Monday, September 19, 2005

Foreign Affairs - The Global Baby Bust - Phillip Longman

Foreign Affairs - The Global Baby Bust - Phillip Longman: "The root cause of these trends is falling birthrates. Today, the average woman in the world bears half as many children as did her counterpart in 1972. No industrialized country still produces enough children to sustain its population over time, or to prevent rapid population aging. Germany could easily lose the equivalent of the current population of what was once East Germany over the next half-century. Russia's population is already contracting by three-quarters of a million a year. Japan's population, meanwhile, is expected to peak as early as 2005, and then to fall by as much as one-third over the next 50 years -- a decline equivalent, the demographer Hideo Ibe has noted, to that experienced in medieval Europe during the plague.

Although many factors are at work, the changing economics of family life is the prime factor in discouraging childbearing. In nations rich and poor, under all forms of government, as more and more of the world's population moves to urban areas in which children offer little or no economic reward to their parents, and as women acquire economic opportunities and reproductive control, the social and financial costs of childbearing continue to rise."

Image over substance

Message: I Care About the Black Folks - New York Times: "But even now the administration's priority of image over substance is embedded like a cancer in the Katrina relief process. Brazenly enough, Mr. Rove has been officially put in charge of the reconstruction effort. The two top deputies at FEMA remaining after Michael Brown's departure, one of them a former local TV newsman, are not disaster relief specialists but experts in P.R., which they'd practiced as advance men for various Bush campaigns. Thus The Salt Lake Tribune discovered a week after the hurricane that some 1,000 firefighters from Utah and elsewhere were sent not to the Gulf Coast but to Atlanta, to be trained as 'community relations officers for FEMA' rather than used as emergency workers to rescue the dying in New Orleans. When 50 of them were finally dispatched to Louisiana, the paper reported, their first assignment was 'to stand beside President Bush' as he toured devastated areas."

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Deeper Problem

America Has Fallen to a Jacobin Coup by Paul Craig Roberts:

The most important casualties of September 11 are respect for truth and American liberty. Propaganda has replaced deliberation based on objective assessment of fact. The resurrection of the Star Chamber has made moot the legal protections of liberty.

The US invasion of Iraq was based on the deliberate suppression of fact. The invasion was not the result of mistaken intelligence. It was based on deliberately concocted 'intelligence' designed to deceive the US Congress, the American public, and the United Nations.

In an interview with Barbara Walters on ABC News, General Colin Powell, who was Secretary of State at the time of the invasion, expressed dismay that he was the one who took the false information to the UN and presented it to the world. The weapons of mass destruction speech, he said, is a 'blot' on his record. The full extent of the deception was made clear by the leaked top secret 'Downing Street Memos.'

Two and one-half years after the March 2003 invasion, the US Congress and the American people still do not know the reason Iraq was invaded. The US is bogged down in an expensive and deadly combat, and no one outside the small circle of neoconservatives who orchestrated the war knows the reason why. Many guesses are rendered – oil, removal of Israel’s enemy – but the Bush administration has never disclosed its real agenda, which it cloaked with the WMD deception.

This itself is powerful indication that American democracy is de"

More Than Words

Mr. Big Government: "Will the real George W. Bush please stand up?

Several of the key points in President Bush's nationally televised speech last night are being widely welcomed this morning: His vow to rebuild the Gulf Coast, his increasingly direct acknowledgment that there were serious government lapses after Hurricane Katrina, his admission that Americans can and should expect a more effective response to catastrophes in the post 9/11 era.

But the guts of the speech -- in which Bush unfurled his administration's grand plans for the biggest government-funded reconstruction effort in history -- has led to considerable skepticism, if not outright puzzlement, on both sides of the political divide.

Consider two of the more extreme possibilities:

* Either Bush is being entirely forthright, in which case he's talking about something reminiscent of the biggest liberal government programs of the 20th century. That scares some conservatives, certainly fiscal conservatives, to death.

* Or maybe it's just a plan to transform the Gulf Coast into a big test bed for conservative social policy, where tax breaks flow to big business and tax money flows to Halliburton, churches and private schools. That utterly terrifies liberals.

The argument that the administration will consider conservative ideological gains as a paramount consideration certainly gains credence when you consider, as I wrote in yesterday's column , that the White House's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, has apparently been put in charge of reconstruction plans.

But there is nothing remotely reminiscent of Bush's traditional small-government rhetoric about a plan estimated to cost taxpayers at least $200 billion."

