Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Ever wonder why Powell quit as soon as could?

“What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences.”

– Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff until January 2005
quote from Wednesday, October, 19th.

from talkingpointsmemo.com

It would not surprise me at all if Colin Powell has spent the majority of the time since he resigned compulsively washing himself, over and over again.

A quote

“The invasion of Iraq I believe will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history.”

-General William Odom
Former National Security Agency under President Reagan. Prior to that, Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army’s senior intelligence officer.

Arctic Warming News

Scientists are now saying that the total ice covering the arctic region will be least ever recorded, and within the lifetime of someone born today, may be completely ice free during the summers.

“It’s increasingly difficult to argue against the notion that at least part of what we are seeing in the Arctic, in terms of sea ice, in terms of warming temperatures … is due to the greenhouse effect,” Mark Serreze, a research scientist at NSIDC, said in an interview.

“We’ve put a hit on the system and we are in the midst of a grand global experiment,” Serreze said about the impact of global warming and ice melting on humans and animals. “We will have to live with the outcome.”

Most scientists believe greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide that is released mainly from cars and utility smokestacks, cause global warming by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. Many believe global warming can lead to catastrophic consequences, including raising sea levels and strengthening weather events such as hurricanes.

As opposed to so called “Intelligent Design”, there is plenty of hard evidence for the belief that global warming from greenhouse gases is causing major shifts in weather patterns, exacerbating the problems with hurricanes. Potential problems include vast stretches of currently arable land becoming unusable; the destruction of the gulf stream which is responsible both for huge fisheries, as well as keeping Europe’s weather stable; massive flooding; and complete destruction of human habitats in currently marginal living areas.

The US is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases.

The administration has refused to sign the Kyoto Accord, which is a coordinated attempt to reduce greenhouse gases.

Never mind 2,000 dead American soldiers, or upwards of 100,000 dead Iraqi’s; their greed may end up killing us all.

Facts for the day

According to the Federation of American Scientists:

  • Half of the world’s governments spend more on defense than health care.
  • The U.S. share of total world military expenditures per year has been roughly 36 percent, though the U.S. constitutes under 5 percent of the world’s population.
  • The U.S. arms industry is the second most heavily subsidized industry after agriculture.
  • 2001 world military expenditures topped $839 billion, while at the same time an estimated 1.3 billion people survive on less than the equivalent of $1 (U.S.) a day.
  • The International Red Cross has estimated that one out of every two casualties of war is a civilian caught in the crossfire.
  • According to the United Nations, there are now over 300,000 child soldiers around the world, now serving as combatants in over 30 current conflicts.
  • The Center for International Policy estimates that about 80% of U.S. arms exports to the developing world go to non-democratic regimes.
  • There are more landmines planted in Cambodia than people. Cambodia is just one of 64 countries around the world littered with some 100 million anti-personnel landmines. Intended primarily to maim, landmines can lie in wait years after a conflict ends, causing 500 deaths and injuries per week.
  • The U.S. government is training soldiers in upwards of 70 countries at any given time.

Our Compassionate Senator

Senator Santorum on Katrina:

“I mean, you have people who don’t heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties, candidly, on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.”

Right. People are too poor to evacuate, so fine them. Typically compassionate and understanding repuglican response, but I guess he’s at least open about it.

Of course, Santorum thinks the National Weather Service was partly responsible for the disaster, for not giving sufficient warning for it’s severity:

Santorum said he didn’t think the weather service had given “sufficient warning” initially about the hurricane’s path or what its impact would be when it hit Florida. He said he was “not going to suggest there were any major errors,” but that the adequacy of the warnings should to be investigated along with other aspects of how government agencies have dealt with Katrina.

“The expectation was that [the hurricane] was not going to hit Florida with much fury, and it ended up being a Category 1 hurricane and did a lot more damage than I think was ever anticipated,” Santorum said in the recorded radio interview.

Here is the warning the NWS issued before Katrina hit New Orleans:

NWS Warning

Looks pretty explicit to me. Too bad Bush and Cheney were out of town on vacation when this was happening, and Chertoff and Brown weren’t clever enough to read the NWS warnings on their own initiative.

For a timeline of how things played out with Katrina, check here.

For a debunking of several Republican talking points trying to shift blame for the disaster response, check here. Note particularly that Governor Blanco’s declaration of a state of emergency, the triggering event for responding to this kind of disaster, occured three days before Katrina actually made landfall.

Every Cloud must Have a Silver Lining

Or, as Eric Idle sang in the “Life of Brian”: “Always look on the bright, side of life! de do, de do, de di di di do…”

Never miss a chance to pad your buddies pockets.

From CNN:

Companies with ties to the Bush White House and the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the administration’s first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President Bush’s former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast.

One is Shaw Group Inc. and the other is Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. Vice President Dick Cheney is a former head of Halliburton.

See? Everyone benefits! As the former first lady observed, the poor were disadvantaged anyway, and the Astrodome is an improvement, and the President’s buddies get to make more money off of tragedy! Isn’t life just grand??

Incompetence at FEMA goes all the way to the bottom

One of my pet peeves as a 26 year veteran of software development is developers who ignore software standards and portability issues. The most egregious of this nowadays is in web development, where Micro$oft tools encourage the development of websites which will only operate with the Micro$oft browser, Internet Explorer. I validate all my web development by using at least three different browsers (IE, Opera, Firefox) and three operating systems (Linux, Mac OS X and Windows XP).

Apparently that’s too much trouble for the Skippy’s that program for FEMA. The have set up a website for applying for aid after Katrina that requires not only IE, but also Javascript. Anyone not bowing to the Micro$oft empire is SOL.

Now, I expect people like Brown to lie, pad their resumes, and be incompetent. Is it possible that even the technical staff there is incompetent and are hired only for their political loyalty?

From CNN:

“My guys are coming back and telling me, ‘Sir, I went into a house, and there are three elderly people in their beds, and they’re gasping, and they’re dying,’ ” Coast Guard Capt. Bruce Jones said.

“And we got calls today, ‘We need you … to go to a place in St. Bernard Parish. It’s a hospice, … and there are 10 dead and there are 10 dying.’ But those people were probably alive yesterday or the day before.”

Though pilots, rescue crew members and maintenance workers are red-eyed and exhausted, they’re refusing to rest, CNN’s Karl Penhaul reported.

Meanwhile, also from CNN, the Secretary of Homeland
Security tries the patently false claim that
no one could have foreseen this
:

Chertoff, fielding questions from reporters, said government officials did not expect both a powerful hurricane and a breach of levees that would flood the city of New Orleans. (See the video on a local paper’s prophetic warning — 3:30 )

“That ‘perfect storm’ of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody’s foresight,” Chertoff said.

But, of course, this is patently false:

But engineers say the levees preventing this below-sea-level city from being turned into a swamp were built to withstand only Category 3 hurricanes. And officials have warned for years that a Category 4 could cause the levees to fail.

Now, what actually is going on? Who is the current director of FEMA? Well, he’s MIchael Brown, a political appointee whose prior claim to fame was being fired as the director of the Arabian Horse Association. That’s it. Somehow, mishandling a horse owner’s association is qualification, in this administration’s mind, for running the federal office responsible for handling national disasters.

Of course, the administration has had an agenda of dismantling FEMA also, they have repeatedly cut back funding for strengthening the levees around New Orleans, as engineers and the Army Corp of Engineers have requested.

As the first quote above shows, the average joe is doing heroic work, to whatever they can manage, to handle this disaster. The same is true for our servicemen and women in Iraq. Today I spoke to a pilot on leave from Iraq. He had spent several months there, and was trying to brew a few beers, before returning to ferry A10′s to the gulf.

Our soldiers, coast guarders, fireman, policeman, and pretty much every citizen, continue to show what america is truly about, giving more than their best for their fellow americans. They deserve to have leadership, and a government, equally committed to the values we espouse.

Instead, we are stuck with a corrupt, juvenile, and simplistic administration which ignores real warnings for false, and spends vast sums of money and lives on an illegal and unnecessary war, pulling our national guard away from their true duty, and ignoring the requirements of our true national sequrity.

Is President Bush responsible for this natural catastrophe? Of course not. Though I believe if he could, he would somehow misdirect the courses of hurricanes. Fortunately, he does not have that power. He is, however, responsible for the failure of our national guard to respond until five days after a hurricane for which we had two days warning, and for the lack of preparation which might have ameliorated this disaster.

His insane policies have cost not only the lives of close to 1900 american personnel in Iraq, they are also responsible for thousands of lives yet to be counted in New Orleans and throughout the south. The blood of all these people is on his hands, as well as on the hands of all those who voted for him, returning him to office.

Emergency management

In light of the horrific destruction and death in the south following Hurricane Katrina, you wonder if there ought to be a national organization coordinating emergency management.

Oh wait, there is one. It’s called FEMA. Too bad the Bush administration is dismantling it. I know the administration is obsessed with terrorist attacks, but shouldn’t we be prepared for the natural disasters we know will come, as well as for hypothetical terrorists?

I haven’t posted much recently: the post previous to this one drained me emotionally, and two weeks of camp and moving stuff to my son’s college has drained me physically. Sometimes the news is too goofy to resist, though.

Proving my point that the “Christian Right” is neither, Pat Robertson has called for the US to assassinate a foreign leader.

With Reverend Robertson a minister and all, you might think he had heard or “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Or, perhaps, he might be familar with Matthew 22:34-40, where Jesus explains the second greatest commandment.

I think if you boil it down to its essentials, what Jesus taught was humility, love for God, and love for mankind. The current Evangelical/Christian so-called Conservative movement uses their christian label as justification for their prejudices and self-rightousness. That is the height of hubris, and the antithesis of what Jesus taught. In Jesus’ time, these people would have been the priests and Sadducees.