Friday, September 30, 2005
  Just Another Compassionate Conservative
One of the "moral leaders" of the Republican party, former Secretary of Education and current talk show host William Bennett, has a novel idea to reduce the crime rate:
CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I've read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn't -- never touches this at all.

BENNETT: Assuming they're all productive citizens?

CALLER: Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.

BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don't know what the costs would be, too. I think as -- abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.

CALLER: I don't know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.

BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --

CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.
Friday, September 23, 2005
  Diebold: When Charm and Wit Aren't Enough

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team or US-CERT is a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and the public and private sectors. The agency was established in 2003 with the avowed mission of protecting the nation's Internet infrastructure.

Additionally, US-CERT supposedly coordinates defense against and responses to cyber attacks across the nation.
US-CERT is responsible for analyzing and reducing cyber threats and vulnerabilities, disseminating cyber threat warning information, and coordinating incident response activities.

US-CERT interacts with federal agencies, industry, the research community, state and local governments, and others to disseminate reasoned and actionable cyber security information to the public.

In early September of 2004 (two months before the November elections) they posted Cyber Security Bulletin SB04-252 entitled Summary of Security Items from September 1 through September 7, 2004. It can be accessed at:

The alert concerns the GEMS Central Tabulator, the machine that actually counts and tabulates the votes that are cast on electronic voting machines made by Diebold - the company who's chairman and chief executive officer, Walden W. O'Dell, personally guaranteed to deliver Ohio's electorial votes to Bush. O'Dell made that promise in an August 14, 2004 letter to Ohio GOP leaders inviting them to a $1000 a plate fund raising dinner at his mansion.

The alert says "A vulnerability [in the GEMS Central Tabulator] exists due to an undocumented backdoor account, which could allow local or remote authenticated malicious user to modify votes."

It ranks the problem as "Medium" risk. Medium risk to US-CERT means "one that will allow an intruder immediate access to a system with less than privileged access. Such vulnerability will allow the intruder the opportunity to continue the attempt to gain privileged access. An example of medium-risk vulnerability is a server configuration error that allows an intruder to capture the password file."

Despite that this was a known problem and that the companies political leanings were well documented, the state of Ohio guided by Secretary of State Blackwell (who just happened to also be the head of the committee to reelect George Bush,) Diebold was awarded a contract for voting and tabulation machines in Ohio. A search of US-CERT's database shows that a workaround or a patch was never made available.

What does all this mean? A "backdoor" simply means the programers either deliberately or inadvertantly left a way to go around any security in place to guard the system. Or, as an anonymous source at Diebold said, "This backdoor means that one malicious person can change the outcome of any Diebold election," The source went on to say, "Diebold's election system is one of the greatest threats our democracy has ever known."
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
  The Freedom to Live or Die
Being descended from Arkansas White Trash who are descended from indentured servants who fled England rather than be the honored guests at a hanging, I know a little bit about being poor and I have to tell you, being black is not a requirement for being poor in the United States.

This whole Katrina disaster is being drawn along racial lines - in fact a lot of things in the U.S. are drawn along racial lines when, in fact, they are actually class lines. The worse crime in this country is not being black, it is being poor.

Yes, most of the people in New Orleans that were hit the hardest were black - but not all of them. And yes, there is traditional racial prejudice in this country but class prejudice is by far the older of the two evils, having been brought here long before the first African was sold into slavery on these shores.

Do poor black people have it harder than poor white people? I don't know. When a person doesn't eat, they get hungry. When they don't have a warm place to live in the winter, they get cold. I know from experience that a white skin doesn't alleviate either condition.

Now that I've said that, let me hasten to add; I am aware that being black and being poor gives a person a double whammy. I’ll also admit that I can only be aware of that from a white man’s point of view but I take issue with the concept that just being black is enough to get one left to drown in New Orleans. The rich blacks in New Orleans did exactly what the rich whites did. They loaded the kids in the SUV, charged up a tank of gas on the credit card and drove north.

What I am saying is this: the ruling class wants us to make this a race issue. Race issues divide the many (the poor) into ineffectual little groups that can never stand up against the man holding the whip. If we see this as a class issue, that is if we define it as “people were left to die in New Orleans not because they were black but because they were too poor to afford to get out” then we have a chance of uniting a group large enough to actually get something done.

I assure you, despite the present outcry, this is not the first time in U.S. history poor people have been given the “freedom of choice” to live or die. Anybody who has ever read Howard Zinn can tell you that. I can also assure you that if we allow the ruling elite to split us along racial lines, the New Orleans disaster will not be the last time the poor will be given this "freedom."
  Figgers in the Dirt
Me and the boys was sittin’ down at the courthouse talkin’ ‘bout President Bush tellin’ hows we’s gonna rebuild New Awleans. Fact is, we’s gonna rebuild the hold gosh darn gulf coast. Mr. Bush says we’s not gonna jist rebuild it, we’s gonna make it betta than it ever was afore. And he says we’s gonna do the whole thang without no raise in taxes. No wonder that man is president of these here United States. He’s gotta be some kinda genius to figure out how to do that.

Course, with all the money the govmint gets ever year I know they can squeeze out a measly 200 billion dollars. One of the boys said hows he read the other day that the federal budget this year was $2.56 trillion. I mean that’s like, duh (hold on a minute. I ran outta fingers – gotta take off my shoes.) Yeah, hey, that’s like 2560 billion; gettin’ just 200 billion from that should be no problem.

Let’s see now – another one of the boys said that 20% of that came right off the top just to pay the interest on money we already owe. Beats me why we owe money, us bein’ the richest nation in the world and all. I guess its ‘cause we give it all away in aide to them backwards countries. Anyway, let’s see now, that’s a, count the little toe, carry the thumb, umm ... Great Gobs of Greasy Goose Flesh! That’s $512 billion just to pay interest on what we already owe!

