Friday, September 30, 2005


This story gets lost in the midst of Delay, Miller, Robertson, Hurricane cleanup etc. It is right out of another dimension, with signposts up ahead: The Rumsfeld Zone…

Nearly a year after Congress demanded action, the Pentagon has still failed to figure out a way to reimburse soldiers for body armor and equipment they purchased to better protect themselves while serving in Iraq.

Soldiers and their parents are still spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for armor they say the military won’t provide…

…Your expectation is that when you are sent to war, that our government does everything they can do to protect the lives of our people, and anything less than that is not good enough,” said a former Marine who spent nearly $1,000 two weeks ago to buy lower-body armor for his son, a Marine serving in Fallujah…

…“The bottom line is that Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Department are failing soldiers again,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Operation Truth, an advocacy group for Iraq veterans.—[emphasis added] AP 9/29/05

Senator Chris Dodd from Connecticut is looking into the matter. He says, “If you have to go out and buy equipment to protect yourself, you’re going to get reimbursed.” Better yet, if you’re going to serve your country as a soldier, your country better fully equip you or not send you out in the first place.

There is an amazing account of the waiver of minimal protection in a May 9, 2005 article in Army Times. The reason for the waivers:

“I concurred with the program manager’s decision to waive the 11 lots in order to rapidly replace the PASGT flaks with a superior, advanced body-armor system,” [Gen. William] Catto said in the statement. “Due to the massive deployment associated with [Operation Iraqi Freedom], this was considered to be an urgent need, and was deemed to be in the best interest of deployed Marines at that time.”...

...The waivers came at a time when U.S. forces were facing increased risk from roadside bombs, ambushes and intense urban combat.--Army Times 5/9/05

“Be Part of the Action,” “Aim High,” “It’s not just a job. It’s an adventure!” "Be all that you can be,” “BYOBA” [Bring Your Own Body Armor].

And check out this incredible post by Paul Rieckhoff, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Executive Director and Founder of Operation Truth, America's first and largest Iraq Veterans group at Huffington Post.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

New Orleans Katrina Rumor Grist Mill

New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie
Compass, right, announces his retirement as
Mayor Ray Nagin looks on in New Orleans,
Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005.(AP Photo/LM Otero)

If I hear one more time on cable news, or read in the L. A. Times or N. Y. Times, or see some anchor person reading another report, that the stories about the mayhem following Hurricane Katrina in NOLA were exaggerated—I’m still not gonna believe it didn't happen!

Somewhere in my intuition—we’re all intuitive but some of us recognize the signals more than others and trust them—I know there’s something fishy about back-tracking and dog-legging, or whatever else you want to call revising, the news reports of the gun-wielding looters, the baby-rapers, the homicidal down-and-outters, that we all came to see as the descent of mankind into animalism, as Mayor Ray Nagin put it, that the mainstream media, aided and pushed forth by the police, military, and whoever else doesn’t want to be blamed for what went wrong, are shoving at us periodically the last few days.

In other words, someone, or some group, or some entity or entities, have something to gain, or some foothold they don’t want to lose, by downplaying the amount of violence, cruelty, and general anarchy that overtook NOLA when the streets were flooded and the power was out.

Beyond doubt, the sense of menace had been ignited by genuine disorder and violence that week. Looting began at the moment the storm passed over New Orleans, and it ranged from base thievery to foraging for the necessities of life.

Police officers said shots were fired for at least two nights at a police station on the edge of the French Quarter. The manager of a hotel on Bourbon Street said he saw people running through the streets with guns. At least one person was killed by a gunshot at the convention center, and a second at the Superdome. A police officer was shot in Algiers during a confrontation with a looter.

It is still impossible to say if the city experienced a wave of murder because autopsies have been performed on slightly more than 10 percent of the 885 dead…

…In an interview last week with The New York Times, Superintendent Compass said that some of his most shocking statements turned out to be untrue. Asked about reports of rapes and murders, he said: "We have no official reports to document any murder. Not one official report of rape or sexual assault." -- [emphasis added] September 29, 2005 Fear Exceeded Crime's Reality in New Orleans By JIM DWYER and CHRISTOPHER DREW New York Times

Compass resigned this week as the mayor called him a hero. There is speculation that Compass was forced out by the mayor due to his poor performance, which wasn’t that good before the hurricane events. Maybe Compass is back-tracking on his former descriptions of a town gone wild because he couldn’t control it and doesn’t want the blame either way. Nagin had this to say about Compass:

"He leaves the department in pretty good shape and with a significant amount of leadership."-- Police Chief Abruptly Resigns in New OrleansBy MARIA NEWMAN New York Times September 27, 2005

Everybody covers for each other down in the Bayou. Carolyn Kay at Make Them has some first-hand ideas, having lived in the area:

Why would the African American police chief help propel the rumors? Maybe it was to make it sound as though the police under his command couldn’t possibly have acted better…

…BuzzFlash and Daily Kos are describing the reports of exaggeration as the mainstream media’s way of downplaying the suffering after Katrina. I don’t agree. I was born and raised in Louisiana and lived in New Orleans for almost 15 years. I think that the stories of rampant rape and murder were part of a racist hysteria that fueled the emotional fires leading to Gretna police refusing to allow anyone from New Orleans to walk across the Mississippi River bridge to dry ground, and the Baton Rouge police acting as though the evacuees in their city would start rioting at any moment.—email from Make Them

While the media is going along with all of this downplaying of horrendous events, because the reports are unsubstantiated at this point, the fact remains that neither side of the story has been proven true or false. The picture of Oprah standing at the entrance to the Superdome and being told by the mayor of huge chaos and crimes being committed, may still be appropriate as to what actually was happening.

Reports of dozens of rapes at both facilities - many allegedly involving small children - may forever remain a question mark. Rape is a notoriously underreported crime under ideal circumstances, and tracking down evidence at this point, with evacuees spread all over the country, would be nearly impossible. The same goes for reports of armed robberies at both sites.

Numerous people told The Times-Picayune that they had witnessed rapes, in particular attacks on two young girls in the Superdome ladies room and the killing of one of them, but police and military officials said they know nothing of such an incident.

Soldiers and police did confirm at least one attempted rape of a child. Riley said a man tried to sexually assault a young girl, but was "beaten up" by civilians and apprehended by police. It was unclear if that incident was the one that gained wide currency among evacuees.—, Brian Thevenot and Gordon Russell Staff writers

That’s why next time I am confronted with the news story, which is still ongoing, that what we were told happened in NOLA really wasn’t all that bad, I’m going to remember what NOPD Captain Jeff Winn said:

NOPD Capt. Jeff Winn's 20-member SWAT team responded on about 10 occasions to calls from the Convention Center, usually after reports of shots being fired. The group found people huddled in the fetal position, lying flat on the ground to avoid bullets or running for the exits. They also heard stories of gang rapes, armed robberies and other violent crimes, but no victims ever came forward while his officers were in the building, he said.

"What's true and what's not, we don't really know," he, Brian Thevenot and Gordon Russell Staff writers

And that’s the truth right now—we don’t really know.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Score: 1-0 Veterans vs. Seniors

Got an email from my dad this morning asking “how stupid are we?” This time he was referring to an email he received from Families, which is a watchdog group for healthcare consumers. Here’s what inflamed my dad, who, as a former pharmacist, is concerned and dismayed by the constant inequities in government healthcare aid for seniors.

...for the 50 drugs most frequently prescribed to seniors, the lowest Medicare discount card price was almost always considerably higher than the lowest price negotiated by one large government purchaser, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The median difference between the lowest Medicare discount card price and the best price available from the VA was 58.2 percent. This means that, for half of the top 50 drugs prescribed to seniors, the purchase price with a discount card was at least 58.2 percent higher than for those same drugs purchased through the VA.--Report from Families USA September 2005 "Getting the Best Price:Lessons Learned from theMedicare Discount"

…The best way to make medicines affordable for seniors is to allow Medicare to negotiate for better prices directly with drug companies, the way the VA successfully does," said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. "The continued prohibition against such bargaining will not only hurt seniors, but it will also fleece the American taxpayer."

