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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Saturday, 17 September 2005

Topic: Backgrounder

Meanwhile: Items Not Covered

As the week ended one must note there was much in the news that deserved comment, but domestic matters sucked all the air out of the room. There was that other hurricane, Ophelia, which flooded the North Carolina coast and will hit Halifax by late Sunday. But what's to say? The war in Iraq is still there, and the bombings were worse than ever. Saturday a car bomb explosion at a market near Baghdad killed at least thirty, "as violence continues to escalate in Iraq." Tuesday the 14th it was 182 folks in one bombing in Baghdad alone. Is that then a decrease by the weekend? And one analyst says Iraq's violence is not yet civil war - while another says it is. Does it matter what you call it?

Then there were the hearings to determine if John Roberts is fit to be the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. That was painful to watch. Rosa Ehrenreich Brooks, a law professor, in the Los Angeles Times, Saturday, September 17, with this -
John G. Roberts Jr. emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings as practically the only person who did not look like an ideologue or a blithering idiot.

... Still, the official liberal response appears to be that we shouldn't believe anything Roberts says because he'll say anything to get confirmed.

The cynics have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Think about it: Unless Roberts is captured on television kicking a wheelchair-bound hurricane victim, he's going to be confirmed, and we knew this well before the hearings began. He had no particular incentive to make nice to the Democrats on the committee - and he could have made far more stridently conservative statements, with little consequence.

Yet he chose, on the whole, to be conciliatory and nonconfrontational, making a surprising number of statements that even appeared to confound some on the far right.
She suggests for those on the left, this is a question of picking one's battles. This one isn't the one. The next may be.

Matters in Germany are covered elsewhere, but early in the week Ric in Paris sent along an AP item in French - José Bové is thinking about running France - or running for the office. For those of you who follow such things, it seems we may see a Gallic Red States versus Blue States thing playing itself out there. Cool. Sarkozy, the French free-market-screw-the-needy-law-and-order man, will run. Bové - the burn-down-McDo guy - may run. Chirac is just out of hospital and cannot travel, so suave Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is being coy - in Manhattan to sub for the ailing Chriac at the summit - but HE may run. This is interesting. Will the French choose the Bush-like guy, or go for the leftie environmentalist, or settle for the old-line smoothie intellectual? Laurent Fabius, at last weekend's La fête de l'Humanité, tried to revive the commies 9 and someone throws an egg at him (direct hit). Lots of fun. See the RFI Press Summary of Monday, September 12, 2005 - "Communist L'HUMANITÉ is all smiles, celebrating the weekend's sixtieth edition of the annual left-wing political party, La fête de l'Humanité, which attracted 600,000 socialists for three days of music and politics in the Paris suburb of La Courneuve. Laurent Fabius showed up to convince the faithful that he is the man to reunite the fragmented forces of the Left. He got an egg on the head for his trouble." Troubles everywhere.

That UN summit in New York? Not much happened, perhaps due to our new UN ambassador, John Bolton. Bush gave a speech, but everyone forgot what he said because this picture got everyone's attention.

And what to make of this?

Chavez: U.S. Plans to Invade Venezuela
Associated Press, AP Friday, September 16, 2005
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday he has documentary evidence that the United States plans to invade his country.

Chavez, interviewed on ABC's "Nightline," said the plan is called "Balboa" and involves aircraft carriers and planes. A transcript of the interview was made available by "Nightline."

He said U.S. soldiers recently went to Curacao, an island off Venezuela's northwest coast. He described as a "lie" the official U.S. explanation that they visited Curacao for rest and recreation.

"They were doing movements. They were doing maneuvers," Chavez said, speaking through a translator.

He added: "We are coming up with the counter-Balboa plan. That is to say if the government of the United States attempts to commit the foolhardy enterprise of attacking us, it would be embarked on a 100-year war. We are prepared."

Chavez has been attending the summit of world leaders at the United Nations in New York this week. On Thursday, he denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq and told other leaders they should consider moving the U.N. headquarters out of the United States.

To prove U.S. intentions to invade Venezuela, Chavez offered to send "Nightline" host Ted Koppel maps and other documentation.

"What I can't tell you is how we got it, to protect the sources, how we got it through military intelligence," he said.

In the event of a U.S. invasion, Chavez said the United States can "just forget" about receiving any more oil from his country. ...
Yes, they supply thirteen percent of our oil. There's more here in the Los Angeles Times under the headline "Frustrated U.S. Finds Few Willing to Join Anti-Chavez Coalition" with the subhead "Washington's agenda in the region proves less appealing than cheap Venezuelan oil." In short, we're trying to form a coalition of nations to the south of us to oppose him - even if he was elected three times and all his referendums pass by a wide margin. No one wants to join. They get relatively cheap oil. And his own population seems to like his emphases on reducing poverty and improving education and health, while we focus on free trade and terrorism. Oh well.

By the way, Iran this week says it will share nuclear technology with other like-minded countries in the Middle East, and the talks with North Korea, to get them to stop their nuclear weapons program, fell apart. You could look it up, along with the rioting in Northern Ireland even though there seems to have been some agreement to stop all that.

Israel pulled out of Gaza and then this: Palestinian police move to stop chaos on Gaza border (Reuters, 16 September) -
Hundreds of Palestinian policemen were sent to Gaza's border with Egypt on Friday to stop thousands from flowing across a frontier barrier which Palestinians breached and overran after Israel's pullout.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to stop the crossings, which added to growing lawlessness in Gaza in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from the territory after 38 years of occupation.

"We and our Egyptian brothers are trying now to close these holes and control the movement of people through the border and things will hopefully be under control within two to three days," he told the Palestinian government-run Wafa news agency.

Palestinians also stormed evacuated Gaza settlements after Israeli troops left, smashing structures and looting.

Internal violence has raged in Gaza in recent months as a result of rivalries between armed factions and frustrations over alleged government corruption.

Abbas has struggled to control militants who have taken over streets and gained power in the territory, claiming Israel's pullout as their victory.

He has warned that chaos will not be tolerated but has not specified how he plans to combat it. Israel and Washington demand he disarm militants but Abbas has preferred to try to co-opt the armed groups, who have vowed never to give up their weapons. ...
And so it goes.

But don't forget New Zealand. See New Zealanders cast votes in knife-edge election (Reuters, 16 September) -
New Zealanders were voting on Saturday in a tight election which opinion polls suggested was too close to call after a rough and tumble campaign.

New Zealand's 2.9 million voters have a choice of 19 parties ranging from Prime Minister Helen Clark's Labour and the main opposition National Party to the pro-marijuana Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and the anti-monarchist Republican Party.

Polls opened at 9 a.m. (1700 EDT Friday) at 2,700 voting stations across the southwest Pacific island nation.

Opinion polls suggested one of the tightest contests in New Zealand history as Clark's centre-left party seeks a third straight term over conservative National, led by former central banker Don Brash. ...
A Cannabis Party? Interesting. But it's already over - "New Zealand's ruling Labour Party appears to have won a narrow victory in elections, but will need the support of minor parties to form a government." Maybe this Cannabis Party will help them out.

What else you might have missed? The Oxford conference on Einstein, God and Time.

Face to faith
Can God know the future? It probably depends on whether you believe in a block universe or process theology, writes Tim Radford
The Guardian (UK), Saturday September 17, 2005
The question is simple enough: can God know the future? Every word in that question is a challenge, including "can" and "the". But cosmic physicists and theologians tackled it head on this week, at an Oxford conference on Einstein, God and Time. It was backed by the Ian Ramsey Centre, part of the university's theology faculty. It also had the backing of the university's Clarendon laboratory, which changed the face of 20th-century physics. And it was a clash of two big ideas, put variously as the "block universe" and "process theology".

The first sees the universe as a lump of spacetime embedded in eternity, with God on the outside, looking down on past, present and future, all simultaneously fizzing with probabilities on scales ranging from the subatomic to the intergalactic. The other proposition sees God as involved in the universe, sustaining it and making things happen, although not necessarily directly. ...
Read on at your own risk.

It was quite a week.

Posted by Alan at 12:31 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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Monday, 12 September 2005

Topic: Backgrounder

Race: Here we go again…

Our columnist Bob Patterson, last Sunday, in his World's Laziest Journalist column approached the issue of how much race seemed to have played a part in the response of the Federal response to the hurricane that devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. Bob's style is often more forceful than analytical - perhaps it's the Irish in him - and it might be time to investigate, in some detail, what seems to be shaping up to be a reopening of a racial divide in America, or perhaps more accurately, an uncovering of a divide that has always existed and now has been exposed, one more time.

First there is public opinion. Two new polls show President Bush's approval ratings at all-time lows. No news there, even if Suzanne Malveaux and Wolf Blitzer on CNN on Monday, September 12, claimed that Bush's poll numbers are going up. (See this on Blitzer saying, "Bush's stepped-up response to the Katrina disaster may be helping to push up his poll numbers." He either doesn't understand statistics, or he's lying to make someone or other feel better.") The facts? The AP-Ipsos poll has Bush at a thirty-nine percent job approval rating, and the Newsweek poll has him slightly lower - at thirty-eight percent. Newsweek also points out this is the first time since 9/11 that a clear majority of Americans disapprove of how Bush is handling terrorism and homeland security. Why? Perhaps the slow, disorganized federal response to Katrina has blemished his image - and that of the whole Republican Party. Its seems the AP-Ipsos poll notes that a full sixty-five percent of us think the country is on the wrong track while Newsweek notes that only thirty-eight percent of registered voters now say they would vote for a Republican if the Congressional elections were held today. Exactly fifty percent of registered voters say they would vote for a Democrat. But the most interesting nugget in the AP-Ipsos poll - while there fifty-two percent disapprove of Bush's handling of hurricane relief, seventy-eight percent of blacks blamed the president for the poor response, compared with forty-nine percent of whites.

What's up with that?

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller on Monday, September 12, explains in Gulf Coast Isn't the Only Thing Left in Tatters; Bush's Status With Blacks Takes Hit

Bumiller has a reputation for writing puff pieces on how cool George is, and such a fine guy, but she knows trouble when she sees it, and she cites a third poll:
From the political perspective of the White House, Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than an enormous swath of the Gulf Coast. The storm also appears to have damaged the carefully laid plans of Karl Rove, President Bush's political adviser, to make inroads among black voters and expand the reach of the Republican Party for decades to come.

Many African-Americans across the country said they seethed as they watched the television pictures of the largely poor and black victims of Hurricane Katrina dying for food and water in the New Orleans Superdome and the convention center. A poll released last week by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center bore out that reaction as well as a deep racial divide: Two-thirds of African-Americans said the government's response to the crisis would have been faster if most of the victims had been white, while 77 percent of whites disagreed.

The anger has invigorated the president's critics. Kanye West, the rap star, raged off-script at a televised benefit for storm victims that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said in Miami last week that Americans "have to come to terms with the ugly truth that skin color, age and economics played a significant role in who survived and who did not."
Of course the White House says this is so very unfair, and kind of unseemly. Bumiller refers to Laura Bush in an interview with the American Urban Radio Network: "I think all of those remarks were disgusting, to be perfectly frank. Of course President Bush cares about everyone in our country." (Covered here by the Associated Press - "And I know that. I mean, I'm the person who lives with him. I know what he's like and I know what he thinks and I know how he cares about people.")

She's selling. Is anyone buying?

Bumiller also quotes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the administration's most well-known African-American - "Nobody, especially the president, would have left people unattended on the basis of race." And Rice said that while on her way to where she grew up - Alabama - to attend a church service, of course.

Heck, Condoleezza Rice also told the New York Times on Monday that "the hurricane disaster that disproportionately struck poor blacks in New Orleans 'gives us an opportunity' to rectify historic injustices that she experienced as an African-American growing up in the South."

Heck, she's black, isn't she? And it's a great opportunity.

As they said over at Wonkette: "Finally an opportunity to rectify those injustices. The administration had been brainstorming on this for years."

Meanwhile, back at the ranch - actually the White House (Crawford Texas East) - Bumiller paints a different picture:
But behind the scenes in the West Wing, there has been anxiety and scrambling - after an initial misunderstanding, some of the president's advocates say, of the racial dimension to the crisis.

One of Mr. Bush's prominent African-American supporters called the White House to say he was aghast at the images from the president's first trip to the region, on Sept. 2, when Mr. Bush stood next to Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama, both white Republicans, and praised them for a job well done. Mr. Bush did not go into the heart of New Orleans to meet with black victims.

