Friday, January 06, 2006

Know Thine Enemy

An interesting Vanity Fair piece here about one Osama bin Laden. Remember him? Good, you're doing a lot better than the government...

On a related note, I stumbled upon a show last night on The History Channel called Declassified--looks like the program itself covers multiple topics, but last night's show was a nice, long look at Afghanistan from roughly 1979 to the present. Can you say "blowback?" (indeed, sort of the mother of all blowbacks)...
Rest in Peace

A genuine hero, and citizen of the Gret Stet, Hugh Thompson, passed away today. He was 62 years old:

The Atlanta native who later made his home in Lafayette, was awarded the Soldier’s Medal, the U.S. Army’s highest award for bravery not involving direct contact with the enemy, 30 years after the event.

Thompson joined the U.S. Navy in 1961 and then the U.S. Army in 1966. He trained as a helicopter pilot. In 1968, he volunteered for duty that involved flying over Vietnamese forests to draw enemy fire and pinpoint the location of enemy troops.

On March 16, 1968, he was flying on such a mission when he came across bodies of Vietnamese civilians outside My Lai. When he recognized that American troops were apparently shooting civilians, Thompson landed his OH-23 helicopter between the troops and civilians and confronted the American lieutenant in charge.

When the lieutenant refused to listen to him, Thompson had his crew members, crew chief Glenn Andreotta and door gunner Colburn, cover him with the helicopter weapons and called in more helicopters to carry out 11 wounded Vietnamese. The crew members also received the Soldier’s Medal.

Thompson was shot down five times during his time in Vietnam, the final time breaking his backbone.

Thompson testified at the court martial hearings that resulted in the court martial of Lt. William Calley for the massacre of about 500 civilians at My Lai.

According to chief My Lai prosecutor William Eckhardt, “Thompson put his guns on Americans, said he would shoot them if they shot another Vietnamese, had his people wade in [a] ditch in gore to their knees ... took out children, took them to the hospital .... flew back to headquarters [and] standing in front of people, tears rolling down his cheeks, pounded on the table saying, ‘Notice, notice, notice’ ... then had the courage to testify time after time after time.”

In 1998 Thompson and Colburn returned to My Lai, where they met some of the villagers they had save, including a young girl whom they’d pulled from a mass of bodies.

More stories here. The BBC also has an obituary, which links to a story about his actions at My Lai.

Thanks to Steve Gilliard for noticing it.
On Idiocy

Hat tip to Cursor for the links.

Apropos to an earlier post here, the dim bulb in Shrubleroy's cranium experienced a small surge in wattage as his administration sought increased funding for public school language instruction for tongues like various Chinese languages, Farsi, Urdu, Arabic, etc.

I'm surprised this didn't cause the little bulb to burn out:

"We need intelligence officers who, when somebody says something in Arabic or Farsi or Urdu, know what they're talking about."

Duh. After four years of preening around, assuring the public all that was needed was a big stick with which to fight "the evil ones," Shrubusto--probably giving his head a good, long scratch--finally figgered out that taking the smart approach might just be a good thing.

Geez...maybe come 2009 he'll learn to do some more figgering before opening his big fat clap trap (see "major combat operations are over," "bring 'em on," etc.)

And, speaking of idiots, it looks like Ken Lay's gonna go with the duncecap defense in his upcoming trial. Sure, he's a dingbat...but what's the old line? Ignorance is no excuse...? At least it used to be that--of course, there was a time when it was understood that part of the reason you paid the CEO big bucks was BECAUSE they'd take responsibility.

But I guess that was before the "personal responsibility" administration took control...

"But...I'm innocent...I mean...I'm an idiot!"
Photo Wank-Op

Really, how else can you describe this?

I guess when you think about it, there's a certain fitting logic to this latest round of fiddling/debating the number of angels that can stand on the head of a pin/public wanking--after all, the "strategery" for victory "plan" (if you can call steaming, reeking monkeyshit public relations gobbledygook in .pdf form a "plan") surfaced atop the slag heap just a couple of months ago--kind of late in the game, (not that ANYONE seriously considers it a genuine policy document anyway).

