Friday, September 30, 2005

Miller on a Scooter

The Judith Miller case doesn't make any more sense than it ever did. She spent 85 days in jail to avoid doing what she has now apparently agreed to do, rat out Scooter Libby. Libby could have given her the unconditional specific waiver she claims to have required at any time, but didn't. Or rather, he claims he gave it over a year ago, and subsequently, but she didn't accept it. Libby's lawyer, laying it on awfully thick, said (my emphasis):

"We told her lawyers it was not coerced. We are surprised to learn we had anything to do with her incarceration."

Amazing! More weirdness from the New York Times itself, referring to Bill Keller, the executive editor, repeating another claim of Libby's lawyer:

"Mr. Keller said that Mr. Fitzgerald had cleared the way to an agreement by assuring Ms. Miller and her source that he would not regard a conversation between the two about a possible waiver as an obstruction of justice."

This is getting silly. Fitzgerald now has to bless the waiver that they claim to have been talking about for a year? The waiver that Fitzgerald wanted so that Miller would testify? It appears likely that the real story is that Fitzgerald finally had enough on Libby to go after him without Miller, so it was no longer necessary for Miller to keep her mouth shut as Libby was finished anyway. The fan dance about the waiver is a trick to hide the truth. The deal apparently is that Miller will testify, but only about her conversations with Libby, thus protecting anyone else in the White House she might have talked to, and, as an added bonus, protecting her own reputation if she took a more active role in the outing of Plame than she is prepared to admit. As Libby is doomed anyway, a decision appears to have been made to sacrifice him in order to protect someone more important. That would have to be Dick Cheney himself, who needs protection so he can run for President (and win, due to the crooked voting machines). Miller going to jail makes no sense unless we assume that:

  1. Libby's lawyer and the White House had to be convinced that Libby was going to be indicted anyway, and that convincing wasn't finished at the time Miller had to head off to jail (it required the testimony of other journalists and whatever else Fitzgerald was able to dig up);

  2. the charade about Libby's consent was necessary to allow Miller to play the press martyr role long enough to put pressure on Fitzgerald to agree to limit the scope of Miller's testimony; and

  3. the White House finally agreed that it was necessary to sacrifice Libby in order to protect Cheney, a concession that may actually have been precipitated by the loss of White House mojo caused by Bush's failed response to Katrina.

Miller gets to continue to play the role of martyr, Fitzgerald gets Libby - Cheney would have been overreaching, and dangerous to attempt - and Libby is temporarily inconvenienced, until his pardon and appointment to a cushy think tank job and his eventual reappearance in the new Cheney cabinet. Everybody wins!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

More barge tales

More on the loose barge from a reader of Progressive Review Undernews (scroll down):

"One of the Industrial Canal breaches likely was caused by a loose barge that broke through it. Suhayda said that his inspection of the debris from the 17th Street Canal breach suggests the wall simply gave way. 'It looks to have been laterally pushed, not scoured in back with dirt being removed in pieces,' he said. 'You can see levee material, some distance pushed inside the floodwall area, like a bulldozer pushed it.' Locals from Lakeview subdivision of New Orleans report that after Katrina passed a loose barge struck levee causing breach that flooded city. Wayne Madsen Report has been informed by evacuees in Baton Rouge from Lakeview, a well-to-do New Orleans neighborhood, that the flooding of the city was caused by a loose barge striking the levee on the 17th Street Canal. The breach was not caused by rising flood waters as reported by FEMA and other agencies. Lakeview is some 1.5 miles down Veterans Boulevard from the 17th St. Canal breach. Distraught evacuees want to know why the Coast Guard or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not secure the barge. The evacuees who witnessed the barge striking the levee also want to know why the major media is not covering this story. It is not known what company owns the barge but if it is a major campaign contributor to the GOP, the answer is self-evident."

People seem to be more concerned about silliness like weather control and whether the shape of the hurricane on satellite photos means the Flying Spaghetti Monster is angry with the crackers (I certainly hope so!), than with the actual causes of the damage. I don't know whether it is intentional, but there appears to be a dangerous confusion of damage done to the Industrial Canal, which is the issue here, and damage done to the 17th Street Canal, which is a red herring. It would be just like the conspirators to throw this confusion into the mix so they can later say the whole story is nonsense, and thus get the owner of the negligently unsecured barge off the hook.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Here (or here) is a sweet list of conspiracy-minded questions about New Orleans. I am particularly fond of number 2:

"Who owned the huge barge that was catapulted through the wall of the Industrial Canal, killing hundreds in the Lower Ninth Ward - the most deadly hit-and-run accident in U.S. history?"

On the mystery barge (for more, scroll down to the comments by Brad Ott here and here):

"A loose barge may have caused a large breach in the east side of the Industrial Canal floodwall that accelerated Hurricane Katrina's rising floodwaters in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish, Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi said Monday.

Naomi said the barge was found on the land side of the floodwall, leading corps officials to believe it could have crashed through the wall and sent a huge amount of water - which was already pouring over the top of the wall - into the neighborhoods immediately downriver.

'We have some pictures that show this very large barge inside the protected area. It had to go through the breach,' Naomi said. 'The opening is a little bit wider than the barge itself. One would think it's the barge that did it.'

If it did strike the floodwall, Naomi said, the barge would have 'precipitated a tremendous collapse' that would have quickly flooded the Lower Ninth Ward and then St. Bernard Parish. The breach is 'ultimately in my opinion what got (St. Bernard) Parish flooded,' Naomi said."

The reason this story isn't getting more play is that the politically-connected corporation that negligently failed to secure its barge would be facing a multi-billion dollar liability claim. You can add that claim to the fact that the storm surge wasn't high enough to go over the floodwalls, meaning that they failed due to negligent construction, presumably due to cost-cutting by corrupt subcontractors employed by the Army Corps of Engineers (for some Army boondoggles, see here). This story is just starting. Watch for Bush to try to sneak in some kind of liability limitation to protect the guilty.

Monday, September 26, 2005

British Basra bomb bull

All the speculation has forced the British government to come up with a new Official Story on what the two police-murderin', anti-tank-weapon-totin', Arab-dress-sportin' soldiers were up to in Basra:

"TWO SAS soldiers rescued last week after being arrested by Iraqi police and handed over to a militia were engaged in a 'secret war' against insurgents bringing sophisticated bombs into the country from Iran.

The men had left their base near the southern Iraqi city of Basra to carry out reconnaissance and supply a second patrol with 'more tools and fire power', said a source with knowledge of their activities.

They had been in Basra for seven weeks on an operation prompted by intelligence that a new type of roadside bomb which has been used against British troops was among weapons being smuggled over the Iranian border."


"'Since the increase in attacks against UK forces two months ago, a 24-strong SAS team has been working out of Basra to provide a safety net to stop the bombers getting into the city from Iran,' said one source. 'The aim is to identify routes used by insurgents and either capture or kill them.'"