"I said, 'Grab some black people who look like they might be preachers,' " said the supporter, who asked not to be named because he did not want to be identified as criticizing the White House. Three days later, on Mr. Bush's next trip to the region, the president appeared in Baton Rouge at the side of T. D. Jakes, the conservative African-American television evangelist and the founder of a 30,000-member megachurch in southwest Dallas.

Bishop Jakes, a multimillionaire and best-selling author, is to deliver the sermon this Friday at the Washington National Cathedral, his office said, where Mr. Bush will mark a national day of prayer for Hurricane Katrina's victims. The bishop's style of preaching is black Pentecostal - he roars and rumbles in performances that got him on the cover of Time magazine as "America's best preacher" in 2001. More important to Mr. Rove, he has become a vital partner in the White House effort to court the black vote.
Ah, but can the preacher deliver for Karl, or will Karl have to Swift-Boat the preacher if he says the wrong things?

He won't say the wrong thing. These guys have received millions of dollars for their churches through Bush's programs to support religious-based social services. Heck, Bumiller notes that helps. There's Bush's increase in support among black voters - it jumped from nine percent in 2000 to eleven percent in 2004. Money talks.

And pressing the flesh helps:
On Tuesday in the Roosevelt Room, Mr. Bush met with black preachers and leaders of national charities, and sat next to Bishop Roy L. H. Winbush, a black religious leader from Louisiana. On Thursday, two senior White House officials, Claude Allen and James Towey, held a conference call with black religious leaders to ask what needed to be done. Mr. Towey is the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and Mr. Allen, who is African-American, is the president's domestic policy adviser.

One Bush supporter, the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, the president of the National Ten Point Leadership Foundation, a coalition that represents primarily black churches, said last week that something positive might come out of the crisis. "This is a moral and intellectual opportunity for the Bush administration to clearly articulate a policy agenda for the black poor," Mr. Rivers said in an interview.

Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, who has made reaching out to black voters a priority, put it simply. "We're going to work with them," Mr. Mehlman said. "This disaster showed how important it is that we do these things."
"We're going to work with them." Translation: "We're going to work them."

First job? Denial.

Bush Denies Racial Component to Response
Jennifer Loven, Associated Press, Monday, September 12, 2005 4:35 PM ET
President Bush denied Monday there was any racial component to people being left behind after Hurricane Katrina, despite suggestions from some critics that the response would have been quicker if so many of the victims hadn't been poor and black.

"The storm didn't discriminate and neither will the recovery effort," Bush said. "The rescue efforts were comprehensive. The recovery will be comprehensive."

Bush made the remarks to reporters beneath a highway overpass at the end of a tour that took him through several flooded New Orleans neighborhoods. Occasionally, Bush had to duck to avoid low-hanging electrical wires and branches.

It was Bush's first exposure to the on-the-ground leadership of his new hurricane relief chief, Vice Adm. Chad W. Allen of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The trip came as the White House is eager to show the president displaying hands-on, empathetic leadership in the storm effort. ...
Empathy is nice, even if you're not good at it. You get points for even faking it, even if you do it badly. At least you're trying. No one can be like Bill Clinton, and who would want to be?

And it makes denial of any racism a tad more conceivable. Maybe.

That's going to be hard work, given incident like this:

Police in Suburbs Blocked Evacuees, Witnesses Report
Gardiner Harris, New York Times, September 10, 2005
Police agencies to the south of New Orleans were so fearful of the crowds trying to leave the city after Hurricane Katrina that they sealed a crucial bridge over the Mississippi River and turned back hundreds of desperate evacuees, two paramedics who were in the crowd said.

The paramedics and two other witnesses said officers sometimes shot guns over the heads of fleeing people, who, instead of complying immediately with orders to leave the bridge, pleaded to be let through, the paramedics and two other witnesses said. The witnesses said they had been told by the New Orleans police to cross that same bridge because buses were waiting for them there.

Instead, a suburban police officer angrily ordered about 200 people to abandon an encampment between the highways near the bridge. The officer then confiscated their food and water, the four witnesses said. The incidents took place in the first days after the storm last week, they said.

"The police kept saying, 'We don't want another Superdome,' and 'This isn't New Orleans,' " said Larry Bradshaw, a San Francisco paramedic who was among those fleeing.

Arthur Lawson, chief of the Gretna, La., Police Department, confirmed that his officers, along with those from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and the Crescent City Connection Police, sealed the bridge.

"There was no place for them to come on our side," Mr. Lawson said. ...
Of course this was all over the news - even Shepherd Smith and Geraldo Rivera on the ground for Fox News were screaming about it to Sean Hannity back in the studio - and Smith pretty much told Hannity, who was saying it was no big deal, to stuff it. In fact, you could listen to a first hand account with much more detail on National Public Radio on Ira Glass' "This American Life" - Saturday, September 10, 2005 After The Flood. It's worse than the Times suggests. The person there was white, and amazed. Being white counts. She got across.

The coming race war? Or is it just class?

Note this from Christopher Cooper, of The Wall Street Journal -
Despite the disaster that has overwhelmed New Orleans, the city's monied, mostly white elite is hanging on and maneuvering to play a role in the recovery when the floodwaters of Katrina are gone. "New Orleans is ready to be rebuilt. Let's start right here," says Mr. O'Dwyer, standing in his expansive kitchen, next to a counter covered with a jumble of weaponry and electric wires.

More than a few people in Uptown, the fashionable district surrounding St. Charles Ave., have ancestors who arrived here in the 1700s. High society is still dominated by these old-line families, represented today by prominent figures such as former New Orleans Board of Trade President Thomas Westfeldt; Richard Freeman, scion of the family that long owned the city's Coca-Cola bottling plant; and William Boatner Reily, owner of a Louisiana coffee company. Their social pecking order is dictated by the mysterious hierarchy of "krewes," groups with hereditary membership that participate in the annual carnival leading up to Mardi Gras. In recent years, the city's most powerful business circles have expanded to include some newcomers and non-whites, such as Mayor Ray Nagin, the former Cox Communications executive elected in 2002.

A few blocks from Mr. O'Dwyer, in an exclusive gated community known as Audubon Place, is the home of James Reiss, descendent of an old-line Uptown family. He fled Hurricane Katrina just before the storm and returned soon afterward by private helicopter. Mr. Reiss became wealthy as a supplier of electronic systems to shipbuilders, and he serves in Mayor Nagin's administration as chairman of the city's Regional Transit Authority. When New Orleans descended into a spiral of looting and anarchy, Mr. Reiss helicoptered in an Israeli security company to guard his Audubon Place house and those of his neighbors.

He says he has been in contact with about 40 other New Orleans business leaders since the storm. Tomorrow, he says, he and some of those leaders plan to be in Dallas, meeting with Mr. Nagin to begin mapping out a future for the city.

The power elite of New Orleans - whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. - insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.

The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out." ...
That's pretty clear. And helicoptering in an Israeli security company to guard the Audubon Place house - and those of his neighbors - is a nice touch.

Maybe it's just class, but Digby over at Hullabaloo says the obvious - there is a great desire to pivot the conversation to poverty rather than race because people believe that we will then be able to create a class argument that can appeal to working class whites and blacks alike.

Dream on.
Racism informs many Americans' ideas about poverty. It is also one of the darker philosophical underpinnings of our vaunted American individualism. From the beginning we had problems because government programs often had to help blacks as a last resort. It is why today many people believe that welfare has a black face even though far more welfare recipients are white. It is why we have developed the idea that the poor (pictured in our minds' eye as black and brown) are lazy and shiftless rather than unfortunate. (Europe, with its long history of class division doesn't see poverty this way.) It's why certain people made the assumption that the poor and black in New Orleans were all on welfare rather than the truth, which is that many of them are members of the urban working poor.

There are certainly many conservatives who hold a philosophy of small government for different reasons than racism. They may believe that power corrupts or that big government is inefficient. But there is no sense of economic self-interest in working class whites being against high taxes for millionaires and corporations and there is no reason that they should be worried about big government takeover of healthcare when thiers is terrible if it exists at all. And yet many of them vote against the party that promises to tax millionaires and corporations and provide national health insurance.

The sad fact is that in that great sea of Republican red, there are many whites who would rather do without health care than see money go to pay for programs that they believe benefit blacks to the detriment of whites. Their prejudice overwhelms their economic self-interest and always has. They vote for the party that reinforces their belief that government programs only benefit the undeserving African American poor.

That is why liberals have to accept that race must be part of the argument. We are making progress. Things are better. But progress requires staying focused on the issue and ensuring that there is no slippage, no matter how difficult and cumbersome this debate feels at times. The liberal agenda depends upon forcing this out of the national bloodstream with each successive generation not only for moral reasons, which I know we all believe, but it also depends upon forcing it out of the bloodstream for practical reasons. Until this knee jerk reaction to black poverty among certain whites (and Pat Buchanan), particularly in the south, is brought to heel we are fighting an uphill battle to muster the consensus we need to create the kind of nation that guarantees its citizens a modern, decent safety net regardless of race or class.
Again, dream on.

Note this from the Chicago tribune back on September 4 -
BATON ROUGE, La. - They locked down the entrance doors Thursday at the Baton Rouge hotel where I'm staying alongside hundreds of New Orleans residents driven from their homes by Hurricane Katrina.

"Because of the riots," the hotel managers explained. Armed Gunmen from New Orleans were headed this way, they had heard.

"It's the blacks," whispered one white woman in the elevator. "We always worried this would happen."
Compare and contrast this from CNN:
I am stunned by an interview I conducted with New Orleans Detective Lawrence Dupree. He told me they were trying to rescue people with a helicopter and the people were so poor they were afraid it would cost too much to get a ride and they had no money for a "ticket." Dupree was shaken telling us the story. He just couldn't believe these people were afraid they'd be charged for a rescue.
Two America, it seems.

But really, as Newsweek points out in their September 19 issue, the Federal response itself wasn't racist, really. It was just systematically incompetent (emphases added below):
It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS. The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

The president did not growl this time. He had already decided to return to Washington and hold a meeting of his top advisers on the following day, Wednesday. This would give them a day to get back from their vacations and their staffs to work up some ideas about what to do in the aftermath of the storm. President Bush knew the storm and its consequences had been bad; but he didn't quite realize how bad.

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be - how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century - is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.

President George W. Bush has always trusted his gut. He prides himself in ignoring the distracting chatter, the caterwauling of the media elites, the Washington political buzz machine. He has boasted that he doesn't read the papers. His doggedness is often admirable. It is easy for presidents to overreact to the noise around them.

But it is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there. Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. Bush can ask tough questions, but it's mostly a one-way street. Most presidents keep a devil's advocate around. Lyndon Johnson had George Ball on Vietnam; President Ronald Reagan and Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, grudgingly listened to the arguments of Budget Director Richard Darman, who told them what they didn't wish to hear: that they would have to raise taxes. When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority.
The bubble had been built years ago and no one was going to burst it.

But was it racist? No -
Liberals will say they were indifferent to the plight of poor African-Americans. It is true that Katrina laid bare society's massive neglect of its least fortunate. The inner thoughts and motivations of Bush and his top advisers are impossible to know for certain. Though it seems abstract at a time of such suffering, high-minded considerations about the balance of power between state and federal government were clearly at play. It's also possible that after at least four years of more or less constant crisis, Bush and his team are numb.

The failure of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina worked like a power blackout. Problems cascaded and compounded; each mistake made the next mistake worse.
So it seems to be a systemic management problem.
Bad news rarely flows up in bureaucracies. For most of those first few days, Bush was hearing what a good job the Feds were doing. Bush likes "metrics," numbers to measure performance, so the bureaucrats gave him reassuring statistics. At a press availability on Wednesday, Bush duly rattled them off: there were 400 trucks transporting 5.4 million meals and 13.4 million liters of water along with 3.4 million pounds of ice. Yet it was obvious to anyone watching TV that New Orleans had turned into a Third World hellhole.

The denial and the frustration finally collided aboard Air Force One on Friday. As the president's plane sat on the tarmac at New Orleans airport, a confrontation occurred that was described by one participant as "as blunt as you can get without the Secret Service getting involved." Governor Blanco was there, along with various congressmen and senators and Mayor Nagin (who took advantage of the opportunity to take a shower aboard the plane). One by one, the lawmakers listed their grievances as Bush listened. Rep. Bobby Jindal, whose district encompasses New Orleans, told of a sheriff who had called FEMA for assistance. According to Jindal, the sheriff was told to e-mail his request, "and the guy was sitting in a district underwater and with no electricity," Jindal said, incredulously. "How does that make any sense?" Jindal later told NEWSWEEK that "almost everybody" around the conference table had a similar story about how the federal response "just wasn't working." With each tale, "the president just shook his head, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing," says Jindal, a conservative Republican and Bush appointee who lost a close race to Blanco. Repeatedly, the president turned to his aides and said, "Fix it."
But it was too late to fix it.

