Democracy For The Southern Adirondack/Tricounty Area
Thursday, September 22, 2005
'The faith-based economy is about to meet reality
'By Randolph T. Holhut DUMMERSTON, Vt. - We keep hearing statistics about how well the American economy is doing and how it is growing, creating new jobs and shrugging off high energy prices.We're hearing this despite the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters to hit the United States.We're hearing this, despite seeing energy prices nearly double in the past couple of years.We're hearing this despite being in the midst of an economy that doesn't seem to generate jobs that pay a living wage.In the mind of soon-to-be-outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, the biggest threat to the U.S. economy is not the $200 billion or so it's going to cost to rebuild the Gulf Coast.Nor is it the money being syphoned out of people's wallets every time they fill up their cars with gasoline.Nor is it the lack of jobs other than those that require you to ask, "Would you like fries with that?"No, in Greenspan's mind, inflation is the threat. So this week, for the 11th time since June 2004, the Federal Reserve raised its short-term interest rates.This is turn drives up the cost of credit for consumers - higher credit card interest rates, higher home equity loans, higher mortgages. A nation already overextended in debt gets another kick in the wallet.But that doesn't matter to Greenspan and the Fed. As long as economic growth is sufficiently restrained to keep wages low and price growth minimal, who cares who gets hurt? Just keep the financial markets safe.A rise in the Gross Domestic Product doesn't mean much if your expenses - particularly your energy costs - are rising faster than your salary.
The price of gasoline is now around $3 per gallon for unleaded regular. A year or so ago, we were paying about $1.50 per gallon.Let's say you drive a reasonably fuel-efficient vehicle that averages 25 miles to the gallon. If you drive 15,000 miles a year, you buy 600 gallons of gasoline. At $1.50 per gallon, that's $900 for a year's worth of gas. At $3 per gallon, you're paying $1,800.That's $900 you won't have for food or shelter.If you heat your home with oil or propane, your cost will also likely double this winter. That's more money gone from your monthly budget.Then there are the ripple effects of higher energy costs through the rest of the economy. If everything costs more to make and transport, those costs eventually get passed on to the consumer.Government statistics may not reflect it, but suddenly you're looking at a lot more families becoming very stressed financially because they have to pay a lot more to keep their car on the road and to heat their homes.Families aren't seeing their income keep up with expenses.
The latest U.S. Labor Department statistics show that the purchasing power of an average worker's wage has fallen about 1.5 percent since the summer of 2003, and that figure appears to be a huge understatement.But the Bush administration is still pretending that increased energy costs have no appreciable effect on the economy.Tell that to the food banks around the country who are seeing more people forced to choose between putting gas in the car to go to work or buying groceries.Tell that to the social service agencies that are bracing for an increase in fuel assistance applications; they already know they will not have enough money to help everyone.Tell that to the many Americans who are working harder than ever but are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet.This is the real economic picture, the one the policymakers don't want to talk about.They want to continue to pretend that Americans can accept the doubling of oil prices without an impact on the rest of the economy. How are people going to keep shopping at Wal-Mart if they can't afford to drive there?
Equally inexplicable is the pronouncement by the Fed that Hurricane Katrina will have no long-effect on the U.S. economy. A major American city, New Orleans, has been devastated. Worse, New Orleans is one of the most important ports in the U.S. Most of the nation's agricultural products go through New Orleans. Most of the raw materials for the nation's factories come through New Orleans. And a good chunk of the nation's energy comes through the Gulf Coast.How can that not affect the U.S. economy?All this adds up to one thing - a major recession next year and a lot of Americans in financial trouble. And the new bankruptcy rules take effect next month, making it harder for people to seek relief from their debts.It doesn't look good, and not even a truckload of rose-colored glasses can change things.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The most honest and appaling story from inside New Orleans yet
We are beginning to hear conflicting accounts of how bad it was in New Orleans. The answer is; it was extremely bad and the government response made it worse. What's doubly disturbing, is the now growing claim there was no racism. Read the account of the behavior of the Gretna sheriffs and you will know this is not true, and it is heartbreaking. There are many in positions of authority who should not only be fired, like "Brownie" but sent to jail.
EMS & Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences
By Parmedics Larry Bradsahw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky
Sep 6, 2005, 11:59
note: Bradshaw and Slonsky are paramedics frorm California that were attending the EMS conference in New Orleans. Larry Bradsahw is the chief shop steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790; and Lorrie Beth Slonsky is steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790.[California]
Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.
The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.
We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.
We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New
Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.
Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.
On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of
New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.
We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.
By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters
with callous and hostile "law enforcement".
We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The co
mmander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."
We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.
As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.
We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.
Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.
All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.
Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).
This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.
If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.
Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.
From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.
Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.
Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.
In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.
The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.
We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.
There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.
Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.
This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist.
There was more suffering than need be.
Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.
Monday, September 12, 2005
It seems a good time to revisit the four freedoms in light of the ongoing assault on civil liberties in our country.
The "Four Freedoms"
Franklin D. Roosevelt's Address to Congress January 6, 1941 Chapter 36
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want -- which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear -- which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-- anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception -- the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change -- in a perpetual peaceful revolution -- a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions -- without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.
To that high concept there can be no end save victory.
From Congressional Record, 1941, Vol. 87, Pt. I.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Tricounty DFA "Meetup"/DFA-Linkup Report -- Join Us!
We had an unusually busy and successful DFA meeting last Wednesday at the Rockhill Bakehouse Cafe.
In This Report:
1. Ron Vanselow Endorsement
2. Leave My Child Alone --
3. Join In LMCA -- More Schools need contacting!
4. Voting Machines
5. Join The Voting Machine Team
6. DFA-Link gaining speed
7. Upcoming Demonstrations Next Week -- Cindy Sheehan in Albany
8. Are Democrats Speaking Out? Clinton and Dean
1. Our first action was to unanimously endorse Ron Vanselow for a seat on the Johnsburg Town Board. Ron has been a long term Planning Board member in Johnsburg and is riding a wave of concern about development changing the town. For those who don't know him, Ron was a major supporter of Governor Dean's from the beginning. I think it's fair to say we were pleased to give Ron our support.
