Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rita Blows

Well, here we go again with one of the strongest hurricanes on record barreling toward the Gulf coast. But this time, the wrath of Rita is headed toward the Texas coastline instead of New Orleans and Mississippi. This one's already up to 165 mph and it's still two-plus days away from land. They say it may weaken slightly as it nears the Texas coast, but it's still going to pack an enormous punch. Batten the hatches and Katy bar the door. This one's gonna be a BIG ONE!

While I don't wish this storm on anyone, it would be a much more favorable situation if the storm hit as far south of the Houston/Galveston area as possible. If Rita should make landfall just south of Galveston, as many are predicting, this will push an enormous storm surge right into the heart of Galveston Bay, inundating anything within 5 miles of the coast or bay. That will make this storm nearly as devastating as the hit that Katrina put on New Orleans just over three weeks ago.

The scary part? We've still got 2+ months left of hurricane season.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Pledging Allegiance

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God,
indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

The Pledge of Allegiance. We all know it. We recited it so often - every morning, in fact - in grade school that one can recite it, verbatim, without even thinking about the words. Rote memory.

Now that U.S. District Court judge Lawrence Karlton has upheld the ruling of the 9th District Court of Appeals that the use of "under God" violates our Constitutional rights, no doubt we'll hear a firestorm of protest from the Republican right and the religious fanatics. Never mind the fact that "under God" wasn't part of the original Pledge of Allegiance (above) written by Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist, in 1892. In fact, "under God" was not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954 when Congress amended the verbiage.

The interesting thing is that Bellamy, while a Christian, was ostracized from his church because of his socialist beliefs. His own granddaughter believes that Bellamy would have disliked the addition of "under God" because of the way he was treated by his own church.

There just seems to be so much irony in the fact that we have an oath of allegiance that was written by a socialist but is so strongly embraced by anti-socialist conservatives, and the word that seems to create so much fury, "God", was added after the fact by the U.S. Congress, in violation of the constitutional separation of church and state. Then we have the manner in which the pledge's author was treated by his own church. Love thy neighbor...unless he's a socialist, that is!

Friday, September 09, 2005

To The Stockade with Thee!

Almost lost in the mayhem associated with Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath is the ruling today that came out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The court determined that U.S. citizens can be detained indefinitely without criminal charges being levied against them.

Is this America??!! Apparently not. Not anymore, that is.

This ruling seems to take us back 250 years to a time when the King could imprison anyone he so desired without the benefit of any individual rights whatsoever. Isn't that what helped to precipitate the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence and the foundation for the U.S. Constitution?

What is going on in this country?!

But to make this egregious attack on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights even more unnerving, we also learned that the judge who wrote the court's official opinion on this decision is considered to be a leading candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court opening.


FEMA Head Brown: A Fraud and A Looter

Bit by bit, we seem to be getting to the bottom of why FEMA - and its head Michael Brown - was so incompetent in responding to the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. As TIME magazine reports today in an exclusive investigation of Brown's background, the man responsible for managing the federal disaster response to Katrina had fabricated numerous portions of his official resume.

All I can say is: WOW! In light of what happened in this country almost exactly four years ago, how does someone with such a stunning lack of experience - not to mention credibility - get put in charge of this country's top emergency response agency? It's unconscionable!

Earlier today, Brown was relieved of his role overseeing relief efforts along the Gulf and was sent back to Washington. No doubt, this is just the first step down the path to firing Brown from his position at FEMA. And, perhaps, there will be some other heads that roll along with Brown's. The enormity of this debacle - and disgrace - can NOT be overstated. People DIED.

In spite of Bush's best attempts to smooth over this scandal, which I think is a more than appropriate word to describe what's happened, one can only hope that the ignorati in this country will finally wise up to the literal DANGER that this administration poses to all of us. They're incompetent. They're ignorant. They're dangerous.

Finally, in light of the incidents of looting that took place in New Orleans last week, can Brown's falsified credentials be considered anything other than de facto looting of the American people? He lied in order to get a federal job and receive a pretty substantial paycheck. In my book, that's as bad - or worse - than anything we saw last week. And most of the "looters" in New Orleans were simply trying to survive. Brown perpetrated a fraud for financial and political gain. How shameful...and, perhaps, criminal.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"A Nation Prepared: At no time in its history has this vision been more important to the country than in the aftermath of Sept. 11th." --FEMA, 10/04

FEMA published a history of the organization on its web site in October 2004. It gives an overview of some of the key milestones in the history of FEMA. But one paragraph, in particular, caught my attention. It was the very last paragraph, which tried to sum up the agency's mission and its vision. Here it is:

"As it has for more than 20 years, FEMA's mission remains: to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters with a vision of 'A Nation Prepared.' At no time in its history has this vision been more important to the country than in the aftermath of Sept. 11th."

Honestly, it's a pretty straightforward and accurate statement about what FEMA should stand for. I don't think any of us could quibble with those words.

