Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Friday, September 30, 2005
Blogpreciation Friday
Although I disagree with 90 percent of his views, right-of-center blogger Mark In Mexico digs up some of the most interesting stuff on the Web. Here's a sample.

Tags: , blogging,
posted by JReid @ 10:55 PM  
The Sup Bowl: Prissy Owens edition
Tim Chapman at Townhall.com says he has insider scoop that Priscilla Owen has taken her name out of the Supreme Court hat (courtesy Tim's pal Mary, blogging for Wizbang). Hm. Seems a shame to deprive the court of that marvelous hair-do...


So who will it be? The strong bets (to put it in Bill Bennett terms) are on either a woman or a Hispanic (the GOP, after all, is the party of merit rather than affirmative action...). So who to pick? I'd bet against crazy-ass Janice Rogers Brown: the backlash of putting the Thomasina to Clarence's Thomas on the court from Black people would drown out any good will he thinks he could get from T.D. Jakes' congregation. I also would count out Al Gonzalez -- George Bush is going to need friends over the next couple of years, and he can't afford to piss off the right any more than he already has. I had a novel thought today: if Bush really wanted to throw the Democrats off, and shed the Rockefellar Republican image he's been cultivating of late, he could pick someone who would be 1) difficult for left and right alike to oppose and 2) outside the box in a big way: he could pick his father...

That said, he's probably going to pick someone like this ... oh my God, another bad haircut...

Tags: , Politics, SCOTUS, Law, News,
posted by JReid @ 10:10 PM  
Moroning in America

What to do with the Bookie of Virtues, Bill Bennett, after he writes a Fristian prescription for exterminating crime by aborting Black babies? Balletshooz says fire the bastard, "don't ask him to apologize." Well, he's already been asked, Mr. or Mrs. Shooz, and he ain't doin' it. Said Bennett to CNN:
"I was putting forward a hypothetical proposition. Put that forward. Examined it. And then said about it that it's morally reprehensible. To recommend abortion of an entire group of people in order to lower your crime rate is morally reprehensible. But this is what happens when you argue that the ends can justify the means," he told CNN.

"I'm not racist, and I'll put my record up against theirs," referring to Pelosi and other critics. "I've been a champion of the real civil rights issue of our times -- equal educational opportunities for kids."

"We've got to have candor and talk about these things while we reject wild hypotheses," Bennett said.

"I don't think people have the right to be angry, if they look at the whole thing. But if they get a selective part of my comment, I can see why they would be angry. If somebody thought I was advocating that, they ought to be angry. I would be angry."

"But that's not what I advocate."

Asked if he owed people an apology, Bennett replied, "I don't think I do. I think people who misrepresented my view owe me an apology."
Yes, right. Well while you're holding your breath waiting for the foolish world to apologize to you, Mr. Bennett, could you put down the craps dice for a moment so that I can explain just two things:

1. The problem with what you said is not that you examined a "wild hypothesis" out loud, it's that you appear to believe an equally wild -- and totaly defamatory -- hypothesis: that the existence of crime in the United States is specifically caused by the presence -- the mere presence -- of Black people (such that if no more Black people were born, crime would reflexively be reduced); and

2. The fact that you don't get that makes you an idiot.

Thanks for listening.

Previous headline:
posted by JReid @ 9:38 PM  
Out of the mouths of Republicans
Fred Barnes, you're on:
THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION of 2008 is a long way off, but Republicans better start worrying about it now. The 2006 midterm election? Republicans are likely to hold onto the Senate and House. But 2008 is another story. In the midst of a Republican era, Democrats stand a good chance of taking the White House then. Even Senator Hillary Clinton of New York--or perhaps I should say especially Hillary Clinton--has realistic prospects of winning.

What's the problem for Republicans? There are at least five of them. The field of Republican candidates is weak. Democrats will have an easier time than Republicans in duplicating their strong 2004 voter registration and turnout drive in 2008. Democrats, despite their drift to the left and persistent shrillness, barely trail Republicans at all in voter appeal. Besides, they may sober up ideologically in 2008. And the media, unless John McCain is the Republican nominee, will be more pro-Democratic than ever.

Let's look at each of these reasons briefly. The strongest potential Republican candidates are Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. None of them is running and Cheney and Rice are downright adamant about it. I've asked Cheney about 2008 on three separate occasions. He gives absolutely no indication of changing his decision not to run. And he says his health isn't the reason. He just doesn't want to be a candidate and won't do it, he insists, even if President Bush asks him to.

Rice is just as negative on the idea of seeking the presidency. And aides to Jeb Bush say he has no desire to run in 2008, but might consider it in 2012. Besides, he looks worn out after so many crises (hurricanes, Terri Schiavo, the 2000 recount) during his two terms.

That leaves the Republican party with a lesser field of candidates: McCain, Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Virginia Senator George Allen, and a few others. All of them have distinct handicaps. McCain's is that many Republican loathe him. Giuliani is a social liberal. Allen and Romney are inexperienced at the national level. Frist has a soft and blurred image.

The second reason for Republican anxiety about 2008 is organization. Democrats, with millions of dollars from limousine liberals such as George Soros, paid for thousands of campaign workers to sign up voters and get them to the polls. They produced a much larger Democratic turnout in 2004 than in 2000. Republicans used an army of 1.5 million volunteers to increase the Republican vote by even more. It was an enormous political feat.

But in 2008, there's a reasonably good chance Democrats will able to produce another great field operation. All they'll need is another infusion of money from rich liberals. But Republicans will have a harder time. The 2004 volunteers showed up because of their strong personal commitment to President Bush. Will so many volunteers work so hard for McCain or Allen or Giuliani or whoever wins the Republican presidential nomination in 2008? I doubt it.

Read the rest here. You've got to love hearing that from a Fox News analyst...

Having worked for one of those Democratic vote-getting organizations, I can tell you that the Democrats have challenges going into 2008, too. Black voter support is softer than the Democrats think, and the cohesion between the left wing activist and donor base and the centrist-leaning growth base (middle class Blacks, especially immigrant Blacks, and Hispanics) is weaker -- not to mention the growing wobbliness of the Union movmenet. And Democrats faced an organizational challenge at get out the vote time, namely, the reliance on low-wage foot soldiers and a New Orleans strategy (get to the polls yourself -- no buses). But overall, I have to agree with Freddy "Beetle" Barnes. In 2008, it's advantage: Democrats.

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posted by JReid @ 9:29 PM  
The Tom DeLay money tree - Florida edition
Hey, any Florida pols taking DeLay cash? Si!
Katherine Harris (FL-13)
Amount accepted from DeLay: $20,000.00
Voted with DeLay: 95% of the time
Voted for weaker ethics rules for DeLay: at least 2 times
DC Office Phone: (202) 225-5015

Clay Shaw (FL-22)
Amount accepted from DeLay: $30,020.00
Voted with DeLay: 95% of the time
Voted for weaker ethics rules for DeLay: at least 2 times
Contributions to DeLay's Legal Defense Fund: $5,000.00
DC Office Phone: (202) 225-3026

Ric Keller (FL-08)
Amount accepted from DeLay: $20,000.00
Voted with DeLay: 95% of the time
Voted for weaker ethics rules for DeLay: at least 2 times
DC Office Phone: (202) 225-2176

Ginny Brown-Waite (FL-05)
Amount accepted from DeLay: $20,000.00
Voted with DeLay: 93% of the time
Voted for weaker ethics rules for DeLay: at least 2 times
Contributions to DeLay's Legal Defense Fund: $1,000.00
DC Office Phone: (202) 225-1002

Tom Feeney (FL-24)
Amount accepted from DeLay: $10,000.00
Voted with DeLay: 94% of the time
Voted for weaker ethics rules for DeLay: at least 2 times
Contributions to DeLay's Legal Defense Fund: $5,000.00
DC Office Phone: (202) 225-2706

Connie Mack (FL-14)
Amount accepted from DeLay: $10,000.00
Voted with DeLay: 96% of the time
Voted for weaker ethics rules for DeLay: at least 2 times
DC Office Phone: (202) 225-2536

Adam Putnam (FL-12)
Amount accepted from DeLay: $15,000.00
Voted with DeLay: 97% of the time
Voted for weaker ethics rules for DeLay: at least 3 times
DC Office Phone: (202) 225-1252

David Weldon (FL-15)
Amount accepted from DeLay: $13,569.00
Voted with DeLay: 95% of the time
Voted for weaker ethics rules for DeLay: at least 4 times
Contributions to DeLay's Legal Defense Fund: $6,000.00
DC Office Phone: (202) 225-3671

Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25)
Amount accepted from DeLay: $10,000.00
Voted with DeLay: 93% of the time
Voted for weaker ethics rules for DeLay: at least 2 times
Contributions to DeLay's Legal Defense Fund: $5,000.00
DC Office Phone: (202) 225-2778

Mark Foley (FL-16)
Amount accepted from DeLay: $8,531.00
Voted with DeLay: 94% of the time
Voted for weaker ethics rules for DeLay: at least 2 times
DC Office Phone: (202) 225-5792

John Mica (FL-07)
Amount accepted from DeLay: $5,000.00
Voted with DeLay: 94% of the time
Voted for weaker ethics rules for DeLay: at least 3 times
DC Office Phone: (202) 225-4035

Jeff Miller (FL-01)
Amount accepted from DeLay: $10,000.00
Voted with DeLay: 91% of the time
Voted for weaker ethics rules for DeLay: at least 2 times
Contributions to DeLay's Legal Defense Fund: $5,000.00
DC Office Phone: (202) 225-4136
Source: Democratic Victory Network

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posted by JReid @ 9:00 PM  
Get Black to where you once belonged
Bush's African-American HUD secretary says New Orleans will be back, but it sure as hell won't be Black...

Tags: Katrina, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Politics, Rita, News
posted by JReid @ 12:32 AM  
Thursday, September 29, 2005
From the mind of Bill Bennett
Bill Bennett is an unadulterated idiot and a rank hypocrite who should be run out of the crap room at the Vegas boobie bar on a rail. That said, here's the quote that's calling all the fuss. In response to a caller who asked a question about abortion vs. Social Security -- here's the question, and the money part of Bennett's answer (click on the link for the full exchange via MediaMatters):
CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I've read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn't -- never touches this at all. ... (Q&A in between...)

BENNETT: ... Well, I don’t think it is either, I don’t think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don’t know. But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.
According to Media Matters:
Bennett's remark was apparently inspired by the claim that legalized abortion has reduced crime rates, which was posited in the book Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005) by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. But Levitt and Dubner argued that aborted fetuses would have been more likely to grow up poor and in single-parent or teenage-parent households and therefore more likely to commit crimes; they did not put forth Bennett's race-based argument.
On the other hand, if you aborted all the people who don't think Bill Bennett is an unmitigated idiot ... never mind ...

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posted by JReid @ 11:14 PM  
New take on an old story (and her young hubby)
Blunderford breaks down the Demi Moore-Ashton Kutcher phenomenon. A post from Monday that's worthy of the bump (unless of course this is all just another punking episode...)

Tags: , Entertainment,
posted by JReid @ 10:19 PM  
The man who wasn't there...
As John G. Roberts is sworn in as chief justice, a certain associate justice sits out the ceremony ...Guess Tony just couldn't bear to watch the little bastard take "his" spot... "what is this guy, five years old??? I shoulda been da Chief!!!"

Tags: John Roberts, Politics, , SCOTUS, Law, News, Judge John Roberts.
posted by JReid @ 10:08 PM  
An army of one
How many Iraqi army battalions would you guess are fully capable of operating in their own country without the backing of U.S. or British troops? Twenty? Ten? Five? Nope: the answer, apparently, is one. At this rate we should be out of Iraq, say, in 2075...

Tags: , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy
posted by JReid @ 9:48 PM  
Get out of jail free
It's not exactly Nelson Mandela leaving Robin Island (actually it's not even close...) however...

Judy Miller is out of jail. Also, The Philadelphia Inquirer offers new information on just who La Dame WMD has spent the last 85 days or so protecting. Cue Scooter...

Update: The New York Times has confirmed that it's Libby. Now, she talks to the grand jury. This has only begun to get interesting.

Tags: , , , , , Karl Rove, White House, PlameGate
posted by JReid @ 8:24 PM  
In like Flynn (and then some)
The Roberts "yes" vote turned out to be even bigger than I thought. Here's the roll call and for convenience, here are the Democrat "No" votes:

Akaka (D-HI), Bayh (D-IN), Biden (D-DE), Boxer (D-CA), Cantwell (D-WA), Clinton (D-NY), Corzine (D-NJ), Dayton (D-MN), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Harkin (D-IA), Inouye (D-HI), Kennedy (D-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Mikulski (D-MD), Obama (D-IL), Reed (D-RI), Reid (D-NV), Sarbanes (D-MD), Schumer (D-NY), Stabenow (D-MI)

Tags: , Supreme Court, Politics, SCOTUS, Judge John Roberts, Judiciary
posted by JReid @ 1:22 PM  
Hammertime
Today's Tom DeLay roundup:
ThinkProgress screws the public's collective head on straight regarding DeLay's TRMPAC obfuscations...

The Daily DeLay finds a notable nugget in today's AP story on the DeLay indictment. Key question: just who indicted this guy, anyway?

Capitol Hill Blue says many on Capitol Hill are fretting over a possible criminal indictment domino effect...

The L.A. Times says DeLay's troubles could bring a halt to the GOP agenda...

Talkleft has the scoop on DeLay's "temporary" replacement Roy Blunt ... can you say "re-mix"?
posted by JReid @ 12:43 PM  
Doin' the bump
Wonkette has the skinny by way of Slate's John Dickerson on the GOP preemptive striking of California congressman (and rules committee chairman) David Dreier from Tom DeLay's newly abondoned leadership chair ("temporarily..." ahem...)

Radio and other talking heads were already putting Dreier in the job, as was the L.A. Times for a brief period yesterday (before they summarily switched to this headline), but just as quickly as his name was floated, he was bounced in a live press conference in favor of Missouri congressman Roy Blount (who's much more right wing than the moderate, ambiguously gay gentleman from the San Gabriel Valley -- he of the formerly all-boy Claremont Men's College...)

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posted by JReid @ 12:28 PM  
Life inside the asylym
Capitol Hill Blue rightly lays claim to being first out of the box with the story of President Bush's battles with depression and ... ahem ... substances ... and this week they add a new tack: a peek inside what purported White House staffers are calling "the asylum..." Clip:
Depressed and demoralized White House staffers say working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is “life in a hellhole” as they try to deal with a sullen, moody President whose temper tantrums drive staffers crying from the room and bring the business of running the country to a halt.

“It’s like working in an insane asylum,” says one White House aide. “People walk around like they’re in a trance. We’re the dance band on the Titanic, playing out our last songs to people who know the ship is sinking and none of us are going to make it.”

As an interesting aside, major depression isn't always a bad thing for presidents. This month's Atlantic Monthly has a fascinating article about Abraham Lincoln's lifelong battle with "melancholia" and how it, in many ways, spurred him to greatness. ...Unfortunately, the apparent condition that sparked deep introspection in Lincoln has mostly led to long vacations and snarky, cuss-laden 'tude in our current commander in chief...

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posted by JReid @ 12:11 PM  
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
A stench of corruption
With Tom DeLay now under indictment, Terry Moran just asked Scott McClellan the key question at issue now: "is the president concerned that there is a stench of corruption surrounding the Republican Party establishment in Washington?"

Exhibits:
Ohio Congressman's ties to Abramoff casino buy draw attention from feds. [More]
Feds probe demotion of prosecutor who was investigating Abramoff. [More]
Senate majority leader Frist denies dumping stock due to insider information. [More]
Lobbies line up for relief riches. [More]

Previous headlines:
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posted by JReid @ 1:19 PM  
The war on pictures
The Army and the Pentagon are investigating a web-site that reportedly exchange postings of grisly photos of dead, mangled Iraqis for access to pornographic material from U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The site, NowThat'sF---dUp.com (not to be confused with the site of similar name without the "now"), is still up, at least for now, and the owner is fielding a torrent of media interview requests (after debuting on Air America's "Morning Sedition" morning show earlier this week.) E&P has the follow-up to a story that originally appeared in the New Times East Bay, CA affiliate, The East Bay Express. The story made the NYT today. Says E&P:

An Army spokesman, Col. Joseph Curtin, said the Criminal Investigation Division recently began investigating the matter on behalf of Lt. Gen. John Vines, commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq.

The East Bay Express, a New Times weekly in Emeryville, Ca. last week published a lengthy story about the porn site, and interviewed its owner, who said he gave soldiers free access in exchange for photos of dead or mutilated Iraqis. The soldiers apparently had been having trouble subscribing to the site because of credit card problems. The Online Journalism Review also ran a prominent piece. AmericaBlog, a leading blog, then covered it widely this week, and included links to some of the photos.
The allegation is that the site and its participants may have violated the Geneva Conventions -- a novel argument for U.S. commanders under the current administration, but one Muslim groups (and the AmericaBlog faithful) are picking up on as well.

What remains to be seen is whether this will turn out to be another Abu Ghraib moment for the Iraq campaign, a rare opportunity to shed light on the grim realities of war (warning on that link, it's gory) and yet another elementary course in the laws of mass media, Internet proliferation and stressed out young soldiers far from home ... or worse, another chance for the brass to prosecute lower level G.I.s and ignore the bad things happening in their midst (or at their behest...) The site is raw, to be sure, but besides the greusome pics (and the ubiquitous porno ads) it also contains a lot of frank discusson about the war, and rare interaction between those serving in OIF and those sitting in front of our television sets watching "Over There." Americans probably need more of all of the above (except the porn...) not less.

My vote, and it's not P.C., is that the soldiers should be disciplined for violating the rules, but not prosecuted. This is war. It ain't pretty, and the uglier it gets, the more I'm interested in a makeover from the top down...

Tags: , Middle East, War, Foreign Policy, Media
posted by JReid @ 10:39 AM  
Blame it on the rain...
Mike Brown left no stone un-peed-on in his blame everyone else first testimony yesterday. He managed to point the finger at every conceivable local and federal official, the "hysteric" media, his friends in the Bush White House (who apparently shouldn't be in the ice and Diet Coke business, but whom Brown now says he should have thrown under the bus long ago...) and he was even dumb enough to call out General Honore. Who's bright idea was it to put this guy in front of a bunch of Republican lawmakers and television cameras, anyway? Talk about being stuck on stupid...

Previous posts:
Tags: , , Katrina, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Politics, Rita, News,
posted by JReid @ 1:12 AM  
The Martha Stewart precedent
Sorry, Bill Frist. Maybe you can run for president after they take the ankle bracelets off ... or at the least cop a cool medical reality show... Hey, and maybe Tom DeLay can be your jailhouse roommate! He could kill the bugs, and you could diagnose them as still following moving balloons with their tiny, little eyes...

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posted by JReid @ 1:04 AM  
Unsurprising headlines: Hang 'em high and out to dry
From the New York Times:

Officer Criticizes Detainee Abuse Inquiry
By ERIC SCHMITT

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 - An Army captain who reported new allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq said Tuesday that Army investigators seemed more concerned about tracking down young soldiers who reported misconduct than in following up the accusations and investigating whether higher-ranking officers knew of the abuses.

And now that they've nabbed the "Queen of Mean," what are the chances that those higher up the food chain will face the scrutiny that the low-level prison guards from West Virginia are getting? Answer: none.

Tags: , Middle East, War,
posted by JReid @ 12:40 AM  
Hughes bombs
Bush's other gal pal, Karen, seeks to be greeted as liberator by Saudi women, is flipped the entire bird...

Tags: Middle East, Foreign Policy,,
posted by JReid @ 12:34 AM  
The Democratic electoral action plan

Yes, yes that's right it's Ben Affleck... look, if the other side can run Arnold and Sonny Bono...

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posted by JReid @ 12:03 AM  
Where in the world is Mel Martinez?
As last week's Weekly Standard hero Mike Pence surrenders his small government principles, our man Sideshow Mel (the one recently mentioned ... gulp ... as a possible Supreme Court nominee (which of course would instantly relieve Clarence Thomas of the singular burden of being the high court's dimmest bulb...) passes out the china cups and doughnuts at an all you can scarf, Halliburton-sponsored, federal Katrina cash handout reception. Thank you, Dana Milbank. Thank you, WaPo...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, guess who else is bellying up to the Katrina handout troth? Why, it's the mortgage industry! Wonder if they made it to Mel's hurricane party...?

Tags: , Katrina, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Politics, Rita, News, ,
posted by JReid @ 12:00 AM  
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
"I don't know how you can sleep at night..."
MSNBC has more quotes from the Michael Brown one-party congressional spanking earlier today.

Previous posts:

Tags: , Katrina, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Politics, Rita, News, ,

posted by JReid @ 3:51 PM  
An American in ...parish the thought...
A former Marine joins Al-Jazeera International as a television correspondent.
Rushing thinks part of his mission is to educate the American public on the reality of war. "War in America has its own branding—it's the American flag, it's that Lee Greenwood song, it's a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square. But Americans need to be aware of the consequences."

Like it or not, "Al Jazeera is the most influential Arab voice outside of mosques. It is the largest shaper of ideology," says Rushing. And if American voices are not heard in that venue, then they have no chance of having virtually any influence. "I've dedicated my adult life to the health and security of the United States and to representing the best of American ideas. I will maintain my credibility by continuing to do that." Rushing may discover that being a Marine might have been the easy part.
Time to go rent "Control Room."
posted by JReid @ 2:47 PM  
Everything's Rotten in Denmark
...or more to the point, in Washington D.C. Newsweek has the latest on political in-fighting and basement-level morale at Porter Goss' newly Bushesized CIA...

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posted by JReid @ 2:38 PM  
Wait, wait, there's more
Karen Tumulty at TIME asks, just how many more Mike Browns are out there, prowling the halls of the Bush administration? The answer: more than you ever dared imagine...
As far back as the Florida recount, soon-to-be Vice President Dick Cheney was poring over organizational charts of the government with an eye toward stocking it with people sympathetic to the incoming Administration. Clay Johnson III, Bush's former Yale roommate and the Administration's chief architect of personnel, recalls preparing for the inner circle's first trip from Austin, Texas, to Washington: "We were standing there getting ready to get on a plane, looking at each other like: Can you believe what we're getting ready to do?"

The Office of Personnel Management's Plum Book, published at the start of each presidential Administration, shows that there are more than 3,000 positions a President can fill without consideration for civil service rules. And Bush has gone further than most Presidents to put political stalwarts in some of the most important government jobs you've never heard of, and to give them genuine power over the bureaucracy. "These folks are really good at using the instruments of government to promote the President's political agenda," says Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University and a well-known expert on the machinery of government. "And I think that takes you well into the gray zone where few Presidents have dared to go in the past. It's the coordination and centralization that's important here." ...

...Some of the appointments are raising serious concerns in the agencies themselves and on Capitol Hill about the competence and independence of agencies that the country relies on to keep us safe, healthy and secure. Internal e-mail messages obtained by TIME show that scientists' drug-safety decisions at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are being second-guessed by a 33-year-old doctor turned stock picker. At the Office of Management and Budget, an ex-lobbyist with minimal purchasing experience oversaw $300 billion in spending, until his arrest last week. At the Department of Homeland Security, an agency the Administration initially resisted, a well-connected White House aide with minimal experience is poised to take over what many consider the single most crucial post in ensuring that terrorists do not enter the country again. And who is acting as watchdog at every federal agency? A corps of inspectors general who may be increasingly chosen more for their political credentials than their investigative ones.

Nowhere in the federal bureaucracy is it more important to insulate government experts from the influences of politics and special interests than at the Food and Drug Administration, the agency charged with assuring the safety of everything from new vaccines and dietary supplements to animal feed and hair dye. That is why many within the department, as well as in the broader scientific community, were startled when, in July, Scott Gottlieb was named deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs, one of three deputies in the agency's second-ranked post at FDA.

His official FDA biography notes that Gottlieb, 33, who got his medical degree at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, did a previous stint providing policy advice at the agency, as well as at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and was a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. What the bio omits is that his most recent job was as editor of a popular Wall Street newsletter, the Forbes/Gottlieb Medical Technology Investor, in which he offered such tips as "Three Biotech Stocks to Buy Now." In declaring Gottlieb a "noted authority" who had written more than 300 policy and medical articles, the biography neglects the fact that many of those articles criticized the FDA for being too slow to approve new drugs and too quick to issue warning letters when it suspects ones already on the market might be unsafe. FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford, who resigned suddenly and without explanation last Friday, wrote in response to e-mailed questions that Gottlieb is "talented and smart, and I am delighted to have been able to recruit him back to the agency to help me fulfill our public-health goals." But others, including Jimmy Carter--era FDA Commissioner Donald Kennedy, a former Stanford University president and now executive editor-in-chief of the journal Science, say Gottlieb breaks the mold of appointees at that level who are generally career FDA scientists or experts well known in their field. "The appointment comes out of nowhere. I've never seen anything like that," says Kennedy.

Gottlieb's financial ties to the drug industry were at one time quite extensive. Upon taking his new job, he recused himself for up to a year from any deliberations involving nine companies that are regulated by the FDA and "where a reasonable person would question my impartiality in the matter." Among them are Eli Lilly, Roche and Proctor & Gamble, according to his Aug. 5 "Disqualification Statement Regarding Former Clients," a copy of which was obtained by TIME. Gottlieb, though, insists that his role at the agency is limited to shaping broad policies, such as improving communication between the FDA, doctors and patients, and developing a strategy for dealing with pandemics of such diseases as flu, West Nile virus and SARS. ...

Now, doesn't that make you feel better?

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posted by JReid @ 2:28 PM  
Brownie, you're one heck of a putz
Proof that there is intelligent life on the other side:

Connecticut Republican Chris Shays just handed Mike Brown his head on the issue of FEMA's failures to meet its responsibilities in the Katrina disaster. He started out by excoriating Brown for declaring that his only failures were not holding enough press briefings and not "getting Nagin and Blanco to work together." He then began dressing down the ex-director (with his fellow GOPers, including committee chairman Tom Davis (of Virginia) weighing in periodically to throw Brown a lifeline) for the manifold failures of his former agency, and Brown's failure to adequately describe how his attempts to talk to the mayor and governor constitute adequate coordination. This exchange (paraphrased) goes into the "I love Chris Shays lexicon:

SHAYS: "Well that's why I'm happy you left. Because that kind of look into the lights like a deer makes me realize you weren't capable of handling the job..."

BROWN: "...I guess what you wanted me to do was to be this superhero and take everybody out of New Orleans."

SHAYS: "No, what I wanted you to do was to do your job of coordinating. ... I think its breathtaking for you to say that you didn't have the resouces to do your job and then to describe the job of coordinating in such a feeble way. ..." adding that Brown is doing more complaining about state and local officials than explaining what he perceived his job to be and what went wrong...
Earlier, Louisiana congressman William Jefferson told Brown: (again, not a transcript):

"I find it stunning that this hearing would start out with you Mr. Brown laying the blame for FEMA's failings at the feet of the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans. ... As you know, Governor Blanco requested emergency declaration three days before the storm made landfall and president bush made an emergency declaration two days before. But even if they had made no request at all -- even if they had been plainly dysfunctional (and I'm not here to defend them but I don't think that is an adequate characterization at all), FEMA had already made designations that made it clear that this was an emergency that the state and federal governments could not have handled at all. Your own documentation states that a catastrophic storm of this size would quickly overwhelm the state's responses.
If FEMA was overwhelmed, how much more overwhelmed would the state and local governments be?"
And he asked Brown if he would be surprised to hear that the complaints about FEMA's inadequacies are coming from other states besides Louisiana...? Take Texas for example...

