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The Gross National Debt

Friday, September 30, 2005

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, Booman Tribune, and My Left Wing.)

[editor's note, by RenaRF] This is in response to Barack Obama's diary at Daily Kos earlier today. I was almost crying when I typed it.

Dear Senator Obama,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful post this morning. My reply to you, contained within this diary, is solely my own thoughts and impressions and is intended to provide some insight for you. I have a deep and abiding regard for your character and it is to that which I appeal.

In no way do I mean to criticize you or attack you, though the overall tone of my following response may be interpreted that way. My issues with your post are multiple, the most acute ones being related to the fact that I think you are viewing and responding to symptoms and not considering the root causes.

And so I'll begin.


I think the defining statement of your letter was this:

...win the right to appoint [judges] by recpaturing the presidency and the Senate. And I don't believe we get there by vilifying good allies, with a lifetime record of battling for progressive causes, over one vote or position.

That excerpt says two important things: First, it tells us that we simply must be focused on taking back control of the executive and legislative branches. We are in violent accord on that issue, though I will foreshadow that we disagree dramatically on what needs to be done to make that occur. Second, it immediately chastisizes those of us who have stepped up and criticized Democratic senators who voted to confirm John Roberts. I will ask you to consider this: What if the criticism you reference is really a broad metaphor for an across-the-board abandonment of progressive values on the part of Democrats? Please keep that question with you as you read this, because I would submit to you that it's not just about the Roberts nomination.

Senator, we haven't forgotten all the efforts made by Democrats on everything but the Roberts nomination. My mother raised me with a variety of truisms, one of which is particularly apt for this particular discussion: you reap what you sow. If Democrats portray weakness as a party, Democrats will be labelled and branded as weak. Coming back and gently, articulately criticizing us for actually calling the Democratic party weak reminds me a bit of a situation with my now 20-year old stepson. In going through his room, I found something which allowed me to catch him in a lie. When confronted with that lie, he was angry that I had gone through his room. He totally missed the fact that he had lied and that I had a right to be disappointed in him. The methods employed in proving the lie are irrelevant. I don't find decrying criticism from your own camp entirely dissimilar.

As I stated in a comment to your diary, the definition of insanity is doing what you've always done yet somehow expecting different results. Democrats have striven for congeniality in their approach to opposing the majority and have been repeatedly and squarely defeated in that tactic. Nowhere have I seen a cohesive and unified "calling out" of the opposition on their tactics. Coming back to common sense truisms, Senator, I would say that the only way to deal with a bully is to stand up to that bully. When the bully knows that he can intimidate you and muscle you to achieve his end goals, he will do so. Fighting back is the only thing he understands and Democrats have not been fighting back in any meaningful way against the bullying tactics of the majority party. For example:

The above list doesn't even approach being exhaustive - I'm sure what little I have provided gives you a flavor for the generalized frustration progressives across the country are experiencing. "Calling out" Democratic Senators on the issue of John Roberts is the result of an accumulated sense that the Democratic party is, at the least, ineffective and, at worst, irrelevant and obsolete. Espousing ideas that issue a call for comity further speeds the certainty of irrelevance. Our hopes and our hearts die with every capitulation - each of which is one of the 1,000 cuts that will eventually spell our death.

Ask yourself this: why is it that the vast majority of progressives who frequent Daily Kos are able to sum up the Republican party's platform in six words? Strong Military. Lower Taxes. Family Values. Yet this pool of often brilliant thinkers can't do the same for our own party. It's not because we don't agree with a platform that has been put forward - it's that the Democratic message itself is contrary and lacks unity. Don't ask us to rally around the party if you can't provide us with the words we need to issue the cry. You can't have the support if you're not willing to do the work required to put it in place.

Most importantly, we're tired of getting punched. EVERY DAY brings a new item that we hold as absolutely imperative that we find has been sacrificed on the altar of "statesmanship". It's not time to make nice with the majority party. It's the time to get angry and knock them out. They haven't hesitated to do so with us and yet we've stood there, taking it, hoping that their eventual missteps would spell their own demise.

Well it hasn't, Senator Obama. It hasn't. The Republican party has shown time and time again its resilience in the face of consequences associated with their policies and actions. They take the heat - they stick to the script and to the plan - they ride it out - and it works. It works because no one is standing over them kicking them in the face when they try to get back up. It's not enough that the Democratic party start building frames of its own (and I see precious little of that type of activity) - we have to simultaneously obliterate the frames within which the Republicans operate. Nothing short of a full assault will do and we're running out of time and influence with which to do it. I hope that it isn't already too late.

Senator Obama, I do see great promise from you. You are a skilled and inspiring orator and one of the best chances we have as we move into the future. Hence my near-hysterical reaction to your letter, a letter which seemed to me to say the same tired old things and promote the same losing tactics. More importantly, I'm dumbfounded by your lack of anger at the way you and other Democrats are simply kicked around by the Republican party. They are humiliating you while you try to straighten your tie. They're punching you in the face while you try to shake their hand. I realize that one-on-one relationships with opposing party members are not like that - but the end result is that you wind up beaten bloody and left to die while they walk away laughing.

I'm pretty moderate as far as this site goes and yet I'm ready to take to the streets and do what the Democratic party won't or cant - it's that important - and I'm frankly shocked that you don't see it.

Hope springs eternal but it IS fading, Senator. It's sad when average people are willing to be more courageous and daring than our elected leaders.

LEAD, damnit. Stop telling us why we're wrong and lead.

Respectfully,
RenaRF


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 3:19 PM 11 comments links to this post

Very quietly, Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who was jailed for 85 days for refusing to reveal her source in the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson, was released from an Alexandria jail late yesterday. Reports are that she had a phone conversation with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Chief of Staff to the Vice President, and that that conversation released her from her agreement of confidentiality. She is, as I type, testifying before Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury investigating the leak of the CIA agent's name.

This has always been a convoluted and curious case for me. It reminds me of everything I've ever read regarding Watergate - there are a smattering of facts over here and then a pile of facts over there and, while all related to the outing of Valerie Plame, one smattering doesn't seem to relate to another pile. It wreaks of cover-up. And a stupid cover-up at that - in much the same way that it was stupid and counter-productive to break into the DNC's offices in the Watergate.

Stay tuned for more on this as it shakes out. Here are a few excellent stories on the Plame affair, as diaried over at Daily Kos.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 9:15 AM 1 comments links to this post
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Culture of Corruption.

It seems to me that Democrats are actually engaging in (gasp) framing language. I saw it first on Daily Kos, in a diary by Jon Tester. Mr. Tester is running for Senate in the state of Montana. Then I heard it echoed over and over again in reports on CNN... I also read it in The Washington Post and The New York Times. Not renowned for its cohesive message machine, I have to agree that "Culture of Corruption" is an apt frame and one that is totally supported by the facts. To wit:

None of that is to mention the entire Iraq and WMD debacle. It's about time Democratic leadership grew some balls and started calling this Republican administration and all of its mouthpieces and minions what it is: corrupt.

Also from Daily Kos - a fabulous graphic provided in the form of a diary by Maria in pgh. Priceless.

Check out 2 political junkies' blog.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 11:48 AM 4 comments links to this post
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Thank goodness someone's paying attention.

PROMINENT ADDITION!! I was remiss in my original post - the first picture was taken by Joe Tresh (the second picture is, of course, the same picture with a bit of photoshopping). Check out his site, Joe Tresh.com. He has many simply wonderful pictures of the protest march in DC this past weekend that I know a lot of you who stop by here would find interesting.

A commenter at Daily Kos linked to Princess Sparkle Pony's blog with this gem of a picture:

Recognize that guy? It's none other than Jeff Gannon, the former White House softball question-lobber and erstwhile male prostitute. Where was this picture taken? At Sunday's counter-protest (pro-war) march in Washington DC. Several hundred protesters reportedly staged that fabulous izod-clad counter-march (compared to the 300,000 marching for an end to the Iraq war on Saturday)

Sparkle Pony photoshopped that picture and gave us one that is a bit more fitting:

I can't believe this guy isn't homeless.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 9:33 AM 8 comments links to this post
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
How Other Presidents Would Judge George W. Bush

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos and My Left Wing)

With the exception of the living Presidents who can be asked, the question of how other Presidents and great Americans would judge George W. Bush is a matter of pure speculation.

