Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Friday, August 31, 2007

ABC covers news: White House still hiding emails

From ABC:

The White House will not identify a private company which appears to be involved in the disappearance of millions of White House e-mails.

The company was responsible for reviewing and archiving White House e-mails, a White House official told congressional staff in May, according to a letter yesterday from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Congressional investigators asked then for the name of the company and "have repeatedly requested" the information since then, according to Waxman.

They are still waiting for an answer, the chairman wrote to White House counsel Fred Fielding. Waxman asked the White House to come up with the company's name by Sept. 10.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel declined to tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com the company's name or explain why the White House would not provide it to Congress.

Are you going to actually do something about this Congressman Waxman?

We're waiting too, you know. In this day and age it is impossible for emails to become 'lost forever.' They can be found if there is a will to find them.

Do you have the will? Does Pelosi?

Is someone paying the Democratic Majority to make loud, sputtering noises about how angry they are... and then do nothing?

We're waiting.

According to the White House, at least five million e-mails were not properly archived and may be lost forever, in apparent violation of the Presidential Records Act. The post-Watergate law states that communications relating to official activity in the offices of the president and vice president are owned by the American public and cannot be destroyed.

The unnamed firm "was responsible for the daily audits of the e-mail system and the e-mail archiving process," Waxman said a White House briefer had attested in a May meeting.

The firm worked for the Information Assurance Directorate, under the White House chief information officer, Waxman said he was told.

In addition to requesting the firm's name, Waxman's staff has also asked to see a White House report which detailed the days on which few or no e-mails were archived; the White House has been similarly unresponsive to that request, Waxman charged, and asked it provide the document by Sept. 10 as well.

Of course they aren't handing them over. You gonna make them?

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Aaron Neville singing (Louisiana 1927) after Katrina

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Harry Connick Jr. in New Orleans September, 2005

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"The Red Cross Has Basically Stolen Money from Victims in New Orleans"

Amazing segment on Democracy Now about a five-day International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It is comprised of hurricane survivors, international delegations, expert witnesses, a team of human rights and civil rights prosecutors, and a panel of US-based and international judges, and it opened last night in New Orleans:

MALCOLM SUBER: Well, we believe that the Red Cross has basically stolen money from the victims here in New Orleans. They collected, by their own accounting, $2.1 billion. They claim that they spent $1.9 billion, and they had $200 million left. But we have never had any public accounting of the funds actually spent, and this last $200 million, they have decided to establish a Means to Recovery program, which works through a case management system. And basically the only people who knew about the program were their partners, the other nonprofits, and they would give the money to selective survivors. And we just don't believe that that's a very fair and democratic way. We don't think that the donors who gave the money to the Red Cross intended that the money be set aside and decided by the Red Cross what to do with the money.

And so, we have just been challenging their veracity on this whole program, and witness to that is every time we've confronted them they’ve changed the figures. When we first started this campaign, they said they had $80 million left. A week later, they said they had $40 million left. And then the national president came down here, and he said they had $171 million left. So you don’t know what the story really is, so they haven't gotten their story together.

And, of course, they've been attacking the People's Hurricane Relief Fund, saying that we are spreading lies and stuff against them. But we confronted them directly, and we took our -- their application to the local news media. And they were forced to admit that the program existed, because when people first called about the program, the Red Cross would say, “What are you talking about? We’ve never heard of a Means to Recovery program.” So we want to know why such secrecy, and why did you decide that it was up to you, the Red Cross, to decide what to do?

The other important factor is they got $50 million from Kuwait, and instead of giving that money to people, they built new office buildings in New York City.

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Anderson Cooper: Where is the Federal Government?

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Al Gore and the Charity Hospital Airlift

While George W. Bush was making grand media appearances 'on the scene' (weeks later,) and making promises he never intended to keep, Al Gore was quietly working behind the scenes to help alleviate the suffering on the Gulf Coast.

Many don't know this story, because Al steadfastly refused to speak to the media or give any interviews about his response in the aftermath of Katrina - and he has never mentioned it in any of his speeches.

What he did, he did because he cared.

Gore privately commissioned two planes to evacuate elderly and ill citizens out of New Orleans - and as you can see from the photo - he was there overseeing the effort.

Greg Simon of Fastercures tells of his experience, and the many obstacles thrown in the way, as the 'Charity Hospital Airlift' come to evacuate seriously ill patients from New Orleans:

Around 8 pm this was the situation: We had planes for two flights at least. We had hospitals in Tennessee and Chicago for 290 and 200 patients respectively. We had two doctors for the plane. We needed landing slots at the airport and patients for the planes. We needed a contact on the ground.

Gore called Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta and obtained two landing slots for Saturday. All we needed now was a medical contact at the airport. I contacted Casey Decker at the HHS Command Center, a highly advanced, high tech center for tracking and dealing with public health crises of all kinds. I asked Decker for help contacting TRANSCOM, which was running operations at the airport, as well as a medical coordinator on the ground. Decker explained they had not been able to maintain communications with TRANSCOM on the ground or the medical staff. That was troubling.

It was now after midnight early Saturday September 4th. I was home with my laptop and phone and blackberry spread out around me on my bed. My wife, wisely, chose to sleep in the guest bedroom to avoid the phone calls. And then it began.

Starting right after midnight I began receiving calls from FEMA, HHS, TRANSCOM and other groups whose acronyms I still cannot explain. LCDR Kennedy from FEMA called to understand what I was trying to do. I told him. Fifteen minutes later Mimi Riley, Deputy Director from NDMS called to beg me in a plaintive and exhausted voice not to carry out this mission. She had many reasons – you need doctors on the plane, Chicago is too far from their home, how will we track the patients, this is a military operation and we were not military.

I explained to her that we had two doctors on the plane one of whom was a retired Air Force Doctor who had run the military hospital in Baghdad after the invasion. I thought we could trust him to run an airplane of people from New Orleans to Knoxville. We were working with NDMS hospitals in Tennessee and Chicago so they would have a good tracking system. (I guess Mimi never heard of the Great Migration of African Americans from New Orleans and the south to Chicago after the flood of 1927 and during the Depression. Many people from New Orleans are more at home in Chicago than Houston. )

Mimi was unmovable. We were not military and that was that. She tried to sound grateful for our intentions but she was not going to have outsiders help. I even offered to GIVE her the planes and the crews and the hospitals and let her run it through her NDMS system but she would have none of it. She asked me at least to delay until noon the next day and I said I would try.

I called Steve and told him to delay the planes. I called Al. It was 2 a.m. in Nashville. He was planning to leave for Dallas at 4 a.m. to meet the plane. I told Tipper what was going on. She said, “Greg, you can’t delay it now. It’s too late, the doctors are flying in here to fly with Al to Dallas.” Al got on the phone and said we could not delay. I tried to scare him. What if something went wrong with a patient on the plane? What if the military did not cooperate on the ground and no patients got on the plane? He refused to budge. Col. LaFon could handle the patients and Al would trust that when they landed they would break through the resistance and succeed.

I called Mimi back and said we could not delay but we would agree not to fly to Chicago. I called Steve back to re-start the planes.

Over the next three hours (from 2a.m. to 5 a.m.) I was called by an array of Majors and Lieutenant Commanders telling me to stop. (“I don’t mean to be rude, sir, but you must not do this. You must stop this now.”) Major Webb from GPMRC (don’t ask), Grant Meade from ESF. Major Lindquist from TRANSCOM (at last!) all telling me they would not cooperate and they did not know how we had gotten permission to land. I never mentioned Gore’s name because no one ever asked me who was paying for the flights or how we had come so far.