Update: Brown now says he "misspoke" when he said he didn't know about the convention center evacuees until Thursday. He now says he was "tired" and first began hearing about it "around noon on Wednesday." Said Brown:
"What I meant to say was that we were just learning about it 36 hours earlier..."
Brown came off in this hearing as arrogant, petty, ill-informed, and well, incompetent; a penny-ante blame shifter if ever there was one. I sure hope he wasn't this careless with the horses...

Tags: , Katrina, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Politics, Rita, News, ,
posted by JReid @ 11:41 AM  
Now hear this!
Update: The Republican members of the House committee (actually they're the only members of the committee, since the Dems aren't participating, save for one representive from Miss. and one from Louisiana, neither of whom are committee members) are doing a masterful job of serving up opportunities for Mike Brown to make the following, wholly irrelevant point: It's not FEMA's job to issue evacuation orders. Well no kidding, Brown. Now, at some point can we get to the failed federal response...?

Original post, 10:29 a.m.: The Republican-led congressional "hearings" (ahem...) on the federal Katrina failures are under way. So far, what have we learned from Michael "still on the payroll" Brown?

Why didn't FEMA respond better?
  1. Federalism...
  2. We have no fire trucks...
  3. We're small, we have no money...

And can you cite any personal failures, Mr. Brown?

  1. Failed to set up regular press briefings to let the media know what a great job FEMA was doing ...
  2. Was unable to persuade Blanco and Nagin to work together... (see FEMA response number 1 -- Federalism...)

And were you really an intern?

  1. Hell yes, and a damned good one!

Tags: , Katrina, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Politics, Rita, News, ,
posted by JReid @ 11:28 AM  
The Jennifer Lopez rules for babies
Remember the stories a couple of years ago about J.Lo supposedly stipulating in her public appearance contracts that anyone not a member of her entourage was not to look her directly in the eye? Well, here's one for all the little British Jennies on the block:

Hospital defends baby cooing ban
11.49AM, Tue Sep 27 2005

A hospital has defended a ban on visitors cooing at other people's new-born babies for fear of trampling over the tots' human rights.

Some new mothers at Calderdale Royal Hospital, in Halifax, have been astonished by the new rules.

The hospital states that visitors must not ask questions about other patients' babies or look at them in maternity wards.

But managers at the hospital said the drive was a necessary measure to prevent visitors gawping at new-borns or quizzing the mother.

Staff in one of the wards have set up a display featuring a doll in a cot. A sign next to it says: "What makes you think I want to be looked at?"

Cards were handed out to visitors stating: "Respect my baby" and underneath, as if written by a baby, are the words: "My parents ask you to treat my personal space with consideration."

Tags: , Family, Life, Baby, Parenthood,
posted by JReid @ 11:10 AM  
A world of confusion
AP:
President Bush urged Americans on Monday to cut back on unnecessary travel to make up for fuel shortages caused by Hurricane Rita as he prepared to take his seventh trip to the Gulf Coast. ...

... Bush made a short trip Monday night to attend a dinner for Gen. Richard Myers, the retiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's home, not far from the White House. The president's motorcade included more than a dozen vehicles...
NYT:
With fears mounting that high energy costs will crimp economic growth, President Bush called on Americans yesterday to conserve gasoline by driving less. He also issued a directive for all federal agencies to cut their own energy use and to encourage employees to use public transportation.

"We can all pitch in," Mr. Bush said. "People just need to recognize that the storms have caused disruption," he added, and that if Americans are able to avoid going "on a trip that's not essential, that would be helpful."
Update: Meanwhile, back on Air Force One... according to the Center for American Progress:
...Bush's comments yesterday -- encouraging the country to skip non-essential trips -- raised questions about his own recent travel habits. Today, Bush embarks on his seventh trip to the Gulf Coast this month. (According to the Air Force, "fuel costs for Air Force One have risen to $6,029 per hour, up from $3,974 an hour in the last budget year.") White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the president took the trips because he needed "to provide support or encouragement to lift the spirits of all those who have been working around the clock to help people in need."
Oh well, at least we've got more tax breaks on the industry to look forward to. Anybody up for a Hummer?

Tags: Politics, Hurricane Katrina, Bush, News, , Oil
posted by JReid @ 10:17 AM  
The axis of Abramoff
The Feds, including the Gonzalez Justice Department and more importantly, the FBI, are looking into the demotion of a veteran federal prosecutor in Guam named Frederick A. Black, who happened to be investigating one Jack Abramoff back when John Ashcroft was still at the helm at Justice. According to WaPo:
Colleagues said the demotion of Mr. Black, the acting United States attorney in Guam, and a subsequent order barring him from pursuing public corruption cases brought an end to his inquiry into Mr. Abramoff's lobbying work for some Guam judges.

Colleagues of Mr. Black, who had run the federal prosecutor's office in Guam for 12 years, spoke on condition of anonymity because of Justice Department rules that bar employees from talking to reporters. They said F.B.I. agents questioned several people in Guam and Washington this summer about whether Mr. Abramoff or his friends in the Bush administration had pushed for Mr. Black's removal. Mr. Abramoff's internal e-mail messages show that he boasted to clients about what he described as his close ties to John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, and others at the department.
The Abramoff stench just keeps getting stronger. Already he's pulled Ohio Rep. Bob Ney into the muck surrounding his and a pal's purchase of SunCruz Casinos here in Florida, from a fallen magnate who later wound up dead. Toss in the Guam "made in America" sweatshops and the international junkets for GOP pols including chief bug hunter Tom Delay and you've got all the makings of one hell of a Martin Scorsese movie...

Oh, and did I mention that Bill Frist is fending off allegations that he dumped his stock in his family's hospital company just before said stock tanked?

GOP, meet sunlight...

Tags: , Politics,,
posted by JReid @ 1:18 AM  
Movin' on up
The Boston Globe does the "greatest TV sit-com theme song" game. My vote: definitely the theme from "The Jeffersons" -- hands down (although I have to admit to a soft spot for "Welcome Back, Kotter...") Right now, the semi-finalists are (with my picks in red):
  • Cheers vs. Fresh Prince of Bel Air
  • All in the Family vs. Diff'rent Strokes
  • The Jeffersons vs. Welcome Back, Kotter; and
  • Good Times vs. the Brady Bunch

Couldn't tell you how Gilligan's Island got bumped, but that's showbiz ... If you want to play along yourself, here's the link.

Tags: , Entertainment,
posted by JReid @ 1:09 AM  
Hot, hot, hot
News hottie Kevin Sites issues his first dispatch for the Yahoo! News "Hot Zone." Dateline: Somalia. Subject: could sub-Saharan Africa be the next breeding ground for al-Qaida? It's a subject Debka has tackled, and its worth paying attention to -- the world can neglect the violence and want on the African continent for only so long -- and the blowback could be a bitch...

Tags: Politics, Terrorism, War on Terror,
posted by JReid @ 12:35 AM  
News you don't want anyone to use
Now, lord knows I'm not Bush fan, but do we really need to put it out there that the president may have been walking around in a defective bulletproof vest? Not nice, NBC...

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 12:29 AM  
Al-Qaida News: They explode, you decide
Al Qaida has a new Internet newscast, apparently. It's called Voice of the Caliphate, and WaPo says it has already had its maiden voyage:
An Internet video newscast called the Voice of the Caliphate was broadcast for the first time on Monday, purporting to be a production of al Qaeda and featuring an anchorman who wore a black ski mask and an ammunition belt.

The anchorman, who said the report would appear once a week, presented news about the Gaza Strip and Iraq and expressed happiness about recent hurricanes in the United States. A copy of the Koran, the Muslim holy book, was placed by his right hand and a rifle affixed to a tripod was pointed at the camera.

The origins of the broadcast could not be immediately verified. If the program was indeed an al Qaeda production, it would mark a change by the group's use of the Internet to spread its messages and propaganda. Direct dissemination would avoid editing or censorship by television networks, many of which usually air only excerpts of the group's statements and avoid showing gruesome images of killings.
Clandestine Radio Watch mas more on the Jihad TV offering, which consists of a 16-minute Windows media file. More details, which sound absolutely bizarre only because we know we're talking about a terrorist group and not some SoCal indie TV production company:

The site, which is hosted on a free server, encourages visitors to download the first program via the free file sharing host YouSendIt.com. ...

..."The program contains heavy coverage of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, including excerpts of his speeches, and video clips of terrorist activity in Iraq. In addition, the music that is played at the end of the program is a popular chant among Zarqawi's AQ wing. The song, in fact, was often broadcast on Radio al-Tajdeed - the London-based satellite program that caused caused a stir last month when its support for terrorism was revealed.

A short "advertisement" for the film "Total Jihad" is played towards the end of the "newscast."
What's interesting is that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian mastermind thought to be behind much of the more ruthless aspects of the Iraq insurgency, seems to be grabbing an ever-larger role as the public face of al-Qaida, relegating Osama bin Laden to something of a bit player. It's still disputed whether Zarqawi is acting at the behest of, in concert with, or indepentent of what we in the West think of as al-Qaida. But what is clear is that his organization, like Bin Laden's, understands the power of the media, including, but not limited to, the Internet. The Zarqawi Al Qaida wing already distributes a glossy Internet-print magazine, and last week, rumblings began in the terrorism watch world about Voice of the Caliphate radio, supposedly designed for the all-important purpose of improving Mujahedeen P.R. (more specifically, to "confront the "media obfuscation carried out by the collaborationist [i.e. Iraqi government] media channels and the frantic media war directed against our mujahid brothers all over the world, which spares no effort to blacken the image of the mujahideen and conceal their victories.") ... maybe these guys know more about democracy than we thought...

Update: I wonder how long before the men in black come knocking over at the California headquarters of YouSendIt.com...

Tags: , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Media
posted by JReid @ 12:17 AM  
When conservatives attack
A small but vocal minority of actual conservatives begin to make themselves heard within the ranks of the big spending GOP...

Tags: , , Katrina, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Rita,
posted by JReid @ 12:10 AM  
The big payback
The federal government will begin "reimbursing" churches for the outreach they performed in helping Katrina and Rita victims over the past month... Why didn't the disciples think of that one? They could have spared Jesus the donkey and let Caesar spring for a pimped out carriage, then the Romans could have "reimbursed" them for all those loaves and fishes... Biblical calling to aid the poor my ass, it's time to get paid! Can I get an "amen...?"

Tags: , Katrina, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Politics, Rita, News
posted by JReid @ 12:01 AM  
Monday, September 26, 2005
Sorry, but this stuff is just gross...
Leather or not, lookers aplenty indulge at Folsom Street Fair (note to activists: this won't help sell the American people on gay marriage... this crowd is to you what A.N.S.W.E.R. is to the anti-war movement -- fringe, tacky, and bad for your image...)
posted by JReid @ 11:51 PM  
Hillary on the creep
The latest Rasmussen Hillary-meter (Sept 21) has La Femme Clinton inching ahead in the "definitely vote for her" category, and flat in the "definitely against..." Hey, it's progress... Even more interesting was this:
Clinton's gains come as she is seen moving closer to the political center. Forty-two percent (42%) now say that Clinton is politically liberal. That matches the lowest liberal rating ever recorded by the Hillary Meter (review trends). In January, 51% viewed Clinton as politically liberal.

Thirty-three percent (33%) now view her as politically moderate while 9% say she is a conservative.

Collectively, today’s Hillary Meter places Senator Clinton a net 50 points to the left of the nation's political center. Two weeks ago, she was 57 points to the left of center.

It will be interesting to see where the liberal-conservative meter swings after the paying attention crowd processes Hillary's "no" vote on John Roberts...

Tags: , , , , ,
posted by JReid @ 6:32 PM  
All the little FReepers love shortnin' bread
Move over Rathergate, the FReepers have uncovered another MSM scandal! Yes, very important, that...

Tags: , War, Media
posted by JReid @ 6:24 PM  
The agony and the ecstasy
So long, Michael Moore: Cindy Sheehan is now the person most hated by the Right. Her arrest today in front of the White House thrust her right back into the headlines, where she literally needles the pro-Bush cultists into sanity-abandoning apoplexy (um, Mr. or Ms. Sweetness: the "lie" about more than 100,000 protesters showing up in D.C., to you side's 150, came not from Al-Jazeera's "brethren", but rather from the Capitol police...)

Besides the arrest, and the inconvenient reminders of just how many people oppose the neocon folly in Iraq, what's really biting the ankles in Pray for Dubyaland today this picture (at left) , soon to be known in FReeperland as "the smirk..." It just kills them to think she might be enjoying this...

...hey, hang on .... why does Ms. Sheehan seem to be enjoying this so much? Surely with all the sobering news about back-to-back monster hurricanes she realizes that her story isn't the only game in town, right? ... RIGHT...??? oh dear...

Media savvy tally: Cindy Sheehan 1, FReeperati - 1.5

Tags: , , Middle East, War, Media, Iraq War, Bush, camp casey.
posted by JReid @ 5:59 PM  
Tapped
Bush may open oil reserves spigot to ease gas prices, although apparently it's going to be a loan... Also, this newsflash: Bush tells Americans "not to drive if they don't have to." No, seriously, he actually used the word "conserve" -- well, actually, he said "conservers..." For him, that's close enough.

Tags: Politics, Hurricane Katrina, Bush, News, , Oil
posted by JReid @ 1:50 PM  
This, on the other hand, is no exaggeration...
Louisiana wants $250 billion in federal relief, including $40 billion in Army Corps of engineers money for projects that are " about 10 times the annual Corps budget for the entire nation, or 16 times the amount the Corps has said it would need to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane..."

Whatever it takes, indeed...

Tags: hurricane, New Orleans, Politics, Hurricane Katrina, Bush, News, fema.
posted by JReid @ 1:48 PM  
Wild negroes in the streets and other untrue tales of New Orleans

When the history of the Katrina disaster is written, an entire chapter will be devoted to the mythology of mayhem in the Superdome and convention center -- the two places most of the poor and the infirm went to wait for federal help after evacuating their homes. Already, the Times Picayune is correcting some of the most egregious lies from that horrible few days: the tales of murder, bodies stacked in stairwells and strewn around the floors, anarchy and child rape that kept federal officials and others from entering the city ("too dangerous" FEMA said), that caused even the Louisiana governor to go wild and woolly, and that may have contributed to the outrageous acts of other parishes who refused to allow N.O. evacuees in. The stories defamed the Black residents of New Orleans, reducing them to animals not so worthy of saving. And for the most part, they weren't true.

There was horror inside those designated evacuation centers: the horror of waiting without food, water or hope for nearly four long days; the horrors of no sanitation, filthy conditions, people who died because they didn't have their medication, or from the heat. There was violence, too -- the good and the bad were thrown together by circumstance, and the bad surely preyed upon the weak. There were real looters wandering the streets -- not the people who went into empty stores to find food and milk -- the other kind, who eluded authorities in order to raid whatever homes were still standing. But the initial reports of what was happening in New Orleans were a collective smear on that city's residents. Thankfully, the accounts are being corrected.

Tags: , , Politics, Hurricane Katrina, Bush, News, fema.

posted by JReid @ 11:44 AM  
The John Roberts Vote-Count-o-Rama
WaPo's court blog has the count so far:

All 55 Senate Republicans will vote "yes" (duh), Hillary, Obama, Biden and other presidential candidate wannabes will join the usual suspects (Boxer, Kennedy et. al.) to vote "no", and among the more interesting of the 12 Dem "yes" votes are Robert Byrd, Ken Salazar of Colorado (this guy has a big future, mark my words), Bill Nelson of Florida (reelection in the bag, unless something crazy happens...) and the much-battered Russ Feingold.

That's 67 yes votes. I had predicted 70 (I assumed Hillary, Feinstein and a moderate like Evan Bayh would vote to comfirm, but there you go ...) Everyone has their politics to play, and with Reid giving others the political cover to oppose, those needing help with the base took the opportunity...

Tags: , Supreme Court, Politics, SCOTUS, Judge John Roberts, Judiciary
posted by JReid @ 11:35 AM  
William Howad Taft, the remix
The cronyism continues in the Bush administration's dealings in the American Gulf region. Says the NY Times today:

Many Contracts for Storm Work Raise Questions
By ERIC LIPTON and RON NIXON

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 - Topping the federal government's list of costs related to Hurricane Katrina is the $568 million in contracts for debris removal landed by a Florida company with ties to Mississippi's Republican governor. Near the bottom is an $89.95 bill for a pair of brown steel-toe shoes bought by an Environmental Protection Agency worker in Baton Rouge, La.

The first detailed tally of commitments from federal agencies since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast four weeks ago shows that more than 15 contracts exceed $100 million, including 5 of $500 million or more. Most of those were for clearing away the trees, homes and cars strewn across the region; purchasing trailers and mobile homes; or providing trucks, ships, buses and planes.

More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse.

Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.

"When you do something like this, you do increase the vulnerability for fraud, plain waste, abuse and mismanagement," said Richard L. Skinner, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, who said 60 members of his staff were examining Hurricane Katrina contracts. "We are very apprehensive about what we are seeing."

Bills have come in for deals that apparently were clinched with a handshake, with no documentation to back them up, said Mr. Skinner, who declined to provide details.

"Most, if not all, of these people down there were trying to do the right thing," he said. "They were under a lot of pressure and they took a lot of shortcuts that may have resulted in a lot of waste."

Shortly after Katrina struck, the grumbling Louisiana contractors began. They were worried that few if any of the fat rebuilding contracts sure to be on the horizon would go to them. Turns out they had reason to worry. Combine the no-bid contracts to friends of the GOP with the waiving of the Davis-Bacon rule requiring those federal contractors to pay the prevailing wage, and you have yet another fat "gimme" to the administration's friends.

Sadly, this isn't some error of expediency, we now know, after the experience in Iraq, that this is simply the way they do business.

It isn't just the Bush who lives in Washington. The Bush right here in Florida operates in much the same way, as the state saw with the recent Scripps Research Institute deal, which was reported this way in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in October, 2004:
When Gov. Jeb Bush announced in October 2003 he had lured The Scripps Research Institute to Palm Beach County with more than $300 million in public money, he touted it as an economic boon to Floridians.

But before taxpayers see a return on the investment, among those who could benefit most from the Scripps Florida windfall are those who have donated thousands to the Republican Party and GOP candidates and have ties to the Bushes.

Several of the developers and landowners with interests in the leading sites for the biotech community are generous donors to President Bush's re-election campaign or to the Republican National Committee. There are Democratic contributors involved in the project, but those who give to the GOP stand out for their number and the size of their donations.
And it just goes on and on from there, in Florida, in Ohio, in Washington, and in Iraq...

With Bill Clinton you knew what you were getting: a bit of a cad but someone you could trust with your tax money. With this crowd, all you get is cronyism and corruption. That and the occasional rolled up sleeves photo op.

Welcome to the Taft Administration 2005.

Tags: , , , , , ,
posted by JReid @ 11:20 AM  
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Two (minus one) for tea
Missed this headline last week, about a meeting that never was between first lady Laura Bush and a National Book Circle Award-winning poet:
Protesting the war in Iraq, the poet Sharon Olds, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award and professor of writing at New York University, has rebuffed an invitation from Laura Bush, the first lady, to attend the fifth National Book Festival on the National Mall in Washington on Saturday. Noting that the event, sponsored by the Library of Congress, includes a dinner at the library and a breakfast at the White House, Ms. Olds, in a letter on the Web site of The Nation, said she found the invitation appealing. "But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you," she wrote in a letter to Mrs. Bush. "I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush administration. . . . So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it."
Ouch.

Tags: , Iraq, News, War, First Lady, White House
,
posted by JReid @ 2:16 AM  
Burning questions
Writing for the London Sunday Times, Andrew Sullivan asks: "Is Bush a Socialist? (He's spending like one...)"

Tags: , Politics,
posted by JReid @ 2:08 AM  
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Right place, wrong place
I received the following email a couple of weeks ago from a guy named Paul in Austin, Texas. It presents an interesting theory on the federal Katrina screw-up (sorry, Mr. President, Rita wasn't catastrophic enough to blow the original story away...)


Another blogster noticed something quite interesting---that the parishes declared under FEMA watch before Hurricane Katrina hit Lousiana were all in north and west Louisiana...so I did some more checking:

In the official President's letter of Aug. 28, 2005 declaring "an emergency exists in the State of Louisiana and (the President has) ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the parishes located in the path of Hurricane Katrina beginning on August 26, 2005, and continuing," the actual Louisiana parishes that are then officially listed as parishes on which FEMA will concentrate "to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe" are all Louisiana parishes north and west of the Mississippi Delta region (north and west of Baton Rouge), not those Louisiana parishes in southeast Louisiana that were hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Then, when one reads the official request from Gov. Blanco to the White House for FEMA assistance before Katrina hit, her letter states: "Parishes expected to receive MAJOR DAMAGE (my emphasis) based on the anticipated track of Hurricane Katrina are: Ascension, Assumption, Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, and Washington."

Strange. None of these Louisiana parishes were listed in the official White House declaration issued in response to Gov. Blanco's request.

Louisiana Gov. Blanco's request divided the state's parishes into three categories: 1) major damage (14 parishes), 2) significant damage (17 parishes) and 3) parishes for evacuation purposes (33 parishes).

All 33 parishes in no. 3 appeared in the President's declaration. 6 parishes from no. 2 appeared in the President's declaration while 11 didn't. None of the parishes in the no. 1 (major damage) category appeared in the President's declaration authorizing FEMA action.

Very,very strange.

Then look at the President's declarations for Mississippi and Alabama. All the counties listed were directly in the path of Hurricane Katrina and probably suffered "major damage." They are also all located in southern Mississippi and Alabama, not like most of the Louisiana parishes listed in the President's official declaration which are located in northern Louisiana.

In other words, what if, per official Presidential order, FEMA efforts in Louisiana were directed toward the least endangered parishes, while the most vulnerable parishes apparently were forgotten, or overlooked, by whoever composed the official White House response to Gov. Blanco's request for federal assistance prior to Hurricane Katrina reaching land? But a Presidential order is a Presidential order, so FEMA was ordered to go help the least endangered parishes in Louisiana.

This might explain why federal relief efforts were visible in southern Alabama and southern Mississippi, while they appeared largely invisible in southern and eastern Louisiana, and especially in New Orleans. [emphasis added]

Just wondering...how many Republicans it takes to screw in a lightbulb?
OK, so here is the August 28 Blanco letter to the president (the follow-up to the August 26 emergency declaration by the governor). It does indeed break down three categories of potential catastrophe, with the parishes where "major damage" was expected listed as: Ascension, Assumption, Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John, St. Tammany, Tangibahoa, Terrebonne and Washington. Blanco requested a full plate of very specific federal responses, plus "Category A funding at 100%".

Now let's look at the president's emergency declaration for the State of Louisiana. It reads:
The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the parishes of Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Claiborne, Catahoula, Concordia, De Soto, East Baton Rouge, East Carroll, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Livingston, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Pointe Coupee, Ouachita, Rapides, Red River, Richland, Sabine, St. Helena, St. Landry, Tensas, Union, Vernon, Webster, West Carroll, West Feliciana, and Winn.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.
Of the parishes mentioned in the president's directive, sure enough only six: East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena and West Feliciana appear in Blanco's secondary category, "significant damage." None of the parishes named by the White House were in the critical category, those forecast to be in the direct path of Katrina and therefore "expected to receive major damage." No Plaquemines, no Jefferson, no St. Bernards, no Orleans...

Republicans and light bulbs indeed...

Tags: , , , , ,
posted by JReid @ 11:18 PM  
The revolt of small government conservatives
This kind of thing would normally get you banned on the Free Republic, but there they are, poster after poster criticizing the free spending ways of the GOP, and even uttering non-worshipful things about George W. Bush. ... I still half expect this thread to be deleted by the cultist FReeper police, but you never know. ... Could the FReeper cult be cracking?


Tags: , ,
posted by JReid @ 8:47 PM  
The man who fell to earth, part 2


President Bush in photo op at Colorado hurricane command center

A few paragraphs from the Jim VendeHei, Peter Baker story in the WashPost today:
President Struggles to Regain His Pre-Hurricane Swagger

By Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 24, 2005; A01

COLORADO SPRINGS, Sept. 23 -- President Bush flew here ahead of Hurricane Rita on Friday to show command of a federal disaster response effort that even supporters acknowledge he fumbled three weeks ago.

The president said he wanted to see the emergency response system from the ground floor at U.S. Northern Command headquarters. "I need to understand how it works better," he told reporters before leaving Washington. But Bush was also embarking on a broader, and possibly more important, mission: restoring strength and confidence in his presidency.

A president who roamed across the national and world stages with an unshakable self-assurance that comforted Republicans and confounded critics since 2001 suddenly finds himself struggling to reclaim his swagger. Bush's standing with the public -- and within the Republican Party -- has been battered by a failed Social Security campaign, violence in Iraq, and most recently Hurricane Katrina. His approval ratings, 42 percent in the most recent Washington Post-ABC poll, have never been lower.

A president who normally thrives on tough talk and self-assurance finds himself at what aides privately describe as a low point in office, one that is changing the psychic and political aura of the White House, as well as its distinctive political approach.

In small, sometimes subtle but unmistakable ways, the president and top aides sound less certain, more conciliatory and willing to do something they avoided in the first term: admit mistakes. After bulling through crisis after crisis with a "bring 'em on" brashness, a more solemn Bush now has twice taken responsibility for the much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina.

Aides who never betrayed self-doubt now talk in private of failures selling the American people on the Iraq war, the president's Social Security plan and his response to Hurricane Katrina. The president who once told the United Nations it would drift into irrelevancy if it did not back the invasion of Iraq last week praised the world body and said the world works better "when we act together." A White House team that operated on its terms since 2000 is reaching to outside experts for answers like never before.

... The president has cleared much of his schedule to focus on rebuilding the states devastated by Katrina and prepare for the wrath of Rita. Despite grumbling among conservatives, Bush said he will spend whatever it takes to put Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama back together, and he has told aides he will do the same for Rita's victims. There are private talks of tearing up Bush's agenda to change the second-term focus to the poor and preventing future disasters.

Most of all, White House aides want to reestablish Bush's swagger -- the projection of competence and confidence in the White House that has carried the administration through tough times since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
...and there's this:
A top Republican close to the White House since the earliest days said the absence of a "reelection target" and pressure from first lady Laura Bush and others to soften his second-term tone conspired to temper Bush's swagger well before Katrina hit. "A reelection campaign was always the driving principle to force them to get things together," said the GOP operative, who would speak candidly about Bush only if his name was not used. He said the "brilliance of this team" was always overstated. "Part of the reason they looked so good is Democrats were so discombobulated." Since the election, this official said, White House aides reported that Laura Bush was among those counseling Bush to change his cowboy image during the final four years.

William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said the psychological turnabout started with the failed Social Security campaign, billed as the number one domestic priority six months ago. "The negative effect of the Social Security [campaign] is underestimated," Kristol said. "Once you make that kind of mistake, people tend to be less deferential to your decisions." This coincided with a growing number of Republicans losing faith in Bush's war plan, as Republicans such as Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) openly questioned the president's strategy.

In a series of private conversations over the past few months, aides began second-guessing how they handled the Social Security debate, managed the public perception of the Iraq war and, most recently, the response to Katrina. The federal CIA leak investigation, which has forced Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove and others to testify before a grand jury, seemed to distract officials and left a general feeling of unease, two aides said. Aides were calling reporters to find out what was happening with Rove and the investigation. "Nobody knows what's going to happen with the probe," one senior aide said.

