Friday, September 30, 2005
Bastard DeLay Rushes the Disemboweling of the ESA to HR--where it passes.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 22, 2005
Contact: Joe Pouliot (Boehlert), 202-225-0581
REPUBLICAN MEMBERS ASK THAT ESA NOT BE RUSHED
TO THE FLOOR NEXT WEEK
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A group of 23 moderate Republican House Members today sent the following
letter to Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) asking that the Endangered Species Act not be rushed to the
floor next week:
"Dear Mr. Leader:
The Way It Is
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He sold all his stock in HCA, which his father helped found, just days before the stock plunged. Two years ago, Mr. Frist claimed that he did not even know if he owned HCA stock.
According to a new U.S. government index, the effect of greenhouse gases is up 20 percent since 1990.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a 33-year-old Wall Street insider with little experience in regulation but close ties to drug firms, was made a deputy commissioner at the F.D.A. in July. (This story, picked up by Time magazine, was originally reported by Alicia Mundy of The Seattle Times.)
The Artic ice cap is shrinking at an alarming rate.
Two of the three senior positions at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are vacant. The third is held by Jonathan Snare, a former lobbyist. Texans for Public Justice, a watchdog group, reports that he worked on efforts to keep ephedra, a dietary supplement that was banned by the F.D.A., legal.
According to France's finance minister, Alan Greenspan told him that the United States had "lost control" of its budget deficit.
David Safavian is a former associate of Jack Abramoff, the recently indicted lobbyist. Mr. Safavian oversaw U.S. government procurement policy at the White House Office of Management and Budget until his recent arrest.
When Senator James Inhofe, who has called scientific research on global warming "a gigantic hoax," called a hearing to attack that research, his star witness was Michael Crichton, the novelist.
Mr. Safavian is charged with misrepresenting his connections with lobbyists - specifically, Mr. Abramoff - while working at the General Services Administration. A key event was a lavish golfing trip to Scotland in 2002, mostly paid for by a charity Mr. Abramoff controlled. Among those who went on the trip was Representative Bob Ney of Ohio.
It's not possible to attribute any one weather event to global warming. But climate models show that global warming will lead to increased hurricane intensity, and some research indicates that this is already occurring.
Tyco paid $2 million, most going to firms controlled by Mr. Abramoff, as part of its successful effort to preserve tax advantages it got from shifting its legal home to Bermuda. Timothy Flanigan, a general counsel at Tyco, has been nominated for the second-ranking Justice Department post.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is awash in soldiers and police. Nonetheless, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has hired Blackwater USA, a private security firm with strong political connections, to provide armed guards.
Mr. Abramoff was indicted last month on charges of fraud relating to his purchase of SunCruz, a casino boat operation. Mr. Ney inserted comments in the Congressional Record attacking SunCruz's original owner, Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, placing pressure on him to sell to Mr. Abramoff and his partner, Adam Kidan, and praised Mr. Kidan's character.
James Schmitz, who resigned as the Pentagon's inspector general amid questions about his performance, has been hired as Blackwater's chief operating officer.
Last week three men were arrested in connection with the gangland-style murder of Mr. Boulis. SunCruz, after it was controlled by Mr. Kidan and Mr. Abramoff, paid a company controlled by one of the men arrested, Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello, and his daughter $145,000 for catering and other work. In court documents, questions are raised about whether food and drink were ever provided. SunCruz paid $95,000 to a company in which one of the other men arrested, Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari, is a principal.
Iraq's oil production remains below prewar levels. The Los Angeles Times reports that mistakes by U.S. officials and a Halliburton subsidiary, which was given large no-bid reconstruction contracts, may have permanently damaged Iraq's oilfields.
Tom DeLay, who stepped down as House majority leader after his indictment, once called Mr. Abramoff "one of my closest and dearest friends." Mr. Abramoff funneled funds from clients to conservative institutions and causes. The Washington Post reported that associates of Mr. DeLay claim that he severed the relationship after Mr. Boulis's murder.
Public health experts warn that the U.S. would be dangerously unprepared for an avian flu pandemic.
As Walter Cronkite used to say, That's the way it is.
c New York Times 2005
Bush's Depression: Hope he never sleeps another nite
By DOUG THOMPSON
Sep 28, 2005, 06:38
Depressed and demoralized White House staffers say working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is “life in a hellhole” as they try to deal with a sullen, moody President whose temper tantrums drive staffers crying from the room and bring the business of running the country to a halt.
“It’s like working in an insane asylum,” says one White House aide. “People walk around like they’re in a trance. We’re the dance band on the Titanic, playing out our last songs to people who know the ship is sinking and none of us are going to make it.”
Increasing reports from the usually tight-lipped staff of the Bush Administration talk of a West Wing dominated by gallows humor, long faces and a depression that has all but paralyzed daily routines.
“If POTUS (President of the United States) is on the road you can breathe a little easier for the day, knowing that those with him are catching hell and the mood will be a little easier in the Wing (West Wing) until he returns,” says another aide.
Capitol Hill Blue began reporting on Bush’s mood swings and erratic behavior in June 2004 but the stories of an erratic, moody President circulating within the White House were ignored by the “mainstream media” until recently. Now more and more outlets have begun to report on what many administration staffers say is a President out of control.
“A president who normally thrives on tough talk and self-assurance finds himself at what aides privately describe as a low point in office, one that is changing the psychic and political aura of the White House, as well as its distinctive political approach,” Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker wrote in The Washington Post over the weekend. “Aides who never betrayed self-doubt now talk in private of failures selling the American people on the Iraq war, the president's Social Security plan and his response to Hurricane Katrina"
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
To the cronies go the spoils
Posted on Wednesday, September 28, 2005
"It ain’t what you don’t know that will hurt you, it’s what you think you know that ain’t so."—Will RogersThe most telling description of the Bush administration may have come from a White House aide who used the term" reality-based" as an insult. According to journalist Ron Suskind, who described the incident in a 2004 New York Times Magazine article, the aide mocked the stuffy, pedantic, presumably liberal view "that solutions [to political problems] emerge from... judicious study of discernible reality."
"That’s not the way the world really works anymore," he added.
"We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study, too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
Well, history’s actors are suddenly hunting for a revised script. According to The Washington Post, with the president’s poll numbers sinking, White House aides "who never betrayed self-doubt now talk in private of failures selling the American people on the Iraq war, the president’s Social Security plan and his response to Hurricane Katrina."
