Saturday, September 17, 2005

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: We Must Take America Back

Following on the heels of the story on Bush's environmental record, Truthout has posted a great speech from Robert Kennedy Jr. Among the highlights:

As the communities that our parents gave us, we’ve got to start by protecting our environmental infrastructure, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the public lands, the fisheries, the wildlife, the public areas that connect us to our past, that connect us to our history, that provide context to our communities that are the source ultimately of our values and virtues and character as a people. Over the past 22 years as an environmental advocate, I’ve been disciplined about being non-partisan and bipartisan in my approach to these issues. I don’t think there is any such thing as Republican children or Democratic children.

I think the worst thing that could happen to the environment is it becomes the province of a single political party. It was mentioned that I have a book out there that is very critical of this president and that’s true but it’s not a partisan book. I didn’t write that book because I’m a Democrat and he’s a Republican. If he were a Democrat, I would have written the same book. I’m not objecting to him because of his political party and I’ve worked for Republicans if they’re good on the environment and democrats on the same level but you can’t talk honestly about the environment in any context today without speaking critically of this president. This is the worst [applause].

This is the worst environmental president we’ve had in American history.

If you look at NRDC’s website you’ll see over 400 major environmental roll backs that are listed there that have been implemented or proposed by this administration over the past four years as part of a deliberate concerted effort to eviscerate 30 years of environmental law.

It’s a stealth attack.

The White House has used all kinds of ingenious machinations to try to conceal its radical agenda from the American people including Orwellian rhetoric. When they want to destroy the forests, they call it the Healthy Forest Act. When they wanted to destroy the air, they called it the Clear Skies Bill.

But most insidiously, they have put polluters in charge of virtually all the agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution...

There is nothing wrong with having business people in government. It’s a good thing if you’re (sic) objective is to recruit competence and expertise but in all of these cases these individuals as I show in my book, have entered government service not to benefit the public interest but rather to subvert the very laws they’re now charged with enforcing in order to enrich the president’s corporate pay masters.

They have imposed enormous diminution in quality of life in this country.

The problem is most Americans don’t know about it, they don’t see the connection and the reason for that is because we have a negligent and indolent media and press in this country which has absolutely let down American democracy [applause]. All this right wing propaganda which is planned and organized and dominated this country, the political debate for so many years talking about a liberal media. Well, you know and I know there is no such thing as a liberal media in the United States of America.

There is a right wing media and if you look where most Americans are now getting their news, that’s where they’re getting it. According to Pew 30 percent of Americans now sway that their primary news source is talk radio which is 90 percent dominated by the right.

There's a lot more, including him railing about the media and how people who care about preserving our world are being systematically shut out. it's a great speech; I encourage you to check it out.

Posted by crimnos @ 11:21 AM :: (1) comments

Friday, September 16, 2005

I know! We'll Build a Catapult and Throw Money at the Problem!

I left Bush's speech this morning because I, frankly, didn't watch it last night and wanted time to read it and decide what I think about it.

Honestly? It stunk. No surprise there, I suppose, but let me clarify on why it stunk.

1. The part of the speech where he talked about the problems of the federal government and his own responsibility was pitiful. I don't know if it was because of negligence or cowardice, but he did not fully address the problems of the federal government response as was warranted, and his claim of responsibility, as I predicted, was pretty weak.

2. He still didn't address his plan to to cut some of the appropriations from the highway bill, like the bridge to Alaska, and use it for Katrina relief. Of course, I might have respected that, and there can't be any chance of that.

3. In terms of structure, they made a strategic mistake. They should have gone with the apology first, and make it stronger and more heartfelt, and then address what they would do next. That way he would restore some credibility, and then when talking about the future people would be more inclined to trust what he's saying.

4. Even though it was only used once, 9/11 should not have been used at all.

5. Throwing Money at the Problem. It just doesn't work without a vision. And Bush can claim vision all he wants. At this point, I want him to put up or shut up - every single "plan" he has come up with has been an utter diaster.

I mean, think about this. We're spending two-hundred billion in Iraq and another two-hundred billion for rebuilding the Gulf Coast? How on earth are we going to do this?

Anyway, there's more, but that's what bothered me the most. I'm not going to comment on all the spending proposals until I see the details. Honestly, it seems like he's trying to buy popularity, which is pretty sickening.

I do have to say, though, that the Post got it right on this one...he wasn't talking about rebuilding New Orleans, he was talking about rebuilding his Presidency. Always with the legacy, this bastard:

The main text of President Bush's nationally televised address last night was the rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, but the clear subtext was the rebuilding of a presidency that is now at its lowest point ever, confronted by huge and simultaneous challenges at home and abroad -- and facing a country divided along partisan and racial lines.

Hurricane Katrina struck at the core of Bush's presidency by undermining the central assertion of his reelection campaign, that he was a strong and decisive leader who could keep the country safe in a crisis.

Posted by crimnos @ 12:28 PM :: (0) comments

Bush's Holy War on Nature

First off, I apologize for the sporadic nature of my updates lately, but I’ve been swamped at the office. I’m hoping to get on some more even footing now that the crisis has passed.