Newsweek warps up with this:
Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as "strangely surreal and almost detached." At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Life inside a bunker can be strange, especially in defeat.
So, not racist - just clueless, by design.

Time Magazine the same week adds more : Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco's attempts to get help from Washington:
The day the storm hit, she asked President Bush for "everything you've got." But almost nothing arrived, and she couldn't wait any longer. So she called the White House and demanded to speak to the President. George Bush could not be located, two Louisiana officials told Time, so she asked for chief of staff Andrew Card, who was also unavailable. Finally, after being passed to another office or two, she left a message with DHS adviser Frances Frago Townsend. She waited hours but had to make another call herself before she finally got Bush on the line. "Help is on the way," he told her.
Yep, she had to leave a message.

But what is this help that is on the way. See this other item in Time:
By late last week, Administration aides were describing a three-part comeback plan. The first: Spend freely, and worry about the tab and the consequences later ... The second tactic could be summed up as, Don't look back. The White House has sent delegates to meetings in Washington of outside Republican groups who have plans to blame the Democrats and state and local officials.

... The third move: ... Advisers are proceeding with plans to gin up base-conservative voters... focused around tax reform... no plans to delay tax cuts... veto anticipated congressional approval of increased federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research.
When in doubt, cut taxes for the rich and play to your base. Race is not an issue.

This is what to do:
Private contractors, guided by two former directors of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other well-connected lobbyists and consultants, are rushing to cash in on the unprecedented sums to be spent on Hurricane Katrina relief and reconstruction.

From global engineering and construction firms like the Fluor Corporation and Halliburton to local trash removal and road-building concerns, the private sector is poised to reap a windfall of business in the largest domestic rebuilding effort ever undertaken.

Normal federal contracting rules are largely suspended in the rush to help people displaced by the storm and reopen New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts have already been let and billions more are to flow to the private sector in the weeks and months to come. Congress has already appropriated more than $62 billion for an effort that is projected to cost well over $100 billion.

Some experts warn that the crisis atmosphere and the open federal purse are a bonanza for lobbyists and private companies and are likely to lead to the contract abuses, cronyism and waste that numerous investigations have uncovered in post-war Iraq.
That is from the New York Times, and this is from the Washington Post -
The Bush administration is importing many of the contracting practices blamed for spending abuses in Iraq as it begins the largest and costliest rebuilding effort in U.S. history.

The first large-scale contracts related to Hurricane Katrina, as in Iraq, were awarded without competitive bidding, and using so-called cost-plus provisions that guarantee contractors a certain profit regardless of how much they spend.
These guys are not racists. The locals may be, but not the feds.

They're just careful with our tax money. As in this:

Bush Suspends Pay Act In Areas Hit by Storm
Thomas B. Edsall - Washington Post - Friday, September 9, 2005; Page D03
President Bush yesterday suspended application of the federal law governing workers' pay on federal contracts in the Hurricane Katrina-damaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The action infuriated labor leaders and their Democratic supporters in Congress, who said it will lower wages and make it harder for union contractors to win bids.

The Davis-Bacon Act, passed in 1931 during the Great Depression, sets a minimum pay scale for workers on federal contracts by requiring contractors to pay the prevailing or average pay in the region. Suspension of the act will allow contractors to pay lower wages. Many Republicans have opposed Davis-Bacon, charging that it amounts to a taxpayer subsidy to unions.

In a letter to Congress, Bush said he has the power to suspend the law because of the national emergency caused by the hurricane: "I have found that the conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina constitute a 'national emergency.' "

Bush wrote that his decision is justified because Davis-Bacon increases construction costs, and suspension "will result in greater assistance to these devastated communities and will permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals."

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney denounced the Bush announcement as "outrageous."

"Employers are all too eager to exploit workers," he said. "This is no time to make that easier. What a double tragedy it would be to allow the destruction of Hurricane Katrina to depress living standards even further."

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, accused Bush of "using the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to cut the wages of people desperately trying to rebuild their lives and their communities."

Miller said: "In New Orleans, where a quarter of the city was poor, the prevailing wage for construction labor is about $9 per hour, according to the Department of Labor. In effect, President Bush is saying that people should be paid less than $9 an hour to rebuild their communities." ...
So why would he do this?

You see, suspending this Davis-Bacon Act will mean no one will exploit the situation. And we have this federal deficit of course. At nine dollars for each hour's work these fat cat construction workers would be pulling in 18,900 a year - and now they'll get much less. We'll all be safe from the greedy bastards, and keep our economy sound after all - they will pay income tax on each of those less-than-nine dollars. Of course the "poverty Line" figures according to the "2003 Poverty Guidelines" from the Department of Health and Human Services? For a family of four that works out to this - anything below 18,400, and 15,260 for a family of three, puts you in what the feds themselves define as poverty. Oh well, just so long as no one gets rich.

But it gets better. Note this: now that the president, by executive order, has suspended Davis-Bacon, now the plan is to suspend wage rules for service workers:
Labor Department and White House officials are examining a similar move for service workers covered by the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act, which extended prevailing wage rules to service workers. Administration officials are concerned that workers on demolition and debris removal jobs could protest that even with construction wage supports lifted, they should be paid prevailing wages because their work is more service-related than construction-related.
The only problem seems to be Davis-Bacon has a specific provision allowing the president to suspend it during a national emergency - "The Service Contract Act does not, and its suspension may be unprecedented, labor experts say."

Let's see. This could go to court. The president does not have the authority under the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act to suspend it. What will the administration lawyers offer as an argument if challenged in a lawsuit? Suspending the act may be illegal but this is a national emergency? Worked for detaining citizens without charges, legal advice or even a hearing - and worked for allowing torture. Call the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act "quaint." That might work. Second line of defense? No one should get rich off the reconstruction. No - even they don't have the balls to redefine "rich" as being paid below their own poverty line benchmarks. (Well, maybe they do.) A "let the marketplace decide" argument might be just the ticket. If people choose to pay less than minimum wage and others accept the jobs at those wages, well, that's the invisible hand at work, making things better for everyone. And the PR campaign would be just like the one out here that Arnold Shwarzenegger has going on - Don Sipple, Shwarzenegger's media consultant, has this strategy "based on a lot of polling" to create a "phenomenon of anger" among voters toward firefighters, police officers, teachers and others of that sort - greedy bastards who want your money. Let the market decide.

Well, Laura Bush is half-right about her husband. He doesn't hate black folk. He's all business - and ill-informed if not detached from reality, petulant, willful, sneering and childish. But he doesn't seem to be a racist. That's just the net effect.

Posted by Alan at 22:17 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2005 17:19 PDT home

Friday, 9 September 2005

Topic: Backgrounder

Late Week Wire Stories: Additions to the Blame Game

These are simply additions to The Status of the Blame Game, items from the news wires, Friday, September 9, as the supporters of the administration maintain Bush acted heroically, and in a timely manner, and appropriately, to events as they unfolded with Hurricane Katrina, the devastation of the Gulf Coast and the flooding and abandonment of New Orleans.

Blame Assigned: The National Weather Service

This comes from ranking senate Republican, Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania. From WTFI in central Pennsylvania, this:
Santorum has critical words for forecasters in the wake of Katrina
Damon Boughamer, Friday, September 9, 2005

(Washington) - U.S. Senator Rick Santorum is suggesting that early mistakes in predicting the path of Hurricane Katrina may be a symptom of lost focus at the National Weather Service.
Santorum, who introduced legislation earlier this year to curb the output of government weather forecasters, says tracking life-threatening weather must be central to what the agency is doing.

Asked about Katrina by WITF, Santorum described weather service warnings for Florida, where the storm first made landfall, as "not sufficient." Santorum's bill instructs the government to abandon weather prediction and data reporting efforts that duplicate private-sector activity. He came under fire when it was revealed that the head of State College-based AccuWeather, which would benefit, has given his campaigns thousands of dollars.
The audio of the interview is here in MP3-QuickTime format.

The National Weather Service, really its unionized members, responds:
The National Weather Service Employees Union issued the following statement today in response to Rick Santorum's misguided comments about the performance of the National Weather Service concerning Hurricane Katrina.

"The bottom line is that we did our job well and everyone knows it. By falsely claiming that we got it wrong, Rick Santorum is continuing his misguided crusade against the National Weather Service. It’s unfortunate that Senator Santorum would try to use this tragedy to push his own agenda. Senator Santorum's comments are aimed at jumpstarting his bizarre stalled legislation to undermine the mission of the National Weather Service, legislation that has failed to garner the support of even one of his colleagues in the U.S. Senate.” said Paul Greaves, President of NWSEO.

The early warnings about Hurricane Katrina issued by the National Weather Service have been praised for their accuracy by news organizations such as NBC News, The New York Times and even internationally by The London Times.

"The fact is that we issued several warnings about the oncoming storm. Sadly, many of those warnings fell on deaf ears.

"We urge Senator Santorum to retract his remarks about the National Weather Service. Senator Santorum would be providing a better service to the nation if he focused his efforts on helping the victims of this hurricane, instead of lashing out against the hardworking men and women of the National Weather Service who prove their worth each day." said Mr. Greaves.
Hey, he just wants to privatize the weather service to make it more efficient, and the AccuWeather folks gave him all that money to help him in that effort.

Did the government weather service deceive Americans and tell them this storm was nothing much? Use your memory, if you hate America, Bush and free enterprise. Otherwise, trust Rick on this.

Blame Assigned: The Press Got All these People Killed

This one comes from Hugh Hewitt, prominent commentator, patriotic defender of the administration. His contention: Reporters are directly responsible for the deaths of all those people in New Orleans because they did not convey the severity of the hurricane before it hit.

Note this from an interview Hewitt gave Jay Rosen of New York University:
Again, I've got a proposition for you, because they [reporters] did not do their homework, because they did not understand the levees were the threat, they ended up killing hundreds of Americans. I'm not going to say thousands, because I don't know the number. But I know hundreds are dead, that they did not communicate the severity of this storm.
Again, use your memory, if you hate America, Bush. Otherwise, trust Hugh on this on this.

Forget this list:
CNN: August 28, 2005 Sunday
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: The city is preparing for up to 15 inches of rain and a storm surge of up to 28 feet, a wall of water that would overwhelming the city's levee system. Worst case scenarios predict the bowl-shaped city could be submerged under as much as 30 feet of water.

ABC News: Good Morning America: August 28, 2005 Sunday
DAVID KERLEY, ABC NEWS(Off Camera) Good morning, Kate. New Orleans is waking up on this Sunday, realizing it is still the bull's eye for hurricane Katrina. This is Lake Pontchartrain. This is the north side of New Orleans. And this is one of the big concerns, as well as the Mississippi on the south, is that when the storm surge comes, a lot of water and the winds is going to push the water over the dikes and levees and flood New Orleans. That's why residents are being told to leave town.

CBS NEWS: August 28, 2005 Sunday
LEE COWAN: (Voiceover) Now the main worry, Charlie, of course, is the water. The storm surge from Katrina is expected to be anywhere between 15 and 20 feet, with waves on top of that. The levees that were built around this city after Betsy in 1965 are only 13 feet high.

NBC NEWS: August 28, 2005 Sunday
SAVIDGE: For New Orleans, Katrina is the nightmare that's haunted officials for decades.
Mayor C. RAY NAGIN (New Orleans): This is not a test.
SAVIDGE: The "Big Easy" is a giant bowl below sea level, dependent on levees and pumps to keep dry, and water isn't the only thing the city can trap. There are over 100,000 people with no car and no real way out.

NPR: August 28, 2005 Sunday
Dr. SUHAYDA: The reason the Red Cross has elected not to open shelters in the city is that there are hurricane conditions, such as the one we're facing, that everyone knows would overtop the levee, that is the levees are only designed - or are designed - for about a Category 3 storm. This is a Category 5. It's not going to be any surprise if you put 10 tons on a bridge that tells you it can only hold five tons, you know.
That's just a few, from Blogoland, the "radio blogger" monitoring conservative talk radio so you don't have to. There are links to the stories, but Hugh might be maintaining these things were never said. Who do you trust?

