Thursday, September 01, 2005

Democracy Now: Hurrican Katrina; Bob Somerby, Robert Parry, Roland S. Martin, Ron Walters, Helen Thomas, The Manny ...

'Total' Evacuation of New Orleans Begins
The total evacuation of New Orleans has begun. More than 25,000 people that had sought shelter in the Louisiana Superdome are now being bused to the Houston Astrodome, as are some of the neediest patients at hospitals. Some 475 buses have begun loading up passengers. In addition to the Astrodome solution, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was considering putting people on cruise ships, in tent cities, mobile home parks, and so-called floating dormitories.

The federal government dispatched helicopters, warships and elite SEAL water-rescue teams in one of the biggest relief operations in U.S. history. Officials say it is aimed at rescuing residents from rooftops in the last of what are called the "golden 72 hours" that rescuers say is crucial to saving lives. The Washington Post described a scene on shattered Interstate 10, where hundreds of people wandered up and down the only major freeway leading into New Orleans from the east. People pushed shopping carts, laundry racks and anything they could find to carry their belongings. On some of the few roads that were still open, people waved at passing cars with empty water jugs, begging for relief. Hundreds of people appeared to have spent the night on the highway.

Thousands of people have lost everything they owned in life, including their homes and businesses. Entire communities have been wiped out and residents of New Orleans are now being told they might not be able to return to what's left of their city for months. Officials of the Army Corps of Engineers told the LA Times that draining the billions of gallons of water from New Orleans could take three to six months, substantially longer than many have predicted. Col. Richard Wagenaar, the corps' senior official in the city, said, "The news cameras do not do it justice. And I'm worried the worst is yet to come." Michael Brown, who heads FEMA and is leading the on-the-ground response from the federal government, said "I surmise there are people in New Orleans who won't be able to get back to their homes for months, if ever."

Mississippi Death Toll Rises
Meanwhile, in neighboring Mississippi, authorities now say that at least 185 people have died. In Hancock County alone, Sheriff Eddie Jennings put the death toll at 85, with 60 people dead in Pearlington, 22 in Waveland, two in Bay St. Louis and one body that had washed up on the beach. In neighboring Harrison County, which is home to Gulfport and Biloxi, officials say that 100 bodies have been found. All of these numbers are expected to grow as search and rescue operations continue. The city of Gulfport was almost destroyed, and Biloxi was heavily damaged. Dozens of patients from a Biloxi hospital were evacuated by the U.S. Air Force on Wednesday. Patients including a ward full of women with high-risk pregnancies were transported from the hard-hit area by Air Force cargo planes to San Antonio, Texas. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour flew over his state's ravaged coastline and likened it to Hiroshima in 1945. In Alabama more than 400,000 homes and businesses are without power, while Florida reported 11 deaths.

Poor Are Greatest Victims
As with most natural disasters, the poor are paying the heaviest price. With the financial world buzzing with talk of insurance payouts set to exceed $25 billion, many in the most devastated areas have no insurance and cannot afford to leave their homes behind. Many do not own cars and had no way to escape the hurricane.

The above three items are from Democracy Now!'s Headlines today and were selected by Cindy, Brady and Zach. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for September 1, 2005

- Katrina Death Toll Rising
- 'Total' Evacuation of New Orleans Begins
- Toxic New Orleans: 'The Worst Case'
- Hugo Chavez Blasts Bush, Offers Hurricane Aid to South
- Gas Prices Hit Highest Price Ever
- Mourning in Iraq After 1,000 Killed in Stampede

Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish

Bill Quigley in New Orleans Hospital: "No Water, Sick, No Heat, Call Somebody for Help"

We go to New Orleans and Law Professor Bill Quigley who is trapped in Memorial Hospital with hundreds of other people. There is no water or electricity in the hospital and relief efforts have yet to reach them. [includes rush transcript]

The Drowning of New Orleans: Hurricane Devastation Was Predicted

The New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote three years ago, "It's only a matter of time before south Louisiana takes a direct hit from a major hurricane. Billions have been spent to protect us, but we grow more vulnerable every day." We look at the lack of infrastructure preparedness in the Big Easy.

