Saturday, December 31, 2005

Essay by Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley, Superpower 11-22-05

Back in the year 2000, I believed almost without thinking about it that the US was a "superpower", the only "superpower" in the world. Maybe it was true and maybe it wasn't, but there was a lot of money around, Americans were pretty prosperous, and most people around the world had a benign view of the US. Maybe the clearest sign of our "superpower" status was that the right wing and the press could beat up on Bill Clinton with absolutely no effect on US power or the perception of US power. Beating up on Bill Clinton was a kind of parlor game that the participants cared about, but was in the end of no international import. The most surprising thing, then, about the last five years is how quickly and absolutely the US has ceased to be a superpower. We are a country that can no longer pay our bills, no longer wage an effective military action, and no longer protect our citizens from disaster. And it doesn't matter what fiscal responsibility individuals show, what bravery individual soldiers show, or what generosity individual Americans show. As a nation-as a geopolitical entity-we have been stripped of all of our superpowers and many of our powers, and it has been done quickly and efficiently, in the name of blind patriotism, by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and their neocon advisors. The very powers that these people thought they were going to enjoy exercising have slipped out of their grasp. It's laughable now to remember the name of the campaign against Baghdad, "Shock and Awe". No one in Iraq feels any "shock and awe" toward the US presence there any longer. "Fear and Loathing" is more like it. Whether or not the administration and the press know that the powers are gone doesn't matter. They are. And they aren't coming back, because the last twenty-five years of Republican free market political devolution have resulted in a completely different country from the one that in the course of the 20th century became a superpower. Bush and Cheney have provided the final, telling blows to American power, but actions of the corporatocracy laid the ground work. There is nothing left in the US of real substance. The only thing that remains is ego, bullying, and public relations. The question thoughtful Americans are going to have to answer eventually is one they should be thinking about
now-when our superpowers are gone, what are we and what do we want to be? As everyone knows, the multinational corporation has jealously preserved its right to pay its workers as little as possible-to put its factories wherever wages were lowest, and to exploit the natural resources of every corner of the globe while paying as little to the locals who ostensibly "owned" them as they could, preferably nothing This is such a precious idea for capitalists that when a company, like Costco, for example, operates on a different, more humane model, they become resentful and vengeful-it is implied that the power of Wall Street will be brought to bear on such a renegade business model-customers and workers must never come before shareholders. Nor must the public safety be considered. All regulations that protect the environment or even those who purchase some item, are to be as much as possible prohibited, or at least flouted with impunity. To these corporate types, the public safety of one's own fellow citizens is as much a matter of indifference as the public safety of people ten thousand miles away. What most Americans, indeed, most people, normally think of as desirable, such as stable communities with histories, jobs, and a middle class, is not what the corporations have shown themselves to care about. They do not care about the actual substance of the US, a set of geographical areas with a varied population of human beings. The taxpayers present themselves to the corporation much as consumers do-a bunch of suckers to be fooled and robbed for the sake of shareholder profit. The way you rob customers is by dressing up something cheap and worthless to look desirable. The way you rob taxpayers is by constantly challenging them to defend their patriotism and their religion. The average American has a long history of being reflexively xenophobic, so getting him worked up about enemies from abroad, especially dark-skinned ones, has always been an especially effective way of distracting him while you pick his pocket. But I say, let me be exactly as patriotic as some corporate executive who has outsourced his American workforce to India, bought homes around the world, made sure his children don't have to fight in American wars, and banked his money offshore so that he can avoid paying taxes. In exchange for the towns that Big Ag has depopulated, the cities that Big Manufacturing has hollowed out, the healthcare that Big Pharma has helped destroy, the environment that Big Chemical has contaminated, and the public school system that the corporate tax giveaways have hobbled, what has the average American gotten? Only the sense of grandiosity and self-righteousness that come from thinking of oneself as part of a "superpower. What does Ken Lay have to do with George W. Bush other than for a while they were good friends? When Enron fell, it became clear that there was nothing there, that the officers of the company had used it as a private bank and a private club. It was not actually expected, contrary to the understanding of customers and workers, to produce anything. It was a huge shell-game for stealing money (particularly from customers in the state of California) and moving it around. George W. Bush and his administration have used the federal government in exactly the same way. Only an idiot would have thought that FEMA would not, in the course of eight years, have to confront a disaster, either man-made or natural. But Bush has turned FEMA and the other federal agencies that used to work, more or less, into a big club that the has filled, willy-nilly, with incompetents who not only don't know how to do anything, but actually don't care enough to do anything. When Michael Brown was put on the spot for causing the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of people in New Orleans, his first instinct was to defend himself, not to express remorse for his fatal misjudgments. This is Bush's first instinct, and Cheney's first instinct. It is the instinct of business, not the instinct of public service. It is obvious that George W. Bush is a small, shallow man, the son of a rather dumb and bumbling father and a blinkered, vindictive mother. That his nature and nurture have been visited upon the country as a bwhole is an interesting detail of our decline and fall. No doubt someone, maybe Rove or Haley Barbour or some other corporate kingmakers
that we haven't heard of, considered him attractive enough (remember when they tried to make use of Dan Quayle in a similar way) as a public relations front man. It is their problem that he can't be shown in public too often because his true character keeps peeking through. It is also their problem that he seems completely uninterested in his job. Lots of vacations and a very light daily regimen have not worked. Now what we saw intermittently during the election of 2004 is evident in every public appearance- Bush feels that the duties of a leader require too much effort. And Cheney, who spent the week of the New Orleans disaster closing a real estate deal, is just as bored. Those who are a little bit energized by getting and exercising power are too jaded to do any work. Where have we seen that before? In the executive suite of Bernie Ebbers, for one. But unlike Bernie Ebbers, Bush never built anything. He was always brought in to enjoy the perks of power and influence while others did the work. Some reports say he enjoyed acting as his father's hit man in the early nineties. Maybe that was good use made of his mean-streak. Bush's main importance now is how he demonstrates the bankruptcy of the corporate model as a model of governing. Public service, even customer satisfaction, is out the window. Power, privilege, and perks are all they want. Enron and the US are now quite similar, and the US is engaged in an Enron-like futile effort to make the books look good before a final accounting. Bush's strategy, like that of Ken Lay, is to talk a good game and pretend ignorance. If he really is ignorant, then he is a fool. If he really isn't ignorant (of what is going on in Iraq, what is going on in our economy, and what went on and is going on in New Orleans), then he is a criminal. That's how it works with Lay and that's how it works with Bush. The corporations-big oil, big pharma, big media, big construction, big agriculture, and big finance-may be happy with what they bought and paid for. I have no idea. It is quite likely that they are convinced that they do not actually live in the same world we do, and for a while (until the effects of global warming really set in) they may be able to fool themselves with that thought. But as a result of their efforts and those of their incompetent pawns, America's former superpowers are gone and the big corporations are going to have to spend a lot more time and effort corrupting a plethora of smaller and less globally influential governments. They have killed the big one. Imagine this-trying to bring the entire Eurozone to heel? You have to know a lot of languages to do that, and those Europeans are more politically sophisticated than the average American The fact is, nations don't get to be great just because they say they are or because they try to bully others into thinking they are. Great nations have to be, at least, places where the average human being wants to come to, to live in, and to contribute to. While the Bush administration and their supporters continue to labor under the illusion that the US is a superpower, other Americans might be content to ponder how to make their country a decent place to live, which right now it is not. A decent place to live is one where a large employed middle class can most of the time afford to house, feed, educate, and care for their children, who are, in the regular course of events, safe. Canada is a decent place to live. The US is divided largely between those who live in indecent ghost-towns that have been gutted by the evaporation of jobs and those who live in indecent affluent communities that they can barely afford but are terrified to leave. When the corporatocracy paid the Reagan revolutionaries to roll back any and all regulations so that they could do every short-sighted and selfish thing they wanted to, they started us down the road to this. Whether there is any turning back remains to be seen. However, the fate of the Bush administration and their cronies is decided. Sooner or later they will be tossed and sooner or later America's powers will be so minimal that investment will go elsewhere. Money doesn't care who owns it, and it doesn't have ears to hear appeals to mere patriotism.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Great Defence of Christmas


O'Reilly's War, originally uploaded by Wazdat!.

