Friday, December 23, 2005

Two for the Road

They've let the inmate out of the asylum a little early here, so I'm going to take advantage and do some things...

Before I go, though, here are a couple of items that caught my attention. On the serious side, here's Bob Geiger's account of a debate between Scott Ritter and Chris Hitchens from a couple of days ago.

And, on the slightly less serious side--have fun with Pimp My Nutcracker.

Happy holidays to all...back on Monday.
This One Time

This will be the only post I'll write about the "war on Christmas" nonsense wafting from the bowels of the Faux Network and their minions like a sewer stoppage requiring immediate attention from Roto-Rooter.

Reichsmarschall O'Reilly might merit special scorn, but I'll ignore his vile spewing for now, and instead point to this--from The Editors--re: Sturmscharf├╝hrer John Gibson, who earlier this week made even more of an ass of himself than usual.

Looks like Gibson has issues--serious issues. Check it out.

If that's who the "war on Christmas" folks want hauling their water and shooting their arrows...well, don't say you weren't warned. But in my reality-based world, there's a term we use to describe folks like Gibson:


Just plain sick.
Good Question

Sorta like how Team Bush can only get their asses in gear for disaster response during election years (and then only in critical swing states), it seems terror alerts take time off when there's no vote scheduled, as a TPM reader notes:

Every so often a reader writes in and asks this question. And it's a pretty good one. So here goes: When was the last time there was a major terror alert? They were something like a regular occurence for the eighteen months or so before the 2004 election. And through 2004 the administration pushed the line that al Qaida was aiming to disrupt the elections themselves. But as near I can tell there hasn't been a single one since election day.

Through 2004, of course, critics of the administration routinely questioned whether the frequency and timing of the various terror alerts were not all or in part for political effect.

How do we explain what appears to be a night and day difference between the year prior to November 2004 and the year since in terms of terror alerts and scares?

I'm guessing the forecast calls for plenty of Code Orange or Code Yellow or whatever the hell color "heightened" is for 2006...especially as November approaches.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

America's Finest News Source

Swopa alerts us to two Onion pieces worth reading: US Troops Draw Up Own Exit Strategy (Operation Screw This) and Karl Rove Implicated in Santa Identity Leak.

Now, if only the "librul" media would catch this and run with it...
Fear Ye, Fear Ye

Digby and Maha coincidentally delve further into something I noted earlier in the week re: the GOP game of Fear Factor.

Hullabaloo sees the irony:

...for 40 years --- and certainly for the last 25 since Reagan became president --- we have had to listen to endless blathering about how the Republicans want to "get the government out of your lives." "If someone says 'we're the government and we're here to help you' you should run." Rugged individualist Republicans, taking care of their own, not looking to the state to solve their problems like the betwetting girly men and manly girls on the left.

During the 90's the atmosphere was redolent with militia fevered, anti-government rhetoric that echoed throughout the right wing message infrastructure...

9/11 changed everything. Suddenly the he-men of WalMart and the NRA leaped into Big Brother's arms and shrieked "save me, save me! Do what ever you have to do, they're trying to kill us all!" They now look to Daddy Government not to discipline the children, but to check under the bed for them every night, reassure them that the boogeyman won't hurt them and then read them a nice bedtime story about spreading freedom and democracy. It turns out that underneath all this swaggering bravado, the Republicans aren't the Daddy party --- they're the baby party.


All over the Right Blogosphere...righties argue that Bush must be allowed unprecedented presidential powers because we are fighting terrorists. And terrorists are scare. They killed people on 9/11. They might kill more people like me. I'll gladly trade some civil liberties for safety.

In today's Boston Globe, H.D.S. Greenway writes that fear is distorting our judgement:
I have no doubt that one day the Bush administration's curtailment of civil liberties, especially the torture of prisoners, will be looked back on as a national shame. I never would have thought I would live to see the day when the president of the United States would threaten to veto a bill in Congress to ban torture, or when the vice president would spend his days lobbying Congress in favor of torture. That little shop of horrors, the vice president's office, seems to be the place where fear regularly gains ascendancy over good judgment.

The Bush administration's predilection to torture was clearly a result of mind-clouding fear caused by the greatest terrorist attack in history on Sept. 11th, 2001. The same can be said of the excesses of the Patriot Act, and, too, the decision to use the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens without benefit of warrant as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The Bush administration has shamelessly used fear to get its way. Both the president and vice president have tried to picture a withdrawal from Iraq as resulting in an Al Qaeda takeover of Iraq, and an Al Qaeda-led Caliphate stretching across the Muslim world. In reality al Qaeda hasn't the remotest chance of taking over Iraq, not with 80 percent of the population either Kurdish or Shi'ite, and a timely end to American occupation might sooner lead to an Iraqi-Sunni disenchantment with foreign terrorists.

Maha also cites this Lance Mannion quote:

...that's why the Right hates the Left these days. We aren't as afraid as they are.

They hate us for our freedom from fear.