Homeland Emergency: Disaster Relief is Suffering Under New DHS Bureaucracy

The Department of Homeland Security is spending billions on domestic spying and counter terrorism is disaster relief getting sidelined? We look at the first major test of the massive homeland security bureaucracy with Matthew Brzezinski, author of "Fortress America."

"Katrina's Real Name is Global Warming"

As the Bush administration promotes regulations that allow more pollution from power plants, we look at the increased impact of human-induced global warming in the form of extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina. [includes rush transcript - partial]

We'll note Bob Somerby's latest Daily Howler:

DEFINING A CRISIS: Letters to this morning's Times address Bob Herbert's Monday column (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/29/05). We were struck by the first, from a Garden State teacher. Here are her first two paragraphs:

NEW YORK TIMES LETTER (9/1/05): Regarding the state of education in the United States, Bob Herbert writes, "I respectfully suggest that we may be looking at a crisis here" ("Left Behind, Way Behind," column, Aug. 29). As a highly qualified teacher of English at the high school level, I agree.

But this crisis we see in our schools has its roots in American homes increasingly devoid of books and printed material, where children turn exclusively to television, computers and electronic games for entertainment--and see the adults around them doing the same. Instant-gratification technology has, for many students, replaced the task--and the thrill--of reading.

The teacher describes a "crisis in our schools." But what exactly is that "crisis?" Here's the passage from Herbert to which she refers:
HERBERT (8/29/05): An education task force established by the center and the institute noted the following:

"'Young low-income and minority children are more likely to start school without having gained important school readiness skills, such as recognizing letters and counting...By the fourth grade, low-income students read about three grade levels behind non-poor students. Across the nation, only 15 percent of low-income fourth graders achieved proficiency in reading in 2003, compared to 41 percent of nonpoor students.'"

How's that for a disturbing passage? Not only is the picture horribly bleak for low-income and minority kids, but we find that only 41 percent of non-poor fourth graders can read proficiently.

I respectfully suggest that we may be looking at a crisis here.

We agree that it's a "crisis" (indeed, a disaster) when low-income/minority kids lag so far behind--when low-income kids are "three grade levels behind" after just three years in school. But does Herbert describe some generalized crisis? Is it a crisis when "only 41 percent of non-poor fourth graders can read proficiently?" As noted on Monday, that isn't clear. How was "proficiency" defined by this study? What did these kids have to do to display it? Herbert doesn't say, and in the absence of such information, we'd be slow to assert wide disaster.

The teacher suggests that this "crisis" is growing as American homes get too many TVs. But as the Times reported just yesterday, national SAT scores hit an all-time high in math last year, and the verbal score has risen four points in the past decade. SATs are a limited measure of national achievement because only college-bound students take them. But did Herbert describe a generalized (and growing) "crisis?" The claim is hard to square with those numbers, despite what this highly-qualified teacher says. We'll stick with the crisis that almost surely does exist--the crisis described by that remarkable sentence we highlight in Herbert's column. See above.

If you intend to read yesterday's Howler, you better read it quick. Somerby's called it "sub-par" (didn't strike me that way) and says it will vanish shortly. ("Sub-par" presumably in a non-golf way.)

Martha e-mails to note Robert Parry's "Bush Family's Terrorism Test" (Consortium News):

A week after a Cuban civilian airliner was blown out of the sky in 1976, George H.W. Bush's CIA was hearing from informants that two right-wing Cuban extremists were implicated in that terrorist attack -- as well as in an earlier assassination in Washington -- but the Bush Family has continued to protect these operatives for the three decades since.

That long record of loyalty is now being tested by Venezuela's demand that one of the Cuban exiles -- former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles -- be extradited from the United States to stand trial as an international terrorist for the airplane bombing that killed 73 people. The request is before a federal immigration judge in El Paso, Texas.

It remains unclear whether the judge will order Posada deported to Venezuela or -- if the judge does -- whether George W. Bush's administration would comply.

When Posada illegally sneaked into the United States earlier this year and hid out in Miami for several weeks, neither President Bush nor Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took any known action to catch the fugitive terrorist. Only after Posada called a news conference was the U.S. government shamed into arresting him.

