The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.

The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.
The scholar


State of progress in Iraq

...clueless Lieutenant AWOL says: "The growing size and increasing capability of the Iraqi security forces are helping our coalition address a challenge we have faced since the beginning of the war. And General Casey discussed this with us in the Oval Office. See, it used to be after we cleared the terrorists out of a city, there wasn’t enough qualified Iraqi troops to maintain control — so when we left to conduct other missions, the terrorists would move back in. Now, the increasing number of more capable Iraqi troops has allowed us to better hold on to the cities we have taken from the terrorists. The Iraqi troops know their people, they know their language, and they know who the terrorists are. By leaving Iraqi units in the cities we’ve cleared out, we can keep the cities safe while we move on to hunt down the terrorists in other parts of the country."

Funny, I thought the new term for the enemy in Iraq was "insurgents" or a combination of "foreign terrorists and insurgents". I wasn't aware that the terms had shifted back to merely "terrorists". In any event, Bush now appears to have recognized that the lack of troops is a very real and serious problem (Which is something liberal bloggerss have been pointing out for over two years now). Uh, slight problem though:

One battalion. "The Iraqi military has only one battalion — about 500-600 soldiers — capable of fighting on its own, U.S. commanders told lawmakers Thursday. Many Iraqi police are not being paid, and insurgents are infiltrating Iraqi police and military forces, the commanders acknowledged. Even so, Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. general in Iraq, said U.S. troops could start leaving next year if Iraqi voters back a proposed constitution and form a government." [emphasis added]

The Washington Monthly points out that:

...there's still only one Iraqi combat battalion capable of fighting on its own. Yeah, that kind of sucks, I thought.

Turns out it's worse than that:

The number of Iraqi army battalions that can fight insurgents without U.S. and coalition help has dropped from three to one, top U.S. generals told Congress yesterday, adding that the security situation in Iraq is too uncertain to predict large-scale American troop withdrawals anytime soon. [emphasis in original]

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who oversees U.S. forces in Iraq, said there are fewer Iraqi battalions at "Level 1" readiness than there were a few months ago....

So, after all this time, the number of Iraqi battalions capable of battling on their own is dropping?!?! The President finally realizes that "Hey, we need more troops to do the job." and the number of people available to do the job shrinks?!?!? What the hell kind of progress is this?!?!?


Situation of pro-war alliance

Okay, it's the claim of the anti-Cindy Sheehan group that “You don't speak for me, Cindy”. Fine, we'll go with that.

So how many people showed up at the rally that was scheduled for the day after the demonstration in Washington DC that some estimate at 500,000 (My email this morning has still higher estimates)? After all, the pro-war people were expecting at least 20,000 to show up. Seems they managed to get a grand, whopping, dramatic total of only 400.

Okay, so Cindy Sheehan does not represent fewer than one percent of the people who felt strongly enough about the Iraq War that they made the trip to DC to stand and be counted. Okay.

What about in terms of money? How about the people who simply sent in a check but didn't want to travel all the way to DC? Well, the picture there is not so hot, either.

“An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq” went out and managed to collect a grand total of, get this, $600! Not $600,000, not even $6000, but $600. As the blogger Steve Gilliard puts it: “My God, any blogger could raise more in a few hours. “


Our LaRouchite

Going to and from the demonstration in Washington DC on the 24th, our van (Seven people) traveled with a LaRouchite, a follower of Lyndon LaRouche. He claimed that he was once a leftist, but found LaRouche to provide better explanations. He also complained that he tried to get a ride with an ANSWER bus [See "Correction" at bottom], but that the person in charge of the bus wouldn't let him on, claiming that he would be disruptive. Sure enough, he was quite disruptive and I recommend that all other groups follow their lead. During the four hours down and four hours back, we had a detailed serious discussion covering a whole range of subjects with this person.

One of his claims was that the British profited greatly from slavery and were bitterly disappointed when the Americans abolished it in 1865. This was in conflict with my memory of my English history course back in college, where my English history professor delighted in telling us terribly cynical tales of how people n general deceived and betrayed one another for all sorts of dishonorable (Mostly economic) reasons. The exception, he said, were the British anti-slavery actions taken from the late 1780s and which gained momentum during the early 1800s. My professor described these actions by the British as being highly unusual, because they were motivated not by money, but simply by morality.

Our LaRouchite dismissed my observation with the airy explanation that the British decided to pretend to be against slavery, but they really weren't. He cited no evidence for his view.
Another conclusion he told us of was that Vice-President and later Presidential candidate Al Gore was a "marijuana addict" and various other terrible things along the same lines. Now, Gore did indeed admit to smoking marijuana back during his youth, but it's medically impossible to be a pot addict. Cigarettes and alcohol, yes, but there is no program for giving up pot-smoking, multi-step or otherwise. Many tens of millions of Gore's peers used and still use pot, a great many of them stopped using it entirely and many more use it on an infrequent basis, kind of like a weekend martini or a get-together party stimulant.