We’ve had quite enough salesmanship, thank you. Historically a pragmatic people resistant to abstract ideology, Americans want "actors" who resolve the nation’s problems, not thespians. Many are waking to the reality that a one-party Republican regime has left us stuck with a government of ideologues and cronies who, when things get tough, sound awfully like Marxist apparatchiks chanting the party line. Actually, that line’s gotten somewhat muddled since Hurricane Katrina. With President Bush jetting back and forth to the Gulf Coast in a frantic effort to show concern, GOP robo-pundits in the nation’s great metropolitan newspapers have taken to portraying FEMA’s failures as an inevitable result of government ineptitude. Funny, that’s not what they thought about Bush’s utopian scheme to democratize the Middle East. But hold that thought. New York Times columnist David Brooks even resorted to the old Soviet device of calling White House critics mentally ill, describing Democrats as "psychologically aggrieved," " wrapped in their own rage" and displaying "anger in almost clinical form."
I guess nobody he loved drowned.
Meanwhile, "a top Republican close to the White House" blamed the first lady. It’s hard to imagine anything more craven or asinine. According to this brave soul, who spoke anonymously to Washington Post reporters, "Laura Bush was among those counseling Bush to change his cowboy image during the final four years." Mr. Anonymous thinks the president needs to get his swagger back. At the expense of sounding hopelessly old-fashioned, I’d suggest that Bush has less of an image problem than a (dread word) reality problem. Nobody needs a cowboy when his house is under water. Nor will all the swaggering flight-deck photo-ops in the world balance the budget or extricate U.S. troops from an increasingly grim, chaotic mess in Iraq.
The Bush administration’s fundamental problem is that it has substituted ideology for practicality and loyalty for competence at every turn. It’s running the country like a business, all right. Unfortunately, that business is Enron, combining fantastical theories and astonishing greed. Because the Republicans also control both houses of Congress and have voted in lockstep on virtually every key issue, partisan dogma has taken precedence above all competing values. The result has been mismanagement and incompetence on an heroic scale: ignoring the terrorist threat until 9/11 because al-Qa’ida was a "Clinton issue," driving the country into war in Iraq by conjuring imaginary nuclear "mushroom clouds," forcing the retirement of military leaders (e. g., Gen. Eric Shinseki) who warned that pacifying Iraq would require hundreds of thousands more troops than neo-conservative theory dictated, getting rid of a treasury secretary (Paul O’Neill) who correctly predicted that the war would cost tens of billions more than White House philosophers dreamed, rejecting detailed State Department plans for rebuilding Iraq in favor of pie-in-the-sky schemes to turn the fractured nation into a corporate utopia, turning a $300 billion budget surplus into a $550 billion (and counting) deficit through reckless tax cuts—such a list could go on almost indefinitely.
Slashing FEMA’s budget and replacing its experienced professional staff with hacks and cronies wasn’t a mistake; it was absolutely characteristic of the Bush administration’s vision of government as a partisan spoils system. Even worse than its reliance upon abstract ideology has been the White House’s remarkable inability to admit error. Partly due to its Republican-style political correctness, partly to the cult of personality surrounding Bush himself—his fabled "gut instincts" were supposed to make up for his manifest intellectual shortcomingsthe administration finds it almost impossible to adjust to altered circumstances. They’ve created their own reality all right.
Alas, the rest of us have to live there, too.
•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award. -----------
Did president Bush react quickly enough to hurricane Katrina? http://click.topica.com/caad0PSa2iUypa4mo0Vf/Nationwide Survey
Illegals drop 8 lbs of body waste each crossing AZ desert--that's a lot of shit.
The worst areas are at smugglers' 'lay-up' sites, where travelers wait to be transported to areas such as Tucson and Phoenix. Backpacks and clothes practically pave the ground, left behind so that more people can be packed into vehicles, or when the immigrants try to change their appearance from dusty hikers to indistinguishable citizens."
GOOD BYE, ROACHY BASTARD, GO GAS MORE BUGS
House Majority Leader DeLay has been indicted. Why did it have to come to this?
This apple is rotten to the core. Eleven years ago the Republicans took control of the House promising to clean up government. Today, House leader DeLay is under indictment for a criminal conspiracy to launder campaign finance funds. Tell your member of Congress that it shouldn't have come to this--we are sick of the lies and we demand accountability for unethical behavior now!
I can't wait to see what's next.
Dick Cheney carpooling downtown with Brownie? Rummy Rollerblading down the bike path to the Pentagon? Condi huddling by a Watergate fireplace in a gray cardigan?
Maybe now that our hydrocarbon president is the conservation president, he'll downgrade from Air Force One to a solar-powered Piper Cub as he continues to stalk the Gulf Coast towns and oil rigs like Banquo's ghost.
The once disciplined and swaggering Bush administration has descended into slapstick, more comical even than having Clarence Thomas et al. sit in judgment as Anna Nicole Smith attempts to get more of the moolah of her late oil tycoon husband.
We've got the clownish Brownie still on FEMA's payroll, giving advice on cleaning up the mess he made. ( Let's hope the White House is paying him only long enough to buy his good will, not to take any of his bad advice.)
We've got two oilmen in the White House whose administration was built on urging us to consume and buy as much oil and energy as possible. Now they're suddenly urging us to conserve. (Since Mr. Cheney considers conservation a "personal virtue," at least he'll get some virtue.)
The president called on Americans to drive less, and told his staff members to turn off their computers at night, turn down the air-conditioning, form carpools and take the bus.
At the same time, he set a fine example by wasting gazillions of gallons of fuel with all the planes and Secret Service vans and press motorcades and police escorts that follow him around every time he goes on one of his inane photo-ops from the Colorado bunker to what's left of the Mississippi Delta and the Bayou. He did his part by knocking off a few cars from his motorcade on his seventh trip to the gulf yesterday - but if residents had hoped he'd bring them some water, they went thirsty.
"Even so," as The Times's Elisabeth Bumiller wrote, "security dictated that Mr. Bush's still-impressive caravan pick him up at the base of Air Force One in Lake Charles, La. - and drop him off just yards away for a meeting with local officials at an airport terminal."
