion contributed to a wide range of abuses including death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment. I and troops under my command witnessed some of these abuses in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

This is a tragedy. I can remember, as a cadet at West Point, resolving to ensure that my men would never commit a dishonorable act; that I would protect them from that type of burden. It absolutely breaks my heart that I have failed some of them in this regard.

That is in the past and there is nothing we can do about it now. But, we can learn from our mistakes and ensure that this does not happen again. Take a major step in that direction; eliminate the confusion. My approach for clarification provides clear evidence that confusion over standards was a major contributor to the prisoner abuse. We owe our soldiers better than this. Give them a clear standard that is in accordance with the bedrock principles of our nation.

Some do not see the need for this work. Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as Al Qaeda's, we should not be concerned. When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States? We are America, and our actions should be held to a higher standard, the ideals expressed in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Others argue that clear standards will limit the President's ability to wage the War on Terror. Since clear standards only limit interrogation techniques, it is reasonable for me to assume that supporters of this argument desire to use coercion to acquire information from detainees. This is morally inconsistent with the Constitution and justice in war. It is unacceptable.

Both of these arguments stem from the larger question, the most important question that this generation will answer. Do we sacrifice our ideals in order to preserve security? Terrorism inspires fear and suppresses ideals like freedom and individual rights. Overcoming the fear posed by terrorist threats is a tremendous test of our courage. Will we confront danger and adversity in order to preserve our ideals, or will our courage and commitment to individual rights wither at the prospect of sacrifice? My response is simple. If we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession. I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is "America."

Once again, I strongly urge you to do justice to your men and women in uniform. Give them clear standards of conduct that reflect the ideals they risk their lives for.

With the Utmost Respect,

-- Capt. Ian Fishback

1st Battalion,
504th Parachute Infantry Regiment,
82nd Airborne Division,
Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Karen Hughes? Pathetic

Fred Kaplan throws a round house punch in: Karen Hughes, Stay Home! - What on earth is she doing in the Middle East?:

Hughes is the third person that President Bush has appointed to this admittedly daunting position since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And she's the third piece of living evidence that he has no idea what 'public diplomacy' requires.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Good news for Dems, the short version

TPM's simple summation of yesterday's good news:

House Majority Leader Indicted for Criminal Conspiracy.

Senate Majority Leader the target of an increasingly serious probe of potential insider trading.

Rumors of October Rove indictment in the Plame case.

Is this a problem yet?
Not sure why he forgot to include Larry Franklin in that list. Gotta keep it short. No time to list all the dirt.

Baghdad Burning - draft constitution, part II

My favorite Baghdad blogger weighs in with part 2 of her analysis of the draft constitution Her two main points concern the lack of protections for women, and the nature of federalism found it defines:

I’m wondering- where is the outrage of pro-occupation, pro-war women’s rights advocates? Why the deafening silence, ladies?
I guess she didn't get the memo. Championing women's rights is just a talking point, and not some core belief.
Federalism is ok when a country is stable. It’s fantastic when countries or troubled regions are attempting to unite. In present-day Iraq it promises to be catastrophic. It will literally divide the country and increase instability. This is especially true with the kind of federalism they want to practice in Iraq.

Federalism based on geography is acceptable, but federalism based on ethnicity and sect? Why not simply declare civil war and get it over with?

It sure looks like the civil war is on, declaration or none.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Stanislav Petrov saved the world?

WorldChanging points out an interesting anniversary: Thank You, Stanislav:

Tonight, drink a toast to Stanislav Petrov. Twenty two years ago today, on a cold Siberian night, he chose not to follow orders, and chose not to end the world.
Go read the story. And raise a glass to our unsung hero!

China gets all fascist on the web

Ars Technica brings us the ugly truth: China cracks down on news sites:

The rulers of China are faced with a difficult conundrum as the transition from communism to fascism winds down. ...

In recent months the government has asserted control over physical Internet access, closing cybercafes by the thousands, and online by going after bloggers, chat rooms, and forums. Now, the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Truth Information Industry for news services, which include web sites, forums, and even messaging to cell phones, further expands control.

File this under "Ignorance is Strength", China style.

Defense Tech: Slow, Fat "Future" for Army

Defence Tech keeps up with the maga-billion dollar boodogle, the Slow, Fat "Future" for Army:

It's official: After $450 billion, the Army's quick-moving force of the future will be just about as slow as the one that's around right now.
We expect all weapon systems to be expensive white elephants. But what kills me is they can't even figure out how to procure a decent radio, something they really need, and should be really easy to pull off.
...even the more basic changes have seemed near-impossible to pull off. The effort to get all soldiers on a common radio, for example, is facing massive restructuring, after the project's main contractor, Boeing, seems to have flushed $5 billion and three years worth of work down the toilet.

"The government has not seen sufficient evidence of the contractor teams' understanding of the scale of integration required... to ultimately achieve the program requirements," the Army told Boeing ...

In other words, the radio project has become slow and bloated. Just like the rest of FCS.

If the Army can't get itself a decent radio, then you just know the obsolete crap they fob off on the National Guard ain't gonna cut it during an emergency. It didn't in Katrina and it won't when the San Andreas cracks.

Robot treasure hunter

Engadget? Not their typical story: Robot uncovers $10 billion treasure:

Chilean robot "Arturito," ... was unleashed on ChileÂ’s Robinson Crusoe island where he stumbled across about 600 barrels of buried gold coins and jewels, presumably looted from the Incans during the Spanish occupation. The huntersÂ’ lawyer estimates the treasure to be valued at around $10 billion, and promises that it will be donated to non-profit organizations (although the Chilean government says you canÂ’t donate what you donÂ’t own; way to flex that eminent domain muscle, guys).
I guess I'm a sucker for pirate stories...

NOLA Flood walls ‘structurally flawed’?

Preliminary word via New Scientist: Flood walls in New Orleans were 'structurally flawedÂ’:

Concrete flood walls that were supposed to protect New Orleans were not overwhelmed by high waters during Hurricane Katrina as federal officials have claimed, but ruptured because they were structurally flawed, according to Louisiana scientists.
The Bushies are running around trying to prove that environmentalists were to blame for the failure to develop robust levees. R's blame corrupt locals. D's blame R's for slashing budgets. Now it looks like the levees were poorly designed, poorly built, and not maintained well. Not only that, but there is a report (that I can no longer find) that the land beneath New Orleans was subsiding much faster than anyone knew -- meaning they didn't even have as much protection as they thought.

What a mess.

Monday, September 26, 2005

More of that putrid eau de Bush

So some investigator, Fred Black, in Guam of all places, opens an investigation of the now familiar Jack Abramoff. Two days later he is demoted, and the investigation squelched. Coincidence? Or maybe, "Ignorance is Strength"?
Talk Left has more, as does TPM

Updates from the world of google map hacking

Since I recently had a knee operation, I've had some time to lounge around the house—which is sort of like torture for me. Can't stand to be doing nothing. I mean, there is only so much Rita tracking one man can stomach.

