Friday, December 22, 2006

Tis the Season
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Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like an eviction notice:

A federal appeals court told the Bush administration Friday that it does not need to immediately restart a housing program for thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims.

The ruling suspends an order by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who said last month that the Federal Emergency Management Agency violated the Constitution when it eliminated short-term housing assistance. Leon said the agency didn't explain its reasoning and provided victims only confusing computer-generated codes to explain its decision.

♫And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.♫

Once again, the Gret Stet wound up on the short end of the stick while the Bush administration placed politics above need, as usual.

It's not as if Mississippi doesn't deserve disaster relief, don't get me wrong. But it's hard to fathom or understand the degree of depravity with Team Bush: they're well aware of the disparity in damage...and the Army Corps of Engineers admitted that, in the case of New Orleans, it wasn't the disease, but the "cure:" their levees failed.

Shit, if the goddamned privatization worshippers had had their day back IN the day, we'd be looking at the biggest liability lawsuit in recorded history.

Well, ok, probably not--in fact, privatization ninnies usually squawk long and loud for, well, government protection...and usually get it. Still...

Anyway...after reading the article--and later, hearing Blanco blast it as yet another instance of political favoritism...alas, governor, it's probably too little, too late: if you had said this from the outset, i.e., if you had realized that Team Bush would just as soon shove you under a bus as say hello (and they would've found a bus for THAT), then people might still be listening. OK, tangent aside, my next thought was, well, what the hell do we expect from an agency that considers THIS acceptable housing

FEMA probably would consider THIS an acceptable surgeon

After all, they considered THIS an acceptable agency head

And, of course, THIS an acceptable president

Under the circumstances, as lunatic as they are, FEMA's decision today is well within their, um, line of reason, so to speak (reason being used in the same way that "logic" is used in conjunction with Microsoft Windows--not as an absolute descriptive, but more of a hit-or-miss sort of thing).

And something tells me THIS would be their idea of a good bridge.
Minister With (Investment) Portfolio
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Condoleezza Rice is willing to shed more blood...well, more of other people's blood, because it's "worth the investment."

Well, to be perfectly sanguine, Condi, here's the approximate blood investment thus far--in US soldier lives:
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That's roughly 3000 lives (five more announced today) at 6 quarts of blood each. Do the math (four quarts to the gallon, forty two gallons to a barrel), and you come to about 107 barrels of blood. Or about one barrel of blood per...18 million barrels of crude (export estimates). Good to know you think it's worth it, Condi.

Oh, and about two of these, plus a little more
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I suppose your response would be the usual disclaimer about risks. What I don't understand is how ANYONE could POSSIBLY think there would be some sort of reward, particularly as I continue to learn more and more about Iraq...something our public officials should have been doing BEFORE launching Operation Enduring Clusterfuck.

But I suppose when it neither your blood nor your money, you'll play fast and loose with both. And, if you have little or no conscience, you'll sleep surprisingly well...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bad Apple
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One thing that really struck me in this article about the Haditha massacre was a java script pop-up (called "Map"), detailing four additional "incidents" that no excuses can justify. And these were all within the last 12 to 13 months, i.e., Abu Ghraib is NOT included.

Nor are the doubtless other "incidents" that never were reported, investigated, etc., but incidents that only the naiively foolish might think haven't happened. War can and often does bring out the worst. Which is a major reason why you don't wage war if you don't have to.

Armed conflict shouldn't be a matter of ego. I wish someone in a position to do so had told this to our president. I'm certain he would've denied the accusation, and ignored the advice. But at least he would've been made aware, at least as aware as someone of his intellectual (micro) caliber can be...

Oh--unrelated, but Billmon brought together a number of his posts from 2003 that dealt with Iraq. Hmmm...come to think of it, this isn't unrelated at all. As he puts it:

If nothing else, though, the Whiskey Bar archives prove to my satisfaction that it was possible, even for a nonspecialist (which is all I'll ever be in the fields of foreign policy or military affairs) to see at least an outline of the disaster as it started to unfold. What was lacking in the corporate media was not the opportunity, but rather the insight, the courage and the independence to say what needed to be said -- at a time when the both the powers that be and the paying audience were unwilling to listen.

Well spoken.

And, don't know about y'all, but I'm planning on reading (or re-reading) most if not all the posts he cites.
Won't Leave Her...Cantilever

Just as an fyi, there's a pretty good Pravda-upon-Hudson article about New Orleans architect Albert Ledner, which includes the picture above as part of this slide show:

The Ledners returned to New Orleans for good in January and rented a condo. While Mrs. Ledner had entertained thoughts of staying in California, Mr. Ledner never wavered: “We had too much of an investment here.”

It doesn't say whether the investment was financial or emotional--it doesn't need to.
The Terrible Twos
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I guess we shouldn't be too surprised--Team Bush shows a remarkable lack-of-capacity for maturity, and if the cost is more death and destruction--for other people, of course--then so be it, says the boy king.

As Team Bush winds down the clock--only two years left. For some, it'll be two LONG years, and they might be the lucky ones...for others, time will run out much more quickly.

Yesterday--and, sorry I forget where I saw this, and who said it--but yesterday I came across a quote from a journalist in Iraq: he asked his driver how long he'd make it in Baghdad without a helmet, flak jacket, security, and so on. The driver replied, "oh, about four or five seconds." I doubt that was meant as a joke.

In contrast, I came across this story a couple of weeks ago written by James Phillips. He offers an on-the-ground impression of Iraq following Gulf War I. It makes for an interesting, and tragic comparison--while not being unrestricted in his travels, Phillips has a degree of autonomy that today's journalists in Iraq couldn't dream of.

I suspect his descriptions of "ordinary" Iraqi life, constrained as it was then, are also beyond the dreams of the average Iraqi today...
Paging Pundit Friedman...
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Tom...why no "Friedman Unit" for New Orleans? Instead, just an "F.U.", it seems:

Bob Herbert, America’s Open Wound

New Orleans

It’s eerie. The air is still. There is no noise. Night is falling.

The five stone steps in front of me once led to a porch, or maybe directly to the front door of a house. There is no way to be sure. The house is completely gone. All that’s left are the five steps, one of which is painted with the address, 1630 Reynes St. The steps sit alone, like a piece of minimalist art, at the front of a small vacant lot full of weeds and rubble. Next door is a house that is completely capsized, fallen over on its side like a sunken ship.

Welcome to the Lower Ninth Ward. You won’t find much holiday spirit here. In every direction, as far as it is possible to see, is devastation.

On another lot, piled high with the rubble of a ruined house, I saw a middle-aged man standing in the front yard weeping. He wore a dirty white baseball cap and he was sobbing like a child. I walked toward him to ask a question but he waved me away.

Whatever you’ve heard about New Orleans, the reality is much worse. Think of it as a vast open wound, this once-great American city that is still largely in ruins, with many of its people still writhing in agony more than a year after the catastrophic flood that followed Hurricane Katrina.

Enormous stretches of the city, mile after mile after mile, have been abandoned. The former residents have doubled-up or tripled-up with relatives, or found shelter in the ubiquitous white trailers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or moved (in some cases permanently) to Texas, Mississippi, Georgia and beyond. Some have simply become homeless.

“This is a ghostly city, if you ask me,” said Sheila Etheridge, a waitress whose home was destroyed and whose three children are staying with relatives near Atlanta. “It gets real spooky when the sun goes down. They let me sleep in the back of the restaurant. But I’ll tell you the truth, we don’t have too many customers. You see what those neighborhoods are like. They’re empty. The people gone.”

The recovery in New Orleans has gone about as well as the war in Iraq.

In mid-September 2005, with parts of the city still submerged and soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division on patrol, President Bush made a dramatic, flood-lit appearance in historic Jackson Square. In a nationally televised speech he promised not only to do all that he could to rebuild the Gulf Coast, but also to confront the terrible problem of deep and persistent poverty.

“That poverty,” said the president, “has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.”

Now, more than a year later, the population of New Orleans is less than half what it was before the storm. The federal government has allocated billions for the city’s recovery but much of that money has been wasted or remains hopelessly tied up in the bureaucracy. Very little has gotten to the neediest victims, the people who were poor to begin with and then lost their homes and their livelihoods to the storm.

Many of the city’s hospitals and schools remain closed. Some will never reopen. There is very little public transportation. The politicians have come up with a stunning array of post-Katrina initiatives, but one grandiose recovery plan after another has faltered.

The terrible experience of the flood and its aftermath has left an imprint on the minds of most residents that’s as distinct as the water lines that stain so many of the city’s buildings. A cabdriver’s voice faltered as he told me about an obese woman who put pillows under her arms as the floodwaters were rising. She thought the pillows would help her float.

“She drowned,” the driver said.

Emotional and psychological problems are rampant, but there is a drastic shortage of mental health professionals to treat them. People are suffering from severe anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and other illnesses. Doctors told me that large numbers of mentally ill individuals have gone more than a year without taking their prescribed medication.

Many of the poor residents in the city feel that they’ve been abandoned by the government and the rest of America, and that the president broke his promise to help. “We’re in terrible trouble down here,” said a woman named Delores Goode, who stood outside the Superdome asking passers-by if they knew where she might find work as a baby sitter. “We were all over the television last year. Now we’re back to being nobody.”
Paranoia...the Political Success Story

I may not have posted anything, but I've certainly seen this horrible story about how the Libyian government is railroading a Palestinian doctor and six Bulgarian nurses to cover up their own incompetence. Children in a Benghazi hospital were infected, most likely by contaminated needles, and developed HIV. The convenient scapegoats in this case are, of course, foreign nationals.

Does that ring a bell for y'all?

Since 9/11, it seems as if wingnuttia has had a field day playing to fear, prejudice, and paranoia re: our particular case, foreigners whose skin tone is of a darker shade, e.g., the minuteman movement doesn't seem too worried about the U.S.-CANADIAN border. But I digress...the point is simply that, even as the Libyan government deserves our condemnation and contempt for an utterly shameless action, we might want to, ahem, notice some similarities to ourselves. These days, it's not even BEING foreign that turns wingnuttia all atwitter--merely being "not sufficiently 'Merikun" is often enough. Witness Glenn Beck, for instance. Or "Fraulein" Debbie Schlussel.
UPDATE:not to mention Rep. Vergil 'Carry Me Back to Old Virginia' Goode, R-VA...I'm sure he's a good friend of former Senator Allen.

Coincidently, Sadly, No! posted an excerpt from a Richard Hofstadter essay (turned into a book) entitled The Paranoid Style of American Politics. The excerpt is WELL worth reading, and Gavin M. accurately describes it as

"a near-perfect taxonomy of Wingnuttus americanus, that flourishing contemporary species that we know so well."

Indeed. Their paranoia, like I said, extends to pretty much anyone who isn't, well, pale-skinned--hence, their remarkably similar reaction to the teeming and, in their minds, non-white hordes of New Orleans following the engineering disaster that THEY refer to as a storm/act of God (never mind that New Orleans is multi-cultural/multi-racial--an accurate description of wingnuttia will include their tendency towards not wanting to be confused with facts once their mind is made up). And, while this is certainly a matter that goes WAY back in their history, it's not like we can't find some recent examples (and, as Billmon points out...and NOT only of the Deep-Fried Southern variety).

I think the Libyan example shows just how universal this sort of tendency, i.e., fear-of-the-other, is. It certainly makes it no less shameful. But, without holding out too much hope, this could be quite an enlightening (and not in a good way) example for us...if we took heed.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Channeling the Psyche of G. Gordon
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The front "page" of the online Pravda on the Hudson has a slightly different version of the picture above, with the caption

The ceremony celebrating the handover to Iraqi forces included chanting, a karate demonstration and a musical interlude...

Click on the link, though, and you'll get a slightly different story (also seen at First Draft)

They slit the rabbit’s belly, ripped it open and feasted on the still beating heart. The commandos of the Iraqi army were celebrating on Wednesday after the Americans had handed over control of Najaf province.

Well, isn't that special? Their idea of "freedom" isn't all that different from a youthful Shrub himself...torturing small animals must give them a kind of rush that civil society just can't compete with, I guess.

I'm sure that paragon of democratic virtue, G. Gordon can relate, if not G.W. hisself.

But I wonder--has anyone told the latter that, at least for some Iraqis, "freedom" means "killing American soldiers?" Or that it's as likely as not that the people we're turning over "security" to don't really give a shit about U.S. interests in the region?

Oh, and check this out:

The local authorities closed all the roads in the city before the transfer ceremony, and while the security situation is relatively stable here, foreigners still needed a military escort to travel the five miles from the heliport at the old American military base to the site of the ceremonies...

The general public did not attend the event. Much of the audience was made up of the area’s powerful tribal leaders, who sat beneath a sign that read: “We are the sons of those who drove the British out in 1920.”

As soldiers paraded by a grandstand with top American and Iraqi military officials, as well as dozens of tribal leaders, a group of commandos with their faces blackened gathered for a demonstration of their courage.

Each man reached into his right pocket, pulled out a frog and bit its head off. They threw the squirming legs to the ground as the group’s leader held aloft a live rabbit. He slit the belly and plunged his mouth into the gash. The carcass was then passed around to the rest of the soldiers, who took their own bites.

It was explained later that this practice was especially popular among Saddam Hussein’s feared Fedayeen militia, whose members had done the same thing with live snakes and wolves.

Feel the love...
Mr. Bill

For some reason, I wanted to watch a Mr. Bill clip or two this morning--and the magic of You Tube made it possible.

Full disclosure: I'm old enough to remember when this particular episode first aired.

And, as most of y'all already know, Walter Williams is a Crescent City native.

OK, that's my tangent post for the week...moving back to more usual fare, why won't the Shrub administration propose a "surge" strategy for the Gulf Coast, where it might actually work?
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He's the reviser:

As he searches for a new strategy for Iraq, Bush has now adopted the formula advanced by his top military adviser to describe the situation. "We're not winning, we're not losing," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. The assessment was a striking reversal for a president who, days before the November elections, declared, "Absolutely, we're winning."

It wasn't all that long ago (h/t Hullabaloo) when things were all wine and roses...or was that self-righteous whine and rose-colored glasses?

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

And, of course, who can forget

Bring 'em on.

There's more--Shrub's own take on "revisionist historians," "stay the course," "weapons of mass destruction," "the British government has learned," etc. etc. And, on the domestic side, we've got "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees," to cite just one example.

You know, I keep seeing stories in the media about Bush being stubborn...or steadfast, stalwart, or whatever they decide call it. Well, it seems to me that the only quality that meets that criteria is...his stubborn refusal to recognize reality.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Protecting The (It Can't Happen Too Soon Enough) Former President
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I mean, if they're WORRIED about his safety and all, I can't think of a better place. And there's room for multiple generations.

Oh, and on the subject of Biblioteca Arbusto, SMU is apparently a little reluctant to play host. Maybe they should opt for a private sector solution.
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Public Service Announcement
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This is Osama Bin Laden.

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This is Moqtada al Sadr.

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And this is your president's brain.

Any Questions?
Water and Power Don't Mix
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Except when they're the hallmarks for the twin disasters of the worst administration ever.


Iraq is short on drinkable water... the amount of potable water currently produced in Iraq is at less than half the target amount. Like the DoD report, GAO notes that such water statistics are inaccurate; unlike the DoD report, it says why: "U.S. officials estimate that 60 percent of water treatment output is lost due to leakage, contamination, and illegal connections."


The broken city water system is losing about 85 million gallons of water in leaks every day. That is not a typo, 85 million gallons of water a day, at a cost of $200,000 a day, are still leaking out of the system even after over 17,000 leaks have been plugged.

Michelle Krupa of the Times-Picayune reports that the city pumps 135 million gallons a day through 80 miles of pipe in order for 50 million gallons to be used. We are losing more than we are using; the repair bill is estimated to be $1 billion - money the city does not have.


Over the past six months, Baghdad has been all but isolated electrically, Iraqi officials say, as insurgents have effectively won their battle to bring down critical high-voltage lines and cut off the capital from the major power plants to the north, south and west.


Sixteen months after flood waters surged through New Orleans' 9th Ward following the landfall of Hurricane Katrina and the bursting of levees, the devastated section of the city "remains all but vacant," The Times-Picayune reports today...

Only 3% of the ward's homeowners have applied for electrical permits -- "enough to power only 152 houses."

Three throws for a dollar? Give me three hundred throws, please. And mix enough ice in the tank to really make him FEEL it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Same Old Shit, New and Improved
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Give 'Em a Medal...or at Least a Certificate of Participation

Sorry for the slow start to's been surprisingly busy for a holiday week over here...

That said, I just don't know where to begin...between the latest uplifting-in-a-makes-your-shoulder-joints-pop-out-and-dislocate kind of way news from Iraq (OK, to be fair, this AMERICAN CITIZEN didn't get THAT treatment...but what happened to him was plenty bad enough...and I think we all know now that plenty of people ARE routinely being tortured in our names. Which is just...plain...sick).

Bob Herbert, to his credit, keeps reminding us of the Mission-Not-Accomplished (albeit promised) down here along the Gulf Coast--again, you'd think that maybe, just maybe, those with newly-found-fondness for nation-building might want to get some practice before embarking on Operation Spill Blood and Burn Money for NOTHING AT ALL. The Gulf Coast would provide PLENTY of practice, the need is quite desperate, and the investment already does and will in the future provide plenty of payoff.

Via Rising Hegemon, I see that Chimperor actually believes his daughters are role models...arrogance truly knows no limits, I suppose.

And it looks like, regarding Iraq, the "surge" strategery, or, in other words, Operation Refuse to Accept the Truth of Your Failure, is Shrub's not-all-that-surprising choice. After all, he might use "The Google," but I'll bet he never looked up Ben Franklin's definition of instanity.