Well, that still leaves 2048 billion and that’s still more lettuce than a train can haul. Then the boys said it takes another 500 to 600 billion for the military to fight all them Communist or Terrorists or whatever it is we’re fightin’ to keep our land free from enemy inversion. That still leaves about 1500 billion.

Then, Mr. Dobbins who must be at least 85, said, “Don’t forget about Social Security. That’s another 500 billion.”

So, OK. That still leaves 1000 billion. Mr. Dobbins spoke again, “Medicare and Medicaid cost another 500 billion.”

“But ... but ....” I couldn’t believe it. That meant that we paid out 12 billion more in interest to foreigners then we spent to run the rest of the govmint of the United States including Agriculture, Education, Border Security, Homeland Security ...” Great Gobs of Greasy Goose Flesh!

And then one of the boys said, “A course, the U.S. ain’t gonna take in no 2.56 trillion this year. We’s gonna come up about 450 billion short.”

“But ... but ..., that means we’ll have to borrow that 450 billion. That means we’ll owe more next year and we’ll have to pay more interest. That means that ever year the amount we borrow will have to get bigger and bigger because the amount of interest we pay will get more and more.” My head was startin’ to hurt.

Then it hit me. At first I jist couldn’t believe it. I calculated my sums over and over again using my fingers and my toes. Finally, I sharpened a stick and worked out the figgers in the dirt. My stomach got sorta sour and sick as I sat there in the dirt gapping at the numbers. Sure nuff, by the time my boy Zeke got to be my age, all the federal budget would be going to pay interest with nothing left over for anything, not even to pay the politician’s salaries. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind that. Most of ‘em are rich and jist serve out of the goodness of their heart anyway.

But the numbers in the dirt held more bad news. We’d still be coming up short. I wondered who would loan us money then.

Well, I tossed down the stick and brushed the dirt from my hands. I’s sure glad it weren’t my worry. Like I said, that Mr. Bush has gotta be some kinda genius. I’m sure he’s already got it all worked out to where his numbers come out a whole lot better than mine. After all, he’s got a pencil – I just hope he’s got all his toes.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
  Plant This Bush In Iraq

John Ellis Bush, 21, shown in this photo provided by the Austin, Texas Police Department, was arrested early Friday morning, Sept. 16, 2005, in Austin and charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest, a Travis County Sheriff's Department spokesman said. Bush is the youngest son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and nephew of President George Bush. (AP Photo/Austin Police Department)

This guy looks healthy to me. He looks like he would make great cannon-fodder. He looks like someone just dying to fight for a noble cause (or maybe thats fighting to die for a noble cause judging by what I heard about his fight with a couple of Travis County Deputy Sheriffs.) And just look at that mouth. You just know he'd "stay the course."
Thursday, September 15, 2005
  Look Up Sheep!
It is being said and written in the wake of the New Orleans disaster that the Bush Administration is just terribly inefficient. That is simply not true.

Bush's Administration is anything but inefficient. It is just not doing what we, the people, normally think of as the normal activities of government.

In the U.S. we have always been taught that the government is a protecter of the poor and downtrodden and an equalizer of justice between the mighty and the lowly. Nothing could be further from the truth. For a real discussion on this, see Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

The Bush Administration is actually the most efficient of all the power-hungry, money-motivated administrations in a line that stretches almost unbroken all the way back to pre-1776.

They became efficient in robbing the public coffers by dropping the pretense in their actions that their purpose was to serve the public good.They got an unscrupulous village idiot, who's only talent is his ability to lie with a straight face and to keep on lying no matter what the evidence to the contrary, to be their mouthpiece. Then they set about raping this country and shearing the population like a flock of sheep.

New Orleans is an exposure of this efficiency. It is also an exposure of what happens to the country and the sheep when they no longer produce wool.
Monday, September 12, 2005
  A Picture is worth a thousand words ...

X What more could anyone possibly add to this?
  So you think you know everything?
Now, lets take a break from politics and saving the world. Here is some of the most trivial trivia in the world:

Now you know everything!!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2005
  Why Rehnquist Shouldn't be Buried on American Soil
The Death of a Partisan Chief Justice

"He was a man of character and dedication. His departure represents a great loss for the court and for our country."
--- George W. Bush on hearing of the death of Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist

Let's not wring out the tears for William Rehnquist. The man was the worst chief justice to ever serve on the Supreme Court; a complete failure who disgraced his office and the people he was supposed to serve. Never in the 200 year history of the nation has the high court sustained more damage under the stewardship of one man.

Rehnquist's partisan handiwork rigged the 2000 election and set the country in a downward spiral to ruin. He cobbled together the coalition of rogue-jurists who stripped the Florida Supreme Court of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to decide the outcome of state elections and overturned the fundamental principle of democratic government; the right to have one's vote counted.

Rehnquist invoked the 14th amendment; the "equal protection" clause to elevate his friend George W. Bush to president. Prior to that, the amendment had never even been used in cases other than racial discrimination. Legal scholars and attorneys alike scoffed at the shaky reasoning that held the case together. It was a complete travesty that both Republicans and Democrats disdained. Rehnquist abandoned every principle of judicial impartiality to shoehorn a derelict-Texan into the Oval Office and to uphold his standing as a charter member of the ruling class.

Look at the results.

Look what happens when the will of the people is brazenly ignored to execute an elite agenda.

Iraq, the Cheney Energy papers, 9-11, Enron, Valerie Plame, Abu Ghraib, Falluja, Guantanamo; the long litany of Bush-crimes should be inscribed on Rehnquist's headstone next to the number of casualties produced by his partisan blunder.

Rehnquist was an ardent class-warrior from his earliest days on the court. He strongly opposed gay rights, abortion, gun control and affirmative action, but was a staunch proponent of the death penalty. This tells us that his sense of justice was shaped by his belief in punishment, not mercy. Although Rehnquist would zealously defend the right of the state to exterminate its own citizens, he vacillated on even most basic rights of the individual.