Finally at 5 a.m. Major Lindquist said if we landed he would not put any patients on the plane and we should expect no cooperation and there was no place to store the plane so we would have to leave.

Through the night there was one voice supporting me. Julie Soutuyo from FEMA had called around midnight when she came on shift and asked what we were doing because she had seen some report from our earlier calls. I explained the whole thing to her. She tried to put us in touch with TRANSCOM in New Orleans and she checked on me all through the night to see how we were doing. When I told her of the calls from the military to stop us, she mentioned that she had confronted the NDMS people on our behalf and made the case that they should accept our help under these circumstances but had been rebuffed. (The next day she called me from home to see if we had succeeded.)

(Casey Decker at the HHS Command Center also tried to help but he was unable to reach most of the people we needed to speak to despite his best efforts.)

At 7 a.m. on Saturday September 3rd, the American Airlines plane with Gore and the doctors and Gore’s son Albert left Dallas for New Orleans. They landed at 8:30, got off the plane and Col LaFon immediately established contact with the Colonels running the operation on the ground, most of whom he had served with. He had trained many of the doctors on the scene. He explained why they were there and the doctors began a triage process to fill the plane. Two hours later the plane was loaded and headed to Knoxville.

After speaking with Gore, I called ahead to Donna Tidwell of TEMA who was running the operations there and told her what to expect – about 20 patients needing dialysis, many more needing insulin, a burn victim and many people needing to be back on their medications – and one boy with his dog. Forty of the people on the plane were evacuees mistakenly put on the plane by TSA but who might need medical attention nonetheless. Knoxville was prepared to provide shelters for them.

The plane’s arrival in Knoxville was described by the local paper as the “Mercy Plane” and the mayor and many of the citizens turned out to help.

By now, it was too late to return to New Orleans, load up and leave before dark and American Airlines refused to have its personnel stay in New Orleans after dark. Gore and the team headed to Dallas for the night. Around midnight Saturday night, the FAA called American airlines and pulled their landing slots for Sunday saying only FEMA planes could fly in. Gore called Mineta again who promised to honor our initial agreement for two landing slots.

On Sunday morning Gore and the team landed in New Orleans to a much improved scene. Many more patients had been airlifted out after our flight and there were only ten ambulatory patients for our plane so we took 120 evacuees with us to Chattanooga. The welcoming reception in Chattanooga was so large that Gore said it looked like there was an ambulance for everybody on the plane.

We decided not to return to New Orleans because the medical patients we could take had been helped. (We could not take bedridden patients on stretchers on this plane.) Gore said that on the second trip to New Orleans, the doctors at the airport told him that the evacuation of the first 90 ambulatory patients had been the tipping point in their ability to adequately care for the other bedridden patients. They also noted that the military evacuations did not really pick up steam until after we “motivated” them with our private effort.

Of note:
Throughout the entire operation in Tennessee, EMS operations in Chicago had stayed prepared to handle patients or evacuees. None ever arrived because the military did not want us to use Chicago. The volunteers in Chicago were amazing in their desire to help. Mayor Daly had been rebuffed earlier when he offered a complete mobile hospital unit for the airport and a tent city as well. Sen. Barack Obama called Gore and asked how had Gore managed to land in New Orleans when the Senator had been refused landing rights to help.

None of the airlines involved required a contract or any written guarantee of payment before sending their planes and volunteer crews – the first time Steve Davison had ever witnessed that in 15 years of chartering planes for political campaigns and other events. One official said if Gore promised to pay, that was good enough for them.

In the aftermath of Katrina I heard countless stories of obstruction: by both FEMA and the military. Firemen were sent home from the scene after traveling across the country on their own dime to help; or were kept waiting for a week outside the city while residents were dying. Animal rescue workers were kept out, presumably on the pretense that 'humans should be evacuated first;' only it turned out that the humans weren't being evacuated at all, so animal rescue volunteers entered the city anyway, in boats, and rescued both people and their animals.

Even news crews helped with the rescue; they were there, and the need was so severe that they helped in any way they could. Sean Penn went out in a boat, pulling people out of the water himself. Anyone who could get past the government roadblocks, or who simply went around them... helped the residents while the Federal government obstructed and dicked around.

And people were dying.

This I cannot forgive. It is for the residents of New Orleans, both living and dead, to forgive this betrayal -- for I cannot.

Thank you President-elect Gore, for making a difference.

I try not to think of how different things would be for New Orleans... how different they would have been for New Orleans after the storm, had the Supreme Court not demanded a halt to the Florida recount in 2000.

The betrayals are seemingly endless.

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Drowned in their homes

In memory and in still-raw grief for all of those who lost their lives two years ago on this day.

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin to wash us away
They're tryin to wash us away
Oh Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin to wash us away
They're tryin to wash us away

Randy Newman (Louisiana 1927)

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Anderson Cooper reads the riot act to Sen. Landrieu

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Another time, another hurricane... a different president

"This is your President!" Johnson announced. "I'm here to help you!"

In September of 1965, Hurricane Betsy slammed into New Orleans. Winds gusted up to 165 miles per hour and the levees failed, flooding much of New Orleans. Somewhere around 250,000 people were forced from their homes in what was, to date, the worst disaster to hit NOLA since the turn of the century.

The day after Betsy's landfall, President Lyndon Johnson got a phone call from Louisiana Senator Russell Long, asking if LBJ would come to the city. Within hours, LBJ was on on a plane:

Even at the airport, Johnson began to get a sense of the damage wrought by Betsy. "Parts of the roofing of the terminal were torn away and several of the large windows were broken," the diary reads. "The members of the Presidential party had seen from the air a preview of the city — water over 3/4 of the city up to the eaves of the homes, etc." At the urging of the mayor of New Orleans — a diminutive conservative Democrat named Victor Hugo Schiro, whom Johnson referred to as "Little Mayor" — the President decided to tour the flooded areas. His motorcade stopped on a bridge spanning the Industrial Canal, in the eastern part of the city, and from there the Presidential party saw whole neighborhoods engulfed by floods. They could see, according to the diary, that "people were walking along the bridge where they had disembarked from the boats that had brought them to dry land. Many of them were carrying the barest of their possessions and many of them had been sitting on top of their houses waiting for rescue squads to retrieve the families and carry them to dry land." Johnson talked with a seventy-four-year-old black man named William Marshall and asked about what had happened and how he was getting along. As the conversation ended, Marshall said, "God bless you, Mr. President. God ever bless you."

In the Ninth Ward, Johnson visited the George Washington Elementary School, on St. Claude Avenue, which was being used as a shelter. "Most of the people inside and outside of the building were Negro," the diary reads. "At first, they did not believe that it was actually the President." Johnson entered the crowded shelter in near-total darkness; there were only a couple of flashlights to lead the way.

"This is your President!" Johnson announced. "I'm here to help you!"

The diary describes the shelter as a "mass of human suffering," with people calling out for help "in terribly emotional wails from voices of all ages. . . . It was a most pitiful sight of human and material destruction." According to an article by the historian Edward F. Haas, published fifteen years ago in the Gulf Coast Historical Review, Johnson was deeply moved as people approached and asked him for food and water; one woman asked Johnson for a boat so that she could look for her two sons, who had been lost in the flood.

"Little Mayor, this is horrible," Johnson said to Schiro. "I've never seen anything like this in my life." Johnson assured Schiro that the resources of the federal government were at his disposal and that "all red tape [will] be cut."