…"A big reason why the new Medicare program is so costly is because Congress and the President chose to support the pharmaceutical lobby over the interests of America's seniors and taxpayers," said Pollack. [emphasis added]–Press Release from Families USA 9/27/05

My dad's concern is twofold: the government gives the seniors a bad deal, then tells them what a good deal it is. And the media, too lazy to do any research beyond the partisan press releases, is in on the lie.

All of this should come as no surprise in the post-hurricane days of no-bid FEMA contracts, politicians like Frist and Delay enmeshed in ethics dilemmas, and general “crony capitalism” as Robert Scheer calls the Republican game of “take care of your friends and leave the risks of the free market for the suckers.” How do these guys get away with it—all? We’re letting them.

My dad has been writing to me over a year regarding the Medicare drug plan and its discount card, which has to be purchased:

“…as senior citizens we are being bombarded by the insurance co's who want to run Medicare with all the money they got from bush's signing of the Medicare bill”--3/18/2004

He also copies me on letters to the editor which reflect his obvious frustration.

“…You write what big pharma tells you and I have to laugh when you end your piece "Medicare officials predict the initial premiums will be about $35 a month"---who are they kidding? Give the millions of Medicare recipients a little more credit ---they are not all stupid”—9/12/2005 letter to editor re: Miami Herald article 9/2/05 by Larry Lipman “MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT AARP ads aim to educate"

As I indicated in this blog back in May, the senior Medicare drug card is a government smoke-and-mirrors scam intended to fatten the coffers of the drug companies. As long as we, the people, are not fooled by this nonsense, we can continue to demand appropriate government aid in healthcare. But if the mainstream press is going to front for these scammers, we’re going to need a lot more help than we’ve been getting.

As my dad emailed me about the "crony leader," in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

“…he's out preaching as to how they've made the Medicare Rx plan better so all the seniors should pay a smaller premium and join up---what a scam artist--you're 10 years away from his clutches.”—9/30/05

Funny, Dad, but I feel like he’s got me where he wants me right now.

Cooler heads prevail (not really, read on)—on a different note, a man above cronyism—head of the Federal Reserve--Alan Greenspan, offers this piercing clear-cut perspective on the economy for all of us sophisticated American taxpaying consumers:

“Therefore, because it is difficult to suppress growing market exuberance when the economic environment is perceived as more stable, a highly flexible system needs to be in place to rebalance an economy in which psychology and asset prices could change rapidly. Indeed, as I have pointed out in the past, policies to enhance economic flexibility need to be as integral a part of economic policy as are monetary and fiscal initiatives.”-- Remarks by Chairman Alan Greenspan - Economic flexibility To the National Association for Business Economics Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois (via satellite) September 27, 2005

I have no idea what that means--that—from the individual who determines how much money millions and millions of Americans will pay every month on any debt they carry. At least you can be sure that Greenspan’s pockets weren’t greased to make him say that.

The ball is back in our—we the people’s—court again. If this is representative government, then we can’t blame our elected representatives if we don’t care enough to get on their backs and tell them what we want. I am sure one thing we want is an honest, straightforward explanation of policies and available aid that affect our daily pocketbooks. Next step is to have a say in those policies. The time of Americans being treated like the Roman mob by benevolent dictators is over.

The rise to the surface, as in the quote from I’ Claudius, of all these poisons, may be just the ticket for their purging.

Time to email my congress people. Again.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Migrant Abuse Costs Rancher Land, Freedom

Letter from Morris Dees,
Chief Counsel, Southern
Poverty Law Center
[Click to enlarge photo]

A letter from Morris Dees, Chief Counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, describes the “dramatic legal victory” that is at the heart of the debate on Latino immigration. Dees writes

“Two years ago, on a dark Texas night, two Salvadoran migrants looking for work were captured by armed members of the vigilante group Ranch Rescue. While Fatima Leiva and Edwin Mancia were held at gunpoint, Casey Nethercott sicced his Rottweiler on Edwin and beat him with a pistol.

Today, thanks to support from people like you and the bravery of our clients, Nethercott is in jail and Fatima and Edwin own his 70-acre paramilitary compound.

Law enforcement officials and community leaders have praised our work. They recognize that armed vigilantes are a danger to everyone near the border, including border agents trying to uphold the law.

…This is not the first time we’ve seized a hate group’s compound to satisfy a judgment that we won on behalf of the hate crime victims. In 1987, for example, we took the headquarters of the United Klans of America for the lynching death of a black teenager. More recently, we forced the Aryan Nations to deed its Idaho compound to a mother and son who were terrorized by hate group members.

Thoughtful people can have different opinions about how we ought to deal with immigration problems facing our country. But one thing we can all agree on is that violence and racism have no place in that debate.”—Excerpt from Morris Dees letter, September 23, 2005

“Torre John “Jack” Foote, president of Ranch Rescue, has described Mexicans as “dog turds…ignorant, uneducated and desperate…” Such rhetoric is “very similar to (that of) hate groups we have seen in the past,” said SPLC founder Morris Dees, chief trial lawyer in the case.”—Tucson Citizen, August 22, 2005[requires payment]

“Mr. Mancía and Ms. Leiva were caught on a ranch in Hebbronville, Tex., in March 2003 by Mr. Nethercott and other members of Ranch Rescue. The two immigrants later accused Mr. Nethercott of threatening them and of hitting Mr. Mancía with a pistol, charges that Mr. Nethercott denied. The immigrants also said the group gave them cookies, water and a blanket and let them go after an hour or so.

The Salvadorans testified against Mr. Nethercott when he was tried by Texas prosecutors. The jury deadlocked on a charge of pistol-whipping but convicted Mr. Nethercott, who had previously served time in California for assault, of gun possession, which is illegal for a felon. He is now serving a five-year sentence in a Texas prison.

Mr. Mancía and Ms. Leiva also filed a lawsuit against Mr. Nethercott; Jack Foote, the founder of Ranch Rescue; and the owner of the Hebbronville ranch, Joe Sutton. The immigrants said the ordeal, in which they feared that they would be killed by the men they thought were soldiers, had left them with post-traumatic stress.

Mr. Sutton settled for $100,000. Mr. Nethercott and Mr. Foote did not defend themselves, so the judge issued default judgments of $850,000 against Mr. Nethercott and $500,000 against Mr. Foote.”-- 2 Illegal Immigrants Win Arizona Ranch in Court By ANDREW POLLACK New York Times, August 19, 2005

Aberrational? Outlandish? Bunch of hicks we would never associate with?

At a birthday party for my elementary school daughter last year, one
of her friends’ dad began to explain to me, in raw disgusting language, about
the influx of the “cockroach Mexicans and their cocksucking families,” --was how he described the immigration situation in Southern California. How he
thought it was OK to use that language to me, someone whom he had never met, made me believe that for most of my neighbors, that thinking and general belief is acceptable.

At the request of Mr. Dees’ post script in his letter, I share this story with anyone willing to read it, in the hope that it will help educate, and rid us of ignorance:

“Please share [this] with friends and speak out against the kind of racist, xenophobic violence that is spreading in our country.

Friday, September 23, 2005

You Don't Have to be Catholic...

Just when I thought the fiasco of bigotry was peaking, between the mis-labelled "minutemen" of the horrendous southwestern vigilante border patrols, to the amazing stereotyping of over 1 billion Muslims in the world as terrorists because of the aberrant fanatic behavior of some who claim Islam as their religion, I hear a story on KNX radio yesterday that is a perfect irony, like a perfect storm.

Without access to a transcript, I will have to recount what I heard as I was driving across Orange County freeways. The afternoon news moderators on KNX, who have less than a major resume of journalism for one person in both of their backgrounds, still make the noble attempt at conversational newsy stories to interest those of us their producers must think are having that afternoon post-A.M. coffee, post-lunch, let-down, so we won't either turn on the hard-rock station, or worse, with sattelite radio, move over to the early show of Chris Matthews "Hard-Ball" on MSNBC, or the Playboy channel, which is available for a few extra bucks a month on subscription. Makes sense to me--the Playboy channel on radio.

So the two chatty and overly-enthusiastic news people, a man and a woman, are going to discuss a non-Hurricane Rita related story in order to break the boredom of having to listen to constant updates of the same old thing--the biggest storm to hit the Texas Gulf in history, over and over again, please, haven't we heard enough? Seems like that would be the ONLY story on the air--but we do have that short attention span thingy.