Our LaRouchite also claimed that George W. Bush was stupid. As evidence, he merely cited some of Bush's policies. As much as I dislike Bush and especially his policies, I disagree that he does what he does out of stupidity. Approve of his policies or not, Bush represents many millions of our fellow Americans and they see nothing wrong with his policies.

LaRouchites are simply not members of the Reality-Based Coalition. Well-documented facts mean nothing to them (And I'm not basing that statement on just our one encounter, I've been familiar with these folks for years.) They reach conclusions regardless of the actual facts. The celebrated writer I.F. Stone wrote a book on Socrates and his disciple Plato. Plato was not a member of the Reality-Based Coalition either. He posited that society had to be run by the elites as commoners were simply not competent to do so themselves. Aristotle was more Stone's type of philosopher, someone who believed in documentable facts and discovery by examination, exploration, reason and the ability of common folks to use these tools. When I expressed my low opinion of Plato and high opinion or Aristotle, our LaRouchite stated the exact opposite, that Plato was a fine and noble person and Aristotle was terrible.

With that, I concluded that the bus captain from ANSWER was entirely correct to refuse the LaRouchite permission to travel on her bus.

Correction: The LaRouchite's name is Bob Fow and the "ANSWER" bus captain says: "Just one major correction -- Our buses were not organized by ANSWER. They were organized by the Philadelphia International Action Center and WILPF, neither of which are ANSWER affiliates at this time."


Cool Idea!

The Guardian blog came up with a neat idea for Iraq. The constitutional referendum is in mid-October. Why not add a question to the ballot?

"Would you like for your country to remain occupied by US troops?"

Obviously, the Bush Administration would fight asking such a question tooth & nail as they obviously wish to continue the occupation for several decades at least. Still, no reason Democrats shouldn't suggest it anyway.

I betcha if such a vote takes place "occupation" would get between 1% to 5%.


Stupidity or arrogance?

The Carpetbagger Report examines the question of whether Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist sold his stock due to insider trading just as Martha Stewart did. Question: Is Frist stupid or just plain arrogant?

Vietnam & Iraq

AmericaBlog writes a post entitled "What's the excuse this time?" about the Vietnam War and how conservatives blame the media and disloyal politicians.

OK, so they have the war that they always wanted, they've managed to neuter the press and for a good while had the country buying their story and accepting it all.

So how come Iraq is such a mess? They enjoyed complete GOP control in Washington, found enough dumbass Democrats to go along with it and yet they still couldn't get the job done.
C'mon, they were all supposed to be experts at this (as they often liked telling us) and yet it's a mess.

If anyone knows who their whipping boy is this time and what the excuse is I'd like to hear it.

I had an email exchange with a conservative recently and, among other topics, we traded the following remarks:

[Quote from my earlier email] "The battle for hearts and minds is over and the US has decisively lost. It's time for our guys to pack it in and come home."

[His response] I believe that dangerous idea is the product of a sustained mainstream media attack on Bush and the war. I remember the same kind of language being used to get us to withdraw form Vietnam and when we did and South Vietnam fell, what did we find out later from the other side -- that they were on the verge of defeat and only the American anti-war movement saved them. John Kerry was even honored by them for his efforts. (Sorry, but I don't forget -- or forgive)

Recently, a leader of the Sunnis said that they should stop the violence and start entering into the government -- and I haven't read that he was later killed. And though the news since has been dominated by Sheehan and Katrina, the violence does seem to have slowed. If it loses its critical mass of Sunnis, the insurgency will have no base and it will collapse.

As for the theological "hearts and minds" aspect of this war, it's no slam dunk for the opposition. The 'insurgents' are in a tight position also, killing "true believers" when they can't get us, which is most of the time. My major fear is that the Iraqi government will turn more to the religious leaders to stop the violence. That is why we must stay.

My later response to him:

During the late 80s, I worked a somewhat dull job as a receptionist at a private school. I picked up one to three-inch-thick books and finished them in a week or so. I picked up several books on Vietnam, middle-of-the-road, right-wing (Defined as "We coulda won, if only...") and left-wing. Yes, the North Vietnamese decided in 1968 to allow the Vietcong to exhaust themselves against the Americans by directing them to launch the Tet Offensive, meaning most of the fighting after that was done by North Vietnamese regular troops.

No, I never heard that there was any sort of collapse in the offing. My understanding at the time (I was 15 when Saigon fell) was that Vietnam had a large, young population and that producing more fighters every year was something they could have kept up more or less indefinitely.

