Friday, January 27, 2006

Memories and Trauma Stay With You

For some people, it becomes so horrific they simply can't take it anymore (link courtesy of Simbaud):

By his own admission Douglas Barber, a former army reservist, was struggling. For two years since returning from the chaos and violence of Iraq, the 35-year-old had battled with his memories and his demons, the things he had seen and the fear he had experienced. Recently, it seemed he had turned a corner, securing medical help and counselling.

But last week, at his home in south-eastern Alabama, the National Guardsman e-mailed some friends and then changed the message on his answering machine. His new message told callers: "If you're looking for Doug, I'm checking out of this world. I'll see you on the other side." Mr Barber dialled the police, stepped on to the porch with his shotgun and - after a brief stand-off with officers - shot himself in the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene...

Doug Barber wrote this internet article on 12 January, just before he died

My thought today is to help you the reader understand what happens to a soldier when they come home and the sacrifice we continue to make. This war on terror has become a personal war for so many, yet the Bush administration do not want to reveal to America that this is a personal war. They want to run it like a business, and thus they refuse to show the personal sacrifices the soldiers and their families have made for this country.

All is not OK or right for those of us who return home alive and supposedly well. What looks like normalcy and readjustment is only an illusion to be revealed by time and torment. Some soldiers come home missing limbs and other parts of their bodies. Still others will live with permanent scars from horrific events that no one other than those who served will ever understand. We come home from war trying to put our lives back together but some cannot stand the memories and decide that death is better. We kill ourselves because we are so haunted by seeing children killed and whole families wiped out.

Others come home to nothing, families have abandoned them: husbands and wives have left these soldiers, and so have parents. Post-traumatic stress disorder has become the norm amongst these soldiers because they don't know how to cope with returning to a society that will never understand what they have endured.

PTSD comes in many forms not understood by many: but yet if a soldier has it, America thinks the soldiers are crazy. PTSD comes in the form of depression, anger, regret, being confrontational, anxiety, chronic pain, compulsion, delusions, grief, guilt, dependence, loneliness, sleep disorders, suspiciousness/paranoia, low self-esteem and so many other things.

We are easily startled with a loud bang or noise and can be found ducking for cover when we get panicked. This is a result of artillery rounds going off in a combat zone, or an improvised explosive device blowing up.

I myself have trouble coping with an everyday routine that often causes me to have a short fuse. A lot of soldiers lose jobs just because they are trained to be killers and they have lived in an environment that is conducive to that. We are always on guard for our safety and that of our comrades. When you go to bed at night you wonder will you be sent home in a flag-draped coffin because a mortar round went off on your sleeping area.

Soldiers live in deplorable conditions where burning your own faeces is the order of the day, where going days on end with no shower and the uniform you wear gets so crusty it sticks to your body becomes a common occurrence. We also deal with rationing water or even food. So when a soldier comes home they are unsure of what to do.

This is what PTSD comes in the shape of - soldiers can not often handle coming back to the same world they left behind. It is something that drives soldiers over the edge and causes them to withdraw from society. As Americans we turn our nose down at them wondering why they act the way they do. Who cares about them, why should we help them?

I'll note several things here: first, Barber, for all his torment, apparently did not harm anyone else (the article states he and his wife separated, but give no details)--something tells me other individuals feeling similarly might decide to vent their frustrations/rage/aggression/fear, etc. outward. Barber's death should serve as a warning. I wonder if we'll heed it.

Second, with standards for Army enlistment sinking like the Titanic, post-iceberg encounter, the administration might well be setting society up for a rude shock when these soldiers return home. That could make for ugly scenarios.

Finally, PTSD isn't just for soldiers: I'll bet plenty of Gulf Coast residents are likewise dealing with shock and stress. Some have lost family members; many others have seen EVERYTHING they called their own turned into so much junk and debris to be hauled away. By first neglecting/ignoring these folks (by ignoring the potential for levee breaching), then by telling them they're SOL (the Shrub "plan"), we're likewise running the risk of not only tragic actions like suicide, but the potential for much more destructive occurrences. People who feel as if they've got nothing left to lose can do awfully desperate things (emphasis on awful).

(note: another apology for slow posting--it hasn't been particularly busy here, but I'm dealing with a decent sized headache...grrrr).

A week or so ago, I noted US officials crowing about the air strike in Pakistan allegedly killing top terror mastermind Abu Khabab al Masri. They released his picture, which, to me, bore some resemblence to Rosey Grier.

My apologies: it wasn't...and, upon further review, the photo in question doesn't really look all that much like Mr. Grier after all.

Turns out, though, the photo isn't Abu Khabab al Masri either--it's Abu Hamsa al Masri. He's already in custody and on trial in England:

Some days it all starts to make sense. For a year and a half now the U.S. government has been asking for help finding a dangerous al Qaeda operative. Why hadn't the CIA found him? Perhaps because they were using the photo of the wrong man had something to do with it.

If they don't even know who the enemy is, how on earth can they claim to know what the hell they're doing?
Friday Morning Charity Photo Post

It's a bit of a hack job--there's only so much time--but I couldn't resist mixing and matching from Atrios's observation this morning:

Why do I call it a charity photo post? Because the pic above actually gives Shrub a small benefit of doubt. Considering what he's doing to the county--and particularly to the Gret Stet--this might be more appropriate:

I don't think we want to be the Ned Beatty of these circumstances...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Earth to Shrub: You're a Dumbass

Blogger did the maintenence thing just as I noticed Oyster's latest. My own reaction to the latest Shrubian mix and match of lies and nonsense was, "no, idiot, there IS a plan--it's called the Baker Bill," which, it turns out, was pretty much what Governor Blanco thought too:

President Bush's assertion Thursday that Louisiana has yet to develop a specific strategy for spending federal hurricane aid drew an angry rebuke from Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who said the White House rejected the key element of the Louisiana plan...

Blanco noted, the Bush administration this week rejected a federal home buyout proposal from U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, that Louisiana officials consider crucial for recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Blanco said Baker's measure would help homeowners avoid mortgage defaults and blighted, sparsely resettled neighborhoods.