THAT'S why I'M beginning to suspect that Bush's directive re: warrantless searches, was less a program to, oh, I don't know, actually CATCH TERRORISTS, and more the kind of sinister political gamesmanship "his brain" Karl Rove is famous for.

It'll be REAL interesting if we ever find out just what sort of stuff the NSA ended up collecting. It might just explain a few things re: Team Bush's propensity for lying (noted below). They're lying because they have something to hide. Something illegal, unethical--and I don't doubt it also exposes their incompetence...or worse.
Compulsive Liars

Seeing this got me thinking:

Telling outright falsehoods has become old hat for the Bush Administration, hasn't it? I mean, really, we've had a whole load of whoppers lately, but in today's WaPo, Glenn Kessler unloads on the latest "urban legend" to come out of the Preznit's mouth.

It seems the whole "the fact that we were following Osama bin Laden because he was using a certain type of telephone made it into the press as the result of a leak." is nothing but a big, old lie.
The al Qaeda leader's communication to aides via satellite phone had already been reported in 1996 -- and the source of the information was another government, the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time.

The second time a news organization reported on the satellite phone, the source was bin Laden himself.

It's kind of tough to blame it on the media when Bin Laden is the one who told the media in the first place that he was using satellite phones, now isn't it?

Sure, this isn't a huge lie, like the mushroom clouds or the we'll be greeted with flowers and candy or we don't conduct domestic surveillance without a warrant or anything. But when an Administration gets comfortable enough to lie about the little things as easily as the big ones, it sure shows an intellectual sloppiness and an ethical black hole after a while.

This got me thinking about a couple of other whoppers--that is, besides the ones like African Uranium, or WMD, etc. etc. No, I'm thinking about smaller lies--falsehoods that speak volumes about the people in charge of the government:

They also feared that Air Force One itself was a target. Cheney told the president there was a credible threat against the plane. Using the code name for Air Force One, Mr. Bush told an aide, "Angel is next." The threat was passed to presidential pilot Col. Mark Tillman.

Um, actually, no:

Two weeks after these astonishing claims, the administration has all but admitted it concocted the entire story. CBS Evening News reported September 25 that the call "simply never happened."

And remember fake turkee day at Baghdad International Airport? Administration officials gloated about pulling the wool over everyone's eyes--including a British Airways jet--except that, well, the whole BA story was just that: a story:

British Airways said yesterday that none of its pilots made contact with President Bush’s plane during its secret flight to Baghdad on Thanksgiving, contradicting White House reports of a midair exchange that nearly prompted Bush to call off his trip. Honor Verrier, a spokeswoman for British Airways in North America, said two British Airways aircraft were in the area at the time and neither radioed the president’s plane to ask if it was Air Force One.

"We have spoken to the British Airways captains who were in the area at the time and neither made comments to Air Force One nor did they hear any other aircraft make the statement over the radio," Verrier said.

The White House had no immediate comment on the discrepancy.

Bush aides recounted last week that a British Airways pilot thought he spotted the president’s blue and white Boeing 747 from his cockpit.

This sort of compulsive lying--particularly given it's utter lack of necessity--is telling: it's indicative of a serious attempt at, well, covering up. Perhaps they're merely trying to hide incompetence. But it could be that they've got something far more serious to conceal. In the matter of warrantless wiretaps, Reddhedd, once again, speaks truth to power:

If you are doing blanket wiretaps of multiple people with absolutely no probable cause, then of course the judge is going to yell at you. Grow some balls and realize that the legal system requires that you actually do your freaking job instead of trying to cheat your way through everything.

It's not as though a probable cause standard for potential terrorist activity is so high, for hell's sakes -- you simply have to show that you have evidence of a connection to illegal activity and to an outside actor. You know, like "hey, this guy works for Osama and he's roommates with some other guys we know do as well." Or "we found this guy's phone number in the cell phone used by this other fellow who was caught with bomb-making material." Oh yeah, tough standards.

Look, the FISA court is there for a reason. You need a cool-headed third party to review these warrant applications to be certain the government isn't running around half-cocked on a call from someone's pissed off ex-wife who is trying to get even for a late child support check. (Yep, it happens. Been there, done that, reined in an officer on that warrant more than once in my prosecutor days.) I mean, it's not like this Administration has given everyone any sort of confidence that there is a cool head in the bunch. *snerk* No wonder the FISA judges are pissed.

Next time someone whines on teevee that the FISA requirements were just too cumbersome (And I'm talking to you, Toensing, you dissembling partisan mouthpiece.), I want the journalist interviewing them to say the following: "Is the cost of liberty so cheap, that you are willing to sell it because you are too lazy to do some paperwork?"

Grow up, George. Do your job. And stop thinking you run the world. This isn't King for a Day. Here's an urban legend for you: all those advisors telling you how great you are at your job? They're just sucking up. They don't really mean it.

As to the other instances of compulsive lying, well...draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Adventures of a Bug Man

Speaking of flaccid (see post below), here's an account of lifestyles of the corrupt and arrogant, focusing on one Tom DeLay. Tom's still staring at significant time in the Gray Bar Hotel (and with news that good buddy Jack is about to cut a deal, maybe even more time--hopefully with a roomie nicknamed "Tiny").

