Friday, May 05, 2006

Oh Please Oh Please Oh Please

Make it so...

Because I was running a few minutes late for work this morning, I was able to catch a local show on's topic: restoration of rail service between Red Neck, um I mean Red Stick, and NOLA.

And, via the magic of web-casting, I managed to catch a bit more once I was settled into my cubicle.

If this article is any indication, there's an actual possibility of it happening:

Transportation officials are studying the possibility of an Amtrak passenger train route between New Orleans and Baton Rouge to help handle the flow of commuting workers following Hurricane Katrina.

Amtrak made a test run last week between Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans and a Kansas City Southern rail station in Baton Rouge to see if the route is suitable technically for passenger service.

The state is waiting to see how much of a subsidy the venture would require, and whether federal money for it is available, said Cleo Allen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation and Development.

Stops in St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes are possible, but no decisions have been made, she said.

The state proposed a similar service in September at an estimated three-year cost of $25 million. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency instead financed a bus service called LA Swift, to shuttle residents between the two cities.

The bus service, which originates in downtown Baton Rouge with stops in Sorrento and LaPlace, has had nearly 75,000 riders since it began Oct. 31, Allen said.

But federal financing for the line is expected to end June 30. Transportation officials said it is doubtful that financing will be extended.

Passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans was discontinued in 1968.

Now, I expect a certain skew with an NPR audience, but everyone calling in was positive about the idea...and, as the online Pic noted earlier this week, rail transit would add a vital component to any emergency evacuation plan.

If rail service already existed, I sure as hell wouldn't be writing this post right now: I'd be getting ready to listen to Koko Taylor on the Blues Stage.

This one's a no-brainer, folks: it'd cut down on traffic congestion, it would, for those of us who like to enjoy the city when we visit, be "the ultimate designated driver," as one caller put it, and it might even provide the Gret Stet's second city (regardless of the numbers, BR will ALWAYS, at best, be a 'second city' to NOLA) with a bit of ancillary tourism. This one is win-win...which means I'm not holding my breath. But it'd be nice...
Just Speculating, but...

Rumor is that Duke is talking, and now Porter is definitely walking.

Or maybe he really does just want to spend more time with his family...or is he a "reasons of personal health" sort of guy?
Little Lords Fauntleroy

Hey, who put the children in charge?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Worth a Click-Through

Calling the press "lapdogs" is actually being kind.

I guess "being kind" is sort of my theme for the day with this and the previous post, but after reading through the excerpts from Eric Boehlert's book by that title, I think "cowardly rats" might be a more appropriate descriptive.

It's well worth the fifteen second Salon ad:

The press corps's barely-there performance that night [March 6, 2003], as reporters quietly melted into the scenery, coming at such a crucial moment in time remains an industry-wide embarrassment. Laying out the reasons for war, Bush that night mentioned al-Qaida and the terrorist attacks of September 11 thirteen times in less than an hour, yet not a single journalist challenged the presumed connection Bush was making between al-Qaida and Iraq, despite the fact that intelligence sources had publicly questioned any such association. And during the Q&A session, nobody bothered to ask Bush about the elusive Osama bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind whom Bush had vowed to capture. Follow-up questions were nonexistent, which only encouraged Bush to give answers to questions he was not asked.

At one point while making his way through the press questioners, Bush awkwardly referred to a list of reporters whom he was instructed to call on. "This is scripted," he joked. The press laughed. But Bush meant it was scripted, literally. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer later admitted he compiled Bush's cheat sheet, which made sure he did not call on reporters from some prominent outlets like Time, Newsweek, USA Today, or the Washington Post. Yet even after Bush announced the event was "scripted," reporters, either embarrassed for Bush or embarrassed for themselves, continued to play the part of eager participants at a spontaneous news conference, shooting their hands up in the air in hopes of getting Bush's attention. For TV viewers it certainly looked like an actual press event.

That was not the night's only oddly scripted moment. Before the cameras went live, White House handlers, in a highly unusual move, marched veteran reporters to their seats in the East Room, two-by-two, like school children being led onto the stage for the annual holiday pageant. The White House was taking no chances with the choreography. Looking back on the night, New York Times White House correspondent Elisabeth Bumiller defended the press corps' timid behavior: "I think we were very deferential because ... it's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you' re standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country's about to go to war," she told students at Towson University in Maryland. "There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time." ...

