Monday, September 12, 2005

Democracy Now: "Americans should be asking right now what these kinds of trained killers are doing on the streets of New Orleans..."

Democracy Now: "Americans should be asking right now what these kinds of trained killers are doing on the streets of New Orleans, apparently on contract from the Department of Homeland Security"

JEREMY SCAHILL: And what's significant is that the way it's being reported and the way the company is presenting it is that they are here to help with the hurricane relief efforts, but they told us clearly that they are engaged in quote, "stopping criminals" and that they're actually patrolling the streets. In fact, we saw them take over a building on Bourbon Street when we were walking around with them. And now they have set up shop there on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. So this is very, very disturbing, I think, for anyone who knows the record of Blackwater. Of course, they do not ask questions first. They shoot first, and that is their reputation in Iraq. And so, Americans should be asking right now what these kinds of trained killers are doing on the streets of New Orleans, apparently on contract from the Department of Homeland Security.
AMY GOODMAN: And Jeremy, as we went around, saw other figures, we didn't know who they worked for, like those in front of Hibernia Bank, as we were driving by and John Hamilton was filming. They flagged down our car. They said, "Stop the filming." And we said, "Why?" And they said, "We just said 'stop the filming.'" They said, "These are our streets," and made clear next to their sports shirt, you could see clearly that they were carrying guns.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yes, that's right. And they also alleged that they had been deputized. And another key point is that these Blackwater guys said that they were given the authority to use lethal force, as well as the power to make arrests. And when we asked them about this use of them in the United States, they said that they believe that we're going to see a lot more of this and that this is a trend. So, I think that this is a very, very disturbing development that we are seeing here on the streets of New Orleans, Amy.

The above is from "Overkill: Feared Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans" from today's Democracy Now! and the selection was picked by Brady. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for September 12
- John Roberts Nomination Hearing Begins Today
- Report: 1,500 Children Still Separated from Parents After Hurricane
- EPA: Toxic Waters Could Make City Unsafe For A Decade
- Rep. Baker (R-LA): "We Finally Cleaned Up Public Housing in New Orleans"
- Tom Delay to Hurricane Survivors: " Is This Kind of Fun?"
- Pentagon Set to OK Use Of Nukes In Pre-emptive Attacks
- Two Journalists Detained in Haiti
- U.S. Activist Scott Parkin Jailed in Australia

New Orleans Activist Points to Neglected Corpse as U.S. Military Passes Off Blame
Democracy Now! reports from the streets of New Orleans. We speak with community organizer Malik Rahim who points out a dead body in his neighborhood that has been neglected since hurricane Katrina hit and we ask soldiers and police why it hasn't been picked up.

New Orleans Resident Discusses Race and Looting at Circle K
New Orleans resident Mike Howell is a "holdout" - one of those refusing to leave his home - in the French Quarter. He discusses the looting of a local grocery store saying, "this could happen in Santa Monica, California, it could happen on Long Island, New York, it could happen in Palm Beach, Florida...if people felt they were going to run out of food and water."

New Orleans "Holdout" Compares U.S. Military Evacuating Residents to Nazi Germany
A New Orleans resident discusses why she is refusing to leave her home in the French Quarter and describes how soldiers approached her house and asked her to leave: "It was kind of like being in Nazi Germany, [the U.S. military] came with guns and told us we had to leave our home. Very, very nasty, and said they would come back the next day and drag us out of our homes."

New Orleans Resident Outlines the Seven Betrayals by Government and Rescue Operations
New Orleans resident Mike Howell discusses how the federal and state government, relief organizations and aid agencies betrayed the people of his city in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans Evacuee Compares Louisiana Shelter to Jail
We go to Gonzales - between Baton Rouge and New Orleans - where a shelter has been set up for evacuees. One New Orleans evacuee compares the shelter to jail and says, "It ain't our fault that the hurricane came and we had to come here. Like we had to end up in a place that we got to be told what to do."

