Saturday, September 17, 2005
Levee failure was environmentalists' fault?
Jerry Mitchell of the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger writes,
Federal officials appear to be seeking proof to blame the flood of New Orleans on environmental groups, documents show.
The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of an internal e-mail the U.S. Department of Justice sent out this week to various U.S. attorneys' offices: "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."
Cynthia Magnuson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said Thursday she couldn't comment "because it's an internal e-mail."
Federal officials say the e-mail was prompted by a congressional inquiry but wouldn't comment further.
Fishing for red herring
Whoever is behind the e-mail may have spotted the Sept. 8 issue of National Review Online that chastised the Sierra Club and other environmental groups for suing to halt the corps' 1996 plan to raise and fortify 303 miles of Mississippi River levees in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
The corps settled the litigation in 1997, agreeing to hold off on some work until an environmental impact could be completed. The National Review article concluded: "Whether this delay directly affected the levees that broke in New Orleans is difficult to ascertain."
The problem with that conclusion?
The levees that broke causing New Orleans to flood weren't Mississippi River levees. They were levees that protected the city from Lake Pontchartrain levees on the other side of the city.
The Democrats have taken note. A letter of enquiry from Rep. John Conyers to the Attorney General Gonzalez has been put online at Raw Story.
Factlet of the Day
Quip of the Day
Friday, September 16, 2005
Why that German plane full of food couldn't land
Here's what they found—
As it turns out, the US Department of Agriculture had rejected the rations -- originally prepared for NATO troops -- out of fear they may be tainted with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the agent thought to cause mad cow disease. Despite intensive efforts on the part of Germany's foreign ministry, the US government refused to give the plane flyover rights.
So the food was good enough for NATO troops, which would include American soldiers, but was too risky for Katrina survivors? Gimme a break!
No, it was more like this—
... officers at a US base in Pensacola -- where previous German aid planes had landed -- believe there was another reason. In reality, the critics said, the Bush government was trying to avoid embarrassing images of Europeans making food relief deliveries to the States. After all, the meals had already been certified by NATO as BSE-free. Additionally, the same types of meals have been used in common deployments in Afghanistan, and they've also been consumed by American troops. Startled by a query from SPIEGEL on Friday evening, the US Embassy here in Berlin said the ban on the pre-prepared meals delivered from Germany would be lifted. Indeed, the shiny, new US Ambassador to Germany, William Timken, had only recently thanked the German government for the first 20,000 donated meals -- all of which have already been eaten by Katrina victims.
Being an ambassador for the United States must be one of the worst jobs in the world—if you're an actual diplomat rather than just a Republican Party contributor buying a post,
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Are the unions rousing in Britain?
Yet Britain seems to have been following "the American model." Tony Blair's "New Labor," which acts and smells remarkably like "Old Tory," must have been paying off the union bosses. How else to explain union complacency in the face of this disaster of a prime minister?
But either the payments have ended or the issue is so grave that they make no difference—because either way, the rank and file are out of control. The result is the possibility of the biggest mass strike in Britain since 1926.
The issue is a proposed change in retirement age from 60 to 65. The government has apparently greatly misread the workers.
Alan Jones of the Scotsman writes,
The threat of the biggest wave of industrial action since the 1926 General Strike came a step closer yesterday when the government failed to calm fears over the pensions of millions of public sector workers.
Leaders of 13 unions representing more than three million workers in the NHS, local government, the civil service, education, fire service and other parts of the public sector pledged a joint campaign against controversial plans to increase the pension age from 60 to 65.
Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, issued a blunt warning that unions were more united than ever and were prepared to strike.
He said the government had underestimated the anger of workers and had failed to understand the outrage they felt, which had been made worse by politicians and company directors receiving huge increases in their own pensions.
"We are stronger and more united than ever before and we will take strike action to defend our pensions."
Mr Prentis said he had never known such anger among public sector workers....
Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said he had no doubt civil servants would vote to strike "in their tens of thousands" if no deal was reached.
"If the government imposes an increase in the pension age, industrial action is absolutely inevitable."
.... Dr Beverly Malone, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "We remain deeply dismayed that the government still seems intent on raising the retirement age to 65.
"The government's work-until-you-drop plan will mean recruitment and retention levels will collapse, the work demands placed on nurses will rocket and patient care will suffer."
It doesn't look to me as if the government can win this one. If they had tried a gently incremental plan (which still might be the end result), they might have gotten away with it. In any case this is a story to follow.
Can you even imagine a general strike in the United States? Is that what they mean by "a failure of imagination"?
Who is this Republican? (7/23/04)
The best place in the world to do business (11/8/04)
The death of the Left? (11/27/04)
France votes "No" on EU Constitution (5/29/05)
The Left continues gains in Europe: Labor victory in Norway (9/13/05)
Joke of the Day
—Darrell W. Crate, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, after the resignation of Vice Chairman Lawrence Novak
"The most evil enemy we've ever faced"
Whether by plan or happenstance, the latest anti-American charge - that U.S. troops used poison gas during fighting in the northern city of Tal Afar - is being answered with harsh words from U.S. commanders.
On Tuesday, Col. H.R. McMaster, commander of the main U.S. force in the Tal Afar fight, unleashed a verbal barrage.
"The enemy here did just the most horrible things you can imagine," he told reporters at the Pentagon.
"Not only were they targeting civilians, brutally murdering them, torturing them, but they were also kidnapping the youth of the city and brainwashing them and trying to turn them into hate-filled murderers," he added.
On Wednesday, Col. Robert B. Brown made similar claims about the insurgents in the portion of northern Iraq his Stryker brigade combat team has been operating in for the past 11 months, including the city of Mosul.
"It's the most evil enemy we've ever faced," he said. Twice he mentioned "brainwashing," noting that he was not sure that's an official term. "That's what it seems like to me," he said, when the al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi recruits young foreign fighters and sends them on suicide missions.
He cited a captured Libyan who was "clearly brainwashed" to think he was coming to Iraq to fight American crusaders against the Muslim religion. "He got here, he saw that it was not correct," Brown said. "They told him that he was going to be a suicide martyr." When captured, the Libyan was "very happy to talk to us."
Burns says that—
It's not just the Iraqi population that U.S. officials want to influence. They also want to convince the American public that U.S. forces are winning and that the insurgents pose a threat that goes well beyond Iraqi borders.
Yes. All observers of the insurgency have consistently noted that the core of the insurgency is not from al-Qaida nor from foreign fighters but from the native Sunni population. This appears to be a part of the never-ending attempt by the Bush administration to conflate the "War on Terror" with the invasion of Iraq.
What Americans should be asking at this point is not what the Bush administration is attempting here—that is perfectly clear. But why is the American military involved in a psyops operation directed at the American people? This is a misuse of the military and an abuse of the American public.
Statistics of the Day
Average annual health-insurance premium for a family of four: $10,880.
Factlet of the Day
Quip of the Day
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Can the Republican Party be RICOed as an ongoing criminal enterprise?
I mean, what did the Mafia really do? They had their prostitution, gambling and protection rackets. Loan-sharking was a sideline. The corporate shakedown via control over the Teamsters and Longshoremen was always reliable. Later on some families got into the drug trade, though the "old school" considered it too dirty.
But the opportunities in conventional crime are not what they used to be. State governments and local police have taken over most of the traditional criminal trades.
Fortunately the Republicans think big, and they're not bothered by the squeamishness that afflicted the Mafia. I've scratched my head many times over where they draw the line, but if there is a line, it must lie just beyond the horizon of their next criminal activity.