But I digress:

Colin Powell said nothing - a silence that spoke volumes to many in the White House today.

His predecessor, Madeleine Albright, was a bit riled after hearing an exceedingly upbeat 40-minute briefing to 13 living former secretaries of state and defense about how well things are going in Iraq. Saying the war in Iraq was "taking up all the energy" of President Bush's foreign policy team, she asked Mr. t Bush whether he had let nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea spin out of control, and Latin America and China policy suffer by benign neglect.

"I can't let this comment stand," Mr. Bush shot back, telling Ms. Albright and the rare assembly of her colleagues, who reached back to the Kennedy White House, that his administration "can do more than one thing at a time."

The Bush administration, the president insisted, had "the best relations of any country with Japan, China and Korea," and active programs to win alliances around the world.

That was, according to some of the participants, one of the few moments of heat during an unusual White House effort to bring some of its critics into the fold and give a patina of bipartisan common ground to the strategy that Mr. Bush has laid out in recent weeks for Iraq.

But if it was a bipartisan consultation, as advertised by the White House, it was a brief one. Mr. Bush allowed 5 to 10 minutes this morning for interchange with the group - which included three veterans of another difficult war, the one in Vietnam: Robert S. McNamara, Melvin R. Laird and James R. Schlesinger. Then the entire group was herded the Oval Office for what he called a "family picture."

Those who wanted to impart more wisdom to the current occupants of the White House were sent back across the hall to meet again with Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, and Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. But, as several of the participants noted, by that time Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had gone on to other meetings.

When cameras were in the room, though, Mr. Bush was appreciative. "I'm most grateful for the suggestions that have been given," he said. "We take the advice, we appreciate your experience and we appreciate you taking the time out of your day."

Well, Clinton was impeached for a furtive blowjob...I don't see why we can't label what we're seeing as "public masturbation" and round up the House and Senate for the vote.

Actually, on a more serious note, the little photo-op starkly contrasts with the reality of Team Bush's Operation Enduring Clusterfuck, which just claimed another gross (in the numeric AND descriptive sense) or so of victims. And there's the added bonus of Team Bush pissing all over the Constitution to boot.
Friday Visuals

From Suspect Device, Corey Anderson, and Watertiger.

Technically, the last of the three isn't listed here so much for the great image as for the perfect caption.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Playing Catch Up

One reason why I read blogs is that sometimes they're WAY ahead of media like, well, New Pravda:

Into the void of the post-Katrina policy landscape, littered with half-ruined proposals, crumbling prescriptions and washed-out initiatives, an obscure and very conservative congressman has stepped in with the ultimate big government solution.

Representative Richard H. Baker, a Republican from suburban Baton Rouge who derides Democrats for not being sufficiently free-market, is the unlikely champion of a housing recovery plan that would make the federal government the biggest landowner in New Orleans - for a while, at least. Mr. Baker's proposed Louisiana Recovery Corporation would spend as much as $80 billion to pay off lenders, restore public works, buy huge ruined chunks of the city, clean them up and then sell them back to developers.

Seems like I heard about this a couple of months ago.

I'm sure Oyster has tons of more important stuff to do, but if he gets the chance, I'd certainly like to hear his take on this "breaking" news...
Greenwald Wrote My Essay...

...and he did it a hell of a lot better than I could.

Last night while I was keeping my mind occupied during chores, I was half listening to Hardball's segment featuring Ben Ginsberg and Richard Ben-Veniste. They were going back and forth on Shrub's decision that warrants were soooooo pre-9/11, and the usual talking points began to blend into a dull, flavorless puree of the kind that makes even a wonk's eyes and ears dull (or a wanabee wonk's like mine).

