Singing the Bite Me Song


Television


December 09, 2006

Only six fluent in Arabic at US Iraq embassy-panel

This speaks volumes, doesn't it? There are surely many more Arabic speakers in the U.S., but the Bush administration chooses not to send them to Iraq. Chooses also not to put them in the FBI, or the CIA, both of which are dangerously low on Arabic speakers as well.

Link: Reuters AlertNet - Only six fluent in Arabic at US Iraq embassy-panel.

Only six fluent in Arabic at US Iraq embassy-panel

06 Dec 2006 22:20:12 GMT Source: Reuters

WASHINGTON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Among the 1,000 people who work in the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, only 33 are Arabic speakers and only six speak the language fluently, according to the Iraq Study Group report released on Wednesday.

"All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans' lack of knowledge of language and cultural understanding," the bipartisan panel said in its report. "In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage."

The report, written by five Republicans and five Democrats, recommended the U.S. government give "the highest possible priority to professional language proficiency and cultural training" for officials headed to Iraq.

It is interesting to note that the beginning, end, and middle of that lack of knowledge of language and cultural understanding was wrought at the hands of an administration that can barely disguise its overt bigotry and xenophobia. I mean, who would take the cultural understanding of an embassy seriously when the leaders who appoint people to that embassy suffer from the following embarassments:

A president ready to go to war in Iraq without knowing who the Shiites and Sunnis were, and what the significant differences were between them (this is documented in former Ambassador to Croatia (and son of the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith) Peter Galbraith's book, The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created A War Without End, claiming President George W. Bush was unaware that there were two major sects of Islam just two months before the President ordered troops to invade Iraq.)

A secretary of defense who had NO CLUE the historical and cultural value of the Baghdad Museum, which he sat and arrogantly allowed to be looted, with the dismissive comment, "Stuff happens." Ironic, especially because what existed inside those walls documented the birth of civilization as we know it, the birth of Sumerian literacy etched with a stylus on clay.

And only people who are functionally illiterate could not know the significance of what was being destroyed, bringing that birth of literacy into full circle with their utter ignorance.

The only thing I saw more outrageously xenophobic than that deeply embarrassing attitude came at the hands of a cable news network, which had the outrageous blindness (and lack of understanding of irony) to put a "branding" tag line on the part of the Iraq War that happened after the "Mission Accomplished" aircraft carrier speech, "The New Iraq."

See what happens when stupidity is allowed to run rampant? Did no one at that network understand that people in a 200-year-old nation had no right to call anything "New" in the fertile crescent, in an area that had kept civilization alive for thousands of years? In a place some had seen as the site of the original "Garden of Eden?"

The "New" Iraq, indeed. Someone should tell Rumsfeld how "stuff happens," as a far older nation outlasts him.

 


December 9, 2006 at 11:22 PM in Favorite Links, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, Television, Travel, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 31, 2006

Another reason to be suspicious of foaming-at-the-mouth anti-abortion nutjobs

This Nation article on Rush Limbaugh's laughably lambastic attack on Michael J. Fox contains some interesting observations down below the lead.

Call me naive, but given all my past history of counter-protesting the Friday afternoon anti-abortion nutjobs outside our local Planned Parenthood clinic, this particular angle, that the anti-abortion groups are so ridiculous and crazy, they serve as a little-noticed front for GOP big money special interest funds, somehow never occurred to me before.

Anti-abortionists as a nutty button for big money corporate manipulators to push at will, with massive funds?

Well, think about it. They must be getting money somewhere, and right-wing money seems much more likely to come top down with fake astro-turfing than truly from grassroots bottom up (unless the so-called "grassroots" is on some GOP moneybags' payroll). The media doesn't take Flat Earther's seriously, or those who deny the Holocaust occurred. But no matter how nutty these folks get, how many clinics they bomb, how much they conspire like terrorists, they still get a fair hearing in the media.

I guess I got inklings of that in reading about the odd PACs that Tom DeLay was affiliated with, like that supposed "family" political action committee that his wife even worked for, but was nothing more than a front to funnel major influence-buying money from some Russian kingpins (why doesn't anyone cry "treason" when these folks are so eager to allow international cartels and money-bags to have more influence over legislation and U.S. policy than people in the U.S?).

Anyway, here's the deep down bits. I don't see documentation on these claims, but I do take refuge in the knowledge that The Nation is one of the most rigorously fact-checked long-running publications in the country. Although this is in a blog, and not in the print edition that I know of.

Link: The Nation: Limbaugh's Savage Crusade.

BLOG | Posted 10/28/2006 @ 12:44am

Limbaugh's Savage Crusade

John Nichols' "The Online Beat"

[...]

For the better part of three hours each day this week, the radio ranter has been "Swift Boating the television and film star for daring to do what Limbaugh -- who freely admits that he is an entertainer -- does every day.

In Limbaugh's warped assessment of the political process, it's fine for him to try and influence the votes of Americans. But woe be it to anyone else who attempts to do so.

[Don't you wish he'd used the phrase "woe betide" instead of "woe be it"? I think I'm going to try to find a reason to say "woe betide" at least three times this week. I just like the way it sounds.]

[...]

Because it is easier to criticize the way that Michael J. Fox looks than it is to criticize the content of his message.

Fox's ads are fact-based. They reference the voting records, public statements and policy initiatives of the Democratic and Republican candidates he is talking about.

That being the case, beating up on the "Back to the Future" kid would not seem like a smart political strategy. And it certainly is not going to help Limbaugh soften his image as a partisan hitman who knows a little too much about what it means to be on or off particular medications.

So why are Limbaugh and other readers of Republican talking points continuing to accuse Fox of "acting" sick, and of lying his own disease and about the role that stem-cell research may play in the search for treatments and a cure? Why devote so much time and energy to attacking one ailing actor and one set of commercials? It has a lot to do with the powerful lobby that is opposing serious stem-cell research.

Unspoken in much of the debate over this issue is the real reason why candidates such as U.S. Senator Jim Talent, the embattled Republican incumbent who is the target of Fox's criticism in Missouri, and U.S. Representative Mark Green, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who is mentioned in Fox's ads in Wisconsin, so vehemently oppose embryonic stem-cell research. [emphasis mine]

[...]

...it is because Talent, Green and other politicians who are campaigning not just against their Democratic opponents but against scientific inquiry want to maintain the support of the groups that oppose serious stem-cell research: the powerful and influential anti-choice political action committees that in each election cycle spend millions of dollars in questionable cash to support candidates who are willing to echo their faith-based opposition to research that could identify treatments and perhaps even cures for for life-threatening illnesses...

[...]

Groups that oppose reproductive rights are central players in our politics because they have established networks that serve as some of the most effective hidden conduits for special-interest money that is used to pay for crude attack campaigns against mainstream candidates. [again, emphasis mine]

They also mobilize voters on behalf of contenders who cynically embrace the ugliest forms of anti-scientific dogma to make the rounds since the evolution deniers ginned up the Scopes trial. For this reason, the antiabortion machine gets what it wants when it wants it.

[...]

In states across the country, so-called "Right-to-Life" and "Pro-Life" groups spend freely on behalf of the candidates they back. And much of that spending goes essentially undetected, as the groups often do not give money directly to candidates but instead run "issue ads" and mount independent-expenditure campaigns.

Republican politicians like Talent and Green fully understand that, without the behind-the-scenes work of antiabortion groups -- most of which flies under the radar of the media and campaign-finance regulators -- they could not possibly win. And Limbaugh, whose stated goal is to maintain Republican hegemony, is perhaps even more aware of the fact than the candidates he is working so feverishly to elect. That's why the radio personality is on a personal crusade against Fox. That's also why Limbaugh has been willing to stick to his outlandish claims about the actor, even while acknowledging that he's gotten the facts wrong.

Like the Republican politicians who are scrambling to smear Fox, Limbaugh is doing the bidding of one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes political forces in America -- a force that is essential to Republican prospects. And he is not going to let a little thing like the truth make him back off.

[...]

October 31, 2006 at 04:18 PM in Democracy, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Privacy & Free Speech, Rhetoric, Science, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 24, 2006

A thing of beauty: Former President Clinton gives Chris Wallace a smackdown

I've been around and watched Bill Clinton work since he was governor in Arkansas. One of the oddest things about him was how he never let the nastiness (and in Arkansas, you would not believe the nastiness) get to him. His supporters would get riled up at some outrage, but he'd just blythely say, "Well, it's just politics."

Which makes the transcript below (and hit the link to get the video off the Crooks and Liars site) so wonderfully delicious, because when he lets loose, he lets loose with both barrels. I'm not sure what he's thinking about it now, but many of us are rejoicing. It is one thing never to let anyone see that they've pushed your buttons, but it's quite another to give someone a verbal smackdown they so richly deserve, and to do it well. Makes you long for the old days when oratorical skills actually meant winning arguments.

I think I have to nominate Clinton for the first-ever Bite Me award. Let's all give him a rousing chorus of the Bite Me Song! (sung to the tune of Yale's "Boola Boola" song)

Bite me bite me! Bite me bite me!
Bite me bite me. Bite me bite me!

Again, with feeling!

Link: Crooks and Liars | Fox Clinton Interview - Part 1 - Osama bin Laden.

Thanks to Crooks and Liars, for the transcription. This must be preserved for posterity.

Fox_fns_clinton_part1_060924a1 Here’s the transcript of the Wallace/Clinton interview below the fold:

CW:    When we announced that you were going to be on FOX News Sunday, I got a lot of email from viewers, and I’ve got to say, I was surprised most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didn’t you do more to put Bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were President? There’s a new book out which I suspect you’ve read called The Looming Tower. And it talks about how the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, Bin Laden said, "I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of US troops." Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole

WJC:   Okay…

CW:     …May I just finish the question, sir? And after the attack, the book says Bin Laden separated his leaders because he expected an attack and there was no response. I understand that hindsight is 20/20…

WJC:  No, let’s talk about…

CW:     …but the question is why didn’t you do more? Connect the dots and put them out of business?

WJC:  Okay, let’s talk about it. I will answer all of those things on the merits, but I want to talk about the context (in) which this…arises. I’m being asked this on the FOX network…ABC just had a right-wing conservative on "The Path to 9/11" falsely claim that it was falsely based on the 911 Commission Report with three things asserted against me that are directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission Report. I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who now say that I didn’t do enough claimed (then) that I was obsessed with Bin Laden. All of President Bush’s neocons claimed that I was too obsessed with finding Bin Laden when they didn’t have a single meeting about Bin Laden for the nine months after I left office. All the right-wingers who now say that I didn’t do enough said (then) that I did too much. Same people.

They were all trying to get me to withdraw from Somalia in 1993, the next day after we were involved in Black Hawk Down.  And I refused to do it and stayed
six months and had an orderly transfer to the UN. Okay, now let’s look at all the criticisms: Black Hawk Down, Somalia. There is not a living soul in the world who thought that Bin Laden had anything to do with Black Hawk Down or was paying any attention to it or even knew al Qaeda was a growing concern in October of 1993.

CW:    I understand…

WJC: No wait…no wait…don’t tell me. You asked me why I didn’t do more to Bin Laden. There was not a living soul…all the people who criticized me wanted to leave the next day. You brought this up, so you get an answer.

CW:    I’m perfectly happy to. Bin Laden says…

WJC:   And secondly…

CW:     Bin Laden says…

WJC:   Bin Laden may have said that…

CW:     Bin Laden says it showed the weakness of the U.S. …

WJC:   It would have shown the weakness if we left right away, but he wasn’t involved in that. That’s just a bunch of bull. That was about Mohammed Adid, a Muslim warlord murdering…thousand Pakistani Muslim troops. We were all there on a humanitarian mission. We had not one mission - none - to establish a certain kind of Somali government or to keep anybody out. He was not a religious fanatic.

CW:     But Mr. President…

WJC:   There was no al Qaeda…

CW:     …with respect, if I may, instead of going through ‘93…

WJC:   You asked, you. It (was) you (who) brought it up.