In case after case, the Rehnquist Court bowed to the authority of the president; allowing Bush to detain foreign nationals without formally charging them with a crime and permitting the incarceration of "enemy combatants" indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay subject to a review by hand-picked military tribunals.

Rehnquist has repeatedly dodged the Jose Padilla case to allow the president the tyrannical power of imprisoning an American citizen without honoring habeas corpus, due process, or the presumption of innocence. His evasion has upended the fundamental principle of "inalienable rights", the cornerstone of the Constitution, and condemned an innocent man to 3 and half years in solitary confinement.

Padilla has never been charged with a crime. It is a disgrace that should enrage every American.

Justice John Paul Stevens' summarized the feelings of most Americans who reject the idea that citizens can be stripped of their rights according to presidential edict. He said, the results of the Padilla case pose "a unique and unprecedented threat to the freedom of every American citizen... At stake is nothing less than the essence of a free society... For if this Nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny."

Rehnquist had every opportunity to watch Bush's dismal war on terror. He knew that the "forces of tyranny" had been greatly exaggerated to carry out a global-militaristic strategy. Never the less, he consistently chose to bolster the powers of the executive rather than defend the basic rights of the citizen.

Rehnquist fancied himself a "strict constructionist"; a judge who simply applied the constitution according to its literal meaning. As it turns out, he was entirely unwilling to defend any part of the Bill of Rights (excluding the revered 2nd amendment) and significantly eroded the institution he was supposed to preserve.

Forget the state ceremonies for the deceased Chief Justice. Just put a crease in the soil at Potter's field and kick a few leaves over the hardening carcass.

If it was up to me, Rehnquist would never be buried on American soil. The man betrayed his country and his name should be struck from the history books.
He did nothing to shore up civil liberties or to preserve the constitution. His tenure at the high court merely paved the way for the Imperial Presidency and the further savaging of the rule of law.

Let Bush and his ilk sing Rehnquist's praises. What difference does it make? The man was a miserable American and a dead-loss as a chief justice.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:
Friday, September 09, 2005
  Compassionate Conservative Serenades Survivors

An unnamed musician calling himself the Anonymous Singer of Songs (or A.S.S. for short) and identifying himself as a compassionate conservative brought a tear to the eye of a woman left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. He explained later to this reporter that he always tried to blend his virtuoso guitar playing with simple old-time ballads that he felt would suit his audience.

When asked what he had performed for this lady that had moved her so, he strummed his slightly out of tune guitar and broke into song:

"Oh, in Dixieland where I was born
Twas early on one frosty morn
Look away, look away
Look away Dixieland ... "

When this reporter gently suggested to the A.S.S. that Dixieland might not be the most appropriate song to comfort a grieving person who had just lost everything they owned, especially when the reason for that loss might be at least partly attributable to them being poor and black, the A.S.S. replied, "Oh, I get it! She's from Northern New Orleans!"
Thursday, September 08, 2005
  America's Voices
Now is not the time to "play" the blame game. Who the hell do they think they are? I want accountability for every person that died during and after Hurricaine Katrena. I want to know why help was not deployed BEFORE the storm when it was known for days that it was coming and the governor of Louisiana declared a state of emergency two days BEFORE the storm hit, on August 26. I want to know why the people who had no way to get out of the city weren't provided with transportation out of danger. There was plenty of time to get them out but Bush's regime couldn't break away from vacation long enough.

There are a lot of things I want to know. The first one is: who gave the Bush regime the right to tell American citizens when they could and could not ask for accountability from their government. Don't tell me to shut up President Buddy-Boy. Its your job to listen, not to tell American citizens when they can speak.

On that note, I'm going to turn you on to Dr. Jeffrey Feldman. If you haven't been to his site, The Frame Shop, I urge you to do so. The man juggles words like some people juggles knives and when he throws one, it goes straight to the target.

America's Voices
by Dr. Jeffery Feldman

Listening is the heart of accountability, not some fog of PR gimmicks designed to hide the President from the pain of the people.

Not now.

We're too busy.

This is not the time to talk.

These three sentences represent the logic that the White House is using to dodge any attempt by the American public to find out how the choices and actions of President Bush's government resulted in the deaths of so many people in Louisiana.

By repeating over and over again that `there will be a time' to answer questions--but not right now--the White House has all but succeeded in distracting the public into thinking that it is somehow immoral to talk about this tragedy. At yesterday's White House Press Briefing, Scott McLellan repeated these `time' phrases so many times that I lost count. And as of this morning, the news has become saturated with the `time' frame.

Meanwhile, as we have all figured out, the White House political team has launched a `when did you stop beating your wife' campaign aimed at the Mayor of New Orleans. To pin blame on Mayor Nagin, Republicans everywhere are repeating phrases that sound like this: `I'm not saying we should blame the Mayor of New Orleans.' So, in addition to using the `time' frame to dodge questions about themselves, the White House is also using it to create space for them to turn full fury of the White House against a local politician whose city was just destroyed.

In the days ahead, it is hard to know what will be more foul for Americans to endure: the death toll reported after the water is drained from New Orleans, or the wave of racist hatred that will be leveled against Mayor Nagin.Americans need to step back from the direction the White House has shoved the debate in order to return to the issues that matter to us right now. We need to understand the `time' frame and reframe the debate.

The `time' frame works by falsely defining time as a closed system or zero sum game. It follows the logic [time] is [a bag of beans]. If we put some of the beans over here, well, then we cannot possibly put them over there. This time frame works so well on Americans because most of us are overextended in our personal or professional schedules. We `ration' our time or `divide' our time or make sure we have `enough time left' to do the things we want.

Once we are convinced that time is something finite that needs to be rationed, then we are ready and willing to judge others for `wasting' time on the `wrong' things.