However, regardless of whether Bug Man gets zapped, his recent past is a testament to the kind of relentless greed--greed that is the true center of his religion (NOT Christianity, as he claims)...greed that, in times past, marked one for derision and scorn, not praise:

Over the past six years, the former House majority leader or his associates have visited places of luxury most Americans have never seen, often getting there aboard corporate jets arranged by lobbyists and other special interests.

Public documents reviewed by The Associated Press tell the story: at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts with lush fairways; 100 flights aboard company planes; 200 stays at hotels, many world-class; and 500 meals at restaurants, some averaging nearly $200 for a dinner for two.

The meals and trips for DeLay and his associates were paid with donations collected by the campaign committees, political action committees and children's charity the Texas Republican created during his rise to a top spot in Congress.

Put them together and a picture of an opulent lifestyle emerges...

AP's review found DeLay's various organizations spent at least $1 million over the past six years on top hotels, restaurants, golf resorts and corporate jet flights for their boss and his associates.

The spending shows how political power can buy access to the lifestyles of the rich and famous. While it's illegal for a lawmaker to tap political donations for a family vacation, it is legal to spend it in luxury if the stated purpose is raising more money or talking politics...

The destinations for DeLay or his political team include a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Jamaica; the Prince Hotel in Hapuna Beach, Hawaii; the Michelangelo Hotel in New York; the Wyndham El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa in Fajardo, Puerto Rico; and the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz.

There's also the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla., offering "dazzling views of the Gulf of Mexico, warm golden sunsets and three miles of pristine beach," plus golf, a spa, goose-down comforters, marble bathrooms and private, ocean-view balconies. Rooms cost from about $389 to more than $3,000 a night in December, the month DeLay's PAC spent $4,570 on lodging there in 2004.

"He liked to talk to people," said Pedro Muriel, a waiter at Puerto Rico's El Conquistador Resort. Muriel recalled DeLay staying in an enclave of privately owned red tile-roofed villas.

The villas have up to three bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms and French doors that open onto terraces or balconies facing the Caribbean. Villa prices average about $1,300 a night.

Guests get their own butlers. The resort offers six swimming pools and an 18-hole championship golf course.

DeLay's donors also have financed visits to country clubs and tournament-quality golf courses, including the exclusive Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., site of this summer's PGA Championship; Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pa., home of another PGA event; and Harbour Town Golf Links, a course at Hilton Head Island, S.C., that was designed in consultation with Jack Nicklaus.

"World class. Dynamic. Luxury resort. Spend a day, spend a week, spend a lifetime," another DeLay fundraising spot, the ChampionsGate golf resort near Orlando, Fla., invites on its Web site.

Dining at fine restaurants also is routine. The stops for DeLay and his associates include Morton's of Chicago, where the average dinner for two goes for about $170 before tax and tip, and "21" in Manhattan, a longtime glamour spot where American caviar is $38 for a taste.

When DeLay wants to head somewhere without the hassle of commercial travel, he often asks a company for its jet and uses donations to pay for it.

Dozens of businesses have lent DeLay their planes, including tobacco companies UST, RJ Reynolds, and Philip Morris, plus energy concerns such as El Paso, Panda, Reliant and Dynegy.

R.J. Reynolds has let DeLay use a company plane at least nine times since 1999, once joining Philip Morris in making jets available for a DeLay PAC fundraiser at a Puerto Rican resort in winter 2002. R.J. Reynolds spokesman David Howard said planes are lent usually at lawmakers' request and are only done if jets aren't needed for company business.

"It's much more convenient as opposed to your regular commercial travel," Howard said, noting there is no need to go through airport security.

More convenient...but nothing can keep the Bug Man from looking like a wuss:

Thanks to Cursor for the story and pic.

That's how Patrick Cockburn describes the Iraqi "election" (clicking on the specific link presently gives you a 404 error--go to the main page for now):

Iraq is disintegrating. The first results from the parliamentary election last week show that the country is dividing up between Shia, Sunni and Kurdish regions. The secular and nationalist candidate backed by the US and Britain was humiliatingly defeated...

The election was portrayed by President George W. Bush as a sign of success for US policies in Iraq, but in fact means the triumph of America's enemies inside and outside the country. Iran will be pleased that the Shia religious parties whom it has supported, often for decades, have become the strongest political force.

Ironically Bush is more than ever dependent within Iraq on the goodwill of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for all his maverick reputation. It is the allies of Iran who are growing in influence by the day and have now triumphed in the election. The US will hope that Tehran will be satisfied with this. Iran may be happier with a weakened Iraq in which it is a predominant influence rather than see the country entirely break up.

Another victor in the election is the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr whose Mehdi Army militia fought fierce battles with US troops last year. The US military said at the time it intended "to kill or capture him." Mr Bush cited the recapture of the holy city of Najaf from the Mehdi Army in August 2004 as an important success for the US army. Al-Sadr will now be one of the most influential leaders within the coalition.