One of my major conclusions from my readings was that the US lost the war on the ground, after which we lost it among our public, third and last, the media turned against the war. The media is basically driven by money, not ideology (Today Fox News on TV and Air America on the radio are specifically and deliberately ideological.) Most of them are driven simply by the need to attract eyeballs to their commercials.

Accordingly, various sources have dated the media's turning against the Vietnam War as just around the time of the Tet Offensive, which coincided with the point where over 50% of the American public decided that the war was a mistake.

As most Americans have reached the same conclusion about Iraq, I fully expect the media's view of that war to get darker and darker, though supporters of the war will try hard to reverse that tendency.

He never responded after that. The problem from my perspective is this: the right wing is beating up on the wrong enemy! The problem with winning the Vietnam War was located in Vietnam, not in America's media or in its' politicians. The problem today is that Iraqis don't particularly like being occupied by American troops and both major groups, the Sunnis and the Shiites, are looking forward to the day when the Americans leave. Generally. the Shiites have been quieter because they feel they can simply wait for the US to leave and control of Iraq will drop into their laps. The latest troubles there do not indicate that their patience is limitless. They're getting itchy to see Americans go back home.

The solution seems pretty simple at this point and should be on the lips and in the writings of every Democratic politician: To get the money to fix things after Katrina and Rita, the US needs to withdraw from Iraq!


Great speech by B. Clinton & more stupidity from Powerline

In an interview, Bill Clinton came out swinging:

Clinton said the Bush administration had decided to invade Iraq "virtually alone and before UN inspections were completed, with no real urgency, no evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction."

The Iraq war diverted US attention from the war on terrorism "and undermined the support that we might have had," Bush said in an interview with an ABC's "This Week" programme.

Clinton said there had been a "heroic but so far unsuccessful" effort to put together an constitution that would be universally supported in Iraq.

The US strategy of trying to develop the Iraqi military and police so that they can cope without US support "I think is the best strategy. The problem is we may not have, in the short run, enough troops to do that," said Clinton.

On Hurricane Katrina, Clinton faulted the authorities' failure to evacuate New Orleans ahead of the storm's strike on August 29.
On the US budget, Clinton warned that the federal deficit may be coming untenable, driven by foreign wars, the post-hurricane recovery programme and tax cuts that benefitted just the richest one percent of the US population, himself included.

"What Americans need to understand is that ... every single day of the year, our government goes into the market and borrows money from other countries to finance Iraq,

Afghanistan, Katrina, and our tax cuts," he said.

"We have never done this before. Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a conflict, military conflict, by borrowing money from somewhere else."

Clinton added: "We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year to cover my tax cut and these conflicts and Katrina. I don't think it makes any sense."

Good speech! Nothing wrong or inaccurate, everything Clinton said is substantiated and easy to verify. Was it rude? Yeah, you could say that. Could one make the claim that Bill was trying to boost Hillary's chances to be the next President? Probably, but the 2008 Presidential elections are a very long way off and I suspect Bill is more concerned with the immediae problem of boosting Democrats in general to be more aggressive in their criticism of Bush. By taking the lead and taking some fire for them, Bill makes it that much safer for other Democrats to follow his lead. Al Gore did much the same thing during the election campaign of 2004. By coming out early in favor of Howard Dean, Gore stiffened a lot of spines that sorely needed stiffening.

Here are some criticisms of the speech from Time Magazine's Blog of the Year, Powerline.

So, naturally, Clinton saw no urgency with respect to dealing with Saddam's regime. Of course, had Saddam facilitated a post-9/11 attack on the U.S. using chemical or biological weapons, you can imagine how harshly Clinton would have criticized Bush for his lack of foresight.

This follows considerable moaning and whining and bitching about how mean Clinton is being to Bush and is, of course, complete and utter hypothesis with absolutely no serious grounding in reality. Even if Iraq did possess such fearsome weapons, how would they have delivered them? Federal Express? They were under continuous surveillance and overflights as the US was protecting "Kurdistan" in Northern Iraq. They had no aircraft that wouldn't have gotten blown away the minute they crossed their borders in a hostile manner, they had no missles that possessed any kind of range and they had no alliance with al Qaeda that would have given them the capability to sneak a weapon into anyplace.

Clinton's assertion that there was "no evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction" is a flat-out lie.

Um, okay. How on Earth does one have evidence of the existence of WMDs without their being WMDs? Obviously, had the evidence been any good, had the evidence been reliable or meaningful, then WMDs would have existed. When UN inspectors were crawling all over Iraq a few months before the US invasion, it was loudly noted by lefty bloggers and others that the US did not give UN inspectors any meaningful clues or ideas as to where to look.

Someone tell me: what did Clinton ever do, during his eight years in office, to build up America's armed forces or increase our power?