Before we turn to an alternative, it is important for all Americans who care about what happened in the Gulf States to stop falling into this `time' frame right away. Let's start by working out way out of it--by reminding ourselves of what `time' meant before the White House political team turned it into a PR gimmick.

`Time' was an important issue last week when the President and his entire cabinet were using their vacation `time' instead of working to save American lives.

`Time' was an important issue when it was just a matter of hours before a dozen more Americans died from dehydration and shock waiting for relief from their President.

`Time' was an important issue when reporter after reporter on American television asked `Why is it taking so long for President Bush to feed his starving and stranded people.

`Time' was an important issue when year after year, scholars and officials warned that it was just `a matter of time' before a hurricane broke the New Orleans levees, while the White House ignored these warnings and transfered money from America's `prevent national tragedy' account to George W. Bush's `start a blind war in Iraq' account. `Time' was an issue last week. But `time' is no longer the issue.

The real issue is `accountability.' And we must talk about it all the time.
We must remember that Americans do not need permission from the White House to talk about accountability. We do not need to ask if it is OK to express our grief and concern for other Americans in need.

We must remember that while the President was strumming a guitar, while the Secretary of Defense was joking with friends at a baseball game, while the Secretary of State was enjoying a musical comedy on Broadway--the American people, including the mainstream press, were pulling their hair out with fear and worry about the fate of those in the Gulf States. We must remember that it took a full solid week of grim pictures on TV, a nation that stayed awake in tears, thousands of activists and entrepreneurs stepping away from their lives to rush to the aid of the fallen--it took all that to get the White House's attention.

We must remember that it was not until the American people shamed the President of the United States for his lack of basic human kindness, that the White House political team began to flood the media with pictures of the President, and the First Lady, and the Cabinet members--posing with anyone who was not too angry or emotional to even be in the same room.

We must remember that it was the American people--not the President--the American people--not the White House--who have driven this mass effort to help the people of New Orleans.

And so we must stop asking for permission to discuss what happened--what is still happening--and just do it.But how do we do it? How do we talk about such an abstract concept as `accountability' in a way that is true to what Americans are feeling?

Ironically, the best way to focus attention on `accountability' is not to accuse the President or the White House of wrong doing, but to listen to the voices of those to whom we are most accountable. We need to listen to Americans tell us what happened and what is happening.

We must listen. As a nation, we need to listen to the victims, the exiled, the displaced, the `Astrodomed' people who lived and will continue to live this tragedy.

Accountability begins with hearing the voices of those that one has hurt.
Who is helping us to hear these voices?

The Oprah Winfrey show, yesterday (6 Sep 05), was devoted entirely to the voices of the people most hurt by the problems in our Federal government. Oprah, who rarely involves herself in politics, understands that the great tragedy--the horror to emerge from these events--is not just that the White House actions and inactions led directly to the death and suffering of Americans, but that the White House is now trying to prevent America from hearing those very voices of those who survived and witnessed.

As Oprah has done, Americans must go beyond the White House and the President to create their own forums for listening to the voices of those who are suffering.

And anyone who tells us that by listening to the voices we are impeding the rescue efforts--well, just walk away from those people. Let those people wallow in their own heartless unawareness of what is happening in American right now. Let them suffer alone until they figure out what is important to this nation. But when they are ready to listen, then we should welcome them to the conversation.

Everyday I have seen and I have heard people who want to talk about what happened. There is such an unprecedented need for Americans to talk about what happened that we are encountering something without comparison in our national history. Men and women alike--everywhere, by the thousands--are breaking down in tears in public.

Not even after the horrible events of 9/11 was there such a national need to talk about what happened. We are a nation that wants to listen to each other. We want to tell our stories, to hear the stories of others, and to ask questions.
And we do not want to be told what and when we can talk about.

The audacity of the President at this moment can be found in his willingness to tell the people of America to `shut up' and let us do our job, at the moment Americans want most to hear each other's voices.

If we have the courage to walk away from the press briefings and the photo ops and the `don't we look busy' Cabinet meetings, then we will begin what will become the greatest event in our nation's short history. We will start the conversation that will change this country.

Deep inside that conversation is our understanding of what it means to be accountable to our fellow citizens: to listen to them when they are in pain and through listening, to understand and respond to their needs.

Listening is the heart of accountability, not some fog of PR gimmicks designed to hide the President from the pain of the people.

We will need courageous leaders to help us find and hear our voices again, and I can feel--and just barely see--a few of them moving into position. Right now, the leaders of this new conversation are a small group of media figures that have been reborn by this tragedy. By tomorrow, I hope that there are dozens of leaders calling for America's voices to be heard. By next week, there could be thousands.

Last month, on a dusty road in Texas, a small revolution was started in this country when one woman turned to the President of the United States and said, `Listen to my voice.' Of course, the President seemed then, as he seems now, uniquely unable to hear the voice of any American that differs from the talking points of his political advisor. The President seems, even, to be unable to hear his own voice.

But not even the hardened heart of a President can silence America's voices. We will continue to listen and to be heard.

And the conversation will change us all.


  The Corpse on Union Street
NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 7 - In the downtown business district here, on a dry stretch of Union Street, past the Omni Bank automated teller machine, across from a parking garage offering "early bird" rates: a corpse. Its feet jut from a damp blue tarp. Its knees rise in rigor mortis.
Six National Guardsmen walked up to it on Tuesday afternoon and two blessed themselves with the sign of the cross. One soldier took a parting snapshot like some visiting conventioneer, and they walked away. New Orleans, September 2005.

Hours passed, the dusk of curfew crept, the body remained. A Louisiana state trooper around the corner knew all about it: murder victim, bludgeoned, one of several in that area. The police marked it with traffic cones maybe four days ago, he said, and then he joked that if you wanted to kill someone here, this was a good time.