CW:     May I ask a general question that you can answer? The 9/11 Commission, which you talk about–and this is what they did say–not what ABC pretended they said…

WJC:   Wait, wait…

CW:     …They said about you and 43 and I quote, "The U.S. government took the threat seriously, not in the sense of mustering anything like that would be….to confront an enemy of the first, second or third rank"…

WJC:   That’s not true with us and Bin Laden…

CW:     …the 9/11 Commission says…

WJC:   Let’s look at what Richard Clarke says. You think Richard Clarke had a vigorous attitude about Bin Laden?

CW:     Yes, I do.

WJC:   You do?

CW:     I think he has a variety of opinions and loyalties, but yes.

WJC:   He has a variety of opinion and loyalties now but let’s look at the facts. He worked for Ronald Reagan; he was loyal to him. He worked for George H.W. Bush and he was loyal to him. He worked for me and he was loyal to me. He worked for President Bush; he was loyal to him. They downgraded him and the terrorist operation. Now, look what he said. Read his book and read his factual assertions - not opinions–assertions. He said we took "vigorous action" after the African embassies. We probably nearly got Bin Laden.

CW:     [..]

WJC:   Now, wait a minute…

CW:     …cruise missiles…

WJC:   I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him. The CIA was run by George Tenet, who President Bush gave the Medal of Freedom to and said he did a good job. The country never had a comprehensive anti-terror operation until I came to office. If you can criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this: after the Cole, I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full scale attack/search for Bin Laden. But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan, which we got (only) after 9/11. The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that Bin Laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would have had to send a few hundred Special Forces in helicopters and refuel at night. Even the 9/11 Commission didn’t do (think we should have done) that. Now the 9/11 Commission was a political document, too? All I’m asking is if anybody wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book.

CW:     Do you think you did enough, sir?

WJC:   No, because I didn’t get him.

CW:     Right…

WJC:   But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including
all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for
trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t.  I tried. So I tried
and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and
the best guy in the country: Dick Clarke.

            So you did FOX’s bidding on this show. You did you nice little conservative hit job on me. But what I want to know..

CW:     Now wait a minute, sir…

WJC:   [..]

CW:     I asked a question. You don’t think that’s a legitimate question?

WJC:   It was a perfectly legitimate question. But I want to know how many
people in the Bush administration you’ve asked this question of. I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked ‘Why didn’t you do anything about the Cole?’  I want to know how many you asked ‘Why did you fire Dick Clarke?’ I want to know…

CW:     We asked…

WJC:   [..]

CW:     Do you ever watch FOX News Sunday, sir?

WJC:   I don’t believe you ask them that.

CW:     We ask plenty of questions of…

WJC:   You didn’t ask that, did you? Tell the truth.

CW:     About the USS Cole?

WJC:   Tell the truth…

CW:     I…with Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s plenty of stuff to ask.

WJC:   Did you ever ask that? You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch is going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers for supporting my work on Climate Change. And you came here under false pretenses and said that you’d spend half the time talking about…

CW:     [laughs]

WJC:   You said you’d spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7 billion plus over three days from 215 different commitments. And you don’t care.

CW:     But, President Clinton…

WJC:   [..]

CW:     We were going to ask half the [interview time] about it. I didn’t think this was going to set you off on such a tear.

WJC:   It set me off on such a tear because you didn’t formulate it in an honest way and you people ask me questions you don’t ask the other side.

CW:     Sir, that is not true…

WJC:   …and Richard Clarke…

CW:     That is not true…

WJC:   Richard Clarke made it clear in his testimony…

CW:    Would you like to talk about the Clinton Global Initiative?

WJC:   No, I want to finish this.

CW:     All right…

WJC:   All I’m saying is you falsely accuse me of giving aid and comfort to Bin Laden because of what happened in Somalia. No one knew al Qaeda existed then…

CW:     Did they know in 1996, when he declared war on the U.S.? Did no one know in 1998…

WJC:    Absolutely, they did.

CW:     …when they bombed the two embassies?

WJC:   [..]

CW:     Or in 2000, when they hit the Cole?

WJC:   What did I do?  I worked hard to try and kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still President, we’d have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. Now I never criticized President Bush, and I don’t think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is 1/7 as important as Iraq. And you ask me about terror and Al Qaeda with that sort of dismissive theme when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s book to look at what we did in a comprehensive, systematic way to try to protect the country against terror. And you’ve got that little smirk on your face. It looks like you’re so clever…

CW:    [Laughs]

WJC:   I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get Bin Laden. I regret it, but I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could. The entire military was against sending Special Forces into Afghanistan and refueling by helicopter and no one thought we could do it otherwise. We could not get the CIA and the FBI to certify that al Qaeda was responsible while I was President. [Not] until I left office.  And yet I get asked about this all the time and they had three times as much time to get him as I did and no one ever asks them about this. I think that’s strange.

CW:    Can I ask you about the Clinton Global Initiative?

WJC:   You can.

CW:     I always intended to, sir.

WJC:   No, you intended to move your bones by doing this first. But I don’t mind people asking me. I actually talked to the 9/11 Commission for four hours and I told them the mistakes I thought I made. And I urged them to make those mistakes public because I thought none of us had been perfect.  But instead of anybody talking about those things. I always get these clever little political…where they ask me one-sided question. It always comes from one source. And so…

CW:     [..]

WJC:   And so…

CW:     I just want to ask you about the Clinton Global Initiative, but what’s
the source? You seem upset…

WJC:   I am upset because…

CW:     …and all I can say is, I’m asking you in good faith because it’s on people’s minds, sir. And I wasn’t…

WJC:   There’s a reason it’s on people’s minds. That’s the point I’m trying to make. There’s a reason it’s on people’s minds because they’ve done a serious disinformation campaign to create that impression. This country only has one person who has worked against terror…[since] under Reagan. Only one: Richard Clarke.  And all I’d say [to] anybody who wonders whether we did wrong or right; anybody who wants to see what everybody else did, read his book. The people on my political right who say I didn’t do enough, spent the whole time I was president saying ‘Why is he so obsessed with Bin Laden?’ And that was ‘Wag the Dog’ when he tried to kill him. My Republican Secretary of Defense, - and I think I’m the only person since WWII to have a Secretary of Defense from the opposition party - Richard Clarke, and all the intelligence people said that I ordered a vigorous attempt to get Osama Bin Laden and came closer apparently than anybody has since.

CW:     All right…

WJC:   And you guys try to create the opposite impression when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s findings and you know it’s not true. It’s just not true. And all this business about Somalia  – the same people who criticized me about Somalia were demanding I leave the next day. Same exact crowd.

CW:     One of the…

WJC:   So if you’re going to do this, for God’s sake, follow the same standards for everybody.

CW:     I think we do, sir.

WJC:   Be fair.

CW:     I think we do. One of the main parts of the Global Initiative this year is religious reconciliation. President Bush says that the fight against Islamic extremism is the central conflict of the century and his answer is promoting democracy and reform. Do you think he has that right?

WJC:   Sure. To advocate democracy and reform in the Muslim world? Absolutely. I think the question is: What’s the best way to do it? I think also the question is how do you educate people about democracy? Democracy is about way more than majority rule. Democracy is about minority rights, individual rights, restraints on power. And there’s more than one way to advance democracy. But do I think on balance, that in the end, after several bouts of instability, do I think it would be better if we had more freedom and democracy? Sure, I do. …[Do I think] the president has a right to do it? Sure, I do. But I don’t think that’s all we can do in the Muslim world. I think they have to see us try to get a just and righteous peace in the Middle East. They have to see us as willing to talk to people who see the world differently than we do.

CW:    Last year at this conference you got $2.5 billion in commitments, pledges.  How did you do this year?

WJC:   Well, this year we had $7.3 billion, as of this morning.

CW:     7…Excuse me…

WJC:   $7.3 billion, as of this morning. $3 billion of that is…that’s over a multi-year [commitment]. These are at most 10-year commitments. That came from Richard Branson’s commitment to give all his transportation profits to clean energy investments. But still that’s over $4 billion [raised excluding Branson’s donation]. And we will have another 100 commitments and probably raise another billion dollars. We have a lot of commitments still in process.

CW:    When you look at the $3 billion from Branson, plus billions that Gates is giving and Warren Buffet, what do you make of this age of philanthropy?

WJC:   I think that for one thing, really rich people have always given money away. They’ve endowed libraries and things like that. The unique thing about this age is first of all, you have a lot of people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who are interested in issues around the world that grow out of the nature of the 21st century and its inequalities - the income inequalities, the education inequalities, the health care inequalities. You get a guy like Gates who built Microsoft and he actually believes that he can help overcome all of the health disparities in the world. That’s the first thing. Second thing, there are a lot of people with average incomes who are joining me because of the Internet. Take the tsunami, for example. We had $1.3 billion given….by [average income] households. The third things you have all these NGOs [non-governmental organizations] that you can partner with along with the government. So all these things together mean that people with real money [can contribute] in ways that help people that before would have been only the object of government grants and loans.

CW:     I know we’re over, but can I ask you two political questions? Let’s talk
some politics. In that same New Yorker article, you say you’re tired of Karl
Rove’s BS.  I’m cleaning up what you said.

WJC:    I also say I’m not tired of Karl Rove. I don’t blame Karl Rove. If you’ve got a deal that works, you just keep on doing it.

CW:     So what is the BS?

WJC:   Well, every even number year–right before an election–they come up with some security issue. In 2000, right before the election. In 2002, our party supported them in undertaking weapon inspections in Iraq and were 100% behind them in Afghanistan and they didn’t have any way to make us look like we didn’t care about terror. And so they decided they would [push] the Homeland Security bill that they opposed and they put some pill in it that we wouldn’t pass–like taking the job rights away from 170,000 people–and then [they could] say that we were weak on terror if we weren’t for it. This year I think they wanted to make the question of prisoner treatment and intercepted communications the same sort of issue until John Warner came and Lindsey Graham got in there and it turns out there were some Republicans who believe in the Constitution and their convictions…some ideas about how best to fight terror.

            As long as the American people believe that we take this seriously and we may have our differences over Iraq, but I think we’ll do fine this election.

            Even if they agree with us about the Iraq war, we could be hurt by Karl Rove’s new foray if we don’t make it clear that we care about the security of this country. We want to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, which they haven’t [done] in four years. We want to [..] Afghanistan against Bin Laden. We want to make America more energy-independent. If they want to talk about Iraq, say what they really want about Iraq.

            But Rove is good and [that is] why I honor him.  I’ve always been amused by how good he is. But on the other hand, this is perfectly predictable. We’re going to win a lot of seats if the American people aren’t afraid. If they’re afraid and we get divided again, then we’ll only win a few seats.

CW:     Do you think the White House and the Republicans want to make the American people afraid?

WJC:   Of course they do. They want another Homeland Security bill and they want to make it not about Iraq but some other security issue, where if we disagree with them, we are by definition endangering the security of the country. And it’s a big load of hooey. We’ve got nine Iraq war veterans running for House seats. President Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy is the Democratic candidate for Senate in Virginia. A three-star admiral who was on my NSC staff - who also fought terror, by the way - is running for the seat of Curt Weldon in Pennsylvania. We’ve got a huge military presence in this campaign and you can’t let them have some rhetorical device that puts us in a box that we don’t belong in.

          That’s their job. Their job is to beat us. But our job is to not let them get away with it and if we don’t, we’ll be fine.

CW:     Mr. President, thank you for one of the more unusual interviews.

WJC:   I promise you, I was not trying to [..].

 

September 24, 2006 at 02:04 PM in Best Essays, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2006

Response to Part 1 of the ABC fictionalized "docu-drama" "The Path to 9/11"

I wrote this yesterday, and just now, on listening to the President's speech tonight, I decided to post my thoughts from last night here as well. I have to think and process more on Part 2 and the president's speech, but my immediate thought, upon listening to the ridiculous editorializing of the ABC program, is that the president's handlers coordinated and scripted his address, probably from an advance DVD of the film, or visa versa. But I'll talk more about the ham-handedness of it all in another post. Dear lord, I just watched the film gloss over the delivery of the NIE warning to the president on August 6. And there was just some odd editing with garbled audio over a discussion about how the press disclosed a surveillance system and that has hurt the terrorism fight. (I mean, can you get more ham-handed?)

