Saturday, June 09, 2007

"Massively incompetent and corrupt" 

In a blockbuster post, Matt McBride outlines his initial impressions about the Army Corps of Engineers' internal investigation on the floodgate pumps. In short, New Orleanians are at risk because the pumps haven't been fixed properly. Please read the whole thing; it's mega-important.

Here's what Matt writes about USACE and Moving Water Industries, (the Jeb! Bush crony company) that the Corps contracted with:

The Corps' New Orleans District's contract administration has been a travesty - perhaps even criminal - and there appears to have been an active effort to cover that up. MWI was writing change orders - including prices - and the Corps was sending them back to MWI with a bow on them. Duplicate payments have been made to MWI. There appears to be no written justification for most of the payments. There appear to be millions of dollars unaccounted for.

Senator Mary Landrieu has properly called for an investigation into the MWI contract based on the findings of USACE's internal investigation.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Very Telling 

1. Tom Junod's July Esquire profile of Angelina Jolie is titled "Angelina Jolie Dies For Our Sins" (not online yet), and contains the following sentences:

One could make the argument that [Jolie] is the most famous woman in the world. Why not , then, just go ahead and make the argument that she is the best woman in the world, in terms of her generosity, her dedication, and her courage? ... In post-9/11 America, Angelina Jolie is the best woman in the world because she is the most famous woman in the world-- because she is not like you or me.

And yet, despite what you just read, the article is not ludicrous. In fact, it's quite worthwhile. (Unfortunately, there's no mention of New Orleans.)

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Now I will admit that I've given Tom Junod extra leniency ever since I read a 2003 article he wrote about General Wes Clark. One memorable portion from Junod's article was summarized in a Salon story that is available online. I'll excerpt it:

But there is something to be said for gauging a man's attitude to the notion of heroism. In his Esquire profile of Wesley Clark last August, before Clark had declared his candidacy, Tom Junod made a clear demarcation between the attitudes of the current president and those of one guy who's hoping to take his place. "Accountability is the value that he hopes to export from military to civilian life," Junod writes of Clark, "the value that informs even his most fledgling attempt to formulate a platform, the value by which he hopes America's education system will be rebuilt, with teaching professionalized in the new century the same way soldiering was at the end of the last. And it is the value that makes whatever policy disagreements he has with President Bush seem strangely personal, for it is the value that distinguishes a warrior from, well, a warrior president."

... Junod goes on to provide even more telling details about Clark's attitude toward bravery in wartime -- or, for that matter, any other time. In August 1995, Clark went to Bosnia as part of a negotiating team put together by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke in an attempt to end the still-raging civil war. The team had to travel to Sarajevo, and Clark asked Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for protection on a road that was controlled by Bosnian Serbs. Milosevic refused. The team split into two groups: Clark and Holbrooke traveled in a Humvee, the others in an armored personnel carrier.

In his book "Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat," Clark explains that the personnel carrier "broke through the shoulder of the road and tumbled several hundred meters down a steep hillside." But Junod points out that Holbrooke, in his book "To End a War," describes the way "Clark grabbed a rope, anchored it to a tree stump, and rappelled down the mountainside after [the APC], despite the gunfire that the explosion of the APC set off, despite the warnings that the mountainside was heavily mined, despite the rain and the mud, and despite Holbrooke yelling that he couldn't go." The APC, Junod learns after probing the general about the episode, "had turned into a kiln," and "Clark stayed with it and aided in the extraction of the bodies."

That story never showed up as part of Clark's campaign.


2. We Saw That finds one minor flaw* in the 16 count indictment against Rep. William Jefferson, and declares "dont be a sucker -- this indictment starts off with deliberate lies, how true can the rest of it be?"

In an earlier post, We Saw That found one thing that Judicial Inc got right-- accurately predicting Nagin's re-election-- and argued that that supported other outrageous claims made by Judicial inc about what was "really going on in New Orleans". For example, Judicial Inc claims the levees were blown to empty the town of blacks so that Nagin would let the "Master Zionist" casino crowd expand into New Orleans.

So, in WST's view, we should dismiss the federal indictment by U.S. Attorneys against Jefferson because of one incorrect thing, while we should embrace judicial inc's conspiracy theories about Nagin and his "Master Zionist" overlords in their entirety because they managed to make one correct prediction.

Ok.
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(* For the purposes of my argument, I'm granting WST's point. You may wish to contest or dispute it.)