So I spent some time updating my google map application, the San Francisco Schools Information Map. Lots of fun.:

  • I completely overhauled the HTML to integrate it with the sfschools blog.
  • Used color coded, small icons (borrowed from google labs)
  • Added lots more linkage in each school's info bubble
  • Figured out how to support new map modes, like hybrid -- and made hybrid the default

But I am still left with the impression that the google map API is a defensive move on google's part. It's just good enough to blow peoples' minds. But it's not good enough for real, robust map apps.

Unless I'm missing something, the inability to iterate over map objects, or the lack of any map DOM documentation, limits what I can do too much. Maybe there is some way for me to remove markers from a map without having to delete the map and regenerate it with only the desired markers—but I don't see it.

Still, it is amazing that google has made it so easy to put together an app like this. I may gripe, but I'm loving it.

ACORN: Katrina Mortgage Relief Unfairly Denied to Many Homeowners

ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, lost their headquarter offices in New Orleans to Katrina. Now they are busy organizing NOLA evacuees to help them retain their rights to remain in New Orleans. A big part of that struggle is bound to be guarding against those who will attempt to grab land from poor property owners.

In this new release, Katrina Mortgage Relief Unfairly Denied to Many Homeowners they take up that struggle:

tens of thousands of homeowners who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina are not being offered the mortgage relief that has been highly publicized in recent weeks, and as a result could face foreclosure by the end of the year.[...]

'The communities that suffered the most from Katrina and the ineffective government response are now receiving inferior and disparate treatment from our nation's financial system,' said ACORN President Maude Hurd. 'Equal treatment and a chance to get back on their feet is not too much to ask for the homeowners in our communities. Those that have more expensive loans to start with should certainly get the same consideration as other borrowers."

Keep your eye on this one. This issue will not be a sexy, media-genic one with attention grabbing headlines and heart rending photos. This will be a quiet battle for ownership of the new New Orleans.

Updates on the Afghan vote

Radio Free Europe opines in The Message Of Lower Voter Turnout that turnout was low due to disaffection with the ballot:

With the burden of Afghanistan's march to democracy placed squarely on the shoulders of the Afghan people, roughly half of them exercised their democratic right by saying that they are not content with many of the people campaigning to represent them in parliament or, perhaps, with the speed at which their country is progressing.

If Afghanistan's democracy is to move forward in deeds and not just in words, this message by many Afghans must be heeded and steps taken to regain their confidence.

I don't buy it. I think it is perfectly natural that local legislative elections would not generate the same turnout. As I said before, it was a much tougher ballot to navigate. Many of the illiterate and semi-literate voters would be shut out from the vote. The notion that the presence of war criminals would lessen the turnout is strange. I would think that would increase the turnout as voters make sure that the candidates with dirty hands are turned out—there were plenty of candidates. Yet it is strange that the turnout was lower in Kabul than elsewhere.

One positive note comes from Reuters, Vote count continues, partial results emerging:

voter turnout in the historic polls was well over 50 percent; with 43 percent of all votes cast belonging to women and 57 percent belonging to men.
The results are expected in early October. I think analysts would do well to wait to see what comes out of this. Could be very interesting.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

"Senator Bill Frist, documented liar."

Humor? Medium Lobster doesn't get it

Thanks Jenn, for reminding me about that humor stuff. Between the knee operation, dealing with the psychedelic dysfunction of my school list friends, endless Katrina overdosing, I haven't been laughing as much as I should.

So why not follow up a post about breed 'em and weep with some good 'ole Fafblog? Damned good idea. Here's a double dose, to make up for lost time.

Medium Lobster says, read Update from the Gay Apocalypse now!

Between the United Church of Christ's pernicious promotion of equal rights and the Episopal Church's gay bishop, God has become increasingly pink of late. Indeed, reliable reports have it that God the Son has been acting suspiciously swishy, while the Holy Ghost has been a raging queen for years. But all is not lost: conservative Anglican churches are working to slow the spread of theological gayness by cutting themselves off from their depraved, rights-tolerating brethren, while the Catholic Church's recent promise of a gay inquisition may help to restore the sacred straightness of single dress-wearing men everywhere.

Then scroll down the page to Flypaper: Beyond the Fourth Dimension!

This, of course, is drastically missing the point. The Iraq invasion was never meant to eliminate terrorists. Its genius lies in a temporal flypaper strategy: by goading possible terrorists to become terrorists, it allows America to fight them in the present so that it doesn't have to fight them in the future. For in the future, terrorists will not be armed with mere roadside bombs and hijacked airplanes, but robot bombs and robot airplanes, which will be able to perform millions more explosions per second than the clunky, outdated terrorists of today.

And now, back to being humorless...

The funniest momma yet

Oh how I wish I could write something as funny as breed 'em and weep's Blogs: The New High School. But I'm totally humor impaired geekiness and political outrage are what grabs me besides, I'll make a complete ass of myself if I even attempt levity, so go read Jenn's beautiful, hilarious, heartwarming little gifts to the blog world, especially if you need to smile, or maybe shed a tear or two.

Thanks Jenn, for making me feel so inadequate for making my day. And so sorry for ripping you off so brazenly with this strike through stuff

And if you read her latest you'll hit the damned 'comment' link know what to do and stroke my ego with a comment or two delurk.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Frist goes for the gold

Frist sold stock just before a decline:

The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, sold all his stock in his family's hospital corporation, about two weeks before it issued a disappointing earnings report and the price fell nearly 15 percent.
Once again, our facist leaders demonstrate the true meaning of personal responsibility, virtue, and accountability. Holy friggin cow! Just when you thought it couldn't get any more brazen, any more corrupt, any sleazier...
"Ignorance is Strength"

INTEL DUMP - Really big rounding errors

Here's an eye opener from Intel Dump, Really big rounding errors:

The Washington Post reports today on a GAO report finding that the Pentagon can't count its money. Specifically, that it has 'no accurate knowledge of the cost of military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan or the fight against terrorism'.
Isn't that comforting? It gets worse:
Some time ago, I remember former Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim testifying that DOD had a money-counting problem. He said there were something like 1,200 different accounting systems in the Pentagon; that none talked to each other; and that few measured the same things in the same way such that the figures could be related to each other. The bottom line was that at any given moment, the Pentagon could not say where billions (with a b) of taxpayer dollars were with any precision, nor could it accurately produce historical data with which to generate future budgets. In other words, everything was really just a SWAG -- a sophisticated wild assed guess.
Is this any way to run a government? No. Is this any way to run an out of control fascist state? Yes.

Once again, "War is Peace"...

DOD: No New Rules Needed

Early Warning is new blog by William M. Arkin of the Washington Post covering national security topics. Just what I need, another must-reaqd blog!

Today's post talks about the budding movement to reform the Posse Comitatus Act, DOD: No New Rules Needed

Weeks before hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast, the Pentagon drafted new policies regarding the use of the military in the United States.

The drafts -- marked "For Official Use Only" and "Pre-Decisional" and obtained by this Washington Post blogger -- should put to rest concerns that there is a need to modify or repeal the Posse Comitatus Act to give the President more flexibility to employ the armed forces in any emergency.

There is no such need.  The President already has all the flexibility he needs.  But you wouldn’t have known if from the cries for help this week.