Noting that the Bush administration has proposed new fuel economy standards that critics say could make huge S.U.V.'s and pickups even more popular, Reuters published some arithmetic about the president's notorious fuel inefficiency.
Air Force One costs $83,200 to fill up and more than $6,000 per hour to fly. Then there's the cost of helicopters and a 2006 Cadillac DTS limo that gets less than 22 miles per gallon.
Karen Hughes, the Bush nanny who knows nothing about the Muslim world and yet is charged with selling the U.S. to it, wasted even more fuel this week flying to Saudi Arabia to tell women covered from head to toe in black how much she likes driving even though they can't.
She knows so little about the Middle East that she looked taken aback when some Saudi women told her that just because they could not vote or drive did not mean that they felt they were treated unfairly.
One thing Saudi women like even less than not having certain rights is to have hypocritical Americans patronize them.
The moment when America should have used its influence to help Saudi women came on Nov. 6, 1990, as U.S. forces gathered in the kingdom to go to war in Iraq the first time. Inspired by the U.S. troops, including female soldiers, 47 women from the Saudi intelligentsia took the wheels from their brothers and husbands and drove until the police stopped them.
They were branded "whores" and "harlots" by Saudi clerics, had their passports revoked, and were ostracized from society for a dozen years. Even their husbands suffered.
The experience made them more angry at the U.S. than at their own rulers. They feel that the Bushes play up the repression of women in the Middle East when it suits their desire to bang the war drums, but do not care what happens to women once the ideological agenda has been achieved.
They feel the administration and the American media have emphasized the repression of Saudi women post-9/11 as a way to demonize Saudi Arabia and paint Saudi men as bullies and terrorists.
When Ms. Hughes goes to Saudi Arabia to introduce herself as "a mom" and to talk about Americans as people of faith, guzzling fuel all the way in a country getting flush selling us oil, I think we can consider it taxpayer money well spent.
W. doesn't really need to worry about turning down the lights in the White House. The place is already totally in the dark.
c New York Times 2005
Sunday, September 25, 2005
In the spirit of 'nanny-nanny boo-boo'
AUSTIN - So here are all the liberals going into a giant snit just because George W. Bush appointed a veterinarian to head the women's health section of the Food and Drug Administration. For Pete's sake, you whiners, the only reason he chose the vet is because Michael Brown wasn't available.
If you recall, Ol' Heckuva-Job Brownie had to go home, walk his dog and hug his wife after exhausting himself in his triumphal handling of Hurricane Katrina. Otherwise, he'd have been Bush's first pick. Now even the veterinarian doesn't get the job -- just because those professional feminists raised such a stink. What's wrong with a vet? They know a lot about birth and udders and stuff. If the mother is having trouble giving birth, you grab the baby by the legs and pull it out -- it's not brain surgery. Then you worm 'em, you tag 'em, and you spray for fleas. Why the fuss?
The only reason that Bush even needed a new head of the Office of Women's Health is because the last one, Susan Wood, quit. She was upset because the political hacks who run the agency refused to allow over-the-counter sale of the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B.
True, that decision was made against the advice of the FDA's own scientific advisory panel and will unquestionably result in more abortions and almost certainly damage to some women's health. But why would anyone expect the Bush hacks to pay attention to scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended by the professional staff? Just like the folks at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, they got their jobs because they know how to set up photo-ops for Bush.
There's a doctoral dissertation to be written about Bush appointees named during the administration's frequent fits of Petulant Pique. These PP appointments are made in the immortal childhood spirit of "Nanny-nanny boo-boo, I'll show you." Wood resigns in protest over the politicization of women's health care? Ha! We'll show her -- we'll put a vet in charge instead.
The PP appointments are less for reasons of ideology or even rewarding the politically faithful than just in the old nyeh-nyeh spirit. You could, for example, put any number of people at the Department of Labor who are wholly unsympathetic to the labor movement -- Bush has installed shoals of them already. But there is a certain arch, flippant malice to making Edwin Foulke assistant secretary in charge of the health and safety of workers.
Republican appointees who oppose the agencies to which they are assigned are a dime a dozen, but Foulke is a partner from the most notorious union-busting law firm in the country. What he does for a living is destroy the only organizations that care about workers' health and safety.
Here's another PP pick: Put a timber industry lobbyist in as head of the Forest Service. How about a mining industry lobbyist who believes that public lands are unconstitutional in charge of the public lands? Nice shot.
A utility lobbyist who represented the worst air polluters in the country as head of the clean air division at the Environmental Protection Agency? A laff riot. As head of the Superfund, a woman whose last job was teaching corporate polluters how to evade Superfund regulations? Cute, cute, cute.
A Monsanto lobbyist as No. 2 at the EPA. A lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute at the Council on Environmental Quality. And so on. And so forth.
The Federal Trade Commission was finally embarrassed enough by demands from Democratic governors to start an investigation into recent price-gouging by oil companies. But the investigation will be headed by a former lawyer for ChevronTexaco. Is this fun or what? Nanny-nanny boo-boo.
The terrible lesson of Hurricane Katrina is that public policy is not a political gotcha game. The public interest is not well-served by appointing incompetents or anti-competents to positions of responsibility. Public policy is about our lives.
Here's another example: The Violence Against Women Act expires Oct. 1 and must be reauthorized before then. It doesn't look good. For 10 years, this law has helped improve criminal justice and community-based responses to sexual violence and sexual assault. As a result, there has been an overall decline in the incidence of women battered or killed by partners.
But as the July-August issue of Mother Jones painfully demonstrates, domestic violence remains a hideous problem. It is both a public health and a human rights issue.
Homicide is the 10th leading cause of death for women under 65. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, about 30 percent of American women report being physically abused by husbands or boyfriends. Every year, more than 300,000 U.S. women are raped and more than 4 million assaulted. Funding for family violence prevention was cut by $48 million this year.
I guess it would be pretty funny, on some level, to put a vet in charge of this issue, too. But let's not.
This is about people's lives. I've already seen too many people staring numbly at walls, still in shock. Let's start by getting Congress to reauthorize the act.
The arsenal of democracy starts with the telephone, the fax, the e-mail, paper and pen. Sign it "Your constituent."
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Posted on Wednesday, September 21, 2005
If you can believe it, "compassionate conservatism" is back. Knocked sideways by public anger at the government’s inept response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush delivered a televised speech promising the moon to Gulf Coast residents left homeless and jobless by the storm. He added heartening words about the role of racism in the region’s enduring poverty. Backlit by temporary spotlights flown to New Orleans, Bush vowed to spare no expense in what he called "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen." He added that "federal funds will cover the great majority of the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the disaster zone." Costs are estimated at $200 billion, very roughly what the U.S. expects to spend in Iraq this year. And here’s the beauty part: In the short run, those billions will come mostly from the governments of China and Saudi Arabia in the form of Treasury Bond purchases.
Eventually, of course, the debt must be repaid with interest, but not while Bush is president. Sweet. Pressed by reporters for a ballpark estimate, the president shrugged. Rebuilding after Katrina, he said, would "cost whatever it costs." He vowed not to raise taxes. Unspecified cuts in other government programs supposedly would make up the difference. Since Bush took office in 2001, government spending has risen by almost a third, from $1.86 trillion to $2.48 trillion, Newsweek reports. He has never vetoed a spending bill. In recently signing a $286.4 billion, pork-laden transportation bill—$250 million to build a bridge from a town of 8,000 to an island of 50 in a powerful Alaska congressman’s district, for example—Bush praised himself for doing it the "fiscally responsible way." Instead of raising taxes, he borrowed the money.
Bush "conservatism," see, is grasshopper conservatism. Party today, let the ants pay the caterer another day. Meanwhile, two little known, millionaires-only tax cuts enacted in 2001 will take effect next year. By removing ceilings on personal exemptions and itemized deductions, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that the provisions will cut income taxes on the top 0.2 percent of taxpayers an average of $20,000 each. The five-year budget cost is $35 billion. With hundreds of thousands homeless and destitute, do they really need it? Then there’s that GOP obsession, the so-called "death tax" repeal. It’s valuable only to heirs (like Bush himself) who expect to inherit multimillion-dollar fortunes. Just over 1 percent of inheritors last year paid any estate tax at all. Roughly one-quarter of the total collected came from estates of more than $20 million. The average estate tax paid in 2003, reports Ernest Dumas in the Arkansas Times, came to 17 percent. Middle-class wage earners pay higher withholding taxes.
Contrary to GOP propaganda, most large estates consist of unrealized capital gains that have never been taxed at all. Keeping the estate tax could pay for Katrina all by itself. Instead, Bush vows to ask Congress to make tax cuts enacted in 2001 for the wealthiest Americans permanent. Over a decade, that’s expected to cost an estimated $1.4 trillion at a time of record deficits. Can the nation afford it? Even congressional Republicans are getting nervous. "We are not sure he knows what he is getting into," a House Republican told The New York Times. The newspaper said its source "requested anonymity because of the potential consequences of publicly criticizing the administration."
That’s basically the same reason White House aides were said to have feared interrupting Bush’s vacation with bad news about Katrina. Of course, Bush never knows what he’s getting into. One who may know is Karl Rove, the Machiavellian political operative Bush has put in charge of the rebuilding effort. It’s reasonable to assume that Rove nominated himself, and to ask why. To date the White House has used Katrina as a screen for standard right-wing "solutions" of the kind that kept the Gulf Coast region poor and polluted to begin with: suspending federal laws requiring government contractors to pay fair wages, waiving affirmative action rules and proposing to lift environmental restrictions on the nation’s most toxic waterways. Expect more of the same.
Just below the surface, moreover, ugly passions simmer. "Why are all these fat blacks laying around on cots sleeping while white people are lining up by the thousands to SERVE THEM MEALS???" a self-identified "conservative" wrote me. Similar mass e-mails are all over the Internet. Sadly, I fear they’re one reason Bush’s poll ratings dropped even lower after last week’s address. Rove’s entire career has been based upon divide-and-conquer tactics rooted in racial and religious conflict. Maybe he’s changed. More likely, he hasn’t.
Meanwhile, yet another deadly hurricane churns westward across the Gulf of Mexico. Pray that it blows into the Texas coast south of Corpus Christi, where there are only cows and mesquite trees to harm. (um, pop is around 277 thousand....njh)
—––––– •–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Hundreds of billions and tens of thousands of innocent lives wasted later, what have we achieved? Nothing. Casey died for nothing and Bush says others have to die for those that have died already.
Enough, George! What is disgusting is not, as the first lady says, criticism of you, but rather the crimes you've committed against this country and our sons and daughters. Stop hiding behind your twisted idea of God and stop destroying this country. "
Sunday, September 18, 2005
The New York Times and Bush’s New Orleans speech
By Patrick Martin
17 September 2005
The debased and servile state of the US media was on display in its response to President Bush’s Thursday night speech in New Orleans. Press reports and commentaries were largely favorable, depicting Bush’s words as a serious effort to grapple with issues of poverty and inequality that have never before been on the radar screen of this administration, and his proposals as a significant pledge of federal aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Among the most deplorable commentaries was the lead editorial of the New York Times, the principal voice of the “liberal” establishment in America. The newspaper gushed over Bush’s speech, describing it as “principled, disciplined and ambitious.”
The Times claimed that Bush “forthrightly acknowledged his responsibility for the egregious mishandling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He spoke clearly and candidly about race and poverty. And finally, he was clear about what would be needed to bring back the Gulf Coast and said the federal government would have to lead and pay for that effort.”
The newspaper compared Bush’s performance to his supposedly exemplary role in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks: “Once again, he has delivered a speech that will reassure many Americans that he understands the enormity of the event and the demands of leadership to come.”
The Times did express concern that after 9/11 and the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, which the newspaper supported, Bush turned to the invasion of Iraq, about which the Times now has doubts—not so much because of Bush’s lies about a connection between Iraq and 9/11, as because the US occupation has become bogged down in a protracted guerrilla war.
The response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster should be more thought out, the newspaper advised. “This time, Mr. Bush must come up with a more coherent and well-organized follow-through.” Presumably, this was an appeal to Bush not to respond to the drowning of New Orleans by invading Cuba, or perhaps abolishing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
What criticism the Times made of the White House was in reference to Bush’s dismissive attitude towards the domestic responsibilities of the federal government. Federal agencies like FEMA proved incapable, under the leadership of Bush loyalists, of providing any serious emergency relief. Only “a focused federal effort” can accomplish such tasks as housing hundreds of thousands of now-homeless people and providing for their employment and the education of their children, the newspaper concluded.