"Administration officials do not understand the suffering of the people of Louisiana. If they did, the president could not reject a bipartisan plan that enjoys widespread support in Louisiana and in Congress," the governor said in a statement.

Baker's plan was the lynchpin to many of the housing assistance plans being developed by the state and New Orleans. It was backed by a litany of officials and leaders including Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the state's Republican-dominated congressional delegation.

But, this administration--which gave pharmaceutical companies the $800 BILLION dollar gift called the Medicare Drug Plan (boondoggle), and which thinks hemmorhaging lives and money in Iraq is just dandy, suddenly thinks a bold initiative at a time of genuine crisis (and for the record, something that almost makes me forgive Baker's brain-lock moment when he praised the storm for obliterating public housing in NOLA)...anyway, Team Bush decides this doesn't jibe with their supposed "limited government" philosophy--probably because it doesn't limit the government to the fat cats and K Street skunks:

White House officials say Baker's legislation would create another level of bureaucracy and would put the federal government in the undesirable position of being in the real estate business.

The Bush administration is pushing for Louisiana to use its $6.2 billion in flexible federal block grant recovery aid for a grant program for homeowners who lived outside the recognized flood plain and didn't have flood insurance.

Blanco, Baker and other Louisiana officials say that would help 20,000 homeowners — and leave out 180,000 homeowners who believed they were protected by the New Orleans area levee system, including many poor people who don't have the means to rebuild. They are continuing to push for Baker's bill and hope to get the legislation passed without the president's backing...

Bush said Congress has made a "significant commitment" to the Gulf Coast by setting aside $85 billion for hurricane recovery.

"We'll continue to work with the folks down there. But I want to remind the people in that part of the world, $85 billion is a lot," Bush said.

$85 Billion dollars is roughly a third of what's ALREADY been spent in Iraq--with more in the pipeline. I wish someone would ask Bush what he thinks is more important: them...or us.

Oh--and I'll bet that, when they DO consider the region, they've got a plan of their own--along the lines of this:

The city of New Orleans could lose up to 80 percent of its black population if people displaced by Hurricane Katrina are not able to return to their damaged neighborhoods, according to an analysis released Thursday by a Brown University sociologist.

Blacks and the poor were disproportionately affected by Katrina, according to the study led by Brown Professor John R. Logan. The analysis concludes that the difficulty in moving back to the city could mean a massive loss of population, overwhelmingly among blacks.

Don't think for a second that politics takes a back seat to ANYTHING in the Shrub administration. An ethnically clensed NOLA would suit them fine.

It's NOT a Badge of Honor

So Quit Wrapping Yourself in It

A couple of days ago I noticed a few stories mentioning Karl Rove's upcoming 2006 strategery. Amazingly, I'll quote the fat boy himself--he summed up thusly:

"Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview, and many Democrats have a pre-9/11 worldview. That doesn't make them unpatriotic -- not at all. But it does make them wrong -- deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong."

Now, I'm certainly not the first to call bullshit, but it's high time we finally come to our senses and kicked Team Bush off the free ride they've enjoyed for almost four and a half years. 9/11/01, terrible as it was/is, shouldn't be considered a blank check. With the passage of time, and ESPECIALLY after Hurricane Katrina, it's not a bad idea to point out how much of the Bush plan fails the smell test.

Schroeder posted today about Frat Boy in Chief's "work ethic". America Blog--and Oliver Willis--note Shrub's lazy, on-again, off-again tough-guy act when it comes to Osama bin Laden. Tbogg reminds us of Shrub's first 'heckuva job'...and, I'm repeating myself here, but 9/11 was almost EIGHT MONTHS into the dauphin's first term. If they want to argue in favor of his being a weenie, requiring "special time" to "grow into the job," well, let 'em. Because I'll counter with "I expect the nation's chief executive to be capable of the job from day 1," and I vote accordingly. They're welcome to take the opposing point of view.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, sadly, balance 9/11, and demonstrate exactly the lameness, the hollowness, and the utter incapability not only of boy king George the Witless, but of the entire GOP program. For an entire generation, the public image of the GOP--government as anathema--is offset by their own zeal to feed at the trough AND their insistance on a national security state...the latter, by the way, characterized by mismanagement and incompetence on the scale of Spectrum 7 (well, if we're lucky, these dingbats are doing just as well with their warrantless spying).

What's the difference between a natural disaster like Katrina and a terrorist attack? Well, a hurricane's landfall can be predicted with a reasonable degree of accuracy, for one. But either implies a most unnatural loss of life and destruction of property.

Of late, though, one SIMULARITY between a natural disaster like Katrina and a terrorist attack is that the preznit can't be bothered to stop vacationing long enough to even attempt mitigating actions. On August 6, 2001, he was warned about the threat from Al Qaeda--specifically, that they would try to hijack airplanes (and earlier still he'd been told of the possibility that terrorists might try to use planes as weapons). Before Katrina, Shrub was warned of levee toppings, breaches, the potential for massive flooding--and the large number of people unable to evacuate.

His response? Nothing.

Not surprisingly, Team Bush is running a full-court stall/ignore/hope-the-press stops-asking-about-it strategy when it comes to the storms (anyone notice how Hurricane Rits truly HAS dropped from the collective radar screen?)...but they CONTINUE to flog 9/11 and wallow around in it to the extent that you'd think a pre-indicted Jack Abramoff war chest of lobbying dollars sat in the hole that is Ground Zero.

No, they should be ASHAMED that such an awful thing could happen on their watch. And it's time they were told that.
Anatomy of a Swindle

Freeance and Peance--I mean, Hold 'em or Fold 'em

Markus has a good, solid analysis of what the administration's rejection of the Baker bill is all about:

Two things are underway here. First, the Compassionate Conservative in Chief is prepared to allow hundreds of thousands of Louisianians to lose all of their equity and go into bankruptcy. Those folks will then spend the rest of their lives paying out the rest of the mortgage on their ruined homes under the less-than-generous terms of the new bankruptcy bill. He gets paid either way, so that's not a problem. For him.