Or is it?


I work in a politically charged climate and industry. I won't explain how or why (because it's so politically charged!!) - suffice it to say that when one even dares to betray their politics and finds a sympathist on the other side, it's wonderful.

In October of last year I was running all around town with my Kerry/Edwards flag on my window. I used the flag instead of a bumper sticker for the precise reason that it's considered, at a minimum, unseemly to announce one's politics when one has some kind of tangential relationship with the Federal government, and, at worst, it is an act of professional suicide - the flag let me be political except when entering strict business surroundings.

I had pulled up in front of the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC with my flag still firmly in place. ((Gasp)) One of my colleagues came up to the car as I was giving the keys to the value and looked at the flag I was removing and looked at me. I was busted. She looked at me, I looked at her... She looked at the flag and I looked at the ground... THEN... She asked where I got it and how she could order bumper stickers. Bingo. :-D

It was THAT friend and collegue who sent me the list which shows how other Presidents and great Americans, since departed this Earth, would judge George W. Bush:

"Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism."
-- President George Washington

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."
-- President Thomas Jefferson

"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President."
-- President Theodore Roosevelt

"It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority."
-- Benjamin Franklin

"It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from the government."
-- Thomas Paine

"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men."
-- President Abraham Lincoln

"Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion."
-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower

"We need not fear the expression of ideas - we DO need to fear their suppression."
-- President Harry S. Truman

"Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed."
-- President John F. Kennedy

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
-- President Theodore Roosevelt

So you tell me... Can we judge what they would have said about Ol' George the 43rd??


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 9:47 PM 1 comments links to this post
Yes, Virginia, There IS a Santa Claus.

I had to share this great article found at Common Dreams. I always wonder, when I pick my head up out of my own personal outrage, whether I stand alone with other liberals or whether there really is a mood in America, and one that crosses all but the most ardent of right wingers... This article answered my question, at least for now.
George Bush in Hell - by David Michael Green

You would not want to be George W. Bush right now.

Not that you ever would anyhow, but especially not now. Indeed, there are indications that not even George W. Bush wants to be George W. Bush right now.

That second term in office, the one that just a year or two ago seemed so precious that he was willing to launch a war just to obtain it, now feels like a life sentence. Plans for four years spending political capital now look a lot more like endless months of capital punishment.

The Bush Administration has nowhere to go but down, and that is precisely where it is headed. Poll data show that even members of his solid-to-the-point-of-twelve-step-eligibility base are now deserting him as his job approval ratings plunge like so much Enron stock, lately crashing southward through the forty percent threshold. With almost his entire second term still in front of him, Bush is poised to set new records for presidential unpopularity. That scraping noise you hear? It's the sound of sheepish voters creeping out to the garage late at night, furtively removing "Bush-Cheney 2004" bumperstickers from the back of their SUVs when no one is looking.

Meanwhile, as the scales fall from the eyes of the hoi polloi, even the one constituency which could plausibly make the claim that Bush has been good for America (read: their wallets), is speaking the unspeakable as well. Robert Novak, of all people, wrote a column last week chronicling his experience watching rich Republicans at an Aspen retreat bash the idiocy of Bush administration policies on Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, stem-cell research and more. Perhaps these folks realized when they saw Trent Lott's house go under that Mother Nature doesn't care whether you're rich and well-connected any more than does al Qaeda. You may be on Karl Rove's Rolodex, but now Bush is taking you down and your yacht too, not just forgotten kids from the ghetto who enlisted in the Army as the only alternative to a life of poverty.

Even conservative columnists like David Brooks (though not Novak) are writing articles nowadays accurately describing the changed mood of the American public. Where those powerful currents are heading is unclear, but given the radical right experiment of the present as their point of departure, there would seem to be only two choices. We can either go completely off the deep-end and finally constitute the Fascist Republic of Cheney, or we can turn to the left, toward some semblance of rational policymaking. The latter seems far more likely, especially as America increasingly regains its senses after a long bout of temporary insanity. These are bad bits of news for poor George, but worse yet is that they are only the first signs of the coming apocalypse. The real fun stuff is just around the corner. I'll confess to more than a little schadenfreude as I contemplate the ugly situation staring Republicans officeholders in the face right now. They are tethered to a sinking ship, and have only two lousy options to choose from as November 2006 approaches. One is to stay the course and drown. The other is to start renouncing Bush and his policies, appear to voters as the complete hypocrites and political whores many will prove to be, and then still drown anyhow. Nobody could be more deserving of such a fate, with the possible exception of Democrats like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry who have been even more hypocritical yet in facilitating many of the president's disastrous policies.

Watching these GOP opportunists jump ship will certainly be fun, but the greatest fun awaits the president himself. Bush has now lost everything that once sustained him. That includes 9/11, now safely in the rearview mirror for most Americans. That includes his wartime rally-around-the-flag free pass, as he has failed to capture America's real enemy, while lying about bogus ones to justify an invasion pinning our defense forces down in an endless quagmire. That includes, post-Katrina, the ridiculous frame of Bush as competent leader, and the former reality of the press as frightened presidential waterboys.

And that's the good news for W. The bad news is all the chickens coming home to roost. The economy is anemic and fragile, and yet Bush has played the one card in his deck ostensibly (but never really) intended to remedy the country's economic woes. (Remember during the 2000 campaign when times were flush and tax cuts were the prescription? Remember in 2001 when the economy was in a recession and tax cuts were still the prescription?). In any case, Bush's one-note economic symphony has succeeded in producing precisely the cacophony of disaster that progressive commentators have predicted all along: massive deficits, little or no economic boost, a hemorrhaging of jobs overseas, and a vastly more polarized America of rich, poor and a disappearing middle class.

Another angry chicken, of course, is coming home in the form of devastating storms and a grossly incompetent administration to deal with them. Bush is not entirely responsible for Hurricanes Katrina or Rita, of course, but he is partially responsible for them by his willful ignorance of the global warming issue. And he is more than a little responsible for the carnage and damage done, because of his budget-slashing on preventative structural projects, because of his deployment of needed-at-home Guard forces to Iraq, because of his staffing of the government with completely incompetent crony hacks, and because of his and their astonishingly lame performance in responding to a known crisis. Where I come from, a president who remains on vacation during possibly the worst natural disaster to hit this country, praises his FEMA chief for doing a "heckuva job" when the guy doesn't know what any American with a TV set has known for 24 hours about New Orleans, and then later fires him for poor performance, is a president who should be impeached for those reasons alone.

The other demons awaiting George W. Bush just around the bend are multiple and grim. One of these days (right?), Patrick Fitzgerald is actually going to move on the Treasongate story, and signs suggest that multiple heads will roll within the White House. The political damage will be even worse than the legal, though, as Bush's clean and patriotic image will be smashed beyond repair, as no one will believe that he himself didn't know all along who committed treason by outing an American spy, and as he will likely lose the key magicians who have kept him afloat for five years and more. Oh well. W's loss will be Leavenworth's gain.

And there is more. The Jack Abramoff investigation has now been tied to the White House. There are also presumably an infinite number of other scandals waiting to explode (can you say 'Halliburton'?) should the Democrats capture either branch of Congress next year, not least of which being those concerning the Downing Street Memo revelations. Gas prices are off the charts and home heating bills are supposed to soar this winter. Jobs are disappearing, along with pensions and healthcare coverage, inflation is likely to rise, and voters are surly already.

But, of course, the biggest cross for Bush to bear is the one he built for himself, and thus the most richly deserved. In Iraq, simply put, there are no good options. None for America, that is, but even fewer for George W. Bush.