At least we had that amazing story of the Jetblue landing with the screwed up front landing gear--I'm not sure today which was more incredible: that the people on the plane got to see themselves in mortal jeopardy on little LCD screens in the back of the seat in front of them on MSNBC live, just like I got to watch it at home while I ate my ham and cheese sandwich--or, that Jetblue has had several planes with bad landing gear problems in the past and, in true NASA-style fashion, hasn't gotten around to fixing them yet, evidently.

Actually I am interested in the Hurricane Rita catastrophe about-to-happen because I am concerned for all of those people, their homes, and their businesses. It's impossible to imagine the devastastion these storms cause, even with the TV coverage--"Geraldo is in the path of the storm!" --I was so annoyed by this pandering to some twisted sadistic part of me that I would HOPE that not only was Geraldo in the path of the storm but that it would rip him apart and throw his body parts in front of the ever-present cameras for us all to relish--thank God I'm not into that--so I changed the radio dial (yup--satellite radio again...) From FOX (pardon ME) to MSNBC and heard, "Rita Cosby is in the path of the oncoming hurricane." I came to the conclusion that Geraldo and Rita were getting major publicity for being idiots, while their respective crews were just staying in harm's way for...what? I don't know. I don't get "hero" in my inner spiritual ear, I get "dumbbell, get outta there! Let Geraldo and Rita hold their own cameras up." I don't think Geraldo and Rita are idiots in general, but I'm not gonna get in front of a hurricane category 4+ even if you give me major benefits and a long close-up. Time off with pay, now we can start the negotiations...

So what was the news yesterday that mesmerised me and woke me from my otherwise afternoon stupor in the car? There was a report that the Catholic Church, either in California or nationally--I didn't hear that part because I was looking for the left turn into Burger King so I could scarf down a $1 Whopper Jr. There is NO BETTER VALUE on the planet! So I missed the beginning of the report because I was distracted--The Catholic Church was declaring, not for the record, that Gays would not be acceptable as Priests. This was not for publication, but nevertheless it was on KNX radio with the chit-chatty news people asking what did we all think about that? And, they also had asked a few people already what did they all think about this, not the LEAST OF WHOM was His Eminence, Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles.

This was very cool, because the news guys explained that before Cardinal Mahoney was told that the interviewer had access to this memo, which said that gays as priests was a no-no, His Eminence was asked point blank what he thought of the issue--should gays be allowed into the priesthood? His answer, and here is the punchline at last, because I thought I heard it all and at my age I should know there's always more to come--Cardinal Mahoney said that he was not concerned about the sexuality of the individual, gay or straight, as long as that individual is celibate. You know--like how priests and nuns don't have sex, because the Catholic Church forbids it. Which reminds me of this joke--nevermind...

Get it? And I know you do--bigotry against abnormal, extra-biblical, sinful anti-Christian homosexuals has come to an end! But if you have sex outside of marriage, which the state and the church say is impossible for gays and lesbians, then you have crossed the line, you are beneath the rest of us, indeed you are an unrecoverable sub-human who has issues, yes, issues with sex, and lust, and impropriety.

Although this was not an issue with the most famous Jew of all time, Jesus Christ--he was more concerned with getting the basic ducks in order, about loving each other, and caring for each other, in the greater human family, not just one's immediate family. Can you imagine what he would have thought about asking a person not to have sex in order to be a rabbi? I think he and Mary Magdalene would have had a good laugh.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ecumenical Simon Weisenthal

"Grave of Unknown Thousands" Dachau 1971
[click on photo to enlarge]
Photo by Goldenberg

Dachau 1971
[click on photo to enlarge]
Photo by Goldenberg

I have survived. And as a survivor I am a witness. If this survival, of the horrors that are summoned up today in the term HOLOCAUST, is to have had any purpose, then it is above all that of keeping awake the memory of the unimaginable, to prevent forgetting and repression and to build all this into the vision of a better future, where such things or anything like them can never happen again anywhere in this world. --Speech at Mauthausen on 7.5.1995 Simon Wiesenthal

Simon Wiesenthal, who after surviving five death camps helped track down Nazi war criminals and then spent the rest of his life fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice against all people, died Tuesday. He was 96.

Wiesenthal, who helped find one-time SS leader Adolf Eichmann and the policeman who arrested Anne Frank, died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

"I think he'll be remembered as the conscience of the Holocaust. In a way he became the permanent representative of the victims of the Holocaust, determined to bring the perpetrators of the greatest crime to justice," Hier told The Associated Press.--AP 9/20/05

I own a book signed by Simon Weisenthal, titled Sails of Hope. It is the background history of Christopher Columbus, whom Weisenthal proves through his research, was Jewish. Just the simple fact alone that Columbus was a cartographer of vague origin was enough for me, since Weisenthal explained that the only cartographers in Europe in the 15th century were Jewish.

I got his signature at the time I attended a speech he gave in Los Angeles in 1978. I never forgot his main message of that speech, which was quite simple, and yet profound at the same time: Along with 6 million Jewish non-combatants murdered by the Nazis in WWII, there were also an additional 5 million civilian non-Jews, including political dissidents, religious leaders, gypsies, handicapped and retarded people, and others--11 million total non-military deaths at the hands of the Nazi killing machine. Weisenthal said that after the War, the Jewish leaders could have gotten a great deal more world-wide support for causes including the Zionist establishment of Israel as a Jewish homeland, if they had asserted the figure of 11 million killed in WWII instead of concentrating on the 6 million Jewish dead and not mentioning enough the other 5 million.

The notion of excluding acknowledging the whole group of civilians who were murdered by the Nazis was novel to me at the time, and since then I consider it as a basic theme of my development of views against bias, bigotry, and racism. Until the citizens of the United States, and by extension the people of the world, see the plight of a single group as the responsibility of everyone, the lesson that Weisenthal referred to above about the Holocaust will not have been learned.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Bob Cesca Puts O'Reilly Really in Place

In a nice set of stats (Bill O'Reilly loves the "stats!") Bob Cesca really puts Bill in context with the shill that he is. Cesca, one of Huffington Post's gifted and succinct bloggers, claimed he had enough of ebullient anti-journalist Bill O'Reilly's bs tonight, and offered a solution to the dilemma of what facts are facts, and where the truth really lies.

Cesca complains about fiscal figures that O'Reilly quotes to make Bush's economics look good, when in fact, the opposite is true. Yes I agree, as most of us who actually get our news information from OTHER than cable TV or network news will understand...

Bill has his choir, and they don't care about, and as Jack Nicholson's cliche would indicate, "Can't handle" the truth:

It's not breaking news that O'Reilly tends to fabricate information or bend the truth in order to justify his chewing gum talking points, but tonight's foray into the absurd was too much to ignore. And when we're headed into a period of time in which Bush's tax cuts will continue to reward the wealthiest Americans while the rest of us are asked to make sacrifices, O'Reilly butchering of reality is only hurting his viewers' understanding of what's really going on. Shut his mic off.--Cesca Blog

Considering that today, after many months of ignoring O'R's ranting because it all gets too predictable, I listened to 30 minutes of his radio show this morning as I was stuck in the car during traffic. Bill efficiently hauled off on several icons of journalism, with the sanctimonious assurance that in his world, the truth is as follows: The British "Guardian," is largely Communist, The New York Times is vacant fodder for gouging slander at Bill O'Reilly, Los Angeles Times gifted reporter Tim Rutten is the tabloid's queen at making a farce of real journalism.

All I could think was, when I was watching TV in the fifties, Howdy Doody was major entertainment. So why complain about Bill O'Reilly now, while he provides entertainment totally disconnected from real journalism, anymore than we would have thought to complain about Howdy Doody. Both are ridiculous and fun to watch.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Military Takeover of New Orleans, USA

Foreshadow of things to come:

Cindy Sheehan:

One thing that truly troubled me about my visit to Louisiana was the level of the military presence there. I imagined before that if the military had to be used in a CONUS (Continental US) operations that they would be there to help the citizens: Clothe them, feed them, shelter them, and protect them. But what I saw was a city that is occupied. I saw soldiers walking around in patrols of 7 with their weapons slung on their backs. I wanted to ask one of them what it would take for one of them to shoot me. Sand bags were removed from private property to make machine gun nests.—Cindy Sheehan Blog, Huffington Post, 9/16/05

Brian Williams:

I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS [insider jargon for “President of the United States”] drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.

