Saturday, October 28, 2006

This should be distributed widely 

Watch this U2/Green Day video of "The Saints are Coming".

If only the media had reported a rumor that the terrorists had bombed the levees during the HurriKane, and that Americans were being killed by an "Islamofascist flood"... I can't help but think that we'd have seen similar airdrops and mass response.

Big thanks to Ashley for finding this video.
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I like this post from February, and think it holds up well. It's about Blanco's decision to play "hardball", and it also refers to Abramoff and J.R. Richard.

In light of the World Series being over, and former White House official David Safavian going to prison, and Governor Blanco's recent successes... I would respectfully direct any interested readers to my February post. It's a good reminder about all those critics who were worried that "hardball" was the wrong move at the time. They advocated appeasement and accomodation; they thought the Iraq war president and the Abramoff congress would be impressed by frugality and transparency rather than political pressure.

A recent Stephanie Grace column shows us how far the conventional wisdom has turned since then:

[The] levee consolidation issue is small potatoes compared to Blanco's triumphant showdown with Washington over offshore oil and gas exploration. Settlement of her suit gives the state more of a say in controlling activity that can harm the state's fragile coast.
Since Katrina, local officials can't go wrong playing hardball with the feds, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter and U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal aren't about to come after Blanco for making a strong play for coastal money when they're trying so hard to achieve the same end....

And in truth, Blanco can't go wrong playing hardball, period -- particularly when it contrasts so nicely with the hemming and hawing that has earned her a reputation as an unimaginative, overly deliberate bureaucrat who has to be pressured into bold action.
Now, apparently, Louisiana "can't go wrong playing hardball with the feds". But earlier this year, many critics questioned the need for such a posture. In the next six months or so, it's possible that we could see the current Congress fail to pass a oil royalty bill, and a new Dem Congress pass a Cat 5 levee bill that gets vetoed by President Bush.

If such a scenario occurs, even"hardball" will seem like a totally inadequate response.

Perhaps then, South Louisiana will decide that the time for games-- whether "hard" or "soft"-- is over.
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Friday, October 27, 2006

Church politics 

The Sunday before elections, I'm going to stand outside conservative mega-churches as they let out, and wave a sign saying "Rove and Bush: If you don't respect us, don't expect us."

I'll be dressed in a suit and tie, and will have a life-sized cut out of Tom Mark Foley standing beside me. Also, I'll be surrounded by young children smiling and waving as the fundagelicals exit the parking lot. Maybe one of the kids should hold a sign that says "Future Iraq War Veteran". Another might say "Who are the closet homos in LA's congressional delegation?" or perhaps "Why does Rodney Alexander only protect some kids from gay sex predators?"

Always smiling and waving though-- cheering the churchgoers, and encouraging honks. Keep it looking genuine.

We'll also be handing out printed fliers with excerpts from this new book, of course. (And I must credit the GOP for my catchy sign slogan. Thank you.)

Is that too much? Overboard?

Anyone want to join me? What will you bring?

Update: Hee hee.
Update #2: Here's an interesting post for our devout, pro-family, pro-life friends.
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Iraq's infrastructure 

On Oct. 11, 2000, in Winston-Salem, N.C., Presidential candidate G.W. Bush said:

I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building.... I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I'm missing something here. I mean, we're going to have a kind of nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not.

"Absolutely not", that is, until 9/11. [Then we rightfully invaded Afghanistan, and, in one of the greatest strategic blunders of all time, we invaded a country in order to "disarm" a dictator who didn't have any WMD's. When that didn't pan out, the main war rationale changed. Suddenly, our troops were tasked with spreading evangelical democracy throughout the Muslim world: Fighting for a crazy idea rather than a concrete objective.]

But the focus today is on Bush's newfound commitment to nation-building-- and at the most basic and crucial level, that means infrastructure. Let's trace some comments over recent years:

August 8, 2003

President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld Discuss Progress in Iraq

Turns out this is our hundredth day since major military operations have ended, ended in Iraq. And since then, we've made good progress. Iraq is more secure. The economy of Iraq is beginning to improve. I was interested to note that banks are now opening up and the infrastructure is improving. In a lot of places, the infrastructure is as good as it was at pre-war levels, which is satisfactory, but it's not the ultimate aim. The ultimate aim is for the infrastructure to be the best in the region. And the political process is moving toward democracy, which is a major shift of system in that part of the world.