But first, I need to post this essay below.

I started writing this on an impulse to send it as a tip for media accuracy, at the site MediaMatters. But after I got sorta long-winded, I realized it really isn't the type of thing MediaMatters can pin down and expose.

What this really needs, what I really need it to be, is a visual and aural rhetorical study, a scholarly approach that can reach and persuade a lay audience while holding to the standards of proof and reasoning that good scholarship demands. It shouldn't just be an academic article that rots in an exclusive and unread academic journal.

In other words, I think a grad student somewhere should do this study I propose in general terms below as a seminar paper in a Rhetorical Criticism course or a Visual Rhetoric course, and then, of course, she should post it to her blog, where it can find a real audience.

I dunno. Maybe at some point in the future, I'll have more time to devote to the ideas below. But right now, I offer it here as a heuristic, a rambling starting point of sorts. You go gettum!

Miasma

An Open Letter to Media Matters (mediamatters.org):

Story TIP: The REAL dangers and inaccuracies in ABC's "Path to 9/11"

I had to watch it this evening, to see what made it in the final edit, what was toned down (very little was toned down, that I can see). Good god, this film is awful.

So you MediaMatters guys will run down the inaccuracies, and I count on you for that. But I wanted to alert you to the greater damage this film is doing, very subtle stuff.

I am deeply concerned over a kind of unthinking racism that this film not only reinforces, it also FEEDS it.

I'm referring specifically to the depictions of Muslims and terrorists outside the U.S., what ABC would probably call "cultural depictions," or "realism." It is the deepest propaganda of this film, because it flattens out Muslim cultures, makes them so "other" that the most important audience for this film, the racists and borderline racist people IN the U.S. could even be motivated to commit violences like those shown in the global hunt for terrorists in their extreme fervor and anger and quest for vengeance.

I would not be surprised to see events similar to lynchings, to what happened to Matthew Shepherd, in response to this film, if we were closer to the events of 9/11. Six years of Republicans in power have emboldened the closet racists in our culture to claim hegemony and to thump their chests more openly, by wearing their cultural prejudices and bigotry in public, by preaching them as cultural norms to increase the greater unthinking cultural bigotry in our society with a kind of critical mass (I get the same freaky feeling watching this film as I get from looking at old TV cigarette commercials where doctors tout their favorite ciggies).

I have not traveled much, but I've been to a mixed Muslim/Hindu nation, and around many scenes similar to those setting portrayed in the film in Muslim cultures. I am also an avid watcher of all types of news channels.

I understand that shooting guns in the air is a documented part of of many Middle East and Asian cultures, even at weddings.

I understand there's a different kind of background noise in markets, in cultures where people move around on foot and actually interact with each other outside of the exoskeletons Americans call cars.

But listen to the SOUNDTRACK of this film. Listen to where the background noise loops.

Yes, drumbeats and such are used to dramatic effects in the more even-handed film, "United 93." Calls to prayer are part of the sounds of the culture. Women singing, someone patting hypnotically on small skin drums. Yet ALWAYS, ABC depicts these terrorist camps and bases as utterly chaotic, noisy, almost incomprehensible, sort of like that choreographed "golden calf" idolatry orgy scene in DeMille's "Ten Commandments."

I'm struck in some ways by the caricatures of US military bases in "boot camp/drill sergeant" movies. The bases always have a busy background on camera, with a group doing calisthenics at all times, or jogging and chanting military chants.

And here, "terrorist training camps" always have to have chaotic scenes where Toyota trucks full of turbaned people careen around wildly while the turbaned people yell at the top of their lungs constantly and shoot guns in the air. Activity must always be at a constant fevered pitch. I'm amazed ABC left out a "mad gleam" in every terrorists' eyes, or why they didn't add flecks of spittle at the corners of their mouths, the Muslim equivalent of U.S. early media "black face" films, or perhaps even "Reefer Madness."

Against this backdrop, Americans' racist buttons are being pushed. The Muslims portrayed are consistently shown as "Other." We rarely see scenes from any other point of view than the US soldiers or intelligence operative's POV (apart from the occasional informants' POV, or that of the Northern Alliance leader Massoud).

It's sort of like how stories of British colonial arrogance appear to us now, as in Kipling, Burroughs, or even in Orwell (Shooting an Elephant, a masterpiece): unthinking, unconscious. Not deliberate racism so much as the unthinking arrogance of power and white ascendancy as an unquestioned entitlement.

This is a military recruitment film. It is designed to whip up unthinking gut-level anti-Muslim, anti-brown people racism (see also Macaca incident in VA), and make people who already have those inclinations desire to go overseas and take out their rage on some brown people who chant incomprehensible things in loud and chaotic, incomprehensible cultural spaces.

Yes, it is also designed to whip up fear, make you wonder what bomb-making equipment the brown person in the next apartment is keeping behind drawn shades. But I think anger and violence with racist triggers are an even bigger boogie man in this film than simple fear-mongering.

And I believe the most insidious effect of the film can be found in the background soundtrack in overseas Muslim cultural scenes. The "noise" loop.

I'm reminded of how the Valkyrie scene of the anti-war film "Apocalypse Now" is played to whip up soldier rage before shipping out in the movie "Jarhead." I believe many scenes from this film will have similar motivational uses within the US military as well.

We never see what triggers the Muslim anti-American rage. American soldiers just walk into it and can't comprehend why they are so hated and spit upon.

The answer the film provides is that Muslim rage is incomprehensible and can only be met by trying to humiliate and beat down Muslims.

Instead of fighting terrorism, what we are getting is a religious/cultural race war, with a demonized enemy created by a propaganda machine.

Leni Riefenstahl knew that it was the cultural depictions that mattered most, not just the content of Hitler's rousing speeches. This film does what WWII propaganda did to the depiction of "Japs" as evil, more so than Germans, which were more widely sympathetic in US culture, as was that unthinking gut-level right-wing fascist tilt at that time, in ordinary folks, not just Ford and IBM.

The racism of the film also reminds me of conversations I've had with my neighbors, a family who moved here from an Israeli kibbutz, very nice people. Like many Israelis in the US, they are left speechless at what they call the incomprehensible anti-Israel bias in US media. From talking with them, I can tell their objections exist because the Palestinian (and now, Lebanese) POV is presented AT ALL. They can't figure it out. According to them, the media must be anti-Israeli, because it is such a sharp contrast to the myopic groupthink of Israeli media.

I like and respect my neighbors, and have eaten at their home for Sabbath. But on this issue, there is simply NO other viewpoint that they can hold.

Journalists often say that if two polarized groups complain that you're biased to the other side, then you must be doing something right, as an equal opportunity offender.

But the US media is SO embarrassingly pro-Israel that I've watched repeatedly and counted casualties from news stories on both sides. Yet I've watched television coverage report ONLY the casualties on one side, Israeli casualties, and if reporting Arab casualties, downplaying them heavily in comparison.

Palestinian deaths are as invisible in US media as Iraqi casualties before the Iraqis started killing each other, back when most of the Iraqi civilian deaths were caused by U.S. acts of aggression and war.

So it appears many of the Israeli people, good people, are so steeped in their deep cultural racism against their hostile neighbors, can't even see that what they call bias in the U.S. media doesn't even come close to being bias.

People steeped in Israeli-style racism see their Arab neighbors as subhuman, perhaps made subhuman by their anti-Semitism, but subhuman nonetheless. Any depiction of Arabs as anything but hate-filled and incomprehensibly subhuman is a bias against Israel.

And this film also applies the beginnings of that same subhuman bias to the Muslims in the story. They are portrayed as incomprehensibly evil, incomprehensibly violent.

(Oh, except ABC's ubiquitous heroic correspondent (is John Miller a composite or a real person? Oh, he's on ABC right now, works PR for the FBI. Go figure.), who almost speaks admiringly from his visit with bin Laden, of his religious purity and his charismatic hold over his followers.)

The result seems to virtually guarantee that we will never understand the cultures that spawn Muslim jihad terrorism, and it essentially sets up fascist-style ethnic cleansing (crushing the culture totally, as if that could be done) or some other "final solution" as the only option in a FALSE DILEMMA FALLACY.

Appeasement or violent annihilation are NOT the only two options. In the black and white world of this film, that is the way they're presented.

just something to think about.

Sincerely,

Miasma

p.s. you wanna know how crazy/paranoid the repression inside this country has gotten? I'm actually apprehensive about posting this publicly without some kind of disclaimer, noting that I'm NOT a sympathizer to ANY violent terrorist causes.

WHY? Because so few of the people in power right now, people who make blacklists, budding fascists that they are, actually UNDERSTAND reasoning and rhetoric enough to know what a False Dilemma Fallacy IS, at least enough to actually be able to literally read and understand the point I'm trying to make above.

The biggest problem is that logic and reasoning, uniquely Western cultural constructs, are amazingly absent (or deliberately absent) in the education of the class of people who currently hold (and grab) so much power for themselves and over others. They just aren't very well-read, even of the dead white men conservative literary critics tout as cultural literacy. They seem badly unable to understand any form of thought that doesn't involve blind-trust authoritarianism or fear-driven bigotry.

September 11, 2006 at 10:31 PM in Best Essays, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Orwell, Politics, Religion, Rhetoric, Television, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2006

Speaking of the brilliance of The Onion...

I've been thinking furiously lately about the growing pandemic of righteous relativism, not even trendy po-mo relativism. This is that odd concoction, AUTHORITARIAN RELATIVISM.

Quick! Go find the ghost of Harvard's William Perry Jr.! Let's do a study! My idea of what he might find with this new category of anti-intellectual development, after this brief word from Holy Writ, The Onion. (can you tell I'm sporting for a fight?)

Link: Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory | The Onion - America's Finest News Source.

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

August 17, 2005   | Issue 41•33          

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

[...]

According to the ECFR paper published simultaneously this week in the International Journal Of Science and the adolescent magazine God's Word For Teens!, there are many phenomena that cannot be explained by secular gravity alone, including such mysteries as how angels fly, how Jesus ascended into Heaven, and how Satan fell when cast out of Paradise.

The ECFR, in conjunction with the Christian Coalition and other Christian conservative action groups, is calling for public-school curriculums to give equal time to the Intelligent Falling theory. They insist they are not asking that the theory of gravity be banned from schools, but only that students be offered both sides of the issue "so they can make an informed decision."

[...]

Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein's ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis.

[...]

Some evangelical physicists propose that Intelligent Falling provides an elegant solution to the central problem of modern physics.

"Anti-falling physicists have been theorizing for decades about the 'electromagnetic force,' the 'weak nuclear force,' the 'strong nuclear force,' and so-called 'force of gravity,'" Burdett said. "And they tilt their findings toward trying to unite them into one force. But readers of the Bible have already known for millennia what this one, unified force is: His name is Jesus."        

I just love physics humor. Beware of Quantum ducks! Quark! Quark!

Oh, for those who, for no fault of their own, don't know who William Perry Jr. was (no, not the oversized football player), above, here's a link.

Here's a bit from his New York Times obituary (why did the venerable Mr Perry have to have a PAID obituary?) about his famous book:

..."Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years'' (1970) described nine developmental stages. His framework started with a freshman's simplistic adherence to notions of absolute truth and morality, traced the discovery of multiple frames of reference regarding data, and the upperclassman's subsequent growth and eventual achievement of personal and ethical commitment in a relative world. This developmental framework has had nation-wide impact on the theories of the psychological development of late adolescence. ...

Another book that turns Perry's descriptive theories on their ear somewhat is:

WOMEN'S WAYS OF KNOWING The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind. By Mary Field Belenky, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger and Jill Mattuck Tarule. 256 pp. New York: Basic Books. $19.95.