And for viewers that night who didn't get a strong enough sense of just how obediently in-step the press corps was with the White House, there was the televised post-press conference analysis. On MSNBC, for instance, "Hardball's" Chris Matthews hosted a full hour of discussion. In order to get a wide array of opinion, he invited a pro-war Republican senator (Saxby Chambliss, from Georgia), a pro-war former Secretary of State (Lawrence Eagleburger), a pro-war retired Army general (Montgomery Meigs), pro-war retired Air Force general (Buster Glosson), a pro-war Republican pollster (Frank Luntz), as well as, for the sake of balance, somebody who, twenty-five years earlier, once worked in Jimmy Carter's White House (Pat Caddell).

Battered by accusations of a liberal bias and determined to prove their conservative critics wrong, the press during the run-up to the war -- timid, deferential, unsure, cautious, and often intentionally unthinking -- came as close as possible to abdicating its reason for existing in the first place, which is to accurately inform citizens, particularly during times of great national interest. Indeed, the MSM's failings were all the more important because of the unusually influential role they played in advance of the war-of-choice with Iraq. "When America has been attacked -- at Pearl Harbor, or as on September 11 -- the government needed merely to tell the people that it was our duty to respond, and the people rightly conferred their authority," noted Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect magazine. "But a war of choice is a different matter entirely. In that circumstance, the people will ask why. The people will need to be convinced that their sons and daughters and husbands and wives should go halfway around the world to fight a nemesis that they didn't really know was a nemesis."

It's not fair to suggest the MSM alone convinced Americans to send some sons and daughter to fight. But the press went out of its way to tell a pleasing, administration-friendly tale about the pending war. In truth, Bush never could have ordered the invasion of Iraq -- never could have sold the idea at home -- if it weren't for the help he received from the MSM, and particularly the stamp of approval he received from so-called liberal media institutions such as the Washington Post, which in February of 2003 alone, editorialized in favor of war nine times. (Between September 2002 and February 2003, the paper editorialized twenty-six times in favor of the war.) The Post had plenty of company from the liberal East Coast media cabal, with high-profile columnists and editors -- the newfound liberal hawks -- at the New Yorker, Newsweek, Time, the New York Times, the New Republic and elsewhere all signing on for a war of preemption. By the time the invasion began, the de facto position among the Beltway chattering class was clearly one that backed Bush and favored war. Years later the New York Times Magazine wrote that most "journalists in Washington found it almost inconceivable, even during the period before a fiercely contested midterm election [in 2002], that the intelligence used to justify the war might simply be invented." Hollywood peace activists could conceive it, but serious Beltway journalists could not? That's hard to believe. More likely journalists could conceive it but, understanding the MSM unspoken guidelines -- both social and political -- were too timid to express it at the time of war.

To oppose the invasion vocally was to be outside the media mainstream and to invite scorn. Like some nervous Democratic members of Congress right before the war, MSM journalists and pundits seemed to scramble for political cover so as to not subject themselves to conservative catcalls. One year later, a pro-war writer for Slate conceded he was "embarrassed" by his support for the ill-fated invasion but he insisted, "you've got to take risks." But supporting the war posed no professional risk. The only MSM risks taken at the time of the invasion were by pundits who staked out an unambiguous position in opposing the war. Bush's rationale for war -- Saddam Hussein, sitting on a swelling stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, posing a grave and imminent threat to America -- turned out to be untrue. And for that, the press must shoulder some blame. Because the MSM not only failed to ask pressing questions, or raise serious doubts about the White House's controversial WMD assertion, but in some high-profile instances, such as with Judith Miller's reporting for the New York Times, the MSM were responsible for spreading the White House deceptions about Saddam's alleged stockpile; they were guilty of "incestuous amplification," as former Florida senator Senator Bob Graham called it. Being meek and timid and dictating administration spin amidst a wartime culture is one thing. But to be actively engaged in the spin, to give it a louder and more hysterical voice, is something else all together. In fact, the compliant press repeated almost every administration claim about the threat posed to America by Saddam. The fact that virtually every one of those claims turned out to be false only added to the media's malpractice.