The President flew back to Washington and the next day sent Schiro a sixteen-page telegram outlining plans for aid and the revival of New Orleans. "Please know," Johnson wrote, "that my thoughts and prayers are with you and the thousands of Louisiana citizens who have suffered so heavily."

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Australian paper cites 'Third World response' to Katrina

News from Australia, with striking comment about US Federal response:

Two years on, New Orleans seething over Katrina

By North America correspondent Kim Landers

Posted August 30, 2007 08:42:00
Updated August 30, 2007 10:20:00

Two years on, the residents of New Orleans are still angry about the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Two years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, people in New Orleans are still frustrated with the slow place of recovery.

At the time the wild storm left thousands of residents stranded on rooftops, while others made do in sub-standard shelters.

America was criticised for initially mounting a Third World response to a massive domestic crisis.

Katrina's second anniversary is an opportunity for New Orleans to recapture the national spotlight and to show the rest of the country how it has rebuilt itself and what still needs to be done.

In New Orleans two-thirds of the residents are back - the French Quarter survived Katrina and the music and restaurant scenes are recovering.

But few neighbourhoods are thriving, much of the city looks like a wasteland and businesses and homes are still abandoned.

Guess the 'Third World response' hasn't really changed much in two years.

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Promises unkept

New Orleans 2 Years After Katrina

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Two years later: grief, anger

Today is the two year anniversary of the day the levees broke.

The two year anniversary of Day One.

Not day one of the storm, which had already passed the city by. Today is the anniversary of Day One of Federal abandonment. Day One of 'you're doing a heckofajob Brownie.' Day One of people trapped in their attics until they finally drowned or succumbed to the heat. Day One of the endless Coast Guard rescues... the very Coast Guard that can't even get new, updated boats from our government today. Day One of what would turn out to be months of desperate attempts to save the people and the thousands of abandoned animals that struggled to survive in the searing heat and black, stinking flood water of New Orleans.

Day One of America's awakening... to the epic betrayal of George Bush.

From yesterday's commentary in the New York Times:

NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 29 — This city remembered Hurricane Katrina’s second anniversary Wednesday with sadness, hurt and flashes of anger over a recovery that has returned it to only a portion of its former self.

President Bush stopped in, dining at a famous Creole restaurant and visiting a restored school in the Lower Ninth Ward. But his brief visit appeared to mean little to citizens still focused on day-to-day struggles and mourning the storm’s continuing losses.

There were ceremonies — marches, Masses and speeches — all over town Wednesday. But the city hardly needs an anniversary to help it recall a disaster that upended the life of virtually every resident here. The still-ruined neighborhoods and, beneath the surface, the mental scars, are merely exclamation points for what Hurricane Katrina has become for people in New Orleans: a fixed point of reference around which conversations and lives continue to revolve.

At a memorial ceremony at the Charity Hospital Cemetery, Mayor C. Ray Nagin choked up, evoking “the young who cry every time there’s a hard thunderstorm, because they’re afraid another storm is coming.” Mr. Nagin rang a bell at the precise moment a major levee broke two years ago, and the musician Irvin Mayfield, who lost his father in the storm, played a raucous and angry dirge on his trumpet in the sweltering heat.

None of us has healed. The people of New Orleans haven't healed. I haven't healed. I'm sure most Americans who watched the horrific coverage from New Orleans, for weeks, haven't healed. Maybe someday... if anyone in our government ever develops a heart and decides to really rebuild New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, we can all finally heal from this.

But not this way. Not while it still looks, in some places, as though the storm ripped through there yesterday. Unlike 9/11, we've never had a chance to heal from this; we're expected to 'stuff it,' and somehow forget about it, while the damage is all over the place. This is our country; our city, our people, our pets. Insane.

The wound festers inside of us, and we are continually reminded - as New Orleans languishes, completely neglected while billions of dollars are lost and mismanaged in Iraq - that our government doesn't care about Americans. Not only black people (although surely the Bush Administration has proven to have a particular mean streak when it comes to attending the needs of the African Americans.)

No; the fact is that the Bush regime doesn't like or care about any of us. We aren't George's base. If you can't afford to shop at Neiman Marcus -- you can't afford George Bush. It's as simple as that.

“It’s one thing to come and give a speech in Jackson Square,” Mr. Bush said, referring to his visit immediately after the hurricane that has been derided as simply an orchestrated photo opportunity. “It’s another thing to keep paying attention to whether or not progress is being made. And I hope people understand we do; we’re still paying attention.”

Still, as the modest protest march from the Lower Ninth Ward made clear, Mr. Bush remains the favored target of the fervent activist community that has blossomed here in the wake of the storm. “George Bush, you can’t hide!” the marchers shouted, though Mr. Bush had already left town by then. Onlookers peered curiously from a fried-chicken restaurant as the protesters, led by a clownish figure on stilts, made their way up St. Claude Avenue; some along the route hung back.

“This is a purposeful noise we’re making here,” said one of the marchers, Levon Leban. “If nothing else, I hope people around the country will understand it’s not over, just because the water has receded.” A man held a sign out of a car window that read, “The Right of Return for Everyone,” and anti-Bush slogans resounded.

“Nothing’s changed in two years,” said Robert Goodman. “Everything the mayor and president do, that’s just for show.”

At the Industrial Canal, which obliterated the Lower Ninth Ward two years ago when its levees failed, political figures and religious leaders dropped flowers into the murky waters from the Claiborne Avenue Bridge.

“It’s still a struggle,” said Reynard Green, who showed up to be a part of it. “I’ve got a job, but my family’s not back yet,” said Mr. Green, a waiter in the French Quarter who lost his house in the upper Ninth Ward. “It’s hurting. They want to come back, but there’s no place for them to stay.”

Mr Bush: If there is one thing people do understand, it is that you are 'paying attention.' Because no one could do so little, for so many suffering people, and for so long... by accident.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another message; more specific

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Message from the Gulf Coast

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Imagine for a moment, the arrogance...

... of asking for another $50 billion dollars to continue a war that nobody wants - neither Iraqis or Americans - and that has definitely made us less safe.

Now imagine asking for this money on the very anniversary of Katrina's landfall on the Gulf Coast. Imagine doing this while New Orleans and many other parts of the Gulf Coast are still languishing from lack of promised Federal aide, a full two years after the storm!

Pretty amazing, eh?

I have to hand it to W. He never ceases to amaze me.

From the Washington Post:

President Bush plans to ask Congress next month for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq, a White House official said yesterday, a move that appears to reflect increasing administration confidence that it can fend off congressional calls for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces.

The request -- which would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal 2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- is expected to be announced after congressional hearings scheduled for mid-September featuring the two top U.S. officials in Iraq. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will assess the state of the war and the effect of the new strategy the U.S. military has pursued this year.

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The Katrina Animal Rescue

For a long time I couldn't watch any videos about the animal rescue; it was still too raw. I still can't sit through this one without tears, but I recognize some of the dogs, so including it here. Everyone has an issue that keeps them in the fight; now you know what haunts me, and keeps me coming back.

It's always been Katrina.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

When the saints go marching in

Sign the petition urging your Senators to support Senator Dodd's Gulf Coast Recovery Bill of 2007 (S1668) to assist the Gulf Coast region in rebuilding the infrastructure lost after the Katrina and Rita disasters.

From Glen Greenwald and Brave New Films:

Tomorrow marks the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and still there are tens of thousands of families without homes. 30,000 families are scattered across the country in FEMA apartments, 13,000 are in trailers, and hardly any of the 77,000 rental units destroyed in New Orleans have been rebuilt. To share some of these people?s stories, we have put together a short film, "When the Saints Go Marching In."