Mother Jones today has a great piece on how Bush’s environmental policies are endangering all of us. The truth is that, as bad as you thought his environmental record might be, the truth is likely much, much worse than you think, and now those policies are beginning to come home to roost. But don’t listen to me, check it out. If the first paragraph doesn’t grab you, nothing will:

When Katrina hit, it blew away yet another administration-managed scrim of irreality. First for scores of reporters and then for millions of Americans, it connected so many things (including what was happening in Iraq and here) that might otherwise have remained unlinked for months or years more. It suddenly revealed, at an extreme, the world Bush has made for us. New Orleans is now a vast toxic dump (and, as at Ground Zero in New York after 9/11, a toxic cover-up is sure to follow, endangering relief workers today and returning residents tomorrow); the city's embattled wetlands are in dismal shape; a superfund toxic waste site remains underwater; the whole area may prove an "underwater Love Canal"; parts of the Gulf of Mexico are now covered with huge, if unacknowledged, oil slicks; and much of the damage, long and short-term, had a human hand associated with it.

And that’s just the intro, the commentary to the actual piece. The highlights of this article include:

Hurricane Katrina showed us how difficult it has become to distinguish between natural disasters and man-made ones. First, the Army Corp of Engineers decides it can build a better river than Mother Nature and in the process deprives the delta of storm-absorbing wetlands and barrier islands while allowing the ground under New Orleans to subside into a suicidal bowl. Then a storm hits and... well, you know the rest of the story. The lesson is simple: we are embedded in natural systems and whether we acknowledge that or not can be a matter of life and death.
Philosophically, Republicans believe in the power of the marketplace to shape behavior. Their animosity toward government regulation is long-standing. They emphasize the rights of private-property owners over any notion of the commons, and so are comfortable letting corporations pursue profit at the expense of air or water quality. Obviously, a Texas oilman like George W. Bush and a former Halliburton CEO like Dick Cheney aren't about to object to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Caribou, they certainly believe, are expendable if they get in the way of our urge for faster-bigger-more.

The Bush administration's assault on environmental quality has, however, been so deliberate, destructive, and hostile that the usual explanations -- while not wrong -- are hardly adequate. During their time in power, Bush's officials have worked systematically and energetically to undo half a century of environmental law and policy based on hard-learned lessons about how to sustain healthy environments. Strikingly, they have failed to protect the environment even when they could have done so without repercussions from special-interest campaign contributors. Something more is going on.

Just consider the Bush record. Take toxins, for instance. Most of us already carry "body burdens" of mercury, dioxins, and lead that are close to or above what sound science considers safe. Today, one in six American women has so much mercury in her womb that a child she carries is at risk for a grim inventory of afflictions, including blindness, mental retardation, kidney disease, and possibly even autism…All fish in 19 states are now unsafe to eat because of mercury contamination and at least some fish in 48 states are unsafe. We know where most of the mercury comes from -- coal-fired power plants -- and we know how to clean it up. The technology is available and affordable. But the first thing Bush did when he entered office was to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency's mercury-emissions rules.

As with mercury, so it goes with a long list of other environmental toxins. Bush-appointed bureaucrats now allow into our drinking water: higher levels of arsenic; 20 times the levels of perchlorates that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends using the best science available; and 12 times the levels of contamination allowed by law for the herbicide atrazine. The chemical captan, which is typically found in household pesticides and fungicides, has been downgraded from a "probable" human carcinogen to "not likely" -- without any new evidence being produced. Standards have been relaxed for the release of selenium, which we know causes massive deformities and deaths in waterfowl. Fertilizers that grow our food can now contain much higher levels of toxic residues. Likewise, the EPA has used a 3-fold safety standard rather than the typical 10-fold test to determine that organophosphorous pesticides pose no danger for children. By rewriting the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act, the Bush administration has permitted industrial polluters to pump additional ozone and particulates into the air that aggravate millions of cases of asthma and cause thousands of deaths each year.

Seriously, just read the thing.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:24 AM :: (3) comments

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I’m Getting Really Sick of This

Yesterday, through a friend, I received an email from the genius Barbara J. Stock (check out her website , I dare you, you’ll never see such a load of racist, flag-fetishizing crap in all your life). Barbara J. Stock, for those of you unfamiliar with her, is described at Renew America(a lovely site which also features the insane rantings of one Alan Keyes) as “an RN of over 23 years and is fairly new to political writing. “ She’s the author of such lovely articles as “America, fight back against Islamic propaganda ”, “Stop apologizing to Islam!”, “Why Islam hates Christianity” (I’m sensing a pattern here), and “Islam dupes the liberal pacifists”. Her latest bilge, “Was President Bush forced to use the Insurrection Act?”, just gave me a headache. Amongst her list of moronic claims:

And other idiotic charges, the most odious of which is that “The Posse Comitatus Act prevents, by federal law, the president of the United States from sending federal troops into any state without the direct request of the elected governor of that state. A frustrated President Bush could only stand by and watch as the horror unfolded until he received the request for help.” Where does one start? It’s like an onion composed of lies. Posse Comitatus only prevents the military from acting in a police manner. She’s made the first sentence up of whole cloth. And the idea of a frustrated Bush picking guitar and eating cake is just hilarious.

