Friday, September 16, 2005

The head ghoul in a ghost town

A bizarre scene last night: Jackson Square cleaned up for His Majesty (obviously a much more important task than cleaning up a residential area, or perhaps picking up dead bodies), empty of even his normal hand-picked and pre-screened audience, illuminated by creepy blue lighting, and a horse over his shoulder that looked ready to either attack him at any moment or take a dump on him. Bush emerged from somewhere in the darkness and strode manfully toward his Hollywoodish lighting, dressed for workin' hard in a blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up (did he just pick up wreckage from Jackson Square? I don't think so). Nice dramatic entrance, right? Well, maybe, except whoever dressed little George buttoned his shirt wrong, as noted in the photo above.

Amazing that they felt the need to blow taxpayer money to have him in this weird setting rather than give his "address" from the White House. I hope everyone enjoyed it, since you paid for it - Air Force One guzzling fuel so expensive it's put two airlines in bankruptcy this week, his large security and staff detail dragged along, the stage lighting - all of it was on your dime.

With a jerking jaw Bush read his speech in the manner of a six year old struggling with a grade school text, but that was to be expected. Given his complete lack of a philosophy to deal with the large underclass in our society it might be surprising at first glance that he shoveled out some Great Society-like programs to address poverty, but as with anything with this puppet you have to look first at a philosophy he does embrace: keeping his wealthy base happy and (more) wealthy.

First, his offer of homesteading was interesting, but where is this federal land that will be part of his exciting lottery? Is it in the 9th ward of New Orleans, where many of those potential homesteaders lived? Of course not. Now that the poor population of New Orleans is scattered in the wind, the wealthy elite who have run the city for years has already decided they won't be welcomed back, as noted last week in the Wall Street Journal:

The power elite of New Orleans -- whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. -- insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.

The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."

What better way to give his elitist friends a shiny new city with fewer poor people than planting them in Indian reservation-like settings outside of New Orleans? Of course, they'll keep them close enough so they can still bus in to take those great new minimum wage jobs Bush has created by suspending the Davis-Bacon act in the flood zone or clean the homes of the wealthy New Orleans elite.

He mentioned churches a lot, as though to draw his insanely religious followers back into the fold, and I laughed out loud - something I rarely do at a Bush speech, since I'm generally so nauseated - when he suggested that we give money to churches in Mississippi to help pay for their 'compassion'. Oh, yeah, I'm really going to shovel money at the regressive hateful knuckle draggers who want to outlaw abortion, persecute gays and lesbians, force creationism into the public schools, thump their bibles for a very cruel and un-Christian like war in Iraq, and generally drag our society back into the 16th century. I'm surely chomping at the bit to contribute to that.

As expected, the ninny proposed expanded executive powers for himself in using the military as his personal branch of domestic law enforcement:

"...It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces, the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment’s notice.

Of course, he determines the scale of the "challenge", so expect him to casually dismiss the Posse Comitatus Act with the same breezy cheerfulness with which he destroyed the Davis-Bacon Act in the event of a "challenge", say, from the American people when they take to the streets in anger against this corrupt puppet in the upcoming Civil War v2.0.

Whatever. His Republican base of fiscal conservatives (are there any left?) and racists alike are screaming about his 'liberal' proposals last night - Free Republic crowed that he had been transformed into "Lyndon Baines Bush" - and liberals distrust his homesteading plan and the corrupt process by which the $200B of funding will be disbursed. The only ones happy with last night's performance are the wealthy elite of New Orleans, who will get the ethnic cleansing they so desperately desire, and his corporate pals who'll rake in the chips in no-bid contracts. The public on both sides of the political divide can grouse about the speech all they want, but this wasn't for them. His plan is to benefit the top 2% - the "have mores" - and to turn our country into a police state. In this, it must be said, he succeeded in splendid fashion.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The strings of the puppet exposed

Wow, the little monkey can't even take a leak without asking Condi's permission (and he's unsure of exactly how badly he needs to whiz: he "thinks" he "may" need to use the bathroom).

A real strong and decisive leader, isn't he?

One wonders if Condi scribbled her approval on his hall pass so he could show the Secret Service that he did, indeed, have permission to leave the room.

Place this note next to his arrogance, his sour nasty expressions, his obnoxious arms-akimbo strutting and you can see exactly what is false and what is real. The little tool can playact all he wants, but when a president has to ask a Secretary of State if he can use the can it's obvious that he's not in charge and never has been - and knows it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Building a nation of serfs

Another outrage for working people - the millionaire Bush is about to throw over yet more wage controls in the hurricane zone, so his millionaire friends can drive wages even lower and the millionaires in Congress are just fine with this.

In what may become the next major post-Katrina policy, the White House was working yesterday to suspend wage supports for service workers in the hurricane zone as it did for construction workers on federal contracts last week, administration and congressional officials said.

And as a prelude to the rape that Halliburton is about to visit upon Louisiana, Mississippi and the American taxpayer, the article continues:

At tomorrow's speech, the president is to outline his vision more comprehensively than he has to date. A top aide said he will stress that New Orleans officials will dictate how the city will be rebuilt, but will also make plain the reconstruction should reflect his vision of government -- including reducing regulatory obstacles and emphasizing entrepreneurship over big government, the aide said.

"Entrepreneurship" is, of course, no-bid contracts for his campaign contributers and Cheney's buddies at Halliburton. "Reducing regulatory obstacles" meanings gutting the Clean Air and Water Acts and allowing low-wage workers to toil in a toxic dump without legal recourse should they sicken and die. That's the Bush "vision of government", a serf-and-overlord nation where the rich get richer and the environment gets filthier and the poor work for - let's just say it, shall we? - slave wages until they die.

Who's going to defend us from this corruption, this immoral "vision", this death sentence? The Democrats? The ones who are about to confirm John Roberts, who will gladly hand Bush and his neocons and corporate cronies unlimited power in their quest for greed and war? Wake me up when the Bush administration is over - if, indeed, it ever is. Given who owns the voting machines, we're in for more of the same for our lifetimes.

Another power grab

If you're wondering, as I am, what Bush could possibly say that's new in his grandiose "Address to the Nation" tomorrow night from Louisiana you're in good company. After all, he's already given us an inventory of the number of blankets sent to a semi-tropical region in one of the hottest months of the year, told us repeatedly how rebuilding the region will be 'hard work', we've already seen him look bored and indifferent during one of his many photo-op briefings, and I think we've seen him hug enough carefully chosen and appropriately screened for political background black children.

It might be time for us to prepare for yet another disaster tomorrow night. If 9/11 taught us anything (and it hasn't, not at all) we know that Bush and his cronies use these events and the ensuing public fear/worry/concern/apathy to attempt to seize more power for the executive branch, as they did with the Patriot Act. Tomorrow might well bring even more disaster down upon our Constitution and our civil liberties.

Why, you say? Weill, check out a trial balloon dropped by the Hearst newspapers yesterday:

Bush says he may need more power in disasters

He wants Congress to look into whether presidential authority should be expanded in times of catastrophes like Katrina


Hearst Newspapers

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Monday urged Congress to examine whether the White House needs stronger powers to deal with catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina.

Bush’s backing for the congressional inquiry raised the possibility that lawmakers might expand presidential authority to:

• Order mandatory civilian evacuations

• Dispatch U.S.-based armed forces for emergency search-and-rescue operations

Grant wider leeway for active-duty U.S. military personnel to carry out law enforcement operations.

“It’s really important that as we take a step back and learn lessons — that we are in a position to adequately answer the question: ‘Are we prepared for major catastrophes?”’ Bush said during a tour of hurricane damage in New Orleans.

He said if there was a terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction, such as germ-warfare agents, “we’ve got to make sure we understand the lessons learned to be able to deal with catastrophe.”

Asked whether the federal government needed broader authority to “come in earlier or even in advance of a storm that (is) threatening?” Bush replied: “I think that’s one of the interesting issues that Congress needs to take a look at.”

There's a reason why our Constitution forbids the military from being used as a domestic law enforcement agency, and that is to prevent the president from using the military to establish a police state or overthrow, say, a State government or even the Congress.

For Bush to seize on his own incompetence (or was it deliberate?) to now howl for more power, more power, more power is sick and unacceptable. The question now is will a rubber stamp Republican congressional majority give this president - the worst president possible to trust with such authority, as he proved with the Iraq War Resolution - the power to use military troops as law enforcement within the United States? Will he be able to call out the Marines in the event of, say, civil unrest in San Francisco or Los Angeles or New York or YOUR CITY?

I'm guessing that tomorrow night will be yet another power grab, a "give big daddy a bigger stick and I'll keep you safe" moment. There's really no other reason for him to give a prime-time address regarding a momumental failure in his personal leadership.

Be wary, be on alert, and if he does call for increased executive branch power be sure to give him the answer he must have: NO.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Our New FEMA "Expert"

Scary Bloggerman entry:

Secaucus - If Michael Brown's resignation this afternoon as the head of FEMA was supposed to end the political controversy over the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, it probably won't.

In another gesture symbolizing the continued confusion of the federal response, the man President Bush immediately named to succeed "Brownie," proves to have been the same FEMA official who, two-and-a-half years ago, suggested that Americans stock up on duct tape to protect against a biological or chemical terrorist attack.

David Paulison, then the govt's Fire Administrator, joined with the then-head of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, on February 10th, 2003, to say that duct tape and plastic sheeting should be part of any home's "survival kit" in preparation for a terrorist attack. That set off a run on duct tape at stores, and widespread criticism of the administration. It might have been the first time a large number of Americans wondered if the govt really knew what it was talking about when it came to disaster preparedness.

Is there any single person in this administration who isn't totally batshit?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Our big, brave Commander-in-Chief in New Orleans today

Yes, that's his little tiny head cowering in the center.

President Photo-Op

Bush is strolling through the French Quarter today - you know, Party Central of his drunken youth. Of course, the Quarter took very little damage and any angry African-Americans have long ago left the area, so it's considered "safe" turf for the little coward.

He can strut and roll up his sleeves and look in control for the cameras, but the lead article in this week's Newsweek strips the clothes from our Chimperor and exposes him for the fraud that he is.

The article begins with a tragedy - not the hurricane, but advising Bush that he has to cut his five-week long vacation short by two days.

Sept. 19, 2005 issue - It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS. The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

The article goes on to describe how out-of-touch and disconnected from the agony of the Gulf coast Bush was:

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.

Remember when the national media in 2000 thought it was cute that Bush insisted on a 10:00 pm bedtime while on the campaign trail, and cooed over the personal pillow he carried? Maybe they should have considered the possible downside of having a president who considers his bedtime more important than American lives:

There are a number of steps Bush could have taken, short of a full-scale federal takeover, like ordering the military to take over the pitiful and (by now) largely broken emergency communications system throughout the region. But the president, who was in San Diego preparing to give a speech the next day on the war in Iraq, went to bed.

Really a take-charge kind of guy, huh? This makes the White House spin that the blame should be placed on the (Democratic) state and local governments even more putrid. This president is lazy, incompetent, and completely uncaring. Good to see the media finally reporting the truth about this monster.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Now the real looting begins

While the nation is distracted by the horrific images of death and suffering coming from the Gulf coast, the Bush oligarchy is looking to fatten the wallets of the already wealthy.

Three examples will suffice, but be assured that Dick Cheney's visit to the region yesterday had nothing to do with storm victims and everything to do with laying the groundwork for Halliburton and other Republican donors to obtain huge contacts for the rebuilding - much as he mused over the maps of Iraqi oilfields prior to our "humanitarian" invasion. Look for many further atrocities to the federal treasury as Cheney plots a course of greed in the midst of a tragedy.

The first step to his "Rebuilding for Fun and Profit" plan has already been put in place. Corporate Republicans have for years tried to dismantle the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, which requires that federal contractors pay the prevailing wages in the area in which federally funded work is conducted. Keep in mind that most construction work is performed by union workers - thus, prevailing wages in this type of work is generally understood to be union scale. Large construction firms really dislike union scale - that's money that could be in their pockets.

Well, yesterday, with the stroke of a pen, Bush destroyed the Davis-Bacon Act for Cheney's Halliburton friends.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush issued an executive order Thursday allowing federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pay below the prevailing wage.

In a notice to Congress, Bush said the hurricane had caused "a national emergency" that permits him to take such action under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in ravaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Handy, isn't it? Now the only requirement for workers hired by Halliburton and other GOP-connected firms will be to pay the federal minimum wage - five bucks an hour. And these are the jobs that will be offered to the evacuees, many of whom are already poor, who will continue to live under the poverty line even as they do the hard and dangerous work of rebuilding their communities through layers of toxins and disease.

Are we ready for a revolution yet?

Further on this subject is my second example. Yesterday, CNN reported that evacuees had to sign a waiver to receive their $2,000 per family grant that decrees that they won't request further assistance from the government. When that $2,000 runs out - as it will quickly, as most of them only have the clothes on their back - what happens? Why are they being forced to waive the provisions of FEMA's own Individual Assistance Program, which provides cash grants of up to $26,200 per individual or family, forcing them to settle for less than a tenth of that amount?

See the (deadly) minimum wage jobs noted above. If that fails, there's always the deadly duty of being shipped to Iraq. Military recruiters are taking advantage of the large pool of evacuees at the Superdome to sign up new cannon fodder, which may be the only option left for people jobless, homeless, and without funds. See how those waivers come in handy?

Are we ready for a revolution yet?

Next on the hit parade is possibly the most outrageous exploitation of tragedy to push through the Bush agenda since 9/11. Hoping that the country will be distracted by the disaster which the Republicans did so much to contribute to, they're now planning on ramming through Bush's Social Security Privatization plan - the largest looting scheme in history - through a sneaky procedural vote, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of the public opposes this plan.

Congressional Republicans, persisting in hopes of enacting some form of private Social Security option despite opposition from the public and the Democrats, are considering the same kind of maneuver that enabled them to pass a controversial Medicare drug bill two years ago.

That's the clear signal from key GOP congressional leaders and chief White House strategist Karl Rove, one of the main architects of the Social Security proposal that President Bush made his top 2005 priority.

Mr. Rove, speaking to college students and lobbyists before Congress went on its current recess, said the House would act next month and the Senate soon after, according to the congressional newspaper The Hill .

And Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and one of his party's canniest operatives, said without giving details that his panel would introduce a retirement security bill in September.

...None had as torturous a path to enactment as the bill to create a prescription drug program. It only passed in 2003 after three hours of early morning arm twisting and the help of misleading cost estimates that soon proved to have been understated.

Because the Senate had passed a similar bill, Republicans could take the measure to a Senate-House conference. By excluding most Democrats from any role, they crafted the kind of bill they wanted in the first place.

That would appear to be their hope for private Social Security accounts – pass a bill in the House authorizing private accounts, accept any Social Security vehicle in the Senate that gets the issue to conference and write a final version letting the White House proclaim success.

So, there you have it - wage laws destroyed, Social Security being leeched by Wall Street, lots of profits from hurricane rebuilding efforts going directly into the pockets of the oligarchy - no wonder Bush asked Nancy Pelosi in wonderment, "What went wrong?" He and his wealthy corporate friends hit another "trifecta".

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Recommended Reading

Found a fascinating blog today in which the writer deconstructs news photographs and captioning, many of which are carefully scripted for propaganda effect - psy-ops, if you want to paint in broad strokes. The Bush administration is a master at manipulating visuals - hence the many photo-ops - and while their attempts are often gimmicky and ring false, it's important to understand the silent messages they're sending.

His commentary on the images we're seeing from Katrina is must-read stuff.

"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous"

Thank you, Nancy Pelosi, for finally telling the truth about the sociopath in the White House.

During a meeting with Congressional leaders on Tuesday, President Fruit Loops had the following exchange with Pelosi:

At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the
Federal Emergency Management Agency had "absolutely no credentials."

She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown.

"He said 'Why would I do that?'" Pelosi said.

"'I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'"

"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," she added.

We're so screwed. If he really is clueless and has no idea what "didn't go right", then he's incompetent. But of course he knows. This is more of his mission accomplished-style bullshit, denying reality to the American people while he follows his deadly agenda. The country can't afford a "What, me worry?" president who, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, assures us of victory in Iraq and tells us that the federal response in the Gulf was satisfactory.

I wonder what the thousands of people at the Superdome or the Convention Center in New Orleans last week - people who were degraded, forgotten, and left to die by George Bush - think of his "What didn't go right?" comment. Gee, might they think that his neglect was deliberate? That the deaths were something that went right? It's really an admission of genocide, isn't it?

Pelosi is right. This man is dangerous.