It is impossible to over-emphasize the extent to which this area is under government occupation, and portions of it under government-enforced lockdown. Police cars rule the streets. They (along with Humvees, ambulances, fire apparatus, FEMA trucks and all official-looking SUVs) are generally not stopped at checkpoints and roadblocks. All other vehicles are subject to long lines and snap judgments and must PROVE they have vital business inside the vast roped-off regions here. If we did not have the services of an off-duty law enforcement officer, we could not do our jobs in the course of a work day and get back in time to put together the broadcast and get on the air.—Brian Williams Blog, MSNBC 9/16/05

If Rod Serling were commenting, he might say something like,

“No conclusion drawn—just an observation. Is this some time in the future, or the past? Or is this the look of society from now on? A question from…the Twilight Zone.”

Bush's Big Ideas

The big question from Bush’s speech last night on his grand plans for rebuilding the Gulf States is, where is the money coming from? Today, Bush said there won’t be any increased taxes. He also said, during a press conference with Russia’s Putin, that the money required for the rebuilding would definitely be spent.

In a measure of the credibility of Bush’s remarks, Fox News played the following excerpt from Bush’s speech, and then asked Bruce Katz, director of the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program to comment on it. First, the excerpt:

Homesteading will allow evacuees to occupy a government-owned home at a favorable mortgage rate, in exchange for their personal investment of sweat equity in the property. Under this approach, we will identify property in the region owned by the Federal government, and provide building sites to low-income citizens free of charge, through a lottery. In return, they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity. The Department of Housing and Urban development, in cooperation with other Federal agencies, local governments, and public housing authorities, will support the development of homes on Federal property in New Orleans and cities across the region, and will encourage nonprofit organizations to commit properties as well.[emphasis added]-- President Bush Addresses the Nation on Recovery From Katrina

Due to not having an exact transcript yet of the Shepard Smith question-and-answer with Mr. Katz, this is the gist of what was said: Smith asked where the federal property in the area was that Bush referred to, and how much there was, and Mr Katz simply said he found the whole proposal to be “curious” since there wasn’t much, if any, of this type of land in that region.

What else was “curious” about the homesteading proposal was that the abject poverty of the people who would benefit from this program would preclude any ability to make payments on a mortgage at the least, and would, according to the Mr Katz, lead to continued development of poverty in that region, just the thing Bush said in his speech he was aiming to avoid.

So much for big ideas.

"We're going to make sure we cut unnecessary spending, maintain economic growth and therefore, we should not raise taxes."

But while Bush said the government should not take more money from working Americans, White House officials and top Republicans on Friday acknowledged that U.S. taxpayers would be funding the recovery plan.--Fox News

Bob Kur noted on MSNBC that when he polled a couple of administration people as to what programs were being talked about, his answer at that point was, “none.”

So much for grand plans. Let’s hope Bush doesn’t try to distract us from how bad a job he’s doing by invading Iran. Don’t laugh—he’s thinking about it.

Jesse Kornbluth’s Blog refers to a story in the Washington Post that indicates the US is on a track regarding Iran that is quite similar to the one prior to war with Iraq:

With an hour-long slide show that blends satellite imagery with disquieting assumptions about Iran's nuclear energy program, Bush administration officials have been trying to convince allies that Tehran is on a fast track toward nuclear weapons.

The PowerPoint briefing, titled "A History of Concealment and Deception," has been presented to diplomats from more than a dozen countries. Several diplomats said the presentation, intended to win llies for increasing pressure on the Iranian government, dismisses ambiguities in the evidence about Iran's intentions and omits alternative explanations under debate among intelligence analysts.--Dafna Linzer Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, September 14, 2005

All of this will be made more evident at the Bush/Cheney impeachment hearings, which can’t start too soon!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Town Hall Immigrants

Postcard I received from local Assemblywoman
[click on photo to enlarge]

The wording of the town meeting invitation indicates to me that blame is placed on undocumented Latino immigrants in California for most of society's ills. It's easier to blame the defenseless millions of people coming here from Mexico, Central and South America for our problems, than to take the difficult path of sighting and correcting the wrongs that are indigenous to mismanagement and lack of interest on the parts of the citizens themselves.

I responded to Ms. Walters in the following email, and she emailed me in return. I then responded to her email and include all 3 communications below, in order:

Assembylywoman Walters:

I received your invitation to attend a town hall meeting about "illegal immigration." I can only assume by your use of the term "illegal" what direction this meeting will take. You should be aware of the following, as quoted from my blog:

"Like it or not, 'Past immigration alone ensures that it [marriage across ethnic and racial lines] is our demographic future,' according to James P. Smith. Smith's byline states 'James P. Smith holds the chair inlabor markets and demographic studies at Rand Corp. He led a panel forthe National Academy of Sciences on the economic and tax effects of immigration.'

The report of that panel has been quoted in this blog before. Smith's clear and sober treatment of the current immigrationissue is in today's [May 1, 2005] Los Angeles Times "Opinion" section, which is devoted to the immigration debate. He draws major conclusions from statistical evidence of the advantages to our society of immigration, both documented and "undocumented"--or as the knee-jerk detractors wouldcall "illegal"-- immigrants.

Smith draws comparisons and contrasts between immigrants of today from Latin America and immigrants of the past from Europe and Asia, blasting holes in several long-held stereotypical assumptions with simple facts.

For instance: Some have contended that because of language, a common border or unwillingness to assimilate, U.S.-born children and grandchildren of Latino immigrants will not enjoy the spectacular generational successes achieved earlier by European migrants. That's simply not true. The education advances of Latino immigrants across generations are larger than they were for Europeans.

The op-ed piece is worth reading just to garner arguments for debate next time one of our xenophobic friends or relatives makes a remark like"We (meaning "regular Americans, white and mostly Christian") pay for illegal Mexicans' medical care and they give nothing in return." Smith's study proves otherwise: Immigrants also benefit federal taxpayers over the long term. They are young,they pay taxes, and the most expensive federal programs are for the elderly. Immigrants will not come close to solving our impending budget shortfalls caused by an aging population, but they help on the margin.

Smith also notes that in some areas, like California, the cost of education for immigrant children exceeds the benefits linked to immigration. Overall, the boost to the economy of immigration, both legal and illegal, is in the billions of dollars. The substance of the issue is complex, and there is the added confusion of emotional content "more cultural than economic," to both sides, according to Smith.

Smith's discussion, based on facts and figures, rather than erroneous bigoted attitudes, provides intelligent ground for solution of the immigration issue, rather than continuing the ignorant hatred. This country's government certainly is not going to round up millions of undocumented immigrants and send them back to their homes of origin."

You may wish to check the report indicated above. It shows how immigration has helped the US economy, and if you take out the racial and bigotted viewpoints from the arguments, there is nothing but positive societal advantages from having people who love this country enough to want to come and live and work here.

Thank you for the invitation.

--David Goldenberg

Walters replies:

Mr. Goldenberg,

Thank you for your response to my invitation to the Illegal immigration Town Hall. Your comments are clearly well organized and make some good points.

I used the word "illegal" because I believe that it is irresponsible for an elected official to "dance" around this issue. If we have a problem with our "legal" immigration system, we must make the necessary changes. To defend illegal immigration is to avert our eyes from the horror of September 11 and the possibility of many more attacks yet to come. To defend illegal immigration is to avert our eyes from the abuses that these immigrants suffer at the hands of traffickers, unscrupulous employers, and those who wish to exploit these individuals because they do not enjoy the same protections under the
Constitution that you and I enjoy.

Our country is a nation of immigrants; and this we cherish. But, at a
time when our State is experiencing a huge budget deficit, our country is recovering from the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history, and illegal immigration is out of control, I believe that the issue of illegal immigration must be addressed.

Thank you for contacting me with your views. I hope that we can agree on future issues of critical importance to our state.

Mimi Walters

My Reply to Ms. Walters:

Dear Assembymember Walters:

Thank you for your invitation to a meeting on "Illegal Immigration," about which I already wrote to you.

I will not attend this meeting, and I would like you to know why.

You responded to my letter (included below) with the following

1. "our State is experiencing a huge budget deficit,"

How do immigrants affect this budget deficit when the actual economic facts and figures show the tax base receives a boostfrom immigrants in general, despite the abuses you delineate?