However, the sad fact is that those words ring utterly hollow in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. FEMA has left all of us with a vision of a nation UNPREPARED. And not even the ghosts of the horrific attacks on 9/11/01 have provided sufficient impetus for our federal government to take its disaster preparedness role seriously.

In fact, even our top leadership seemed to have better things to do as the catastrophe was unfolding last week. While the streets of New Orleans flooded and the poor black underclass died, our leaders were doing their level forget that anything else was going on.

Just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, here's what our illustrious leaders did as Katrina destroyed an iconic American city:

President Bush cleared brush and strummed a guitar...

Vice President Cheney enjoyed a leisurely vacation in Wyoming...

Secretary of State Rice shopped for expensive shoes and took in a Broadway comedy...

Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff bageled over his Tuesday morning newspaper headlines that said all was calm on the bayou...

Meanwhile, people all over New Orleans - and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast - were scrambling for higher floors to escape the rapidly rising water. They were climbing into musty, stifling attics in a desperate attempt to stay alive. Many found a way to survive. Many untold hundreds - likely thousands - never did. Others were forced to endure unbearable conditions elsewhere in the city without the benefit of water, food or medicine.

In what we now euphemistically refer to as our "post 9/11 world", the ability of our government to be there for its citizens in a time of crisis - whether said crisis is unleashed by man or nature - is of the utmost importance. FEMA's vision and mission statement even says so. So, while the Bush administration has spent the last four years and countless billions of dollars trying to convince us that future terror attacks are a certainty, they've also tried to sell to us the idea that we should rely on them to keep us safe and out of harm's way. They lied.

As we approach another anniversary of that terrible September morning in 2001, may we all reflect on what our government has promised, as well as what they have failed to do. What we have to show for the last four years is nothing but broken promises, treacherous lies and thousands of dead and dying in a once great American city.

How sad.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

NOLA Left Off of Emergency List

Taking another look at the emergency declarations put forth by Governor Blanco of Louisiana and President Bush on August 27, 2005, we've uncovered a bit of a discrepancy between the locales for which assistance was requested by the state and the locales for which assistance was promised by the feds.

As you'll see, Governor Blanco requested assistance for, "...all the southeastern parishes including the New Orleans Metropolitan area and the mid state Interstate I-49 corridor and northern parishes along the I-20 corridor..." It seems pretty straightforward that New Orleans is included in the area requiring help.

However, in the declaration of federal assistance put forth by the President, not one of the parishes in and around the New Orleans area is mentioned. There are plenty of other parishes included, but the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines and others nearby are nowhere to be found in the declaration.

Hmmm. Was this just an oversight on the part of the White House? Or was there something else at work to deny emergency assistance for New Orleans? We'll have to wait and see what comes of this discrepancy, if anything.

(Thanks to for putting words into geographical context in the map above.)

"This is the largest disaster in the history of the United States, over an area twice the size of Europe," Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said.

Okay, getting back to geography here for a minute. Can someone please send Senator Stevens from Alaska back to remedial geography class for a semester. PLEASE?!

Last time I checked, the continent of Europe was, oh, pretty damn big! (see world map above) But Stevens claims that the Hurricane Katrina disaster covers an area TWICE the size of Europe. Huh? To say that his statement stretches the bounds of credulity is far too kind. Instead, the appropriate phrase is, "HE'S AN IDIOT!!!"

May we please have some intelligent leaders for a change? PLEASE?!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What's That I Smell?

Is it just me, or does it seem wholly inappropriate to place a person with barely two years of experience as a judge at any level into the most powerful judicial position in the land? Political leanings, past cases and litmus tests aside, how can we be serious about the importance of the position of Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court when we're apparently willing to let a judicial neophyte assume that role? Shouldn't the Chief Justice have at least a modicum of experience ruling from the bench?

John Roberts, originally nominated by President Bush to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2003. Now that Chief Justice Rehnquist has died, Bush has altered his earlier nomination of Roberts by recommending him as Rehnquist's replacement as Chief Justice. However, I'd like to believe that our Supreme Court Chief Justice should have more than merely TWO years of experience on the bench. It's like putting in a third grader at quarterback for the New England Patriots and expecting him to lead them to the Super Bowl. It's a stretch. Okay, it's downright nuts!

Then again, a lack of experience seems to be the Bush administration's calling card for entrance into its inner sanctum of leadership. After all, Dubya hadn't done squat before being "elected" President in 2000. And we've all seen the great job done in the wake of Hurricane Katrina by erstwhile horseman Michael Brown, aka FEMA Director. This guy should be shoveling horse manure somewhere instead of heading up a critical emergency management organization.

Unfortunately, the nomination of John Roberts for Chief Justice seems to be more of the same manure this administration has been shoveling at the American people for the last five years. Why should it stop now? Sadly, the smell eminating from the White House never seems to get any better.