Think about it. Suitcases of government cash in the millions doled out willy-nilly in Iraq with the only stipulation being that a percentage of it be returned to Republican coffers through campaign contributions. Want to throw an election? No problem. They'll jam the phone lines, corrupt local officials, whatever it takes. Contracts to benefit everyone in the family? Sure, they just award them without going through that quaint free-market practice known as "competitive bidding."
But those are your bread-and-butter crimes. For many Republicans, crime is not just a vocation, it's also a hobby, a diversion, a release, a je ne sais quoi. These are the sort that run naked in the night and snap pictures of their startled targets; or strangle their mistresses; or find the body of a staff member in their office and then go into media. The possibilities are almost endless.
What got me thinking about all this was the unfortunate indictment of the vice chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, Mr. Lawrence Novak, esquire, this past Tuesday. When you understand the silliness of it, you know immediately that this was a man just out on a lark. But foolishness such as this can interfere with the basic criminal activities of the Party and is sure to land Mr. Novak in the Republican doghouse ... or is it outhouse?
According to Denise Lavoie of the AP, Novak ...
was charged Tuesday with money laundering after he allegedly offered to "cleanse" drug proceeds for a legal client.
The client was Scott Holyoke who is up on drug-trafficking charges. Here's how it supposedly went down—
Novak allegedly offered to have Holyoke sign false affidavits in an attempt to invalidate some of his prior state court convictions in order to reduce the sentence he would face in his federal case.
Holyoke told Novak that he had over $100,000 in cash in a safe deposit box, repeatedly telling Novak that the money was drug proceeds, according to an affidavit filed by Lauren Youngquist, a special agent with the criminal investigation unit of the Internal Revenue Service.
Novak allegedly told Holyoke that he would take approximately $60,000 of the money as a legal fee and offered to "clean" or "cleanse" the remainder of the cash, the affidavit said.
According to the arrest affidavit, after Novak made the offer to launder Holyoke's drug proceeds, the IRS and FBI introduced an undercover IRS special agent who posed as Holyoke's aunt.
On Tuesday, the agent gave Novak approximately $107,000 in cash and told Novak it was drug proceeds. Novak then took the money to Eastern Bank in Brockton, where he purchased three bank checks in the amount of $9,000 and three $1,000 money orders.
He deposited $77,000 into an existing account at the bank, according to the arrest affidavit.
Novak then returned to his home and office, where he was arrested.
A bank employee told the IRS special agent that when Novak deposited the cash and purchased the bank checks, he said he had found the money.
Naturally, Massachusetts Republicans, from Governor Mitt Romney on down, are "troubled" and feel that Mr. Novak should step down from his vice position until something can be done to get him off. There's no sense having him drag the rest of the party down with him.
I hope Mr. Novak can find a good defense attorney. So many top firms are tied up in the State of Ohio that a scandal in Massachusetts may just be more than the market can bear.
More insights into Iraqgate may be on the way (8/8/05)
Factlet of the Day
Lie of the Day
The United States has not been willing to do this even with Canada, with which it has a little agreement known as NAFTA.
Statistic of the Day
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The Left continues gains in Europe: Labor victory in Norway
By a narrow margin, Norwegian voters appeared Monday to have transferred power from their center-right government to a left-wing coalition headed by the Labor Party leader, Jens Stoltenberg.
Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik refrained from conceding defeat, but with more than 90 percent of the vote counted, most analysts agreed that Mr. Stoltenberg's "red-green alliance" of the Labor Party, Socialist Left Party and Center Party had won a slim parliamentary majority, ending four years of weak minority rule under Mr. Bondevik.
Forbes reassured everyone with the headline "Norway election seen having little impact on markets, currency - analysts."
Aside from the repudiation of neoliberal economics, there's a "minor irritant" for the Bush administration in the election outcome—
"The most important thing the Americans will notice is that the main lines of Norwegian foreign policy will remain fixed," Mr. Stoltenberg, 46, said in a pre-election television appearance. "But they will also notice that we pull back our soldiers from Iraq."