Otherwise known to those of us who use it as Belenky et. al. [grin]

So anyway, Belenky et. al. got to expand on Perry's descriptions of Harvard (male) undergraduate intellectual development in the 1950s, and if they get to do it, I wanna do it too! The Onion is inspiring me!

OK, here's Perry shorthand, for your crib sheet:

You show up in college (if you are male and it's the 1950s) and your world is divided into Right and Wrong. In other words, you are an authoritarian thinker. Authorities tell you what is right and wrong, frequently using the "Because I said so" argument. You get to college expecting more of the same, but if your college is worth squat, they won't let you get away with that, no sir. They actually want you to THINK FOR YOURSELF!

Radical idea, I know. Some people become authorities unto themselves, Egoistic Authoritarians, I guess. Most go the way of Perry. (Oh, btw, Belenky et. al. found that while Harvard men in the 1950s were doing this, many women in the same boat didn't have a voice, and so their intellectual position was SILENCE. As in, they were silenced. They had to break through that before they could gain their authoritarian righteousness swagger).

Now I know Perry breaks it down more finely than I'm going to do here, for the sake of my own silliness, but the thing that comes after Right and Wrong Authoritarian Dualism is a kind of defeat for overwhelmed young intellectuals. They throw up their hands in exasperation and sing (to the tune of "Everything is Beautiful") "Ooooh, Everything is Relative... in its own wa-aa-ay." Simple Relativism, otherwise known as oatmeal mush.

Simple Relativists might say:

We all have opinions, everyone is entitled to their opinions, and would you just shut up and stop making me discuss and argue every single point? THERE IS NO WAY TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN MUSHY OPINIONS ANYWAY, so let's all just go home and eat worms.

Bully for them. Future situation ethicists in the making, all of them. All opinions are interchangeable, one is as good as any other, so if someone says the world is flat, that's just as worthy a thought as if the world were round. Same if the moon is made out of green cheese. What difference does it make?

Overwhelmed people like this haven't learned that there are very good methods for weighing one viewpoint against another, of evaluating points of view and opinions, so for them, the world is simply two monster-shouters in little boxes on the screen on Fox News, each trying to out-holler the other with no way to tell if one argument is superior to another. Fox News wants us all to believe that is true, but then I'm getting ahead of myself.

To succeed in college, you are supposed to eventually think for yourself, and with luck, some professors give you intellectual tools to do things like evaluate arguments. That way you don't have to go around throwing up your hands at a world of oatmeal mush like those poor folks who watch Fox News who secretly want the ones who shout the loudest to be the winners.

So you have to think your way out of Silence, Authoritarianism, Simple Relativistic Mush, and then what happens? You learn to play sneaky little games.

Like what? Brown-Nose Games! College 101, everyone knows, is Brown-Nosing. Listen to what the teacher says and parrot it. I know, that's not sneaky, but it gets better. Brown-Nose games are a variation of Lawyer Games. That's where you learn to argue any side in an argument, and win! There were some Greek guys who perfected this to a fine art, got so good at it, some lawyers were named after them, the Sophists.

Perry would call this sophistry sophomoric, I guess, and instead see how it becomes more Complex Relativism. See, a simple relativist who believes that everything is oatmeal mush wouldn't be able to function in a Brown-Nose Universe. Brown-nosers have to be discerning, intellectual even, to be able to tell apple-cinnamon oatmeal mush from peaches and cream oatmeal mush, in order to use it to their advantage.

Brown-nosers learn the rules of the game in order to play it well. They figure, one set of rules is just as good as another set of rules, so long as they can figure out the rules. With one teacher you flatter shamelessly, another you have to sleep with, another you just learn to parrot. Like a good lawyer who can argue either side of a case, game-players of any stripe don't stop to reflect on whether the game is worthy of them, or if the game is utterly stupid, or even if the game is immoral. They just play. Complex Relativism.

Our friends Belenky et. al diverge a bit here, go off into ways of knowing things, Committed Knowing, Constructed Knowing, Collaborative Knowing (I made up that last one, I think, because I like it).

What Perry's undergrads were supposed to figure out, as their intellectual toolboxes expanded (you know, if all you have is a hammer, suddenly everything needs pounding), is that all games are not created equal, just as all opinions are not created equal. Some are better than others for reasons that we can work out through logic, support, proof, and so on. There are CRITERIA with which we can formally evaluate things and dredge our way out of the mush.

And with such evaluative power, we can argue on behalf of the superiority of certain positions, argumentative stances. We become committed to particular ways of reasoning through an issue, not because a position is RIGHT and another position is WRONG, like those Harvard freshmen, but because we can back up our thinking from a position of considering multiple viewpoints and weighing them against each other.

Of course, around about that time, some postmodernists will show up and call you a "dirty rotten foundationalist" and rant about the "tyranny of the Enlightenment" and all that. That might confuse you for a bit, thinking you had actually wandered back into that oatmeal mush, until you stop for a second and look at your own intellectual processes.

The only reason postmodernists like to call you those names is that they think anyone who jumps up and down on the lumps in their oatmeal is ready to rebuild the rigid edifices of the Inquisition, that vast enforcer of Right/Wrong authoritarianism. Postmodernists think you're the bad guy. They think you are ready to make an authoritarian religion of the ladders of thought you've built into your Committed Relativism. But your mind is more open than that, if you've come this far.

And besides, if you leave structureless, foundation-less postmodernist oatmeal out in the pan too long, it will harden into a big gray rock too, a big gray authoritarian rock of po-mo oatmeal. There are some seriously rock-hard chunks of that floating around in this world too.

But my NEW boogeyman! I want to build on Perry and Belenky et. al. for this NEW intellectual development, Authoritarian Relativism, or RIGHTEOUS RELATIVISM, oppressive relativism, preached by the true believers.

Oatmeal is simply expedient for postmodernists, who are not true believers in anything, on principle, not even in themselves. It's their anti-principle principle, their anti-foundationalist foundation. They get off on watching dogs chase their tails too.

But these new converts to the cause of relativism, they are an odd lot, as exemplified and parodied in the Onion article above.

Ron Suskind knows of these folks, one of whom admitted to him that they controlled the world because they control reality. The people who are confused, this man said, are those who are still living in the "reality-based universe."

Think of it. Conservative Authoritarian Relativists. John Dean has a book out on this topic right now too, but I haven't read it yet. Conservatives Without Conscience. I won't speak to the book much, since I haven't read it, and instead riff off the idea.

I'm not talking about conscience, though. More like I'm talking of the level of discourse that Fox News is norming out into the media landscape, overpowering the intellectual tools we hope people find in college (it's a Hail Mary pass to even dream they'll find it in high school).

The idea? Not just that all arguments about things that can't be measured, counted, or attached to a dollar value are subjective shouting matches where the loudest talker wins, but instead, a RIGHTEOUS DEVOTION to and STRIDENT ENFORCEMENT of the idea that ALL OPINIONS ARE INTERCHANGEABLE.

It's like conflating the Authoritarianism of Perry's first stage, with the Simple Relativism of the next stage, and then instead of learning criteria or ways of evaluating arguments, support, and proof, it instead requires that we must COMMIT ourselves to the idea that NO ARGUMENTS, SUPPORT, or PROOF are sufficient, and if one can do that thoroughly enough, one would have made a case for faith, for God, for the Unknown, the big Out-There. (that last step is a big leap, so I best return to it in a bit)

That's a lot to wrap my head around, so let's try to come at that again from another angle. Look at The Onion parody above. Brilliant, isn't it? Such a finessed spin on Intelligent Design. In doing so, I think it holds this kind of thinking up to the light, by virtue of the apt analogy.

Can this intellectual somersault I'm proposing actually be done? Is it being done? Sure, like John Dean says, there are Crass, Sophistic Conservatives, what we might call the "Lee Atwater School," of which Karl Rove is clearly a graduate. They probably aren't the people I'm talking about, though.

This instead is more akin to an average person, not even an avid watcher of Fox News shoutfests. People could be affected by this changing intellectual climate and not know it, until they try to have a rational discussion with someone they respect intellectually, and that person not only refuses to engage or understand actual proofs or conclusive reasoning and rebuttals, but instead righteously makes a claim that there are NO SUCH THINGS as proofs, conclusive reasoning, or rebuttals, AND that anyone who would claim such a thing is deluded (that last step is important, because folks in this camp put a lot of energy into finding people to exclude so they can deny them the keys to the kingdom).

Disenfranchising the Enlightenment, in other words. Postmodernists would counteract and rebut the Enlightenment, but would they choose to wipe the Enlightenment out of history, out of our memory? Would they long for the "good old days" of the Inquisition, of Church and State and might making right? When authorities told you what to do and think and you obeyed them, not because you thought what they said was necessarily true, but because it was better than the information glut of oatmeal mush inside your own head?

Disenfranchising human intellectual activity, in other words. That would be the overt goal, from the "Lee Atwater School" standpoint. There is nothing in "reality" that is not baldly deniable (see also the Monty Python Argument Sketch), on a national political scale, but here's where it gets scary. This is also happening around the watercooler, over beers, in college coffeehouses. Ordinary interactions are becoming less rational, less thoughtful, less carefully reasoned and weighed.

It is as if the MEDIA AUDIENCE is being deliberately turned into those overwhelmed Harvard freshmen venturing out of authoritarianism, but with the tools to deal with the flood of ideas deliberately withheld from them, so that intellectual retreat is the only response.

I do know that this particular kind of media anti-intellectualism is being manipulated by some to create that overwhelmed retreat (perhaps in the name of sixth grade reading/comprehension levels in mass media), but how does that lead to greater faith in some Supreme Deity? That last step I threw in there above was a bit of a stretch.

It would appear on the surface that righteously-enforced sophism would lead to widespread cynicism, not growing faith. That's why my bullshit detector was going off on my own line of reasoning. Maybe I got it wrong.

Would those of a certain religious persuasion (belief) hold it as a truism that driving people to extreme cynicism will lead them to god? That hardly seems like a reasonable way to go about it, when I suppose there are other ways to induce duress, that "hitting bottom" moment addicts speak of, that foxhole/hurricane need to pray (no atheists in foxholes, or, we would assume, under the screaming winds of a hurricane). Would evangelicals willingly try to fill their pews by deliberately inducing duress? (That's ruling out Charles Colson, of course, who was probably recruiting evangelical Plumbers-for-Jesus in prison and giving them their own brown shirts when they got out)

See, it just doesn't make any sense to me. Not buying it. Maybe Lee Atwaters think that, but preachers in pulpits can't all be that crass.

So that leaves what? How does Authoritarian Relativism (note to self, copyright that phrase) fill up churches? How does it lead to a world that re-creates Inquisition authoritarian castes with no cultural memory that there ever was an Enlightenment?

Maybe I answered my own question. Maybe the goal isn't to create true believers at all. In true Orwellian Doublethink (or a McLuhan-style media reversal), perhaps the goal is to fill the churches up with game-players, sophists adrift in ennui and mush, but not really committed to anything enough to object if they're asked to do any particular thing.

Authoritarian Relativists are far more malleable, I think, even than inclusive, "big tent" ecumenical types so decried by fundamentalists as a sign of the coming of the AntiChrist.

Malleable in the consumerist sense, in that they've been ultra-conditioned to blindly accept marketing messages with righteous fervor and fannish devotion (and fascist violence?) yet the marketing messages are still interchangable and can be substituted one for another at any time. The xenophobic group hate switches from illegal aliens to gays and lesbians, until the next switch. We are at war with Eurasia; we have always been at war with Eurasia.

Authoritarian Relativists are simply buttons to be pushed, in other words. Tools to be manipulated by Sophistic Conservative Authorities.

Maybe that's what's filling up those 20,000-seat mega-churches. They really don't seem to get as nutty as the 1970's charismatics did. They're pretty people who want to sing and wave their hands in a big auditorium and maybe get on TV in their nice clothes (at least that's what we see in the carefully selected video clips), ready to vote the way they're told, believe what they're told, shop in the mini-mall in the church "basement", but not to believe in anything so much that they'd ever cling to the idea of the belief in their own heads all by their own selves, without guidance from those who create and craft their fluid "un-reality-based universe."