All the parties which did well in the election have strength only within their own community. The Shia coalition succeeded because the Shia make up 60 per cent of Iraqis, but won almost no votes among the Kurds or Sunni each of whom is about 20 per cent of the population. The Sunni and the Kurdish parties won no support outside their own communities...

The elections are also unlikely to see a diminution in armed resistance to the US by the Sunni community. Insurgent groups have made clear that they see winning seats in parliament as the opening of another front. The US is trying to conciliate the Sunni by the release of 24 top Baathist leaders without charges.But the main demand of the Sunni resistance is a time table for a US withdrawal without which they are unlikely to agree a ceasefire ­ even if they had the unity to negotiate such an agreement.

The new constitution Iraq, overwhelmingly approved in a referendum on October 15 , already creates two super-regions, one Kurdish and the other Shia, which will have quasi-independence. Local law will be superior to national law. They will own newly discovered oil reserves. They will have their own armed forces. They envisage an Iraq which will be a loose confederation rather than a unified state.

The break up of Iraq has been brought closer by last week's election. The great majority of people who went to the polls voted as Shia, Sunni or Kurds. The forces pulling Iraq apart are stronger than those holding it together. The election, billed by Mr Bush and Mr Blair, as the birth of a new Iraqi state may in fact prove to be its funeral.

THAT'S what $300 billion dollars buys you in the Middle East--with the added bonus of having our rights as citizens usurped by a power mad moron, AND NO ASSURANCE WHATSOEVER that we're any "safer;" in fact, you can argue the opposite, as Reddhedd effectively does.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast stands as testimony: the louder and more insistent this administration swaggers around barking about its virility, the more evident it is that it's utterly impotent: soft, flaccid, weak...incapable of even a decent plan, much less effective action.

Big Time flew home in comfort to piss on the elderly, the poor, children, and students:

The legislation would allow states to impose new fees on Medicaid recipients, cut federal child support enforcement funds, impose new work requirements on state welfare programs and squeeze student lenders.

Slim gets it perfectly.
Add Jeff Miller (R-FL) to My List...

I focused on Christopher Shays last week because I happened to see a replay of his grandstanding during the House hearings on Hurricane Katrina. He's still on the list of folks who'd otherwise get a lump of coal...except that I won't give him that, or even a big old dung ball, just because he could potentially use either for fuel, and I want to see the rotten bastard freeze in the dark...along with his good friend Jeff Miller:

Why did people die in New Orleans?
In case you missed it, one of the more astounding moments in last week's Congressional hearings about Hurricane Katrina was seeing a series of Republican lawmakers claim that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco was personally responsible for the 1,086 known to have died in the storm...

Chris Kromm goes on to cite this Pic editorial (sorry I missed it earlier) from Jarvis DeBerry:

One of the lingering myths about Hurricane Katrina is that everybody who died here was trapped here and that, in fact, no one would have died if local and state governments had provided buses out of town. That myth also assumes that upon hearing of a mandatory evacuation, everybody with the means to leave town does so.

The falsity of both claims has been well-established. The Times-Picayune has run dozens of obituaries under the headline "Katrina's Lives Lost." In their interviews with relatives of the deceased, reporters have not encountered one person whose loved one wanted to leave but could not. We might assume that some of those who died at local nursing homes were trapped; not by government, however, but by the folks who ran those nursing homes.

There probably were some people who did not have transportation to leave and declined a free ride to the relative safety of the Louisiana Superdome. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that such people constitute a majority -- or even a significant minority -- of the fatalities. The truth is that many people made the fatal decision to stay.

Some members of the House Select Committee, which is ostensibly investigating the federal government's response to the crisis in the New Orleans area, insisted that Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Blanco accept personal responsibility for the people who died.

U.S. Rep Jeff Miller, R-Fla., giving himself over wholly to demagoguery, told Blanco that the 1,086 Louisiana residents known to have died in the storm are about half the number of American lives lost in Iraq.

"You lost that many in one day," he said.

She lost that many?

Is Miller suggesting that Blanco's failure to drag people out by their ankles makes her culpable for their deaths? Is he so committed to partisan gamesmanship that he's willing to put Blanco's failings on par with the crumbling of the federal government's floodwalls?

Similarly, do Republicans Hal Rogers of Kentucky and Christopher Shays of Connecticut really believe Mayor Nagin should have told residents to leave New Orleans Friday morning when a mild-mannered Hurricane Katrina looked destined to hit Apalachicola, Fla.?

I realize that the city's own literature says evacuations should begin 72 hours before a projected landfall, but there can't be anybody in local government who believed that residents would really have left three days in advance of any hurricane, especially not one that looked like it was going to hit 363 miles away.

Rogers and Shays are pandering. What universe of people would simultaneously be impressionable enough to be convinced to leave on Friday but so stubborn that they wouldn't leave on Saturday or Sunday?

By criticizing Nagin for a mandatory evacuation call that came 19 hours before landfall, they leave the impression that the announcement was the mayor's first word of warning.

Actually, it was but one in a series of warnings that began early Saturday and became increasingly more insistent.