Overkill: Feared Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans
In addition to the thousands of military troops patrolling the streets of New Orleans, there are also scores of private soldiers that are now spreading out across the city, like those from the Blackwater Security firm. Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill reports. [includes rush transcript]

NY Firefighter in New Orleans : "This Is Much Worse, This Dwarfs 9/11"
As the eyes of the nation remain focused on these devastated Gulf States, people across the country marked the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. In Baton Rouge, some 300 New York Police and Firefighters held a commemoration ceremony. We speak with one firefighter about hurricane Katrina and 9/11. [includes rush transcript]

Here is the opening to Jeremy Scahill and Daniela Crespo's "Overkill: Feared Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans" (online exclusive at Democracy Now!):

NEW ORLEANS -- Heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans. Some of the mercenaries say they have been "deputized" by the Louisiana governor; indeed some are wearing gold Louisiana state law enforcement badges on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards on their arms. They say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force. Several mercenaries we spoke with said they had served in Iraq on the personal security details of the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer and the former US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte.
"This is a totally new thing to have guys like us working CONUS (Continental United States)," a heavily armed Blackwater mercenary told us as we stood on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. "We're much better equipped to deal with the situation in Iraq."
Blackwater mercenaries are some of the most feared professional killers in the world and they are accustomed to operating without worry of legal consequences. Their presence on the streets of New Orleans should be a cause for serious concern for the remaining residents of the city and raises alarming questions about why the government would allow men trained to kill with impunity in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to operate here. Some of the men now patrolling the streets of New Orleans returned from Iraq as recently as 2 weeks ago.
What is most disturbing is the claim of several Blackwater mercenaries we spoke with that they are here under contract from the federal and Louisiana state governments.

Cindy e-mails to note David Krieger's "Cindy, Katrina and Iraq" (CounterPunch):

Cindy, Katrina and the war in Iraq have converged in a summer storm, awakening the American people to the insensitivity and incompetence of Mr. Bush and his administration. During the month of August, Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother of one of the nearly 1,900 US soldiers to have died in Iraq, camped in front of Mr. Bush's home in Crawford, Texas and called upon the President to take some time off from vacation to tell her the "noble cause" for which her son died in Iraq. While Cindy Sheehan and other Gold Star mothers waited at Camp Casey and watched Mr. Bush speed by in his caravan on his way to play golf and attend fundraisers, more US soldiers and Iraqi civilians were dying in Iraq.After Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the President cut his five-week vacation two days short. But this was after it was already apparent that preparations for relief efforts were too little, too late for the people trapped in New Orleans and elsewhere.While spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the Iraq War, the Bush administration cut funding from the budget to shore up the levees in New Orleans. Instead of saving thousands of lives by spending a few hundred million dollars to strengthen the levees protecting New Orleans, lives have been lost and it will cost thousands of times as much to rebuild the city.

Cindy also notes Cynthia McKinney's "A Few Thoughts on the State of Our Nation" (CounterPunch):

First, let me say that I am especially proud of the way the people of my district and of this country have wrapped their arms around the victims of Hurricane Katrina. At this time, we have a healthy contingent of expert Georgians in the traumatized gulf States, and we have received thousands of Katrina's victims into our cities, churches, and homes.
I have come to this floor on many occasions. People around the world have commented on how shocked they are to see such poverty in America. While cities and localities pass anti-panhandling measures that criminalize begging tourists and visitors in downtown areas asking for help, Hurricane Katrina washed away America's veneer of populist opportunity, a country that has overcome its racist, slave-holding past, a country ready for world dominion because it has learned how to uplift the human spirit at home.
Katrina, in images as stark and undeniable as could be, has laid bare the Republican lie that its policies promote growth and prosperity for all Americans and leave no child behind, while Katrina put into our living rooms and the world's living rooms the cruel hoax that has been played on America and those who love America by the ruthless sybaritic power player elites who are as responsible for the conditions endured by too many Americans as they are for the embarrassing and breathtaking incompetencies we all witnessed just before Labor Day.
Almost 30,000 New Orleans households live on less than $10,000 per year. More babies and young kids are going hungry in our country. Eleven percent of our families experienced hunger in 2003. One million more Americans are living in poverty today than there were 1 year ago. Income distribution has become obscenely skewed toward the rich during the Bush years. In Manhattan, the poor make two cents for each dollar that the rich make. This places Manhattan on par with Namibia for income disparity.
Interestingly, in the financial capital of the world, New York City, the Bronx is the poorest urban county in the country, and New York State is being depleted of its middle class.

Eddie e-mails to note BuzzFlash's "We have the most partisan, incompetent, elitist, manipulative, sleazy, dishonest, corrupt White House in memory, and the Democrats get scared that they might be called partisan!" (BuzzFlash editorial):