What can he do?

He can't win. America (or, more accurately, America's oligarchy) is clearly losing the war as it is. It is a fantasy to imagine that, at this late date, more troops could pacify the resistance. But even if that were so the political consequences to Bush, especially given his promise of no draft on his watch, would be devastating and rapid. American public opinion has already turned decisively against the war. Imagine if there were a draft and all the bumper-sticker patriots across the land had to actually make a sacrifice for their president's transparent lies. All hell would break loose, and the Republican Party would be dead for a generation.

He can't lose. The major downside to wrapping yourself in the flag, landing on aircraft carriers, labeling yourself a "war president", and being marketed in an election campaign as the reliable national security choice is that you had better deliver. Egged on by the likes of Cheney, Wolfowitz and Perle, Bush no doubt thought Iraq would be a fine little walk in the park from which he would benefit politically for the rest of his presidency. (Nor, assuming this president possesses anything resembling a conscience, need he have concerned himself with resulting deaths, since he told Pat Robertson "we're not going to have any casualties", and he may have even believed it.) Unfortunately for all concerned - most especially the Iraqis and American soldiers - Bush's presidency would be one very real casualty indeed should he decide to pick up his marbles and leave the arena, and so he will not, no matter the carnage or the futility. Doing so would be effectively admitting that there was no legitimate reason for the war in the first place. Everyone now knows that, of course, but were Bush ever to even hint at it, he would be committing instant political suicide. He can't draw. One option is to find some - any - kind of stability, declare victory and go home, saying we got Saddam, we brought democracy, yada, yada, yada. But how many Americans are now going to be fooled by calling an Iraq ruled by militants of one stripe or another a victory, after all the hooey about fighting for democracy in the Middle East? How many think replacing Saddam with a brutal dictator of another name is worth the price of 2,000 American troops and two or three hundred billion dollars? How many will be convinced that Iraqi women having fewer rights than they did under Saddam Hussein, of all regimes, represents a win for the home team? How many will still be unschooled enough to look at a Iranian-dominated theocracy in Iraq and call that a triumph? Moreover, even these total disasters presume a stability of some sort which may be little short of fantasy at this point. When the Saudi foreign minister goes public with his concerns that Iraq is careening toward civil war, you know you're in deep, and no amount inanities sanctimoniously uttered by Scotty McClellan can keep the truth at bay.

He can't get help. Now there's a good one. Maybe the French have finally seen the light and realized what a mistake they made by not bringing something to the party in 2003, eh? No doubt there's a long queue of countries behind them wanting to commit forces to the farces that are decomposing in the Cradle of Civilization. Luckily for George Bush you can still thumb your nose at the rest of the world and have them come to your rescue afterwards. Just think of what a pickle he would be in if that weren't the case...

He can't divert attention. Time was, a government in trouble at home could throw a little war in some hell-hole abroad and divert public attention away from their domestic or other foreign failures. Kinda like Reagan in Grenada, or the Argentinians in the Malvinas, or Thatcher in the Falklands. Yet, while the American public has managed to massively and repeatedly disappoint still sane observers in recent years, it doesn't appear to be in any mood for more of Mr. Bush's Fun With Foreign Policy antics. Not that the country any longer has the available military force to pull it off anyhow, but it hardly seems that an invasion of Iran right now would have much effect diverting attention from Iraq, even if it could somehow successfully be done, another fantasy in its own right.

In short, George W. Bush is toast, as is the whole regressive conservative movement of which he is but the most egregious exemplar. Not even another 9/11 would be likely to help him, as the security president who fails to provide security is the nothing (but simply failed) president. The demise of the right is now likely be true even if Democrats continue hurtling down their current path toward breaking all world records for political cowardice by a major party. Indeed, the worst of the Democrats may now also be in trouble amongst the base - as well they should be - for their cozy associations with the right, enabling its destructive march to the sea these last years.

It is thus too bad, as we emerge from the nightmare of the last quarter-century, that so many of us lefties are atheists, agnostics or otherwise debauched secular humanists. Not only have we had to suffer the reign of Bad King George here on Earth, we can't even have the satisfaction of knowing that he'll be spending the rest of eternity rotting in Hell.

The good news, though, is that he's already there, and the flames are only beginning to warm him up. Perhaps that is why Time describes the dry heaves of a young staffer who had to breach the fantasy bubble and tell this "cold and snappish" president the unhappy truth about an issue, or the National Enquirer's report that Bush, who according to a family member is "falling apart", is back to drinking.

Thus does a new possible ending to the Bush administration suddenly emerge as a real possibility. Previously, I had assumed that our long national nightmare would be over in one of three ways, either with Bush somehow managing to finish his term, with him being impeached, convicted and run out of Washington, or with him being impeached, convicted and then refusing to leave, precipitating a constitutional crisis and even, possibly, a civil war. Now I see a fourth very real possibility.

It was all fun and games when everybody loved him. When the guy who had failed at everything in life except having the right last name all of a sudden was showing those elitist snobs who was tops after all. When the man with a Texas size inferiority complex got to be adored by millions as if he were some kind of religious icon.

But what if that all changes? What if Diminutive George, just like LBJ before him, can't leave the completely scripted bubble his staff manufactures, just as such set-pieces become increasingly difficult to sustain? What if the Peevish President can't escape - even by going to Crawford or Camp David - the mothers of dead children, the baby-killer taunts, the stinging-because-they're-so-accurate chickenhawk accusations, the calls for his own daughters to go to Iraq, the possibility that everyone was right about him all along when they dismissed him as the family clown? What if all of a sudden, it sucks being president? Why bother, then?

It is clear now that one way the Bush administration might end would be with the president's resignation, in order for him to duck into more tranquil quarters. Who knows, maybe he could spend his days getting tanked in Crawford, not writing another book, or going into exile, perhaps in the south of France.

Of course, a pardon deal would have to be prearranged with Cheney, if they haven't convicted him yet, or with Hastert if they have. And, equally certainly, the resignation would be put down to "the president wanting to spend more time with his family", or some such ludicrous McClellanism, no more or less plausible than the rest of his daily fare. But the truth would be plain for all to see. The frat-boy party-time president who condemns kids less than half his age to the hell of futile battle in support of his lies would himself be deserting as commander-in-chief when the fun part ended. Kinda like he did last time he wore a uniform.

History, it would seem, all too rarely delivers justice. The privileged few go out of this life richer than they came into it, while the poor often leave even poorer, not to mention sooner. Those who commit unspeakable crimes sometimes become presidents or prime ministers, while those who dare speak truthfully of those deeds are crushed owing to the threat posed by their honesty.

Even more rare yet are the cases in which history delivers justice with a deliciously deserved irony. But George Bush has provided us with just such a case. And the very delicious irony is that he is now being undone by a cynical choice he himself made to go to war in Iraq with other people's blood and other people's treasure, for the purpose of enhancing his tenuous self-esteem and the power of his presidency.

Goodbye, George. May you know precisely the rest and precisely the peace someone who would do such a thing deserves.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 8:06 PM 1 comments links to this post
How To Make a Head Explode

The easiest way to make a head explode is to sit it down in front the television and make it listen to Michael "Brownie" Brown's opening statement before the (un)bi-partisan committee to investigate the response to Hurricane Katrina.

A few highlights:

  1. Mr. Brown essentially blamed the victims for their lack of preparedness.
  2. Mr. Brown specifically blamed Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin and stated that he couldn't have anticipated that his "...biggest mistake was not realizing Louisiana was dysfunctional."
  3. Mr. Brown defended his resume and experience and specifically said "I know what I'm doing. I think I'm doing a pretty darned good job of it."
  4. His opening statement continually referenced how small FEMA is, the fact that it's not a first responder, and basically tried to shift blame to the locals.


On a purely human level this is just deplorable. If you spend all of your time trying to deflect blame and defend your own record, you do nothing to really determine the level of culpability of FEMA and, conversely, the rightful level of culpability on the locals. Nothing will be learned and that's just a travesty.