Mr. Bondevik's government was divided over the invasion of Iraq but afterward dispatched a token corps of 10 officers to help rebuild the country.
One less participant in the Iraq Coalition.
Norway has been raking in the oil dollars, and the current government wanted to ... what else? ... cut taxes. But Labor had other plans. According to Stephen Castle in the Independent,
The Norwegian opposition party regained power in the oil-rich country's general election yesterday ... after wooing voters with pledges to plough cash into their already generous welfare state system.
Even before the latest surge in oil prices, Norway was ranked for five consecutive years by the United Nations as the best place to live in the world. Yet its low unemployment and a much-envied social security system have not stopped the issue of how much the government spends from dominating debate in the world's third-largest oil exporter.
The Times account shows the financial imprudence of the Right—
Under Mr. Bondevik's fragile coalition of Christian Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, Norway experienced a surge in prosperity, with the stock market tripling since early 2003 on the strength of oil exports. Interest rates fell sharply, personal incomes rose and the United Nations Development Program designated Norway the best country in the world in which to live.
But letting the good times roll is not really the Scandinavian way. Even at the cost of moderately higher taxes, most Norwegians on Monday seemed intent on protecting or expanding generous sick-leave, pregnancy-leave and job-security policies along with subsidized day care and free college tuition.
Like Mr. Stoltenberg, Mr. Bondevik campaigned as a champion of social spending, but his commitment to keeping interest rates low and cutting future taxes made him seem the guardian of a business-friendly status quo. He also lost votes to the far right Progress Party, which became Norway's second-largest party on Monday. It demanded even larger tax cuts than Mr. Bondevik was willing to countenance and proposed balancing the budget by raiding an oil-revenue fund set up to serve future generations.
A Norwegian paper, the Aftenposten, offered an interesting sidelight on the election. It seems the Norwegian system shocked a group from Central Asia and the Caucasus who had come to observe a democratic election.
Hailing from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tadzhikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova and Georgia,
The observers checking municipal voting stations noted that it was possible in several places to vote without an election card or identification, often, but not always, because a person was acquainted by controllers.
The conclusion was that mutual trust was essential for Norway's elections to proceed the way they do and that cheating would be laughably easy, NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) reports.
Besides the lack of consistent identification practices, the absence of security guards at voting stations and the ability to take as many ballot papers as desired were also deemed noteworthy and slightly unsettling to observers used to strictly monitored elections.
Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg told NRK that it was important to remember that the election observers in Østfold are used to far different conditions prevailing during voting.
"We must remember that those that are observers here come from a completely different background of experience, where each little opportunity to swindle and cheat must be countered by regulations and practical routines," Solberg said.
Apparently the observers have Republicans where they come from too.
Who is this Republican? (7/23/04)
The best place in the world to do business (11/8/04)
The death of the Left? (11/27/04)
France votes "No" on EU Constitution (5/29/05)
Human development rank of the world's countries — 2005 (9/10/05)
Statistic of the Day
Whatever happened to the New Orleans mercy-killing story?
When I recounted the Fox News report of the "putting-down" of the sick and infirm of New Orleans as medical personnel were being evacuated, I added that "there is a good chance the media will ignore this story."
If you think they kept the Downing Street Memos under wraps, you ain't seen nothing yet. I'm curious what their justification is. They can hardly claim that it's old news.
Yesterday I tried to track the progress of this story, which was quite easy since there was so little progress. I thought I'd review what's out there as of this morning.
There are only two original sources: Fox News and the Sunday Mail, and all stories mentioned below are picked up from the Mail story.
Other than Fox News, NONE! Sorry, still no link to Fox.