Incompetence, cronyism, accountability, corruption, leveling with the American people, honesty and integrity are all words that we expect get a "hot button" response in political focus groups. In fact, these were words used by Bush in the disputed 2000 race that got him within 540,000 votes of beating Al Gore.
So why then are the Democrats always so timid about using them in relation to Bush? Because he is incompetent; engages in rampant cronyism and corporate campaign contributor profiteering at taxpayer expense; refuses to be accountable for any of his serial failures; allows corruption in government agencies ranging from FEMA to the Pentagon and in lax oversight of corporations; doesn't level with the American people; is chronically dishonest; and has as much integrity as a rattle snake under a rock.
After presiding over the biggest federal government failure in memory, in which American citizens needlessly suffered and died -- the Democrats are backing off because Rove sent the message point down from on high: "It's not time to play the blame game." It's not about blame; it's about competence, accountability, honesty, transparency in government, and the equal treatment of all Americans regardless of race.
If the Democrats can't pummel Bush into a shunned oblivion with this one, they might as well give up as an organized party. As Jon Stewart said (paraphrasing), "If someone says it's not time to play the blame game, they are the ones to blame." And he said this after showing several Bush surrogates repeating this exact same message point, including Poppy Bush.

Paula e-mails to note Nora Ephron's "The Curious Incident of the Veep in the Summertime" (Common Dreams):

For some time I've been wondering whether anyone is going to explain the true mystery of what happened after Hurricane Katrina struck. I read thousands of words on the subject in this morning's New York Times, and I still don't get it. Where was the President? And more to the point, where was the Vice President?
And don't tell me Crawford Texas and on a ranch in Wyoming. For days there was an absolute vacuum at the top. Why? What was going on?
You'll be happy to hear that I have a theory. Is it possible that the President and the Vice President have fallen out? I mean, I'm just asking. But if you remember September 11, 2001 -- and I'm sure you do -- the President had no idea what to do, but the Vice President did. The Vice President took over. He didn't even consult with the President. He put the President on Air Force One and the President spent the day flying from one airport to another, which was something that even the President eventually understood made him look as if he wasn't in charge.
The relationship between Cheney and Bush has always reminded me of a moment I witnessed in the movie business many years ago. I had written a script for an actress, and she had decided she wanted to direct it. This was a terrible idea, because she was famous for dithering, but there was no question that the studio would make the movie if she directed it. "Don't worry about it," the producer of the movie said to me when I asked if she was remotely capable of directing a movie. "We can walk her through it."
It's always been clear to me that five years ago, when all those Republican guys got together and realized that George Bush could be elected president -- and that he wasn't remotely capable -- they came to an understanding: they would walk him through it. I'm sure it seemed like a swell idea, especially because it meant that they'd be in a perfect position to convince him to do all sorts of exciting things they had always wanted to do.

Juan e-mails to note Delilah's "strong and hard hitting" entry entitled "Quid Pro Quo" (A Scrivener's Lament):

Rosemarie Jackowski protested the Iraq war on March 20, 2003, in Bennington, Vermont.
Rosemary Jackowski carried a sign depicting a dying Iraqi child on a gurney.
According to the Bennington Banner, Rosemary Jackowski was arrested and later found guilty of "intending to block traffic and annoy drivers when she stood in Bennington County's busiest intersection."
Rosemary's case made it all the way to the Vermont State Supreme Court.
Deputy State's Attorney Daniel McManus said that "when Jackowski refused to move from the intersection, she showed that she intended to block traffic and knowingly annoy drivers."
The maximum penalty for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, is two months in jail and a $500 fine.
Rosemarie Jackowski is 68 years old.
Rosemarie Jackowski is 4' 10" tall.
Rosemarie Jackowski is a US Air Force veteran.
Rosemarie Jackowski is prepared to go to jail if her appeal fails.

KeShwan e-mails to note "When Will It End?" (TV News Lies):

This last scam has to be the straw that breaks the back of that proverbial camel. By putting cronies, instead of experienced people to run FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, the Bush administration has to be held responsible for the horror that has left New Orleans and its environs in ruin. This time, the dead people are Americans, not only innocent Iraqi or Afghan men, women and children. This time all of America has seen the consequences of George Bush's refusal to heed the warnings of engineers and scientists. This time, he may not be able to get away with the scam.
Then again, he may. To date, every ruse, every lie, every deception has gone unpunished. There has been not an iota of accountability anywhere in this government for any of the failures at home or abroad. Every official liar has been rewarded with promotions and honors. Every official lie has been rationalized and justified and contorted and ultimately dismissed. This time, some Americans may wake up and not allow that to happen. This time, because there is no place to hide, the Bushco Scam Machine may finally be running into trouble.
It can end. It really can. The beginning of the end can be initiated on September 24th on Bushco's home turf. If enough people rise up and say "NO MORE," in Washington at the end of this month, the message may get through. We all can send a clear and unmistaken warning to those who need our votes next year. We can let them know that we've just about had it. It really can end if we want it to.
But it will take a significant turnout to make the point. Take the day,it's a Saturday,and join the protest. It will take numbers to get the job done. It will take numbers to get media attention and to signal the rest of the world that Americans do not share the callous, uncaring and arrogant attitudes of their leaders. And it will take huge numbers to drive the message home to a largely anemic Congress that we mean business.
It has to end. The lies, the scams, the ineptitude, and the resulting damage have to end. Relentless as they have been, the self-serving schemes of this administration have to be exposed and dismantled now. These con men have been in our faces for far too long with their destructive ruses and ensuing cover ups.