I live in Washington DC. I would really, truly like to see an honest evaluation by all parties. If we even improve response by 25% it would be a huge accomplishment. I can't believe that all that will come out of this is an ass covering. Where is our humanity and our concern for those who lost their lives??

I am disgusted.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 9:54 AM 2 comments links to this post
Monday, September 26, 2005
Reflecting on the March

Anyone who stops here knows that I'm a roving member of the blogosphere. About 75% of the stuff I write over here is posted as a diary on Daily Kos. It's nice to post it on such a large site where, occasionally, what you've written really resonates with a large community and you reap the benefit of their comments.

I was really surprised when I finally got home last night after the protest and saw a host of diaries posted by other users about the media coverage of the protests, particularly the DC protest. I'm not knocking their point-of-view at all - generally, they were posting about what little coverage they saw on C-SPAN. As near as I can figure out, C-SPAN had a fixed camera on the pre-march rally. There were a host of speakers at the rally as well as some music playing through the PA system when they had a break in the program, but, generally speaking, only a smallish minority of marchers were actually listening. Many more were getting their anti-war anti-Bush message out, getting ready to march, finding groups with whom they would march, etc. and so forth. In short, the C-SPAN coverage, probably inadvertently, painted a picture of the march that was wholly inaccurate. I'll share my impressions with all of you fine folks here.

First, my overall impressions. Attendance was huge. When the blogger contingent initially gathered at the Elipse, I was concerned (for those who don't know the area, we were in a large open area at the corner of 15th St. NW and Constitution Ave. NW). Although there were a lot of people there, it just seemed sparse. Then movement caught my eye... 15th Street was completely packed with people, as far as the eye could see. Constitution Ave. was the same - packed. Shoulder to shoulder. Signs. People. Music. Many had skipped the rally and gone stright to forming up for the march itself.

The rally had speakers and novelty performers and more speakers and music and more speakers. Jesse Jackson spoke - I caught that much. Cindy Sheehan spoke briefly and I caught that, too. I didn't hear any of anything else on the stage and I found out much later that that was what C-SPAN was televising. Apparently some of the speakers rubbed some of the viewing audience the wrong way.

Here's what I saw:


(Photo Courtesy of timroff)

Look at the young faces - and look at the origami they've made to commemorate the march.


(Photo Courtesy of timroff)

People from all walks of life attended. I was really thrilled to see what looked like hoardes of college students - serious and organized college students. They had a purpose for being there.


(Photo Courtesy of OnStarboardTack)

Check out this guy - look carefully at the area of the flag where the stars would normally be. I was shocked at how true that rang for me.


(Photo Courtesy of OnStarboardTack)

Funny, but somehow a most fervent wish.


(Photo Courtesy of OnStarboardTack)

You have to wonder what this young man's story is. Seeing such a young man at such a march really connects you to the young men and women who have survived the war itself and now endeavor to survive a fundamentally changed life.


(Photo Courtesy of OnStarboardTack)

The signs were amazing. They were really thought provoking and many of them, like this one, were educational.


(Photo Courtesy of Son of Broccoli)

I was struck by the breadth of people who marched. They really did represent all walks of life - all age groups, all races, all income brackets - a hoarde of concerned Americans.


(Photo Courtesy of Dem In VA)

This was my favorite moment. I walked next to this gentleman for quite some time. He was being pushed by his daughter or granddaughter. He is 88 years old. He marveled in all the children who marched - there were a few priceless moments where he would be speaking to a young child, perhaps 4, and you could see how much he loved being there and seeing everything that he saw around him. He was taking it all in. THAT man is what this march was for me.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:30 AM 5 comments links to this post
Saturday, September 24, 2005
My Photo Journal of the DC March

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing, Street Prophets, Booman Tribune, and ePluribus Media.)


I am entirely too tired to do any kind of serious analysis piece on the march today.  I have no more insight to add other than that I thought it was awesome.  It was wall-to-wall people of all ages and walks of life and the message was anti-Bush and anti-war with almost no exception.


Yes, there were moments of disorganization and frustration but given that it was about 500,000 people, I think it went wonderfully.


What follows is my photo journal with a few comments about each picture.  Enjoy.




Like all good radical anti-war protestors, we started our day at Starbucks.  I had coffee and a cinnamon scone - armed for marching.




Carne Asada Burrito introduces himself at Starbucks.




Damnit Janet and Carne Asada Burrito at the Starbucks.




On the way to the rally we saw this protestor and really dug her sign.




PastorDan tries to straighten the bloggers' marching banner.




When asked to pose "like a married couple", this is what PastorDan and MrsPastor chose as representative.




MrsPastor distributes the cookies.








The bloggers start to arrive - represented were Kossacks, MyLeftWingers, BooTribbers, ePMers, and Street Propheteers.




We get our shit together long enough to pose for a group picture - thanks to ElizabethD for ensuring this happened.







Crowd shots at the outer edges of the rally.  This doesn't approach giving an appreciation as to how many people were there - people were everywhere.




We make our way to the corner of 15th and Constitution and line up to march.




One of the signs in our delegation.




Another sign seen while waiting to start the march - the picture doesn't it do it justice - it was a great glossy poster of the Administration modelled after a Godfather-like movie promotion.




We pass some college students protesting the war, using their signs to cover the signs of the very small wingnut contra-protest contingent.




We saw this guy about 1/3 of the way into the march route.






The dignitaries, including Cindy Sheehan and Jesse Jackson, marched right along with us.




Not sure what this was about, but love the suit.




Even babies know the war has to end.




And finally, this gentleman reminds us something that's important.


Hope y'all enjoy it.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

Thursday, September 22, 2005
Some of My Relatives Evacuate - Some Don't.

So the big thing for my family today has been ascertaining the well-being of my family members, all of whom are in the direct path of Hurricane Rita.

One aunt, uncle, cousin and grandmother are together and headed to San Antonio. The trip would normally be about four hours. Now, thirteen hours into their evacuation, it would appear that they will make it. Contraflow has been in itiated on I-10 west and, at last check, my uncle was doing about 50mph. The big issue was the shortage of gas. He kept watching his mileage and gas levels and knew that he would be about 5 gallons short of San Antonio at their current pace. We managed to get a text message to him (it's nearly impossible to call on cell phones into the region) that gas tankers were actively refilling major truck stops along I-10 westbound and I-45 northbound. He stopped at one and when I managed to get through on his cell he was sixth in line and there was no danger of gas running out at that station. They will make it to their San Antonio hotel room tonight.

My second uncle is evacuating to the northern part of Houston. He has boarded up his home on the southern edge of the Houston suburbs. He has used the Red Cross disaster list to take with him what he may need for three days. He should be ok.

The last uncle, aunt and two cousins are staying in their south Houston suburb. My EMT nurse aunt has to be at the hospital as a first responder. My uncle has decided to shelter-in-place at their home, which is on relatively high ground (all things considered). They have boarded up their home. They have additionally identified an interior room in which they have placed plywood to board up doors for further protection if the winds get really ridiculous. They are the most at risk - he is keeping his two children, 12 and 15, with him. I'm most worried about them as he is diabetic. He has considered that and apparently is fortunate enough to have an 11,000 watt generator so he can keep his medication refrigerated.

So there you go. I can't wait until this is just over and this storm-stress subsides.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 5:24 PM 3 comments links to this post
Good God.

Not again. Hurricane Rita remains a strong Category 5 storm. When last I checked, it's internal pressure was down to 898mb of pressure, making it the third worst hurricane one record behind Gilbert and the great Labor Day hurricane of 1935. It's aiming directly for Galveston as of the 5am EST track.