This is the classic problem of "the dog that didn't bark" from the Sherlock Holmes story. To see what's wrong with the statement, we look for what isn't there. If Clinton did such a lousy job of building up America's armed forces, then where were Bush's frantic efforts to build up America's armed forces before invading Iraq? What are the statements Bush made about being unhappy with the state of readiness he found in America's armed forces when he took office? Where were the sudden efforts at recruiting, spending, raising new divisions , building new ships, etc?

Note that when Clinton faulted the "authorities," he meant the Bush administration--although, as AFP points out, he "agreed that some responsibility for this lay with the local and state authorities." In fact, the entire responsibility lay with state and local authorities.

This statement is flatly, blatantly and clearly contradicted by the State of Lousiana formally requesting help from the Federal Government on August 28th. Bush has also since acknowledged that the Federal Government had a duty to assist and that it did not do so.

Again and again, President Bush has tried to work with the Democrats as if they were loyal Americans first, and partisans second. He has treated Bill Clinton with a friendship and respect that, candidly, is disproportionate to Clinton's meager accomplishments. Again and again, the Democrats have rebuffed Bush's overtures and taken advantage of his patriotism and good faith.

You know, when one is engaged in a political argument, there are not very many rules or standards, but here's a primary one: you don't get to make up your own facts!!! One needs to stick with documented reality. One cannot simply make shit up and pass it off as fact. This is an administration that glories in the "51% victory", that loves it when a measure of theirs squeezes through by just one vote, that refuses to take any measures that might water down their victory. This statement is complete and utter horseshit. Pandagon exclaims:

Of course, the GOP and its faithful adherents have treated the Democrats like the scum at the bottom of a septic tank for about, oh, 30, 40, 50 years, and we were being called traitors, murderers, and idiots long before Clinton DARED speak actual facts about Bush's tenure. Forgive me if the fuck I don't give grows to epic, perhaps Herculean proportions.

Hoo yah! Ditto ditto! What he said!


Bush's "challenge" at the UN

"The United States is ready to eliminate all tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to free flow of goods and services as other nations do the same," Bush told other leaders.

"The elimination of trade barriers could lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the next 15 years."

Sounds pretty spectacular, doesn't it? I happened to catch this part of the speech on TV Wednesday morning. Bush was stopping and emphasizing and pausing and looking around as though he expected the UN delegates to burst out in relief and applause and to hail him as a great liberating hero. They remained unmoved for reasons that I fully understand. NAFTA, and Bush's plan sounds as though it's based on that same set of ideas, has had a rather unspectacular career. "The Clinton administration made passage of the agreement its major legislative initiative in 1993." Funny thing though, NAFTA was not an achievement Clinton bragged about as he ran for re-election in 1996. The Golden Gater related a story from the campaign:

Brown added that the president's push to implement the North American Fair Trade Agreement (NAFTA) may have cost him votes. According to labor leaders, the agreement to open markets between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico would cost many jobs.

"NAFTA still has a great resonance in the East Bay," Brown said. "It was a hotbed of anti-NAFTA sentiment because of the perceived loss of jobs," Brown added.

One union member in the crowd cited specific numbers. "We've lost 60,000 jobs since that thing (NAFTA) has been in place and that's according to their own (the government's) figures," he said.

While Clinton steered clear of NAFTA, he assured the crowd that his administration is making a strong effort to create jobs across the country.

The Green Party of Virginia pointed out some reasons for Clinton to steer clear of the issue, saying that:

Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole and Jesse Helms were some of Clinton's closest allies in passing NAFTA and GATT in Congress. An overwhelming majority of Democrats voted against NAFTA, but it passed because sellout Democrats joined Clinton and the Republicans for a majority.

Informed Zapatistas rebelled on the day that NAFTA became law. In the Maquiladora precursor to NAFTA, even the Mexican minimum wage had been pushed down, so Zapatistas knew it would be brutal for the Mexican working class. Since the implementation of NAFTA, in all three nations affected, thousands of workers have lost good jobs and average wages have dropped. The promise by NAFTA supporters that Mexican wages would be raised to ease illegal U.S. immigration problems has been revealed to be untrue, as Mexican workers, worse off by far, now make northern border crossings at increased rates.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research adds that:

There are grounds for debating whether Mexico was a net gainer or loser from NAFTA. However, given the poor growth performance by Mexico in the post-NAFTA decade, it is difficult to contend that NAFTA increased Mexico’s growth rate during this period. The World Bank’s evidence for this claim rests on a test performed with mistaken data. When the same test is performed using standard data sources, it shows that NAFTA was associated with slower growth. Contrary to the claims of the World Bank study, the World Bank’s own analysis, properly done, would suggest that NAFTA led to slower growth in Mexico over the last decade.

NAFTA may have benefited people among the economically well-off, but there is little reason to believe that the poor will gain anything by extending it. The UN delegates were entirely correct to greet Bush's "challenge" with a distinct lack of enthusiasm.