2. The bulk of the evening was spent on DFA's Leave My Child Alone initiative, beginning with a moving video featuring Gold Star Mother For Peace Cindy Sheehan. Quite a few of us shared personal experiences in dealing with recruiters, especially Kameron Spaulding.
In a truly remarkable development, we scored a victory before we even met. How is that possible?
You probably saw the article in article in the Tuesday Post Star on our LMCA initiative and Wednesday's "meetup"/DFA-Linkup. Quoted in the story at some length was one of our members, Rev. Sandra Spaulding, who discovered recruiters came up onto her porch when she wasn't home hunting for Kameron.
Wednesday was the first day of school, of course. When Kameron, who is also a regular member of our meetup and the head of Washington County Young Democrats, arrived in class, he discovered that, contrary to what had been the practice in every previous year, every desk in the school had an opt out form on it to be taken home. Kameron's school mates were all ribbing him as to what his mom had wrought. They thought it was pretty funny. But the forms went home, of course, with all the rest of the paperwork.
Kameron and his mom Sandra deserve a real tip of the hat for this; we won one before we began, I don't think I've ever had that experience before.
3. We agreed to take action on Leave My Child Alone; there are 23 area school districts. Meeting attendees are now contacting 15 of them. They will do the following:
*Explain they are from DFA
* Determine the superintendent's and the school board's policies and what they are or are not doing.
* Ask them to support parent's and children's privacy rights by sending home opt-out forms just as Kameron's school is now doing.
* Report back and visit the school board meeting and ask to speak.
We still need people to contact and possibly visit some schools! The following have not been taken: North Warren, Saratoga Springs City, Hadley-Luzerne, Bolton, Warrensburg and Corinth. If you want to contact these schools, please email me back.
The materials you will need, including a sample School Board Resolution, a School Board meeting tip sheet, a sample opt-out form and a sample Superintendent Letter are online at: http://tools.democracyforamerica.com/resources/
4. The next piece of business was voting machines. As we all probably know, New York State is replacing its voting machines. We set up a team, headed by Bob Rockwell, to do some fact finding from the Warren County Board of Elections. Bob spoke with Mary Beth Casey. He learned the Commissioners are going to be pushing for the infamous touchscreen machines. As we have noted, progressives everywhere are pushing for optically scanned paper ballots that can be reliably recounted. There have been serious problems with touchscreen machines, known as DRE's, for Direct Recording Entry, all across the country. If Florida had optical scan machines in 2000, Al Gore would be President. We will be checking into this; a public forum and reaching out to supervisors will probably be required. Stay tuned.
5. Our Voting Machine Team is going to be contacting supervisors; if you want to help, contact me or Bob at email@example.com.
There are some really interesting demonstrations coming up:
6. DFA-Link is gaining speed. We have almost 30 people signed up! This will really build our group by making it easier for all of us to contact each other. This is about empowering YOU! If you haven't signed up with DFA-Link, now's the time! Just click this link, enter your name, create and password and join. http://www.DFA-Link.com/register.php?c=g&id=91042f3ae603ef90&
I would note, some people registered without joining a group. You might want to check to make sure you did: http://tools.democracyforamerica.com/link/group.php?id=113
7. On Wednesday, Sep. 14, Cindy Sheehan and the Bring Them Home Now bus tour, http://www.bringthemhomenowtour.org/, will be arriving
in Albany, NY, on it's way to the peace rally in Washington, DC, on Sep. 24.
Details are still being finalized. The tentative schedule of events is
10am - set up symbolic Camp Casey at Capitol Park West; Camp Casey to be staffed throughout the day; memorials, musicians, poets, and other events going throughout the day
Noon - Vigil on west side of Capitol building
7pm - Evening forum where Cindy Sheehan and all BTHN bus tour members will be speaking to a large public audience at Chancellor's Hall in Education Building across Hawk St from the Capital.
Additional information will be posted here and here:
http://www.bringthemhomenowtour.org/userdata_display.php?modin=50&uid=24 as it becomes available and details are finalized.
This event leads into the big protest demonstration in Washington, D.C. scheduled for September 24th. Friday, Sep. 23, in Albany there will be a kick-off rally. March begins 4:00PM at the Federal Building across from the Palace Theater, corner of Pearl and Clinton. They will march down Pearl St, up State & Washington, stop at the Capital (west side, Washington & Swan at 4:30PM. Then on to Townsend Park (Central & Henry Johnson Blvd) for a rally beginning at 5:00PM with music, speakers, and ending with a candlelight vigil. A very large crowd is expected for this as well as for the Bus Tour and the buses to DC (see next item) and are working with other groups nationwide to make this all happen.
There will be Buses to September 24-26, Peace Rally in Washington, DC leaving from Albany. The Northeast Peace and Justice Action Coalition, www.nepajac.org, is coordinating buses to the Peace Rally in Washington, DC on Sep. 24, Call Joe Lombardo at 439-1968 for more information about getting a seat on the bus.
8. We hear people ask, why aren't the Democrats speaking out on the dual Katrina catastrophe (the hurricane and then the bungled relief effortt staffed by political pals, now fired)? At least two of them are: Senator Clinton, who always opposed putting FEMA into Homeland Security, tore into the Administration and called for an independent investigation: http://www.forbes.com/business/feeds/afx/2005/09/07/afx2210373.html
Governor Dean made a tough speech linking the explosion in poverty to the Katrina disaster: http://www.democrats.org/a/2005/09/governor_dean_s_2.php
Thanks everyone! Have a great weekend!
Sheer, Utter Incompetence and Corruption
After Katrina Fiasco, Time for Bush to Go
By Gordon Adams The Baltimore Sun
Thursday 08 September 2005
The disastrous federal response to Katrina exposes a record of incompetence, misjudgment and ideological blinders that should lead to serious doubts that the Bush administration should be allowed to continue in office.
When taxpayers have raised, borrowed and spent $40 billion to $50 billion a year for the past four years for homeland security but the officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency cannot find their own hands in broad daylight for four days while New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast swelter, drown and die, it is time for them to go.
When funding for water works and levees in the gulf region is repeatedly cut by an administration that seems determined to undermine the public responsibility for infrastructure in America, despite clear warnings that the infrastructure could not survive a major storm, it seems clear someone is playing politics with the public trust.