Since then, the Bush administration has voiced an unwillingness to turn Posada over to Venezuela, which is governed by President Hugo Chavez, an ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. If Posada gets U.S. protection again, it will represent a continuation of a Bush Family policy dating back 29 years.

CIA Protection

In the fall 1976, then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush and his subordinates at the U.S. spy agency deflected suspicion away from both the right-wing Chilean dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and anti-Castro Cuban exiles who had been collaborating with Chile’s secret police in a wave of terrorist attacks.

Those attacks, which targeted critics of South American military dictatorships, reached the center of American power on Sept. 21, 1976. On that morning, a bomb ripped through a car carrying Chile's former foreign minister Orlando Letelier and two American associates as they drove down a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue known as Embassy Row. Letelier and female co-worker Ronni Moffitt were killed.

About two weeks later, on Oct. 6, 1976, a Cubana airliner, flying the Cuban Olympic fencing team and other passengers to Cuba, exploded after taking off in Barbados. Everyone on board died. [For a fuller account of these cases, see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.]

KeShawn e-mails to note Roland S. Martin's "Robertson's gaffe shouldn't be quickly dismissed" (The Chicago Defender):

Maybe Pat Robertson figured that by finally apologizing for making a dreadful remark about assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, we would all just say, "That old crazy Pat!" and leave it alone.

Fat chance.

Even as I pen this piece three days after he made comment on his 700 Club television program, I am still dumbfounded how idiotic, un-Christian and un-American the comments were.

And of course, what makes this even more shocking is that his usual partners in crime -- the so-called moral-based Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and James Dobson -- allowed the words to sit out there without any response. But don't forget, Robertson and those of his ilk are quick to assail any woman who chooses to invoke her right to choose when it comes to abortion, but they want America to choose death over life for Chavez just because he hangs out with Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others tried to soft shoe the issue by saying they disagree with the comments of the "private citizen," but it's wrong for anyone to dismiss Robertson as just a country hick shooting the breeze and the local feed store.

Nearly 1 million people watch his daily show, which is higher than the average daily viewership of any hour on CNN, MSNBC, CNN'S Headline News or CNBC. That should put this in a little bit different perspective.

Let's also note Ron Walters "Are Democrats Too Soft on The Iraq War?" (The Chicago Defender)"

A few weeks ago, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) helped to initiate a caucus within the House of Representatives to stimulate more anti-war opposition. His view -- and that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. if he were here -- is that liberals and progressive leaders are too quiet on the war. He's right.

To be sure, the center of the Democratic Party has waffled on the Iraq war so badly that they lost the last election. Senator John Kerry was trying to be a better commander-in-chief than George Bush in order to wage a more effective 'war on terror.' How ridiculous. Moreover, the heir apparent to the leadership of the party, Hillary Clinton, has also now begun moving to the Right, a sign that she will not take the leadership of the anti-war faction of the Democratic Party.

[. . .]

This situation leaves the Democratic Party split on the war and therefore, ineffective as a loyal opposition that could bring national pressure to end this disastrous waste of precious resources. In the midst of this indecision, however, it looks like some in the Black leadership are warming up its anti-war engine. Rev. Joseph Lowery, another close associate of Dr. King, has accused Black leaders of being too quiet on the Iraq war, a reason why he went to Crawford, Texas to join Cindy Sheehan in her protest that is making a witness for all those who oppose the war.

Lowery said that one of the main reasons he came to Crawford was to be a witness for the effort of women to test the moral conscience of America on this issue, and he especially pointed to the fact that so many women of Iraq considered Americans to be the terrorists.