Or...The Big War In Bill O’Reilly’s Mind



The Great Defence of Christmas
or
The Big War In Bill O’Reilly’s Mind

O'Reilly's making big noises about this "War On Christmas" inside his head. Here are two of his “Talking Points” from December 6 and 7 of just this week. Here’s December 6th:

"Christmas Humbugs Strike Back
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
By Bill O'Reilly
The humbugs strike back on Christmas: that is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo."
As you most likely know, there is a very small minority of Americans who want Christmas out of the public square, but they've made big inroads into America's most revered tradition.
However, Christmas is making a come back. Some companies who used to avoid saying "Merry Christmas" have reversed themselves. And all over the country, lawsuits are being filed to keep Christmas on public display.
That's not playing well in the secular progressive movement, which wants to diminish Christmas and all vestiges of Christian power. The SPs realize that to get gay marriage, legalized drugs, euthanasia, and other parts of their agenda passed, they need to marginalize religious forces. That is what is behind the assault on Christmas in the USA.
Over the weekend, some liberal newspapers stepped up to the plate. The Baltimore Sun said, "Groups such as the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State say Christmas is under no threat from them or anyone else."
Well, that's reassuring! Thank you, Baltimore Sun!
The Richmond Times Dispatch editorialized, "To hear some voices — Bill O'Reilly's, for instance — Christmas lies under siege. To refer to Christmas vacation as 'winter break' in no way demeans the occasion."
Of course not, Richmond Times. Not calling Christmas vacation Christmas vacation doesn't demean it at all.
But the absolute best comes from the most enthusiastic secular newspaper in the country, The New York Times, our pals. Editorial writer Adam Cohen, who met a — never met a secular cause he didn't like writes, "The Christmas that Mr. O'Reilly and his allies are promoting -- one closely aligned by retailers, with a smackdown attitude toward nonobservers fits their campaign to make America more like a theocracy, with Christian displays on public property and Christian prayer in public schools."
Of course, Mr. Cohen has no idea what he's talking about. I don't have a smackdown attitude toward nonobservers. They can do what they want. I don't care. I don't want a theocracy. And I don't want Christian prayers in public schools.
But Mr. Cohen is not interested in the truth. He wants to demonize. He wants Americans to believe this whole Christmas campaign is to promote Christianity.
What "Talking Points" is really promoting is respect, respect for a holiday that's celebrated by 95 percent of Americans. It's insane to diminish Christmas. It's also wrong.
Most Americans love this federal holiday and they don't want it tarnished by nutty far left fanatics. Get that, Adam?
More than 100,000 of you voted in our billoreilly.com poll, which asks, will you shop at stores that do not say `Merry Christmas'? 81 percent said no. Nineteen percent said yes.
So the secular progressives are going to lose the fight. But as I said, they're not happy about it. And they'll do what they always, attack.
And that's "The Memo."”

And now December 7th:

“What Christmas Controversy?
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
By Bill O'Reilly
Writing in The Los Angeles Times, wise guy columnist Joel Stein has declared there is no war on Christmas. That's the far left line, that religious nuts have fabricated a Christmas controversy in order to turn the USA into a theocracy. And The New York Times printed that opinion last weekend.
So far, we've also seen this nonsense in The Baltimore Sun, newspapers in Orlando and Richmond, and now The L.A.Times. I'm sure that's all coincidental.
The L.A. situation is interesting. The Times' parent company recently let go of the paper's editor and editorial director, two men who had turned The Times into a far left brochure, causing circulation to plummet.
The new people at The L.A. Times seem to be trying. And the paper has become more fair in its presentation. But now, Stein has mucked it all up. Here's what he wrote today.
"In fact [John] Gibson and fellow Fox anchor Bill O'Reilly are so upset [about the Christmas controversy' that they have organized a boycott of Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, and Costco for using the phrase `Happy Holidays' in their ads instead of `Merry Christmas.'"
Well, that's news to me. Here's what I said on "The Radio Factor".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
There is a move under foot to discourage people from buying in stores that do not use 'Merry Christmas' in their advertising. I am not a part of that. I am not a part of that movement. And I'll tell you why.
I want you to make up your own mind on this. I don't want to be telling you where to buy and where not to buy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
So Stein did not write the truth. What a shock. L.A. Times editors, embarrassed, say they will issue a correction. You may have noticed I lead the league in corrections.
The importance the Christmas controversy is that it has become the centerpiece become the culture war between traditional Americans and secular progressives. Outside of the war on terror, this culture war is the most important thing happening in the country today. At stake, whether the USA will turn into a secular country that mirrors Western Europe, or maintain its emphasis on Judeo-Christian values.
The L.A. Times and much of the media is firmly in the secular corner. "Talking Points" is rooting for the traditionalists. So the battle lines are drawn. Too bad Christmas has to be in the middle of it.
And that's "The Memo."

Bill's got the best of both his puny little worlds here. In any other conflict, he's forced to be an imaginary soldier in a real war. Here, he can be a toy soldier in a war out of his own imagination.

In the real world, people could care less about what the outward displays say, or do not say. They may pass a comment, a sentiment or two, but they know, that THEY are the true custodians of Christmas, not the self-appointed busy-body bloviators like Mr. O'Reilly.

In his addled state of mind, O'Reilly seems to imagine that a few "far left" liberals like those in the "LA Times," or the "New York Times", are dead set on destroying Christmas to gain a foothold in their war on Christian values:

“That's not playing well in the secular progressive movement, which wants to diminish Christmas and all vestiges of Christian power. The SPs realize that to get gay marriage, legalized drugs, euthanasia, and other parts of their agenda passed, they need to marginalize religious forces. That is what is behind the assault on Christmas in the USA.”

Only trouble is that when I read the same article that O'Reilly cited in Talking Points 2, I found that the author Joel Stein had a more or less patronizing attitude toward the "defenders of Christmas, and admitted it is by far a more interesting holiday than Chanukah:

“I get that I live in a Christian nation. And I'm fine with it. I like you guys. I think it's adorable that you ring giant, white pipe cleaners around streetlights and make everything taste like peppermint and thought the world was going to end when the calendar went to three zeros in a row. It's like living with children.

I'm grateful that our Constitution separates religion from our law and our non-Kansas schools. But that doesn't mean the culture of a country with a higher percentage of Christians than Israel has Jews isn't going to be all into the Jesus thing. That's why Christmas is a national holiday and Yom Kippur isn't. And that's why Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand put out Christmas albums.”

And Joel Stein is NOT OFFENDED by the milieu of Christmas at this time, he understands that your right to religious speech is the same as his, and therefore treats the “I’ll pray anywhere I wanted to “ crowd with bemused indifference.

“Last Thursday, a group called Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, where founding member Jackie Mason spoke out against the war on Christmas. He basically argued that if people can't say "Merry Christmas," then he won't be allowed to wish people an "Exceptional Purim." That one doesn't translate from Yiddish well.”

He knows that Christmas traditions are much more fun than those of Chanukah, and he is rather thankful:

“So please, go nuts with your celebration, with your lying to children about where presents come from and your beverages made from raw eggs and your desperate use of greenery to get women to kiss you.

No, there's no war on Christmas. But this attempt to be inclusive by tamping down on the Christ birth stuff, while well intentioned, is just making us non-Christians feel worse. All I want from you is to admit — whether you're religious or not — that these customs are inexorably tied in to the birth of your savior. Then I'll be happy to celebrate your culture with you, if you want me to. Because it beats my people trying to persuade me to whoop it up over a story about an extra-long-lasting candle and a toy that's so obviously just a badly made top.”

Let's get one thing straight! What happens in the marketplace belongs to everyone. What happens in the home, belongs in the home, and is free from ANYONE'S interference, including Bill O'Reilly's. People will look at these things make some comment, and then quietly, maybe even laughingly go home and sing carols wish each other “Merry Christmas” put up their pagan tree with a star on top, nativity scene below, fill the room with presents, observe whatever traditions and meals their culture prescribes and have a happy holiday as only their family can. Christmas in our time was always a holiday of the hearth and home with only vestigial remains of the public holiday it once was. And we give unto the public that which it deserves. And it’s true Mr. O’Reilly, that we are mostly a Christian nation, but we understand the need for religious tolerance, especially in the public square. I agree that communities that substitute the word “holiday” for “Christmas” are cowardly. But look closely Mr. O’Reilly, under that “Holiday” banner you may find a nativity scene, a menorah, and a star with a crescent moon. And you’ll know, that that community’s citizens get it, and don’t feel insulted. The public square is everybody’s refuge, everybody’s trust. You know, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and render unto God that which is God's?"

Incidentally Born Again Evangelical George W. Bush & CO. sent out a ''Happy Holidays!" card. I expect that after the sour reception of his "base," that will be ended faster than Harry Myers's SCOTUS candidacy. Oh, and I’m glad to see that The Fox Store and O’Reilly Factor Gear changed the sentiment on their items from “Happy Holidays” to “Merry Christmas”. Now go tell Laura to do the same! Merry Xmas!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Keep Floatin on De Nile Rush!


Rush Limbaugh, originally uploaded by Wazdat!.

Does OxiContin Give Flashbacks?




I just read the transcript of Wednesday's Limbaugh rant.

Limbaugh just can't come to grips with reality, can he? He goes on, ignoring real setbacks like Hitler in his bunker, moving paper armies on a table. Not wanting to acknowledge what looks to be the banshee call of the neocon right, he prefers to wear his political rose-colored glasses, while accusing Democrats and liberals of living in an alternate reality!