Christian or "ethical" media (all are online only)
WorldViews (This is really a blog, but Google has it in their News search)
Australia: Daily Telegraph, "Patients put down"
Canada: Ottawa Sun, a tabloid, "Docs killed those with 'no chance'"
Scotland: Daily Record, a tabloid, "KATRINA DOCTORS: WE KILLED PATIENTS"
Singapore: Electric News Paper, copied the article in the Mail, stole the byline
Linkers and re-posters
Information Clearing House
The Raw Story
Plus a number of bloggers, including Kos.
Now contrast the New Orleans story with an AP story of September 5 on the Dutch, who have legalized euthanasia. The story was titled "Doctors May Be Helping Sick Kids Die." I counted no less than 57 American newspapers that carried the story, including the Washington Post and other major papers.
Whaddya think? A news blackout on this one?
If you discover any other media carrying the story, please leave a comment or email me with a link.
Note: This story wasn't put online until Tuesday. I've changed the date on the post to reflect that.
Putting Katrina victims "to sleep" (updated) (9/11/05)
Monday, September 12, 2005
Buy a bike while your dollars are still worth something
The St. Pete Times reports,
Damage to Gulf Coast refineries and pipelines by Hurricane Katrina pushed retail gas prices to historic highs in the past two weeks, with self-serve regular averaging more than $3 a gallon for the first time ever, according to a nationwide survey released Sunday.
The weighted average price for all three grades surged more than 38 cents to nearly $3.04 a gallon between Aug. 26 and Friday, said Trilby Lundberg, who publishes the semimonthly Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gas stations around the country. Adjusted for inflation, the nation's previous high weighted average for all three grades was $1.38 a gallon in March 1981. That would be $3.03 in current dollars.
Most bicycles of course are made abroad. Hurry to get one before the dollar collapses.
Gone but not forgotten—oh, maybe not really gone
You see, Israel is retaining control of the Gazan airspace, seacoast and borders and asserting the "right" to invade while claiming that Gaza is not an occupied territory. In fact, according to the Israelis it was never really "occupied," only "disputed."
Israel also refused to destroy some 19 Gazan synagogues, which has the Palestinians hopping mad. The Palestinians claim that anything they do with the synagogues will invite controversy so they'd rather just see them gone.
Screw the controversy. If the Palestinians have any intelligent leadership in Gaza, they should be able to find uses for the buildings.
All just a misunderstanding
Any report you may have heard that the Afghan Defense Minister's convoy was attacked by Afghan troops has proven to be false.
It looked bad for a moment—
Shots were fired at the convoy Saturday after it had dropped Defense Minister Rahim Wardak and some other Cabinet members at Kabul's airport. One bullet hit a seat in Wardak's car where he had been sitting just moments earlier.
But after an investigation the Ministry determined that the troops were shooting at each other rather than at the convoy.
A thought to ponder
Sunday, September 11, 2005
A moment to ponder
—Rudy Giuliani as quoted in "Who Told Giuliani the WTC was Going to Collapse on 9/11?" at What Really Happened
Putting Katrina victims "to sleep" (updated)
I happened to catch an amazing segment on FoxNews. I don't know if they will link the video, but it's not up at the time of writing. Nor is there any mention of the story on their site. The segment was shown at about 5:20 PM EST.
"News reader" Page Hopkins was talking live with a Fox reporter (female). The reporter was in the disaster area, but I didn't catch whether she was in New Orleans or some other area. The reporter was discussing her talks with medical personnel.
According to the reporter, ill patients were triaged into three groups—"will not recover," "may recover," and "should recover." For lack of medical facilities, people in the "will not recover" group were given large doses of morphine. The reporter made clear that these were doses sufficient to put the patients "to sleep" in some cases.
A rather worried-looking Hopkins came back with something like "But these were patients who would have died anyway?" The reporter hesitated and agreed that many of them would have died, leaving unsaid but implied that some patients would not have died. "Heartbreaking" for the medical personnel, she said.
This is absolutely astonishing. A rescue effort under the ultimate command of Mr. Right-to-Life Bush was euthanizing gravely ill patients.