During the making of this video, we heard the heartbreaking stories of good people unable to return home. We have heard the story of the Aguilar family who lost their home to the storm and only received $4,000 in payments from their insurance company. We have met Mr. Washington, an 87-year-old man and former carpenter, who owned three homes prior to the storm. He is still living in a FEMA trailer today. And we?ve met Julie, who could have returned to her job and normal life, if the government had opened up the public housing units that she had lived in prior to the storm.

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Going to the dogs after Katrina

I care not much for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it. - Abraham Lincoln

Like many countless other Americans from all over the country, I somehow found a way down to Louisiana after Katrina. I wasn't trained as a medic or in rescue, I wasn't a 'trained Red Cross volunteer,' and so they wouldn't take me. My car barely ran and I had no money. I have a chronic health problem (but I had been doing a lot of walking, so I hoped...)

Honestly; it hurt too much to watch. Watching the slow drowning death of New Orleans broke my heart more badly than anything I have ever witnessed before, in my entire life. In fact, my heart is still broken. I can tell; right now, as I am sitting here writing this. The feelings are just as raw as they were two years ago. It has forever changed me, remade me, and I will never be the same person I was before the storm blew ashore two years ago today.

Sometime shortly before Rita made landfall, I was in my car and on my way to Louisiana to volunteer in an animal rescue shelter.

"Wade in the water
Wade in the water children
Wade in the water
God's gonna trouble the water"

New Orleans is my favorite American city for a million little reasons; the joie de vivre, the jazz, the food, the hanging moss, the cemeteries - even the funerals. A cultural gumbo totally unique to America, and yet uniquely American.

I stayed up all night when Katrina made landfall, because I knew NOLA was a bowl and was terrified that the storm would wipe it out. The following morning, before my husband left for work, we celebrated the 'miracle;' the fact that NOLA had miraculously avoided a direct hit (and the catastrophic flooding that would have followed.) I am not ashamed to admit that I had been - literally - on my knees praying for New Orleans most of the night.

He left for work, and within an hour I heard that the levees had broken. The storm spared the city... but it was drowned by neglect.

Watching the aftermath on CNN, I connected with mainstream media for the first time in months; with the reporters mainly, because they were reacting much as I was. Their humanity was showing. They were obviously shaken, grieving and outraged.

It still seems as though it only happened yesterday. I recall watching CNN's Jeanne Meserve crying as she described the experiences of Mark Biello, a CNN cameraman who went out on a boat and came back with horrific stories and footage. Dogs in trees - dogs wrapped in electrical lines. Voices crying for help in the darkness; calling out from within their attics.

And that was just the first night.

Anderson Cooper especially won my respect with his ongoing coverage. With all of the war trauma and bloodshed he has witnessed in his career, he obviously never expected to see such horror in the good ol USA. I especially remember his famous take-down of Senator Mary Landrieu:

Excuse me, senator, I'm sorry for interrupting. For the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated. And when they hear politicians slap—you know, thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours. And there's not enough facilities to take her up. Do you get the anger that is out here?

And of course, Bush... still on vacation, then finally emerging -- not headed for the Coast but to the White House, with perfectly clipped Barney tucked under his arm; a cruel insult to all of the people who had been forced to abandon their pets to almost certain death in the water.

Every day, more of the same. And still, the government was absent. I wished I had a boat. I wished I could rent a boat. I wished I had money, that I knew what to do, that I was healthier, that another country would ride in and save New Orleans and the rest of the coast -- because obviously our president and our Federal government were doing NOTHING.

And that was unfathomable.

And the animals...

Oh my God, they were everywhere; on roofs, in trees, swimming, hiding, starving - hundreds of thousands of them. We have four pets of our own and no kids, and I have been unofficially rescuing critters all of my life (its what we do, in my family.) I kept imagining myself on a roof with our pets... and I knew I could never have left them behind. They depend on me. To see others having to make such horrible choices tore me apart.

Snowball; pried out of the arms of a weeping child and left behind.

"Bless the beasts and the children
For in this world they have no voice
They have no choice

Bless the beasts and the children
For the world will never be
The world they see

Light their way
When the darkness surrounds them
Give them love
Let it shine all around them

Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe, keep them warm"

Carpenters (Theme from "Bless the Beasts & Children," Columbia 1971)

I finally knew I had to go down there, or I'd never be able to live with myself for not 'showing up.'

I drove out of town for training, and then signed up as a volunteer with several animal rescue organizations. My backup plan was to drive down to Camp Casey and volunteer there if no one called from the animal rescue groups. But after another week of waiting, I was sent to a temporary, emergency shelter in Louisiana.

I pulled in late at night after driving straight through from Indiana, moments ahead of the trucks carrying dogs that had been shipped out of New Orleans. I didn't have time to meet anyone, learn my way around; everyone was insanely busy, so I just jumped in and started escorting dogs into the building and getting them settled in their new temporary enclosures. We tried to make them as comfortable as possible, with blankets and toys, water and food. Many were shaking, and they smelled... terrible. I still had that smell on me the following day; I couldn't get it off. It was the smell of the water in New Orleans.

Some dogs had burns - horrible chemical sores on their feet. Many were terribly malnourished, dehydrated and most had heartworm disease. A few were so depressed that it was all we could do - as the hot, humid days dragged by - to keep them busy, cuddled and hugged so that they wouldn't give up hope and die.

Our dog sleeps like this too. It was easy to imagine my own despair if she has been lost after the storm, and we were unable to find her.

"The river rose all day, the river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood, some people got away alright
The river had busted through clear down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin to wash us away, they're tryin to wash us away
Oh Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin to wash us away, they're tryin to wash us away"

Randy Newman (Louisiana 1927)

The heat was unreal. There wasn't enough liquid in the world to keep us hydrated as we worked, and so much work to do that we struggled to find time to stop and drink. The first two days I suffered from heat exhaustion, but there was really nothing to do about it but try to drink and keep scrubbing the diarrhea off the floors -- sick and stressed dogs make a very big mess, and when you add in 110 degree heat and 90% humidity even with the fans; we were a miserable bunch. All I really wanted to do was sit down and comfort the puppies. They were starved for love, sometimes more than for food and water.

We all rode out Rita together in the shelter. The storm came right over us. We had stacked sandbags all around the entrances, but I will never forget the endless shrieking of the wind through the metal walls of the old (was it a barn?) we had converted and stuffed with cages and fans. One line of volunteers spent the entire storm holding a tarp in place that was blocking the rain from one entrance, battling the wind for hours. They literally fought the storm and won; all to keep the water out, and the dogs dry.

Tornadoes were touching down all around us as the eye broke up overhead, and there was... nowhere we could have gone, any of us. We'd have been toast if a tornado had hit. Fortunately the closest one came within about a mile I think, somewhere behind us.

Meanwhile, the dogs were terrified. First one hurricane, now another... it was so unfair. It was obvious that they knew exactly what was going on.

One little puppy friend died of heartworm disease; he was just too far along with the illness when he arrived. He was there with another little Shepherd - the two appearing to be litter mates. The sick one was very affectionate, and I tried to spend a little free time with him, just sitting.

When he was gone, the other one was... even more lost and confused than before. Honestly; I have no words for the confusion and sadness I saw all around me.

I only saw two reunions the entire time I was there. People walked through from time to time, looking for beloved pets, and of course - the pets were just there waiting endlessly, in the heat, hoping...