Here's his tortured logic about the Democrat view of the situation:

"RUSH: Have you noticed when the liberals lose elections, the elections were stolen? I toyed with the idea today of trying to start this big movement that all these elections were flawed yesterday and that the voting machines were tampered with and that people tried to vote and weren't allowed to vote and there was discrimination against conservatives, and I wanted to lead the charge, saying these elections are illegitimate because they were stolen. But then I stopped, and then I realized, no, that's not the way to go about it. Because, as losers in these elections, those that we lost, we're actually the power. We're the winners, because the minority has rights! So the minority is actually the winners. We are in the minority; we probably now control New Jersey and Virginia. This is a lesson we have learned from the left. The left, the Democrats lost the Senate but they say they still run it, minority rights and so forth. "

No Rush, no Democrats ever said that they controlled the Senate or the House as a minority! Not when John Conyers had to hold hearings on the Downing Street Memos in the basement. Not when John Sensennbrenner could suddenly adjourn a meeting and turn off the mics of the opposition off when it suited him. You had John Roberts's nomination readjusted from for Associate Justice to Chief Justice at Dubya's leisure. And he won! Harriet Myers’s nomination failed because the right was not impressed with her! And look at all the pork that got passed! Certainly, no Democrat would have stood for a tax cut for the top 1% of the population while leaving the other 99% high and dry! And would the Democratic Senate have allowed Bush to get away with letting drug companies determine the price of prescription drugs? I don't think so! And then there were the various indignities that a Republican Senate made the nation submit to, like the Schiavo case, useless bans on flag burning and the like.

And yet, Rush is always in the habit of glossing over inconvenient things like facts:

"In fact, we actually won last night because we lost, as in the same thing with Paul Hackett. Did Paul Hackett win? No, he lost, but he won! Well, we lost, so we won! It's a great day! See how you play this if you're a Democrat? They're making all this noise. What they did was hold two seats that they already had. This was what everybody's talking about, the governor's race. I said yesterday, "It's the Democrats that face the test." The Democrats were the incumbents in New Jersey and Virginia."

Tim Kaine was BEHIND for most of the time in Virginia! Only in October did he overtake Kilgore, and only by a 6 point margin. Pretty good for an underdog, but it could have been better!

The Rassmussen Report for November 2nd had a very informative breakdown:

"Last week, Kaine was ahead by just two percentage points, 46% to 44%. The candidates have been within three points of each other in six consecutive polls conducted since Labor Day.

This is the fourth straight 2005 Virginia election poll with "leaners" included in the totals. Leaners are those who initially do not express a preference for either major party candidate but lean one way or the other when asked a follow-up question.

Without leaners, Tim Kaine has a one-point edge, 46% to 45%, over Jerry Kilgore."

All that changed AFTER Dubya's visit, and Kaine SHOT UP by 6 points. Bush has coattails. Only "born on third base, thinks he hit a triple" can't see that he is the one stuck in quicksand, and stuffed his hem in Kilgore's hand. Even in some very conservative areas, Bush was at best ineffectual, at worst a pariah. By the way, both of Virginia's U.S. Senators are Republicans, and 8 out of 11 House members are also Republican. Also, does El Rushbo know that Virginia's House of Delegates is Republican? The Dems control the state Senate, the governorship and lieutenant governorship. See how honest I can be Rush? You should try it some time!

There were 2 elections Rush. And if I'm not mistaken, any domestic transgression done by Dubya can be "mistook'' for local. But tell that to Captain Delusional who says:

"For example, the elections yesterday are not harbingers of what's going to happen in 2006, and this is a historical trend, goes back ten years, in some states 20 years and others. These are state races, local races.

The national agenda was not a factor here. Let's go New Jersey first. In New Jersey, does anybody really ever expect a Republican to be the governor of that state? "

Maybe you'll listen to a fellow conservative, Pat Buchanan, who strangely enough, we don't hear from the Right about anymore. In his article for Human Events, Bush Leaves GOP in Crisis,"he writes:

"Both Bushes abandoned the economic patriotism that had put America and Americans first for free-trade globalism. Result: the most massive trade deficits in U.S. history, the gutting of our industrial base, the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs, and the largest wealth transfer of all time with technology, factories, high-tech and high-skilled jobs pouring out of America into Asia.

Working America and the middle class have been sacrificed on the high altar of the Republican Moloch of Free Trade. And how have our Chinese brothers reciprocated our magnanimity?

Both Bushes embraced the open borders immigration policy the Wall Street Journal has trumpeted for two decades. Result: We have 10-15 million illegal aliens in our country, among whom gangs like the murderous Mara Salvatrucha are proliferating. Native-born California taxpayers are fleeing the Golden State, as Third World tax consumers pour in. So great is the crisis on the Mexican border even the liberal Democratic governors of New Mexico and Arizona have declared states of emergency. Meanwhile 35,000 U.S. troops stand guard on the border of South Korea. "

Which local issue are we missing here? Jobs? You can either clean toilets, man the counter or, sit at a desk? Your manufacturing job in Newark, Pittsburgh, and Norfolk just went to Tientsin, Taipei, or Singapore.

Security? We are a joke! Our ports are open, our borders are open. Bush & Co. never met an illegal alien that they couldn't ignore! And they are a strain on our resources. I have much sympathy for them, they have fled a horrific situation povertywise, but our resources in this deficit-ridden country with high unemployment are in fact, quite strained. And we are leaving the matter up to a bunch of bear guzzling shotgun toters who have as much experience patrolling borders as a dog on kitty litter.

By the way Rush, did I mention that Paul Hackett ran a very close race in Ohio? Lots of jobs lost there.

Rush's attitude about Virginia is, well that's just the way things are:

''I really don't want to bash our guys, but it's clear if you look at some of the campaigning in Virginia, that you had a reluctant conservative on certain issues. He was pretty strong on some but when it came to taxes and other things he was indistinguishable from the Democrat that was running for governor. If you're going to run as a conservative do it confidentially and be bold about it and don't be timid. But, you know, conservatives in the Beltway area, northern Virginia is the heavily populated Democrat region of the state, you gotta go out and make sure you don't make anybody mad, don't offend anybody, the press, and all that. But if you want to know, I'm in a great mood today. I am not dispirited by it."

Seems to me you should be very dispirited by it. By your very own words it sounds like there are entire regions in Virginia with large liberal enclaves that may be getting larger as the economy gets worse. You said it yourself Rush:

"Northern Virginia, suburb of DC, has become heavily Democrat over the last ten years. It's still a Republican state because of the down state population but it's becoming less so.''

And (What the blazes!) even fact-ridden Wikipedia would agree with you there:


“An underdog for most of the race, Kaine overtook Kilgore in some polls for the first time in October 2005, and held his lead into the final week before the election, [2] even after a barrage of negative advertising against him by the campaign of his opponent, Jerry W. Kilgore. Surprisingly, the first poll to break down results by region showed Kaine with large leads in the Shenandoah Valley (+14), Greater Richmond (+9), Hampton Roads (+8) and Northern Virginia (+7).”

Now Rush wants us to think that the Democrats have always had unreliable judgements in political forecasting. He uses the last general election as his example. He may be forgiven, because many of us thought that what is happening now was going to happen then, and we were wrong. Kerry did not run a strong enough campaign, and this was before the assault on Social Security, which went down in flames, to be soon followed by the milestone of 2000 dead in Iraq, the Downing Street Memos, the Valerie Plame Affair, Cindy Sheehan's campaign and last but not least - Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. We learned on the one hand, that Bush is willing to lie us into a pre-emptive war, that he does not care if someone dies in it, and on the other hand, he doesn't care a whit about his own citizen's misfortunes. Bush is now the one in quicksand. And he's pulling the Republicans in with him.

And that lovable lunatic El Rushbo seems hell bent on floatin' down de Nile. He tells a caller:

“It's not going to be a Bush election. They're going to cast it as a Bush election; that's my whole point. They're going to try to say that next year's congressional elections are Bush. They're not going to be. They're going to be about issues. This is where, if we just have candidates that go out and run confidently and boldly on issues, we can skunk the left because they're not going to have issues. They're going to be running against Bush who will not be on the ballot. "

Oh, but IT IS going to be a Bush election! Bush will be front and center and we will tie that can to every Republican's tail. Anyone in Tom DeLay's Rolodex will have Tar Baby Bush attached to his or her buttocks. The Republicans will have to run on Bush's record. It's Congress we will be electing, not dogcatcher!

And while the rats are scurrying off the sinking ship, Rush, with is rose-colored glasses sees them as rose petals strewn before the captain.



Rush Limbaugh Show - Status Quo holds in Election, Press Calls it Dem Sweep/ Bush Defeat

Rassmussen Report - Election - Virginia - 2005

Human Events - Bush Leaves GOP in Crisis by Patrick J. Buchanan Posted Nov 10, 2005

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

My Washington Diary


Cindy & Me 1, originally uploaded by Wazdat!.

For The Activist And The Tourista, It Was The Trip Of A Lifetime!


Day 1 Oct. 25, 2005

I started my sightseeing of DC today. Aside from the usual bickering of my family and my niece's Terrible Two's, my day in Washington was very much colored by the events of the day. I started by noticing the headlines of the Washington Post "Grand Jury Hears Summary of Case On CIA Leak Probe. Then we went down M St. to a nice Vietnamese place, where I was introduced to the succulent pleasures of roast quail! Anyone who had ham and maple syrup will understand me when I say: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." I was in heaven! Then, on the way to the Mall, we came upon the State Department. Condi's Place. Already my sense of irony was in play.

