Friday, June 10, 2005

Applause 

Congratulations to the Louisiana House and Senate for unanimously(!) approving HB 570, which guarantees depleted uranium screenings as a medical benefit to war veterans. (Federal subsidies cover the cost of the tests.) As the Louisiana Weekly noted, "The Louisiana House of Representatives became the first legislative body in the nation to acknowledge the toxic effects of depleted uranium (DU)". The bill was sent to Governor Blanco on Wednesday, and will no doubt receive her prompt endorsement.

Michael, in particular, has given the Depleted Uranium issue the coverage it deserves. Indeed, it is extremely serious business which the Louisiana Weekly article (5/9) capably summarizes:

"The Army calls it the silver bullet. But the team that was assigned to go in and clean up after the first Gulf War was one hundred men," said Ret. Marine Corps Command Sgt. Maj. Bob Smith, who served three tours of duty in the elite Green Berets during the Vietnam War. "A third of them are already dead," he said. Smith is responsible for bringing the issue to the attention of House Rep. Jalila Jefferson. Jefferson enlisted House Rep. Juan LaFonta, who agreed to sponsor the bill. "Louisiana is very service friendly," LaFonta said. "We're concerned about our troops."

During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Army officials assembled a team to clean up the DU contaminated tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. Most team members became sick within 48 hours, with the first cancers developing within nine months and first deaths from lung cancer within two years. Today, 14 years later, some veterans are still attempting to obtain medical testing and care, but say that military and Veterans Administration (VA) officials simply refuse to provide mandated services.

DU weapons are effective because they can penetrate and destroy all targets, including boring through 20 feet of super-reinforced concrete bunkers. DU is virtually cost-free, since it is a by-product of nuclear weapons production. The U.S. ADAM and PDM sub-munitions are called "the perfect dirty bombs" as each has a uranium casing filled with high explosives.

But these weapons are the proverbial double-edged swords. On detonation, uranium particles vaporize into a radioactive dust (uranium oxide) that coats everything within proximity....

When inhaled, these nano-particles, 100 times smaller than a cell, follow the respiratory system to attack the master code of DNA, and disable the immune system. Uranium has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, so contamination is permanent, and containment is impossible.
...
[Geoscientist Leuren Moret] cited a U.S. government study, conducted by the VA on post-Gulf War babies in a group of 251 soldiers in Mississippi who all had normal babies before the Gulf War. The study found 67 percent of their post-war babies were born with severe birth defects. Some were born without eyes (anophthalmos), ears, with missing organs, missing legs and arms, fused fingers, thyroid or other organ malformations. Moret said that in some families, the only healthy members are those born before the Gulf Wars.

The health repercussions in Iraq are unprecedented. In babies born in 2002, the incidence of anophthalmos was 250,000 times greater (20 cases in 4,000 births) than the natural occurrence, one in 50 million births.

The Army and Air Force fired at least 127 tons of DU shells in Iraq last year, according to Pentagon spokesman Michael Kilpatrick, in an interview with the New York Daily News....

In fact, the effects of DU meet U.S. government standards of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)....

"DU is illegal in any sense of the imagination," said Dr. Doug Rokke, a retired U.S. Army Major, nuclear health physicist, and the Pentagon's expert on the health effects of DU ammunition on the battlefield. Rokke was director of the Army's DU project, and wrote the Army regulations for handling and clean up for DU -- regulations he says the U.S. government is blatantly refusing to enforce. Today, although US Army Regulation 700-48 (http://www.traprockpeace.org/rokke_du_3_ques.html) requires DOD officials to provide medical care to all DU casualties and clean up DU contamination, Rokke said they simply refuse to do so.
...
The official number of wounded in the three-week Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991 was just 467. Out of 580,400 soldiers who served in the first Gulf War, 11,000 are now dead, and more than 325,000 are on permanent medical disability. That means 56 percent of those soldiers who served now have medical problems.


Gracious. It's difficult to fathom the implications of that last paragraph. To what extent has toxic uranium oxide ravaged our troops during the current Gulf War? Much less the Iraqi citizens we "liberated"?

Well, once again, I salute the legislators who unanimously supported this bill on DU testing. Making sure that affected veterans are quickly diagnosed and treated is the least we can do for them.

I'm extremely proud to tell you that Ret. Marine Corps Command Sgt. Maj. Bob Smith, who got the ball rolling on this issue, is a fellow member of my church.
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Thursday, June 09, 2005

(White) Family Research Council 

Goodness, I thought many Louisianans already knew about Republican Tony Perkins' ties to KKK-type organizations. But since the folks at Kos are treating a recent Nation story as breaking news, and Avarosis is calling upon Louisianans (among others) to promote the fact... who am I to argue? (I'd personally prefer to wait and let Perkins announce his candidacy for Senate or Guv, but I won't slow the momentum if it's building. He's powerful enough as it is right now.) Since everyone's scouring old Nation articles for Perkins stories, they shouldn't neglect this choice piece. (Preview: guess who used to be a constable in Baton Rouge, one who chose to break his oath to enforce the law during that wonderous "Summer of Purpose"?)

Republicans enjoy citing Democratic racists from before the great realignment began in the sixties. They have a fetish for Byrd's Klan membership that rivals only their fascination with Hillary and, of course, Mary Jo Kopechne.

For me, it's obvious that racist conservatives found more comfortable shade in the GOP's big tent after the Civil Rights legislation of the 60's. African-American voters continue to vote for Democrats in huge majorities based on this hideous fact. This was not the case prior to the great "Southern Strategy" migration, though, when Republicans had a bona-fide liberal wing.

I ask: are Republicans truly disappointed in Senator Byrd's former role as a Klansmen, or are they just pissed he didn't update and sell them his membership lists?

(Big Daddy thought Duke's lists were worth $150k. Perkins apparently got a sweetheart deal, and paid only $80k. Back in the day, I think Rep. Billy Tauzin was one of the few LA GOP'ers to publicly criticize this.)

---
HT: Tbogg, and the Flaming Liberal
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"A continent bursting into flames" 

Bono (9/29/04):
We like to give, and we give a lot. But justice is a tougher standard.

Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment. Because there's no way we can look at Africa-- a continent bursting into flames-- and if we're honest conclude that it would ever be allowed to happen anywhere else.

Anywhere else.

Certainly not here. In Europe. Or America. Or Australia, or Canada.

There's just no chance.

You see, deep down, if we really accepted that Africans were equal to us, we would all do more to put the fire out.
Bonehead:
President Bush kept a remarkably straight face yesterday when he strode to the microphones with Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, and told the world that the United States would now get around to spending $674 million in emergency aid that Congress had already approved for needy countries. That's it. Not a penny more
...
The United States currently gives just 0.16 percent of its national income to help poor countries, despite signing a United Nations declaration three years ago in which rich countries agreed to increase their aid to 0.7 percent by 2015. Since then, Britain, France and Germany have all announced plans for how to get to 0.7 percent; America has not. The piddling amount Mr. Bush announced yesterday is not even 0.007 percent.

Is anyone really surprised by this stinginess from President Compassion? Can the White House explain precisely why the slow-growth welfare states of France and Germany can afford to aid Africa at exponentially greater levels than the United States (in terms of % GDP)?

Crumbs for Africa and crumbs for Blair, the faithful poodle.

What an embarrassment. Please speak up and make a fuss if you care about this.

---
I conclude with more Bono:


You speak of signs and wonders
I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I'm waiting on the crumbs from your table

Where you live should not decide
Whether you live or whether you die
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Now this is what I call a revelation! 

Previously, Ricky Prado's true identity has always been surrounded in myth.

But now Murph informs us that Ricky has been featured in a recent article on Louisiana bloggers. Ian (whose face you're familiar with) gets a mention, too.


[Note: the article says Ricky, er, Karl was spending only around 40 hours a week on his blog.... Jeez, that's all?!? You call that commitment?]
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This makes me boiling mad 

I'm outraged that Human Rights Watch used alarmist phrases in their latest report describing the recent government "crackdown" in Uzbekistan. See, recently we learned that one poorly chosen word immediately vitiates the truth value of all other claims in a given text. That's how it works, kids.

For example:

"There was a systematic effort to slaughter," said Kenneth Roth, the [Human Rights Watch's] executive director.

Doesn't he know that the Nazis cornered the market in "systematic slaughter" during WWII!? And how dare Roth use that phrase when describing the deaths of a scant 700! Is he trying to compare our ally to Hitler, who killed millions?!

I bet this entire report is sourced from interviews with the enemies of our ally against "terror", President Islam Karimov! Whose side is Human Rights Watch really on, anyway?
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Viva la Jeb vs Hillary in 2008! 

That's not a prediction, it's a lamentation.

I turned 33 the other week and realized I hadn't voted in a Presidential election in which a Bush or a Clinton wasn't on the ballot. Then I realized that this trend might persist for another 8 or 12 years (or more).

Anyone prefer some different choices? Perhaps an Edwards/Obama or Clark/Spitzer or Feingold/Bayh Dem ticket? Or McCain/Guiliani for you GOP types?

Remember: "A republic, if you can keep it..."
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Need a rant? 

PusBoy "gits" it done:
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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"Thieves and liars, murderers, hypocrites and bastards" 

Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings says:

I have encountered a few people who have tried to argue that Nixon didn't do anything that LBJ and Kennedy hadn't done before him.
...
[Hilzoy provides the excerpts from Nixon's WH tapes talking when he's thinking over the possiblity of robbing and firebombing the Brookings Institution(!), and framing someone else for it.]
...
This is not just the normal lying, cheating, and minor corruption... This is planning murder, arson, and of course burglary.

This is not just "what all politicians do". This was different: a completely lawless White House whose corruption went way beyond normal.

As you know, I'm no fan of LBJ. I think trying to argue that he didn't (or wouldn't) stoop to Nixon's moral lows is a rather silly enterprise. If he believed it were necessary, Johnson would have done anything Nixon did-- and done it more brazenly, too. Johnson was corrupt and many, many murders can be tied to him. Including, I think, the crime of the century.

Obviously, LBJ accomplished some enormously good things too. He did what it took to win the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and his Great Society program. His conservative southern buddies from the Senate felt betrayed. Johnson honestly believed everyone deserved a fair shot, and when he had the opportunity to push through meaningful legislation he did not shrink. He was a titanic American figure. In fact, Johnson brought Martin King to tears when he used the phrase "We Shall Overcome" in his speech to Congress. And King was no emotional softy.

But when Tricky Dick apologists blurt out "LBJ did it too!" they're really indicting rather than defending their man.

So, were Nixon's crimes different in kind than his predecessor's? The awful answer to that is "no". And nobody of any political stripe should either ignore or take comfort from that fact.

[And one more thing, the current outrage over Nixon's hatred of liberal jews is a bit much. Sure, it's disgusting, but let's not pretend it's the first time a President was insensitive. In private, LBJ would refer to blacks as "nigra" this and "nigra" that. And he loved telling salty jokes that played on hateful stereotypes.]

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From the CNN transcript (via B. DeLong):

JOE WATKINS: Do you think [Mark Felt] is Deep Throat?

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER: Probably. You know, President Nixon once suspected him. I'm surprised he didn't end up dead somewhere because of that...