Note that Jesse (editor of TV News Lies) has a note at the bottom of the above editorial. I'm not sure on the credit for the above "contributing editor" is in the byline but I'm not seeing anything else (other than Jesse's name by his note) in the copy & paste by KeShawn. It's a long editorial and worth reading.

September 24th? (I can't imagine any member asking that but in case a visitor drops by . . .)
From United for Peace & Justice:

Sat., 9/24 • Massive March & RallyPeace and Justice FestivalOperation Ceasefire ConcertSun.,
9/25 • Interfaith ServiceTraining for Grassroots Lobby Day • Training for Mass Nonviolent Civil Disobedience • Other ActivitiesMon.,
9/26 • Grassroots Lobby DayMass Nonviolent Civil Disobedience


ONEMILLIONREASONS.ORG: Tell Bush to Get Out of IraqPolls show that we now represent the majority -- 6 out of 10 Americans would like the US troops to come home -- people feel isolated from each other and feel their voices are not being heard. So we have created an exciting new campaign called ONEMILLIONREASONS.ORG, where you can post on-line YOUR reason why the US should get out of Iraq, and read what other people all over the world have to say. On September 26 we will hand deliver the signatures and messages directly to the White House.
Join us for the mass mobilization in Washington DC, September 23 - 26 The tide is turning and now more than ever we have to force those behind the gates of the White House to see the writing on the wall. We must get out of Iraq NOW. Join with tens of thousands of other activists who know the time for us is NOW. Be with us in this historic moment as we march on the White House and deliver onemillionreasons to BUSH. Mark your calendars, reserve your tickets, and get your pink gear ready!

From CODEPINK, we'll also note the latest from "On The Tour - Cindy's Blog:"

We had a rally in front of Denny Hastert's office in Batavia, Illinois, we didn't get a meeting. He will go on our "Meet with the Moms"( Hall of Shame along with Tom Delay, whose aide at least spoke to us on the phone: even if it was a very non-productive conversation. I met with an aide of Dianne Feinstein in San Francisco.
The Senator will also go on our Hall of Shame. Her aides (I have only spoken with her aides, even though I have requested 3 meetings with her) have admitted that she knows that Iraq was a mistake and if she knew then what she knows now she never would have given George Bush the authority to invade and occupy Iraq. First of all, I don't buy that argument. Anyone with a brain knew George was lying in the insane rush to the invasion of Iraq, and second of all, if she believes it is a mistake, then she should be working to bring our troops home. Casey and so many tens of thousands of others should still be alive and humanity is damaged immensely by allowing the travesty to continue.
The aide we spoke to, James Molinari, was pretty defensive and borderline rude when he spoke to me, a Gold Star Sister, Dr. Nooshin Razani, and a member of MFSO: Anne Roesler. Anne's son, Michael is in Iraq for his third tour of duty. As we all know, not one Senator, Congress person or member of Bush's criminal administration has any loved one serving any Iraq.
These are Mrs. Feinstein's cardboard hurdles that must be jumped before we bring our troops home. (Again, I feel her aide was patronizing us and making the mistake that if we are women, who are obviously distraught because we have had horrible losses and potential horrible losses, then we must not know what we are talking about.)

As Erica points out, Christine has a strong post entitled "Roberts and the Confirmation Hearings: A Crash Course" (Ms. Musing):

Back to the hearings. Linda Greenhouse wrote a Senate hearings primer -- "a viewer's guide, by topic and in context, to the words and phrases that are likely to be heard as the event, part legal seminar and part political theater, proceeds." It covers privacy and reproductive rights, sex discrimination, civil rights, access to court, commerce clause and presidential power.
Short on time? If you're looking for a quick read, here's a
basic guide to legal terms you're likely to hear over and over this week.
The Washington Post has put together a
handy dossier. Scroll down and you'll find links to key documents and memos written by Roberts while working in the Reagan administration; Roberts' response to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire in preparation for the confirmation hearings; and oral arguments Roberts made before the Supreme Court when representing private clients. Look under key decisions for the U.S. Brief in Rust v. Sullivan dealing with the issue of abortion.
And don't forget that there will be daily rallies in opposition to Roberts' nomination. Here's the
schedule of events, brought to you by Feminist Majority.