The Times was silent about the social and political meaning of the actual measures that Bush announced in his speech, which were later elaborated in press briefings by White House aides. The centerpiece is the establishment of a Gulf Opportunity Zone, in which most taxes and federal regulation of business will be waived in order to “encourage entrepreneurship.” The Environmental Protection Agency has already suspended enforcement of most anti-pollution laws in the zone.
There are also plans to issue tuition vouchers that could fund private and religious schools, rather than rebuilding the public school systems in the disaster area, an Urban Homesteading Program on federal land, and $5,000 Worker Recovery Accounts with federal money that could be used for job retraining.
All these initiatives are merely a rehash of longstanding policy proposals from the Bush administration. They are “disaster-relief versions of proposals Bush made during his first term and in his 2004 campaign—proposals for urban enterprise zones, home-ownership subsidies for low-income families and job-training accounts,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Washington Post, in its analysis of the Bush speech, declared that Bush’s policies “bear the distinctive stamp of a conservative president, a hallmark of an executive who has never shrunk from seeking to implement a right-leaning agenda even in the face of a divided country.”
The Post reported earlier in the week that the White House had contacted the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and similar right-wing think tanks, seeking policy proposals that could be introduced using the Katrina disaster as a pretext. As liberal columnist Paul Krugman noted, the Heritage Foundation “has already published a manifesto on post-Katrina policy. It calls for waivers on environmental rules, the elimination of capital gains taxes and the private ownership of public school buildings in the disaster areas.”
The Bush administration and the congressional Republican leadership are seizing on the scenes of mass suffering in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to push through policy proposals that they have been unable to enact over the past five years. But the New York Times presents this cynical maneuver as though it were the second coming of Roosevelt’s New Deal.
This says more about the Times, and the liberal sections of the ruling class and upper middle class for which it speaks, than all the professions of sympathy for the plight of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The Times has no objection when Bush seeks to use the army of displaced people as guinea pigs for ultra-right social experimentation. The newspaper is quite happy to stand reality on its head, and pretend that a government which contributed so heavily to causing the disaster—through its deliberate neglect of basic infrastructure and refusal to confront environmental problems like global warming—can suddenly be transformed into a federal savior.
What brings the leading voice of the “liberal” media together with the ultra-right president? Both defend the interests of the narrow layer of wealthy families at the top of American society. Both react with fear and trepidation to the exposure of the vast social gulf that exists in the United States between this privileged elite and the vast majority of working people. And if social disorder were to erupt in New York City as it did in New Orleans after Katrina, the Times would embrace the same shoot-to-kill policies espoused by Bush and the Democratic governor of Louisiana.
(It should be pointed out that Louisiana’s Democratic governor, Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, and the whole congressional Democratic leadership had a generally approving response to Bush’s speech. There was no criticism of the Gulf Opportunity Zone, although it is well understood that its purpose is to transform the Gulf Coast into a low-wage, high-profit arena of exploitation for corporate America.)
A survey published Friday gives some indication of the depth of the social polarization in New Orleans prior to Katrina. The study of hurricane survivors displaced to Houston, Texas, was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Washington Post. It showed that the majority of the evacuees had little or nothing even before the hurricane struck.
According to the survey, seven out of ten evacuees did not have a savings or checking account, and a similar number had no credit cards. Six in ten had family incomes of less than $20,000 a year. Seven in ten had no insurance to cover their losses from the storm. Half had no health insurance, and four in ten were disabled or suffered from heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. One in eight was unemployed before the storm—now all are.
These working-class families were victims of American capitalism long before they became victims of Hurricane Katrina. This is the basic reality that the New York Times wants to conceal, which is why it rallies around the ignorant and discredited figure of George W. Bush.See Also:
Recovering New Orleans' dead subordinated to profit and politics
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Arianna: Great journalism...
Karl Rove's Big Easy
Posted September 15, 2005 at 8:03 p.m. EDT
Creating an independent, bipartisan commission to look into what went so horribly wrong with the response to Katrina is not only an idea supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people -- including 64% of Republicans -- it's also, unarguably, the right thing to do.
After all, we're not talking about a witch hunt to ferret out which public officials should be pilloried in the public square (although surely more than a few members of the administration deserve a good thrashing -- uh, I mean Medal of Freedom) but a chance to make sure that the same mistakes aren't made when the dreaded next terrorist attack hits us. If we look at Katrina as a very wet dry run for our response to Hurricane Osama, an independent commission should have been empanelled the second the bodies started piling up in New Orleans.
And it's not like this kind of fast-track fact-gathering is without precedent. The first of nine investigations into the failures that led to Pearl Harbor convened 11 days after that attack. And LBJ created the Warren Commission seven days after President Kennedy was assassinated.
But a full, public, and unbiased accounting is the last thing the White House and its Congressional allies want. Hence Wednesday's straight party-line vote. Not surprisingly, the GOP prefers the fox guarding the henhouse approach of having a Republican-controlled Congressional panel investigate Katrina.
Of course, we've seen this foot-dragging, stonewalling, anything-to-avoid-looking-in
There is too much at stake to let Bush and the GOP Congress play politics with our lives.
And speaking of playing politics, I love how the news that Karl Rove has been placed in charge of the reconstruction effort was buried in the ninth paragraph of a twelve-paragraph New York Times story on Bush's big speech.
This assignment proves that despite the president's lofty rhetoric about "building a better New Orleans," his main concern is stanching his political bleeding. Let's be honest, when it comes to large-scale efforts like this, Ol' Turd Blossom isn't exactly Gen. George Marshall, who, before devising the Marshall Plan, had, among other things, been responsible for deploying over eight million soldiers in WW II.
Rove's genius (aside from a Mensa-level mastery of dirty trickery) is for using imagery, spin, and atmospherics to turn political liabilities into political opportunities.
So here is the White House's Katrina Plan in a nutshell: block any independent examination of its failings, put the Einstein of damage control in charge of reconstructing New Orleans, keep the dead bodies out of sight, try to get away with general platitudes and palliatives, offer watered-down acceptances of "responsibility" while trying to pin everything you can on local yokels and fall guys like Brownie, and let Bush's corporate cronies get fat on hefty no-bid reconstruction contracts.
