Now Cough

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Responsibility. What's That Mean?

Katrina, one year later.

"Unfortunately, the hurricane also brought terrible scenes that we never thought we would see in America: Citizens drowned in their attics; desperate mothers crying out on national TV for food and water; a breakdown of law and order; and a government at all levels that fell short of its responsibilities.

When the rain stopped and this wounded city was laid bare, our television screens showed faces worn down by poverty and despair. For most of you, the storms were only the beginning of your difficulties. Katrina exposed the big things that need repairing; yet it's most devastating impact has been on the rhythms of everyday life.

Some of you still don't know whether you have a neighborhood to come back to. Others of you who made the decision to return are living in trailers. Many are separated from their loved ones, and simply long just go to church on a Sunday afternoon with somebody you care about. Many of you find yourself without jobs, and struggling to make do without the convenience of a supermarket nearby. Many fear for your safety because of violent criminals. The challenge is not only to help rebuild, but the challenge is to help restore the soul. [it is amazing to compare this rhetoric with what President Bush said a year ago in the photo op at Jackson Square (above)]

I take full responsibility for the federal government's response, and a year ago I made a pledge that we will learn the lessons of Katrina and that we will do what it takes to help you recover. (Applause.) I've come back to New Orleans to tell you the words that I spoke on Jackson Square are just as true today as they were then."

Well, he might feel like he has taken responsibility but there is no accountability. You can tell that because the White House keeps spinning New Orleans and Katrina and not addressing the crap response by this administration:

The One Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

President Bush Is Fulfilling His Long-Term Commitment To Helping The People Of The Gulf Coast Recover From Unprecedented Devastation. One year after Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast is rebuilding and the Nation is better prepared for future natural disasters. Commerce is returning to the region, and as rebuilding plans are firmed up, growth and progress will follow, and New Orleans will once again be a vibrant American city.

Hurricane Katrina Was The Most Destructive Natural Disaster In U.S. History, And Rebuilding Will Take Time - The One-Year Anniversary Is Not A Finish Line. Challenges still remain, including crime and housing needs.

We Have Learned From Last Year's Inadequate Response And Today Are Better Prepared For Future Disasters.

The Federal Government Has Provided More Than $110 Billion In Resources – $118 Billion Including Tax Relief – To The Gulf Region. This funding is helping fulfill vital needs, including relocation, rental assistance, infrastructure repair, flood insurance payments, education, and debris removal.

You'll notice the one item that has no detail at all is the line about 'we have learned...' Lessons learned? Spin baby spin.

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Straining the psyche of our country..."

Five years after 9/11.
Almost 3,000 US troops dead.
More than 3,400 Iraqi civilians dead in July.

Q: What did Iraq have to do with that?

THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Q: The attack on the World Trade Center?

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing, except for it's part of -- and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a -- the lesson of September the 11th is, take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Without Fear or Favor

Adolph Ochs once owned The New York Times and coined one of the best mission statements ever for a publication: "Without Fear or Favor." Cynics might claim that as an embarrassingly macho rallying cry for journalistic independence, but it works for me.

So, the confirmation today(registration required) that NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller held the story about the warrantless eavesdropping by the Bush administration before the November 2004 election (contradicting his earlier statements) raises a boat load of serious questions about the NYT and its sense of mission.

Keller had said in a message to readers on Dec 16, 2005 that the wiretapping article (that eventually won a Pulitzer and sparked intense criticism from President Bush and VP Cheney) had been held for "a year." But he tells NYT public editor Byron Calame that actually an article was being prepared before the presidential election and that the Bush administration had been part of the discussions about whether to publish or not. The decision to hold the article was made before the election.

Keller tells Calame, in effect, that the sourcing wasn't good enough to publish the article before election day. But new, more credible sources became available after November 2, 2004.

This still doesn't explain why Keller made an earlier misleading statement about how long the article had been held (He tells Calame "It was probably inelegant wording.") Nor does it explain why it was still held until 2005. And we have no detail into the veracity of the editorial debates that preceded the run up to the pre-election day decision. Calame's column says the debates about whether to publish involved the editorial heavyweights of the NYT, from publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. to reporter James Risen himself. But the decision was Keller's alone.

What was he weighing? What beyond the journalism? What sources suddenly became available after election day?

Should an article critical of a president up for re-election run close to election day? Mr. Keller, in the interest of fairness, says any good editor would want to give that person time to respond. But the fact that the administration was already aware the story was under discussion tells me the Bush White House had ample warning. Given the 12 to 24 hour news cycle, this administration is no slouch in responding to 'bad' news.

Keller's 'fairness' reasoning, if that is all that was at stake, is really weak. How aggressive is the NYT, really? Is there a political calculus to what stories are printed and when? If a newspaper won't publish a story in wartime about potentially illegal acts by a sitting president who mislead the nation into war, when can it? I mean, what's the point in having a paper reporting this stuff?

First Judy Miller. Now this. Keller should go. Period. Readers, and voters, can make their own decisions when they have all the news that's fit to print.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Swiftboat This

More than MyLai

It shouldn't be a suprise that US military servicemen committed abuses against civilians in Vietnam. The sad part is that the history, the documented history by military investigators, took until now to come out. The LA Times story, "Civilian Killings Went Unpunished" (not entirely accurate; the story documents some courts martial and other discipline), has the details. If the story and the burial of fact weren't bad enough, I can't help but wonder where these dishonorable military men who knew of these killings were when political hacks denigrated decorated veteran John Kerry in the last presidential campaign because he had raised these same allegations as a young man. So much for duty.

Retired Brig. Gen. John H. Johns, a Vietnam veteran who served on the task force, says he once supported keeping the records secret but now believes they deserve wide attention in light of alleged attacks on civilians and abuse of prisoners in Iraq.

"We can't change current practices unless we acknowledge the past," says Johns, 78.

Among the substantiated cases in the archive:

• Seven massacres from 1967 through 1971 in which at least 137 civilians died.

• Seventy-eight other attacks on noncombatants in which at least 57 were killed, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted.

• One hundred forty-one instances in which U.S. soldiers tortured civilian detainees or prisoners of war with fists, sticks, bats, water or electric shock.

As if to compound the horror, the government took steps to further hide the historical record:

The records were declassified in 1994, after 20 years as required by law, and moved to the National Archives in College Park, Md., where they went largely unnoticed.

The Times examined most of the files and obtained copies of about 3,000 pages — about a third of the total — before government officials removed them from the public shelves, saying they contained personal information that was exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Let's hope it doesn't take over 30 years to learn what the US is doing in Iraq.

photo: Umberto Gillio


“In North America, I only fly privately,” [Gavin Polone, a former Hollywood agent and now a producer whose credits include the cable television show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “My Super Ex-Girlfriend.”] explained. “For me what’s important is excluding myself from people who might bum me out.”

-- My Other Vehicle Is a Gulfstream NYTimes Sunday August 6, 2006 (registration required)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"That's what you get when you bring your crackpot up from Texas."

George Bush is condemned to repeat history. He didn't learn much to begin with -- about Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, the Middle East -- so we are stuck in a deadly remedial class with him.

Bush is also in the odd position of vigorously repeating his ignorance as the fallacy, lies and incomptence of Iraq bubble up between Lebanon and Israel, and between the Islamic and non-Islamic world.

It is a nightmare of his own making. The Neocons he listens to found a willing ignorant ally in Bush, and 5 years after 9/11, almost as many US troops have died in Iraq as the number of civilians killed at the World Trade Center. Bush touts the simplistic notion of democracy in the Middle East like some sort of naive Johnny Appleseed.

Now, of course, the eruption of war and cascading violence threatens to engulf the rest of the region. Former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal claims the Neocons and Bush actually welcome this conflict. Remember when Bush claimed that the war between Israel and Hezbollah was an "opportunity"? Blumenthal claims his sources really believe that escalating bloodshed and tension is a good thing:

Inside the administration, neoconservatives on Vice President Dick Cheney's national security staff and Elliott Abrams, the neoconservative senior director for the Near East on the National Security Council, are prime movers behind sharing NSA intelligence with Israel, and they have discussed Syrian and Iranian supply activities as a potential pretext for Israeli bombing of both countries, the source privy to conversations about the program says. (Intelligence, including that gathered by the NSA, has been provided to Israel in the past for various purposes.) The neoconservatives are described as enthusiastic about the possibility of using NSA intelligence as a lever to widen the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and Israel and Hamas into a four-front war.
[Go to Salon]

Blumenthal says his sources claim "the neocon scenario extends far beyond [tactical advantages for Israel] to pushing Israel into a "cleansing war" with Syria and Iran."

The president and his pals think the result of the Mother of All Battles will lead to ridding the Middle East of, well, angry Islamic people. People who use terms like 'cleansing' also believe in 'surgical strikes.' War is a lot like surgery...and if you have ever been in an operating room you know what a bloody, messy, and invasive world that is. Our policy makers, though, never get their hands dirty.

The secretary of state is lost in all this. Poor Condi Rice. She's been in over her head from Day One: a Cold War-drenched historian who cannot adjust to a post Cold War world. Plus, she displays a disturbing lack of confidence and uncertainty. Condi is a fraud in an administration of cynical sharpies.

She has now become Colin Powell II. Set on the world stage as a diplomatic moderate, her credibility is ruined (if it ever had any impact). One day she talks conciliatory, then obfuscating, cryptically, (hang) tough, and after the massacre of enough civilians in Lebanon, she talks cease fire. Twisting in the wind.

And while she does, the other ignorant and darker forces with the president work to make Orwellian logic actual US policy: war=peace.