But There WAS Looting

Unfortunately, it was done by FEMA contract employees - see this from the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Three Texas truck drivers under contract with the federal government to bring in storm relief supplies for Plaquemines Parish have been arrested for allegedly looting toys, dolls, women's lingerie and other merchandise from a Belle Chasse Family Dollar store, authorities said.

Booked late Wednesday night with one count each of looting were Gerald W. Thomas, 47, of Tyler, Texas; Thomas Sherman, 39, also of Tyler; and Lasharon Lemons, 36, of Dallas, said Major John Marie with the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office.
Oops.

Well, there's a silver lining to the whole business. Note this from the Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire" -
Two shaky House incumbents, Democrat Melancon and Republican Boustany, hope response to hurricane rallies voters behind them. House Republican campaign chief Reynolds touts chance to market conservative social-policy solutions; Rep. Baker of Baton Rouge is overheard telling lobbyists: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

Baker explains later he didn't intend flippancy but has long wanted to improve low-income housing.
Whatever.

Blame Assigned: It's Hard Work Figuring Out Who Has What Authority

Digby over at Hullabaloo can explain this one:
Josh Marshall has a full rundown on the various implications of this NY Times article, which seems to indicate that while hurricane victims were dying on national television, the Justice Department was debating the fine points of posse commitatus and worrying about whether it would look good to take command from a female governor. This is the same justice department that has declared torture to be legal and asserted a previously unheard of doctrine that the president has unlimited powers during wartime.

... Leaders prove their mettle in times of crisis. And 9/11 was a fairly simple crisis to manage. It was a terrible tragedy and a shocking act of violence but it happened quickly in one small area and then was over. The primary response required by the federal government was to figure out how it happened and take steps to prevent it from happening again. The only immediate decision the president had to make was an easy one - whether to depose the Taliban and break up al Qaeda. And even that decision didn't have to be made on the spot in the midst of a rapidly changing situation on the ground and ongoing death and destruction. During the event itself and its immediate aftermath he was famously reading "My Pet Goat" and then flying all over the country like a chicken with his head cut off stopping only to make timorous speeches about how we were going to find "these folks" who had done this.

His reputation for great leadership and crisis management consists solely of going before the American people with a bullhorn and saying "... and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear from all of us soon." That's not leadership - that's cheerleading. Bush and his minions have never understood the difference.
Seems so. If it wasn't cheerleading or attacking, well, you had to think things through. Hard work.

Blame Put Aside: The March Will Take Place, As Scheduled

Tight Constraints on Pentagon's Freedom Walk
Event Remembering 9/11, Troops to Be Kept 'Sterile,' Limited to Preregistered
Petula Dvorak - Washington Post - Friday, September 9, 2005 - Page A01
Organizers of the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial Freedom Walk on Sunday are taking extraordinary measures to control participation in the march and concert, with the route fenced off and lined with police and the event closed to anyone who does not register online by 4:30 p.m. today.

The march, sponsored by the Department of Defense, will wend its way from the Pentagon to the Mall along a route that has not been specified but will be lined with four-foot-high snow fencing to keep it closed and "sterile," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense.

The U.S. Park Police will have its entire Washington force of several hundred on duty and along the route, on foot, horseback and motorcycles and monitoring from above by helicopter. Officers are prepared to arrest anyone who joins the march or concert without a credential and refuses to leave, said Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford.

The event, the America Supports You Freedom Walk, is billed as a memorial to victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks and a show of support for those serving in the military, topped off with a concert by country singer Clint Black, known for his pro-troops anthem, "Iraq and Roll." Organizers said they expect 3,000 to 10,000 participants.

Barber said that organizers would rather not have such stringent measures on their event but that police had requested them.

... What's unusual for an event on the Mall is the combination of fences, required preregistration and the threat of arrest.

Park Police officials said security and safety were concerns, especially because Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld will participate in some of the day's events. They said they have approved a permit for a small group of protesters that plans to stand along Independence Avenue.

Barber at first said this week that event organizers would rather not be so strict but that they were complying with police orders. But yesterday she said Park Police offered two options: Screen participants at the Mall, as police did for the Fourth of July fireworks and concert, where bags would be searched and restricted items such as alcohol, weapons, animals or glass bottles would be seized; or screen them at the Pentagon and, by restricting access throughout the march, "make sure the same people who were screened at the Pentagon are the same people going to the concert," she said.

... One restricted group will be the media, whose members will not be allowed to walk along the march route. Reporters and cameras are restricted to three enclosed areas along the route but are not permitted to walk alongside participants walking from the Pentagon, across the Memorial Bridge to the Mall.
What? Are they afraid of something? Blame for most everything has been assigned. What's the problem?

Posted by Alan at 13:10 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005 13:46 PDT home

Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Topic: Backgrounder

The Status of the Blame Game

One more obscure web site entry adds little to the ongoing discussion of what seems to be the second of the two twin big stories of the decade. This an attempt to get a feel for what is happening in the nation's ongoing debate about who we are and what we're doing, and why. It was never so much in dispute, or at least never so openly disputed. This seems to be what's happening.

The two twin big stories of the decade? The first was 9/11 of course - America attacked by a stateless group of fanatics associated with a militant strain of Islamic fundamentalism, demanding America leave the Middle East and Palestine to be freed from Israeli oppression and all the rest, to which we responded by going to war in Afghanistan and then Iraq, two nations we still occupy. Bombings followed in Morocco, Bali, Madrid and London. The new governments we formed to replace those we eliminated are struggling at getting organized. The occupation continues - nearly two thousand combat deaths, ten to fifteen thousand wounded, hundred of billions spent, all with no end in site. Also, the federal government reorganized itself to some extent due to 9/11 - all intelligence operations nominally under one command now, and a new Department of Homeland Security formed, charged with securing us from any further terrorist attacks and, should one somehow occur, organizing the civil response to such a disaster.

As a bookend to the first event, four years later, on the Monday after the last weekend of August, a hurricane pretty much destroys the city of New Orleans and much of the Gulf coast - a major city abandoned and three states in deep trouble. The new Department of Homeland Security and its agency FEMA - formerly a separate cabinet-level department but now a minor part of the whole - is criticized for its slow and ineffective response to this natural disaster. In particular, the president is widely criticized for a four-day delay in making much comment or doing anything at all to take charge of the situation that spins on still - with a death toll that may exceed ten thousand, with tens of thousands of those who were evacuated homeless, jobless, penniless and in need of at least shelter and food, with the economy in trouble and gulf states' oil industry a mess (a quarter of domestic production), and of course, being criticized for the war in Iraq as that required, and requires, vast resources and was a preemptive war of choice, fought for reasons that have proved to be unfortunately mistaken, from one point of view, or manipulative lies, from another point of view.

The war divided the county, and continues to do so, and now this. In the case of the war, the question was the appropriate response to the threat, and just what was the threat, and whether preemptive war - getting the bad guys before they did bad things - was wise. Some felt that is not how we do things - it was like taking care of criminals before they commit crimes, or before they were even criminals. But many bought into the concept, saying that even if we went after the wrong people for the wrong reasons, well, something good could come if it - folks would know we take no crap and we might get a democracy in Iraq. The former would mean we'd get worldwide respect and the latter would mean we'd get a pro-Western secular capitalistic free-market democracy right in the middle of the Middle East that would change the world. It's not working out on either of those counts - and no one is feeling much safer - but we tried.

But if the war split the country on these "conceptual issues" - how we as the richest and most powerful nation on earth should deal with a hostile world - the Great Hurricane of 2005 is splitting the country on even deeper issues. Those would be what we expect of government, what we expect of our leaders, and what we expect of our citizens. Should government provide for the common welfare, or does such support destroy people's initiative and create a nation of whining victims who expect others to take care of them? Is then, government, as a concept, harmful to people? The corollary on leadership - is anyone to blame for the post-storm chaos and death? What are the leaders supposed to have done? And then, what do we expect of our citizens? Are they responsible for their fate if they stupidly chose to be poor, not doing enough for themselves and relying on others - and then, of all things, stupidly chose to remain in a dangerous place? Other poor people have risen to fame and fortune - black folks who rap or play basketball, even "poor white trash" (that's why we have a thriving country music industry with its millionaires) - so what's wrong with these people? Are we supposed to take care of the poor, or should we really take care of them with "tough love" - forcing them to take "personal responsibility" for their lives in the "real world" where you sink or swim and no one gets a free ride on the backs of those who have made it? Those questions are bubbling up now.

LEADERSHIP

The top-level question is leadership - is anyone to blame for the post-storm chaos and death? What are the leaders supposed to have done? This is the criticism of Bush and those he has appointed under him.

See Political Hurricane from John Dickerson - Tuesday, September 6 -
George Bush is finally on the case. Criticized for his administration's slow response to Hurricane Katrina, he and his aides are anxious to show that they've taken the wheel and that their knuckles are white from steering. The president has now visited the soggy Delta landscape twice. The vice president is headed there Thursday. The first lady will visit schoolchildren again. Bush's schedule today was clotted with Katrinalia - he met with his Cabinet, volunteer organizations, displaced students, and congressional leaders. Tonight, Cabinet officials will brief Hill leaders. More quietly, White House surrogates are talking about failures at the state and local levels. Several Bush allies have e-mailed me pictures of the unused buses soaking in New Orleans.

Bush has even pledged to lead an investigation into what went wrong. This is no small matter. Such backward-looking is out of character for a president who believes that leadership means moving forward. Under less fraught circumstances, he's known to mock Monday morning quarterbacks: the media, the professors, the French who moan opinions about what he or his administration should do. "Oh no, here come the hand-wringers," he sometimes jokes to aides he thinks listen too much to the "echo chamber."

Bush allies and administration aides still dispute the notion that they are at fault. They claim that state officials had told the federal authorities that they were on the case after the storm hit. Any sluggishness was the result of unfortunate events, not bad management. "I don't care what anyone says," insists a White House ally. "People thought those levees were going to hold." Much of the criticism they write off to the usual suspects: biased media, political opponents, and turf-conscious politicians who didn't do their jobs. An investigation may bolster the Bush team's case that Homeland Security can only act if the local response is minimally competent and take away some of the appearance that it took CNN to get FEMA to do its job.
And that started up the weekend after the storm. As reported in hundreds of places, simultaneously with saying this is not time to assess blame, the White House is saying, "not our fault, it's the locals." See this, one of many:

Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting
White House Shifts Blame to State and Local Officials
Manuel Roig-Franzia and Spencer Hsu, Washington Post, Sunday, September 4, 2005; Page A01

Sample: "Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said."

This, allegedly, had prevented a more rapid federal response.

As many have pointed out (as here), an actual state of emergency was declared August 26th, 2005. That is available on the State of Louisiana website here. The Washington Post issued a correction, apologizing for false information, but will not name their sources. Newsweek - burned by the same administration sources - runs with the same story but posts no correction.

Spreading lies? Maybe. Maybe not. One view, Chris Floyd here -
Look, it's really very simple. On Saturday, August 27, 2005 - two days before Hurricane Katrina made landfall - President George W. Bush assumed responsibility for the coordination of "all disaster relief efforts" in the State of Louisiana. This is the specific, undisputed language of Bush's declaration of a State of Emergency, issued that day by the White House, and still available for viewing on the White House website. The responsibility for coordinating all disaster relief efforts in New Orleans clearly rested with the White House. Despite all the post-disaster spin by the Bush Faction and its sycophants, despite all the earnest media analyses, the lines of authority are clear and indisputable. Here is the voice of George W. Bush himself, in the proclamation issued in his name, over his signature on Saturday, August 27, 2005:

"The President today declared an emergency exists in the State of Louisiana and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the parishes located in the path of Hurricane Katrina beginning on August 26, 2005, and continuing. The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures"

Bush goes on to say: "Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."
That should be clear enough. It's on the White House information site in a news release here. This sounds like an acceptance of responsibility.

So what to do? Call for an investigation - Bush says, in time, he will himself head an investigation on what he, through his subordinates, did wrong. It worked when the Pentagon investigated prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, didn't it?

But that's for later. Now is not the time.

John Dickerson again:
The president and his head of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, are right to argue that quick reprisals won't help with the business of digging out and rebuilding. For the moment, people need food and a future more than finger-pointing. But images of rescuers piloting bloated bodies out of soaked houses will fill the news in the coming weeks. Draining the city will take months. The roar of the displaced demanding answers will not die down.