The problem with the response to Katrina was federal government incompetence and inattention, not any regulations or laws. Maybe these calls for changing the law are just a way of avoiding responsibility
So let's see, should we file attempts to repeal/reform Posse Comitatus under "War is Peace", "Ignorance is Strength", or "Freedom is Slavery"? I think "War is Peace" fits the bill nicely.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Pray for rain in NOLA?

Here's a deliciously counter intuitive thought: Believe It or Not, More Rain Would Benefit New Orleans:

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina -- probably the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history -- a leading ecologist says that one of the best things that could happen to New Orleans and the rest of southern Louisiana and Mississippi would be more rain.

"People might think IÂ?m kidding, but I'm not," said Dr. Seth R. Reice [...] An intense rain would dilute the water and could make it possible to varying degrees for organisms -- both large and small -- to cope with it better, Reice said.

Reice goes on say something that has been on my mind since the flood:
[...]authorities in New Orleans are making a large mistake by pumping the floodwater into Lake Ponchartrain, Reice said.

"They have no business doing this," the biologist said. "It is going to cause tremendous pollution and probably big fish kills. Instead, they should have pumped it as far out to sea as they could or at least into the Mississippi where the current would dilute it. Or they could have treated it in wastewater treatment plants. They over-reacted to the need to drain the streets and gave no thought to the severe environmental damage to the lake and its fishes."

Obviously, there is no way to treat all the flood water. Even if it were feasible, it would delay the draining of the city and cause more festering and damage. And normal pumping drains into Lake Ponchartrain for the simple reason that the lake is lower than the river, and the river is normally more of a flooding threat than the lake. But the idea of pumping flood water into the Mississippi is so simple and is so obviously advantageous. The Mississippe currently drains into deep water, and its turgid waters have created a "dead zone" that would be a better place for the polluted flood waters to flow -- I'm surprised that others have not had this idea.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Back to Iraq 3.0: Is It Civil War Yet?

Chris Allbritton takes a look at the question, Is It Civil War Yet?:

After watching this place for two years, I’m now prepared to call this thing a civil war, aligning myself squarely with the America-haters at DefenseNews.

"For over a year now, there has not been a day in which Iraq did not witness sectarian killings where the victims were either Shiite, Sunni or Kurds," said Ghassan Attiyah, chairman of the Baghdad-based Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy. "I’m not talking here about random shooting. I am talking about targeting people individually on the roads and killing them for being from one group or another."

In the article, Qassem Jaafar, a Doha, Qatar-based Middle East security analyst, listed the symptoms of a civil war:

  • A weak central government with incompetent security apparatus.
  • Spread of sectarian and ethnic killings.
  • Existence of armed sectarian and ethnic militias.
  • High threat perception among the sectarian and ethnic groups of the country.
  • Insistence of each group on its demands.
  • Foreign interference and support to feuding groups.
All of these elements are present now in Iraq, and the constitution process didn’t help matters.

UK Katrina relief up in flames?

What a bunch of bumbing idiots. From the Daily Mirror, UP IN FLAMES:

HUNDREDS of tons of British food aid shipped to America for starving Hurricane Katrina survivors is to be burned.

US red tape is stopping it from reaching hungry evacuees.

[...] One British aid worker last night called the move 'sickening senselessness' and said furious colleagues were 'spitting blood'.

War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength in 2005

2005 is 21 years too late!:

' collects and documents the steady progress the U.S. government has been making towards acheiving Ingsoc's three major ideals: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, put forth in George Orwell's prophetic 1984.

Women's Role in the Afghan Election

Here's what I've been saying about the Afghan elections, reported by WorldChanging: Filling the Political Vacuum: Women's Role in the Afghan Election:

Many women are campaigning not just because of these quotas; they are running for office because 'female candidates offer an alternative to the blood-stained hands of the country's warlords and druglords,' says Jo Johnson in the Financial Times. With about 10% of the male candidates being implicated in war crimes and corruption -- about 500 in total -- Afghani people are just fed up with these leaders and want better options.
We will see if they get these new and better options, or if the powerful men with guns continue to dominate.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Warmer ≡ more energy ≡ more energetic storms.

I've read a few different studies on the relation between global warming and hurricane intensity, and they all seem to be reaching similar conclusions. You cannot blame any individual storm or event on global warming. But you can identify and explain some trends. Like, Warming world blamed for more strong hurricanes:

A massive global increase in the number of strong hurricanes over the past 35 years is being blamed on global warming, by the most detailed study yet. The US scientists warn that Katrina-strength hurricanes could become the norm.

Worldwide since the 1970s, there has been a near-doubling in the number of Category 4 and 5 storms – the strength that saw Hurricane Katrina do such damage to the US Gulf coastline late in August 2005.

Tropical Deforestation Affects Us All

Since its looking like anthropomorphic climate change is pretty much inevitable, its key to gain better understanding of how climates work and interact. We need to figure out this kind of phenomena, Tropical Deforestation Affects Rainfall In The U.S. And Around The Globe

'Our study carried somewhat surprising results, showing that although the major impact of deforestation on precipitation is found in and near the deforested regions, it also has a strong influence on rainfall in the mid and even high latitudes,'

No Risk, No Fun?

According to the research cited in this Science Daily article, People Who Take Risks More Satisfied With Their Lives:

Tall people are more prepared to take risks than small people, women are more careful than men, and the willingness to take risks markedly decreases with age [...] What is particularly striking is that people who enjoy taking risks are more content with their lives.

Ethanol hype versus those pesky laws of thermodynamics

Read the article on Altantive Energy Blog

Katrina == 65% of an Exxon Valdez?

Green Car Congress has an interesting post, Katrina Spilled 7.2+ Million Gallons of Oil:

In its rampage through Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina caused some 44 currently known oil spills that dumped more than 7.2 million gallons of oil onto land and into water, primarily the Mississippi River, according to reports from the US Coast Guard.

That amount is equivalent to approximately 65% of the spill from the Exxon Valdez.
Somehow I don't think we'll be hearing that much about this. Somehow I don't think Rove will allocate that much money towards assessing or mitigating this part of the disaster. Well, maybe a few fat Halliburton contracts, but nothing in the press...

Afghan elections met with curious silence

Seems odd to me that there has been very little discussion of the Afghan parliamentary elections today. The BBC has a few articles, Afghan ballot papers on the move and this Photojournal: Afghan family's voting day The best article I've found was In crucial step toward democracy, Afghans vote for lawmakers in the Christian Science Monitor:

The fact that Mr. Urban [an election official] speaks of "credible and acceptable" elections instead of "free and fair" elections is an indication that Afghanistan still cannot guarantee that citizens are able to cast their votes in an environment free of violence, intimidation, or corruption. But the key, Urban says, is that this process, however imperfect, is a necessary step toward creating a legitimate system of government that the Afghan people will accept.
To me the presidential election was just a dress rehearsal for this election. No one knew how to run an election back then. And there was absolutely no doubt as to the result. This election is where, hopefully, new faces will take their place in a legitimate government. Via IWPR I hear that parties were barred from the election, which many think will result in a fragmented, weak parliament. But that makes sense to me. Allowing political parties or slates of candidates would guarantee victory for the entrenched "warlords" that have fought in so many conflicts in the past decades. Without parties controlling the voting there is a better chance for new voices to emerge. And if the first session of this new governing body is fracture and weak, so be it. It will take time to establish new coalitions and new parties.