Last night the president said what I wanted to hear. Why would I still be unsatisfied and worried? Because, It will take more than a speech designed to minimize damage to his image to change my perception that this administration is willing to say anything for short term political gain regardless of truth and reality.

The first question that comes to mind is. Where is the money going to come from? where are the mechanism to guarantee that all that money will be well spent? Will the Halliburtons once more capitalize on the situation? Who will be held accountable?

Growing deficit, war in iraq, rising gas prices. These realities can not be conjured away with words. They require truthful an effective administration, something I will beleive after seen it in action with more than words.

Who's in Charge? Karl Rove!

Who's in Charge? Karl Rove!: "'Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort.'

Rove's leadership role suggests quite strikingly that any and all White House decisions and pronouncements regarding the recovery from the storm are being made with their political consequences as the primary consideration. More specifically: With an eye toward increasing the likelihood of Republican political victories in the future, pursuing long-cherished conservative goals, and bolstering Bush's image.

That is Rove's hallmark."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

9/11 Panel Says U.S. Hasn't Enacted Crucial Reforms

9/11 Panel Says U.S. Hasn't Enacted Crucial Reforms: "A separate commission report released yesterday provided chilling details about the Federal Aviation Administration's assessment as early as 1998 that al Qaeda might try to fly a jet into a U.S. landmark.

'In 1998 and 1999, the FAA intelligence unit produced reports about the hijacking threat posed by [Osama] Bin Ladin and al Qaeda, including the possibility that the terrorist group might try to hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a U.S. landmark,' according to the report, which was a new version of a more heavily edited document released earlier this year.

But, the report added, the FAA viewed the possibility as 'unlikely' and a 'last resort.'

Thomas H. Kean (R), the former New Jersey governor who headed the panel that investigated the terrorist attacks, said the bungled response to Katrina laid bare how unprepared the nation remains for a catastrophic event, whether it is another terrorist strike or a natural disaster.

'This is not a terrorist incident, but it brings into play all of the same issues and shortcomings,' Kean said. 'What makes you mad is that it's the same things we saw on 9/11. Whoever is responsible for acting in these places hasn't acted. Are they going to do it now? What else has to happen for people to act?'"

Singapore and Katrina - New York Times

Singapore and Katrina - New York Times: "Speaking of Katrina, Sumiko Tan, a columnist for the Sunday edition of The Straits Times in Singapore, wrote: 'We were shocked at what we saw. Death and destruction from natural disaster is par for the course. But the pictures of dead people left uncollected on the streets, armed looters ransacking shops, survivors desperate to be rescued, racial divisions - these were truly out of sync with what we'd imagined the land of the free to be, even if we had encountered homelessness and violence on visits there. ... If America becomes so unglued when bad things happen in its own backyard, how can it fulfill its role as leader of the world?'"

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Emperor Has No Clothes and It took a Hurricane to show it

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

Double Standards

Bush's Approval Rating Drops To New Low in Wake of Storm:
"'The storm didn't discriminate, and neither did the recovery effort,' he said, adding: 'The rescue efforts were comprehensive, and the recovery will be comprehensive.'"

Ok. The storm did not discriminate. The recovery effort may had been comprehensive, but it was incompetently slow. And, as slow and inefficient as it was, you were pleased with it, and even congratulate 'brownie' for his 'heck of a job'.

And, What about the officials who treated surviving victims like criminals at gun point? Did being black or poor had anything to do with that? Would people be as complacent if the same acts had been performed on a predominantly white and affluent population?

Would it be the same if it had been white and affluent constituents who were suffering the consequences of a policy that seems to have tried to ride the storm on the cheap side? You want us to believe without question that it just so happened that the worst response of the federal government to a crisis affected a poor, underclass and democrat population just because..., without reason.

And you want us to close our eyes while your administration once more favors the Haliburton's while minimizing the wages of the workers in the reconstruction? And that is not discrimination?

If it is not discrimination on the basis of race or class, please tell us what it really is. But do not just deny it. Reality does not change because you dare not name it by its appropriate name.

Monday, September 12, 2005

From Federal Failure Arises More Federal Power by Paul Craig Roberts

From Federal Failure Arises More Federal Power by Paul Craig Roberts: "As the decisions to deny funding for the Corps of Engineers’ levee projects and SELA and the delayed federal response to Katrina are inexplicable, the Bush administration, realizing its criminal negligence, quickly took steps to blame state and local officials.

A senior Bush administration official planted on the Washington Post the disinformation that FEMA could not act because the Louisiana governor had not declared a state of emergency. Hours after printing this disinformation, a red-faced Washington Post issued a retraction, which reads: 'A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.'

Nevertheless, the disinformation was widely spread by Brit Hume and other Bush shills who operate out of Fox News (sic), and it continues to be spread via rightwing talk radio and pro-Bush Internet sites. Fox News (sic) host Bill O’Reilly spread similar disinformation. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff added to the disinformation against Gov. Blanco. Most Republicans cling tightly to the orchestrated disinformation as it coddles their state of denial about the failure of leadership in the White House.

One cause of the Bush administrations’ catastrophic failure is obvious: its single-minded focus on its 'war on terror.' In order to justify its invasion of Iraq (which has gone badly both for the US and Iraqis) and the nullification of our essential civil liberties, such as habeas corpus, that are the foundation of our political and social order, the Bush administration has made terrorists into a greater threat than cold warriors were able to make the Soviet Union. The over-hyped threat of terrorism has become a greater threat than terrorists themselves."

Where Were You?

Bush Denies Race, War Played Role in Katrina Response: "'When those Coast Guard choppers . . . were pulling people off roofs, they didn't check the color of a person's skin. They wanted to save lives,' he said.

Sure, nobody questions the people who did something effective in response to this Hurricane. The question is, Mr President, where was all the other help that was needed at the time of crisis and not five days after. Moreover, where were you?

Why you did not walk ground zero exactly as you did after 9/11?
Then, you hugged the fire fighter, possing before the world horn in hand. But now, where were you? where was your hug after the hurricane, for the police men who had to patrol the superdome during days and nights without food, shelter or water, when people were desperate and dying around them? Where were you then during those endless nights and days?

Why the closest you came to the misery aggravated by your administrations negligence was behind the safety of the cameras at the airport's runway? Why you did not crossed that runway and follow the way of those poor who were hurt, and those who were desparetly trying to comfort them?

Why were you unable to look at the victims' faces with honest compassion? Not the victims of the hurricane, but the victims of your administration's neglect. Can you look them in the face?

The reporters were there. One was even feeding an old man while you gave your empty speech. That was your opportunity to show us that you are able to do something more than just posing. But, off you went after the pose, promising "I will not forget what I have seen'.

Neither will we.

If it is not race or war which explains your incompetence then tell us what it is. But only after and not before you have, at least, repented and apologized for it. Otherwise all your posing and offers of money are no more than shameless damage control.

Bush said the government will take a 'sober look' at 'what went on and how it went on' amid continued criticism of what is seen as an inadequate federal response to a national disaster."

The government will take a 'sober look' in order to justify itself. Does anyone believe anymore that this government is able to honestly look at its failures?

Mr President if you want to give a sober look at the root of the problem, just stop posing for the cameras and walk to the nearest mirror, and look as soberly as you may be able, if you can at all. Then walk to the nearest camera, and Say: 'World and American people I am sorry my sorry administration has failed all of you except my cronies'.

I will stop pursuing my policy of wars of aggression.
I will stop my administration's policy of prisoner abuse and torture.
I will stop my administration's propaganda campaign,
I will stop my administration's abuse of the environment,
I will stop favoring the rich at the cost of the poor.
I will begin to tell you the truth.

Then work to begin to change all of the above. And then, maybe, just maybe you could gain some credibility with me.

As if you cared...!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Reality Matters

I found myself at a loss when trying to make sense of what went wrong with Katrina's response. At some point it seems that the accurate answer is 'everything'.

It would appear as if the hurricane was designed to test the system and show in the most crudest way how wanting it really is.

But, blaming the 'system' is tantamount as holding nobody accountable. It was not the system that failed. People in key positions failed. The fact that they failed in the basic performance of their duties is a clear sign of their incompetence.

If I paid a mechanic to fix my car and coming out of the shop my car falls apart, I do not need to be an specialist to know that that mechanic is incompetent.

So what can we learn by looking fairly into this mess?
First and foremost the simple truth that reality matters;
a truth that more and more politicians feel they can dispense with.

They think that appearing to be competent is enough to cover incompetence as long as someone is willing to vote for you. But reality has its way of catching up with you sooner or later.

Reality matters. Incompetent people will do an incompetent job.

Experience and honesty are two necessary conditions for competency in any job. A bureaucracy will never reform itself. Only competent people are able to do that.

Competent people are people that generally do good at their job and when they fail they are willing to acknowledge that they were wrong. Competent people are willing to assess their errors and learn from them.

Competence is a feature that is clearly absent from the current administration, which never owns its many errors. It only attempts damage control, never true reform.

The aftermath of Katrina has at least one simple lesson. Electing incompetent officials have graver consequences than taking your car to a bad mechanic.

The bad mechanic may get me the first time. But, only a fool would go back there.

So, the simple lesson is this: Because reality matters, let us only support competent officials who proof that they can really deal with it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Impeach Bush Now by Paul Craig Roberts

Impeach Bush Now by Paul Craig Roberts

The raison d’être of the Bush administration is war in the Middle East in order to protect America from terrorism and to insure America’s oil supply. On both counts the Bush administration has failed catastrophically.

Bush’s single-minded focus on the 'war against terrorism' has compounded a natural disaster and turned it into the greatest calamity in American history. The US has lost its largest and most strategic port, thousands of lives, and 80% of one of America’s most historic cities is under water.

If terrorists had achieved this result, it would rank as the greatest terrorist success in history.

Prior to 911, the Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen. Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) in order to protect the strategic port, the refineries, and the large population.

However, after 2003 the flow of funds to SELA were diverted to the war in Iraq. During 2004 and 2005 the New Orleans Times-Picayune published nine articles citing New Orleans’ loss of hurricane protection to the war in Iraq.

Every expert and newspapers as distant as Texas saw the New Orleans catastrophe coming. But President Bush and his insane government preferred war in Iraq to protecting Americans at home.

Read the rest of this article by Paul Craig Roberts: "Impeach Bush Now

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The System is Clogged; Why the US is Unable to Receive Timely Help

Offers of Aid Immediate, but U.S. Approval Delayed for Days: "'We are ready to send our things. We know they are needed, but what seems to be a problem is getting all these offers into the country.'

So far, Thorson said, the State Department has denied Sweden's request for flight clearance. 'We don't know exactly why, but we have a suspicion that the system is clogged on the receiving end,' "

What a perfect metaphor to illustrate our problem. The cause is a mixture of pride, incompetence, denial and recalcitrant ethnocentrism. But there is no doubt about our condition, we are severely clogged all around on this end under this administration.

"Make No Mistake"

Why, Oh Why?: "Mr. President, will you ever hold anyone accountable for performance deficiencies? Will you even bother to demand answers?

Would the federal response have taken so long if some similarly devastating disaster had struck, say, McLean, Va., or Scarsdale, N.Y.?" From The Washington Post By Terry M. Neal on Tuesday, September 6, 2005; 12:00 AM

Of course these are important rethorical questions which emphasize the sad truth about this aministrations priorities. But our 'make no mistake' president, has one constant trait, He never admits to a mistake. He will never apologize for his leadership and administrative failure with an honest look at what actually happened. He will only held someone else accountable in order to cover his own incompetence.

We are already seeing an emerging scapegoat in the person of FEMA's director, while the president goes around hugging people. But 'make no mistake' it was the president who took Fema out of his cabinet and put this man there. It is the president who has Lousiana's National Guard weakened fighting his immoral war overseas. It was the president who never walked through the Convention Center or the Superdome when people were clamoring for help. etc., etc. etc.

'Make no mistake' At the root of this catastrophic response there is a 'clear and present danger': An incompetent politician and his band of ideologues, with a set of political priorities which translates into policies that kill the innocent, blame the victim, leave the poor unattended and a Nation weakened and ashamed.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Another Reality Check vs Gambling With the Future

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Multiple failures caused relief crisis: "The gamble was taken that another Category Five would not threaten New Orleans anytime soon. This attitude prevailed among successive administrations.

Lt General Carl Strock, the Army Corps of Engineers commander, admitted that there was a collective mindset - that New Orleans would not be hit. Washington rolled the dice, he said."

Now they should know better. But, do they?
Nature has provided us yet another reality check. The fact that a collective mindset neglects reality, does not change the nature of reality. If one lives in a hurricane and flood area, one will sooner or later get them in all shapes and sizes.

This problem of denial within the American collective mind should be taken seriously into account when the same phenomenom of ideological blindness is applied to the problems of Global Warming and Oil consumption. These problems can only be attenuated, not with quick fixes, but with long term well concerted efforts.