But anyway, I’ve gotten sidetracked here. This is just the usual Republican lies, deception, etc. What I’m getting at is these veiled threats we’ve been seeing from the Right for the past two years. The following paragraph is an example of the kind of thinking that is making me hate Conservatives:

The Democratic Party could not possibly sink much lower than it has this past week. The mayor, the governor, and all those liberal websites, blogs, and shrieking leftist politicians should jump into the sewer water that now flows in the streets of New Orleans. That's where they belong, with the rest of the floating waste. The Democratic or "Progressive" party should be buried with the dead. Cause of death: Gross incompetence, asphyxiation from lies, and the failure to accept responsibility for the deaths of thousands of American citizens because power meant more to them than lives.

Nice. We should just float with the dead bodies, huh?

But that’s not all, folks. This woman…I don’t even know. Just read the article :

Children's Author: Warn Kids About Liberals
Author of "Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed" says New Orleans aftermath reveals crass opportunism of liberals, calls on parents to teach traditional values to kids.

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) September 13, 2005 -– The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina has exposed an ugly truth about liberals, and parents need to teach this to their kids, according to the author of a controversial upcoming children's book.

Katharine DeBrecht—the author of the soon-to-be-released "Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed" (Kids Ahead; hardcover: $15.95; ISBN 0976726904)—dismisses the notion that parents should not talk to their young kids about politics. If anything, she claims, the behavior of liberals following the flooding of New Orleans shows that parents with traditional values need to take a hands-on approach to making sure their kids aren't bombarded by left-wing messages.

"Liberals don't hesitate in pushing their extremist ideology," says DeBrecht, the mother of three and a co-captain of her state's Security Moms for Bush. "Their actions in the wake of the tragedy in New Orleans shows this only too well."

In support of her point, DeBrecht asserts that as soon as New Orleans' levees burst liberals set out to exploit the tragedy. She notes that Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal immediately blamed President Bush for the flooding, Jesse Jackson claimed black residents were abandoned because of conservatives' racism, and columnist Robert Kennedy Jr. argued that opposition to the Kyoto treaty on global warming caused the hurricane. Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan even used the tragedy to argue against America's liberation of Iraq.

"As crass as they have been in exploiting the tragedy in the Gulf Coast," adds DeBrecht, "they have been equally aggressive in exploiting America's children. From pro-socialist stories like 'Rainbow Fish' to attacks on traditional values like 'King & King,' liberals have been pushing books with their extremist philosophy into our classrooms and school libraries unabated for years. Conservative parents have to do what they can to make sure their kids hear the other side of the story."

Although its official publication date is still a week away, "Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed" has already made waves in the typically staid world of children's publishing. The announcement of the book caused an uproar among liberal commentators, with many claiming the book teaches children to hate. The full-color illustrated story tells of two brothers who open a lemonade stand only to encounter a Ted Kennedy character who taxes away their profits and a pants-suit clad Hillary Clinton look-alike who outlaws sugary drinks.

"Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed" will be available in bookstores nationwide on September 20.

You know what, I’m really coming to hate you Conservatives. I abhor everything you stand for. But I will be damned if I will sit here and call you “evil’, say we need to warn our children about you, or make veiled threats about killing you. You people act like children, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

That’s it. Now go away.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:14 AM :: (7) comments

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Remember What I Said About the Pre-Emptive Strikes?

Well, guess who's trying to convince the UN that Iran needs to be dealt with right away via slide shows? You would think they learned from last time that exaggerating the certainty of claims and not giving a balanced analysis just discredits their claims. Ugh. This has been one long week, and it's only Wednesday...

From the Post:

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 13 -- With an hour-long slide show that blends satellite imagery with disquieting assumptions about Iran's nuclear energy program, Bush administration officials have been trying to convince allies that Tehran is on a fast track toward nuclear weapons.

The PowerPoint briefing, titled "A History of Concealment and Deception," has been presented to diplomats from more than a dozen countries. Several diplomats said the presentation, intended to win allies for increasing pressure on the Iranian government, dismisses ambiguities in the evidence about Iran's intentions and omits alternative explanations under debate among intelligence analysts.

The presenters argue that the evidence leads solidly to a conclusion that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing weapons, according to diplomats who have attended the briefings and U.S. officials who helped to assemble the slide show. But even U.S. intelligence estimates acknowledge that other possibilities are plausible, though unverified.

The problem, acknowledged one U.S. official, is that the evidence is not definitive. Briefers "say you can't draw any other conclusion, and of course you can draw other conclusions," said the official, who would discuss the closed-door sessions only on condition of anonymity.

The briefings were conducted in Vienna over the past month in advance of a gathering of world leaders this week at the United Nations. President Bush, who is to address the annual General Assembly gathering Wednesday, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, plan to use the meeting to press for agreement to threaten international sanctions against Iran.

