Friday, December 02, 2005


Hullabaloo provides the latest evidence demonstrating just how awful this administration is...they'd have to improve by light-years just to be incompetent:

I can't believe what I'm seeing. CNN is reporting yet another propaganda boondoggle --- FEMA's "Recovery Channel" in New Orleans. One segment even features a military officer talking about all the good work that FEMA is doing rebuilding the schools. CNN investigated and found out the school in question was really two hours away from new orleans and that virtually all the schools in new orleans are in shambles.

My favorite part was the story about how "our Commander In Chief lent a hand" in the rebuilding.

Apparently, when FEMA realized that CNN was asking questions about this taxpayer funded propaganda operation, they issued a statement saying that they were going to revamp the whole thing and remove all editorial content.

The question now is what department of the Bush administration isn't using tax dollars to promote the President and the Republican party's political agenda?

To paraphrase--no, they have no sense of decency.
No Wasted Words

Thanks to Watertiger for the link:

I think that in the final analysis what really drives me nuts about the administration is that they've translated petty tyranny into something pretty close to actual tyrrany.

I mean, when I contemplate the lies, the mendacity, the incompetence, the naked greed, the self-righteousness, the sanctimonious preening, the shallowness, the stupidity, the abject moral cowardice -- all that crap -- what I see are very small, shallow, mean-spirited people in way over their heads and unable to admit it. I see people who can't appreciate their own inadequacies and who have no other modes of response besides lashing out in a blind rage and sullen denial. I see people unable to deal with anything other than unqualified praise, even if it's obviously hypocritical.

In short, I see every horrible incompetent jerk I've ever been forced to work with, every walking professional disaster. I also see every awful person at every party, in any social grouping, in every family, in every nightmarish relationship that I've hated being around.

It's the Ministry of Petty Assholes, running the planet.

Reasons for Leaving--and Reasons Why We Never Should've Been There to Begin

This article from the Atlantic describes the first point, and this Huffington Post entry from Larry Beinhart explains the second.

Hat tips to The Washington Note and A Tiny Revolution for the links.

Oh--and isn't this just so Shrub-like?

Yesterday, 10 Marines were killed in Fallujah by a roadside bomb. President Bush knew about it before he made remarks at 10:45AM in the Rose Garden...He didn’t want to take the focus off today’s message, the “good news” about the economy.
Baathist Deadenders

New Pravda doesn't come out and say Team Bush flat out lies--that'd just make things more uncomfortable at the next upscale soiree--but it's hard to miss one point of this article--the sheer number of insurgent groups makes a mockery of blanket administration dismissals of "baathist deadenders, jihadists, and foreigners" when describing an insurgency that shows no sign of diminishing:

Here is a small sampling of the insurgent groups that have claimed responsibility for attacks on Americans and Iraqis in the last few months:

Supporters of the Sunni People. The Men's Faith Brigade. The Islamic Anger. Al Baraa bin Malik Suicide Brigade. The Tawid Lions of Abdullah ibn al Zobeir. While some of them, like the Suicide Brigade, claim an affiliation with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and Al Qaeda claims them, others say they have acted alone or under the guidance of another group.

While on Wednesday President Bush promised nothing less than "complete victory" over the Iraqi insurgency, the apparent proliferation of militant groups offers perhaps the best explanation as to why the insurgency has been so hard to destroy.

The Bush administration has long maintained, and Mr. Bush reiterated in his speech Wednesday, that the insurgency comprises three elements: disaffected Sunni Arabs, or "rejectionists"; former Hussein government loyalists; and foreign-born terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Iraqi and American officials in Iraq say the single most important fact about the insurgency is that it consists not of a few groups but of dozens, possibly as many as 100. And it is not, as often depicted, a coherent organization whose members dutifully carry out orders from above but a far-flung collection of smaller groups that often act on their own or come together for a single attack, the officials say. Each is believed to have its own leader and is free to act on its own.

Interesting that the media, at least here in the west, is finally getting around to naming some of the insurgent groups--I doubt the groups themselves have been insisting on "deep background" after carrying out their actions. Additionally, the volume of groups also makes a mockery of the "flypaper" strategy extolled by so many wingnuts--your flypaper looks a lot more like a honeypot, i.e., a golden opportunity for honing skills that I for one goddamn hope aren't used HERE. Way to go, wingnuts.

I just wish they'd clean up the mess THEY made, instead of engaging in their usual game of whine and blame.
Lunatics, Part II

King of Zembla links to a partial transcript of a Lynne Cheney interview:

Yesterday Lynne Cheney went on the Diane Rehm Show on WAMU in Washington to promote her new book A Time for Freedom...

DIANE REHM: To Tim in Detroit, Michigan, good morning to you.
TIM (CALLER): Hello, how are you?

REHM: Fine, thank you.

TIM: I've been listening to your interview with Mrs. Cheney. She seems to have a very selective memory on things. It was Jean Schmidt, a Republican from Portsmouth, Ohio that made those statements about Jack Murtha in the House of Representatives. Matter of fact, the House was so upset with those remarks that they actually struck it now from the Congressional Record. But she does know where Condi Rice will go when she retires.

I just want to clarify two issues. Number one, that her husband actually did receive five deferments from the draft. Personally as a Vietnam veteran who had to serve two terms, two tours over there, I'd just like to confirm that her husband got out of the draft. And secondly, I was just curious: how many of her personal relatives, how many relatives of hers are currently serving in Iraq right now?

Thank you, Diane.

REHM: Thanks for calling.

LYNNE CHENEY: Well, Tim, I want to first of all thank you for your service to our country, I think that, uh, anyone who has served, um, deserves the thanks of the rest of us, and, uh, I have, um, um, been honored to be able to meet with young men and women who are serving in Iraq and to, uh, thank them for our service.

I did forget Jean Schmidt's name. Diane reminded me during the break that these were not her words. They were words that she had read. But you're right, they were very controversial, and I know that, uh, Dick was very glad to go out the next day and say what I just said to you. And that is, uh, thank you for your service, and he honored, uh, Congressman Murtha for his.

Too bad Tim didn't quote Big Time's "frank exchange" with Pat Leahy to Lynne...
Killing the Messenger

From Cursor.

Nothing puts the lie to the Bush Administration's absurd claim that it invaded Iraq to spread democracy throughout the Middle East more decisively than its ceaseless attacks on Al Jazeera, the institution that has done more than any other to break the stranglehold over information previously held by authoritarian forces, whether monarchs, military strongmen, occupiers or ayatollahs. The United States bombed its offices in Afghanistan in 2001, shelled the Basra hotel where Al Jazeera journalists were the only guests in April 2003, killed Iraq correspondent Tareq Ayoub a few days later in Baghdad and imprisoned several Al Jazeera reporters (including at Guantánamo), some of whom say they were tortured. In addition to the military attacks, the US-backed Iraqi government banned the network from reporting in Iraq.