So get ready for the New New Orleans -- Karl Rove's Big Easy -- featuring the Halliburton French Quarter, the ExxonMobil River (formerly the Mississippi), Lake MBNA (formerly Pontchartrain), and Eli Lilly music (formerly jazz).
With deals like that shimmering on the horizon, it's no wonder the president's pals in Congress are doing everything they can to throw a monkey wrench into House Democrats' efforts to investigate the Plamegate scandal, and the Boy Genius' involvement in it -- shooting down a pair of bills that would have required Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department, and Condi Rice and the State Department to turn over all documents and information pertaining to the outing of Valerie Plame.
God forbid! Mustn't allow anything to get in the way of Reconstruction Karl's efforts to rebuild the president's poll numbers, eh?
Katrina Relief: It's Iraq Deja vu All Over Again
Posted September 16, 2005 at 7:17 p.m. EDT
Reacting to all the pricey promises the president made in his big Katrina speech, a senior House Republican official told the New York Times , "We are not sure he knows what he is getting into."
If that's true, Bush must have the worst memory since Guy Pearce in "Memento" because he's definitely been down this road before.
The coming attractions for the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast play like a shot-by-shot remake of the mother of all disaster features, the reconstruction of Iraq.
Let's start with the rhetoric. "We will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes," the president pledged on Thursday. "We will do whatever it takes... we will stay there until the job is done," the president said of Iraq in November 2003. It wouldn't be a "Terminator" movie without "I'll be back," and it wouldn't be a massive mega-billion dollar Bush initiative without a vow to stay the course.
This rhetorical comparison extends to what the president didn't say -- namely, anything about the need for shared sacrifice. He didn't call for it after 9/11, he didn't call for it when we embarked on the war in Iraq, and he didn't call for it as we are embarking on the rebuilding of New Orleans. The closest he came was challenging "scout troops" to "get in touch with their counterparts" in the disaster area and "learn what they can do to help." Wonder if that was part of the Heritage Foundation's post-Katrina policy manifesto: Merit badges for corpse recovery and helping displaced evacuees across the street!
Indeed, responding to the devastation caused by Katrina, Treasury Secretary John Snow claimed: "Making the [Bush] tax cuts permanent would be a real plus in a situation like this." Sure, why ask for some sacrifice from the richest Americans when we have scout troops doing their part?
The feeling that the Katrina relief effort is going to be Iraq all over again is unavoidable when you look at the list of the companies already being awarded clean up and reconstruction contracts. It's that old gang from Baghdad: Halliburton, Bechtel, Fluor, and the Shaw Group (which has a tasteful notice on its website saying "Hurricane Recovery Projects -- Apply Here!"). Together again. A veritable moveable feast of crony capitalism.
Even the Wall Street Journal is getting an uneasy sense of deja vu, pointing out that "the Bush administration is importing many of the contract practices blamed for spending abuses in Iraq," including contracts awarded without competitive bidding, and cost-plus provisions "that guarantee contractors a certain profit regardless of how much they spend." So what's the thinking on this one, Mr. President -- 'If at first you don't succeed...'?
And what about financial oversight of the tens of billions that will be doled out to these corporate chums of the administration? After consistently stonewalling investigations into the corruption that has plagued U.S. efforts in Iraq, the president vowed to have "a team of inspectors general reviewing all expenditures" related to Katrina. But such promises seem laughable when you remember what happened to Bunny Greenhouse. After blowing the whistle on Halliburton's corrupt Iraq war contracts, the Army Corps of Engineers auditor was demoted. That should really motivate the Katrina contract inspection team.
Another very troubling similarity between the Katrina plan and the Iraq debacle is the failure of Democratic leaders to address the core issues raised by the president's proposals. Mirroring the spineless bandwagon hopping that gave the president a flashing green light on Iraq, Harry Reid responded to Bush's speech by saying, "I think we have to understand that we have a devastation that has to be taken care of. And I'm not finding where we can cut yet."
Really? How about Iraq? We're spending $5 billion a month there. And what about demanding the rollback of the Bush tax cuts? Even a partial rollback would produce about $180 billion in revenue, right around what the Katrina relief effort is estimated to cost. And how about taking a carving knife to the huge slabs of pork that continue to be piled onto legislation like the new transportation bill, which included 6,371 pet projects inserted by members from both parties, at a cost of more than $24 billion. And that's just one bill! But the Senate Minority Leader can't find where to cut yet?
Iraq is an utter catastrophe. The only good that can come from it will be as an object lesson in what not to do with Katrina. But, so far, it's a lesson both the president and the loyal opposition seem unwilling to learn.
As the philosopher said: It's deja vu all over again.
As the fallout from Katrina continues this week, the bloody news from Iraq reminds us that the Bush administration has two major disasters on its hands. For the latest headlines and blogs, keep logging on to huffingtonpost.com.
Friday, September 16, 2005
Reprinted entirely from the WSWS newsletter so you won't be interrupted reading:
Bush’s vision for New Orleans: a profiteer’s paradise
By Barry Grey
16 September 2005
Striding across a deserted field to a podium in Jackson Square, a landmark in a desolate city, President George W. Bush addressed the nation Thursday night in a rare nationally televised prime-time speech.
The very fact of the speech was indicative of a growing fear not only within the Bush administration, but within the American ruling elite as a whole, that the squandered lives and national humiliation resulting from the government’s failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina was a defining event—one that threatened to fuel popular opposition to the entire social and political system.
Bush himself, the epitome of the backwardness and indifference of the American establishment, was among the last to recognize that something major had occurred, with ominous implications for the financial aristocracy whose interests he serves.
This sense of crisis and foreboding largely accounts for the rhetorical sops Bush threw out to the victims of the government’s neglect and the millions more horrified by the display of contempt for the lives of ordinary people—the talk of “outrage,” the fleeting mention of poverty, racism and inequality, the “I am responsible” refrain.
These flourishes were for mass consumption—and deception. The substance of the speech was a series of signals to Wall Street and corporate America that not even the destruction of a major city will alter the very policies that produced the debacle. The centerpiece of the so-called recovery plan announced by Bush was the creation of a Gulf Opportunity Zone, encompassing parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
“Within this zone,” Bush said, “we should provide immediate incentives for job-creating investment, tax relief for small businesses, incentives to businesses to create jobs, and loans and loan guarantees for small businesses, including minority-owned enterprises, to get them up and running again.”
In other words, the new city that rises out of the flood waters of New Orleans will be a showplace for the unfettered exploitation of workers, who will be stripped of protections such as the Davis Bacon Act, which requires federally subsidized construction projects to pay prevailing wage rates, while companies that secure government contracts will get huge windfalls in the form of tax cuts and other handouts.
“It is entrepreneurship that creates jobs and opportunity,” Bush continued, “it is entrepreneurship that helps break the cycle of poverty, and we will take the side of entrepreneurs as they lead the economic revival of the Gulf region.”
With these euphemisms Bush reaffirmed the program of deregulation, privatization and the gutting of all government controls over corporate profit-making that has played a central role over nearly three decades, under Democratic as well as Republican administrations, in starving the country’s infrastructure and making virtually inevitable the type of disaster that engulfed the Gulf Coast.
On this basis, trillions of dollars have been transferred, through tax cuts and the destruction of social programs, from the working class and poor to the wealthy, creating unprecedented social inequality and turning the country into a plutocracy. Bush’s prescription for addressing the Katrina disaster was a bigger dose of the same medicine that produced the catastrophe in the first place.
Corporate profiteering from the disaster is only the tip of the iceberg. Bush’s allies in the Republican-controlled Congress are urging that reconstruction be accompanied by measures limiting victims’ right to sue, establishing school vouchers, lifting restrictions on federal funds for religious groups, suspending environmental regulations on new oil refineries, waiving the estate tax, and enacting a flat tax. “The desire to bring conservative, free-market ideas to the Gulf Coast is white hot,” said Representative Mike Pence of Indiana.
Bush repeatedly signaled in his speech that there would be no federally run and nationally coordinated program to rebuild the Gulf Coast, much less address the conditions of poverty and decaying infrastructure that exist throughout the country. He spoke of the federal government as a “partner” with state and local authorities. But the planning would be left up to “Governor Barbour, Governor Blanco, Mayor Nagin and other state and local leaders” who would have the “primary role in planning for their own future.”
He even insisted that the “engineering decisions” for improving New Orleans’ flood protection system would be made locally. As though the complex task of erecting a system of levees and other barriers to protect against flooding from the Mississippi, a river that traverses a series of states and much of the center of the country, can be carried out in piecemeal fashion.
This rejection of “big government” applies, however, only to those federal functions left over from the past that have to do with protecting the physical and economic security of working people. When it comes to maintaining law and order and protecting the property of the wealthy, however, Bush is emphatically in favor of federal power and the use of military force.
Acknowledging that “the system, at every level of government, was not well coordinated, and was overwhelmed in the first few days,” Bush concluded: “It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces—the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment’s notice.”
Thus the failure of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Homeland Security Department in Hurricane Katrina is used as the justification for making the military takeover of New Orleans a precedent for future and broader exercises in martial law. The posse comitatus law, Bush implied, which bars the military from domestic policing, must be weakened or repealed outright.
One of the lies exposed by the Katrina disaster was that the Homeland Security Department and the other measures adopted under the banner of the “war on terrorism” were motivated by a desire to protect the American people. The gutting of FEMA and the lack of any serious planning by the Homeland Security Department for a major natural disaster revealed that the entire concentration in the four years since 9/11 has been on preparing the military to defend the state and the ruling elite by means of martial law and mass repression.
When Bush mobilized the military to occupy New Orleans, he at first demanded that the state’s National Guard be placed under federal control. In so doing he was clearly seeking to implement plans for martial law that had been worked out and rehearsed. Now he is suggesting that such steps be legitimized and sanctioned in advance.
There is a close connection between the cheap-labor, super-exploitation “Gulf Opportunity Zone” Bush proposes and his call for more authority to deploy the military in the nation’s cities. The former means a further decline in the living standards of the working class and even greater social inequality; the latter indicates how the ruling class plans to deal with the social opposition that will inevitably result.
Sprinkled throughout Bush’s speech were the inevitable invocations of God. This served not only to satisfy the Christian fundamentalist core of Bush’s political base, but also to reassure Republican congressmen and the media that there would be no retreat from the basic right-wing framework of his administration’s policies.
At the same time, he made a point of praising the joint fund-raising efforts of the senior George Bush and ex-president Bill Clinton, pointing thereby to the fundamental consensus of both parties of American big business.
As for the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the hurricane, there was no commitment to provide them with homes and jobs in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, reimburse them for their losses, and make them whole. Nor was there any acknowledgment that poverty and inequality are national issues—not a peculiarity of New Orleans.
Hurricane Katrina exposed before the American people and before the world the ugly truths about American society: the pervasiveness of poverty, the staggering concentration of wealth, the crumbling infrastructure, the gutting of government agencies responsible for protecting the people. Bush’s speech underscored the utter inability of the existing economic and political system to address these questions.
The political and social forces responsible for the destruction of New Orleans cannot be entrusted with its reconstruction. They can produce nothing other than a monstrosity—a testament to greed and exploitation.
The massive allocation of resources required to end the blight of poverty, provide decent jobs, housing, education and medical care, and restore the country’s infrastructure is impossible under a system in which all social needs are subordinated to the private accumulation of wealth and corporate profit.
The advanced planning required to meet the needs of a mass and complex society conflicts with the inherent anarchy of the capitalist market.
To marshal and deploy the necessary resources on the basis of a rational plan geared to the needs of the people, the private ownership and control of the means of production must be ended and replaced with public ownership under the democratic control of the working people, that is, with a planned socialist economy.See Also:
Recovering New Orleans' dead subordinated to profit and politics
[16 September 2005]
Power-dressing man leaves trail of destruction - Yahoo! News
** http://dahrjamailiraq.com **
September 15, 2005
For the last several days at least 6,000 US soldiers along with
approximately 4,000 Iraqi soldiers (Read-members of the Kurdish
Peshmerga and Shia Badr Army) were laying siege to the city of Tal-Afar,
near Mosul in northern Iraq. It is estimated that 90% of the residents
have left their homes because of the violence and destruction of the
siege, as well as to avoid home raids and snipers.
The Fallujah model is being applied yet again, albeit on a smaller
scale. I haven’t received any reports yet of biometrics being used
(retina scans, finger printing, bar coding of human beings) like in
Fallujah, but there are other striking similarities to the tactics used
While the US military claims to have killed roughly 200 “terrorists” in
the operation, reports from the ground state that most of the fighters
inside the city had long since left to avoid direct confrontation with
the overwhelming military force (a basic tenet of guerrilla warfare).
Again like Fallujah, most of the families who fled are staying in
refugee camps outside the city in tents amidst horrible conditions in
the inferno-like heat of the Iraqi summer.
The LA Times reported that Ezzedin Dowla, a Turkmen leader in the area
said, “Families are homeless and the government has not provided any
shelter, food or drink for them.” Nor has the US military.
The targets of this military operation are the Sunni Turkmen who are
politically on the side of the Sunni Arabs. Most Sunnis will be voting
against the constitution during the coming vote of October, 15th.
The Cheney Administration is desperate for something it can spin as
“good news” from Iraq; thus, it most certainly behooves them to have the
referendum on the constitution to boast about. But in order to do so,
the voting ability and power of the Sunni (and Sunni Turkmen) must be
severely compromised, as well as punishment meted out for rightfully
assuming what will be a Sunni no-vote on the constitution.
Both the Cheney Administration and its current puppet-government in Iraq
benefit from destroying the voting (and living) ability of the majority
of people in the “Sunni triangle,” so we have the operation in Tal-Afar,
most likely to be followed by similar operations in Al-Qa’im, Haditha,
Samarra, and possibly more.
In Tal-Afar, the propaganda spewed by the US military (and Iraqi
“government”) was that the operation was to fight terrorists coming into
Iraq via Syria. If that were true, why did the US military remove troops
from the border with Syria who were supposed to be preventing
infiltration by foreign fighters? Instead of guarding the border, as
they should, they engaged in the operation against Iraqi Sunni Turkmen.
Working in unison, the US military launched the heavy-handed attack with
the “authorization” of Prime Minister Ibrahm Jaafari, the leader of the
Shia Dawa Party. Jaafari even went so far as to venture to Tal-Afar on
Tuesday to visit troops and have his photograph taken.
“Authorization” was given by the Iraqi government for the attack on
Tal-Afar, just as “authorization” was given by then interim Prime
Minister Iyad Allawi for the November, 2004 massacre in Fallujah.
“Authorization,” when the US military would never, ever allow any
foreign power jurisdiction over American forces, least of all a puppet
Correspondents with Azzaman media in Tal-Afar miraculously made it into
the city and reported that residents are disputing reports that US and
Iraqi soldiers have killed scores of “insurgents.” Like Fallujah, these
residents of Tal-Afar are reporting that most of the people killed were
civilians who had no place to go so they chose to stay in their homes.
People also stayed because they feared persecution at the hands of the
Peshmerga and Badr Army.
I recently interviewed an Iraqi man from that area at the Peoples’ UN
conference in Perugia, Italy. He told me, “Most people in Mosul and
Tal-Afar would rather be detained by the Americans now, because they
know if Iraqi soldiers or Iraqi police detain them they will be tortured
severely, and possibly killed. This gives you an idea of how bad it is
with these Iraqi soldiers, even in the shadow of what the Americans are
still doing in Abu Ghraib.”
As for “foreign fighters,” one of the Azzaman correspondents quoted a
resident of Tal-Afar as saying, “We used to hear (from news reports) of
the presence of some Arab (foreign) fighters in the city, but we have
seen none of them.”
Life in Iraq remains a living hell. Blood flowed in the streets of
Khadamiya yesterday as a horrendous car bomb killed 112 people in the
predominantly Shia neighborhood. And once again, calls of solidarity
were made from the nearby Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya and residents
emerged from their homes to help their brothers and sisters across the
river, just as they did after the panic and chaos which recently took
the lives of nearly 1,000 Shia.
The horrendous totals from yesterday were 160 dead, 570 wounded Iraqis
as the result of the string of attacks and at least a dozen car bombs.
The blowback from the Jafaari “authorized” state-sponsored terrorism in
Tal-Afar took little time to materialize in the capital city.
If Jafaari was more honest with his press appearances, along with his
photo-op in Tal-Afar he should have had his photo taken amidst the
charred, smoking body parts strewn about the streets of Khadamiya, which
was a result (albeit just as horrific) of his Tal-Afar “authorization.”
On that note, Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s puppet president, was in a press
conference in Washington D.C. with Mr. Bush just hours before the
Meanwhile, one of my friends in Baghdad writes me, “Dear Dahr, how are
you dear pal? I am very sorry for what happened after Hurricane Katrina.
It is a real tragedy. I hope none of your friends or family was
affected. It is a tragedy which makes one speechless.”
This when he goes to work each day hoping to make it home alive to see
his wife and newborn daughter.
And another of my friends in Baghdad wrote me recently, “I’m so sorry
that I didn’t email you the previous days…the situation in Tal-Afar has
become so much worse for the people. It is terrible what is going on
there and nobody can say anything because as usual the military
operation is still going on and they are trying to keep all the media
out. They have also started another operation in another area of
Al-Anbar province and they will soon start one in Samarra.”
My interpreter when I’m in Iraq, Abu Talat, has been willing to take the
risk of working with me there. To give you an idea of the lengths he’s
willing to go to, he gave me the green light to come to Iraq last
November, just before the massacre in Fallujah began. It is safe to say
times were quite tense then, with kidnappings and beheadings having long
since become the norm.
“The Minister of Defense is threatening not only Fallujah but all of the
Ramadi Governorate, I can tell you very surely about that,” he wrote in
a recent email to me and a colleague who was hoping to enter Iraq to
work as a reporter. (Today, US warplanes began dropping bombs inside the
city of Ramadi.)
“No one can support you working here. We are having a very critical
situation. For this reason, I think that coming to Iraq in this critical
time is not accepted. I was very, very welcoming to any of your friends,
Dahr, but not in this time. Sorry, but for your own safety. Take good
care of yourself.”
Today at least 30 more Iraqis have died in violence across their
occupied country and it will only continue to worsen.
More writing, photos and commentary at http://dahrjamailiraq.com