So, what can Bush do to reverse the focus on his own failure? His own sunny optimism, which even he seemed to find unsatisfying, is unlikely to help at this point. "Out of this despair is going to come a vibrant coast," he told residents of Poplarville, Miss., Monday. "I understand if you're saying to yourself, well, it's hard for me to realize what George W. is saying because I've seen the rubble and I know what has happened to my neighbors. But I'd like to come back down here in about two years and walk your streets and see how vital this part of the world is going to be. I can't wait to join you in the joy of welcoming neighbors back into neighborhoods, and small businesses up and running, and cutting those ribbons that somebody is creating new jobs. That's what I think is going to happen."

Bush's ability to empathize, so effective with military families, has seemed off tone on the Gulf Coast. His fantasies about sitting on the fresh timber of Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott's rebuilt porch were no match for footage of stunned faces poking through escape holes torn in rooftops.
Dickerson has some suggestions to fix the political problem here ? like an unscripted public forum to answer questions about the government's response to the disaster, or maybe a town hall thing. Bush should get angry. You can click on the link and read all that. And he should fire someone:
Bush finds it hard to pin the blame on someone who has stood next to him for any length of time. "He has a very strong feeling for anyone who has been in the foxhole with him," says a former aide. "Especially when they're under fire." He refused Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's two offers of resignation after abuses were discovered at Abu Ghraib. He bestowed the nation's highest civilian honor on the CIA director who told him that the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a "slam dunk." He continues to stand by Karl Rove though his top aide helped steer reporters to the identity of an undercover CIA agent.

Characteristically, he says he doesn't want to play the "blame game." Here, he should. His own executive style demands it. The president is almost evangelical about his theory of management: Pick good people, give them power, and then hold them accountable. He never designed an administration around mistake-admitting; he did build it on accountability. Delegation without accountability leads to rot.

Will Michael Brown be held accountable? Administration officials defend him. The president offered a typically folksy pat on the back after his first visit to Biloxi. "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," he said.

Not all the president's allies think so. "Someone has to get fired," says a top aide to a Republican senator, describing the work ahead for GOP leaders in Congress. Right now, he continued, "There are two jobs: writing checks and figuring out who gets fired."
That from his own party?

But firing someone won't fix what's in this - a timeline with links to the original links source documents. Highlights:
Friday, August 26
GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY IN LOUISIANA
GULF COAST STATES REQUEST TROOP ASSISTANCE FROM PENTAGON

Saturday, August 27
5AM - KATRINA UPGRADED TO CATEGORY 3 HURRICANE
GOV. BLANCO ASKS BUSH TO DECLARE FEDERAL STATE OF EMERGENCY IN LOUISIANA: "I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster."
FEDERAL EMERGENCY DECLARED, DHS AND FEMA GIVEN FULL AUTHORITY TO RESPOND TO KATRINA: "Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."

Sunday, August 28
2AM - KATRINA UPGRADED TO CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE [CNN]
7AM - KATRINA UPGRADED TO CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE [CNN]
MORNING - LOUISIANA NEWSPAPER SIGNALS LEVEES MAY GIVE: "Forecasters Fear Levees Won't Hold Katrina": "Forecasters feared Sunday afternoon that storm driven waters will lap over the New Orleans levees when monster Hurricane Katrina pushes past the Crescent City tomorrow."
9:30 AM ? MAYOR NAGIN ISSUES FIRST EVER MANDATORY EVACUATION OF NEW ORLEANS: "We're facing the storm most of us have feared," said Nagin. "This is going to be an unprecedented event."
4PM - NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ISSUES SPECIAL HURRICANE WARNING: In the event of a category 4 or 5 hit, "Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer. ... At least one-half of well-constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail, leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed. ... Power outages will last for weeks. ... Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards."
AFTERNOON - BUSH, BROWN, CHERTOFF WARNED OF LEVEE FAILURE BY NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER DIRECTOR: Dr. Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center: "'We were briefing them way before landfall. ... It's not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped.'"
LATE PM - REPORTS OF WATER TOPPLING OVER LEVEE: "Waves crashed atop the exercise path on the Lake Pontchartrain levee in Kenner early Monday as Katrina churned closer
APPROXIMATELY 30,000 EVACUEES GATHER AT SUPERDOME WITH ROUGHLY 36 HOURS WORTH OF FOOD [Times-Picayune]

Monday, August 29
7AM - KATRINA MAKES LANDFALL AS A CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE
8AM - MAYOR NAGIN REPORTS THAT WATER IS FLOWING OVER LEVEE
MORNING - BUSH CALLS SECRETARY CHERTOFF TO DISCUSS IMMIGRATION: "I spoke to Mike Chertoff today ? he's the head of the Department of Homeland Security. I knew people would want me to discuss this issue [immigration], so we got us an airplane on ? a telephone on Air Force One, so I called him. I said, are you working with the governor? He said, you bet we are."
MORNING - BUSH SHARES BIRTHDAY CAKE PHOTO-OP WITH SEN. JOHN MCCAIN
11AM - BUSH VISITS ARIZONA RESORT TO PROMOTE MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT
LATE MORNING - LEVEE BREACHED
11:30AM - MICHAEL BROWN FINALLY REQUESTS THAT DHS DISPATCH 1,000 EMPLOYEES TO REGION, GIVES THEM TWO DAYS TO ARRIVE: "Brown's memo to Chertoff described Katrina as 'this near catastrophic event' but otherwise lacked any urgent language. The memo politely ended, 'Thank you for your consideration in helping us to meet our responsibilities.'"
2PM - BUSH TRAVELS TO CALIFORNIA SENIOR CENTER TO DISCUSS MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT
9PM - RUMSFELD ATTENDS SAN DIEGO PADRES BASEBALL GAME

Tuesday, August 30
9AM - BUSH SPEAKS ON IRAQ AT NAVAL BASE CORONADO
MIDDAY - CHERTOFF FINALLY BECOMES AWARE THAT LEVEE HAS FAILED: "It was on Tuesday that the levee - may have been overnight Monday to Tuesday - that the levee started to break. And it was midday Tuesday that I became aware of the fact that there was no possibility of plugging the gap and that essentially the lake was going to start to drain into the city."
PENTAGON CLAIMS THERE ARE ENOUGH NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS IN REGION
MASS LOOTING REPORTED, SECURITY SHORTAGE CITED
U.S.S. BATAAN SITS OFF SHORE, VIRTUALLY UNUSED: "The USS Bataan, a 844-foot ship designed to dispatch Marines in amphibious assaults, has helicopters, doctors, hospital beds, food and water. It also can make its own water, up to 100,000 gallons a day. And it just happened to be in the Gulf of Mexico when Katrina came roaring ashore. The Bataan rode out the storm and then followed it toward shore, awaiting relief orders. Helicopter pilots flying from its deck were some of the first to begin plucking stranded New Orleans residents. But now the Bataan's hospital facilities, including six operating rooms and beds for 600 patients, are empty."
3PM - PRESIDENT BUSH PLAYS GUITAR WITH COUNTRY SINGER MARK WILLIS [AP]
BUSH RETURNS TO CRAWFORD FOR FINAL NIGHT OF VACATION [AP]

Wednesday, August 31
TENS OF THOUSANDS TRAPPED IN SUPERDOME; CONDITIONS DETERIORATE
PRESIDENT BUSH FINALLY ORGANIZES TASK FORCE TO COORDINATE FEDERAL RESPONSE: Bush says on Tuesday he will "fly to Washington to begin work? with a task force that will coordinate the work of 14 federal agencies involved in the relief effort."
JEFFERSON PARISH EMERGENCY DIRECTOR SAYS FOOD AND WATER SUPPLY GONE
80,000 BELIEVED STRANDED IN NEW ORLEANS
3,000 STRANDED AT CONVENTION CENTER WITHOUT FOOD OR WATER
5PM - BUSH GIVES FIRST MAJOR ADDRESS ON KATRINA: "Nothing about the president's demeanor? ... which seemed casual to the point of carelessness ... suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis." [New York Times]
8PM - CONDOLEEZZA RICE TAKES IN A BROADWAY SHOW
9PM - FEMA DIRECTOR BROWN CLAIMS SURPRISE OVER SIZE OF STORM: "I must say, this storm is much much bigger than anyone expected."

Thursday, September 1
8AM - BUSH CLAIMS NO ONE EXPECTED LEVEES TO BREAK: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
CONDOLEEZZA RICE VISITS U.S. TENNIS OPEN
STILL NO COMMAND AND CONTROL ESTABLISHED: Terry Ebbert, New Orleans Homeland Security Director: "This is a national emergency. This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans." [Fox News]
2PM - MAYOR NAGIN ISSUES "DESPERATE SOS" TO FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: "This is a desperate SOS. Right now we are out of resources at the convention centre and don't anticipate enough buses. We need buses. Currently the convention centre is unsanitary and unsafe and we're running out of supplies."
2PM - MICHAEL BROWN CLAIMS NOT TO HAVE HEARD OF REPORTS OF VIOLENCE: "I've had no reports of unrest, if the connotation of the word unrest means that people are beginning to riot, or you know, they're banging on walls and screaming and hollering or burning tires or whatever. I've had no reports of that." [CNN]
NEW ORLEANS "DESCEND[S] INTO ANARCHY": "Storm victims were raped and beaten, fights and fires broke out, corpses lay out in the open, and rescue helicopters and law enforcement officers were shot at as flooded-out New Orleans descended into anarchy Thursday. 'This is a desperate SOS,' the mayor said." [AP]
CONDOLEEZZA RICE GOES SHOE SHOPPING: "Just moments ago at the Ferragamo on 5th Avenue, Condoleeza Rice was seen spending several thousands of dollars on some nice, new shoes (we've confirmed this, so her new heels will surely get coverage from the WaPo's Robin Givhan). A fellow shopper, unable to fathom the absurdity of Rice's timing, went up to the Secretary and reportedly shouted, 'How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!'" [Gawker]
MICHAEL BROWN FINALLY LEARNS OF EVACUEES IN CONVENTION CENTER: "We learned about that (Thursday), so I have directed that we have all available resources to get that convention center to make sure that they have the food and water and medical care that they need." [CNN]

Friday, September 2
ROVE-LED CAMPAIGN TO BLAME LOCAL OFFICIALS BEGINS: "Under the command of President Bush's two senior political advisers, the White House rolled out a plan?to contain the political damage from the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina." President Bush's comments from the Rose Garden Friday morning formed "the start of this campaign." [New York Times, 9/5/05]
9:35AM - BUSH PRAISES MICHAEL BROWN: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." [White House, 9/2/05]
10 AM - PRESIDENT BUSH STAGES PHOTO-OP "BRIEFING": Coast Guard helicopters and crew diverted to act as backdrop for President Bush's photo-op.
BUSH VISIT GROUNDS FOOD AID: "Three tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees in St. Bernard Parish and on Algiers Point sat on the Crescent City Connection bridge Friday afternoon as air traffic was halted because of President Bush's visit to New Orleans, officials said." [Times-Picayune]
LEVEE REPAIR WORK ORCHESTRATED FOR PRESIDENT'S VISIT: Sen. Mary Landrieu, 9/3: "Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment." [Sen. Mary Landrieu]
BUSH USES 50 FIREFIGHTERS AS PROPS IN DISASTER AREA PHOTO-OP: A group of 1,000 firefighters convened in Atlanta to volunteer with the Katrina relief efforts. Of those, "a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas." [Salt Lake Tribune; Reuters]
3PM - BUSH "SATISFIED WITH THE RESPONSE": "I am satisfied with the response. I am not satisfied with all the results." [AP]

Saturday, September 3
SENIOR BUSH ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL LIES TO WASHINGTON POST, CLAIMS GOV. BLANCO NEVER DECLARED STATE OF EMERGENCY: The Post reported in their Sunday edition "As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said." They were forced to issue a correction hours later. [Washington Post, 9/4/05]
9AM - BUSH BLAMES STATE AND LOCAL OFFICIALS: "[T]he magnitude of responding to a crisis over a disaster area that is larger than the size of Great Britain has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities. The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need." [White House, 9/3/05]
As Matthew Cooper of all people, the Plamegate guy (the one who didn't go to jail while Judith Miller did), explains in the latest issue of Time Magazine:
It isn't easy picking George Bush's worst moment last week. Was it his first go at addressing the crisis Wednesday, when he came across as cool to the point of uncaring? Was it when he said that he didn't "think anybody expected" the New Orleans levees to give way, though that very possibility had been forecast for years? Was it when he arrived in Mobile, Ala., a full four days after the storm made landfall, and praised his hapless Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director, Michael D. Brown, whose disaster credentials seemed to consist of once being the commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association? "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," said the President. Or was it that odd moment when he promised to rebuild Mississippi Senator Trent Lott's house - a gesture that must have sounded astonishingly tone-deaf to the homeless black citizens still trapped in the postapocalyptic water world of New Orleans. "Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house - he's lost his entire house," cracked Bush, "there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."

Bush seemed so regularly out of it last week, it made you wonder if he was stuck in the same White House bubble of isolation that confined his dad. Too often, W. looked annoyed. Or he smiled when he should have been serious. Or he swaggered when simple action would have been the right move.

And he was so slow. Everyone knew on Sunday morning that Katrina was a killer. Yet when the levees broke after the storm, the White House slouched toward action. And this from a leader who made his bones with 9/11. In a crisis he can act paradoxically, appearing - almost simultaneously - strong and weak, decisive and vacillating, Churchill and Chamberlain. This week he was more Chamberlain.

... Bush all but spurned offers of help from allies because of the way it would look. "I'm sure he saw it as a sign of American weakness to be taking aid from other countries," says the former Administration official. A Bush aide countered that his boss "wasn't rejecting offers; he wasn't focused on it."
Something is up. From the Associated Press Wednesday, September 7, via the New York Times there's this:
At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had "absolutely no credentials."

She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown.

"He said 'Why would I do that?'" Pelosi said.

"'I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'"

"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," she added.
That's been running on the national news. You can watch it here with Windows Media Player or here in Quicktime.

Did someone say denial? From the first Friday visit to the scene, via Associated Press, see this:
Later in Biloxi, Miss., Bush tried to comfort two stunned women wandering their neighborhood clutching Hefty bags, looking in vain for something to salvage from the rubble of their home. [Bush] kept insisting they could find help at a Salvation Army center down the street, even after another bystander had informed him it had been destroyed.
Lambert over at Corrente suggests that's the whole problem - "1. He's wrong. 2. Other people tell him he's wrong, and give the evidence. 3. He insists he's right." Sort of sums it all up.

Over at the generally conservative Bull Moose you can find Arrested Development -
We have a man-child as President of the United States. That may seem an unfair characterization, but consider the President's performance last Friday when he ventured to the storm ravaged Gulf Coast. In a revealing moment, he referred to the FEMA Director as "Brownie" and joked about his past good times in New Orleans.

It was inappropriate behavior that one would expect from an adolescent and not the adult leader of the free world. It largely went unnoticed.

But perhaps the clearest demonstration of the President's arrested development is his inability to accept responsibility or accountability. Another revelatory moment was when the President pronounced that the response to Katrina was "not acceptable." Of course, he was the one in charge. It was as if a child passively proclaimed that "the milk was spilt".

Maybe the Moose is unfair. But, within Republican circles it has been known that the President (who was previously known as "Junior") is a bit, well, immature. He was created as a political force by Rove and is minded by Cheney. The country will survive his leadership, but it is striking that so many have protected him with the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Should anyone be surprised that he refused to cut short his mountain bike vacation? Should we really expect that he should be more articulate and more curious? Are we unfair to want him to take charge and responsibility?

America yearns for adult leadership. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until January, 2009.
And here we have the battered wife syndrome argument: "Your man is no good. He treats you like crap, lies to you, abuses you, bullies you, exploits you, takes your money. As a friend I want to tell you that you deserve better. You deserve a person that treats you with respect, cares about your welfare, and your children's welfare, but that's not George and it never will be."

That is followed by this advice:
It all comes down to you, America. I know no one likes other people passing comment on their relationships but this is an extreme situation. You are in very real danger, he is hurting you everyday and he is hurting us, your friends as well. But only you can make it stop. We are all rooting for you, although we don't get to talk to you very often anymore, because he cuts us off from you. We are on your side, we will all be over the moon the day you finally kick him out. You know he really should be thrown in jail for the things he has done to you. Him and all of his gangster friends.

Please, please, do it America, you know I am right. If not for yourself then do it for your brothers and sisters and children. Do it before he kills any more of your family or anyone else's. We are all really worried for your welfare.
And Jack Cafferty on CNN saying this -
Why are we talking about the "blame game" - there are thousands of people dead because government officials failed to do what they're supposed to be doing. That's criminal behavior. I mean, that's no game. There are people dead in the city of New Orleans and up and down the gulf coast because people charged with seeing to their welfare failed to do that. I don't understand this reluctance to say, Mr. Brown, you failed in your assignment. You're out of here. Go away. Go back to Colorado and go back to working for the Arabian Horse Association that we got you from.
Yipes. This is a political hurricane.

And the CNN fellow says we have criminal behavior?

Ellen S. Podgor says this -
Is it criminal to make statements over the wires that are dishonest? If you happen to be a government official does it reach the level of being a scheme to defraud of "honest services"? Is the government a corporation and therefore subject to the collective knowledge of other officials within their midst; the US government holds corporations to this standard? Is it specific intent, recklessness, or negligence, and does it make difference?

I have a lot of questions. The bottom line is that after listening to the CNN video clip on AOL here, reading TalkLeft here, reading the Times-Picayune open letter to President Bush here, and John Lewis' letter in Newsweek http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9190576/and being horrified by the incompetency and disregard of too many these past few days, one has to wonder if this reaches a level of criminality. And if not, should it?
Podger's bio from Georgia State University here - former deputy prosecutor and defense attorney who teaches international criminal law, white collar crime, criminal law and procedure, and professional responsibility, co-author of books on white collar crime and international criminal law, has written articles on computer crime, international criminal law, lawyer's ethics, criminal discovery, prosecutorial discretion, corporate criminality, and other white collar crime topics - MBA University of Chicago and an law degree from Temple, visiting scholar at Yale Law School and visiting professor at University of Georgia School of Law and George Washington University Law School and more - member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law (ISRCL) and a member of the American Law Institute (ALI), and an honorary member of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers.

Don't mess with her. And consider criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt here:
Prof. Podgor's comments about the criminal responsibility for politicians' and bureaucrats' lies about Katrina are thought provoking. I previously used the phrase "disregard for human life" because I was thinking in terms of a negligent homicide prosecution (L.S.A.-R.S. ? 14:32 "Negligent homicide is the killing of a human being by criminal negligence."), or at least putting the looting of NOLA's levee projects for the rich within "high Crimes and Misdemeanors" under Art. II, ? 4 of the U.S. Constitution. [see this] More about that later.

How about the basic tort law?

Regretfully, the political judgment defense could keep the federal government from having to pay a dime under the Federal Tort Claims Act. How about the personal and moral responsibility of our "leaders" in their ill-advised or just plain stupid games of playing politics with money that was intended to save lives and property?

Having taken the money away to have prevented, or at least mitigated, the flooding of New Orleans, Congress should step up and admit the federal government's responsibility and pay for it all. But, Congress is dominated by Republicans and the President is a Republican. Republicans have no words in their vocabulary for "I'm sorry" or "I was wrong."

But, they are simply going to have to bite the bullet, recognize the folly of letting George Bush loot the federal Treasury, and pay for New Orleans. Bush's father got Congress to bail out the Savings and Loan industry because the fat cats looted banks. That protected banks, but it became a political precedent where Congress paid for the folly of S&L deregulation done at Reagan's behest for his fat cat friends.

Now, what about American citizens?
Our friend Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis -
Okay, this gives us -
1. Negligent homicide
2. High Crimes (don't bother with misdemeanors) (and screw Tort too)

How about the personal and moral responsibility of our "leaders" in their ill-advised or just plain stupid games of playing politics with money that was intended to save lives and property?

How about criminal negligence? Non-assistance to people in mortal danger? Like drunk driving, stupidity is no defense.

And congress should step up and admit the federal government's responsibility and pay for it all? Hey! The government pays for everything with your money. That means even if 'they' are guilty, taxpayers pay. Find 'them' personally responsible and liable for damages.

Congress is dominated by Republicans and the President is a Republican? Republicans have no words in their vocabulary for "I'm sorry" or "I was wrong?" Words are cheap, and they are probably insincere anyway.

But, they are simply going to have to bite the bullet, recognize the folly of letting George Bush loot the federal Treasury, and pay for New Orleans.

Merritt: "Bush's father got Congress to bail out the Savings and Loan industry because the fat cats looted banks. That protected banks, but it became a political precedent where Congress paid for the folly of S&L deregulation done at Reagan's behest for his fat cat friends."

Yeah, remember who 'paid' for Silverado. Taxpayers did, not Bush.

Now, what about American citizens? Born suckers, sorry chumps, every one.
Maybe so. But former First Lady Barbara Bush said Monday that living in the Astrodome in Houston was working out well for many of the 15,000 hurricane victims there because they were underprivileged anyway. Her exact words - audio here - "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this - this [she chuckles slightly] is working very well for them."

Silver lining? Positive attitude? (Wednesday the White House said she only spoke for herself and not for the president - a little damage control.)

And those folks need to be taught a lesson. Click here to watch a clip of Senator Rick Santorum on WTAE-TV Channel 4 (ABC) Pittsburgh, on September 4, saying we ought to heavily fine those people who didn't leave New Orleans like the rich white folks did: "I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving." Compassionate conservatism - tough love.

There were consequences to not leaving, of course. FEMA made things a tad difficult. Note this list (partial):
Over the past week I've read of the following:

- 1000 folks from the Lafayette area with 500 boats head to New Orleans to aid the rescue get turned back by FEMA.
- Wal-Mart trucks with food and water get turned back by FEMA. ...
- The USS Bataan off the coast of Louisiana ready to help, but underused by FEMA. See also here
- Shipments of diesel fuel being turned back by FEMA
- Firemen from Houston turned away by FEMA
- More firefighters turned away.
- Angel Flight South Central seaplanes getting a run around from FEMA
- DMAT Teams available but still on call.
- Red Cross kept out of New Orleans. Note: this is actually attributed to the state Homeland Security department. More information on who is responsible for this decision would be helpful. See also here
- Northcom ready to act, but not given needed orders.
...
- Morticians turned away.
- Maryland fire fighters blocked by FEMA.
Generators turned away by FEMA in Slidel.
...
- Wisconsin busses turned back by red tape at several levels
- Michigan buses
- Aid from Chicago [refused]
...
- California cautioned by FEMA to go slow in accepting survivors or it might lose funds.
There's more. But no Arabian horse drowned.

Yipes! Even that dinosaur Trent Lott blasts FEMA incompetence. And this from Ben Morris, mayor of Slidell, Louisiana, 3:32 PM Monday, September 5 - "We are still hampered by some of the most stupid, idiotic regulations by FEMA. They have turned away generators, we've heard that they've gone around seizing equipment from our contractors. If they do so, they'd better be armed because I'll be damned if I'm going to let them deprive our citizens. I'm pissed off, and tired of this horseshit." And Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish (just south of New Orleans) and a former Democratic candidate for governor - "Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God's sake, shut up and send us somebody." And this - ''It's not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now.'' Won't happen, but you can read these and more quotes here. It just goes on and on.

From Andrew Sullivan, the conservative Brit who became a US citizen, this -
Americans have already donated a record $404 million to help the victims of Katrina. That's the America I have come to know and love. As an immigrant, the one thing that has always struck me very forcefully about Americans is their willingness to volunteer and their readiness to lend a hand to others in need. Most Americans don't realize how striking this is. I grew up in England and my view of America was often related to their helping people in need and their remarkable hospitality. I know the proportion of foreign aid is not that high compared to other countries, but when you really needed help, America came through with the bulk of the money: from AIDS in Africa to the tsunami victims, and especially with domestic disasters. The ethic may come from the legacy of building a country out of a raw continent (where helping strangers was contingent on their one day helping you), but helping others out when in need is part of the American way. I also associated American government with a kind of benign competence - maybe out of a collective memory of GIs' rescuing Western Europe from Nazism and, eventually, Eastern Europe from Communism. I think part of the collective shame is that this didn't happen this time in America itself - at least quickly enough. It violated a core American value. This is the second basic American value this administration has violated. The other is humane treatment of enemy prisoners in wartime. Perhaps the reason people feel more than simple frustration with Bush - the reason it amounts to anger - is not "Bush-hatred" (although that irrationality exists), but this president's squandering of so much of what is best about America and his pandering to so much that is worst. I don't fully understand it. I don't think it's malevolence. I think it's a mixture of arrogance and incompetence. But the damage it is doing to some of the core meaning of America - that this is a country that rescues people who are in dire straits, and never, ever abuses prisoners in its military custody - is deeply distressing. And it will take time to restore that kind of reputation and, yes, honor.
Honor is for wimps, Andy!

Better this from Kevin Drum:
For what it's worth, I'd like to make absolutely clear why I hold George Bush accountable for the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. First, though, here's what I don't blame him for.

I don't blame him for being on vacation when Katrina made landfall. I don't blame him for a certain amount of chaos in the initial response - that's inevitable no matter how good your plan is. I don't blame him for rolling FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security. I don't blame him for focusing more on terrorism than on natural disasters. That was a natural reaction to 9/11.

Nor do I think that Bush doesn't care about natural disasters. It's not as if he sat down one day and decided that hurricanes were no longer worth worrying about.

Obviously Bush deserves criticism for his listless lack of leadership and life-as-usual politicking in the first three days after Katrina hit. Beyond that, though, what happened was the result of a long series of decisions, all flowing out of Bush's natural conservative governing instincts, that added up to make Katrina more damaging than it had to be and at the same time eroded our ability to react to its aftermath. These decisions were deliberate and disastrous, and that's why I think Bush deserves a large part of the blame for what happened.
And lists the decisions. Go read them. They conclude with this:
A crony with no relevant experience was installed as head of FEMA. Mitigation budgets for New Orleans were slashed even though it was known to be one of the top three risks in the country. FEMA was deliberately downsized as part of the Bush administration's conservative agenda to reduce the role of government. After DHS was created, FEMA's preparation and planning functions were taken away.

Actions have consequences. No one could predict that a hurricane the size of Katrina would hit this year, but the slow federal response when it did happen was no accident. It was the result of four years of deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of operational competence. It's the Bush administration in a nutshell.
Concise and to the point.

Where is it heading? What of these naturally conservative governing instincts? Note this from Wednesday, September 7, in the New York Post - in Liz Smith's gossip column -
Fox News emperor Bill O'Reilly tells us in Katrina's wake that if we - Americans - depend on the United States government for any reason, we are certain to be disappointed. Always. The government of the United States cannot help you. Bill's advice to America (to the poor of New Orleans, especially) is educate yourself and get a well-paying job. Only then can you avoid standing on a "metaphorical rooftop" when the next disaster rolls around. Bill did not give the poor any advice on how one finds a proper education or a job. Remember, the government can't help.

Oh, Newt Gingrich told Bill - in the nicest possible way, because they are friends - that his government theory was, well . . . "un-American."
One wonders. O'Reilly may have it right.

A blunt way of putting here, from Gary Boatwright -
Incompetence, corruption, cronyism, classism, racism and refusal to accept responsibility are all just symptoms of moral failure. Bush is a moral failure as a President, as a man and as a human being.

Contemporary American conservatism is a political ideology built on a foundation of racism and contempt. The callous disregard of the Republican Party for the general welfare of America, and their malice towards poor black Americans, epitomizes everything that is wrong with conservatism and the Republican Party. The same moral failure that led to Abu Ghraib led to the negligent homicide of tens of thousands of Americans following Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans is the canary in the coalmine. The next community or the next family conservatism kills could be yours.
Yeah, whatever. (And matters of Race and class are discussed elsewhere in these pages.)

Of course, the spin goes on. "We really care." All the Fox News and right-side commentators are saying that in the run-up to the storm, President Bush was really upset with how the New Orleans officials' preparations were so slow - so upset that he personally called Ray Nagin, the city's mayor, to urge an evacuation of the city. He begged him. Bob Williams in the Wall Street Journal and Brit Hume on Fox News said so. Limbaugh said so. Read all about it here. Four days later he said on national television that no one ever thought the levees would not hold. Huh? Aaron Kenny explains here - he called the governor, not the mayor, and the decision had already been made. He was seconding it. But it's a good story - and MSNBC will stick with it - told it was false, and confronted with the documentation - "We just have a different perspective." Cool.

There is no way to wrap this up. No summary. It goes on.

Posted by Alan at 21:10 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 8 September 2005 07:43 PDT home

Friday, 12 August 2005

Topic: Backgrounder

The Dominant Story: Raising Questions

Late last Sunday on the web log in a discussion of how to define this war on terror (GWOT) you would find this pull from the Associated Press, Sunday, August 7:
The mother of a fallen U.S. soldier who is holding a roadside peace vigil near President Bush's ranch shares the same grief as relatives mourning the deaths of Ohio Marines, yet their views about the war differ.

"I'm angry. I want the troops home," Cindy Sheehan, 48, of Vacaville, Calif., who staged a protest that she vowed on Sunday to continue until she can personally ask Bush: "Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for?"
Followed by this comment:
Well, he died in the Iraq subset of the larger war against a loose, stateless confederation very angry people who feel they have been wronged, and may have been, and also may be quite crazy and know nothing of how the world really works, and are pretty good at acts of terrorism, and don't use submarines. How Iraq is involved in this? Let's see - no trace of WMD like we thought and no real connection to or support for the loose confederation, al Qaeda or whomever, like we thought - but now we have this general idea that a democracy there would help things, even if it turns out to be run by a group of fundamentalist Shiite guys who are all cozy with the fundamentalist Shiite Iraq bad guys....

I'm not sure she'd be happy with that.
She has not had any answer, and she's still there, and still unhappy. And the story built during the week.

The view from the outside:

Bush rejects mother's Iraq plea
President George Bush has said he "sympathised" with the mother of a US soldier killed in Iraq but refused to heed her call to pull out the troops.
BBC World Service, Thursday, 11 August 2005, 22:22 GMT 23:22 UK
Speaking from his Texas ranch where Cindy Sheehan has been holding a roadside protest, Mr Bush said withdrawing would be a "mistake".

Ms Sheehan is vowing to remain until she gets to speak to the president about his justification for the war.

Dozens of well-wishers have turned out to join her demonstration.

"Listen, I sympathize with Mrs Sheehan," Mr Bush said. "She feels strongly about her position. And she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America."

He said he had thought "long and hard about her position" calling for US troops to be sent home. But he had decided against it, he said.

"It would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run if we were to do so," he said.

Mr Bush's remarks came after meeting with security advisors, including Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Ms Sheehan's son Casey was killed in Baghdad's Sadr City in April 2004.

The Californian has been camped outside Mr Bush's property since Saturday and has become a symbol for the US anti-war movement.

"All I want is for President Bush to take one hour out of his vacation and meet with me before another mother's son dies in Iraq," she said.

"You don't use our country's precious sons and daughters unless it's absolutely necessary to defend America."

However, some veterans and relatives have dubbed the vigil a distraction and are keen to ensure support for those serving in Iraq does not wane.

Ms Sheehan met the president once before when he visited Fort Lewis in Washington state to meet relatives of those killed in the war.
Case closed? Hardly.

A lot was happening. According to the AP here's some of it -
Bush National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and a deputy White House chief of staff talked to Sheehan on Saturday. She said the meeting, which she called "pointless," lasted 20 minutes. The White House said it lasted 45 minutes.

By Thursday, about 50 people had joined her cause, pitching tents in muddy, shallow ditches and hanging anti-war banners; two dozen others have sent flowers. Her name was among the most popular search topics Wednesday on Internet blogs.

The soft-spoken Sheehan, 48, is surprised and touched at the overwhelming response - most of which is positive, she says. But not everyone supports her. Kristinn Taylor, co-leader of the Washington, D.C., chapter of FreeRepublic.com, said Sheehan's protest is misguided and is hurting troop morale. "She has a political agenda that goes way beyond her son's death in combat," said Taylor, whose conservative group has held pro-troop rallies since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and counter-protests of anti-war demonstrations.

... Many supporters decided to go to Crawford because of rumors that Sheehan would be arrested.

But no protesters will be arrested unless they trespass on private property or block the road, said Capt. Kenneth Vanek of the McLennan County Sheriff's Office.

Trucker Craig Delaney, 53, was in Georgia on Monday when he heard numerous radio shows discussing Sheehan - some criticizing her. He altered his route to California, heading for Texas, and got to Sheehan's site Wednesday morning.

"I felt compelled to come and tell her I support her," said Delaney, a self-described hippie from Sly Park, Calif. "The way they were bad-mouthing a mother whose son was killed in the war is un-American."

Nearly 40 Democratic members of Congress have asked Bush to talk to her. On Wednesday, a coalition of anti-war groups in Washington also called on Bush to speak with Sheehan, who they say has helped to unify the peace movement.

"Cindy Sheehan has become the Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement," said Rev. Lennox Yearwood, leader of the Hip Hop Caucus, an activist group. "She's tired, fed up and she's not going to take it anymore, and so now we stand with her."
Rosa Parks? Maybe so.

It seemed best to leave this to the end of the week to gather the threads of what's happening. Many readers have followed all this, but putting it all in order may be of some use. If nothing else, it is sometimes nice to look back and see just what happened. And these links will all be in one place.

Tim Grieve mid-week with this:
By our way of thinking, families who have lost a loved one in Iraq get a free pass to think whatever they want to think about the war. If getting through their grief requires them to believe that Iraq had WMDs or that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11 or that the war will spread democracy through the Middle East or that fighting "the enemy" there means we don't have to fight them here or whatever new story the president is peddling this week - well, whatever. They've paid the price of admission to think whatever it is that lets them sleep at night, and we wouldn't presume to tell them why we're right and they're wrong.

Is it too much to ask for a similar courtesy from our friends on the right?

Apparently so. Cindy Sheehan's 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Baghdad's Sadr City last April, and now she's making a scene down at Crawford as she tries to talk with the president about the war. We say she's entitled, and we're pretty sure we'd say that no matter what she was saying about the war. But Bill O'Reilly says Sheehan's behavior "borders on treasonous." And Michelle Malkin, the right's darling blogger and Ann Coulter-wanabe, is complaining that Sheehan has made a "public circus" out of her "private pain." Appearing on O'Reilly's show, Malkin aimed the lowest of blows at Cindy Sheehan: "I can't imagine," she said, "that Casey Sheehan would approve of such behavior."
David Brock over at Media Matters provides the details of who said what.

Cindy Sheehan's a hypocritical liar:
On August 8, Internet gossip Matt Drudge posted an item on his website, the Drudge Report, in which he falsely claimed that Sheehan "dramatically changed her account" of a meeting she had with Bush in June 2004; Drudge attempted to back up his false assertion by reproducing Sheehan quotes from a 2004 newspaper article without providing their context. After the story appeared on the Drudge Report, it gained momentum among conservative weblogs and eventually reached Fox News, where it was presented as hard news and in commentaries. ...

Drudge's August 8 item claiming that Sheehan had changed her story used quotes from a June 24, 2004, article in The Reporter of Vacaville, California, where Sheehan lives. The Reporter article described a meeting that Sheehan and 16 other families of soldiers killed in Iraq had with Bush in Fort Lewis, Washington, earlier that month. Sheehan's son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq in April 2004.

Drudge quoted Sheehan seemingly speaking glowingly of Bush: "'I now know [Bush is] sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis,' Cindy said after their meeting. 'I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith,' " and, "For the first time in 11 weeks, they felt whole again. 'That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together,' Cindy said." Drudge contrasted these quotes to Sheehan's statements on the August 7 edition of CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, in which she said, of the 2004 meeting with Bush: "We wanted to use the time for him to know that he killed an indispensable part of our family and humanity."
A part of the The Reporter story Drudge omitted?
"We haven't been happy with the way the war has been handled," Cindy said. "The president has changed his reasons for being over there every time a reason is proven false or an objective reached."

The 10 minutes of face time with the president could have given the family a chance to vent their frustrations or ask Bush some of the difficult questions they have been asking themselves, such as whether Casey's sacrifice would make the world a safer place.

But in the end, the family decided against such talk, deferring to how they believed Casey would have wanted them to act. ...
The fellow who wrote the story says Drudge got it all wrong here and the editor of the paper where the story appeared later added this "We don't think there has been a dramatic turnaround. Clearly, Cindy Sheehan's outrage was festering even then," Barney wrote. "In ensuing months, she has grown more focused, more determined, more aggressive. ... We invite readers to revisit the story - in context - on our Web site and decide for themselves." Editor and Publisher also quotes the editor of the Vacaville paper saying this: "It's important that readers see the full context of the story, instead of just selected portions. We stand by the story as an accurate reflection of the Sheehan's take on the meeting at the time it was published."

As Media Matters notes, all that made no difference. August 8:
- Drudge posted the Sheehan item on August 8 at 10:11 am ET.

- Right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin postedthe item on her weblog one hour later, at 11:22 am ET.

- At 12:40 pm ET, the Drudge story appeared on C-Log, the weblog of the conservative news and commentary website Townhall.com.

- At 2:33 pm ET, MooreWatch.com posted the story.

- At 3:23 pm ET, William Quick of DailyPundit.com posted the story.
Then Fox News picked it up on the "Political Grapevine" segment of the August 8 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume. Guest anchor and Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle:
ANGLE: Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq last year, who's now camped outside President Bush's Crawford ranch demanding to see him, said yesterday on CNN that a private meeting with President Bush last year was offensive, insisting, quote, "He acted like it was a party. He came in very jovial, like we should be happy with that. Our son died for the president's misguided policies."

But just after that 2004 meeting, she gave a very different account...
It hit O'Reilly the next day.

The lefties should be so organized. There's much more at Media Matters. Note this from the August 9 edition of The O'Reilly Factor -

Bill O'Reilly says we're dealing with treason here: "I think Mrs. Sheehan bears some responsibility for this [publicity] and also for the responsibility for the other American families who lost sons and daughters in Iraq who feel this kind of behavior borders on treasonous." (audio here)

His guest Michelle Malkin adds: "I can't imagine that Casey Sheehan would approve of such behavior." (audio here)

Yeah, well, they're unhappy.

Sheehan on the Bill Press show: "I didn't know Casey knew Michelle Malkin? I'm Casey's mother and I knew him better than anybody else in the world? I can't bring Casey back, but I wonder how often Michelle Malkin sobbed on his grave. Did she go to his funeral? Did she sit up with him when he was sick when he was a baby?" (audio here)

And Thursday's statement from the woman:
This is George Bush's accountability moment. That's why I'm here. The mainstream media aren't holding him accountable. Neither is Congress. So I'm not leaving Crawford until he's held accountable. It's ironic, given the attacks leveled at me recently, how some in the media are so quick to scrutinize -- and distort -- the words and actions of a grieving mother but not the words and actions of the president of the United States.

But now it's time for him to level with me and with the American people. I think that's why there's been such an outpouring of support. This is giving the 61 percent of Americans who feel that the war is wrong something to do -- something that allows their voices to be heard. It's a way for them to stand up and show that they DO want our troops home, and that they know this war IS a mistake? a mistake they want to see corrected. It's too late to bring back the people who are already dead, but there are tens of thousands of people still in harm's way.

There is too much at stake to worry about our own egos. When my son was killed, I had to face the fact that I was somehow also responsible for what happened. Every American that allows this to continue has, to some extent, blood on their hands. Some of us have a little bit, and some of us are soaked in it.

People have asked what it is I want to say to President Bush. Well, my message is a simple one. He's said that my son -- and the other children we've lost -- died for a noble cause. I want to find out what that noble cause is. And I want to ask him: "If it's such a noble cause, have you asked your daughters to enlist? Have you encouraged them to go take the place of soldiers who are on their third tour of duty?" I also want him to stop using my son's name to justify the war. The idea that we have to "complete the mission" in Iraq to honor Casey's sacrifice is, to me, a sacrilege to my son's name. Besides, does the president any longer even know what "the mission" really is over there?

Casey knew that the war was wrong from the beginning. But he felt it was his duty to go, that his buddies were going, and that he had no choice. The people who send our young, honorable, brave soldiers to die in this war, have no skin in the game. They don't have any loved ones in harm's way. As for people like O'Reilly and Hannity and Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh and all the others who are attacking me and parroting the administration line that we must complete the mission there -- they don't have one thing at stake. They don't suffer through sleepless nights worrying about their loved ones

Before this all started, I used to think that one person couldn't make a difference... but now I see that one person who has the backing and support of millions of people can make a huge difference.

That's why I'm going to be out here until one of three things happens: It's August 31st and the president's vacation ends and he leaves Crawford. They take me away in a squad car. Or he finally agrees to speak with me.

If he does, he'd better be prepared for me to hold his feet to the fire. If he starts talking about freedom and democracy -- or about how the war in Iraq is protecting America -- I'm not going to let him get away with it.

Like I said, this is George Bush's accountability moment.
Clear enough.

Drudge tries another gambit (picked up on all the same sites as above), a statement from the "Sheehan Family" condemning Cindy's "political motivations and publicity tactics" (run under a giant bold headline "Family of Fallen Soldier Pleads: Please Stop, Cindy") - to which she responds:
Still putting out the O'Reilly fires of me being a traitor and using Casey's name dishonorably, my in-laws sent out a press statement disagreeing with me in strong terms; which is totally okay with me, because they barely knew Casey. We have always been on separate sides of the fence politically and I have not spoken to them since the election when they supported the man who is responsible for Casey's death. The thing that matters to me is that our family -- Casey's dad and my other 3 kids are on the same side of the fence that I am.
So that's dying out.

Still there's this (audio and video available at the link):
During the panel segment on Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC, Fred Barnes recalled Joe Wilson and Bill Burkett as he wondered, "is there any left-wing publicity hound who the media won't build up?" Zeroing in on Cindy Sheehan, Barnes criticized both her and the media's treatment of her: "This woman wants to go in and tell the President that the war is about oil because the President wants to pay off his buddies. She's a crackpot, and yet the press treats her as some important protestor."
No, she wants to ask questions. He made up that thing about oil.

Michelle Malkin here:
I can't imagine Army Spc. Casey Sheehan would stand for his mother's crazy accusations that he was murdered by his commander-in-chief, rather than the Iraqi terrorists who ambushed his convoy. I can't imagine Army Spc. Casey Sheehan would stand for a bunch of strangers glomming onto his mother's crusade and using him to undermine the war effort as they shouted "W killed her son" in front of countless TV cameras.

Cindy Sheehan has surrounded herself with a group of anti-American, anti-military, terrorist-sympathizing agitators, including Code Pink, the Crawford Peace House, and the crackpot crowd.

It's a sad spectacle. President Bush should continue to treat Mrs. Sheehan with the same compassion and sympathy he showed her when they first met - before her heart and mind were poisoned by the professional grievance-mongers who claim to be her friends.
Right. Maureen Dowd in the New York Times wonders about that:
It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea. But W., who has spent nearly 20 percent of his presidency at his ranch, is burrowed into his five-week vacation and two-hour daily workouts. He may be in great shape, but Iraq sure isn't.

It's hard to think of another president who lived in such meta-insulation. His rigidly controlled environment allows no chance encounters with anyone who disagrees. He never has to defend himself to anyone, and that is cognitively injurious. He's a populist who never meets people - an ordinary guy who clears brush, and brush is the only thing he talks to. Mr. Bush hails Texas as a place where he can return to his roots. But is he mixing it up there with anyone besides Vulcans, Pioneers and Rangers?

W.'s idea of consolation was to dispatch Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, to talk to Ms. Sheehan, underscoring the inhumane humanitarianism of his foreign policy. Mr. Hadley is just a suit, one of the hard-line Unsweet Neo Cons who helped hype America into this war.

It's getting harder for the president to hide from the human consequences of his actions and to control human sentiment about the war by pulling a curtain over the 1,835 troops killed in Iraq; the more than 13,000 wounded, many shorn of limbs; and the number of slain Iraqi civilians - perhaps 25,000, or perhaps double or triple that. More people with impeccable credentials are coming forward to serve as a countervailing moral authority to challenge Mr. Bush.

Paul Hackett, a Marine major who served in Iraq and criticized the president on his conduct of the war, narrowly lost last week when he ran for Congress as a Democrat in a Republican stronghold in Cincinnati. Newt Gingrich warned that the race should "serve as a wake-up call to Republicans" about 2006.

Selectively humane, Mr. Bush justified his Iraq war by stressing the 9/11 losses. He emphasized the humanity of the Iraqis who desire freedom when his W.M.D. rationale vaporized.

But his humanitarianism will remain inhumane as long as he fails to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.
And Friday we get this (Associated Press):
President Bush and his motorcade passed the growing camp of war protesters outside his ranch Friday without incident.

The motorcade didn't stop.

Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who started the vigil along the road leading to Bush's ranch, held a sign that read: "Why do you make time for donors and not for me?"

On Friday, Bush arrived before noon at a neighbor's ranch for a barbecue that was expected to raise at least $2 million for the Republican National Committee.

About 230 people were attending the fundraiser at Stan and Kathy Hickey's Broken Spoke Ranch, a 478-acre spread next to Bush's ranch. All have contributed at least $25,000 to the RNC, and many are "rangers," an honorary campaign title bestowed on those who raised $200,000 or more for Bush, or "pioneers," those who have raised $100,000 or more.
And so the week ends.

What to make of all this? As the week ends, Digby over at Hullabaloo asks the question:
I've been wondering what it is about Cindy Sheehan that's gotten under people's skin. Her loss is horrible and everyone can see that she is deeply pained. (Only the lowest, cretinous gasbags are crude enough to attack her in her grief.) She's a very articulate person and she's incredibly sincere. But she's touched a deeper nerve than just the personal one.
Yep, she finally asked the question clearly. What was the noble cause that her son died in - because that's what he said the other day when those fourteen marines were killed. He did say their families could rest assured that their sons and daughters died for a noble cause. And she asked, "What is that noble cause?"

Good question.

Digby:
It is not an academic exercise for her. She lost her son - and she'd like to know why. Nobody can explain to her - or to any of us - why we invaded Iraq and why people are dying. They said it was to protect us - but it wasn't a threat. Then they said it was to liberate the Iraqi people, but Saddam and his government are a memory and yet the Iraqi people are still fighting us and each other. Our invasion of Iraq has inspired more terrorism, not less. Oil prices are higher than they've ever been. The country is swimming in debt. People are being killed and maimed with the regularity of the tides.

And everybody knows this. Deep inside they know that something has gone terribly wrong. We were either lied to or our leaders are verging on the insanely incompetent. That's why when Cindy Sheehan says that she wants to ask the president why her son died - in those simple terms - it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It's not just rhetorical.

She literally doesn't know why her son had to die in Iraq. And neither do we.
Of course, there are geopolitical concerns and lots of things happening in the world that command one's attention, and this may be more a curiosity than an important news story. The woman has put the president, his administration, and his supporters, on the defensive, and they may be striking out in anger - but the war will proceed, as will whatever follows it. It seems she will not sway any of those in power.

But they know the danger - a tipping point - something that shifts the terms of all the arguments. You cannot any longer shout WMD and have folks stand behind you, because it turns out there weren't any, as many warned. You cannot shout, "Connection to al Qaeda and all the terrorists!" - because it turns out there wasn't any connection, as many warned. You cannot shout "Democracy in Iraq" as they work out a new constitution there that takes away women's rights even Saddam Hussein granted and aligns the new government with the theocracy in Iran next door, the evil folks working on nuclear weapons. You can shout out, "Remember 9/11" - and they will do that again and again - but that's wearing thin.

Lots of folks asked "the question" - why? It seems it took the mother of a dead soldier asking it for it to seem a serious question that actually deserved more than a perfunctory answer. Lefties and commentators and think-tank folks and ex-diplomats and foreigners asking the question won't do. This woman will do.

But don't expect any answer.

Still, she's dangerous.

Many will dismiss her as addled by grief and thus unqualified to discuss such matters, or just a tool of the left ? those out to destroy Bush because they resent him - or a shameless opportunist who just loves the limelight. Many will? Many have.

Still, now the question is out there, plain as day, no matter what her motives.

__

Footnote:

This will be continued. Over at the National Review Kate O'Beirne, a commentator one often sees on Fox and CNN and the other talk shows, tells us Cindy Sheehan's efforts should be countered with pro-war grieving mothers: "Surely a fair number of such family members are in Texas? Let's hear from them?" (That's here.)

At the snarky site Wonkette, this:
Is that what the debate has come to? Which side can corral the saddest crop of widows, parents, and orphans? Call it a harms race. Better: an ache-off.

We hope the grimly absurd image of two competing camps of mourners illustrates why it is we've been somewhat reluctant to weigh in on Sheehan's cause: Grief can pull a person in any direction, and whatever "moral authority" it imbues, we can't claim that Sheehan has it and those mothers who still support the war don't.

The Bush administration knows all about exploiting tragedy for its own causes, including re-election.

Whatever arguments there are against the war in Iraq, let's not make "I have more despairing mothers on my side" one of them.

The only way to win a grief contest is for more people to die.
Yep, but it's not about who grieves more sincerely. It's about why they have to.

Posted by Alan at 19:08 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005 19:34 PDT home

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