I actually saw a dog in the shelter that I recognized from the post-flood television coverage. Meeting the dog in person was comforting - being able to hug him, pet him and see tangible proof that he had survived. It put to rest (for me anyway) at least one searing image that would have remained to haunt me through the years.

They couldn't tell their stories, or express their grief except through their eyes. Disaster. Loss of everything familiar, of loved ones and happy routines... some of them still perfectly clipped, with beautiful collars and shiny tags with addresses of houses that were probably under water. Tags for veterinarian clinics that would have held records about their owners... but were closed and also undoubtedly under water. Their neighborhoods were devastated, their families spread across the country. There was no way to find their people. But it was obvious that so very many of them had been loved and cherished.

"Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand

I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can

Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long"

Jackson Browne (Doctor My Eyes)

While I was actively working, I was too tired to think; my heart was eased by the activity and the feeling that at least I was doing something. When it was time to go home, I once again felt helpless. No amount of physical pain could come close to the emotional torture of inactivity in the face of such suffering.

As I was driving home, I didn't feel any better... if possible, I felt worse. I knew that I hadn't even made a dent. And it wasn't the storm that had broken my heart - probably all of our hearts in September, 2005. It was the way the Gulf Coast and my beloved New Orleans - the people and their dependent pets - were completely abandoned by our government. Cuba and China rescue and protect their citizens in the face of catastrophic storms; Cuba didn't lose one life when Cat 5 Ivan smashed ashore. The difference between Cuba and neocon USA? Cuban government officials care about the people - they were even evacuated with their animals.

"A little piece of you
A little piece in me... will die
(For this is not the miracle)
For this is not America"

David Bowie (This is Not America)

At times of great national emergency, we depend on the organized assistance of our government; to whom we have dutifully paid our taxes in the belief that the government will be there in our hour of need. We expect, and rightfully so, that our government will use this money for the common good: to help pull the country back together again, and rebuild. We believe that our government believes in us; that we're all 'Americans' together. We actually believe this.

Or at least we used to.

Unfortunately, our government was - and still is - completely AWOL.

Funny, because we still do our duty as American citizens. We still pay taxes. For what, exactly? Since Katrina, I haven't been able to figure that one out. Are we only needed now for buying bombs? Or paying the bloated salaries of Halliburton bosses?

It is obvious that none of our money is going to the Gulf Coast. When I hear about the contractor waste and over-billing in Iraq and I think about New Orleans, still languishing without assistance from our own government... I realize I now have a new definition of 'evil.'

"I believe in the gods of America
I believe in the land of the free
But no one told me
That the gods believe in nothing
So with empty hands I pray
And from day to hopeless day
They still don't see me"

George Michael (Hand to Mouth)

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The Olberman Katrina Commentary

Looking back...

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzales resigns!

You don't suppose W plans to make a recess appointment on the last day of recess, do you? Wouldn't that be just like him too.

Wow - weird timing. First Rove, then Gonzo. I think they're trying to escape. One day Bush and Cheney will just fail to show up for work....

Doesn't it feel like we should all be holding hands and singing 'Ding! Dong! The witch is dead!' or some other appropriate ditty...? After all, this is the author of the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the bedside torturer of John Ashcroft and chief domestic spy. I'm sure as hell not going to miss his constitution-shredding, sociopathic little self.

Course now that almost the entire government is outsourced, perhaps he is simply moving on to head up the corporate wing.

I can't believe no one won the True Majority Ben and Jerry's ice cream contest. I think everyone gave up months ago. What a waste of good ice cream!

New York Times: WACO, Tex., Aug. 27 — Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington.

Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.

Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the resignation had not yet been made public.

Um, seems pretty 'public' to me if its in the New York Times. Must we wait for Geraldo?

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Jack Cafferty: Hurricane Katrina Outrage

Looking back...

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
And miss it each night and day
I know I'm not wrong
This feelings gettin stronger
The longer, I stay away
Miss them moss covered vines...the tall sugar pines
Where mockin birds used to sing
And I'd like to see that lazy Mississippi
Hurryin into spring
The moonlight on the bayou
A creole tune that fills the air
I dream about magnolias in bloom
And I'm wishin I was there

Two years this week since Katrina made landfall, spared New Orleans... only so it could drown by governmental neglect. Two years and I'm still not over it - and I don't even live there, although a piece of my heart drowned with the city.

This week I will be writing about New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, and the continuing neglect. I once had an entire blog devoted to Katrina and the aftermath. I tried to move on, but the pain is - today - as raw as it was two years ago. Betrayal is like that.

And where is our government? Absent. Uncaring. AWOL.

As the Washington Post so scathingly put it:

Two full years after the hurricane, the Big Easy is barely limping along, unable to make truly meaningful reconstruction progress. The most important issues concerning the city's long-term survival are still up in the air. Why is no Herculean clean-up effort underway? Why hasn't President Bush named a high-profile czar such as Colin Powell or James Baker to oversee the ongoing disaster? Where is the U.S. government's participation in the rebuilding?

And why are volunteers practically the only ones working to reconstruct homes in communities that may never again have sewage service, garbage collection or electricity?

Eventually, the volunteers' altruism turns to bewilderment and finally to outrage. They've been hoodwinked. The stalled recovery can't be blamed on bureaucratic inertia or red tape alone. Many volunteers come to understand what I've concluded is the heartless reality: The Bush administration actually wants these neighborhoods below sea level to die on the vine.

In the end, that is what keeps me here; keeps me in the blogging trenches day after day. New Orleans. My anger, pain, bewilderment, sadness and outrage. And I won't rest until there is justice for that beloved city.

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Rolling Stone: The Great Iraq Swindle

Power to the Rolling Stone for a little hard rock journalism - the work most American journalists aren't willing to do.

This searing expose pretty well lays it all out. Time to peel those patriotic bumper stickers off our cars and figure out how we plan to return to the good old days of 'Government of the People.'

We do have candidates that 'get it;' Kucinich, Edwards, Paul and probably Gravel... maybe even Huckabee, although he is keeping a low profile. McCain definitely gets it, as he pretty well described it for us in detail during his interviews for the movie 'Why We Fight.'

Now we just have to get one of them elected, rather than their corporate, media favorites. Somehow we have to get the news around to all Americans: this isn't some sort of war between 'us and them,' or even 'liberals and conservatives.' This is now a question of law vs. corruption and whether your kids will grow up in a Democracy... or something hideous.

read the story | digg story

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

eRain Dance (This better work)

Once again a massive line of storms full of precipitation has passed just to the North of us, leaving our poor gasping forests parched; the bushes brown and brittle, the soil dry as powder. The birds are gone -- probably to the lake. I leave water out for the squirrels. The daytime temperatures have been between 95-100 degrees. We haven't had a drop of rain here at our house in a month.

I see another line of rainstorms approaching from Illinois, but I already know the pattern: North by Northeast, up through Indy and towards the Great Lakes.

We're parched. We need rain.

The time has come to consult with the experts...

The rain dance is still an important part of Native American consciousness, just as we are concerned with the amount of rainfall even in the modern world.

In late August, when it is quite dry, especially in the Southwestern United States, Native American tribes used to do a rain dance. Many Native Americans still perform the ritual today, and it can be seen on several reservations in the United States. Men and women gathered together for a rain dance and wore special headdresses and clothing. The jewels used in the clothing, such as turquoise, had special significance, as well as the patterns on the clothing and the use of goat hair in the headdresses. These special clothes were worn every year for the rain dance, and usually were stored the entire year for this purpose.