Night came, then this morning, then noon, and another sun beat down on a dead son of the Crescent City.

That a corpse lies on Union Street may not shock; in the wake of last week's hurricane, there are surely hundreds, probably thousands. What is remarkable is that on a downtown street in a major American city, a corpse can decompose for days, like carrion, and that is acceptable.
Welcome to New Orleans in the post-apocalypse, half baked and half deluged: pestilent, eerie, unnaturally quiet.

Scraggly residents emerge from waterlogged wood to say strange things, and then return into the rot. Cars drive the wrong way on the Interstate and no one cares. Fires burn, dogs scavenge, and old signs from les bons temps have been replaced with hand-scrawled threats that looters will be shot dead.

The incomprehensible has become so routine here that it tends to lull you into acceptance. On Sunday, for example, several soldiers on Jefferson Highway had guns aimed at the heads of several prostrate men suspected of breaking into an electronics store.
A car pulled right up to this tense scene and the driver leaned out his window to ask a soldier a question: "Hey, how do you get to the interstate?"

Maybe the slow acquiescence to the ghastly here - not in Baghdad, not in Rwanda, here - is rooted in the intensive news coverage of the hurricane's aftermath: floating bodies and obliterated towns equal old news. Maybe the concerns of the living far outweigh the dignity of a corpse on Union Street. Or maybe the nation is numb with post-traumatic shock.

Wandering New Orleans this week, away from news conferences and search-and-rescue squads, has granted haunting glimpses of the past, present and future, with the rare comfort found in, say, the white sheet that flaps, not in surrender but as a vow, at the corner of Poydras Street and St. Charles Avenue.

"We Shall Survive," it says, as though wishing past the battalions of bulldozers that will one day come to knock down water-corrupted neighborhoods and rearrange the Louisiana mud for the infrastructure of an altogether different New Orleans.

Here, then, the New Orleans of today, where open fire hydrants gush the last thing needed on these streets; where one of the many gag-inducing smells - that of rancid meat - is better than MapQuest in pinpointing the presence of a market; and where images of irony beg to be noticed.
The Mardi Gras beads imbedded in mud by a soldier's boot print. The "take-away" signs outside restaurants taken away. The corner kiosk shouting the Aug. 28 headline of New Orleans's Times-Picayune: "Katrina Takes Aim."

Rush hour in downtown now means pickups carrying gun-carrying men in sunglasses, S.U.V.'s loaded with out-of-town reporters hungry for action, and the occasional tank. About the only ones commuting by bus are dull-eyed suspects shuffling two-by-two from the bus-and-train terminal, which is now a makeshift jail.

Maybe some of them had helped to kick in the portal to the Williams Super Market in the once-desirable Garden District. And who could blame them if all they wanted was food in those first desperate days? The interlopers took the water, beer, cigarettes and snack food. They did not take the wine or the New Orleans postcards.

On the other side of downtown across Canal Street in the French Quarter, the most raucous and most unreal of American avenues is now little more than an empty alley with balconies.
The absence of sweetly blown jazz, of someone cooing "ma chère," of men sporting convention nametags and emitting forced guffaws - the absence of us - assaults the senses more than any smell.

Past the famous Cafe du Monde, where a slight breeze twirls the overhead fans for no one, past the statue of Joan of Arc gleaming gold, a man emerges from nothing on Royal Street. He is asked, "Where's St. Bernard Avenue?"

"Where's the ice?" he asks in return, eyes narrowed in menace. "Where's the ice? St. Bernard's is that way, but where's the ice?"

In Bywater and the surrounding neighborhoods, the severely damaged streets bear the names of saints who could not protect them. Whatever nature spared, human nature stepped up to provide a kind of democracy in destruction.

At the Whitney National Bank on St. Claude Avenue, diamond-like bits of glass spill from the crushed door, offering a view of the complementary coffee table. A large woman named Phoebe Au - "Pronounced 'Awe,' " she says - materializes to report that men had smashed it in with a truck. She fades into the neighborhood's broken brick, and a thin woman named Toni Miller materializes to correct the record.

"They used sledgehammers," she said.

Farther down St. Claude Avenue, where tanks rumble past a smoldering building, the roads are cluttered with vandalized city buses. The city parked them on the riverbank for the hurricane, after which some hoods took them for fare-free joy rides through lawless streets, and then discarded them.

On Clouet Street, where a days-old fire continues to burn where a warehouse once stood, a man on a bicycle wheels up through the smoke to introduce himself as Strangebone. The nights without power or water have been tough, especially since the police took away the gun he was carrying - "They beat me and threatened to kill me," he says - but there are benefits to this new world.

"You're able to see the stars," he says. "It's wonderful."

Today, law enforcement troops began lending muscle to Mayor C. Ray Nagin's vow to evacuate by force any residents too attached to their pieces of the toxic metropolis. They searched the streets for the likes of Strangebone, and that woman whose name sounds like Awe.

Meanwhile, back downtown, the shadows of another evening crept like spilled black water over someone's corpse.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
  White House Soft Shoe Shuffle


The first real White House Press Briefing Since Junior stole the election(s.) I haven't seen such weaving, bobbing and fast foot work since Lyndell played against McEnroe. This is a real joy to read:

September 06, 2005 5:35 PM ET

Q: Scott, the reality at hand right now is that the President said that we still live in an unsettled world. This is an administration that has told us since 9/11 that it's not a matter of "if," but "when" that we could be struck by a terror attack and, obviously, other disasters that are the result of Mother Nature. So at this point, where is the accountability? Is the President prepared to say where this White House, where this administration went wrong in its response to Katrina.

McCLELLAN: You know, David, there are some that are interested in playing the blame game. The President is interested in solving problems and getting help to the people who need it. There will be a time --

Q: Wait a minute. Is it a blame game when the President, himself, says that we remain at risk for either another catastrophe of this dimension, that's not manmade, or a terrorist attack? Isn't it incumbent upon this administration to immediately have accountability to find out what went wrong, when at any time this could happen again?