The result, say some Republicans, has been a president and White House team that has not been as effective, efficient and sure-footed running government as it was running for reelection. "The shift from campaigning to governing has perhaps not been as quick as everybody hoped," Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said. ...

I have to say that I think Kristol blaming the president's problems on Social Security reform is about as disengenuous as it gets -- he might as well blame the malaise on the tax cuts. Bush's problems hit much closer to home for Kristol and the other neoconservatives, because the sum of them -- from oil prices to the sluggish Katrina response to dissatisfaction with the deficit -- all stem in the public's mind from a single bleeding, festering source: Iraq.

Iraq -- the war fed to him as a pre-cooked meal by Kristol and the other neoconservative think tankers, as Pat Buchanan put it -- has been George W. Bush's undoing.

Part one: The man who fell to earth

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posted by JReid @ 2:14 PM  
Thus spoke Patrick Buchanan
On the war and the neocons:
"…the neocons, who are a small cabal, actually, not very many people, insinuated themselves into Bush’s camp, they had allies in Cheney and Rumsfeld, who are not neocons, and then they set this pre-cooked meal in front of the President of the United States, who was an untutored individual in foreign policy… They captured the President, and in so doing they captured the foreign policy, but my own belief is their time is passing. ..."
On the current state of the GOP:
"...The Republican Party in Washington DC today are the sort of people we went into politics to run out of town. … We have become what we opposed. When I came in I knew young men in their 20s who went work for Richard Milhouse Nixon who are are now as great a part of the problem as multimillionaire lobbyists. They are on both sides of every question. They are big government men, pork barrelers, interventionists, globalists, they go into the tank on social and cultural issues. They are now the adversary. ..."
Source: Open Source Radio

Tags: , , , , , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Media,
posted by JReid @ 2:10 PM  
Look who's talking
President Bush is being warned that his next Supreme Court nominee won't get the "free pass" given to John G. Roberts. But it's who's doing the warning that's interesting...

Previous headlines:
Tags: , Supreme Court, Politics, SCOTUS, Judge John Roberts, Judiciary
posted by JReid @ 2:08 PM  
Unsurprising headlines: lifestyle edition
Christian school expels girl for having gay parents

...and the lesbian couple chose this particular school to enroll their daughter in, why...? Note to parents: read the Christian school's policies ahead of time...
posted by JReid @ 1:49 PM  
Friday, September 23, 2005
The long, cold nuclear winter
Christopher Dickey writes for Newsweek that Iran and its crafty new president, Mr. Ahmadinejad (I can finaly spell that without Googling...) has outmaneuvered the U.S. on the subject of nuclear energy, thanks in part to the "delusional" war in Iraq...

Tags: , News, Middle East, Politics, Iraq
posted by JReid @ 8:39 PM  
About a boy ... who looks like George Bush...
According to the Swedish news site Expresse, this poor little Iraqi boy has suffered the cruelest of fates...

Diarist Frus at the Daily Kos provides the translation and feels the little man's pain. He says the story tells of the boy being bullied so badly in school because of his resemblance to the 43rd president of the United States that he won't go anymore. Want more irony? The boy's name is Usama...

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posted by JReid @ 8:14 PM  
Hillary on the ... huh???
Hillary will vote against Judge Roberts when his nomination hits the full Senate. Sounds like somebody's counterprogramming Russ Feingold (who voted "aye" in committee) and looking to out-flank Joe Biden (who voted "nay"). That's the only explanation I've got. That said, I think this will help Hillary with the Kosbase, but hurt her with the center-right, and I think, overall ... Besides, Hillary's explanation is so vague, it makes Roberts' testimony sound down right specific:
"I do not believe that the Judge has presented his views with enough clarity and specificity for me to in good conscience cast a vote on his behalf. "
... Huh? By that standard, no Senator would ever be able to vote for any nominee because they're all slushy and unspecific, post-Bork... Unspecific is the way you get confirmed.

And now for some rare Wizbangian wisdom:
Even though Senator Hillary Clinton has gone to great lengths to portray herself as a moderate Democrat, there are certain litmus tests one must pass to remain a front-runner for the party's nomination in 2008. Voting against John Roberts appears to be on of those items.
(Sigh). I hate it when that Kevin Aylward guy is right...

Update: Well, he's not entirely right... Hillary is a centrist Democrat (yes, she was a leftie, but that was when she was about 24... catch up, would you guys?) However, she's also the wife of a brilliant political tactician, who probably figured it would be a lot easier for her to explain her "no" vote on Roberts to moderate-independent (and pro-choice Republican) women than it would have been to explain a "yes" vote to the hard core liberal activists in the Democratic Party.

If you listen to enough Air America, you'll hear the distinct sound -- especially later in the programming day -- of Clinton hate. Liberals hate the Clintons even more than right wingers do, because the core concept of Clinton governance during the 1990s was to stiff-arm the left wing of his own party and cut deals with the right wing of the other party, yielding reliably centrist, fiscally conservative and economy-boosting results, but also smaller government -- which at the time the Democratic Party was not all for. (The real wonder is that, with the left on the ropes, the economy growing and both the government, and lower economic class dependence on it, shrinking, the GOP decided to try and overthrow Clinton rather than keep the good thing going. Now that's what I call irrational exuberance...)

Update 2: My gut reaction to the Hillary vote announcement is that it's a mistake. And I still say that I would have a hard time finding a good reason to oppose Roberts if I were in the Senate. But politically, she's probably done the right thing... probably... at least in terms of primary politics...

Previous posts:

posted by JReid @ 2:34 AM  
Thursday, September 22, 2005
What's the frequency, Bianca?
The president's just looking for a few good reporters named Bianca...
THE PRESIDENT: Joseph.

Q Why is it taking so long to secure the border at Syria? And do you really think that the Iraqis can secure it if the U.S. troops have been unsuccessful to do it so far?

THE PRESIDENT: It takes a while to secure the border with Syria because it is a long border that has had smuggling routes in existence for decades. In order to secure a border, it requires cooperation on both sides of the border, and we're getting limited cooperation from Syria. We've made it clear to Syria we expect them to help us secure their border and to stop the transit of suiciders coming from other countries through Syria into Iraq. Their response hasn't been very satisfactory to date. I continue to remind them of their obligation.

And so it's a long border. One of the things is that we need to continue to train the Iraqis to be better controllers of the border, and that's one of the missions that General Casey briefed us on today.

Bianca. Nobody named Bianca? Well, sorry Bianca's not here. I'll be glad to answer her question.

Q I'll follow up.

THE PRESIDENT: No, that's fine. (Laughter.) Thank you though, appreciate it. Just trying to spread around the joy of asking a question.

Later that press conference...
Q Mr. President, could we talk more about --

THE PRESIDENT: Are you Bianca?

Q No, I'm not. Anita -- Fox News.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay.

Q Just a quick question --

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. I was looking for Bianca. I'm sorry.

Q -- more about the funding for -- with the devastation of Katrina, and so forth, and just more on -- I know you're going to meet with Congress, to talk about maybe offsets in spending.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. ...
Note to the advance staff: it helps if the reporter with the planted question setting up the president's daily talking point actually shows up...

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posted by JReid @ 8:22 PM  
The man who fell to Earth
If this were September 2001, 2002 or even 2003, could you imagine -- in your wildest imagination -- a headline like this, even in the National Enquirer?
BUSH'S BOOZE CRISIS

By JENNIFER LUCE and DON GENTILE

Faced with the biggest crisis of his political life, President Bush has hit the bottle again, The National Enquirer can reveal.

Bush, who said he quit drinking the morning after his 40th birthday, has started boozing amid the Katrina catastrophe.

Family sources have told how the 59-year-old president was caught by First Lady Laura downing a shot of booze at their family ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he learned of the hurricane disaster.

His worried wife yelled at him: "Stop, George."

Following the shocking incident, disclosed here for the first time, Laura privately warned her husband against "falling off the wagon" and vowed to travel with him more often so that she can keep an eye on Dubya, the sources add.

"When the levees broke in New Orleans, it apparently made him reach for a shot," said one insider. "He poured himself a Texas-sized shot of straight whiskey and tossed it back. The First Lady was shocked and shouted: "Stop George!"

"Laura gave him an ultimatum before, 'It's Jim Beam or me.' She doesn't want to replay that nightmare — especially now when it's such tough going for her husband."

Bush is under the worst pressure of his two terms in office and his popularity is near an all-time low. The handling of the Katrina crisis and troop losses in Iraq have fueled public discontent and pushed Bush back to drink.

A Washington source said: "The sad fact is that he has been sneaking drinks for weeks now. Laura may have only just caught him — but the word is his drinking has been going on for a while in the capital. He's been in a pressure cooker for months.

"The war in Iraq, the loss of American lives, has deeply affected him. He takes every soldier's life personally. It has left him emotionally drained.

The result is he's taking drinks here and there, likely in private, to cope. "And now with the worst domestic crisis in his administration over Katrina, you pray his drinking doesn't go out of control."

Another source said: "I'm only surprised to hear that he hadn't taken a shot sooner. Before Katrina, he was at his wit's end. I've known him for years. He's been a good ol' Texas boy forever. George had a drinking problem for years that most professionals would say needed therapy. He doesn't believe in it [therapy], he never got it. He drank his way through his youth, through college and well into his thirties. Everyone's drinking around him."

Another source said: "A family member told me they fear George is 'falling apart.' The First Lady has been assigned the job of gatekeeper." Bush's history of drinking dates back to his youth. Speaking of his time as a young man in the National Guard, he has said: "One thing I remember, and I'm most proud of, is my drinking and partying. Those were the days my friends. Those were the good old days!"
Here's the rest you horrible gossip hounds...

Now whether or not you buy this story obviously depends on your feelings about George W. Bush. Consider the source ... this is the Enquirer, after all, although N.E. was the same outfit that broke the Rush Limbaugh drugs story, which turned out to be true. (They bipartisan tabloid also snagged many a Lewinski scoop during the Clinton years).

As to whether the story is plausible, remember this little nugget from the July 28, 2004 edition of Capitol Hill Blue?
Bush Taking Anti-Depressants to Control Mood Swings
... and of course, there's the matter of this pesky 1992 wedding video...

The Enquirer's deputy editor told Ed Schultz' stand-in host (Colorado's Jay Marvin) today that the story was double-sourced, and even said a "major media outlet" was currently working on the same story. Hm...

At the end of the day what's most remarkable here is not the story itself, or the inevitable glee it's producing on the left (or the grumbling on the right) -- it's the fact that just four years ago, this president was so untouchable, even Jay Leno wouldn't make fun of him. He was considered so sacrosanct, Saturday Night Live made jokes about his global badassness (is that a word) but not about him. News anchors led every sentence concerning him with "the extremely popular president..." -- even as his approval rating descended to the mortal 50 percent level. Now, we're back to the George W. Bush of the 2000 campaign -- he's again the butt of drunkard jokes.

This story illustrates just how far off the 9/11 pedestal Mr. Bush has fallen. That first step must have been a doozy.

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posted by JReid @ 7:48 PM  
In like Flynn (except Flynn is a Fascist...)
Democrats.com's Bob Fertik is mad as hell at Russ Feingold:

Feingold Ignores Fascism and Kisses Presidential Hopes Goodbye

Senator Russ Feingold made headlines in August when he became the first 2008 hopeful to call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2006. This won raves from progressive pundits like my friend John Nichols and even a highly-coveted appearance on Meet the Press. And it generated enough buzz in the progressive blogosphere to move Feingold into 2nd place in the dKos Straw Poll (behind Wes Clark and ahead of John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and No Freakin' Clue).

But today, Feingold threw it all away.

Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold On the Nomination of Judge John G. Roberts To be Chief Justice of the United States

September 22, 2005

Mr. Chairman, I will vote in favor of the nomination of Judge John Roberts to be the Chief Justice of the United States. This has not been an easy decision, but I believe it is the correct one. Judge Roberts's impeccable legal credentials, his reputation and record as a fair-minded
person, and his commitment to modesty and respect for precedent have persuaded me that he will not bring an ideological agenda to the position of Chief Justice of the United States and that he should be confirmed.

Impeccable legal credentials - like being a leader of the Federalist Society - and lying about it?

Reputation and record as a fair-minded person - like helping George Bush steal the 2000 election in Florida?

In early 2001, Russ Feingold provided the deciding vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee to confirm John Ashcroft as Attorney General, despite massive opposition from netroots Democrats. Why did Feingold support Ashcroft? Because Ashcroft gave him a ride home from the Capitol one day, and because he promised to nominate Ronnie White for the next Federal judgeship - a promise Ashcroft broke immediately.

I blasted Feingold relentlessly at the time for his vote. Five years later, I was prepared to give him a second look. But not now.

When he cast his deciding vote for Ashcroft, Feingold said "maybe I'm naive." Five years later, nothing has changed. Feingold's vote for Roberts proves his naivete is his fatal incurable character flaw - just like Bush's greed, cowardice, and stupidity.

Senator Feingold, you worse than naive - you are a suicidal idiot. Right in front of your eyes the Federalist Society - led by John Aschroft, John Roberts, and their "modest" cronies - is turning the American judicial system into an instrument of Republican Fascism. Have you read Bush v. Gore, which legalized the theft of the Presidency? Have you read the 4th Circuit's latest ruling in Padilla v. Rumsfeld, which gave the President the unlimited powers of a dictator? When the Busheviks fire up the concentration camp ovens, the Niemoller of our time will write: "First they came for the enemy combatants, but I was not an enemy combatant." And when they come for the Jews - because Fascists always come for the Jews - there will be no one left to speak up for you.

Fascists and Jews? Okay, I know the left doesn't like John Roberts, but is does he really have to be a Fascist? Sigh. Clearly Roberts will be a conservative justice -- probably along the lines of Rehnquist. And if I know my Harvard law grads, he'll be very big business friendly. But nothing in the record that I've seen points to his being some sort of jack booted Nazi. Once again, it goes to far...

The other Dems who embraced the horror were Pat Leahy of Vermont and Herb Kohl, who like Feingold, is from Wisconsin. Not surprisingly, Durbin, Kennedy, Biden (who needed this vote to help his presidential run since he supported the war so vocally), and camera hog Schumer voted no. I have to admit I was surprised by Feinstein, whom I for some reason thought would vote "yes."

Previous Posts:
posted by JReid @ 3:46 PM  
How we lost Iraq...
Overly pessimistic headline? Maybe. Premature? I hope so. But Time magazine details the many political mistakes that got in the U.S. military's way as they tried heroically to salvage the clearly failed neocon project in Iraq. TIME also digs into the question of how Saddam Hussein was able to kick off the insurgency with the help of Islamist jihadis and former members of his military in the long months before his spider hole capture.

Warning to Tommy Franks fans: you won't see him as much of a hero after reading this stuff. A sample:
More than two years into the war, U.S. intelligence sources concede that they still don't know enough about the nearly impenetrable web of what Iraqis call ahl al-thiqa (trust networks), which are at the heart of the insurgency. It's an inchoate movement without a single inspirational leader like Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh--a movement whose primary goal is perhaps even more improbable than the U.S. dream of creating an Iraqi democracy: restoring Sunni control in a country where Sunnis represent just 20% of the population. Intelligence experts can't credibly estimate the rebels' numbers but say most are Iraqis. Foreigners account for perhaps 2% of the suspected guerrillas who have been captured or killed, although they represent the vast majority of suicide bombers. ("They are ordnance," a U.S. intelligence official says.) The level of violence has been growing steadily. There have been roughly 80 attacks a day in recent weeks. Suicide bombs killed more than 200 people, mostly in Baghdad, during four days of carnage last week, among the deadliest since Saddam's fall.

More than a dozen current and former intelligence officers knowledgeable about Iraq spoke with TIME in recent weeks to share details about the conflict. They voiced their growing frustration with a war that they feel was not properly anticipated by the Bush Administration, a war fought with insufficient resources, a war that almost all of them now believe is not winnable militarily. "We're good at fighting armies, but we don't know how to do this," says a recently retired four-star general with Middle East experience. "We don't have enough intelligence analysts working on this problem. The Defense Intelligence Agency [DIA] puts most of its emphasis and its assets on Iran, North Korea and China. The Iraqi insurgency is simply not top priority, and that's a damn shame."

The intelligence officers stressed these points:

* They believe that Saddam's inner circle--especially those from the Military Bureau--initially organized the insurgency's support structure and that networks led by former Saddam associates like al-Ahmed and al-Duri still provide money and logistical help.

* The Bush Administration's fixation on finding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in 2003 diverted precious intelligence resources that could have helped thwart the fledgling insurgency.

* From the beginning of the insurgency, U.S. military officers have tried to contact and negotiate with rebel leaders, including, as a senior Iraq expert puts it, "some of the people with blood on their hands."

* The frequent replacement of U.S. military and administrative teams in Baghdad has made it difficult to develop a counterinsurgency strategy.

The accumulation of blunders has led a Pentagon guerrilla-warfare expert to conclude, "We are repeating every mistake we made in Vietnam."
...Makes you wonder if the neocons did any planning at all, beyond setting up their favorites to take over Iraq and hand over the crude...

Hey, at least we're not the only ones getting a bad rap over there. The Brits apparently have lost the good will of supposedly placid Basra.

Tags: , , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Media, Military.
posted by JReid @ 1:01 PM  
Okay, maybe it was kids...
The updated skinny on the Renee-Chesney marriage that wasn't... and the scoop on who has more dough! Where is Rita Cosby when you really, really need her???

Previous headlines: How Renee got her groove back

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posted by JReid @ 12:58 PM  
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Maybe God is trying to tell you something...
A second killer storm taking aim at the heart of U.S. oil supplies ... gas guzzling Ford SUVs and pickup trucks (including mine) bursting into flames while parked -- the company says it's making hybrids now, thank you ... and a failed oil man in the White House, surrounded by other oil tycoons (Cheney, Rice, et. al.), all while we're drowning in a never-ending insurgency in oil-soaked Iraq. ... Did I mention they've found natural gas in Gaza...?

Tags: , Politics, Energy, gas, Katrina, Iraq, gas prices.
posted by JReid @ 4:00 PM  
Don't mess with the general
I have to admit, I love this guy Lt. Gen. Honore. The Army's definitely going to have to put another star on his lapel once this whole Katrina thing cools down ... In his latest exploits, the new "Ragin Cajun" (sorry James Carville) dresses down a reporter (and the right goes wild...!)

The set up: Honore jumps in as he and Mayor Nagin are being peppered with reporters' questions about the plan to stage Hurricane Rita evacuations from the notorious convention center. The Lt. General just told the reporter that there are enough buses and that they're prepped and ready to go. He wants to talk about the Rita plan, the reporter wants to talk about what went wrong during Katrina. Take it away, reporter (courtesy of RadioBlogger):
Male reporter: General, a little bit more about why that's happening this time, though, and did not have that last time...

Honore: You are stuck on stupid. I'm not going to answer that question. We are going to deal with Rita. This is public information that people are depending on the government to put out. This is the way we've got to do it. So please. I apologize to you, but let's talk about the future. Rita is happening. And right now, we need to get good, clean information out to the people that they can use. And we can have a conversation on the side about the past, in a couple of months....
The Political Teen has the video, in case you just can't resist a glimpse of press chastisement.

Stated for the record, I think that after getting off to an abysmal start in the first 24 hours, in which they portrayed the desperate left-behinds in New Orleans as a band of looting, rampaging savages, the media recovered quickly and have since done an outstanding job of covering Katrina and its aftermath. Once they're common sense and humanity kicked in, in my opinion, thanks in large part to people like Tony Zumbado, the NBC photojournalist who basically broke the convention center horror show, Anderson Cooper at CNN and singer Harry Connick Jr., who acted as a freelance correspondent of sorts for NBC (plus Keith Olbermann, and of course, the heroic Times-Picayune...) they've covered the story fairly and thoroughly.

However... there are times when reporters can be a pain in the neck, asking just the wrong question at just the right time ... although I'll bet they won't do it to Honore again any time soon...

What's interesting is that General Honore has emerged as the one truly iconic figure in the rudderless Katrina response. He has asserted the most visible leadership, and proved to be the most durable, interesting character. Don't think for a moment that both the left and the right aren't trying to figure out what political party he belongs to (the White House is falling all over itself to get Bush next to the guy).

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posted by JReid @ 3:20 PM  
Who will buy this wonderful mourning?
Though they're now openly dissing the White House's free-spending War on Unpopularity, with one exception -- New Hampshire's fiscal conservative dinosaur Sen. Judd Gregg and Michigan congressman Vernon Ehlers -- congressional Republicans, including the media-beloved situational maverick John McCain (whom I'm convinced Chris Matthews is going to get downon one knee and propose to one day) would much rather pay for George W. Bush's "anything it takes" Katrina revival with cuts to the admittedly bloated Medicare prescription drug benefit than consider touching the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. (About $40 billion worth of potential cuts out of $200-$300 billion in Katrina costs alone -- not counting whatever havoc Rita wreaks...) At least that's the talking point that made the media rounds yesterday, dutifully repeated by McCain and other assorted talkers.

The $700 billion scrips bill is a monstrosity (and one the old folks don't even like), and it should be cut back. But that's not all the GOP is looking to do. Tom Delay and Co. say that rather than deprive Donald Trump of his Mar-a-lago mad money or dig into that repulsive transportation bill, they'll be looking at cutting things like food stamps and Section 8 housing -- you know, the kind of crap poor people use... that and borrowing more money from the Chinese. You know, the forced abortion, non-existent justice system Chinese...

Gotta love GOP socioeconomic policy. It's like Dickens is right here in the room with you...

Tags: Politics, Tags: , ,
posted by JReid @ 1:22 AM  
Pill poppin' headlines
... if this doesn't give Bush and Blair a communal headache ... A headline that speaks volumes, from today's Independent UK:

Tags: , Politics, Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Media, Military.
posted by JReid @ 12:42 AM  
Pottygate, Wizbang and the beeb
The BBC ponders the wonders of Pottygate, and the Wizbangers and Jay Tea say "thanks for the plug, mates!" Who says the right can't learn to love the anti-Bush media?

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posted by JReid @ 12:01 AM  
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Learning to love Bill Clinton?
With their own president blowing the federal wad faster than Katrina blew the Pontchatrain levees, is the right becoming smitten with the fiscally conservative, small government former president? OK, no, they're not... they love him when he's defending George W. Bush, not when he's eating the current president's lunch and calling for a repeal of the Bush tax cuts ... But Fox friend Jim Pinkerton at least enjoyed the party during Clinton's Global Initiative confab, and he grudgingly admits it might even do some good...

Tag: ,,
posted by JReid @ 12:29 PM  
When is a deal not quite a deal?
...When it's more like a "wish list..."

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posted by JReid @ 11:08 AM  
The second Black president?
The Katrina disaster put a major crimp in GOP efforts to siphon off Black voters through the conservative, Black mega-churches -- a strategy being worked by everyone from Ken Mehlman to Newt Gingrich, and which has joined the party of Lincoln at the hip with such newfangled Black Bushies as Eugene Rivers (whom I interviewed in 2004 for two Miami Herald columns (this one and this one) on his core issue: poverty, and who talks like a Democrat but supported Bush from the beginning, in 2000 -- arguing that Blacks have to be at the table in order to play the game, and that always supporting Democrats was a ticket to irrelevancy...) and Dallas mega-church minister (and Tom Joyner ally) T.D. Jakes.

After the disaster, and all those televised images of abandoned African-Americans struggling to survive in New Orleans, not to mention Kanye West's blunt assessment of the president's attitude toward Black people, it was hard to see how the president's people would put that particular egg back together again.

But the GOP isn't giving up. I argued with the Wizbangers and other conservatives who said that the Katrina cleanup could create a whole new generation of Black Republicans -- angry at their Democratic mayor and governor and beholden to the federal big daddy handing out the checks. I now think they may be on to something, particularly with people like Rivers and Jakes insisting on hanging on to Bush's skirts despite the deep skepticism of many in their flock. (Why shouldn't they hang on? There's faith based money in those skirts...)

The L.A. Times today does a thorough run-down of the risks, and the rewards, these Black clergy face in hitching their wagons to the GOP in the aftermath of Katrina. One thing seems to be clear: the disaster has dragged George W. Bush to the left, all the way to Lyndon Johnson, "war on poverty", "spend it all and pay for it later" territory (where he believes his political hide can best be saved), with all that means for our beleaguered budget and towering deficit.

Bush's WOP will be debt financed, accompanied by few, if any, spending cuts (Tom Delay says there's "no fat" in the budget -- not even in that greasy, bloated transportation bill...) and it will involve ladling out massive wads of cash to -- surprise! -- the mega-churches, and Black pastors are lining up at the troth. The up-side for the GOP is the ability to grow its base the easy way: by giving African-Americans precisely what conservatives have long argued they don't need: government handouts that increase dependency on the state and make Blacks beholden to the federal government. But since "beholden" can translate directly into "loyal" at election time, it's crystal clear why the Karl Rovian set would favor this once-Democratic solution to a political crisis.

The real irony here, of course, is that it will be left to the new party of fiscal conservatism -- the Democrats -- to argue to their own base that this government spending push, sifted as it will be through the "conservative" experiment junkies who will now get the chance to test their school voucher, private sector tax credit, faith based solution think-tankery on millions of Southern Blacks, is bad both for Black America and for America writ large. Bill Clinton took the lead in making that case on Sunday. Let's see how many in his party follow.

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posted by JReid @ 10:41 AM  
Mambo number five
President Bush will head back to the Gulf region for a fifth trip he surely hopes will be the charm... I wonder if he'll have any cash in his pockets -- the better to cut through the "red tape" and get that "whatever it takes" money we're going to be borrowing from China flowing ...

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posted by JReid @ 9:28 AM  
Monday, September 19, 2005
A cautionary tale for hip-hop
A friend emailed me this extraordinary article by David Sylvester, a personal trainer from Philly who recently completed a bike ride across the African continent. One of the disturbing things he encountered on his trip, recounted on the Contribute2.org web-site and in this story for the Washington Informer, is the proliferation of the word "nigger" among Africans, mainly to describe African-Americans and other foreign blacks, but also to describe themselves in the context of hip-hop culture.

The gist of Sylvester's piece is that while on his bike trip, he encoutered a hip hop clothing and accessories store in Malawi that happened to be called "Niggers". No, this isn't a joke, that was the name of the store. Read the Informer article here.

I've also long been disturbed by the predominent public use of the word "nigger" by Black entertainers from comedy to music, mainly because of the prospect of white and other audiences repeating the term, because they think they can. How many times have I ridden the subway in New York and heard a group of Hispanic "hip hop kids" throwing the word around blythely, to describe "this nigga" who did this or "that nigga who did that..." and wanted to flatten all of them? And how many white audiences have stood in the front row at a Jay Z concert and sung along to all the lyrics, only to come to a screeching halt at the line "and you who rollin' with, huh? My n.... ahem..."

It's incongruous to say the least. Most Black people would kick the ass of any White person who called us a nigger to our face. But we throw the word around so often with each other and in our entertainment culture, how does your average White kid, for instance, figure out that there's anything wrong with it? Hell, you can't rent a Chris Tucker movie or watch "Chappelle's Show" without hearing it, although in the latter example, it's usually used with a heavy dose of comedic irony. And now, it seems, we're infecting Africa with the nigga virus.

What a shame... I wonder if White people have the same problem with the term "redneck"... think there are any European rock 'n roll kids trailer park punking each other on the tube...?
posted by JReid @ 3:08 PM  
The good, the bad and the ugly
This has been a bad op-ed day for the president ... Robert Reich attempts to explain why the Bush administration is so gifted at politics, yet so sucky at governing...