Zuni Rain Dance

Last Night the Rain Spoke To Me
By Mary Oliver

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,
what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,
smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing
under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,
and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment
at which moment
my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars
and the soft rain –
imagine! imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

Very Quiet Native American Rain Dance

(But notice the clouds above! It's working!)

Rain Dance (Art Video with actual rain)

American Indian Flute - Rain Dance

African Rain Song
Rain Song
Imvula, Imvula (eem-voo'-lah)
Chapha, chapha, chapha (c=click sound with tongue in back of Chapha,
chapha, chapha front teeth,like the sound of exasperation) (cah'-pah)
Imanz'impahla yam'
Imanz'impahla yam' (ee-mahn'zeem pah'hla yahm)
Gqum, Gqum, Liyaduduma (q=click made when pulling tongue down Gqum, gqum, liyaduduma from roof of mouth) (gqoom lee-yah doo'-mah)
Imanz'impahla yam'
Imanz'impahla yam'

note: this is a very old and traditional rain song. The translation goes like this:

"It's raining, it's raining
Chapha, chapha, chapha
Chapha, chapha, chapha (sound of the rain falling)
My clothes are getting wet,
My clothes are getting wet.
Gqum, Gqum (sound of the thunder)
There's the thunder!
Gqum, gqum,
There's the thunder!
My clothes are getting wet,
My clothes are getting wet!"

Modern Rain Song

(Can be played in conjunction with Very Quiet American Indian Rain Dance above)

I'm dancing my feet off here in Southern Indiana... come on rain!


P.S. If I get desperate enough, I'm going to have to post THIS:

Proof that I will go to any lengths for rain

(Because yes -- you can find literally anything on YouTube.)

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Of media and money

Speaking of Katrina, as we near the TWO YEAR anniversary of the storm... where has all the money gone? (Long time passing?)

I'm just dying to know where all of that money raised by the two ex-presidents has gone. I just don't see the results. They raised MILLIONS. Where is the money?

The Federal government alone supposedly allocated $116 billion in recovery aid (a pittance to what is spent in Iraq every time we blink our eyes.) But for some reason, the languishing residents of the Gulf Coast just haven't seen it. And they're starting to wonder if that check was lost in the mail:

The fact that, two years later, most federal Katrina funds remain bottled up in bureaucracy is especially shocking considering that the amounts Washington allocated come nowhere near the anticipated costs of Gulf rebuilding.

For example, the $3.4 billion FEMA has available to recover local public infrastructure would only cover about one-eighth of the damage suffered in Louisiana alone. But this money is spread across five states - Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas - and covers damage from three 2005 hurricanes, Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

Congress has acted on some of the money holdups, like changing a requirement in the Stafford Act that mandates local governments pay 10 percent of rebuilding projects up front before receiving federal aid. The Bush administration had refused to waive the rule - like it did for New York after 9/11 - grounding countless projects. The effect of the rule was particularly devastating in the hardest-hit places like Mississippi's Hancock County, where communities lost most of their tax base after the storms.

Oh yeah -- I remember that kind of 'help' after 9/11. The 'help' we received from the SBA cost us our house. Thank you by the way, Federal government... I don't believe I ever told you how happy I was with the way that turned out. Of course, we were lucky compared with the people of New Orleans. They obviously didn't have houses to put up as collateral, so you just blew them off -- worse even than the storm itself.

But back to the presidents. There is never any mention at all, ever, of where that money went. Ever.

And looking at the region, its obvious that money isn't being spent there by anyone, save the manpower invested by organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and others like them.

But money?

Federal contracts for rebuilding and recovery have also been marked by scandal, fraud and abuse. An August 2006 study by the office of Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., identified 19 contracts worth $8.75 billion that experienced "significant overcharges, wasteful spending or mismanagement."

Halliburton to the rescue! (Or not.)

"Where did it go?" says Tanya Harris of ACORN in New Orleans when asked about the $116 billion. "Tell me. Where did it go?"

Maybe it found a home with the money miraculously lost in the sands of Iraq...

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why they try to tear the mountains down

All my memories gather round her
Miners' lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty painted on the sky
Misty taste the moonshine
Teardrop in my eye

- John Denver (Take Me Home, Country Roads)

I'm glad John Denver didn't live to see the Bush Administration. It would have broken his heart.

The latest in the endless series of depravities?

Bush is now using the mine collapse in Utah as an excuse to reward mine operators who have dodged both environmental and safety laws for decades.

The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation on Friday that would enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal. The technique involves blasting off the tops of mountains and dumping the rubble into valleys and streams.

It has been used in Appalachian coal country for 20 years under a cloud of legal and regulatory confusion.

Mountaintop removal is has been outlawed by the Stream Buffer Zone Rule of 1983. For over twenty years mining operators have ignored or fought the rule, and of course there have been courts friendly to (or paid by) mine operators that have refused to enforce this regulation.

But it was still always ILLEGAL. And for good reason. Mountaintop removal wreaks environmental disaster on the streams and lowlands below, killing everything downstream and polluting the land for generations.

Under Bush's new rules, mine operators won't have to worry about paying off the courts any longer; or experience any fear that an honest inspector or judge might call foul.

This horrific 'regulation' caps six and a half years of environmental dismantling work by the administration in order to make it easier for mining companies to dig more coal, make more money, and belch more coal smoke into the sky (as if we need any more carbon in the air.)

That the Bush administration has the audacity (that word is losing its meaning) to use the lost men of the Utah mines as an excuse for this obviously well planned legislation is well... kinda like attacking Iraq (long planned) to get the oil and get revenge for daddy; all supposedly because we were attacked on September 11th by Saudi terrorists working for Al Qaeda. Same twisted, sociopathic logic.

God help us. We'll never make it to 2009. Will anything be left?

By the way, expect more future disasters of a different sort. Similar to say... the Buffalo Creek Flood.

This horrific disaster happened on February 26, 1972 when a coal slurry impoundment dam built on a hillside in Logan County, West Virginia by the Pittston Coal Company burst four days after having been declared 'satisfactory' by a federal mine inspector.

The flood that resulted unleashed approximately 132 million gallons of black waste water upon the residents of 16 coal mining communities in Buffalo Creek Hollow. Out of a population of 5,000 people, 125 people were killed, 1,121 were injured, and over 4,000 were left homeless.

But the coal companies are happy. Old King Coal is a merry old soul tonight!

Now his life is full of wonder
but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down
to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land

- John Denver (Rocky Mountain High)

I don't know John. We don't know. Greed I guess. I guess its just plain old selfish greed.

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Gotta love Russ...

This is great: from The Progressive Patriots Fund!

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The Daily Show: America to the rescue!

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Deliver us from evil

Suffer the little children... at the hands of Catholic priests.

I just watched the documentary 'Deliver Us from Evil,' and never have I been to glad that I am no longer Catholic.

This particular documentary (not to be confused with 'Our Fathers,' which dealt with this same issue on the East Coast, in the Boston area) concerns the 30 year pedophile career of Father Oliver O'Grady, who was moved from parish to parish even while his superiors knew of his ongoing abuse of parish children. He now resides in Ireland, out of reach of law and justice, but well within reach of Irish kids.

And of course -- as the documentary testifies -- there is never any justice for the victims. Occasionally after a huge court battle, the Church coughs up some cash. But it never admits culpability, apologizes for the endless, lifetime of pain; or changes its approach to the way it handles its own priests once they are found to be child molesters.