You can replace 'source with knowledge of their activities' by 'Blair spin-artiste' to get a more accurate feeling for what is going on here. As propaganda goes, it's a twofer, simultaneously explaining that these weren't British agents provocateurs, and that Iran is somehow to blame for the problems in Basra. I suppose the secret mission in the hinterland of Basra explains what they were doing in Basra itself, near where there was to be a protest against the British seizure of a local leader blamed by the British for their recent problems in the area. It suppose it also explains why they didn't just identify themselves as British soldiers when challenged, instead of getting into a firefight with local authorities (who, after all, were just doing their jobs). I suppose it also explains why it took the British days and days to come up with their latest version of the truth. The Iraqis, who haven't got the luxury of lying to themselves about the motives of a government which, after all, is a documented liar on the reasons for entering the war in the first place, know what the truth is.

In the meantime, in the last 24 hours we hear that the British are:

  1. definitely pulling out of Iraq starting next May; or

  2. definitely not pulling out; or

  3. sending in more SAS soldiers so they can definitely pull out.

The bottom line is that Tony can't pull out British troops as it would leave his master George too politically exposed, and George - notwithstanding all the planning being done on the 'left' of American politics to make the pull-out as humane as possible - won't remove American troops as long as there are American bases in Iraq. Since there will be American bases in Iraq until the Americans are forced to give them up, I wouldn't be holding my breath on any Anglo-American troop withdrawal any time soon. When it does occur, I can guarantee that it will be done absolutely and completely without the slightest regard to the effect it will have on the Iraqi people, and for totally selfish American reasons.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Such a dastardly policy

Juan Cole, polite to a fault as always, writes:

"Some kind readers have been asking me if it is possible that the British SAS operatives captured by the Iraqi police on Monday were agents provocateurs planning to blow things up and blame some Iraqi group. My answer is that while it cannot be absolutely ruled out, the theory has almost no facts behind it. It is not even clear if the British agents had a bomb in their car, and they may not after all have killed Iraqi police who came to grab them. I'd need way more evidence than now exists to charge the British military with such a dastardly policy."

Kurt Nimmo provides a good summary of the history of SAS 'counter-insurgency' techniques. The Irish know all about this:

"Sinister covert operations by British forces in Iraq are 'reminiscent of the activities of the SAS' in the North, a leading human rights campaigner said last night.

Paul O'Connor, of the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), demanded that the British government 'break the cycle of abuse' imposed by its forces."


"Mr O'Connor was speaking to Daily Ireland after further details emerged about an incident in Basra on Monday afternoon involving undercover British operatives.

The incident drew parallels with the March 1988 attack on the funeral of IRA volunteer Caoimhghin Mac Bradaigh.

During that incident, two armed and undercover army intelligence operatives drove directly at the cortege in west Belfast. After firing a shot, both soldiers were subsequently captured, beaten and shot dead by the IRA."

The kit of the captured soldiers included an anti-tank weapon (and who is the only force with tanks in Basra?), and towing equipment (to tow a booby-trapped car filled with explosives?). It would seem to me that the onus is clearly on the British military to prove that its men weren't up to "such a dastardly policy".

London bomb dress rehearsal

We're now being told that the London bombers had a dress rehearsal before (or here) the bombings in order to run through what they would have to do on July 7. It can't be that hard to get on a subway train. What is the one thing that would concern them? The possibility that, if all the bombers weren't in their positions on the trains when the first bomb went off, the system would be shut down preventing anyone else from getting on the trains. The system might have been shut down by some human action, either as part of a pre-planned response to terror or in panic, or the system might have shut down automatically due to damage done by the first bomb. It was imperative that every bomber be in position before the first bomb was detonated, and that is what they must have been rehearsing. And yet we're told that the fourth bomber, Hasib Hussain, the one who ended up on the bus, made exactly that one mistake. He failed to get into the station, and thus onto the train, before the first bombs were detonated (Hussain was delayed as he had to stop for a Happy Meal, and tried to phone his fellow bombers, who he ought to have known were already dead), and thus, unable to fulfill his part of the plot (there is controversy about this point too, as the line he was supposed to get on was apparently still working, leaving one to wonder why he chose to take a bus), had to improvise by boarding a bus (note the AFP story, which coyly says ". . . Hussain was thwarted because northbound subway services were suspended that morning, meaning he boarded a bus", leaving the question open of why the subway services were suspended). How could he possibly have made such a fundamental mistake, especially given the fact that the rehearsal must have focused on that very issue? The explanation is that he apparently wasn't at the rehearsal, but isn't this so obvious a point that the others might have mentioned it to him? Another oddity that makes no sense is that the No. 30 bus he is said to have blown up was the second bus he had taken, having earlier been on another bus towards Euston.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

British bombs in Basra

I find myself increasingly becoming the old fogey of the conspiracy field. While the youngsters continue to come up with new and exciting conspiracies, xymphora slowly deteriorates into a lousy debunking blog. Witness the latest revelations from Basra. To summarize, two British soldiers, disguised as Arabs and with a car full of explosives, somehow find themselves in a contretemps with an Iraqi policeman, shoot him dead, are arrested by local authorities, refuse to explain what they were doing, end up in detention, and finally become the subject of negotiations between the British and Iraqis concerning their release, 'negotiations' apparently meaning to the British driving up to the prison with tanks and knocking the walls down (a fact which the British finally, but grudgingly, admitted), causing a riot which results in civilian deaths and the escape of other prisoners (and the soldiers weren't even in the prison!). Everybody has come to the obvious conclusion that this is the first documented proof of the fact that much of the sectarian violence in Iraq is the work of coalition agents provocateurs, attempting to cause a civil war in Iraq. While I have no doubt that this intentional process is going on elsewhere in Iraq (and largely to fit the Israeli agenda, described here many times before, of breaking the country up into small, unthreatening statelets, with the additional motive of leading to the new Israeli ally, the Shi'ite Empire, to counter the largely Sunni opposition to Israeli imperial plans), I doubt that the Basra case is an example of it. There seems to be another conspiracy afoot.

The British have made a big deal of how much better they are than the Americans at shouldering the 'white man's burden' of policing their portion of Iraq. Of course, the Americans are so arrogant, culturally insensitive, and generally stupid, it is not difficult to do a better job. As well, the South is easier to police just because it is majority Shi'ite, and not interested in causing trouble for the central government. Nevertheless, it is true that the British have done a much better job than the Americans, and have some right to feel superior. And yet, just recently, everything has gone sideways. Here is the timeline:

  1. In the early Spring, British officials anticipated that British troops would soon be withdrawing from Iraq.

  2. In July, plans are leaked of a British plan to withdraw almost all British troops from Iraq (sending some of them to Afghanistan). This withdrawal would have started next month. Almost immediately, the deaths of British contractors is said to 'threaten' these plans.

  3. In early August, journalist Steven Vincent, who worked for the New York Times, is found murdered outside of Basra. He had been shot and was found with his hands bound. Days before his death, he "had written an Op-Ed piece for The Times in which he criticized British security forces for failing to act against the Shiite militias' growing power in the local police force." It's unlikely, even given the ubiquity of the internet, that local militias would be on top of very recently published New York Times Op-Eds (although Vincent had written previously on the matter).