And when not playing up the threat of WMDs in 2002 and 2003, the press was busy playing down the significance of peace activists and war doubters, as the MSM instead handed over the press platform at times exclusively to pro-war drum beaters and government talking heads. The White House could not have asked for more. Of course, by March 2003, the White House had already become accustomed to having a compliant press diligently detail each and every one of the administration's War on Terror warnings, warnings that played to Bush's political strength by casting him as a wartime leader and warnings that almost always fell into the less-than-meets-the-eye category. The often overblown MSM reporting on terror threats, fed directly from the White House, segued right into the overblown reporting on Saddam's deadly arsenal, also fed directly from the White House. The latter would not have been possible without the former. The press's timid War on Terror coverage foreshadowed its timid WMD coverage...

Shoot, just check out the whole article, if you've got the time.
All Things Considered...

Rummy got off pretty easy--just a few protesters and a pointed series of questions from Ray McGovern. After all, THIS would certainly be more appropriate:

Or, better yet, this:
Good...But Before We Go Patting Ourselves on the Back...

The Rude Pundit has a good a take on the Moussaoui verdit as any today, noting especially the courageous words of Carie Lemack. And under the circumstances, it's good to see that a justice was served...which, from what I've seen, made assclowns like Peggy Noonan all atwitter--not to mention the smug, self-righteousness emanating from "The Decider."

But before we go congratulating ourselves for such "restraint," the absence of which might put us on par with countries like Somalia (h/t WIIIAI), we might want to look in a mirror:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Military investigators are reviewing photographs indicating that Iraqi civilians, including women and children, may have been shot deliberately by U.S. Marines in Haditha last November, according to a military source familiar with the ongoing investigation.

It is not clear how many photographs are being reviewed. But the source told CNN the photos are evidence that the Iraqis did not die in a roadside blast as the Marines had originally said.

The pictures were apparently taken at the time of the incident by the military unit, although not necessarily by any Marines directly involved.

The photographs are being examined for indications the 15 Iraqis may have been killed by close range gunshot wounds inflicted by the Marines.

"The photos are inconsistent with how the Marines claim the Iraqis died," the official said.

The original Marine Corps press release in November indicated the Iraqis had died in a roadside blast that killed a Marine in Haditha.

Several weeks ago, an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service was ordered after a journalist obtained information that the Iraqis may have been deliberately shot in three houses near the scene of the blast.

Videotape from a news agency has also surfaced showing evidence of blood-spattered walls.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Dick's Security Blanket

We've got a boy emperor/decider at the top of the slag heap...and a weirder, creepier version of Linus riding shotgun:

Purdum reports that Cheney travels with a chemical-biological suit at all times. When he gave his friend Robin West and his twin children a ride to the White House a couple of years ago, West commented on the fact that Cheney's motorcade varied its daily path. "And he said, 'Yeah, we take different routes so that "The Jackal" can't get me,'" West tells Purdum. "And then there was this big duffel bag in the middle of the backseat, and I said, 'What's that? It's not very roomy in here.' And [Cheney] said, 'No, because it's a chemical-biological suit,' and he looked at it and said, 'Robin, there's only one. You lose.'"

And if this doesn't smack of obsessive/compulsive...and just plain bad for a guy working on heart attack number five, I don't know what does:

At a roundtable lunch with reporters a couple of years ago, two who were pres­ent tell Purdum that Cheney cut his buffalo steak into bite-size pieces the moment it arrived, then proceeded to salt each side of each piece.

Well, the hazmat suit could double as a body bag, I guess...
FEMA Declares Victory

...and leaves town.

If only the FEMA folks were running things in Iraq...we'd already be bringing the troops home:

In the midst of long-running disputes with state and local officials, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has announced it is closing its last New Orleans office...

City officials accused FEMA of abandoning New Orleans, which remains overwhelmed by its shattered infrastructure and slow pace of recovery. City Hall and FEMA have long tangled with each other over issues such as where to place trailers for temporary housing, and the two sides disagree over which is responsible for paying the planning bill.

U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., said it is absurd to think issues will be resolved more smoothly if FEMA cuts and runs, which he believes the agency is doing. He argued that FEMA's position that the Stafford Act does not allow it to release planning money is a too-rigid reading of the law. It simply takes responsible thinking, not an act of Congress, to cut these knots, he said.