2. "our country is recovering from the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history,"

You should be aware that after 4 years since 9/11, the recovery from that attack is fully accomplished, and stepping up methods to protect our borders against would-be future attackers will not prevent the few who are determined from getting in--as well as the fact that the London bombers were home-grown, and British citizens, and the next US major attack will probably come from US citizens as well.

Don't you think by now, the silliness of connecting 9/11 with the Iraq War, or immigration problems, is obvious to most people?

3. "illegal immigration is out of control, I believe that the issue ofillegal immigration must be addressed."

The fact is, if a bunch of white English-speaking British citizens suddenly arrived on our shores without documentation, there would not be the uproar there is over the influx of Hispanics, documented or not. The vigilante volunteer border patrols in Arizona and California recently were a disgusting display of fear and hatred at its worst. I will grant you there is a problem of drug smuggling and a criminal element which is part of the unprotected border entry. But I don't think you will find this any different than the percentage of drug pushers and criminals in the general population.

The Hispanic and Latino cultures have more to offer Americans that are positive than that which is negative. The sooner leaders like yourself wake up to this enlightenment and stop the fear-mongering and pandering to the dark side of your constituents, the sooner the immigration problem can be intelligently controlled and monitored for the effective safety of everyone.

It's hard to believe today, but in the 1800's in New York City the Irish
immigrants were treated much worse than the Latino immigrants today, but they came to America for the chance to work in freedom anyway, and no one thinks about an Irish immigration problem anymore. Whatever you accomplish at your "Illegal Immigration" meeting, you can not stop the inevitable inflow of people from around the world looking for the same thing in this country that many of us
take for granted--freedom from persecution. To continue to try to
persecute in order to set up a "feeling" of security is simply a self-defeating exercise in futility.

I will not attend your meeting in order to be shouted down by the
overwhelming majority who want to live in fear and disharmony with the reality of immigration. I respectfully ask that you consider the above points, which are not entirely my own, but culled from expert opinions on this matter.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

David Goldenberg

Monday, September 12, 2005

Cindy Sheehan and Thousands Make a Difference

Mother of Iraq War casualty Casey Sheehan, Cindy Sheehan, crusader and leader of the anti Iraq War movement, chronicled her reception, or lack thereof, from various congressional leaders. Sheehan writes a blog entry at Huffington Post titled “Camp Casey to DC Update” in which she delineates whether a member of congress should go on her “hall of fame” or “hall of shame” list. Here in California, Senator Boxer makes the “fame” side while Senator Feinstein goes on the “shame” list.

Feinstein wavers and waffles with Sheehan, through an intermediary aide, about the Iraq War:

Her aides (I have only spoken with her aides, even though I have requested 3 meetings with her) have admitted that she knows that Iraq was a mistake and if she knew then what she knows now she never would have given George Bush the authority to invade and occupy Iraq.—Cindy Sheehan, Huffington Post 9/11/05

Sheehan wrote that she felt patronized by the aide’s curt manner, and the list of “hurdles” Feinstein claimed were needed to breach precluded her from siding with an early withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

One interesting aspect of Feinstein’s continued lack of conviction about getting out of Iraq came in the form of a comment to Sheehan’s post:

I am not surprised Mrs. Feinstein did not agree to meet with you. She probably thinks you know about the sweet govt contract the Bushies awarded her husband's company in Iraq....—Sheehan Blog

Here is what the comment refers to:

The Pentagon has begun doling out $5 billion in new contracts to rebuild Iraq, and a San Francisco firm partially owned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein's husband has landed some of the cash.URS Corp. will oversee repairs to Iraq's communications system, hospitals and courthouses under contracts worth a total of $27.7 million…

… Feinstein's husband, Richard Blum, controls about 20 percent of URS shares through his investment firm, Blum Capital Partners. Although connected to the one of Washington's leading Democrats, the company has also donated more than $10,700 to President Bush's re-election campaign and $3,800 to Democratic candidates, according to Center for Responsive Politics.—

In another case of fence-sitting, Senator Feinstein responded to my email to her regarding the nomination of John Roberts for Supreme Court Justice. In my email I delineated some of the following major concerns regarding Roberts' background:

In July of this year, Roberts sat on a three-judge D.C. Court of Appeals panel hearing the "Hamdan" case, and voted to uphold the Bush Administration's prosecution of terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay using military tribunals, rather than courts-martial (or regular U.S. courts). On the very same day (July 15) that Roberts ruled in favor of the defendants in the Hamdan case -– a group that included President Bush -- he was also secretly meeting with the President at the White House for the final interview that led to his nomination to the Supreme Court.

While no quid pro quo can be shown here, ethical standards dictate that judges must recuse themselves in any case that could involve appearances of impropriety -- such as the interests of a potential future employer.—Act For Change

John Roberts has little experience as a judge—he was only appointed in 2003. But he's got a lot of experience as a corporate lobbyist and lawyer, consistently favoring wealthy corporations over regular Americans.

Here's a list of some of the things that make Roberts the wrong pick for the Supreme Court:

Wrong on environmental protection: Roberts appears to want to limit the scope of the Endangered Species Act, and in papers he wrote while in law school he supported far-right legal theories about "takings" which would make it almost impossible for the government to enforce most environmental legislation.

Wrong on civil rights: Roberts worked to keep Congress from defending parts of the Voting Rights Act.

Wrong on human rights: As an appeals court judge, Roberts ruled that the Geneva Convention doesn't apply to some prisoners of war.

Wrong on our right to religious freedom: Roberts argued that schools should be able to impose religious speech on attendees.

Wrong on women's rights: Roberts wrote that "Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled." He also weighed in on bhalf of Operation Rescue, a violent anti-abortion group, in
a federal case.

As a corporate lawyer Roberts fought to gut the Americans
with Disabilities Act, denying lawful accommodation for workers injured over time as part of their job.

He helped a major car manufacturer avoid a recall when their seatbelts were found to violate federal safety standards.

Argued for the National Mining Association to overturn a ruling that restricted mountain top removal practices devastating to Appalachian communities.

In his brief tenure as a judge, he argued for a very limited view of congressional authority to regulate corporate excess that could threaten broad swaths of environmental protections, workers rights, and anti-discrimination laws.

· He advised Jeb Bush during the Florida recount debacle.

· As a lawyer for the Reagan and Bush Sr. White House, he advocated for right wing ideology over free speech, religious liberty and voting
rights for minorities.

· Roberts has been a life long partisan Republican, a claim the New York Times calls "indisputable," and has donated thousands of dollars to exclusively Republican candidates. The violent anti-choice group Operation Rescue said, "We pray that Judge Roberts will be swiftly confirmed."

James Dobson of Focus on the Family called Roberts "unquestionably

Pat Robertson said Roberts was "at the top" of his own list of cndidates for the court vacancy.

Tony Perkins of the ultra-conservative Family Research Council said
"The President ... promised to nominate someone along the lines of a Scalia or a Thomas and that is exactly what he has done."

--[Above list]From MoveOn.Org email July 20, 2005

Here is part of Senator Feinstein’s email response to my concerns about Roberts’ appointment:

“Judge Roberts has been nominated to a seat on the Court that will be critical with respect to rulings on Congressional authority, as well as all Americans' constitutional right to privacy, environmental protections, and many other aspects of Constitutional law. The extraordinary importance of this nomination cannot be overstated, so I intend to reserve judgment until our due diligence is completed.”

A senator who represents me should have answered, “I intend to oppose the nomination of Roberts for Supreme Court Justice because his past record proves him to be unsuitable in competence and in the intent to uphold the Constitution impartially.”

So, here’s my “due diligence--” in my judgment, Feinstein does not represent the tenets of the Democratic Party in the Senate. It’s hard to find a member of congress these days who isn’t bought and paid for by special interests because of the enormous sums of money needed to run for office.

So much for our form of democracy as the framers of the constitution intended. Then again--and this could produce arguments the size of books—maybe the kind of fascist arrogant power running our government today, in the form of a benevolent dictatorship, was exactly what the founding fathers envisioned.

With Bush filling Supreme Court vacancies like so many eggs in a crate, and US unwillingness to extricate our military and industry from Iraq and the Middle East, we the people surely are declining into a state of international imperialism and domestic martial law, and we are letting it happen easily. While our “representatives” still require our vote, it is our responsibility to let them know what we want, in huge numbers.