Riverbend on the draft constitution

Riverbend gives us her first review of the Iraqi draft constitution in her post, Draft Constitution - Part I.... She makes some interesting comparisons to the Temporary Constitution of 1970, which I guess was Saddam's constitution. The 1970 document was much simpler about the role of Islam, had personal status laws that were clearer and much better for women. And she says the "Rights and Freedoms" in the new constitution was cut and pasted from the previous one.

Her comparison reminds me that Juan Cole had suggested long ago that the US could have used the pre-Saddam constitution -- from the 1950's if I recall correctly -- as a basis for calling quick elections in the aftermath of the US defeat of Saddam. Back then Bremer thwarted any attempt at quick elections, and instead planned on an extended US rule. What a fool he was. Now we've spent years where we should have spent months, and the result is in part a retread of Saddam's constitution. Lovely.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The first post on Bernal? How can that be?

So there is a small neighborhood controversy brewing over, of all things, our local corner store. WTF? First I read about it in the Chron, which links to a blog, and a group... and suddenly I'm hooking into a whole Bernal web reality that I never even thought to look into. Whoah! Four Star has a blog. Before this weekend the extent of my Bernal webocity was being on the bernalschools mail list. Now I learn there's all this bloggin and groupin and...and even a wikipedia page too? Either that's odd, or wikipedia is getting to be like... ice-9. Not sure why, but that freaks me out.

But here we are. At my first Bernal Heights post. Here's lookin at you!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Hullabaloo - Boondoggle Part Deux

From Atrios to me to you, another must-read post by Digby:
Boondoggle Part Deux:

I cannot believe that any liberal in the country would take George W Bush's word about anything at this point, but apparently we all haven't learned our lesson yet. I'm not sure what it will take, to tell you the truth. But for those of you who believe he has somehow capitulated to liberal ideals, I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine from an African nation whose funds have been frozen ....
Atrios has this to add:
Really, what Digby says. Are we so afflicted by battered spouse syndrome that 5 years later anyone is still ready to give this administration the benefit of the doubt over anything? Everything this admininstration touches turns to shit. $200 billion for the Gulf is going to be put in the hands of Karl Rove and a team of 22 year old Heritage foundation flunkies so they can proceed to hand it all over to powerful interests with no strings attached.

As always, happy to be proven wrong. It hasn't happened yet.

Friday, September 16, 2005

New gig for Kevin Sites

Remember the footage of a US marine shooting an injured Iraqi insurgent in a Falujah mosque? That was shot by Kevin Sites, who was also an active blogger that I was following. Since that incident he, obviously, could no longer work in Iraq. He covered the tsunami on his blog.

And then silence.

Well, he just posted a notice on his blog that he has a new gig starting later in the most. (Thanks to the beauty of RSS, I heard about it instantly.) Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone will feature Site's war reporting:

A solo journalist ("SoJo"), Sites will carry a backpack of portable digital technology to shoot, write, edit, and transmit daily reports from nearly every region of the world. You'll be able to follow his endeavor through stories, photos, video and audio, and you'll be able to interact with him.
Sounds interesting. I signed up (even though I don't see any RSS feeds just yet.) I'll keep you posted.

Bumbling Bush

Secrecy News thinks that Bush may have invoked a obsolete, inoperative law in his attempt to shortchange Katrina relief workers. Check out Bush wage cuts for relief workers may be legal error

Rumblings of democracy in Afghanistan

Institute for War and Peace Reporting is a great source of reporting on Afghanistan and Iraq. IWPR develops and trains local journalists in many conflict torn countries. I subscribe to two of their email reports, Afghan Recovery Report and the Iraq Press Monitor. They have many email reports to choose from here.

Tonight's email included some profiles of some candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections running in the Kabul area. I love it. The profiles makes the elections seem more real -- the same vibe I go for in blogs -- these are glimpses of real people bravely standing up to be counted. Here are excerpts from the women candidates' profiles:

  • Shukria Barakzai
    When Shukria Barakzai was whipped by the Taleban's religious police for being out on a Kabul street without a male chaperone, she went home and cried for two days.

    But the memory of that humiliation steeled her to go into politics and stand for a seat in the Afghan parliament. It also lies behind her campaign slogan, "Rights and Justice"...

  • Ghotai Khawri
    Ghotai Khawri is a researcher and writer who is "tired of politics" but who is nonetheless fighting hard to win a seat in parliament.

    "I am tired of politics and I will not follow the policies [of parties or blocs] when I am in parliament, I will only defend the rights of the people," she vowed, adding that she is not herself a member of any party or organisation.

  • Soraya Parlika

    Parlika is no stranger to political activity. For more than 40 years - since the reign of King Zahir Shah - she has been campaigning for women's rights. A Kabul native, she never emigrated - not during the Soviet invasion, nor the bloody years of war, nor the years of repression under first the mujahedin and then the Taleban.

    Parlika was a communist for many years, and studied in the Soviet Union in the Seventies. She still speaks quite passable Russian.

    ...Given her record as a survivor, the threats and intimidation she has experienced as one of 347 women running nationwide for a seat in the Wolesi Jirga or lower house of parliament have not presented too much of a challenge to 61-year-old Parlika.

  • Sabrina Saqeb
    The smooth complexion, white teeth and smile of a professional model stare down at passers-by from shop fronts and billboards across Kabul, creating something of a stir in this conservative Muslim environment. These are not ads for cosmetics - they are campaign posters for Sabrina Saqeb, who at 26 says she is the youngest candidate standing for the Afghan parliament.

    ..."I am younger than the other candidates, and I want people to know it. It was my choice to wear a yellow scarf in my posters. Other women candidates have dark scarves on their heads, which implies that there is still misfortune in the country. I wanted a bright colour," she said.

And here is another article from IWPR about the women candidates in a conservative, Pashtun region. Ghazni's Formidable Females:
Lack of security and opposition from family members are minor obstacles to some of the candidates standing for parliament in a staunchly conservative region.

By Wahidullah Amani in Ghazni (ARR No. 186, 12-Sep-05)

The women parliamentary candidates of Ghazni province really are quite special. One, Hosai Andar, travels fearlessly to the remotes regions and swears that even al-Qaeda supporters will vote for her.

Another, Rahila Kobra Alamshahi, found two tiny children living alone in a container, scouring rubbish bins for food. She took them home with her -- permanently. And a third, Kobra Sadat, hid her candidacy from her husband, who hit the roof when he found out but eventually realised he couldn't win, so he joined her campaign.

While female candidates, as elsewhere in this male-dominated country, are in the minority in this province southwest of Kabul, there are enough of them to make their mark.

Twelve women and 119 men are competing for the province's 11 seats in parliament, with three of the seats specifically reserved for women. There are nine women among the 123 candidates chasing 19 seats on the provincial council, where five places are allocated to women.

These reports really give me hope. I've followed Afghani news and politics closely ever since 9/11, and I'm really hopeful about this election. There has been a Taleban resurgence of late, but there are also solid, hopeful signs that an organic democracy is taking root.