"It's almost childlike on the part of FEMA if you ask me," Jefferson said. "The Stafford Act is broad enough to cover reasonable costs here, and closing is just not a responsible way to deal with a dispute. It's like a kid who has all the marbles saying he's going home."

Seriously though, this is just another example of Bushista ineptitude--and until the dysfunctional government is replaced, it probably doesn't matter all that much, to be honest...although symbolically, FEMA bolting is both typical incompetence of the kind we might as well expect...and frustrating.

A GENUINE government effort would involve, at the VERY least, several dozen if not several hundred people on site coordinating and/or assisting on the basis of a master plan drawn up by national, state, and local officials. But that assumes a basic level of ability at the top...
Tune In, Turn On...Tune In

Cursor links to an article in Radio World about WWOZ.
Sports Page

My source was YRHT, Schroeder notes it, too, and I haven't had a chance to see others' views...yet.

Peter King, writing for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED--that's right, Sports Illustrated--gets it, in a way that professional morons like Bay Buchanan never will: wife and I were in a car last Wednesday that toured the hardest-hit area of New Orleans, the Lower Ninth Ward. We worked a day at a nearby Habitat for Humanity site on Thursday, and we toured the Biloxi/Gulfport/Long Beach/Pass Christian gulf shore area last Friday. And let me just say this: I can absolutely guarantee you that if you'd been in the car with us, no matter how much you'd been hit over the head with the effects of this disaster, you would not have Katrina fatigue.

What I saw was a national disgrace. An inexcusable, irresponsible, borderline criminal national disgrace. I am ashamed of this country for the inaction I saw everywhere.

I mentioned my outrage to the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, on Thursday. He shook his head and said, "Tell me about it.'' Disgust dripped from his voice.

What are we doing in this country?

"It's been eight months since Katrina,'' said Jack Bowers, my New Jersey friend and Habitat for Humanity guide through the Lower Ninth Ward, as he took us through deserted streets where nothing, absolutely nothing, was being done about the wasteland that this place is.

"Eight months!" he said. "And look at it. When people talk to me about New Orleans, they say, 'Well, things are getting back to normal down there, aren't they?' I tell them things are a long, long way from normal, and it's going to be a long time before it's ever normal. And I tell them they've never seen anything like this.''

Our Mississippi guide, Josh Norman of the Biloxi Sun-Herald, put it this way: "People outside of here are tired of hearing about it. They've moved on to the next news cycle.''

How can we let an area like the Lower Ninth Ward sit there, on the eve of another hurricane season, with nothing being done to either bulldoze the place and start over, or rebuild? How can Congress sit on billions of looming aid and not release it for this area?

I can't help but think that if this were Los Angeles or New York, that 500 percent more money -- and concern -- would have flooded into this place. And I can't help but think that if the idiots who let the levees down here go to seed had simply been doing their jobs, we'd never have been in this mess in the first place -- in New Orleans, at least. Other than former FEMA director Michael Brown, are you telling me that no others are paying for this with their jobs? Whatever happened to responsibility?

Am I ticked off? Damn right I'm ticked off. If you're breathing, you should be morally outraged. Katrina fatigue? Hah! More Katrina news! Give me more! Give it to me every day on the front page! Every day until Washington realizes there's a disaster here every bit as urgent as anything happening in this world today -- fighting terrorism, combating the nuclear threat in Iran. I'm not in any way a political animal, but all you have to be is an occasionally thinking American to be sickened by the conditions I saw.

The Lower Ninth Ward is a 1.5-by-2-mile area a couple of miles from the center of New Orleans. It is a poor area. I should say it was a poor area. Before the storm, 20,000 people lived there. Fats Domino lived there. So, formerly, did Marshall Faulk. And now you drive through it and see nothing being done to fix it or tear it down, or to do anything.

In Mississippi, we drove through one formerly thriving beach town that has two structures left. We drove past concrete pads with litter and shards of wood around them. Former houses. The houses, quite literally, have been eviscerated. Hundreds of them. This is what nuclear winter must look like, I thought.