Then in late November came a startling development: Britain's Daily Mirror reported that during an April 2004 White House meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, George W. Bush floated the idea of bombing Al Jazeera's international headquarters in Qatar. This allegation was based on leaked "Top Secret" minutes of the Bush-Blair summit. British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has activated the Official Secrets Act, threatening any publication that publishes any portion of the memo (he has already brought charges against a former Cabinet staffer and a former parliamentary aide). So while we don't yet know the contents of the memo, we do know that at the time of Bush's meeting with Blair, the Administration was in the throes of a very public, high-level temper tantrum directed against Al Jazeera. The meeting took place on April 16, at the peak of the first US siege of Falluja, and Al Jazeera was one of the few news outlets broadcasting from inside the city. Its exclusive footage was being broadcast by every network from CNN to the BBC.

The Falluja offensive, one of the bloodiest assaults of the US occupation, was a turning point. In two weeks that April, thirty marines were killed as local guerrillas resisted US attempts to capture the city. Some 600 Iraqis died, many of them women and children. Al Jazeera broadcast from inside the besieged city, beaming images to the world. On live TV the network gave graphic documentary evidence disproving US denials that it was killing civilians. It was a public relations disaster, and the United States responded by attacking the messenger.

Just a few days before Bush allegedly proposed bombing the network, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Falluja, Ahmed Mansour, reported live on the air, "Last night we were targeted by some tanks, twice...but we escaped. The US wants us out of Falluja, but we will stay." On April 9 Washington demanded that Al Jazeera leave the city as a condition for a cease-fire. The network refused. Mansour wrote that the next day "American fighter jets fired around our new location, and they bombed the house where we had spent the night before, causing the death of the house owner Mr. Hussein Samir. Due to the serious threats we had to stop broadcasting for few days because every time we tried to broadcast the fighter jets spotted us we became under their fire."

On April 11 senior military spokesperson Mark Kimmitt declared, "The stations that are showing Americans intentionally killing women and children are not legitimate news sources. That is propaganda, and that is lies." On April 15 Donald Rumsfeld echoed those remarks in distinctly undiplomatic terms, calling Al Jazeera's reporting "vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.... It's disgraceful what that station is doing." It was the very next day, according to the Daily Mirror, that Bush told Blair of his plan. "He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere," a source told the Mirror. "There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do--and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."

Al Jazeera's real transgression during the "war on terror" is a simple one: being there. While critical of the Bush Administration and US policy, it is not anti-American--it is independent. In fact, it has angered almost every Arab government at one point or another and has been kicked out of or sanctioned by many Arab countries. It holds the rare distinction of being shut down by both Saddam and the new US-backed government. It was the first Arab station to broadcast interviews with Israeli officials. It is hardly the Al Qaeda mouthpiece the Administration has wanted us to believe it is. The real threat Al Jazeera poses is in its unembedded journalism--precisely what is needed now to uncover the truth about the Bush-Blair meeting.

When this story first came out, I expressed some reservation because I didn't know the veracity of the source. It's now pretty clear, based on all the Official Secrets crap, that The Mirror was right. Bush was--and presumably is--willing to be even more obvious in his war criminal tendencies than he already is.

Ignorant, incompetent, dangerous--and a national embarrassment.
Soon to be Denigrated... a bunch of chickenhawks who'd probably soil themselves at the first sign of actual combat--link:

In a letter to Stars & Stripes:
Weapons of mass destruction? I'm still looking for them, and if you find any give me a call so we can justify our presence in Iraq. We started the war based on a lie, and we'll finish it based on a lie. I say this because I am currently serving with a logistics headquarters in the Anbar province, between the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. I am not fooled by the constant fabrication of "democracy" and "freedom" touted by our leadership at home and overseas.

This deception is furthered by our armed forces' belief that we can just enter ancient Mesopotamia and tell the locals about the benefits of a legislative assembly. While our European ancestors were hanging from trees, these ancient people were writing algebra and solving quadratic equations. Now we feel compelled to strong-arm them into accepting the spoils of capitalism and "laissez-faire" society. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching Britney Spears on MTV and driving to McDonald's, but do you honestly believe that Sunnis, Shias and Kurds want our Western ideas of entertainment and freedom imposed on them? Think again.

I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic. The reality in Iraq is that the United States created a nightmare situation where one didn't exist. Yes, Saddam Hussein was an evil man who lied, cheated and pillaged his own nation. But how was he different from dictators in Africa who commit massive crimes again humanity with little repercussion and sometimes support from the West? The bottom line up front (BLUF to use a military acronym) is that Saddam was different because we used him as an excuse to go to war to make Americans "feel good" about the "War on Terrorism." The BLUF is that our ultimate goal in 2003 was the security of Israel and the lucrative oil fields in northern and southern Iraq.

Weapons of mass destruction? Call me when you find them. In the meantime, "bring 'em on" so we can get our "mission accomplished" and get out of this mess.

Capt. Jeff Pirozzi
Camp Taqaddum, Iraq
Caution: Lunatics Ahead

From Firedoglake I followed a chain of links chronicling a BBC interview with Judith Miller--the last one is evidently a full transcript. Excuse me while I undergo a ritual cleansing...[pause]

OK, I'm back--let's look at some of the lowlights--no, on second thought, let's not. Feel free to look on your own--and keep plenty of towels handy for your own ritual cleansing...and maybe a bucket.

However, Why Are We Back in Iraq does have a few things worth noting at the end:

Aside from the fact that this is the first time Judith Miller has faced some hard questioning in front of the camera since returning from prison, this interview is "newsworthy" for the sort-of apologies Judy offers (notice how she piles on the CIA for being wrong but not the President) and a teensy bit of information she adds about who else spoke to her about Plame other than Libby.

Judy clearly says that her sources were plural...that's new...and she sure clammed up when Rove's name came up.

It seems that Judy Miller has decided to adopt the Bush doctrine: pretend that two-and-a-half years ago absolutely every single person in the world - not to mention the entire intelligence community - was in agreement about Saddam Hussein's weapon arsenal. Isn't it supposed to be elephants that never forget?

Faulty memory and heavy reliance on technicalities--I guess that's what "changing the tone" really meant to them.
Fantasy Versus Reality

Yet another awful day in Mesopotamia--ten Marines killed, eleven injured in Fallujah by, you guessed it, a roadside bomb. I wonder which low-level White House flunky will be charged with delivering this bit of news to the Draft-Dodger in chief...