This is the same George Bush who sent former Attorney General Ashcroft to federal court to oppose Oregon's "Death with Dignity" Act, which allows for physician-assisted suicide. (The government lost the case at the district level and on appeal. It will be considered by the Roberts Supreme Court during the coming term.)
This is the same George Bush who flew back from Texas to sign a federal law intervening in the Terri Schiavo case at 1:11 in the morning.
But the actions described on Fox go far beyond physician-assisted suicide or removal of a feeding tube from a brain-dead patient. This was euthanasia; this was mercy-killing. And whether you support the concept in principal or not, the Fox News account made it clear that for the medical personnel involved, these actions were forced by the inadequacy of the medical response to the disaster.
There is a good chance that the media will ignore this story. But the Christian Right, at the very least, should have some questions for Mr. Bush in the morning.
BuzzFlash has subsequently linked a story in London's The Mail on Sunday. Caroline Graham and Jo Knowsley seem to have been in contact with the same medical personnel—
Doctors working in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans killed critically ill patients rather than leaving them to die in agony as they evacuated hospitals, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
With gangs of rapists and looters rampaging through wards in the flooded city, senior doctors took the harrowing decision to give massive overdoses of morphine to those they believed could not make it out alive.
In an extraordinary interview with The Mail on Sunday, one New Orleans doctor told how she 'prayed for God to have mercy on her soul' after she ignored every tenet of medical ethics and ended the lives of patients she had earlier fought to save.
Her heart-rending account has been corroborated by a hospital orderly and by local government officials. One emergency official, William 'Forest' McQueen, said: "Those who had no chance of making it were given a lot of morphine and lain down in a dark place to die."
This is a much more precise account than was given on Fox News, and even mentions the word "euthanasia"—
Euthanasia is illegal in Louisiana, and The Mail on Sunday is protecting the identities of the medical staff concerned to prevent them being made scapegoats for the events of last week.
So far as I know, euthanasia is illegal everywhere in the United States, but what must Right-wing Catholics of Catholic Louisiana think of this?
As for the medical personnel, the government should expect and be prepared to treat cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that will inevitably emerge among them. In the United States there is no excuse for expecting them to cope with this tragedy with so little support.
'These people were going to die anyway'
The doctor said: "I didn't know if I was doing the right thing. But I did not have time. I had to make snap decisions, under the most appalling circumstances, and I did what I thought was right.
"I injected morphine into those patients who were dying and in agony. If the first dose was not enough, I gave a double dose. And at night I prayed to God to have mercy on my soul."
The doctor, who finally fled her hospital late last week in fear of being murdered by the armed looters, said: "This was not murder, this was compassion. They would have been dead within hours, if not days. We did not put people down. What we did was give comfort to the end.
"I had cancer patients who were in agony. In some cases the drugs may have speeded up the death process.
"We divided patients into three categories: those who were traumatised but medically fit enough to survive, those who needed urgent care, and the dying.
"People would find it impossible to understand the situation. I had to make life-or-death decisions in a split second.
"It came down to giving people the basic human right to die with dignity.
"There were patients with Do Not Resuscitate signs. Under normal circumstances, some could have lasted several days. But when the power went out, we had nothing.
"Some of the very sick became distressed. We tried to make them as comfortable as possible.
"The pharmacy was under lockdown because gangs of armed looters were roaming around looking for their fix. You have to understand these people were going to die anyway."
Mr McQueen, a utility manager for the town of Abita Springs, half an hour north of New Orleans, told relatives that patients had been 'put down', saying: "They injected them, but nurses stayed with them until they died."
Mr McQueen has been working closely with emergency teams and added: "They had to make unbearable decisions."
Republicans may have removed their feeding tube (3/22/05)
Whatever happened to the New Orleans mercy-killing story? (9/13/05)
Retort of the Day
I’ll tell them it’s neither fish nor fowl. But whatever it is, it will taste awfully good to the people of the Tennessee Valley.