I'm a sportswriter. It's not my job to figure how to fix what ails the Gulf Coast. But the leaders of this society are responsible. And they're not doing their jobs. I could ignore everything I saw and go back to my nice New Jersey cocoon, forgetting I saw it. And I know you don't read me to hear my worldviews. But I couldn't sleep at night if I didn't say something.

On Saturday, at the Saints' headquarters for the draft, I watched the day unfold with a friend of the team, New Orleans businessman and president Michael Whelan. I told him what I'd seen, and asked him what he thought.

"We spend all this money on the war in Iraq and we can't take care of our own cities?" he said. "You get out of downtown, and it's like a war zone in a lot of neighborhoods still. The government has been a huge letdown. I've heard billions of dollars are going to be sent here. Where are they? Nothing is taking place. I certainly think that now it's back-page news; the government is sweeping it under the rug.''

King probably gets more readers in an hour than I'll get in six months--and while I can't speak for all the bloggers who've been dedicated to keeping this issue alive, I'd guess most have readership numbers at least a little on the south side of SI's. So I'm very happy to see this. Hopefully it'll light a fire somewhere.

The storm and flood caused massive damage--but the fact that Team Bush is clearly overwhelmed and incapable of handling the response does NOT mean that the damage itself is overwhelming. Competent, able leadership could meet the challenge. Incompetent leadership, obsessed solely with politics to the point of literally undermining national security on the one hand, while hoping the public pulls a Bay Buchanan and "tires" of hearing about the destruction will do...exactly what they HAVE done: little or nothing, with, as Stephen Colbert so aptly put it the other day, a "graham cracker crust of corruption."

It's no wonder Team Bush, directly, or via proxy stooges like Buchanan, has shown only a proclivity towards POLITICAL damage control: they're not competent at anything else. The flip side, Operation Epic Mesopotamian Failure, isn't any better. And we've still got 2+ years of these assclowns before there's even the possibility of genuine adults taking over...

What else will Team Bush screw up before then? (Hint: pretty much anything they put prime focus on).
Bubble Boys

For a week, as a stunt.

His whole life.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

All Aboard

Actually, I feel more like quoting a line from The Godfather--"Some day, and that day may never come..."

Let's hope so. But grits ain't groceries, and hope/prayers won't stop storms and floods:

The new emergency preparedness plan, a work in progress, will not include the opening of the Superdome as a refuge of last resort.

Instead, the city, state and federal government will participate in an effort to move an estimated 10,000 residents without transportation to state shelters outside the area by bus or Amtrak train. The train will be reserved for “special needs” residents with medical conditions and the elderly.

Residents needing transportation will be picked up by Regional Transit Authority buses at locations throughout the city and driven to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where they will be processed and then driven by bus to shelters, either in RTA buses or in buses provided by the state.

Nagin said U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff intervened to get Amtrak participation in the evacuation plan, and also is assisting in getting commercial air carriers to hold off on canceling flights out of the city, or even provide special planes, to evacuate tourists and others who already have tickets to fly out of the city.

The city still must complete negotiations with Homeland Security on memoranda of agreement for both the Amtrak and commercial air carrier parts of the plan, city officials said.

Nagin said the new plan also will allow residents to bring their pets onto evacuation buses with them, as long as the pets are in cages.

Now, whatever else might come of this, it's a decent's tragic that they're only now considering a coordinated transportation plan, but better late than never.

It'd be nice if this emergency plan, utilizing trains, could somehow develop into a regional transit system during NON emergency know, sort of like back in the day when regular rail service existed between NOLA and BR. If nothing else, it would make my plans for going to Jazzfest this weekend a LOT easier.

Anyway...oh, and while not exactly related, thinking of transportation got me thinking about something I saw earlier today about geography. Ouch. Can you be a world leader without really knowing anything about, um the world?

****--h/t Oyster for the concept here...but I couldn't find lyrics for one of my favorite train songs, and had to go with a general link instead (2nd star).
Wingnuttia: Bomb The Freshly Painted Schools!