Here's a charming pic of ole Eagleburger, former assistant to Kissinger and former board member of Halliburton (while Cheney was CEO, of course).
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Monday, June 06, 2005

 
Many thanks to Chad E. Rogers over at The Dead Pelican, who included YRHT among his links. I appreciate it, and think he does a very good job over there.
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Sunday, June 05, 2005

"Promiscuous lenders are throwing money at buyers like beads during Mardi Gras" 

The title is from Calculated Risk, who cites a couple of quotes on the gaseous Housing market. Here's one from this week's Time:

"I went to look at some homes in Palmdale- Lancaster [an area of Los Angeles County]," [John williams, a disc jockey from long beach, Calif] says, "and the woman showing me and a group of other investors around was a hairdresser who works for Century 21 on the side. We went into Taco Bell for lunch. The girl at the register heard us talking, and she told us she just got her mortgage broker's license."

Run for the border!!
I mean, calmly consider this anecdote:
Joseph P. Kennedy was heavily invested in the booming stock market of the 1920s, until, legend has it, he went to Wall Street to visit his broker, JP Morgan, about a week before the great crash of 1929. On his way, he supposedly stopped to have his shoes shined. While doing so, he asked the shoeshine boy for the news on the street. The boy, named Billy, suggested that he buy US Steels and RCA stocks because he had "heard they are hot." Shoes sparkling, Kennedy then continued on to JP Morgan's offices, where he liquidated all his holdings. Returning home, his wife asked him what he bought. "I sold everything," he said. "When the shoeshine boy starts giving you tips, it is time to get out of the market." The Kennedy dynasty was preserved from financial ruin, and Joe's son, John, would go on to become U.S. president.

However apocryphal, that useful tale puts me in the mood for a Dewar's Scotch.

Whatever your poison, consume it with 'viggah'.
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Enjoy your tax cuts this hurricane season. 

From this week's CityBusiness (not online yet):
In Fiscal Year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding.

It would be the largest single-year funding loss ever for the New Orleans district, Corps officials said.

"I've been here over 30 years and I've never seen this level of reduction," said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. "I think part of the problem is it's not so much the reduction, it's the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It's the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to."

There is an economic ripple effect, too. The cuts mean major hurricane and flood projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now.
...
The House of Representatives wants to cut the New Orleans district budget 21 percent to $272.4 million in 2006, down from $343.5 million in 2005. The House figure is about $20 million lower than the president's suggested $290.7 million budget.

Is there a South Louisianan who would still trade their Bush tax cuts for poorer flood and coastal protections? Anyone? Ok, there's still a few. Well, then: would you mind if I looked at your insurance premiums? Have they risen much? May I ask you some follow-up questions about this when a storm enters the Gulf this summer?

I hate to recycle so much, but we saw something like this coming eight months ago in the post "Chronicle of a Budgetary Shafting Foretold". Although, at the time, there was still "hope" for a spending freeze rather than brutal cuts. I really can't improve on what I said back then, so here's a choice snippet (with new emphases):

The gret stet has lost nearly 2000 square miles of protective coastal marshlands (not a misprint) since 1932-- so what's another 1000? Sure we can invest $14 billion now to confront this federal issue, or pay, scientists estimate, a cool $100 billion later. The Bush administration, who proposed giving $100 million to Iraq for its wetlands programs, has continuously shut out Louisiana until this election year where it coughed up a paltry $8 million for our urgent coastal needs. When the President visited this year, he shared a limo with Gov. Blanco, and she asked him for $50 million to address our initial coastal restoration efforts. According to my sources, he replied that current solutions are not based on "solid science".

This pronouncement on science comes from a man who contends that the "jury is out" on evolution, while simultaneously proposing exploration to Mars.

Our state is getting rolled under the bus by Duhbya [and the Weepubs], and yet still licks his political boot.

The state of Louisiana is literally disappearing. It has the most to lose if hit by a hurricane: wetlands, ports, oil infrastructure, the seafood industry... not to mention New Orleans itself, the most interesting cultural jewel in the Republic. Yet the "Gret Stet" is continually asked to accept the highest risks with ever-diminishing federal support in return.
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