One person, Cindy Sheehan, has made a difference, and the millions who follow her lead can also change reality, one by one.

It is entirely up to us, while we still have the chance!


After writing the above today, including the email from Senator Feinstein with the wishy-washy response to concerns about Roberts, the following appeared in the Orange County Register online:

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein worries that if John Roberts becomes Supreme Court chief justice and follows the same judicial philosophy as his mentor, the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, that Congress would be inhibited in its ability to tackle important issues of the day.

"If Judge Roberts subscribes to the Rehnquist Court's restrictive interpretation of Congress' ability to legislate, the impact could be to severely restrict the ability of Congress to tackle nationwide issues that the American people have elected us to address," Feinstein, D-Calif., says in her prepared opening statement for today's first day of Roberts' confirmation hearings as the next head of the nation's highest court.

Feinstein, the only woman among the 16 Judiciary Committee senators, repeats in her opening statement that she would find it hard to confirm someone "whom I knew would overturn Roe v. Wade," the decision that made abortion legal.-- Feinstein lists Roberts worries, DENA BUNIS, 9/12/05

My conclusion is that the tremendous campaigns organized to send emails and make phone calls to congressional leaders, by and People for the American Way, have resulted in one representative listening to thousands of voices.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Bush Hurricane Response: Not

Bush lands on USS Iwo Jima in
New Orleans Today
Photo: Larry Downing, Reuters

It’s worse than we could have imagined—not Hurricane Katrina, the response by Bush and his staff. You can read the synopsis of the Newsweek story at AmericaBlog, or the entire story at MSNBC.

The denial and the frustration finally collided aboard Air Force One on Friday. As the president's plane sat on the tarmac at New Orleans airport, a confrontation occurred that was described by one participant as "as blunt as you can get without the Secret Service getting involved." Governor Blanco was there, along with various congressmen and senators and Mayor Nagin (who took advantage of the opportunity to take a shower aboard the plane). One by one, the lawmakers listed their grievances as Bush listened. Rep. Bobby Jindal, whose district encompasses New Orleans, told of a sheriff who had called FEMA for assistance.

According to Jindal, the sheriff was told to e-mail his request, "and the guy was sitting in a district underwater and with no electricity," Jindal said, incredulously. "How does that make any sense?" Jindal later told NEWSWEEK that "almost everybody" around the conference table had a similar story about how the federal response "just wasn't working." With each tale, "the president just shook his head, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing," says Jindal, a conservative Republican and Bush appointee who lost a close race to Blanco. Repeatedly, the president turned to his aides and said, "Fix it."

According to Sen. David Vitter, a Republican ally of Bush's, the meeting came to a head when Mayor Nagin blew up during a fraught discussion of "who's in charge?" Nagin slammed his hand down on the table and told Bush, "We just need to cut through this and do what it takes to have a more-controlled command structure. If that means federalizing it, let's do it."

A debate over "federalizing" the National Guard had been rattling in Washington for the previous three days. Normally, the Guard is under the control of the state governor, but the Feds can take over—if the governor asks them to. Nagin suggested that Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the Pentagon's on-scene commander, be put in charge. According to Senator Vitter, Bush turned to Governor Blanco and said, "Well, what do you think of that, Governor?" Blanco told Bush, "I'd rather talk to you about that privately." To which Nagin responded, "Well, why don't you do that now?"

The meeting broke up. Bush and Blanco disappeared to talk. More than a week later, there was still no agreement. Blanco didn't want to give up her authority, and Bush didn't press. Jindal suggested that Bush appoint Colin Powell as a kind of relief czar, and Bush replied, "I'll take that into consideration." Bush does not like to fire people. He told Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to go down to Louisiana and sort out the various problems. A day later FEMA's Brown was on his way back to Washington.

Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as "strangely surreal and almost detached." At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Life inside a bunker can be strange, especially in defeat.

And we thought it was bad from what we knew last week!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bush Recuses Himself from the JOB

Harry S. Truman Library

When the number 1 chief bellows, “Get to work,” that’s all it takes.

In my work experience, from retail clerk to corporate highway to store owner, when people needed direction, details could follow, but command alone always brought energy and ideas to bear, and got things done, where there was confusion and lack of cohesion without the leadership.

When President Bush needed to command, “Get to work,” as presidents do, in so many words, last Monday after the flooding of the Gulf coast, he was not available for the job. Fingers can point all they want from now until the ultimate “Katrina Commission” review comes out in two years with recommendations on how to avoid another catastrophe of missing leadership like this one. None of the analysis will matter more than one thing: Harry Truman closed the argument once and for all, when he was asked what the responsibility of the President of the United States is in a crisis of decision: THE BUCK STOPS HERE.

Whether the Mayor of New Orleans should have acted more strongly at first to evacuate his city, whether the Governor of Louisiana should have phoned up for federal help instead of hesitating, whether the impotent Director of Homeland Security and his underlings, including the incompetent director of FEMA, should have called up the troops earlier to help get food and water to the sick and dying—all that doesn’t matter when the head guy--Number One, on vacation, or drumming up support for Medicare reforms and the Iraq War on the West Coast, far from the immediate problem at hand in the Gulf States--is off the clock, the work doesn’t get done.

Today is not too soon to point the finger at him, because if he can’t handle the job properly, at least get someone who can, like Rudy Giuliani, or Jesse Ventura—appoint some high-impact guy to run the show, shout some commands, get some action in action--then pat yourself on the back as the job you delegated gets done well enough to save some lives that are still waiting to be saved.

In a letter to the Senate's Homeland Security Committee chairwoman, Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, pressed for a wide-ranging investigation and answers to several questions, including: "How much time did the president spend dealing with this emerging crisis while he was on vacation? Did the fact that he was outside of Washington, D.C., have any effect on the federal government's response?"

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.[emphasis added]—ABC News

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for
firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.

Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.

Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations
officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA...


...As specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.Salt Lake Triune

Here's one for the Hypocrisy Hall of Fame: At the same time the
administration is putting Karl Rove's "pin-the-blame-on-the-locals"
plan into effect
, President Bush told reporters gathered at a cabinet meeting today, "I think that one of the things that people want us to do here is play a blame game. We've got to solve problems. We're problem solvers. There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right and what went wrong. What I'm interested in is helping save lives…"

…This is clearly going to be a very long recovery process. And the
sooner we've identified those responsible for the Katrina tragedy, the sooner we can make sure they're not around to screw up the recovery.So, yes, now is precisely the time for assessing blame. Let a thousand pointed fingers bloom!—Arriana Huffington, Blog

Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, Brown spent 11 years as the commissioner of judges and stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association, a breeders' and horse-show organization based in Colorado.

"We do disciplinary actions, certification of (show trial) judges. We hold classes to train people to become judges and stewards. And we keep records,'' explained a spokeswoman for the IAHA commissioner's office. `This was his full-time job . . . for 11 years,'' she added.

Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures. "He was asked to resign,'' Bill Pennington, president of the IAHA at the time, confirmed last
night.—Boston Herald American 9/3/05

In today's final spin cycle, there's FEMA's effort to block the news media from showing pictures of dead bodies recovered--or discovered--from Katrina's wrath. Hmm. This sounds vaguely familiar. Oh yes! The federal government hasn't allowed pictures of the thousands of military coffins brought back from the War in Iraq.

Of the Katrina victims, a FEMA spokeswoman said, "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect." If they had treated the living that way, there wouldn't be as many dead.

Do they really think we're stupid enough to buy that excuse? Well, yes they do. This latest attempt to control our collective outrage is an attempt to cover up what will certainly prove to be a far bigger death toll than even from Iraq.—Daily Sally Blog

As horrific are the results of the Katrina disaster and Bush's failure to prepare for or respond to it, in the long run it is the death of Rehnquist and the nomination of Roberts that are far more important and will have the most lasting impact on the country. By being able to fill two Court vacancies -- Bush will soon nominate a new associate justice in Roberts' stead -- this most conservative White House since the Coolidge era will be able to put a conservative lock on the Supreme Court for decades (Roberts relatively young age
means he's got a good thirty-plus years of judicial mileage left on him).