Glenn Greenwald, as you've probably seen, engages in a bit of rhetorical obliteration, demonstrating how completely insane the wingnut crowd is getting thanks to the profound failure of Operation-It-Was-All-Just-a-Sick-Cynical-Stunt-to-Get-Shrub-Elected-as-a-"War President"-Anyway:

Does it really have to be said that the reason we can't carpet bomb Iraq and "win the war" is because we are supposedly there to build Iraq, not to destroy it? Let's review a few basic, undisputed facts about our current occupation of Iraq -- undisputed because the administration itself acknowledges them. Once our original, predominant justification for our invasion disappeared -- that would be the whole bit about WMDs -- the only one we had left, the one we have since trumpeted over and over, is that we are there in order to improve that country, to enhance our reputation in the region, and to win "hearts and minds."...

According to the President, we're going to win because the terrorists bring suffering and destruction to Iraq and we don't. So they will like us and hate the terrorists and will soon be our "partner for peace." Advocating that we act more the way the President says Al Qaeda is acting -- by bombing more and killing more civilians -- doesn't seem all that compatible with those goals.

We are not there to conquer territory or drive the Iraqi government into forced surrender and submission. The Iraqi government isn't our enemy. Although it may be helpful to achieve one's objectives in a traditional war, large-scale destruction would achieve the very opposite effect of what we are supposedly trying to accomplish. The only choice we have is highly precise and targeted warfare against actual terrorists and insurgents. Any attacks that are more sweeping, destructive and indiscriminate will kill large numbers of innocent Iraqis -- the very people we claim we are there to help -- and will breed even more intense and widespread hatred towards the U.S. in the region, which would be the precise opposite of the goal we say we are trying to accomplish.

Escalating the use of military force in Iraq by indiscriminately killing civilians and eradicating whole cities would contradict every single statement we have made about why we are there, what we want to achieve, and what our plan is in that region. We're not refraining from those acts because of white guilt or a fear of what European diplomats will say about us. We're refraining from them because the wholesale indiscriminate slaughter of thousands or tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis -- all because we have grown impatient and annoyed with our pet little democracy-building project and just want to bomb the whole place into submission -- would be both morally reprehensible and, from the perspective of our own interests, an indescribably stupid thing to do.

To sit and listen to people who have spent the last three years piously lecturing us on the need to stand with "the Iraqi people," who justified our invasion of that country on the ground that we want to give them a better system of government because we must make Muslims like us more, now insist that what we need to do is bomb them with greater force and less precision is really rather vile -- but highly instructive. The masks are coming off. No more poetic tributes to democracy or all that sentimental whining about "hearts and minds." It's time to shed our unwarranted white guilt, really stretch our legs and let our hair down, and just keep bombing and bombing until we kill enough of them and win. Shelby Steele deserves some sort of award for triggering that refreshingly honest outburst.

Oh...and here's a blast golden oldie whimper from the it and retch.
So We Don't Have to Fight Them Here...

Gee, this ought to make us feel "safer" here in America--our military is basically training gang members in urban combat. You see, given the lowering of standards for recruits, and the willingness to let pretty much anyone enlist, we're likely to see a whole new generation of turf wars stateside.

Well, there's a consistency here: since we lack on-the-ground intelligence over there, we've basically been training insurgents over there--either directly, i.e., insurgents "join" the police or security force, or indirectly via combat.

Team Bush is raising nitwittery to a whole new level:

The Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings and Vice Lords were born decades ago in Chicago's most violent neighborhoods. Now, their gang graffiti is showing up 6,400 miles away in one of the world's most dangerous neighborhoods -- Iraq...

Military and civilian police investigators familiar with three major Army bases in the United States -- Fort Lewis, Fort Hood and Fort Bragg -- said they have been focusing recently on soldiers with gang affiliations. These bases ship out many of the soldiers fighting in Iraq...

Barfield said Army recruiters eager to meet their goals have been overlooking applicants' gang tattoos and getting waivers for criminal backgrounds.

"We're lowering our standards," [Scott Barfield, a Defense Department gang detective] said.

"A friend of mine is a recruiter," he said. "They are being told less than five tattoos is not an issue. More than five, you do a waiver saying it's not gang-related. You'll see soldiers with a six-pointed star with GD [Gangster Disciples] on the right forearm."...

The Gangster Disciples are the most worrisome street gang at Fort Lewis because they are the most organized, Barfield said.

Barfield said gangs are encouraging their members to join the military to learn urban warfare techniques they can teach when they go back to their neighborhoods.

"Gang members are telling us in the interviews that their gang is putting them in," he said.

Joe Sparks, a retired Chicago Police gang specialist and the Midwest adviser to the International Latino Gang Investigators Association, said he is concerned about the military know-how that gang-affiliated soldiers might bring back to the streets here.

Barfield said a big concern is what such gang members trained in urban warfare will do when they return home.

He pointed to Marine Lance Cpl. Andres Raya, a suspected Norteno gang member who shot two officers with a rifle outside a liquor store in Ceres, Calif., on Jan. 9, 2005, before police returned fire and killed him. One officer died, and the other was wounded by the 19-year-old Raya, who was high on cocaine. Raya had spent seven months in Iraq before returning to Camp Pendleton near San Diego.

Photos of Raya wearing the gang's red colors and making gang hand signs were reportedly found in a safe in his room.

Hunter Glass, a Fayetteville, N.C., police detective, said he has seen an increase in gang activity involving soldiers from nearby Fort Bragg. A Fort Bragg soldier -- a member of the Insane Gangster Crips -- is charged with a gang-related robbery in Fayetteville that ended in the slaying of a Korean store owner in November, said Glass, a veteran of the elite 82nd Airborne based at Fort Bragg.

He estimated that hundreds of gang members are stationed at the base as soldiers.

"I have talked to guys who say 'I'm a SUR 13 [gang member], but I am a soldier,' " Glass said. "Although I see the [gang] problem as a threat, I do believe the majority of the military are good people and that many of those [military officials] that I have made aware of the situation have expressed concern in dealing with it. It is safe to say that I am less worried about a gang war in the sand box [Iraq] but more about the one on our streets upon its end."

Glass has given presentations to military leaders in Washington, D.C., about gang members in the military.

Sending flak jackets home

A law enforcement source in Chicago said police see some evidence of soldiers working with gangs here. Police recently stopped a vehicle and found 10 military flak jackets inside. A gang member in the vehicle told investigators his brother was a Marine and sent the jackets home, the source said.

Barfield said he knows of civilian gang members in the Seattle area who also have been caught with flak jackets that he suspects were stolen from Fort Lewis.

Barfield said he has documented gang-affiliated soldiers' involvement in drug dealing, gunrunning and other criminal activity off base. More than a year ago, a soldier tied to a white supremacy group was caught trying to ship an assault rifle from Iraq to the United States in pieces, he said.

In Texas, the FBI is bracing for the transfer of gang-connected soldiers from Fort Hood in central Texas to Fort Bliss near El Paso as part of the nation's base realignments. FBI Special Agent Andrea Simmons said gang-affiliated soldiers from Fort Hood could clash with civilian gang members in El Paso.

"We understand that [some] soldiers and dependents at Fort Hood tend to be under the Folk Nation umbrella, including the Gangster Disciples and Crips," Simmons said. "In El Paso, the predominant gang, without much competition, is the Barrio Azteca. We could see some kind of turf war between the Barrio Aztecas and the Folk Nation."

FBI agents have visited Fort Hood to learn about the gang activity on the base, Simmons said.

"We found most of the police departments say they do see gang activity due to the military -- soldiers and dependents," she said. "Our agents also have been in contact with Fort Bliss to discuss the issue."

Simmons said investigators may conduct background checks on soldiers relocating from Fort Hood to Fort Bliss to assess the level of the potential gang problem.

Barfield said he welcomes the FBI's scrutiny of gang members in the Army.

"Investigators as a whole across the military aren't getting the support to remove gang members from the ranks," he said.

But Grey, the spokesman for the Criminal Investigation Command, said the unit is open to any tips about gang activity in the Army.

"If anyone has any information, we strongly recommend they bring it to our attention," he said.

Between these folks, and the decidedly real possibility that Son of Gulf War could create another Tim McVeigh or John Allan Mohammed, I'd say it's a fine mess they've gotten us into...and THEN consider the damage they've caused us over there...
"Mission Accomplished"

That's how James Wolcott describes Colbert's appearance:

A note about the Stephen Colbert monologue at the Correspondents' Dinner that Elisabeth Bumiller seems to have slept through face-down in her entree. No question the stint played better on TV than it did in the room with C-SPAN cutting to gowned lovelies in the audience with glaceed expressions and tuxedo'd men making with the nervous eyes, but to say he "bombed" or "stunk up the place" (Jonah Goldberg's usual elegance) is wishful thinking on behalf of the wishful thinkers on the right, who have nothing but wishful thinking to prop them up during the day...