And we're pleased with the progress, but we know we've got a lot more work to do.

My, those were hopeful, hopeful days back then, weren't they? The Good Lord's precious gift of Freedom was... on the march! Bush was "pleased with the progress" but warned that we "got a lot more work to do". Iraq would become an inspiring example of democracy in the Middle East.

May 24, 2004

President Outlines Steps to Help Iraq Achieve Democracy and Freedom United States Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania

We're making progress. Yet there still is much work to do. Over the decades of Saddam's rule, Iraq's infrastructure was allowed to crumble, while money was diverted to palaces, and to wars, and to weapons programs.... America has dedicated more than $20 billion to reconstruction and development projects in Iraq. To ensure our money is spent wisely and effectively, our new embassy in Iraq will have regional offices in several key cities. These offices will work closely with Iraqis at all levels of government to help make sure projects are completed on time and on budget.

So, 10 months later, we're hearing how that sonofabitch Saddam let his country's infrastructure "crumble" while diverting money to palaces, wars and weapons programs. Imagine: a dictator having poor domestic policy priorities.... who could've guessed?

Luckily, Bush won't allow America to make the same mistake Saddam did. Instead, the U.S. will build a $2 Billion Embassy in Baghdad to make sure that reconstruction money is spent "wisely and effectively" and that projects are completed "on time and on budget".

Clearly, in 2004 Bush believes that Iraq's infrastructure is much less "satisfactory" than he originally described. No worries, though. Bush soothingly explains that we're "making progress", and that "there is still much more work to do".

Fast forward thirty months.

[Since] 2003, some $50-billion has been spent [in Iraq] to create what the U.S. Army calls a record of "historic and magnificent accomplishments," rebuilding a nation neglected by Saddam Hussein and shattered by war.

"Iraq's reconstruction is the largest and most complex reconstruction project ever undertaken in a single country," the Army added, comparing its scale to the U.S. "Marshall Plan" that helped restore post-World War II Western Europe to economic self-sufficiency.

Critics, however, have termed the reconstruction effort everything from only a modest success at best to "one of the greatest colonial rip offs in history."
A signal of the U.S. intent to dramatically scale down its involvement was the government's request for just $770-million for reconstruction funds for fiscal 2007, a figure cut to $200-million by the House.

Yet, by most estimates, Iraq is suffering from a major "reconstruction gap" with much work left undone. And estimates to finish the job range from $20- to $50-billion.
According to the Associated Press, "fewer than half the electricity and oil projects planned have been completed, scores of other projects were cancelled and in Baghdad people spend most of their day without electricity and spend hours in line for gasoline and other scarce fuels."

"Scarce fuels"... in Iraq. Think about that. Iraq is having to truck diesel fuel in from Turkey to run its electrical grid, which is still below pre-war levels of service.

Forget the bombings, the beheadings and the sectarian boil. How can our men and women secure a country and create a democracy in a place where basic infrastructure is so poor? Seriously. How is that possible? Gas lines breed frustration. Darkness breeds resentment. Frustration and resentment breed resistance and violence.

There's a revealing exchange in this worthwhile video on Iraq, that occurs between the 3:30 and the 4:30 minute marks. During an interview, an American soldier says that he doesn't think Iraq "will ever be ready for American forces to leave it". In a subsequent conversation between a different soldier and his Iraqi "counterpart", they are discussing their joint mission in Iraq. The Iraqi asserts that things were better off under Saddam. He says that even the poor man can't afford cooking gas nowadays. The soldier is shocked that the Iraqi would "give up his freedom" for things like cooking gas, and the Iraqi says "of course" he would, because gas to cook food is a basic essential.

I mean, my gracious, there was an embarrassing blackout during an official press conference reporting on Iraq's progress. Prior to that, we built a $75 million police academy which was so shoddily constructed that human feces dripped from the ceilings. For many Iraqis, this is "brand America". I just don't see how you can install a democracy in such conditions.

Of course, you and I both know that democracy has been off the table for a long time now. It's no longer an option. Our men and women are there now to merely stave off civil war. Even our President seemed to acknowledge that fact yesterday.

October 26, 2006: Bush tells U.S. 'I'm not happy with Iraq'

Bush on Wednesday sought to align himself with US public opinion when he said he was "not satisfied either" with rising violence in Iraq. But he warned that US troops were needed to "prevent a full-scale civil war".

Simply put, my point is this: poor infrastructure in Iraq contributes to the conditions that help foment terrorism and expand sectarian death squads. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING liberal war critics can write or say can assist terrorists like energy blackouts, oil lines and buildings that leak shit on Iraqis risking their lives to be police. As a nationbuilder, you can't have Arab "men on the street" pointing to pathetic infrastructure exhibits like this one, and asking "This is freedom? This is the 'power' of democracy? ... No thank you."

Bush made a commitment to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq, and spend American tax dollars wisely... and he did not honor those commitments. Clearly, this failure has aided the enemy immeasurably, and has led to numerous American casualties.

Now the President and his Congress want to "cut and run" from Iraq nation-building, and leave our troops there in the middle of the mess. While Iraq infrastructure still requires $20-50 billion in improvements (more if you waste it on no-bid contracts to war profiteers), the President proposes only $770 million for Iraq reconstruction and the GOP Congress REDUCES that to $200 million. How long does $200 million last in Iraq nowadays... what, 45 minutes? And that's how much they budget for fiscal 2007? (Or until the next "emergency supplemental".)

The paradox is that we cannot secure the country until we rebuild it, and we cannot rebuild it until we secure it. And it's wrong to put troops into paradoxical situations. (And that's not the only one.) But many conservatives don't think it's a paradoxical mission, and that Iraq is still "winnable". I'd love to hear them explain it in detail. I'd love to hear how they think we can install a secure democracy in a country with a shattered infrastructure that we are unwilling to adequately repair. Iraq's bad infrastructure gives comfort to the terrorists. It emboldens them. It endangers the valorous men and women who are now tasked with containing a low-grade civil war, and making sure it doesn't go-- in the President's words-- "full scale".

And while we're on the topic of the Bush administration and "rebuilding things", let's not forget his administration's promise for this region:

Donald Powell, President Bush's appointed "Reconstruction Czar" for the Gulf Coast (12/14/05) said:

The federal government is committed to building the best levee system known in the world.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary... 

How will your wetlands grow?

YRHT correspondent joejoejoe has informed us that Senator Mary Landrieu is in Connecticut today campaigning for Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman is not the Democratic nominee for Senate.

Lieberman confirmed Michael "Clotheshorse" Brown to head FEMA in 42 minutes.

Most importantly, joejoejoe asks:

Why is Sen. Landrieu endorsing Sen. Lieberman when he voted against S. 3711, a bill to provide revenue sharing for Louisiana coastal reconstruction from new oil and gas leases?

Sen. Lieberman voted against cloture for the bill (which passed 86-12) and then was a no show for the next two votes but is clearly opposed based on his initial cloture vote.

What's the angle here, Mary? Is Lieberman just a longtime "moderate" friend you don't want to lose? Or, do you want to gain some favors from him in case the Dems retake the Senate by the narrowest of margins and Lieberman becomes the ultimate "swing" vote? How is it in Louisiana's interest to have Lieberman in the Senate?

I feel nutmegged by Mary's shenanigans up in Connecticut.
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

King of Internet Kooks wearing fewer and fewer clothes 

C.B. Forgotston is one of the most widely recognized political bloggers in Louisiana. He's the state gubmint "watchdog" and the "gadfly" that the media loves to love.

But, honestly, I've been extremely unimpressed by many of the things he has written-- especially since Katrina hit. Is there another blogger out there who reads his stuff on a daily basis and is willing to analytically audit his claims? Anyone? All I ever see is grand deference, and I'm not sure his recent work justifies this lack of criticism.

One of his recent posts is a good example of what I'm talking about. It's the sort of thing a political hack would write. Titled "Governor looking in all the wrong places", it cites a news story about a plant closure in Monroe, and asks "why is the governor going to New York City while major EXISTING businesses are closing?" Forgotston says "There's a simple answer to saving and expanding our EXISTING businesses.... Just lower the taxes and the cost of doing business in LA".

No matter what the question, Forgotston's "answer" remains the same. Lower taxes and cut red tape, lower taxes and cut red tape... and those are fine goals, but they don't cure everything. And they don't address the most important and urgent issue facing the state: improved flood protection. I believe better levees and a restored coast will require a government solution; that is, a LIBERAL solution. And that's precisely why Forgotston-- LA's most respected political blogger-- largely ignores the issue.