As we were nearing the Lincoln Memorial, we went down to the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. Imagine how appropriate it was to leave Condi's Digs and come upon a monument to another senseless war! As I saw the roster of all those dead men, l remembered a song by Eric Bogle called "The Green Fields of France.":

“Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride,
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside,
And rest for a while 'neath the warm summer sun,
I've been walkin' all day and I'm nearly done.

I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen,
When you joined the great fallen in nineteen sixteen,
I hope you died well and I hope you died clean,
Or young Willie McBride was it slow and unseen.

CHORUS:
Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
And did the band play The Last Post and Chorus?
Did the pipes play The Flowers Of The Forest?”


As I looked at that row upon row of names I saw many things. Things that told me how that war affected all races and classes. George and John Patton's names were there, I believe they were grandsons of Ol' Blood and Guts himself. I started looking for a few Ukrainian names. I may have found them. Names like: Wozniak, Ratajczak, Goszewsky and Dluzak. Some youth was tracing down a name, maybe a grandfather he never knew or a granduncle. I couldn't help but see the pattern. A war based on a lie, that wasted the lives of 58,000 men, and countless thousands of Vietnamese. I said to myself: "To the people, these are sons, fathers and brothers. To Dubya, these names are nothing more than scratches on a wall. Better make room for 2001 more names. " Then I thought: "Better make room for more." My mother said: "Nobody has learned anything from all this. Fifty Eight thousand men died needlessly, now this idiot has killed 2001 more."



Richard Wozniak could have been Polish, Czech or Ukrainian.

“I'm Willie McBride, I can't help wonder why
Do those that lie here know why did they die
And did they believe when they answered the call
Did they really believe that this war would end war.

For the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,
The killing, and the dying was all done in vain...
For, young Willie McBride, it all happened again,
and again, and again, and again, and again.”



I'll bet Mr. Ratajczak was a Ukrainian.

We saw the memorial to the black veterans, The Three Soldiers, those bewildered faces of men looking upon the names of their dead comrades, as they returned from a patrol long since over. I saw the face of Karl Rove, superimposed in my mind over these young boys. Rove the Spinner, the father to the lie that killed these young men's spiritual descendants.







We then proceded to the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Monument loomed in the horizon, dwarfing the Capitol that appeared to be beside it. How appropriate. The reality never measures up to the ideal. My sister-in-law reminded me that we were standing on the spot where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech. I imagined the thousands that were there to see Cindy Sheehan, and thousands there, 50 years before for the Poor People's March, then my mind went to the paltry 100 that showed up for Melanie Morgan and her glorification of war.



I climbed the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial. Anyone for Everest? But I had to see the Big Guy. Was he sitting in judgement over Dubya? Was he saying "Get out of my party?" It was as if I was looking at Zeus. He was large. I was sad to see the scaffolding. Yet in these cynical times it was appropriate. Bush wanted to remake everything. Why not the statue?



Day 2 Oct. 26, 2005

It's the other side of the Mall today. The kids are behaving so far. Hey! I love'em even when they misbehave! Too bad they won't be able to appreciate what they see today. Five years from now they'll be looking at themselves in pictures and still be disappointed for not remembering.

I'm listening to CNN now at 11:38 AM. I can't help but think that Libby was being sacrificed to save Rove.

It's 12:57 PM. I just got back to the suite with my sister-in-law and my oldest niece from birthday buying for my youngest. 1 year old todayl. My present for me: Libby has been indicted! His worm has turned. Now let's see if squeezing it gives us Rove or Cheney?

1:10 PM Libby resigns as Cheney's Chief of Staff!

2:55 PM: Libby is indicted on 5 counts:

2 counts perjury, 2 counts false statements, 1 count obstruction of justice.

Fitzgerald will have to impound a new grand jury to investigate Rove further.

I had the tour of my life today. And it ended in a way nobody would've expected! We took a sightseeing drive today. After rounding the West Mall, we saw the Jefferson Memorial. Next we stopped at Capitol Hill. The Folger Shakespeare Library was to our left, but that's for tomorrow. We went right over to the Supreme Court, a grand edifice if ever I saw one. I never saw a universe of marble like that one before. All around us, marble floors, marble steps and marble columns!



And on the other side? The Capitol! We were bothered by the construction, so l suggested that we go up the Supreme Court steps and take the Capitol's picture from there. The sun was against us, but it made for a more dramatic shot. I was standing on the Supreme Court steps! Getting pictures of the Capitol!



About the White House: I was under the impression that there would be storm troopers surrounding the place! Razor wire! Machine gun turrets! With so many areas barricaded so that cars had no access, and the long time it took to get there, l thought that the best we would do is get a glimpse of it 3 blocks away. Little did I know how close we would get! I thought we were lucky enough to get to Jackson's statue, but then I saw people walking on the grass and the sidewalk! So we ventured further! Taking pictures galore! I took a few pictures of my sister-in-law, she took one of me. All in front of the White House!





That's me!

Now our van was standing in a no-parking-after-4-zone, so my sister-in-law went back to take her turn waiting in the van. I stayed behind to go to the gate, and get the best damn White House pics you've ever seen! I also paid attention to the protesters. I talked with them. Told them to take heart because we kept the message alive in the hinterlands.They asked me where I was from. I said "Syracuse" I found out that one guy came from Cleveland, but had a son in Syracuse. The signs where fabulous! One guy was riding a scooter named "Libby!'' I went across the street to take a picture from the fence.





Then I turned around, and there she was! I knew that face was familiar! That worn out woolen hat and the dowdy brown coat! Those sunken cheeks! I asked her, "Excuse me, are you Mrs. Sheehan?" She said, "Please, call me Cindy." I told her about how we were doing things in Syracuse, that we were doing things there! Then I asked her if I could take her picture. She said yes! I was in nirvana! Ecstasy! Then I was looking for my brother, to give him the good news. I saw him across the street. I went over after he took a shot and told him: "I saw Cindy Sheehan!'' He says; "Where?" "Across the street!" So we went back to the fence, and I found Cindy again getting her picture taken, and we asked her if my brother could get a picture. He wanted ME to get in the picture WITH HER! So we clasped each other behind our backs, and I got an heirloom to treasure! Afterward we went back to the van. I couldn't wait to give everyone the news! We got to the van. I was bursting with the news! But my brother couldn't wait either, so he called ahead. When we got to the van, everyone was excited, begging us to show them the shots. My mother was lit up like the Washington Monument at night!

This is a moment I will remember the rest of my life!

Friday, Oct. 29, 2005

Today was the day to find out the price a nation pays for it's history.

Arlington.




A vast sea of white tombstones.
I was in history mode. You see, here you don't get the feeling that people died for all the wrong reasons. Yes I'm aware that many of the men buried here died in Indian wars, robbing a people of their land. Many others died in questionable actions that may have caused terrible suffering. Yet all that is washed over at Arlington. You remember the good fights, the ones that mattered, where the civilian soldiers put in their two cents. The Revolutionary War, where we fought for independence, 1812, where we defended this country from foreign aggression. The Civil War, where we freed a race from slavery, and decided what the nature of our country would be. World War Il, the Korean War, where each time, we saved the free world from totalitarian aggression. I wanted to say to my oldest little niece, "this is your heritage. These people earned you your future." I remembered that line of Tom Hanks's from "Saving Private Ryan" as he lay dying. He said to Matt Damon: "Earn this!"



I was there, at Kennedy's Eternal Flame. I sorted a few things out. Kennedy and Lincoln weren't the only presidents to be assassinated. Arthur, Garfield, McKinley, all met an untimely demise. What made Kennedy and Lincoln different was that they died for their courage, for trying to create a country they, and we all, could believe in. They died with the courage to be themselves in the toughest job in the world. They were . I wonder what people will say a hundred years from now about Dubya. Maybe he'll make it to Arlington on a technicality. The Texas National Guard might pull some strings.

I next went to see the Changing of The Guard at the Tomb of The Unknowns. It is a slow, silent process. The occasion is supposed to be solemn, to make us understand the giving of the last full measure of devotion for your buddies, and your country. Every life given in every one of our wars was a valued life, one that held great promise before it was cut short, and should not have been taken needlessly. Of course, that is a lesson lost on the present management of this country.



Sunday, Oct. 30, 2005:

Today I was a total tourist! After all it was Museum Day, the last full day of our vacation in DC. Our targets were the National Air & Space Museum, and the National Gallery of Art. We walked a few blocks to Foggy Bottom Station and took the Orange Line to L'Enfant Plaza. There we left for the Air and Space Museum Large plains were suspended from the ceiling. Two Mercury capsules were standing at each side of the entrance.


We started by going to the space section. The first thing I saw when I entered the room was a giant V2 rocket. On the other side was one of the Skylabs. In the middle were the Lunar Command Module, and the Soyuz spacecraft that rendezvoused in 1976. I got more than one shot of the entire V2 rocket! We have pictures of the LLM replica. We saw the enormous boosters for the Saturn 5 rocket, the original Wright brothers plane, and the Spirit of Saint Louis.



After that, we went across the Mall to theNational Gallery, old master's building. We stopped in the middle of the Mall to take pictures of the Capitol.



I have a picture of a Van Gogh self-portrait.



I found "Portrait of A Lady," by Jan Van Eyck!



Did I say that I, a Democrat finally saw Dubya?

Well, I saw 3 Hueys flying south past the Washington Monument anyway! They all looked like Marine One! I think the one in middle might’ve been the one.

By the way, you should see the National Gallery’s ornate brass drinking fountains!

Cindy Sheehan

Washington DC

Vietnam Veteran's Memorial

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial

The Three Soldiers

Supreme Court

US Capitol

Arlington National Cemetery

National Air and Space Museum

National Gallery of Art

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

********* Whatz Dat News? *********


I've just started podcasting "Whatz Dat" on Garageband. the quality is terrible. I need a better mic but that will soon be taken care of. Anyway, it's at this point a reading of my blog posting. I'll be checking out some programming ideas, say maybe readings from my permanent links, music bumpers, and if nobody objects I could read some comments with names withheld. But let me know about that! Or, maybe I could read letters from my local paper! We're a fun and very enlightened bunch here in Syracuse.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Rush and All Us Disciples


Rush and Disciple, originally uploaded by Wazdat!.

A Lesson On How To Drink The Koolaid


Rush and Sean! Limbaugh and Hannity both! In the SAME ROOM!

Uggh! Get out the Febreeze!

This past Wednesday I held my nose and viewed my taping of from the day before of "Hannity & Colmes." You see, yesterday l was going to stop at my usual 1 hour of O'Reilly (today is a "Hannity" day, tomorrow is an "O'Reilly" day), but then I heard that after O'Reilly, The Big Guy was coming to speak with good ol' Sean!

Well, I just couldn't wait to see this spectacular! Two of the greatest minds of the Jurassic Era in exultant communion together! And with Alan Colmes safely restrained so he couldn't hurt himself, the two great masters almost fell into each others arms tossing pearls of wisdom from out of their porcine snouts!

And what pearls! Lend an ear! Here's El Rushbo's version on the growth of talk radio!

"And the business has gotten bigger. The universe of audience has gotten bigger. And it coincides with a triumph of conservatism as a way of life for more and more in America. So it's had real meaning, too, in addition to just being fun."

He had this to say about "liberal radio":

" But still, people still ask. And it's fascinating to me to watch liberal radio attempt -- they think, I think, that you just announce you're going to start, and you'll get 20 million people, and so forth. I find it fascinating they cannot make themselves a commercial success. They're already now out begging their listeners to send in money... (laughing)

(laughing) HANNITY: Yes.

RUSH: ... doing the NPR rip-off.

Right.

RUSH: And I don't think they have, as liberals, the slightest understanding of the commercial aspects of the success that it takes in radio, particularly talk radio. They're in funding, and donations, and stealing money from little boys and girls clubs and so forth -- not stealing it, but having strange transactions go on there and so forth. You look at them and, for a moment, you almost feel sorry for them. Then you realize, "No, they don't exist." And they don't really -- they don't pose a threat. I mean, they don't have an understanding of what works on radio. They don't understand about how the business works. They have no business model whatsoever. They got a bunch of political activists to put it together rather than businesspeople. It's just fascinating to watch this thing flow on. But the most amazing thing about it is to watch how it is portrayed as a success by those who champion it elsewhere in the media. "

Well " El Rushbo," you don't see the full picture! Good ol' Dubya has helped expand that universe a little bit bigger than you think! You see, after the Iraq fiasco where 2000 of our young men died, not to mention the 100, 000 innocent lives taken, the attempt on Social Security, destroying our economy, FEMA'S Hurricane Katrina fiasco, the Valerie Plame scandal, the DeLay indictments, and with Dubya's resulting high esteem from all these things, one can say that the demographics for talk radio have slightly changed.

In the blue states, and certainly with the Republicans beginning to alienate many of their faithful, I believe that "liberal radio" has a solid market. And it's OK if many of the new stations are in the hinterlands. That's where they can entrench. And the big cities will come. Our talk radio is here to stay! Meanwhile there is SIRIUS Left, XM Satellite, and millions upon millions of computers with cable hookup; all with live Air America feeds full of Al Franken and Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller podcasts to slice Rush up like the fat piece of baloney that he is. And by the way, Rush; it's nothing like NPR which wants to remain a traditional, balanced news outlet with no ox to gore. We have a point of view. We choose to be confrontational.

It's funny that El Rushbo mentioned the regard he had for school given that his families as he claims were lawyers:

"My reason for liking radio was two-fold: I love music, and I hated school. And I hated school from second grade on.''

Of course, you hated school Rush! That requires INTELLECT!

And of course, he'll defend his hero - Dubya!

"But I'll tell you, the way that George Bush has been dealt with, it borders on Nixonian the way the personal disgust and hatred is for him, not just by the Washington, D.C., culture, but now mainstream -- the base I describe as the new kook base that they have -- literally filled with uncontrollable rage and hatred."

What Rush meant was that the oafish serfs must not rebel against their "beneficent" masters. Of course, he forgot that Bush and Nixon had a few things in common, like both administrations had the heaviest taints of corruption that lead to destabilizing scandal. But then, it seems that what with Katrina Kronyism, Plamegate, DeLaygate, and Abramoffgate, this "gated" community loves to engage in scandal almost as a holiday tradition.



Rush went on to show how enlightened the right was, and how poor leftist intellect and ideas were!

We on the left spent the entire Dubya era fending off some major offensives on the middle class, and trying to corral right-wing criminals who did serious damage to our government.

I think the people pretty much know who the good guys are and how morally bankrupt the Republicans are.

But Rush is right on one thing. We have to start defining to America who we are. After all, they are making it easy for us. We are the opposite of what they are.

They started a war on a lie. We offer honest government.

They wanted to pillage Social Security. We offer a sane readjustment of what is our birthright, and a comfort in old age.

They are willing to bargain away American jobs for cheaper labor abroad. We want American jobs to stay at home!

With the Patriot Act threatening to take our freedoms away, we promise to preserve our freedom.

In place of a phony war on terrorism, we would go after the real perpetrators and deal with the root causes of terrorism, which would require a new foreign policy, one that would not deal with the world as groups of haves and have-nots.

They want to treat the earth as if it had infinite resources. We know that the well will go dry, and only adapting new, cleaner, more abundant resources will help.

Ahh! But Rush and Sean were more than savants on that day.

Rush knows all about Democrats you see:

“RUSH: Well, I think it's just a -- the Democratic Party is stuck in the past. Their presumed glory years are Watergate and Iraq. And they can't look forward. They don't look forward. And what they're attempting to do here is relive these glory years by criminalizing or discrediting conservativism so that nobody will vote for it. If they can't beat us at the ballot box, we'll get the courts or the legal system to throw us out of office. And this -- I mean, Watergate, that was a nirvana. Sean, they were having live orgasms back then. (laughing)
And on the anniversaries of Watergate, they have live orgasms. (laughing) It was Vietnam. They're trying to create Iraq out of Vietnam. There are no similarities whatsoever. But those are their glory years. And so since they can't -- they really can't beat us at the ballot box. In the debate of ideas, in the arena of ideas, they do not win elections. They have to tell somebody things that they're not. And this is their only tactic, I think. And, of course, they have allies in the mainstream press who have the same animus for people like DeLay and Rove. And it's a unified effort to try to make this all happen.”

Amazing! Of course Rush would have to avoid seeing that people in the White House were committing treason in the Plame Case, much the same as Tricky Dick was committing any number of high crimes and misdemeanors back in the 70’s, but why let a few facts get the way of a good smear! As for Iraq and Vietnam? Well! Who cares if neither war was started for a good reason! Or that the public was being lied to by LBJ (a Democrat) and Tricky Dicky, or that hundreds of thousands of innocent lives are sacrificed on the altar of the Perfect Neocon Paradise! Can’t we benighted Dems see that “Freedom’s On The March?”

As for telling “somebody things that they're not” well, we were under the mistaken impression that if we told people that we are not warmongering liars intent upon setting up a neo-feudal state in this country, we might get some mileage in this country. Just our way of being down with the “folks” as O’Reilly might say! But we forgot, only O’Reilly, only “The Factor” can do that!

I got to admit I was a bit surprised that Rush didn’t march in lockstep with his f├╝hrer when it came to the issue of Harriet Miers being on the Supreme Court. We thought we were supposed to LIKE her! But, you see, here’s where Rush let us all in on an all-important secret: not all Right-wingers are supposed to think alike!

“RUSH: Well, it's really -- it is tough. I mean, it's not my pick. I didn't get elected president. And I don't presume to think that the White House should do what I say. You know, my program's done for the American people, for the audience. My audience is not in Washington and it's not in the White House. I don't know if they listen. I don't know if they care what I say. Well, they may care what I say if it goes against them, but I don't have a direct line to them. But my point with this is, it's just so unnecessary. It's just -- it's such a pity. It needn't have happened, this particular choice. The thing that I think of -- people have asked me, "Well, Rush, how did this happen? This is a well-oiled White House. They don't make mistakes here. They come up, and they do everything as smooth as silk, and how did they botch this?" Now, the left is charting -- trying to chalk it up to Rove and Plame. And I don't think that has anything to do with it, or Andy Card. I think it has to do with a misunderstanding among some of the White House over who the conservative constituency is. They think it's a single-issue group of people based on abortion. And I think they thought that, if they just get a candidate out there that can people can be persuaded to believe is going to do the right thing on Roe vs. Wade, that they would have the base in their back pocket and they could move on. And I just – I think they misunderstand that, because the conservative movement's not monolithic. It's not made up of single-issue people. Some of them are, but there are a lot more people who have far more interest than just one issue. And even, you know, where abortion's concerned, I -- you know, pro- abortion, anti-abortion, Roe vs. Wade is bad law. I know a lot of people who are all right with abortion who think that Roe vs. Wade is bad law. And the reason it's bad law is because seven judges decided on their own to see that the Constitution says, "Yes, there's a right to abortion," when it doesn't say that. Now, if nine men, a majority of nine men and women in robes, lawyers, can say, "Yep, I see this in the Constitution, and therefore it's the law of the land," then the Constitution's irrelevant.”

Or, could it be Rush, that the only one doing any thinking in the White House was ol’ Turdblossom? And when did you last let out the pro-choice conservatives to see the sunshine?

And Roe v. Wade is not bad law Rush. It was based on the finding in Griswold vs. The Commonwealth of Connecticut that asserted a “right to privacy” based on a preponderance of Constitutional law. But heaven knows we can’t be individuals if we are all to be happy consumers right Rush?

Rush ended this valuable lesson by giving me (and all of the rest of you benighted viewers) the direction I must travel in. He did this in the context of making presidential diagnoses for 2008:

“RUSH: It's early. You know, this is not -- there's somebody -- see, the danger with mentioning names is that you hurt the feelings of people that you leave out. And I'm leaving -- I'm going to leave some people out because of time constraints, but when I hear George Allen speak, there's a part of me, "Yes, rah-rah." There's some people in the House -- I know they're not running for president -- Mike Pence -- there's some people there that are doing some great work. They need to be encouraged. They need to be -- I think the biggest problem with the Republican Party is the same thing with the Democrats. And Dick Morris -- everybody's obsessed with this great middle. "We've got to somehow appeal to the middle." So Republicans think they've got to be pro-choice and moderate on other social issues. If you look at the Republicans that win elections, they're conservatives.”

So here I was in blissful ignorance thinking that I was alright living in the center, a proud denizen of the great middle class, but no! I have to be a radical! There’s no room in Rush’s America for a Weiker, a McCain, or a Spector. We all have to be radicals. Of course, Rush would prefer us all to be radical conservatives like him but I’ve a feeling he wouldn’t like the choice I’d make.


Rush teaching the children.

Hannity & Colmes 10/20/05

********* Whatz Dat News? *********

I just added the Bahomey emails to my permanent links section under "Senate Homeland Security Katrina Email Transcripts"

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The People Have Spoken The Ground Has Shifted


Anti-War, originally uploaded by Wazdat!.

And The Administration Has Blinked



On Saturday the forces of justice grew bolder, and the forces of darkness cringed.

A hundred thousand people showed up in Washington D.C. to speak truth to power, and though the media thought it best to cover a has-been hurricane that was not Katrina, killed nobody and revealed nothing of consequence that we didn't already know about Bush cancer, l'm positive that the denizens of the Beltway were amply aware that the temperature of anti-war fever in this country has just shot up.

The Mall was filled standing room only! People spoke there, movingly, about the unfairness of the war, it's dishonesty, and the need to end it as soon as possible. Mothers heard of how the Bush administration lied to their children and put them in harm's way under false pretences.

The horizon was filled with people who joyously shouted as they felt their power.

They chanted. They sang. And they showed that they and this country have turned a corner. Now we go on the offensive!

But the protest wasn't just in D.C., or in San Francisco. It was at my doorstep in Syracuse too.

I came at around noon. We met in front of county Republican Headquarters on West Onondaga. The signs were spirited and beautiful! Passersby cheered us on. We sang. We chanted. We had protesters on either side of the street. There were about 100 of us there, and one right-wing yahoo with a slgn that read: "The Syracuse Peace Council Kills Jews!" Weird! He started confronting us, but we would't take the bate.

Well his antics merely served to spur us on to carry on singing!

And anyhow, he served to show the exact pro-war to anti-war protester ratio that exists throughout the country!

At San Francisco there were thousands of anti-war protesters were gathered at the corner of Mission and 16th and at Dolores Park and marched through the streets.

"In Los Angeles," said Inside Bay Area, " police closed a downtown street to accommodate the protest, which they said drew an estimated 15,000 people." " In San Diego, more than 2,000 protesters marched through downtown to a city park where they displayed mock coffins commemorating the deaths of Iraqi civilians and white crosses to represent fallen American soldiers. On the streets of San Francisco, several thousand demonstrators embraced an array of political groups, including Seligman's, which is trying to get military recruiters out of public school campuses and to bring troops home."

In Syracuse, we were buoyed by a call from Peace Council delegate to Washington who told us of the hundreds of thousands who were there. And of course, that one heckler was there to entertain us as well, with his perambulations and "gems of wisdom." We defend his freedom of speech anyway.

On Marshall St., the crowd was only a little smaller, but no less in high spirits. I had informed the people of the phone call from D.C. I felt a sense of euphoria as I stood there in front of a TV5 camera in my self designed homemade "My Country Doesn't Lie To Me Mr. Bush!" T-shirt.

When I came home, my mother told me to turn on C-SPAN.

I saw something that made me proud of being part of it.

My mother said "Are you seeing this?"

"Mom" I said, "today I was DOING that!"

The next day I saw the Republican attempt.

Melanie Morgan was there, hardly anyone else. Oh, a few people wandered from here to there, and then they had the nerve to say that our guys did not represent the true sentiments of America! Funny how so few people, about four hundred, are experts on how America thinks, when just the day before, the whole of America showed up to tell people like Melanie Morgan what we think of her.

Finally they arrested Cindy Sheehan yesterday. She was peacefully demonstrating with a tactic called civil disobedience. i'm told that the police were entirely civil with her and she is being treated well.

I think of this as a tribute to her persuasiveness, the mood of the country and the fact that few people will allow anything that happens to Cindy Sheehan to be ignored.

Inside Bay Area
New Standard News
Melanie Morgan

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Blame Game or Accountability?


Bush Mess, originally uploaded by Wazdat!.

So Now The Hot Lead Is Flying About Katrina!



So now, the hot lead is flying now about Hurricane Katrina! They say that they don't want to play the "blame game", yet they are more than willing to play the "wasn't me" game, and the "scapegoat game''.

Let's see, whose responsibility was it to first make sure that flooding due to a hurricane is kept to a minimum? Whose projects were authorized by Congress in 1997 and then pulled? The Army Corps of Engineers that's who! And whose subsection’s of the Homeland Security Department’s responsibility was it to oversee the Federal response to the disaster if not FEMA’s?

The Republicans would like it to be all about who was it at the state and local level who couldn't think on their feet, but even if that were true, nothing can erase the responsibility that the Federal Government had and shirked in the area of ensuring the safety of the people of the Gulf Coast.

The fact is there were warnings. The Army Corps of Engineers had reports. FEMA had reports before that. They even had an exercise; Hurricane Pam, which very accurately predicted what, would happen if a Category 5 hurricane hit the Gulf Coast near the Mississippi Delta.



Where did it go wrong?

The neocons want to shift the blame to the locals, telling us that the Mayor didn't use the school buses, or that Governor Blanco didn't position the National Guard on time, but that in no way goes to the root of the problem.

That problem was and still is - the narrow minded thinking of the Bush White House namely their suspiciously self-serving notions that less government (and therefore more private sector) is better, and of subsuming institutions vital to the national security, to their most selfish pet project.... Iraq.

These notions would work hand-in-hand to spell the demise of New Orleans's levees.

So, which came first, the chicken or the egg?

We needn't dwell on Iraq in this article; since it's been amply proved that, we went in there only to gain access to their oil and, no less importantly, to create a corporate capitalist paradise. But it does tie in to what happened during Hurricane Katrina, her subsequent aftermath.

Very simply, the money and resources needed to hurricane-proof New Orleans were diverted to Iraq. And it was done despite the fact that a thousand Cassandra's warned us about impending disaster.

And it wasn't like a Category3, 4 or 5 hurricane wasn't possible or even unlikely. There was Camille, another Category 5. But it was a Category 4 that taught us all many of the lessons that Bush & Co. saw fit to disregard. Before Camille, there was Betsy:



"On September 9 (1965*)" said a June 2003 Civil Engineering Magazine article called "The Creeping Storm," " Betsy hit the southern tip of the state. Almost every building in the small coastal town of Grand Isle was quickly destroyed. With 150 mph (240 km/h) winds, Betsy barreled up the Barataria Basin toward New Orleans. Lake Pontchartrain, which is just north of the city and is connected to the Gulf of Mexico, swelled with raging waters. Easterly winds pounded the high waters, in some areas easily topping the levees meant to protect the city. In streets in the eastern part of town, water reached the eaves of houses.

Betsy finally calmed near Little Rock, Arkansas. She had dropped only 4 in. (100 mm) of rain on New Orleans and had claimed 81 lives and caused more than $1 billion in damage. Unlike any storm before it, Betsy made clear that the city was all too vulnerable to hurricanes. Cradled in a wide southern meander of the Mississippi River just north of the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans is surrounded by Lake Pontchartrain to the north, Lake Borgne all to the east, and lakes Cataouatche and Salvador to the south. This ring of freshwater is also surrounded by hundreds of square miles of wetlands and the Gulf of Mexico. To make matters worse, most of the city is below sea level.

Soon after the damage from Betsy was assessed, Congress made a historic decision to appropriate federal funds to build a system of levees to protect the city from a similar storm in the future. Its cultural significance aside, New Orleans was fast becoming the most important port in the nation feeding commodities up the Mississippi to all of the Midwest and serving as an important base for the burgeoning oil and gas industry. Congress was not about to let it wash away."

Up until the Bush administration, the Federal Government in the form of the Army Corps of Engineers and later FEMA, was interested in protecting the Gulf Coast from just such hurricanes. Studies were made. Estimates were given. Computer models were created. All of them pointed to the same problem, that the bowl of New Orleans and it's surrounding parishes were below sea level, that the system of levees while keeping the mighty Mississippi from flooding also prevented the necessary sediment from reinforcing the wetlands from erosion by the Gulf. The wetlands surrounding New Orleans if solid enough would have weakened any hurricane to varying degrees depending on how solid they were. But the studies told us that due to the erosion, they weren't as solid as when they confronted Betsy. The studies also predicted that the same erosion that was stealing the wetlands was lowering the land behind them. Therefore the levees were sinking. And if even a Category 3 hurricane were to hit:

"Within this bowl reside approximately 600,000 people. The West Bank, south of New Orleans and across the Mississippi River, has a population of about 500,000 who also live within levee protected bowls. Recent research reveals that a slow moving Category 3 hurricane, or stronger, could cause levee overtopping and complete flooding of New Orleans, with the West Bank even more susceptible. Floodwaters would have residence times of weeks. The resultant mix of sewage, corpses and chemicals in these standing flood waters would set the stage for massive disease outbreaks and prolonged chemical exposure. Estimates are that 300,000 persons would be trapped and 700,000 would be homeless; thousands could perish."



That was from "Coastal Land Loss: Hurricanes And New Orleans" a report by Ivor L. Van Heerden Phd.

We've only to wait for the body count to see just how prescient the report was.

And so the understatement; we were warned and up until the Bush administration people were doing something about it.

The pre-eminent example of this is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood control Project:

"As a result of the extensive flooding in May 1995, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana (SELA) Project with enactment of Section 108 of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1996 and Section 533 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1996, as amended, to provide for flood control and improvements to rainfall drainage systems in Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Tammany Parishes, "

"Scope:

The project includes channel and pump station improvements in the three parishes. The channel and pumping station improvements in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes support the parishes master drainage plans and generally provide flood protection on a level associated with a ten-year rainfall event, while also reducing damages for larger events. St. Tammany Parish plans would provide flood protection for various rainfall events.

In Orleans Parish, approved plans involve improving five major drainage lines, adding pumping capacity to two pump stations, and adding a new pump station. Proposed plans include improving 13 canals, adding pump capacity to two existing pump stations, and adding two new pump stations. "

Under the Clinton administration and the beginning of the Bush administration, things proceeded apace. But when the "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq started to mushroom in cost and manpower, resources that were sorely needed in this country were diverted to Iraq.”

And then came Dubya, 9/11, and FEMA’s shift of priorities from disaster prevention and response to terrorism:

''Progress to Date

In Orleans Parish, nine contracts have been awarded, seven are complete, two are underway, and one remains to be awarded. Most of the remaining contracts had been scheduled for award in fiscal year 2003; however, funding limitations have prevented moving forward with those contracts. Overall, the currently scheduled work in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes is about 70 percent complete and should be finished in 2008, if funding can keep pace. "

The same occurred with the Lake Pontchartrain, LA. and Vicinity Hurricane Protection Project:

"Updated May 23, 2005

PURPOSE.

The project is designed to protect residents between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River levee from surges in Lake Pontchartrain driven by storms up to the Standard Project Hurricane. The SPH is equivalent to a fast-moving Category 3 hurricane."

Yet, the result of neocon interference became quite clear in the same report:

''FY 2006 BUDGET/EFFORT. The President's budget for fiscal year 2005 is $3.0 million. This will be insufficient to fund new construction contracts. We could spend $20 million if the funds were provided. These funds are necessary to maintain the project schedule and to meet our contractual and local sponsor commitments.

IMPACTS OF BUDGET SHORTFALL. In Orleans Parish, two major pump stations are threatened by hurricane storm surges. Major contracts need to be awarded to provide fronting protection for them. Also, several levees have settled and need to be raised to provide the design protection. The current funding shortfalls in fiscal year 2005 and fiscal year 2006 will prevent the Corps from addressing these pressing needs."

According to the Deon Roberts of Dolan Media Newswires, the Corps of Engineers was none to happy about it. In fact, they were in panic mode, and practically implored the Congress to restore the funding.

In an article written last year about the state of the New Orleans District of the Corps matters were described as being in a precarious state:

"In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding.

It would be the largest single-year funding loss ever for the New Orleans district, Corps officials said.

I've been here over 30 years and I've never seen this level of reduction, said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. I think part of the problem is it's not so much the reduction, it's the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It's the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to.

There is an economic ripple effect, too. The cuts mean major hurricane and flood protection projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now.

Money is so tight the New Orleans district, which employs 1,300 people, instituted a hiring freeze last month on all positions. The freeze is the first of its kind in about 10 years, said Marcia Demma, chief of the Corps' Programs Management Branch.

Stephen Jeselink, interim commander of the New Orleans Corps district, told employees in an internal e-mail dated May 25 that the district is experiencing financial challenges. Execution of our available funds must be dealt with through prudent districtwide management decisions. In addition to a hiring freeze, Jeselink canceled the annual Corps picnic held every June. "

Meanwhile, FEMA itself fell victim to the ideological meat grinder. According to the Independent Weekly, it started out in the right hands as an organization that at least had its heart in the right place:

"The need for more systematic mitigation efforts was driven home by 1996's Hurricane Fran, which killed 37 people and caused tens of billions of dollars in damages. In 1997, Witt established Project Impact, which would become the agency's most high-profile mitigation program.

Under the project, FEMA fostered partnerships between federal, state, and local emergency workers, along with local businesses, to prepare individual communities for natural disasters. Impact partnerships sprang up in all 50 states. In Seattle, Wash., for example, the grants were used to retrofit schools, bridges, and houses at risk from earthquakes. In Pascagoula, Miss., the project funded the creation of a database of structures in the local flood plain--crucial information for preparing mitigation plans. In several eastern North Carolina communities, it helped fund and coordinate buyouts of houses in flood-prone areas.

By the time, the Bush administration entered office in January 2001, some 250 communities had signed up for Project Impact. FEMA seemed sturdy, having found its role and proved itself capable of fulfilling it. But in the field of emergency management, some things can change as quickly as the weather. "

When Dubya came into office, he began following the neocon philosophy of privatization. l believe a CATO Institute report
best sums up the Dubya philosophy regarding FEMA and the government’s other social responsibilities:

"Any time there is a natural disaster FEMA is trotted out as an example of how well government programs work. In reality, by using taxpayer dollars to provide disaster relief and subsidized insurance, FEMA itself encourages Americans to build in disaster-prone areas and makes the rest of us pick up the tab for those risky decisions. In a well-functioning private marketplace, individuals who chose to build houses in flood plains or hurricane zones would bear the cost of the increased risk through higher insurance premiums. FEMA's activities undermine that process. Americans should not be forced to pay the cost of rebuilding oceanfront summer homes. This $4 billion a year agency should be abolished."

Bush believed in that way of thinking, and well before 9/11, he started making changes, forgetting the old saying, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.” again the Independent Weekly, states:

''At FEMA, President Bush appointed a close aide, Joe Allbaugh, to be the agency's new director. Allbaugh had served as then-Gov. Bush's chief of staff in Texas and as manager of his 2000 presidential campaign. Along with Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, Allbaugh was known as one part of Bush's "iron triangle" of professional handlers.

Some FEMA veterans complained that Allbaugh had little experience in managing disasters, and the new administration's early initiatives did little to settle their concerns. The White House quickly launched a government-wide effort to privatize public services, including key elements of disaster management. Bush's first budget director, Mitch Daniels, spelled out the philosophy in remarks at an April 2001 conference: "The general idea--that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided--seems self-evident to me," he said. "

And so, Bush thought it best to put life-and-death matters under the mercies political cronies and private ownership.

"In a May 15, 2001, appearance before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Allbaugh signaled that the new, stripped-down approach would be applied at FEMA as well. "Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management," he said. "Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."
As a result, says a disaster program administrator who insists on anonymity, "We have to compete for our jobs--we have to prove that we can do it cheaper than a contractor." And when it comes to handling disasters, the FEMA employee stresses, cheaper is not necessarily better, and the new outsourcing requirements sometimes slow the agency's operations. "

Quality suffers when the government takes a "let somebody else do it" attitude. The "I can do it cheaper'' attitude was no help either.

The Weekly postulates this truth quite well:

"William Waugh, a disaster expert at Georgia State University who has written training programs for FEMA, warns that the rise of a "consultant culture" has not served emergency programs well. 'It's part of a widespread problem of government contracting out capabilities,' he says. 'Pretty soon governments can't do things because they've given up those capabilities to the private sector. And private corporations don't necessarily maintain those capabilities.'
The push for privatization wasn't the only change that raised red flags at FEMA. As a 2004 article in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management would later note, 'Allbaugh brought about several internal, though questionably effective, reorganizations of FEMA. The Bush-Allbaugh FEMA diminished the Clinton administration's organizational emphasis on disaster mitigation.'
In February 2001, for example, the Bush administration proposed eliminating Project Impact, a move approved by Congress later in the year. (On the very day the White House proposal was submitted, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake rocked Washington State, which was home to several communities where Project Impact had sponsored quake mitigation efforts.) Ending the project and trimming other FEMA programs, the White House argued, would save roughly $200 million. In its place, FEMA instituted a new program of mitigation grants that are awarded on a competitive basis. ' "

After 9/11, FEMA was made to lose its identity as after it lost it's cabinet level status and it was folded into DHS. The emphasis was to be on response to terrorism, not disaster.



'' Michael Brown, a college friend of Albaugh's who had served as FEMA's general counsel, was recruited to head the agency, which would now be part of the DHS's Emergency and Response Directorate. When the reorganization took effect on March 1, 2003, Brown assured skeptics that under the new arrangement, the country would be served by "FEMA on steroids"--a faster, more effective disaster agency.
But the merger into DHS has compounded the agency's problems, says FEMA employee and union president Pleasant Mann. "Before, we reported straight to the White House, and now we've got this elaborate bureaucracy on top of us, and a lot of this bureaucracy doesn't think what we're doing is that important, because terrorism isn't our number one," he said. "The biggest frustration here is that we at FEMA have responded to disasters like Oklahoma City and 9/11, and here are people who haven't responded to a kitchen fire telling us how to deal with terrorism. You know, there were a lot of people who fell down on the job on 9/11, but it wasn't us.' ''

The structure of FEMA was stripped down, and changed to suit the new "let contractors handle the rough stuff" attitude. Privatization was the rule. Many feel that this type of management left FEMA less a coordinator, and more a helpless bystander like a little old lady depending on the mechanic to change her flat tire. If she was more robust and savvy, she could change her own tire and not be taken advantage of.

What FEMA employees lost was the can-do attitude of the Witt years. As the many departments and functions FEMA was known for were outsourced, the organization suffered a brain drain as risk managers and disaster experts left in order to do what they had trained to do, but this time as contractors, or employees of contractors. This left FEMA with precious few people of experience at any level of management. No wonder they couldn't even find their asses! I suspect that the Bush FEMA no longer has any concept of, or point of reference over what a disaster, man-made or natural, really is.

What to do? Well if Thurston's wine cellar needed replenishing, he finds a good wine merchant to re-supply him.

But you see, Thurston can be relied upon because he knows his wine.

FEMA is more like that little old lady with a flat tire. Even if she could change it, she wouldn't know how. The top men at FEMA are no longer the seasoned professionals of the Witt years. Disaster management experience was sucked out and outsourced.

And so FEMA found itself in the position of having to contract with former employees, and having to trust that a private contractor won't cheat them, skimp on procedures, or on safety. And the Independent Weekly says:

"The irony, disaster researcher Claire Rubin says, is that FEMA will now have to hire former employees like Zensinger as contractors. "Now, frankly, the senior brains and the people with 20, 30 years of operational experience, there's more of them in the private sector than there are at FEMA. It's a significant shift. If the government's going to get smaller and the catastrophes keep getting bigger, the net effect will be to outsource what you need. It might be cheaper, it might be more expensive, but it's not a great way to run this part of government." Following the current spate of hurricanes, she predicts, "you will see FEMA contracts flying left and right so they can get these people back who know how to do this stuff."

And how did Albaugh and later Brown view what the new job description of FEMA was to be? An article from TIME magazine relates that aside from being mere contractors and pencil pushers under the added DHS tier of mere contractors and pencil pushers, they were to be cheerleaders and hall monitors:

"Labor Day, about 600 fire fighters from across the nation sat in an Atlanta hotel listening to a FEMA lecture on equal opportunity, sexual harassment and customer service. "Your job is going to be community relations," a FEMA official told them, according to Joe Calhoun, an assistant fire chief from Portage, Ind., who was there. "You'll be passing out FEMA pamphlets and our phone number." The room, filled with many fire fighters who, at FEMA's request had arrived equipped with rescue gear, erupted in anger. "This is ridiculous," one yelled back. "Our fire departments and mayors sent us down here to save people, and you've got us doing this?" The FEMA official climbed atop a chair, Calhoun says, and tried to restore order. "You are now employees of FEMA, and you will follow orders and do what you're told," he said, sounding more like the leader of an invading army than a rescue squad. The scene in Atlanta was one of the many ways FEMA failed to live up to Katrina's challenge. "

Brown was the epitome of the helpless granny attitude. He had no clue as to what had to be done.

" First, despite being warned by multiple hurricane experts that Katrina would be a catastrophic hurricane, Brown waited until about five hours after the storm's landfall before he proposed sending 1,000 federal workers to deal with the aftermath. While people were dying in New Orleans, the U.S.S. Bataan steamed offshore, its six operating rooms, beds for 600 patients and most of its 1,200 sailors idle. Foreign nations--responding to urgent calls from Washington--readied rescue supplies, then were told to stand by for days until FEMA could figure out what to do with them. Florida airboaters complained that they had an armada ready for rescue work but FEMA wouldn't let them into New Orleans. Brown
defended his agency's measured steps, saying aid ‘has to be coordinated in such a way that it's used most effectively.’ "

He is said to have padded his resume so his FEMA bio has such statements as this:

“His background in state and local government also includes serving as an assistant to the city manager with emergency services oversight responsibilities and as a city councilman.”

To which even Scripps-Howard in an article about Brown’s defenders had to admit:

“While studying to become a lawyer, he worked in the administration of the small but fast-growing city of Edmond. Years later, Brown's official White House biography would list the position as "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." Karns said his actual title was more modest: assistant to the city manager.”

But the inflation is said to have continued from there. His resume mentions that he ways a bar examiner:

“Prior to joining FEMA, Mr. Brown practiced law in Colorado and Oklahoma, where he served as a bar examiner on ethics and professional responsibility for the Oklahoma Supreme Court and as a hearing examiner for the Colorado Supreme Court.”

But according to Paul Campos of the New Republic that too is over inflated:

“According to his FEMA biography, "[H]e served as a bar examiner on ethics and professional responsibility for the Oklahoma Supreme Court and as a hearing examiner for the Colorado Supreme Court." Translation: In Oklahoma, he graded answers to bar exam questions, and, in Colorado, he volunteered to serve on the local attorney disciplinary board.”

How could a man like Brown be hired to work for an important position as at first general counsel to, and then head of FEMA?

I wouldn’t be surprised at the idea that Joe Allbaugh would bring in a college chum who happened to be of the same party. Networking and clubishness is the key to Republican power.

My feeling about Michael Chertoff is that like a lot of Republicans he’s in it for himself. Now that is conjecture. Don’t take my word. But the appointment of Brown, and Allbaugh before him can only indicate severe cronyism on the part of Dubya’s boys. Cronies only care for each other and themselves.

"FEMA was a disaster waiting to happen, the minute a disaster struck." Says New York Time's Maureen Dowd.
Then FEMA met Katrina, and disaster happened.


Independent Weekly - "Disaster in the making"
Scripps-Howard
CATO Institute report
TIME.com 4 "Places the System Broke Down"
Michael D. Brown's FEMA bio
Maureen Dowd - "United States of Shame
Hurricane Pam Exercise Concludes
ADCIRC Example: Hypothetical Hurricane Pam
LIST OF FIGURES



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