The blame game

James Wolcott made some very good points about whether Democrats should "holster the fickle fingers of blame" His piece argues an emphatic "NO!!"

No, this is the time for politics, none better, because I can tell you just from being out of NY a few days that a lot of people in this country are shocked and sobered by New Orleans, but they're also worried and pissed off. They're making the connection between the money, manpower, and resources expended in Iraq and how raggedy-ass the rescue effort has been in the Gulf. If you don't say it now when people's nerves are raw and they're paying full attention, it'll be too late once the waters receded and the media-emoting "healing process" begins.

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post points out that:

This crisis has been an exceptionally clear lesson in this White House's overall approach: Try to get everyone to believe that any criticism of the president will blow back on the critics because Americans just don't like that sort of thing. Attack "finger-pointing," and make sure your allies madly point fingers at your opponents.

Say no one should play politics with a disaster -- and then make sure Republican leaders in Congress set up a commission to investigate the relief effort without asking Democrats for their input on how the investigation should be carried out.

Bush's critics aren't backing off, because they've been here before. Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, who cooperated with Bush in the days after Sept. 11 but lost his South Dakota seat after a long, White House-inspired campaign accusing him of being "obstructionist," speaks from experience.

"Democrats to this day remain outraged at the blatant efforts that Republicans, especially in the administration, made to undermine the perception of our patriotism and our motivations," Daschle said in an interview. [emphases added]

There is absolutely ZERO percentage in holding back. Holding back means simply that your voice isn't heard and has no effect. And from Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) said: "It's a rule in American politics, that whichever side denounces the other for politicizing the issue is losing the argument."
And hoo-boy, are the Republicans complaining about politicization!



Some of the administration's political opponents are reacting to the administration's fumbling with barely disguised glee, hoping it will hobble the administration's policy plans and hurt the GOP in the 2006 elections and beyond. But all Americans, Democrats and Republicans, ought to hope that the administration will right itself sufficiently to oversee an effective recovery. And that's not just for the sake of Katrina's survivors. For the president to be rendered a lame duck more than three years before he leaves office would not serve the country well, at home or abroad.

Now is this really called for? This is a blatant, undisguised ad hominem attack. No quotes, no substantiation, no evidence that anybody is actually feeling a “barely disguised glee” or that they're saying anything to that effect. How does the Washington Post know what it is that “political opponents” are hoping for? Should we Americans all want the Administration to “right itself” or would it be more appropriate to hope that the Administration reforms itself and fires the incompetents? Is the Administration going to reform without pressure, i.e. criticism? Condi Rice came back from her oh-so-pleasant vacation in New York because she was being criticized, not because she just sort of spontaneously realized on her own that what she was doing was wrong and immoral. In other words, the criticism had a real and a positive effect.

Now, it may be “anti-Bush” of me to say this, but if Bush is rendered a lame duck and has to sit around for the next three years twiddling his thumbs, I'm sorry, but that possibility doesn't bother me in the slightest. If Democrats remain on their feet and bring the business of the Capitol to a grinding halt, I'll be walking around with a song on my lips and a smile in my heart.

UPDATE: Did Michael Brown just get fired from his position as head of FEMA? I wish I could say yes. Turns out he was sort-of, kind-of, in a way let go, but not in such a way that he has to go back to his previous career (Oops, that's right! He got fired from his last job!) . Better late than never, I suppose.


Democrats (finally!!) Attack!

From my email inbox:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean sent out an email Sept 6th saying: "The federal response over these crucial first days has been totally unacceptable."

Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi rips into emergency management team under Bush Sept 7th saying:

On NBC's Meet the Press I saw Aaron Broussard, the president of Jefferson Parish in New Orleans, weeping as he told of the horrors he had seen as a result of Hurricane Katrina. But he also told of a second disaster -- the response of our federal government.

He told a story of how FEMA, an Executive branch agency, turned away three truckloads of water, saying they weren't needed. He told a story of how the Coast Guard arrived with 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel -- desperately needed -- only for FEMA to tell them not to give the fuel to Broussard. President Bush must give FEMA qualified, competent leadership now.
[Emphases in original]

2004 Presidential Candidate John Kerry talks about the "Paris Hilton Tax Cut" (He doesn't use that term, but he doesn't use the Republican term "Death Tax" either, calling it "tax cuts for the wealthy".) also on Sept 7th:

This is a test of what kind of country we are. Are we an America that responds to crisis by helping the most vulnerable in times of need, or do we just give more to those who have the most?

And California Senator Barbara Boxer also jumped in by sending out a message on Sept 7th saying:

President Bush has termed what happened on the ground in the Gulf Coast as "unacceptable." And he should.