Nagin and Blanco have both made notable mistakes since this crisis began, but it is dishonest and mean-spirited of Congress to suggest that mistakes made by either one makes them liable for nearly 1,100 lives.

Maybe a small percentage of those who perished would still be alive if Nagin and Blanco had worked together to provide transportation.

But if the federal government's floodwalls had held, it's doubtful anybody would have died at all.

The last line of the editorial is significant: the levees and floodwalls are a FEDERAL program--a program that, in conjunction with other levees and floodwalls, has been of enormous benefit to the entire nation in providing safe, navigable portage for ships transporting exports and imports between the United States and the world. No one--least of all stupid little punks like Miller and Shays--should forget this. Had the levees and floodwalls held, the city wouldn't be in such dire straits.

You know, it's tough enough to knock ANY sense into a wingnut cranium--even IF this relatively easy-to-grasp fact re: the levees, somehow found its way into 'nut gray matter, the next knee-jerk reflex of the kind they're so fond of would immediately kick into motion: that is, blame Bill Clinton. That Bill Clinton has been out of office since January 20, 2001 is of little concern to their rudimentary thought process--they've been alternatly blaming him--or, more recently, falsely citing him as precedent--to such an extent psychologists would have a field day describing truly epic levels of envious resentment not seen since Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers.

But I digress...back to the topic--Kromm, and YRHT both note the latest example of GOP hackery: they've tied Katrina recovery money to...drilling in ANWR, proving they really couldn't give a hot damn about New Orleans. It's all just politics to the bastards.

I tell you...generally I'm not one to espouse violence, but I'm beginning to wonder if what this country needs is a new Preston Brooks to come in and knock some sense into those people.
Sometimes, You've Gotta Call Bullshit What it Is

Dick Cheney is specifically claiming that administration law breaking is how we've "avoided" another terrorist attack since 9/11:

It's not an accident that we haven't been hit in four years.

First, that's simply not true--there was the now VERY CONVENIENTLY FORGOTTEN series of anthrax attacks, then there's a whole litany of global attacks (THEY called it a "Global War" on terror, so I'm not letting them off the hook for ANY of these, particularly given the absolute ineptitude in their manner of conducting it)...then there's the equal ineptitude in dealing with natural disasters that don't happen during election years, and finally the equivalent of the ugliest of open sores in Iraq, where death and destruction occur daily.

Not hit in four years? Bullshit.

Worst Administration Ever? Yep. And then some.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Give 'em Hell, Part II

Jane Hamsher's second post on the topic: On Image, Part Two--is as good, or even better, than the first. Here's an excerpt:

It was Digby who pointed out that the right runs toward their freaks in the off-season and then distances themselves at election time. The Democrats do just the opposite. When the ANSWER people decide to protest the war or Cindy Sheehan is sitting in a ditch outside Dubya's rehab ranch well it's all just too unseemly for the Democratic leadership to be associated with. But come election time, who do they start pumping for cash? They bungled the whole K Street thing. The strains of the Mighty Wurlitzer leave them battered and bloodied in the mainstream press. The lunatic left they spend so much time distancing themselves from suddenly turns into the only cash machine they've got.

Look I know they're all afraid of being Daschled as they stand there trembling and furiously clutching their few coins of lunch money in their sweaty palms and hoping that the highly effective, organized rage of the schoolyard bullies doesn't land on them. But sitting around hoping that the GOP fucks things up so badly that 2008 will make everything all better is delusional. It won't. The machine is still in place and being out of power will not make the right miss a beat. It was extremely effective in hijacking the Constitution and impeaching Bill Clinton at the height of his popularity, and it is not going away tomorrow until someone puts some muscle into fighting it.

The Democrats need to get to it. Embrace their freaks, stop running from the word "liberal" and send SOMEBODY, anybody, some minor congressperson from a safely Democratic district over to the Washington Post to have a loud and very public word with Len Downie and John Harris and ask WHAT THE FUCK IS UP over there that they are so accepting of Republican efforts to squeeze any critic of the administration out of their pages that they talk about it like it is no big deal. Until they are willing to organize and do battle with the beast where it lives they will continue to be scattered and picked off one by one by the GOP machine and no amount of "comity" will ever change it.

Check out the rest.
NOLA: Impressions of a Semi-Tourist

Sunday I took my first trip back to the city since the storm...I'd been looking for an excuse to head in that direction for a while, but there's plenty on my plate right now, and I certainly don't want to gawk at the I've kept my distance, hoping a semblence of normality would return to the place.

No, I'm NOT a native--neither by birth nor adoption--but proximity (and a few friends/acquaintences) give me a feel for slightly more of the city than purely the tourist areas (hence, my self-description as "semi-tourist"); however, the main tourist drag was my destination this past weekend.

What's a little frightening about the NOLA situation right now is this: as you travel in, at least from the west, you can certainly see some effects from the storm. On the causeway before you get to the west burbs, you can see LOTS of broken or bent trees (and the little place along the Bonnet Carre spillway is gone). Storm damage is evident in the suburbs themselves--blue tarps cover plenty of roofs, the glass building at Causeway is missing some windows, etc. etc.--but even as you head towards downtown the scope of destruction is by no means evident. Schroeder's latest points this out as clearly as anything. And while there's also evident damage in the CBD, it and the Quarter look, well, not bad under the circumstances.