With politics, the Bush administration has shown remarkable discipline -- squelching leaks and keeping Cabinet members on message, reaching down into the bureaucracy to bend analyses in directions that supports what it wants to do, imposing its will on congressional leaders and even making a political imprint on state legislatures. No recent president has got re-elected with controlling majorities in both houses of Congress, or been as successful in repositioning the national debate around his ideological view of the world.

With governing, it's been almost criminally incompetent -- failing to act on clear predictions of a terrorist attack like 9/11 or a natural disaster like Katrina, botching intelligence over Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction, failing to secure order after invading Iraq, allowing prisoners of war to be tortured, losing complete control over the federal budget, creating a bizarre Medicare drug benefit from which the elderly are now fleeing, barely responding to the wave of corporate lootings and running the Federal Emergency Management Agency into the ground. Not since the hapless administration of Warren G. Harding has there been one as stunningly inept as this one...
As for the why, Reich sums it up in two-wrods: "yes men..." (other substitutes: "cronies", "hacks," "useless advance men...") -- this White House is chock full of them, and anyone in government who isn't one is afraid to speak to truth to the president or his yes-man cabinet, for fear of losing their job. So Bush gets unanimity and streamlined messaging that's great for his political movement, and for prepping the Freeper chorus, but he doesn't get the kind of critical information needed to govern well.

Sounds simple enough.

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posted by JReid @ 11:59 AM  
Buchanan: Bush is toast ... no he's not ... OK yes he is...
Someone please ask the president to stop giving Pat Buchanan whiplash. The guy can't seem to decide if Bush is at the height of his power or the "nadir of his presidency..." either way, Buchanan makes one thing clear ... okay, two: Iraq and the borders are albatrosses around Dubya's neck.

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posted by JReid @ 10:11 AM  
Mallaby has no such angst...
...He gives it to the president straight, with no Buchananesque "I still want to like Dubya" equivocation:
It's hard to say what's worse: The incompetence of the administration's initial hurricane response or the cowardice of its follow-up. Faced with a small hit to his ratings, the president who once boasted of ignoring polls is rushing to spend billions of other people's dollars on saving his political skin. His philosophy is, "It's going to cost whatever it costs." That phrase should be the title of some future history of the Bush era.

The worst part is, President Bush doesn't even think his splurge will be effective. If he really believed that government could overcome racial inequality by targeting subsidies at minority businesses, he should have rolled out a national program long ago. But he doesn't believe anything of the kind. His promises of racial healing are entirely cynical.

What Bush really believes is that government is ineffective. Or at least that's what he says he believes: Late last week he declared that his (self-) reconstruction program should be financed by cuts in other government spending rather than by tax increases, so as to "maintain economic growth and vitality." In other words, government spending is bad because it's inefficient and wasteful. Leaving money in private hands is intrinsically superior. If Bush believes that, why does he think that government should build whole shantytowns of provisional housing? Why doesn't he believe in the private rental market of the South, which is offering 1.1 million units of vacant property?

Early on after the catastrophe, Small Government Bush suspended a law that props up construction wages paid by federal contractors, with the result that workers in the disaster zone will have less disposable income but government will save money.

One week later, after the panic had set in, Reconstruction Bush was yammering about $5,000 worker recovery accounts, which would come on top of the free government homes and sundry other benefits that the administration is also promising.

If Bush used this moment as he used the aftermath of Sept. 11, some of this spending could be forgiven. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon exposed the nation's complacency about terrorism; Bush stepped forward and changed that. In a similar way, Hurricane Katrina exposed the complacency of our business-as-usual attitude toward domestic government. Bush has barely noticed.
Ouch...

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posted by JReid @ 10:10 AM  
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Just keep spinning...
They never quit, do they? A Mississippi newspaper unearthed an enternal Justice Department email indicating the Bush administration's latest blame-shifting tactic: pinning the Katrina disaster on enviornmentalists. Funny, I think I've heard that talking point somewhere...

Meanwhile, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has done an extensive report on FEMA's legacy of waste and mismanagement under the current administration. Not the least of the problems: the agency had no trouble ladling out money to politically important Miami after four hurricanes devastated Florida ahead of the 2004 election... (you may have to register, but it's worth it for the full report plus pictures...)

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posted by JReid @ 12:54 AM  
Sunday best: Message -- I care
Frank Rich dissolves the Bush Great New Orleans Society plan in hot, boiling New York Timesian acid. Just a taste:
The worst storm in our history proved perfect for exposing this president because in one big blast it illuminated all his failings: the rampant cronyism, the empty sloganeering of "compassionate conservatism," the lack of concern for the "underprivileged" his mother condescended to at the Astrodome, the reckless lack of planning for all government operations except tax cuts, the use of spin and photo-ops to camouflage failure and to substitute for action.

Please chase with copious amounts of cool water...

Not that MoDo was any nicer yesterday. She even dissed the president's pretty, blue Disney speech backdrop and careful stagecraft:
As Elisabeth Bumiller, the White House reporter for The Times, noted in a pool report, the image wizards had put up a large swath of military camouflage netting, held in place by bags of rocks and strung on poles, to hide the president from the deserted and desolate streets of the French Quarter ghost town.


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posted by JReid @ 12:16 AM  
Sleepwalking toward apartheid?
The Times of London has the pointed question Britain is asking itself, with dismaying references to New Orleans, which apparently now has become a global metaphor for urban socioeconomic disparities, particularly those between black and white.

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posted by JReid @ 12:10 AM  
Britain's Vietnam, and it's Dubya...
Key para from the Sunday Telegraph report on Britain scrapping its "secret plan" to withdraw its troops from Iraq by next spring:
One serving brigadier, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the danger of Britain becoming bogged down in its own "Vietnam war" was getting stronger every day. "The return of the 7th Armoured Brigade to Iraq is a significant benchmark," he said.

"There is a real head-in-the-sand mentality as to how we're going to extricate ourselves from this mess. There is no endgame to the problems in Iraq."
This comes as we start to learn that Tony Blair appears to be a lot more like George W. Bush in terms of temperament than many of us wanted to believe, including, apparently, a rather juvenile glee at his "first blooding" in sending British troops into harm's way in Iraq and, according to a leaked diary, a supremely close relationship to right wing TV magnate Rupert Murdoch, to whom he reportedly handed effective veto power over Britain's EU strategy.

Pretty shocking and disappointing to those of us who disagreed with Blair on Iraq and felt he should have lost his prime ministership over the lies he promulgated on that score, but essentially respected his basic principles. Now I'm wondering if Blair is just another focus grouped, image crafted Bush clone, sewn at the pockets to the right wingers in his midst, blazing to invade Iraq but with no earthly idea of what to do afterward, and entirely a scripted creation of his political advisors.

If true, that would be a shame...

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posted by JReid @ 12:06 AM  
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Clinton's smaller, faster United Nations
This paragraph in the Sunday New York Times piece on the Clinton Global Initiative says it all:
Richard Holbrooke, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during Clinton's administration, said the hectic, informal style of the conference contributed to its success.

"The controlled chaos is one way to get creativity. The intensity of it, the physical rush, the intimacy created the kind of dialogue that leads to synergy,'' Holbrooke said. "The U.N. by contrast is sterile, overly concerned with protocol, overly formal, filled with set-piece speeches. This is what the U.N. in theory is supposed to be but can't."
Here's the another piece from Saturday that runs down some of the star-studded attendee list. I watched the Christiane Amanpour-led panel this evening on CNN, with Clinton, Paul Wolfowitz (surprisingly uncreepy that night), Bono, Wangari Maathai, the African woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year and others. Clinton's idea is breathtakingly simple: bring together leaders in politics, business and industry, and aid groups in one semi-formal setting. Secure commitments for specific action, not talk, and then get the checks written and the projects done. It's like the U.N., only it actually helps people...

The Clinton confab secured $1.25 billion in commitments for aid projects directed at reversing extreme poverty around the globe (and yes, Katrina and the plight of 37 million Americans living in poverty came up, a lot...)

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posted by JReid @ 11:24 PM  
The future of the fam?
Another day, another Bush kid in the pokey...

Update: The Smoking Gun has the particulars, including the public nekkedness...

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posted by JReid @ 11:01 PM  
News you can use
Here's a bit of good news for Louisiana or Mississippi college students displaced by Katrina, which was emailed to me by a colleague this weekend:
Any college student displaced from Hurricane Katrina wishing to continue their education may attend Georgia State University for a maximum of $100.00. This price includes all mandatory fees, late fees and Tuition! This is only the second week of school, so you haven't missed much. This offer is for fall semester only. If you want to get into school right away call:

DeAnna Hines
Assistant Vice President for University Relations
Georgia State University
404-651-3025

or Report to: The Office of Admissions Sparks Hall 200 Located at the corner of Gilmer and Courtland Streets.

Please pass on to any students you know who might be in need
posted by JReid @ 10:21 PM  
Friday, September 16, 2005
The McCain conundrum
The polls won't let it go: the fantasy horse raise between John McCain and Hillary Clinton (and in fantasyland, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary) is in full swing. And I think it's safe to say the Democratic Party hopes it's all just wild speculation that either will run for president in 2008.

The biggest problem that John McCain would pose for the Democratic Party in '08 is his basic lack of overt objectionability (he and Hillary even seem to like each other). I'm no McCainiac, and have lost tremendous respect for him over the years for his insistence on publicly sucking up to George W. Bush (including all the hugging... blech...) but I have to admit that had he been the nominee in 2000 instead of the current president, I might have been tempted for the first time in my life, to cross party lines and vote for him. If he runs in 2008, I suspect he'll have a good shot at pulling in some moderate Democrats, and a very good shot at winning over many independents. That would certainly offset the likelihood that the extreme religious right wouldn't be with him (they hate him, he hates them) and would make him competitive even if Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity couldn't bring themselves to strap on the presidential knee pads and give McCain the full Monica they've been giving George W. Bush for five years.

That said, McCain would have to get through a primary where Freepers count because turnout counts, and it remains to be seen whether the Black and White megachurches would line up behind him (even though he is pro-life), and whether the righties, like Limbaugh and Falwell, who dislike him, would fall in line (perhaps via a deal cut between McCain and the current president, assuming Dick Cheney doesn't strap on his heart juicer and run himself...). And that would take a considerable amount of pride-swallowing (which, actually, Rush might be quite good at by now...)

McCain would have one other big problem: his unswerving support for Bush's policy in Iraq, which turns off Democrats and authentic conservatives (meaning non-neoconservatives and Bush cultists) allike. Sure, Hillary basically backs the war, too, but she does so with consistent objections and an obvious desire to change course. McCain, for some ungodly reason given his combat experience, absolutely tows the Bush/neoconservative line, and would have a hard time convincing me, at least, that he would do a single thing differently in Iraq as president.

That alone might be enough to push the American people into Hillary's arms.

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posted by JReid @ 12:17 PM  
Bush in one sentence, take two
Slate's John Dickerson does a good one-sentence summation of Bush's speech last night:
Katrina allows the president to cut away from all the other miserable news and do one of the things he does best: spend money.
Nice, but I still like mine better...

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posted by JReid @ 12:07 PM  
Iranscam
While Iran is busy offering its nuclear expertise to its neighbors, in contravention of America's vain attempts to reign in their ambitions, there's a wee little scandal brewing involving our favorite oil company, Halliburton. The Post's blog reports:

Halliburton's Man in Iran

As the United States and Iran clash over the nuclear issue at the United Nations summit, the Islamic republic is pursuing a corruption investigation against a former top official on its nuclear negotiating team for his ties to Halliburton, the oil services giant once run by Vice President Cheney.

Cyrus Nasseri, senior Iranian representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is refusing to return home from Vienna because of his alleged involvement in an oil corruption case, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The complex story of Halliburton in the "Axis of Evil," which I reported in February, just keeps getting more interesting.

Nasseri, according to reports in the British and Iranian online media, wore two hats. Besides advocating Iran’s right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program, he also served as a board member of a company called Oriental Kish. In January, the firm won a big contract to develop a huge Iranian natural gas field. Oriental Kish, in turn, subcontracted parts of the project to Halliburton Products and Services, a subsidiary registered in the Cayman Islands with offices in Dubai.

Of course, this should be front-page news at the Post -- a company with ongoing ties to a sitting vice president, who has been accused in the past of flirting perilously with our enemies in Tehran as president of Halliburton (including when the company defied U.S. law and continued to do oil business with Iran throughout the 1990s) continuing to try and profit from a nuclear program that the U.S. is officially trying to halt. Halliburton is already tied to accounting scandals, no-bid contracts and kickbacks in its contracts in Iraq and now the Gulf of Mexico, mismanagement and possible fraud in Iraq, trading with enemies of the United States including Libya, Iran and Saddam-era Iraq, and more.

As for Cheney, his office recently placed repeated calls to the Mississippi electrical utility, demanding that they reroute crews from restoring power to homes and hospitals, so that they could restore power to an oil pipeline running up the Eastern Seaboard, according to NBC News and the Hattiesburg American newspaper.

You've got to wonder what this administration is thinking, flaunting its oil ties at a time when oil prices seem absolutely out of control (including out of their control), and while the majority Americans view the oil and gas industry with such suspicion.

As for Halliburton's man in Iran, let's hope the investigation forces the Wash Post to put the story on the front page, rather than just in the blog...

Tags: Bush, Politics, , Iraq, News, Dick Cheney,,
posted by JReid @ 11:37 AM  
How Renee got her groove back
Whatever could Ms. Zellweger mean by "fraud...?"

Update: Renee says she wants to experience the post-Chesney "transition" in private... as for the "fraud":
The term was "simply legal language and not a refection of Kenny's character," Zellweger said in a statement Friday.

"I would personally be very grateful for your support in refraining from drawing derogatory, hurtful, sensationalized or untrue conclusions," she said. "We hope to experience this transition as privately as possible."
Do they have an ex-beard's club in L.A.? Between Renee, Terry McMillan and pretty much everybody who's been married to Tom Cruise, I think a support group is in order...


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posted by JReid @ 10:50 AM  
Hollywood confidential...Whazzupwitu?
Kenny's not the only one causing whispers. This email has been making the rounds, too:

Rumors Are Circulating

Rumors are circulating throughout Hollywood about the Eddie divorce battle, I was talking to a industry friend last nite, she said, Nicole got sick of putting up with him and Johnny Gill. People had warned her yrs ago about the down low rumors, she chose not to believe it until she witnessed it, Eddie had got to the point where he didn’t care, he often told her, he was the breadwinner and at least he wasn’t cheating with women.

He became so brazen, Johnny came over to their house every holiday, sitting at the table with Nicole and the kids.

Tevin Campbell and Sugar Ray are also heavily involved in this scenario, they tried to recruit Mike Tyson (when he had money) but it wasn’t his scene.

Johnny is pathetic, he is with all these men and doesn’t benefit. Before he reunited with New Edition, he was so broke, he lived in Sugar Ray's guest house and I heard his wife wasn’t too happy about it.

They also stated that the following gentlemen are involved in their circle of DL brothers: Arsenio Hall, football player johnnie morton, Benny Medina, Will Smith, Duane Martin, they tried to get mike tyson involved but he didn't want to get involved (I don't know why) they said that the reason his wife stayed knocked up is so she wouldn't be suspicious of his extra activities.
But as we know, that certain transsexual prostitute was just someone Eddie was giving a ride home... and that video with Michael Jackson in the 1980s in which Jacko came off looking the more masculine? Who can explain... Still,
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posted by JReid @ 10:00 AM  
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Sorry Black people... want some cash?
Taking the Wizbang challenge to summarize the Bush speech in one sentence. Whew -- I feel better already...

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posted by JReid @ 10:45 PM  
It's official: George W. Bush is no conservative
E.J. Dionne said it best in the pre-speech analysis and in his WaPo column: the George W. Bush era is over... And another thing: that guy in the White House is no conservative. He's not exactly liberal either ... frankly, I'm not sure he knows who he is anymore...

The president just gave a speech (full text here) that should have astounded anyone who calls themself a conservative. Put aside the dry, pedestrian tone and utterly unmemorable language. Ignore the fact that the blueish lighting of the church in the backdrop exctly matched the president's shirt, giving him the eerie look of a ghostly floating head (Wizbang has an even bettter picture...) Even ignore the stunning announcement that four years after 9/11, the president has now instructed his cabinet to conduct a fullsome review of the disaster plans for all 50 states. Even ignore the laughable claim that the power is back on in most of Mississippi, and all the happy metrics about the "progress" being made on the ground (if you've spoken to anyone still in the region lately, you know that that's not true, and it sure reminded me of his many Iraq addresses...) The really astounding thing about Bush's two-week late New Orleans speech was the laundry list of promises, and the astounding sum we're all going to pay for them (not to mention the fact that he didn't explain where we're going to get the money.)

Defying anyone to continue calling him a conservative after tonight, Bush promised a thoroughly federal response to the Katrina crisis, complete with some $200 billion in big government spending. In an interesting twist, he essentially proposed to turn over that cash to state and local officials to spend as they wish, beneath the moonlight glow of some sort of accountability commission... (feel free to laugh, it really is pretty funny.) He lifted Bill Clinton's enterprise zones and renamed them opportunity zones. He promised homesteading opportunities and special mortgages and rebuilding projects and more. And while he threw his base a few bones about entrepreneurship and tax credits, even the analysts at Fox said he sounded more like LBJ than Ronald Reagan.

In a move that seemed to please most of the Black talking heads who analyzed the speech on cable TV, not to mention that group of brand spanking new Black Republicans sitting in the Astrodome parking lot and acting as the Karl Rove talking point-mouthing post-speech panel for ABC News, Bush said that most of the poor in three of the poorest states in the union were in that condition because of historic racism, something that spun Tucker Carlson's mussy-topped head all the way around. And while I stipulate that I agree that racism plays a part in the miserable condition of African-Americans in the impoverished states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and in other parts of the U.S., I think most people nowadays understand that it's much, much more complicated than that. Most astoundingly, rather than just empathize and promise to inspire the nation to do better, Mr. Bush promised that his administration would reach into the federal tiller and spend it all better. Proving he's listening to his friend T.D. Jakes about how to win back angry African-Americans, he used the words "minority owned businesses" twice. (Interestingly, he failed to mention that he put Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove in charge of the rebuilding effort...)

What Bush has really done tonight is take FDR and marry him to William Howard Taft (does that count as a gay marriage...?) He's going to throw fistfulls of federal cash at the Gulf region, most of it in the general direction of New Orleans, in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding in his poll numbers. And then, as we've already seen, he's going to let his cronies in the major reconstruction, development and energy industries belly up to the bar, soak up all the pork-flavored greenbacks, welcome the evacuees home with rebuilding jobs at below-standard wages (if they can wrestle the jobs out of the hands of undocumented workers from Mexico, for whom the president has waived the normal hiring penalties in the Gulf), and then take a big, fat tax cut for their trouble. Oh, and he's going to convene about a dozen commissions and governmental self-investigations...

As for reactions, most of the analysts, including the two I respect most, Douglas Brinkley and David Gergen, found it too tepid and too late. MSNBC/Newsweek "Bushologist" Howard Fineman also thought it flat and uninspired. Poor Joe Scarborough couldn't believe that the same government who couldn't deliver water to the abandoned city of New Orelans is promising to blow the whole federal wad on whatever and whoever might have even the faintest desire to chip in to rebuild. Rita Cosby interviewed a local New Orleans contractor after the speech who said that of the millions of dollars soaking his city, local businesses have gotten only crumbs. Keith Olbermann reported before the address on the president's Pascagoula, Mississippi visit earlier in the day, during which he dropped in for his photo op at the local Chevron refinery. My in-house analyst, Mr. Reid, called Bush a "no tax and spend president."

And then there was the speech itself: a laundry list of phone nubers, web-sites and federally-funded pork as far as the eye can see -- he could just as soon have had an aide put the list up on the White House web-site. What America needed tonight was a truly presidential address: an eloquent statement of humility and humanity; a call for the nation to find its voice and pull out its tools and come up with solid ideas and out of the box solutions to revive the Gulf region, with the help of the federal government, but not just via an open checkbook. What the country did not need was a blanket promise to paper over everything that went wrong in the Gulf with mountains of unrestrained taxpayer cash.

...unless, of course, the president is willing to trim back some of his other big-money initiatives, like, say, that little project in Iraq...

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posted by JReid @ 9:43 PM  
On another note...
The Independent parses the big Hitchens vs. Galloway debate, otherwise known as Tipsy vs. Topsy, LIVE!
posted by JReid @ 9:08 PM  
Comedic irony, from George W. Bush
Opening paragraph from the top story in today's Washington Times:
NEW YORK -- President Bush yesterday implored the United Nations to rid itself of corruption and scolded the global body for squandering the world's respect and making a mockery of human rights.
Kettle, meet Iraq, Katrina and Abu Ghraib... and what's with this picture? The president looks like he's being sent to the principal's office...

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posted by JReid @ 12:43 PM  
What did you elect him for, again?
Media Matters points out the obious question (but apparently not obvious enough to be a major media story): Four years after 9/11, are we ready for a major terror attack, let alone another natural disaster? And if we're not, then name one good reason for reelecting George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who ran for reelection on the issue of national security...

From the president's press availability (at which he secured the reversal of our boy in Baghdad, the supposed president of an independent Iraq, Jalal Talibani, on the issue of U.S. troops on our ... er ... their ... soil):

REPORTER: Mr. President, given what happened with Katrina, shouldn't Americans be concerned if their government isn't prepared to respond to another disaster or even a terrorist attack?"

BUSH: Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility. I want to know what went right and what went wrong. I want to know how to better cooperate with state and local government, to be able to answer that very question that you asked: Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm? And that's a very important question. And it's in our national interest that we find out exactly what went on and -- so that we can better respond.
By the way, Media Matters has been all over the "2,000 unused buses" canard being thrown around both by the right and by "responsible" journalists like George Stephanopoulos and Wolf Blitzer...

Tags: , Politics, Katrina, News, hurricane, Government, ,
posted by JReid @ 12:35 PM  
Vatican sexquisition?
...oh, Andrew Sullivan is not going to like this...
posted by JReid @ 12:15 PM  
Baby makes three (not counting the ones out of wedlock)
It's all over but the divorce, the ring repo and the lawsuit over failed child support payments...

Shar Jackson, your kids are now officially in competition for the vast Federline estate.

Update: BTW the bouncing baby boy is named Preston Michael Spears Federline -- yes, that's PMS Federline, to you. He ws delivered by c-section, apparently because the Britwit hates pain. Perhaps now she'll have more empathy for those who have been forced by their daughters to listen to her warbling over disco tracks while driving to Target ...

Tags:
, kevin federline, Britney, Celebrities, Celebrity, music.
posted by JReid @ 11:53 AM  
Roberts for the Court
Let's be frank: the closest John G. Roberts probably has ever gotten to a person without means is sending the maid out to deliver special pruning requests to the gardener. And when Sen. Chuck Schumer pointed out the pros and cons of Roberts' nomination as Chief Justice, with the cons being the Bush administration's refusal to provide certain documents from Roberts' tenure as deputy solicitor general during the Reagan administration (something Schumer properly said is obviously beyond Roberts' control), his reticence in answering specific questions posed by the Democrats on the committee, and his seeming lack of overt compassion for those less fortunate and who thus require the special protection of the law, Roberts didn't even pretend to answer number three. At least he isn't phony.

Roberts did make one point that's sure to aggravate the right: He said plainly that he is no ideologue, and that an ideologue would not be the kind of person we want on the nation's highest court. And the "pros" of his nomination: his clear intelligence (Schumer said he just might be the most brilliant mind to come before the committee in a long, long time -- a clear dis to the most recent nominees, including the qualification- and behavior-challenged Clarence Thomas), his expansive knowledge of, and respect for, the law, and his moderate-seeming temperament, to my ears seem significant enough to make his nomination all-but a sure thing.

He may not be the kind of guy who'd put a dollar in your tin cup if you were on the street, but I just can't see anything obvious about the guy that would merit turning him down. Roberts clearly has the knowledge and the temperament to be on the court. He's conservative for sure, but he's no raging Freeper. (And he's a Harvard man and not a Yale man, so I have a special bias there...) If in some alternate reality I was a member of the Senate, I'd vote for him and sleep like a baby that night.

Prediction: Roberts will pass the committee and then he'll sail through the Senate with around 72 votes, including Hillary's. (Schumer and Biden will probably vote no, particularly since Biden is running for president and could use the lefty street cred.) Either way, his nomination is probably bad news for Michael Newdow and for federal gay marriage proponents, but I don't think women need to start preparing their passports for an imminent evacuation of the United States any time soon ...

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posted by JReid @ 10:59 AM  
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Deep thoughts, from President Bush

At the United Nations World Summit, President Bush pens the potty note heard 'round the world. Courtesy of the red, white and Reuters. (In case your eyes are like mine, the note scribbled on scrap paper and directed to presidential gal pal Condi Rice, says "I think I may need a bathroom break." -- Indeed.)
posted by JReid @ 7:44 PM  
Next, fire Chertoff
If the house cleaning truly has begun in the Bush administration's emergency response division, which frankly, I doubt, the next man to step down ought to be the attorney presently in charge of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff (which had the responsibility for supervising the former roommate-in-chief, Mike Brown). A major scoop by a trio of Knight Ridder reporters shows why.
posted by JReid @ 4:56 PM  
Mea sorta culpa
I haven't been blogging much over the last couple of days because I've been pitching in with a project to raise money and awareness for Moss Point and other hard-hit areas of Mississippi, which were decimated by Katrina but which live in the shadow of New Orleans. So I'm only belatedly getting a chance to process President Bush's supposed "mea culpa" for the federal government's serial failures after the storm (of course, he tossed in mea's for the state and local failures, too...)

To be sure, the move to admit that things might not have gone all that well, and that if they didn't, he takes responsibility, is remarkable for this president and this administration. Still, before the press and the president's supporters blow a gasket proclaiming what a revelation Bush's admission was, it's important to note exactly what the president said:
"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."

... Not exactly "the buck stops here."

To be fair, there's probably little that this president could say or do at this stage that would cause me or others on my side of the divide to change my mind and feel positively about him. But he could regain some of his standing with the nation if he were to take a page from his old nemesis Richard Clarke. He still has time, in the few hours before his address to the nation tonight, to order his simpering, nervous-nelly aides to junk the chest thumping, all is well speech he probably has planned, and say something like this:

"To the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, but especially to those in New Orleans: your government failed you. I failed you. And for that, I humbly ask for your forgiveness."

That, at least, I would respect.
posted by JReid @ 3:02 PM  
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Super? Maybe not so much
From WaPo:
Katrina's racial dimension, discussed earlier today, isn't the only theme in the global reaction to America's natural disaster. There's also a muted sense of satisfaction.

For some, Katrina provides occasion to boast. In impoverished, monsoon-prone Bangladesh, Asma Akhter brags that, when it comes to flood recovery, "We have a better record than the Americans."

For others, it is time to remind Americans they are not invincible. In El Salvador’s La Prensa Grafica, a conservative and pro-American newspaper, TV newsman Jorge Ramos Ávalos, observes (in Spanish) that since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 Americans have believed that they can do anything they put their minds to. “With Katrina,” he concludes, “came the day when America couldn’t.”

And still others admit that Katrina has generated some schadenfreude, a German word for taking pleasure in the suffering of others. Liberal Britons, quick to give to tsunami victims or starving Africans, balk at Katrina contributions, writes Julian Baggini in a piece published both in South Africa and Britain. “We don’t want to plug the gaping hole created by inegalitarian American social policy because we want to expose it for what it is, and shatter the US’s self-image as the most fair and free country in the world,” he says.

For a world that often hears about “the only superpower,” there seems to be a measure of pleasure in noting that its powers are not always so super.