But what is also unacceptable to me is that the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency has absolutely no experience in disaster relief. It is unacceptable to me that after four years of being told that our homeland security is improving, the system utterly failed its first test. It is unacceptable to me that an untold number of people died or were needlessly traumatized in the horror of the Superdome and New Orleans Convention Center because of a chaotic federal response.

There will be another word I will focus on in coming days: accountability.

Yahoo! News also reports that Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John Edwards and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid are also making assertive speeches. A consultant pointed out that:

Democrats also were reluctant to criticize the president as the nation rallied behind him after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Such caution, however, is not a factor in the open season on Bush's handling of the hurricane.

"It is different when you face a foreign enemy on the one hand versus a domestic failure on the other," Democratic consultant Mark Mellman said.

All in all, looks like a pretty satisfactory stance for Democrats to be taking. It took awhile to get there as they obviously had their fingers to the wind, trying to guess whether citizen outrage would disappear into "the memory hole" or would grow. Looks like the White House press conference on Sept 6th definitely helped. As Jon Stewart (Comedy Central - Daily Show) pointed out a few weeks back about another subject "Reporters were acting like, uh, REPORTERS!" BTW, DailyKos has called for an Emmy Award to be awarded to Jon for last night's Daily Show. I saw that show myself. Marvelous speech!!!! Well worth reading!

As liberal blogs have hugely increased their readership at the same time conservative blogs have remained largely static, the Democrats probably don't have much to worry about concerning the long-term PR impact of Katrina and the Bush Administration response :

Almost every political news blog has experienced an increase in traffic over the past week. However, once again, the progressive blogosphere and netroots have experienced significantly larger traffic gains than their conservative rival.

Also, AmericaBlog concludes that Bush just gets too focused on his priorities of the moment and ignores the wider world outside of his perspective. A perfectly acceptable quality in say, a middle-school principal, but absolutely disastrous in a US President.

Press Conference with McClellan

Scott McClellan made an interesting comment at the press gaggle on the 6th:

Q Scott, there's words that James Lee Witt had said, that -- people who had been there within three hours after everything broke loose. Why was Mr. Brown not on the ground?

MR. McCLELLAN: He was, prior to the hurricane.

Q Well, why didn't he bring in the troops? Why didn't he deploy all the necessary assistance that was needed?

MR. McCLELLAN: There were -- disaster medical assistance teams were deployed. Search and rescue teams were deployed ahead of the hurricane.

This was folllowed up by the very sensible and relevant points:

Q But why didn't he -- but why weren't teams deployed to the Convention Center? Why weren't teams deployed to the Superdome? Why were people without water, without food? Why was there looting in New Orleans for survival? And you're talking about zero tolerance. Why did these things happen over a period of days, and you start seeing Mr. Brown on the air talking about he didn't know about the Convention Center and other things. Why?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, you're getting into all the after-action analysis, and I can't tell you all the --

Very interesting. There were teams on the job but, the Press Secretary does not seem to be able to provide any details as to where they were and what they were doing Funny how that works. Be interesting to see if that story spreads anyway.

McClellan also goes into "bureaucratic impediments". First off, the President has enough power that he can make a speech and, as former Budget Director David Stockman described in his book, the effect is like a ship's captain getting onto the ship's intercom and bellowing "Now hear this...". It's a very effective way to cut through all of the clutter, fights and squabbles than an administration might have. Second, it's awfully funny about how the aftermaths to the hurricanes of Florida 2004 never seem to have had the same problems. Of course, Florida was a swing state and there was an election coming up, so that's understandable.

As far as help from other nations goes, well...don't expect much.

Q In view of the national crisis, will the President withdraw his proposal for this tax cut for the richest people in the country? And, also, my second question is, why did we turn down foreign help?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I'm glad you brought that up. We have not. We have made very clear -- I made clear last week, the State Department made clear last week that we are going to take people up on their offers of assistance from foreign countries. There are some 94 nations and international organizations that have made offers of assistance -- whether that is cash support or I think water pumps from places like Germany or other areas. We said that if this can help alleviate things on the ground, we're going to take them up on their offers of assistance and we appreciate the compassion from the international community and their offers of assistance.

So, it doesn't look like New Orleans can expect much from non-US sources. I guess it might be a bit of an embarrassment to accept help from the world and then to sic someone like John Bolton on them.

At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had ''absolutely no credentials.''

She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown.

''He said 'Why would I do that?''' Pelosi said.

'''I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'''

''Oblivious, in denial, dangerous,'' she added

As for Pelosi, Bartlett said she took Bush's words out of context to make him appear disconnected with the problems on the ground, when in fact he was trying to gather information about lawmakers' views. "Giving an unfair read of President Bush's thoughts and discussion is inappropriate and I think she should clarify," he said.