The president's direct involvement marks an escalation of a two-year effort to bring Iran before the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions, unless Tehran gives up technology capable of enriching uranium for a bomb. U.S. officials have acknowledged that it has been an uphill campaign, with opposition from key allies who fear a prelude to a military campaign.

Several diplomats said the slide show reminded them of the flawed presentation on Iraq's weapons programs made by then-secretary of state Colin L. Powell to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003. "I don't think they'll lose any support, but it isn't going to win anyone either," said one European diplomat who attended the recent briefing and whose country backs the U.S. position on Iran.

Robert G. Joseph, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, acknowledged last week that despite European support, the Bush administration has traveled a tough road in persuading others that Iran should face consequences for a nuclear program it built in secret.

"There's a great deal of resistance . . . on the part of many governments who don't seem to place, quite frankly, nonproliferation and Iran, a nuclear-armed Iran, at the top of their priority list," he told a congressional panel last week.

Several influential nations such as India, Russia, China, South Africa and Brazil share U.S. suspicions about Iran's intentions. But they maintain profound differences with the Bush administration over how to respond, and are apprehensive about the goals of a U.S. president who has said "all options are on the table," in dealing with Tehran.

Three years ago, the White House used the same annual gathering to put both Iraq, and the world community on notice. In a toughly-worded speech, delivered six months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bush warned that the United States would deal alone, if necessary, with a dictator bent on launching nuclear weapons.

The U.S. intelligence community no longer believes Iraq was trying to reconstitute a nuclear program, as the president said. Those and other U.S. intelligence failures have remained fresh in the minds of international decision-makers now being asked to weigh the case of Iran.

The Iraq experience has had a "sobering effect" on Iran discussions, said President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, a close ally of the Bush administration. In an interview, he refused to speculate on whether Iran, whose program was secretly aided by Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, had been designed for weapons production. But he said he feels confident Iran's aims are now peaceful and there was no need for Security Council action.

Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is also attending the U.N. summit, has his own meetings scheduled in New York, and Iranian officials said he would use the gathering to mount forceful counterarguments. Iranian diplomats have been in close contact with countries such as Japan, which relies heavily on Iranian oil.

The outcome of both sides' efforts will be tested on Sept. 19, when diplomats from 35 countries meet at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to decide whether to report Iran's case to the Security Council.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns last night suggested the administration may not be able to press for a successful vote and was exploring other options. He said the administration was working "with lots of other governments to devise an international coalition that will call upon Iran to return to the talks," it walked away from this summer with European negotiators. "There is a consensus that Iran has got to return to the talks."

Iran insists its nuclear efforts are aimed at producing nuclear energy, not bombs. The Bush administration contends that the energy program, built in secret and exposed in 2002, is just a cover. "They cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear program, which is what they're trying to do," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said earlier this month.

A recent U.S. intelligence estimate found that Iran, mostly through its energy program, is acquiring and mastering technologies that could also be used for bomb-making. But there is no proof that such diversion has occurred, the estimate said, and the intelligence community is uncertain as to whether Iran's ruling clerics have made a decision to go forward with a nuclear weapons program.

The estimate judged Iran to be as much as a decade away from being able to manufacture the fissile material necessary for a nuclear explosion. A report issued last week by the International Institute for Security Studies, a London-based research group, found Iran was 10 to 15 years from the technical know-how to build a bomb.

Both reports are based in large part on the findings of U.N. nuclear inspectors, now in their third year of investigating Iran's program. While no proof of a weapons program has been found, serious questions about Tehran's past work on centrifuge designs and experiments with plutonium -- a key ingredient for a nuclear weapon -- have yet to be adequately addressed and have furthered suspicions that the country is hiding information.

With little new information from the probe, the Bush administration put together its own presentation of Iran's program for diplomats in Vienna who are weighing whether to report Iran to the Security Council.

The presentation has not been vetted through standard U.S. intelligence channels because it does not include secret material. One U.S. official involved in the briefing said the intelligence community had nothing to do with the presentation and "probably would have disavowed some of it because it draws conclusions that aren't strictly supported by the facts."

The presentation, conducted in a conference room at the U.S. mission in Vienna, includes a pictorial comparison of Iranian facilities and missiles with photos of similar-looking items in North Korea and Pakistan, according to a copy of the slides handed out to diplomats. Pakistan largely supplied Iran with its nuclear infrastructure but, as a key U.S. ally, it is identified in the presentation only as "another country."

Corey Hinderstein, a nuclear analyst with the Institute for Science and International Security, said the presence of a weapons program could not be established through such comparisons. She noted that North Korea's missile wasn't designed for nuclear weapons so comparing it to an Iranian missile that also wasn't designed to carry a nuclear payload "doesn't make sense."

Posted by crimnos @ 7:54 PM :: (0) comments

EPA To Allow Testing on Children; Soon to Allow Tying Women to Railroad Tracks

Directory Snidely Whiplash was unvailable for comment:

Exceptions in new EPA rules would allow testing pesticides on children
By Andrew Schneider
Sun National Staff
Originally published September 14, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency's new rules on human testing, which the agency said last week would "categorically" protect children and pregnant women from pesticide testing, include numerous exemptions - including one that specifically allows testing of children who have been "abused and neglected."