I am sickened that the Church has persisted in harboring pedophiles and is even now refusing to meet with and acknowledge the children from California who were victims of O'Grady.

This problem seems to exist all over our country, and apparently around the world. 100,000 victims have already come forward in the United States alone. And experts say that over 80% of abuse victims never even report the crimes to authorities.

Absolute power truly corrupts absolutely.

The most telling moment for me was in the final few screens of the documentary, when these words scrolled across the screen:

Pope Benedict XVI was accused of conspiracy to cover up sexual abuse in the United States.

At the Vatican's request, President Bush granted the Pope immunity from prosecution.

May God have mercy on their souls; for I would not. We're talking about little kids being raped by priests. It doesn't get much more horrific than that.

And isn't it precious how these heartless power-brokers stick together, at the expense of the people -- even innocent children. It's no wonder Christ always seemed so angry whenever he was in the Temple.

O'Grady was sick. These other men -- the men who protected him in order to save their own careers -- are on the hook for his crimes; knowingly on the hook and guilty.

How can any self-professed 'man of God' allow children to be molested - for years - and in unsuspecting parish after unsuspecting parish, just to advance his own career?

Ask California's Cardinal Mahoney. He has apparently done just that.

I believe it was Jesus himself who said:

"But anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone hung round his neck."

Still looking forward to the Rapture? It might prove interesting.

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Missing New Orleans

Found this posted on ePluribus and it reminded me of the good times, in my favorite city...

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Reporting LIVE from the bunkers of Indiana

Golly jeepers, what a show! Thank you -- thank you Jon Stewart and Rob Riggle for finally reporting on the living hell we Hoosiers face here every day, in our frightening outdoor summer markets!

Much to my surprise, I turned on The Daily Show tonight for another installment of Operation Silent Thunder Fluffy Bunny, only to discover it was all about how closely Iraq resembles Indiana in the summertime!

It appears Rep Mike Pence was right!

Oh wait. Rob: you're saying you didn't find any similarities? NONE AT ALL? Could it be... that our representative Mike Pence lied to us?

Yes, it seems that Rob Riggle couldn't find a single Hoosier in Iraq that would acknowledge, or could find... well, even one similarity between Iraq and Indiana. Not even the food!

Well that's just ducky. Because -- due entirely to Pence's early warning -- outdoor markets have been a big concern to Hoosiers this summer:

Mike Pence's recent comment comparing shopping in a Baghdad bazaar with 'a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime' has many Hoosiers baffled and bewildered.

Should we buy flak jackets for that stroll through the weekly farmers market this summer? Are the farmers crankier than last year; perhaps because of the frost damage this past week?

Or did Mr Pence simply spend too long in the Iraqi sun? He should come home. It's snowing here.

We do have a town in Indiana named Lebanon... but I've never heard of any IEDs going off there - or anywhere else for that matter. We also don't have a proclivity for snipers, suicide bombers, or anything more exciting than an occasional fire cracker.

Still, many of us are considering that perhaps we are simply behind the times. Maybe Rep. Pence knows more than we do... it doesn't hurt to take precautions.

I know I'll be procuring protective gear before I head out to buy tomatoes this summer...

So there you have it. We've been taking precautions ALL SUMMER, thanks to the timely advice of our own dear representative Mike Pence. And now we're finding out -- thanks to the investigative reporting of Rob Riggle -- that this was all for nothing!

Do you know how hot those flak jackets are in this humidity?

Well anyway... it was nice seeing and hearing from fellow Hoosiers serving in Iraq, if nothing else.

/feduphoosier waves to fellow Hoosiers in Iraq!

I do however have a message for those of you bozo representatives from Indiana who persist in embarrassing the hell out of the rest of the populace in this long suffering state: ENOUGH. Give us a break already. We're still recovering from the lingering stigma of Dan Quayle...

Just shoot me.

No wait... I was kidding! /dives for cover as the wind blows through the branches of the trees outside my window, making very scary noises... a snap of a twig, or maybe even a falling branch! Eek!

---- This is feduphoosier, reporting LIVE from the bunkers of Indiana. All is quiet tonight on the Midwestern front...

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bat Cave III

Too funny. In a depressing way of course; but funny. No less funny than a Daily Show or Colbert sketch. This stuff just cries out for parody.

Excellent, amusing piece by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post:

Somewhere in Gotham, the Batphone rings. Loyal butler Alfred (played by Robert Byrd) summons Bruce Wayne ( Leahy). It's Commissioner Gordon on the line, and the news is grim: A villainous alliance has been formed by the Riddler (Karl Rove), the Penguin (Dick Cheney), the Joker (Alberto Gonzales) and Catwoman (Harriet Miers).

The fearsome foursome has brainwashed the previously incorruptible White House counsel (Fred Fielding), and the villains are trying to take over the American government through wanton and reckless claims of executive privilege. The latest sign of doom: Fielding has missed yet another deadline to respond to Senate subpoenas probing a secret eavesdropping program.

Enter the caped crusader, who has flown in from Vermont wearing a Batman-gray business suit and Batman-black loafers. He strikes back at Gotham's criminal masterminds with his signature weapon: the news conference. Meeting reporters in the Judiciary Committee hearing room, the Dark Knight encounters so many Batmicrophones on his Batlectern that he has to hold his Batspeech in his hands.

"The administration has produced no documents!" Leahy growled.


"No adequate basis for noncompliance!"


"No privilege claims!"


"No complete privilege log!"


Aspiring superhero Leahy came up short when asked at a news conference yesterday what specific weapon he might use to force the White House to comply. But he left little doubt that, if the ne'er-do-wells continue to defy him, he may give the White House another good scolding when Congress returns from recess. And -- who knows? -- he may bring Robin the Boy Wonder (played by Chuck Schumer).

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Without good motivation, science and technology, instead of helping, bring more fear and threaten global destruction. Compassionate thought is very important for humankind.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

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The darkness of the Neocon

The darkness grew
I had to know
And so I went where I dared not go
To the heartless land of Neocon
To the heartless land of Neocon

The things I saw
Have shocked my mind
And now I'm lost and cannot find
The door out of the Neocon
The door out of the Neocon

I long for light
For peace and sense
The mending of torn innocence
At the cruel hand of Neocon
At the cruel hand of Neocon

Bring back the joy!
Bring back the light!
The earth is wilting, sick with blight
The languishing land of Neocon
The languishing land of Neocon

Oh help me Sidhe
To Tir na nOg
I'm dazed and drifting in their fog
In the blackness of the Neocon
In the blackness of the Neocon

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Neener neener neener

Well Senator Leahy? What now, pray tell?

Vice President Cheney's office acknowledged for the first time yesterday that it has dozens of documents related to the administration's warrantless surveillance program, but it signaled that it will resist efforts by congressional Democrats to obtain them.

The disclosure by Cheney's counsel, Shannen W. Coffin, came on the day that the Senate Judiciary Committee had set as a deadline for the Bush administration to turn over documents related to the wiretapping program, which allowed the National Security Agency to monitor communications between the United States and overseas without warrants.

Sounds like Cheney is once again telling you to go f... yourself.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Tough talk (yawn)

Well, it appears that -- to no one's great surprise -- the White House 'missed' its 2:30 PM deadline to turn over documents providing legal justifications for the NSA's eavesdropping program to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Of course I can't imagine why they would have bothered. There are apparently no consequences for failing to do anything Congress demands. I'd be yawning too if I were the White House. This is all beginning to feel like a game: a game that has gone on so long that fans have either left the stadium or fallen asleep in their seats.