So, back to Forgotston's post. Let's actually read the article he cites, and see if it's an example of an existing business that could have been "saved" had the state lowered taxes and cut red tape:

[UAW shop chairman Henry] Davison said Guide (Corp.) will reduce its work force to 150 employees by Jan. 1 and close the plant completely on June 1. A similar schedule will be followed at Guide's tail lamp plant in Anderson, Ind.
Though Guide is officially an independent company, Davison said its common knowledge that GM controls Guide. He said he hasn't been told when the layoffs will begin.

Let me get this straight. An American automotive parts manufacturer loses its headlamp contract from General Motors and has to close, and Forgotston attributes this to high state taxes and red tape? That's hacktacular! I mean, is Indiana similarly afflicted with these anti-business characteristics? Is that why the Guide Corp plant closed there, as well? Or perhaps that's not the reason at all. Perhaps a struggling GM simply decided to not renew contracts with Guide Corp because of quality and cost concerns. That's my bet.

Forgotston's example was a very poor one, but his outlandish criticism of Blanco going outside the state to drum up new business was even worse. The "Queen Bee" is actually good at out-of-state sales calls. That's her thing. She'd been a surprisingly good saleswoman for the state (pre-K), and I'm sure her NYC venture will be much more fruitful than Nagin's. Also, her "economic development guru" Olivier will be going to Germany to court a company that plans to build a $3 BILLION steel plant in either Arkansas, Alabama or da Gret Stet. That would mean 2,000 direct jobs.

Forgotston's criticisms of Blanco are really rich, too, considering how he previously praised her for luring Union Tank Car of Chicago to build a $100 million train car plant in Alexandria. Witness how he favorably contrasts Blanco to former Governor Foster, who made a virtue of staying at home and not actively "selling" the state to interested companies: (From his April 2005 Commentary:)

After Gov. Blanco took over and met with these [Union Tank Car] folks, they changed their mind about locating in Texas and came to LA.

It makes one wonder how many other jobs were lost during the 8 years of Big Daddy's reign due to not taking seriously potential and existing businesses. We'll never know. That too is Big Daddy's legacy.

But if you read Forgotston's recent post, he says that "85% of all job growth comes from the existing businesses" and "any business person will tell you that it is easier to keep an existing customer than to get a new one." Then he questions Blanco for going to N.Y. on a sales call because he contends that retaining and growing established businesses is easier and more worthwhile than drumming up "potential" new businesses. Yet, only eighteen months ago, Forgotston praised Blanco's efforts to lure new business to Louisiana, and contrasted it favorably with Big Daddy's (unimpressive) "legacy".

How do these two criticisms square? They don't. They're contradictory.

State taxes and red tape had nothing to do with Guide Corp's plant closure, yet Forgotston implied that they did. Then, he questioned Blanco's efforts to attract "potential" out-of-state business when he had praised her for making similar efforts only a year and a half ago.

I don't believe Forgotston is a political hack. But, many of his post-Katrina columns have been analytically inert. One wonders what he will say if and when Blanco succeeds in "getting" the $3 billion steel mill for Louisiana.

In related news, Lt Governor Mitch Landrieu "led the negotiations to bring Essence [Festival] back on behalf of the New Orleans tourism industry". That's about a $120 million annual summertime economic impact for a city reeling from catastrophe. Nice work, Mitch.

As you may recall, the Essence Fest was held in Houston last year, and... that didn't work out so well.
More here.
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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Olbermann's latest comment is worth your 10 minutes 


A few quick notes:

Remember that this is the President who explicitly instructed the terrorists to "bring' em on". And now his apologists are outraged at a CNN report on snipers in Iraq because it might "encourage more attacks". I thought the beauty of this Iraqi "flypaper strategy" was that it drew terrorists in to attack us. Right? Inciting terrorist attacks is what we want, right? When terrorists reveal themselves, that's when we can bomb them, right? Why else would the President have told them-- directly!-- to bring it on?

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee is airing television commercials with quotes from terrorist leaders as part of their Get Out the Vote campaign. I repeat: the RNC is airing television commercials with terrorist quotes as part of its GOTV effort.