The rules were revised under intense criticism from environmental groups, scientists and members of Congress, after the disclosure that subjects in some earlier pesticide studies were unaware of what they were being exposed to and, in many cases, did not know why the testing was being done.

One study would have used $2 million from the chemical industry to measure the pesticide consumption of infants in low-income households in Florida.

In unveiling the new rules last week, the EPA promised full protection for those most at risk of unethical testing.

"We regard as unethical and would never conduct, support, require or approve any study involving intentional exposure of pregnant women, infants or children to a pesticide," the rule states.

But within the 30 pages of rules are clear-cut exceptions that permit:

# Testing of "abused or neglected" children without permission from parents or guardians.

# "Ethically deficient" human research if it is considered crucial to "protect public health."

# More than minimal health risk to a subject if there is a "direct benefit" to the child being tested, and the parents or guardians agree.

# EPA acceptance of overseas industry studies, which are often performed in countries that have minimal or no ethical standards for testing, as long as the tests are not done directly for the EPA.

The EPA provided little clarification yesterday in response to questions about the exemptions.

In a written response, officials said that abused and neglected children were specifically singled out to create "additional protection" for them, although they did not elaborate.

And they denied there were any exceptions to the prohibitions on testing women and children. They added that the new rules meet all the requirements set by Congress last spring and summer in a series of often heated hearings.

But some of those who led the hearings disagreed.

"For the first time in our nation's history, the EPA has proposed a program to allow for the systematic and everyday experimentation of pesticides on humans," Rep. Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat and leading critic of the testing policies, said in a statement yesterday. "Moreover, the proposed program is riddled with ethical loopholes."

Sen. Barbara Boxer, another California Democrat, who also demanded improvements in protecting human test subjects, voiced similar criticism.

"The EPA proposed rule on human testing has several large loopholes that undermine the very purpose of the rule. No wonder the pesticide companies are saying such nice things about it," Boxer said.

"This is unethical and contrary to recent direction from Congress."

Many critics believe that the agency is buckling to the pesticide industry, which has faced much more stringent testing standards under regulations approved in 1996.

The exemptions are "obviously driven by the pesticide industry's goal of relaxing pesticide safety standards," said Aaron Colangelo, a senior staff lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Fund, which has been involved in 18 lawsuits against the pesticide industry and government agencies.

Public health experts, including Colangelo, said they had no idea what the EPA meant by some of the language in the exemptions - how the agency might define a "direct benefit" to a child, for example.

"The rule says it's acceptable to test children if there is a direct benefit," Colangelo said. "How can any child possibly benefit from exposure to pesticides? What was EPA thinking about?"

"This is ethically abhorrent, and the way EPA described this rule is clearly misleading," he said. "In fact, the rule expressly approves intentional chemical tests against these [at-risk groups] in several circumstances."

Richard Wiles, senior vice president of Environmental Working Group, said "EPA's proposal is the [pesticide] industry's dream, and the public's nightmare."

Physicians and lawyers offered possible explanations for some of the exemptions.

A study that could mean higher crop yields could be justification enough for the EPA to cite a "public health benefit" under the exemptions, said Dr. Alan Lockwood, an expert in human-testing ethics and past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"This would be a public health benefit, even though the exposed children may experience an adverse effect."

Posted by crimnos @ 2:17 PM :: (0) comments

Here Comes the Post-Katrina Power Grab

We knew it was only a matter of time until some justification was found in the wake of Katrina: some “eminently reasonable” claim that, if only Bushy-boy had had these powers, things might have gone differently. He has come forward with these demands now, and I’m sure after his conciliatory little speech yesterday people are going to be in a giving mood. Let’s take a look at what he wants to be able to do:

Watch for violations of your freedom coming to a city near you! Read the whole story at the

Posted by crimnos @ 8:31 AM :: (2) comments

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Okay seriously I really did just choke on my lunch

Got this in my email just a minute ago from CNN:

President Bush says he takes responsibility for the federal government's failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina.

No...really, you think??

I guess when there's no other defense let's just see how much "responsibility" he really does take. My guess: this is about as much as he will take.

Posted by crimnos @ 12:30 PM :: (3) comments

Paul Krugman: All the President's Friends

Here's a great piece from yesterday on how Bush's cronyism is crippling other government agencies, such as the EPA and the FDA. A must-read, says I. Here's a sample:

What about the Food and Drug Administration? Serious questions have been raised about the agency's coziness with drug companies, and the agency's top official in charge of women's health issues resigned over the delay in approving Plan B, the morning-after pill, accusing the agency's head of overruling the professional staff on political grounds.

Then there's the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, whose Republican chairman hired a consultant to identify liberal bias in its programs. The consultant apparently considered any criticism of the administration a sign of liberalism, even if it came from conservatives.

You could say that these are all cases in which the Bush administration hasn't worried about degrading the quality of a government agency because it doesn't really believe in the agency's mission. But you can't say that about my other two examples.

Even a conservative government needs an effective Treasury Department. Yet Treasury, which had high prestige and morale during the Clinton years, has fallen from grace.

The public symbol of that fall is the fact that John Snow, who was obviously picked for his loyalty rather than his qualifications, is still Treasury secretary. Less obvious to the public is the hollowing out of the department's expertise. Many experienced staff members have left since 2000, and a number of key positions are either empty or filled only on an acting basis. "There is no policy," an economist who was leaving the department after 22 years told The Washington Post, back in 2002. "If there are no pipes, why do you need a plumber?" So the best and brightest have been leaving.

And finally, what about the department of Homeland Security itself? FEMA was neglected, some people say, because it was folded into a large agency that was focused on terrorist threats, not natural disasters. But what, exactly, is the department doing to protect us from terrorists?

Posted by crimnos @ 12:19 PM :: (0) comments

From the “Gee, What a Surprise” Category…

Seems Katrina has had a bit of an effect on President Bush’s approval rating. I, for one, am shocked and saddened by this development.

Okay, not really, on either count. But what does surprise me is that, despite all the blustering, spin, and outright lies I’ve heard from Conservatives both in real life and on the interwebs, Bush’s support is down on the Right. I mean, yeah, it’s still ridiculously high as Republicans maintain that ever-necessary denial of reality to continue supporting this administration, but some cracks could finally be showing up in that solid wall of…whatever it is that keeps them going:

Even some members of Bush's own party appear to have lost faith in their leader: The president's overall approval rating among Republicans has declined from 91 percent in January to 78 percent in the latest poll.

Now, for any sane individuals, 78 percent seems ridiculously high, but I am starting to see signs of flagging support as the myriad of yellow ribbons and Bush-Cheney 04 stickers begin to disappear all along I-66, and my neck of the woods is solid Bush country. Oh how I miss Fairfax County.

One more interesting statistic that really bears scrutiny: the race factor of Katrina. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more clear, empirical outline of the differences that we still face in this country than this snippet:

More than six in 10 blacks -- 63 percent -- said the problems with the hurricane relief effort are an indication of continuing racial inequity in this country, a view rejected by more than seven in 10 whites, according to the poll.

Hmmm…could white America be in denial? Is it still hard to get a management job if you’re something other than a whitebread All-American? I think the answer to both….well, if you don’t know, you’re part of the majority.

Here’s the story from the Post:

Bush's Approval Rating Drops To New Low in Wake of Storm
He Says Race Didn't Affect Efforts; Blacks in Poll Disagree

By Michael A. Fletcher and Richard Morin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 13, 2005; Page A08

Touring devastated portions of New Orleans yesterday, President Bush sought to reassure the public that the government is responding to Hurricane Katrina with equity and dispatch, even as his standing hit record lows amid broad support for an independent investigation of the federal response to the storm.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that clear majorities of Americans disapprove of the way officials at all levels of government are handling the recovery from Katrina. A 54 percent majority disapproved of Bush's response to Katrina, while an even larger majority -- 57 percent -- say state and local officials should bear responsibility for the problems.

Attitudes toward Bush and the government's overall response to Hurricane Katrina fracture along clear racial lines. Nearly three in four whites doubted the federal government would have responded more quickly to those trapped in New Orleans if they had been wealthier and white rather than poorer and black, the poll found. But an equal share of blacks disagreed, saying help would have come sooner if the victims had been more affluent whites.

More than six in 10 blacks -- 63 percent -- said the problems with the hurricane relief effort are an indication of continuing racial inequity in this country, a view rejected by more than seven in 10 whites, according to the poll.

Speaking to reporters after touring New Orleans yesterday, Bush sought to dispel the view that race played a role in the government's response to the disaster. "When those Coast Guard choppers, many of who were first on the scene, were pulling people off roofs, they didn't check the color of a person's skin," Bush said. "They wanted to save lives."

Bush vowed that the massive federal response, which already has received funding of more than $62 billion and involves more than 71,000 federal personnel on the ground, would be managed fairly. "The storm didn't discriminate, and neither did the recovery effort," he said, adding: "The rescue efforts were comprehensive, and the recovery will be comprehensive."

The bungled response to the hurricane has helped drag down Bush's job-approval rating, which now stands at 42 percent -- the lowest of his presidency -- in the Post-ABC poll and down three points since the hurricane hit two weeks ago. Fifty-seven percent disapprove of Bush's performance, a double-digit increase since January.

Even some members of Bush's own party appear to have lost faith in their leader: The president's overall approval rating among Republicans has declined from 91 percent in January to 78 percent in the latest poll.

Overall, half the country now characterizes Bush as a "strong leader" -- down 12 points since May of last year. And the proportion who say he can be "trusted in a crisis" likewise has fallen from 60 percent to 49 percent now.

The survey found that 76 percent of the public favors an investigation of federal storm response efforts by an independent commission similar to the one that probed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The proposal drew strong bipartisan support: 64 percent of all Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats favored creating the independent panel.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:08 AM :: (2) comments

Monday, September 12, 2005

FEMA chief Brown to resign

Whew Hew!

FEMA chief Brown to resign - report - Yahoo! News

Posted by crimnos @ 3:07 PM :: (0) comments

Bush signs Executive Order Lifting Prevailing Wage in Areas Affected By Katrina; Haliburton Rejoices

You can't make this stuff up, folks. Haliburton gets to bid for the relief effort at prevailing wages, wins the contract, and then Georgie Boy dumps the prevailing wages, allowing them to profit from disaster relief.

The surprising thing is that this is not new; it happened on Thursday and completely slipped under everyone's collective radar. I didn't even see this on the news or in the NY Times, so this comes as a complete surprise to me.

So we're two for two today. First they want to endanger the world, now they want to pay people who have lost their lives and livelihood much less than they should earn while Dick Cheney gets to swim around in a pool filled with money like Scrooge McDuck. Hopefully tomorrow tomorrow I'll check the Times and see a headline along the lines of 'Gangs of Katrina victims storm Bush Ranch, burn it to ground'.

Binary Logic on the SA Forums had a great theory: "Maybe, like many addicts, he's unconciously begging for an intervention. It's like he's back in his drunk/coked out National Guard days, and people are just standing back and gawking as the rich man's inebriated son staggers around doing crazy shit that no one can believe."

Whatever he's doing, he seems to just hate the real people of these country in general. Read on...

Bush lifts wage rules for Katrina
President signs executive order allowing contractors to pay below prevailing wage in affected areas.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush issued an executive order Thursday allowing federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pay below the prevailing wage.

In a notice to Congress, Bush said the hurricane had caused "a national emergency" that permits him to take such action under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in ravaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Davis-Bacon law requires federal contractors to pay workers at least the prevailing wages in the area where the work is conducted. It applies to federally funded construction projects such as highways and bridges.

Bush's executive order suspends the requirements of the Davis-Bacon law for designated areas hit by the storm.

Bush's action came as the federal government moved to provide billions of dollars in aid, and drew rebukes from two of organized labor's biggest friends in Congress, Rep. George Miller of California and Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, both Democrats.

"The administration is using the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to cut the wages of people desperately trying to rebuild their lives and their communities," Miller said.

"President Bush should immediately realize the colossal mistake he has made in signing this order and rescind it and ensure that America puts its people back to work in the wake of Katrina at wages that will get them and their families back on their feet," Miller said.

"I regret the president's decision," said Kennedy.

"One of the things the American people are very concerned about is shabby work and that certainly is true about the families whose houses are going to be rebuilt and buildings that are going to be restored," Kennedy said.

Posted by crimnos @ 12:44 PM :: (0) comments

See, Kids, This is Why Pre-emption is Bad.

Well, Bush has completely gone around the bend from “damn I hate that guy” to “wow, this could possibly be the Antichrist.” Why is that, you say? Well, looks like the Administration wants to change our policy on the use of nuclear weapons. No longer will we keep these horrible weapons chained, useless, out of the hands of noble Americans who could use them to wipe countries off the face of the Earth and protect the only thing that matters: Ameri…er…FREEDOM!

That’s right, our favorite wackos now want to move to a policy of pre-emptive nuclear strike on any country that so much as looks at us funny. Gone is the idea of MAD, gone is any sort of restraint on the use of horrendous weapons of war. If there was ever any doubt that the “bunker busters” were a move to lower the bar of nuclear war (apologists love to scream otherwise), this move completely eradicates any such doubt. No need to question any longer: they want to be able to hold the world hostage, no bones about it.

Of course, there’s nothing to worry about here! We've seen how much credibility pre-emptive military actions have in Iraq. Now we can apply that same kind of thought to using weapons that can wipe out entire populations with the press of a button! This is certainly NOT self-destructive, extremely dangerous, and destabilizing for the entire world. What, are you some pinko commie?

Never mind the fact that, if anything would drive people to go out of their way to sneak a nuke into the United States, it would probably be the United States using one first.

You know, because they hate freedom and all.

So seriously, just think about this. If this policy existed five years ago, we could have nuked Iraq off the face of the planet. Think about that.

No doubt who this is aimed at – this is more chest thumping in the direction of Iran. It could easily take away Natanz and other nuclear facilities without risking aircraft.

Iran would be easy to tag as a nuclear-armed power with offensive capacity if you wait long enough. All you have to say is that some Shahab-3s were being pointed at Israel, which is almost American territory anyway.

Then the Middle East descends into a hellish maelstrom not seen since the days of the Crusades, but hell, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, right?

Here’s the simple truth: there are other ways to prevent nuclear and biological attacks on US soil than by nuking someone. One of these ways is this thing called "diplomacy", which seems to have fallen out of style in recent years.

By the way, does this mean we have to nuke ourselves, since we have WMDs and may possibly use them?

Read this insanity at The UK Times Online:

A PRESIDENT of the United States would be able to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes against enemies planning to use weapons of mass destruction under a revised “nuclear operations” doctrine to be signed in the next few weeks.

In a significant shift after half a century of nuclear deterrence based on the threat of massive retaliation, the revised doctrine would allow pre-emptive strikes against states or terror groups, and to destroy chemical and biological weapons stockpiles.