Senator Patrick Leahy has really had it this time. He's obviously hopping mad. He's going to start calling people names pretty soon if... oh wait; he's saying that the White House is in contempt of Congress?

No not exactly.

More talk. He's saying that their behavior; their stonewalling is in fact "contempt of the valid order of the Congress," and added that the subpoenas were passed by broad bipartisan votes.

And the consequences? Well... no word on that. Wake me up when we get to that part, will you?

Leahy pointed out that the Senate Judiciary Committee in the prior, conservative-led Congress, chaired by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), also attempted to ask questions about the program's legal justifications, but Cheney personally barred him from issuing subpoenas:

In fact, we were about to issue subpoenas then and one of the senators came to our meeting and said that the vice president had met with the Republican senators and told them they were not allowed to issue subpoenas.

Not quite sure that’s my understanding of the separation of powers, but it seemed to work at that time.

The funny thing is, I'm not seeing a whole lot of difference here. Once again the White House is saying 'no,' and nothing is happening.

So golly gee -- lay it on me Senator. Tell me what you're going to do for us next. Then tell us why we should believe it.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Electoral vote power grab in California?

I say - if you are going to do it in one state, do it in all of the states (might be fun in Indiana.) But if you are going to cherry-pick only states that will give GOP advantage -- geez guys, haven't we seen this before? Will you guys stop at nothing to rig rig rig elections?

Let us freaking VOTE already.

Here is the story, from Huffington Post - by Senator Barbara Boxer:

If you haven't heard already, Republican strategists recently announced plans to begin raising money for a dangerous initiative that would radically change the way California apportions our electoral votes in presidential elections. Rather than awarding all of California's electoral votes to the candidate that wins the popular vote -- the way it works in every single state except the small states of Maine and Nebraska -- their scheme would divvy up California's electoral votes based on the number of Congressional districts each candidate wins.

What does this mean? Well, if the last few elections are any guide, rather than the Democratic nominee winning all 55 of California's electoral votes in 2008, this new partisan scheme could hand 20 of California's electoral votes to the Republican candidate and only 35 to the Democrat.

Don't get me wrong: After the 2000 and 2004 election debacles, I'm a strong advocate for election reform. But it's absolutely wrong for California to go it alone. It's just patently unfair for a large "blue" state like California to change our system for awarding electoral votes while other large states which trend "red" like Texas and Florida don't change their system at the same time.

This isn't reform -- this is a partisan power grab by Republican operatives in the Karl Rove tradition.

Here we go again.

Just another brick in the voting wall. The GOP will try to block Democrats from voting where they can, change electoral rules where it will benefit the GOP (but never Democrats, as if they were to change this in Indiana or say Texas;) change entire districting -- and then plant their easy to hack Diebold machines without paper trails from sea to shining sea.

At least a few Democrats are finally putting up a fight (not that the Democrats haven't done their share of this in the past - Chicago's original Mayor Daley made partisan politics into an art form, where even the dead turned out the vote.)

I am growing tired of the banana republic. Surely we can do better than this -- all of this.

If you want to help Barbara Boxer fight this California electoral vote grab, sign her petition here.

Personally, I wish we could do one of two things: either do away with all parties, and thus 'party politics' and the inherent corruption, or move to a parliamentary style government with many parties represented. Our current parties represent... well hardly anyone these days. I think most Republicans and many Democrats would agree with me.

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172 Chinese miners trapped underground.

3 trapped, 3 more killed in Utah trying to rescue them.

3 killed in an Indiana mine shaft.

Do we ever think about miners and the dangers they face every day? Apparently not -- until it kills them.

The last few days an old (and I mean old) Bee Gees song has been going through my mind. The lyrics fit, even though they were written about a mining disaster that happened in 1941. I guess some things never change. And it seems to me that by now - 66 years later - we'd be past this.

In honor of all of those who make their living, daily, in constant danger, underground.

New York Mining Disaster 1941
(by Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb)

In the event of something happening to me,
there is something I would like you all to see.
It's just a photograph of someone that I knew.

Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones?
Do you know what it's like on the outside?
Don't go talking too loud, you'll cause a landslide, Mr. Jones.

I keep straining my ears to hear a sound.
Maybe someone is digging underground,
or have they given up and all gone home to bed,
thinking those who once existed must be dead.

Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones?
Do you know what it's like on the outside?
Don't go talking too loud, you'll cause a landslide, Mr. Jones.

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Nights when I can't write

There are days, nights... whole weeks when I can't write. It's all too much: the disgust, the dismay, the betrayals piling up around us.

I recall the Millennium celebration -- do you remember that night when we all celebrated, together, as one people without borders? That was the first and last night we were 'one.' And undoubtedly there were wars and corruption and poverty and despair already well underway. Perhaps we just didn't see it.

Perhaps I just didn't see it then.

Now its everywhere. Our nation is going to hell in a handbag.

I always loved that saying, 'hell in a handbag,' but today it fails to make me smile. Hell in a crate. Hell in an ocean. A planet full of hell, and heating up by the day, with no attempt to slow down the damage we cause while our own nation falls apart structurally from neglect, and our government implodes.

I have struggled to write lately, because I feel as though I'm writing the same words day after day after day after day. It never gets better. It doesn't even get close to better. It just keep sliding off the cliff into hell.

The corporate media lies continually; even when it is obvious that we know they are lying, they continue to lie. They will take propaganda from absolutely anyone, without questioning it -- if you pay them, they'll print it. Especially if it empowers their corporate interests.

My representatives apparently haven't read the Constitution and have sold our civil liberties down the river -- and these are the Democrats that 'represent' me. The Republicans in Congress seem flat out determined to dismantle the Constitution entirely. With friends like this, who needs enemies? My Democratic representatives, with their consistent caving, have done more damage, created more immediate 'danger' than any terrorist.

The war is an unmitigated disaster, and nearly everyone in government is lying about it -- the only people telling the truth are the troops as they return; and then they get punished for it, after all they have already sacrificed. This government only survives on lies. Representatives like Kucinich who tell the truth are marginalized and laughed at by the establishment. And for some reason, we listen to them.

The economy sucks, and they're trying to lie about that too -- although failing miserably because everyone can now see that it sucks sucks sucks. An economy based on funny-money was bound to implode eventually.

All of these cheap, Chinese imported 'goods'
(and notice this is our only choice these days -- Chinese imports or NOTHING) save the big, greedy corporations money, and undoubtedly were made with tortured, sweatshop labor in China. And of course, these items were once made in the USA and provided jobs (and the results didn't poison fellow Americans.) But due to this fantastically profitable globalism, corporations are raking in the cash and poisoning our pets, our kids and undoubtedly poisoning us. This Chinese stuff seemingly was all made with lead -- I'm still trying to find a hose nozzle without lead in it.

It all SUCKS.

Anything to make a buck. Health, safety, basic DECENCY... dead and gone in this country. Sold for a buck.

Since 2000 we have gone into a NOSE DIVE. We can just call it the corporate neo-dive and be done with it. They get rich -- everything else they left in their wake SUCKS.

I'm sick to death of seeing it, and I'm running out of ways to say it every day.

And now our own war satellites are being turned on us, apparently so powerful that they can see through our roofs and into the very ground. Are we Americans so very dangerous? Granted over one quarter of all prisoners on the planet are in American jails - so our government has apparently always thought so.

If we have this technology, the question absolutely begs to be asked: how could we have failed to catch Bin Laden? Why is our government turning this technology on us instead of him?

Land of the free, home of the brave? Well, it used to be.