One thing, though that struck me, was a weird sort of dualism at the core of the Shrub worshippers' position--they're willing to trash consitutional government, more or less for good, because of a single attack--yes, a horrific attack, but a single attack--that occurred over four years ago. Of course, last night and pretty much every night since the shock of 9/11 they've also been braying about how "no attacks" have occurred since (conveniently ignoring both the anthrax attacks AND subsequent terrorists actions in other locations. In doing so, they reveal their inner xenophobia and ethnocentrism). There's also, for them, the VERY inconvenient fact that no terrorist attack within the borders of the United States is NOT necessarily the result of policy decisions; nor can they point to ANY specific attempt at terrorism thwarted, aside from perhaps the lunatic attempt to dismantle the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch (tellingly, the Padilla case is rarely brought up at all, and wasn't last night).

On the other hand, in Iraq, where, thanks to Shrub's meddling, there's a genuine and dreadful problem with terrorism--not to mention incipent civil war--these same securityphiles can't be bothered. Death and destruction get glossed over in favor of yet more elections (even if the elections signal disaster vis-a-vis United States policy aims). And Iraqi corpses become, as I noted yesterday, mere statistics, to be trotted out when justifying more war, but ignored when looking at policy results (ignored in the same way things like lack of electricity and plumbing are, now that these not-so-attractive but vital services are OUR responsibility).

Thinking about the contrast made me wonder what the Shrub worshippers would do if suddenly thrust into a REAL security crisis, as opposed to the fake one, manufactured for political purposes, by this government. My guess is that it'd range between cowering under the bed and haughtily demanding extra work from the hired help (most of those actually articulating Team Bush's views aren't exactly day laborers).

But again, I was thinking about this last night (and made a mental note to remember, which, surprisingly, I did)...then, this morning, as I said, Glenn Greenwald--guest posting at Hullaballo--put it together far more eloquently than I'm able to--check out the entire post, but here are some excerpts:

Fear of terrorism is what the Administration has successfully inflamed and exploited for four years in order to justify its most extreme and even illegal actions undertaken in the name of fighting terrorism.

Without pause, the Administration has sought to make Americans as frightened as possible about terrorism and has used that fear to justify its actions with regard to almost every issue...

George Bush has...been fueling these flames of fear in almost every speech he’s given since September 11, 2001. Here he is in a quite typical speech delivered on October 6, 2005, transparently attempting to whip up as much fear as possible in order to bolster support for our ongoing occupation of Iraq:
We know the vision of the radicals because they've openly stated it -- in videos, and audiotapes, and letters, and declarations, and websites. . . . Their tactic to meet this goal has been consistent for a quarter-century: They hit us, and expect us to run. They want us to repeat the sad history of Beirut in 1983, and Mogadishu in 1993 -- only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.

"The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia. With greater economic and military and political power, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people, and to blackmail our government into isolation."

"Our enemy is utterly committed. As Zarqawi has vowed, 'We will either achieve victory over the human race or we will pass to the eternal life.' And the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot, consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history.

"The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet, in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century. . . .

With the rise of a deadly enemy and the unfolding of a global ideological struggle, our time in history will be remembered for new challenges and unprecedented dangers.

Islamic terrorists here, as always, are depicted as omnipotent villains with quite attainable dreams of world domination, genocide, and the obliteration of the United States. They are trying to take over the world and murder us all. And this is not merely a threat we face. It is much more than that. It is the predominant issue facing the United States -- more important than all others. Everything pales in comparison to fighting off this danger. We face not merely a danger, but, in Bush’s words, an "unprecedented danger" -- the worst, scariest, most threatening danger ever...

It is that deeply irrational, fear-driven view of the world which has to be undermined in order to make headway in convincing Americans that this Administration is engaged in intolerable excesses and abuses of its power. The argument which needs to be made is the one that we have seen starting to arise in the blogosphere and elsewhere: that living in irrational fear of terrorists and sacrificing our liberties and all of our other national goals in their name is the approach of hysterics and cowards, not of a strong, courageous and resolute nation.

Several weeks ago, Digby wrote a widely-discussed post describing how Bush followers are driven by their all-consuming and pitifully child-like fears of terrorists, leading them to consent to any measures taken by George Bush as long as he promises to save them. And this weekend, Kos wrote a similar post, in which he contrasted the classic and previously defining American bravery of Patrick Henry with the frightened Bush followers who beg the Government to restrict their liberties in exchange for saving them from the terrorists.

If the blogospheric reaction of Bush supporters is any indication, this argument is as politically potent as it is self-evidently true. Kos’s post provoked shrieking seizures among the tough-guy, blindly loyal Bush followers -- the ones who revealingly give themselves play name like Rocket and Captain and who never tire of touting their own toughness. In response to Kos’s post, they squealed and they yelled and they called him all kinds of names – they did everything but refute the argument.

And notably, in their anger, there was none of that smug bravado or all-too-familiar attacks on the courage of Bush opponents, because with this plainly accurate depiction, they stand revealed as being driven by nothing other than limitless, irrational fear. They are scared and they want to continue to implant their extreme fear into our national policies and onto our national character...

There's a LOT more worth reading at the post itself, but I've cited plenty enough--however, I'll note that Greenwald goes on to point out something I've also noted--again, not as good, but, to both sort of paraphrase AND recall my own previous screeds, it's wasn't Saddam Hussein causing the pre-hurricane problems in New Orleans, nor was his evil visage responsible for the storm...or aftermath. Shrub can talk about terrorism's evil until he's hoarse (or until he's attacked by a cedar tree), but the REAL crises facing this country aren't the result of fanatic Islamic fundamentalist nuts--they're the result of fanatic Shrub worshipping nuts.

Team Bush has in turn completely ignored the threat of terrorism, then magnified it beyond all reason (i.e., comparisons to the Soviet Union), then wrongly equated it to thuggish but decidedly non-fundamentalist Iraq (effectively ruining what was left of the country)--and, make no mistake, this was ALL done with, first and foremost, political considerations in mind. That's right: genuine concern for national security hasn't been relegated to the back seat--I, for one, doubt they even bothered to drop it in the trunk.

As a result, we're FAR worse off, particularly in light of items desperately needing attention, like the Gulf Coast (related note: The Rude Pundit has several superb posts abut his own experience in and around NOLA. Check them out). Instead of correctly identifying the threat of terrorism in clear, rational terms, they've thrown away thousands of lives, AT LEAST $200 billion dollars--and possibly quite a bit more--on delusions. Delusions and cynical political games.

And to think about why these same shitheads impeached Bill Clinton. Good god.
Good Points

Jane Hamsher points out that one of the recess appointments made by the dauphin yesterday was Hans von Spakovsky--who helped inspire Katherine Harris's voter purge back in 2000. He's gonna be...on the Federal Election Commission. Nice. Another appointee to the commission is Robert Lenhard, husband of Viveca Novak (who right now is providing the very thin thread of alabi Karl Rove clings to re: the Plame scandal).

But a comment at Hamsher's site really puts things into perspective Falcone 1204 says the following:

"The truly amazing thing about this is that he's had to do this to get past a Senate where his party has a 6 seat majority. God, this guy is a tyrant."
When You Need a Nutjob Quote...

You can do no better than nutjob Pat Robertson--let's see, he's on record blaming 9/11 on gays, he hoped the State Department would get nuked, he wishes natural disasters upon Dover, PA, for teaching science in science class--and now he's offering a novel theory for Ariel Sharon's stroke:

The Rev. Pat Robertson said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is being punished by God for dividing the Land of Israel. Robertson, speaking on the “700 Club” on Thursday, suggested Sharon, who is currently in an induced coma, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by an Israeli extremist in 1995, were being treated with enmity by God for dividing Israel. “He was dividing God’s land,” Robertson said. “And I would say, Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations or the United States of America. God says, This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.”

The only question for me is whether Robertson is on or off his meds. Seriously, though, the guy needs some kind of professional help...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Odds and Ends

Bush is giving Abramoff money to the American Heart Association--maybe Dick's ticker is on his mind--but he's keeping the $94,000 Jack merely solicited from others. How, um, charitable.

Geez, wtf does he need campaign cash for...unless he's hoping to avoid indictment by virture of holding office once his term expires (oh, wait--can't he use campaign funds for legal defense? Hmmm...).

Robert Fisk reminds us of a Shrub quote that's ludicrous even by Team Bush standards:

It's not so long ago, I recall, that Bush explained to us that all the Arabs would one day wish to have the freedoms of Iraq. I cannot think of an Arab today who would wish to contemplate such ill fortune, not least because of the increasingly sectarian nature of the authorities, elected though they are.

And John Murtha, D-PA, receipient of two Purple Hearts (i.e., three more hearts than Big Time), one Bronze Star, and basically the careerist Pentagon voice on Capitol Hill, has this advice for anyone thinking of joining the military these days:


Not exactly a ringing endorsement from a distinguished veteran. But the Armed Forces still have Mr. Five Deferments and Part-time-TANG-in-Chief to extol the benefits of military service...
Military Intelligence

It's been a while since I've focused on what now appears to be a major cause of one of last year's tragedies in Iraq--the deaths of twenty US soldiers, all members of the 3rd Battalion 25th Marines, on successive days. Of course, come to think of it, pretty much every day in Iraq is tragic, for US AND Iraqi families. But the circumstances here underscore the depths to which the Bush administration was unprepared for war, which magnifies the horror of the foolish enterprise all the more:

Reports surfacing about the death of 20 Brook Park Marine reservists indicate that the Marines may have been betrayed.

The truth can be found in a classified report containing a completed investigation of the fatal events last August, reported NewsChannel5's Adam Shapiro.

Shapiro spent two weeks conducting numerous conversations with families of the Marines who were killed, as well as ranking officers from the 3rd Battalion 25th Marines.

The families of those who died are being told that on Aug. 1, six Marine snipers from the 3/25 were killed, and it appears they were set up and ambushed.

Two days later, 14 Marines from the 3/25 were sent to arrest the insurgents who killed the snipers, but their vehicle was blown up, killing all of them.

It now appears that they also may have been set up.

Statements from the Marines indicate as much, and a father of one of the slain Marines says that's the story he's being told by Marines who were there.

Consider: No WMD's, the ostensible casus belli--but Team Bush insisted, indeed, DEMANDED their war, virtually stamping around like a child throwing a temper tantrum in their zeal to begin combat...without adequate equipment for the soldiers they sent (and, regardless of your opinion of the war, without adequate numbers of soldiers, period). The story above makes clear, we also lack intangible assets--the military is either naiive or desperate to the point where the insurgency has thoroughly infiltrated those "security forces" who will "stand up" as we "stand down," to cite a certain village idiot missing from Crawford, Texass.

I don't really feel like combing through my archives, but more than once I vented as to our country's lack of understanding when it comes to Mesopotamia. We lack an understanding of the region's ancient history (a shame, given Mesopotamia's role in establishing Western Civilization), we lack an understanding of the region's modern customs, traditions, laws, etc., etc. Under those circumstances, it's not at all surprising to see the insurgency exploiting what is, sadly, a glaring weakness in the occupation.

And I'll turn the tables: could anyone imagine a foreign force occupying, say, Louisiana, without any real understanding of the myriad differences in the Gret Stet? You know, despite the regional, cultural, class, and ethnic divisions here, we're relatively homogenous compared to the Fertile Crescent. But an occupying army that couldn't distinguish between Shreveport and NOLA, creole and cajun, (or, hell, between Mestayer and Boudreaux), would be thrashing around in the alligator pond real quick.

We're seeing a situation like that--but on steroids--over there. And, for countless young men and women like the twenty soldiers above, that situation has cost them the ultimate price. What a horrible shame.

For Bush to claim that, somehow, history will vindicate him, is the height of foolishness, folly, and hubris. At the very least, he should be begging forgiveness (and, if somehow it'd been ME demanding such a war, I'd have long ago taken to the locked room with the bottle of whiskey and loaded pistol).

Again, what a horrible shame.
Playing God

On the way back from lunch I was "treated" to Shrubleroy's early eulogizing of the mine disaster victims...he also took the time to offer laudatory praise to rescue personnel before proffering his normal "God bless..." conclusion. As you might expect, I wasn't exactly impressed.

Why? Well, I've got any number of reasons.

Attytood, especially, gets it: like another "natural" disaster that occurred last summer (hint: it began on August 29th), Monday's mine explosion underscores just how the government views "rights"...first and foremost is the right to profit--above all. Protect miners from hazards like coal dust? You gotta be kidding--indeed, the Bloomberg article notes number of violations and dollar amount of fines paid by the mine operator last year (and, to be fair, let's point out the individual is a donor to the Democratic party and friend of John Kerry named Wilbur Ross). There were 208 violations. The largest citation carried a fine of...$440.

However, Millazo--and Attytood--both point out the real issue, namely, a corrupt culture of corporate cash paying for corporate government that rules in the interests of...corporation. And, while I doubt he genuinely comprehends it, one George Shrubusto Bush embodies their ideal of a leader: one who unquestioningly, but relentlessly, pursues their agenda at ANY cost.

In the course of such pursuit, dead bodies like those in West Virginia--or those in Louisiana (Katrina itself did not bring about death--shoddy levee construction did) become at best a bothersome collection of corpses, worthy of mention only in passing, then quickly forgotten (Shrub has been mighty quiet about the body count in New Orleans). But when it comes to promoting a war agenda--ah, a win-win situation for Team Bush AND his sordied collection of corporate pals: Shrub gets to play dress up, billions of dollars flow into corporate coffers--then by all means the coffin count gets played up. So, we get Dick Cheney exploiting 9/11 victims--again--today. Shrub himself can barely get through a session of public speaking, either prepared or "extemporaneous," without a mention--or ten. Dead soldiers assigned to his fool's errand of a war in Iraq become justification for...his fool's errand of a war in Iraq (though, not surprisingly, dealt with off-stage to the point of being so much freight, especially now that Operation Enduring Clusterfuck Enduring Clusterfuck). Responses to any serious questions as to their various screw ups range from "how dare you question us" (e.g. Joe Wilson/Richard Clarke) to "we don't want to point any fingers" (i.e., blame can't be pawned off on anyone else). Abramoff, despite his GOP ties, becomes a bipartisan corrupter. And they hope all is forgotten--or at least confusing enough--to allow for a return to "business as usual."

When you look at the needless death and destruction during George Bush's watch, it's frighteningly apparent that this pathetic little man--hell, as plenty note, this more-chimp-than-man--somehow has managed to convince himself that he's actually the ubermensch. Corpses are mere tools at his disposal, laws and rights are used or tossed aside at his convenience. He and his corporate buddies--which truly do comprise a bipartisan government--consider the rest of the population as little more than regrettable necessities.

If that's not playing god, I don't know what is...
A Little Injury With Your Insult, Ma'am?

Hat tip to Da Po' Blog. FEMA is sending a bill to the Gret Stet for Mike Brown's per diems all the "assistance" they provided:

Louisiana's first bills from FEMA for its share of federal hurricane recovery efforts arrived over the holidays, and they were a doozy: $155.7 million, with a 30-day due date before interest starts accruing.

And more bills are expected to arrive in the coming months as federal officials tally their costs after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

So, the Bush "plan" for our recovery resulting from their fuck up with the floodwalls and levees is: nothing--and they want us to pay as well.

Worst. Administration. Ever.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I Hope it Ain't So

One of Juan Cole's ten predictions for 2006:

9. New Orleans will for the most part not be rebuilt and will increasingly be eclipsed by Baton Rouge. Louisiana as a result will become a solid Red State. The Republican Party has no particular reason to rebuild a predominantly African-American city that reliably voted Democrat, just as its leader, George W. Bush, apparently had no particular reason to implement relief work there with any urgency or efficiency after the flood. Most of the $25 billion in reconstruction aid promised by the Federal government will never arrive.

To be fair, Cole ends by noting

Caveat emptor: The author, a historian, has a fair amount of expertise with the past, but knows nothing out of the ordinary about the future.

Sadly, he's probably right for the most part, although I'd like clarification as to what he means by "eclipsed." I suppose Red Stick will end up larger than NOLA, population-wise--at least for a while--but there's only so much lipstick you can stick on a (Red Stick) pig...and I think even those of us who live here know that.

Hell, I moved here for three reasons: I was sick and goddamned tired of northern winter, I'm originally from a smaller town about an hour and a half to the southwest (that is, after a military childhood)--and BR was relatively close to NOLA. Getting a decent job--and growing, um older--may have sealed the deal, but, believe me, the real thrill of living here was NOT LSU athletics--it was and is proximity to the most unique city in the US.

I hope Cole is mistaken, and as for me, regardless of how things shake out, I know we'll NEVER eclipse New Orleans...but I'm really afraid he's probably right about the Federal promises soon-to-be-forgotten.

You've Probably Seen it Already

But in case you haven't, here's the latest from Suspect Device.

In Case You're Wondering...

Think Progress has a list of folks who probably won't have much of an appetite tonight, now that we know Jack Abramoff's been in canary mode for some time. One person on the list is the Gret Stet's David Vitter:

FAVORS — VITTER RECEIVED $6,000 FROM ABRAMOFF CLIENTS: “Vitter received $6,000 from Abramoff tribes from 1999 to 2001 and refunded it the day before he sent one of his letters to Norton in February 2002. He also used Abramoff’s restaurant for a September 2003 fund-raiser but failed to reimburse for it until this year.” [AP, 11/17/05]

COUSHATTA CAMPAIGN — VITTER INSERTED LANGUAGE INTO BILL HELPING ABRAMOFF CLIENT, AFTER ABRAMOFF HOSTED FUNDRAISER FOR HIM: One of Abramoff’s tribal clients, the Coushattas, “opposed a plan by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians to open a casino at a non-reservation site, expected at the time to be outside Shreveport, La., not far from a casino owned by the Coushattas.” Vitter “inserted language in the fiscal 2004 Interior appropriations bill — completed late in 2003 — requesting that the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the National Indian Gaming Commission deny an application from the Jena Choctaw Tribe of Louisiana for land for a gambling casino.” To encourage him, Abramoff had hosted a September 2003 fundraiser at his restaurant, “just two months before Vitter inserted a provision in an Interior spending bill helping one of Abramoff’s tribal clients [the Coushattas].” [Washington Post, 9/28/04; Roll Call, 3/16/05]


Of course, Team Bush is in full spin mode--since they can't deny, they slime, insinuating that it's a bipartisan matter, ergo, not really all-that-bad. Which is, of course, two scoops of bullshit atop the cardboard cone. Alas, the media is busily reciting the party line, that is, when they're not remarking on just how tasty both scoops are.

Well, as the saying goes, it's not the fall that kills, it's the sudden stop.

However, changing the subject just a bit--Vitter, like his other GOP colleagues, might well be synonymous with dirt, but that doesn't mean all is corrupt here in the Gret Stet: Christopher Shays and Jeff Miller can suck on this:

It was one of the most memorable images in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: the twin spans of Interstate 10 over Lake Pontchartrain impossibly broken into pieces, their 260-ton slabs tossed into the water like gigantic mah-jongg tiles by the storm surge.

But amid all the things that have gone wrong on the Gulf Coast, the repair of the crucial highway has gone unusually right, coming in ahead of time and under budget...

The state issued a request for competitive bids on the project just 11 days after the storm, Mr. Bradberry said, and made a decision on the same Friday afternoon that the bids were reviewed. Workers swarmed the bridge the next morning and have worked around the clock since...

Hurricane Rita set the crews back by the better part of a week, but Boh Brothers still beat the deadline for Phase 1 by 16 days, earning the company a bonus of $1.1 million, the most it could get, in the process. The cost of that Phase 1 work was about $31 million - nearly $20 million less than the state's initial estimate. Since late October, there has been two-way traffic on the single completed bridge.

Filling in the gaps in the westbound bridge required quick work by Acrow, a company based in Parsippany, N.J., that makes quick-construction bridges. Each missing slab has been replaced by a temporary steel bridge, leaving a patchwork of concrete and trestle that led Mr. Lambert, of the State Transportation Department, to admit that "it's an odd-looking bridge now." He added, however, that the finished bridge would fully support the weight of traffic.

Mr. Boh said that the fact that the job was performed by a New Orleans contractor was a tremendous source of pride for his workers, and for the state.

"This is a case where local people stepped in to really help get their city back in shape," Mr. Boh said. Louisianans should be pleased, he said, that the state did not have to use outside help. "If the local people can do it, that's better," he said. "We need to stabilize our economy down here."

Congress has appropriated up to $629 million for a sturdier bridge to replace the 43-year-old twin span; it would broaden the crossing to six lanes from four, with spans that will sit considerably higher than the old bridge. Planning has already begun, Mr. Bradberry said.

"We're blowing and going on that thing," he said.

That's right asshole Congressmen--on schedule and under budget--something you've been unable to do since your buddy George Bush was appointed to lead the Executive Branch. OK, I'll give both of you a small credit--you're NOT implicated in the Abramoff scandal.

But you're still assholes.
Seeing is an Eye Opener

I guess I should have written something about taking a break over the holidays...anyway, it was a nice rest. It was even a bit of a 'working' vacation in the sense that on Friday some friends visiting for the holidays and I went down to NOLA, and, after stopping by the Quarter, took a driving tour to see some of the destruction for ourselves.

If anyone is offended by our "gawking," please consider: we weren't out for a thrill. Our aim was, as I said above, to see for ourselves the effects of the flood. And seeing for ourselves was definitely an eye opener.

It's almost enough to make me reconsider my otherwise negative views about "damage and destruction" tours, because, as so many have already said, media doesn't really give you an idea of the extent of the devastation. And by no means did we see all of it--hell, for the most part, we stuck to just a few major thoroughfares. But, believe me, we saw plenty enough. It was a very sobering ride.

Which makes it all the more maddening--and makes me all the more furious--that the criminal Bush administration, and their media syncophants/co-conspirators--have worked in tandem to bury the story, and, by extension, the city, and indeed, the entire Gulf Coast. They've turned their attention to other shiny things, while IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY a city literally looks like it suffered from a massive aerial bombardment. And, when they DO manage to provide coverage, the media parrots the Bush administration talking points--or, and I don't know if this is worse or not--focuses on the Quarter/CBD/Warehouse Districts, i.e., areas that are more or less intact (I noted the latter a week or so ago).

Well, I'm only a small readership blogger, so it's not like my voice will be heard by either the gubmit or the press, but goddamnit, if EITHER was doing their job, New Orleans would be a focus of both EVERY GODDAMNED DAY. The fact that the government is stalling/sitting on their collective lard ass with a collective finger firmly planted in a collective sphincter--and that the media is not only NOT pestering them every day, but apparently ALSO sitting on their collective lard ass with a collective finger firmly planted in a collective sphincter--demonstrates a criminal complicity that's truly unbelievable.

Read this from Schroeder, for instance (I'll give Knight-Ritter reporters a bit of credit, both with this story AND with their Iraq coverage). And then think about the Bush administration non-response (Brownie's heckuva job), followed by their insistance on blaming Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco for...well, for what? The levees were/are a FEDERAL project.

And the next fucking time I hear some nitwit neocon (yes, I realize nitwit neocon is redundant, but it sounds nice)--anyway, the next time I hear any one of them say something like "but Bill Clinton didn't fix the levees," well, while they're contemplating the embossed impression of my shoe on their ass, I'll let 'em know two things: one, when someone assumes office, they assume ALL the responsibilites, and two, if they'd PREFER having the Clenis come back to take charge, well, by all means let's bring him back. Because while I was never a big fan of the guy, at least he got things done.