This summer I read "My Forbidden Face" about a girl growing up in Kabul under the Taleban. I really must review it here some time. I already knew about many of the horrors perpetrated against women by the Taleban. Reading about one woman growing up under that oppression let the real impact of that oppression sink in. Reading these profiles makes me realize the almost unimaginable magnitude of the changes that are taking place in Afghanistan. Kabul was once a cosmopolitan city more heavily influenced by the outside world. The medieval reactionary Taleban waged a cultural genocide against modernity that trapped and oppressed women -- all in the horribly misappropriated name of Islam. There is no doubt in my mind that we have done good by Afghans in ridding them of these fundamentalist fanatics. To see these women, able to stand up as candidates, really makes me feel optimistic.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Good Katrina advice: Don't Bring Your "Crap"

Alexander the Average, a blogger and new group member at Intel Dump, offers some very good advice in his blog, Don't Bring Your "Crap":

Too often donations efforts become the excuse to get rid of shit that you don't want. This just slows down the process. Volunteers have to sort through a mountain of crap to get what people really need. If you're not sure, then give cash.
How true. I see news reports of folks donating huge stacks of god-knows-what stuffed into large plastic garbage bags and I have to wonder. Are we really helping Katrina victims or just dumping a bunch of trash on Louisiana? It makes people feel better to give tangible goods. It gives them the comfort of knowing what they are giving, but in reality they are just making a lot of work for other people -- and potentially contributing to the debris problem in the disaster zone. I know I'm still trying to find a good way to donate cash to help Katrina evacuee students.

New Orleans reclaimed

Getting the citizens of New Orleans back in their homes is a very good thing. "New Orleans 'will breathe again,' beginning this weekend." Let's hope that, by getting residents back in their homes, the future of New Orleans will be decided by its citizens and not by carpetbagging Bush cronies.

Republicans choose power politics over truth telling

From Kos: "Once again, the Peter Pan Syndrome - or should I say Tinkerbell Syndrome - kicks in for the GOP. When something goes wrong, they don't even want to know about it. Just clap harder, assholes."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The iPod Generation: going deaf?

Ars Technica notes some interesting research: The iPod Generation: going deaf?

What's that you say?

Scientists are claiming that the increased use of headphones amongst those trend-lovin' young hipsters is damaging their hearing. Robert Novak, director of clinical education in audiology at Purdue University, has been testing random students over the years, and he says that incidence of noise-induced hearing loss is on the rise.

Sounds about right to me. But I still want my Nano.

About levees and explosions

One alarming rumor that was repeated by many survivors in New Orleans was the allegation that the levees were blown up. People reported hearing explosions at the time of the levee failures.

Calm down folks. Boing Boing provides some links to an analysis by a "geographer" explaining how a levee failure could go BOOM. I've also read that there was a barge that broke loose and either accompanied the storm surge -- or maybe was sucked into the breach? -- which might have slammed into something with a BOOM.

Another wild rumor bites the dust.

Blanco dotted her i's and crossed her t's...

Josh Marshall provides this link to a CRS report given to Rep. John Conyers answering the question, did Gov. Blanco do what she needed to do to get federal assistance?:


From the above review of the statutory authorities under the Stafford Act, the letters of Governor Blanco to President Bush requesting first a declaration of emergency and then a major disaster declaration in acticipation of the effects of Hurricane Katrina, as well as the President's responses to those requests in declaring a state of emergency with respect to Louisiana effective August 26,2005, and continuing, and declaring a major disaster with respect to Laouisiana effective August 28, 2005, and continuing, it would appear that the Governor did take the steps necessary to request emergency and major disaster declarations for the state of Louisiana in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina. In response to the Governor's requests, it appears that the President did take the steps necessary to trigger the availability of Staffor Act emergency assistance and disaster assistance, by declaring first a state of emergency, and later a major disaster, and authorizing specific Stafford Act assistance to be make available to the State of Louisiana to respond to the effects of the Hurricane. We hope that this will be of assistance to you.

What a boring way of saying, yes, she did make the proper requests, and she did it before the storm hit. The feds' response was in the feds hands.

Maybe we see now why Bush is taking responsibility. Is he getting ready to clean house in DHS and FEMA? Fire up the grill. Looks like we'll have heaping helpings of Chertoff-kebobs real soon now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Byrd: Time to come home, America

Kos posted a quote from a speach by Sen. Byrd on the floor of the Senate, Time to come home, America:

It is time to come home, America. Time to look within our own borders and within our own souls. There are many questions to be answered and many missions to accomplish right here on our own soil. We have neglected too much for too long in our own backyard. 'To every thing there is a season, . . . a time to break down and a time to build up. . . .'

Baghdad Burning returns

Riverbend is back.

Monday, September 12, 2005

My Katrina shotgun

Some of what I've been reading about Katrina.

Mayor Nagin speaks out:

Definitely class, and the more I think about it, definitely race played into this,” he said. “How do you treat people that just want to walk across the bridge and get out, and they’re turned away, because you can’t come to a certain parish? How do resources get stacked up outside the city of New Orleans and they don’t make their way in? How do you not bring one piece of ice?

Intel Dump has been an excellent source for analysis of Katrina issues. Two good posts to check out: Wrong Priorities
FEMA understands disasters, and many of its programs have been in place and effective for years. Since its inception, DHS has been chasing its tail looking under every rock for the next 9/11 while ignoring the nuts and bolts issues that face our countries. Hurricane season comes every year. Long after you and I are dead, and 9/11 is a distant memory that our grandkids re-live on the history channel, Hurricane season will come. People are fleeting, Mother Nature endures.
And All disasters are local
Hurricane Katrina has laid threadbare our consequences management plans, demonstrating their inadequacy with clear and convincing evidence. This is unacceptable. If we can salvage any good from this disaster, it is this: we must learn from our mistakes, and we must fix them so we are ready for the next event.
Boing Boing has been excellent, with tons of first hand reports. A few recent ones: NOLA 9th Ward flooded by "huge wave", Wardriving occupied New Orleans on 9/11, "People's reconstruction", Authorities bar Red Cross from NOLA; Blackwater gets carte blanche... And that's just the ones still on their front page. They've been all over Katrina.

Finally Digby has written eloquently about race, Katrina, and the Southern Strategy in Dusting Off The Manual
For those who think that we are in a post racist world because George W. Bush appointed blacks to his cabinet, think again. The modern Republican Party was built on the back of an enduring national divide on the issue of race. George Bush may not personally be racist (or more likely not know he's racist) but the party he leads has depended on it for many years. The coded language that signals tribal ID has obscured it, but don't kid yourselves. It is a party that became dominant by exploiting the deep cultural fault of the mason dixon line.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Hold your ground, Cajun heroes

I'm not going to quote anyone else here. I'm not even going to research to see what anyone else is thinking or saying about it. This one is straight from the heart.

The New Orleans residents that have remained in their homes must be allowed to stay. Those whose homes are intact, dry, and relatively unaffected by flood waters must be given a choice about staying or leaving.

Fuck the government if they try and force people out. I don't trust the government — local, state, or feds — and I really don't trust the carpetbaggers who will swoop in to gorge themselves at the reconstruction trough. The only way to block the malevolent schemes of these fools is to have locals in their home city, defending not only their homes, but their blocks, their neighborhoods and their city.