With two new hard-right judges, any microscopic hopes of putting together five-member Court coalitions to frustrate some of the Republicans' more outrageous Constitution-shredding assaults on what remains of our civil liberties are eradicated. The Bill of Rights is already under ferocious attack from the conservative Republicans and their Christian right shock-troops. This symbiotic collaboration has a host of cases -- some brought to challenge liberticide legislation passed by the Republican Congress, some by Christer lawsuits designed to further demolish the barriers between church and state and roll back the clock on progress by women and gays -- are already making their way up the judicial food chain to the Supreme Court, and a number of them are to be heard in the Court's coming fall term.—Doug Ireland, Direland

Here's a stunner: According to a Gallup Survey, 25% of the American people believe that the sun rotates around the earth. Another poll tells us that --- among Americans registered to vote --- '38% approve of the way George Bush is handling his job as president.' That's like an all-time low. Nixon was more popular.

But it's really worse than 38%.

I don't know how many in the Earthcentric cohort are registered to vote --- or, for that matter, can even read --- but given how the worst are passionate and the best lack all conviction, let's say 15% of them voted. Three guesses who they voted for in the last election.

If 38% think Bush is doing a good job and we know that 15% of them are certified cretins, that leaves a resounding 23% of the American people who are not known to be idjuts who currently support our President.

One might ask how a President can hope to govern with approval numbers that low.

The Received Wisdom --- even among traditional 'Bush Is God' supporters like the Wall Street Journal --- describes Bush as "damaged" and "weakened." I disagree.

In the upside-down, defeat-is-victory universe of the Bush
Administration, reality is for suckers. You like facts? You're a loser. Believe what you read in the papers? Man, that's weak. Here at the White House, we see a bigger picture --- the way America could be, the way it should be. Reality is clay for us. We shape it. Bake it. Decorate it. And serve it up to you, fragrant as a Cinnebon. (That's 670 calories and 34 grams of fat. Mmmm, good eatin'. And good for you, too, so long as, like the President, you burn it off with daily workouts.)

So the White House isn't weakened until it tells you it is. And that's not what it's telling us today. Remember those military guys and Southern pols who kicked the stuffing out of the Bushies last weekend for being late and uncaring and barely competent to wipe themselves? They're recanting today. And why? Because phone calls were made. And these careerists decided they really liked their jobs after all.

Liberal friends of mine have been strangely energized the last few days. They cried with Geraldo when he held that baby and cheered Shepard Smith as he told Hannity off, and they saw a new day dawning in America --- reporters asking tough questions, Administration officials stumbling, some white guy somewhere actually getting fired.

Sorry, kids. You're forgetting a few things. First is that the White
House clamp on the private parts of just about every Republican in Congress couldn't be tighter. Karl Rove has made it very plain: You're with us or with the terrorists. And so Senators and Congressmen who may talk big with a few scotches inside them knuckle under and vote the Party Line. Every single time. What George wants, George gets.

Read it and weep: John Roberts will be confirmed in a breeze. The
estate tax will be repealed. And George Bush will look into his own colossal failure --- as he said today, "I intend to lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong" ---- and find he did nothing wrong.—Jesse Kornbluth, Swami Uptown Blog, 9/6/05

Inject Herpes Virus Into Your Bloodstream…

TUESDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDayNews) -- Parents and children may breathe a sigh of relief with the introduction of a new single shot vaccine that protects kids against measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox…-- Forbes 9/6/05
What costs more, naturally contracting chickenpox, or injecting a child with the chickenpox vaccine? Remember, the same sons of bitches at Merck who lied about Vioxx, and are now paying millions of dollars in damages in court cases, manufacture Proquad, the new combination vaccine.

"The FDA should have required far larger studies," said Barbara Loe Fisher, the co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center. "You are combining five live viruses into one vaccine, which has never been done before." Fisher noted that there are still unanswered questions about some of these vaccines and the likelihood of having long-term adverse effects on children. "Particularly in regard to continuing reports of regression after MMR vaccine; the hypothesis that exposing children to three live viruses at once is causing some genetically susceptible children to regress and have a persistent measles infection leading to autism and intestinal bowel disorders," she said. As far as Proquad is concerned, Fisher said it hasn't been truly tested, because it has only been tested against other vaccines and not against a placebo. "With a new vaccine like this, you should be comparing it against placebo to find out the true adverse reaction rate."[emphasis added]—Forbes 9/6/05

All vaccines only provide temporary immunity. Only recovery from natural chickenpox disease will provide lifelong immunity. When the chickenpox vaccine was licensed for public use in 1995, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimated that it was 70 to 90 percent effective in preventing disease. A recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study (Dec. 2002) reported that "the effectiveness of the vaccine was 44 percent against disease of any severity and 86 percent against moderate or severe disease." Some are suggesting a second dose of chickenpox vaccine may be needed. Another study in 2002 confirmed that adults exposed to natural chickenpox disease were protected from developing shingles and that there is concern that mass vaccination against chickenpox may cause a future epidemic of shingles, affecting more than 50 percent of Americans aged 10 to 44 years.[emphasis added]—National Vaccine Information Center

The upcoming generation of schoolchildren will require more special needs classroom facilities than are available under current budgets. Parents need to really become vigilant about the major increase in vaccine dosages over the past several decades. Parents need to face the question, is unloading a live virus toxin into an infant’s bloodstream really the best way to nurture that immature immune system?

The following is from an email newsletter from the NVIC:


Contact: Gary S. Goldman, Ph.D.
Phone: 661-944-5661
Fax: 661-944-4483

for immediate release


Pearblossom, CA - New research published in the International Journal of Toxicology (IJT) by Gary S. Goldman, Ph.D., reveals high rates of shingles(herpes zoster) in Americans since the government's 1995 recommendation that all children receive chicken pox vaccine. Goldman's research supports that shingles, which results in three times as many deaths and five times the number of hospitalizations as chicken pox, is suppressed naturally by occasional contact with chicken pox.

Dr. Goldman's findings have corroborated other independent researchers who estimate that if chickenpox were to be nearly eradicated by vaccination, the higher number of shingles cases could continue in the U.S. for up to 50 years; and that while death rates from chickenpox are already very low, any deaths prevented by vaccination will be offset by deaths from increasing shingles disease. Another recent peer-reviewed article authored by Dr. Goldman and
published in Vaccine presents a cost-benefit analysis of the universal chicken pox (varicella) vaccination program. Goldman points out that during a 50-year time span, there would be an estimated additional 14.6million (42%) shingles cases among adults aged less than 50 years, presenting society with a substantial additional medical cost burden of $4.1 billion. This translates into $80 million annually, utilizing an estimated mean healthcare provider cost of $280 per shingles case.

After a child has had varicella (chickenpox), the virus becomes dormant and can reactivate later in adulthood in a closely related disease called shingles--both caused by the same varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It has long been known that adults receive natural boosting from contact with children infected with chicken pox that helps prevent the reactivation of shingles.

Based on Dr. Goldman's earlier communications with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Goldman maintains that epidemiologists from the CDC are hoping "any possible shingles epidemic associated with the chickenpox vaccine can be offset by treating adults with a shingles vaccine." This intervention would substitute for the boosting adults previously received naturally, especially during seasonal outbreaks of the formerly common childhood disease. "Using a shingles vaccine to control shingles epidemics in adults would likely fail because adult vaccination programs have rarely proved successful," said Goldman. "There appears to be no way to avoid a mass epidemic of shingles lasting as long as several generations among adults."

Goldman's analysis in IJT indicates that effectiveness of the chickenpox vaccine itself is also dependent on natural boosting, so that as chickenpox declines, so does the effectiveness of the vaccine. "The principal reason that vaccines in Japan maintained high levels of immunity 20 years following vaccination was that only 1 in 5 (or 20%) of Japanese children were vaccinated," he said. "So those vaccinated received immunologic boosting from contact with
children with natural chickenpox. But the universal varicella vaccination program in the U.S. will nearly eradicate this natural boosting mechanism and will leave our population vulnerable to shingles epidemics."

For decades it was thought shingles increased with age as older
individuals' immune systems declined. However, Goldman's new research shows this phenomenon seemed primarily due to the fact that older people received fewer natural boosts to immunity as their contacts with young children declined.

Gary S. Goldman, Ph.D. served for eight years as a Research Analyst with the Varicella Active Surveillance Project conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (LACDHS). The project was funded by the CDC.


About Gary S. Goldman, Ph.D.: Currently serves as Founder and
Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed medical journal Medical Veritas ( Has recently authored five manuscripts concerning varicella, herpes zoster, and capture-recapture published in the European journal called Vaccine.

Research published in the International Journal of Toxicology,
24(4):205-213, Universal Varicella Vaccination: Efficacy Trends and Effect on Herpes Zoster. Also, Vaccine, 23(25):3349-3355, Cost-benefit analysis of universal varicella vaccination in the U.S. taking into account the closely related herpes zoster epidemiology.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Bush Should Fire Chertoff

On Sunday, DHS chief Michael Chertoff told "Meet the Press's" Tim Russert that one reason for the delay in getting federal aid to Katrina victims was that "everyone" thought the crisis had passed when the storm left: "I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, 'New Orleans Dodged The Bullet...'" [emphasis added]

...The Newseum has over 400 frontpages archived but we suspect that the one with the "New Orleans Dodged The Bullet" hed exists primarily in Chertoff's mind.--Wonkette

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said it all, starting his news briefing Saturday afternoon: "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater..." [emphasis added]

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.--Keith Olberman,

Fire Chertoff--that's a good start in the clean-up effort.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Good Riddance Rehnquist

William Rehnquist was a warm, compassionate, decent man; a brilliant jurist; and a chief justice of superb and historic stature.--Justice Anthony M. Kennedy

He steered the court along a path of responsibility and careful analysis ....He led the court with firm principles but with a light touch. He never lost his sense of humor and he was able to secure the cooperation and admiration of all of the justices for the years in which he served.'--Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

...he had outraged Jewish classmates by goose-stepping and heil-Hitlering with brown-shirted friends in front of a dormitory that housed the school’s few Jewish students. He also was infamous for telling racist and anti-Semitic jokes.

...He generally opposed the rights of gays, women, blacks, aliens, and
religious minorities. He was a friend of corporations, polluters, right wing Republicans, religious fundamentalists, homophobes, and other bigots.[emphasis added] opinion comes to mind which will be remembered as brilliant, innovative, or memorable. He will be remembered not for the quality of his opinions but rather for the outcomes decided by his votes, especially Bush v. Gore, in which he accepted an Equal Protection claim that was totally inconsistent with his prior views on that clause.--Alan Dershowitz

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Thousands Left to Die, Mr. Bush

A major point is more and more apparent: thousands more people have died in the Gulf States than might have, due to the incompetence and lack of response by Bush and his cabinet and advisers. And this began earlier in the3 Bush administration with the withholding of funds for the levees, and FEMA…

Simply stated, the president and his top advisers chose vacation over action.--Greg Mitchell,

Terrible emotions run wild in us these days. Anger. Shame. Disbelief. Hopelessness. Those are hard emotions to deal with. And we have been well-trained by the Bush spinners always to blame the victims --- to put responsibility on people too dazed or ignorant to take responsibility for themselves.

For five years, these guys have gotten away with it. They're good at it.
And it's hard for even the best of their opponents to pull the curtain back and show you how they make their cheap magic. And then it is very very hard for Americans to consider a scary thought --- our government lies to us, and lies consistently. –Jesse Kornbluth, Huffington Post

Dick Cheney finally showing up at the White House after riding out the storm-of-the-century in Wyoming… His absence, and the president’s performance during it, can only add to the rumors that Bush is clueless without the Big Guy at his side…

… But at least Bush did start heading home late Wednesday. As he did, Secretary of State Rice was still enjoying her vacation in New York….

Condi also played tennis with Monica Seles and on Thursday went on a shoe-shopping spree on Fifth Avenue until a fellow customer yelled at her for not doing her job and bloggers exposed all of this. Then she hurriedly headed back to Washington. Whoops, we discovered she was overdue in getting a grip on offers to help that were pouring in from overseas governments and organizations.

Paging Andrew Card: Turns out he was Bush's Maine man.

And what of FEMA chief Michael Brown? He was so out-of-it that he didn’t even know about 10,000 evacuees living and dying at the Convention Center, even after they had received wide TV coverage for a solid day.

The next day, the president greeted him with, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." A medal is surely on the way.

At a press conference on Thursday, the fourth day of the disaster, with newspapers and TV reporting tens of thousands stranded at hospitals, homes and a highway overpass, Homeland Security chief Michael Cherotff was asked by a reporter if he thought only hundreds or maybe many more needed rescued. He replied:“I'd be guessing. I mean, a thousand seems like a very large number, but we have already rescued several thousand. Hopefully, most people have gotten
themselves onto roofs and have been picked up. But, as I said, rather than give you a guesstimate, I can tell you that as long as there is someone on a roof waving a flag, we're going to be sending a helicopter out there to get them…”

…This is not mere incompetence, but dereliction of duty. The press
should call it by its proper name.-- Greg Mitchell,

By March of 2003, FEMA was no longer a Cabinet-level position, and was folded into the Department of Homeland Security. Its primary mission was recast towards fighting acts of terrorism. In June of 2004, the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for levee construction in New Orleans was cut by a record $71.2 million. Jefferson Parish emergency management chief Walter Maestri said at the time, "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the pricewe pay."

And then the storm came, and the sea rose, and the levees failed. Filthy sewage-laced water began to fill the bowl of New Orleans. Tens of thousands of poor people who did not have the resources to flee the storm became trapped in a slowly deteriorating city without food, water or electricity. The entire nation has since been glued to their televisions, watching footage of an apocalyptic human tragedy unfold before their eyes. Anyone who has put gasoline in their car since Tuesday has come to know what happens when the port that handles 40% of our national petroleum distribution becomes unusable.

And the response? "Bush mugs for the cameras," says Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly, "cuts a cake for John McCain, plays the guitar for Mark Wills, delivers an address about V-J day, and continues with his vacation. When he finally gets around to acknowledging the scope of the unfolding disaster, he delivers only a photo op on Air Force One and a flat, defensive, laundry list speech in the Rose Garden."

Newsweek described it this way: "For all the president's statements
ahead of the hurricane, the region seemed woefully unprepared for the flooding of New Orleans - a catastrophe that has long been predicted by experts and politicians alike. There seems to have been no contingency planning for a total evacuation of the city, including the final refuges of the city's Superdome and its hospitals. There were no supplies of food and water ready offshore - on Navy ships for instance - in the event of such flooding, even though government officials knew there were thousands of people stranded inside the sweltering and powerless city."

Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert twisted the knife on Thursday by bluntly suggesting that we should not bother rebuilding the city of New Orleans. "It doesn't make sense to me," Hastert said to the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago. "And it's a question that certainly we should ask. We help replace, we help relieve disaster. But I think federal insurance and everything that goes along with it ... we ought to take a second look at that."

This sentiment was echoed by the Republican-American newspaper out of Waterbury, CT: "If the people of New Orleans and other low-lying areas insist on living in harm's way, they ought to accept responsibility for what happens to them and their property."

This is it, right here, right now. This is the Bush administration in a
nutshell. The decision to invade Iraq based on lies has left the federal government's budget woefully, and I daresay deliberately, unprepared for a disaster of this magnitude, despite the fact that decades worth of warnings have been put forth about what would happen to New Orleans should a storm like this hit. Louisiana National Guard soldiers and equipment, such as high-water Humvees for example, are sitting today in Iraq while hundreds or even thousands die because there are not enough hands to reach out and pull them from the water.

FEMA - downsized, redirected, budget-slashed and incompetently led - has thus far failed utterly to cope with the scope of the catastrophe.

Actions have consequences. What you see on your television today is not some wild accident, but is a disaster that could have been averted had the priorities of this government been more in line with the needs of the people it pretends to serve. The city of New Orleans, home to so much of the culture that makes America unique and beautiful, is today drowning underneath an avalanche of polluted, diseased water. This, simply, did not have to happen.

Remember that the next time you hear Bush talk about noble causes,
national priorities and responsibility. This has been an administration of death, disaster, fear and woe.—Wake of the Flood, William Rivers Pitt,

The question has been raised, in so many ways, by so many people, "What if there were no warning? What if there were a terrorist attack?" What leadership could we expect?