Oh, and take a look at today's Rude Pundit, if you have the chance. He nicely sums up the stale smell of hypocrisy emanating from the national capital these days: while the boy-king reiterates his litany of memorized syllables--sacrifice, 9/11, Zarqawi, Zawahiri, freedom, blah blah blah, the First Lady blissfully shows off the White House Christmas the Rude One notes, the decorations "might as well have been plucked from the graves of...American soldiers." No shit.

Paul Krugman tears apart the "Strategy for Victory" document, righly calling it "an embarrassing piece of work," while pointing out the sheer contempt Team Bush have for the media:

The point isn't just that the administration is trying, yet again, to deceive the public. It's the fact that this attempt at deception shows such contempt - contempt for the public, and especially contempt for the news media. And why not? The truth is that the level of misrepresentation in this new document is no worse than that in a typical speech by President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney. Yet for much of the past five years, many major news organizations failed to provide the public with effective fact-checking.

So Mr. Bush's new public relations offensive on Iraq is a test. Are the news media still too cowed, too addicted to articles that contain little more than dueling quotes to tell the public when the administration is saying things that aren't true? Or has the worm finally turned?

There have been encouraging signs, notably a thorough front-page fact-checking article - which even included charts showing the stagnation of oil production and electricity generation! - in USA Today. But the next few days will tell.

Well, maybe--on the other hand, I half expect the mainstream press to roll the document up and slap THEMSELVES silly with it--while praising the "bold" steps outlined therein. Wankers.

And, I forget where I saw this--if it was on a blog, apologies for lack of citation, but recently I read that Team Bush is so paranoid about genuine analysis of their motives re: Iraq, that they were trying to keep documents related to the Gulf of Tonkin (non) incident from the public--lest further parallels be drawn between the two quagmires.

Well, today's reports confirm what we all knew: yeah, the "attack" by North Vietnam wasn't. However, it provided a pretext to teach "them" a lesson--just like WMD did in Iraq.

Some lesson, eh?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Ongoing Last Throes

According to Stratfor, insurgents launched an offensive in Ramadi today:

Anywhere from 250 to 400 insurgents mounted a counterattack in Ar Ramadi, the capital of western Iraq's restive Anbar province, after dawn Dec. 1, seizing parts of the city and staging rocket and mortar attacks against government buildings and U.S. bases. The insurgents were seen patrolling openly in some areas, and rounded up local residents who they claimed were collaborators with the coalition and Iraqi government...

The attack appears to have represented a raid rather than an attempt to retake and hold the city. At 11 a.m. local time, U.S. Marines re-entered Ar Ramadi; rather than stand and fight, the insurgents retreated, melting into the surrounding area. The insurgents likely intended their attack to represent a statement rather than an effort to force a military engagement they could not win.

The attack came in response to Operation Tigers, a U.S.-Iraqi sweep in Ar Ramadi. Significantly, the attack occurred as U.S. Marine officers and local tribal officials met for the second time in a week to discuss running Ar Ramadi after the recent anti-insurgent sweeps.

By attacking the very building where the meeting was taking place, the insurgents sent a signal to the Iraqi government and U.S. forces that their bid to secure the city had failed, and would continue to be contested.

More important, the insurgents' show of strength will not be lost on the tribal leaders, who could be reconsidering cooperating with the U.S. and Iraqi forces. Any tribal leaders who may be on the fence will probably stay there for a while rather than risk a return of the insurgents to Ar Ramadi and their subsequent reprisals on those who had pledged allegiance to the government. Discouraging local tribes from aligning with the government benefits the insurgents by allowing them to hold on to their safe-havens and operations bases.

As Iraq's Dec. 15 elections approach, some of the insurgents have accelerated their efforts to disrupt the political process, indicating that they continue to get support from elements of the Iraqi Sunni community opposed to the process. Although it was foreign jihadist militants from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's jihadist network, al Qaeda in Iraq, who distributed leaflets claiming credit for the attack, it is Sunni nationalists from tribes opposed to the political process or that seek more concessions from the government before joining in who likely made up the bulk of the insurgent force.

The events in Ar Ramadi on Dec. 1 represent nothing new. Insurgents have been able to return to several major towns and cites in force following operations designed to eradicate their presence. Cities such as As Samarra, Al Fallujah and Mosul continue to see insurgent activity after repeated U.S.-led offensives there. In Tall Afar, where U.S. and Iraq forces lauded their efforts to eliminate jihadist insurgents in September, a wave of suicide attacks struck the town immediately after the conclusion of the operation, including one at an Iraqi police recruiting center.

Operation Tigers was supposed to be part of the U.S. effort to demonstrate that Iraqi forces are becoming more capable of handling security responsibilities. U.S. civilian and military officials have been increasingly expressing the need to build up the Iraqi security forces as a prerequisite for a U.S. troop reduction. But if Ar Ramadi represents an example of how such demonstrations will turn out, significant changes will have to be made in the political and military efforts to stabilize the country before Iraqis can handle their own security.

I saw this also on the main Yahoo news page an hour or so ago--but it seems to have vanished, along with any reference if you run a search (I found the story above at Google news). Regardless, the insurgents' ability to send at least 250 people on an offensive makes a mockery of administration attempts to paint pretty pictures--or paint schools, or whatever the hell else they're trying.

Meanwhile, the Coalition of the Willing is now the Coalition of the Lighter by two, with Ukraine and Bulgaria having had enough--and six more countries are thinking of pulling stakes (no word on "the lone Dutch soldier" in Baghdad). And speechifyin' by Gee Dub the ignorant yokel won't change a thing.

According to John Murtha, the administration's actions have left the Army much like their INACTION left the Gulf Coast: "broken, worn out, living hand to mouth." The vaccuum chamber that's the collective noggin of this administration is so glaringly apparent that, as Murtha noted a week or so ago, "the public is way ahead [of the Congress]" on the issue of Iraq--and probably on the issue of nation the UNITED STATES.

C'mon Democrats--the Repugs are out of gas, out of steam, out of ideas. They can be knocked over with a feather, although I'd still recommend a sledgehammer. Stop trying to placate a bunch of losers and realize it's there for the taking. Get up off your ass, no pun intended.
Put Tom Tancredo (R-CO) on My Permanent Shit List RIGHT NOW

Sorry for the late start again--a work project is keeping me busy...but, moving right along to the topic at hand, my outrage meter almost blew itself up listening to asshole Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo (a Repug--of course) on NPR "arguing" against "storm" relief--and "justifying" his "no" vote on a federal aid proposal.

I don't know if it's fortunate or not that I didn't hear all his pompous bloviating--I think it's good, because I might have driven straight to DC for introductions: his nose and my fist.

What a smug son-of-a-bitch (apologies--to bitches). Tancredo haughtily lectured earlier guest Mitch Landrieu (missed his interview, alas)--he claimed Mitch used San Francisco and Chicago ("I assume he meant Chicago when he referred to the Midwest") as examples--Tancredo then dismissed both instances as cases where "the federal government didn't spent a cent for reconstruction."

Like I said, I missed Landrieu's appearance--but I'll remind Tancredo of two not so insignificant events in the recent past: the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, and the Midwest floods of 1993--oh, and we can also add the Northridge earthquake of 1994, the 2004 hurricane season, the $250 BILLION DOLLARS of federal money Tom's committed to bringing Islamic theocracy to Mesopotamia--a veritable smorgasbord of federal dollars outlayed for all sorts of projects...and NOW you're getting stingy with the purse strings, Tancredo?

John Barry--author of Rising Tide--fortunately was there to counter Tancredo's lunacy. He began by noting it was almost like "being in Germany," circa 1934, "and trying to defend the rights of Jews to exist" (or words to that effect). Barry went on to note how important New Orleans is to the national economy--particularly the port--remember, it both sends oil/gas upriver, and also is the initial destination prior to transshipment of heartland goods to a worldwide market.

I just fired off an email to Talk of the Nation more or less reiterating these points. Oh yeah--Tancredo also went all smug reminding listeners of Louisiana's "endemic" political corruption...well, Tom, the GOP sure knows A LOT about corruption, doesn't it?

Barry passed along a couple of other reminders--things that Tancredo apparently forgot in his zeal to justify his position that it's ok for the federal government to TAKE from the Gret Stet--and only give the finger in return: first, the loss of coastal wetlands was essentially a Gret Stet SUBSIDY to the nation: the "taming" of the Mississippi River was a NATIONAL project done to benefit NATIONAL commerce at the cost of OUR coastline. He also noted that REGARDLESS of what sort of corruption you've got down here--be it at the local or state level (Barry's examples were the various levee boards) the fact is the levees themselves were constructed by the feds, specifically the Army Corps of Engineers...and it WASN'T the storm itself that drowned the city--it was the failure of structures, built by the federal government--that did.

Louisiana isn't looking for charity--but compensation. This is tort/breach of contract on a massive scale...and if Tancredo doesn't get this, then maybe we ought to seize HIS assets for use in recompense...or at least make him, and his constituents, freeze in the dark this winter.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Removing "Tide" From Yule

Seen over at Murph's site, this story about an all-too-reality-based NOLA vignette for the holidays apparently upset enough folks to require removal of some features:

For Frank Evans, designer of Lakeside Shopping Center's holiday display, getting into the spirit of the season this year meant building a Christmas village that riffed on the post-Katrina landscape.

He created a winter wonderland replete not only with churchgoers and trains, but also abandoned refrigerators, houses covered in blue tarpaulins and a storm victim suspended from a helicopter...

The mood was somber around the wintry display Tuesday afternoon. Juanita Landau, who ran the model trains around the dismantled village, said the whole situation was a spoiler for those who had tried to keep up the spirits of shoppers.

"A lot of us are really disappointed," she said, as she offered train rides to children for $1. "It made people light-hearted to see it."

Even Santa Claus, in between sittings with wishful children, complained that some people had no respect for Christmas or free speech.

"I think this is terrible," said Santa, a Metairie resident usually known as John Vollenweider. "It was not done to hurt anyone. It was not done maliciously. This was a sign of the times."

Metairie resident Juni Bowes, who had taken her mother, Sylvia, to see the waggish display, said the designer had tried hard to keep it lifelike, right down to the beams that anchored the tarps to the roofs.

"He took all of that trouble to make it accurate," Bowes said. "We're sad to see it taken down. It was very imaginative."

Evans said he can understand the trauma that some residents experienced during the hurricane. His daughter lost her home near City Park in New Orleans.

After he had broken down the display, removing the tarped houses, mummified fridges and dangling evacuee, he said he was too worn out to redo the village in a more traditional style.

Among the other casualties of the remodeling was a sign affixed to the village pump station in homage to Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, who has incurred the wrath of residents for his decision to evacuate drainage pump operators before Katrina struck Aug. 29. The sign saying "Broussard Pumping Station No. 1" was gone, although the one touting "Works only in good weather" remained.

Spokeswoman Jacqueline Bauer said the Broussard administration had no role in the sign's removal.

Pictures here...

I guess Murph's right (he expresses mixed feelings and thinks Mardi Gras might be a better outlet), although I would've like to have seen it. And, like he says, I also can't wait to see what sort of heckuva job Brownie--well, Brownie effigies--will be doing during the last week of February 2006. Something tells me there will be many floats "not suitable for children."
Below the Fold

In a grim version of what I guess counts as "the show must go on," Bubble Shrub ranted and gesticulated before an audience guaranteed to, at the very least, not gawk too much at the train wreck calling itself an administration. Coupled with the wreck, the rant, and--haven't seen any video footage, so I'm assuming the usual displays that I'll charitably call typically spastic Shrub movements--is this .pdf "strategy" outline--which, upon first glance, looks more like simply a geared-up version of Shrub's "speechifyin"--in other words, cheerleading at the secondary level. Texas souffle gone national.

Which is probably why such an act of wanton grandstanding has thus far received a decidedly underwhelming response...sort of like the last half dozen or so times an increasingly Desperate Dubya has delivered "a major policy address" on Iraq...all of which have turned out to be neither major nor policy, but instead, cheerleading. Which isn't all that surprising, considering Shrub's almost unique lack of qualifications for high office.

WIIIAI claimed to watch the speech so we won't have to--and, "Oh God, Make it Stop" is probably as valid a sentiment as any:

Actually, after listening to it, I’m not sure I heard any actual strategy. He did repeatedly refer to it as a “clear strategy,” so it may be see-through, which would explain a lot.

He also called it a national strategy, but he didn’t say which nation, and for most of the speech American troops were also see-through, invisible. Mostly he spoke about Iraqis. Good Iraqis, and bad Iraqis. The good ones have all joined the Iraqi army or police, all for altruistic reasons of course, no death squads here, and they are standing up so... well, you know the rest. They’re being trained and increasing in numbers and in every day in every way they’re getting better and better.

For the bad Iraqis, who Rumsfeld says we’re no longer allowed to call insurgents, Bush created a handy taxonomy, applying labels that are in no way useful in assisting understanding and which bear little resemblance to the actual people involved. They consist, he says, of Rejectionists, Saddamists & terrorists. Rejectionist, which sounds like a label Stalin might have used for his ideological opponents or kulaks or something, actually means Sunni. Evidently we’re going to “marginalize” these Rejectionists, he said it several times, but I don’t know what that actually means. I suspect he doesn’t either. Saddamists (shouldn’t it be Husseinistas?) are just a few guys, also Sunnis, and will also be marginalized or turned into margarine or something. Terrorists are defined as “affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaeda,” and Bush emphasized the foreigners among them; they’re like outside agitators and “These terrorists have nothing to offer the Iraqi people.”

Bush twice refers to violence as media events (“the suicide bombings and the beheadings and the other atrocities we see on our television” and “creat[ing] chaos for the cameras”), as if the terrorists were run by an Arab Karl Rove.

I fell into a hypnotic state after a while, but I could swear he made fun of Democrats for saying that his only plan is to “stay the course,” like they just made up the phrase themselves.

Anyway, if you were wondering what our mission in Iraq is, “Our mission in Iraq is to win the war - our troops will return home when that mission is complete.” As opposed to when the mission is accomplished, which was a couple of years ago.

And then it was over, leaving us all re-energized and re-dedicated to whatever it was he was talking about.

Well, I guess I'll probably tune into a repeat at some point, despite the WIIIAI's admirable feat of endurance--within reason, I allow myself to gawk now and again. But if anyone leaning toward wingnut interpretation of world events somehow thinks Shrub's speech will somehow cause events in Iraq "round the corner," (or, for the more cynical of the 'nut variety, merely rejuvenate the boy pResident's domestic profile) they're in for a rude shock. Events in Iraq are beyond Shrub's immediate control...well, unless he decides to take the ultimate low road and begins carpet bombing the place. But that carries it's own drawback: doing so will make Saddam Hussein look like a piker in terms of human rights records. Or, we can "stay the course," which means an Army slowly being bled dry, billions of dollars more scattered in the sand...and eventually the same outcome we're already facing: an Islamic theocracy.

Enjoy your legacy, Shrub.
Natural Disaster

From The_Velvet_Rut, a link to the online Pic:

17th Street Canal levee was doomed
Report blames corps: Soil could never hold

The floodwall on the 17th Street Canal levee was destined to fail long before it reached its maximum design load of 14 feet of water because the Army Corps of Engineers underestimated the weak soil layers 10 to 25 feet below the levee, the state's forensic levee investigation team concluded in a report to be released this week.

That miscalculation was so obvious and fundamental, investigators said, they "could not fathom" how the design team of engineers from the corps, local firm Eustis Engineering and the national firm Modjeski and Masters could have missed what is being termed the costliest engineering mistake in American history.

The failure of the wall and other breaches in the city's levee system flooded much of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore Aug. 29, prompting investigations that have raised questions about the basic design and construction of the floodwalls.

"It's simply beyond me," said Billy Prochaska, a consulting engineer in the forensic group known as Team Louisiana. "This wasn't a complicated problem. This is something the corps, Eustis, and Modjeski and Masters do all the time. Yet everyone missed it -- everyone from the local offices all the way up to Washington."

Team Louisiana, which consists of six LSU professors and three independent engineers, reached its conclusions by plugging soil strength data available to the corps into the engineering equations used to determine whether a wall is strong enough to withstand the force of rising water caused by a hurricane.

"Using the data we have available from the corps, we did our own calculations on how much water that design could take in these soils before failure," said LSU professor Ivor van Heerden, a team member. "Our research shows it would fail at water levels between 11 and 12 feet -- which is just what happened" in Katrina.

Not deep enough

Several high-level academic and professional investigations have found that the sheet piling used in the design to support the floodwalls was too short for the 18.5-foot depth of the canal. In addition to holding up the concrete "cap" on the walls, the sheet piling is supposed to serve as a barrier preventing the migration of water from the canal through the porous soils to the land side of the levee, an event that rapidly weakens the soils supporting a wall and can cause it to shift substantially.

The corps has long claimed the sheet piling was driven to 17.5 feet deep, but Team Louisiana recently used sophisticated ground sonar to prove it was only 10 feet deep.

Van Heerden said Team Louisiana's latest calculations prove investigators' claims that a depth of 17 feet would have made little difference. He said the team ran the calculations for sheet piles at 17 feet and 16 feet deep, and the wall still would have failed at a load of 11 to 12 feet of water.

To the east, the MRGO, if I remember right, contributed heavily to the flooding in St. Bernard Parish. And while I haven't seen any reports re: either the Industrial or London Avenue canals, I wonder if breaches on each might also be due to faulty design/construction. In other words, the disaster wasn't all that natural after all.

I can't think of a single place on earth that's NOT vulnerable to a disaster of some kind--fire, flood, blizzard, drought, earthquake, tornado--you name it. But saying NOLA--and the Gulf Coast--ought to be written off is wrong on so many levels...and it's now becoming clear that the biggest problem facing the city was not the storm itself, but reliance on assurances of protection that turned out to be false.

If this was only a matter between private concerns, it'd be the tort case of all time...

It's certainly proper to identify the faults--and who's responsible--but right now I think the real lesson is achingly clear: as Schroeder and others continue to point out, the City needs GENUINE protection from serious storms like Katrina--but, just as important, MUST also have systems in place that can be counted on for normal, mundane, everyday flood protection too. And I guess we can't rely on mere assurances from the Corps, or their contractors: someone with training needs to watch over them, double check the work, and ensure they're doing what they claim to be doing. Maybe university researchers can be tapped for this oversight any rate, it needs to be done.

I just wish the problems had been noticed BEFORE the fact.
This is Your Wake Up Call

Ashley Morris almost make the coffee superfluous.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cry Boy

Big blogs--especially TPM--have kept the Duke Cunningham story on the front burner, at least for me...but Jeff St. Clair has a nice, if long, story offering a little background gossip (before he became Cry Boy, Cunningham boasted he was the inspiration for the movie Top Gun; he also attended the notorious Tailhook conventions in the early 90's, acting as apologist for sexual assualt)...St. Clair follows up with both material on the congressman and "defense industry" practice, and concludes by taking out the garbage:

What Cunningham in his obduracy never realized was that he was just an interchangeable part, a legislative errand boy, fetching home pails of contracts every fall when the appropriations bills come due. No special talent required. Almost anyone could do it. In the end, the congressman was expendable, so that the Enterprise might endure forever. The Pentagon and its contractors and numberless parasites have many available to shoulder the Duke's duties.

After reading about Fly Boy turning into Cry Boy yesterday, I almost felt sorry for the guy--hey, going to prison can't be fun, especially for a 65 year old...but I quickly got over it after getting a more complete picture of the jerk.

Have fun at the Gray Bar Hotel, Congressman. I guess, on the brighter side, any number of your GOP colleagues will be joining you soon.
Bubble Shrub

Dan Froomkin writes about the dauphin's personal green zone:

What does it say about the president of the United States that he won't go anywhere near ordinary citizens any more? And that he'll only speak to captive audiences?

President Bush's safety zone these days doesn't appear to extend very far beyond military bases, other federal installations and Republican fundraisers...

When was the last time that Bush spoke in a forum open to citizens who are representative of the diverse array of views in the country? Certainly not since last October's presidential debates, and not often before then, either.

The White House advance team has long been sensitive to the potency of imagery in presidential events, going to great lengths to stage dramatic backdrops for Bush's appearances. In particular, they have used uniformed, on-duty military audiences many times before to underscore his case for war.

During last year's campaign, White House advance teams began screening audiences at Bush events to insure that only supporters were allowed in. After the election, that policy gave way to a new, "invitation only" approach, in which tickets to so-called public events were distributed largely by Republican and business groups. Now Bush is in phase three, where almost everyone he appears before is either on the federal payroll or a Republican donor...

The last speech Bush gave that was not explicitly controlled by the White House was in downtown Norfolk on Oct. 28. It wasn't exactly a random group. About half the crowd was in uniform, and more than 70 military members sat on risers on the stage behind him. But some tickets were available to the public through the local Chamber of Commerce.

The result: Bush got heckled. As Tamara Dietrich wrote in a column for the Hampton Roads Daily Press: "[A] man stood up in Chrysler Hall, yanked open his shirt to expose his 'Dump Bush' T-shirt in full view of shocked members of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network seated nearby and cried, 'War is terrorism! Torture is terrorism!' before he was hustled out by security people.

" 'That was me,' says Tom Palumbo, anti-war activist and, now, presidential party-crasher. 'I think maybe he heard me. I know he looked befuddled.'"

I doubt anyone with a record like Shrub's--noteworthy only in it's level of abject failure--would want to appear much in public either.
Dead On Accurate

I just read Arthur Silber's take on the Fred Kaplan Slate piece--it's good--but what really caught my eye was his opening paragraph:

In one of my periodic, thankfully rare spasms of masochistic frenzy, I just listened to a little bit of Rush Limbaugh. I turned it off after about 15 minutes. I can feel brain cells dying as his very angry, pompous bleats drill into my head.

Wow...that's exactly how I feel whenever I either chance upon Rush during forays into the AM dial or grit my teeth in conscious attempts to digest Limbaughian tripe. Exactly.

Maybe there ought to be a term for it.

By the Numbers

Think Progress tallies up Project Mesopotamian Nightmare:

- Approximately 100 Attacks Per Day; All-Time High.
- One of the Deadliest Attacks In Iraq Occurred Less Ten Days Ago.
- Unemployment Rates At 40 Percent.
- Iraq Oil Production Is Below Pre-War Levels.
- Water, Electricity, Health Networks Are Below Prewar Levels.
- As of November 28, 2005, at least 2,107 U.S. Troops Had Died In Iraq and Over 15,500 Were Wounded.
- Almost 94 Percent of All U.S. Fatalities Have Occurred Since “Mission Accomplished” (5/1/03).
- Almost 60 percent of All U.S. Fatalities Have Occurred After The Transfer of Sovereignty (6/28/04).
- Insurgents in Iraq Have Kidnapped More Than 225 Foreigners.
- Over $250 Billion Spent On Iraq War.
- Reconstruction of Iraq Has Been Spotty.
- [Unclear documentation on] Number of Troops Trained.
- Dwindling Coalition.
- Almost 3 Years Later, More Troops In Iraq.

Mission Accomplished--by Morons.

I guess it's all in how you look at it, but Fred Kaplan thinks Shrub is about to declare his mission to Mesopotamia a smashing success:

Brace yourself for a mind-bog of sheer cynicism. The discombobulation begins Wednesday, when President George W. Bush is expected to proclaim, in a major speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, that the Iraqi security forces—which only a few months ago were said to have just one battalion capable of fighting on its own—have suddenly made uncanny progress in combat readiness. Expect soon after (if not during the speech itself) the thing that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have, just this month, denounced as near-treason—a timetable for withdrawal of American troops.

And so it appears (assuming the forecasts about the speech are true) that the White House is as cynical about this war as its cynical critics have charged it with being. For several months now, many of these critics have predicted that, once the Iraqis passed their constitution and elected a new government, President Bush would declare his mission complete and begin to pull out—this, despite his public pledge to "stay the course" until the insurgents were defeated.

This theory explains Bush's insistence that the Iraqis draft and ratify the constitution on schedule—even though the rush resulted in a seriously flawed document that's more likely to fracture the country than to unite it. For if the pullout can get under way in the opening weeks of 2006, then the war might be nullified as an issue by the time of our own elections.

Success? Hmmm...Smashing? Those on the reality side of things can see that pretty clearly:

Human rights abuses in Iraq are now as bad as they were under Saddam Hussein and are even in danger of eclipsing his record, according to the country's first Prime Minister after the fall of Saddam's regime.

'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,' Ayad Allawi told The Observer. 'It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.'

In a damning and wide-ranging indictment of Iraq's escalating human rights catastrophe, Allawi accused fellow Shias in the government of being responsible for death squads and secret torture centres. The brutality of elements in the new security forces rivals that of Saddam's secret police, he said.

Here's more:

Hundreds of accounts of killings and abductions have emerged in recent weeks, most of them brought forward by Sunni civilians, who claim that their relatives have been taken away by Iraqi men in uniform without warrant or explanation.

Some Sunni men have been found dead in ditches and fields, with bullet holes in their temples, acid burns on their skin, and holes in their bodies apparently made by electric drills. Many have simply vanished.

Some of the young men have turned up alive in prison. In a secret bunker discovered earlier this month in an Interior Ministry building in Baghdad, American and Iraqi officials acknowledged that some of the mostly Sunni inmates appeared to have been tortured.

Tbogg calls it "Abattoiraq," and directs us to this telling editorial cartoon:

Unfortunately, there's a lot of truth to it.

The other day I happened across a television interview with Paul Hackett. He's the guy who ran for Congress against nut-job Jean Schmidt in Ohio a couple of months ago. Didn't see much of the Q and A, but Hackett closed saying something like "if the government wants to do some nation building, it should start right here."

Indeed. However, I think we need a new government to do that--the one we've got is not merely incompetent, but has far too many evil, vicious Saddam wannabees to do the job effectively.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies...and Damned Liars

Frank Rich has both barrels blazing as he asks the corollary to my own query below:

The more we learn about the road to Iraq, the more we realize that it's a losing game to ask what lies the White House told along the way. A simpler question might be: What was not a lie? The situation recalls Mary McCarthy's explanation to Dick Cavett about why she thought Lillian Hellman was a dishonest writer: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.' "

If Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney believe they were truthful in the run-up to the war, it's easy for them to make their case. Instead of falsely claiming that they've been exonerated by two commissions that looked into prewar intelligence - neither of which addressed possible White House misuse and mischaracterization of that intelligence - they should just release the rest of the President's Daily Briefs and other prewar documents that are now trickling out. Instead, incriminatingly enough, they are fighting the release of any such information, including unclassified documents found in post-invasion Iraq requested from the Pentagon by the pro-war, neocon Weekly Standard. As Scott Shane reported in The New York Times last month, Vietnam documents are now off limits, too: the National Security Agency won't make public a 2001 historical report on how American officials distorted intelligence in 1964 about the Gulf of Tonkin incident for fear it might "prompt uncomfortable comparisons" between the games White Houses played then and now to gin up wars.

Sooner or later - probably sooner, given the accelerating pace of recent revelations - this embarrassing information will leak out anyway. But the administration's deliberate efforts to suppress or ignore intelligence that contradicted its Iraq crusade are only part of the prewar story. There were other shadowy stations on the disinformation assembly line. Among them were the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, a two-man Pentagon operation specifically created to cherry-pick intelligence for Mr. Cheney's apocalyptic Iraqi scenarios, and the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), in which Karl Rove, Karen Hughes and the Cheney hands Lewis Libby and Mary Matalin, among others, plotted to mainline this propaganda into the veins of the press and public. These murky aspects of the narrative - like the role played by a private P.R. contractor, the Rendon Group, examined by James Bamford in the current Rolling Stone - have yet to be recounted in full.

No debate about the past, of course, can undo the mess that the administration made in Iraq. But the past remains important because it is a road map to both the present and the future. Leaders who dissembled then are still doing so. Indeed, they do so even in the same speeches in which they vehemently deny having misled us then -witness Mr. Bush's false claims about what prewar intelligence was seen by Congress and Mr. Cheney's effort last Monday to again conflate the terrorists of 9/11 with those "making a stand in Iraq." (Maj. Gen. Douglas Lute, director of operations for Centcom, says the Iraqi insurgency is 90 percent homegrown.) These days Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney routinely exaggerate the readiness of Iraqi troops, much as they once inflated Saddam's W.M.D.'s.

"We're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history," the vice president said of his critics. "We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them." But according to a Harris poll released by The Wall Street Journal last Wednesday, 64 percent of Americans now believe that the Bush administration "generally misleads the American public on current issues to achieve its own ends." That's why it's Mr. Cheney's and the president's own words that are being thrown back now - not to rewrite history but to reveal it for the first time to an angry country that has learned the hard way that it can no longer afford to be without the truth.

Not a single, unqualified success at ANYTHING for the last four years and ten months (and don't expect any changes on that score through 2009). Obvious lies to wage war--and more lies to cover those lies, now that their glorious little campaign has blown up in their faces like a cheap exploding cigar. And their true skinflint color revealed now that resources are desperately needed to rebuild that nationally critical and strategically important Gulf Coast. Impeachment is almost being too easy on them, but I'll settle for it.
Give Thanks

That my own holiday was nothing like this. Credit to Dependable Renegade for the link.

Ah yes, it is that time again. The smell of roasting turkey and cigar smoke and Polo cologne, perfume like florid gasoline. Copious forced laughter that sounds like geese mating in a broom closet. It is Thanksgiving dinner at the Bush White House...

Ah, just check out the whole thing--it's that good.
Private Sector

I'm saving these for the next time I hear the tired, stale bullshit about the private sector being so better than "government:"

A "trophy" video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.

The video, which first appeared on a website that has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence Services, contained four separate clips, in which security guards open fire with automatic rifles at civilian cars. All of the shooting incidents apparently took place on "route Irish", a road that links the airport to Baghdad.

The road has acquired the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous in the world because of the number of suicide attacks and ambushes carried out by insurgents against coalition troops. In one four-month period earlier this year it was the scene of 150 attacks.

In one of the videoed attacks, a Mercedes is fired on at a distance of several hundred yards before it crashes in to a civilian taxi. In the last clip, a white civilian car is raked with machine gun fire as it approaches an unidentified security company vehicle. Bullets can be seen hitting the vehicle before it comes to a slow stop.

There are no clues as to the shooter but either a Scottish or Irish accent can be heard in at least one of the clips above Elvis Presley's Mystery Train, the music which accompanies the video.

[Col. Ted Westhusing], 44, was no ordinary officer. He was one of the Army's leading scholars of military ethics, a full professor at West Point who volunteered to serve in Iraq to be able to better teach his students. He had a doctorate in philosophy; his dissertation was an extended meditation on the meaning of honor.

So it was only natural that Westhusing acted when he learned of possible corruption by U.S. contractors in Iraq. A few weeks before he died, Westhusing received an anonymous complaint that a private security company he oversaw had cheated the U.S. government and committed human rights violations. Westhusing confronted the contractor and reported the concerns to superiors, who launched an investigation.

In e-mails to his family, Westhusing seemed especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty, honor and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq, where the U.S. had come to rely heavily on contractors for jobs once done by the military.

His death stunned all who knew him. Colleagues and commanders wondered whether they had missed signs of depression. He had been losing weight and not sleeping well. But only a day before his death, Westhusing won praise from a senior officer for his progress in training Iraqi police.

His friends and family struggle with the idea that Westhusing could have killed himself. He was a loving father and husband and a devout Catholic. He was an extraordinary intellect and had mastered ancient Greek and Italian. He had less than a month before his return home. It seemed impossible that anything could crush the spirit of a man with such a powerful sense of right and wrong.
Chimpy McSmirkshrub

From ThinkProgress:

Tom Daschle, the former Democratic senator from South Dakota, remembers the exchange vividly.

The time was September 2002. The place was the White House, at a meeting in which President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney pressed congressional leaders for a quick vote on a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq.

But Daschle, who as Senate majority leader controlled the chamber's schedule, recalled recently that he asked Bush to delay the vote until after the impending midterm election.

"I asked directly if we could delay this so we could depoliticize it. I said: 'Mr. President, I know this is urgent, but why the rush? Why do we have to do this now?' He looked at Cheney and he looked at me, and there was a half-smile on his face. And he said: 'We just have to do this now.' "

Daschle's account, which White House officials said they could not confirm or deny, highlights a crucial factor that has drawn little attention amid rising controversy over the congressional vote that authorized the war in Iraq. The recent partisan dispute has focused almost entirely on the intelligence information legislators had as they cast their votes. But the debate may have been shaped as much by when Congress voted as by what it knew.

Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, did not call for a vote authorizing the Persian Gulf War until after the 1990 midterm election. But the vote paving the way for the second war with Iraq came in mid-October of 2002 — at the height of an election campaign in which Republicans were systematically portraying Democrats as weak on national security.

Few candidates sparred over the war resolution itself. But Republicans in states including Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Georgia strafed Democratic senators seeking reelection who had supported military spending cutbacks in the 1990s, accepted money from a liberal arms-control group, opposed Bush's preferred approach for organizing the new Department of Homeland Security, and voted in 1991 against the Persian Gulf War.

With national security then such a flashpoint in so many campaigns, many Democrats believe, the vote's timing enormously increased pressure on their party's wavering senators to back the president, whose approval rating approached 70% at the time.

"There was a sense I had from the very beginning that this was in part politically motivated, and they were going to maximize the timing to affect those who were having some doubt about this right before the election," Daschle said.


Let's review: politicized the vote, invaded without cause, invaded without adequate levels of soldiers and equipment, now they're whining about the choice being between the present chaos or Mesopotamian terrorist boot camp.

These clowns shouldn't hold any elective office higher than dog catcher--and I wouldn't trust them at that either.

Saw this at Mixter's Mix:

"Back in 2000 a Republican friend warned me that if I voted for Al Gore and he won, the stock market would tank, we'd lose millions of jobs, and our military would be totally overstretched. You know what? I did vote for Gore, he did win, and I'll be damned if all those things didn't come true!"

James Carville
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

From PGR, here's an account of the hurricane and its aftermath from Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a NOLA resident for many years (originally from Syria). Zeitoun stayed in the city to look after his property; eventually, he was arrested on suspicion of terrorism and looting before being released (no word on whether or not he'll go to trial, or whether his bond will be held, etc. etc.). It's a lengthy chronicle, but gripping and worth a look.

Recall, Mr. Zeitoun is living in an era where one ongoing political mantra calls for "personal responsibility." It seems as if he fulfilled his end of the bargain, and even went above and beyond in keeping an eye out for his neighbors' property, pets, and so on. For this he was arrested.
Leading By Example

I almost wish I could take a bronzed copy of this story and ram it down the throats of all the fat cats, big time pols, and their media whores who smugly write off NOLA as a lost cause--hat tips to YRHT and No Katrina:

The Kireka slum clings to a stony hillside above Kampala, Uganda, home to at least 5,000 impoverished refugees who live in hand-fashioned shelters bordered by outdoor latrines. The hillside is not only home, but work: Strip quarries line its face. Men dig out its larger rocks, while hundreds of women spend their days in stooped manual labor, pounding the rocks by hand into walnut-sized stones for sale as construction material. They earn about $1.20 per day.

So American aid worker Amy Cunningham could scarcely believe it when she was summoned to Kireka last month for a festive celebration in which dozens of women handed over nearly $900 in wages: their gift to victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

"I was just completely blown away," Cunningham said. "At first I thought, 'This can't be true. These people are just scraping by.' But I went to the ceremony, and they were so happy to be able to send over this money.

"They were just overwhelmed with joy because they were able to do something to help."

The women turned over their money to AVSI, a Catholic Italian aid organization in Kampala, which will forward it to an AVSI office in the United States.

In a few weeks, the money, combined with donations AVSI has collected from other sources, will be sent to families in New Orleans, Metairie, St. Bernard Parish and other hard-hit communities, said Jackie Aldrette, an AVSI worker in Washington, D.C.

And that's not all. In a country where the average annual income is about $300, Archbishop John Baptist Odama raised $500 over several weeks among Catholics in northern Uganda in special collections for New Orleans relief, Aldrette said. In that part of the country, a 19-year civil war continues to disrupt life...

Weeks ago, the women breaking rocks on the hillside above Kireka heard the news of Katrina's devastation in the United States.

Busingye said their hearts had been touched last year, when they donated some of their earnings to victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia. But she said she did not have the heart to ask for another effort, so she asked only that the women pray for Katrina's victims.

But they wanted to do more. In a written account of their relief effort, Busingye told AVSI that one of the women, Akullu Margret, told her she knew she would die of AIDS. "When I die, my children will be left like those in America. Someone will have to care for them. I want to care for someone also. I want to give a lunch, or at least a malaria treatment."

Busingye said others agreed.

The women of Kireka believe that "those people who are suffering, they belong to us. They are our people. Their problems are our problems. Their children are like our children," Busingye said.

Soon 200 women pledged their work. They broke rocks for weeks and donated most of their wages to the Katrina pot. A few others turned over their revenue from selling bananas, necklaces and small chairs.

At a ceremony in Kireka last month, Cunningham and other officials were invited to receive the women's gift, which amounted to 1.6 million Ugandan shillings, or $800 to $900.

Cunningham said she was struck by the women's joy at being able to make the donation. There was dancing and seemingly endless testimonials as individual workers explained their motives for giving, she said.

Many are members of the Acholi tribe, driven out of the northern part of Uganda by a bloody, long-running civil war.

"One told me, 'We know what it's like to lose our homes,' " Cunningham said.

This generousity is, as Oyster describes, "incredible." Likewise incredible is the money donated by Palestinian refugees. We can all learn a lot from these examples, but those who could especially use the lesson are probably too busy figuring out where they're going to have lunch right now.

Tanned, Rested, & Ready

As to the rested part, well, even that's a bit of an exaggeration--over the long weekend I managed to take care of a few pressing chores...damn, I'm actually becoming a responsible adult in my rapidly advancing years. Don't tell anyone.

This post from Attaturk caught my eye because I can almost claim a small credit--somewhere in my archives there's at least one, and probably several, references to Shrubusto as this era's equivalent of James Buchanan or Franklin Pierce. Pierce, the dauphin has a taste for booze. I guess his affinity with Buchanan is more on a macro scale--a capacity for failure that's astonishing.

You'd think sheer random chance would come into play once in a while with James Buchanan Bush--the stopped clock is right at least once a day (twice if it's a good old fashioned dial clock), a blind pig stumbles upon an acorn now and then, etc., etc., etc. But while watching the replay of Press the Meat last night, and resisting the urge to throw a brick at the screen (can't afford any new stuff right now), it hit me: can anyone point to A SINGLE instance where George W. Bush, as pResident, has shown unqualified success? Anything?

9/11? Asleep at the wheel. Afghanistan? Laff. Osama? Laffing AT us. Iraq? You've gotta be kidding. Saddam? Took 9 MONTHS and over 500 coalition fatalities (plus approximately 2000 wounded US info on non-fatally wounded non-US soldiers) to capture ONE person. That's NOT an unqualified success.

Tax cuts? Yeah, right: we're in the midst of TWO wars. Tax cuts, i.e., passing the bill to the next generation, is crass, lazy, and irresponsible. Disaster response? Two words: Katrina, Rita.

But for some reason the idiot press corps continues to give the Worst... Administration...In my lifetime, if not all time, a free ride, even going so far as to echo Big Time's "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" bloviatings of late.

Bullshit--or, more appropriate, Bushit. Now IS the time to question the clown show. And a good, simple question like "what unqualified success can George W. Bush point to" should be the starting point for ANY discussion of his administration these days.

And the answer, of course, is "none."