This administration has been gambling with our future, driven by ideological dreams. It is now made clear who pays the worst on the losses.

Now I get it!

Thanks for this comment on the BBC-News I was able to connect in my mind a piece of the puzzle.
BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Towards the eye of the hurricane: "Al himself served in the National Guard and helped with rescue operations after Hurricane Camille in 1969.

He thinks public-order operations like this one should be the responsibility of the Louisiana National Guard. But the National Guard is in Iraq."

Of Course, Now I get it!

All this time I was wondering why the delay in the evacuation of New Orleans? Why the small coast guard stepping in to bear the heavy load? Why did it took so long for the other troops to respond?

Well the Coast Guard was from Louisiana. They were there already and didnot had to be called in from some where else, like California or Nevada. They knew their place. And went immediately in.

It was not just planning and communication problem. The problem was aggravated by a simple fact: the locals, the Louisiana National Guard was substantially out of town. They were over there, and the other ones were not aware of the consequences created by such a vacuum, before such and emergency.

Imagine what would have happened if a significant amount of NY firefighters and policemen had been in Iraq on September 11.

The analogue situation happened with Kathrina. The local heroes were fighting Bush's war, while Bush could not care less for their city, families and friends (until of course awoked from his sumbler by the crude reality of the corpses of elderly people rotting by the side of the road, and dehydrated mothers with babies crying for days without water or food, all happening within his complacent 'heck of a job' discourse).

Of course, it is not convenient for the Bush administration to call attention over this simple fact, which further exposes the problem created by Bush's neo-conservative dream war policy. Kathrina showed that the US is exposed and ill prepared to deal with major catastrophes in significant populated areas. That is good news for terrorits, but bad news for everybody else.

In other words, we must face the fact that the human side of this catastrophe bears the marks of the incompetence of this administration at various, serious and interelated levels, and that continues to be a threat in the near future.

This is sad, but now it makes sense.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Americans Are Ashamed.

United States of Shame - New York Times: "When they were deaf for so long to the horrific misery and cries for help of the victims in New Orleans - most of them poor and black, like those stuck at the back of the evacuation line yesterday while 700 guests and employees of the Hyatt Hotel were bused out first - they shook the faith of all Americans in American ideals. And made us ashamed.

Who are we if we can't take care of our own?"

The finger of God has exposed the ugly truth about the self serving ideological policy of this Administration. It is one that pays lip service to ideals while ignoring the realities of responsible leadership.

If anyone can endure the president's rethoric at such a time as this he/she must be in need of serious ideological deprograming.
How can Bush say that FEMA is doing a 'heck of a Job?' when the worst response in history to a major disaster has been 'achieved' by his incompetent administration?

Americans are ashamed today. And it is good for us to be. We should be ashamed for allowing such an incompetent administration to lead us from one leadership disaster to another, without raising our voices in indignation and demanding accountability from our officers and representatives who have been serving themselves instead of the people.

It is time to speak and act on behalf of the poor and destitute of this country, and stop paying lip service to democratic ideals of freedom while neglecting the life of the people these representatives and officers have been elected and called to serve.

This has been a very difficult week. It has been difficult for many to have their ideological bubble threatened and hopefully popped. But that is nothing.
It was not really difficult for us who were astonished by the news on our TV's in the comfort of our living rooms, but for the thousands and thousands of those poor who remained dying, stranded, clamoring and unattended for days, before our eyes.

Their sin? Being poor, black and underclass, not a priority, practically invisible for this ideological administration, until it was forced with insults to realize that the political cost of their incompetent indiference would be too high if kept on for too long.

It is time for reality check. Let us wake up and work. So that our collective shame may move us to amend this awful and sad reality. We demand accountability from the officers and representatives who have shamed us so before the whole world, and more than that we demand a decent government committed to truth and responsibility rather than propaganda and deceit.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Reality Check: The Root of Hurricane Katrina's Catastrophe

A Can't-Do Government - New York Times: "I don't think this is a simple tale of incompetence. The reason the military wasn't rushed in to help along the Gulf Coast is, I believe, the same reason nothing was done to stop looting after the fall of Baghdad. Flood control was neglected for the same reason our troops in Iraq didn't get adequate armor.

At a fundamental level, I'd argue, our current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don't like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice.

Yesterday Mr. Bush made an utterly fantastic claim: that nobody expected the breach of the levees. In fact, there had been repeated warnings about exactly that risk.

So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can't-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying."