Thursday, April 13, 2006

A little help please 

I'm not sure whether these are Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants, or whether they're temporary housing trailers. A foreign contact of mine nicknamed "Slider" (whom I've never met) contends that they are designed to look like regular house trailers but are in fact death labs on wheels. In a post-9/11 environ, shouldn't I affect certitude and commence making embarrassing, counterfactual proclamations to the whole world about this possibility? I think so. It would be irresponsible not to.

Fellow New Orleanians are eager to live in these alleged "Production Plants", but that intention is reckless and very suspicious.

What should be done? I mean, I think I see fermenters on the ends of those things, but without David Kay's carefully-considered analysis, I just can't tell.

Don't get testy. I'm just asking questions, here, to ensure everyone's safety. That's my job, to ask questions about disguised bioweapons fleets that may endanger our freedom. So if you have expertise or solid information about this, please let me know. I'll be sure to check it out in the next 12-18 months and get back to you (maybe).

Much, much more at Michael's 2 Millionth Web Log
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Not a moment too soon 

Promising news in today's Advocate:

The Senate next week takes up President Bush's supplemental appropriations bill, which currently calls for a $600 million pilot program to provide "Katrina Cottages" to Gulf Coast storm victims, said [Rep. Richard] Baker spokesman Michael DiResto.

Baker, a Baton Rouge Republican, sits on the House Transportation Committee, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

He plans to introduce language to amend the Stafford Act.

Planners prefer the steel-reinforced "Katrina Cottages" to trailers because they are larger, more like a home, more cost effective and can safely endure hurricane-force winds. The problem is that, by rule, FEMA can fund temporary housing for up to 18 months after a disaster declaration. Storm victims get first crack at buying the trailer at a discount.

"The (FEMA) rules are against anything that looks like a permanent housing structure," DiResto said.

FEMA has provided 97,000 trailers to Gulf Coast residents. The trailers cost more than the Katrina Cottages.

Hat tip: DP
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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Their cars may be the key to more efficient hurricane evacuation 

Reliable sources have informed me that Clowns Without Borders will be performing in New Orleans soon. No firm dates are set, though.

How their clownact will be distinguished from FEMA's day-to-day activities is unclear, but I suppose we'll find out.

Honestly, I was all set to mock Clowns Without Borders in this post, because, well ... some people find clowns not just corny, but profoundly disturbing (for example, I still have nightmares about this story). But I can't poke fun at this group, a volunteer organization that brings levity and smiles to places like Chiapas (and the Sudan and Guatemala... etc.) If subcomandante marcos approves of them, who am I to disagree? He understands the need for humor in tough situations.

Anyway, I suppose it could be worse. No doubt.

It could be much, much worse... (nsfw).
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36 miles of floodwalls must be replaced 

NYT top story (online-- my emphs):
Federal officials issued unexpectedly lenient guidelines today for rebuilding the flood-damaged homes of New Orleans, potentially allowing tens of thousands of homeowners to return to their neighborhoods at costs far less than they had feared.
The [new lenient guidelines assume] that the area's damaged and faulty levee system will be solidly reconstructed, and to that end federal officials also announced today that most of the flood walls here-- the walls that sit on top of levees, in places where massive earthen structures are not practical-- would be torn down, some 36 miles of them, and replaced. The cost for that and other levee improvements is $2.5 billion, which the Bush administration will now actively seek from Congress.
The announcement by the Army Corps of Engineers that the floodwalls will be replaced was the clearest admission yet by the Corps that much of the hurricane protection system for New Orleans has long been flawed, and was not simply overpowered by storm forces that went beyond what the system was designed to withstand.

Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the chief engineer of the Army Corps of Engineers, said the entire system of floodwalls will have to be examined to determine what must be replaced, and said, "We must assume that because the foundations of these levees are pretty much the same throughout the system" the problem is widespread.

Stupid, shoddy I-design, shallow foundation, 1.3 safety factor floodwalls... hold the Corps accountable.
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FEMA releases Flood Maps 

Building Big Easy has more.
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Bushter's Billions 

Professor Sadow writes one of the funniest things I've read in a long time:

Yet now the grownups from Washington are telling [Louisiana pols] choices have to be made with money that is not theirs and they may not get everything that they want because it's just not that important. And then come the inevitable temper tantrums.

My advice to all the crybaby elected officials in this state: get over it, learn the reality of the situation, and live with it. The world doesn't revolve around Louisiana flood control.

How would South Louisiana function without Shreveporter Sadow's priceless conservative insights? If we could only learn the "reality" of things like he has... how easy it would be!

He says the "grownups from Washington" are telling Louisiana "choices have to be made". Apparently Louisianans must (be the first to) sacrifice because the federal budget is tight from guns, butter and tax cuts.

Well, let's investigate how the "grownups" do it, so that we may avoid all the cronyism and patronage which characterizes our infantile leges in da gret stet (according to Sadow).

Schroeder does the heavy lifting here, by virtue of a Times-Picayune article on the latest Senate hearings. The bottom line is that the funding totals "bandied about as earmarked for relief are, in fact, grotesquely inflated by misspending."

So, how do the prudent grownups misspend taxdollars? (Do you really have to ask, after Iraq?)

Well, it's like a game of "Bushter's Billions", where the object is to funnel as much money as possible to favored corporations like Bechtel, Fluor, Ch2M Hill, KBR.... etc. and have almost nothing to show for it afterwards. (And then blame the victim for being so expensive.)

Harry Shearer has more, saying: "Washington politicians got to pose as defenders of taxpayers' money by inveighing against the corruption of Louisiana and New Orleans. Meanwhile, their agencies, FEMA and the Corps, were engaging in corruption and waste that would make Edwin Edwards weep with embarassment for his pikerhood by comparison."
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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hackers Suck 

Thanks for the memories, Pus Boy, Magical Shrimp, et al..

And keep fighting the good fight.

More pus here. (via LB)
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Dogs will hunt, Pols will run 

Yeah, there's a lot of candidates.

But Adrastos will help you navigate'em.
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Comments get Promoted! 

Regarding the infamous false "full makeup" claim made by the Dead Pelican about Mitch Landrieu, jaybirdo made the following comments in this post which are reprinted for your information.
jaybirdo said...

There's the frikkin' ad that's conspicously missing from his website. It was never missing from his website...I can assure you of that because we built his website.

Also...let's set something else straight. A documentary film crew happened to run into Mitch while he was out helping rescue people, the filmmaker provided a disclaimer which is posted by the ad. I can absolutely assure you that he did not hire a film crew to follow him, nor stage any sort of theatrics. I can assure you of this because if he had hired a documentary film would have been me. I was in touch with his office during Katrina and they were in full crisis mode, they didn't have time to think about anything like photo ops or the bullshit they're accusing him of.

AND.....he wasn't wearing make-up....he was sunburned.

I think it was probably a bad decision for the campaign to run that ad....but the validity of the ad is justified.

12:16 AM

In our view, Chad Rogers' silence about his unretracted "full makeup" claim is deafening. However, YRHT would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he carelessly neglected to source the allegation, rather than declare it as fact in his "Exclusive" story filed March 9, 2006. (More here.)
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Monday, April 10, 2006

I'm silly enough to think these are newsworthy 

1. No one cares that much of the Katastrophe in New Orleans occurred due to poorly-designed floodwalls by the Army Corps of Engineers. (More at Wetbank.)

2. And the death toll keeps rising: 1600+ with over 1000 missing (via Majikthise).

But enough of that unpleasantness. Instead, let's talk about building a wall across our entire southern border and bombing the crap out of Iran.
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Mad fools 

In light of Sy Hersh's hair-raising story about the neocon's preemptive (nuclear) war plans for Iran, I thought I'd excerpt from a speech by libertarian Republican Ron Paul of Texas. He is a very, very lonely voice in his party. Paul gave the speech in mid-February and I've provided extended portions of it below, (although I recommend reading the entire thing if you want his take on why the dollar has no "real value" since Nixon took it off the gold standard in 1971). In short, Paul submits that the U.S. has used military might to "back" the dollar with oil in place of gold. It's titled "The End of Dollar Hegemony" and I found it via the Cunning Realist. Read that speech, as well as Rep. Paul's latest from April 5th, entitled "Iran: the Next NeoCon Target".

First, a quick rant:

What a lonely voice of reason Paul is in today's GOP! The Weepublican chickenhawks who govern us have given us nothing but false choices, empty slogans, and panglossian geo-political visions since 2001. They've marched us into a costly, unnecessary war, and have passed the bill on to our kids rather than ask for any sacrifice. Yet, despite the colossal blunder in Iraq, they still have Big Big plans for our money, and our sons and daughters (and their money as well). This time it's Iran. These neocons-- often wrong, never in doubt-- appear to believe that a massive bombing campaign (including tactical nukes!) will bring democracy to Iran.

Chreezus. Are we really going to let them lie us into war again, based on their simplistic little neocon fantasies about how to re-engineer the Middle East and Persia? Are we?

And now, as predicted, they are beginning to attack Prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald-- a smart, honest, utterly apolitical man who has dilligently fought terrorists and the mob-- for conducting a political witchhunt. According to them, Fitzgerald, the apolitical Republican, is the one conducting an "absurd", "politicaly motivated" investigation. (I swear these loathesome hardc--ts are beneath contempt.)

In other words: a man of law is exposing the truth, which necessarily saps their power, which threatens their goals... and they just can't bear it. So they're going to go down fighting... out with a bang! And a big one, apparently.

To quote Ambassador DeSadesky from Strangelove: "The fools. The mad fools."

Now's the time to make your stand, people. Are you with the Weepublican neocons, or are you against them? Do you support the fight for truth and law... or not? I'll stand with the likes of Representative Paul on Iraq (I only wish more Dems would!) and will support people like Pat Fitzgerald to the very end.

Mull it over while you read excerpts from this speech, delivered nearly two months ago. [End of rant.]

The artificial demand for our dollar, along with our military might, places us in the unique position to "rule" the world without productive work or savings, and without limits on consumer spending or deficits. The problem is, it can't last.
Most importantly, the dollar/oil relationship has to be maintained to keep the dollar as a preeminent currency. Any attack on this relationship will be forcefully challenged—as it already has been.

In November 2000 Saddam Hussein demanded Euros for his oil. His arrogance was a threat to the dollar; his lack of any military might was never a threat. At the first cabinet meeting with the new administration in 2001, as reported by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, the major topic was how we would get rid of Saddam Hussein-- though there was no evidence whatsoever he posed a threat to us. This deep concern for Saddam Hussein surprised and shocked O'Neill.
It now is common knowledge that the immediate reaction of the administration after 9/11 revolved around how they could connect Saddam Hussein to the attacks, to justify an invasion and overthrow of his government. Even with no evidence of any connection to 9/11, or evidence of weapons of mass destruction, public and congressional support was generated through distortions and flat out misrepresentation of the facts to justify overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
In 2001, Venezuela's ambassador to Russia spoke of Venezuela switching to the Euro for all their oil sales. Within a year there was a coup attempt against Chavez, reportedly with assistance from our CIA.
It's become clear the U.S. administration was sympathetic to those who plotted the overthrow of Chavez, and was embarrassed by its failure. The fact that Chavez was democratically elected had little influence on which side we supported.

Now, a new attempt is being made against the petrodollar system.
Iran, another member of the "axis of evil," has announced her plans to initiate an oil bourse in March of this year. Guess what, the oil sales will be priced Euros, not dollars.

Most Americans forget how our policies have systematically and needlessly antagonized the Iranians over the years. In 1953 the CIA helped overthrow a democratically elected president, Mohammed Mossadeqh, and install the authoritarian Shah, who was friendly to the U.S. The Iranians were still fuming over this when the hostages were seized in 1979. Our alliance with Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Iran in the early 1980s did not help matters, and obviously did not do much for our relationship with Saddam Hussein. The administration announcement in 2001 that Iran was part of the axis of evil didn't do much to improve the diplomatic relationship between our two countries. Recent threats over nuclear power, while ignoring the fact that they are surrounded by countries with nuclear weapons, doesn’t seem to register with those who continue to provoke Iran. With what most Muslims perceive as our war against Islam, and this recent history, there's little wonder why Iran might choose to harm America by undermining the dollar. Iran, like Iraq, has zero capability to attack us. But that didn't stop us from turning Saddam Hussein into a modern day Hitler ready to take over the world. Now Iran, especially since she's made plans for pricing oil in Euros, has been on the receiving end of a propaganda war not unlike that waged against Iraq before our invasion.

