Posts Tagged ‘National’

Speaking the truth

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

Among the many voices that have been critical of the President and his administration, one of the best has in my opinion been one Keith Olbermann over at MSNBC — about the only reason to watch the network, I’d say.

Lately, it seems to be his life’s mission to call Bush on everything he tries to pass off. His thoughts on 9/11 were right on the mark, and now he’s chimed in on the recent Clinton vs. Fox News flap, which leads to a much longer and deeper dissection of the President and his minions at large.

“Are YOURS the actions of a true American?”

Raging Bill

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Been a while since I’ve waxed political here. But with the mid-term elections just around the corner, it seems like a good a time as any to get back into the frey.

Bill Clinton has been busy as of late mostly promoting his Clinton Global Initiative, where in he gathers many leaders of industry, politics, and the like who are interested in making world-bettering changes. As part of the PR push, he’s made his rounds on a dispearte number of venues: The Daly Show, Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday….

And that’s where the latest hullabaloo is staged. Slated to talk half the time about the Initiative and half answering any questions Fox News Channel wanted to ask, here’s the question that was posed:

Chris Wallace: When we announced that you were going to be on FOX News Sunday, I got a lot of email from viewers, and I’ve got to say, I was surprised most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didn’t you do more to put Bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were President? There’s a new book out which I suspect you’ve read called The Looming Tower. And it talks about how the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, Bin Laden said, “I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of US troops.” Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole

Bill Clinton: Okay…

CW: …May I just finish the question, sir? And after the attack, the book says Bin Laden separated his leaders because he expected an attack and there was no response. I understand that hindsight is 20/20…

BC: No, let’s talk about…

CW: …but the question is why didn’t you do more? Connect the dots and put them out of business?

As you can imagine, that really lit a fire under Bill, but instead of playing diplomat and taking it, he came out swinging with a well articulated and fact-filled response. And here in age of broadband, we don’t have to just read the transcript — you can watch the video for yourself.

About damn time, is all I have to say. ^_^

(Big time hat tip to Crooks and Liars)

Escape from New Orleans

Friday, September 9th, 2005

With the city being emptied and the water slowly being drained away, the stories are still coming out and the awful truths of what happened in the aftermath of Katrina is starting to be shown. A few of my favorite bands happen to be based out of New Orleans, and as such their mailing lists have been awash with stories from the disaster. Mr. Allan Morris posted a reprint of the escape from New Orleans by Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, two San Fransisco EMS workers who were in town for a conference when the Hurricane hit.

They spent most of the next week trapped by the flood waters and martial law. The details inside are sickening at times, and it makes you wonder how something like this can this happen in our country. Turned away from the Superdome and the Convention center, kicked out of their hotel and lied to be the authorities, these people tried their best to help themselves and get noticed by someone in order to be rescued. But even then they were conspired against:

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, “Get off the fucking freeway”. A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of “victims” they saw “mob” or “riot”. We felt safety in numbers. Our “we must stay together” was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

It’s long, but well worth the time to read. We can’t afford to turn a blind eye to what happened; not if we don’t want it to happen again.

Weeping for the Crescent City

Friday, September 2nd, 2005
A flooded and battered Canal Street - New Orleans, LA

A flooded and battered Canal Street - New Orleans, LA

The pictures are very hard to look at.

As I’ve sat along with the nation and watched this national tragedy unfold in slow motion, there’s been a very real sense of personal loss. It sounds kind of strange, since I only visited the city once, but in that short amount of time I fell in love with it. Places where I walked are now underwater.

The darker sides of human nature have now taken hold inside the city limits, as looters and rogues have destroyed the rule of law. This slice of the American south is now under old west rules. I’ve even seen a video of one or two of New Orleans finest actually rifling through the isles of a Wal-Mart with the rest of the looters, taking what could be carted out. Gunfire slows the rescue efforts in some places:

Some rescue operations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were suspended in areas where gunfire broke out, Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said in Washington, the Associated Press reported. People trying to board amphibious vehicles outside New Orleans’s Charity Hospital were shot at while trying to evacuate, Cable News Network reported.

But who can you blame for a natural disaster?

By the look of things, there’s more than enough blame to go around. The more general blame goes with those who have been systematically draining the wetlands in the area for development and farming, leaving the city more and more vulnerable:

Wetlands are the water storage protection that nature itself offers against massive flooding. But in the past 70 years, coastal Louisiana alone has lost 1,900 square miles of wetlands, an area larger than Rhode Island. The disastrous upper Mississippi River flooding of 1993 demonstrated how little protection levees can provide when wetlands are allowed to be developed or turned into cropland.

But while ecological blindness and lack of foresight are large in the equation, willful negligence and bad management of funds by the federal government play what I think are an even larger part in the mess. Washington Monthly has a chronology of budget cuts, and the list just turns my stomach inside out:

June 2004: The Army Corps of Engineers budget for levee construction in New Orleans is slashed. Jefferson Parish emergency management chiefs Walter Maestri comments: “It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay.”

June 2005: Funding for the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cut by a record $71.2 million. One of the hardest-hit areas is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes.

I would had gladly given back the $300 the Bush tax refund gave me if it would have help fund the preventative measures needed to keep this nightmare from happening. Now all I can do is donate it to the Red Cross to try and help with the aftermath. And funds being diverted because of the President’s war in Iraq? It’s officially had its biggest casualty, and once again it’s on the home front.

Still, all the money and attention in the world might not have been enough to stop this from happening. One point of failure in the system of levees holding back the floods was recently reinforced:

No one expected that weak spot to be on a canal that, if anything, had received more attention and shoring up than many other spots in the region. It did not have broad berms, but it did have strong concrete walls.

Shea Penland, director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of New Orleans, said that was particularly surprising because the break was “along a section that was just upgraded.”

“It did not have an earthen levee,” Dr. Penland said. “It had a vertical concrete wall several feel thick.”

So for all we know, there might have been nothing we could do to stop the flooding of the city. Of course, just basic funding and investment in the preventative infrastructure of the city could have kept it from getting this bad. Penny pinching when it comes to protecting the places we live has never made sense to me — you only wind up paying a greater debt later on.

And what about the refugees?

Those who have been rescued from the nightmare of New Orleans new find themselves heading to Texas and the shelter of large arenas – an exodus as has never been seen in our country’s history. There is shelter from the elements and the floodwaters, but now the survivors are facing a new set of issues as they try to get on their feet again:

“Nobody came up with a plan for having this many refugees in our country,” said Bill White, the mayor of Houston. “We are being asked to meet needs that nobody envisioned even a few days ago.”

Officials expected to put up about 25,000 people at the Astrodome, but accepted only 11,500 inside , said Margaret O’Brien-Molina, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross.

An estimated 75,000 storm refugees were already in Houston on Thursday with as many as 40,000 more on the way. State officials said Dallas and San Antonio had been told to prepare for at least 25,000 each. Six hundred people spent Wednesday night at Reunion Arena in Dallas, and officials there expected hundreds more.

How long before the healing can begin?
With the levees still broken and the water still flowing in, no one can say for sure how long it’s going to be before the city can be drained and the rebuilding begins. I’ve heard two or three months as a low-end estimate. I cannot even begin to comprehend what the citizens are going through. I wish them all the best in their time of need, and you can count on me coming back to the city once it’s been rebuilt.

The nation (and the world) is with you, New Orleans.

Gone is the Gonzo journalist

Monday, February 21st, 2005

I just found out this afternoon that one of my literary heros is gone. Hunter S. Thompson took his own life:

Hunter S. Thompson, the acerbic counter-culture author of books such as “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” fatally shot himself Sunday night at his Aspen-area home, his son said. He was 67.

“Hunter prized his privacy and we ask that his friends and admirers respect that privacy as well as that of his family,” Juan Thompson said in a statement released to the Aspen Daily News.

If I think too much on this I may shed tears over this. I spent a good chunk of this past summer with a copy of his correspondences stuck under my arm. The world he dealt with fascinated me. He pushed limits like no man and reading of his exploits put all kinds of new and wonderful ideas into my head. You don’t just read that intimately of someone’s interactions with the world and not feel some kind of connection.

Time to go commiserate the bad news with some friends. R.I.P. Hunter, you crazy bastard. Selah.