Apart from flubbing the water-half-empty joke about Bush's poll ratings, he was in full command of his tone, comic inflection, and line of attack. The we-are-not-amused smile Laura Bush gave him when he left the podium was a priceless tribute to the displeasure he incurred. To me, Colbert looked very relaxed after the Bushes left the room and he greeted audience members, signed autographs. And why wouldn't he be? He achieved exactly what he wanted to achieve, delivered the message he intended to deliver. Mission accomplished.

And Attaturk found more evidence of a direct hit on rubber duck Battleship Bush:

Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert's biting routine at the White House Correspondents Association dinner won a rare silent protest from Bush aides and supporters Saturday when several independently left before he finished.

"Colbert crossed the line," said one top Bush aide, who rushed out of the hotel as soon as Colbert finished. Another said that the president was visibly angered by the sharp lines that kept coming.

"I've been there before, and I can see that he is [angry]," said a former top aide. "He's got that look that he's ready to blow."

Ready to blow, eh? Or is that "ready for blow?" Time to roll up a twenty and hand it to the great, white, beached-whale administration.

Kidding aside, though, it's telling that the "former top aide" can tell when the little wisps of steam are starting to emanate from The Decider's Dumbo ears. I'll bet Shrub thinks his little temper tantrums are a way of proving how "tough" he is. Virility as expressed by a three year old who doesn't want to eat his spinach.

What a creepy, miserable failure. I doubt he'd last more than ten seconds outside his bubble without pissing or shitting himself.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Will It Go Round in Circles?*


So many turning points, you could call it "spin:"

In March, Boston University professor and former Army colonel Andrew Bacevich told the San Francisco Chronicle why he thought the public had soured on Bush’s Iraq policies. “My view of his problem,” he said, “is that the administration has repeatedly announced that the war had reached a turning point…and each time, that turning point didn’t count.”

Meanwhile, Scotty gets snotty when reminded about Mission Accomplished having become, for them, Operation Entire Roll of Toilet Paper Stuck To Their Shoe...that said, I'd guess plenty of Iraqis and Americans might actually wish that a bit of toilet paper stuck to their shoe was the worst thing...unfortunately, that isn't the case.

Oh, how they hate to be reminded of that. Because, in the 'nut universe, blood orgies are just boatloads of long as it's not THEIR blood being spilled.

Indeed, they don't even mind a few American bodies, as Rep. Nethercutt of Washington noted a few years back.

Now it's good and clear: what was supposed to be the crowning--literally--achievement is not so much Shock-and-Awe but Dud-and- Fizzle. And like every cocksure driver who's insisted, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that they're "not lost, goddamnit," well, they're gonna bitch and growl at anything short of sullen silence.

But they're still fucking lost. Nothing can change that.
...No, You Got Your Falafel All Over My Codpiece

Photo posting is, ahem, working why render a graphic reminder of Codpiece Day?

And now, I must excuse myself [retching sounds]...
Satire versus Saccharine Bubblegum Humor

Today's the day for photoblogger to not work, at least right now. Go figure. After a rough morning here (weather over the weekend affected us), I've finally got a few minutes to post...but no pictures until they fix the latest failure.'s the latest Suspect Device's a lot better than the small graphic I was trying to post.

Back to the topic: if you haven't yet seen the video or read the transcript of Stephen Colbert's appearance Saturday, I highly recommend it...and, to be honest, UNTIL Saturday, I wasn't even that big a fan of the guy.

But he earned my vote.

Unlike the equivalent of bubblegum pop that preceded--a Bush impersonator tag-teaming with "The Decider" hisself...and maybe it was just me, but the impersonator's makeup looked, well, creepy...sort of like a wax museum piece, or zombiefied version of Shrub--anyway, Colbert, as Billmon points out, was/is genuine satire...and, sure enough, it caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the 'nut faction.

Hmmm...lemme think...I remember a phrase...yeah, that's right: Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.

You can see/read more about this here, here, here, and here (and thanks to S/D for the last link).

And finally, I thought things had calmed a bit, but it's turning into a helluva day for me...will try to post more if I can find the time.