Same topic as above, Rick e-mails to note Helen Thomas' "Democrats Must Call For Pullout: Voters Will Punish Opposition For Not Opposing War" (The Boston Channel):

It's time for the Democratic Party to take a 
courageous stand and call for the withdrawal 
of troops from the senseless war in Iraq.  
Its human cost and the billion-dollar-a-week tab 
in Iraq should give all Americans pause.  
Would the Republicans have hesitated to challenge 
the Democrats if the shoe was on the other foot? 
Did the opposition party give former President 
Bill Clinton any slack while he was in office?
What is the logic of Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., 
Joseph Biden, D-Del. and other so-called moderate 
Democrats still backing the unprovoked war in 
Iraq when they know they were sold a bill of 
goods?  Furthermore, they are urging that more 
troops be sent to Iraq. And they are doing so at a 
time when the generals in Iraq are giving mixed 
signals. Some are talking about a draw down of 
troops in a year, others in four years.  
Are the Democratic leaders afraid to admit they 
were wrong? Does the credibility of the administration 
-- and therefore the country -- mean anything to 
them?  Both Clinton and Biden are presumed presidential 
contenders in 2008. That leaves Democratic voters --
many of whom are anti-war -- with no choice if either 
wins the party nomination.  Can Biden and Clinton give 
young men and women any valid reason why they should 
lay down their lives in a war that we didn't have 
to fight in the first place?  
The fallback position apparently runs like this: 
"We're there and we have to stay there now. We 
can't cut and run."  I heard the same refrain during 
the dying days of the Vietnam War. 
And so did the moderate Democrats.

Wally e-mails to note Dave Lindorff's "The Real Disaster, Bush and the Democrats" (CounterPunch):

The National Guard, which was meant to serve as a state-run militia, and to be available for national emergencies like this one, should be called home immediately from Iraq and put back on duty here, where it belongs. Those who are supposed to be cops, firefighters and EMT personnel should be sent back to their real jobs. Cuts in the military should not be made in Guard units, as is happening in the current round of base closings, but in the regular uniformed services, whose only real function seems to be to give the president a chance to mess around in other countries' affairs.

The Democrats should be all over this one, but don't hold your breath. That sorry bunch of moral cowards-Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman among them, voted for the Iraq War and they have uttered scarcely a peep at the gutting of the domestic Guard units, instead calling for more troops to be sent over to Iraq.

The only answer is for the public to demand that the National Guard be recalled for domestic duties, where they belong, and for the war to be ended, immediately.

Bad as it is, New Orleans is just a warning of disasters sure to come. Heck, the hurricane season isn't even half over.

For my money, Osama couldn't have wished for a better ally in his campaign against the U.S. than President George "Bring 'Em On" Bush.

Have you checked dates for the Bring Them Home Now Tour? Here's some upcoming dates:

Little Rock, AR: Thu, Sep. 1st - Fri, Sep. 2nd
Potluck and Welcome

Memphis, TN: Fri, Sep. 2nd
September 2, 2005 7pm - Forum at the National Civil Rights Museum

St. Louis, MO: Sat, Sep. 3rd - Mon, Sep. 5th

Indianapolis, IN: Mon, Sep. 5th - Wed, Sep. 7th

Cincinnati, OH: Wed, Sep. 7th - Thu, Sep. 8th

Columbus, OH: Thu, Sep. 8th - Fri, Sep. 9th

Cleveland, OH: Fri, Sep. 9th - Sun, Sep. 11th

(Metallic theme music . . . de-de-de-de) "Eye On . . . the Manny"
Also, if anyone is looking to make fun of me anytime soon, here's some ammo:

As Maria, Natalie, Lynda and Rachel point out, Brian Montopoli (The Manny, Candy Perfume Boy) is at CBS now. (Congratulations to The Manny.) Note this:

Last night, fearing for their safety, CBS News moved much of its team in New Orleans from their hotel to an overpass on Interstate 10. That's where national correspondent Tracy Smith was standing, preparing for a live segment, when a female police officer approached and handed Smith a pocketknife.

"She told Tracy that if she was going to leave that spot, she was going to need it," says CBS National Editor Bill Felling, who was watching via an off-air feed from his New York office. Smith looked at the knife momentarily before putting it out of sight to begin her report.

The challenges facing reporters in the field, who strive to stay out of the stories they cover, are easy to forget when we consider the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. But in a region that is being described as a "war zone," the immense challenges of covering the story have become a story all of its own.

What's that from? His first story, "Media Struggles To Cover Katrina." Show some Montopoli love and read the full thing by clicking here.

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