When rescue and medical squads are sitting in Manassas and elsewhere in northern Virginia and foreign assistance waits at airports because the government can't figure out how to insure the workers, how to use the assistance or which jurisdiction should be in charge, it is time for the administration to leave town.
When President Bush stays on vacation and attends social functions for two days in the face of disaster before finally understanding that people are starving, crying out and dying, it is time for him to go.
When FEMA officials cannot figure out that there are thousands stranded at the New Orleans convention center - where people died and were starving - and fussed ineffectively about the same problems in the Superdome, they should be fired, not praised, as the president praised FEMA Director Michael Brown in New Orleans last week.
When Mr. Bush states publicly that "nobody could anticipate a breach of the levee" while New Orleans journalists, Scientific American, National Geographic, academic researchers and Louisiana politicians had been doing precisely that for decades, right up through last year and even as Hurricane Katrina passed over, he should be laughed out of town as an impostor.
When repeated studies of New Orleans make it clear that tens of thousands of people would be unable to evacuate the city in case of a flood, lacking both money and transportation, but FEMA makes no effort before the storm to commandeer buses and move them to safety, it is time for someone to be given his walking papers.
When the president makes Sen. Trent Lott's house in Pascagoula, Miss., the poster child for rebuilding while hundreds of thousands are bereft of housing, jobs, electricity and security, he betrays a careless insensitivity that should banish him from office.
When the president of the United States points the finger away from the lame response of his administration to Katrina and tries to finger local officials in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., as the culprits, he betrays the unwillingness of this administration to speak truth and hold itself accountable. As in the case of the miserable execution of policy in Iraq, Mr. Bush and Karl Rove always have some excuse for failure other than their own misjudgments.
We have a president who is apparently ill-informed, lackadaisical and narrow-minded, surrounded by oil baron cronies, religious fundamentalist crazies and right-wing extremists and ideologues. He has appointed officials who give incompetence new meaning, who replace the positive role of government with expensive baloney.
They rode into office in a highly contested election, spouting a message of bipartisanship but determined to undermine the federal government in every way but defense (and, after 9/11, one presumed, homeland security). One with Grover Norquist, they were determined to shrink Washington until it was "small enough to drown in a bathtub." Katrina has stripped the veil from this mean-spirited strategy, exposing the greed, mindlessness and sheer profiteering behind it.
It is time to hold them accountable - this ugly, troglodyte crowd of Capital Beltway insiders, rich lawyers, ideologues, incompetents and their strap-hangers should be tarred, feathered and ridden gracefully and mindfully out of Washington and returned to their caves, clubs in hand.
Gordon Adams, director of security policy studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, was senior White House budget official for national security in the Clinton administration.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Ron Vanselow Endorsed
Greater Glens Falls Democracy For America
For Immediate Release
Glens Falls, N.Y. September 7, 2005 -- On Wednesday evening, September 7, Democracy For The Greater Glens Falls Area, a part of the Democracy for America grassroots political movement founded by former Vermont Governor and Presidential candidate Howard Dean, endorsed Ron Vanselow for a seat on the Johnsburg Town Board. Part of Democracy for America's mission is to promote progressive political ideas and progressive-minded political talent throughout the region. The vote was unanimous.
According to GGFDFA coordinator Larry Dudley, Vanselow is exactly the kind of progressive candidate DFA is looking for.
"This is a critical time for the Town," said Vanselow Wednesday night, "with the development of hundreds of new housing units at Gore Mountain and the new wind power project, the nature of life in the town could really change dramatically in the next few years." A concern about runaway development, along with its effect on traffic congestion, taxes, local schools, property values, sprawl, water resources and other quality of life concerns, is a central part of Vanselow's campaign. He is presently a member of the Johnsburg Planning Board and feels it is essential to bring that experience to the Town Board. He is also strongly committed to proper fiscal management of the town's resources and budget. Says Vanselow, "One of the great things about Johnsburg is that people come together to help each other and to get things done. I've been lucky. I've been able to serve in a variety of ways over the last twenty years. Working on the rescue squad, environmental issues -- planning and zoning. You learn a lot. I'd be honored to use that experience in a different way now as a member of the town board."
Vanselow is a graduate of SUNY and the George Washington University. He is a long term resident of the Town of Johnsburg and a community activist and volunteer. He has served as Chairman of the Town of Johnsburg Environmental Advisory Committee. He was the town's Recycling Director, a member of the Warren County, NY Recycling Advisory Committee and the Town of Johnsburg Landfill Advisory Committee. He has also spent a total of ten years on the Johnsburg Planning Board. He was a volunteer EMT/Paramedic with the Johnsburg Emergency Squad, as well as Training Officer, Squad V.P/President, CPR Instructor, Paramedic Preceptor, NYS Certified EMS Lab Instructor. While a volunteer with the Emergency Squad he was also a Board of Director's member and Chairman of Adirondack Regional Emergency Services.
As part of the group's endorsement, Vanselow's name will be submitted for inclusion in Democracy For America's DFA-List, formerly the Dean-List, a national listing of progressive candidates at every political level, endorsed by the national Democracy For America organization.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
An interesting article from Saratoga resident and author James Kunstler on the economic underpinnings of the economy
The Long Emergency Ahead
By James Howard Kunstler, AlterNet. Posted September 8, 2005.
Will New Orleans and the devastated region around it be rebuilt on the hollow premise of Cheap Oil?
When Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans and the Gulf Coast two weeks ago, a lot of the delusions cherished by the American public about the kind of nation we are becoming were washed away. The inhabitants of a region nearly the size of Italy now face real hardship and the loss of all their presumed entitlements to a way of life that is supposed to be non-negotiable. The weather has negotiated for them, and everyone else in the nation is feeling the effects at the gas pumps that rule our lives.
People often ask me why we are getting such poor leadership on the issues that comprise the Long Emergency, as I have called the difficulties advanced civilizations face in the decades ahead. Specifically, why haven't President Bush or the leaders of the Democratic opposition uttered a word about our extreme car dependency?