Further, I don't know if it was "luck" or not, but traffic was relatively easy to deal with...and parking was a hell of a lot easier than usual: the lot across from Canal Place was startlingly was my usual first stop when doing the tourist thing.

The problem is, though--again, as Schroeder notes--is that the areas most affected by the hurricane AREN'T along the tourist path (even if the Grey Line plans or is already running a disaster tour). That and the relative lack of visible damage from the highway coming in from the west might well give folks a false sense as to the city.

Maybe those arriving from the east get a different picture--and like I said, I wasn't down in the city to gawk at the damage--but too many folks who I either know, or read, make it clear that NOLA might have survived, but it is by no means recovered. Yet, people coming in from, say, the airport, and going to the CBD/Quarter, could get a different impression. I hope not, but...

And, I'll also mention that I'm damn glad the city is showing some signs of life--and, if I'm not in the way, I'll hopefully be making more time to get down I used to.

However, again, without a FULL metropolitan recovery, it's not going to be the same. A city can no more thrive without ALL its citizens than a car can run without, say, all it's cylinders.
Do You Have to Use TIN Foil?

Or will aluminum work? Just wondering:

One of the more puzzling mysteries of 9-11 is what ever happened to the flight recorders of the two planes that hit the World Trade Center towers. Now it appears that they may not be missing at all.

Counterpunch has learned that the FBI has them...

Now there is stronger evidence that something is amiss than simply the alleged non-recovery of all four of those boxes. A source at the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency that has the task of deciphering the date from the black boxes retrieved from crash sites-including those that are being handled as crimes and fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI-says the boxes were in fact recovered and were analyzed by the NTSB.

"Off the record, we had the boxes," the source says. "You'd have to get the official word from the FBI as to where they are, but we worked on them here."

The official word from the NTSB is that the WTC crash site black boxes never turned up. "No recorders were recovered from the World Trade Center," says the NTSB's Lopatkiewicz. "At least none were delivered to us by the FBI." He adds that the agency has "always had a good relationship' with the FBI and that in all prior crime-related crashes or flight incidents, they have brought the boxes to the NTSB for analysis.

For its part, the FBI is still denying everything, though with curious bit of linguistic wiggle room. "To the best of my knowledge, the flight recording devices from the World Trade Center crashes were never recovered. At least we never had them," says FBI spokesman Stephen Kodak.

What the apparent existence of the black boxes in government hands means is unclear.

If the information in those boxes is recoverable, or if, as is likely, it has been recovered already, it could give crucial evidence regarding the skill of the hijacker/pilots, perhaps of their strategy, of whether they were getting outside help in guiding them to their targets, of how fast they were flying and a host of other things.

Why would the main intelligence and law enforcement arm of the U.S. government want to hide from the public not just the available information about the two hijacked flights that provided the motivation and justification for the nation's "War on Terror" and for its two wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, but even the fact that it has the devices which could contain that information? Conspiracy theories abound, with some claiming the planes were actually pilotless military aircraft, or that they had little or nothing to do with the building collapses. The easiest way to quash such rumors and such fevered thinking would be openness.

Instead we have the opposite: a dark secrecy that invites many questions regarding the potentially embarrassing or perhaps even sinister information that might be on those tapes.

Actually, Lindorff has a point--considering that Team Bush is known for obsessive secrecy, total cynicism, and flagrant disregard for the law, it's not tinfoil time at all to demand they come clean on this matter. As taxpayers, we finance the government--we have the right to demand it serve OUR interests. And determining what EXACTLY happened on 9/11 is IN our interests, particularly given this administration's mantra-like evocation of that date as justification for anything and everything.

If they have nothing to hide--then there's no reason to hide these items.

Hmmm...heard a couple of folks here at work talking about this--a magnitude 3 earthquake struck the Gret Stet last night--it was centered around French Settlement (about 30 miles from here).

Needless to say, it wasn't "the big one." We'll leave that for California.
So Much for the "Charm" Offensive

That is to say, if by "charm," you mean "momentarily toning down--somewhat--the sneering contempt for any and all who don't cower in his presence" attitude displayed by the upper tiers of the administration. Now that they've acknowledged criminal acts, and despite pathetic attempts by true believers to make excuses, all the "hard work" of the last three weeks--speechifying, extemporaneous--sort of--speechifying, special media "access,"--all is so much water under the bridge...and the latest purple fingered turning point is too. After a much touted "lull" in the violence (duh--the insurgents aren't stupid), the usual snafu conditions have returned, and will continue indefinitely--thanks to Team Bush.

This time around it was Big Time's turn to pay a "surprise" visit to their handiwork--as if there could be any other kind of trip by an administration official to the region--oh, and changing the topic slightly, Today in Iraq (though no other media outlet) notes today's anniversary of...Donald Rumsfeld offering a firm handshake to his Iraqi buddy...Saddam Hussein. Guess that relationship hit the skids.