This is where I raise my libertarian freak flag and wave it in the name of freedom. These survivors have lived through the worst of it. They have successfully ridden out the storm. They have defended their homes. They have worked out ways to survive, to help other survivors, and to keep their life and liberty in their own hands. They are not asking for help from anyone. They are not in the way.

Let them be.

The Good Joe

Here's an extended excerpt from The Daily Howler in praise of Joe Scarborough. That's something you don't see every day around here. But I'm running it 'cuz I've been watching his show and have noticed how angry, fiesty , and no-bullshit Scarborough has been concering Katrina. So here, at length is, Daily Howler on the "Good Joe":

ALL HAIL JOE SCARBOROUGH: Joe Scarborough’s work has been simply superb in the wake of Katrina. But then, there have always been two Joe Scarboroughs. On the one hand, he has been the incisive, fair-and-balanced pundit who occasionally appears on Hardball. Then too, he has been the host of cable’s most vacuous show—until Rita Cosby’s new program came along. But all this week, he has been the Good Joe; he’s been smart, involved, focused, frank—and willing to tackle his own party’s interests and scripts. Last night, on the ground in Biloxi, he continued to criticize President Bush. In this segment, he spoke with Ralph Peters:
SCARBOROUGH (9/8/05): Rate leadership, Colonel. That`s what you have done in the past. Rate leadership in this crisis on all levels. How have they done?

PETERS: On every single level, Joe, leadership gets an F, for failure. And, with your background, you know that, when there`s an emergency and things go wrong, it`s usually a failure at one, maybe two levels. This is the first time I have ever seen failure from top to bottom and bottom to top, from the mayor of New Orleans and the local officials, right up to the president of the United States.

I mean, it`s stunning to me. And, you know, without being an alarmist, in all sobriety, we should all be very, very concerned that, four years after 9/11, with the formation of the Department of Homeland Security and that gobbling up FEMA, that this was the best they could do? I mean, what were they doing for four years?

So—so, I am really concerned. And while I am very disappointed that politicians are casting blame on both sides—let`s fix this first—but there is a military maxim that applies. And that`s that a leader is responsible for everything his subordinates do or fail to do. And the leader, of course, is George W. Bush.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, Colonel, that is surprising to a lot of people, hearing you say it, because you have been—like me, you have been a big supporter of George Bush. But I have been on the ground down here, and I can`t cut it any other way. He has failed. FEMA has failed. The government of Mississippi has failed. The governor of Louisiana has failed. The governor—or the mayor of New Orleans has failed...

PETERS: ...When you know a crisis is coming, there are three key components, resources, a plan, and leadership. God knows, this country has resources. We had fragmentary plans all over, but FEMA and Homeland Security never put them together. It was clearly inadequate for a disaster of this magnitude, admittedly a huge disaster.

But, Joe, you know, as you observed, I have been a supporter of President Bush, but I just got to come back with the fact that this is a failure of leadership. And I will tell you, I am personally angry.


PETERS: And I don`t want a president who is taking six-week vacations anywhere when Americans are dying, whether they are dying in Iraq or Louisiana.

SCARBOROUGH: All right. Colonel, thank you so much. Greatly appreciate it. The buck stops at the White House. You are exactly right.

We will be right back with a lot of tough questions. Stay with us.

“I don`t want a president who is taking six-week vacations when Americans are dying” That is exceptionally tough stuff—and it was coming from two Bush supporters. But Scarborough has told it this way throughout. He deserves the highest praise.

John Lewis on the vital roll of the press

Thanks to Secrecy News and FAS for the link to this statement from Rep. John Lewis, "On The Contribution Of The Press To The Civil Rights Movement"

of georgia
in the house of representativesp
Thursday, September 8, 2005

Mr. LEWIS of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, as the nation celebrates the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the conflict on the Edmund Pettus bridge, the 40th anniversary of the signing of Voting Rights Act, and the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott this year, I think it is fitting and appropriate that we take a moment to acknowledge the vital role that the press played in the success of the Civil Rights Movement.

I have often said that without the media the Civil Rights Movement would have been a bird without wings. I am not certain where we would be today as a nation, if the American public had not been made to acknowledge the struggles we faced in the American South. ... Without the media's willingness to stand in harm's way and starkly portray events of the Movement as they saw them unfold, Americans may never have understood or even believed the horrors that African Americans faced in the Deep South.

How true. How timely too. But for the press, Americans might never have witnessed the ineptitude of their government's response to Katrina. And thanks to that reporting, there's no way any partisan, half hearted whitewash inquiry will be tolerated.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Check out Mark Morford

I've never heard of Mark Morford before reading this article in today's Chron: Stop! Don't criticize Bush for doing what he was hired to do but now I will be on the lookout for more:

But it's so unfair, isn't it, to attack poor Dubya like this? After all, Bush has always been the rich white man's president. He is the CEO president, the megacorporate businessman's friend, the thug of the religious right, a big reservoir-tipped condom for all energy magnates.

He has always been merely an entirely selective figurehead, a hand puppet of the neoconservative machine built and fluffed up and carefully placed for the very specific job of protecting their interests, no matter what. Repeat: No. Matter. What. Flood hurricane disaster war social breakdown economic collapse? Doesn't matter. Corporate interests, baby. Protect the core, screw everyone else unless it begins to affect the poll numbers and then finger-point, deflect, prevaricate. All of a piece, really. Because Bush, he was never actually meant to, you know, lead.

Right on, dude! Read the whole thing. He gives the Rude Pundit a run for his money, but unlike the Rude One, he's getting published in the Chron.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Daily Kos: Investigate

Once again, Kos comes down on the side of honesty, integrity and clean government with this post, Investigate:

The right wing bloggers are running with claims by the Red Cross that state officials kept them from going in too soon. The geniuses at Powerline conclude:
The Democrats may need to re-think their calls for an investigation.
See, that's the difference between us and them. They put their party above the country, and would rather stiffle a real investigation than be forced to shoulder any blame.

We say, 'investigate away', and let the chips fall where they may. If any Democrats share the blame, then so be it. We need to know what went wrong, who f'd up, and how we can prevent this sort of thing from happening again. If Blanco or another Democrats gets fingered in this epic screwup, that's okay.

Unlike the calls to investigate the DeLay / Norquist / Abramof pay-for-play corruption, the Democrats have nothing to loose. Well, almost nothing. If there is fault to be found in Louisiana's emergency response, if Blanco and Nagin were negligent, so be it. Of course, I feel that way about exposing corruption in the House too. In this case, the good of the American people should overrule any political calculations. And it's up to the Democrats to make that stand. The Republicans are already neck deep into the blame game, the coverup game, and the head in the sand, to hell with accountability game.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Thomas L. Friedman - The party's over, Mr. President

The venerable Tom Friedman has been trying hard to get out of the bed he made with Bush for a while now. Here we see him running from the house on fire. The party's over, Mr. President:

These are people so much better at inflicting pain than feeling it, so much better at taking things apart than putting them together, so much better at defending 'intelligent design' as a theology than practicing it as a policy.
[Note the International Herald Tribune link instead of the usual NYT link. Since the NYT is clamping down on free access to their content, we'll try and find alternate sources.]

Aaron Broussard is my kind of cajun

You tell 'em Aaron:Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, a Democrat, said he wants wholesale changes.:

'Take whatever idiot they have at the top of whatever agency and give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don't give me the same idiot,'
Stay feisty Aaron. You've survived the worst that Mother Nature can throw at you, probably not for the first or last time. But get ready to battle the partisan cronyism and corrupt Rovian power struggles that loom ahead during the reconstruction. We need men of honor and principle like you guarding against the sleaze to come.

Djerejian - More Thoughts On Katrina

The one silver lining to Bush's Katrina fiasco is that so many different people are finally waking up and smelling the coffee. The press. True conservatives. Even some Republicans. Here is a link to a longish analysis of Katrina by the very conservative Gregory Djerejian, More Thoughts On Katrina:

Yep, it's a big job, and you might even have to work after 9 PM here and there to stay on top of it all. It's a big, messy world out there Mr. President. It's really show time now, and the time for empty talk is long since past. Real accountability. An independent investigation. No more empty bromides. We're fed up.
He has not turned into some flaming, Air-America-style liberal. He makes plenty of strong points about the weakness of many liberal complaints about Katrina. But he is not about to cut Bush any slack, nor toe the Ken Mehlman party line -- which is very refreshing to see.

War and Piece:

Laura Rosen of the blog, War and Piece points out how outlandish it is that FEMA is pimping for the fucked up scum Pat Robertson. Check out "This is incredible":

The Bush administration and FEMA have been encouraging Katrina donations to a supposed charity called 'Operation Blessing,' headed by Rev. Pat Robertson. Many people pointed this out, in recent days. But what's truly shocking is that it has been well documented that Robertson's Operation Blessing diverted charity funds during the Rwandan genocide to bring in diamond mining equipment for a Robertson-headed mining corporation to Zaire. The NY Daily News reports:
Back in 1994, during the infamous Rwandan genocide, Robertson used his 700 Club's daily cable operation to appeal to the American public for donations to fly humanitarian supplies into Zaire to save the Rwandan refugees.

The planes purchased by Operation Blessing did a lot more than ferry relief supplies.

An investigation conducted by the Virginia attorney general's office concluded in 1999 that the planes were mostly used to transport mining equipment for a diamond operation run by a for-profit company called African Development Corp.

And who do you think was the principal executive and sole shareholder of the mining company?

You guessed it, Pat Robertson himself.

Robertson had landed the mining concession from his longtime friend Mobutu Sese Seko, then the dictator of Zaire.

Nauseating. Is Robertson basically a glorified arms dealer?

Daily Kos: Bush's use of firemen: props

More echoing here in the Chamber. This time its Kos reacting to a post by TPM citing an article from The Salt Lake Tribune that was discussed on Air America. That covers a whole lot of bases. Here's Kos on Bush's use of firemen: props:

Bush's use of firefighters as human props doesn't win the 'most fucked up' prize because it was the most costly for the nation -- the Iraq War wins hands down. It doesn't win because it caused the most deaths, or damaged the reputation of the U.S. the most, or harmed national security by outing undercover CIA agents. In the greater scheme of things, this may seem as small fry compared to the long stream of serious failures in this White House.

It's the most fucked up because it is easily the most crassly political act ever taken by this administration. Bush is so thoroughly a PR vessel that he can't even tour a disaster zone without his human backdrop. He's been a PR marionette for so long -- clear brush for the cameras! -- that he's become thoroughly incapable of keeping it real. God forbid he try to connect with people, get a better understanding of their efforts to cope with real disaster. That's not worth his time. Nope, it's got to be turned into a frickin' Bush campaign commercial. Everything is political. Everything.

Daily Kos: Dean takes aim, hits bullseye

From Dean to Kos to me to you. This blog may be an echo chamber, but I try and make the echoes interesting. Daily Kos - Dean takes aim, hits bullseye:

Howard Dean:
'Based on today's reports, it seems clear that President Bush's visit today is just another callous political move crafted by Karl Rove. It's just appalling to see how quickly President Bush and Karl Rove have mobilized a political strategy in their own defense, but simply failed to mobilize a swift response to either keep the people in the Gulf Coast region safe in the first place or aid the victims in the aftermath of the storm.

'Thousands of people have lost their lives. Our nation faces difficult times as we address the painful aftermath of Katrina, yet President Bush is worried about shifting blame and passing the buck? Shouldn't he be worried about restoring stability, plans to evacuate survivors, and ensuring that our communities have the resources they need to help the victims of this tragedy rebuild their lives? Now is a time for leadership not partisanship. This is one failure we will not allow Rove and the GOP attack machine to spin away with their usual barrage of photo-ops, misinformation, smear campaigns and press conferences.'

Amazing seeing the urgency in the administration's actions the past few days -- not to help the people of the gulf coast, but to help themselves.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

shut up you fat whiner!

Meanwhile, back in Iraq, Salam Pax is concerned. Word is that the US and the Shia are contemplating tampering with the supposedly finished Iraqi Constitution. Here's and key passage from his post, Is the US Still Tinkering with the Iraqi Constitution?

Habibi, where are you going with this? Who are you people? And where have you taken all the sane secular Iraqis? It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers but in turbans.

I was going to say dude, I want my country back but I realized this doesn't really mean anything, which country do I want back? the pre-war oppression frappuccino or the post-war hell-on-earth macchiato ....too confusing. I don't even know what an unflavoured Iraq tastes like.

Better to focus on now.

There are quite a number of reasons why a Shia government would rather not bind itself to human rights treaties. One important reason is not having to deal with the hassle of these human rights contradicting "the undisputed rules of Islam".

I feel like I've known Salam for a few years now. He and Riverbend are my peers. I care about them and I listen to them like I would a co-worker or a neighbor. I so hope the US doesn't sell them out to the strongest Shia power brokers in the hopes of getting out ASAP. I want us out of Iraq ASAP. But we can't sell out.

I love olive oil

BBC - Olive oil 'acts like painkiller'

Report co-author Paul Breslin said: "The Mediterranean diet, of which olive oil is a central component, has long been associated with numerous health benefits, including decreased risk of stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, lung cancer and some dementias.

"Similar benefits are associated with certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

"Now that we know of oleocanthal's anti-inflammatory properties, it seems plausible that oleocanthal plays a causal role in the health benefits associated with diets where olive oil is the principal source of fat."

Refugees, evacuees or survivors?

An old workmate of mine who was a genunine refugee when his family immigrated to the US, pointed out that there is a significant difference between a refugee and an evacuee. Thanks Bron for pointing this out. Looks like others are starting to raise the awareness about this. These folks are not refugees. They are survivors, citizens, and evacuees.AMERICAblog - Refugees, evacuees or survivors?:

Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland raised a good point on Friday about calling the people refugees and all of the negative connotations that come with that word. For the most part I agree with him but it's hard to call the people who were held up in town and unable to evacuate, evacuees because they were abandoned by the country, left to fend for themselves in a way that the so-called compassionate GOP seems to love so much and talk about.

Al Sharpton yesterday blasted the media for using the word 'refugees' and encouraged them instead to use the word 'survivors' and he's right. Over the years, Sharpton has really grown on me and his contributions to our societal debates have been great. He's a very human guy and after watching the 'perfectness' of Bush and others in politics these days who are just too perfect and not very human at all, he's refreshing to listen to.

