Monday, August 28, 2006

An Unhappy Anniversary!!!

From today's Progress Report:

An Unhappy Anniversary

1,833 lives lost. 270,000 homes destroyed. $55 billion in insured damage. Up to $1.4 billion in American tax dollars wasted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Today, the costs of Hurricane Katrina are still staggering. But even more staggering has been the slow pace of recovery on the Gulf Coast. No one was happy with the federal government's initial response to the hurricane. Eighty percent of the American public think the federal government's response could have been "much better," and in September President Bush stated, "This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina." But on the eve of Katrina's one year anniversary, it is clear that the nation is still waiting for the help Bush promised. Yesterday, as part of the White House's "public relations blitz," Bush trumpeted in his weekly radio address that the federal government has "committed $110 billion to the recovery effort." But those billions of dollars have yet "to translate into billions in building." Perhaps most disappointingly, Bush has forgotten about his promise to the nation to confront poverty "with bold action." As Newsweek's Jonathan Alter writes, "The mood in Washington continues to be one of not-so-benign neglect of the problems of the poor." Lessons haven't been learned and time has run out for excuses. (The Progress Report has compiled a comprehensive timeline of the past year's events and American Progress has developed a list of actions America needs to ensure preparedness and recovery capacity for natural disasters.)

SKYROCKETING HOUSING COSTS: In his Sept. 15 speech, Bush stated that his administration "will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives" and promised to "get the work done quickly." But one year after the storm, repopulation in New Orleans "has slowed to a trickle, leaving the city with well under half its prestorm population of 460,000." Lacking the resources to return to the city are many African-Americans who formed the "working-class backbone" of the city. The Houston Chronicle notes, "Vast sections of New Orleans are still devoid of life, populated by endless rows of broken, empty houses waving For Sale signs like flags of surrender." By tomorrow, many New Orleans property owners may lose their former homes. The one year anniversary of Katrina is the deadline when property owners "must have gutted the buildings or shown some signs they intend to rebuild when they can. If they don't, the city can take it as a given they do not intend to return." The average selling price for homes in areas that weren't affected by flooding has risen 25 percent. Rental rates have risen 40 percent, disproportionately affecting black and low-income families. In Biloxi, MS, 70 percent of renters affected by the storm are black, according to an NAACP study, and another report by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights noted that almost "100 percent of public housing families in New Orleans are African-American." Approximately 112,000 low-income homes were damaged, but only a fraction of federal housing assistance has been earmarked for rental units.

SLOW ECONOMIC RECOVERY: More than 81,000 regional businesses were impacted by the storm, resulting in the loss of 450,000 jobs. In advance of his two-day trip to the region, Bush over the weekend touted the government's $110 billion commitment to Katrina recovery, noting the administration is "playing a vital role" in the Gulf Coast's reconstruction. But in reality, just $44 billion has been spent and a new ABC News poll finds that 60 percent of Americans believe the recovery money has so far been "mostly wasted." Approximately 60 percent of the businesses in New Orleans have still not reopened. According to a report by the Democratic members of the House Small Business Committee, "80 percent of small businesses on the Gulf Coast have not yet received loans promised by the federal government." Some business owners have had to wait as long as 100 days for a decision on a loan application. "These long delays have not only caused many viable small businesses to fail that would have otherwise survived, but has contributed to the slow recovery of the local economy," noted the report.

A 'NONFUNCTIONING CITY': A White House "Fact Sheet" released in advance of Katrina's one year anniversary notes that FEMA has provided $5.6 billion to repair and replace damaged public infrastructure. But Gulf Coast Recovery Coordinator Donald E. Powell has admitted that nearly a third of the trash in New Orleans has yet to be picked up. Sixty percent of New Orleans homes still lack electricity and just 66 percent of public schools have reopened. Only 17 percent of the city's buses are operational, causing severe problems for the many residents who don't own cars -- "a major factor in the government's failure to evacuate residents before the storm." "Look at what we're getting in terms of services," said Janet Howard, of the Bureau of Governmental Research, a nonprofit group in New Orleans. "It's basically a nonfunctioning city." Crime has risen again in New Orleans -- the homicide rate is nearly 10 times the national average -- but only seven of 13 courtrooms have reopened and judges have a backlog of nearly 7,000 cases. A recent report by the Department of Justice found that in New Orleans, "justice is simply unavailable." But where the federal, state, and local governments have been absent, citizen activism has surged in the wake of the storm, "chipping away at some of this city's unhealthy institutions." Many schools -- formerly in "the control of a corrupt district office" -- are now being managed by parents and community activists as charter schools, and newcomers are pushing for reform and tighter ethics in the City Council.

POVERTY FORGOTTEN: One of the President's boldest promises after Hurricane Katrina was his promise to fight poverty nationwide: "As all of us saw on television, there's also some deep, persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality." But as soon as Katrina disappeared from the headlines, "poverty and antipoverty policy disappeared once again from the public agenda." Most recently, the Senate voted down a minimum wage increase because the conservative leadership, in a political ploy, tied it to a cut in inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates. The federal minimum wage hasn't been raised since 1996 and eight million Americans continue to live on $5.15 an hour. Since Bush took office, the number of Americans living in poverty has increased by 5.4 million and an additional 1.4 million children fell into poverty between 2000 and 2004. The poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanics (23 percent) continues to be far higher than the poverty rate for whites (8.6 percent). While Bush did follow through on his promise to create Gulf Opportunity Zones -- tax incentives for regional business development -- Alter notes that they have become "mostly an opportunity for Southern companies owned by GOP campaign contributors to make some money in New Orleans." To date, Congress has taken no action on Bush's call for Worker Recovery Accounts, which would provide $5,000 for evacuees seeking education and job training, or on the Urban Homesteading Act, which would provide free building sites via a lottery to low-income evacuees.

MORE AILMENTS, LESS MEDICAL CARE: Health care is an increasing problem in the post-Katrina Gulf Coast. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals estimated that "New Orleans has lost half of its physicians and suffers from a shortage of 1,000 nurses." Forty-four percent of adult caregivers now lack health coverage and "34 percent of children in FEMA-subsidized communities have at least one chronic health condition that requires treatment, but half of the affected children no longer have a medical provider." Even though the population of New Orleans is at less than half of its pre-storm population, the suicide rate has tripled and there is no capacity to deal with mental health and substance abuse problems. The people of New Orleans are also suffering from a lack of hospitals and the inability to receive immediate care from emergency rooms.

FEDERAL WASTE AND MISMANAGEMENT: The federal mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath has permanently damaged Bush's approval rating. White House counselor Dan Bartlett recently said, "It was a setback at the time, but it was recoverable and has been." But the American public disagrees. Bush's approval rating before Katrina was at 60 percent. Immediately after the hurricane hit, it fell to 52 percent and in mid-Sept. 2005, it dropped to 49 percent. It is now at just 36 percent. Sixty-six percent of the American public (and 84 percent of New Orleans residents) rate the government's recovery efforts negatively, according to a recent ABC News poll. A June Government Accountability Office report found that between $600 million and $1.4 billion in taxpayer dollars has been wasted on "improper and potentially fraudulent individual assistance payments." Payments went to Katrina evacuees to pay for items such as Dom Perignon champagne, New Orleans Saints season tickets, and adult-oriented entertainment. A recent report by the House Committee on Government Reform found that 19 Katrina contracts -- worth $8.75 billion -- "experienced significant overcharges, wasteful spending, or mismanagement."

LEVEES NOT READY: Yesterday, Powell said, "I believe that the levees are ready for hurricane season. ... The levees are back to where they were pre-Katrina, and they're on their way to being the best, better and stronger then they have ever been." But Powell's upbeat rhetoric contradicts assessments by the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, who recently expressed skepticism that the New Orleans levees could withstand a hurricane with a heavy storm surge this year. In order for the levees to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and for residents of New Orleans to finally feel safe, another $30 billion will need to be spent. Unfortunately, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune notes, the federal government's "commitment to the long-term protection of South Louisiana is still uncomfortably murky."

Refuse to be Terrorized!!!

This is from Wired News ... this Bush Administration has been using FEAR to TERRORIZE us since September 11th, 2001:

Refuse to be Terrorized

By Bruce Schneier Also by this reporter
02:00 AM Aug, 24, 2006

On Aug. 16, two men were escorted off a plane headed for Manchester, England, because some passengers thought they looked either Asian or Middle Eastern, might have been talking Arabic, wore leather jackets, and looked at their watches -- and the passengers refused to fly with them on board.

The men were questioned for several hours and then released.

On Aug. 15, an entire airport terminal was evacuated because someone's cosmetics triggered a false positive for explosives. The same day, a Muslim man was removed from an airplane in Denver for reciting prayers. The Transportation Security Administration decided that the flight crew overreacted, but he still had to spend the night in Denver before flying home the next day.

The next day, a Port of Seattle terminal was evacuated because a couple of dogs gave a false alarm for explosives.

On Aug. 19, a plane made an emergency landing in Tampa, Florida, after the crew became suspicious because two of the lavatory doors were locked. The plane was searched, but nothing was found. Meanwhile, a man who tampered with a bathroom smoke detector on a flight to San Antonio was cleared of terrorism, but only after having his house searched.

On Aug. 16, a woman suffered a panic attack and became violent on a flight from London to Washington, so the plane was escorted to the Boston airport by fighter jets. "The woman was carrying hand cream and matches but was not a terrorist threat," said the TSA spokesman after the incident.

And on Aug. 18, a plane flying from London to Egypt made an emergency landing in Italy when someone found a bomb threat scrawled on an air sickness bag. Nothing was found on the plane, and no one knows how long the note was on board.

I'd like everyone to take a deep breath and listen for a minute.

The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics.

The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act.

And we're doing exactly what the terrorists want.

We're all a little jumpy after the recent arrest of 23 terror suspects in Great Britain. The men were reportedly plotting a liquid-explosive attack on airplanes, and both the press and politicians have been trumpeting the story ever since.

In truth, it's doubtful that their plan would have succeeded; chemists have been debunking the idea since it became public. Certainly the suspects were a long way off from trying: None had bought airline tickets, and some didn't even have passports.

Regardless of the threat, from the would-be bombers' perspective, the explosives and planes were merely tactics. Their goal was to cause terror, and in that they've succeeded.

Imagine for a moment what would have happened if they had blown up 10 planes. There would be canceled flights, chaos at airports, bans on carry-on luggage, world leaders talking tough new security measures, political posturing and all sorts of false alarms as jittery people panicked. To a lesser degree, that's basically what's happening right now.

Our politicians help the terrorists every time they use fear as a campaign tactic. The press helps every time it writes scare stories about the plot and the threat. And if we're terrified, and we share that fear, we help. All of these actions intensify and repeat the terrorists' actions, and increase the effects of their terror.

(I am not saying that the politicians and press are terrorists, or that they share any of the blame for terrorist attacks. I'm not that stupid. But the subject of terrorism is more complex than it appears, and understanding its various causes and effects are vital for understanding how to best deal with it.)

The implausible plots and false alarms actually hurt us in two ways. Not only do they increase the level of fear, but they also waste time and resources that could be better spent fighting the real threats and increasing actual security. I'll bet the terrorists are laughing at us.

Another thought experiment: Imagine for a moment that the British government arrested the 23 suspects without fanfare. Imagine that the TSA and its European counterparts didn't engage in pointless airline-security measures like banning liquids. And imagine that the press didn't write about it endlessly, and that the politicians didn't use the event to remind us all how scared we should be. If we'd reacted that way, then the terrorists would have truly failed.

It's time we calm down and fight terror with antiterror. This does not mean that we simply roll over and accept terrorism. There are things our government can and should do to fight terrorism, most of them involving intelligence and investigation -- and not focusing on specific plots.

But our job is to remain steadfast in the face of terror, to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to not panic every time two Muslims stand together checking their watches. There are approximately 1 billion Muslims in the world, a large percentage of them not Arab, and about 320 million Arabs in the Middle East, the overwhelming majority of them not terrorists. Our job is to think critically and rationally, and to ignore the cacophony of other interests trying to use terrorism to advance political careers or increase a television show's viewership.

The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to recognize that terrorism is just one of the risks we face, and not a particularly common one at that. And our job is to fight those politicians who use fear as an excuse to take away our liberties and promote security theater that wastes money and doesn't make us any safer.

- - -Bruce Schneier is the CTO of Counterpane Internet Security and the author of Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World. You can contact him through his website.

Friday, August 18, 2006


The U.S. Death Toll in this lie of an War in Iraq went over 2600 the other day ... did anybody notice??? ... seems the Mainstream Media has their attention on Israel and Lebanon ... maybe the Iraq War has gotten too boring for them to cover.

American's and Iraqi's continue to die for NOTHING!!!

So True!!!

Nine Ways Republicans Are Ruining the Country
By Larry Beinhart, BuzzFlash
Posted on August 17, 2006

Say it loud, say it often, "Republicans are bad on national security." Every Democrat running for national office -- and local offices too, why not? -- should say, "I'm running because Republicans are bad on national security."

Then they should go on to say, here's why I'm saying it:

1. 9/11 happened on their watch. Of course, we can't say, absolutely, that it would not have happened if they had not been asleep at the wheel. But we can say that they did not do all they could have done to prevent it. We can say that Bush literally pushed away the warnings.

