Posts Tagged ‘News’


Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

Well, the MTA and the Transit Workers Union couldn’t come to an agreement last night, so New York is now officially stuck in the midst of a transit strike (also here). I’m hoping this ends soon, but I’m also pulling for the MTA to be knocked down a peg or two in the process.

Until this ends I’ll be doing reversing my usual commute route, but I still have it far easier than some in the city. Those of you who still don’t have transportation plans for this strike might be interested in this commuter map and guide (also in PDF) provided by the NY times.

Pleading with defiance in the face of the nation

Monday, December 19th, 2005

It’s been a while since I’ve played around in the political wading pool, but I though this would be a good time to get my feet wet again. President Bush has had a busy couple of days, trying to reestablish his grip — if not in political power than at least in public perception. An address to the nation on Sunday night, trying to sell his vision of victory in Iraq, followed on Monday by his defense of domestic spying which was brought to the public’s attention this past Friday in a New York Times article.

The path to victory in Iraq
For the first time since he launched operations in Iraq 3 years ago, Bush spoke to the nation from the oval office. This time, laying out what his vision of victory Iraq actually is. The freefall his ratings took might have been eased, if not stopped outright, had he just done this a year earlier right before the first round of elections in Iraq. However, this administration loves to keep their lips tight unless they want to tell you something, and I don’t see any signs of that changing. The President listed the offenses against Iraq that drove his decision, and took full responsibility for said decision (which shocked me, since I’m not used to hearing a G.W. mea culpa).

He then proceeded to lay out his three critical elements to end this war: security, democracy and reconstruction — words that have been bandied about many times over the past years, but this time backed up with some metrics. Iraqi combat battalions number over 125, with 50 in leading positions in operations and 12 bases under Iraqi control. My next question is “out of how many needed to keep the peace”, but the numbers sound significant. Reconstruction also sounds optimistic, though as Bush said himself this is only “after a number of setbacks”. Iraqis sound optimistic, with 7 in 10 saying life is going well and nearly 2/3 expecting things to improve. But by his own admission George still says the terrorists would still have “the coward’s power”, and that there is still work to be done, and he pleaded with the nation for patience.

All in all, it’s probably the most direct speech I’ve ever heard the man give, even with the 2 line flubs he had. Of course, I still think it was far later than it should have been. Depending on who you believe, all this talk either did something or nothing to his approval ratings.

Big brother is watching you
And then there was the defusing of the privacy bomb. Since 2002 our President has repeatedly authorized the National Security Agency to intercept communications between people in the U.S others abroad, sans court order. Of course this was done in the name of national defense, but this is by far the hardest pill we’ve ever been asked to swallow by the administration.

There is actually a law on the books — the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA for short — that allows for the government to tap first and get permission later. But Bush said circumventing the law with executive privilege was necessary because the FISA court takes too long to issue wiretap orders. Senator Russ Feingold has come out strongly against this thinking, saying “He just can’t make up the law … It would turn George Bush not into President George Bush, but King George Bush”.

And all this has cropped up just as the ultra-contriversial Patriot act is fighting to be renewed. Just not good timing for the administration at all. People on both sides of the isle are calling for congressional investigations and this story will certainly have a long life.

As far as the NSA spying goes, this smacks of abuse of power in my eyes. No matter how small the group of people being watched is, there is no excuse to do something outside of the rule of law, especially when there are laws in place to actually let you do what you want to. Congress was ready to do anything to help the President right after 9/11, and getting revisions to FISA would have been a slam dunk. Instead, the President goes outside the law, and outside of the system of checks and balances our nation depends on to stem abuses of power. Bad move.

We Don’t Lie(?)

Thursday, December 1st, 2005

As if the Bush administration didn’t have enough headaches to worry about, now there are reports of positive US stories being planted in the Iraqi press. Quote time:

Troops in an “information operations” task force have written articles with positive messages about the U.S. mission in Iraq that have been translated from English into Arabic and planted in Iraqi newspapers in return for money, according to defence officials speaking on condition of anonymity.”

We’re very concerned about the reports. We are seeking more information from the Pentagon,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

When it rains, it pours.

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.

We’re here to help you (but don’t incriminate yourself too much)

Friday, October 4th, 2002

The police in Florida are trying to force treatment center staff to cooperate with their attempt to build a case against Noelle Bush (G.W.’s niece). Why is this important?:

For those who are unfamiliar with treatment programs, they depend wholly on blunt honest dialogue. Without brutal honesty, treatment programs cannot function. The patients who go to treatment centers know that they can talk about things that they have done, knowing that they don’t have to face the courts (I’m not sure what they would do with something like a murder, but they’ll routinely set aside things like auto theft).