3. You've probably read Fareed Zakaria's Newsweek cover story titled "After Bush". Its analysis of America's current situation is very lucid. Here's one (of many) parts that I really liked:

The presidential campaign could have provided the opportunity for a national discussion of the new world we live in. So far, on the Republican side, it has turned into an exercise in chest-thumping. Whipping up hysteria requires magnifying the foe. The enemy is vast, global and relentless. Giuliani casually lumps together Iran and Al Qaeda. Mitt Romney goes further, banding together all the supposed bad guys. "This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hizbullah and Hamas and Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood," he recently declared.

But Iran is a Shiite power and actually helped the United States topple the Qaeda-backed Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Qaeda-affiliated radical Sunnis are currently slaughtering Shiites in Iraq, and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are responding by executing and displacing Iraq's Sunnis. We are repeating one of the central errors of the early cold war—putting together all our potential adversaries rather than dividing them. Mao and Stalin were both nasty. But they were nasties who disliked one another, a fact that could be exploited to the great benefit of the free world. To miss this is not strength. It's stupidity.

Such overreactions are precisely what Osama bin Laden has been hoping for.


There's some other good stuff on the need for America to be more resilient and open rather than paranoid and closed. And there's not one but two purposeful mentions of Senator Obama in the piece, which makes me think that Fareed is subtly positioning himself to be the next Secretary of State, assuming Obama wins. (An assumption with which I'm growing more and more comfortable each day.)

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Farewell 

After "a combined 95 years of living in greater New Orleans", John Vinturella and his wife are moving to Cincinnati.

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Update: A Hearn quote about sackcloth and Ashes comes to mind, but I'll refrain.

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Nailing it 



Greenwald's "The great right-wing fraud to repudiate George W. Bush" gets it precisely right, with help from a very candid analysis by "Crunchy Con" Rod Dreher, whom Greenwald quotes:

[It] seems to me that we conservatives need to avoid falling into a historical revisionism that allows us to portray ourselves as passive victims of a feckless president.

[As] the last wheel comes off [the Bush] presidency, and the GOP comes to grips with what this presidency has meant for the Republican Party and the conservative movement, there will be a strong temptation to resist owning up to our own complicity. Success has a thousand fathers, after all, and failure is an orphan. This failure is not President Bush's alone. The Republican Party owns it. The conservative movement, with some exceptions, owns it....

It doesn't take much courage to stand up for conservative principle to a president as weak as this one has become. It would have taken real courage to stand up for conservative principle in 2002, 2003, 2004, even early 2005. How many did?...

It is tempting to blame Bush for everything. But it's not fair, and it's not honest. Bush is today who he always was. The difference is we conservatives pretty much loved the guy -- when he was a winner.


Heh, indeed. Read Greenwald's entire piece.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

 
Yesterday you probably heard the good news about the foiled terrorist plot to blow up jet fuel supply tanks and pipelines at New York's JFK Airport.

I love the response at Hairy Fish Nuts:

You mean these assholes didn't fly to Iraq to throw themselves on the flypaper? I guess they didn't understand that's what they were supposed to do, stupid terrorists.

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Dollar Bill indicted 

When I learned that Rep Bill "Cold Cash" Jefferson (D-LA) was finally indicted on 16 federal charges including racketeering, soliciting bribes and money-laundering, I thought back to his re-election over Karen Carter last fall. Back then I said:

What an embarrassment-- and just think, this little snafu will pale in comparison to the bad press Jefferson will get when he is indicted this spring and eventually goes to trial, and damning testimony is aired, and he "honorably" refuses to heed calls for his resignation. If Dollar Bill thought his last campaign was "grueling", well, he'll have a whole new appreciation for the word after the next 18 months or so. And the media stormcloud which chronicles Jefferson's legal travails should help his district's recovery.... [Borat pause] .............. Not!

I concentrated my blame on the West Bank voters who voted for Jefferson over Carter (70-30%). Back then I said:

Southern Louisiana is fighting for its life, and it needs federal help to attract federal tax dollars to repair levees and wetlands on both banks. To the rest of the country, Appearance is Reality. They perceive Jefferson as corrupt. Both parties in Washington D.C. perceive him as corrupt, and expect that he will be indicted next year. The Dems have stripped him of his Ways and Means committee seat, and he is the GOP's favorite example of corruption. He was rated as the least effectual member of Congress. Jefferson is stubbornly committed to staying in office even after getting indicted-- an eventuality he expects to happen. We may see a sitting Congressman on trial; a Congressman from a region that is trying desperately to repair its corrupt reputation while it repairs its flood protection and economy. These are Meta-issues that should trump any particular "local" issues.
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Yet none of these "Meta-issues" about Jefferson's reputation and future ineffectiveness seemed to matter to most West Bank voters, who were largely outside of Jefferson's "machine". I believe a decisive portion of West Bankers decided to vote for Dollar Bill because it was in Derrick Shepherd's long-term interest, or because of Karen Carter's comments in Spike Lee's film (that were widely promoted by Sheriff Harry Lee's anti-Carter mail campaign).