  4. Normally quiescent Basra starts to become dangerous for British troops, and three are actually killed. While there has been a constant series of British deaths in Iraq, these most recent deaths seem to cause a new type of overreaction. On Sunday, September 18, the British arrest local leaders Sheik Ahmed Majid Farttusi and Sayyid Sajjad, arrests that almost certainly will lead to more trouble (Juan Cole has the timeline).

  5. The British plans to withdraw are indefinitely cancelled, as conditions have worsened.

  6. The two British soldiers are arrested near a protest arranged against the arrest of Sheik Ahmed Majid Farttusi, and rescued with a completely unnecessary, show of lethal violence.

  7. Journalist Fakher Haider, who also worked for the New York Times, is found murdered on the same day as the British soldiers were arrested. He also had his hands bound and was shot. He had been taken away for 'questioning' by people claiming to be Iraqi police, a claim backed up by the fact they arrived in a police car (!). He "had recently reported on the growing friction and violence among Basra's rival Shiite militias, which are widely believed to have infiltrated the police." Now there are two murdered journalists in Basra, each of whom wrote about the growing power of Shi'ite militias in Basra (scuttlebutt that Steven Vincent's murder was related to his relationship with his Iraqi female translator seems to be disproved by the nature of the second murder). Local militia leaders would almost certainly have been unaware of the writings of these journalists (and you have to wonder why they would care if they did know). Somebody wants to remove Western journalists with good local contacts from Basra.

What I see here is an attempt to sabotage the British withdrawal, and the murders of both journalists may well be associated with this.

Creating sectarian violence doesn't really make sense in Basra, as the Zionist planners intend to keep the South whole, and part of the Shi'ite Empire. Causing trouble in Basra will only mess up those plans. On the other hand, setting a bomb off in Basra would have continued the campaign, started right after the announcement of withdrawal was made, to ensure that the British troops cannot be withdrawn from the South. Who benefits from non-withdrawal?:

  1. the Americans, who would have been all alone in their battle against Islam once the British left;

  2. elements in the British military, who so rarely get to be in a real war these days, are probably loathe having to go back to more endless marching drills in the rain (or, at best, in Afghanistan);

  3. the international cadre of war financiers, who still derive considerable income from the British presence in Iraq; and

  4. Tony Blair, who works for the financiers and has this extremely weird relationship with the United States (he seems to be under the misapprehension that he is Prime Minister of the United States).

I think there is a conspiracy here, but not necessarily the obvious one.

Monday, September 19, 2005

New Oraq and the corrupt class warriors

Democracy Now correspondent Jeremy Scahill as interviewed (or here) by Amy Goodman:

". . . some people are calling it 'New Oraq' instead of New Orleans, because of all of the various forces, the Halliburtons, the KBR's, the Blackwaters that are here now, the connections to Iraq are so incredible. The same looters who have raided the federal funds in Iraq, U.S. funds in Iraq, are looting federal funds here in New Orleans."

I've been meaning to write about the electricity situation in Iraq, an issue that has become more interesting as the Bush Administration, in the ultimate example of blowback, attempts to replicate in New Orleans its program in Iraq. Despite throwing billions of dollars at contractors who are friends of the Bush Administration - you all know them, the usual suspects whose names are now appearing in the New Orleans debacle - the electricity and sewage situation in Iraq is essentially the same as the day Bush declared that the American mission in Iraq was accomplished. In stark contrast to their experience under Saddam, who had the destroyed electrical system functioning normally within a couple months after the Gulf War, the people of Iraq have seen no improvement in the utilities situation in the over two years the Americans have been in occupation. Despite the attempt by the New York Times to blame the whole thing on shifty Iraqi subcontractors, the real reasons for the problem are obvious. No-bid cost-plus contracts given to friends of the Bush Administration with oversight, if any, provided by the cadre of Young Republicans afraid to leave the Green Zone, and no political pressure in the United States for any results, means that the incentives are all on never getting the job done, so the gravy train can be stretched out as long as possible. On top of the insanity of the structure of the contracting is the fact that billions of dollars of reconstruction money has simply disappeared, and what money remains is increasingly being diverted to pay for private security firms (more friends of the Bush Administration). The problem is that the intention was never to fix the electrical system, but only to provide another big conduit for money to flow from American taxpayers to certain rich people.

We are going to see an exact model of the Iraq experience in New Orleans. Indeed, the Bush Administration seems to be using the spectacularly failed program in Iraq as its model for the reconstruction of New Orleans. They don't consider Iraq to be a failure as it has succeeded in its goal of wealth redistribution, which was all it was intended to do in the first place. New Orleans will receive exactly the same treatment. The no-bid cost-plus contracts are already being handed out to friends of the Bush Administration. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be spent, none of it to be funded by tax increases or savings from withdrawal from Iraq, but all to come from reductions in social programs. In other words, the whole reconstruction program is being set up as a method of transferring wealth from poor and middle class Americans to those wealthy friends of the Bush Administration.

To show how obvious this is, Bush has the nerve to put Karl Rove (!) in charge of handing out the contracts. You know the process: in one hand Rove will have a list of all the bidders on the contracts, in the other a list of all those who have given large sums to Bush and the Republican Party. If your name is on both lists, you win the jackpot! It is rare for corruption to be quite this blatant. The bizarrely inappropriate selection of Rove for this job proves that the Republicans have absolutely no fear of the upcoming election cycles, having the results firmly in hand already with the crooked voting machines.

Just like in Iraq, the ideologues will use the New Orleans reconstruction to further their neo-conservative experiments in drowning government in the bathtub of Lake George. Neo-cons actually love big government, as long as it sticks to its main job of redistributing money from poor people to rich people. Gentrification (i. e., rebuilding housing that the former inhabitants can't afford to live in), tax-free zones (for selected people), removal of 'undesirables' (and in particular, those who might vote Democrat), lifting of oppressive government regulations in things like minimum wages and environmental regulations - the whole neo-con ball of wax - is going to be inflicted on the people of New Orleans. The opposition of the people of Iraq has forced them to back off from a lot of this crap over there, but Americans seem to have little stomach for opposition to anything.

The ethnic cleansing is particularly obvious. After dragging their feet for as long as possible, FEMA finally arrived on the scene and, as we have seen over and over, did everything possible to prevent relief from reaching the people. In other words, they did all they could to make people want to leave. The first real response of the Bush Administration was to send in the buses to drive the poor black people as far away from the city as possible, provide them no way to return, and do all they could to permanently reestablish them in their new communities. Now the army has come in, heavy, and is acting like the army in Iraq, with the additional duty of preventing anyone in the wrong group from sneaking back into the city or wanting to. I know people object to my calling this 'ethnic cleansing', but what the hell are you going to call it?