It's not likely that maintaining dollar supremacy was the only motivating factor for the war against Iraq, nor for agitating against Iran. Though the real reasons for going to war are complex, we now know the reasons given before the war started, like the presence of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s connection to 9/11, were false. The dollar's importance is obvious, but this does not diminish the influence of the distinct plans laid out years ago by the neo-conservatives to remake the Middle East. Israel's influence, as well as that of the Christian Zionists, likewise played a role in prosecuting this war. Protecting "our" oil supplies has influenced our Middle East policy for decades.
It is an unbelievable benefit to us to import valuable goods and export depreciating dollars. The exporting countries have become addicted to our purchases for their economic growth. This dependency makes them allies in continuing the fraud, and their participation keeps the dollar's value artificially high. If this system were workable long term, American citizens would never have to work again. We too could enjoy "bread and circuses" just as the Romans did, but their gold finally ran out and the inability of Rome to continue to plunder conquered nations brought an end to her empire.

The same thing will happen to us if we don't change our ways. Though we don't occupy foreign countries to directly plunder, we nevertheless have spread our troops across 130 nations of the world. Our intense effort to spread our power in the oil-rich Middle East is not a coincidence.
But unlike the old days, we don't declare direct ownership of the natural resources-- we just insist that we can buy what we want and pay for it with our paper money. Any country that challenges our authority does so at great risk.

Once again Congress has bought into the war propaganda against Iran, just as it did against Iraq. Arguments are now made for attacking Iran economically, and militarily if necessary. These arguments are all based on the same false reasons given for the ill-fated and costly occupation of Iraq.

Our whole economic system depends on continuing the current monetary arrangement, which means recycling the dollar is crucial. Currently, we borrow over $700 billion every year from our gracious benefactors, who work hard and take our paper for their goods. Then we borrow all the money we need to secure the empire (DOD budget $450 billion) plus more. The military might we enjoy becomes the
"backing" of our currency. There are no other countries that can challenge our military superiority, and therefore they have little choice but to accept the dollars we declare are today’s "gold." This is why countries that challenge the system-- like Iraq, Iran and Venezuela-- become targets of our plans for regime change.

Ironically, dollar superiority depends on our strong military, and our strong military depends on the dollar. As long as foreign recipients take our dollars for real goods and are willing to finance our extravagant consumption and militarism, the status quo will continue regardless of how huge our foreign debt and current account deficit become.

But real threats come from our political adversaries who are incapable of confronting us militarily, yet are not bashful about confronting us economically. That's why we see the new challenge from Iran being taken so seriously. The urgent arguments about Iran posing a military threat to the security of the United States are no more plausible than the false charges levied against Iraq. Yet there is no effort to resist this march to confrontation by those who grandstand for political reasons against the Iraq war.

It seems that the people and Congress are easily persuaded by the jingoism of the preemptive war promoters. It's only after the cost in human life and dollars are tallied up that the people object to unwise militarism.

The strange thing is that the failure in Iraq is now apparent to a large majority of American people, yet they and Congress are acquiescing to the call for a needless and dangerous confrontation with Iran.

But then again, our failure to find Osama bin Laden and destroy his network did not dissuade us from taking on the Iraqis in a war totally unrelated to 9/11.

Concern for pricing oil only in dollars helps explain our willingness to drop everything and teach Saddam Hussein a lesson for his defiance in demanding Euros for oil.

And once again there's this urgent call for sanctions and threats of force against Iran at the precise time Iran is opening a new oil exchange with all transactions in Euros.

Using force to compel people to accept money without real value can only work in the short run. It ultimately leads to economic dislocation, both domestic and international, and always ends with a price to be paid.