Presidential approval would still be required for any nuclear strike, but the updated document, the existence of which was confirmed by the Pentagon at the weekend, emphasises the need for the US to adapt to a world of worsening proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in which deterrence might fail. In that event, it states, “the United States must be prepared to use nuclear weapons if necessary”.

The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, last revised ten years ago, extends President Bush’s doctrine of pre-emptive war to cover a US nuclear arsenal that is expected to shrink to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by 2012.

It was drafted by the Pentagon in March and posted on the internet, but did not attract widespread attention until a report on it in The Washington Post yesterday. It has since been removed from the Department of Defence website.

It came to light as Iran insisted, in defiance of the European Union, that it would continue processing uranium at its Isfahan reactor. The US has called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Tehran for failing to shelve its nuclear programme.

Referring repeatedly to “non-state actors” — parlance for terrorists — the doctrine is designed to arm the White House and US forces with a new range of threats and sanctions to counter the situation of threatened nuclear attack by al-Qaeda or one of its affiliates.

The document’s key phrase appears in a list of pre-emptive nuclear strike scenarios, the first of which is against an enemy using “or intending to use WMD”.

Elsewhere it states that “deterrence of potential adversary WMD use requires the potential adversary leadership to believe that the United States has both the ability and will to pre-empt or retaliate promptly with responses that are credible and effective”.

The 1995 version of the doctrine contained no mention of pre-emption or WMD as legitimate nuclear targets.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:38 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Katrina Darkens the Outlook for Incumbents: WaPo

A little good news for a Sunday. I hate to salivate over the prospect, given the enormous amount of human life and dignity lost and the ongoing police state that's reigning in the Gulf, okay, I won't, because it's just ghoulish. I'll just say that, if ever there was a time we were due for change, then now is that time. I only hope this momentum holds until next year. From the Post:

Katrina Darkens the Outlook for Incumbents
Public Dismay Could Shape 2006 Elections

By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hurricane Katrina has the potential to foment change in Washington like the terrorist strikes did four years ago, altering the government's priorities for the foreseeable future and darkening the mood of an electorate that was already anxious before the storm hit shore, according to lawmakers, pollsters and strategists from both parties.

The dispute over Washington's role in saving lives in New Orleans and in the future threatens to make incumbents from both parties among Katrina's casualties, several officials said. With the popularity of Congress and President Bush sagging before the crisis, many officials said Bush and lawmakers made their situation worse by pointing fingers and digressing into political warfare with rescue operations still underway.

The aftermath of the past two weeks is almost certain to have a long echo. The billions of dollars already committed -- with many predicting the sum will eventually reach into the hundreds of billions -- is enough to make the New Orleans catastrophe a dominant factor in Washington's ritual battles over spending priorities for the balance of Bush's term. And the question of accountability -- fixing responsibility for what went wrong in the troubled early days of the rescue effort -- promises to color congressional debate for the next year or more.

Beyond these concrete impacts, some strategists expect Katrina to reshape the ideological premises of Washington debate in more subtle, but potentially more consequential, ways. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), in memos circulated among Republicans last week and in conversations with White House officials, argued that the party that offers bold ideas to modernize how government responds to crisis will be rewarded in future elections.

"Both parties have a great opportunity -- and a great risk," Gingrich said in an interview. "One of the two parties is going to be the party that brings the country into the 21st century . . . and you can't say today which party will win that battle."

John D. Podesta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and head of a leading Democratic think tank, says Democrats must start by casting Bush's brand of conservatism -- emphasizing an "ownership society" elevating individualism and private enterprise -- as fundamentally flawed and hostile to society's collective responsibility to help citizens, especially the neediest.

In its place, Podesta says, Democrats must offer an activist, reform-minded government agenda that includes new energy, infrastructure and homeland defense policies.

Katrina "changed the future," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "Enough is enough: No more Bush-business-as-usual."

The emerging Democratic plan calls for a shift of resources away from Bush priorities, including lower taxes, to disaster preparedness, an approach that might gain traction with images of Katrina fresh in the minds of voters.

Although Democrats see opportunity, some of them acknowledge that Katrina's initial impact did not show anyone in Washington in the best light.

"When you get down to it, [voters] hate everyone right now," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Do you blame them? They feel let down."

This is potentially bad news for incumbents of all stripes, but Emanuel asserts the sour mood is more detrimental to the ruling Republican Party, in part because it scuffs what had been a core asset: a widespread belief that Bush was steady in crisis. Even some GOP strategists privately said they worry about Bush's political erosion. Bush's job- approval rating fell to the lowest of his presidency in two different polls released yesterday: 38 percent in the latest Newsweek Poll and to 42 percent in the Time Poll. "Incumbents in both parties are dancing perilously close to the edge right now: Gas prices are out of control, we are bogged down in Iraq and now politicians seem to be doing more talking than acting," said David Gergen, a presidential scholar who has served in GOP and Democratic administrations. "We may be heading toward an election in which the attitude is to throw the bums out, and if that happens, Republicans will pay the bigger prices because they are in control."

Posted by crimnos @ 10:56 AM :: (0) comments