Iraq is to California as the Gulf Coast is to...

...Rhode Island?

Well, if you take land area into consideration, Iraq is roughly the size of California. As most of us are well aware, the U.S. sent approximately 135,000 troops to seize control of this vast area.

In contrast, the area of devastation along the U.S. Gulf Coast, including New Orleans, is roughly the size of Rhode Island. Now, when it comes to comparing the size of Rhode Island to the size of California, it's about like comparing an ant to an elephant.

So, how many U.S. soldiers and National Guardsmen has Bush now sent to the U.S. Gulf region? 60,000! Yes, that's right. Almost HALF as many as he and his neo-conservative brain surgeons sent to take control of all of Iraq!

While I'm sure the residents and evacuees of the Gulf Coast greatly appreciate the manpower sent - albeit belatedly - to help them out, something tells me that 60,000 is just a BIT of overkill.

And the 135,000 sent to Iraq, as we all know, was drastically too few.

Maybe one day these buffoons will finally get it right. Or...maybe not.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Bloggermann Rules!

Can't add much to this posting today by Bloggermann, aka Keith Olbermann of MSNBC. Kind of says it all - and very well - regarding the federal fiasco in New Orleans.

BlameGate Begins

In the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, we now find that the White House is implementing its damage control plan of attack in order to shift blame from the federal government's weak, delayed response. They would have us all believe that the reason for the delayed response is due to Louisiana Governor Blanco's failure to request federal assistance in the face of a looming disaster.

In fact, we know that Governor Blanco DID request federal assistance under the terms of the Stafford Act on August 27, 2005, fully two days before the storm hit New Orleans.

We also know that the White House received this request and responded to it by AGREEING to provide federal assistance later that same day.

Clearly, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security failed to act in a timely manner, both before Katrina hit and after it became clear that the flooding of New Orleans had begun. I knew about the rising water from watching CNN and MSNBC on Monday night. For some reason, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff still was not aware of the flooding while he bageled over his Tuesday morning newspaper. That does not speak well of our government's ability to lead and assist in this country's time of need.

Wherever and whenever the blame game ends on this debacle, the end result MUST be a drastically improved federal response to disasters in this country, both before AND after the fact. What we've witnessed over the past week doesn't inspire confidence.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Terror Threat Downgraded to Baby Blue; Government Threat Upgraded to Blood Red!!

I've seen the enemy, and it's no longer Osama bin Laden.

Meet our new enemy: The United States Government.

Be afraid. Be very, VERY afraid!!!

If the man to whom we've entrusted the security of the homeland is this stupid and ignorant, then we might as well just pack up the van and move to Winnipeg. Canada, that is.

Somebody please turn off the lights and bring the flag if you're the last one out...alive.

Friday, September 02, 2005

"It's as if the entire Gulf Coast were obliterated by the worst kind of weapon you can imagine," Bush said.

I guess everything has to tie back to the fear-mongering of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Bush will do anything to try to get back on message, the only message he's got: "Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear,..."

Bush is an ass.

"Flood control has been a priority of this administration from Day One," McClellan said.

One of the most idiotic statements I've heard come out of George W. Bush's mouth was when he told Diane Sawyer of ABC News yesterday that nobody aniticipated that the New Orleans levees would break. Is this man actually THAT stupid?! Is he THAT out of touch with reality?! Apparently, the answer is YES.

ONE YEAR AGO, I watched a special report on CNN, hosted by John Zarrella, that detailed just how such a disaster could play out in New Orleans in the event of a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane. The worst case scenario, as outlined in this story, was that New Orleans' levees would fail and the city would be under 10-15 feet of water for up to six months or more. And all it would take is a direct hit from a Cat 4 or Cat 5 hurricane. Voila! It's here!

So for the President to say that nobody anticipated that the levees would fail is nothing short of a disgrace of the highest magnitude. For crying out loud, I KNEW THAT THE LEVEES MIGHT FAIL...and I don't even live in New Orleans. In fact, when I heard Monday morning that the storm moved a bit to the east, meaning that New Orleans would get the "back side" of the storm, I feared that this was the worst scenario possible, because it meant that the Cat 4 winds - and resulting storm surge - would be coming at the city from the NORTH across a huge body of water known as Lake Ponchartrain. Add to that the large amount of water being pushed into Ponchartrain from the Gulf on the "front side" of the storm, and this was a complete disaster waiting to happen. And everyone knew that the levee system in New Orleans was built to sustain only a Cat 3 hurricane. I'm not an engineer, a meteorologist or a disaster expert, yet even I knew the potential for disaster that awaited New Orleans.

I would also mention that much of the funding to improve the levee system was taken away from the Corps of Engineers over the last few years and moved to the war in Iraq. I would mention that, but I'm too disgusted to even go there right now.

George W. Bush should be impeached for STUPIDITY, if nothing else. This man is an utter embarassment. How shameful!