Friday, March 10, 2006

Setting the Record Straight

First, thanks to Schroeder for posting both excerpts and an online link to a Harpers article focusing on Katrina and other disasters (you'll want to look at both: some of what PGR posted isn't available online).

Then, to contrast, take a look at this vile spew Steve Gilliard came across (scroll down to the post entitled Those shiftless, lazy people.

There's a whole lot to look at, particularly in the Harpers piece (if you've got the time, I urge you to read PGR and the actual link) , but I'll direct your attention to the following:

The most hellish image in New Orleans was not the battering waves of Lake Pontchartrain or even the homeless children wandering on raised highways. It was the forgotten thousands crammed into the fetid depths of the Superdome. And what most news outlets failed to report was that those infernos were not designed by the people within, nor did they represent the spontaneous eruption of nature red in tooth and claw. They were created by the authorities. The people within were not allowed to leave. The Convention Center and the Superdome became open prisons. “They won't let them walk out,” reported Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, in a radical departure from the script. “They got locked in there. And anyone who walks up out of that city now is turned around. You are not allowed to go to Gretna, Louisiana, from New Orleans, Louisiana. Over there, there's hope. Over there, there's electricity. Over there, there is food and water. But you cannot go from here to there. The government will not allow you to do it. It's a fact.” Jesse Jackson compared the Superdome to the hull of a slave ship. People were turned back at the Gretna bridge by armed authorities, men who fired warning shots over the growing crowd. Men in control. Lorrie Beth Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw, paramedics in New Orleans for a conference, wrote in an email report (now posted at CounterPunch) that they saw hundreds of stranded tourists thus turned back. “All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the city on foot.” That was not anarchy, nor was it civil society.

From Gilliard's link:
A Loveland lawmaker has been blasted by his colleagues for e-mailing an essay written by someone else that accused "welfare-pampered blacks" of waiting for the government to save them from Hurricane Katrina.

Rep. Jim Welker, a Republican, said Thursday morning that he forwarded the article because of its message about society victimizing people by making them dependent on government programs...

Excerpts from an essay by the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson posted Sept. 21, 2005, on

• "Say a hurricane is about to destroy the city you live in. What would you do? If you're black . . . you'll probably wait for the government to save you."

• "When 75 percent of New Orleans residents had left the city, it was primarily immoral, welfare-pampered blacks that stayed behind and waited for the government to bail them out."

• "About five years ago, in a debate before the National Association of Black Journalists, I stated that if whites were to just leave the United States and let blacks run the country, they would turn America into a ghetto within 10 years. (But) I gave blacks too much credit. It took a mere three days for blacks to turn the Superdome and the convention center into ghettos, rampant with theft, rape and murder."

• "Had New Orleans' black community taken action, most would have been out of harm's way. But most were too lazy, immoral and trifling to do anything productive for themselves."

• "Blacks are obligated to help themselves and not depend on the government to care for them. We are all obligated to tell them so."

I think I see why Solnit concluded with this:
This is the disaster our society has been working to realize for a quarter century, ever since Ronald Reagan rode into town on promises of massive tax cuts. Many of the stories we hear about sudden natural disasters are about the brutally selfish human nature of the survivors, predicated on the notion that survival is, like the marketplace, a matter of competition, not cooperation. Cooperation flourishes anyway. (Slonsky and Bradshaw were part of a large group that had set up a civilized, independent camp.) And when we look back at Katrina, we may see that the greatest savagery was that of our public officials, who not only failed to provide the infrastructure, social services, and opportunities that would have significantly decreased the vulnerability of pre-hurricane New Orleans but who also, when disaster did occur, put their ideology before their people.
Shrub: Not So Shiny Anymore

"Sorry, um, wrong manger."

The Conservative Epiphany

Bruce Bartlett, the author of "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," is an angry man. At a recent book forum at the Cato Institute, he declared that the Bush administration is "unconscionable," "irresponsible," "vindictive" and "inept."

It's no wonder, then, that one commentator wrote of Mr. Bartlett that "if he were a cartoon character, he would probably look like Donald Duck during one of his famous tirades, with steam pouring out of his ears."

Oh, wait. That's not what somebody wrote about Mr. Bartlett. It's what Mr. Bartlett wrote about me in September 2003, when I was saying pretty much what he's saying now.

Human nature being what it is, I don't expect Mr. Bartlett to acknowledge his about-face. Nor do I expect any expressions of remorse from Andrew Sullivan, the conservative blogger who also spoke at the Cato forum. Mr. Sullivan used to specialize in denouncing the patriotism and character of anyone who dared to criticize President Bush, whom he lionized. Now he himself has become a critic, not just of Mr. Bush's policies, but of his personal qualities, too.

Never mind; better late than never. We should welcome the recent epiphanies by conservative commentators who have finally realized that the Bush administration isn't trustworthy. But we should guard against a conventional wisdom that seems to be taking hold in some quarters, which says there's something praiseworthy about having initially been taken in by Mr. Bush's deceptions, even though the administration's mendacity was obvious from the beginning.

According to this view, if you're a former Bush supporter who now says, as Mr. Bartlett did at the Cato event, that "the administration lies about budget numbers," you're a brave truth-teller. But if you've been saying that since the early days of the Bush administration, you were unpleasantly shrill.

Similarly, if you're a former worshipful admirer of George W. Bush who now says, as Mr. Sullivan did at Cato, that "the people in this administration have no principles," you're taking a courageous stand. If you said the same thing back when Mr. Bush had an 80 percent approval rating, you were blinded by Bush-hatred.

And if you're a former hawk who now concedes that the administration exaggerated the threat from Iraq, you're to be applauded for your open-mindedness. But if you warned three years ago that the administration was hyping the case for war, you were a conspiracy theorist.

The truth is that everything the new wave of Bush critics has to say was obvious long ago to any commentator who was willing to look at the facts.

Mr. Bartlett's book is mainly a critique of the Bush administration's fiscal policy.

Well, the administration's pattern of fiscal dishonesty and irresponsibility was clear right from the start to anyone who understands budget arithmetic. The chicanery that took place during the selling of the 2001 tax cut — obviously fraudulent budget projections, transparently deceptive advertising about who would benefit and the use of blatant accounting gimmicks to conceal the plan's true cost — was as bad as anything that followed.

The false selling of the Iraq war was almost as easy to spot. All the supposed evidence for an Iraqi nuclear program was discredited before the war — and it was the threat of nukes, not lesser W.M.D., that stampeded Congress into authorizing Mr. Bush to go to war. The administration's nonsensical but insistent rhetorical linkage of Iraq and 9/11 was also a dead giveaway that we were being railroaded into an unnecessary war.

The point is that pundits who failed to notice the administration's mendacity a long time ago either weren't doing their homework, or deliberately turned a blind eye to the evidence.

But as I said, better late than never. Born-again Bush-bashers like Mr. Bartlett and Mr. Sullivan, however churlish, are intellectually and morally superior to the Bushist dead-enders who still insist that Saddam was allied with Al Qaeda, and will soon be claiming that we lost the war in Iraq because the liberal media stabbed the troops in the back. And reporters understandably consider it newsworthy that some conservative voices are now echoing longstanding liberal critiques of the Bush administration.

It's still fair, however, to ask people like Mr. Bartlett the obvious question: What took you so long?

"Vague déferlante vers le haut!"*

So, when will we be seeing professional assholes like Carl Cameron making up stories about Shrubian manicures or sniffling about his "exotic" hobbies?

President Bush said Friday he was troubled by the political storm that forced the reversal of a deal allowing a company in Dubai to take over take over operations of six American ports, saying it sent a bad message to U.S. allies in the Middle East.

Bush said the United States needs moderate allies in the Arab world, like the United Arab Emirates, to win the global war on terrorism.

The president said he had been satisfied that security would be sound at the ports if the Dubai deal had taken effect. "Nevertheless, Congress was still very much opposed to it," Bush said. He made his remarks to a conference of the National Newspaper Association, which represents owners, publishers and editors of community newspapers.

"I'm concerned about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies around the world, particularly in the Middle East," the president said. "In order to win the war on terror we have got to strengthen our friendships and relationships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East."

"UAE is a committed ally in the war on terror," Bush added. "They are a key partner for our military in a critical region, and outside of our own country, Dubai services more of our military, military ships, than any country in the world.

UAE=moderate? Hmmm...sort of like our ally Pakistan...

But it's interesting to watch Team Bush--for five years it was "you're either with us or..." Now, everything is gray...and kinda blurry...yet, the rabid attack dogs have turned out to be as fearsome as...neutered puppies.

Then again, re: no sneers from the red meat lunatics...I guess it'd be hard to make any Shrub windsurfing jokes when the guy can't even steer a Segway...

*According to Babelfish, French for "surf's up!"
You Didn't Say "No Square Wheels"

"Free Market" Mission Accomplished

From some guy who calls himself Atrios and World O'Crap, here are a few enlightening details of how the lean, mean, private market fulfills the mission--to the tune of $20 million tax dollars.

From WoC:
While working on a $21 million contract to safeguard Iraq's new currency as it was being distributed, Custer Battles set up shell companies through which to bill items needed for the contract so they could "inflate costs and create a mark-up in excess of that normally permitted under a cost-plus contract."

Custer Battles (CB) arranged for the forklifts used for moving Iraqi currency to be shown as being leased through their shell companies (at a cost of thousands of dollars per month per forklift). At least one of the forklifts (and perhaps as many as eight of them) had actually been "liberated" from Iraqi Airways. When it first set up shop at the airport, CB ordered its employees to confiscate the forklifts (which Iraqi Airways had been forced to abandon during the war), and paint over the Iraqi Airways insignia. The shell companies then made up lease documents so that the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) could be billed for CB's use of the equipment which CB had stolen appropriated.

From the WaPo:

During the trial, retired Brig. Gen. Hugh Tant III told jurors that Custer Battles's performance amounted to "probably the worst I've seen in my 30 years in the Army." Tant had been overseeing the firm's work on the currency conversion contract.

He testified that of the 36 trucks the firm supplied, 34 did not work. When he confronted Battles, he said Battles responded: "You asked for trucks and we complied with our contract and it is immaterial whether the trucks were operational."

That's what they call "supporting the troops."

Contrast that with a post from YRHT noting the 50th anniversary of a true government project: the interstate highway system. I'm guessing that if Custer Battles had worked on THAT, we'd still have a dirt road between NOLA and BR.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Silver Camp Cropper is the New Black Abu Ghraib

Hey, got any spare boxes?


Well, this gives me an excuse to link again to Freeway Blogger's Flash piece Iraq, The Musical...a good work about a horrible situation.
What's Next? A Toby Keith and Kayne West Duet?, bling.

A couple of days ago it was Ed Steimel, on behalf of the business community, announcing that the ship of state was either leaking badly or on a collision course with icebergs. Now, a populist part of the coalition is ready to carve Shrub a new one over his shrug after Hurricane Katrina:

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw blasted the Hurricane Katrina cleanup effort, with Hill calling the slow progress in Louisiana and Mississippi "embarrassing" and "humiliating."

The country music artists -- who are natives of the storm-ravaged states -- were at times close to tears, and clearly angry when the subject of Katrina came up during a news conference today. They had met with reporters in Nashville to promote their upcoming Soul2Soul II Tour, but when asked about the hurricane cleanup, the stars pulled no punches.

"To me, there's a lot of politics being played and a lot of people trying to put people in bad positions in order to further their agendas," McGraw, a 38-year-old native of Delhi, La., told ABC News Radio.

"When you have people dying because they're poor and black or poor and white, or because of whatever they are -- if that's a number on a political scale -- then that is the most wrong thing. That erases everything that's great about our country."

McGraw specifically criticized President Bush. "There's no reason why someone can't go down there who's supposed to be the leader of the free world … and say, 'I'm giving you a job to do and I'm not leaving here until it's done. And you're held accountable, and you're held accountable, and you're held accountable.

"'This is what I've given you to do, and if it's not done by the time I get back on my plane, then you're fired and someone else will be in your place. '"...

Hill, who grew up in Jackson, Miss., echoed those sentiments. So overwhelmed, she uncharacteristically unleashed an epithet, calling the situation, "Bull- - - -"

"It is a huge, huge problem and it's embarrassing," she said.

"I fear for our country if we can't handle our people [during] a natural disaster. And I can't stand to see it. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out point A to point B. . . . And they can't even skip from point A to point B.

"It's just screwed up."

Now, to be fair, Smirk-Chimp actually bothered to visit areas New Orleans that were actually damaged by the storm--although PGR's comments are my sentiments too (short version: it's ABOUT TIME, goddamnit). And he's requesting that the latest trickle of recovery money be spent in New Orleans, where the greatest damage was.

Billy Graham also was in NOLA, and, sadly, is probably correct when he says, "This is a far greater disaster than the average American understands." Um, yes reverend--although the country might have a greater apprecation of the disaster if the national leadership hadn't spent SIX FUCKING MONTHS GOING OUT OF THEIR WAY TO IGNORE IT.

But, I digress. Back to the topic: No, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill aren't the Dixie Chicks, but their public statements to the effect that Team Bush is full of shit will, to be fair, resonate with far more of the public than, say, my blog. And that sort of damage to the PotemkinRovian pResident can't be fixed by bumping up the terror color code (besides, the "New, Nuanced Shrub," who's "fully prepared" to sell our ports to UAE can't exactly go back to hatemongering the "A"-rabs just yet: that sort of flip-flop would almost qualify the dauphin for the political equivalent of a Darwin Award).

You know, I sometimes wondered if it wasn't better for Team Bush to weasel their way into a 2004 electoral victory...because when shit and fan made their fateful, and inevitable meeting, there'd be no way to pin blame on the media, the Democrats, or whatever object of hate Rove managed to conjure. And that's whats happening right now...although there's a double edged sword: Iraq continues to fester, NOLA and the Gulf Coast are in desperate straits (oh, and in case ANYONE thinks Gulf Coast residents are merely looking for a handout: check this out. Excerpt:

TOM BEARDEN: Some Domino workers are trying to get out of the park and move on with their lives. Kenny Dessells goes to his former home practically every day after work. He's now rewiring the place, but only after shoveling out three feet of mud laced with dissolved drywall and the occasional poisonous snake.

KENNY DESSELLS: We're on eight-hour shifts now, which gives me the ability to, when I get off of work, I just come straight here. And I work until I'm tired, pretty much another 10 hours maybe, and go back to my trailer, and bathe up, eat, and do it again. And I've been doing this for about close to three months now.

I'm guessing people like McGraw and Hill see things like this--and wonder, like me, why it isn't matched by a NATIONAL COMMITTMENT of the kind that Shrub actually made back in September. As for me, though, yet another visit is just another visit until we see proof of genuine focus on the task at hand.

A while back, I suggested a dollar-for-dollar match with the money devoted to war. I still think that's a good idea. And let's let those who argue otherwise EXPLAIN why a country in Central Asia is more important than the United States (and--not that I'm hoping for this, but--if THEY ever suffer from a natural catastrophe, let their words be used against them).
Fold 'em?


Is it just me, or does anyone else suspect that DPW "bowing out" of the port deal and "handing over control" to an American entity is just so much shady dealing and book cooking a la Enron and Halliburton's offshore subsidiaries?

Hell, I wouldn't be all that surprised if either company ended up in the driver's seat--well, actually Enron would be about as long a shot as there is. Halliburton, though, is a different story...

And there's no way this will fade from the headlines, which is good, politically speaking: Team Shrub, meet your petard. Commence hoist.

(Juan Cole and Hullabaloo have more on this topic).
I'll Have Some of Whatever Rumsfeld's Smoking

"There might be dozens of universes right here in my fingernails, and there's no Iraq Civil War in any of THEM."

Talk about leaving reality. Rummy, Rice, and Pace are officially on the other size of the event horizon:

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that despite a surge in sectarian violence in Iraq, the process of creating a stable government is proceeding satisfactorily.

Rumsfeld was pressed to explain the U.S. military's plan to respond in the event that Iraq's sectarian violence grows into a full-fledged civil war.

"The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent one were to occur, to have the — from a security standpoint — have the Iraqi security forces deal with it, to the extent they are able to," Rumsfeld said...

In her opening remarks to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Rice said most Iraqis are convinced that their hopes for a stable and secure nation will succeed despite the persistent insurgency.

Could we please put these people in a position they're actually qualified for?

"Would you like Freedom Fries with that?"

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Camp Kafka

"and Rummy, you're doing a heckuva job."

Your tax dollars, and the reputation of your nation as being one of laws, not men, at work and in tatters, respectively:

This has been our nightmare since the Bush administration began stashing prisoners it did not want to account for in Guantánamo Bay: An ordinary man with a name something like a Taliban bigwig's is swept up in the dragnet and imprisoned without any hope of proving his innocence.

A case of mistaken identity's turning an innocent person into a prisoner-for-life was supposed to be impossible. President Bush told Americans to trust in his judgment after he arrogated the right to arrest anyone, anywhere in the world, and toss people into indefinite detention. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld infamously proclaimed that the men at Guantánamo Bay were "the worst of the worst."

But it has long been evident that this was nonsense, and a lawsuit by The Associated Press has now demonstrated the truth in shameful detail. The suit compelled the release of records from hearings for some of the 760 or so men who have been imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay. (About 490 are still there.) Far too many show no signs of being a threat to American national security. Some, it appears, did nothing at all. And they have no way to get a fair hearing because Gitmo was created outside the law.

Take the case of Abdur Sayed Rahman, as recounted in Monday's Times. The transcripts quote Mr. Rahman as saying he was arrested in his Pakistani village in January 2002, flown to Afghanistan, accused of being the Taliban's deputy foreign minister and then thrown into a cell in Guantánamo Bay. "I am only a chicken farmer in Pakistan," he said, adding that the Taliban official was named Abdur Zahid Rahman.

Other cases included prisoners who owned a particular kind of cheap watch supposedly favored by Al Qaeda. An Afghan was accused of being the former Taliban governor of a province and subjected to a pretzel logic that would make Joseph Heller cringe. He said he was a different person entirely and asked the tribunal to contact the current governor and verify his story. The presiding officer refused, saying it was up to the prisoner to produce the evidence. The incarcerated Afghan then pointed out that he was being held virtually incommunicado in a United States prison in a remote corner of Cuba and not allowed to make calls. The presiding officer assured the prisoner that he would have plenty of time to write a letter — during the year of continued detention before his case might be reviewed again.

Some of the prisoners proudly proclaimed their allegiance to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. But far too many seemed to be innocents or lowly foot soldiers simply caught up in the whirlwind after 9/11.

Because Mr. Bush does not recognize that American law or international treaties apply to his decisions as commander in chief, these prisoners were initially not given hearings. The transcripts are from proceedings that were begun under a court order. They started years after the prisoners were originally captured — a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. And they were conducted under rules that mock any notion of democratic justice.

Prisoners do not see the evidence against them and barely have access to legal counsel. Now, thanks to a horrible law sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Carl Levin, a Democrat, they have virtually no right of appeal. The law even permits the use of evidence obtained by torture.

If the stories of the chicken farmer and the men with the wrong watches are new, the broad outlines of this disaster have long been visible. It is shocking in itself, and in the fact that average citizens have not risen up to demand that these abuses come to an end. The founding fathers knew that when you dispensed with the rule of law, the inevitable outcome was injustice. Now America is becoming the thing they sought to end.
Shrub Makes a Discovery

"You've got a pile of stuff here," the president remarked at one point, watching from a mold-infested pink duplex as a small bulldozer shoved a mattress, toys, a cooking pot, several pairs of blue jeans, a single brown shoe...a pair of women's underwear--and his reputation and legacy--down the street.
New Twist on an Old Fad

Seems like You Don't Know Jack is all the rage in DC these days (.pdf).

TPM has a few highlights:

Opening with a double-page bleed-to-the-edge photo of a smiling Jack Abramoff golfing with Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), the April issue of Vanity Fair (hitting next week) devotes nine pages to the disgraced lobbyist and his attempts to set the record straight. Paticularly on all those who have forsaken him:

President Bush, who claims not to remember meeting Abramoff - the lobbyist says Bush once joked with him, "What are you benching, buff guy?"

RNC Chair Ken Mehlman, who said he didn't really know Abramoff - it turns out he had Sabbath dinner at Abramoff's house, did him political favors, and even offered to pay Abramoff's tab at Signatures, the lobbyist's restaurant.

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), who says Abramoff never influenced him - "Every appropriation we wanted [from Burns' committee] we got. Our staffs were as close as they could be. They practically used Signatures as their cafeteria."

Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose spokesman says Newt wouldn't have known Abramoff "if he fell across him" - "I have more pictures of [Newt] than I have of my wife."

Come to think of it, Ken Mehlman could reprise Paul Reubens/Pee Wee Herman's hosting of the TV Show...
We Interrupt Our Regular Programming...

"You--back to the wall of the damned where you belong."

Sources close to the Supreme Being, aka God, YHWH, Allah, Jehovah, etc., etc., etc., et al, reveal a distinct displeasure from on high towards one Tony Blair:

Terry Jones
A high-level leak has revealed that God is "furious" at Tony Blair's attempts to implicate him in the bombing of Iraq. Sources close to the archangel Gabriel report him as describing the Almighty as "hopping mad ... with sanctimonious yet unscrupulous politicians claiming He would condone their bestial activities when He has no way of going public Himself, owing to the MMW agreement" (a reference to the long-established Moving in Mysterious Ways concordat)...

"If Tony Blair thinks his friendship with George W Bush is worth rubbing out a couple of hundred thousand Iraqi men, women and children, then that's something he can talk over with me later," said God. "But when he starts publicly claiming that's the way I do the arithmetic too, it's time I put my foot down!" It is well known that God has a very big foot.

A source says Gabriel has spent days trying to dissuade the Almighty from loosing a plague of toads upon the Blair family. Gabriel reminded God that Cherie and the children had nothing to do with Tony's decisions. God's response, it is reliably reported, was: "Blair says the Iraqis are lucky to have got bombed, so how can he complain if his family gets a few toads in the bath?"

The archangel is said to be ticked off with God's ability to provide glib answers without even thinking.

What has particularly incensed the Almighty is that Mr Blair made the claim on the Parkinson show. "If he'd done it on Richard and Judy I could have forgiven a lot," He is reported to have said.

The archangel reported that the Almighty has become increasingly irritated with the vogue for politicians to claim that He is behind their policies - especially if these involve killing large numbers of humans. According to Gabriel, God spake these words: "That George W Bush once had the nerve to say: 'God told me to go end the tyranny in Iraq, and I did.' Well, let me tell you I did no such thing! If I'd wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein, I could have given him pneumonia. I didn't need the president of the United States to send in hundreds of heavy bombers and thousands of missiles to destroy Iraq - even though I appreciate that Halliburton needed to fill its order books."

"How do Bush and Blair think it makes me look to all those parents who have lost sons and daughters in this grubby business? Don't they know that the Muslims they're taking out worship the same Me that they do? It's a public relations disaster that ought to set Christianity back hundreds of years. Though knowing the fundamentalists, it'll probably have the reverse effect."

The archangel further revealed that he had been advised by no less a person than Alastair Campbell to warn God to keep out of politics. "But it's hard to get God to do anything He doesn't want to," sighed the archangel. "It's all to do with what He calls 'free will', though a lot of us have a problem working that one out, since He's omnipotent and omniscient."

God, the archangel says, is also disturbed by Mr Blair's remark that while religious beliefs might colour his politics, "it's best not to take it too far".

"How would he like it if I went round claiming that he gave me his full backing when I sent the tsunami last year?"
Your 1959 "Brand New" Levees

Just look at that grille. And when you open the hood? Why, there's enough space to put in a bowling alley! And how about the push-button, Power-Glide™ transmission? You hardly feel like you're driving at all:

Weather data showing the need to raise the height of levees to defend New Orleans against stronger hurricanes was not incorporated in Army Corps of Engineers designs, even though the agency was informed of the new calculations as early as 1972, government records show.

The heights of floodwalls and levees now being rebuilt by the corps are based on research for a likely worst-case storm done in 1959. When new weather service research in the 1970s increased the size and intensity of that storm and its projected surges, the corps stuck to its original design specifications when work began in the 1980s, including for structures that failed during Hurricane Katrina.

Corps headquarters officials in Washington did not respond to requests for comment. New Orleans District engineers now involved in reassessing the area's hurricane protection system said the lack of changes in the past probably can be traced the corps' legal restriction to building only what Congress authorizes.

"I can only guess, but what I think you'll find is that since the authorization (in the legislation) never changed, then the people involved felt they couldn't change" design specifications, said Janis Hote, a corps engineer who, like most of the local staff, was not involved in those earlier projects.

Had the changes been incorporated in corps planning starting in 1972, they almost certainly would have resulted in higher or stronger structures in some areas, hurricane researchers said. Though the project was authorized in 1965, financing problems and court battles delayed much of the construction until 1982, and the designs for many structures that failed during Katrina were not completed until the late 1980s and early '90s.

In 1965, Congress authorized the corps to develop a system to protect the New Orleans area from "the most severe meteorological conditions that are considered reasonably characteristic of the region," giving birth to the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project.

Limited range of storms

To determine what those conditions were, the corps relied on a study of worst-case hurricanes developed by the Weather Bureau -- today the National Weather Service -- for the East Coast and the Gulf Coast. The Weather Bureau looked only at storms that occurred between 1900 and 1957 for the New Orleans area.

That search produced the hypothetical standard project hurricane for New Orleans, which was adopted by the corps, with some revisions, as the basis of its levee and floodwall designs. It had a central pressure of at least 27.6 inches of mercury, maximum sustained winds of 100 mph in a radius of at least 30 miles, and a forward speed of between 4 and 28 mph. And it had a 1 in 200 chance of occurring in any year.

Wonder if the new levees will have cool tail fins...?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

NOLA, By Any Other Name...

...would be just as unique.

From Humid Haney, a link to some really extraordinary photographs by Frank Relle that remind me of why I moved back to the Gret Stet. Yeah, a combination of lighting effects and exposure times are directly responsible for what you see; however, the images really capture the electricity I feel during a Louisiana evening--something I've yet to experience anywhere else.

Even during the worst of the heat and summer humidity, a Gret Stet night can be a real treat for the senses--or at least a short respite between blistering days. There's nothing else like it...
Last Hurrah?

This time, next year? One can always hope...

"Bugs" DeLay is spending primary election DC with lobbyists. I guess there's an adage about old dogs and new tricks that's applicable:

Rep. Tom DeLay, whose association with lobbyist Jack Abramoff has left him politically vulnerable, is spending Texas' primary night Tuesday at a fundraiser hosted by two Washington lobbyists.

DeLay faces three opponents in the Republican primary. For the first time in the 22 years he's held office, he is up against a serious challenge after being forced out of his job as House majority leader amid corruption and campaign finance scandals...

DeLay is awaiting trial in Texas on money laundering charges stemming from an investigation of corporate contributions to that committee.

Questions also have been raised about DeLay's relationship with Abramoff, who pleaded guilty in January in a federal political corruption investigation. DeLay traveled with Abramoff and other lobbyists to Scotland in 2000. He also used the lobbyist's skybox for a donor appreciation event and has accepted contributions from Abramoff and his clients.
He's Fallen and He Can't Get Up

A friend just passed along a letter that appeared in yesterday's Advocate, the local BR rag. It was a not-so-measured criticism of one Shrub W. Bush...actually, that's not too surprising: the local paper is conservative, to be sure, but does a fair to middling job of presenting plenty of views on the Op-Ed and letter page...

But this one is a little different. It was written by Ed Steimel, the former president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI)--not exactly a bleeding heart group, as my friend put it. And, thanks to my old copy of Photoshop, I'm able to pass the letter on in its original form:

Click for larger image.

When a Shrub fails and falls in his second term...and when a former president of LABI goes on the record with comparisons to drunken sailors--and admits he never considered the man "very smart"--well, I'd say a significant part of "the base" has pretty much eroded away like so much Gret Stet coastline.

Shrub is Republicanese for FAILURE.
"Perfectly Tweaked"

Original here.
Committment to "Democracy"


New Orleans

From Think Progress:

The upcoming New Orleans mayoral primary faces logistical problems because “tens of thousands of evacuees are still scattered across the country and eligible to cast ballots in the April 22 election, either by mail or at satellite polling places around the state.”

An estimated 75 percent of the New Orleans Parish’s displaced voters are African-American, and serious questions remain about how African-American voters will be adequately represented in the primary.

The NAACP estimates that “66 percent of those displaced are outside of Louisiana,” but a federal judge last month refused to “order Louisiana officials to provide out-of-state satellite polling places for displaced voters” in the primary. Instead, over 700,000 former city residents will receive “information packets” about how to vote by absentee ballot. (Worse, the address the city has on file may be unreliable.)

In response, local leaders have wondered why Iraqis living in the U.S. were given this right, yet African-Americans are not. “[Louisiana] had all kinds of excuses why that couldn’t happen,” New Orleans City Council President Oliver M. Thomas Jr. said. “But the Iraqi people voted [at satellite offices]. Why can’t we do that for all of our voters?“

Monday, March 06, 2006

Compare and Contrast

Small brain, long memory:

Although they have brains about the size of a grain of rice, hummingbirds have superb memories when it comes to food, according to research on Monday...

The research, reported in the journal Current Biology, suggests they not only remember their food sources but can plan with a certain amount of precision.

Small brain, um...

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach in the levees."
You Just Can't Make This Shit Up

From the department of what-would-be-ironic-if-it-wasn't-just-crass...and-a-little-sick:

Two Iraqi women whose husbands and children were killed by US troops during the Iraq war have been refused entry into the United States for a speaking tour. The women were invited to the US for peace events surrounding international women’s by the human rights group Global Exchange and the women’s peace group CODEPINK.

...the reason given for the rejection was that the women don’t have enough family in Iraq to prove that they’ll return to the country...

The women whose visa applications were rejected are Anwar Kadhim Jawad and Vivian Salim Mati. They had to make a dangerous journey to Amman, Jordan just to apply for the visas and were told on February 4th that they’d been rejected. On February 14th, CODEPINK was informed by the US State Department that the women “failed to overcome the presumption of intending to emigrate.” But the group suspects that other factors influenced the State Department’s decision. “I remember how we all cried when we heard Anwar tell her story about losing her husband and three of her children,” said Jodie Evans of CODEPINK, who met with Anwar in 2004 in Baghdad. “If the American people heard these stories, their image of the Iraq war would be completely different. I suppose that’s why the state department does not want her to come here.”

Anwar’s husband and their four children were driving down the road from their house in Baghdad one day when they were suddenly caught in a hail of bullets from US soldiers. There was no checkpoint and no warning before their car was attacked. Anwar's husband, son and two daughters were shot dead. Only Anwar, who was pregnant at the time, and her 14-year-old daughter, survived. The US Army compensated her with $11,000, but her loss is incalculable and her grief immeasurable.

As Anwar told Susan Galleymore, a US military mother who visited Iraq in 2004, “In my family, like many Iraqi families, the husband takes care of all the family business. My job is to care for the well being of the family inside the house while my husband’s job is to care for every thing else. This is the way we do it in Iraq. Now, I have no husband. I have no income. I have no house anymore. I live with my parents and these two children. Everything else is gone. I will never recover.”

Vivian Salim Mati, the other woman whose visa was rejected, lost her husband and children when they decided to flee their home when the US military began bombing their neighborhood three days after they first entered Baghdad. Vivian grabbed their children and jumped in the car. Her husband was driving, and their three children were sitting in the back. They were driving down a side street when they crossed paths with a US tank. The US soldier atop the tank began shooting at them. Vivian's husband and three children were killed right away. Vivian was hurt but still alive. She got out of the car, screaming, 'Help! Help!', but the soldiers just kept shooting. Miraculously, Vivian survived but she carries her grief with her every day.

WIIIAI provided the link.
Here's to the State of South Dakota*

Even as their wingnut dreams of flightsuited, codpieced, Mission Accomplished, manly prancings on aircraft carrier decks become just so much battiness from the past, they'll continue to ramrod their own fundie agenda here at home:

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds signed a bill Monday that bans nearly all abortions in the state, legislation in direct conflict with the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973.

The new law defines life as originating "at the time of conception."

I'm guessing most of y'all stopping by already know the particulars of the bill: EXPLICITLY NO EXCEPTIONS for rape or incest, and only the tiniest, grudging allowance for abortion in the event a woman's life is in danger.

As for life originating "at the time of conception," well, FDL once again notes something YRHT posted about a while back:

...between 60 and 80 percent of all naturally conceived embryos are simply flushed out in a woman's normal menstrual cycle in the first 7 days after fertilization.

Those who take what Amanda Marcotte correctly calls the anti-women position (because they're NOT "pro-life") never mention this. They never piously fall upon their knees in prayer, they never write long-winded paeans, in fact they don't do a goddamned thing...which speaks volumes.

Their overriding concern has been, and always will be, limiting the rights of women, and faux concern for "the unborn child" is merely a convenient mask.

Hullabaloo has more on this as well.
Potemkin Flood Walls

Heckuva job:

The Army Corps of Engineers seems likely to fulfill a promise by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans's toppled flood walls to their original, pre-Katrina height by June 1, but two teams of independent experts monitoring the $1.6 billion reconstruction project say large sections of the rebuilt levee system will be substantially weaker than before the hurricane hit.

These experts say the Corps, racing to rebuild 169 miles of levees destroyed or damaged by Katrina, is taking shortcuts to compress what is usually a years-long construction process into a few weeks. They say that weak, substandard materials are being used in some levee walls, citing lab tests as evidence. And they say the Corps is deferring repairs to flood walls that survived Katrina but suffered structural damage that could cause them to topple in a future storm.

I'm not all that surprised. The administration is presently juggling a Potemkin economy, a Potemkin occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, they've got Potemkin research why not Potemkin floodwalls?

A more significant line of defense--the natural ecosystem of barrier islands, marshes and wetlands--took a, no pun intended, heckuva hit:

Rita and Katrina washed away or flooded about 118 square miles of wetlands, or about 75,500 acres.

And, as expected, sadly, bodies are still being recovered:

Three days after firefighters inspected a storm-damaged home spray-painted with "0" -- indicating no bodies inside -- cadaver dogs led searchers to a victim of Hurricane Katrina in the attic.

Before dying, the man apparently was trying to crawl out of an air-conditioning vent to escape rising floodwaters, said Dr. Louis Cataldie, Louisiana's medical examiner.

Cataldie said searchers expect to find up to 400 more bodies of storm victims still hidden inside New Orleans homes six months after the storm.

Today's check of the White House website shows no change from Friday, when they went into full, also no pun intended, stonewall mode (if only we could use them in New Orleans). I guess that'll change come Wednesday--Shrub's scheduled to visit the region for another set of photo-ops...the political equivalent of just more empty calories.

You know, that's an empty calories.