So, I'm guessing the "charm" offensive is pretty much over, and it'll be back to the bunker for the dauphin--especially if this story by Jonathan Alter has any legs. Short version: Shrub called in Art Sulzberger and Bill Keller (publisher and editor of New Pravda) a couple of weeks ago, and begged them to NOT publish the domestic spying sans warrants story they'd already sat on for over a year.

Kind of undercuts the image of a firm, resolute Chimp-in-Chief, eh? Pleading with the epitome of "liberal," blue-state media (yeah, I know that's horseshit, but it ain't the only horseshit wingnuts fuel up on).

About the only option available to Shrubusto these days is to lay low and hope the storm blows over--because this time the Democrats aren't backing down, and further revelations about just what sort of spying was going on make a mockery of Team Bush's defense that they were "protecting" the American people

Shrub's a new found "resolve" to find and punish whoever leaked the information is likewise a joke, when you consider how firmly his ass was planted on his hands when it came to the matter of Valerie Plame.

No, the edifice isn't imploding--yet--but there's an unmistakble rumbling indicative of foundation failure in this rot of an administration...and, if things keep moving in this direction, a toxic and radioactive Team Bush will soon need as much gutting and cleaning as a Gentilly double-shotgun.

Clean the Gentilly double-shotgun. Let this adminstration rot and decay...

Monday, December 19, 2005

"The Village is on Fire"

Jane Hamsher offers some sound advice to the Avis of political parties:

Nobody wanted to be perceived as soft on terror, no siree, even though anybody with two IQ points knew that the reasons for going to war with Iraq had been ginned up by a bunch of crackpot imperialistic con men. Almost every Democratic leader tore at one another in a mad scramble for the center as they sought to be Tough On Terror. And it backfired. The Republicans already have that piece of emotional real estate, it is not up for grabs. The Democrats who voted for this phony war only succeeded in rubber stamping GOP bullshit.

The Joe Bidens of the world think they appear strong and manly for such stances, but they only wind up looking like battered wives who bat their eyelashes and blow kisses at the men who continue to whallop them. And when someone really stands up to the bullying Republicans like Howard Dean did when he said they were the white, Christian party and Tom DeLay belonged in jail, the thoroughly useless Bidens and Bill Richardsons and Nancy Pelosis and Barak Obamas (yes, I said it) make Republican critique superfluous as they come out and discipline him themselves.

Do they understand how bad this makes them look? They don't look centrist and reasonable, they look like a bunch of Phillis Schlafleys beating down her own so others won't have to. I can't tell you how much that one still rankles. You don't bash your own brand you fucking morons.

The construction a counter-narrative to the highly successful GOP war drama is extremely tricky. The Republicans evolved their current brand image not only by tapping into white male rage, but by playing on very powerful strains within the American psyche. "America right or wrong" and "might makes right" and "love it or leave it" play very well with the post 9/11 public. Even though the war has turned into a fiasco, the underlying story -- of Men going off to fight to defend the village from its enemies -- is very difficult to deconstruct. And to do so, the Democrats must find an equally powerful, equally limbic emotional narrative that will trump the one that the GOP has fobbed off on the public.

To wit -- the village is on fire. It's time to come home.

Basically, the Republicans got caught in a PR trap when there turned out to be no weapons of mass destruction. They had to shift into talk about Sadaam's torture chambers, but that was quite dangerous because the American public doesn't really give a shit about stuff like that when it happens in countries like Rwanda or Sierra Leone. What they were being offered at that point was an excuse for having supported the war, because nobody in the public wants to admit that they were wrong, either. But excuses last only so long, and that's why Dick Cheney will continue to talk about ties between Al Quaeda and Sadaam every time he opens his mouth. No, he's not stupid. True or not, it offers a powerful morality play to people who want to buy into it. And he knows the other side has nothing better.

Even though Katrina and other recent events offered the Democrats the perfect opportunity to say "the village is on fire," it's still hard to put that across in a way that will not be countered by the message machine of the right as sounding negative and down on America. But the fact is the village is on fire, and people are awakening to that fact. It's time to seize the "Republicans are crooks and bullies" meme, invest in some long term strategies and become a meaningful opposition party. It's the third act, Ma's fed up because the thieves are stealing her crops and she can't feed the kids, the audience is emotionally ready for her to grab the shotgun and run 'em all off so Pa will have something to come home to.

It's incredibly hoakey but it's a quite fundamental dramatic truth and until the Democrats like Joe Biden stop licking David Brooks's boots on national TV and competing for the title of Biggest Pussyman in the Democratic Party (yes I said that too, and I mean it) there will be no effective challenge to the GOP tyranny we now live under. Russ Feingold is looking awfully strong right now for having voted against the Patriot Act. The Democrats would do well to remember that and stop reaching for Dubya's prop codpiece.

Democrats acting like battered wives--not a pretty image, but one I've considered, even if I haven't posted on that topic. On the opposide side of the coin, neocons and their political party certainly behave like wife beaters--insistent in their belief that more violence will solve any problem. So, we end up killing people we're ostensibly liberating, with the idea somehow being that we'll shoot, bomb, or even just beat them into respecting the Bing, if not outright loving it.