Busting a political machine is not an easy job. I totally understand the votes from people in Jefferson's New Orleans network; they must remain blindly loyal to the end. Same goes for Jefferson's top supporters: Mayor Ray "Politics of the Past" Nagin, and DA Eddie Jordan. Nagin and Jordan's supporters also did what they were told; Jefferson helps "their guy", so they held their nose and voted for him. But what I don't understand are "strategic" conservatives and West Bankers who were outside the machine and still voted for the "crook" over the liberal. They couldn't support a "junior Hillary" socialist so they reelected Dollar Bill because he'd be a thorn in Pelosi's side, and a "great boon" to the GOP (among other things). Suddenly issues like abortions and gays and dehydrated evacuees crossing a bridge became front and center for a populace suffering from the worst natural disaster in the nation's history. Suddenly the "swing vote" groups that held the key to this election believed they would have no say in future elections. ("Better another 18 months of Jefferson rather than 20 years of Karen Carter" was the reasoning-- the same sort of twisted logic "Couhig Conservatives" used to support Nagin over Landrieu). An unfamiliar liberal scared them more than a fraudulent, racketeering, money laundering crook who was committed to staying in office during his trial.

In my next post I'm going to do a profile of State Senator Derrick Shepherd, the West Bank's "favorite son". This spiritual character has built his own Marrero Machine, and many West Bankers re-elected Jefferson because it improved Shepherd's future chances of being "promoted", yet again, to higher office (after the inevitable indictment).

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Bangladesh 

The Wall Street Journal reports:


When the Bangladesh army intervened to abort a flawed election in this Muslim nation of 150 million in January, the U.S. and United Nations both offered tacit support for the coup.

But now the army-installed caretaker government is back-pedaling on its pledge to organize a quick, clean vote and then relinquish authority. And the once-bloodless coup is turning into something more sinister. Since January, an estimated 200,000 people, including hundreds of leading politicians and businessmen, have been jailed under emergency rules that suspend civil rights and outlaw all political activity. According to human-rights groups, scores of others, seized by the troops in the middle of the night, have been tortured to death or summarily executed.

Bangladesh's new rulers insist the crackdown is needed to reform what international watchdogs such as Transparency International have frequently ranked as the most corrupt nation on Earth....

But critics say the outcome amounts to this: With the support of the U.S. and the international community, what used to be the world's second-largest Muslim democracy, after Indonesia, has turned into the world's second-largest military regime, after Pakistan.

Everything I've read about Bangladesh (which isn't much) indicates the country is a snakebit basket case. They're either getting flooded, or their government is screwing them over with graft and corruption. (That sounds familiar, actually.) So maybe this military coup really was the "best" option, all things considered. I don't know. But the United States' record in these areas is rather hideous. Consider that our best covert "coup" achievement in the 1980's was supporting the Afghani mujahadeen against the Soviets. It helped bring down a superpower. But a decade later some of the outposts we built in Afghanistan were being used by bin Laden to train Al Qaeda recruits.

For now let the record show that-- despite Bush's pretty rhetoric about promoting freedom and ending tyranny-- his administration supported a military coup against a Muslim democracy, which installed a "temporary" dictatorship that might last years (or decades). Bangladesh's population is about six times the size of "liberated" Iraq's population.

Speaking of Iraq:


The pace of American troop deaths increased this weekend as 14 more servicemen were reported killed in Iraq... Twenty-one soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were wounded.

The makeshift bomb blasts were part of a brazen series of attacks throughout the country by Sunni Arab insurgents, Shiite fighters of the Mahdi Army and other gunmen using rifles, rockets, huge bombs and chlorine canisters. ...

At least 15 American servicemen were killed in the first three days of June, a pace that exceeds the daily fatality rate in May, when 127 troops were killed. May was the deadliest month since the invasion of Falluja in November 2004.

In the northern city of Mosul, a Christian priest was gunned down as he left his church after Sunday services. In Baghdad, a director of the Iraqi Central Bank and his brother were shot to death in the dangerous neighborhood of Ameel. Thirty-one bodies were found scattered about the capital, where sectarian murders are once again on the rise.

In Iraq, we invaded and occupied a Muslim country to remove a dictator and promote democratic elections. Civil war resulted.

In Bangladesh, we tacitly approved a military dictatorship so that "flawed" elections in a Muslim country could be voided. Massive human rights abuses followed.

As President George W. Bush said on 1/20/05:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors
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It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.


Freedom isn't free, y'all.

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