McCLELLAN: This is a massive federal response effort that we have underway. We've got to stay focused on helping those who are in need right now and help them rebuild their lives and get back up on their feet. It's a time of many challenges, enormous challenges. We've got to stay focused on the task at hand. That is what the President is doing.Now, in terms of addressing threats, we've made a lot of progress since the attacks of September 11th. And one of the most important things we're doing is staying on the offensive abroad. There are important priorities that we have to continue to address and we are working to address those priorities, too. But we have a major disaster that has occurred over a 90,000 square mile [sic] here in the United States. There are people --

Q: Right. And there are people who want to know why this government couldn't respond --

McCLELLAN: Hang on. There are people who are suffering, and we've got to respond to their needs, and that's what we're going to keep our focus.

Q: So no one is prepared to say what went wrong?

McCLELLAN: We will look at back at the facts and we will get to the bottom of the facts and determine what went wrong and what went right. But right now --

Q: Will the President support an outside investigation, or does he want to do it himself?

McCLELLAN: -- but, David, right now, we've got to continue helping the people in the region.

Q: Will he support an outside investigation --

Q: But, Scott, more concretely, an officer of the Northern Command is quoted as saying that as early as the time Hurricane Katrina went through Florida and worked its way up to the Gulf, there was a massive military response ready to go, but that the President did not order it. It could have been ordered on Sunday, on Monday, on Tuesday -- the call didn't come. Why not?

McCLELLAN: Bill, let's point out a couple of things. There were a lot of assets that were deployed and pre-positioned prior to the hurricane hitting. And you have to look back --

Q: These assets were deployed, but the order to use them never came. The Bataan was sitting off behind the hurricane.

McCLELLAN: I know these are all facts that you want to look at and want to determine what went wrong and what went right. I'm not prepared to agree with your assessment just there. There is a much larger picture here that we have to take a look at, and --

Q: It's not mine, it's an officer in the Northern Command.

McCLELLAN: -- in terms of the President, the President issued disaster declarations ahead of time so that we could make sure we're fully mobilizing resources and pre-positioning them. But this was a hurricane of unprecedented magnitude.

Q: Right, but the military can't go into action without his order.

McCLELLAN: I'll be glad to talk to you about it, but I've got to have a chance to respond to --

Q: In view of the national crisis, will the President withdraw his proposal for this tax cut for the richest people in the country? And, also, my second question is, why did we turn down foreign help?

McCLELLAN: Actually, I'm glad you brought that up. We have not. We have made very clear -- I made clear last week, the State Department made clear last week that we are going to take people up on their offers of assistance from foreign countries. There are some 94 nations and international organizations that have made offers of assistance -- whether that is cash support or I think water pumps from places like Germany or other areas. We said that if this can help alleviate things on the ground, we're going to take them up on their offers of assistance and we appreciate the compassion from the international community and their offers of assistance.

Q: And how about my first question?

McCLELLAN: Your first question?

Q: Biggest tax cut, permanent tax cut for the richest people in the country -- in view of the national crisis, in view of the deficit --

McCLELLAN: The highest priority for this administration right now is the ongoing response and recovery efforts --

Q: No, no, I'm asking you a question.

McCLELLAN: And I'm responding to your question. The highest priority right now for this government is the ongoing Katrina response and recovery efforts and helping the people who need the help. There are other priorities, too, and we'll be working to address those, as well.

Q: I just want to follow up on David's questions on accountability. First, just to get you on the record, where does the buck stop in this administration?

McCLELLAN: The President.

Q: All right. So he will be held accountable as the head of the government for the federal response that he's already acknowledged was inadequate and unacceptable?

McCLELLAN: The President's most important responsibility is the safety and security of the American people. He talks about that often. That is his most important responsibility. Again, there's going to be plenty of time to look at the facts and determine what went wrong and what went right and how the coordination was between the state and federal and local authorities. Right now we've got to continue doing everything we can in support of the ongoing operational activities on the ground in the region to help people.

Q: Well, the President has said that this government can do many things at once: It can fight the war on terror, it can do operations in Iraq, and aid and comfort people in Louisiana. Can it not also find time to begin to hold people accountable? It sounds, Scott, as if the line that you're giving us -- which is, you don't want to answer questions about accountability because there's too much busy work going on --

McCLELLAN: Wrong. No, wrong.

Q: -- is a way of ducking accountability.

McCLELLAN: You don't want to take away from the efforts that are going on right now. And if you start getting into that now, you're pulling people out that are helping with the ongoing response, Terry. Not at all. The President made it very clear, I'm going to lead this effort and we're going to make sure we find out what the facts were and what went wrong and what went right. But you don't want to divert resources away from an ongoing response to a major catastrophe. And this is a major catastrophe that we -- and we must remain focused on saving lives and sustaining lives and planning for the long-term. And that's what we're doing.

Q: And there are people in Louisiana and Mississippi who are doing that job very well. Your job is to answer the questions.

McCLELLAN: And I have.

Q: By saying you won't answer.

McCLELLAN: No, by saying that there's a time to look at those issues, but now is not the time, Terry.

Q: Scott, a question about the "plenty of time" assertion that you make -- would it not behoove the efforts to, in fact, save lives and secure property if the people and procedures that are responsible for the inadequacy before are excised as quickly as possible? That is to say, should the accountability be determined immediately and that part be removed?

McCLELLAN: Look, what should be done immediately is that we get help to the people who need it, and we continue to do that. We have been doing that; we're continuing to do that. I know some just want to engage in the blame game. There will be a time to talk about all these issues. We've got problems to solve, Bob --

Q: But --

McCLELLAN: Bob, we've got problems to solve and we're going to stay focused on solving those problems and helping those who need it.

Q But don't you -- the question would be, don't you want to have your best resources available and best people in place to solve those problems?

McCLELLAN: Well, you're speculating about things at this point. I'm not going to engage it that. There will be a time to look at all those issues.

Q: But the President, himself, said that the response was not adequate. It was run by certain --

McCLELLAN: For those who were waiting on assistance and didn't have it, absolutely, it wasn't adequate. We made that clear last week. There were some people who needed help yesterday and they were still waiting on assistance. That's why we -- when we identified those problems, we made sure they were getting fixed. That's why we've moved quickly to resolve the issue at the Convention Center in New Orleans. And now you have -- a tremendous amount of progress has been made on the evacuation of people. You have some 700 shelters that have been set up -- maybe a little bit less -- with some 230,000 people who are in those shelters, and that includes states around the country. We appreciate all those who are responding and meeting those needs.

Q: One last question. The person who says that he found out about the Convention Center seeing it on the media -- that is to say the FEMA director -- is still in place. Is that satisfactory that somebody would have responded like that?

McCLELLAN: Again, this is getting into -- we're somewhat engaged in a blame game. We've got to --

Q: It's not a blame game. That's accountability --

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, we've got to --

Q: It's accountability.


Q: Is "Brownie" still doing a "heck of a job," according to the President?

McCLELLAN: We've got to continue to do everything we can in support of those who are involved in the operational aspects of this response effort. And that's what we're going to do. There will be plenty of time --

Q: If he fails at it, he's not going to be good at it going forward. That's what Bob is saying.

McCLELLAN: There are people working round-the-clock with FEMA. The Secretary, the FEMA Director and many others who are working round-the-clock. And we've got to do everything we can in support of their efforts to make sure people are getting what they need.

Q: Does the President really believe we could respond to a terrorist attack with any -- amount of weeks, months?

McCLELLAN: We've actually done a lot of exercises, David, to prepare for possible attacks, but -

Q: Do you think most Americans agree, based on --

McCLELLAN: But the most important thing we've got to do is focus on --

Q: You mean exercises for Hurricane Katrina.

McCLELLAN: We've got to focus on prevention, and that's what we're doing by staying on the offensive.

Q: Well, let's talk about it. Are you saying the President is -- are you saying that the President is confident that his administration is prepared to adequately, confidently secure the American people in the event of a terrorist attack of a level that we have not seen? And based on what does he have that confidence?

McCLELLAN: Yes, and that's what he made clear earlier today, that obviously we want to look and learn lessons from a major catastrophe of this nature.

Q: Yes, but you're telling us today there will be time for that somewhere down the road. Well, what if it happens tomorrow?

McCLELLAN: We can engage in this blame-gaming going on and I think that's what you're getting --

Q: No, no. That's a talking point, Scott, and I think most people who are watching this --

McCLELLAN: No, that's a fact. I mean, some are wanting to engage in that, and we're going to remain focused --

Q: I'm asking a direct question. Is he confident --

McCLELLAN: We're going to remain focused on the people.

Q: -- that he can secure the American people in the event of a major terrorist attack?

McCLELLAN: We are securing the American people by staying on the offensive abroad and working to spread freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

Q: That's a talking point. That's a talking point.

McCLELLAN: No, that's a fact.Go ahead.

Q: No, it's not. And you think people who are watching this think that's -- from what does he derive that confidence, based on the response --

McCLELLAN: David, I'm interested in the people in the region that have been affected and getting them help. We can sit here and engage in this back and forth --

Q: The whole country is watching and wondering about some --

McCLELLAN: The time for bickering and blame-gaming is later. The time for helping people in the region is now.

Q: There have been suggestions that the initial White House response was delayed somewhat because a number of key people were on vacation last week. During that critical 24-hour period after the levees were breached Monday, who in the White House was in charge of crisis management?

McCLELLAN: Andy Card is the chief of staff, and he was in close contact with everyone. And the President is the one who's in charge at the White House.

Q: Scott, the President on Saturday referred to the problems of bureaucracy. It's now Tuesday. The Vice President heads down there on Thursday to deal with it. Can you cite for us a specific bureaucratic impediment that has been identified and corrected today?

McCLELLAN: I think that in terms of the specifics, that the Secretary -- Secretary Chertoff, or FEMA Director Mike Brown can provide you the operational aspects of the specifics of what have occurred on the ground today. They'll be doing a briefing later today. But there continues to be good progress made when it comes to evacuating people.Like I said, most of the people have been evacuated. I think there's a relatively small number. All those that were sent to places where people were evacuated, I think have been evacuated out of New Orleans. The levees, those are getting repaired.

Q: Were those bureaucratic impediments that have been corrected? Or was that a --

McCLELLAN: Well, the bureaucratic impediments that the President is referring to is about getting assistance to the people who need it. Yes, there are a number of agencies that are acting, but they have issued waivers to rules and regulations. The President wants to cut through the red tape in the bureaucracy and make sure that the assistance is getting to the people. One thing that he talked about in the Cabinet meeting today at length was, look, we've got to make sure that there aren't rules in place that are preventing assistance from getting to those who have been displaced, or have been evacuated, who are no longer in a home of their own, they're in a shelter. And we've got to take that assistance to them.So, yes, that is part of -- all that is part of cutting through the bureaucracy and red tape.Go ahead.

Q: Scott, there's words that James Lee Witt had said, that -- people who had been there within three hours after everything broke loose. Why was Mr. Brown not on the ground?

McCLELLAN: He was, prior to the hurricane.

Q: Well, why didn't he bring in the troops? Why didn't he deploy all the necessary assistance that was needed?

McCLELLAN: There were -- disaster medical assistance teams were deployed. Search and rescue teams were deployed ahead of the hurricane.

Q: But why didn't he -- but why weren't teams deployed to the Convention Center? Why weren't teams deployed to the Superdome? Why were people without water, without food? Why was there looting in New Orleans for survival? And you're talking about zero tolerance. Why did these things happen over a period of days, and you start seeing Mr. Brown on the air talking about he didn't know about the Convention Center and other things. Why?

McCLELLAN: Look, you're getting into all the after-action analysis, and I can't tell you all the --

Q: And you're saying there is not a blame game, but you open the door to the response --

McCLELLAN: I can't tell you that everything you said is factually correct, and they've got -- we've got to look at all the facts. We've got to determine what worked, what didn't work, and apply --

Q: Well, what's not working? What's not working in your view right now?

McCLELLAN: -- and apply lessons from that.

Q: What do you see that's not working right now? What is not working? Because these people are dying from dysentery now --

McCLELLAN: Well, last week --

Q: -- infection now; they're displaced, homes are gone. Does anyone in this administration know anyone that's down there --

McCLELLAN: Well, I think you need to talk to people on the ground --

Q: -- beyond Trent Lott?

McCLELLAN: -- people on the ground who have --

Q: Does anyone in this White House know anyone that's there, beyond Trent Lott, that's lost a home, that has lost family, that's displaced?

McCLELLAN: The President visited with a number of those who have been affected by the hurricane. We went down to Mississippi and Louisiana on Friday. The President visited with a number of people in the Biloxi area who have lost everything they had. The President saw firsthand --

Q: Does anyone in this administration know anyone personally who's been affected by the devastation?

McCLELLAN: Yes, the President has talked about those, and the President has visited with people who have lost everything they have. I know people that have been displaced, friends of mine. And it's terrible when you go and see the devastation on the ground. We've seen the devastation on the ground. We've seen the homes that are no longer there. We've seen the flooding that has covered a large portion of New Orleans and that has taken lives. There are people who continue to suffer and we need to get them help. And that's why our focus is on getting them help.

Q: But even with the -- just to be clear, though, you're saying that Katrina, if you need to spend the money on Katrina, that comes first, and tax cuts would have to wait?

McCLELLAN: No, Mark, I'm saying that there are a number of important priorities. First and foremost is helping the people who have been affected by Katrina. And there are other priorities, too, and we're going to address those priorities. And you can do -- you can do those -- all of those priorities.

Q: So they'll have to wait?

Q: So there will be --

McCLELLAN: No, in terms of the -- you're asking about the congressional timetable. Congress -- the Senate has come back into session, the House has come back into session this week. The Senate has put out what their schedule is for this week. Right now they're focused first and foremost on Hurricane Katrina, and also on addressing some of the appropriations needs. And they've already put out their schedule, and so you ought to look at that schedule.

Q: Scott, given the failure of leadership in the first days of this crisis, and given your reticence to get rid of any of the people associated with that leadership --

McCLELLAN: Those are your words, not mine.

Q: -- wouldn't it be more appropriate to follow the suggestion of appointing somebody as the coordinator, overall coordinator for the relief effort who is not associated with that failed leadership? Probably a former retired military person who could more easily coordinate the logistics and the coordination between the military...

McCLELLAN: No, we're going to continue to work in support of those who are overseeing the operational activities, and we appreciate the job that the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Chertoff and all those at FEMA are doing to address the ongoing problems.Again, this is getting into trying to finger-point and play the blame game. This is not the time for that. There are people who are really in need. Terry was down there in the region. He saw what has happened to the people on the ground and how they have lost everything --

Q: I think they might want some answers, too.

McCLELLAN: -- and how they have lost everything they had.

Q: In addition to help, they might want some answers, too.

McCLELLAN: And they're going to get them. But now is not the time, Terry.

Q: No, it is the time, Scott.

Q: Scott, a follow up.

McCLELLAN: Go ahead --

Q: Did the Mayor or the Governor turn down any requests made by the administration?

McCLELLAN: Again, I think from this podium that we want to stay focused on ways we can work together, so I don't think it helps any situation to get into all those internal discussions that are going on, on issues of that nature. This isn't a time when people are trying to look at who's to blame, or try to shift responsibility. This is a time when we're all trying to work together to get things done.

Q: But that hasn't stopped you from suggesting pretty subtly that the local and state officials bear some responsibility.

McCLELLAN: Thank you for your comment. I'm trying to get to other questions here.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
  America? Are You Finally Awake...
Submitted by Schroeder830 on August 31, 2005 - 4:34pm.

(Note: this was not submitted to this site but Schroeder830, whoever that person may be, speaks what a lot of people would just love to scream out. I wish I could talk to you in person Schroeder830. Thanks.)

George W. Bush had it all planned out. September the 11th was close, he was brushing up on looking demure and grim. Well, Mr. Bush, you moron, look what you have done to this country. Our America. You have ruined this country, you have spent all of the money we have, we don't have the soldiers to help us in this great time of need. Your 9/11 looks like a walk in the park compared to this devestation.

You stupid stupid man, you have left us so vulnerable because you wanted to play cowboy and go to war.

I have never hated anyone in my life. But I hate you Mr. Bush. I hate everything you stand for. Mr. Bush, the world finally understands what you have done. YOU ARE HATED AROUND THIS WORLD FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE.

You can't leave office soon enough. I fear how much damage you will do in the meantime. How long did it take for you to look worried from the airplane? HOW MUCH ARE YOU GOING TO SELL THOSE PHOTOS FOR AT YOUR NEXT FUNDRAISING. YOU SOLD THE PICTURES OF YOURSELF DURING 9/11....TO RAISE MONEY TO SUPPORT YOUR AGENDA. YOU SICKO MR. BUSH YOU HAVE DONE SO MUCH DAMAGE TO THIS COUNTRY WE MAY NOT SURVIVE.













Samizdat: an underground system for the circulation of forbidden works of literature and political criticism in the Soviet era of Russia.

Location: Arkansas, United States

Angry, angry, angry ... but still, any day above ground is a good day.