I wouldn't be happy about this in any case - BUT - I have family evacuating from that area. My Grandmother, three uncles, three aunts and six cousins all live between Galveston and Houston. My grandmother and two sets of uncles, aunts and cousins have an evacuation plan - my one aunt is an emergency nurse who has to stay putg as a first responder. Her husband and their kids are NOT evacuating. I think it's a mistake and I've told them so but they're going to ride this out.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 5:37 AM 1 comments links to this post
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Things are Taking Shape

This weekend's March is taking shape. If you want to see what the actual itinerary is, click here. Blogger steve has reminded me that there is a free concert after the march sponsored by Operation Ceasefire. It starts at 3pm.

I have been contacted by Maryscott O'Connor - those of you who spend any time over at Daily Kos know exactly who she is - she is also the purveyor of another busy and excellent liberal blog, My Left Wing. Maryscott lives in Los Angeles. She and her husband are flying into Dulles Airport on the redeye - the arrive early early Friday morning. I'll be picking them up on Friday to head down tot he happy hour. I will also be escorting them to the actual march and activities. Maryscott will be live blogging the entire event and her husband, a professional photographer, will be pictorially recording everything for posterity. It will all be available for anyone interested at My Left Wing.

There are a host of reasons that it's unfortunate that hurricane Rita is choosing this particular time to potentially develop into a monster storm - for one, it appears to be heading directly for my family (grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins) in Houston, Texas. For another, it would appear it will happen kind of concurrently with the march. That will mean I can't check my family's status very easily and it will also mean that media attention will be focused on hurricane coverage, not march coverage.

What can you do?

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 7:47 PM 1 comments links to this post
Monday, September 19, 2005
A Call to Meetup for the 9/24 DC March!!

I took yesterday off from blogging. I was in nearly a full-day's Red Cross volunteer course. But NOW I am a certified Community Disaster Educator!! Whee!! Next step is Disaster Action Team training. Those will be longer courses and there are four of them, but I'm going to get them done so that I'm qualified to respond to single-family and mass disasters. So there you go.

That's not why I'm posting this here today, however. As many of you who blog progressively know, there is a BIG anti-Iraq war protest in Washington DC this weekend. The de-facto source for protest information seems to be found here - United for Peace. There is a blogger's contingent attending this. So far I am in contact with bloggers from Daily Kos, Booman Tribune, and ePluribus Media. We have an actual agenda starting on Friday, September 23rd.

Friday, September 23rd
  • Meet at Capitol City Brewery for happy hour. 4pm-7pm.
  • 1100 New York Ave., NW Washington, DC.
  • Nearest Metro stop is Metro Center.
  • Appetizers are 1/2 price during happy hour.
Saturday, September 24th
Pre-Rally Breakfast
  • Holiday Inn Downton. 9am.
  • 1155 14th Street NW Washington, DC.
  • Nearest Metro Stop is McPherson Square.
Assemble for Rally and March
  • Washington Ellipse Visitor's Pavillion.
  • Click here for a map.
  • Assemble at 11am.
  • Look for an orange flag to find the blogger's group.
  • Nearest Metro stop is Federal Triangle.
The plan is to assemble at 11am; join the rally at 11:30am; start to march at 12:30pm.

A few notes that have come to my attention. First, you can check out the DC area's availability of bus and Metro but going to WMATA's website. All you need is your starting address and ending address and it will show you bus, rail, and bus & rail routes to get where you need to go.

People have asked about signage. Bartcop.com has suggested posters for download. Many users have suggested that you save the signage file you want to a disk and take it to Kinko's, who will print it in a variety of larger sizes. YOU CANNOT BRING POLES OR STAKES. These are no-no's in a protest as they can be used as weapons. The suggestion has been made that the best thing to which you can fasten a sign is a wrapping paper tube. My suggestion? Bring a backpack, your signage, some duct tape and some wrapping paper tubes and a Sharpie so you're ready to go.

See you there. I'm bringing the flag so I'll be easy to find.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:26 PM 13 comments links to this post
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Americans are Too Good for their President

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

Just shy of three weeks since hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf, wreaking havoc on particularly Lousiana and Mississippi, tales of common heroism are emerging as a bright spot in what has otherwise been a bleak and desolate event in American history.

I have been unable to turn away from the tales of human tragedy and suffering. I know that there are literally millions of other Americans out there who feel the same way. I don't remember a time when I felt so impotent - so totally hamstrung by my lack of proximity to the region and my inability to do more than donate money and write letters to my Senators and Congressman and the President of the United States himself.

There is so much that can be written about what went wrong - speculation is endless as to how many lives were sacrificed to bureaucratic ineptitude and the failure of the Federal government to step up and honor its solemn responsibility to protect and defend American lives. But that's not the focus of this story. I want to put aside talk about the missteps and mistakes that failed American people in their time of need and focus on the common acts of everyday heroism that this disaster inspired.

I'll start first with the Daily Kos community. Starting on Saturday, August 27th, diarist DarkSyde brought us face to face with the potential for tragedy unfolding in the gulf region. As a community, we embraced DarkSyde's expertise and knowledge and consistently recommended his diaries up the recommended list. We were aware, I think quite early on, of the potential devastation that this storm would yield. It's no surprise, then, that the Daily Kos community realized very soon after the storm's passage that the damage to life and property was catastrophic. In a desperate attempt to start relief flowing to the stricken region, I posted a diary that simply summarized for the Daily Kos community the charitable organizations that were poised to rush relief to the region. In one week, Kossacks reported a whopping total of $15,161.08 donated to the charities listed in the diary. That total doesn't even approach the total received from Kossacks - it was only a total of those who self-reported their donations. Each of you who answered the call, either through donation or through getting up from where you were and heading down there or down to a shelter that you knew had been organized in your community or who answered the call to volunteer your time - each is an uncelebrated hero of the Katrina disaster. Your hearts were vast and deep beyond measure in the face of human suffering.


::

Another stand-out organization is the United States Coast Guard. As early as Monday night after the storm blew through (8/29), US Coast Guard personnel were in their helicopters and flying into storm and flood devastated areas trying to locate survivors.


US Coast Guard personnel rescue stranded people on August 29th after hurricane Katrina

TheIndyChannel.com reports that the Coast Guard has rescued over 6,500 victims of hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Region and their efforts continue to this day.


US Coast Guard personnel continue to search for survivors of hurricane Katrina on September 14th

::

42-year old San Diego resident and energy company executive David Perez felt so compelled to do something to help victims of hurricane Katrina that he chartered a jet (at a personal expense of $250,000) to go to Baton Rouge and bring out 82 people who lost everything to hurricane Katrina.


A distraught evacuee is comforted by Red Cross volunteers on arrival in San Diego

"I'm providing people an opportunity to get out of hell, and I was willing to take them anywhere they wanted to go," said Perez.

::

Who can forget RobertInWisconsin's diary about Edgar Hollingsworth.


California National Guard troops rescue Edgard Hollingsworth from certain death

The California National Guard troops had been specifically instructed that they were not to break into houses as they attempted to locate any unlikely survivors - they could merely call out, knock and look in windows. Thank God that they didn't follow orders on this occasion. They broke into the home and rescued Hollingsworth, a fellow American and a human soul, from the grips of death. Countless National Guard troops are repeating similar acts of heroism, risking their lives and safety to find survivors and bring them to safety.

::

Texas Oil Tycoon Boone Pickens (no, I'm not making this up) chartered a Contintntal Airlines flight to airlift 80 dogs from Louisiana to temporary foster homes in San Diego and San Fracisco. Dubbed "Operation Pet Lift", Pickens spent $50,000 to charter the jet in an effort to airlift 200 pets out of the region. Sadly, bureaucracy allowed only 80 to be airlifted.


Continental Airlines volunteer flight attendants care for the animals of "Operation Pet Lift"

::

There are too many stories for me to find them and document them properly here. I know that I have seen coverage on both CNN and MSNBC about the following:

  • A Houston-area woman opened her home to 27 evacuees of the Katrina disaster, expressing a deep desire that these people feel welcomed and comforted in the wake of losing everything.

  • A Houston-area woman literally pulled off her shoes and brought them to an evacuee getting off a bus at the Astrodome.

  • A San Diego area man has assembled volunteers to go to the stricken area to feed and provide water to pets still stranded in New Orleans. Responding to a lack of space in animal shelters, the man expressed a desire to ensure these animals' lives until rescue can be secured.

  • The entire staff of Charity Hospital worked tirelessly to protect the lives of their patients when evacuation was constantly delayed.

  • A New Orleans area man took his kayak and paddled through the flooded streets assembling volunteers and commandeering boats to rescue survivors in the immediate Katrina aftermath.

::

Countless stories of common heroism arise from the hurricane Katrina disaster. I found myself wondering earlier today if I would have acted heroically had I been in the area when disaster struck. Would I risk my life to save my neighbor? Would I go until exhaustion or death overcame me to do my part to save every soul still living? I hope so. Seeing all of these stories has been inspirational to me in a time when I have had deeply dark feelings about our government and the state of the country which I so dearly love. These stories have pulled me back from the precipice and I had to take the opportunity to really acknowledge and highlight the common decency of everyday people. Heroes walk among us - every day.

The title of the diary is somewhat misleading in that this is not a rant against George W. Bush or his Republican administration. But in considering each of these people, and groups of people, it was evident that our President doesn't deserve the quality and caliber of the average American whom he leads. They are, to a person, too good for him.

Please share any stories that you have heard about heroism or exeptional acts of self-sacrifice in the Katrina disaster, and thanks for reading.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 3:47 PM 2 comments links to this post
Friday, September 16, 2005
A Special Prayer on our 'National Day of Prayer'

I am without a car today - mine is in the shop for routine-type stuff.  As such, I'm working from my home office.  I have CNN on in the background as I go through a host of tedious paperwork-type work items  that I'm slogging through.


Then CNN turned its cameras to live coverage of the 'National Day of Prayer' to pray for the victims of the Katrina disaster.


I have no problem with prayer.  I'm Christian.  I don't practice my Christianity in a church.  If other people like the cameraderie of fellowship and like to pray in churches, I have no problem with it.  I think that being Christian is like being anything else - being female - being hispanic - being black - being a Muslim - etc.  There will always be a certain component of a given community who are inherently bad.  Christianity is not exempted from that truism.  I hope, then, that I'm counted as a not-bad Christian.


I have more of a problem with a 'National Day of Prayer' for the victims of the Katrina disaster.  Even if you ascribe the best of intentions to the declaration, it's an extremely presumptive designation.  It assumes that everyone prays - they don't.  It assumes further to tell people that everyone should be praying, that that is the approrpiate way to honor the lives lost from Katrina.  Many people are serving the victims of Katrina in ways other than prayer.  They're volunteering.  They're giving money.  They're writing a diary about a victim or a story they heard.


Where I have a HUGE problem is with the declaration of this day of prayer coming from the President of the United States.  He did a fancy, formal proclamation to officially recognize today.  I can't begin to list on how many levels I find it wrong that this man presumes to inform us that an appropriate way to honor the victims of Katrina is to have a day of prayer because he says so.  My physical reaction to that is visceral and deeply resentful.


So, I came up with my OWN prayer that I would have wanted to read on behalf of the victims who died in the aftermath of Katrina.  It is styled after the 23rd Psalm:


If Bush is my Shepherd, then all is lost.
He maketh me to lie down in putrid water:
He leadeth me beside the dead bodies.
He breaketh my faith.
He leadeth me only to seek profits, for his name's sake.


Yea, though I cry for mercy in the shadow of death,
I will find no help. For Bush leadeth me.
His indifference and disdain confronts me.
He preparest a table before those who give him money;
And annoistest the chosen with contracts; while my life runneth out.


Surely the goodness and mercy of God will haunt him all the days of his life,
For I, unjustly dying, WILL dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


Prayers are personal and that one is mine.  I admit more than a small amount of spiritual trepidation at even posting such a knock-off of what has always been a beautiful Psalm... But I think the Presidential proclamation is a far greater affront and warrants that fervent prayer from me.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 3:00 PM 7 comments links to this post
A Few Thoughts on the Speech and Insurance

Last Night's Speech

First, a few thoughts on the President's speech last night. For the moment I'm not going to discuss substance, only visual and auditory impressions.

The setting itself was quite weird - kind of eerie, actually. The backdrop of Jackson Square was haunting, with the Cathedral shrouded in a reflective blue and the statue of jackson directly next to Bush. It seemed very... incongruous with other addresses. Bush's past speeches have either been with a backdrop of supporters (typically military) OR are formal addresses in a White House setting where the utter lack of other people in the shot is not quite so striking. It created for me, overall, a very weird sensation of the dead speaking through their total absence.

As to Bush's tone and appearance, I was surprised to see the casual mode, though I generally found it appropriate. It was just... strange. And let's face it - it's quite obvious when Bush is speaking "from the hip" about something for which he has personal convictions vs. speaking from a prepared speech where the stakes of how he appears are very high. His posture and facial expressions, as well as oratory cadence fell in line with my experience of the latter. It's not his strongest suit and I think even supporters would agree with that. Generally speaking, however, compared to other speeches, I thought he got through it ok.

The analysis of the content continues to filter in and I'm not going to comment just yet on what he outlined because I would like to further investigate the substance of what he is offering and compare/contrast that to what people are saying is needed. At first blush, I'd say that it was a bit worrying that he didn't discuss how all of this will be financed. It's going to be HUGE bill and, at some point, detailed clarifications have to be made of how we will fund it and who will control oversight of the funding. Coming from where I am politically, of course, I can't see ANY juxtaposition of making the tax cuts permanent in light of the financial gravity of recovering from the disaster. I fear, however, that only the so-called "Death Tax" will be seriously considered since it hasn't as yet been repealed. That won't be enough - we will all need to be willing to make sacrifices given our new fiscal realities. It will be interesting to watch, to say the least.

My Pet Issue

We all have our pet issues, politically speaking. Mine has always been one which doesn't get much political traction: Insurance industry reform. I have a pretty basic view of the insurance industry. They need to be regulated. I cannot drive a car or have a mortgage without having automobile and homeowner's insurance respectively. Very simplistically put, I pay my premiums and take certain riders to protect myself and my possessions. The insurance company takes those premiums and invests them. They have earned record profits that have, largely, been insulated from parallel movement with the markets. There are many reasons for this which I won't go into here - but suffice it to say that, generally speaking, insurance companies will never pay a claim for the average homeowner that approaches what that same homeowner paid in premiums, especially not when you consider that the premiums themselves have earned compounded interest from the second the money leaves my bank account to the second it enters theirs.

It's a racket. And we're required to pay into that racket if we own a home or drive a car (though some states still allow for uninsured drivers - mine doesn't).

A few disturbing things are going on in the Gulf region as regards insurance, as reported by the Americans for Insurance Reform (AIR):

  • "AIR has received many calls from Louisiana and Mississippi residents who are insured by smaller insurance companies (not the major companies like State Farm, Allstate or Travelers). Their insurance carriers are saying they are unwilling to supply policyholders with immediate living expenses until a claims adjuster has inspected their property. At the same time, these insurance representatives are unwilling to provide policyholders with even a broad estimate of when such an inspection might happen. Numerous people have told AIR, “Our money is running out and our insurance companies can't tell us when or if any help is on the way.”
  • Several policyholders report that representatives of United Fire Insurance, which also owns Lafayette, Addison, American Indemnity, and United Fire Lloyds, are saying that the company has officially declared that the damage and forced evacuations in New Orleans and the out-lying areas were solely the result of flooding. While this apparent ruling has resulted in leaving many policy holders ineligible for the temporary “loss of use” funds guaranteed in their homeowners policies, if accurate, such a decision would have the long-term effect of leaving all of United Fire’s policy holders without flood insurance with little to no compensation for their damaged or destroyed homes. Calls to company headquarters for comment were not returned.