Well, just because it works on the Democrats, doesn't mean it'll pass muster overseas. And at home, Hamsher's right--ANYONE with functioning brain cells can SEE WITH THEIR OWN EYES the devastation and destruction RIGHT HERE in this country...the Gulf Coast is simply the most obvious and egregious example of GOP contempt for the citizenry, and their willingness to allow large swaths of this country to decay into rot. Plenty of other cities--and the surrounding countryside--might not be in as serious condition, but neither are they anywhere close to thriving. A good opposition party would advise cleaning up our own house before embarking on fool's errands--particularly when said fool's errands only make things worse.
Good Point

Attaturk notes something missed during Shrub's "press conference:"

How about our brave, brave, spineless press corps (espcially you "JOE" whoever the fuck you work for...) for managing NOT to ask a question sooooooooo obvious it was apparent a millisecond after Lord Dumbfuck said it...

"The leak of the program on monitoring conversations without going to FISA was SHAMEFUL because it harmed our national security."

NOT ONE reporter asked, "Okay, Mr. President, if leaking secrets is shameful, why is Karl Rove still working for you? Come to think of it, why does he still have a security clearance?"





I recall thinking much the same thing--but not being able to put it quite as eloquently--this morning when I first heard this particular duphanic whine...

Missed the boy king's speechifying last night (for the record, took my first trip to NOLA since the storm: more on that in another post), but just finished watching this morning's press conference (AmericaBlog has some live reactions).

Aside from--well, a few asides--the nations number one domestic priority, recovery from the storms, was mostly ignored...this alone should be enough to throw the bastard out on his ear...and the press corpse, um, I, actually I do mean press corpse (or press whores, if you prefer)--and the press corpse too.

Instead, this morning's focus was on spying and the war in Iraq. I wasn't expecting much by way of enlightenment, and I can't say I was disappointed in that regard.

But insight into the Rove/Bush, um, method, is, in some sense, useful...and my own take is that they're not really doing anything new, but recycling good old fashioned techniques of dictatorship, focusing particularly on one thing: fear.

I'll look for a transcript of the Q and A as soon as it's available; however, last night's transcript and other recent pronouncements clearly show a pattern, and not a particularly pleasant one: Bush makes ominous reference to "the enemy," which justifies...pretty much anything and everything he decides to do.

Lie? No problem. Break the law? Bring it on. The otherwise anonymous "enemy" presumably shits bullets, possesses superhuman stamina and cunning, and benefits from any mention of Team Bushian tactics--in other words, they've morphed into a bigger, meaner Soviet Union. Pretty amazing, eh?

The body language and demeanor of this gang speaks volumes: Bush himself reveals a combination of massive ego and unbelievable insecurity, which might explain some of his more tortured--no pun intended--attempts at phraseology. Last week's Nightline interview with Torquemada Gonzalez--who like his nominal boss, refuses to speak about particulars--showed, more than anything, his inner Adolf Eichmann: perfectly willing to torture and kill for the fatherland, without the slightest measure of human guilt, while at the same time possessing the dullest, most ordinary of personal character. Big Time's scowl tells you all you need to know about him.

Fear is certainly a useful tool for the aspiring politician seeking to circumvent the democratic process, and I'll give Rove some credit: he knows how to push all sorts of buttons to incite rubber-kneed, blubbering reactions from the public. Shrub's learned enough to keep from grinding his teeth long enough to recite the message--and both know, if successful, they never have to actually justify their actions, because a cowering public doesn't demand answers.

Answers like a breakdown on terrorist organizations--numbers, goals, tactics, areas of operation, and so on. Indeed, Shrub proudly refused to answer a question today about this: the questioner wanted to know how many attempted terrorist acts were thwarted by his lawbreaking on domestic spying sans warrants (of course, we all know the answer is "none"). By keeping the public afraid and in the dark, all sorts of THEIR goals can be accomplished (like, for example, restoring Halliburton's fiscal solvency via massive infusions of public cash).

The downside, though, to pressing the paranoia button is that eventually you can only announce the imminent falling of the sky so many times before folks finally have enough. I think we might be seeing a little bit of that now--Shrub's rant about needing the Patriot Act, particularly in light of his insistance that, as preznit, he can do anything he wants anyway--could be a sign he's feeling the strain. And as Iraq sinks into greater anarchy, it's gonna take a lot more than yet-another-election to convince folks that it't "getting better" over there...while, at the same time, the Gulf Coast is left to its own devices.

You know, if I had ANY confidence in the Democratic Party, I'd be looking to the off-year elections as the chance to finally smack the smirk of the Chimperor's face...but I don't. Instead, we're likely to see the Dems insisting they can implement Chimp's policies better than he can. Alas, the same stance was one reason why they lost last year. It's too bad they can't see what John Murtha points out: the public is WAY ahead of the government on all sorts of issues.

But no one's there to ride that particular wave.