You know, if I wanted to hear what OBL or Zawahiri had to say, I'd just consult one of their recent videos. Last time I saw "Dr. Z", he looked well-fed and was preaching his extremism from a nicely appointed library. He seemed very comfortable. Bin Laden, presumably, is also much more "comfortable" than he should be.

My belief is that we should kill these men, not promote their cockamamie views to scare Americans. The RNC apparently has a different take. For them, the road to eliminating the Al-Qaeda leaders who killed 3,000+ Americans runs through a civil war in Iraq.

Recall this excerpt from a NYT article from July:

The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials confirmed Monday.
The decision is a milestone for the agency, which formed the unit before Osama bin Laden became a household name and bolstered its ranks after the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Bush pledged to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice "dead or alive."

Those who remind us that 9/11 must never be forgotten are among those who told us that the search for bin Laden's WTC victims had "concluded". Five years later we are still finding people's skeletal remains near Ground Zero.

It's pretty much the same thing with Katrina victims-- we've stopped searching, even though they are still out there, decomposing. The difference being, of course, that there are no cries from anyone to "never forget" the biggest (man-made) catastrophe in U.S. history.
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Monday, October 23, 2006

Bush says LA needs royalties to protect its coastline 

During his speech at the St. Louis Renewable Energy Conference, President Bush said:

They estimate that the new discovery in the deep Gulf of Mexico could increase our [oil] reserves from 10 to 50 percent. In other words, this is a big deal. And Congress is debating an energy bill.... They need to come together between the House and the Senate version to encourage exploration in the Gulf of Mexico in new areas to make sure that we transition to a new day when it comes to energy.

And I believe that states ought to share in the royalties because I know, in the state of Louisiana, for example, they have committed their share of new royalties in this new exploration to help protect their coastline. And I believe Congress needs to get the bill to my desk as quick as possible. So when you finish the elections, get back and let me sign this bill so the American people know that we're serious about getting off foreign oil.

Congratulations to Louisiana, who overwhelmingly passed Constitutional Amendment #1 on September 30th, which directs all federal OCS oil/gas revenues towards coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects. The President noted this commitment as a main reason why we should receive "new royalties" for "new exploration" (i.e. the Senate bill). That's a good start. We'll certainly need Bush's pressure if we're going to get any sort of bill passed during this Congress' final post-election session.

The News Star reports that Sidney Coffee, Governor Blanco's coastal zone adviser, is pessimistic the energy bill will be passed. Sen. Mary Landrieu says it's "difficult but doable". Sen. David Vitter says he's "optimistic" and that "it can happen".

Update: A very welcome NYT editorial totally "gets" the issue as it pertains to restored wetlands, and says passing the Senate bill is not impossible.

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Glad the "Politics of the Past" are safely behind us (pt. 4 in an ongoing series) 

I know David and Mark have been on this since the beginning, but I had to reprint this choice T-P snippet about the Mayor's new garbage contracts:

[The] $26.8 million cost is nearly triple what the service costs now, and the two contracts don't even include the French Quarter and Central Business District. The price tag also doesn't include the cost of dumping waste in the Jefferson Parish landfill or recycling service. And the contract costs will rise as the city population grows and trucks have to stop at more houses.

Bear in mind that this struggling city is half-populated, and needs every penny it can get.
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"Big brother of the world" 

Jeebus, this Congressional mouthbreather is dumb:

[Rep. Rodney Alexander R-LA], a consistent supporter of the [Iraq] war, said he hoped America could withdraw troops "as quickly as possible," he said, but "we have to face an enemy that's being taught every day to kill Americans."

The two-term congressman quoted former President Lyndon Johnson as saying, "We didn't ask to be the big brother of the world, but we are."

Quoting Johnson about Vietnam is always an inspiring way to let voters know that you value the truth, and that you wouldn't lie to them about something as important as war, and send their sons and daughters into a paradoxical, "no win" quagmire on the other side of the Earth. Well-played, grandmaster.

So, is it Alexander's position that "we didn't ask" to be Iraq's "big brother"? I guess one day we woke up and found a Baby Iraq on our doorstep that needed our care-taking? Is that it? We were forced into a trillion dollar war that's lasted longer than our involvement in WWII?

Either Rodney really is "one of the stupidest politicians Louisiana has ever known", or he thinks his constituents are dumber in the head than a dog is in the ass.
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