I wonder what the full and complete context would be
DailyKos exposes the myth that Bush urged an evacuation of the city (Meaning Powerline is full of it)

UPDATE: Well, that didn't take long:

Republican and Democratic governors agree that the response to Katrina was deplorable, and many ordered reviews of their own state emergency strategies to root out problems they're witnessing in the Gulf Coast. Their top priority: Avoid the bureaucratic red tape that tripped up state, local and federal authorities at every step of the Gulf Coast crisis.


Explaining the Republican response to Katrina & aftermath

The explanation I've been working with the whole time is that Bush set the tone by just not really giving a crap one way or the other about New Orleans and the people there. Casualties? People suffering and dying? I've never seen any evidence that Bush really has the capacity to care about anonymous people dying. People he doesn't know appear to be an abstraction to him. People have said that Bush just can't seem to suppress his smirk (Not being much of a TV watcher, I wouldn't know.) and his mocking of a woman he had sentenced to death fits right in with that. Soldiers who die in Iraq? His refusal to allow military caskets to be seen unloading or being honored at Dover Air Force Base on television, his refusal to attend any of the funerals fits in as well. Of course, fellow Republicans go along with this idea on the theory that for the American people to see the consequences of the Iraq War might lower their enthusiasm for continuing it. When a reporter took some pictures of military caskets and the pictures were published, many people said they suddenly realized just what the war was costing us as the casualties were no longer abstractions. The sheer reality hit home. So there's certainly something to the Republican argument, but I think it's also that Bush doesn't want to attend funerals (and bringing caskets back without him in attendance would eventually strike people as strange) because he doesn't want the strain of trying to look like he really gave a crap. Cindy Sheehan's description of his jovial manner fits in with this:

In this Lewis News Article Ms Sheehan relates that on meeting Bush, what she encountered :

was an arrogant man with eyes lacking the slightest bit of compassion, a President totally "detached from humanity" and a man who didn't even bother to remember her son's name when they were first introduced.

Ms Sheenan continues :

Instead of a kind gesture or a warm handshake, Sheehan said she immediately got a taste of Bush arrogance when he entered the room and "in a condescending tone and with a disgusting loud Texas accent," said: "Who we'all honorin' here today?"

The rest of the Bush Administration just followed suit. "The big guy doesn't think it's anything to worry about, why should we get all bent out of shape about it?" As people have pointed out, the leader of an organization (or at least the head puppet) finds his attitude reflected in the rest of that organization. Of course, I don't think Dick Cheney has any more human feeling than Bush does, so it's not necessary to bring in theories about how Cheney realy runs things behind the scenes (though the fact that Bush and Cheney felt it necessary to be interviewed together for the 9-11 Commission strongly supports that theory).

Michael Berube agrees with me that Bush is following in the footsteps of Grover Norquist, who wants to eliminate government and who apparently thinks it's a neat idea to perform government services so badly that people will conclude that "government just can't [fill in the blank] effectively". So Bush has a motivation to perform government services as badly as he possibly can. That includes, of course, rescuing people from natural disasters. Billmon also points out that New Orleans, unlike Florida in 2004 (which was handled quite efficiently) is neither in a swing state nor is there an election on the horizon, so there was simply no percentage in doing anything about it. When Bush's opinion polls began to sour, he went into action by appointing Karl Rove to start smearing opponents.

The idea that Bush and Co. were on vacation and so just couldn't be bothered to attend to unplanned trifles like New Orleans is also supported by an anecdote by Mme de Maintenon, longtime mistress and eventual wife of Louis XIV, the "Sun King" of France. In her book (I think this is the one), she relates how Louis brought some fish from a foreign country to his palace at Versailles. The king wanted those fish to live in one of the ponds. The fish died. The king was very upset because His Will was being frustrated by nature. Apparently, Louis couldn't understand why the fish were dying when He wanted them to live. . Unfortunately for the world, Bush's position is very similar to that of Louis XIV back then.
LeftCoaster points that this imperial tendency of mind in the Bush family is not limited to just George W. Interesting comparison to another leader.

Did Bush & Co. ignore New Orleans because it's a city filled with African-Americans? I'm not aware of any evidence that Bush is a racist. That doesn't mean he's not, but it's certainly not something he's known for. Orcinus comments that there are certainly a lot of racists coming out of the woodwork and Bush's father was certainly not hesitant to use race as a weapon when he was opposed to Michael Dukakis for the Presidency. There are certainly those who feel that deliberate genocide is the plan here and it's economicaly motivated. Also, comments like this about doctors not being allowed to tend the sick, FEMA's refusal to let Chicago assist, a whole list of foreigners ready, willing and able to assist and the fact that they're not being allowed to, a Navy ship was (As of the 4th) STILL anchored off the coast of New Orleans and still had not been given orders to go in and assist and FEMA's refusal to let a volunteer firefighter team assist, all makes one wonder. I would sincerely like to believe that the Bush Administration is not deliberately killing off residents of New Orleans, but I don't know...


Pathetic excuses

From Atrios:

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.
I spent five years working in a private school as a secretary and nine years in the Navy as a "paperwork guy", so I know a bit about bureaucracies. The notification that the Governor of Louisiana sent to the President on Sunday, August 28th, should have been fully sufficient!!! That one note should have been enough to alert anyone and everyone in the government who needed to know that there was something going on that required their involvement. If they didn't know, it was the President's job to tell them. The following shows that the President did no such thing (emphasis added):

Well, I think if you look at what actually happened, I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, “New Orleans Dodged the Bullet.” Because if you recall, the storm moved to the east and then continued on and appeared to pass with considerable damage but nothing worse. It was on Tuesday that the levee — may have been overnight Monday to Tuesday — that the levee started to break.And it was midday Tuesday that I became aware of the fact that there was no possibility of plugging the gap and that essentially the lake was going to start to drain into the city. I think that second catastrophe really caught everybody by surprise.

Here's my question. Why was the guy in charge of FEMA depending on newspapers to be finding out what was going on?!?!?! He didn't have to set up headquarters in New Orleans. Jackson, Mississippi would have been fine. Obviously, he hadn't left Washington, obviously, he wasn't monitoring the situation in the close-up manner that was obviously necessary! He could have and should have been in close touch with people there, either his own deputies or the Governor of Lousiana or the Mayor of New Orleans.
This is straight, flat-out Dereliction of Duty!!!!

UPDATE: Sorry about that, I dealt with the first sentence of the Washington Post quote without even acknowledging the second sentence, which claims that Louisiana's Governor had not even declared a state of emergency. I guess this struck my eyes as so unbelievably ridiculous that I didn't even register it. Well, turns out that the Governor did indeed declare a state of emergency, on August 26th, two days before the request went to the President for him to declare that Lousiana was dealing with a "major disaster". Oh, and the WaPo has now admitted "Oops, guess that report was in error."
Like it took a $%#@&% brain to figure that one out!!! Honestly, have these "reporters" ever heard of doing basic research before running stories?!?!? What the hell is wrong with these people!?!?


Timeline on Katrina crisis

Beginning of Katrina crisis now dated from Sunday, August 28 as that's when official letter from Louisiana Governor to the President requesting a declaration of a major disaster was made. It was known at that point that Katrina was a "Category V Hurricane."”

The levee broke on Monday. President did not begin work on it until Wednesday, August 31st. As we know, President Bush was busy strumming a guitar with country-music stars, making a speech on why America must destroy the 70-year-old Social Security program, celebrating VJ Day and celebrating Senator John McCain's birthday.
I guess that's more important than dealing with rats gnawing at the body of a woman who has lain out in the open for two days after her death and river water filled with contaminatests flooding the streets of a city founded in 1718 and needing to be evacuated for the first time ever. And yes, people around the world have noticed. As late as the 2nd of September, the Federal Government still hadn't gotten it's bearings.

Elsewhere in the government-

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was still on vacation as late as September 1st. She caught a Broadway show, played tennis with Monica Seles and shopped for shoes.

Ken Mehlman's letter to Republican voters to support the "“Paris Hilton Tax Cut"” on September 1st was no isolated, one-time notion. Grover Norquist is urging that Congress pass it on an urgent basis, Senator Frist agrees. Vote is scheduled for Tuesday.

And the Department of Defense was urging employees to attend the country music concert scheduled for September 11th on September 1st.

PhillyIMC has reprinted a piece from DC IndyMedia.


More on New Orleans

FEMA Head blames the victims:
" help those who are stranded, who chose not to evacuate, who chose not to leave the city..." (emphasis added) There are, of course, several hundred thousand people who could not leave the city due to the lack of transportation. There were no trains or buses available to evacuate anyone.

Plus - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice goes shopping.

The News Blog gives us a rundown on what the military is finally doing for New Orleans.

Oh, and the head of the RNC, Ken Mehlman, sent out a letter on Sept 1st, to Republicans to ask them to pressure Congress about the "death tax". Glad to see people have their priorities straight!


Postings on New Orleans

[copied from PRAWNWorks]

Liberal Street Fighter comments on the complete absense of leadership concerning the disaster in New Orleans. Americablog points out that, yes, Bush and the Iraq War are to blame for the scale of the disaster. Query on American TV News vs the BBC.

Director of FEMA places beginning of knowledge about New Orleans disaster as early as Monday morning, which means the President should explain why response was two days late. Rightwingers are blaming the entertainment industry for their slow response. Also, up to 20 oil rigs in Gulf of Mexico are now missing, making for possible economic disaster on top of everything else. Billmon takes a long and balanced look at the crisis and provides a list of groups to make donations to.