The larger issue that I think will get public attention is the fact that these insurers are going to try to deny damage claims in the affected areas on the basis of flooding. I've even heard one news reference on TV this morning to the effect that "poor levy construction" is to blame. This is significant. If the flooding is caused by the storm surge of a hurricane, it is viewed, generally, as "wind damage". Storm surge is a wind event, as water is literally lifted by the wind of the hurricane and carried inland. The insurance companies' lobbying organizations are already on the MSM in full-force, talking about the National Flood Insurance Program. it is the ONLY flood insurance a homeowner can get. It is administered by FEMA. The premium is fairly reasonable but the damage award amount is limited - $250K for the structure and $100K for contents. The payout is the same regardless of the value of the home in question. The private insurance companies want everyone to believe that flood insurance will more than suffice - only the damage wasn't caused by flooding. I*t was caused by wind.

These guys are trying to weasel out on their obligation after making money hand over fist. I expect this to become a huge issue and I will do a more comprehensive piece on it when time permits.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 8:19 AM 6 comments links to this post
Thursday, September 15, 2005
I Just LOVE Bill Maher.

This is certainly circling the blogosphere and I'm almost a week late in getting up on my site, but that doesn't make it any less topical. In fact, given that the President will use his bully pulpit to tonight reassure us that he not a total and complete fuckup, I think it's quite apt.

From Bill Maher's 'New Rules' on the September 9, 2005 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher:

And finally, New Rule: America must recall the president. That's what this country needs. A good, old-fashioned, California-style recall election! Complete with Gary Coleman, porno actresses and action film stars. And just like Schwarzenegger's predecessor here in California, George Bush is now so unpopular, he must defend his jog against...Russell Crowe. Because at this point, I want a leader who will throw a phone at somebody. In fact, let's have only phone throwers. Naomi Campbell can be the vice-president!

Now, I kid, but seriously, Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you anymore. There's no more money to spend. You used up all of that. You can't start another war because you also used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people.

Yeah, listen to your mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit card's maxed out, and no one is speaking to you: mission accomplished! Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service. And the oil company. And the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or spaceman?!

Now, I know what you're saying. You're saying that there's so many other things that you, as president, could involve yourself in...Please don't. I know, I know, there's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela, and eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote. But, sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man.

Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire metropolis to rising water and snakes.

On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two Trade Centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans...Maybe you're just not lucky!

I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side. So, yes, God does speak to you, and what he's saying is, "Take a hint."

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 10:12 AM 3 comments links to this post
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
The Case to Impeach George W. Bush.

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos and The Impeach Bush Coalition)

A few things before we start. I am going to assume that IBC members really do want to impeach Bush. Let's face it - the vast majority (if not all) of us have wanted him gone since an instance of Judicial activism put him in office in 2000... But just wanting him gone and actually building a credible case for his removal are two different things.

I'm not a lawyer. I have no exceptional knowledge of the Constitution of the law outside of what I can glean from reading other blogs and from doing some research on the internet. My opinions and reasons may lack legal rigor - but they need to be put out there as a jumping-off point for serious vetting. Great journeys begin with a single step and this is mine, offered with the hopes that bright people will mold and change and add and grow this into something entirely possible.

Some Background

Two Presidents in the history of the United States have been impeached. Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States, and William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United States.

Johnson, a Southern Democrat who ascended after Lincoln's assassination, was impeached when he violated the Tenure of Office Act (a law passed by Republicans in Congress designed to eliminate Johnson's power to dismiss office holders without the Senate's consent) by attempting to fire Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. Bill Clinton, in the infamous "Monica Lewinsky Affair" was impeached for grand jury perjury and obstruction of justice. Neither President was convicted (source can be found here).

The most infamous near-miss is, of course, Richard M. Nixon, who resigned rather than face impeachment.

Impeachment procedures are spelled out in the US Constitution in Aricle I, Sections 2 and 3. Impeachment grounds are definited in Article II, Section 4. The grounds themselves are deceptively simple:

Section 4 - Disqualification

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.



(All Constitutional source material can be found here.)

Impeachment then, to me, seems to have a vague standard as to grounds. I found one very interesting quote, however, and one from which I believe there are substantiated grounds to impeach the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush. It says:

...many experts agree that there are different standards for impeachable and criminal conduct. In the words of Dean John D. Feerick of Fordham University School of Law, in an article published in 1984, "Most authorities agree--and the precedents are in accord--that an impeachable offense is not limited to conduct which is indictable. Conduct that undermines the integrity of a public office or is in disregard of constitutional duties or involves abuse of power is generally regarded as grounds for impeachment. Since impeachment is a drastic sanction, the misconduct must be substantial and serious."


(My emphasis added - source can be found here.)

What follows is my interpretation of "impeachable offenses" as perpetrated by George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States, in his conduct during the 2005 disaster of Hurricane Katrina.

Fact #1:

In December of 2004, the Federal government, via the Department of Homeland Security issued its United States National Response Plan. Thanks to an excellent diary by georgia10 at Daily Kos, I am now fully enlightened that the National Response Plan is essentially a contract that the government signs to ensure that "Incidents of National Significance" receive right and proper Federal support. The President's role in this is to:

"...lead the Nation in responding efficiently and ensuring the necessary resources are applied quickly and effectively to all Incidents of National Significance."


Further, under the President's oversight as spelled out above, Federal agencies are expected to provide:

  • initial and/or ongoing response, when warranted, under their own authority and funding;

  • alert, notification, pre-positioning and timely delivery of resources;

  • proactive support for catastrophic or potentially catastrophic incidents using protocols for expedited delivery of resources.


The National Response Plan also lays out the circumstances by which the Federal government can expedite and circumvent certain restrictions and regulations when incidents of national significance are declared.

On Friday, August 26, 2005, Louisiana Governor Blanco formally requested that the President declare a state of emergency as hurricane Katrina approached. On Saturday, August 27, The President complied and issued this Statement of Federal Emergency. When the President signed this document, he invoked Title V of the Stafford Act which deemed hurricane Katrina an Incident of National Significance and transferred responsibility to the President of the United States.

At best President George W. Bush is guilty of dereliction of duty. Somewhere in the middle of the severity scale he's guilty of criminal negligence. At the severe end of the spectrum he's guilty of involuntary manslaughter through his failure to execute the duties prescribed by the National Response Plan. Each and any of these offenses shows a disregard of Constitutional duty.

Fact #2:

In July of 2004, FEMA completed its now-infamous "Hurricane Pam" exercise. Hurricane Pam was a simulation of a Category IV hurricane hitting parts of southeast Louisiana - a Category IV hurricane that was not as strong as hurricane Katrina.

From this CNN article on September 9th, the simulation predicted:

... the flood would leave swaths of southeast Louisiana uninhabitable for more than a year.

Flood waters would surge over levees, creating "a catastrophic mass casualty/mass evacuation" and leaving drainage pumps crippled for up to six months. "It will take over one year to re-enter areas most heavily impacted," the report estimates."

More than 600,000 houses and 6,000 businesses would be affected, more than two-thirds of them destroyed. Nearly a quarter-million children would be out of school. "All 40 medical facilities in the impacted area [would be] isolated and useless," it says.

Local officials would be quickly overwhelmed with the five-digit death toll, 187,862 people injured and 196,395 falling ill. A half-million people would be homeless.

"Federal support must be provided in a timely manner to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate severe damage," the report says.


The President knew. The Hurricane Pam simulation was on the record in this Administration. The President's claims of "no one knew the levees would fail" is patently inaccurate and disingenuous. Plenty of people knew - but he didn't.

It seems to me that stupidity and lack of intellectual curiosity should be some kind of crime given the loss of life that it has perpetrated in the case of Katrina. However, I would again say that the President was criminally negligent through this ignorance and that he failed to show proper regard for his Constitutional duty to protect the American people.

Fact #3:

Today, September 13th, 2005, two owners of a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana were charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide for failing to evacuate all the residents of the nursing home they managed. A quick summary of the story reveals that the owners had a good business reputation and simply waited too long to evacuate the patients in their care. As the water started to rise, they evacuated as many as they could and left the others to die.

Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti Jr. said the following:

"We feel we have criminal negligence," Foti said. "They did not follow the standards of care that a reasonable person would follow in a similar circumstance." (Source - CNN.com)


Indeed.

I don't see a very far leap from these business owners and their failure to safeguard the lives of those in their care with the President of the United States, responsible via the National Response Plan and a delcared state of emergency in Louisiana and his failure to not only safeguard the lives of his citizens but also his failure to save untold hundreds in the predicted flooding that ensued. That's criminal negligence again and the addition of negligent homicide.

A few stray facts:

Returning to the Presidential Statement of Federal Emergency Assistance on Louisiana, note the parishes listed in the statement. Now take a look at this US Census map of the parishes in Louisiana. NONE of the parishes in the greater New Orleans area are listed in the Presidental statement.

Dr. Bong Wei, Chief of Staff at Chalmette Medical Center in New Orleans, told CNN's Anderson Cooper that an offer to help the sick and dying at New Orleans' Armstrong Airport was rebuffed by FEMA. The told Dr. Wei that neither he nor his staff could help with the sick people due to liability concerns. A FEMA official suggested that Dr. Wei and his staff could help by mopping floors, which they readily did. People died around them and they weren't allowed to render assistance, assistance they were qualified to render and which was desperately needed.

In Conclusion

I omitted more than I included. There are countless stories that bolster any eventual charges - I welcome their addition to what I have outlined here.

I don't think anyone will ever be able to separate the unnecessary loss of life from those which would have been claimed by the fury of a natural disaster such as Katrina. But after that storm passed, as the levee's broke and New Orleans rapidly flooded, as no help arrived, as people went hungry and died of dehydration, all of those deaths are the responsibility of George W. Bush.

The Charges:

  • Dereliction of Duty
  • Involuntary Manslaughter
  • Criminal Negligence
  • Negligent Homicide
  • Disregarding Constitutional Duties
  • Undermining the Integrity of the Office of the President of the United States


Impeach George W. Bush.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 5:18 AM 6 comments links to this post
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Blog Roundup

I'm a broken record. The quality, volume and caliber of posts over at Daily Kos this week and last has been remarkable. For those of you who missed it, here are the ones I recommend:


There have been SO MANY excellent posts over there but these are ones that I read and will remember. Enjoy!

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:23 PM 2 comments links to this post
Monday, September 12, 2005
Be Very afraid.

So by now it's old news that Michael "Brownie" Brown resigned his post as head of FEMA. To digress somewhat from the point of this post, let me say that I'm simply stunned as to why Bush didn't simply fire him when it could have helped his numbers... It makes me wonder if there isn't some additional nugget of information about Mr. Brown that is out there that Chertoff and the Administration were trying to get ahead of...

CNN's Jack Cafferty (The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer) has the definitive rant on FEMA and the quality and caliber of its top appointees:
CAFFERTY: Indeed I do, Wolf. Thanks very much.
Somewhere along the way, FEMA became a dumping for the President's political cronies with little experience in disaster relief. The Agency's first director was Joe Albaugh. He was President Bush's 2000 campaign chairman. Albaugh brought in the current failure, Michael Brown. His previous work was with Arabian horses. The number two guy, Brown's top deputy at FEMA is a fellow named Patrick Rhode. He worked for the President's 2000 election campaign. The number three guy at FEMA is Brooks Alchuler. He used to work in the White House. His job was planning Presidential trips. And FEMA's long-term recovery director is a guy named Scott Morris. He produced television and radio commercials for the Bush campaign.

The Federal agency charged with handling national emergencies is staffed at the very top by a bunch of political hacks with virtually no experience that qualifies them to respond to something like Katrina.

But I digress.


An interesting FYI for you readers out there - Joe Albaugh, former head of FEMA, former Bush 2000 national campaign manager, former Chief-of-Staff for then-Texas Governor George W. Bush, appointer of college roommate and pal Mike "Brownie" Brown to the top post at FEMA, current "strategic consultant" and finder of fat government contracts for KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary, has found another one. A contract through the US Navy to repair Katrina-damaged naval facilities.

In March, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is tasked with responding to hurricane disasters, became a lobbyist for KBR. Joe Albaugh was director of FEMA during the first two years of the Bush administration.
These people have no shame.

But I've digressed again. Mike "Brownie" Brown's interim replacement is a man named R. David Paulison. In his previous role as Acting Under Secretary / U.S. Fire Administrator, he brings more emergency management expertise to the position than do the above shameful list of Bush cronies. According to FEMA's website:
Before joining FEMA, Mr. Paulison, who has 30 years of fire/rescue services experience, was chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department. In that position, he oversaw 1,900 personnel with a $200 million operating budget and a $70 million capital budget. He also oversaw the Dade County Emergency Management office.
Good, yes? Not so fast. R. David Paulison is also the mastermind behind the duct tape/plastic sheeting defense in response to a radiological or biological attack. From this 2003 article on CNN online:

On Tuesday, less than 24 hours after U.S. Fire Administrator David Paulison described a list of useful items, stores in the greater Washington, D.C. area reported a surge in sales of plastic sheeting, duct tape, and other emergency items.

These items, Paulison said, can be helpful after a biological, chemical or radiological attack.

A Lowe's hardware store in Alexandria, Virginia, said every roll of duct tape has been sold. Another Alexandria Home Depot store reported sales of duct tape tripled overnight.

I have to wonder - is there no better individual qualified to lead this critical organization when we are beginning the worst part of hurricane season??

A few words of knowledge for each of you about FEMA, Homeland Security, and government structure. Budget requests are always a harrowing process. Each cabinet-level secretary is responsible for the budget of his/her agency. ALL Federal agencies have a host of sub-organizations within them. The Treasury, for example, has a host of bureaus - the Comptroller of the Currency - The Financial Management Service - The Internal Revenue Service - you get the picture. Each of these bureaus has a Commissioner or Director who is responsible for the bureau's budget. The bureau's budget gets rolled up to the agency's Secretary who then prioritizes and makes the ultimate and final request (this is a simplified example - hopefully you get the picture).

Budget are political. Bigger agencies with more "popular" missions get higher priority. Bigger bureaus, offices and directorates within an agency get higher priority as well.

FEMA, prior to 9/11, was an independent agency. It didn't have a Secretary through whom it would have to vet its budget requests. Its requests when directly up the food chain. It prioritized its own projects within FEMA itself. FEMA projects competed only with other FEMA projects for funding. When FEMA was moved under Homeland Security, the structure of prioritizing requests for funding became more complex and the likelihood of low prioritization increased. Homeland Security came into existence from these organizations:

  • US Department of the Treausry lost the Secret Service and US Customs to Homeland Security.
  • The US Department of Justice lost the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol to Homeland Security.
  • The US Department of Transportation lost the US Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration to Homeland Security.
  • FEMA was pulled under Homeland Security in whole.
  • Homeland Security also created for itself the following functions:
    • The Science and Technology Directorate
    • The Informational Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate
    • An Office of Administration
Each of those big dogs on the block have big projects and visible priorities. They submit their funding requests and FEMA submits theirs and then Chertoff sorts it all out - decides what's a priority and what isn't. In short, it really knocked FEMA down the totem pole of importance and affected its importance and visibility in the funding process - critical funding to be able to fulfill its mission. Never mind the fact that, from a communications protocol perspective, the President of the United States speaks to the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security then speaks to the Director of FEMA. This was clearly evidenced in Bush's comments today, when asked about Brown's resignation. Initially, he didn't seem to know that Brown had resigned and then indicated that he speaks to Chertoff and hadn't spoken with him yet that day.

Be very afraid. The level of bureaucracy and ineptitude demonstrated by this Administration is a danger to each and every American's personal safety.

Better go get some duct tape and plastic sheeting.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 7:04 PM 3 comments links to this post