NOW also has events planned (and take actions, so check out their site):

Tuesday, September 13 ? Friday, September 16
Daily Events
(Meet behind Senate Hart Office Building on C Street, between 1st and 2nd Streets, NE)
What: Morning Visibility Every Morning 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM
What: Lunchtime Visibility Themed Events Every Afternoon 12 noon-1:30 PM
Tuesday: "Save Title IX" Come in your sports gear, college T-shirts or sweatshirts, and bring lots of signs!
Wednesday: "Demand Pay Equity" Visibility Bring cookies, brownies, etc. for our mock bake sale! We'll have a booth with signs "selling" goodies- $1 for men and 76 cents for women! And as always, bring signs!
Thursday: "Save Reproductive Rights" Visibility Come barefoot and pregnant (if you're not pregnant, a pillow works!), bring caution tape, hangers, and lots of signs!
Friday: "Civil Rights" Visibility

From Planned Parenthood, we'll note Chris' "On with the Show" (Now What?! Blog):

Well, kids, it's finally here -- that day many of us have dreaded since George W. Bush became president nearly five years ago. His nominee to be chief justice -- John Roberts -- will begin his confirmation hearings today. Unfortunately, most of the cable news networks don't consider it "must-see tv" so you better get your C-SPAN on.
When the U.S. Supreme Court made him president, this was the very thing that many of us feared most -- that he'd get at least two opportunities to tilt the court rightward. And I don't mean right like "do the right thing." Whether John Roberts would take the court further to the right or hold the line where it was with Chief Justice Rehnquist leading the band of nine is
not completely clear. What is certain, however, is that his youthfulness (he is 50) will mean a long tenure. So, viewing this as a "replacement" for Rehnquist is to ignore the fact that Roberts could serve into the 2040s.
Are you having a hard time wrapping your head around the year 2040, too? Imagine that you have children late in life. Then imagine the high school graduation of your grandchild. You're getting close.

e-mails to note John Kerry's "Commentary: Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina" (The Chicago Defender):

The evidence that our nation was unprepared for hurricane Katrina is undeniable. Thousands of our fellow citizens losing their lives not to wind and water -- but thirst and starvation. Rescue attempts failing to materialize days on end, leaving mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, to perish in ways embarrassing to fathom in this society: children running out of medication; elderly too long without dialysis; patients whose oxygen tanks went empty or respirators went offline. When people were stuck on those roofs, they weren’t just cut off from the floors beneath them. They were cut off from the world, including the nation that pledged to protect them.
The failure in Washington was indeed undeniable and embarrassing, and time will continue to expose the scope of the injustice exacted on the people of New Orleans. In the meantime, we must honor those lost in the hurricane by making a strong commitment to the survivors. And our first responders should be commended for their bravery in the face of countless dangers.
If there is any silver lining for Americans in the face of this tragedy, we can find it in the courage of our people. Families are gathering food, clothes and supplies and sending it south by the truckload. Americans are opening up their homes to complete strangers. The generosity and compassion of the American people is incomparable but sadly these past few days Americans have learned the hard way that generosity and compassion from those who are in charge of the federal government is in short supply.

Tracey (yes, that's Ruth's granddaughter) e-mailed to note Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Contributing to Hurricane Katrina Relief" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):

Yesterday's New York Times's Sunday Styles section had a story about those of us called Katrina, and how we are handling the fact that we share a name with a Hurricane which has caused such enormous suffering and destruction.
The article notes how angry I was that Rush Limbaugh stooped so low as to link me to this human suffering. (He referred to the catastrophic storm as "Hurricane Katrina vanden Heuvel"). The Times reporter says that I dismissed the personal attack "and wheeled the issue into more comfortable terrain" by raising serious questions about the disaster in
a recent piece.
Yes, I did raise questions about the shamefully inadequate response to the worst natural disaster in US history. But what the Times article didn't report were my personal reactions to the suffering. Nor did it convey my abiding hope that out of this tragedy--which has so starkly exposed our country's racial and class divide--will come a renewed understanding of the positive role of government in building a more just and equal America. Nor did it mention my search for how to most effectively help those hardest hit, spurred on, in part, by letters from many Nation readers asking our advice on the best ways to help.

(Note that charities are listed if you use the link to read more than the excerpt.)

The e-mail address for this site is

[Note: It hits the site, it disappears. Three times now. Hopefully this will stick.]