The answer, I think has to do with the nature of our economy. The dirty secret of the American economy for at least a decade now is that it has come to be based on the creation of suburban sprawl and the activities associated with it -- the building of cul-de-sac McMansions, highway retail pods, car sales, real estate sales, the creation of false liquidity in the form of easy mortgages and the deployment of that debt into tradable instruments. The sprawl-building industry comprises over 40 percent of what we do in this country. If you subtract it from the U.S. economy, there isn't much left besides hair cutting and open heart surgery.
Our leaders don't have the courage to tell us that we can't continue to live this way, because too many jobs, incomes, and votes would have to go with it. They may not have the courage to even face the facts themselves. They may be hostages -- like most other Americans -- to the belief that a drive-in society is the only conceivable way to live, or the best, or simply normative.
The suburban project, which has preoccupied us since the end of the Second World War, can be seen now in light of the gathering global energy predicament as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. Having put so much of our post-war wealth into this massive infrastructure for daily living, we are captives of it, subject to a corrosive psychology of previous investment, which does not permit us to imagine letting go of this way of life, or even reforming it.
Vice-President Dick Cheney's declaration that this way of life is "not negotiable" is a prime symptom of this collective psychology. With the city of New Orleans now being drained, proposals for rebuilding it are flying around the noosphere. Daniel Libeskind, the cutting-edge starchitect whose proposal for turning the former World Trade Center site into the set for a German expressionist movie won the hearts and minds of New York City planning officials, has proposed that New Orleans should be rebuilt into a Jazz theme park. Apart from the fatuousness of this idea, I'd have to simply wonder at the economic assumption that cheap airfares and motor tourism will remain at the heart of any region's economy in an energy-scarce future
More sensible proposals will be made by the New Urbanists, leading proponents for walkable neighborhoods and compact development -- which is, in fact, consistent with the original template for most of the neighborhoods ruined by floods. This means sticking to an interconnected street-and-block system, normal urban building lots, and a menu of building types consistent with the history and scale of the place. This is really not a tough assignment to either understand or execute, but if the so-called production home builders come on to the scene, they may wreak a new kind of havoc with their mostly suburban standards and practices.
Of course, any rebuilding would depend on a major engineering effort to raise the ground level in these neighborhoods. That, in turn, depends on whether whole neighborhoods are deemed to be "scrape offs," since such a project could not be done in piecemeal fashion. Finally, we would be faced with the economic paradox that new construction tends not to fall into the "affordable housing" category, and those displaced might not be able to acquire new houses to replace the ones they lost in the places where they stood. It's too early to tell what will become of New Orleans' downtown core of skyscrapers and megastructures.
On Tuesday, news began to leak out that the Superdome was damaged beyond saving and may have to be torn down. The modernist office and hotel towers have liabilities on their own terms that detract from their usefulness in the years ahead, for instance the fact that they were designed with cheap air conditioning in mind. Since cheap A.C. may not be on the menu in an energy-scarcer future, one has to wonder whether these buildings would be worth rehabilitating.
Much of the stuff just outside New Orleans, and along the Gulf Coast, was largely post-war suburban fabric -- housing subdivisions, collector boulevards with their complements of fry pits, malls, muffler shops and big box out-parcels. We'd hope that the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana will not undertake to rebuild them they way they were. But the existing template reflects a pattern of property ownership that is not easily changed. The New Urbanists have a good record of retrofitting some of these things. For instance they have had some success in turning "dead" malls into mixed use town centers. But some of this stuff, in particular single-family housing developments, do not lend themselves very well to reform.
Many of the debates over the suburban extravaganza have been framed in terms of the "choices" Americans make. Suburbia, it is often said by cheerleaders like David Brooks of The New York Times, or Wendell Cox of the Reason Institute, represents a favorable "choice" on a big menu that includes city apartment life, or a cabin in the woods, or a soybean farm. I'd argue that the suburban choice is coming off the menu.
The public may recognize that commuting 80 miles a day to a job just isn't financially possible for many of them anymore. They may even balk at driving four miles to a food market. If the collective culture that brings us redevelopment does not change its methods -- and by this I mean everyone from the bankers to the builders to the government planning officials -- then the people of the Gulf Coast will be stuck with an infrastructure for daily life with no future.
For the moment, reality is intervening in the form of gasoline prices exceeding $3 in most parts of the nation. While the price of gasoline may go down for a while, it is not liable to stay down for long, and it is just as likely to shoot above $3 before New Year's Day 2006.
What about the x-thousand number of people around America beyond the Gulf Coast who, up until the day after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, were making plans to put in an offer on a new house 38 miles outside of Dallas (or Minneapolis, or Denver, or Washington, DC, etc.)?
What if, all of a sudden, with a full tank in their Ford Expedition costing almost $100, they begin to calculate that living 38 miles from town isn't such a great idea anymore? Surely this is occurring to some potential buyers. We won't really know until the home sales figures come in a month from now. What's more, many of them may decide that a new McMansion in a distant suburb is a bad idea not only for themselves, but an even worse idea from an investment point-of-view, in case they are buying the house just to "flip" it for the expected 10 percent annual rise in value that such houses have enjoyed in recent years.
Even if the price of gasoline retreats a bit, there will probably be resistance among the gas retailers to drop it much below the $3 range once it has been breached, and despite what you think you hear in the news, help is not necessarily on the way. For instance, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is composed of 25 percent light sweet crude and 75 percent heavy sour crude. Do you know the difference? One difference is that sour crude is more difficult and more expensive to refine. In addition to that it requires special dedicated refineries, of which there are few.
Another dot to connect. We arguably are in more trouble with our natural gas supply than with gasoline. I'm speaking of methane -- the gas we use to run our furnaces and stoves. Fully half the houses in America heat with natural gas. The gas supply was extremely tenuous even before the Hurricane struck. A great deal of it comes out wells in the Gulf of Mexico -- because we have depleted so many of our land-based wells. Natural gas sold for $3 a unit (1000 cubic feet) in 2003. The price is now around $12. Nearly half of that growth is just since the previous heating season. Imagine your heating bill doubling in a year. It could go up beyond $16 before the coming season is over. There are reports that Hurricane Katrina may have damaged three natural gas processing facilities on the Gulf Coast with a combined capacity of almost 8 percent of total national production.