Bush saw a probable disaster coming, let it happen, delayed any response until the city was uninhabitable, sent FEMA in to make it worse, forcibly removed the population, sent the army in to keep them out (and protect private property, and possibly knock down a few levees to clean out selected areas of town), when things were at their worst tried to blackmail Governor Blanco into turning the city over to him and his martial law, and then starts a neo-con ideological reconstruction project involving the corrupt (Karl Rove!) transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars of money to his rich friends. It is very much like the Iraq project, which was started of course by allowing the attack on September 11 to take place. We've speculated a lot about the real reasons for the attack on Iraq, the weapons of mass destruction having been conclusively proved to have been a lie. Israel, oil, geopolitics. Some are speculating that the real reason for New Orleans is the establishment of martial law, or the conditioning of Americans to the FEMA kamps. All of these factors may have roles to play, but the pattern of Iraq-New Orleans reconstruction is starting to suggest that the main reason is the simplest one of all, good old-fashioned corruption. Would Bush destroy an iconic American city for a minimum of $250 billion. You betcha!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Danziger Bridge incidents

Here's the full text (also available here and here and here) of the Associated Press article on something that happened at Danziger Bridge in New Orleans on September 4:

"Police shot and killed at least five people Sunday after gunmen opened fire on a group of contractors traveling across a bridge on their way to make repairs, authorities said.

Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley said police shot at eight people carrying guns, killing five or six.

Fourteen contractors were traveling across the Danziger Bridge under police escort when they came under fire, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.

They were on their way to launch barges into Lake Pontchartrain to help plug the breech in the 17th Street Canal, Hall said.

None of the contractors was injured, Mike Rogers, a disaster relief coordinator with the Army Corps of Engineers, told reporters in Baton Rouge.

The bridge spans a canal connecting Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River.

No other details were immediately available."

This is a revision of the first version (or here):

"Police shot eight people carrying guns on a New Orleans bridge Sunday, killing five or six, a deputy chief said. A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers said the victims were contractors on their way to repair a canal.

The contractors were walking across a bridge on their way to launch barges into Lake Pontchartrain to fix the 17th Street Canal, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Corps.

Earlier Sunday, New Orleans Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley said police shot at eight people, killing five or six.

The shootings took place on the Danziger Bridge, which spans a canal connecting Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River.

No other details were immediately available."

The Associated Press had severe second thoughts about the first version:

"Stations: The latest New Orleans-datelined urgent series Hurricane Katrina-Shootings has been KILLED. The Army Corps of Engineers says the contractors were shot at, then police fatally shot the gunmen who'd fired on the contractors. The contractors were NOT killed.

A kill is mandatory. Make certain the story is not broadcast.A sub will be filed shortly.AP Broadcast News Center - Washington"

The difference between the two AP stories is that one story has the police shooting and killing armed contractors, while the later story has them shooting and killing people who were shooting on armed contractors. A fairly significant change.

Reuters has what appears to be an even later version (or here) of the story:

"New Orleans police killed four looters who had opened fire on them on Sunday as rescue teams scoured homes and toxic waters flooding streets to find survivors and recover thousands of bloated corpses.

A fifth looter was in critical condition but no more details were available about the incident in a city where authorities are slowly regaining control after a wave of looting, murders and rapes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

'Five men who were looting exchanged gunfire with police. The officers engaged the looters when they were fired upon,' said New Orleans superintendent of police, Steven Nichols.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors working on a levee breach were fired on by gunmen but no one was hurt, said the Corps' Mike Rogers. It was not clear if the two incidents were connected."

So now it appears there were two incidents, one where U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors were fired upon but no one was hurt, and one with no contractors, where police killed looters who were firing at them. The incident appears to have been reported on Australian television, together with the sound of live gunfire.

Quite the story. It made a considerable impression on various right-wing bloggers, who felt it showed how these dangerous black looters were so evil that they were preventing repair of the levees in order to keep the city flooded so they could continue looting. When you think about it, that theory seems to give the looters a degree of planning and organization which is not credible. It makes more sense that the police would get into a gunfight with looters, or even use the excuse of looters to explain why they killed a lot of people, but how then did the AP get the whole story so wrong - twice! - by adding the contractors to the mix?

It was a big day at Danziger Bridge. Later in the day a helicopter crashed there. From USA Today (or here):

". . . in the evening, a civilian helicopter crashed near the Danziger Bridge, but the two people on board escaped with only cuts and scrapes, according to Mark Smith of the state office of emergency preparedness."

More, from CNN (more CNN here):

"On Sunday, a helicopter that had been involved in rescue operations crashed northwest of New Orleans.

No evacuees were on board the Eurocopter AS 332 Super Puma and the pilot and crew were rescued safely, according to an official with Helinet Aviation Services, which had a chopper flying above the crash site."

More, again from the AP:

"A civilian helicopter that was not involved in rescue operations crashed in New Orleans on Sunday and the two people on board were slightly injured, a state official said.

The helicopter crashed in the area of the Danziger Bridge, said Mark Smith, spokesman for the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

'The helicopter came down hard and rolled over on its side and broke its blades off and broke its tail off,' Smith told reporters in Baton Rouge.

'There were two civilians on the helicopter. Both sustained cuts and scrapes,' he said.

It was not known why the helicopter was in the area, Smith said.

The US military and Coast Guard have conducted hundreds of helicopter flights in the New Orleans area in recent days searching for Hurricane Katrina survivors and have rescued thousands of storm victims.

Early media reports said the crashed aircraft was a Coast Guard helicopter.

Live television footage from the scene showed the red helicopter lying on the ground near a roadway, with smoke drifting from its cockpit. The ground around the wreck was blackened and churned up by the aircraft's rotor blades.

Smith said he did not know if shots had been fired at the helicopter. Gunfire has been reported on numerous occasion in the New Orleans area in recent days.

'It could have been mechanical failure,' he said."

So now a coast guard helicopter has morphed into a civilian helicopter, which is showing a peculiar fascination with the Danziger Bridge. This mysterious helicopter was also described as a 'rescue helicopter' and a 'Coast Guard Super Puma helicopter":

"A rescue helicopter has crashed in New Orleans, US television networks say.

The two crew members from the Coast Guard Super Puma helicopter were safe, MSNBC said.

Live television footage from the scene showed the red helicopter lying on the ground near a roadway, with smoke drifting from its cockpit. The ground around the wreck was blackened and churned up by the aircraft's rotor blades."

This is an awfully specific description to be wrong. On the other hand, the Coast Guard doesn't appear to use the Super Puma, but rather another Aerospatiale product called the Dolphin. Of course, the Coast Guard might have contracted with somebody with a Super Puma, so you never know. You have to wonder why a rescue helicopter was flying around the Danziger Bridge, not a residential area where there would be somebody in need of rescue, and on all accounts a dry enough area for quite a bit to be going on.

Some good questions from Nur al-Cubicle:

"For certain, the Danzinger Bridge is nowhere near the breaches nor should the industrial area be a magnet for looters looking for television sets."


"The implication is that something is occuring on and near the Danziger Bridge which is both extraordinary and alarming. A simple mind says the helicopter was a news aircraft gone out to follow up on the shooting and was forcefully not permitted to photograph. A dull person could think that 3:00 pm in the afternoon is an odd hour to be on foot in the hot Gulf sun and rather late in the day to be getting around to starting repairs on breached levees. A disinterested so-and-so might wonder about the police escort after having heard press accounts of the reduction of New Orleans police to skeleton crew on the point of exhaustion."

I would add that it is an odd way to make repairs in a breech in the 17th Street Canal by launching barges into Lake Pontchartrain.

My best guess is that the police killed some people and used the Army contractor story to cover it up. The victims are unlikely to have been looters, but may have used guns in self-defense. The police story inadvertently disclosed that people working for the army were up to some mysterious job, a job that was supposed to be a secret. The helicopter went to take a look at what was going on, and was shot down. Discrepancies in the official story are starting to lead to theories that at least some levees and floodwalls were intentionally destroyed, theories that gain some credence in that even the experts are baffled at what happened to the floodwalls. Its a bit too convenient that storm surge gauges stopped functioning during a . . . storm surge, thus removing inconvenient questions about how a nine foot storm surge went over a wall designed to stop an 11.5 foot storm surge.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

We don't want your kind here!

The police of the city of Gretna used their guns to threaten away residents of New Orleans fleeing their flooded and apparently abandoned city by attempting to walk over the Highway 90 bridge. Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson said:

"If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged."

The story (or here) told by two paramedics is amazing (my emphasis in bold):

"As we approached the bridge, armed sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions.

As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us that there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans, and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for: if you are poor and Black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River, and you are not getting out of New Orleans."

Policemen firing weapons over the heads of a crowd of black people fleeing a devastated city. Is this 2005 or 1805? From Workbench (referring to the same account by the two paramedics):

"The increasingly desperate group set up camp on the New Orleans side of the bridge, where they were seen by several media outlets, until they were chased off at gunpoint by Gretna police:

Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The paramedics believe that race played a factor in the decision to block evacuees on foot. Gretna's population is 56 percent white and 36 percent black, according to the 2000 U.S. Census."

Some of these people who were turned away may very well have died or been injured in New Orleans, and certainly experienced needless suffering. I know you're not supposed to compare anything to the 'morally unique' suffering of the Jewish people in the Holocaust, but this reminds me of the famous ship S.S. St. Louis, filled with Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, which was turned away from Cuba, and, although this account is amusingly written for current-day political reasons to amend inconvenient facts, from the United States (by gunship) and Canada as well. Although the consequences were much worse for the people on the S.S. St. Louis - many died in the Holocaust - the principle is the same: We don't want your kind here! And we mean that knowing that we are chasing you off with guns into certain danger.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Disaster Capitalism in New Orleans

The cost (or here) of cleaning up the results of Bush's negligence in failing to deal with global warming and spending money needed for New Orleans levees on his war in Iraq may be as much as the $300 billion spent in four years to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course, what most people would regard as a cost, the entrepreneurial politicians in the Bush White House see as yet another opportunity to transfer money from taxpayers to their personal friends. The scheme is blatantly obvious:

  1. Bush has started to issue Iraq-style no-bid contracts, with cost-plus provisions that guarantee contractors a certain profit regardless of how much they spend.

  2. Old buddies like Halliburton, Bechtel, and Fluor are first in line. Joe Allbaugh, the former director of FEMA, is lobbying for Halliburton, and another winner of the Katrina windfall, Shaw Group Inc.

  3. In order to increase profitability at the expense of the working people most affected by the hurricane and thus most in need of money, Bush has removed (or here) federal minimum-wage provisions from the reconstruction contracts.

The concept of 'disaster capitalism', a term coined by Naomi Klein, is now being applied to the United States itself. Klein wrote:

"Last summer, in the lull of the August media doze, the Bush Administration's doctrine of preventive war took a major leap forward. On August 5, 2004, the White House created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, headed by former US Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual. Its mandate is to draw up elaborate 'post-conflict' plans for up to twenty-five countries that are not, as of yet, in conflict. According to Pascual, it will also be able to coordinate three full-scale reconstruction operations in different countries 'at the same time,' each lasting 'five to seven years.'

and (my emphasis in bold; note that Halliburton had a 'pre-completed' contract for New Orleans):

"Gone are the days of waiting for wars to break out and then drawing up ad hoc plans to pick up the pieces. In close cooperation with the National Intelligence Council, Pascual's office keeps 'high risk' countries on a 'watch list' and assembles rapid-response teams ready to engage in prewar planning and to 'mobilize and deploy quickly' after a conflict has gone down. The teams are made up of private companies, nongovernmental organizations and members of think tanks - some, Pascual told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in October, will have 'pre-completed' contracts to rebuild countries that are not yet broken. Doing this paperwork in advance could 'cut off three to six months in your response time.'"

and (my emphasis in bold):

"But if the reconstruction industry is stunningly inept at rebuilding, that may be because rebuilding is not its primary purpose. According to Guttal, 'It's not reconstruction at all - it's about reshaping everything.' If anything, the stories of corruption and incompetence serve to mask this deeper scandal: the rise of a predatory form of disaster capitalism that uses the desperation and fear created by catastrophe to engage in radical social and economic engineering. And on this front, the reconstruction industry works so quickly and efficiently that the privatizations and land grabs are usually locked in before the local population knows what hit them. Kumara, in another e-mail, warns that Sri Lanka is now facing 'a second tsunami of corporate globalization and militarization,' potentially even more devastating than the first. 'We see this as a plan of action amidst the tsunami crisis to hand over the sea and the coast to foreign corporations and tourism, with military assistance from the US Marines.'"

and(my emphasis in bold):

"A group calling itself Thailand Tsunami Survivors and Supporters says that for 'businessmen-politicians, the tsunami was the answer to their prayers, since it literally wiped these coastal areas clean of the communities which had previously stood in the way of their plans for resorts, hotels, casinos and shrimp farms. To them, all these coastal areas are now open land!'"

Just like New Orleans! If the Bush Administration has elaborate pre-made plans to make money off conflicts which have yet to occur in other countries, why would they not also have elaborate pre-made plans to make money off natural disasters that occur within the United States? A book of plans for New Orleans, a book of plans for Florida, a book of plans for San Francisco . . the money to be made is enormous! The implications of FEMA's 'incompetence' and Bush's inexplicable failure to do anything about the plight of New Orleans until it was too late become rather obvious. Competence just leads to fewer chances to make money. All of the reconstruction contracts can be directed to friends of the Bush Administration, and no one will complain about the extremely generous payments. At the same time, 'undesirable' populations - blacks in New Orleans, gays in San Francisco - can be cleaned up, thus ensuring that the area will vote Republican in the future.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Apartheid America and the Right of Return

To give you some idea of the climate in which it could be politically acceptable to use the people of New Orleans as hostages - pawns in some bigger game of corruption played by Bush and his cronies - read the cover story in this month's Harpers, "Still Separate, Still Unequal: America's Educational Apartheid" by Jonathan Kozol. The significant progress made in race relations in the 1960's and 1970's has completely collapsed under the onslaught of Reagan-Bush politics, and that collapse is reflected in the fact that the United States now has two completely separate education systems, one well-funded one for whites, and one much less well-funded one for everybody else. The annual Human Development Report of the United Nations has just come out and states that parts of the United States are as poor as the Third World, and America's black children are twice as likely as white children to die before their first birthday. The way that the people of New Orleans have been treated is just a reflection of how they are treated trying to survive in today's America. The only difference is that the obvious injustice of it all received a little publicity from the journalists down to cover what they thought was a telegenic storm.