The economic law that honest exchange demands only things of real value as currency cannot be repealed.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Dead Pelican Retort 

A few posts ago, I chided Chad at the Dead Pelican for being petty about a comment Mitch Landrieu made in a recent debate. Today, the DP linked to a video of the debate. So I went over and took a look at the controversial statement, which occurs after the very first question. Mitch was asked what part of his plan "sets it apart" from the other candidates' plans?

After inexplicably sidestepping and rephrasing the softball question (which WWL usefully displays at the bottom of the screen), Mitch was again asked what distinguishes his plan from the others. Below is his exact quote:

"Well, the difference between my plan and the Bring New Orleans Back Plan is that it actually has timetables. It says what we're going to do on day one, day two, it says day thirty, day ninety, so that you actually get and deal with safety, deal with police, deal with evacuation, deal with basically standing up city government as quickly as possible."

Curiously, in a piece supposedly devoted to accuracy, the Dead Pelican misquoted Landrieu's statement in several places. Here is Chad's version, so you can compare it with my rendering, before seeing for yourself. (The substitution of "Louisiana" for "City" is an especially puzzling error).

Landrieu said that his plan "says what we're going to do on day one, day two, day 30, day 90... so that you actually deal with safety, police, evacuation... you deal with standing up Louisiana government as quickly as possible."

Nonetheless, there is much to mock in Landrieu's actual statement. First off, no one mentioned the BNOB plan, but he brings it up for comparison. Why? Then, Mitch claims his plan's specificity sets it apart from the others. While I suppose that point is arguable-- barely-- he goes on to say that his plan "actually has timetables", before elaborating further.

"Actually," no. There's some timebound commitments in Landrieu's plan which I flagged in my earlier post, but no schedule as such. "Timetable" was clearly the wrong word to use. He should have first directly answered the question, saying something like: "My plan is different because it specifically commits to (fill in the blank)." Then he should have gone on to answer the query which he really wished was asked (i.e. what sets you apart as a candidate?) Then he could have replied "My record shows that I have the the credentials, background...).

The bottom line is that it was an uninspiring, somewhat misleading reply.

However, my beef with Chad revolved around the context in which he couched his analysis of Mitch's statement. In a very cagy manner, Chad refers to the Times-Picayune's treatment of his "full makeup" allegation against Landrieu, and then launches into his observations about the accuracy of Landrieu's timetable claims during the debate. The implied connection between them seems to be that there exists no "apparent evidence" for either claim, and that the Times Picayune busted Chad but not Mitch. Or, at least, that was my interpretation.

Chad is putting apples and oranges next to one another. Publishing an incendiary hit piece about a man wearing makeup in a disaster area is not equivalent to a candidate mischaracterizing the layout of his or her plan during a live debate.

Instead of the "timetables" phrase, Mitch probably meant to say something like, "My plan identifies immediate priorities that my administration will tackle beginning on day one and sets specific 30, 60 and 90-day deadlines for key goals so that everyone can measure our success." Now, obviously, he didn't say that. Therefore, his campaign should be grilled about the shaky "timetable" statement until a spokesperson clarifies it. Perhaps he was speaking "figuratively", I don't know. Candidates misspeak all the time and their staff usually explains what was meant.

But here's my point: it's cheap and petty to make an allegation, get called on it, and then (instead of offering proof or retracting it) to wait quietly for a chance to link it to a much more minor error by someone else, and imply equivalence.

Again, here is what Chad E. Rogers published on 3/9/06:

The commercial features Mitch Heroically coming to the rescue of Katrina victims, no sweat on his brow, and in full makeup.


We've seen the ad, although it is mysteriously absent from his web site, and is not available for viewing there.... and why is that?


YRHT has a few questions, too. What's the latest development on Chad's claim that Mitch Landrieu was in "full makeup" in the aftermath of Katrina? Has he been able to gather any evidence for this claim since publishing it as a fact? Does he have plans to retract it or apologize? If not why not?

Further: Why did Chad choose to make this apparently false, distracting claim during perhaps the most important mayoral race in the history of New Orleans? Is there an undisclosed political agenda at work here?

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