Now, since Americans have fallen in love with super-sized suburban houses regardless of the local climate; and since many owners of these giant new houses are barely able to keep up with their enormous mortgage payments; and since they will pay through the nose to stay warm this season; and since they will be getting into serious financial difficulty that will be made worse by severe changes in the bankruptcy laws that take effect on October 16 -- ask yourself if that might effect the housing market, that is, the suburban sprawl-based economy.
I think it will. I think we may find ourselves in a situation that gives the term "affordable housing" whole new dimensions of meaning.
Interestingly, The New York Times ran a front-page headline on September 4 to the effect of, "U.S. Economy Not Affected by Hurricane." This is the thinking now at the highest levels of news gathering among a group I hesitate to label the power elite -- but they do exist, even for those of us allergic to conspiracy theories.
This is why we have such poor leadership: an utter failure of imagination among our leaders, including politics, business and the media.
The hurricane that shredded the Gulf Coast will have consequences, but mainly in accelerating structural problems already present in American society, with its gross imbalances and collectively suicidal economic behavior.
The next thing to look for: If fewer suburban houses are sold because of higher energy prices, the creation of false liquidity in the form of mortgages spun out of thin air will cease. If this stream of false liquidity ceases, the government-sponsored entities who bundle all this debt into tradable instruments will find themselves in trouble. If they go off the rails, the American finance sector will follow like a choo-choo train.
Things could get very serious. And just because of some bad weather.
In the meantime, Americans in all ranks of society will resist the idea that we might have to make other arrangements for daily life in the 21st century.
James Howard Kunstler is a regular contributor to Orion magazine, Mother Jones, The Atlantic Monthly, and is the author of "The Long Emergency" (Atlantic Monthly Press). He drives a 1992 Toyota pickup truck, when he drives at all.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
To Those Who Voted for Bush: Do You Get It Now?
September 6, 2005 By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
Here's something I don't understand. The golden goose was about to lay another 9/11-type golden egg for Bush & Co. to pick up. And they didn't.
Surely, Karl Rove, who had seen Bush's approval ratings drop to all-time lows, knew days ahead that a Category 5 Hurricane was bearing down on New Orleans and a calamitous disaster was likely to unfold there if and when the levees were unable to hold back the water. What better way to improve those ratings than for Bush to be photographed the day after the disaster struck, standing on top of debris, bullhorn in hand, vowing that the government would help Gulf Coast states rebuild from the Katrina catastrophe?
But none of that happened. They bungled their own political resurrection. Nearly a full week went by, while thousands were dying and starving or were kenneled in unbelievable filth in New Orleans. Nobody seemed to be in charge. Bush remained on vacation in Crawford, and traveled around to fundraisers, played golf, etc. Condi was buying expensive shoes on Fifth Avenue. What was going on? Did Karl Rove not understand the significance of what was happening? Was Bush... uh... "incapacitated?" What about Cheney, on vacation in Wyoming; was he "incapacitated," too? Are the Bush people really that politically obtuse?
So here's the question I have for those of you who voted for Bush in 2004: do you get it now?
BUSH GOES AWOL, AGAIN
For the past four years, progressives and moderate-conservatives have been pointing out how incompetent this administration is. Many Bush Republicans accused us of making up such accusations for purely political reasons. Now you yourself can see what we have seen: these guys are in way over their heads and haven't got a clue; they're constantly having to come back at a problem in hopes of getting it right the second or third time around.
Of course, that means they're always playing catch-up, which means they're always too late. Take this Alice-in-Wonderland comment made by Bush a week after he went AWOL - again - when his country needed him: "In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need."
Those at the royal Bush court lead such isolated, circumscribed lives that when a disaster strikes, they are so far removed from the circumstances in which regular people find themselves that they simply don't understand the magnitude of what's happening out there in the real-world. You may remember that Bush's first response to the Asian tsunami was silence, and then a grudging, piddling amount of aid was offered; it took the international community shaming him for his unfeeling miserliness before his handlers began to change Bush's tune and he finally pledged genuine aid commensurate with the enormity of the catastrophe.
Our earlier assessment of the administration as bumblers was based mainly on the disaster that Bush & Co. made, and are still making, in the Persian Gulf. But now the whole world gets to see, up close and personal, the thorough botch they made, and are still making, in the other Gulf, in New Orleans and its environs.
THE IRAQ BOTCH
In Iraq, they launched a war based on lies and deceptions, had no plan for what should happen after the major military fighting ceased.
They turned away Iraqis from participating in the reconstruction of their own society, preferring to award the multi-billion-dollar contracts to huge American firms like Halliburton and Bechtel. They disbanded the Iraqi army, leaving hundreds of thousands of young Iraqi men unemployed and angry. They insultingly refused aid and advice from the United Nations and their former allies, wanting nobody to interfere with their Occupation. They didn't have enough troops, and the correct troops, in place to police the post-war phase. They didn't guard the abandoned ammo dumps, and then were surprised when those munitions were used to blow up U.S. soldiers.
They finally, a year or two late, realized that the U.S. was engaged in a guerrilla-style war against nationalist insurgents, along with some foreign jihadists, and started to change their military strategy. But it was too late, and insufficient, to make much of a dent. Now the U.S. is involved in a stalemated, Vietnam-like quagmire; steady streams of flag-draped caskets make their way back to the U.S., and thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians continue dying as well.
And still Bush cannot bring himself to answer Cindy Sheehan's simply question: "For what noble cause did my son have to die?"
ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
Now in 2005, a natural disaster occurred that everyone predicted - including the government's own emergency-response specialists - and that was warned about days before Hurricane Katrina hit. But the administration's response was non-existent. Or completely beyond belief: Bush actually told Diane Sawyer, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breech of the levees." Read your experts' frickin' reports, man!
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - which Bush basically turned into a stripped-down, underfunded subgroup buried in the Homeland Security Department, focusing on anti-terrorism measures rather than on emergency-management - is led by an bumbling political appointee, Michael Brown, someone with no experience in this field, and it showed; for example, neither he nor Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff were aware there were thousands of refugees in the city's Convention Center until Day 5. Don't they watch TV?