Pay special attention to the comments below the post. They're illuminating...
posted by JReid @ 7:45 PM  
Punch, and punch again
Over at the LA Times, Robert Scheer says the president is finally fooling none of the people (all of the time) ... while Margaret Carlson asks: Noblesse oblige? Not our president
posted by JReid @ 6:18 PM  
Remember the Alamo
President George W. Bush poses with Mexican
Marines (L) and U.S. Navy Seabees (R) who are
helping to rebuild an elementary school in Gulfport,
Mississippi, September 12, 2005. Reuters.

Oh, the Freepers and Pat Buchanan are going to have a hell of a time with this one...

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posted by JReid @ 3:26 AM  
The Great Clintonspiracy
Drudge and the Freepers smell a White House drape-measuring rat in Bill Clinton's Global Initiative (organization link here, invite here), and NewsMax is beside itself -- which probably means Clinton's confab is a damned good idea.

,
posted by JReid @ 3:15 AM  
Being Geraldo means never having to say 'I'm hurting'
Could it be that the NYT's Geraldo Katrina rescue/showboat story was wrong? Geraldo says "hell yes," and he's calling the reporter who wrote it "Jayson Blair in a cocktail dress." Top that, Anderson Cooper.

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posted by JReid @ 3:09 AM  
Who will rebuild New Orleans?
One of my biggest fears in this Katrina disaster is that the new "Great Migration" would mean a permanent washing away -- a "cleansing" of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities of their poorest residents, so that luxury hotels and condos could take their place (as a new friend from Mississippi, who lost everything in Katrina, told me, "walk a few blocks from Canal Street, and you're in the hood. Walk a few blocks from the French Quarter, and you're in the hood....")

My hope has been that many New Orleans (and other cities') evacuees will want to go home and rebuild their city and their lives (although who could blame those who just want to start over somewhere new, where they're not in the projects, living literally at the bottom of the bowl.) What seems most likely is that the big contractors will rush in, followed right behind by the cheap foreign laborers the president is pushing though his guest worker program (and maybe some of those Mexican troops, who knows... that's a joke...) The city would be rebuilt, corporate style (think loud, gaudy Times Square today), and lose much of what made it New Orelans.

But today there's this glimmer of hope from the indispensible Times-Picayune:
Officials with Louisiana’s community and technical colleges have announced an aggressive program to get job training to individuals displaced and unemployed due to Hurricane Katrina so that they can take advantage of upcoming rebuilding efforts in the New Orleans area.

Within the next week, individuals located in shelters across the state will be able to take advantage of free, on-site job training in fields such as carpentry, plumbing and hazardous waste removal. Those trades, and a host of others, are expected to see employment booms once the rebuilding of the New Orleans area begins, said Jim Henderson, the senior vice-president of workforce development and training for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

Henderson said the officials with the state’s technical and community colleges have already been assessing the job training and educational levels of individuals located in state shelters in preparation for the new educational program. The state is now attempting to either enroll those individuals in existing facilities in their areas, or create new facilities at or near shelters, Henderson said. Training facilities may be established at the Avondale shipyard, mobile computer labs and adult education centers, he said.
Translation: don't send in the cheap labor from Mexico, Mr. President. Let New Orleansians rebuild New Orleans. Let's just hope that city and state officials fight for fair wages, despite the president and the Washington GOP's wage-crushing presidential directive suspending Davis-Bacon. And of course, we know that cronyism is far from dead in the disaster zone. Otherwise, why would the folks at Halliburton be smiling?

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posted by JReid @ 2:43 AM  
News just got sexy again
Controversial former NBC and CNN correspondent Kevin Sites is back, and blogging the world's hot-spots for Yahoo! News. (Guardian version)
posted by JReid @ 2:36 AM  
Monday, September 12, 2005
Brownie, you're doing one heck of a ... doh!
Brown resigns ... apparently without a courtesy call to the president (whose feel-good visit to the Gulf he stepped on, yet again...)
posted by JReid @ 4:12 PM  
A Googlespiracy?
Are the good folks at Google conspiring to embarrass the president? An email I received this morning prompted an investigation ...

The email admonished me to type the word "failure" into the search box at Google and see what comes up. This is what did. Tin foil hatters on the right: it's your move...

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posted by JReid @ 1:22 PM  
Your money or your life
... David Broder (probably without intending to) makes a pretty good case that you can't trust today's Republican Party with either one... Michael Moore makes it more directly...
posted by JReid @ 1:14 PM  
Did I hear what I think I heard?
Did President Bush in his New Orleans presser today say that he anticipated the storm in his speech on Monday (August 29th)? By Monday, Hurricane Katrina had made its second and third landfalls in Louisiana... and even after that, Bush continued with his schedule of birthday photo ops and speeches. That's hardly precient anticipation... Let's see if anyone in the MSM calls him on this one...

Update: The transcript of Bush's photo-op in New Orleans this morning is in, and it includes what most of the blogosphere is harping on (Bush's completely unsurprising -- and thus in my opinion, only glancingly newsworthy -- denial of the racial tinge to the botched rescue effort. But it also includes the following exchange: Bush again citing the GOP talking point about supposed headlines, relied upon by the administration, saying New Orleans had supposedly "dodged a bullet" (the same excuse used by FEMA chief Brown, Joint Chiefs chairman Richard Myers and HSA chief Chertoff for not acting sooner) and the above-mentioned post-hurricane hurricane anticipation by the prez. To date, no such "bullet dodging" news report has been found... Think Progress has done a thorough rehash on this, and Wonkettte has the day-of headlines. Ray Nagin's cries for help on Monday, Tuesday and beyond make it impossible to believe that Bush and his people are still using this particular talking point...

The closest I've come to such a headline is this AP story from August 31, which speaks of tourists in the French Quarter supposedly thinking they had "dodged a bullet" early Monday morning. Of Course, Monday was the day after a mandatory evacuation order had been issued for the entire city, and it was the same day the category five hurricane slammed into the city. The tourist areas of the French Quarter never flooded, and the long lines of people -- tourists included -- getting out of the city on Sunday make even this"afer the fact" report suspect...

Anyway, here's the transcript:
THE PRESIDENT: No, what I was referring to is this. When that storm came by, a lot of people said we dodged a bullet. When that storm came through at first, people said, whew. There was a sense of relaxation, and that's what I was referring to. And I, myself, thought we had dodged a bullet. You know why? Because I was listening to people, probably over the airways, say, the bullet has been dodged. And that was what I was referring to.

Of course, there were plans in case the levee had been breached. There was a sense of relaxation in the moment, a critical moment. And thank you for giving me a chance to clarify that.

Q Mr. President, where were you when you realized the severity of the storm?

THE PRESIDENT: I was -- I knew that a big storm was coming on Monday, so I spoke to the country on Monday* morning about it. I said, there's a big storm coming. I had pre-signed emergency declarations in anticipation of a big storm coming.

Q Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: -- which is, by the way, extraordinary. Most emergencies the President signs after the storm has hit. It's a rare occasion for the President to anticipate the severity of a storm and sign the documentation prior to the storm hitting. So, in other words, we anticipated a serious storm coming. But as the man's question said, basically implied, wasn't there a moment where everybody said, well, gosh, we dodged the bullet, and yet the bullet hadn't been dodged.

Q Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: Last question.
One can only hope...

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posted by JReid @ 12:40 PM  
Racism in America, 2005
Among the stories that will live in infamy, long after the mess made by Hurricane Katrina (both physical and political) is cleaned up are the abandonment of the evacuees at the Superdome and the convention center, Bush's guitar playing and his 1,700 mile flyover, the long wait for aid for patients and doctors at Charity Hospital and the drowning deaths of 30 nursing home residents in Jefferson Parisn; the sight of the sick and dying on floors and conveyor belts at New Orleans' airport, not to mention the streets of New Orleans ... and the incident at Louisiana's Crescent City Bridge, where a little bit of the Old South returned with a vengeance. (ht to Philly's Will Bunch, of Attytood)
...add another bridge to the South's sad legecy of racism: the Crescent City Connection Bridge -- which is supposed to connect New Orleans to the West Bank suburbs of Jefferson Parish, but which apparently divides it. Today, the New York Times confirmed a story that's been making the rounds in the blogosphere, that armed police and sheriff deputies blocked and threatened to shoot people seeking to escape the hellish deathtrap of the New Orleans Convention Center.

The paramedics and two other witnesses said officers sometimes shot guns over the heads of fleeing people, who, instead of complying immediately with orders to leave the bridge, pleaded to be let through, the paramedics and two other witnesses said. The witnesses said they had been told by the New Orleans police to cross that same bridge because buses were waiting for them there.

Instead, a suburban police officer angrily ordered about 200 people to abandon an encampment between the highways near the bridge. The officer then confiscated their food and water, the four witnesses said. The incidents took place in the first days after the storm last week, they said.

"The police kept saying, 'We don't want another Superdome,' and 'This isn't New Orleans,' " said Larry Bradshaw, a San Francisco paramedic who was among those fleeing.

Arthur Lawson, chief of the Gretna, La., Police Department, confirmed that his officers, along with those from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and the Crescent City Connection Police, sealed the bridge.
That's not to discount the thousands of Americans -- white, Black and Brown, who both suffered and rose to the occasion after Katrina. But as much as Bush's supporters would like it to disappear, race just won't stop bobbing to the surface in the Katrina story...

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posted by JReid @ 1:28 AM  
A peek inside Bush's brain and the 'failure of imagination'
From Newsweek:

How Bush Blew It

Sept. 19, 2005 issue - It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS. The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

The president did not growl this time. He had already decided to return to Washington and hold a meeting of his top advisers on the following day, Wednesday. This would give them a day to get back from their vacations and their staffs to work up some ideas about what to do in the aftermath of the storm. President Bush knew the storm and its consequences had been bad; but he didn't quite realize how bad.

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.

President George W. Bush has always trusted his gut. He prides himself in ignoring the distracting chatter, the caterwauling of the media elites, the Washington political buzz machine. He has boasted that he doesn't read the papers. His doggedness is often admirable. It is easy for presidents to overreact to the noise around them.

But it is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there. Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. Bush can ask tough questions, but it's mostly a one-way street. Most presidents keep a devil's advocate around. Lyndon Johnson had George Ball on Vietnam; President Ronald Reagan and Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, grudgingly listened to the arguments of Budget Director Richard Darman, who told them what they didn't wish to hear: that they would have to raise taxes. When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority. Continued...
Read the whole account -- it's a fascinating and thorough reconstruction of the multiple, catastrophic failures all down the line.

But what's perhaps most distubing, is that the George W. Bush that emerges in this account is every bit as bad as what many of us feared the first time he was willed into office the same way he was willed into Yale: with the help of his father's friends. This Bush is that petulant, arrogant and distant monarchical figure we worried he might be -- filled with a sense of class entitlement but lacking in any sensibility about how most people live. Bush desires to be treated with utmost deference, but he seems to have done little to merit it, beyond simply being a Bush. And since he doesn't tolerate dissent, he doesn't even know when things are falling apart. If it sounds like Louis XVI before the French Revolution or the Romanovs before the Bolsheviks sacked the Russian capital, you're not far off...

God help us. This man has two and a half years more inside the bunker, with all that could go wrong, and he's about to get a whole new level of power to wage preemptive nuclear war... Pray for us, somebody.

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posted by JReid @ 1:10 AM  
Memo to Karl Rove
On Sunday, Sept. 11, 2005, the mayor of New Orleans did something novel: he faced the music and took responsibility for his part in the Katrina disaster.
posted by JReid @ 1:04 AM  
From the mouth of Andy Rooney:
"... If we took a vote tomorrow, New Orleans might still be America's favorite city, but George W. Bush probably would not be our favorite president."
-- 60 Minutes commentary, September 11, 2005


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posted by JReid @ 12:33 AM  
The more things go wrong, the more they stay the same
President Bush does his 9-11 schtick, only he does it in New Orleans. (I guess there weren't any local firefighters available -- or willing to do -- the photo op...

These guys were probably waiting around for FEMA's permission to do something besides look happy to see Dubya...

Still, you've got to wonder if these poor guys are gonna catch the same flak as the flip-flop girls from a few months ago (the bare knees thing is just so "he ain't nobody... I pay his g---damn salary...!")

posted by JReid @ 12:22 AM  
What we know for sure:
Arnold needs to get his groove back...

...On the four-year anniversary of 9-11, more than a few people are questioning the nation's single-minded focus on terrorism, at the expense of other kinds of security (economic, physical...)

...George W. Bush just doesn't get it ... he and his advisors still think 9-11 is the cure for all of his political ills...

Planning is everything.
posted by JReid @ 12:02 AM  
Kanye West transcript - for educational purposes only...
Here it is in all it's glory, courtesy of WaPo:
Myers: The landscape of the city has changed dramatically, tragically and perhaps irreversibly. There is now over 25 feet of water where there was once city streets and thriving neighborhoods.

(Myers throws to West, who looked extremely nervous in his super-preppy designer rugby shirt and white pants, which is not like the arrogant West and which, in retrospect, should have been a tip-off.)

West: I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, "They're looting." You see a white family, it says, "They're looking for food." And, you know, it's been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I've tried to turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help -- with the way America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, the Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way -- and they've given them permission to go down and shoot us!

(West throws back to Myers, who is looking like a guy who stopped on the tarmac to tie his shoe and got hit in the back with the 8:30 to La Guardia.)

Myers: And subtle, but in many ways even more profoundly devastating, is the lasting damage to the survivors' will to rebuild and remain in the area. The destruction of the spirit of the people of southern Louisiana and Mississippi may end up being the most tragic loss of all.

(And, because Myers is apparently as dumb as his Alfalfa hair, he throws it back to West.)

West: George Bush doesn't care about black people!

(Back to Myers, now looking like the 8:30 to La Guardia turned around and caught him square between the eyes.)

Myers: Please call . . .

At which point someone at NBC News finally regained control of the joystick and cut over to Chris Tucker, who started right in with more scripted blah, blah, blah.
posted by JReid @ 12:01 AM  
Sunday, September 11, 2005
I (heart) NYC
posted by JReid @ 8:46 AM  
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Who's in charge?
Original post: 2:13 p.m.: It turns out President Bush didn't recall "Brownie" to Washington -- DHS director Michael Chertoff did. (Memo to Michelle Malkin: please read a newspaper...) Bush simply agreed to go along with the decision. Could this kind of thing (this and the seeming chaos and rampant incompetence in Republican-led government in Washington) be the reason the president is no longer perceived as a strong, competent leader by the majority of Americans...?

Update: Cheney didn't make the decision on Brown, either:
"Mike Chertoff made those decisions and I certainly support him," Cheney told reporters at the Austin convention center, which is housing about 1,500 evacuees. Some have called for Brown to be fired, but Cheney deferred to Chertoff.

Verdict: Chertoff is in charge. So how's his resume? Jesus, he's a lawyer! Isn't there anybody in the Bush national and domestic security operation who has actual, relevant experience??? This guy can prosecute the bejeezus out of a suspected terrorist, but his background doesn't suggest he knows a whit more about disaster management than Michael "I don't watch CNN and was the only person in the world who didn't know there were people in the convention center" Brown... yeesh...

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posted by JReid @ 5:20 PM  
The saga of Jim DeFede
The split between the colunnist and the Herald appears to be final. Definitely sorry to hear that...

Previous posts:

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posted by JReid @ 2:53 PM  
Friday, September 09, 2005
I think we've got ourselves an anthem
Inspiration by Kanye West, my new Katrina anthem by the Legendary K.O. If this link to the mp3 doesn't work for you, go to KO's homepage and download it yourself. The original has cussing in it, so in case you're in Utah with the Louisiana evacuees who've been flown to the ends of the earth by the geniuses in the administration, here's the radio version.
posted by JReid @ 7:30 PM  
Working on a chain gang
More proof that Kanye West was right: In case you're thinking of signing up for the long, hard slog of cleaning up Louisiana, or Mississippi or Alabama or Florida for that matter, you might want to note that in response to the Katrina devastation, President Bush has issued an executive order suspending the Davis-Bacon Act (a New Deal-era law requiring federal contractors to pay the prevailing wage, plus fringe benefits, in the regions where they're working on public works projects). The order covers the Katrina-affected areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, but also was extended to include Florida, including down here in South Florida's Miami-Dade and Broward counties, where the damage from the storm was minimal.

The executive order gives the secretary of labor (Elaine Chao) the power to determine fair wages for cleanup and other crews, and allows contractors employing, say, Katrina victims who want to return home and help clean up and reconstruct their neighborhoods, substandard wages...

Surprised? You shouldn't be. George Bush and the GOP (the order was apparently the idea of some corporate-loving members of congress, including Maryland Musgrage of Colorado) never miss an opportunity to hand big business a chance to make money on the backs of ordinary Americans. Ironically, though FDR signed the Act in 1931, it was named for its Republican sponsors in the Senate. The only other presidents to suspend the act were FDR himself, for a few weeks during the height of the depression, and George Bush I (surprise-surprise) for a couple of months after Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992. As Lou Dobbs pointed out on CNN tonight, those suspensions were temporary, this one is open ended.

Thanks to Brian Boyko for the tip.
posted by JReid @ 3:26 PM  
Mr. Brown, get out of town
"Brownie" has been dispatched back to Washington to work on the "big picture..." while a real, live vice admiral has been put in charge of the Katrina aftermath. I have to admit I worried about the White House seeking short-term political advantage by putting Rudy Giuliani in charge -- until I remembered that George W. Bush wouldn't hand a national platform on a silver platter to a potential presidential candidate that wasn't practically a member of the family (not to mention a possible rival to Dick Cheney in 2008). On the other hand, sending Michael Brown back to D.C., but letting him remain in his post as head of FEMA sounds a lot like tying up a rabid dog instead of shooting it -- it just delays the inevitable...

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posted by JReid @ 2:00 PM  
Good news, bad news from Moss Point
First the good news: The family of Toni Seawright (first Black woman to hold the Miss Mississippi title in the Miss America pageant series) are all fine and accounted for. I heard from Toni a couple of days ago. Her twin sister and another sister lost their homes in Moss Point and Escatawpa, but thankfully, they are all O.K. The bad news: the Moss Point/Escatawpa area is suffering terribly -- flooding, devastation, and a mostly Black population struggling just to get the essentials in (food, fresh water, clothing, etc.) Aid so far has been scarce, with most of it (such as it is -- this is FEMA in a non-election year, after all...) going to higher profile, higher income areas in Pascagoula and Biloxi.

If anyone is interested in helping the people of Moss Point (population 16,000) please log onto http://tomjoyner.com or http://blackamericaweb.com and follow the links to the Tom Joyner Foundation. Joyner and Tavis Smiley have kicked their fundraising efforts into high gear to helpthe people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. They are raising money, mainly distributed to individual families who help out or take in Katrina survivors, and to area churches. Please check it out, and if you can, direct some aid to Moss Point. (Also, churches can log on to qualify for assistance which they can then distribute.)

The central point for aid in Moss Point is the First Missionary Baptist Church, and its Pastor, Rev. James Harris. You can send clothing (preferably new, especially children's clothing, food, diapers, toys, toiletries and anything else you can spare) to the church at 4600 Main St, Moss Point, Miss. 39563.

Thanks! I'm still waiting for updates on others who I was informed were missing and will post when I know more...

Previous headlines:
Have you seen these people?
The Katrina tragedy - Any news on Pascagoula?
posted by JReid @ 10:56 AM  
Mining the HuffPo: Judy, Judy, Judy
Huff says Judy Miller may be reaching the breaking point...
posted by JReid @ 2:24 AM  
Out of the mouths of conservatives
It's not just Pat Buchanan who's fed up with the multiple, spiraling costs of the neoconservatives' Iraq grand adventure -- the latest of which are domestic preparedness and America's international image as a superpower (I doubt much of the world fears us, now. Mostly the hostile ones are probably studying maps of U.S. dams, levees and other potential weapons of mass destruction, while the friendly ones just kind of feel sorry for us...) Anyway, NewsMax dares to post a presidential bodyslam by Paul Craig Roberts, who calls for Bush's immediate impeachment for his administration's failures, from Iraq to Katrina. And before you dismiss Roberts as a liberal flunkie, read his bio ...

Roberts isn't alone: there's also Buchanan, Joseph Farah, other "paleocon" critics of Bush's laissez-faire immigration policy and governing style, plus the ultra-conservative Manchester Union Leader (which decries his lack of leadership on Katrina) and just about any real conservative who cares about government spending.

I think it's safe to say that the imperial reign of George W. Bush is over. The Dauphin is now free to skulk about the castle -- mimicking regent Cheney's God-awful growl, kicking his crown down the echoey hallways, sneaking up and pulling down the pants of the royal fool and joining his dear mum at hurling pebbles at poor people from the grand tower...

Links:
Dividing the conservative coalition, by Rick Wolf
On leaving the superpower orbit, by Tom Englehardt
An index of American decline, by Pat Buchanan

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posted by JReid @ 1:34 AM  
Now it makes sense: the interns are in charge
For those of you without a TIME subscription, here is the entire investigative piece, which I exerpted on the main site. Read it an weep (and while you're at it, read this equally disturbing report from WaPo. Opening paragraph: "Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters and now lead an agency whose ranks of seasoned crisis managers have thinned dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks...") Wow. I can't wait to hear how the White House and their friends on talk radio and Freeperville spin this one...

How Reliable Is Brown's Resume?

A TIME investigation reveals discrepancies in the FEMA chief's official biographies
By DAREN FONDA AND RITA HEALY

When President Bush nominated Michael Brown to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2003, Brown's boss at the time, Joe Allbaugh, declared, "the President couldn't have chosen a better man to help...prepare and protect the nation." But how well was he prepared for the job? Since Hurricane Katrina, the FEMA director has come under heavy criticism for his performance and scrutiny of his background. Now, an investigation by TIME has found discrepancies in his online legal profile and official bio, including a description of Brown released by the White House at the time of his nomination in 2001 to the job as deputy chief of FEMA. (Brown became Director of FEMA, succeeding Allbaugh, in 2003.)

Before joining FEMA, his only previous stint in emergency management, according to his bio posted on FEMA's website, was "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing the emergency services division." In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an "assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. "The assistant is more like an intern," she told TIME. "Department heads did not report to him." Brown did do a good job at his humble position, however, according to his boss. "Yes. Mike Brown worked for me. He was my administrative assistant. He was a student at Central State University," recalls former city manager Bill Dashner. "Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt."

In response, Nicol Andrews, deputy strategic director in FEMA's office of public affairs, insists that while Brown began as an intern, he became an "assistant city manager" with a distinguished record of service. "According to Mike Brown," she says, "a large portion [of the points raised by TIME] is very inaccurate."

Brown's lack of experience in emergency management isn't the only apparent bit of padding on his resume, which raises questions about how rigorously the White House vetted him before putting him in charge of FEMA. Under the "honors and awards" section of his profile at FindLaw.com — which is information on the legal website provided by lawyers or their offices—he lists "Outstanding Political Science Professor, Central State University". However, Brown "wasn't a professor here, he was only a student here," says Charles Johnson, News Bureau Director in the University Relations office at the University of Central Oklahoma (formerly named Central State University). "He may have been an adjunct instructor," says Johnson, but that title is very different from that of "professor." Carl Reherman, a former political science professor at the University through the '70s and '80s, says that Brown "was not on the faculty." As for the honor of "Outstanding Political Science Professor," Johnson says, "I spoke with the department chair yesterday and he's not aware of it." Johnson could not confirm that Brown made the Dean's list or was an "Outstanding Political Science Senior," as is stated on his online profile.

Speaking for Brown, Andrews says that Brown has never claimed to be a political science professor, in spite of what his profile in FindLaw indicates. "He was named the outstanding political science senior at Central State, and was an adjunct professor at Oklahoma City School of Law."

Under the heading of "Professional Associations and Memberships" on FindLaw, Brown states that from 1983 to the present he has been director of the Oklahoma Christian Home, a nursing home in Edmond. But an administrator with the Home, told TIME that Brown is "not a person that anyone here is familiar with." She says there was a board of directors until a couple of years ago, but she couldn't find anyone who recalled him being on it. According to FEMA's Andrews, Brown said "he's never claimed to be the director of the home. He was on the board of directors, or governors of the nursing home." However, a veteran employee at the center since 1981 says Brown "was never director here, was never on the board of directors, was never executive director. He was never here in any capacity. I never heard his name mentioned here."

The FindLaw profile for Brown was amended on Thursday to remove a reference to his tenure at the International Arabian Horse Association, which has become a contested point.

Brown's FindLaw profile lists a wide range of areas of legal practice, from estate planning to family law to sports. However, one former colleague does not remember Brown's work as sterling. Stephen Jones, a prominent Oklahoma lawyer who was lead defense attorney on the Timothy McVeigh case, was Brown's boss for two-and-a-half years in the early '80s. "He did mainly transactional work, not litigation," says Jones. "There was a feeling that he was not serious and somewhat shallow." Jones says when his law firm split, Brown was one of two staffers who was let go.

— With reporting by Jeremy Caplan, Carolina A. Miranda/New York; Nathan Thornburgh/Baton Rouge; Levi Clark/Edmond; Massimo Calabresi and Mark Thompson/Washington


God help us...

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posted by JReid @ 1:16 AM  
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Mommies and daddies
Perhaps the biggest problem for the GOP in the Katrina disaster is that it has exploded the old maxim about the Democrats as the "mommy party" and the Republicans as the "daddy party." The Gulf region needed both parents when Katrina struck: a "daddy" to act decisively and a "mommy" to care and show compassion. The GOP did neither in the first five days of the Gulf tragedy, and has only belatedly begun to try and show off its parental skills (with Bush playing mom and Dick playing dad). But the likelihood is, it's too little, too late. The Democrats smell blood in the water, and if ever there was an argument for the party that actually believes enough in government to make it work for ordinary people, rather than as a conduit to transfer wealth from the general population into the hands of wealthy individuals and corporations, Katrina (or as the first lady calls it, "Corinna..." is it.

Link: nice piece by Tina Brown
posted by JReid @ 5:03 PM  
Dick Cheney's disastorama
I must have missed this while I was sprinting up the stairs to blog about Kyra Phillips' stand-off with Nancy Pelosi (see next post...) Apparently, Dick Cheney was told to go f--- himself during his Katrina tour, and the f-bomb was heard live on CNN. Reality Based Nation has the video... Now that's a reversal of rhetorical fortune if I ever heard one...

The Political Teen has the video (and he's glad to know the cusser called Dick "Mister"...)

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posted by JReid @ 3:30 PM  
Losing it: CNN's Kyra Philips parts with her dignity
The White House's ... I mean CNN's ... Kyra Phillips

CNN's Kyra Phillips just put on a show unlike anything I've seen on television since that lunatic Zell Miller challenged MSNBC's Chris Mathews to a duel. Interviewing -- or rather, lecturing -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at around 2:50 this afternoon, Philips challenged the asertion that the Bush administration and FEMA are to blame for the "pathetic" (her word) Katrina aftermath. As she continued to harangue Pelosi, insisting that Congress, state and local officials should bear some of the blame for the failure to shore up Louisiana's infrastructure ahead of the storm, Philips seemed to come unglued -- she fired off GOP talking points with such ferocity, Ann Coulter surely must have felt a twinge up her boney spine and between her clanging shoulder blades.

Pelosi, fighting back, delivered her second knock-out punch against an administration member (or toadie) in as many days (her first ending with the word "dangerous"):

"If you want to make the case for the administration," said Pelosi, "you should get on the payroll."

Touchet. Kyra tried to fight back later, saying "with respect, no one at CNN is on the payroll of the White House or anybody else. ... we have been challenging every authority over this pathetic situation ..." (paraphrasing).

But Kyra, Nancy never said everyone at CNN was acting like they are on the Bush payroll -- she simply said that you are...

--Eagerly awaiting the CNN transcript and the inevitable Crooks and Liars video link...

Update: The video is in. (or try here)

P.S.: this isn't Kyra's first attempt to crawl into bed with her co-worker Daryn Kagan and her cuddle-bunny, Rush Limbaugh. Kyra is also the "journalist" who asserted on the air in July that there is "definitely a smear campaign going on" against Karl Rove (CJR version).

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posted by JReid @ 2:50 PM  
What's in a name?
First lady Laura Bush visits a Mississippi school to tout the relief efforts aimed at the youngest victims of Hurricane ... Corinna ... nah, those Bush's aren't the least bit out of touch...
posted by JReid @ 2:13 PM  
Don't believe the hype
CNN analysts and Bush's media friends will tell you that the public isn't ready to assign blame (to President Bush) for the Katrina failures. But this poll says differently. (So does this one, for that matter)

VERONA, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 7, 2005--Americans asked to rate the job done by 7 key figures in the Hurricane Katrina story give highest marks to U.S. Army General Russell Honore, the so-called "John Wayne Dude," and give lowest marks to Director of FEMA Michael Brown, according to a just completed SurveyUSA poll of 1,200 Americans nationwide.

SurveyUSA, on behalf of its media clients, asked Americans to rate the central Katrina newsmakers on a 1-to-10 scale, "where 10 means the person has done the best possible job any human in this position could have done, and 1 means the person has done the worst possible job that any human in this position could have done."

Here are the rankings, from highest ranked to lowest:

U.S. Army General Russell Honore ---------------- 6.8
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour -------------- 6.4
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ------------------- 5.7
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco -------------- 5.2
President of the United States George W. Bush ---- 4.7
Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff --- 4.4
Director of FEMA Michael Brown ------------------ 4.3

Bush gets a 6.7 from Republicans, a 2.9 from Democrats and 4.5 from Independents. 54% of Democrats give President Bush a score of "1," indicating he has done the worst possible job that any human in his position could have done. 16% of Republicans and 35% of Independents give the president a "1." By contrast, 26% of Republicans give the president a "10," indicating he has done the best possible job any human in his position could have done. 5% of Democrats and 8% of Independents give the President a "10."

"Americans do not feel that the 'buck' stops in Baton Rouge," says Jay H. Leve, Editor of SurveyUSA.

posted by JReid @ 1:16 PM  
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Take one giant step away from your mama
The White House says Barbara Bush's comments on those horrible poor people who are invading Texas with their awful --just awful -- "poorness" were strictly personal...
posted by JReid @ 9:59 PM  
Lies, and damned lies
Just once more, for the record: the GOP spin that the governor of Louisiana and mayor of New Orleans never called for help from FEMA and the federal government is not just a lie, it's a baldfaced lie. (see this earlier post)

Randi Rhodes has assembled yet another gang of timelines on the Katrina fiasco, including this one from Wikipedia. Read them all ... twice. And while you're at it, read these:

(in which the governor specifically requests major federal disaster help)

Again: the governor of Louisiana executed the requisite declaration of emergency on August 26 -- two days before Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, which should have activated an immediate federal response. (Sorry, Freepers, but a city mayor cannot call in the federal cavalry.) Two days later, Governor Blanco wrote to President Bush requesting federal help. The president responded to Blanco's August 26 declaration with a federal emergency declaration the next day (and as Countdown illustrated in a brilliant video montage to day, he even went on television), promising federal help. FEMA's Michael Brown promised, too. But the help never came -- at least not until it was shamed into New Orleans by the news media.

Blanco's request came in plenty of time to lend federal assistance to Ray Nagin's August 28 mandatory evacuation order. FEMA and the Bush administration by that time had 48 hours to realize that this was a situation the city of New Orleans couldn't handle on its own. The federal government failed the people of New Orleans -- all the spin and deflections and disparagement of the victims in the GOP quiver won't change that.
posted by JReid @ 9:21 PM  
So, poor, so Black...
BLITZER: "You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals, as Jack Cafferty just pointed out, so tragically, so many of these people, almost all of them that we see, are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold." -- Wolf Blitzer in "the situation room" on September 1st
When even the Freepers and assorted Bush-bots are calling you an idiot, you know you're in trouble ...
posted by JReid @ 9:07 PM  
Oh hell, I'll just post it...
Here is the wikipedia timeline in full:

Before landfall
August 23 - The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues a statement saying that Tropical Depression Twelve had formed over the southeastern Bahamas.
August 24 morning - The storm system is upgraded to Tropical Storm Katrina.
August 25 - The storm is upgraded to become the fourth hurricane of the 2005 season.
[edit]

First landfall
August 25 6:30PM - Katrina makes its first landfall in Florida as a Category 1 hurricane. At least 11 deaths in Florida are attributed to the storm.
August 26 - Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco declares state of emergency.
August 27 - Katrina is upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane.
August 27 - New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin calls for a voluntary evacuation of the city.
August 27 - President Bush declares a state of emergency in Louisiana
August 28 12:40AM CDT - Katrina becomes a Category 4 hurricane.
August 28 10AM CDT - National Weather Service issues a bulletin predicting "devastating" damage.[1]
August 28 10AM CDT - Mandatory evacuation is ordered for New Orleans City.
August 28 1PM CDT - Katrina becomes a Category 5 hurricane with a highest sustained wind speed of 175 mph and gusts up to 215 mph.

Second landfall
August 29 6:10AM CDT - Katrina makes second landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana as a Category 4 Hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph
August 29 - Katrina makes third landfall near Louisiana/Mississippi border.
August 29 - Morning – President Bush shares birthday photo-op with Senator John McCain [2]
August 29 - 11AM — "Bush visits Arizona resort to promote Medicare drug benefit": “This new bill I signed says, if you’re a senior and you like the way things are today, you’re in good shape, don’t change. But, by the way, there’s a lot of different options for you. And we’re here to talk about what that means to our seniors.” [3]
August 29 - AP: "[ FEMA director] Brown also urged local fire and rescue departments outside Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi not to send trucks or emergency workers into disaster areas without an explicit request for help from state or local governments." [4]


Immediate aftermath
August 30 1:30AM CDT - CNN reports that a levee on the 17th Street Canal, which connects into Lake Pontchartrain, suffered a two city-block wide breach. It is later reported that a total of three levees are breached.
August 30 10PM CDT - New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin announces that the planned sandbagging of the 17th Street levee breach has failed.
August 30 - 80 percent of New Orleans is underwater.
August 30 - Many instances of looting reported in the city of New Orleans.
August 30 - FEMA refuses to allow volunteer firefighters into New Orleans. [
August 31 - The U.S. military starts to move ships and helicopters to the region at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
August 31 - President Bush heads back to Washington from vacationing in Crawford, TX. Though he does not stop in Louisiana, Air Force One flies over the Gulf Coast so that he can view the devastation. [5]
August 31 - The U.S. military starts to move ships and helicopters to the region at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
August 31 - President Bush declares Gulf Coast a Public Health Emergency. [6]
August 31 - Governor Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana orders that all of New Orleans, including the Superdome, be evacuated.
August 31 - New Orleans's 1,500 member police force is ordered to abandon search and rescue missions and turn their attention toward controlling the widespread looting and a curfew is placed in effect. Mayor Ray Nagin calls for increased federal assistance
August 31 11PM EDT - U.S. government weather officials announce that the center of the remnant low of what was Katrina has been completely absorbed by a frontal boundary in southeastern Canada, with no discernible circulation.
September 1 - Governor Blanco says that the death toll may be "in the thousands".
September 1 - The shelter in Houston's Astrodome is ruled full and could not accept any more people.
September 1 - Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announces that 4,200 National Guard troops trained as military police will be deployed to New Orleans over the next three days. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco requests the mobilization of 40,000 National Guard troops.
September 1 - California swift water rescue crew units each rescue hundreds in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. [7]
September 1 - FEMA halts California swift water rescue crews from conducting further rescues. [8]
September 3 - Ted Koppel on ABC News Nightline interviews FEMA Director Brown who declares that FEMA only became aware of crisis at the superdome on this date. Koppel questions how FEMA could not have known that 1,000s were without food, water, or toilets for days.
September 4 - The Superdome is completely evacuated.

Second week aftermath
September 5 - The 17th Street Canal levee breach is plugged with 3,000 pound sandbags and truckloads of rock.
September 6 - Forced evacuation of New Orleans ordered by mayor.
September 6 - "Hundreds of firefighters who volunteered to help rescue victims have instead been playing cards, taking classes on the history of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and lounging at an Atlanta airport hotel for days while they await orders." Some had been waiting for four days. [9] [10]
September 6 - Some firefighters handed their first assignment: "to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas." [11]
September 6 - Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) calls for Michael D. Brown's resignation. Senator Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid begin to voice criticism of the disaster's handling, and of the Bush administration's management, delegation of control, leadership, and human consideration
posted by JReid @ 9:00 PM  
Things you'll never hear George W. Bush say
"As chief administrative officer, I have to take responsibility for the failings revealed."

--Kofi Annan, taking responsibility for the failures pointed out in the Volcker oil-for-food scandal report
posted by JReid @ 5:23 PM  
Quote of the day

At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had "absolutely no credentials."

She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael
Brown.

"He said 'Why would I do that?'" Pelosi said.

'"I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'"

"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," she added. [USAT]

--Senate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sept. 7, 2005

posted by JReid @ 5:08 PM  
You can't spend what you don't have
Yesterday's NYT opening paragraph says it all:
Hurricane Katrina is about to blow a hole in the federal budget, and it is already jeopardizing President Bush's agenda for cutting taxes and reducing the deficit.

Permanent tax cuts for the uppermost brackets? Social Security privatization? Invading the rest of the axis of evil? Fugheddaboudit...
posted by JReid @ 11:55 AM  
Douchebags of liberty
Move over Bob Novak. Make way for the GOP's Jack Burkman.
"I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen." -- Burkman on "Connected Coast to Coast", MSNBC Tuesday, Sept. 6.
And he says the White House has a P.R. problem... Courtesy Crooks and Liars.
posted by JReid @ 12:44 AM  
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Freedom of the press?
First the Karl Rove scandal awoke the spirit of Sam Donaldson in NBC's David Gregory, and now this: Katrina actually caused the Fox News Channel to air a report critical of President Bush. (Read and watch for yourself) ... and even caused Tim Russert to use his Democrat stun gun on Republicans. Even CNN's New York conservative curmudgeon Jack Cafferty couldn't resist sticking it to the administration and their incompetent horse trainer friend Michael Brown... Don't look for it to last, though. Tomorrow, it's back to talking points and Aruba at FNC.
posted by JReid @ 11:53 PM  
The blame warriors
Update: Internal documents show that FEMA director Michael Brown delayed emergency requests for aid and personnel to the Gulf region, and urged emergency responders in neighboring states to do the same... Oh, and his main concern in the midst of this catastrophic -- and urgent -- event: good P.R.

Original post: The right's new gambit to save George W. Bush's keester: joining the White House strategy of attempting to shift the blame to state and local authorities. Mark in Mexico -- who I generally like -- appears to have drunk the Kool-Aid (unfortunately, the boys at Wizbang are halfway to Jonestown by now...) He eagerly points to a Wall Street Journal piece by a person named Bob Williams, a right wing think-tanker and former Washington State legislator who was in office during the Mount St. Helens disaster (which qualifies him as an authority on disaster preparedness, how exactly? His outfit, the Evergreen Foundation's claim to fame is suing the national teacher's union, the NEA), and who now says that in fact, it is the Louisiana governor and New Orleans mayor, not the federal government, who are to blame for the Katrina disaster. Says Williams:

The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters. First response should be carried out by local and state emergency personnel under the supervision of the state governor and his/her emergency operations center.
That is true, and in the case of Louisiana, the mayor and governor carried out that primary responsibility by declaring a state of emergency and invoking the attendant powers (which the governor on FRIDAY, August 26 -- Mississippi's governor Haley Barbour waited until Saturday -- and which should have triggered an automatic FEMA response, and by calling for first a voluntary and then a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans (which was done two days before the storm by Mayor Nagin) and by following the state's designated evacuation plan: moving those unable to leave the city to the designated evacuation site: the Superdome.

Williams says that "Detailed written plans were already in place to evacuate more than a million people. The plans projected that 300,000 people would need transportation in the event of a hurricane like Katrina. If the plans had been implemented, thousands of lives would likely have been saved."

Again, Nagin and Blanco followed that plan, which for years has included evacuation of the indigent to the Superdome. As many analysts have pointed out, had those 30,000 odd people not been evacuated to the Superdome, the death toll in Louisiana would have been much, much higher.

More from Williams:

Mayor Nagin was responsible for giving the order for mandatory evacuation and supervising the actual evacuation: His office of Emergency Preparedness (not the federal government) must coordinate with the state on elements of evacuation and assist in directing the transportation of evacuees to staging areas. Mayor Nagin had to be encouraged by the governor to contact the National Hurricane Center before he finally, belatedly, issued the order for mandatory evacuation. And sadly, it apparently took a personal call from the president to urge the governor to order the mandatory evacuation.
Now Williams has strayed into the world of fantasy. NOAA was indeed in touch with the Blanco administration, which issued its emergency declaration on Friday -- well before the hurricane struck land and a full day before President Bush declared a state of emergency in Louisiana. The president's order should have instantly triggered a federal -- not a state and certainly not a local response:

"The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts and provide appropriate assistance in several Louisiana parishes"
Nagin's mandatory evacuation order came on Sunday, August 28 (he had issued a voluntary evacuation order the day before), prior to the levees being overrun but a full day after FEMA had been called to action. (Those who claim no such order was given are either unfamliar with the timeline of events or worse, lying to protect the administration). As per the state's pre-existing disaster preparedness plans, those who were unable to leave the city were evacuated to the designated shelter: the Superdome. According to FEMA's own literature on its web-site, FEMA was then supposed to begin pre-positioning relief supplies at the Superdome, and dispatching medical response teams to the area. Instead, FEMA director Michael Brown waited, claiming that his teams couldn't get into the city, despite the fact that entertainers and news crews had no problem getting into town.

Williams is simply making it up as he goes along, including his fantasy call from the president. When did such a call occur? Nagin issued his order before the storm, Bush and the White House only began to react to the storm two days after the levees broke. In fact, far from sounding alarms to the sleepy mayor of New Orleans, president Bush spent the weekend and two additional days giving a speech about Iraq (Monday August 29) in which he barely mentioned the storm, and strumming a guitar in Colorado (Tuesday, August 30 -- a day and a half after the levees broke). Meanwhile, the Bush administration's sense of urgency aparently didn't stop them from refusing an emergency aid offer from the city of Chicago on Sunday, telling that city's furious mayor that the offer of a convoy of trucks wasn't needed, and that a single truck would do. Nor did it cause key administration figures, including the president and Condoleezza Rice, from halting their vacations (the president didn't end his vacation until Wednesday, August 31st -- at least one day after it was clear to his homeland security director that a national -- not a local -- catastrophe was under way, and Condi Rice was still shoe shopping and watching Spamalot on September 1st.) Chertoff claims he didn't even know there had been damage in New Orleans until Tuesday, so what would have prompted Mr. Bush to place the phantom Williams call? How does Williams explain all of this, and where in the raft of stories that have followed this tragedy is the evidence of Bush's call?

The federal government does not have the authority to intervene in a state emergency without the request of a governor. President Bush declared an emergency prior to Katrina hitting New Orleans, so the only action needed for federal assistance was for Gov. Blanco to request the specific type of assistance she needed. She failed to send a timely request for specific aid.
Wrong again. Both Blanco and Haley Barbour began issuing plaintive calls to help from other states on Tuesday, August 30, the same day DHS director Chertoff claims he was still awaking from a media fog. Nagin issued a desperate SOS to the federal government two days later on on Thursday, September 1st -- three days after the levee break and five days after his governor had declared a state of emergency, triggering what should have been an immediate FEMA response. Federal troops finally made it into the city of New Orleans on Friday -- by then, the evacuees inside the Superdome and convention center had been without supplies -- that's food and water to you and me -- for nearly five full days.

Just to assist Mr. Williams and his Freeper followers, here is a timeline of the Katrina disaster. In fact, here's an even better one. Perhaps those ont he right who are so determined to defend the Bush administration at all costs, even at the cost of the truth and common sense, will find them helpful.

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posted by JReid @ 8:49 PM  
Apocalypse now (Hurricane Katrina edition)
Michael Jackson just can't resist the lure of the spotlight any longer... Jacko weighs in from his little cottage in Bahrain, offering just what the world doesn't need right now: another Michael Jackson song...

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posted by JReid @ 4:29 PM  
Stick a pin in Scott McClellan
Take 1: Chubby chasing... Poor Scotty got his roly poly bottom kicked in the daily briefing today. Quick: How many ways can you rejigger the following talking point: "the time for finger pointing will come, but now is not the time for the blame game. Now is the time to meet the needs of the suffering people of the region..."?

Take 2: Fiddling and burning ... Meanwhile, President Bush has apparently learned the Caesarian maxim: "Ruler! Investigate Thyself!" So the commander in chief will personally conduct the investigation into the Katrina fiasco??? The man who can't travel without his Crawford pillow is the guy we've got to trust to figure out what went wrong while he was riding bikes and Condi was watching "Spamalot"? Great.

Take 3: Jomentum returns... Someone in the Democratic leadship please get Joe Lieberman off TV. His goofball Homeland Security reorganization contributed to this disastrous FEMA let-down...

Take 4: Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans...? Once this mess is finally under decent control, we should begin asking some hard questions about why the federal government's best response to the Gulf tragedy has been to permanently depopulate New Orleans' poorest communities by shipping the displaced to various points around the country? Is there something to be gained by emptying vast portions of that city, such that when it is rebuilt -- and it will be -- they aren't there to reclaim their stake? I hate to be suspicious and conspiratorial, and I praise the various state governments who have reached out to the displaced, but a government that would sooner board the elderly and the poor of the Gulf on Carnival cruise ships than on dispossessed military bases close to home, and that frankly failed to even notice they were dying in their city's convention center, really shouldn't be trusted to permanently change their address.

Take 6: Compassionate conservatism ... Listeners to today's Neil Boortz radio show heard the conservative brain trustee posit that the dead in New Orleans are to blame for their own fate. "The politically incorrect truth," said Boortz, "is that most of the people who were trapped in New Orleans were poor, and not by accident. ... And they responded to the hurricane with the same behavior that caused them to be poor: lack of initiative and motivation, total dependence on others ... they chose their lifestyle and they continued with that lifestyle until the end." (paraphrasing). That would be remarkable if it weren't so typical. A right wing analyst on today's noon version of "Connected" on MSNBC basically put forward the "shit happens" defense of the federal non-response. Paraphrasing again: "we're a country of 300 million people So 10,000 people die in one natural catastrophe -- these things happen." He also said it isn't the federal government's job to rescue American citizens in times of natural catastrophe. Apparently, the feds' only job is to "protect us from terrorism. ... and the truth is, we could have spent more money on hurricane protection, but that would have left less money to protect us from terrorists." Craig Crawford, also on the panel, looked stunned...

Take 7: tell it like it is... "We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast. But the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. ? Whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chainsawed off and we've got to start with some new leadership. It's not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now." -- Aaron Broussard, president of New Orleans' Jefferson Parish, on Meet the Press September 5, 2005.

Take 8: the low-down... Why does the world's only superpower need handouts from abroad? The BBC reports, the readers decide.

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posted by JReid @ 2:07 PM  
WSJ to Bush: time to lead
...and between bizarrely timed defenses of tax cuts and Social Security privatization, the Journal manages to make a second point I heartily endorse (the first being that leadership from the White House is sorely needed): that the United States military including the fantastic National Guard and Coast Guard have done an admirable job despite this bungled mess.
posted by JReid @ 12:17 PM  
Let them eat Astro cake!
Barbara Bush shows "compassionate conservatism" in action. Here's the full quote:
"Almost everyone I’ve talked to says, 'We're going to move to Houston.' What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this is working very well for them."
(audio available on Crooksandliars.com). Meanwhile, Dick Cheney has resurfaced and will travel to the afflicted region on Thursday, just in time to miss the evacuation of all those icky poor people (whew! close one!) And where has ole' Dick been all this time? Why, sussing out a charming little estate in adorable Maryland for himself and the wife. Fabulous!
posted by JReid @ 12:14 PM  
Being Geraldo Rivera ...
...means never having to say "I'm embarrassed."
posted by JReid @ 12:03 PM  
Promises vs. Delivery
Lest any other FEMA and administration apologists continue to whine about what FEMA couldn't do, here is what FEMA itself promised it could do, back on April 28:

Hurricane Season 2005: Building on Success
FEMA Evolutions for the 2005 Hurricane Season and Beyond

Release Date: April 28, 2005
Release Number: FactSheet-building1

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to the extraordinary series of storms during the 2004 hurricane season was the largest mobilization of emergency response and disaster recovery resources in the history of FEMA – exceeding operational responses to the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks.

The four hurricanes that hammered the eastern United States last year were the most wide-spread and intense series of disasters in FEMA’s 26 years of existence. FEMA responded to a record-setting 27 total major declared disasters for hurricane-related damage in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (an area of more than 600,000 square miles). Florida was hit by four hurricanes and Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia were also declared disasters due to damages from the storms.

FEMA’s response to last year’s hurricanes resulted in the activation of the National Emergency Operations Center and other operations centers for more than 55 days - their longest continuous activation ever. As systems, programs and operations were tested like never before. FEMA will be able to better respond to disasters in the future and better-aid disaster victims for years to come. In addition to program evolutions inspired by the 2004 hurricane season, FEMA is always adopting new technologies and techniques to help communities respond and recover from the devastating effects of hurricanes or any disaster – wherever or whenever they strike.

The following are key elements in FEMA’s “Building on Success” plan for the 2005 hurricane season and any future disasters. They are program evolutions that will better serve disaster victims no matter where or when the next disaster strikes:

Pre-Positioning Disaster Supplies
2004: Before the first hurricane made landfall, FEMA had begun preparations by strategically locating key assets in and around states likely to be impacted. Through the ensuing onslaught of Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne, FEMA pushed supplies into hard-hit areas, working with state and local officials to identify and prioritize their needs.

The Pre-Positioned Disaster Supplies (PPDS) Program was developed to pre-position life-saving/life-sustaining disaster equipment and supplies as close to a potential disaster site as possible. PPDS positions supplies in containers on the ground in a state so they are ready to be mobilized and put to use wherever and whenever disaster strikes. During the 2004 hurricanes, 17 PPDS Containers were provided to support 8,500 disaster victims (each container supported 500 people) in several hurricane-effected states (resources in the containers included cots, blankets, first aid kits, personal hygiene kits, tents, portable toilets, power generators, tool kits and fire extinguishers).

2005: PPDS will continue to be used to quickly mobilize life-sustaining resources to wherever disasters occur – for not only those states that prepare for hurricanes, but those that are often affected by earthquakes, tornadoes and other anticipated disasters.

National Disaster Medical System
2004:
During the 2004 hurricanes, the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) teams provided medical treatment for nearly 10,000 patients. Now under the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA was able to better coordinate the deployment of these medical assistance teams to reach into hurricane-effected states and treat thousands of disaster victims. (NDMS includes about 8,000 medical and support personnel from across the country who assist local medical care providers when an emergency exceeds the scope of a community’s hospital and healthcare resources.)

2005: National Disaster Medical System teams will continue to be deployed to disaster situations where state and local officials need coordinated national medical support - during the 2005 hurricane season and beyond.

Web-Based Application Process
2004: On October 5, 2004, between disaster declarations for Tropical Storm Ivan in New York and Tropical Storm Frances in South Carolina, FEMA developed and released its online registration option. Within eight weeks, over 21,000 applicants used FEMA’s web-based registration process to apply for disaster assistance; and to further expedite disaster assistance applications, FEMA loaded the web-based registration to laptop computers, allowing area residents without phone service or utilities to register from FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers.

2005: FEMA will continue to use this successful web-based application process for the 2005 hurricane season and in all future disasters as another tool to speed recovery assistance to impacted individuals and households.

Emergency Group Sites
2004:
Due to the severe devastation of four hurricanes hitting back to back, hundreds of area residents were unable to return to their homes last year and many could not even find temporary housing accommodations. Some were forced to sleep in emergency shelters, which are not intended as a viable long-term housing solution. To transition these individuals out of emergency shelters until adequate temporary lodging could be acquired, FEMA introduced Emergency Group Sites (EGS) as an interim sheltering solution. (EGS are clusters of travel trailers that can be set-up in a few days with fully self-contained utility systems.)

2005: FEMA is currently refining interim sheltering options and intends to utilize EGS again in future large-scale recovery operations, whether that occurs in 2005 or the more distant future.

Housing Strike Teams
2004: In Florida, FEMA deployed Housing Strike Teams to the state’s 12 hardest-hit counties to work directly with key local officials on expediting the emergency housing program. The teams included representatives from FEMA, HUD, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and highly skilled private sector consultants who worked to identify and resolve large-scale housing issues. Through their efforts, FEMA housed more than 13,000 families in fewer than 90 days.

2005: FEMA is in the process of further developing multiple standing Housing Strike Teams for use in future large-scale recovery operations whether they occur in 2005 or beyond.

Expanded Mutual Aid Assistance
2004: Due to the scope and magnitude of the 2004 hurricanes, FEMA realized the necessity to expand the reimbursement program for costs incurred by local governments who loan their first responders and emergency resources to aid their neighboring cities or counties during a disaster (called “mutual aid assistance”). FEMA expanded the national mutual aid policy to allow local governments to be eligible for mutual aid reimbursement even if a mutual aid agreement was not in place before a disaster declaration. This means that entities that did not have an agreement already set up with their neighbor before a disaster occurred, can request that FEMA reimburse them for eligible costs.

2005: This is now a national policy that will be used in all future disaster declarations to assist state and local governments with disaster recovery.

We Continue to Build on Our Success

Through the efforts of thousands of dedicated disaster workers last year, FEMA delivered aid more quickly and more efficiently than ever before. In every major disaster, the Agency is confronted with new and sometimes recurring circumstances that tax our system in ways that are sometimes unanticipated. By design, FEMA remains flexible and adjusts guidelines during disasters to ensure a quick response, but also conducts thorough systems reviews afterwards, seeking improvements for the future. As FEMA looks ahead to the 2005 hurricane season, we now have the experience gained during an historic 2004 hurricane season to add to our 26 years of disaster experience.

The following is a list of areas where we continue to build on our successes for all future disasters:

More Detailed Documentation: FEMA is working to use new technologies and guidelines to better document damages to homes and personal possessions. More detailed documentation will further ensure that individuals receive necessary funds for eligible disaster expenses in an expeditious manner.

Quality Control of Field Inspections: FEMA is developing new technology and procedures to improve quality control of field inspections. Our ultimate goal is to improve the accuracy of inspections without incurring any delays in providing disaster assistance.

On-site Data Collection: On-site data collection is critical to providing timely and accurate assistance. One of FEMA's long-term goals is to greatly expand innovative field technology to improve disaster registration and temporary housing.

Contract Oversight: FEMA is currently evaluating contract requirements to ensure better training and guidance on the part of our contractors when hiring field inspectors and other individuals working to assist disaster victims.
See for yourself here. Then there's the administration's decision to shift the responsibility (and the funding) for hurricane mitigation and planning away from FEMA and to DHS -- something pointed out to me by a colleague who attended a national hazards conference in Colorado in July that left him and others concerned:
"Feds' Disaster Planning Shifts Away From Preparedness"

BY BILL WALSH, BRUCE ALPERT And JOHN McQUAID
c.2005 Newhouse News Service

In its budget, the Bush administration had also proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need.

Some critics said that in a post-Sept. 11 world, when the Department of Homeland Security is focused on preventing another terrorist attack, not enough emphasis is being placed on preparing for natural disasters.

A case in point, they say, is the decision to take away from FEMA its historic responsibility for disaster preparedness. Now the agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, will focus on post-disaster search and rescue.

The Homeland Security agency plans to create a new Directorate of Preparedness, covering planning for both terrorism and natural disasters. But it is still on the drawing board.

Russ Knocke, a Homeland Security spokesman, said the reorganization will lead to better disaster preparation.

"It will let the experts on planning and preparation focus on that and the experts on search and rescue focus on that," Knocke said.

But experts in disaster planning say that it has already sown confusion among those on the front lines of preparing for disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

"It's very confusing to the state and local governments," said James Lee Witt,the FEMA director in the Clinton administration. "Who do they go to and how is it going to be coordinated now? It's really going to be fragmented. I've talked to a lot of the states, and I don't think they're very happy about this."
disarray at the top levels of the Bush administration... Tim Dunlop at The Road to Surfdom has a truckload of additional links to media accounts of the administration's castration of FEMA, the defunding of the Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard and National Guard and the slashing of federal resources for disaster preparedness.

Oh, and Bush says there will be an investigation of what went wrong, and he'll be the guy conducting it. I feel better already...

Tag:
posted by JReid @ 11:51 AM  
Here lies Vera
A taste of what the rest of the world is saying about us, from the UK Independent:

The city where the dead are left lying on the streets

In a makeshift grave on the streets of New Orleans lies the body of Vera Smith. She was an ordinary woman who, like thousands of her neighbours, died because she was poor. Abandoned to her fate as the waters rose around her, Vera's tragedy symbolises the great divide in America today...

posted by JReid @ 11:04 AM  
A miserable failure
The utter failure of the Bush administration to respond in a timely and compassionate manner to the Katrina crisis is so self-evident, it goes without saying. But for the sake of history, a few things must be put down in writing:

1. Reorganizing the various security and intelligence agencies into an omnibus bureaucratic monster called the Department of Homeland Security -- a decision that emasculated FEMA and shrunk it into just another low-level patronage dump (check out this NY Daily News story about how FEMA -- the agency that brought you bogus payments to fraudulent hurricane victims in the politically important city of Miami last year -- has continued to soak itself in greasy patronage swill, this time to none other than Pat Robertson), was a calamitous mistake. Had that not happened, the agency would have had the authority and might have found the dexterity, to act, rather than dithering around in red tape and bureaucracy and making lame excuses about not being able to get into New Orleans and not knowing there were people inside the convention center (contentions the Times-Picayune demolished in its open letter to President Bush, in which the editors point out that the news media and singer Harry Connick Jr. managed to get into the city just fine, and rightly called for the firing of every federal official involved in this mess, starting with horse show expert and incompetent patronage appointee Michael Brown. The blame for that fiasco is shared by President Bush and the congress, starting with Joe Lieberman, whose bright idea that DHS lump-job was.

2. Four years after 9/11, our nation is not prepared to handle a national emergency. That should give pause to every voter who chose President Bush over John Kerry because they heeded Dick Cheney's warnings that a vote for the other guy was essentially a vote for danger and certain death. Keith Olbermann nailed that one last night (video). Wapo's Eugene Robinson hit it again this morning.

3. George W. Bush -- and I say this without joy -- has utterly ruined the good name of the United States. From his opening salvos at the concept of global warming -- not the appropriate response, the concept itself -- to the dissembling about and bungling war plan for Iraq, the trashing of the U.N., the utter disdain for science (inlcuding the Terri Schiavo fiasco and the promotion of creationism instruction in schools), and the exposure of our country as a third rate "superpower' that can't -- or won't -- even rescue its own citizens from a natural disaster, and which now must go begging for international help -- Bush has presided over the crushing of our national identity, and having brought us low, he has never once blinked from his or his followers' sheer arrogance or taken personal responsibility for the failings of his administration.

Ronald Reagan, for all his faults, never utterly humiliated us. Bush the father, for all his coldness and inability to play the ceremonial role of president, never did so either (unless you consider hurling into the lap of a foreign dignitary a rank humiliation). Clinton's half-assed affair with Monica Lewinsky caused barely a shrug around the world (although the overheated response of Congress to it made us look like a bunch of puritanical fools). Even Nixon's criminality was of a piece with the corruption so much of the world is used to. This president's failures are legion, but worst of all is his treatment of the highest office in the land like a rich kid trashing a luxury hotel suite his parents paid for. Bush is not so much an American president as he is the dilettente son of an African dictator, who takes over the office and then promptly blows half the treasury on swanky digs, hot cars and his doomed quest to become a famous rapper. He simply has no understanding of the value of our greatest national currency: the perception of our strength, intelligence capabilities, war-making skill and first rate capability to respond to crises. No one believes any of that about us now.

Thanks for nothing, Mr. President.

Tag:
posted by JReid @ 10:08 AM  
NOLA and Olbermann nail it
I can't do better than these two commentaries. First, the editors of the Times-Picayune:
OUR OPINIONS: An open letter to the President

Dear Mr. President:

We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, "What is not working, we’re going to make it right."

Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism.

Bienville built New Orleans where he built it for one main reason: It’s accessible. The city between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain was easy to reach in 1718.

How much easier it is to access in 2005 now that there are interstates and bridges, airports and helipads, cruise ships, barges, buses and diesel-powered trucks.

Despite the city’s multiple points of entry, our nation’s bureaucrats spent days after last week’s hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city’s stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a "Today" show story Friday morning.

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

We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame.

Mayor Ray Nagin did the right thing Sunday when he allowed those with no other alternative to seek shelter from the storm inside the Louisiana Superdome. We still don’t know what the death toll is, but one thing is certain: Had the Superdome not been opened, the city’s death toll would have been higher. The toll may even have been exponentially higher.

It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been clear to our government, Mr. President. So why weren’t they evacuated out of the city immediately? We learned seven years ago, when Hurricane Georges threatened, that the Dome isn’t suitable as a long-term shelter. So what did state and national officials think would happen to tens of thousands of people trapped inside with no air conditioning, overflowing toilets and dwindling amounts of food, water and other essentials?

State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn’t have but two urgent needs: "Buses! And gas!" Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, "We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day."

Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, "You’re doing a heck of a job."

That’s unbelievable.

There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too.

We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. We’re no less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued.

No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New Orleans couldn’t be reached.

Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to make our beloved communities work right once again.

When you do, we will be the first to applaud.
And second, Keith Olbermann (transcript courtesy of Delaware Dem at the Daily Kos. Update: also available on Keith's blog.):

SECAUCUS — Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said it all, starting his news briefing Saturday afternoon: "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater..."
Well there's your problem right there.

If ever a slip-of-the-tongue defined a government's response to a crisis, this was it.

The seeming definition of our time and our leaders had been their insistence on slashing federal budgets for projects that might’ve saved New Orleans. The seeming characterization of our government that it was on vacation when the city was lost, and could barely tear itself away from commemorating V.J. Day and watching Monty Python's Flying Circus, to at least pretend to get back to work. The seeming identification of these hapless bureaucrats: their pathetic use of the future tense in terms of relief they could’ve brought last Monday and Tuesday — like the President, whose statements have looked like they’re being transmitted to us by some kind of four-day tape-delay.

But no. The incompetence and the ludicrous prioritization will forever be symbolized by one gaffe by of the head of what is ironically called “The Department of Homeland Security”: “Louisiana is a city…”

Politician after politician — Republican and Democrat alike — has paraded before us, unwilling or unable to shut off the "I-Me" switch in their heads, condescendingly telling us about how moved they were or how devastated they were — congenitally incapable of telling the difference between the destruction of a city and the opening of a supermarket.

And as that sorry recital of self-absorption dragged on, I have resisted editorial comment. The focus needed to be on the efforts to save the stranded — even the internet's meager powers were correctly devoted to telling the stories of the twin disasters, natural... and government-made.

But now, at least, it is has stopped getting exponentially worse in Mississippi and Alabama and New Orleans and Louisiana (the state, not the city). And, having given our leaders what we know now is the week or so they need to get their act together, that period of editorial silence I mentioned, should come to an end.

No one is suggesting that mayors or governors in the afflicted areas, nor the federal government, should be able to stop hurricanes. Lord knows, no one is suggesting that we should ever prioritize levee improvement for a below-sea-level city, ahead of $454 million worth of trophy bridges for the politicians of Alaska.

But, nationally, these are leaders who won re-election last year largely by portraying their opponents as incapable of keeping the country safe. These are leaders who regularly pressure the news media in this country to report the reopening of a school or a power station in Iraq, and defies its citizens not to stand up and cheer. Yet they couldn't even keep one school or power station from being devastated by infrastructure collapse in New Orleans — even though the government had heard all the "chatter" from the scientists and city planners and hurricane centers and some group whose purposes the government couldn't quite discern... a group called The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

And most chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection — or at least amelioration — against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological.

It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.

Mr. Bush has now twice insisted that, "we are not satisfied," with the response to the manifold tragedies along the Gulf Coast. I wonder which "we" he thinks he's speaking for on this point. Perhaps it's the administration, although we still don't know where some of them are. Anybody seen the Vice President lately? The man whose message this time last year was, 'I'll Protect You, The Other Guy Will Let You Die'?

I don't know which 'we' Mr. Bush meant.

For many of this country's citizens, the mantra has been — as we were taught in Social Studies it should always be — whether or not I voted for this President — he is still my President. I suspect anybody who had to give him that benefit of the doubt stopped doing so last week. I suspect a lot of his supporters, looking ahead to '08, are wondering how they can distance themselves from the two words which will define his government — our government — "New Orleans."

For him, it is a shame — in all senses of the word. A few changes of pronouns in there, and he might not have looked so much like a 21st Century Marie Antoinette. All that was needed was just a quick "I'm not satisfied with my government's response." Instead of hiding behind phrases like "no one could have forseen," had he only remembered Winston Churchill's quote from the 1930's. "The responsibility," of government, Churchill told the British Parliament "for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is in fact, the prime object for which governments come into existence."

In forgetting that, the current administration did not merely damage itself — it damaged our confidence in our ability to rely on whoever is in the White House.

As we emphasized to you here all last week, the realities of the region are such that New Orleans is going to be largely uninhabitable for a lot longer than anybody is yet willing to recognize. Lord knows when the last body will be found, or the last artifact of the levee break, dug up. Could be next March. Could be 2100. By then, in the muck and toxic mire of New Orleans, they may even find our government's credibility.

Somewhere, in the City of Louisiana.


You can send your thanks to Keith at KOlbermann@msnbc.com
posted by JReid @ 10:00 AM  
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Sunday Best: Why we couldn't save New Orleans
Errol Lewis writing for the NY Daily News:
Bubbling up from the flood that destroyed New Orleans are images, beamed around the world, of America's original and continuing sin: the shabby, contemptuous treatment this country metes out, decade after decade, to poor people in general and the descendants of African slaves in particular. The world sees New Orleans burning and dying today, but the televised anarchy - the shooting and looting, needless deaths, helpless rage and maddening governmental incompetence - was centuries in the making.

To the casual viewer, the situation is an incomprehensible mess that raises questions about the intelligence, sanity and moral worth of those trapped in the city. Why didn't those people evacuate before the hurricane? Why don't they just walk out of town now? And why should anyone care about people who are stealing and fighting the police?

That hard, unsympathetic view is the traditional American response to the poverty, ignorance and rage that afflict many of us whose great-great-grandparents once made up the captive African slave labor pool. In far too many cities, including New Orleans, the marching orders on the front lines of American race relations are to control and contain the very poor in ghettos as cheaply as possible; ignore them completely if possible; and call in the troops if the brutes get out of line. ...
(read the rest here)

WaPo talks nature's wrath, man's mistakes.

Paraphrasing the song I still can't get out of my head, Ann Rice asks: Do you know what it means to lose New Orleans?

Admittedly this is from earlier this week, but in case you missed it, Paul Krugman writes about our can't-do government
posted by JReid @ 1:31 PM  
Just say no to Rudy
Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" called on the president to cut the photo ops and renewed her call for him to appoint a cabinet-level official to coordinate the continued rescue, response and rebuilding of the Gulf region. Some of the names being bandied around include Collin Powell and Rudolph Giuliani. I, for one will root for Powell (Iraq warts and all).

I lived in New York for years (I was born in Brooklyn, grew up elsewhere, and moved back in 1987). Most of my imressions of Giuliani were formed during the post-David Dinkins years in the early 1990s, when he was mayor. Giuliani's sensitivity to African-Americans was, to put it charitably, sorely lacking.

Giuliani came into power in the aftermath of the Crown Heights riots that followed when a car in the motorcade of the Lubavith Orthodox Jewish sect ran down a Black boy on his bike in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, and then private ambulances rushed to his side, leaving the child pinned under the car. The then-mayor, David Dinkins, was faulted for his failure to stop the rioting that resulted in the deaths of two Jewish students. Dinkins lost his reelection bid, and it was "Giuliani Time."

For New York police, "Giuliani Time" meant the freedom to roam Black neighborhoods in the boroughs, harrassing and even killing Black men with impunity. For Black New Yorkers, it meant the advent of a mayor who pointedly refused to visit our communities. For Black men, it meant fearing becoming the next Amadou Diallo, the West African immigrant who was shot dead in his own doorway with 42 bullets in his body for baring his wallet at undercover cops. Or Abner Louima, the Haitian immigrant who was tortured and sodomized with a night stick inside the bathroom of an NYPD lockup by a rogue cop as other officers kept the door locked and did nothing. In both cases, Giuliani refused to even meet with the families of the victims, or with African-American leaders, and constantly attacked the motives of protesters without ever criticizing the actions of the officers involved. (Read this account of "America's Mayor" and his history). Giuliani criminalized the homeless and never -- ever sided with the victims of police violence. He got the credit for the crime reductions that followed Dinkins' community policing initiatives, while spending city resources to ferry his mistress to Broadway shows and railing against art exhibits at the Brooklyn museum. Mostly, Giuliani showed Black New Yorkers the back of his hand whenever he got the chance.

Yes, Giuliani rose to the occasion on 9/11. Even I came to rely on him as the only authority figure who seemed to be in charge, giving information and comfort on television (by then I was in Florida, and George W. Bush was flying somewhere over Nebraska). But his heroics on that day do not make him the right man to handle a catastrophe that overwhelmingly has effected African-Americans. He has never proved to be any friend of ours.

If Bush is indeed considering creating a cabinet position to handle the Katrina aftermath, and the human flood of refugees it has created, I for one hope he picks someone with a military background like Powell or Gen. Wesley Clark, Anthony Zinni or Barry McCaffrey. The uniformed military is trusted and respected by the Black community -- the National Guard and active duty forces have been the salvation of Black and White victims in Louisiana and Mississippi, despite their being activated tardily by their commander in chief (as have the Coast Guard, the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups, neighboring states like Texas, Florida and Arkansas, and heroic individuals across the country) .

Given the fact that the catastrophe also involves law and order issues, on which Giuliani has weighed in with no sign of compassion for African-Americans, and given that this crisis calls for compassion above all else, for a mass of victims who are overwhelmingly people of color, for me, at least, Giuliani would be the wrong man. It's not just the race issue: Giuliani was a city mayor -- the affected Gulf region is the size of Great Britain. 9/11 affected a confined portion of the city -- this disaster has national implications. A military commander with experience in large-scale humanitarian operations and refugee crises would simply be better suited for the job (Clark and McCaffrey gained that experience in Bosnia/Kosovo, Zinni in Iraq, or what about Norman Schwartzkopf?).

If George W. Bush wants to begin to recover his reputatio in this crisis, he could do better than to further agitate the African-American community by appointing Giuliani. He must do better by the people of the Gulf, who so desperately need real leadership from the top at this tragic hour.
posted by JReid @ 10:58 AM  
Operation: Shift the blame
The White House is in damage control mode, and the first thing to go: personal responsibility. I don't think anyone believes that Louisiana's governor Kathleen Blanco covered herself in glory in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, with her emotional call to evacuate New Orleans without their being a workable statewide plan to get all of the people out, and local officials had little to work with, but also no real plan beyond having those who couldn't leave New Orleans collect in the designated evacuation site -- the Superdome. But the Bush administration has responded to the global criticism of the federal response to this disaster -- from the president and his wi... I mean secretary of state... fiddling away on vacation, to the abject failure of FEMA to get the evacuation going (see this must-read Times-Picayune piece that claims the agency reneged on a promise to begin relieving local emergency operations two days after Katrina struck), and their actions that actually impeded Louisiana's efforts to get food in and get people out (turning back the trucks and buses, for instance), to the belated realization in Washington that this was a challenge that clearly the state's couldn't meet -- not to mention the slashing cuts to the Gulf infrastructure and Army Corps of Engineers budgets that made all this possible -- with something we've gotten used to with this crowd: talking points that shift the blame to someone else.

So look for the White House's friends at Fox and on talk radio immediately to shift from blaming the victims for not figuring out a way to evacuate without cars and money (and pulling a Pat Robertson by calling for people to be shot) to blaming Blanco and the New Orleans mayor, who had the temerity to criticize the admnistration and the president.

George W. Bush has failed spectacularly in this tragedy -- I think that's becoming clear even to members of his party. He awoke too late to the severity of the Katrina horror, and as the country's leader, he and his administration must take responsibility the for the failure and loss of life. The breathtaking lack of shame and unwillingness to acknowledge and learn from failure is stunning, even for this crowd.

Update: Jefferson Parish (LA) President Aaron Broussard just made an emotional indictment of the federal response to his parish, and to New Orleans, on Meet the Press. He broke down as he spoke of a member of his emergency response staff promising his mother in a nursing home that help was coming day after day... she drowned four days after calling her son. He made the point that from day one, after the levees broke, FEMA told state officials "the calvary is coming." Clearly, it came too late. He pointed out that almost immediately, businesses like Wal-Mart began responding to the needs of citizens, but in many cases their trucks and efforts were turned back by FEMA, who told them they weren't needed. He defended his governor, whom he said did all she could -- calling for help from a federal government that failed her state. This was not some local problem the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi could be expected handle on their own (that's why the governors, including Blanco, called for federal help and activated the National Guard). As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has said, this was a national catastrophe, not a local crisis. It should have been handled like one.

Read here where FEMA does a double-take, admitting its failures to respond properly to Katrina. Their current denials of responsibility -- and those of their bosses in the White House -- are, as they say, inoperative.

Update: Don't blame the "liberal media" -- here's what the conservative papers and writers are saying:
The Economist on the failures
The Financial Times on the exposed racial fissures
Columnist David Brooks on institutional failure
posted by JReid @ 12:31 AM  
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Have you seen these people?
I'm getting emails indicating that the situation in Pascagoula, Mississippi might be as bad as New Orleans. One report says looting in parts of that area was bad last week, and that federal authorities had not yet gone in. If anyone has updated info, please post to comments. As of the weekend, the following were:

Missing from Pascagoula: Laurel Johnson, 28 years old, 5'5", Long blonde hair, thin to average build, usually wearing blue jeans and bracelets. Has tatoo on the back of her shoulder that looks like a vampire bite. Lives at 2806 Pinewood Ave. Pascagoula, MS. (only a few blocks from Beach Street)

Missing from Moss Point: Donald and Ellie Wierson of Cemetary Road. Family members want to know if they evacuated prior to Katrina or decided to ride it out.

Parishioners of any churches located on I-90 toward Mobile, Ala. in Pascagoula.

And still looking for updates on the whereabouts of Annie Seawright, her daughters and grandchildren, who also live in Moss Point.

If you emailed me information and your family members have been found, just post to comments and I'll update. If you haven't done so already, post your missing persons info both on http://nola.com and on http://craigslist.org (on the right hand column, look for your or the closest city. New Orleans is http://neworleans.craigslist.org/, Baton Rouge is http://batonrouge.craigslist.org/, Jackson Mississippi is http://jackson.craigslist.org/).

This holiday weekend, it seems appropriate to do someting, even one thing, to try and help the victims of this awesome tragedy. I for one am in no mood to barbecue.

Useful links here
posted by JReid @ 8:55 PM  
Good for you, Kanye
Kanye West ripped the shameful treatment of Black (and for that matter of poor) Katrina victims by the state, the feds and by the news media during a live appearance on NBC's Katrina telethon, and good for him (though the specific slap at Bush was deleted from later broadcasts). "George Bush doesn't care about Black people" West said, slamming the portrayal of Blacks as looters and Whites as survivors:
"I hate the way they portray us in the media," a visibly nervous, rambling West said, to the apparent surprise of Myers. "If you see a black family, it says they're looting. See a white family, it says they're looking for food." (Scroll through the right wing drivel to find the video here)
West's delivery was halting and nervous, and his words clumsy, and no one really knows how George Bush actually feels about Black people (the sense over the last few days is that if he cares about anyone at all, he tends to be tardy in showing it ...) but the point he was trying to convey was clear: race played a part in your chances of surviving the floods and devastation that followed Hurricane Katrina. Anyone tempted to write Kanye off as just another angry young rapper might want to have a look at AP's account of the belated evacuation of the New Orleans Superdome, from about 1 p.m. on Friday:
National Guardsmen helped evacuate the mass of storm refugees from the Superdome on Friday, where thousands were stuck in knee-deep trash and blacked-out, putrid bathrooms.

"This was the worst night of my life," one mother said.

At one point, the evacuation was interrupted briefly when school buses rolled up so some 700 guests and employees from the Hyatt Hotel could move to the head of the evacuation line _ much to the amazement of those who had been crammed in the stinking Superdome since Sunday.

"How does this work? They (are) clean, they are dry, they get out ahead of us?" exclaimed Howard Blue, 22, who tried to get in their line. The National Guard blocked him as other guardsmen helped the well-dressed guests with their luggage.
The 700 had been trapped in the hotel, next to the Superdome, but conditions were considerably cleaner, even without running water, than the unsanitary crush inside the dome. The Hyatt was severely damaged by the storm. Every pane of glass on the riverside wall was blown out.

Mayor Ray Nagin has used the hotel as a base since it is across the street from city hall, and there were reports the hotel was cleared with priority to make room for police, firefighters and other officials.

National Guard Capt. John Pollard called the decision to move the Hyatt people to the head of the line "very poor."
Yes, very poor indeed... Read the entire account of the hell on earth that was the Superdome "refuge." Just another day in post-Jim Crow America.
posted by JReid @ 2:02 AM  
Thinking the unthinkable
Is 10,000 even possible? Could the death toll in Louisiana really be that high? I pray to God it's just rank speculation from Republican Senator David Vitter ... We're only now learning the full scope of the horror in New Orleans, and have yet to hear of what nightmares are being lived in other stricken, but remote, parts of the Gulf.

But we have to continue to believe that more people survived than we dare to think, and that they have simply lost touch with their relatives. The Red Cross is pitching in to help families locate one another:

The American Red Cross, with supportof the worldwide Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, is launching a Web siteto help assist family members who are seeking news about loved ones living inthe path of Hurricane Katrina. Visit the "Family Links Registry" via http://www.redcross.org/ to register yourself, a missing relative or view theexisting list of registrants.

Evacuees wishing to inform loved ones of their location can register their name by clicking on "Family Links Registry" on http://www.redcross.org/.Concerned loved ones can register the names of their loved ones and view thelist of those already posted. Due to the extent of the damage and the numberof people displaced, concerned friends and family members are encouraged tovisit the site daily to consult the list, as it will be updated continuously. A toll-free hotline is being established for those who do not have internet access.

More: Useful links and info
posted by JReid @ 1:56 AM  
Friday, September 02, 2005
Ray Nagin speaks
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's interview with WWL Radio host Garland Robinette on Thursday. This is an important interview.

Nagin is to meet with President Bush today.
posted by JReid @ 3:19 PM  
It's not just New Orleans
Bond, Mississippi has also been forgotten by the authorities. People there are hungry and in desperate need of help, too. There's also Slidell, Louisiana, Biloxi, Mississippi and I'm sure there are countless others ... In Biloxi, the Sun-Herald newspaper is missing several employees.
posted by JReid @ 3:13 PM  
Article link
Just a note that my essay 'In America' is posted on Commondreams. The photo essay (all credited to AP and Reuters) is here. Cheers.
posted by JReid @ 1:08 PM  
Hip-hop steps up
I'm consistently impressed with Jay Z. Now I finally have reason to give props to Puffy, too. (Sorry, man, just can't call you anthing else...)
Diddy and Jay-Z reached directly into their pockets to help the victims. On Thursday afternoon (September 1), the duo announced they are combining checkbooks to donate $1 million to the American Red Cross.

These are our people," Diddy said. "We can't stand around waiting for these people to be taken care of — we have to take care of them ourselves. I urge all our fellow artists and Americans to answer the call. These are communities that I know, communities that have always supported me. Now it's my turn to support them."

"This event has devastated hundreds of thousands of people," Jay-Z said. "We, as African-American men and leaders of our community, felt it was a necessity to join forces and help. Diddy and I are committed to supporting our people in whichever way we can."

Master P — a New Orleans native — along with son Romeo and wife Sonya, has formed a charity called Team Rescue to help gather food, clothing and funds. "My family has set out to save and rebuild our neighborhoods and help our inner-city brothers and sisters who have lost everything in this disaster," said P, according to a story in USA Today. The rapper's spokesperson told the paper that his parents and a number of relatives had all lost their homes in the hurricane.

More on the music industry's efforts on behalf of Katrina victims here.
posted by JReid @ 12:45 PM  
Perspectives
A writer at Reuters/Alternet says the U.S. disaster, while awful, is no Indonesian tsunami (tell that to the people inside that convention center, or the 400,000 children left homeless by this disaster...). The Mayor of New Orleans Blasts the response so far and tells the feds "get off your asses." A Washington Post writer talks to a New Orleans family who fatalistically conclude that "Black people are just marked..." Singer Harry Connick Jr. emerges as the Rudolph Giuliani of the Katrina tragedy, upstaging the president and providing touching, personal leadership in New Orleans.
posted by JReid @ 12:27 PM  
Not in awe, but in horror
...the world is watching us. (Sun: Anarcy in the U.S.A.,) And by the way, how confident do you feel right now, about the federal or your local government's ability to respond adequately to another kind of disaster, say ... a major terror attack?
posted by JReid @ 11:50 AM  
FEMA blames the victims
The FEMA chief says, uh, the victims of the New Orleans hell should have evacuated when they were told to. But how to get out of town, Mr. Brown, without a car or means? Are you saying New Orleans' poor should have picked up their satchels and walked out of the city...??? Note to FEMA: get this guy off CNN.
posted by JReid @ 11:43 AM  
In America
























(Images of refugees in New Orleans awaiting rescue following Hurricane Katrina. All pictures from Yahoo! News/AP/AFP/Reuters, Newsweek and Reuters). Tag:

posted by JReid @ 12:43 AM  
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Shame on us
Watch this Video of the cries for help from New Orleans, and I defy you to tell me that this is America, and not sub-Saharan Africa, or war-torn Iraq. People are literally dying in the streats. They are dying in the stairwells and outside the New Orleans convention center. Some 15,000 of New Orelans' Black and poor residents were told to go to the convention center instead of the Superdome, and they were promised food, water and help. Instead they are trapped in a lawless hell -- no food, no relief supplies, no authorities anywhere. People are being raped, people are being robbed, and people are dying. We could see the recurrence of early 20th century diseases like dysentery and cholera. Bodies are lying bloated and rotting in the streets. Children are entering their fourth or fifth day without food or water. Elderly people are simply waiting to die. And remember, this is all happening in America.

Thank God for Keith Olbermann and MSNBC, which has provided the most honest coverage of this tragedy. NBC photojournalist Tony Zumbado should get a Pullitzer for the work he has done in New Orleans, exposing the truth of a tragedy so easily shuffled off as a bunch of thieving bad-asses who don't know how to behave. This is a story of incompetence and it's a story of abandonment -- the abandonment of an entire population by their government, by their country. The better off have long since left New Orleans. The poor were unable to evacuate, and the city had no plan to get them out. No plan to enforce a mandatory evacuation order that they must have known was impossible for those without cars -- or who were too sick or feeble to travel -- to follow. Now, more than 15,000 of those who survived the hurricane and initial flooding are being reduced to animals, accused of base criminality by the showered, well fed media pack when what they are is desperate. Yes, there are bad people mixed in with the innocent victims trapped in that stadium and convention center. But people are dying in New Orleans. Americans are dying like animals without food or water while their government withholds the help and the buses that could take them to... where? Florida isn't opening its doors to allow the Black community of New Orleans -- 60-plus percent of the population -- to enter the lily-white Panhandle. Houston can only absorb so many people, particularly since most will lack the wherewithall to go back to Louisiana. D.C. has offered to put 400 people in the Armory. Great. The authorities are afraid to send the National Guard to the convention center for fear of potentially violent Americans -- the same Guard that just came back from facing violent insurgents in Iraq.

Shame on us. This shouldn't be happening in America. Shame on the government, and Condi Rice and her dilettante vacation (taking in a broadway show while people are dying in New Orleans...) Shame on the president for not giving a damn, and for the failed policies that have contributed to this shameful response to a natural disaster. Zero tolerance? But look what we're tolerating! How is it that a singer, Harry Connick Jr., managed to touch down in the city of New Orleans but the president only has managed to fly over? We're being brought low by offers of aid from the French and from Venezuela, whose president has wasted no time pointing out the latest inadequacies of our own (the "King of vacations" was so wrapped up in Iraq, he forgot his evacuation plans...) -- not that we necessarily will take the help -- President Bush told ABC this morning :"I'm not expecting much from foreign nations because we hadn't asked for it. I do expect a lot of sympathy and perhaps some will send cash dollars. But this country's going to rise up and take care of it."

The world is watching our southern coast descend into chaos with a mixture of sympathy and disdain. And inside our country, we're forced to confront head on, issues of race, class and poverty that we've long stuffed down amid the whirl of everyday frivolity.

Tag:
posted by JReid @ 11:33 PM  
Surviving while Black
From the Washington Post:
'To Me, It Just Seems Like Black People Are Marked'

By Wil Haygood
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 2, 2005; A01

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 1 -- It seemed a desperate echo of a bygone era, a mass of desperate-looking black folk on the run in the Deep South. Some without shoes.

It was high noon Thursday at a rest stop on the edge of Baton Rouge when several buses pulled in, fresh from the calamity of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Hundreds piled out, dragging themselves as if floating through some kind of thick liquid. They were exhausted, some crying.

"It was like going to hell and back," said Bernadette Washington, 38, a black homemaker from Orleans Parish who had slept under a bridge the night before with her five children and her husband. She sighed the familiar refrain, stinging as an old-time blues note: "All I have is the clothes on my back. And I been sleeping in themf or three days."

While hundreds of thousands of people have been dislocated by Hurricane Katrina, the mages that have filled the television screens have been mainly of black Americans -- grieving, suffering, in some cases looting and desperately trying to leave New Orleans. Along with the intimate tales of family drama and survival being played out Thursday, there was no escaping that race had become a subtext to the unfolding drama of the hurricane's aftermath.

"To me," said Bernadette Washington, "it just seems like black people are marked. We have so many troubles and problems."

"After this," her husband, Brian Thomas, said, "I want to move my family to California."

He was holding his 2-year-old, Qadriyyah, in his left arm. On Thomas's right hand was a crude bandage. He had pushed the hand through a bedroom window on the night of the hurricane to get to one of his children.

"He had meat hanging off his hand," his wife said. They live -- lived -- on Bunker Hill Road in Orleans Parish, a mostly black section of New Orleans.

When the hurricane hit, Thomas, a truck driver, said he came home from work,looked at every one of the people he loves, and stood in the middle of the living room. Thinking. He's the Socrates in the family -- but time was running out.

"I only got a five-passenger car," he said.

"Chevy Cavalier," said his wife.

"And," Thomas continued, "I stood there, thinking. I said, 'Okay, it's 50-50 if the water will get through.' "Within hours the water rose, and it kept rising.

"But then I said, 'If we do take the car, some of us would be sitting on one another's laps.' And the state troopers were talking about making arrests."

Instead, he pushed the kids out a window. They scooted to the roof, some pulling themselves up with an extension cord.

"The rain was pouring down so hard," Washington said. "And we had a 3-month-old and a 2-year-old."

The 3-month-old, Nadirah, was sleeping in her mother's arms. "All I had was water to give her," said Washington, her voice breaking, her other children sitting on the concrete putting talcum power inside their soaked sneakers. "She's premature," she went on, about the 3-month-old. "She came May 22. Was supposed to be here July 11. I had her early because I have high blood pressure. Had to have her by C-section."

Bernadette Washington was suddenly worried about her blood pressure medicine. She reached inside her purse. "Look," she said. "All the pills are stuck together."

Both parents had been thinking about the hurricane, the aftermath, the looting, the politicians who might come to Louisiana and who might not. And their own holding-on lives, now jangly like bedsprings suddenly snapped.

"It says there'll come a time you can't hide. I'm talking about people. From each other," Bernadette Washington said.

Thomas, the philosopher, waved his bandaged hand. He had a theory: "God's angry with New Orleans. It's an evil city. The worst school system anywhere. Rampant crime. Corrupt politicians. Here, baby, have a potato chip for daddy."

The 2-year-old, Qadriyyah, took a chip from her daddy and gobbled it up. Her face was covered with mosquito bites. But she smiled just to be in daddy's arms.

Thomas continued: "A predominantly black city -- and they're killing each other. God had to get their attention with a calamity. New Orleans ain't seen an earthquake yet. You can get away from a hurricane but not an earthquake. Next time, nobody may get out."

In the middle of the storm, little Ernest Washington, 9, had grown into a hero.

Washington and Thomas consider Ernest, Bernadette's nephew, their own now. They adopted him after his mother, Donna Marie Washington, died not long ago of AIDS.

"She was a runaway," said Washington, able to sound sorrowful for the child even in her current straits. "She had run away when she was 14. We don't know how she got the AIDS."

While Thomas was figuring his family's fate that first night, little Ernest bolted to the rooftop.

He had fashioned a white flag on a piece of stick, and began waving. "That is one courageous boy," Thomas said.

A helicopter passed them by. A National Guard unit passed them by.

"Black National Guard unit, too," piped in Warren Carter, Washington's brother-in-law.

In the South, the issue of race -- black, white -- always seems as ready to come rolling off the tongue as a summer whistle. A black Guard unit, passing them by. Something Carter won't soon forget.

Before long the whole family, watching the water rise, made it to the roof. Three men in a boat -- "two black guys and an Arab," Washington said -- rode by and left some food on the roof of a van parked nearby. Ernest went and retrieved the food.

"A little hustler he is," Thomas said.

"Child [is] something else," Washington said.

It took two days for a helicopter to fetch them. They were delivered not to some kind of shelter, but to a patch of land beneath a freeway.

"I thought we were going to die out there," Bernadette Washington said. "We had to sleep on the ground. Use the bathroom in front of each other. Laying on that ground, I just couldn't take it. I felt like Job."

Then, somehow, a bus, and then Baton Rouge. At that moment, a lady -- white -- came by the rest stop and handed her some baby items.

"Bless you," Washington said.

That exchange forced something from Warren Carter: "White man came up to me little while ago and offered me some money. I said thank you, but no thanks. I got money to hold us over. But it does go to show you that racism ain't everywhere."

Under the hot sun, Brian Thomas was staring into an expanse of open air. They expected another relative to arrive soon and assist them in continuing their exodus.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company
posted by JReid @ 11:15 PM  
Where is FEMA?
The situation in New Orleans is disgraceful, and I don't mean the looting. Four years after 9/11, this is the state of federal emergency response? Why are thousands of Louisianans, mostly Black Louisianans, still cut off from civilization and help? It's starting to look like a failure on a massive scale. According to Jay at Wizbang, FEMA's problem might be one of personnel (they're looking for employees at $15 an hour). Meanwhile, people in New Orleans are obviously growing more afraid and more desperate. I can't believe this is happening in America... for God's sake the world is watching...

Update: Also via the Wizbangers, Fox News is reporting that Fats Domino and other jazz legengds are missing. (Thanks Jay, God knows I woudn't have been watching in order to find that out...) Harry Connick Jr. (whose version of "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans" has been in my head for two days now) is in the beleaguered city, and has been phoning in information on the chaos at the convention center to MSNBC.

Update 2: Fats Domino has apparently been found. Paul Krugman comments on the incompetant federal response.

Previous headlines:
posted by JReid @ 5:54 PM  
The 'I word'
Democrats.com and the Gallup organization (supported by WaPo's polling director) are locked in a pitched battle over impeachment: namely, why the nation's most ilustrious poll refuses to follow up on a Zogby survey in June showing four in ten Americans supporting impeachment for President Bush if he lied about the reasons for invading Iraq. Here's the email back and forth in full from today:

To: Frank Newport, Gallup Poll Editor-In-Chief
cc: Richard Morin, Washington Post Polling Editor

Dear Frank (and Richard),

Thank you for responding to letters from Democrats about your refusal to poll on the impeachment of George W. Bush, even though a Zogby Poll in June found 42% support impeachment if Bush lied about Iraq.
You offer the following justification (copied in full below):

... the general procedure Gallup uses to determine what to ask about in our surveys is to measure the issues and concerns that are being discussed in the public domain. We will certainly ask Americans about their views on impeaching George W. Bush if, and when, there is some discussion of that possibility by congressional leaders, and/or if commentators begin discussing it in the news media. That has not happened to date.

Of course, your justification is completely dishonest. Is Bush's impeachment being "discussed in the public domain"? Unquestionably! Simply Google "impeach Bush" and you'll get 723,000 links.

And this discussion is not limited to the Internet. Wherever Bush goes, he is greeted by "Impeach Bush" signs (e.g. August 29 at Camp Casey and August 30 in Rancho Cucamonga). And I hear it discussed on political talk radio frequently.

But clearly you did not genuinely mean "discussed in the public domain," because your next sentence limits the "public domain" explicitly to "congressional leaders" and/or pundits.

Thus your answer to the 99.9999999999999% of Americans who are neither congressional leaders nor pundits can be summed up by paraphrasing a famous Daily News headline: "Gallup to Americans: Drop Dead!"

Still, even if we accept your absurd parameters - that a topic must be under "some discussion" by congressional leaders and pundits - who are your certified "congressional leaders" and pundits, and exactly how much discussion must they engage in to pass your test?

I can cite many discussions of impeachment by Members of Congress and pundits - here are just a few:

8/26/05 Pat Buchanan
7/8/05 Rep. Maurice Hinchey
7/6/05 Dan Froomkin
7/3/05 John Zogby
6/30/05 Keith Olbermann
6/30/05 John Zogby
6/22/05 Mark Morford
6/20/05 Rush Limbaugh
6/17/05 Rep. Charlie Rangel
6/2/05 Alan Colmes
4/6/05 John Dean

So on behalf of at least 42% of Americans who believe Bush should be impeached for lying about Iraq, I ask again: why aren't you polling on Bush's impeachment?

Bob Fertik, President
Democrats.com

###

On August 30, Gallup Poll editor-in-chief Frank Newport blogged:

Last week, Gallup became the recipient of an e-mail campaign in which correspondents asked why we (and other polling firms) have not yet asked the public about the impeachment of the president on the grounds that he misled the country about the rationale for the war in Iraq.

Many of these e-mails are identical to one another, in the tradition of issue campaigns in which thousands of supporters of a cause are urged to send a postcard or letter to represent that cause's position.

Here's what one of the e-mails sent to Gallup said: "I'd like to see more polls on whether or not people think Bush lied to the American people regarding the reasons we went to war in Iraq and if they think he should be impeached for it. The Gallup Organization was very interested in if people wanted Clinton impeached. The latest polls were all we heard about at the time. Is lying about adultery more of a crime than lying to the American public in order to go to war? Shouldn't our soldiers know why they're dying? Give the Republicans equal treatment as you gave the Democrats. Raise the impeachment issue."

Gallup (and other polling firms) began asking about the possible impeachment of Clinton in January 1998, shortly after the stories were published about allegations of his having had an affair with an intern. There is no record of the precise rationale that Gallup editors used at the time for asking those questions. But the general procedure Gallup uses to determine what to ask about in our surveys is to measure the issues and concerns that are being discussed in the public domain. We will certainly ask Americans about their views on impeaching George W. Bush if, and when, there is some discussion of that possibility by congressional leaders, and/or if commentators begin discussing it in the news media. That has not happened to date.

###

9/1/05 reply from Richard Morin:

I endorse the position taken by Gallup in response to queries like yours.
Fertik & Co. raise a valid point: the frenzy over impeachment when Clinton dallied with Monica is in sharp contrast to the gentility and care with which the "liberal media" has treated Mr. Bush. Funny, that. Zogby himself had complained in June that the mainstream media for the most part ducked his survey, and the WashPost has been decidedly more tame with Bush than it was with Big Bill... the verdict on the press seems to be that they are in fact guilty of a double standard.

Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean (author of "Worse than Watergate") made a coherent case for impeachment back in 2003, saying that "Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose." And much the same case could be made regarding the Valerie Plame affair. Either way, it's hard to argue that the impeachment question would not be a legitimate subject for media inquiry.

...Not that the MSM will trade in access to the secretive Bush White House in order to make such an inquiry...
posted by JReid @ 5:17 PM  
Where is the religious right?
This would be a good time for the religious right to show God's people in action, reaching out to Katrina's victims. So what are the big wigs on the right doing?

Focus on the Family has posted a handy guide to squaring disaster-related anxiety with the Bible...

The Christian Coalition is taking online prayer requests, which is always helpful...

There's better news from Agape Press, which reports on the efforts of Baptist and other groups to attempt to help, although the help might come with a twist:

The chairman of the Christian Emergency Network says Christians are uniquely prepared to help hurricane victims. Since Katrina made landfall, Mary Marr says her organization has sent numerous alerts through its website, encouraging believers to shine the light of Christ during the aftermath of the disaster.

Marr says believers can help out -- without being on site. "I would not recommend going to that area at all because you can actually do more harm by getting in the way of those people who are trying to do their jobs," Marr says.

"And I would also not recommend sending items to organizations unless they specifically address that need, because sometimes they can spend more time trying to distribute the things that they do not need, or remove them or get rid of them, and it actually takes away from their time."

So how can Christians help out? Marr encourages them to donate to ministries involved in recovery and rebuilding efforts, to pray for victims and emergency personnel, and to share the love of Christ during this time of tragedy.
Tony Perkins, who is from Louisiana, and who frankly is a lot more savvy than the others, has a more robust offering on the Family Research Council's website, including links to relief agencies and a full description of relief efforts the Council supports.

I was almost scared to see what Pat Robertson's outfit over at the CBN had to say, but must admit they have a decent offering of news and links. For some reason, I'd be a bit wary, however, of giving money to CBN's "Operation Blessing," I have to admit...

On a more local level, churches around the country are in fact pitching in. SFGate reports on Black churches in the Bay area who are reaching out, in some cases to Katrina victims with whom they have strong ties.

I'm a Christian, by the way, and I think it's great that churches are pitching in to help. Prayer is a wonderful thing, but the people in Louisiana and Mississippi could use something more substantial... those who are giving it are to be commended.
posted by JReid @ 12:39 PM  
Bad to worse
...just keep this one on simmer, while Katrina remains front-burner: George Tenet is not going down quietly as the fall guy for 9/11. WashTimes has the story of Tenet's response to a scathing report damning the CIA for pre-9/11 failures, and the paper says it could soon become the latest problem for Team Bush.
Mr. Tenet, according to a knowledgeable source, had a "wink and a nod" understanding with the White House that he wouldn't be scapegoated for intelligence failings. The deal, one source says, was sealed with the award of the Presidential Freedom Medal.

Now that deal may be off. Mr. Tenet's rebuttal to the report is detailed and explicit. In defending his integrity as CIA director, Mr. Tenet treads perilously close to affirming the account of Richard Clarke, the former NSC terrorism official whose public disclosure of the Bush administration's delay in adopting a strategy against al Qaeda stirred controversy last summer.

...This isn't about avoiding sanctions. Insiders agree that career-ending letters of reprimand are about the most severe punishment CIA officials will face. Messrs. Tenet, Pavitt and Black have all left the agency. What is at stake for them is personal honor and their legacy in failing to prevent September 11.

In criticizing Mr. Tenet for lack of a strategy to fight al Qaeda, the IG report goes to the heart of the September 11 failure. Mr. Tenet's defense inevitably leads to the sensitive issue of the CIA briefings of the president and other senior officials in the summer of 2001.

In deciding not to become the fall guy, Mr. Tenet has made a fateful decision. The latest salvo in the ongoing wars between the CIA and the White House may be about to burst. Until now, Mr. Tenet has kept silent about what Mr. Bush knew and when he knew it. Mr. Tenet's decision to defend his own role in September 11 puts the White House back in the spotlight. The only way he can push off responsibility is to push it higher up the ladder.
As Olbermann would say, keep your knees loose...
posted by JReid @ 12:27 PM  
This is not lawlessness, it's desperation
The media has got to get straight what's happening in New Orleans. The people still trapped inside the Superdome and convention center -- who appear to be mostly Black and overwhelmingly poor, at least as portrayed on television -- are being portrayed as depraved criminals -- but it sounds more like they are desperate to the point of madness. No food, no water, no shelter, no evacuation, no hope ... this doesn't sound like you garden variety loot-fest. It sounds like a violent descent from civilization. To echo one refugee, via MSNBC, why can't supplies be dropped into New Orleans by helicopter?

I'm sure the National Guard, military and police and other rescue services are doing their level best. Thank God for them. And I don't envy the city or state officials charged with dealing with this crisis (thought its becoming increasingly clear that they could have prepared better beforehand, and that the White House and Congress are partly to blame). Still, leadership in this crisis is sorely needed. 9/11 had Rudy Giuliani. Katrina has Haley Barbour...
posted by JReid @ 12:03 PM  
George Bush and the 'compassion' thing
I'm currently reading the book "The Family" by Kitty Kelly. Whatever you think of the author, you can't beat one of the book's major themes: the almost congenital insensititivity of the Bushes, including both of the Georges who became presidents of the United States. (And as a codicil, the family's seeming allergy to sacrifice.) That same theme, the almost uncanny inability of the Bushes to relate to human suffering, and to respond to it appropriately, is rising again with George W. Bush's response to the Katrina disaster:

From News.com Australia:
Mr Bush cut short a holiday at his Texas ranch to return to Washington on to take charge of recovery efforts two days after Katrina walloped the US Gulf Coast, leaving hundreds feared dead.

But critics have accused him of failing to take one of the country's worst national disasters seriously enough at the outset, prompting a strong riposte from the president.

"I hope people don't play politics during this period of time," Mr Bush said in an unscheduled TV interview. "This is a natural disaster, the likes of which our country may have never seen before.

"And it is a national emergency. And what we need to do as a nation is come together to solve the problem and not play politics. There will be ample time for politics," he said.
From the 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.

We will, of course, endure, and the city of New Orleans must come back. But looking at the pictures on television yesterday of a place abandoned to the forces of flood, fire and looting, it was hard not to wonder exactly how that is going to come to pass. Right now, hundreds of thousands of American refugees need our national concern and care. Thousands of people still need to be rescued from imminent peril. Public health threats must be controlled in New Orleans and throughout southern Mississippi. Drivers must be given confidence that gasoline will be available, and profiteering must be brought under control at a moment when television has been showing long lines at some pumps and spot prices approaching $4 a gallon have been reported.

Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.

While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?

It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.

USA Today wonders whether anybody is in charge, and asks, where is Katrina's Rudolph Giuliani?

And the Houston Chronicle sounds what is becoming a growing theme: we should have seen this coming:
Until recently, efforts to squeeze coastal protection money out of Washington have met with resistance. The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. Ultimately a deal was struck to steer $540 million to the state over four years. The total coast of repair work is estimated to be $14 billion.

In its budget, the Bush administration had also proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need.

Some critics said that in a post-Sept. 11 world, when the Department of Homeland Security is focused on preventing another terrorist attack, not enough emphasis is being placed on preparing for natural disasters.
George W. Bush has, so far, failed to show he has the capacity for true compassionate leadership. He gave a stump speech, while others are left to call for sacrifice, including former Fortune editor Marshall Loeb, who called on big corporations to contribute on the ground, and on Bush to do more than overfly the devastated area (he also wants Bush to repeal some of the tax cuts so that the wealthy can chip in, too). Motorists are being urged to conserve gasoline by driving less, but not by Mr. Bush -- that task has fallen to AAA, and to governors, including North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley. And Bush is leaving the calls for donations to his dad, Bill Clinton, and the Red Cross. (Kudos to Hillary Clinton for issuing a call for donations. As an exiled New Yorker, I appreciate the gesture on behalf of that state).

The president has to do better.
posted by JReid @ 11:21 AM  
Fall of the mighty
The world is watching the superpower stumble. The chaos and rapid descent into misery and madness in New Orleans is playing across the international press. The Guardian: "It's like a war zone". The BBC has the gunfire in New Orleans as top story. Now, the Bush administration will send former presidents Bush I and Clinton begging to the international community for relief aid, at the same time our illustrious U.N. ambassador John Bolton is trashing a reorganization plan the Bush administration fears will limit our ability to use force arond the world, and obligate America to intervene in cases of genocide. If it weren't so tragic it would be funny.

The U.S. will need the help. The magnitude of the loss in human lives and livelihoods, not to mention in resources and economic devastation, is only beginning to be calculated. But no doubt it will be huge. President Bush is clearly going to have to rethink some priorities, particularly as this tragedy has ironically punched the nation right in its oil gut -- the Gulf states are our top oil producing and exporting region, and the ports around New Orleans are the nerve center of U.S. transport. Suddenly, privatizing Social Security sounds like a joke, and the ongoing quagmire in Iraq sounds like a waste of time and military resources -- and oddly enough, both that Gulf and our own are sucking the life out of the U.S. oil supply. (Get ready for $4 a gallon gas). Mr. Bush has one hell of a bad luck streak when it comes to crude, stretching back to his days as a failed Texas oil man.

... but what can he do? What options does the president have? The budget is stretched to the limit because of Iraq. We are using active duty military to supplement the beleaguered National Guard. This would be a challenge for the most competant and dynamic of presidents, and unfortunately, George W. Bush has proved to be neither. I say that not to bash the man, but simply to be realistic in my expectations.

That said, what is $4 a gallon gas compared to the loss, misery and desperation facing the people in Louisiana in particular, but also Mississippi... yes, the whole country is going to suffer because of this disaster, but at present it's the people of New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf port area who are in the belly of the beast. For their sakes, we all had better hope George W. Bush finds a way to rise to the occasion.
posted by JReid @ 10:20 AM  
American nightmare
There has been a lot of focus on New Orleans -- with 80 percent of the city under water, running chaos as the city descends into the third world, complete with armed gangs and looting (although I have to wonder whether it can be considered looting when food and supplies run out, you have no clothes, shoes or blankets, let alone food for your children, and you take it from a store that's sitting, idle and open. What alternative is there in that case? Where can you purchase these things from? No stores are open -- civilization is essentially suspended... to the extent that there has been criminal looting and raw gang violence, it is deplorable, but I think the media ought to try and differentiate between that kind of behavior and bare survival. I know what I would do if I found myself cut off from aid, and my children were hungry or without shoes or clothes to wear for days on end...). The nightmare is unfathomable for most Americans, and it is hitting hardest for those who were already poor, and who couldn't have evacuated before the storm if they'd tried, since they generally got around by bus, not by car.

New Orleans is by no means alone in this tragedy. Much of southern Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have been devastated by the monster hurricane Katrina. But the tragedy of New Orleans has been multiplied by the flood, which has already claimed much of the city, and wiped out critical infrastructure that is a lifeline to the whole U.S. Ironically, the entire country is now focused on three of its poorest states -- the "deep south" that has long lagged behind in terms of wealth, and apparently, infrastructure spending.

To understand the tragedy for New Orleans, you have to understand that it is a city that was built against the odds, sitting below sea level and protected from nature's wrath only by a system of levees. Many are now questioning whether those levees, and the people responsible for maintaining them, ever gave the city a fighting chance.

AFP graphic describing the city's levees and altitude.

Below, is a satellite image of New Orleans taken March 12:

And now a satellite photo of New Orleans after the flooding:

At some point, when the half million displaced people have somehow been resettled, the dead counted, the devastation calculated and some sense of normal civilization has been restored to the American Gulf region, serious people will have to start asking the qustion of whether this tragedy had to happen. Nothing could have stopped the hurricane, but I don't think it's wild speculation to wonder whether neglect, or misplaced priorities, or something else, is to blame for the breached levee, which brought the flood. But that's not a question for today, I suppose. Today, the question is how to help those in need.

posted by JReid @ 9:31 AM  
Useful links and info

Update 4: If you make a donation to any of the charities below, partiuclarly the Red Cross, please post a comment to that effect. We'd like to let the world know that the blogosphere is representing. Thanks!

Also, America's Second Harvest works year-round to alleviate poverty in America. Link to them here.

And if you haven't checked out the travelling ex presidents' Katrina relief fund, here it is (bushclintonkatrinafund.org)

Update 3: The Christian Childrens Fund is concentrating its efforts on coastal Mississippi. Link to story and info.

Update 2: MoveOn.org has launched an emergency national housing drive to connect empty beds with hurricane victims who desperately need a place to wait out the storm. You can post your offer of housing (a spare room, extra bed, even a decent couch) and search for available housing online at: http://www.hurricanehousing.org.

Update, and bumping this post up. New Orleans Craigslist is emerging as a good place to find both assistance, and to exchange information on missing people. Try "lost and found", "volunteers" and "housing" as good links to start with.

Also, NOLA.com, the New Orleans Times-Picayune's web site, is still up and running. Here are some of their help links:

People offering services
Evacuee help/info--Thursday
People Needing Rescue - Thursday a.m.
N.O. Inner-city teacher mourns
Notes from New Orleanians
Looting reports/commentary
Flooding/damage questions
'I'm looking for . . .'

If you're interested in donating money or other assistance, particularly if you own a large business that can transport bulk food -- here's the place to go:

The American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund
P.O. Box 37243
Washington, D.C. 20013
1-800-HELP-NOW
Donate Online

The Salvation Army Disaster Relief
P.O. Box 4857
Jackson, MS 39296-4857
1-800-SAL-ARMY
Donate Online

FEMA general info: www.fema.gov/about/process/info

FEMA re flood insurance: www.fema.gov/nfip/infocon.shtm

Wikipedia Katrina help page: http://katrinahelp.info/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

MSNBC compilation page on how to help: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9115520/

Bloghelp: The Truth Laid Bear has compiled an excellent page of Katrina help links and blogger fundraising info

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  • posted by JReid @ 8:15 AM  
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