'They are not refugees. They are citizens of the United States. They are citizens of Louisiana and Mississippi, tax-paying citizens,' he said. 'They are not refugees wandering somewhere looking for charity. They are victims of neglect and a situation they should have never been put in in the first place.'

AMERICAblog - Bush caught in phony levee repair photo op

Americablog and Senator Landrieu catches another unbelievable act of Bush mendacity Bush's phony levee repair photo-op:

Bush faked levee repair for photo op yesterday
by John in DC - 9/03/2005 06:29:00 PM

From a press release LA Senator Mary Landrieu sent out today:

But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast - black and white, rich and poor, young annd old - deserve far better from their national governmeent. - Aid halted while Bush tours NOLA - Aid halted while Bush tours NOLA:

Three tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees in St. Bernard Parish and on Algiers Point sat on the Crescent City Connection bridge Friday afternoon as air traffic was halted because of President Bush?s visit to New Orleans, officials said.
That's leadership for you. No ned to take any risks. Better to let the desperate and the dying sit tight while Bush does his press tour.

Body and Soul: Untidy

There are so many outrages coming to light about NOLA its pretty overwhelming. Body and Soul captures the feeling in her post, .Body and Soul: Untidy:

My son has been the victim of my oral blogging for the past two days. I've been too angry to write anything coherent. Instead I burst in on him every hour or so.

<rant>They've turned us into a third world country!

Can't they [expletive] drop some [expletive] food and water to those people!

O'Reilly's complaining that they're not shooting enough people!</rant>

My son is the perfect person to direct these rants at, because he has the soul of a Buddhist monk. He takes it all in, fully understands the horror, and then says, calmly, sadly, 'Did you expect anything different from them?'

And somehow that calm takes me to a place where I can write instead of scream.

If you're not already swamped with NOLA news, please read the rest.

DHS blocking private relief efforts

Just when I'm thinking it couldn't possible be as bad as it looks, I found this news story via Defense Tech. Homeland Security won't let Red Cross deliver food:

'The Homeland Security Department has requested and continues to request that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans,' said Renita Hosler, spokeswoman for the Red Cross.

'Right now access is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities. We have been at the table every single day [asking for access]. We cannot get into New Orleans against their orders.'

So they're blaming the locals for not asking for aid. But they are actively preventing aid from flowing into the city. Holy shit.

Guardsmen 'played cards' amid New Orleans chaos

Guardsmen 'played cards' amid New Orleans chaos: police official - Yahoo! News:

NEW ORLEANS, United States (AFP) - A top New Orleans police officer said that National Guard troops sat around playing cards while people died in the stricken city after Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans deputy police commander W.S. Riley launched a bitter attack on the federal response to the disaster though he praised the way the evacuation was eventually handled.

'The guard arrived 48 hours after the hurricane with 40 trucks. They drove their trucks in and went to sleep.

'For 72 hours this police department and the fire department and handful of citizens were alone rescuing people. We have people who died while the National Guard sat and played cards. I understand why we are not winning the war inIraq if this is what we have.'

Let me get this straight. The first guard troops, a small contingent, arrive in 48 hours. Not too bad, really. They then park their trucks, take a nap and play cards without lifting a finger to help either the police or rescue efforts?. Holy shit.

TPM - Finger pointing begins

TPM is also starting to track the . Bush administrations spin control and finger pointing. Its already in full swing even as the death and misery continue in NOLA:

Now at least we have the storyline. The Bush administration wasn't caught sleeping on the job while New Orleans went under with a gutted FEMA run by a guy who got fired from his last job policing horse shows. In fact, according to the new White House storyline, the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans didn't ask for help quickly enough. And the White House was powerless to act until they did. Apparently they couldn't even reschedule the president's vacation until the locals got the right forms signed.
How can he possibly get away with this? Sure there is plenty of blame to spread around. But the lack of accountability is already appalling.

TPM - FEMA's incompetent hack Mike Brown

Many bloggers are documenting the unbelievable story of Mike Brown's rise to the head of FEMA. But Josh Marshall puts it in a nutshell here: TPM on FEMA Boob #2 Mike Brown:

So, just to recap, Brown had no experience whatsoever in emergency management. He was fired from his last job for incompetence. He was hired because he was the new director's college roommate. And after the director -- who himself got the job because he was a political fixer for the president -- left, he became top dog. And President Bush said yesterday that he thinks Brown is 'doing a helluva job'.

Tens of billions of federal dollars are going to be spent on reconstruction, though the first allotment is only $10.5 billion. Does anybody think Bush administration has the competence or honesty to manage that money? Does anybody think it won't be handled with the efficiency, expertise and integrity of the Iraqi reconstruction?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Mayor Nagin, from the heart

Here's a link to the radio interview with NOLA Mayor Ray Nagin (14:00 mp3, Thanks Nicole).

"No more press conferences" and "get off your ass" indeed. Stand strong. Help had better be on the way. There can be no excuses.

Our prayers to you, Mayor, and everyone trying to survive in LA.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

"I don't think"

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

What a sad, pathetic idiot. He should read more.

Waiting for a Leader - New York Times

The lead editorial in today's NYT: Waiting for a Leader

George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.
Much about the unfolding catastrophe leaves me speechless. But Bush's ineptness just brings one thought to mind, "Worst President Ever"

Wesley Clark - It all comes back to leadership

Clark is a guest blogger this week over at TPM Cafe. I've liked a lot of what he has to say. Especially this It all comes back to leadership:

Our country is hurting right now. Our situation in Iraq is floundering; gasoline may reach more than $4 per gallon by Tuesday; and the entire Gulf Coast of the United States is wounded and limping. The common need our people have -- and count on -- to see us through these challenges is leadership.
Normally, something like this, an ambitious pol questioning the president in a time of crisis, would make me sick. If we had a president who was making the slightest credible attempt to lead and cope with the Katrina disaster, I would find Clark's statement offensive.

But he is right.

Pre-Katrina looting

Atrios - Bankruptcy

Atrios posted this excellent idea for a Democratic response to Katrina, Bankruptcy

Every Dem had better line up to support this, include the Senators from MBNA.
Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Rep. Mel Watt, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee announced today that when Congress returns next Tuesday, they will introduce legislation to protect the thousands of families and small businesses financially devastated by Hurricane Katrina from being penalized by anti-debtor provisions contained in the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, scheduled to take effect on October 17, 2005. Reps. Conyers, Nadler, and Jackson Lee released the following joint statement:

"We are concerned that just as survivors of Hurricane Katrina are beginning to rebuild their lives, the new bankruptcy law will result in a further and unintended financial whammy. Unfortunately, the new law is likely to have the consequence of preventing devastated families from being able to obtain relief from massive and unexpected new financial obligations they are incurring and by forcing them to repay their debt with income they no longer have, but which is counted by the law."

The utter failure of FEMA, the neglect of the levees,... there will be plenty of reckoning and investigating to be done when the immediate crisis subsides. But this idea has the potential to truly help people rebound and recover their lives. It should be a bi-partisan slam dunk. And if the Republicans reject it, they will do so at their peril.