2. George Bush and the Republicans failed to get Osama bin Laden. We got both Hitler and Hirohito in less time than we've been chasing bin Laden. Every day that bin Laden's out there, he's proof that you can attack the United States and get away with it. That's a bad message to send, and believe me, people in the terrorist world have heard it loud and clear. That's very bad for national security.

3. George Bush and the Republicans gave Osama bin Laden what he wanted. Bin Laden wanted the US to get into a quagmire. He wanted our troops tied down in an Islamic country so that an insurgency could do to them what the Afghanis did to the Russians and to the British before them.

A modern, hi-tech army is very good at invasions. It's also good for fighting back against other armies. But a modern hi-tech army is not good at occupying a country against the will of the population. Even if the army is as violent and ruthless as the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan were.

4. George Bush and the Republicans squandered America's power and prestige. Before 9/11 most people in the world probably thought that America's intelligence services were able and astute, agencies to be feared. The Bush administration has made them appear bumbling and inept. They did this, first, by ignoring their warnings and then, second, by making them the fall guys for 9/11.

After 9/11 most of the world feared America's wrath and America's might. By failing to get bin Laden and his gang, then by attacking the wrong country, unleashing chaos, and getting our armed forces into a situation that they can't win, the administration showed the world they have less to fear than they imagined.

5. The Bush administration empowered Hezbollah. The 'insurgency' in Iraq was Hezbollah's textbook and their inspiration. If Iraqis could do that to Americans, surely they could do the same to the Israelis. And they have. It's not yet on the record, but it's clear from everyone's conduct, that the administration encouraged the Israelis to 'unleash' their forces against Hezbollah. They probably thought Israel's modern hi-tech armies would quickly smash their enemy.

6. The Bush administration radicalized Hamas. Hamas was elected. Sworn to the destruction of Israel or not, they should have been encouraged to become responsible players with carrots as well as sticks. Instead the administration put them up against the wall, hoping to starve the Palestinian people into voting for a different group. Would that work if someone tried to do it to us?

7. Bush and the Republicans tied down our forces in Iraq while Iran and North Korea invested in nuclear technology. That made North Korea feel secure enough to test ICBMs. If they had been successful, they would have had a delivery system for their nuclear weapons. That would be incredibly bad for national security. Iran, with American forces tied down in Iraq, feels secure enough to defy the UN as well as the US. Very bad for national security.

8. By the way, every major European nation has had successful arrests and real trials of real, dangerous terrorists. People on the level of this group that the British just took down. The most ferocious terrorist arrested in the United States since 9/11 has been the shoe bomber. Ten, twenty, forty, a hundred billion dollars, a trillion dollars, and the best we have to show for it is the shoe bomber?! Republicans are bad on national security.

9. We have trashed the bill of rights. We have trashed the Geneva conventions. We have a president and a vice president willing to go the mat to fight for the right to torture people.

We have spent a fortune on illegal wiretaps.

We have spent a fortune on collecting everyone's telephone data.

And what have we achieved by all of this?

A quagmire in Iraq. Dishonor. Debts. An empowered al Qaeda. A new war in Lebanon. The inability to stand up to Iran and North Korea. Osama bin Laden at large, an inspiration to extremists everywhere.

Republican are unimaginably bad on national security. Say it loud. Say it often, it's the truth, Republicans are bad on national security.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.View this story online at:

Sunday, August 06, 2006


From 8/3/06 Progress Report:

ENVIRONMENT -- RECORD TEMPERATURES BRING MORE THAN HEAT: This summer's intense heat wave, which has already killed 160 people, has also contributed to a "blanket of smog" across the nation, raising concerns of thicker air pollution and related illnesses. According to a study of government data by Clean Air Watch, public health standards for smog in 38 states and the District of Columbia were exceeded "more than 1,000 times at official air pollution monitors last month," an increase from the same period last year. While progress had been made in recent decades against smog, this latest trend is likely to continue as temperatures rise, which are "perfect for producing peak smog levels." Said William Becker, executive director of a national association of local air quality officials, "It's vitally important EPA take swift and aggressive actions, including regulating locomotives and marine vessels…which in the next 10 or 15 years are going to be the predominant source of smog." In recent weeks, however, conservative senators have pressured the Environmental Protection Agency not to raise its national air pollution standards, which are currently below levels recommended by the World Health Organization. At a hearing on the matter, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) said, "Clean air standards reduce our quality of life," and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) added, "Maybe it's cheaper to buy everyone an air conditioner" than reduce pollution. With smog-related illnesses, like asthma, on the rise, 22 cities around the world agreed yesterday to join the Clinton Climate Initiative to "create an international consortium to bargain for cheaper energy-efficient products and share ideas on cutting greenhouse gas pollution."