Later the CCinC will step in to save the home building, mortgage, real estate and related industries by bailing out the mortgage holders. This is perfect consistent with the way the current batch of politicians in Washington like to do things, going back to the Savings & Loan bailout. Remember that one? The average Joe and Jane got there couple of thou' from the FDIC and lost the rest. The people who milked the system for all it was worth got to keep all of their illicit gain.

As if this weren't fun enough, consider my wife's thought this morning. Be prepared to be inundated with calls from helpful people willing to cash you out of your house for dimes on the dollar--of your lot value. When they figure this out (if they weren't in from the beginning), the vultures will no longer be circling. They'll be sitting in the tree over your sorry ass, practicing their four part harmonies and waiting to come in for dinner.

We are being swindled Texas-big, by people who know how its done. Forget fair buyouts. The speculators will flock in and buy up vast tracts of property for next to nothing. When you're done endorsing that paltry check to the mortgage company, the guys in the White Hats (the ones with hats only, no cattle) will jump in and take care of the rest of your mortgage. Well, not the rest of your mortgage. You'll go to your grave owing on that. But the mortgage holders will get theirs. Just you wait and see.

But don't panic. It's hard to get took when the guy standing in the doorway hands you a card that says George W. Texan, Grifter on it.

Before you accept that offer for dimes on the dollar, lot value only, remember: there's no way they're going to let the mortgage people go under. Like all good scams, this one only works if we're willing to play along.

Don't let them get away from it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Freedom of the Press Belongs to Those Who Own It

Apologies for the lack of posts--things were a bit busy over here...

Maybe y'all have already seen this since it was an Atrios link, but I'm putting up my own post as a way of saying amen. Daou puts into words a number of points that've I've been trying to make, although with much less success.

For instance: the other day Glenn Greenwald linked to a story which featured, among other things, this photo of Chris Matthews:

Is it any wonder Tweety's always ready to provide the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the GOP--or, conversely, ready to compare Michael Moore to Osama bin Laden? I mean, c'mon--it's pretty obvious how the talking-head class views themselves--and struggling to pay the rent or the mortgage ain't part of that view.

Here's what Daou says:

What's the common thread running through the past half-decade of Bush's presidency? What's the nexus between the Swift-boating of Kerry, the Swift-boating of Murtha, and the guilt-by-association between Democrats and terrorists? Why has a seemingly endless string of administration scandals faded into oblivion? Why do Democrats keep losing elections? It's this: the traditional media, the trusted media, the "neutral" media, have become the chief delivery mechanism of potent anti-Democratic and pro-Bush storylines. And the Democratic establishment appears to be either ignorant of this political quandary or unwilling to fight it.

There's a critical distinction to be made here: individual reporters may lean left, isolated news stories may be slanted against the administration. What I'm describing is the wholesale peddling by the "neutral" press of deep-seated narratives, memes, and soundbites: simple, targeted talking points that paint a picture of reality for the American public that favors the right and tarnishes the left.

You’ve heard the narratives: Bush is likable, Bush is a regular guy, Bush is firm, Bush is a religious man, Bush relishes a fight, Democrats are muddled, Democrats have no message, national security is Bush’s strength, terror attacks and terror threats help Bush (even though he presided over the worst attack ever on American soil), Democrats are weak on security, Democrats need to learn how to talk about values, Republicans favor a “strict interpretation” of the Constitution, and on and on...

These narratives are woven so deeply into the fabric of news coverage that they have become second nature and have permeated the public psyche and are regurgitated in polls. (The polls are then used to strengthen the narratives.) They are delivered as affirmative statements, interrogatives, hypotheticals; they are discussed as fact and accepted as conventional wisdom; they are twisted, turned, shaped, reshaped, and fed to the American public in millions of little soundbites, captions, articles, editorials, news stories, and opinion pieces. They are inserted into the national dialogue as contagious memes that imprint the idea of Bush=strong/Dems=weak. And they are false...

There are a number of reasons why Democrats allow the media problem to fester. First, the “liberal” media mantra has been so pervasive that it is still accepted as fact by many beltway insiders. Republicans have mastered the art of institutional rage against the media, Democrats have not. Second, Democratic strategists haven’t learned how to distinguish between stories and storylines. (The insidious effect of infectious narratives, the power of inoculation techniques, the concept of memetics and the role of the Internet, are alien to the Democratic establishment. And I say that having been in the belly of that establishment during the 2004 election). Third, “blame the media” feels like a cop-out.

But this isn’t about “blaming the media” or excusing other strategic mistakes on the part of Democrats, it’s about understanding what happens when skillfully-crafted pro-GOP storylines are injected into the American bloodstream by the likes of Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews, Paula Zahn, Dana Milbank, Kyra Phillips, Cokie Roberts, Tom Brokaw, Jim VandeHei, Bob Schieffer, Bill Schneider, Tim Russert, Howard Fineman, Norah O'Donnell, Elizabeth Bumiller, Adam Nagourney, Bob Woodward, and their ilk, not to mention rabid partisans like Limbaugh, Coulter, and Hannity.

To understand the methodology of the story-telling media, look no further than two situations currently occupying the energy of netroots activists: Chris Matthews’ equating of bin Laden and Michael Moore and Tim Russert’s racially-tinged, guilt-by-association line of questioning in a recent interview with Barack Obama. In each instance, the meta-theme is that Democrats are terrorist-lite traitors, and the subtext is that Bush and Republicans are the true patriots. But while the netroots is blasting away at Matthews and Russert, the Democratic establishment is petrified at the thought of offending the Gang of 500. So far, only John Kerry and Louise Slaughter have weighed in on either scandal.

"Flip-flop" took hold as an anti-Kerry theme because it was repeated ad nauseum in the press. And mind you, reporters are far too sophisticated to simply deliver the meme as an accusation; they frame it as a question, they toss it in as an offhanded remark, they run a caption that says it for them, they use the language of Democratic duality and Republican unity, they use polls for cover, they play false equivalency games, they allow Republicans to repeat the narrative unhindered, and so on. This despite the fact that Bush contradicted himself on major policy issues and was a master ‘flip-flopper’ himself. Had the media fact-checked the assertion every time it popped up and had they called Bush a flip-flopper with the same brutal, methodical intensity, the race might have ended differently. One of the few chances Americans got to test the flip-flop meme was the debates, and we all know how those turned out.

The same holds true for the Swift-boat sliming of Kerry: much has been made of the Kerry campaign’s response or lack thereof, but there’s another angle less discussed: the story was a cable staple for days and weeks, unchecked. Had the cable nets and other media outlets covered that story with more balance, more dignity, more judiciousness, more responsibility, it would have been a sideshow. And this has nothing to do with deflecting blame - the Kerry campaign should have known that their enemy wasn't a vindictive crackpot like John O'Neill, but the many 'journalists' and media outlets who rammed the story down our collective gullets.

Similarly, the media helped reframe John Murtha’s call for a dramatic shift in strategy in Iraq as a policy of “cut and run” versus Bush’s “steadfastness.” Once again, the storyline trumps the story.

To illustrate the power of the media to shape public opinion, simply imagine what would happen if the cable nets and the print media and the elite punditocracy treated the warrantless spying scandal with the same round-the-clock intensity as the Swift-boating of Kerry or the Natalee Holloway disappearance. Suppose Lewinsky-style headlines blared about impeachment and presidential law-breaking. Suppose the question of the day on every cable net was, “Should Bush be impeached for violating the Constitution?” The media can create a crisis -- and can squelch one. The media can deliver narratives, they can frame events, they can shape the way Americans see the political landscape. A disproportionate amount of power is wielded by a handful of opinion-shapers, and when these individuals tell America a story that favors the right and marginalizes the left, the remedies are few.

Progressive bloggers and the millions of online activists whose conversations they shepherd are fighting to close the triangle. Sadly, Democrats will resist, out of fear. And the press will fight back, hard. Not to mention the anticipated wrath of the rightwing machine, built on the "liberal media" myth. Still, the latent power of the netroots is ignored at the political and media establishment's peril.
The Administration's Plan for NOLA Recovery


That's no joke. YRHT has more on the administration's rejection of the proposed Baker Bill and links to the Pic's report about their stonewalling of a Senate committee investigation. As a friend said to me yesterday, even Joe Lieberman stopped his chronic Shrub bootlicking in frustration.

Team Bush cites "executive privilege" in refusing to cooperate. I've said it before, and I'll say it once again: years ago, with Nixon at the top of the slag heap, Hunter Thompson correctly noted that executive privilege is little more than a modern insistence of "the divine right of kings," and has no place in a government of laws not men.

Here's more from New Pravda.

I'm beginning to think a Billmon proposal from a while back might be worth serious consideration: put the Shrub administration hacks to work repairing the levees--and the assclowns who insist that the "free market" will fix everything can be used as fill.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Spine Spotting, the Sequel

Bookending the Molly Ivins column I cited yesterday is this effort from William Pitt. His own modest proposal is a Democratic walkout during ShrubSOTU IV (Correction: actually, it's ShrubSOTU V. Apologies)--and he articulates both how and why:

George W. Bush's delivery of the State of the Union address will take place on Tuesday, January 31, a little more than a week from now. It is my strong belief that every single Democrat present in the House chamber for the speech should, at a predetermined moment, stand up and walk out. No yelling. No heated words. Every Democrat should simply stand silently and leave...

Understand this, congressional Democrats, and understand it well: you are not dealing merely with a body of political opponents in the GOP. You are dealing with a group of people that want you exterminated politically. The days of walking the halls of the Rayburn Building, sharing a bourbon with a colleague from the other side of the aisle, and hammering out a compromise are as dead as Julius Caesar. Collegiality is out. Mutual respect is out. They want you gone for good. Erased. Destroyed.

And you have been far too polite about this. The writing has been on the wall for a while now. Back in 1995, Republican Senator Phil Gramm said, "We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs." That was eleven years ago. If you listen close, you can hear the beasts baying in the distance, waiting to slip the leash. Your limp tactics in the face of the assault upon you, your vacillation, your strange hope that maybe the GOP will be nicer tomorrow, has left you all smelling like Alpo.

For the love of God, you are being compared to Osama bin Laden all over network television because some within your ranks have had the courage to question the war in Iraq. It hasn't been subtle. Bin Laden, according to the right-wing talking heads, is getting his talking points straight from Howard Dean. These are the out-front spokespeople for the folks running the GOP right now. If you think there is compromise to be had with these people, if you think there is quarter to be given to you, then I have a nice, big red bridge to sell you in San Francisco...

You can stomp your feet and yell at the wall. You can put your head in your hands and weep. You can sit silently and be simply satisfied that your own job-for-life is secure, thanks to your friendly district back home, and be damned to actually doing anything of substance. In other words, you can continue to do what you've been doing since this outrageous assault on basic American democracy began.

Or you can stand up.

It takes a spine to stand up. Find yours. Get up and walk out of the State of the Union speech. Turn your backs on the blizzard of lies and empty promises that are sure to pour forth from that podium. Give it exactly what it deserves.

Walk outside to the steps of the Capitol Building and hold a Counter-State-of-the-Union. Lay out your plans for a better future. Explain how you will reform the system that spawned Mr. Abramoff. Demand answers and explanations about what is happening in Iraq, what is happening over at the National Security Agency, and why this administration believes itself to be completely above the law.

I can even offer a bit of text for your opening statement. "Three years ago during this very speech," your leading spokesperson can say from those steps, "Mr. Bush told us that Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons - which is one million pounds - of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 missiles to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs, al Qaeda connections, and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program. He said all this three years ago, during this all-important annual address, and all of it was a lie. The American people deserve an explanation."

What I am talking about is political theater on a grand scale. No opposition party in American history has ever turned their backs on a President and walked out of a State of the Union address. No opposition party has faced the degree of potential extermination the Democrats face today. The stakes have never been higher. You are dealing with a President who wants to make his Executive powers absolute, and with a Republican party that has been usurped from soup to nuts by extremists that would be cartoonish if they were not so very real.

Abramoff won't help you. The fear factor will subsume you. You can sit there and take it, clapping politely as the ram rolls towards you, or you can stand up and make yourselves relevant again. To walk out of the speech would be a huge statement, bold and potentially dangerous. But if you don't do something bold, something grand and unprecedented, something to take back the initiative, you will join the Whigs in the dustbin of history.

And if any additional proof is needed to demonstrate the vicious, vindictive nature of the modern Bushpublican party, Glenn Greenwald provides a nice sledgehammer to the temple: back in 2002, the administration itself testified that NO loosening of FISA standards was needed (DUH--again, I defy ANYONE to identify a single FISA judge who would be recalcitrant when it came to authorizing wiretaps against suspected terrorists). Need more? How about this: over 34,000 insurgent attacks in Iraq last year--Dick Cheney said we'd be "greeted as liberators", i.e., either he's stupid or a liar...or both. Dependable Renegade has photos up showing students turning their back on Abu Gonzales--then raising a banner defending...Liberty and Freedom, with a Benjamin Franklin quote. Bushpublicans are content to cower before bin Laden's threats (even as, curiously, they neglect to raise the terror alert level in light of his latest, overt threats...which makes me wonder just why they were so goddamn pollyannaish back in 2004). They cower and give up OUR RIGHTS. And they're supposedly fighting for freedom?

And, as far as 9/11 is concerned, it's about goddamned time someone called Team Bush out on this: they wear the biggest terrorist attack in the nation's history like some sort of fucking merit badge when in point of fact they ought to be ashamed of their singular lack of performance that day--and the almost NINE MONTHS leading up to it. You wanna run the country? Then run it. Bush ran FROM IT on 9/11--and evidently spent January through September of that year doing pretty much the same.

Finally, Dan Froomkin notes correctly that Bush's most recent public appearance was as stale as month-old bread sitting in a Katrina fridge.

Team Bush, when you get down to it, has nothing. That's a big reason why they're about as civil as a rabid wolverine when it comes to playing politics. But it's all bark. Stand up to 'em--or walk out on 'em--and they won't know how to react.

Besides, like John Murtha said (talking about Iraq, but it could be almost any political issue) the public is way ahead of the politicians. They know what a screw up Bush is. We just hope the nightmare ends before the whole country ends up looking like the Gulf Coast post-Katrina.
Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

Times Select (sorry, no link) is publishing posts from five Iraqi bloggers--their sites are here, here, here, here and here. A friend sent me this post, which goes a long way in explaining our current predicament. I wonder how many "terrorists" were so identified as such for the simple reason of having become a dead body:

A cowboy on his steel horse shot at me.

The four days of the Eid al-Adha holiday were calm and peaceful – no explosions, no roadside bombs, no clashes in the streets. But all that changed on Saturday, January 14th, the first day after the holiday.

I was driving home from my clinic around 5:15 p.m., the time I usually return home, because it's not safe to be out past sunset. I was 50 meters away from my house – which is located on a service road parallel to a main street. The street and the service road are separated by a curb two meters wide.

While I was driving slowly on the service road, an American patrol, which consisted of three armored-car Strykers, passed by on the main street, moving in the same direction as I was. When the first Stryker passed me, a soldier riding on top fired two shots in my direction. One bullet came in through the half-opened driver's window and hit the window of the opposite door, smashing it to pieces. Thank God, somehow it missed me.

I stopped the car and got out, thinking that the soldiers might stop and explain why they had shot at me. But they didn't. They kept on driving. There were no other people in the vicinity, except a neighbor at a shop nearby, who saw the whole thing. The next morning I went to replace the broken window. Nearly every person I met in the repair shot had a similar tale to tell.

I wonder now, if the shot had had killed me, how would the troops have explained it? Would I have become a terrorist killed while trying to explode himself near an American patrol? Or perhaps I would only be collateral damage, killed while soldiers chased a terrorist? Or maybe a terrorist had killed me, and the Americans chased him, though he managed to escape.

I will leave you to decide. In the chaos of this occupation, innocents are killed by all sides. But don’t we have the right to hate the people who are now occupying our country. Shall we celebrate the freedom and democracy brought to us by the occupation in spite of the perils our citizens face?

Questions need answers. Who will answer them?
La vs. Miss--Again

OK, kidding aside, because this is one where neither state comes up a winner:

State officials compare damage and relief aid with Mississippi

In the comparisons of hurricane damage, Louisiana's debris stacks up higher in landfills and stretches wider across cities and towns than Mississippi's destruction.

And state officials never shy away from pointing out that fact, in requests for money and in comments about dollars received.

The comments are accurate, and the comparisons are valid — particularly after similar comparisons have been forced upon the state, about how Louisiana's recovery matches up against Mississippi's reconstruction and how Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco responded versus how Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour reacted after Hurricane Katrina whacked the Gulf Coast.

But there's a fine line in the weighing of damage, the measuring of pain and destruction.

It can bolster Louisiana's requests for financial assistance by demonstrating the depth of need, or it can simply look crass, like Louisiana officials are trying to discount Mississippi's misery to help alleviate their own.

After the 2005 hurricane season ended, Louisiana had 786,000 people displaced; 217,000 homes and 18,800 businesses destroyed; 835 damaged schools; 10 ruined hospitals and 240,000 fewer people employed, according to Blanco's Louisiana Recovery Authority. More than 1,000 Louisiana residents were killed by Katrina and the storm's flooding.

Mississippi had 110,000 displaced residents; 68,700 homes and 1,900 businesses destroyed; 263 damaged schools; two ruined hospitals and 46,000 fewer employed residents, according to an LRA comparison of storm impact. More than 200 people died because of Katrina in Mississippi.

"We have three times the population and five times the damage as Mississippi," said U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge.

The comparisons became more pronounced when Congress allocated $29 billion in hurricane recovery aid. For example, Congress earmarked an even split of assistance for each state's colleges, $95 million each.

But the rub for most Louisiana officials came with the set aside of $11.5 billion in Community Development Block Grants, a pool of federal dollars that allow states large flexibility in the spending. No state — in other words, Louisiana — can get more than 54 percent of the cash, or $6.2 billion. Mississippi will get at least $5.3 billion.

Blanco keeps pointing out that Louisiana is estimated to have 70 percent of the damage of the two states.

"That just means that we don't have as much money to cover as many people and as many troubles as Mississippi's gotten," Blanco said on WWL-AM.

Mississippi, however, has more congressional clout, including a senator who is chairman of the committee that appropriated the money. U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran pushed for the block grant cash, which wasn't part of the request for hurricane assistance made by the Bush administration.

Blanco already said she will be asking Congress for more assistance, but she noted that she shouldn't complain too much because Cochran offered Louisiana more than it was originally on track to receive in block grant dollars.

"Fifty-four percent of something is better than 70 percent of nothing," Blanco said at an LRA meeting.

Other officials, however, continue to compare the damage. They might want to watch their words, particularly in a state with a sketchy reputation and the baggage of a corrupt past.

Louisiana already is walking the tight rope, trying to offset an early $250 billion request from its two U.S. senators that made the state appear greedy with more tempered, specific project funding requests.

A couple of points here: first, as I said above, NEITHER state is a winner. And ANYONE, I mean ANYONE who thinks the Gret Stet or Mississippi wouldn't be a hell of a lot happier if Katrina never made landfall needs to have a thorough head examination.

Second, I've made this "modest proposal" before, and I'll offer it again: there should be a DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR MATCH between money spent on Gulf Coast reconstruction and Operation Enduring Clusterfuck. Period. Actually, I'd prefer to see the military pull back, but until that happens, I'm willing to compromise. I'd like to see which politicians would RATHER throw truckloads of dollars into the desert--where it's proving to be about as useful as square wheels on a car--because I'd pound them over the head with their position EVERY GODDAMNED DAY, i.e., "here's a person who'd rather piss money away overseas than put it to useful, and badly needed work right here in this country."

I call bullshit on those who allege state corruption is too pervasive, and that it's good for Congress to suddenly rediscover a measure of fiscal prudence (as if). As I put in comments over at YRHT, the Shrub cabal makes Dick Leche look like a piker. And, since such apologists for federal penury have either forgotten--or don't want to admit it--I'll remind them that Boh Brothers was on-time and under budget in completing the initial phase of twin span reconstruction. No, it's NOT fiscal prudence these fuckers are arguing for--I think we all know what their real motivation is...

Funny enough, the same motivation is a major factor in Operation Desert Money Dump.
"I Don't Think Anybody Anticipated the Breach of the Levees. They Did Anticipate a Serious Storm"

Thus spoke Fredothustra.

YRHT and Suspect Device provided the links--and they're all worth a look.

Short version: the only federal official NOT anticipating the Breach of the levees was the clown at the top. Here's how HE spent August 29th:

And here he's showing some leadership on August 30th:

As Hurricane Katrina approached the Gulf Coast, President Bush's top disaster agency warned of the likelihood of levee breaches that could leave New Orleans submerged "for weeks or months," a communications blackout that would hamper rescue efforts and "at least 100,000 poverty-stricken people" stranded in the city.

Those remarkably accurate predictions were in a 40-page "Fast Analysis Report" compiled by the Department of Homeland Security on Aug. 28. Documents show that the report was sent by e-mail to the White House Situation Room at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, hours before the deadly storm made landfall.

The report raises an important question: If the highest levels of the government knew the likely impact of Hurricane Katrina, why was the initial response so slow and uncoordinated? That is the focus of a hearing scheduled for today on Capitol Hill by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has been investigating the flawed response to the largest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Again, August 29th:

August 30th:

"Why was the initial response so slow and uncoordinated?" The answer ought to be easier than getting credit for spelling your name right on the test...

Monday, January 23, 2006

Spine Spotting

Molly Ivins is looking for a few, good, Democratic vertebrae:

I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president. Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation.

Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long time unlearning, so now I have to relearn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times.

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people think the war in Iraq is a mistake and we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) favor raising the minimum wage. The majority (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) want to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.
The majority (77 percent) think we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) think big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. Whom are you afraid of?

I listen to people like Rahm Emanuel superciliously explaining elementary politics to us clueless naifs outside the Beltway ("First, you have to win elections"). Can't you even read the damn polls?

Here's a prize example by someone named Barry Casselman, who writes, "There is an invisible civil war in the Democratic Party, and it is between those who are attempting to satisfy the defeatist and pacifist left base of the party and those who are attempting to prepare the party for successful elections in 2006 and 2008."

Oh come on, people — get a grip on the concept of leadership. Look at this war — from the lies that led us into it, to the lies they continue to dump on us daily.
You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine you have no idea what people are thinking. I'm telling you right now, Tom DeLay is going to lose in his district. If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to own the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely.

Do it all, go long, go for public campaign financing for Congress. That is the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this. Do all the goo-goo stuff everybody has made fun of all these years: embrace redistricting reform, House rules changes, the whole package. Put up or shut up. Own this issue, or let Jack Abramoff politics continue to run your town.

Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds because they were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds. The minute someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means. Or eviscerate them with wit (look up Mark Twain on the war in the Philippines). Or point out the latest in the endless "string of bad news."

Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can.
Home Front

Schroeder has a couple of posts up that I'd like to recommend for those who aren't already checking his site out every day--here's a report on the progress or, more accurately, the lack of progress in the NOLA rebuilding effort. Of course, essential infrastructure guarantees--like Cat 5 levees, for instance--are in Team Bush's stallmobile, which will have a profound impact on ANY attempt to recover. Check out his post.

His other post I'm linking to is about two women in St. Bernard Parish STILL living in tents while awaiting FEMA trailers--and lord knows how long it might be before they get assistance to rebuild. Schroeder linked to the story and photo essay--this one sure speaks volumes:

It's astounding to think that the media allows this administration to ignore such a situation, as opposed to pounding away at them until something is done...
Well, Ain't That Special...

Just plain pathetic:

Move over, Oprah. President Bush is making himself into television's newest talk show host by making audience participation a feature of his appearances.

Bush has been taking questions from audience members in recent speeches, and the White House says none has been prescreened. The sessions are not open to the public, but instead limited to invited groups...

The White House has grown so comfortable with the format that most of his appearance Monday at Kansas State University scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET was reserved for Q-and-A with the audience.

Here's a story about the visit itself--and here's another one. And, if you ask me, a good, one word summary is..."bullshit."

First, we're supposed to get all dewey-eyed with pride that the chief executive has the stunning capacity to string a few more-or-less complete sentences together when a carefully screened audience member tosses a slow softball of a question in his direction? Gimme a goddamned break. And his "defense" of warrantless wiretapping--as well as the media's apolgies for it--make me wonder if they've all gone off the deep end minus their lifejackets...

I dunno--maybe they're so lightheaded they'll bob around above the water line. But this is serious business, and relatively straightforward as well: Team Bush broke the law, repeatedly, and NOT because FISA somehow forced them to...unless it's a matter of them being SO maddeningly, goddamned incompetent that they don't know how to fill out the paperwork. Although, even if that WAS the case, it'd be easy enough to have careerists do it for them (that's what the careerists are there for).

Incompetence on the part of Team Bush is so part and parcel to their way of being it might as well be chiseled in stone: Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy--their touch is, at best, leaden...and often worse (see below). But we're supposed to cheer the fact that the boy king can stop grinding his teeth long enough to speechify.

Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.
The Dick Cheney Bottled Water Company

Here's one way to increase shareholder value--provided you don't get caught...then again, it's Halliburton--of course--which means it doesn't matter if they DO get caught. Welcome to third-worldification:

Troops and civilians at a U.S. military base in Iraq were exposed to contaminated water last year and employees for the responsible contractor, Halliburton, couldn't get their company to inform camp residents, according to interviews and internal company documents.

Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, disputes the allegations about water problems at Camp Junction City, in Ramadi, even though they were made by its own employees and documented in company e-mails.

"We exposed a base camp population (military and civilian) to a water source that was not treated," said a July 15, 2005, memo written by William Granger, the official for Halliburton's KBR subsidiary who was in charge of water quality in Iraq and Kuwait.

"The level of contamination was roughly 2x the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River," Granger wrote in one of several documents. The Associated Press obtained the documents from Senate Democrats who are holding a public inquiry into the allegations Monday...

The company's former water treatment expert at Camp Junction City said that he discovered the problem last March, a statement confirmed by his e-mail the day after he tested the water.

While bottled water was available for drinking, the contaminated water was used for virtually everything else, including handwashing, laundry, bathing and making coffee, said water expert Ben Carter of Cedar City, Utah.

Another former Halliburton employee who worked at the base, Ken May of Louisville, said there were numerous instances of diarrhea and stomach cramps -- problems he also suffered...

Halliburton has contracts to provide a number of services to U.S. forces in Iraq and was responsible for the water quality at the base in Ramadi.

Granger's July 15 memo said the exposure had gone on for "possibly a year" and added, "I am not sure if any attempt to notify the exposed population was ever made."

The first memo on the problem -- written by Carter to Halliburton officials on March 24, 2005 -- was an "incident report" from tests Carter performed the previous day.

"It is my opinion that the water source is without question contaminated with numerous micro-organisms, including Coliform bacteria," Carter wrote. "There is little doubt that raw sewage is routinely dumped upstream of intake much less than the required 2 mile distance.

"Therefore, it is my conclusion that chlorination of our water tanks while certainly beneficial is not sufficient protection from parasitic exposure."

Carter said he resigned in early April after Halliburton officials did not take any action to inform the camp population.

The water expert said he told company officials at the base that they would have to notify the military. "They told me it was none of my concern and to keep my mouth shut," he said.

On at least one occasion, Carter said, he spoke to the chief military surgeon at the base, asking him whether he was aware of stomach problems afflicting people. He said the surgeon told him he would look into it.

"They brushed it under the carpet," Carter said. "I told everyone, 'Don't take showers, use bottled water."

A July 14, 2005, memo showed that Halliburton's public relations department knew of the problem.

"I don't want to turn it into a big issue right now," staff member Jennifer Dellinger wrote in the memo, "but if we end up getting some media calls I want to make sure we have all the facts so we are ready to respond."

Halliburton's performance in Iraq has been criticized in a number of military audits, and congressional Democrats have contended that the Bush administration has favored the company with noncompetitive contracts.

I can picture Big Time saying something like, "let 'em drink Cristal."
Killing for Christ

Dear Jesus, please help our preznit kill, smite, and otherwise put a world of hurt on the infidels...and if we bump off innocent men, women, and children in the process, allow us to justify it in Your Name, amen.

YRHT came across this interesting op-ed over the weekend:

IN the past several years, American evangelicals, and I am one of them, have amassed greater political power than at any time in our history. But at what cost to our witness and the integrity of our message?

Recently, I took a few days to reread the war sermons delivered by influential evangelical ministers during the lead up to the Iraq war. That period, from the fall of 2002 through the spring of 2003, is not one I will remember fondly. Many of the most respected voices in American evangelical circles blessed the president's war plans, even when doing so required them to recast Christian doctrine.

Charles Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, whose weekly sermons are seen by millions of television viewers, led the charge with particular fervor. "We should offer to serve the war effort in any way possible," said Mr. Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "God battles with people who oppose him, who fight against him and his followers." In an article carried by the convention's Baptist Press news service, a missionary wrote that "American foreign policy and military might have opened an opportunity for the Gospel in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

As if working from a slate of evangelical talking points, both Franklin Graham, the evangelist and son of Billy Graham, and Marvin Olasky, the editor of the conservative World magazine and a former advisor to President Bush on faith-based policy, echoed these sentiments, claiming that the American invasion of Iraq would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims. Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the hugely popular "Left Behind" series, spoke of Iraq as "a focal point of end-time events," whose special role in the earth's final days will become clear after invasion, conquest and reconstruction. For his part, Jerry Falwell boasted that "God is pro-war" in the title of an essay he wrote in 2004.

The war sermons rallied the evangelical congregations behind the invasion of Iraq. An astonishing 87 percent of all white evangelical Christians in the United States supported the president's decision in April 2003. Recent polls indicate that 68 percent of white evangelicals continue to support the war. But what surprised me, looking at these sermons nearly three years later, was how little attention they paid to actual Christian moral doctrine. Some tried to square the American invasion with Christian "just war" theory, but such efforts could never quite reckon with the criterion that force must only be used as a last resort. As a result, many ministers dismissed the theory as no longer relevant.

Some preachers tried to link Saddam Hussein with wicked King Nebuchadnezzar of Biblical fame, but these arguments depended on esoteric interpretations of the Old Testament book of II Kings and could not easily be reduced to the kinds of catchy phrases that are projected onto video screens in vast evangelical churches. The single common theme among the war sermons appeared to be this: our president is a real brother in Christ, and because he has discerned that God's will is for our nation to be at war against Iraq, we shall gloriously comply.

As Oyster put it, the justification for war in Iraq was "about as empty as I suspected."

Indeed, justification of just about everything Team Bush and Fredo-in-Chief do ultimately rests upon their insistance of a direct link between Shrub and the Almighty...without analyzing THAT particular absurdity too much, let me simply point again to the recent History Channel bio of Abraham Lincoln, a genuine, albeit VERY reluctant war president. Lincoln, skeptic though he was, infused many of his public statements with biblical or religious themes; indeed, Gore Vidal noted his latter speeches were "drenched" with religious imagery. But his perspective was humble, as opposed to blindly righteous:

Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.

I think our modern "Christian" soldiers could learn a lot from him...
What a Coicidence!

Michael: Johnny! You don't know my brother Fredo, do you, Johnny? Johnny Ola - Fredo.
Johnny: (holding out his hand to Fredo) We never met. Johnny Ola.
Fredo: (nervously) Pleasure.

Fredo-in-Chief, via his messenger boy Dan Bartlett, is spinning furiously in matters Abramoff, insisting that a half dozen photos (curiously, as yet unpublished--would a Democrat...or the Clenis..receive such deferential treatment?)...anyway, that a half dozen photos of the two of them together just bad timing...or something like that:

"He doesn't have a personal relationship with him," White House counselor Dan Bartlett said of Bush and Abramoff, who recently pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from his lobbying practices and has pledged to cooperate with government prosecutors.

"We acknowledge he (Abramaoff) attended some Hannukuah celebrations," Bartlett said in an appearance on NBC's "Today" show. "Any suggestions by critics or anyone else to suggest the president is doing something nefarious with Abramoff is absurd."

Bush himself has said that he doesn't recall meeting Abramoff...

On ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday, Bartlett said, "I don't think it's a surprise to anybody that there's probably widely-gathered events where the president does photo-line opportunities."

The White House has not released any photos featuring the president and Abramoff, who was declared a Bush "pioneer" for raising at least $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney '04 re-election campaign.

Contributions that came directly from Abramoff, his wife and one of the American Indian tribes he represented _ a total of $6,000 _ were donated to the American Heart Association by the campaign just days after Abramoff entered his guilty pleas.

The White House, after playing down the Bush-Abramoff photos and the lobbyist's ties to the president, criticized Abramoff for breaking the law. "Mr. Abramoff admitted being involved in outrageous wrongdoing," spokeswoman Dana Perino said Sunday.

I wonder if Shrub bestowed a nickname on him, like with "Kenny Boy" Lay...who likewise became so much dandruff to slough off Fredo-in-Chief's shoulders ("I believe Mr. Lay contributed to my opponent") when the shit and fan made their fateful acquaintance.

Must suck to be Jack Abramoff these days (watch for dripping sarcasm--there's literally gallons of it on the way). Something tells me there were more than "Hannukuah celebrations" on the White House, everyone wants to know two days in advance before he shows they won't be around.

Here's hoping hell hath no fury like Abramoff scorned...
Meet the Press, with Al Jolson

Something tells me that Timbo's "I'm-not-a-racist, no really, I've-got-black-face, um, I-mean, black-friends" moment yesterday won't generate Ray Wonka or Willie Nagin-like publicity...even though it's FAR more indicative of the sort of ignorant, institutional racism in this country than Nagin's poor choice of words.

Jane Hamsher's response is very good:

What the hell is Tim Russert asking Barack Obama to express his opinion about Harry Belafonte for? Harry Belafonte said George Bush was the "greatest terrorist in the world" this week, but it was virtually identical to a comment he made two weeks ago in Chile. Russert has had two weeks to ask anybody on his show about it; why does he save this particular question for Obama? What sort of special expertise does Obama have about Harry Belafonte, a private citizen with no connetion to the Democratic party, that none of Russert's other guests would have?

It's interesting to note that the only other time Russert questioned anyone about Harry Belafonte before, according to what Glenn Greenwald (via email) could find was when he asked Colin Powell. I doubt if Timmeh thinks of himself as a racist. It doesn't mean he isn't one.

Update: Reader Robert W. sends this: "We should not forget that, unlike the president, vice-president, and chickenhawk neo-conservative war pushers such as Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Bill Kristol, Michael Ledeen, and Lewis Libby, Harry Belafonte enlisted in the United States Navy." Harry Belafonte did, in fact, serve in WWII.

But Steve Gilliard really makes the point:

Obama, like too many liberals, try to play nice when asked stupid questions, which implies weakness.

All he had to do was ask: "did you ask me that question because I was black? Because as I understand it, Mr. Belafonte is entitled to his opinion, and is alone accountable for it. When was the last time you asked a white Senator to account for the ravings of Pat Robertson, who unlike Mr. Belafonte, has the ear of the President and the national media."