Brown was a buddy of one of Bush's Texas pals, with a history in show-horses. That's the man in charge of FEMA. And, believe it or not, Bush the other day thanked him publicly for doing such a "heck of a job." Oh, by the way, guess which company has been awarded the contract for reconstructing New Orleans? Yep, Cheney's Halliburton.
New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin hit the nail on the head about Bush's belated promise to send 40,000 troops into his city. "Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something."
Tens of thousands of New Orleans residents - those mostly too poor to have been able to evacuate the city - were herded into mass structures like the Superdome and Convention Center, locked inside, and then no government agency provided food, water, medicine, sanitation care, removal of the dead, etc. Those who wanted to leave those horrific shelters and cross over a bridge to dry land were prohibited by armed guards from doing so.
Many of those residents complained that the thousands of citizens there were treated worse than dogs in a kennel. It was a circle out of Dante's Inferno. Indeed, so atrociously were the victims treated in those facilities, prevented from leaving by armed troops, that even right-wing Fox News reporters Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera were appalled on the air, just trying to get viewers to understand the enormity of the hell-on-earth scenes they were witnessing. Rivera was crying and screaming to "let these people walk out of here... just let them leave." (You've got to see this powerful video of Shepard and Rivera live on air - reality-journalism at its best.)
DON'T BE POOR OR POOR-AND-BLACK
The fact that the great majority of those seeking refuge and rescue were African-American, and that no help came in the first five or six days, spoke volumes about the "compassionate conservatism" supposedly animating Bush's administration. Try to imagine how fast the federal government would have mobilized to reach an upper-class compound filled with thousands of well-do-do white people, with access and influence. You get the picture.
Speaking of pictures, two comments:
1. Bush flew into New Orleans to have his picture taken for public-relations purposes. At one location, he spoke at a food-distribution point, which disappeared shortly after the photo-op. It was a set! Various other photo-ops likewise were organized that were equally as unreal. For more, see "The Potemkin Photo Op."
2. No doubt you've seen the way two virtually identical photos of hurricane survivors were captioned in local newspapers. In one, a white man, up to his chest in water, with some groceries in his hands: "...found food at a local market." In another, same scenario, but a young black man: "...looted food from a supermarket." Both were trying to survive and bring some form of sustenance back to their children and families. One "found" food, the other "looted" food.
Interestingly, when after Baghdad fell we saw the video pictures of Iraqis looting stores and museums and such, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said: "Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." Looting, he added, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. "Stuff happens."
Now the governor of Louisiana is talking about "shoot-to-kill" orders against those who, facing starvation from a non-caring government, are taking food from abandoned, flooded-out grocery stores. And right-wing, let-them-eat-cake pundits blame the mostly black, poverty-stricken residents for "choosing" not to evacuate New Orleans, as if these cashless folks should just have jumped in their non-existent cars or boats and headed out of town. Of course, FEMA or the military could have supplied the buses and trucks and trains to take out the trapped, but apparently there were no such contingency plans and/or nobody with any brains was in charge to get the mass evacuation organized.
A REVERSE-MIDAS TOUCH
But let's move on from America's perennial, always-just-below-the-surface racism and hits-on-the-poor. The point here is that George W. Bush has a reverse Midas touch. Whatever he involves himself in as a leader winds up in FUBAR land. (If you don't know what those letters stand for, ask someone in the military: F---ed Up Beyond All Recognition.)
It happened with his botched oil-company ventures at Arbusto and Harken Energy in Texas; it happened, and is happening in Iraq; and now it's happening with regard to the Katrina disaster in Louisiana.
Except this time there's no wealthy family friend, or Saudi prince, or British prime minister, to bail Bush out of his difficulties. He's out there all by his lonesome, exposed for all the world to see as the emperor with no clothes, a figurehead leader with no emotional or intellectual wherewithal to deal efficiently and correctly with anything beyond the most simple scenarios. Introduce complexity into the equation, and he's a deer in the highlights of reality.
So... what to do? While Rove & Co. ratchet up the ol' spin machine - and try to find others to blame for their own gross delays and mistakes - Bush's normal allies are abandoning him, right and left and right. Business Week, Washington Times, newspapers around the country, conservative pundits David Brooks and Newt Gingrich, retired military officers, and so on - they all can't believe the idiocy and deadly cluelessness of their GOP hero.
They all realize that this incompetent, way-over-his-head guy has three more years on his contract, and he's likely to take down the economy, political structure, and everything else with him as his administration self-destructs in an unholy mess. In short, the Bush administration is not good for business, which CEOs and others are finally starting to realize.
LEAVE OR BE PUSHED
Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and Chertoff and the others simply have got to go, along with the other fools and criminals down there in his bunker. Bush and Cheney either must be encouraged by GOP powerbrokers to resign, or they must be impeached.
They each took a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution and all American citizens. They have shredded the Constitution - in the name of "anti-terrorism," they have denuded the Bill of Rights - and they have clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of protecting the citizenry, either in Iraq or here at home.
Indeed, they have, for their own partisan purposes, revealed the identity of a covert CIA agent - a crime that according to President George H. W. Bush is "traitorous"; indictments are expected shortly against key Bush administration officials involved in this case. In addition, the administration has "disappeared" American citizens into the military gulag, away from contact with lawyers or their families. This is the behavior of dictators; when it happens in African or Latin American countries, we are outraged. Folks, it's happening right here.
You and I, no matter for whom we voted in 2004, need to stop these incompetent fools from doing even more damage, and get this country back on its moral track, run by leaders who have something else on their minds other than power-hunger and take-the-money-and-run.
They should go voluntarily right now, in the best interests of the country. If they don't choose to go, it's long past time for impeachment hearings to begin and for local prosecutors and grand juries (perhaps in New Orleans parishes) to start their own investigations and indictments, and not depend solely on Congress for accountability-reckoning. That's the message that needs to go out from all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to our legislators.
I can't express it any better than Aaron Broussard, the president of New Orleans' Jefferson Parish. Here is what he had to say on Meet the Press..
We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast. But the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. ? Whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chainsawed off and we've got to start with some new leadership. 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.
Bernard Weiner has authored more than 150 articles and essays about the Bush administration since 9/11/01. A Ph.D. in government & international relations, he has taught at various colleges, was a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for 19 years, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers. To comment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, September 02, 2005
Compassionate Conservatism in Action
Fri Sep 2nd, 2005 at 00:10:40 PDT
The last twelve hours of news coverage has been nearly overwhelming. Anderson Cooper, Paula Zahn, others, even unapologetic partisans like Joe Scarborough and Tucker Carlson -- everyone is asking where the government is. (No, I haven't turned to Fox News. I don't have the heart, today.) Anderson Cooper lost it interviewing Sen. Mary Landrieu, countering her litany of thank-yous to a series of politicians with his own encounter with rats eating a body that had been left abandoned in the street for 48 hours. Paula Zahn boggled at FEMA director Michael Brown's declaration that the reason about 15,000 shelter seekers at the New Orleans Convention Center have gone without food or water since the day of the hurricane is because FEMA didn't even know the refugees were there until today.
The common televised theme is of reporters traveling to hard hit areas in New Orleans or the smaller communities, and reporting no FEMA presence, no National Guard presence, no food, no water, no help -- and this is day 5. "Where is the government?" has been the predominant theme of the day. Apologists are being met with barely concealed disgust, in more and more quarters. Bush administration cuts to the levee system are being widely reported. FEMA inaction is being roundly criticized by ever-more-urgent live feeds from disheveled media figures with stunned expressions.
The Convention Center situation appears to be horrific, with deaths of elderly and infants due to dehydration already now occurring. It's not clear if anything can be or is being done tonight, or how many will die between now and the morning, or what will happen then.
The lawlessness is rampant. It's important to note, however, that the lawlessness wasn't rampant on Monday. It wasn't rampant on Tuesday. We heard only twinges of it on Wednesday. Today, from the sounds of the reports, a city devoid of all hope devolved into absolute chaos.
It is nighttime again in New Orleans, and after four days of no food, no water, no communications, no security forces, and no apparent discernible plan that they can see, trust and hope that rescuers will arrive seems all but gone. If the forces had arrived on Tuesday, things would be different.
It is simply too stunning, too shocking, too soul-draining. Nobody knows where the emergency relief has been. Nobody can quite understand why the response to the catastrophe only now seems shuddering to life.
The politics are omnipresent, but present only a hollow shell behind which a sea, an absolute frothing sea, of much worse realizations are crowding every mind. This was a disaster the country had been preparing for. This was one of the disasters most predicted, most feared, most planned for. There was two days of advance warning, as the massive, category 5 hurricane shifted purposefully towards New Orleans. This was no terrorist attack -- this time, there was warning. This time, there was knowledge.
And yet, the much-reshuffled domestic security resculpted as a result of 9-11 simply didn't show up. It wasn't there. FEMA, which has been hacked, shuffled, and gutted in the last few years, proved unable to respond to a catastrophic emergency situation. The catastrophic emergency situation, along the Gulf Coast, the one that sounded the alarms two days before landfall, the one that triggered the warnings of nightmare scenarios known for years in advance, and yet if there was any advance plan at all, any knowledge at all, any fathoming at all of how to respond in the fourty-eight hours most critical for the survival of the victims, it didn't show up. The roads were clogged, the islands were flooded, the levees were breached, and homeland security wasn't there, leaving each state, each town, each police force, each wrecked band of shell-shocked survivors to fend, and make do, while convoys were organized and strategies prepared with seeming obliviousness to the urgency of the numbers and clocks. There is... almost nothing meaningful to say.
The apparent and most likely explanations for the failure, known long before the fact, are almost shattering when reread today, while the ongoing catastrophe unfolds around us.
We have witnessed two disasters this week. The first was an act of nature. The second was not. The second disaster, still ongoing, is unforgivable.
That's the only word that comes to mind, a word I keep repeating to myself. These deaths, these men, these women, these infants dying now in these hours didn't have to happen. They did not have to die waiting for convoys to gather outside their city or for reservists to stand alongside their shattered police forces. They did not have to wait in darkness and fear for help to arrive, only to struggle for days without that help ever coming.
This is not politics. This is not partisanship.
This is unforgivable.
Bush Administration ::
Discuss (399 comments)
Thursday, September 01, 2005
As promised, here are the pictures taken by Roger Wyatt at DFA Headquaters in Burlington, today.
Left to right, Roger Wyatt, Governor Howard Dean and Greater Glens Falls DFA Coordinator Larry Dudley in the hallway at 38 Edgewood Drive.
Tricounty DFA Update: My Meeting With Governor Dean, Next Meetup, more
This is a big end of summer update!
First, before I begin, I want to update you all on my trip to Burlington today and the luncheon I and Roger Wyatt were invited to join with Governor Dean, DFA Chairman Jim Dean and DFA Executive Director Tom Hughes and the staff at DFA National Headquarters.
First, the Governor and DFA Chair Jim Dean asked me to extend their personal thanks to all of our DFA members -- all of you -- for everything we have been doing. The Governor assures us that we are making progress and we are making a real difference.
Governor Dean told us he believes when we look back in history that we will see that August 2005 will have been one of the great turning point in American politics; activism came alive again, public opinion is swinging against Bush and the Republicans. But the biggest thing is Paul Hackett's near win in Ohio for a seat that was never competitive for Democrats before. That was a watershed moment. Hackett got 22% more than any Democrat ever got. (And he ran as a progressive.)
What's more, DFA's call for us all to donate to Hackett's campaign put it on the map. DFA was first, we started the ball rolling and made that race a real race for a change. Jim Dean noted that our effort shamed the DCCC into backing Hackett instead of ignoring him, as they had been. (I personally think this is real proof of the 50 state campaign; we no longer are writing off any area.)
In regard to the 50 state campaign, Governor Dean also noted that next month there will be paid staff for every state party in the country paid for by the DNC. This is a huge change from the past when the state parties were essentially told they were on their own.
We asked him when are the Democrats going to get going on speaking out on the War? He answered that they are -- that there are things coming out all the time, but that it just isn't getting reported on by the media -- and then he corrected himself, "The corporate media."
He emphasized there is going to be more coming out in the fall, that they have a big schedule laid out for the next three months.
There's much more; and I will be briefing you all at our next DFA "Meetup" / DFA-LinkUp. See some great pictures at our blog: http://townmeetingday.blogspot.com
So! In this update:
1. Sign up for DFA-Linkup!
2. Next "Meetup" in Glens Falls: Leave My Child Alone, Voting Machines and Candidate Endorsement
3. Estate Tax Action Appeal
4. Red Cross
5. On the lighter side
1. Sign up for DFA-Linkup!
If you haven't signed up for our great new tool, DFA-Link, now's the time to do it. DFA is going to give free DFA buttons to every member the DFA group that signs up the most members between now and Sunday, the 4th.
I was talking with Tara Liloia today at the luncheon in Burlington, and she told me there are even more functions to come. When this website-communication too -- resource is completed, DFA will have the most sophisticated set of web based political organizing tools ever created. For instance, in effect, we will have the ability to send an email from DFA-Link to every other DFA member. In effect, we can all have our own personal DFA webpage. And it's free! Just click the link below and you will be taken to a personal page created specifically for you.
Important! Once you register, you have to join a group. Remember, you can join as many local groups as you want, so if you are waiting for another, it's not a problem, you can join that one, too.
If we win, we will have have free, way cool, DFA buttons for everyone who registers at the next meetup; and we have a very good chance of winning.
2. Next Meetup in Glens Falls: Leave My Child Alone, Voting Machines and Candidate Endorsement
We will be holding our monthly DFA "Meetup"/DFA-Linkup next Wednesday, September 7th, at 7pm at the Rockhill Bakehouse Cafe in Downtown Glens Falls.
Two major items will dominate the agenda:
a. Leave My Child Alone.
Most parents don't know that under the No Child Left Behind Act that schools are required under law to supply the names of your children to military recruiters who are coming under increasingly improper pressure and even orders from above to take ever more aggressive and even ruthless steps to fill falling enlistment quotas. Recruiters are NOT the target of this. Many of them are very upset about the war, too, from the worst possible personal experience, and privately don't like the tactics being forced on them. Remember, one reason we know what is going on is because these men and women are talking behind the scenes. But however they may feel, they have their orders.
That having been said, government officials are getting names of students who are legally minors and going into schools to attempt to enlist kids in the military as soon as possible without the knowledge or consent of parents.
Under the law, parents can "opt out" of having recruiters contact their children by officially notifying the school in writingr. "Opt-out" and your child will be officially off limits to recruiters and their name will not be shared. Since this is the beginning of the school year, DFA nationally is helping launch, with Working Assets and Main Street Moms (A Dean inspired organization ), the national parent's group Leave My Child Alone, along with other groups like True Majority, Sojoourners. The goal is to educate parents as to how they can retain the responsibility for their own minor children that the NCLB law took away.
This is one of the biggest and most important initiatives DFA has ever participated in. Many of us joined Gold Star Mother for Peace Cindy Sheehan at the recent vigil; she is part of this effort. Many of us marched against the war before it began. This is the next logical step. We will need all your help to make this initiative work -- there are many schools and parents in our area. Please come and bring everyone who would want to participate.
And again, let's remember who the bad guys are here. It's not the decent recruiters who only seek to serve their country. It's an administration that forces them into using improper tactics and violates the rights of parents and the privacy of students.
b. We will also be discussing Voting Machines. Contrary to what we had thought at one time, Warren County has not made a final decision on what kind of voting machine to use in the future. We don't want fraud prone touch screen machines that many feel were responsible for Bush stealing the election and Florida and other races elsewhere. We want reliable, cheap, safe, optically scanned ballots that can be manually recounted for trustworthiness. We will be discussing what we can do about this as well.
3. Estate Tax Action Appeal
Moveon.org has sent out a last minute appeal for everyone to contact our representatives to call on them to block the next $75 Billion give away to rich, the Estate Tax repeal. What the estate tax ensures is that inherited wealth will be taxed at some point. Without it, much of the wealth inherited by the ultra wealthy will never be taxed at all and the rest of us will have to make up the difference eventually.
Senator Clinton sent out an interesting message about this:
" I have supported significant reforms to the estate tax
including raising the exemption level to ensure that virtually all
family owned businesses and farms would be exempt from any
estate tax liability. However, I do fear that because of the
significant revenue the estate tax raises, that its outright repeal will
shift even more of the tax burden from those who hold vast sums
of wealth to those tens of millions of American families who work
and live paycheck to paycheck. Since the costs of repealing the
estate tax are estimated to add nearly $1 trillion to the deficit over
a decade, and there are no plans to offset these costs, I believe that
outright repeal of the estate tax would be fiscally irresponsible.
It is telling that Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Federal
Reserve, who has supported many of the tax cuts enacted over the
last five years, has recommended to Congress that given the
current fiscal deterioration and the constraints caused by the
chronic budget deficits of the last four years, it would be unwise to
enact a repeal of the estate tax without fully offsetting its cost.
At a time when the Congressional Budget Office has just
announced the third largest budget deficit in our nation's history, at
a time when nearly half of the nation's publicly held debt is held
by foreign nations like China, Japan and South Korea, we need to
focus on fiscally responsible ways of reforming the estate tax. By
all accounts, an adequate and reasonable solution that exempts
nearly all of the family owned businesses in the country can be
reached. In fact, a recent report by the Congressional Budget
Office indicated that if the exemption level for the estate tax was
set at $2 million, only 123 farms and 135 family owned businesses
nationwide would have taxable estates. Indeed, if we raised the
exemption level to $3.5 million, only 0.3 percent of the wealthiest
estates would be affected.
Please be assured that I will continue to work with my colleagues
to support responsible, equitable and fair estate tax reforms that
reflect the current fiscal condition and provides real relief for
Hillary Rodham Clinton
4. Red Cross
You've undoubtedly seen the disaster. Donated supplies can't help because they can't be moved. They simply desperately need the cash: http://www.redcross.org
5. On the lighter side
Finally, on the lighter side, I have to pass on this page Roger Wyatt sent. There's hours of fun here: http://www.toostupidtobepresident.com/
My favorite is the Star Trek parody.
Another update with more news later this week!
Have a great end of summer!