July 16, 2006 at 08:01 PM in Best Essays, Privacy & Free Speech, Religion, Rhetoric, Satire, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television, Theory | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 14, 2005

How Bush Blew It: Don't let this Newsweek story slip under the radar

How the Katrina "timeline" looked from inside the West Wing, from the anonymous aides' points of view.

Some great lines in here. I'm loathe to take anything out, but the best bits are in bold.

Link: How Bush Blew It   - Newsweek: International Editions - MSNBC.com.

How Bush Blew It

After-Action Report: Bureaucratic timidity. Bad phone lines. And a failure of imagination. Why the government was so slow to respond to catastrophe.

By Evan Thomas
Newsweek

Sept. 19, 2005 issue - It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS. The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

In other words, he drew the short stick.

The president did not growl this time. He had already decided to return to Washington and hold a meeting of his top advisers on the following day, Wednesday. This would give them a day to get back from their vacations and their staffs to work up some ideas about what to do in the aftermath of the storm. President Bush knew the storm and its consequences had been bad; but he didn't quite realize how bad.

In my book, that kind of ignorance when you hold the kind of responsibility that comes with his office, is simply criminal. It seems clear that when Bush goes on vacation, he doesn't read briefings about "Bin Laden Determined to Strike the U.S." or even eyeball the Weather Channel as if he were a true steward of his nation. "Steward" would be the one word that, as president, will never be applied to George W. Bush. It would mean care-taking and watchfulness, the watchfulness of an earnest baby-sitter, if not a parent, not just a petulant bureaucrat who is mostly wholely concerned, when concerns are allowed to penetrate the indifferent sons of the rich and powerful, with covering his own ass. This kind of unconcern in a president should be an impeachable offense, if utter incompetence counts as such a thing.

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[...]

But it is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there.

Where I come from that would be called having your head permanently stuck up your ass. Of course, many of us have been suspecting Bush was this out of it for many years now. What a contrast to the high-level policy wonk hyper-awareness of President Clinton, eh?

Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. Bush can ask tough questions, but it's mostly a one-way street.

[...]

When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority.

[...]

The failure of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina worked like a power blackout. Problems cascaded and compounded; each mistake made the next mistake worse. The foe in this battle was a monster; Katrina flattened the Gulf Coast with the strength of a vengeful god. But human beings, beginning with the elected officials of the City of New Orleans, failed to anticipate and react in time.

Congressional investigations will take months to sort out who is to blame. A NEWSWEEK reconstruction of the government's response to the storm shows how Bush's leadership style and the bureaucratic culture combined to produce a disaster within a disaster.

Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, didn't want to evacuate. New Orleanians have a fatalistic streak; their joyful, jazz-blowing street funeral processions are legendary. After many near misses over the years since Hurricane Betsy flooded 20 percent of the city in 1965, longtime residents prefer to stay put. Nagin's eye had long been on commerce, not catastrophe. A former executive at Cox Communications, he had come to office in 2002 to clear out the allegedly corrupt old guard and bring new business to the city, which has not prospered with New South metropolises like Atlanta. During Nagin's mayoral campaign, the promises were about jobs, not stronger floodwalls and levees.

But on Saturday night, as Katrina bore down on New Orleans, Nagin talked to Max Mayfield, head of the National Hurricane Center. "Max Mayfield has scared me to death," Nagin told City Councilwoman Cynthia Morrell early Sunday morning. "If you're scared, I'm scared," responded Morrell, and the mandatory order went out to evacuate the city—about a day later than for most other cities and counties along the Gulf Coast.

As Katrina howled outside Monday morning and the windows of the Hyatt Hotel, where the mayor had set up his command post, began popping out, Nagin and his staff lay on the floor. Then came eerie silence. Morrell decided to go look at her district, including nearby Gentilly. Outside, Canal Street was dry. "Phew," Morrell told her driver, "that was close." But then, from the elevated highway, she began seeing neighborhoods under eight to 15 feet of water. "Holy God," she thought to herself. Then she spotted her first dead body.

At dusk, on the ninth floor of city hall, the mayor and the city council had their first encounter with the federal government. A man in a blue FEMA windbreaker arrived to brief them on his helicopter flyover of the city. He seemed unfamiliar with the city's geography, but he did have a sense of urgency. "Water as far as the eye can see," he said. It was worse than Hurricanes Andrew in 1992 and Camille in 1969. "I need to call Washington," he said. "Do you have a conference-call line?" According to an aide to the mayor, he seemed a little taken aback when the answer was no. Long neglected in the city budget, communications within the New Orleans city government were poor, and eventually almost nonexistent when the batteries on the few old satellite phones died. The FEMA man found a phone, but he had trouble reaching senior officials in Washington. When he finally got someone on the line, the city officials kept hearing him say, "You don't understand, you don't understand."

Around New Orleans, three levees had overtopped or were broken. The city was doomed. There was no way the water could be stopped. But, incredibly, the seriousness of the situation did not really register, not only in Washington, but at the state emergency command post upriver in Baton Rouge.

This part strains my credulity, since most of these people had direct contact with the drill on the fake "Hurricane Pam" the year before. From the hurricane experts I've seen on TV, the most standout issue that surely made even the top paragraph of the executive summary of that report would be "devasting flooding in New Orleans once levees are breached, with massive loss of life." That much seems abundantly clear.

[...]

Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a motherly but steely figure known by the nickname Queen Bee, knew that she needed help. But she wasn't quite sure what. At about 8 p.m., she spoke to Bush. "Mr. President," she said, "we need your help. We need everything you've got."

Bush, the governor later recalled, was reassuring. But the conversation was all a little vague. Blanco did not specifically ask for a massive intervention by the active-duty military. "She wouldn't know the 82nd Airborne from the Harlem Boys' Choir," said an official in the governor's office, who did not wish to be identified talking about his boss's conversations with the president. There are a number of steps Bush could have taken, short of a full-scale federal takeover, like ordering the military to take over the pitiful and (by now) largely broken emergency communications system throughout the region. But the president, who was in San Diego preparing to give a speech the next day on the war in Iraq, went to bed.

Mind the president's uncomplicated beauty rest now. The blissful sleep of the criminally clueless.

By the predawn hours, most state and federal officials finally realized that the 17th Street Canal levee had been breached, and that the city was in serious trouble. Bush was told at 5 a.m. Pacific Coast time and immediately decided to cut his vacation short. To his senior advisers, living in the insular presidential bubble, the mere act of lopping off a couple of presidential vacation days counts as a major event. They could see pitfalls in sending Bush to New Orleans immediately. His presence would create a security nightmare and get in the way of the relief effort. Bush blithely proceeded with the rest of his schedule for the day, accepting a gift guitar at one event and pretending to riff like Tom Cruise in "Risky Business."

That didn't stop them from sending the president into an active disaster zone in Florida last year. I heard plenty of complaints then about the presidential entourage disrupting relief efforts, making it harder for folks to get bottled water, having to route all the way around the security zone. And, my memory is bad, but I think that happened within TWO DAYS of the big hurricane hitting last year near Punta Gorda. But then, in that part of Florida, there were votes on the line.

Bush might not have appeared so carefree if he had been able to see the fearful faces on some young police officers—the ones who actually showed up for roll call at the New Orleans Second District police headquarters that morning. The radio was reporting water nine feet deep at the corner of Napoleon and St. Charles streets. The looting and occasional shooting had begun. At 2 o'clock on the morning of the storm, only 82 of 120 cops had obeyed a summons to report for duty. Now the numbers were dwindling; within a day, only 28 or 30 officers would be left to save the stranded and fight the looters, recalled a sad and exhausted Capt. Eddie Hosli, speaking to a NEWSWEEK reporter last week.

[...]

At emergency headquarters in Baton Rouge, confusion raged. Though more than 100,000 of its residents had no way to get out of the city on their own, New Orleans had no real evacuation plan, save to tell people to go to the Superdome and wait for buses. On Tuesday, the state was rounding up buses; no, FEMA was; no, FEMA's buses would take too long to get there... and so on. On Tuesday afternoon, Governor Blanco took her second trip to the Superdome and was shocked by the rising tide of desperation there. There didn't seem to be nearly enough buses, boats or helicopters.

Early Wednesday morning, Blanco tried to call Bush. She was transferred around the White House for a while until she ended up on the phone with Fran Townsend, the president's Homeland Security adviser, who tried to reassure her but did not have many specifics.

What, did she interrupt a game of presidential shuffleboard? What big "situation" in the White House was upstaging a desperate phone call from the region of the country that should have been Priority One? We know the Iraq War has never been Priority One, because the people supposedly running it blythely took a five-week vacation and couldn't really be interupted to have their head in anything else. I mean, he interrupted his vacation for the disaster, so wouldn't the folks in the White House, um, you know, been giving full attention to the disaster?

Hours later, Blanco called back and insisted on speaking to the president. When he came on the line, the governor recalled, "I just asked him for help, 'whatever you have'." She asked for 40,000 troops. "I just pulled a number out of the sky," she later told NEWSWEEK.

The Pentagon was not sitting idly. By Tuesday morning (and even before the storm) the military was moving supplies, ships, boats, helicopters and troops toward the Gulf Coast. But, ironically, the scale of the effort slowed it. TV viewers had difficulty understanding why TV crews seemed to move in and out of New Orleans while the military was nowhere to be seen. But a TV crew is five people in an RV. Before the military can send in convoys of trucks, it has to clear broken and flooded highways. The military took over the shattered New Orleans airport for emergency airlifts, but special teams of Air Force operators had to be sent in to make it ready. By the week after the storm, the military had mobilized some 70,000 troops and hundreds of helicopters—but it took at least two days and usually four and five to get them into the disaster area. Looters and well-armed gangs, like TV crews, moved faster.

Funny thing about Chinooks and Blackhawks and such, choppers that just fly up and then they show up. Mobilization? People were dying and someone was worried about whether they all took off at the same time?! Whether the boots were shined? Hell, dribble the Chinooks and Hueys out, if it gets the fucking job done. The National Guard, if it were actually present and equipped in Louisiana and Mississippi would surely have done that, since they were only missing a "third" of their people who were in Iraq. If that was the case, however, why were ANY numbers of National Guard so MIA all week, until that Friday? My guess is that the third of them that were in Iraq had all the transport equipment there with them. I'm wondering if every state's equipment stores are similarly non-existent.

I am also concerned that for all the media sites publishing "timelines," there aren't any researching side-by-side timelines with Hurricane Ivan, not because they were comparable storms, but didn't that FEMA response occur AFTER FEMA was absorbed into Homeland Security? I want to see an Ivan timeline, and a Charley timeline, and a Frances timeline...

In the inner councils of the Bush administration, there was some talk of gingerly pushing aside the overwhelmed "first responders," the state and local emergency forces, and sending in active-duty troops. But under an 1868 law, federal troops are not allowed to get involved in local law enforcement. The president, it's true, could have invoked the Insurrections Act, the so-called Riot Act. But Rumsfeld's aides say the secretary of Defense was leery of sending in 19-year-old soldiers trained to shoot people in combat to play policemen in an American city, and he believed that National Guardsmen trained as MPs were on the way.

Hmmm, I wonder where they were, and why Rummy didn't know where they were. And why would the federal troops have to "push aside" the state and local relief efforts? In a disaster with all hands on deck, wouldn't more hands be better? What's with all this "we're helping now so you aren't allowed to help" bullshit? The people who snuck in with aid and the firefighters who found a way around the FEMA assholes who were turning back truckloads and aid offers from other states were the folks who actually saved lives. Can we charge those FEMA assholes with murder like they did the nursing home administrators who didn't evacuate and forced those infirm people to die horrible deaths? Why the hell were minor FEMA bureaucrats turning aid back, anyway? It seems so absurd, but it's well-documented. Were the offers coming from people who for some reason didn't have embedded chips under their skin saying they'd already been to the Homeland Security proctologist and were certified not to be harboring terrorist implements up their asses?

If you ask me, those FEMA bureaucrats turning back the aid trucks and rejecting offers from others states WERE TERRORISTS. They were terrorizing the people of New Orleans.

If I were being a real paranoiac, I might say that it appears that FEMA was blockading the city from anything getting in, what in military terms would be called a "siege," in order to manipulate a response from either the governor or the mayor in some kind of extended "turf war." I mean, sure, everyone is crying "incompetence" when it comes to FEMA's non-response, but I seriously wonder if we aren't seeing more method in the FEMA madness that suggests competence, but with goals at cross-purposes with the relief efforts. Was New Orleans being held hostage by a federal agency trying to establish a jurisdictional precedent that would normally be unheard of? Is there any reason why FEMA can't support overwhelmed state and local disaster coordinators who actually know the maps and such, KNOW where the shelters ARE, without having to utterly take over and fuck up royally? When did the disaster response become more about a FEMA power grab and less about helping people?

The one federal agency that is supposed to handle disasters—FEMA—was dysfunctional. On Wednesday morning, Senator Landrieu was standing outside the chaotic Superdome and asked to borrow a FEMA official's phone to call her office in Washington. "It didn't work," she told Newsweek. "I thought to myself, 'This isn't going to be pretty'." Once a kind of petty-cash drawer for congressmen to quickly hand out aid after floods and storms, FEMA had improved in the 1990s in the Clinton administration. But it became a victim of the Iron Law of Unintended Consequences. After 9/11 raised the profile of disaster response, FEMA was folded into the sprawling Department of Homeland Security and effectively weakened. FEMA's boss, Bush's close friend Joe Allbaugh, quit when he lost his cabinet seat. (Now a consultant, Allbaugh was down on the Gulf Coast last week looking for contracts for his private clients.) Allbaugh replaced himself with his college buddy Mike Brown, whose last private-sector job (omitted from his official resume) had been supervising horse-show judges for the International Arabian Horse Association. After praising Brown ("Brownie, you're doing a heck of job"), Bush last week removed him from honchoing the Katrina relief operation. He was replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen. The Coast Guard was one agency that performed well, rescuing thousands.

I'm glad to hear that the facts about the Coast Guard back up my perceptions as an observer. In all the awfulness, the Coast Guard was, in my mind, both tireless and heroic, and they impressed the hell out of me even without the media telling me what johnny-on-the-spots they were.

Bad news rarely flows up in bureaucracies. For most of those first few days, Bush was hearing what a good job the Feds were doing. Bush likes "metrics," numbers to measure performance, so the bureaucrats gave him reassuring statistics. At a press availability on Wednesday, Bush duly rattled them off: there were 400 trucks transporting 5.4 million meals and 13.4 million liters of water along with 3.4 million pounds of ice. Yet it was obvious to anyone watching TV that New Orleans had turned into a Third World hellhole.

I can't remember where I heard it, but the rumor running around is that some FEMA people are complaining that they were forced to stop doing important things, urgent things, in order to drop everything and run down those fucking statistics for the clueless president to spout off at a press conference.

The denial and the frustration finally collided aboard Air Force One on Friday. As the president's plane sat on the tarmac at New Orleans airport, a confrontation occurred that was described by one participant as "as blunt as you can get without the Secret Service getting involved."

I think this means folks got all up in each other's faces with hard words, nearly coming to blows. Is that how you read it?

Governor Blanco was there, along with various congressmen and senators and Mayor Nagin (who took advantage of the opportunity to take a shower aboard the plane). One by one, the lawmakers listed their grievances as Bush listened. Rep. Bobby Jindal, whose district encompasses New Orleans, told of a sheriff who had called FEMA for assistance. According to Jindal, the sheriff was told to e-mail his request, "and the guy was sitting in a district underwater and with no electricity," Jindal said, incredulously. "How does that make any sense?" Jindal later told NEWSWEEK that "almost everybody" around the conference table had a similar story about how the federal response "just wasn't working." With each tale, "the president just shook his head, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing," says Jindal, a conservative Republican and Bush appointee who lost a close race to Blanco. Repeatedly, the president turned to his aides and said, "Fix it."

Wow, what a take-charge guy. He has no connection with what must be done TO "fix it," but he can strut around demanding results all day long like a detached banty rooster. Generally, I thought the qualifications of a leader meant seeing that stuff got done when the folks further down the chain of command needed more help or intervention, rather than barking the command back DOWN the faltering chain of command. People went up the org chart to try to find where the buck stopped, where they could get some real help, and when they got to Bush, he just turned around and passed the buck right back down.

According to Sen. David Vitter, a Republican ally of Bush's, the meeting came to a head when Mayor Nagin blew up during a fraught discussion of "who's in charge?" Nagin slammed his hand down on the table and told Bush, "We just need to cut through this and do what it takes to have a more-controlled command structure. If that means federalizing it, let's do it."

A debate over "federalizing" the National Guard had been rattling in Washington for the previous three days. Normally, the Guard is under the control of the state governor, but the Feds can take over—if the governor asks them to. Nagin suggested that Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the Pentagon's on-scene commander, be put in charge. According to Senator Vitter, Bush turned to Governor Blanco and said, "Well, what do you think of that, Governor?" Blanco told Bush, "I'd rather talk to you about that privately." To which Nagin responded, "Well, why don't you do that now?"

The meeting broke up. Bush and Blanco disappeared to talk. More than a week later, there was still no agreement. Blanco didn't want to give up her authority, and Bush didn't press. Jindal suggested that Bush appoint Colin Powell as a kind of relief czar, and Bush replied, "I'll take that into consideration." Bush does not like to fire people. He told Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to go down to Louisiana and sort out the various problems. A day later FEMA's Brown was on his way back to Washington.

Another day of people dying because "Bush doesn't like to fire people"? The governor had asked the feds to step in the Saturday before the hurricane hit, but it isn't like they pre-deployed more than seven FEMA teams, and a small number of National Guard troops that were never visible on any video reports I saw. I saw Coast Guard, city police, and lots of people all by themselves, while firefighters were sitting in Atlanta getting sexual harrassment training because they had advance homeland security background checks. See, because its more important to have a background check than to get help for people who are dying.

Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as "strangely surreal and almost detached."

What happened, did the "reality-based universe" trump the spinners? Oh, that must have been a sad day at the White House, the utter failure to control spin and manufacture reality into some constructed image. I doubt anyone was sad at the tragedy in New Orleans. They could have been sad about that days earlier, and actually done something about it.

At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Life inside a bunker can be strange, especially in defeat.

Sorry Newsweek, but I'm not buying your bizarre ending to this story. Yes, it most certainly was a defeat. And maybe they still aren't monitoring the nation as real stewards in there, and instead sit in silence in the bunker. But I'm more inclined to believe if there were any self-congratulations to be had, any high-fives to be given out (I'm thinking of those goofy scenes in the TV show "The West Wing") it would be because they actually were looking forward to some future scheme or planned victory, perhaps knowing something about Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts we don't. I don't know why else there could be glee at this time on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Unless they are so cold toward the tragedy, they don't feel it, and instead just feel happy they survived it. But then you must compare what the White House handlers survived to what the people of New Orleans survived. I don't see the surviors of New Orleans being self congratulatory that they made it.

September 14, 2005 at 01:54 AM in Best Essays, Current Affairs, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2005

Mark Bill Moyer's words...

What a great speech he gave here... I had to point up the best parts.

Link: 9/11 And The Sport of God.

9/11 And The Sport of God

Bill Moyers
September 09, 2005

This article is adapted from Bill Moyer's address this week at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where Judith and Bill Moyers received the seminary’s highest award, the Union Medal, for their contributions to faith and reason in America. Bill Moyers is a broadcast journalist and former host the PBS program NOW With Bill Moyers. Moyers also serves as president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, which gives financial support to TomPaine.com.

At the Central Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas, where I was baptized in the faith, we believed in a free church in a free state. I still do.

My spiritual forbears did not take kindly to living under theocrats who embraced religious liberty for themselves but denied it to others. “Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils,” thundered the dissenter Roger Williams as he was banished from Massachusetts for denying Puritan authority over his conscience. Baptists there were a “pitiful negligible minority” but they were agitators for freedom and therefore denounced as “incendiaries of the commonwealth” for holding to their belief in that great democracy of faith—the priesthood of all believers. For refusing to pay tribute to the state religion they were fined, flogged, and exiled. In l651 the Baptist Obadiah Holmes was given 30 stripes with a three-corded whip after he violated the law and took forbidden communion with another Baptist in Lynn, Massachusetts. His friends offered to pay his fine for his release but he refused. They offered him strong drink to anesthetize the pain of the flogging. Again he refused. It is the love of liberty, he said, “that must free the soul.”

Such revolutionary ideas made the new nation with its Constitution and Bill of Rights “a haven for the cause of conscience.” No longer could magistrates order citizens to support churches they did not attend and recite creeds that they did not believe. No longer would “the loathsome combination of church and state”—as Thomas Jefferson described it—be the settled order. Unlike the Old World that had been wracked with religious wars and persecution, the government of America would take no sides in the religious free-for-all that liberty would make possible and politics would make inevitable. The First Amendment neither inculcates religion nor inoculates against it. Americans could be loyal to the Constitution without being hostile to God, or they could pay no heed to God without fear of being mugged by an official God Squad. It has been a remarkable arrangement that guaranteed “soul freedom.”

It is at risk now, and the fourth observance of the terrorist attacks of 9/ll is an appropriate time to think about it.

Four years ago this week, the poet’s prophetic metaphor became real again and “the great dark birds of history” plunged into our lives.

They came in the name of God. They came bent on murder and martyrdom. It was as if they rode to earth on the fierce breath of Allah himself, for the sacred scriptures that had nurtured these murderous young men are steeped in images of a violent and vengeful God who wills life for the faithful and horrific torment for unbelievers.

Yes, the Koran speaks of mercy and compassion and calls for ethical living. But such passages are no match for the ferocity of instruction found there for waging war for God’s sake. [...]

[...]

Terrorists plant time bombs in our heads, hoping to turn each and every imagination into a private hell governed by our fear of them. [emphasis mine]

[...]

So over the past four years I have kept reminding myself of not only the horror but the humanity that was revealed that day four years ago, when through the smoke and fire we glimpsed the heroism, compassion, and sacrifice of people who did the best of things in the worst of times. I keep telling myself that this beauty in us is real, that it makes life worthwhile and democracy work and that no terrorist can take it from us.

[...]

The other side of the story:

Muslims have no monopoly on holy violence. As Jack Nelson-Pallmayer points out, God’s violence in the sacred texts of both faiths reflect a deep and troubling pathology “so pervasive, vindictive, and destructive” that it contradicts and subverts the collective weight of other passages that exhort ethical behavior or testify to a loving God.

For days now we have watched those heart-breaking scenes on the Gulf Coast: the steaming, stinking, sweltering wreckage of cities and suburbs; the fleeing refugees; the floating corpses, hungry babies, and old people huddled together in death, the dogs gnawing at their feet; stranded children standing in water reeking of feces and garbage; families scattered; a mother holding her small child and an empty water jug, pleading for someone to fill it; a wife, pushing the body of her dead husband on a wooden plank down a flooded street; desperate people struggling desperately to survive.

Now transport those current scenes from our newspapers and television back to the first Book of the Bible—the Book of Genesis. They bring to life what we rarely imagine so graphically when we read of the great flood that devastated the known world. If you read the Bible as literally true, as fundamentalists do, this flood was ordered by God. “And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh… behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (6:5-l3). [...]

The flood is merely Act One. Read on: This God first “hardens the heart of Pharaoh” to make sure the Egyptian ruler will not be moved by the plea of Moses to let his people go. Then because Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, God turns the Nile into blood so people cannot drink its water and will suffer from thirst. Not satisfied with the results, God sends swarms of locusts and flies to torture them; rains hail and fire and thunder on them destroys the trees and plants of the field until nothing green remains; orders every first-born child to be slaughtered, from the first-born of Pharaoh right on down to “the first-born of the maidservant behind the mill.” An equal-murderous God, you might say. The massacre continues until “there is not a house where one was not dead.” While the Egyptian families mourn their dead, God orders Moses to loot from their houses all their gold and silver and clothing. Finally, God’s thirst for blood is satisfied, God pauses to rest—and boasts: “I have made sport of the Egyptians.”

Violence: the sport of God. God, the progenitor of shock and awe.

And that’s just Act II. As the story unfolds women and children are hacked to death on God’s order; unborn infants are ripped from their mother’s wombs; cities are leveled—their women killed if they have had sex, the virgins taken at God’s command for the pleasure of his holy warriors. When his holy warriors spare the lives of 50,000 captives God is furious and sends Moses back to rebuke them and tell them to finish the job. One tribe after another falls to God-ordered genocide: the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites—names so ancient they have disappeared into the mists as fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, infants in arms, shepherds, threshers, carpenters, merchants, housewives—living human beings, flesh and blood: “And when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them; then you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them…(and) your eyes shall not pity them.”

So it is written—in the Holy Bible.

Yes, I know: the early church fathers, trying to cover up the blood-soaked trail of God’s sport, decreed that anything that disagrees with Christian dogma about the perfection of God is to be interpreted spiritually. Yes, I know: Edward Gibbon himself acknowledged that the literal Biblical sense of God “is repugnant to every principle of faith as well as reason” and that we must therefore read the scriptures through a veil of allegory. Yes, I know: we can go through the Bible and construct a God more pleasing to the better angels of our nature (as I have done.) Yes, I know: Christians claim the Old Testament God of wrath was supplanted by the Gospel’s God of love [See The God of Evil , Allan Hawkins, Exlibris.]

I know these things; all of us know these things. But we also know that the “violence-of-God” tradition remains embedded deep in the DNA of monotheistic faith. We also know that fundamentalists the world over and at home consider the “sacred texts” to be literally God’s word on all matters. Inside that logic you cannot read part of the Bible allegorically and the rest of it literally; if you believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection, and the depiction of the Great Judgment at the end times you must also believe that God is sadistic, brutal, vengeful, callow, cruel and savage—that God slaughters.

Millions believe it.

Let’s go back to 9/11 four years ago. The ruins were still smoldering when the reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell went on television to proclaim that the terrorist attacks were God’s punishment of a corrupted America. They said the government had adopted the agenda “of the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians” not to mention the ACLU and People for the American Way (The God of the Bible apparently holds liberals in the same low esteem as Hittites and Gergushites and Jebusites and all the other pagans of holy writ.) Just as God had sent the Great Flood to wipe out a corrupted world, now—disgusted with a decadent America—“God almighty is lifting his protection from us.” Critics said such comments were deranged. But millions of Christian fundamentalists and conservatives didn’t think so. They thought Robertson and Falwell were being perfectly consistent with the logic of the Bible as they read it: God withdraws favor from sinful nations—the terrorists were meant to be God’s wake-up call: better get right with God. Not many people at the time seemed to notice that Osama bin Laden had also been reading his sacred book closely and literally, and had called on Muslims to resist what he described as a “fierce Judeo-Christian campaign” against Islam, praying to Allah for guidance “to exalt the people who obey Him and humiliate those who disobey Him.”

Let’s go back to 9/11 four years ago. The ruins were still smoldering when the reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell went on television to proclaim that the terrorist attacks were God’s punishment of a corrupted America. They said the government had adopted the agenda “of the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians” not to mention the ACLU and People for the American Way (The God of the Bible apparently holds liberals in the same low esteem as Hittites and Gergushites and Jebusites and all the other pagans of holy writ.) Just as God had sent the Great Flood to wipe out a corrupted world, now—disgusted with a decadent America—“God almighty is lifting his protection from us.” Critics said such comments were deranged. But millions of Christian fundamentalists and conservatives didn’t think so. They thought Robertson and Falwell were being perfectly consistent with the logic of the Bible as they read it: God withdraws favor from sinful nations—the terrorists were meant to be God’s wake-up call: better get right with God. Not many people at the time seemed to notice that Osama bin Laden had also been reading his sacred book closely and literally, and had called on Muslims to resist what he described as a “fierce Judeo-Christian campaign” against Islam, praying to Allah for guidance “to exalt the people who obey Him and humiliate those who disobey Him.”

Suddenly we were immersed in the pathology of a “holy war” as defined by fundamentalists on both sides. You could see this pathology play out in General William Boykin. A professional soldier, General Boykin had taken up with a small group called the Faith Force Multiplier whose members apply military principles to evangelism with a manifesto summoning warriors “to the spiritual warfare for souls.” After Boykin had led Americans in a battle against a Somalian warlord he announced: “I know my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his God was an idol.” Now Boykin was going about evangelical revivals preaching that America was in a holy war as “a Christian nation” battling Satan and that America’s Muslim adversaries will be defeated “only if we come against them in the name of Jesus.” For such an hour, America surely needed a godly leader. So General Boykin explained how it was that the candidate who had lost the election in 2000 nonetheless wound up in the White House. President Bush, he said, “was not elected by a majority of the voters—he was appointed by God.” Not surprising, instead of being reprimanded for evangelizing while in uniform, General Boykin is now the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. (Just as it isn’t surprising that despite his public call for the assassination of a foreign head of state, Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing was one of the first groups to receive taxpayer funds from the President’s Faith-Based Initiative for “relief work” on the Gulf Coast.)

We can’t wiggle out of this, people. Alvin Hawkins states it frankly: “This is a problem we can’t walk away from.” We’re talking about a powerful religious constituency that claims the right to tell us what’s on God’s mind and to decide the laws of the land according to their interpretation of biblical revelation and to enforce those laws on the nation as a whole. For the Bible is not just the foundational text of their faith; it has become the foundational text for a political movement.

[...]

What’s also unique is the intensity, organization, and anger they have brought to the public square. Listen to their preachers, evangelists, and homegrown ayatollahs: Their viral intolerance—their loathing of other people’s beliefs, of America’s secular and liberal values, of an independent press, of the courts, of reason, science and the search for objective knowledge—has become an unprecedented sectarian crusade for state power. They use the language of faith to demonize political opponents, mislead and misinform voters, censor writers and artists, ostracize dissenters, and marginalize the poor. These are the foot soldiers in a political holy war financed by wealthy economic interests and guided by savvy partisan operatives who know that couching political ambition in religious rhetoric can ignite the passion of followers as ferociously as when Constantine painted the Sign of Christ (the “Christograph”) on the shields of his soldiers and on the banners of his legions and routed his rivals in Rome. Never mind that the Emperor himself was never baptized into the faith; it served him well enough to make the God worshipped by Christians his most important ally and turn the Sign of Christ into the one imperial symbol most widely recognized and feared from east to west.

Let’s take a brief detour to Ohio and I’ll show you what I am talking about. In recent weeks a movement called the Ohio Restoration Project has been launched to identify and train thousands of “Patriot Pastors” to get out the conservative religious vote next year. According to press reports, the leader of the movement— the senior pastor of a large church in suburban Columbus—casts the 2006 elections as an apocalyptic clash between “the forces of righteousness and the hordes of hell.” The fear and loathing in his message is palpable: He denounces public schools that won’t teach creationism, require teachers to read the Bible in class, or allow children to pray. He rails against the “secular jihadists” who have “hijacked” America and prevent school kids from learning that Hitler was “an avid evolutionist.” He links abortion to children who murder their parents. He blasts the “pagan left” for trying to redefine marriage. He declares that “homosexual rights” will bring “a flood of demonic oppression.” On his church website you read that “Reclaiming the teaching of our Christian heritage among America’s youth is paramount to a sense of national destiny that God has invested into this nation.”

One of the prominent allies of the Ohio Restoration Project is a popular televangelist in Columbus who heads a $40 million-a-year ministry that is accessible worldwide via l, 400 TV stations and cable affiliates. Although he describes himself as neither Republican nor Democrat but a “Christocrat”—a gladiator for God marching against “the very hordes of hell in our society”—he nonetheless has been spotted with so many Republican politicians in Washington and elsewhere that he has been publicly described as a“spiritual advisor” to the party. The journalist Marley Greiner has been following his ministry for the organization, FreePress. She writes that because he considers the separation of church and state to be “a lie perpetrated on Americans—especially believers in Jesus Christ”—he identifies himself as a “wall builder” and “wall buster.” As a wall builder he will “restore Godly presence in government and culture; as a wall buster he will tear down the church-state wall.” He sees the Christian church as a sleeping giant that has the ability and the anointing from God to transform America. The giant is stirring. At a rally in July he proclaimed to a packed house: “Let the Revolution begin!” And the congregation roared back: “Let the Revolution begin!”

(The Revolution’s first goal, by the way, is to elect as governor next year the current Republican secretary of state who oversaw the election process in 2004 year when a surge in Christian voters narrowly carried George Bush to victory. As General Boykin suggested of President Bush’s anointment, this fellow has acknowledged that “God wanted him as secretary of state during 2004” because it was such a critical election. Now he is criss-crossing Ohio meeting with Patriot Pastors and their congregations proclaiming that “America is at its best when God is at its center.”) [For the complete stories from which this information has been extracted, see: “An evening with Rod Parsley, by Marley Greiner, FreePress, July 20, 2005; Patriot Pastors,” Marilyn Warfield, Cleveland Jewish News, July 29, 2005; “Ohio televangelist has plenty of influence, but he wants more”, Ted Wendling, Religion News Service, Chicago Tribune, July 1, 2005; “Shaping Politics from the pulpits,” Susan Page, USA Today , Aug. 3, 2005; “Religion and Politics Should Be Mixed Says Ohio Secretary of State,” WTOL-TV Toledo, October 29, 2004].

The Ohio Restoration Project is spreading. In one month alone last year in the president’s home state of Texas, a single Baptist preacher added 2000 “Patriot Pastors” to the rolls. On his website he now encourages pastors to “speak out on the great moral issues of our day…to restore and reclaim America for Christ.”

Alas, these “great moral issues” do not include building a moral economy. The Christian Right trumpets charity (as in Faith Based Initiatives) but is silent on social and economic justice. Inequality in America has reached scandalous proportions: a few weeks ago the government acknowledged that while incomes are growing smartly for the first time in years, the primary winners are the top earners—people who receive stocks, bonuses, and other income in addition to wages. The nearly 80 percent of Americans who rely mostly on hourly wages barely maintained their purchasing power. Even as Hurricane Katrina was hitting the Gulf Coast, giving us a stark reminder of how poverty can shove poor people into the abyss, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that last year one million people were added to 36 million already living in poverty. And since l999 the income of the poorest one fifth of Americans has dropped almost nine percent.

None of these harsh realities of ordinary life seem to bother the radical religious right. To the contrary, in the pursuit of political power they have cut a deal with America’s richest class and their partisan allies in a law-of-the-jungle strategy to “starve” the government of resources needed for vital social services that benefit everyone while championing more and more spending rich corporations and larger tax cuts for the rich.

How else to explain the vacuum in their “great moral issues” of the plight of millions of Americans without adequate health care? Of the gross corruption of politics by campaign contributions that skew government policies toward the wealthy at the expense of ordinary taxpayers? (On the very day that oil and gas prices reached a record high the president signed off on huge taxpayer subsidies for energy conglomerates already bloated with windfall profits plucked from the pockets of average Americans filling up at gas tanks across the country; yet the next Sunday you could pass a hundred church signboards with no mention of a sermon on crony capitalism.)

This silence on economic and political morality is deafening but revealing. The radicals on the Christian right are now the dominant force in America’s governing party. Without them the government would not be in the hands of people who don’t believe in government. They are culpable in upholding a system of class and race in which, as we saw last week, the rich escape and the poor are left behind. And they are on they are crusading for a government “of, by, and for the people” in favor of one based on Biblical authority.

This is the crux of the matter: To these fundamentalist radicals there is only one legitimate religion and only one particular brand of that religion that is right; all others who call on God are immoral or wrong. They believe the Bible to be literally true and that they alone know what it means. Behind their malicious attacks on the courts (“vermin in black robes,” as one of their talk show allies recently put it,) is a fierce longing to hold judges accountable for interpreting the Constitution according to standards of biblical revelation as fundamentalists define it. To get those judges they needed a party beholden to them. So the Grand Old Party—the GOP—has become God’s Own Party, its ranks made up of God’s Own People “marching as to war.”

[...]

The corporate, political and religious right converge here, led by a president who, in his own disdain for science, reason and knowledge, is the most powerful fundamentalist in American history.

What are the stakes? In his last book, the late Marvin Harris, a prominent anthropologist of the time, wrote that “the attack against reason and objectivity is fast reaching the proportions of a crusade.” To save the American Dream, “we desperately need to reaffirm the principle that it is possible to carry out an analysis of social life which rational human beings will recognize as being true, regardless of whether they happen to be women or men, whites or black, straights or gays, employers or employees, Jews or born-again Christians. The alternative is to stand by helplessly as special interest groups tear the United States apart in the name of their “separate realities’ or to wait until one of them grows strong enough to force its irrational and subjective brand of reality on all the rest.”

That was written 25 years ago, just as the radical Christian right was setting out on their long march to political supremacy. The forces he warned against have gained strength ever since and now control much of the United States government and are on the verge of having it all.

It has to be said that their success has come in no small part because of our acquiescence and timidity. Our democratic values are imperiled because too many people of reason are willing to appease irrational people just because they are pious. Republican moderates tried appeasement and survive today only in gulags set aside for them by the Karl Roves, Bill Frists and Tom DeLays. Democrats are divided and paralyzed, afraid that if they take on the organized radical right they will lose what little power they have. Trying to learn to talk about God as Republicans do, they’re talking gobbledygook, compromising the strongest thing going for them—the case for a moral economy and the moral argument for the secular checks and balances that have made America “a safe haven for the cause of conscience.”

As I look back on the conflicts and clamor of our boisterous past, one lesson about democracy stands above all others: Bullies—political bullies, economic bullies and religious bullies—cannot be appeased; they have to be opposed with a stubbornness to match their own. This is never easy; these guys don’t fight fair; “Robert’s Rules of Order” is not one of their holy texts. But freedom on any front—and especially freedom of conscience—never comes to those who rock and wait, hoping someone else will do the heavy lifting.

[...]


September 10, 2005 at 09:04 PM in Democracy, Favorite Links, Politics, Religion, Rhetoric, Science, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Maureen Dowd helps eviscerate "Brownie"

Not that help was needed, but it's always fun to pile on the incompetent boob, especially when the White House spinners still refuse to acknowledge what an incompetent boob he is, just like the fellow who appointed him.

One of the great joys in my life is hearing that Bush sound bite "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job" getting as much repetitive airplay as the Dean scream.

I do wish more people had enough historical context to draw the direct link between political cronyism and power-brokering with corporations and the stated philosophies of fascism back in its day. It's like deja vu all over again, you know?

Link: Neigh to Cronies - New York Times.

Here are some choice bits:

Op-Ed Columnist

Neigh to Cronies

By MAUREEN DOWD Published: September 10, 2005 WASHINGTON

I understand that politicians are wont to put cronies and cupcakes on the payroll.

I just wish they'd stop putting them on the Homeland Security payroll.

[...]

At least Bill Clinton knew not to stash his sweeties in jobs concerned with keeping the nation safe. Gennifer Flowers said that Mr. Clinton got her a $17,500 job in Arkansas in the state unemployment agency, though she was ranked ninth out of 11 applicants tested. And Monica Lewinsky's thong expertise led her to a job as an assistant to the Pentagon press officer.

Gov. James McGreevey of New Jersey had to resign last year after acknowledging that he had elevated his patronage peccadillo, an Israeli poet named Golan Cipel, to be his special assistant on homeland security without even a background check or American citizenship. Mr. Cipel, however, was vastly qualified for his job compared with Michael Brown, who didn't know the difference between a tropical depression and an anxiety attack when President Bush charged him with life-and-death decisions.

W. trusted Brownie simply because he was a friend of a friend. He was a college buddy of Joe Allbaugh, who worked as W.'s chief of staff when he was Texas governor and as his 2000 presidential campaign manager.

It sounds more like a Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson flick than the story of a man who was to be responsible for the fate of the Republic during the biggest natural disaster in our history. Brownie was a failed former lawyer with a degree from a semiaccredited law school, as The New Republic put it, when he moved to Colorado in 1991 to judge horse judges for the Arabian Horse Association.

He was put out to pasture under pressure in 2001, leaving him free to join his pal Mr. Allbaugh at an eviscerated FEMA. Mr. Allbaugh decided to leave the top job at FEMA and become a lobbyist with clients like Halliburton when the agency was reorganized under Homeland Security, stripping it of authority. Why not, Mr. Allbaugh thought, just pass this obscure sinecure to his homeboy?

Time magazine reported that Brownie's official bio described his only stint in emergency management as "assistant city manager" in Edmond, Okla. But a city official told Time that the FEMA chief had been "an assistant to the city manager," which was "more like an intern."

[...]

The breakdown in management and communications was so execrable that the president learned about the 25,000 desperate, trapped people at the New Orleans convention center not from Brownie, who didn't know himself, but from a wire story carried into the Oval Office by an aide on Thursday, 24 hours after the victims had been pleading and crying for help on every channel. (Maybe tomorrow the aide will come in with a wire story, "No W.M.D. in Iraq.")

"Getting truth on the ground in New Orleans was very difficult," a White House aide told The Times's Elisabeth Bumiller. Not if you had a TV.

[...]

FEMA was a disaster waiting to happen, the minute a disaster struck. As The Washington Post reported Friday, five of the eight top FEMA officials were simply Bush loyalists and political operatives who "came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters."

While many see the hideous rescue failures as disaster apartheid, Barbara Bush and other Republicans have tried to look on the bright side for the victims. The Wall Street Journal reported that Representative Richard Baker of Baton Rouge was overheard telling lobbyists: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

[...]

September 10, 2005 at 12:51 PM in Best Essays, Current Affairs, Democracy, Favorite Links, News to Note, Politics, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 04, 2005

Doncha just hate when that happens? Too much sympathy for the victims?

Link: Attytood: Pentagon: Too much sympathy for the victims.

Attytood pulls out another one of those just otherworldly soundbites coming out of the Bush administration, this time from the Pentagon, which was feeling put upon and victimized because there were other victims in New Orleans trying to upstage them.

The NERVE of some people, especially those in the media, to be deaf to the plaintive cries of Pentagon bureaucrats neck-deep in their own massive fuck-up, able to get water from their office bubblers, food from vending machines and the cafeteria, not even wading in water floating with dead bodies, toxins, and other people's poo.

I think we need to have a telethon for those sad bureaucrats, don't you? So used to being the center of attention, directing the talking heads on when to jump and how high. It must be such an outrage to actually encounter news bureaus in distant places that are actually staffed, have boots on the ground, uppity media folks who dare to believe their own eyes rather than fawn endlessly over staged press conferences dishing out the Daily Lie.

Pentagon: Too much sympathy for the victims

We heard this on CNN (on satellite radio) last night while we were driving home and almost ran off the road. It was an exchange between anchor Aaron Brown and Jamie McIntyre, CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, about the military seeking to explain it's slow response to Katrina:

MCINTYRE: And as to your question about political, I talked to a lot of people at the Pentagon today who were very frustrated about the fact that the perception was being created that the military didn't move fast enough. And they did it somewhat as political. They thought that part of the motivation was the critics of the administration to make the president look bad.

And they seemed to question the motives of some of our reporters who were out there and hearing these stories from the victims about why they had so much sympathy for the victims, and not as much sympathy for the challenges that the government met in meeting this challenge.

And I have to say thinking about that, it doesn't really seem all that unusual that you would tend to understand the plight of the victims a little more than the bureaucrats in Washington.

BROWN: Yes, I mean, I'm glad you told us that. And they have every right to believe they believe and think the way they think. I mean, and I mean that. But you've got people who have been living as refugees. It is not hard to understand why our first heart beat goes in their direction. We'll worry about the bureaucrats later.

Amen. It's one thing to argue that it's too early to debate who or what is to blame for the human tragedy in New Orleans and Mississippi (although we don't agree). It's something else to blame the victims, as we see here and from FEMA chief David Brown, who said yesterday that the high death toll is "going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings."

Reprehensible.

September 4, 2005 at 09:53 PM in Best Essays, Current Affairs, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 01, 2005

Why no video footage of the supposed "patching" of the levee breaches in New Orleans?

I've been puzzling over that aspect of the news reports. Surely the networks would have pictures of those masses of sand to plug levee hole, the things they were reporting were happening.

But the mayor tells why. Question: why were all the major news outlets reporting that the repairs were going on when NOTHING was being dropped into those deep holes?

I'm still looking into the sourcing on something else I found, that says only SEVEN Coast Guard helicopters were out on the much ballyhooed rescue missions to find people THE DAY AFTER THE HURRICANE. It's hard to keep track of days, but the looking started right away, the National Guard wasn't out there right away. Hurricane came ashore MONDAY, so TUESDAY, I think it said, only seven choppers? I find it hard to believe, so I gotta dig more.

If there were only seven, good-hearted, hard-working Coast Guard folks, but SEVEN, that means people DIED because of criminally negligent bureaucratic emergency management, you know, FEMA, Homeland Security, all those folks.

Miasma

Link: CNN.com - Mayor blasts failure to patch levee breaches - Aug 31, 2005.

Mayor blasts failure to patch levee breaches

Wednesday, August 31, 2005; Posted: 11:31 a.m. EDT (15:31 GMT)

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- A day after Hurricane Katrina dealt a devastating blow to the Big Easy, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Tuesday night blasted what he called a lack of coordination in relief efforts for setting behind the city's recovery.

"There is way too many fricking ... cooks in the kitchen," Nagin said in a phone interview with WAPT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi, fuming over what he said were scuttled plans to plug a 200-yard breach near the 17th Street Canal, allowing Lake Pontchartrain to spill into the central business district.

An earlier breach occurred along the Industrial Canal in the city's Lower 9th Ward.

The rising flood waters overwhelmed pumping stations that would normally keep the city dry. About 80 percent of the city was flooded with water up to 20 feet deep after the two levees collapsed.

The Army Corps of Engineers is working to repair the levee breaches, the agency said Tuesday, but it gave no timetable for repairs.

The Corps has workers assessing damage at the two locations. The National Guard, Coast Guard and state and federal agencies are working with the agency to speed the process, it reported.

"These closures are essential so that water can be removed from the city," a statement from the Corps of Engineers' headquarters in Washington said.

Walter Baumy, the agency's engineering division chief, said the Corps is trying to line up rock, sandbags, barges, helicopters and cranes to patch the damaged levees.

Col. Kevin Wagner, a Corps official in Baton Rouge, said that engineers also were eyeing the prospect of filling shipping containers with sand and lowering them into the breaches to stanch the flooding.

The National Weather Service reported a breach along the Industrial Canal levee at Tennessee Street, in southeast New Orleans, on Monday. Local reports later said the levee was overtopped, not breached, but the Corps of Engineers reported it Tuesday afternoon as having been breached.

But Nagin said a repair attempt was supposed to have been made Tuesday.

According to the mayor, Black Hawk helicopters were scheduled to pick up and drop massive 3,000-pound sandbags in the 17th Street Canal breach, but were diverted on rescue missions. Nagin said neglecting to fix the problem has set the city behind by at least a month.

"I had laid out like an eight-week to ten-week timeline where we could get the city back in semblance of order. It's probably been pushed back another four weeks as a result of this," Nagin said.

"That four weeks is going to stop all commerce in the city of New Orleans. It also impacts the nation, because no domestic oil production will happen in southeast Louisiana."

Nagin said he expects relief efforts in the city to improve as New Orleans, the National Guard and FEMA combine their command centers for better communication, followup and accountability.

September 1, 2005 at 01:32 PM in Current Affairs, Democracy, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack