This is What Democracy Looks Like
Friday-Sunday, February 24-26, 2006
Quote of the Day
“It shouldn't have happened, it never should have happened… somebody has a tin ear over there [White House]…There's no question that two of the 9/11 hijackers came from there and money was laundered through there.”
-Thomas Kean, Republican, past NJ Governor and chairman of the 9/11 Commission
-Forwarded by Casey Sweet
Did You Know?
If Medicare were allowed to negotiate drug prices directly with the pharmaceutical industry, and if Medicare offered the drug benefit directly rather than private insurers, the combined savings would be more than $600 billion from 2006 to 2013. Instead, the current structure of the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act will add more than $800 billion to the cost of prescription drugs over the next 10 years.
Now that’s what I call a great deal! Because of laws prohibiting the federal government from negotiating directly with manufacturers. We are compelled to deal with the large insurers – some of whom filed for bankruptcy years ago, screwed people out of money and benefits, and resurrected in time to become a Medicare part D provider.
Ah, the beauty of living in corporate America.
-Annmarie Polinsky, Retiree Benefits Advocate, CWA Local 1180
The Bush's Selling America, Continues
The Bush Administration, in granting Port Dubai operating facilities in US Ports has clearly reverted to pre 9/11 thinking and habits on Homeland Security.
How can President Bush call one of the three nations in the world that extended diplomatic recognition to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan a staunch ally?
How can President Bush claim that this deal has been satisfactorily vetted when he, like the rest of us learned about it after it had been approved?
It is intolerable that foreign investment deals be approved in secret. While there may be some justification for holding some of the recommendation hearings in private or perhaps even in confidential in camera settings, the public MUST have access to the decision making sessions of DIFUS deliberations.
And More on "The Selling of America"
Please do not be misled by Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) and the other Republicans who appear to be opposed to the administration on the port issue. Read their comments very carefully. Not many, if any, have expressed opposition to the contract. Their remarks are more process oriented - the review process was hurried, we need more time, the Congress should have been better informed, the president needs to make a stronger case, etc., etc. When push comes to shove, I doubt that there would be more than a handful of Republican votes in the two chambers combined to overturn the deal.
It's a giant shell game. The American people have bought the rhetoric - WMD, terrorists in Iraq before the war, help for seniors with their medical bills, an end to homelessness, help for the poor, compassionate conservatism, economic growth for all, etc., etc. They have delivered far less. But, they have learned that Americans are too busy to be bothered with the facts, rhetoric wins elections. And, so it has.
Be prepared for Senator Frist and many of the Republicans in Congress to pronounce themselves "satisfied" that the process has been completed, that the assurances are in place, that security is protected, that the same people who planned the response to Katrina are in charge of reviewing the contract. Oh, wait, they won't say that, will they? No, they will tell us, when the volume of debate has been lowered, when our attention is onto something else, that all is right with the decision, all we had to do was work out a couple of minor, procedural wrinkles. Hide and watch.
And Even More on Bush's Selling of America
By the way, since when has Bush and other members of this administration cared about Arabs? They accuse those who are critical of the Dubai deal as being anti-ARAB. Yet they think NOTHING of arresting Arabs at random and holding them indefinitely in detention, even torturing them, and all without even charging them or having any evidence of any actual terrorist involvement!!!
But the bottom line is that even IF we could trust DUBAI at THIS particular point in time, we have no way of knowing what would happen if this administration accelerates the war in the Middle East or attacks yet another country in the region. Should such happen, I seriously doubt that Dubai would serve US interests over those of their religious and ethnic neighbors. At the very least, they would most likely turn a blind eye to any attempt on the part of terrorists to retaliate against this country, just as they have already done in the past.
"The Big Uneasy"
In case you missed it, the Democrats on the Homeland Security committee issued their own report concerning the federal response to Katrina. The recommendations are as follows:
1. FEMA must be led by a director experienced in emergency management
Translation: no more Brownie the Clownie's
2. The Director of FEMA must report directly to the President during all incidents of national significance.
Translation: no more Chertoff's asleep at the wheel.
3. FEMA should be kept in DHS, but the preparedness and response functions of FEMA must be reunited within that agency.
Translation: Believe it or not the preparation and deployment functions of FEMA are actually under different directors. That's just simply dumb.
4. Strengthen the national response plan and the national incident management system.
Translation: Plan - what plan? Bush has done next to no planning at all.
5. Improve communications interoperability for first responders serving a disaster area.
Translation: This one really irks me. If you recall, the first responders had major communications problems during 9/11. What is so tough about getting all of the first responders on the same frequency as used by the Feds!
6. Reform the national disaster medical system.
Translation: Need to do a better job at handling medical emergencies. The current "plan" appears to count on outside groups such as the Red Cross way too much!
7. Increase support for emergency management assistance compact.
Translation: When one state is overwhelmed, do a better job at coordinating help from other states.
8. Create a database of small and local businesses able to respond to a disaster.
Translation: Straight forward idea. But, will there be competent people coordinating the use of such a database?
9. Enhance citizen and private sector preparedness.
Translation: Many local communities have no disaster plan and no money to create a plan. They need help developing a response plan, rounding up emergency supplies, etc...
10. Federal dependency on the Red Cross for disaster response needs to be clarified.
Translation: I chuckled when I finally got to this part of the report. I am baffled at how dependent we are on a charitable organization.
Add points 11 and 12:
11. Impeach Bush.
12. Impeach Cheney.
Okay, I had to get that in somewhere.
More on "The Big Uneasy"
I watched a news story today about the recovery, or lack thereof, taking place in New Orleans. There was a couple whose insurance company, Nationwide, refused to pay for their home to be repaid because they didn't have flood insurance. Their claim was that that the wind destroyed their property. This couple has watched their neighbors collect money for their homes from other insurance companies that erred on the side of their customers. Not Nationwide.
Now, we all know that both wind and water contributes to the destruction during a hurricane. And we all know that the "bowl" of the ninth ward of New Orleans was flooded, but how can the insurance company tell, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it was a flood that destroyed this couple's home? I agree that flood waters might have finished off the job, but when the TV station showed the the damaged house, it was impossible to tel which came first, the flood or wind damage.
In any event, I remember when, to use a baseball term, the tie went to the runner.
According to the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Out of almost 500,000 people, New Orleans has only 189,000 that have returned so far.
"The St. Charles Avenue streetcar line won't be back until well into 2007. Electrical service has been restored to nearly all of the local grid, though many customers are waiting for hookups. Twenty Orleans public schools have reopened, with an enrollment hovering around 10,000 -- a sixth of the pre-storm student body."
That doesn't sound at all like making New Orleans "better than before".
"...a powerful American determination to clear the ruins and build (New Orleans) better than before."
-President "G"lobal "W"arming Bush, from his Jackson Square, New Orleans speech on September 15, 2005
All the Bushies have to offer is lip service.
There are buyout plans that are in the works will will keep people from moving back into the Big Easy. There are insurers that will not pay on their policies which will cause people to default on their mortgages. There are banks that will take over lands and sell them out from under these people who are the same people who paid their mortgages on time each and every month until Hurricane Katrina hit. And somehow, the large corporate giants in the banking and insurance company will be the ones who end up getting federal government help to rebuild New Orleans and other areas of the gulf coast, after these people are gone, of course.
"I don't want a buyout, I want to go home. This is not for me up here."
-Louise Leflore, age 71, of New Orleans, now living in Atlanta
Hey... Isn't Georgia already a safe Red State?
Like many of New Orleans displaced citizens, Ms. Leflore had relocated to a Red State where her vote will be "absorbed". Texas, Georgia and other Red States have taken in the people without homes. Sort of a silver lining for the Republicans, dont'cha think?
It's six months later and Mardi Gras parades are going forward. There are beads being thrown about from windows and floats and, on the surface, things are looking better. It's like looking for urban blight in New York City by looking only on Broadway between West 72nd street and Columbus Circle, where the average one-bedroom apartment goes for well over one million dollars.
In President Bush's speech on September 15th, he used the word "help" a total of 16 times. As usual, his talk is cheap.
REPUBLICAN NO SHOWS
NATIONAL SECURITY QUESTIONS NOT IMPORTANT ENOUGH
I watched the Senate Armed Services Committee’s inquiry/briefing called by Senator Warner on Thursday. He invited the entire committee which is comprised of 24 Senators, count that, 24 members with 13 republicans and 11 democrats. Who showed up? 5 members. The chairs – Senator Warner (R) and Senator Levin (D) showed to manage the event. Want to guess who else found it important enough to attend? How about any of the 12 Republican members such as John McCain – No. Pat Roberts – No. Jeff Sessions – No. James Talent – No. Lindsay Graham – No. John Cornyn – No. John Thune – No. Plus the remaining 5 republican members of which NONE OF THEM SHOWED, NOT ONE. This left Warner as the sole supporter of this deal and his support is mostly based on the belief that ‘we should trust the good judgment of the administration.’ HUH, why? Trust is based on evidence and the evidence produced since 2001 is that the BUSH ADMINISTRATION CANNOT BE INHERENTLY TRUSTED without risk of war, poor health coverage, increasing classroom size, far reaching environmental damage, etc. But let me get back on the point…
I can understand that they are on break and some had other plans and some are probably home feeling like volunteer firemen putting out the fires that Bush & Company has created in their states with their prescription drug bill, UAE port fiasco, diminishing incomes, on and on. But couldn’t one or two of them have returned to Washington for 2 ˝ hours if they really are as concerned as they say they are for the safety of Americans to pursue the facts about this port deal? Or, were they TOO AFRAID TO BE SHOWN ON CAMERA OPENLY AGAINST THE PRESIDENT EN BLOC.
On the Democratic side besides Senator Levin there were Senators Clinton, Kennedy, and Byrd present and asking the tough questions. That means the facts are 7% of republicans showed up to 36% of democrats or 4 times as many democrats as republicans.
One other thing I noticed, the government guests, of which there were 6 or more, guess where they were seated? In front of the dais as is typical? NO. The Deputy Secretaries from a wide range of agencies SAT IN THE SEATS OF ABSENT REPUBLICANS who were not present. Could this have been coincidental or intentional? It sure did minimize the effect of seeing all those EMPTY REPUBLICAN SEATS. If it was a space consideration perhaps ALL the Senators would have sat totally on one side almost facing the guests so the typical “sides” would not be apparent. But Senator Warner must have wanted to maintain his seat of power at the center of the table which meant that it appeared there were more empty seats on the democratic side even though DEMOCRATS WERE THE ONLY MEMBERS TO ATTEND besides the chair. COINCIDENCE OR INTENTION? My experience in business says more often than not all these types of visibility and circumstances where power and politics are involved are highly choreographed for maximum benefit to the most powerful. Could Senator Warner and republicans be less shrewd than businesspeople?
Back to the briefing, which can be seen in its entirety at www.c-span.org.
What lead up to the Thursday MADMAN quote from Senator Levin ("Is there not one agency in this government that believes this takeover could affect the national security of the United States?") was a response by Robert Kimmitt, Deputy Treasury Secretary (doesn’t this mean he is probably close with Secretary of the Treasury John Snow who used to work for the company bought by DP World and stands to gain millions in earlier stock sales if the sale goes through?) “we have taken the position that that [45 day investigation] is only triggered if there is a concern. We didn’t ignore the law, we might have interpreted it differently. If a concern was raised and not resolved an investigation would have occurred. Concerns were raised and resolved.”
Sen. Warner followed up by requesting that Gonzalez to write a “memo of interpretation” and show how the decision was based on that interpretation of the statute. I wonder if this will ever occur especially from the one of bush’s biggest supporters who is famous for his last “torture memo.”
Senator Clinton asked: How many times did CFIUS meet on this transaction to approve the ports? (The Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS), is part of the Treasury Department which includes Cabinet officials and White House aides and responsible for examining sales with potential national security risks.)
Clay Lowery (Asst. Treasury Secretary for International Affairs) – One official meeting.
Clinton: Was the White House coordinator, Frances Townsend, apprised of the CFIUS review?
Lowery: I believe the email that announced it and went out was sent to them and received.
Clinton: Was the National Security Council apprised?
Clinton: Chertoff was apprised?
Lowery: Yes, though he was not at the meeting.
Clinton: Do you think there should be consultation with states and cities even though it is not required?
Kimmitt: I never thought of that, but that is good to consider.
Warner: Did you take into account the transfers of UAE money before 9/11, allegations that they facilitated transfer of certain nuclear components, and that 2 of the hijackers were citizens of UAE?
Kimmitt: Certainly that was taken into account. (No one else wanted to comment about how “taken into account.”)
When reporters were allowed to ask questions, Kimmitt was asked further about what he thought of a 45 day investigation and the decision to do/not do it. He declined to comment saying that there was pending legislation. The reporter pointed out that there was no official pending legislation and he said “clear it is coming” and refused to comment. Boy, the republicans are so adept at dodging democratic bullets (no comfort to Whittington).
"Today, 125 combat battalions are fighting the enemy, and 50 of those are in the lead. That's progress."
-DumbYa, just one month ago
The Pentagon just reported there are no Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support. The single capable battalion has been downgraded. By the way, this battalion is made up of 700 to 800 Iraqi troops.
In a country where everyone owns a machine gun, how is it possible that there are no capable fighting troops? Did they all of a sudden forget how to shoot straight? Maybe they took lessons from Duck-Fighter Cheney?
Dumbya has tied the exit strategy to battle ready Iraqi troops. After two years, there aren't any battle ready units. Clearly, this war is endless.
Give me a freaking break, three years later and there isn't one trained battalion. This is not a matter of training but one of willingness to fight in the Iraqi army. The plain truth is that Iraqi don't recognize the dividing lines established by the American occupation. Therefore, they are unwilling to fight each other under American tutelage. Instead, the country has fragmented along sectarian and even tribal lines and old grudges are surfacing. In this sort of environment, the best choice is to extricate ourselves from the quagmire.
Bush has lied about training troops. It's time to get the target off of our troops backs. It's time for the Democrats to say NO MORE and refuse to pay another penny for this war.
AWOL Bush (Again)
-30 people were killed this morning, and 140 more people were killed since Wednesday in the war in Iraq.
-7 American troops were killed by two separate roadside bombs on Wednesday.
-Iraqi political talks were "in ruins" as the Iraq defense minister warned of a never-ending civil war. There are about 150,000 U.S. troops under the command of President George W. Bush (aka, DumbYa) in that country today.
-And where was their Commander-in-Chief?
-Daily Kos from a forward by Robert Scardapane
In response to "Misinformed Americans", Jenny Hanniver writes:
PLEASE tell Rhian to cool her fanatical rantings! There are Muslims on my mail list--peace-loving social justice liberals--and if you are wondering why I am no longer forwarding Madman nearly as much as I used to, it's because Rhian never shuts up about the Muslim Demons. I don't wish to insult my Muslim friends, any more than I'd insult my Jewish friends by forwarding them a batch of jingoist anti-Philistine (i.e., anti-Palestinian) verses from the Old Testament, or my Christian friends by quoting the anti-female or support-the-state sections of the Pauline epistles, the last chapter of Revelation, or that awful verse from Luke about going out into the highways and dragging them in--a verse that has caused incalculable harm down through the centuries. Rhian should read the Bible as well as the Qu'ran, and go on from there. I've read the Bible, the Qu'ran & many of the Buddhist texts, the O.T. & N.T. Apocrypha & Pseudepigrapha, the Book of Mormon, the basic Hindu, Taoist, Zoroastrian and Confucian literature, and an enormous amount of Medieval Christian, Jewish and Islamic literature and science (my post-graduate specialty being Medieval history and philosophy). You want to be shocked by highly ethical social and economic ideals alternating with hierarchical, manipulative, coercive politics? Just read the Confucian books! (Or, for that matter, study the history of the Soviet Union, since Communism is a variety of religion.)
Rhian evidently doesn't realize that EVERY religion's sacred books contradict themselves over and over, and the contractions often involve high ideals versus base methods--blindly assuming that the end justifies the means. And there are many errors. Sacred literature was written in ancient languages, then interpreted to add interpolations and glosses that became part of the text, copied, recopied and translated by fallible human beings who invented fictional parables and presented them as history, brought old myths into the narrative (explaining the TWO contradictory creation legends in Genesis), suffered illness and/or episodes of depression, hallucinated (Ezekiel?), were viciously attacked by enemies (as were both Paul and Muhammad), or had a problem controlling bad tempers--like the prophet Elisha, whose "bear prayer" is one of the most shocking episodes in the Hebrew Bible. I refuse to believe that God sent bears to tear apart little boys simply because they were teasing Elisha for being bald-headed. No, that was written by a human, and a very fallible, petty one. Or it's a miscopy or mistranslation.
Friar, scholar and scientist Roger Bacon got thrown into a Christian prison at the end of 13th century and stayed there for the rest of his life, for teaching that he was unable to read the Christian Bible literally. Even if one assumed that the words were originally inspired by God, he wrote in an era of scribal handwritten books, the original copyists might have made errors, and everyday evidence proved that recopyists and translators would continue to make more errors. As a result, the Medieval Vulgate Bible was packed with bad translations, many of which reappeared in the Douay and King James versions. Look at all the problems caused for Christians, especially for women, by the mistranslation of the prophetic word for "young woman" as "virgin"!
My guess is that Rhian is (or was) a fundamentalist. No one but a fundamentalist would read sacred scripture literally--but by no means are all Christians, Jews and Muslims fundamentalists! Aside from a few power-seeking fanatics, most educated persons are not, and education is the key to understanding others and getting along in a diverse world. A basic problem in the modern Muslim Middle East is that bright, frustrated, angry, desperate people, the people who brought civilization (literally "city life") into the world and achieved a long history of accomplishments in every art and science, are now fractured into post-imperialist principalities with a tiny coterie of ultra-rich in their palaces, and most of the rest of society impoverished, under-educated and prime targets for propaganda. If they blame the West rather than their own greedy rulers, is that surprising? Isn't it typically human--both to believe that foreigners are their problem, and for the rulers to encourage such beliefs? What about all the Americans who believe the government propaganda on Faux News? What about those, like Rhian, who think that all Muslims are Demonic enemies? I see no essential difference.
And Dorothy Schwartz responds:
For Rhian: there's some pretty ugly stuff in the Judeo-Christian Bible also. And remember the Crusades and the Inquisition?
In response to "I am stunned at the agreement of left and right on this issue. No port should be owned by a foreign company - the government should manage ports. We are just begging for another terrorist incident ... perhaps, that is exactly what the Bush-itas want," Pat Thompson writes:
Yes, it would be even easier to arrange another 9/11 "another Pearl Harbor" (see PNAC).
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