If most of the victims weren't black, it simply wouldn't be possible to do what Bush is now doing to New Orleans. I've written about the ethnic cleansing of New Orleans, and some people laugh. Here is a report from the Wall Street Journal on the plans of the white elites of New Orleans for the rebuilding (my emphasis in bold; we all know what he means by 'poor people'):

"The power elite of New Orleans - whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. - insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.

The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. 'Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically,' he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."

The plan is to use the ethnic cleansing to return the city to Republican party control. Remember these rebuilding plans when you keep hearing how 'uninhabitable' the city will be. Apparently, it will only be uninhabitable for blacks. With all the money that is going to be pouring into the pockets of local bigwigs to realize their grandiose white plans, it should be possible for the government to fund the return of all displaced residents. As Glen Ford states:

"Displacement based on race is a form of genocide, as recognized under the Geneva Conventions. Destruction of a people's culture, by official action or depraved inaction, is an offense against humanity, under international law. New Orleans – the whole city, and its people – is an indispensable component of African American culture and history. It is clear that the displaced people of New Orleans are being outsourced – to everywhere, and nowhere. They are not nowhere people. They are citizens of the United States, which is obligated to right the wrongs of the Bush regime, and its unnatural disaster. Charity is fine. Rights are better. The people of New Orleans have the Right to Return – on Uncle Sam's tab."

It would be a real shame if, on top of all the corruption, negligence, stupidity and malfeasance, the Bush regime also got away with destroying the culture of New Orleans in order to ethnically cleanse it into a Dixieland theme park that votes Republican. The Right of Return is not only for Palestinians!

Shoot-to-kill innocent Palestinians

Israeli military prosecutors have opened seventeen separate criminal investigations following allegations by dozens of Israeli soldiers that they carried out shoot-to-kill orders against unarmed Palestinians. From the Guardian (my emphasis in bold):

"Some of the soldiers, who also spoke to the Guardian, say they acted on standing orders in some parts of the Palestinian territories to open fire on people regardless of whether they were armed or not, or posed any physical threat.

The soldiers say that in some situations they were ordered to shoot anyone who appeared on a roof or a balcony, anyone who appeared to be kneeling to the ground or anyone who appeared on the street at a designated time. Among those killed by soldiers acting on the orders were young children.

While the background to the soldiers' experience is the armed conflict that has been going on in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since October 2000, many of the shootings occurred in periods of calm when there was no immediate risk to the soldiers involved."

and, somewhat wryly:

"The testimonies shed light on how around 1,700 Palestinian civilians have been killed during the second intifada."

This sort of thing has been obvious for a long time now, but if you dared mention it, you would have been labeled a vicious anti-Semite. Due to the success of the Zionist strategy in calling anyone who speaks the truth about Israel an anti-Semite, people are silent, and in their silence bear moral responsibility for the deaths of innocent civilians.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The New Orleans hostage crisis

From an important posting in Dispatch from the Trenches (emphasis in the original):

"OK, let's get this straight: Michael Brown is most likely an incompetent stooge but the fact of the matter is that when he refused to release supplies, National Guard troops, and construction equipment, and then ordered the Superdome locked and checkpoints set up along the roads leading out of New Orleans to turn back anyone trying to escape the destruction, he was following orders. None of it was accidental, none of it was a matter of poor decision-making or the wrong priorities. It was a deliberate attempt by the Bush Administration to blackmail the state of Louisiana into handing the city over to the Federal government.

On Friday, four days after Katrina hit, National Guard troops finally arrived, supposedly bringing food and water to those trapped in the Superdome. It's true that there was an initial delivery of emergency supplies, but it was hardly adequate. Everyone assumed more would be coming. But the NG came armed, supposedly to defend itself against bands of looters with handguns and rifles. Soon after, it became clear that the NG's real orders were to lock down the Superdome and prevent anyone from leaving.

Between Wednesday morning and Friday night, ships loaded with food, water, and medical supplies arrived. FEMA refused to allow them to be off-loaded. Michael Brown then ordered the communications lines cut that tied emergency workers together.

Shortly before midnight, the Bush Administration essentially delivered an ultimatum to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco: before they released the emergency supplies, they wanted her to sign the city of New Orleans over to the Federal government."

Note that the link is to the infamous article in the Washington Post, the one in which the Post reprinted the lie told to them by a 'senior administration official' (presumably Karl Rove or someone working for him), that Blanco had not declared a state of emergency as of Saturday, September 3, when in fact, as the correction at the top of the article says, Blanco had declared the state of emergency on August 26 (many feel the Post has an ethical obligation to reveal the name of the 'senior administration official', as any promise of confidentiality was rendered inoperative by the lie, and the fact of the lie is now part of the news). The spinning that is going on is part of the blame-shifting exercise by the White House, but, as Dispatch from the Trenches points out, has a darker purpose as well. Based on Bush's supposed authority to use the National Guard to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act, Bush wanted to declare martial law and take over the city of New Orleans. Why? Dispatch from the Trenches gives four reasons, the most important ones being the third and fourth (emphasis in the original):

"Declaring martial law would give the Federal government total control of the city: the Army would be brought in to police it and - perhaps most important to this corporate president - the Federal government would have charge of all the rebuilding contracts, giving it $$$billions$$$ to hand out to its corporate sponsors.

There's also the little matter of taking decisions about how and what to rebuild out of the hands of the people of New Orleans and putting them into the hands of people who see New Orleans as 'Sin City', effectively ensuring that New Orleans would never again be the Big Easy."

Bush used the starving people of New Orleans as hostages to blackmail the Governor into turning the city over to his troops so he could:

  1. hand out all the reconstruction contracts to friends of the Bush Crime Family such as Halliburton; and

  2. use his soldiers to control the exit and return of the inhabitants of New Orleans, to ensure that 'undesirables' - blacks and poor white race traitors who like living in a predominantly black culture - never come back so he can rebuild the city as an amusement park for white tourists.

The lie told to the Washington Post was just part of the pressure put on the Governor. Bush's plan explains why available troops were left out of the city when they could have been useful and were only installed as the city was being evacuated (they now serve as overarmed security guards), and why FEMA took active steps to prevent aid and aid workers from getting to the city. It also explains why the mainstream press spent so much time reporting on looting, rapes and murders, all in an attempt to force Blanco to agree to Bush's demands. The looting stories were almost entirely cases of people foraging for the food which Bush had ensured they couldn't have, and the rape and murder stores were largely fictional. The entire scenario was an attempt by the Bush Administration to make money off the tragedy caused by Katrina, an attempt that was partially foiled by Blanco's refusal to be blackmailed into handing the city over to Bush.

The struggle continues, and we must not allow them to get away with their evil plans. It would be a social, architectural, and cultural crime to let Bush destroy New Orleans. New Orleans needs to be brought back to life in its existing buildings, most of which can be saved, and with its former inhabitants. Did the Italian government contemplate rebuilding Florence someplace else after the 1966 floods? Does anyone ever seriously contemplate moving Venice, a very similar ecological disaster of a city that is also slowly sinking? The idea is laughable. Let's face it. There are only five culturally important places in the whole country: New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and . . . New Orleans. You just can't give New Orleans up so that some rich Republicans can make money. If the American political system were working properly, Bush's attempt to use the lives of the starving and dying citizens of New Orleans as hostages should lead to his impeachment and removal from office. This wasn't just total incompetence and negligence; it was a criminal act.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Aid from Fidel and Hugo

left i on the news has been pointing out that Fidel Castro offered to send 1100 Cuban doctors (now upped to 1586), specifically equipped with exactly the equipment needed to do the work required in a disaster situation - Cuba has lots of experience in that area, having evacuated 1.3 million people from the path of Hurricane Ivan, without death or injury - and that the offer was made when Bush was strumming his new guitar (you know, at the time when no one could have possibly predicted the disaster; left i on the news also un-spins the spinning on the guitar story). Had the generous Cuban offer been accepted, there is no doubt that the Cuban doctors could have relieved much suffering and saved a considerable number of lives. For one thing, they would have been on the scene days before American doctors, who are still setting up operations. Hugo Chavez has also sent money, and offered to send humanitarian aid and fuel to the 'king of the vacations'. Needless to say, all these offers will be ignored, as they do not suit the geopolitical strategy of the United States in the Caribbean. While the rest of us have nightmares about Dick Cheney, Dick Cheney has nightmares that Americans might make a personal connection with the people of Cuba and Venezuela, and thus lose the taste for inflicting suffering on them. It's telling that one of the main complaints that the United States has about Venezuela is that it has invited thousands of Cuban doctors to help its poor.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Ethnic Cleansing II

I can't keep up. What I've been thinking of as wild conspiracy theory is now being reported at CBC News as a practically a fait accompli:

"If those forced out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina end up re-building their lives in new locations, it could be the largest U.S. black resettlement since the Great Migration of the 20th Century lured southern blacks to the North in search of jobs and better lives."


"In Houston, which expected many thousands of evacuees to remain for a long time, interviews suggested that thousands of blacks who lost everything and had no insurance will end up living in Texas or states other than Louisiana.

Many evacuees like Percy Molere, 26, who worked in a hotel in New Orleans' French quarter, said they cannot keep their lives on hold for very long. Molere said: 'If it took a month, I'd go back, but a year, I don't want to wait that long. Hopefully we're going to stay in Houston just to stay out of New Orleans' for the time being."

Here is a list of the active efforts of FEMA and other US institutions in the control of the Bush Administration to prevent aid from getting through (see also here and here and here, and here or here). Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff outright lied - see here - in claiming that no one anticipated this disaster. It looks increasingly like FEMA did anticipate it, and in fact had a plan to ensure that New Orleans be ethnically cleansed should the proper storm come along. There is simply too much active sabotage of relief efforts to blame it all on FEMA incompetence. I wonder what other plans they have?

Ethnic cleansing in the USA

From cbs4denver:

"The first planeload of hurricane victims are in Colorado. An estimated one-thousand survivors will come to Colorado."

and (my emphasis):

"Representatives of the American Red Cross Mile High Chapter met each evacuee and gave them a personal comfort kit containing toiletries and personal items. Each child will get a teddy bear."

and, from Colorado Governor Owens (my emphasis):

"Owens said officials haven't finalized any long term plans for the evacuees after the 48 hours, but he said they will receive assistance for job and school placement while they are here. He said help will also be offered for those traveling to other parts of the country from Colorado.

'We'll give them job placement, give them professional training, so that they are prepared when they go back, go elsewhere, or stay here,' Owens said. 'We're doing what we can as good people.'"

They ain't going back. Even if they had a way to get back, which they don't for the very same reason they didn't have a way to evacuate, they won't be able to afford to live in the rebuilt city. Governor Owens has apparently been told the details of the Plan. This is what ethnic cleansing looks like. Could it be that the failure of the government to even attempt to supply food and water to the refugees for days was an attempt to kill off the oldest and sickest - the ones who would eat up government resources in the future - before the rest were shipped out to their permanent new homes across the country?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

A week's worth

Despite everything, next week the Republicans intend to finish the legislative process of permanently ending the estate tax, thus "shifting some $1.5 billion a week - about the same as the Iraq war - from the public treasury to the bank accounts of the heirs to the nation's twenty thousand biggest fortunes" (see also here). Strangely enough, that week's worth of $1.5 billion is also just about what it would have cost to fix the levees enough to have prevented the New Orleans disaster, money that Bush claimed he absolutely couldn't spare, with the conflicting more important claims of his war of choice in Iraq, and the operation of the Department of Homeland Security (the department which is spending its money functioning so well in the disaster relief effort!).

Of course, raising the issue of the inopportune timing of the killing of the estate tax will draw the wrath of the right-wingers, who will claim that it is 'politicizing' a tragedy, and, in the peculiarly southern way that conservatives now all have of reducing everything to issues of personal honor, 'insulting' the memory of the dead and dying. Can't lefties have the common decency to wait? In a month or two, if anyone raises the issue, the response will be that this is just living in the past, trying to make a political issue out of ancient history. They pull these rhetorical tricks every time, and every time they get away with it. The best stunt is to fail to pay for necessary levee maintenance, then intentionally flub the rescue effort, and claim that this proves that government is no good at anything (except war and handing out sweet government contracts to friends of the politicians), and needs to be further enfeebled.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

NOLA odds and ends

NOLA odds and ends:

  1. On the planned ethnic cleansing of blacks from the new New Orleans (to be reestablished as a resort and casino destination called "Jazzworld", with condos starting at $1 million):

    • "Will the "New" New Orleans be Black?" by Glen Ford;

    • Dennis Hastert is the first to raise the issue of gentrification: "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed."

    • For what its worth, Voice of the White House describes part of a conversation overheard at a tony Washington club:

      "It is well known here that the Bush family and many of the top advisers at the White House are racists but instead of detesting Jews, in this case, they all detest blacks. Their rationale, aside from their view of racial superiority, is that blacks are all 'welfare queens, unwed mothers and drug dealers.' It was the very firmly stated view of the host that it was better for everyone that New Orleans was under water for the time being.

      In that way, we were told (and I was not the only person in the dining room who heard all this), this served to 'chase out the niggers' and permit Bush-supporting businessmen from buying up the soon-to-be condemned sodden houses for five cents on the dollar from friendly insurance companies (which one of them was a CEO of) and put up an enlarged and very profitable combination of industrial park and office building section. The money for this would, naturally, come from government grants which a terrified Congress (Mid Term elections are coming) had just voted for and the contracts to demolish the wrecked low-income slums would go, as a no-bid contract, to another stellar Bush supporter."

  2. From Professor Hex, "What the terrorists have learned this week". Also see JY's note at Talking Points Memo:

    "I have a question that no one has raised so far. Wouldn't part of any homeland security preparation be the handling of refugees? Virtually any serious terrorist attack (explosion, nuclear, biological) would entail a large number of displaced persons. Wasn't anything done along these lines? I would have thought we would have pre-positioned refugee resources (tents, MRE's, water purification, generators, emergency medical care) near major population centers in the event of mass exodus. Am I crazy?"

    Terrorist planners are watching with glee as the New Orleans debacle unfolds.

  3. Via Left Hook, Laura Bush's photo op - where she was to preside, like some medieval queen, over the handing out of food to starving refugees - was drawn out, no doubt with long videos of her sympathetic caring, leaving the starving in line before covered trays of food while they politely waited for Her Majesty to appear (see more photo op news here).

  4. The National Guard interrupted the evacuation of the critically dangerous Superdome to evacuate the guests and staff of the uncomfortable but not dangerous Hyatt Hotel (you have to wonder why the Hyatt people were still there, especially as the official line is that anyone still remaining was there due to their own fault).

  5. As predicted, Halliburton got the contracts.

Friday, September 02, 2005


The U. S. State Department drifts into stand-up comedy with helpful hints on how to identify conspiracy theories. You want a conspiracy theory? Here's a conspiracy theory found on Boing Boing, from Ned Sublette (my emphasis in bold):

"The poorest 20% (you can argue with the number - 10%? 18%? no one knows) of the city was left behind to drown. This was the plan. Forget the sanctimonious bullshit about the bullheaded people who wouldn't leave. The evacuation plan was strictly laissez-faire. It depended on privately owned vehicles, and on having ready cash to fund an evacuation. The planners knew full well that the poor, who in new orleans are overwhelmingly black, wouldn't be able to get out. The resources - meaning, the political will - weren't there to get them out."

They wanted to make New Orleans into Disneyland, but the black people ruined everything. Now all the stories in the mainstream media are about how all these 'animals' are murdering, raping and looting, and how the police now have orders to shoot to kill. You really have to wonder about whether FEMA, turned by the Bush Administration from rescue management experts into Big Brother, and now in charge of managing personal freedoms, allowed those levees to break on purpose.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Public good, and the economics of disaster

The particular combination of specific policy decisions that collectively led to the disaster on the Gulf Coast is just part of an ongoing war against the concept of the public good. From an article by Chris Floyd:

"But as culpable, criminal and loathsome as the Bush Administration is, it is only the apotheosis of an overarching trend in American society that has been gathering force for decades: the destruction of the idea of a common good, a public sector whose benefits and responsibilities are shared by all, and directed by the consent of the governed. For more than 30 years, the corporate Right has waged a relentless and highly focused campaign against the common good, seeking to atomize individuals into isolated 'consumer units' whose political energies kept deliberately underinformed by the ubiquitous corporate media can be diverted into emotionalized 'hot button' issues (gay marriage, school prayer, intelligent design, flag burning, welfare queens, drugs, porn, abortion, teen sex, commie subversion, terrorist threats, etc., etc.) that never threaten Big Money's bottom line.

Again deliberately, with smear, spin and sham, they have sought and succeeded in poisoning the well of the democratic process, turning it into a tabloid melee where only 'character counts' while the rapacious policies of Big Money's bought-and-sold candidates are completely ignored. As Big Money solidified its ascendancy over government, pouring billions over and under the table into campaign coffers, politicians could ignore larger and larger swathes of the people. If you can't hook yourself up to a well-funded, coffer-filling interest group, if you can't hire a big-time Beltway player to lobby your cause and get you 'a seat at the table,' then your voice goes unheard, your concerns are shunted aside. (Apart from a few cynical gestures around election-time, of course.) The poor, the sick, the weak, the vulnerable have become invisible in the media, in the corporate boardroom, 'at the table' of the power players in national, state and local governments. The increasingly marginalized and unstable middle class is also fading from the consciousness of the rulers, whose servicing of the elite goes more brazen and frantic all the time."

They had about a week to shore up the levees, evacuate the poor, and prepare for disaster management. They knew all the details of the full scope of the disaster, and the official warnings were as bleak as any official warnings can be. They didn't try to do anything. Bush golfed and pretended to play guitar. Since the funding, manpower, and equipment that would normally be used for such purposes was in Iraq, trying to do something constructive would only have embarrassed them, so they just relaxed and let it happen. Needless to say, the next step will be the announcement of billions of dollars of reconstruction contracts for Halliburton and Bechtel, thus proving that Bush really does care. Disaster is another opportunity to make money, while trying to stop disaster is just a drain on public finances.

The Symbolism of Katrina

All the ironies and all the contradictions brought to the United States by the Bush Administration have come together in the perfect storm of Katrina:

  1. Katrina is a storm caused by global warming (though the wingnuts have a spin for that too), an issue which Bush refuses to face. Of course, any actions taken by Bush would not have prevented Katrina, but might help ameliorate some storms in the future, and the symbolism is perfectly clear. Flooding along the coast is going to get worse, and the Bush Administration's response is to pretend that everything is just ducky. The failure to pay any attention to science is the consistent approach of the current American government, and includes such things as support for intelligent design, failure to take account of ecological warnings, and opposition to stem cell research.

  2. The war in Iraq meant that the state National Guards, who would normally bear much of the burden of disaster relief, were in Iraq.

  3. At about the same time as the disaster on the Gulf Coast, a panic caused by a rumor of a bomb killed 600 to 1000 people in Iraq at the Aaimmah bridge, all of whom would not have died if the Americans hadn't attacked and occupied that country. When all the deaths are added up, you have to wonder whether Iraq or the United States had the worse day.

  4. FEMA has now officially been revealed to have been completely transformed into a Homeland Security monitor. FEMA's new job as Big Brother means it is incompetent at its old job of handling disaster management, and seems incapable of even arranging for the sand-bagging of a crucial dyke (see also here and here and here). The new Orwellian security state has left Americans unprotected by any branch of government. More symbolism: Canada offered to send help, but was turned away, not for any principled reason, but because the Homeland Security anti-terrorism provisions made it impossible for the over-burdened American bureaucracy to process the Canadians into the country. People are now going to start dying as a direct result of the shift in priorities caused by the war on terror.

  5. Bush's tax cuts coupled with the cost of the war in Iraq and the cost of Homeland Security directly led (or here or here) to an inability to fund repair and heightening of levees required by the rapid sinking of New Orleans ("New Orleans is sinking man and I don't wanna swim"). Like the people on the Aaimmah bridge, New Orleans is a casualty of the war in Iraq.

  6. Bush cut off his five week vacation by two days, so he could be seen to be leading the recovery effort. Of course, if he'd seen his way fit to spare five days, he might have been able to do something helpful. While people were drowning, he was strumming (Nero fiddling while Rome burned). Did Bush play Led Zeppelin?: "If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break, When The Levee Breaks I'll have no place to stay." Or maybe Bob Dylan: "Crash on the levee, mama, Water's gonna overflow, Swamp's gonna rise, No boat's gonna row"?

  7. It is difficult not to notice that this was damage done to states which most strongly supported Bush. It's good to know that he doesn't play favorites: the people who support him are just as screwed as everybody else. They'll never blame him for their plight, as he's a 'God-fearin' man'.

  8. While parts of the city are under 20 feet of water, and other cites in even worse shape, the press covers for Bush by looking at the issue as a problem of looting! They never stop spinning . . .

The Battle of New Orleans in 1815 was a brilliant victory for the fairly recently-born country of the United States of America, its coming out party as a major world player (the subject of yet another song). The Sinking of New Orleans one hundred and ninety years later represents the beginning of the end of American dominance, caused by an amazingly symbolic collection of Bush Administration stupidities and mistakes.