Friday, September 23, 2005

The 'Myth' of Iraq's Foreign Fighters

Report by US think tank says only '4 to 10' percent of insurgents are foreigners.

By Tom Regan | Christian Science Monitor

The US and Iraqi governments have vastly overstated the number of foreign fighters in Iraq, and most of them don't come from Saudi Arabia, according to a new report from the Washington-based Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS). According to a piece in The Guardian, this means the US and Iraq "feed the myth" that foreign fighters are the backbone of the insurgency. While the foreign fighters may stoke the incurgency flames, they only comprise only about 4 to 10 percent of the estimated 30,000 insurgents.

The CSIS study also disputes media reports that Saudis comprise the largest group of foreign fighters. CSIS says "Algerians are the largest group (20 percent), followed by Syrians (18 percent), Yemenis (17 percent), Sudanese (15 percent), Egyptians (13 percent), Saudis (12 percent) and those from other states (5 percent)." CSIS gathered the information for its study from intelligence services in the Gulf region.

The CSIS report says: "The vast majority of Saudi militants who have entered Iraq were not terrorist sympathisers before the war; and were radicalized almost exclusively by the coalition invasion."

The average age of the Saudis was 17-25 and they were generally middle-class with jobs, though they usually had connections with the most prominent conservative tribes. "Most of the Saudi militants were motivated by revulsion at the idea of an Arab land being occupied by a non-Arab country. These feelings are intensified by the images of the occupation they see on television and the internet ... the catalyst most often cited [in interrogations] is Abu Ghraib, though images from Guantánamo Bay also feed into the pathology."

The report also gives credit to the Saudi government for spending nearly $1.2 billion over the past two years, and deploying 35,000 troops, in an effort to secure its border with Iraq. The major problem remains the border with Syria, which lacks the resources of the Saudis to create a similar barrier on its border.

The Associated Press reports that CSIS believes most of the insurgents are not "Saddam Hussein loyalists" but members of Sunni Arab Iraqi tribes. They do not want to see Mr. Hussein return to power, but they are "wary of a Shiite-led government."

TheLos Angeles Times reports that a greater concern is that 'skills' foreign fighters are learning in Iraq are being exported to their home countries. This is a particular concern for Europe, since early this year US intelligence reported that "Abu Musab Zarqawi, whose network is believed to extend far beyond Iraq, had dispatched teams of battle-hardened operatives to European capitals."

Iraq has become a superheated, real-world academy for lessons about weapons, urban combat and terrorist trade craft, said Thomas Sanderson of [CSIS].

Extremists in Iraq are "exposed to international networks from around the world," said Sanderson, who has been briefed by German security agencies. "They are returning with bomb-making skills, perhaps stolen explosives, vastly increased knowledge. If they are succeeding in a hostile environment, avoiding ... US Special Forces, then to go back to Europe, my God, it's kid's play."

Meanwhile, The Boston Globe reports that President Bush, in a speech Thursday that was "clearly designed to dampen the potential impact of the antiwar rally" this weekend in Washington, said his top military commanders in Iraq have told him that they are making progress against the insurgents and "in establishing a politically viable state."

Newly trained Iraqi forces are taking the lead in many security operations, the president said, including a recent offensive in the insurgent stronghold of Tal Afar along the Syrian border – a key transit point for foreign fighters and supplies.

"Iraqi forces are showing the vital difference they can make," Bush said. '"They are now in control of more parts of Iraq than at any time in the past two years. Significant areas of Baghdad and Mosul, once violent and volatile, are now more stable because Iraqi forces are helping to keep the peace."

The president's speech, however, was overshadowed by comments made Thursday by Saudi Arabia's foreign minister. Prince Saud al-Faisal said the US ignored warnings the Saudi government gave it about occupying Iraq. Prince al-Faisal also said he fears US policies in Iraq will lead to the country breaking up into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite parts. He also said that Saudi Arabia is not ready to send an ambassador to Baghdad, because he would become a target for the insurgents. "I doubt he would last a day," al-Faisal said.

Finally, The Guardian reports that "ambitions for Iraq are being drastically scaled down in private" by British and US officials. The main goal has now become avoiding the image of failure. The paper quotes sources in the British Foreign department as saying that hopes to turn Iraq into a model of democracy for the Middle East had been put aside. "We will settle for leaving behind an Iraqi democracy that is creaking along," the source said.

Immediate Withdrawal!

It is far more reasonable, based on what we now know, to assume that if the U.S. were to leave Iraq quickly, the level of violence would be reduced, possibly drastically, not heightened. Here are the four key reasons:

1. The U.S. military is already killing more civilian Iraqis than would likely die in any threatened civil war;

2. The U.S. presence is actually aggravating terrorist (Iraqi-on-Iraqi) violence, not suppressing it;

3. Much of the current terrorist violence would be likely to subside if the U.S. left;

4. The longer the U.S. stays, the more likely that scenarios involving an authentic civil war will prove accurate.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Challenging the Times

By Greg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher
Posted on September 20, 2005

What will it take, exactly, for The New York Times to declare on its editorial page that the United States should begin to bring to a close its adventure in regime change and national building Iraq? Other newspapers face the same question, of course, but as the nation's leading journal, and with plenty of influence -- at least in elite and left-liberal circles -- any shift by the Times is sure to have wide repercussions.

It wasn't long ago that the Times was actually calling for more U.S. troops in Iraq. Lately it has made no sweeping calls, up or down. But considering recent events, you'd expect a ringing call to disengage at any moment, especially since there is some evidence that at the Times -- in contrast to, say, The Washington Post -- the editorialists actually ponder what's in their own news pages. And those pages have been filled with plenty of fodder for arguing in favor of a phased withdrawal.

Just yesterday came news of the murder of a Times reporter/photographer, Fakher Haider, in Iraq. Surely this is not reason enough for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq -- but look at the circumstances. Haider was apparently killed not by insurgents or terrorists or even run-of-the-mill Sunnis or Baathists, but by Shiite militia and police ostensibly aligned with "our" side. Freelance American journalist Steven Vincent died under the same circumstances in August.

These two killings took place in Basra, long described as one of the major success stories in Iraq. In today's edition, the Times said the city "has grown increasingly violent, with a complex web of sectarian agendas playing itself out almost daily on the streets." Shiite militias, reporter Robert Worth noted, are even fighting British troops.

Just last week, the Times looked inside another "model" city, Najaf, and found similar or worse problems there, with reconstruction projects "hobbled by poor planning" and "corrupt contractors." Sure, these cities are relatively calmer than Baghdad, but is this reason enough to justify a never-ending U.S. presence? And what of all the new tales of rampant corruption or missing billions elsewhere in that land?

Then there's the cost of the Katrina catastrophe. The Times has lamented the true budgetary trainwreck that the hurricane will cause under the current Bush plans, or maybe under any scheme. If it was once true that we could not afford to fight a foreign war while also boosting homeland security, it is now certain that the hurricane recovery makes this impossible. Added to the possible costs: Some people actually want to spend a lot more money on reducing poverty.

The longterm post-Katrina threat to the American economy and our children's futures is enormous. So: Will the Times declare that it is not just desirable, but imperative, that we start to end our hideously costly occupation of Iraq?

If it did that, it could (and no doubt would) say that it does this with a heavy heart -- while pointing out that several years of sacrificing our treasury, and the lives and limbs of thousands of Americans, is quite enough to give the Iraqis a good head start on solving their own problems. And, more than ever, our own people need our help now.

The American public, if not the editorial boards of most newspapers, seem to understand this well enough. Polls in the past week clearly show that they want to shift spending from the New Iraq to the Old South.

Now, it's true that neither newspaper editors nor public officials should blindly follow public opinion on any matter. Yet it is startling to note the disconnect between public views of Iraq, as gathered by pollsters, and what opinion leaders and, even most Democratic politicians, are willing to declare.

Every major poll, for quite some time now, has revealed that the majority of American people feel that 1) invading Iraq was a mistake 2) based on misleading information or lies and that 3) things are going poorly for the U.S. in Iraq because 4) President Bush is handling the war badly so 5) we should immediately begin withdrawing. About 1 in 3 Americans take the "radical" position of a complete pullout ASAP.

The Times editorial board surely agrees with points one through four -- yet has not yet make the logical conclusion that is #5.

I haven't even mentioned other concerns, such as the loopholes in the Iraqi constitution, the new Iraqi leaders' possible alignment with Iran, and the coming threat to women's rights (all previously denounced by the Times). And if the Times needs just one more reason to shift course, surely it is provided in the fresh evidence, from the federal response to Katrina, that this gang occupying the White House does not deserve, and can not be trusted, to continue to carry out our open-ended commitment in Iraq. How many more years of "Rummy, you're doin' a great job," can we take?

For the sake of our physicial and financial security here at home, something has to give: and that something must be Iraq. Come on, New York Times board. We know you can say it. Probably, you even want to.

Greg Mitchell is editor of E&P and author of seven books on politics and history.

ZNet Commentary: Are You A Speed Freak?

September 22, 2005, ZNET
By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

Are you a speed freak?
That's what Daimler Chrysler wants to know.
Everything about their current campaign pushing the new Dodge Charger is about speed and power.
We learned about this campaign last week. We picked up USA Today, and out dropped a glossy 23-inch-by-21-inch color poster.
On one side is a picture of the Charger SRT8. 425 horsepower. 6.1 Liter SRT Hemi V8 engine. 420 lb-ft of torque. 0 to 60 mph in the low 5 seconds. (The low 5 seconds?)
"Grab Life by the Horns," it said at the top.
Then in bigger letters at the bottom: "Get Your Adrenaline Out of Neutral."
Flip over the glossy ad, and there is a picture of Charger R/T in red.
And the question, emblazoned in red: "Are you a speed freak?
The ad encourages you to go to .
So, we went there.
And clicked on "power freak." There is an animation of a Charger R/T ripping through some road barriers and fencing.
We then clicked on "speed freak." To the music of the Soledad Brothers, (Break Em On Down), we learn that the car is "wickedly fast -- a sleek fastback silhouette slips through the wind as pure, unadulterated speed crescendos from one adrenaline rush to the next."
Back to the glossy ad that dropped out of USA Today.
Also, in large letters is the following: "Remember, Speed Limits Are Laws, Not Suggestions."
We reached Suraya Da Sante, a corporate spokeswoman, at Daimler's home office in Detroit.
"The ad campaign is not necessarily about speed per se," she says. "It's more about unleashing your desires."
What about the 0 to 60 mph in the low 5 seconds?
"We certainly don't want to encourage someone to do that on 0 to 60 on a residential street or even a highway," she says. "If you want to do that, there are racing tracks around where you can take the car."
Racing tracks?
"Yes, there are places where you can take your car to race," Da Sante says.
The whole ad campaign is about power and speed. Why insult our intelligence and say, "Remember, Speed Limits Are Laws, Not Suggestions?"
Well, it's never appropriate to break the law -- laws are there to protect us, she says.
Da Sante says she isn't sure whether Daimler's legal department required that they put that statement in the ad.
She says that the demographic for the Charger is a 40-to-59-year-old male, married with two kids, income from $65,000 to $90,000, and living in the suburbs of a large city. She says that the psychographic is someone who is confident, self-expressive, genuine and enterprising.
What about the video on the web site, with the driver knocking down barriers and ripping through fences?
"That is an animated video," she says. "It is clearly fantasy. It's not real people ripping down a road. It is more like a game. Gaming graphics are popular. It is not a television commercial where it is a real vehicle and someone is launching a vehicle 20 feet in the air. They were designed to get you excited and tap into that untamed spirit."
The campaign is more than just speed, she says.
The theme of the ad campaign: unleash.
The ideal customer is someone who wants to liberate their untamed spirit, she says.
They are looking for ways to go out and grab life by the horns.
In 1995, President Bill Clinton signed a law revoking the national 55 mph speed limit.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that one act by President Clinton has cost thousands of lives.
Richard Retting of the Institute says. "When speed limits are raised, it's no surprise that drivers go faster, and when drivers go faster, there are more deaths."
Retting says that the auto companies are just adding fuel to the fire.
He says that the DaimlerChrysler ad "encourages reckless, irresponsible driving."
But the ad says -- right there in large print - "Remember, Speed Limits Are Laws, Not Suggestions."
"Are they saying -- we didn't mean what we just said?" Retting asks.
Retting says that there were 41,000 deaths on U.S. highways last year.
At least a third of them are due to speeding.
That's at least 13,000 deaths per year due to speeding.
That would be four 911s.
Every year.
Due to speeding.
And irresponsible ads like the DaimlerChrysler ad are just fueling the fire.
Bloody Daimler.
Bloody Chrysler.
Bloody Dodge.
Bloody Charger.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Chavez Offers Cheap Oil To US Poor

President Chavez was in New York last week for a summit of world leaders at the United Nations. In his speech, Chavez blasted US foreign policy and accused the Bush administration of trying to hijack the UN summit. He described the United States as a terrorist nation because it is harboring the televangelist Pat Robertson who recently called for his assassination. Chavez has long charged that the US was behind the aborted coup against him in 2002.

In the interview, he reveals for the first time, details of a plan to offer of cheap oil to the poor...of the United States.

Democracy Now! met with President Chavez on Friday in his first sit-down interview in the United States. I interviewed him with Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez and Margaret Prescod of Pacifica Radio station KPFK at the Venezuelan ambassador to the UN's residence here in New York City.

AMY GOODMAN: Welcome Mr. President to the United States. You have come to a country who’s government, the U.S. government, you have accused of trying to assassinate you. What evidence do you have of this and of your other charge that it was involved with the attempted coup against you?

PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: Thank you for the invitation to come to this show, Juan, Amy and Margaret and my greetings to all the people and the viewers and the listeners to these programs these well known programs. Let’s talk about life, rather than death, because we are fighting for life. However there are always threats, those who are devoted to the struggle for life and use the truth as a flag and or principles as a lifeline. There is no doubt whatsoever that the U.S. government, lead by Mr. Bush, planned and participated in a coup d’etat in Venezuela in April, 2002. There’re many
proofs and evidence of this. There is a U.S. lady who wrote a book called the Chavez’s Code,” Mrs. Eva Golinger and she was sitting here not too long ago, and she is very close and there are declassified documents that she has found thanks to an effort to investigate the situation.

I have many evidences that my assassination was ordered on April the 11. More precisely on April the 12, and I was ready to die, however thank God and thanks to the Venezuelan people and thanks to the soldiers, Venezuelan soldiers, this order was not accomplished and this order was given by Washington. And there are many evidences and witnesses, however I would like to talk about life and greet the U.S. people with a lot of affection, with a lot of love and with a lot of pain due to the tragedy in New Orleans and the gulf states.

We’ve been accompanying these states from the very beginning, and we’ve been watching TV and receiving reports by our ambassadors and the CITGO people from the very beginning, cooperating very humbly trying to save lives and assist the homeless. We have offered assistance, up to five million dollars, a very modest sum, but I guess it would be useful. We have offered medicine, water, and electric power plants, the same way Cuba offered doctors. So far we have not being authorize to reach the area.
However, we hope the best for the poor, the poorest of these countries.

AMY GOODMAN: And televangelist Pat Robertson, his call for your assassination. What do you demand now, what is your response to that?

PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: Well as a matter of fact, Robertson is not acting alone. He’s just conveying, in a perhaps desperate manner, the thinking of those people closer to Mr. Bush. This is the voice of the most radical - of the extreme right wing in the U.S., I am totally convinced that is the situation with Mr. Robertson. And as you can see, so far there has been no reaction by the U.S. government in this regard. There’s nothing being said about these terrorist remarks that is in full breach of international law and breaches the laws of the United States.

But it’s not only Mr. Robertson here. For some time, for some months, people who participated in a coup attempt in Venezuela and are living here in the United States. And from TV stations in this country these people are calling for my assassination. A week ago, in another TV show, people in uniform, in fatigues, like terrorists. Venezuelans and Americans and Cubans exiled in the United States, and a former agent of the CIA, very recently said on TV that Chavez should be dead already. That Robertson is right. So this is the desire and the voice of the ultraconservative right-wing elite of the United States. They threatened Chavez. Chavez is nothing. Who is me? I’m nothing.

They are threatening the world. That is serious. They invaded Iraq. Without any reason whatsoever. They violated international law and are ignoring the rules of the U.N. Terrorists bombard complete cities, such as Fallujah, Baghdad, innocent women and children. Now, history is long. Hiroshima for instance-- Nagasaki, Grenada, Haiti, Panama, Santo Domingo. No, that is not - they do not represent the people of the United States. They are part of the imperialist dictatorship that the U.S. people are suffering today.

MARGARET PRESCOD: Mr. President, on behalf of KPFK, Pacifica Radio in Southern California, welcome to the United States. We have been waiting for this moment. Many people in the United States have been shocked at the racism they have witnessed against low income people in New Orleans and the other gulf cities and we wonder how Venezuelans view what has happened. And also you are clearly working to unite people of color throughout the world. You are the first Latin American president we know of who identifies as black and indigenous, and this breaks a long tradition of racism in the Americas. You’ve also identified with the people of Haiti who are fighting to defeat a brutal coup against their president how crucial do you think the defeat of all racism is to making the fundamental economic and social changes needed to save the world from the destruction of the market?

PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: When we were children, we were told that we have a motherland, and that motherland was Spain. However, we have discovered later, in our lives, that as a matter of fact, we have several motherlands. And one of the greatest motherlands of all is no doubt, Africa. We love Africa. And every day we are much more aware of the roots we have in Africa. Also, America is our motherland. Africa, America - and Bolivar used to say that we are a new human race in Latin America, that we are not
Europeans, or Africans, or North Americans. That we are a mixture of all of those races, and there is no doubt that Africa resounds with a pulse like a thousand drums and happiness and joy.

But, also there’s a lot of pain when you think of Africa. Yesterday, I met with the president of Mozambique, because fully aware of these roots and these realities, we have designed an agenda for Africa in Venezuela. And we have spoken to other South American leaders. Lula for instance, is fully aware of the African roots of brazil and South America, and I want to share the African agenda with other leaders in South America, but Venezuela has also it’s own African agenda. In the case of Mozambique. The life expectancy in Mozambique is 38 years old, and going down, because AIDS is
causing havoc in the population. It’s terrible, it’s a tragedy, it’s a million Katrina’s hitting this country. The president of Mozambique told me the number of children, orphaned children, whose parents have died as a result of AIDS. The teachers are dying, the doctors are dying. That’s a tragedy, and it’s a disgrace, and that’s why it hurts. It hurts so much to see the U.N. opening its doors to listen to speeches and speeches and more speeches, while at the same time, every year a population equivalent to Argentina today, or Columbia die of hunger, or Venezuela die of hunger, and those deaths could be avoided. Most of them are children, little girls, little boys, and most of them are in Africa.

So, we need like a shaking of the world. To shake up the world. That’s why when people talk about my style-- my style - that’s why the speech I delivered yesterday before the United Nations Assembly – because it doesn’t work! It’s not working. If we reduced the military expenses in 10 percent of the world, we would have enough money to save millions of lives in this world.

In Venezuela, with the little resources - few resources - we have initiated a program to bring food to feed the poor people in Venezuela, and we are covering today 15 million people in Venezuela - receiving this food distribution and assistance. And most of them receive this food for free, and others a percentage, they have to pay only 50 percent of the total amount for the food they eat. Of course this is possible only if the people themselves, participate and with a new awareness.

Racism is very characteristic of imperialism. Racism is very characteristic of capitalism. Katrina is – indeed, has a lot to do with racism - no doubt about it. Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth, because of my curly hair. And I’m so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it’s African. So we need a new morality, a new ethic at this point. And from my Christian point of view, we need a revolution of the ethic. And in the political and economic fields we need to take back the flag of socialism, in my view - in order to be able to defeat - with the will of the people, with the participation of the people – to beat those ominous phenomenon such as racism.

AMY GOODMAN: Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in his first interview in the United States.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

No Place for a Poet at a Banquet of Shame


[from the October 10, 2005 issue, The Nation]

For reasons spelled out below, the poet Sharon Olds has declined to attend the National Book Festival in Washington, which, coincidentally or not, takes place September 24, the day of an antiwar mobilization in the capital. Olds, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award and professor of creative writing at New York University, was invited along with a number of other writers by First Lady Laura Bush to read from their works. Three years ago artist Jules Feiffer declined to attend the festival's White House breakfast as a protest against the Iraq War ("Mr. Feiffer Regrets," November 11, 2002). We suggest that invitees to this year's event consider following their example. --The Editors

Laura Bush
First Lady
The White House

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on September 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House.

In one way, it's a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring! The possibility of finding new readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, and in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents--all of us who need the pleasure, and the inner and outer news, it delivers.

And the concept of a community of readers and writers has long been dear to my heart. As a professor of creative writing in the graduate school of a major university, I have had the chance to be a part of some magnificent outreach writing workshops in which our students have become teachers. Over the years, they have taught in a variety of settings: a women's prison, several New York City public high schools, an oncology ward for children. Our initial program, at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely physically challenged, has been running now for twenty years, creating along the way lasting friendships between young MFA candidates and their students--long-term residents at the hospital who, in their humor, courage and wisdom, become our teachers.

When you have witnessed someone nonspeaking and almost nonmoving spell out, with a toe, on a big plastic alphabet chart, letter by letter, his new poem, you have experienced, close up, the passion and essentialness of writing. When you have held up a small cardboard alphabet card for a writer who is completely nonspeaking and nonmoving (except for the eyes), and pointed first to the A, then the B, then C, then D, until you get to the first letter of the first word of the first line of the poem she has been composing in her head all week, and she lifts her eyes when that letter is touched to say yes, you feel with a fresh immediacy the human drive for creation, self-expression, accuracy, honesty and wit--and the importance of writing, which celebrates the value of each person's unique story and song.

So the prospect of a festival of books seemed wonderful to me. I thought of the opportunity to talk about how to start up an outreach program. I thought of the chance to sell some books, sign some books and meet some of the citizens of Washington, DC. I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture and another country--with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain--did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made "at the top" and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and religious chauvinism--the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to.

I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness--as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing--against this undeclared and devastating war.

But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.

What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting "extraordinary rendition": flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us.

So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.



There Is No 'Noble Cause' For War

By Cindy Sheehan,
Posted on September 20, 2005

It has been one month, one week, and 4 days since I sat in a ditch in Crawford, Texas.

My request was very simple: I wanted to speak to the man who has sent over a million of our young people over to fight, kill, and die in a country that was absolutely no threat to the United States of America. I wanted to ask him: "What is the Noble Cause that you keep talking about?"

Well, we all know now that George Bush never came down the road to talk to me. Thank God! Many people have been saying that I am the "spark," "catalyst," "face of the anti-war movement," etc. I beg to differ.

George Bush and his arrogant advisers are the spark that lit the prairie fire of peace activism that has swept over America and the entire world. If he had met with me that fateful day in August it would not have been good for him (because I knew he was going to lie and I would have advertised that fact) but it would have had less of an impact on the peace movement if he had.

Upon reflection on the events of this past August, I have come up with two reasons why George could not meet with me: He is a coward, and there is no Noble Cause. If George had as much courage and integrity in his entire body as Casey had in his pinky, he would have met with me. But, ironically, if George had that much courage and integrity he never would have preemptively invaded a practically defenseless country. His syncophantic cabinet and hangers-on are also incontrovertible evidence that he is a coward. No one had better dare disagree with him. How dare a mom from Vacaville, California, have the nerve to contradict the emperor of Prairie Chapel Road!!??


Monday, September 19, 2005

Pocket Paradigm

THOSE WHO dreamed up the federal government-enforced Constitution Day for schools and colleges might want to spend that day reading the Tenth Amendment which says, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

The way the feds repeatedly get around the Tenth Amendment is through greenmail, saying in effect, "We don't have the right to tell you what to do but we do have the money so if you want our money you have to do what the Tenth Amendment says we can't tell you do." Since schools and college get federal funds, they are easy targets of greenmail.

This would be a worthy topic of discussion in schools and colleges on Constitution Day.
-- Sam Smith, Progressive Review


NY TIMES - Mr. Brown acknowledged that he had been criticized for not ordering a complete evacuation or calling in federal troops sooner. But he said the storm made it hard to communicate and assess the situation.

"Until you have been there," he said, "you don't realize it is the middle of a hurricane."

The jokes just write themselves, don't they?--Pete

Sunday, September 18, 2005

White House Backs NASA Plan for Vehicles

A curious article, wouldn't you say?--Pete

September 16, 2005

The White House has approved NASA's plan to replace the nation's aging fleet of winged spaceships with a new generation of vehicles meant to carry human explorers back to the Moon and onward to Mars and beyond, aerospace experts said yesterday.

The new rockets and spaceships are a radical departure for the space program, rearranging the components of the space shuttle into a new design expected to be more powerful than the shuttle but also safer. The shuttle has had two fatal accidents in 114 missions.

"It's a thumbs-up for NASA to pursue the shuttle-derived vehicle," said John M. Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and an adviser to the NASA initiative. "The question is the schedule, not the basic approach."

Other experts, who refused to be identified because the space agency will not formally announce the proposal, also spoke about the plan yesterday.

The redesign proposal was first reported in August by agency officials and private experts. Unlike the shuttle, the new vehicles would separate the jobs of hauling people and cargo into orbit and would put the payloads atop the rockets - as far as possible from the dangers of firing engines and falling debris, which were responsible for the accidents that destroyed the Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003.

But by making the rockets from shuttle parts, the new plan would draw on the shuttle's existing network of thousands of contractors and technologies, in theory speeding its completion and lowering its cost.

The plan has been ready for unveiling for roughly six weeks but was held up because of delays in White House approval.

Yesterday, the aerospace experts said Michael D. Griffin, NASA's administrator, met with White House officials on Wednesday and won a preliminary approval for the project despite continuing questions about how to pay for it.

One problem is that the existing shuttle is still consuming a large share of the agency's budget. A complicating factor, they added, is growing fiscal pressure on Washington because of the government's unexpected need to help rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The Bush administration has called for the shuttles to be retired by 2010. Dr. Griffin had wanted the first of the replacement vehicles to be ready to fly by 2011. But the experts said yesterday that the earliest conceivable date for the first flight of the replacement was now 2012.

The smaller rocket, for carrying people, would still dwarf the shuttle, which stands 184 feet high. The larger one, for lifting heavy cargoes and spaceships but not people, would rise to a height of some 350 feet, rivaling the Saturn 5 rockets that sent astronauts to the Moon.

In theory, the cargo hauler would have its first test flights in 2016 and 2017 and first hurl people toward the Moon in 2018, the experts said

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Global Warning

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FBI Ordered to Lift Patriot Act Gag on Librarian

A federal judge today ruled that the FBI must lift a gag that is preventing an organization with library records from participating in the Patriot Act debate. The opinion comes in a case brought by the ACLU challenging a provision of the Patriot Act that authorizes the FBI to demand records without judicial review.

"We are extremely pleased that the court has recognized that gagging our client from participating in the Patriot Act debate violates the First Amendment and is profoundly undemocratic," said Ann Beeson, ACLU Associate Legal Director and the lead attorney in the case. "Today's ruling makes clear that the government cannot silence innocent Americans simply by invoking national security."

The decision marks the second time a federal court has dealt a blow to the National Security Letter (NSL) provision of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the FBI to demand a range of personal records such as the identity of a person who has checked out books from a library or engaged in anonymous speech on the Internet. The first ruling, which also came in a case brought by the ACLU, found that the entire NSL provision was unconstitutional.

In last week's decision, which has been stayed until September 20 to allow the government to appeal, U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall held that the "John Doe" organization has a First Amendment right to engage in the "current and lively debate in this country over the renewal of the PATRIOT Act."

TAKE ACTION: Urge Attorney General Gonzales to lift the gag on the Patriot Act debate. Sign the ACLU petition.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Racism Kills, But Don't Report On It...

New Orleans -- A long caravan of white vans led by an Army humvee rolled Monday through New Orleans' Bywater district, a poor, mostly black neighborhood, northeast of the French Quarter.

Recovery team members wearing white protective suits and black boots stopped at houses with spray painted markings on the doors designating there were dead bodies inside.

Outside one house on Kentucky Street, a member of the Army 82nd Airborne Division summoned a reporter and photographer standing nearby and told them that if they took pictures or wrote a story about the body recovery process, he would take away their press credentials and kick them out of the state.

"No photos. No stories," said the man, wearing camouflage fatigues and a red beret.

On Saturday, after being challenged in court by CNN, the Bush administration agreed not to prevent the news media from following the effort to recover the bodies of Hurricane Katrina victims.

But on Monday, in the Bywater district, that assurance wasn't being followed. The 82nd Airborne soldier told reporters the Army had a policy that requires media to be 300 meters -- more than three football fields in length -- away from the scene of body recoveries in New Orleans. If reporters wrote stories or took pictures of body recoveries, they would be reported and face consequences, he said, including a loss of access for up-close coverage of certain military operations.

Dean Nugent, of the Louisiana State Coroner's Department, who accompanied the soldier, added that it wasn't safe to be in Bywater. "They'll kill you out here," he said, referring to the few residents who have continued to defy mandatory evacuation orders and remain in their homes."

"The cockroaches come out at night," he said of the residents. "This is one of the worst places in the country. You should not be here. Especially you," he told a female reporter.

Nugent, who is white, acknowledged he wasn't personally familiar with the poor, black neighborhood, saying he only knew of it by reputation.

Later Monday, the recovery team collected a body from a green house on St. Anthony Street in nearby Seventh Ward. The dead man, who was slipped into a black body bag and carried out to one of the white vans, had been lying alone on the living room floor for nearly two weeks, neighbors said.

"I told them weeks ago he was in there," said Barry Dominguez, 39, who lives across the street and has refused to leave the neighborhood he grew up in.

After the recovery team took away the St. Anthony Street body, two workers urinated on the side of a neighbor's house.

The CNN suit was in response to comments Friday at a news conference in which officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency said members of the news media would not be allowed to witness the recovery of hurricane victims' bodies.

Terry Ebbert, New Orleans' homeland security director, had said Friday that the recovery effort would be done with dignity, "meaning that there would be no press allowed." Army Lt. Gen. Russell Honore later said there would be zero access to the recovery operation.

During a hearing Saturday morning in U.S. District Court in Houston, a lawyer who represented the government said FEMA had revised its previous plans to limit coverage.

Government agencies may still refuse requests from members of the media to ride along, or be "embedded," on recovery boats as crews gather the dead. "But, to the extent the press can go out to the locations, they're free to do that," said Keith Wyatt, an assistant U.S. attorney, according to a transcript of the hearing. "They're free to take whatever pictures they can take."

Army Lt. Col. Richard Steele said the government's position as explained in court Saturday didn't represent a change in policy. Reporters can watch recovery efforts they come upon, but they won't be embedded with search teams.

"We're not going to bar, impede or prevent" the media from telling the story, he said. "We're just not going to give the media a ride."


A Bridge Too Far

by Jason Cherkis and Erik Wemple, Washington City Paper
The print media get picky about a story involving police forcing evacuees back into New Orleans.

Soon after the floodwaters engulfed New Orleans, reporters chronicled the thousands trapped at the Superdome, trapped at the convention center, and trapped on rooftops. As the days passed, news consumers had to wonder: Why couldn’t citizens just hike out of the city to the nearest patch of dry land?

The Socialist Worker webzine on Sept. 6 provided an answer: You couldn’t leave without facing down a police barricade and gunfire.

Lorrie Beth Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw, Socialist Worker contributors, had traveled to New Orleans to attend a convention for emergency-medical-services personnel. Then the storm hit. They holed up inside a French Quarter hotel for several days. Once the hotel’s food and water ran out, Slonsky and Bradshaw were booted onto the street, along with other hotel guests.

The group set out for the convention center but decided to change plans after learning that it wasn’t fit for humans. So they consulted a police commander posted near Harrah’s on Canal Street. “He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge…” Slonsky and Bradshaw wrote. Buses would be stationed on the other side, the commander said.

They headed for the bridge, about 200 people, nearly all of them African-American, according to Slonsky. As they approached the structure, Slonsky and Bradshaw reported, they were met with a police barricade and the sound of bullets whizzing overhead. Soon dozens and dozens from their crowd began to peel away and scatter. Slonsky and Bradshaw wrote that they and a few others managed to approach the police line. They were told there were no buses waiting for them.

“We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway,” Slonsky and Bradshaw wrote. “They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans, and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for: if you are poor and Black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River, and you are not getting out of New Orleans.” Bradshaw reports that there were about a dozen cops guarding the bridge, and only one of them was black.

In covering Katrina, journalists expertly documented the seismic fuckups of officialdom—the stifling conditions at the Superdome, the convention-center fiasco, the weak levees that gave in to floodwaters. The coverage turned Michael Brown from an obscure political appointee at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) into cannon fodder for Bush-administration detractors nationwide. And it told the compelling stories of people who never made it out of the Crescent City. But it largely ignored the most compelling one, in large part because a pair of lefty Web types were first on the scene.

Adventures In Dubyaworld

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Talk About Obscenity

Congress' latest idiotic effort to make the airwaves "decent" explains why Americans favor lawmakers about as much as telemarketers and drunken drivers.

By Garrison Keillor, Salon

Sept. 14, 2005 | One of the benefits of Katrina is how it got Congress to focus on real things: the relief of suffering and devastation and eventually an investigation to learn why Homeland Security stumbled so badly. And to cancel the nonsense for the time being, such as the push to roll back the estate tax, a private bill for the relief of billionaires; and the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, a high-water mark of official stupidity that swept through the House and now is lapping at the doors of the Senate.

The BDEA is the anti-Janet-Jackson's-nipple bill that would make broadcasters liable for fines of up to $500,000 for any obscene, indecent or profane material they disseminate. Every congressman who voted for it should have his or her name engraved on a brass plaque on the Monument to Cowardice.

To the CBS network, a half-million is petty cash, but to the manager of a radio station in Lexington, Ky., it may mean extinction. So when you hang that enormous sharp sword over his head, you force him to monitor closely everything uttered, muttered, sung or chanted on his airwaves. It is not possible to do that and still have a wife and children. So the station manager is forced to cut out any programming that is original or that originates live and switch over to syndicated programs that come with a Decency Guarantee. Or else live in fear.

Talk about abuse of government power. Talk about government intruding into the lives of people to no good purpose whatsoever.

This summer, a radio station canceled a radio show of mine because I read a poem that used the word "breast." The poem was far from lascivious or obscene. If you'd read it to your Aunt Esther in Greenville, maybe she would blush faintly. But the word "indecent" can be interpreted so many ways and a Federal Communications Commission hearing would be long and tedious and the show is broadcast on 500 radio stations, so the fine would come to $250 million, or about half the cost of a baseball stadium, which is a lot to pay for freedom of speech, and what boob would want to take those risks? So, here in the land of the free, freedom won by brave men whose speech was salty and whose interest in women was keen, a man cannot say "breast" on the radio. How do these people manage to order Kentucky fried chicken?

The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act illustrates beautifully why the American people's opinion of Congress is only slightly more favorable than our view of telemarketers and drunken drivers. You need go no farther. Congress can sometimes be so removed from reality that it goes after a mosquito with a chain saw. The word for this is dementia.

I would feel better about the law if Congress held itself to the same high standards and subjected members of Congress who utter obscene, indecent or profane things to the same heavy penalties.

If Sen. Bleaughhh, posing on the Capitol steps with a delegation of 4-H'ers from Cooterville, should slip and fall on his hinder, and land on a hemorrhoid the size of a Concord grape, and suddenly make a vulgar reference to holy excrement and call down God's wrath all in one succinct phrase -- shouldn't there be some recourse for the decent and God-fearing just as there would be if Howard Stern had said it?

What a horrible experience for those 4-H'ers. To travel all the way to Washington and stand in awe at the gaudy splendor of it all and get the chance to shake hands with an actual U.S. senator and suddenly the old fattycakes cuts loose with some ripe language you didn't hear at the prayer breakfast -- bummer!

What rules do we have in place to protect schoolchildren from some old demented Republican walking around exposing his right nipple and saying crude things and waving sparklers? None that I'm aware of. A Congressional Decency Enforcement Act would specifically forbid the waving of genitalia, while either whooping or not, or exposing the mammary glands, either male or female, or exposing the posterior (also known as "mooning"), or referring to the posterior, or to fecal matter, whether chicken, horse, bull or any other species, and a half-million-dollar fine would be a good deterrent, though I'd prefer locking offenders in the stocks and pelting them with offal, dead cats, fish heads and rabbit pellets. I do not think you can ever do enough in behalf of our children.

Media, Protesters Kept Away from ‘Freedom Walk’

by Brendan Coyne, NewStandard

Sep 12 - Yesterday's Pentagon-sponsored September 11 memorial walk and concert was billed as a "Freedom Walk," but the news media and people who desired to speak out against the Bush administration were restricted to small areas, mainly away from the day's events. Restrictions also extended to participants, all attendees had to register by Friday evening and were subject to search upon arrival.

The Defense Department claimed that over 13,000 people attended the event, Stars & Stripes reports. They marched along a two mile route lined by US Park Police and fencing, according to the military newspaper.

Hundreds of protesters also attended, mostly corralled near the end of the route. Park Police prevented reporters from speaking with the group, Stars & Stripes said.

Friday, the Washington Post reported that the entire Washington, DC contingent of the Park Police would be handling event security.

In addition to keeping protesters from interacting with marchers, security kept reporters limited to three separate areas.

Critics of the event -- which was billed as a memorial for the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks as well as a march to support American troops -- charged that it was designed to tie the September 11 attacks to the war on Iraq.

Additional criticism came from privacy advocates who questioned the Pentagon's original registration requirements as intrusive. The policy was slightly altered shortly after a NewStandard reporter inquired why registrants were to supply their mailing addresses and other information in order to participate.

A group of anti-war protesters participated in the walk. They wore anti-war imagery, but did not disrupt the march, the Associated Press reports.

© 2005 The NewStandard.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

All-Time Record Profits Not Enough?

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush is tapping the strategic oil reserve to help petroleum refiners.

Obviously, the oil industry can't rely on soaring prices and record profits to weather this meteorological inconvenience. They need a hand up. Good thing they thought ahead enough to install their buddy into the Oval Office.

How much of this will you stand, because I've had enough.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Questions for the 39%

From Yellow Dog Blog

While we were focusing on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last week, the results of an AP-Ipsos poll taken September 6-8 were released. The poll shows President Bush's approval rating sinking faster than his mother's compassion for the poor and resting at a lowly 39 percent.

I have forwarded some follow-up questions to the Ipsos organization. I'm hoping they will use these questions for the next presidential approval poll and ask them of the respondents who still approve of the job Bush is doing as president:

1. Who dresses you in the morning?
2. Do you use common utensils when you eat?
3. Which of these items is different from the others? a) Cup b) Plate c) Bowl or d) Porcupine
4. Do you take your medication before answering polls?
5. If a car is going 60 miles per hour, how far will it go in one hour?
6. How many words are in your vocabulary? Please be exact.
7. Do you steer your car with the big wheel in front of the driver's seat or with one of the pedals on the floor?
8. Which goes “woof,” a doggie or a kitty?
9. In what state is the Kentucky Derby held?
10. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being President Bush and one being a rock, just how stupid are you?

It is my belief that these questions will provide some granularity on the intellect of people still responding positively to questions on George W. Bush's job performance.

Lest We Forget


Whites are foraging,
All others are looting.

Overkill in New Orleans

The ongoing and increasingly cavalier militarization of America is actually starting to frighten me, my being long past shock where this rogue administration is concerned. Is our government now hiring private militias to protect private property from its own citizens?--Pete

By Jeremy Scahill and Daniela Crespo, AlterNet
Posted on September 12, 2005
From Alternet

Heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for its work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans. Some of the mercenaries say they have been "deputized" by the Louisiana governor; indeed some are wearing gold Louisiana state law enforcement badges on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards on their arms. They say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force. Several mercenaries we spoke with said they had served in Iraq on the personal security details of the former head of the U.S. occupation, L. Paul Bremer and the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte.

"This is a totally new thing to have guys like us working CONUS (Continental United States)," a heavily armed Blackwater mercenary told us as we stood on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. "We're much better equipped to deal with the situation in Iraq."

Blackwater mercenaries are some of the most feared professional killers in the world and they are accustomed to operating without worry of legal consequences. Their presence on the streets of New Orleans should be a cause for serious concern for the remaining residents of the city and raises alarming questions about why the government would allow men trained to kill with impunity in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to operate here. Some of the men now patrolling the streets of New Orleans returned from Iraq as recently as two weeks ago.

What is most disturbing is the claim of several Blackwater mercenaries we spoke with that they are here under contract from the federal government and the state of Louisiana. Blackwater is one of the leading private security firms servicing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. It has several U.S. government contracts and has provided security for many senior U.S. diplomats, foreign dignitaries and corporations. The company rose to international prominence after four of its men were killed in Fallujah and two of their charred bodies were hung from a bridge in March 2004. Those killings sparked the massive U.S. retaliation against the civilian population of Fallujah that resulted in scores of deaths and tens of thousands of refugees.

Who Sent In the Mercs?

As the threat of forced evictions now looms in New Orleans and the city confiscates even legally registered weapons from civilians, the private mercenaries of Blackwater patrol the streets openly wielding M-16s and other assault weapons. This despite Police Commissioner Eddie Compass' claim that, "Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons."

Officially, Blackwater says its forces are in New Orleans to "join the Hurricane relief effort." A statement on the company's website, dated Sept. 1, advertises airlift services, security services and crowd control. The company, according to news reports, has since begun taking private contracts to guard hotels, businesses and other properties. But what has not been publicly acknowledged is the claim, made to us by two Blackwater mercenaries, that they are actually engaged in general law enforcement activities including "securing neighborhoods" and "confronting criminals."

That raises a key question: under what authority are Blackwater's men operating? A spokesperson for the Homeland Security Department, Russ Knocke, told the Washington Post he knows of no federal plans to hire Blackwater or other private security. "We believe we've got the right mix of personnel in law enforcement for the federal government to meet the demands of public safety," he said.

But in an hour-long conversation with several Blackwater mercenaries, we heard a different story. The men we spoke with said they are indeed on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and the Louisiana governor's office and that some of them are sleeping in camps organized by Homeland Security in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. They told us they not only had authority to make arrests but also to use lethal force.

Where the Real Action Is

We encountered the Blackwater forces as we walked through the streets of the largely deserted French Quarter. We were talking with two New York City police officers when an unmarked car without license plates sped up next to us and stopped. Inside were three men, dressed in khaki uniforms, flak jackets and wielding automatic weapons. "Y'all know where the Blackwater guys are?" they asked. One of the police officers responded, "There are a bunch of them around here," and pointed down the road.

"Blackwater?" we asked. "The guys who are in Iraq?"

"Yeah," said the officer. "They're all over the place."

A short while later, as we continued down Bourbon Street, we ran into the men from the car. They wore Blackwater ID badges on their arms. "When they told me New Orleans, I said, 'What country is that in?'" one of the Blackwater men said. He was wearing his company ID around his neck in a carrying case with the phrase "Operation Iraqi Freedom" printed on it. After bragging about how he drives around Iraq in a "State Department issued level 5, explosion-proof BMW," he said he was "just trying to get back to Kirkuk [in the North of Iraq] where the real action is."

Later we overheard him on his cell phone complaining that Blackwater was only paying $350 a day plus per diem. That is much less than the men make serving in more dangerous conditions in Iraq.

Two men we spoke with said they plan on returning to Iraq in October. But, as one mercenary said, they've been told they could be in New Orleans for up to six months. "This is a trend," he told us. "You're going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations."

If Blackwater's reputation and record in Iraq are any indication of the kind of services the company offers, the people of New Orleans have much to fear.

Jeremy Scahill, a correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!, and Daniela Crespo are in New Orleans.
© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Cri Du Coeur

A volunteer psychologist's account
of evacuee conditions in Dallas

There are so many words that come to mind. As a scholar I am thinking Diaspora, social displacement, systemic disruption, mass trauma, pandemic and unbelievable chaos. As a clinician, I am looking at something that we have never been trained to handle in this country--a level of victimization and its resultant psychosocial ripples that mandate a whole new field of clinical practice-mass victimology.

Katrina kicked the top off of a racist and social termite's nest that has been growing beneath the ground since Reconstruction. These were deeply religious people who have lost God and for that matter, faith and hope.

Hope has been replaced by magical thinking that augurs a second and more terrible level of social disruption and anger not far down the road.

Over and over, I kept hearing a framing of self that puzzled me until I realized that this is how it must have been for blacks after Reconstruction. Over and over, people said, "everyone has been so wonderful, thank you, thank you." When I said, "there is no need to thank us, you are our fellow citizens and we want to help you--American to American," there would be a long pause as if the idea of being the same never struck them before.

They are angry and it is growing. The system failed them. For that matter, there is no system because all the safeguards and preparations that we thought were in place aren't there. I have been begging anyone who would listen over the past two years for a program in mass victimology to prepare for the next tragedy after 9/11. Now it is here and the lack of organization, science, and preparation are going to result in terrible consequences for us as a nation.

Imagine sending people who have been assimilated into the most stable demographic population in America into cities and towns all over the US who are as unprepared as the victims to understand their sense of dislocation and their support needs. The lower Gulf States have a language, a history, a social dynamic, a faith, a societal structure, and a ritual system unlike any other in America. These people have lived in and been acculturated to this system for generations. When the dust settles and the mud dries, we are going to see all over America, a nation that will lose patience with the needs of a foreign refugee population. Abandoned once again, the fury and the trauma that have been momentarily quieted by the outpouring of empathy and support post-crisis, will arise larger and more terrible than we have been equipped as a nation to handle. I hear it now, over and over, in the survivor stories, in the loss of self, and the need to reclaim dignity and power.

Right now, numbness is being replaced by magical thinking. "People want me here--here is better. I think I'll stay here." What is going to happen when reality sets in? The bulk of people who are planning to stay don't understand the system here. Even though we abut borders, we are a vastly different nation. At least we are southerners. What is going to happen to the thousands being sent to Connecticut or Illinois or New Jersey? They are being offered free apartments, furniture etc, by generous and well meaning people who haven't thought the long term consequences through very well. A lot of the apartments are in areas where they won't have transportation or jobs. What is going to happen six months down the road when the magic wears off and the help slowly fades? How about the holidays for a people who thrive on ritual, tradition, and celebration?

Entire Post...

Bush Suspends Pay Act In Areas Hit by Storm

By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 9, 2005

President Bush yesterday suspended application of the federal law governing workers' pay on federal contracts in the Hurricane Katrina-damaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The action infuriated labor leaders and their Democratic supporters in Congress, who said it will lower wages and make it harder for union contractors to win bids.

The Davis-Bacon Act, passed in 1931 during the Great Depression, sets a minimum pay scale for workers on federal contracts by requiring contractors to pay the prevailing or average pay in the region. Suspension of the act will allow contractors to pay lower wages. Many Republicans have opposed Davis-Bacon, charging that it amounts to a taxpayer subsidy to unions.

In a letter to Congress, Bush said he has the power to suspend the law because of the national emergency caused by the hurricane: "I have found that the conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina constitute a 'national emergency.' "

Bush wrote that his decision is justified because Davis-Bacon increases construction costs, and suspension "will result in greater assistance to these devastated communities and will permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals."

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney denounced the Bush announcement as "outrageous."

"Employers are all too eager to exploit workers," he said. "This is no time to make that easier. What a double tragedy it would be to allow the destruction of Hurricane Katrina to depress living standards even further."


After Severe Injury, The Presidential Insult...

Proclamation by the President: To Suspend Subchapter IV of Chapter 31 of Title 40, United States Code, Within a Limited Geographic Area in Response to the National Emergency Caused by Hurricane Katrina

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do by this proclamation suspend, as to all contracts entered into on or after the date of this proclamation and until otherwise provided, the provisions of subchapter IV of chapter 31 of title 40, United States Code, 40 U.S.C. 3141-3148, and the provisions of all other acts providing for the payment of wages, which provisions are dependent upon determinations by the Secretary of Labor under section 3142 of title 40, United States Code, as they apply to contracts to be performed in the following jurisdictions…

Section 3142(b) of title 40, United States Code, provides that such “minimum wages shall be based on the wages the Secretary of Labor determines to be prevailing for the corresponding classes of laborers and mechanics employed on projects of a character similar to the contract work in the civil subdivision of the State in which the work is to be performed…”

The Whole Shebang...

Friday, September 09, 2005

U.S. Offers No Response to Cuban Emergency Assistance Offer

From NewStandard by Brendan Coyne

On Tuesday, as flood waters rose in New Orleans, a nearby nation made a unique aid offer: mobile doctors with backpacks, ready to provide medical care on the spot to hurricane survivors. The doctors would work in small teams or alone finding and treating people in need of medical care on the streets and in their houses. The offer was not immediately acknowledged openly by the Bush administration, and a week later, the offer has not been accepted.

Though apparently no final decision has been made, the United States federal government appears ready to turn down the offer of hurricane relief from the Cuba, which is world-renowned for its health-care system. Cuba's president, Fidel Castro, said he would send 1,100 doctors to aid in relief efforts, despite the four-decade-old economic embargo the US maintains against the tiny island nation. The first doctors could have begun arriving the day after an acceptance from the US.

The Cuban-trained doctors would be sent in three waves over three days, with each group carrying small packs with medical and diagnostic supplies to enable them to move into ravaged areas and treat people immediately, Fidel Castro explained in a speech Friday.

Sunday, the US Department of State announced it would accept relief offers from a number of nations, but it did not acknowledge the Cuban offer. Tuesday, a State Department spokesperson told Reuters that the US was unlikely to accept the assistance after the Department of Health and Human Services determined that volunteering US doctors would be able to handle the load. More than 12,000 US doctors have volunteered so far, the Associate Press reports today.

Cuban Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jose Luis Ponce told the AP that his nation had not received an official response to their offer. State Department executive secretary Harry K. Thomas Jr. will address international aid offers at an off-camera, on-the-record briefing today, the State Department said. On Sunday the United Nations announced that the US had finally accepted its offer of assistance from several UN agencies highly experienced in disaster relief.

In a statement Friday, Castro outlined a plan that included immediately flying 100 medical professionals to Houston or another nearby city, and then transporting them to New Orleans where they would work in small teams or alone to provide medical care to people suffering from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Over the next two days, Castro proposed, Cuba would send two more teams of 500 similarly equipped doctors to the US. The workers would remain, "as long as is necessary," Castro said, and were proficient enough in English to communicate with patients.

According to the statement, Castro originally offered assistance last Tuesday, but did so through back channels due to the adversarial relationship the US and Cuba have endured since a communist revolution swept Castro into power more than 40 years ago. The US has maintained a crippling economic embargo against Cuba, which until recently, included medical supplies.

The restated offer from Castro came about after the State Department thanked a number of nations for offering aid but failed to include Cuba, Castro said.

Like most Caribbean nations, Cuba has extensive experience dealing with the fallout from hurricanes. Earlier this year, following the $1.4 billion in damage Hurricane Dennis caused the island nation, the United States proposed sending Cuba $50,000 in aid through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). A number of groups criticized the amount of assistance offered as too little, and Castro opted to decline.

In the past, Cuba has sent medical brigades to other hurricane-ravished countries. For instance, following Hurricane Mitch and Hurricane Georges in 1998, Cuba sent medical relief teams to Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and other hard-hit nations.


KEITH KOFFLER, NATIONAL JOURNAL - Top Republicans Monday indicated that a key rationale for continuing to press for items such as overhauling Social Security and making tax cuts passed during Bush's first administration permanent is that these initiatives are good for the economy, and that what is good for the national economy is also good for New Orleans. "A large part of the response to the hurricane's impact is to jump-start the region's economy, which requires a vibrant national economy," said White House Deputy Press Secretary Trent Duffy. Duffy asserted that the vast spending that would be required to address the hurricane's impact adds to the need to change Social Security, which threatens to strain the budget in coming years.


HAARETZ, ISRAEL - Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a former chief rabbi and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas movement, said that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for U.S. President George W. Bush's support for Israel's Gaza pullout. "It was God's retribution. God does not shortchange anyone," Yosef said during his weekly sermon. His comments were broadcast on Channel 10 TV on Wednesday. Yosef also said recent natural disasters were the result of a lack of Torah study and that Katrina's victims suffered "because they have no God," singling out black people.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Louisiana National Guard Offers Help By Phone From Iraq

From The Onion
BAGHDAD—The 4,000 Louisiana National Guardsmen stationed in Iraq, representing over a third of the state's troops, called home this week to find out what, if any, help they could offer Katrina survivors from overseas. "The soldiers wanted to know if they could call 911 for anyone, or perhaps send some water via FedEx," said Louisiana National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Pete Schneider. The Guardsmen also "would love to send generators, rations, and Black Hawk helicopters for rescue missions," but, said Schneider, "we desperately need these in Iraq to stay alive." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld praised the phone support, but noted that it would take months to transfer any equipment from Iraq to New Orleans, saying, "You fight a national disaster with the equipment you have."

White Foragers Report Threat Of Black Looters

From The Onion
NEW ORLEANS—Throughout the Gulf Coast, Caucasian suburbanites attempting to gather food and drink in the shattered wreckage of shopping districts have reported seeing African ­Americans "looting snacks and beer from damaged businesses." "I was in the abandoned Wal-Mart gathering an air mattress so I could float out the potato chips, beef jerky, and Budweiser I'd managed to find," said white survivor Lars Wrightson, who had carefully selected foodstuffs whose salt and alcohol content provide protection against contamination. "Then I look up, and I see a whole family of [African-Americans] going straight for the booze. Hell, you could see they had already looted a fortune in diapers." Radio stations still in operation are advising store owners and white people in the affected areas to locate firearms in sporting-goods stores in order to protect themselves against marauding blacks looting gun shops.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Lest We Forget To Lay Blame Where Blame Is Due...

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. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.

-- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.

Hugo's Helping Hand

By Kelly Hearn, AlterNet
Posted on September 7, 2005

In a stunning reversal of largesse, the global community is sending aide to a superpower humbled by mythic disaster. But before Katrina came ashore, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez had already launched a stateside campaign to woo the hearts of America's poor.

On August 28, before Katrina hit land, Chávez announced a plan to offer discounted heating oil to U.S. poor through the Citgo Petroleum Corp., a unit of Venezuela's state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela.

"We want to help the poorest communities in the U.S.,'' Chávez said in his weekly television address. "There are people who die from the cold in winter in the U.S.''

Venezuela is the United States' fourth-largest oil supplier and the world's fifth-largest exporter. It sells some 1.5 million barrels a day of crude oil to Americans.

The same weekend, days after televangelist Pat Roberts said he should be assassinated, Chávez also announced he wanted to provide free eye examinations to U.S. residents with no health care. He made the offer to Reverend Jesse Jackson who was in Caracas to sooth tensions between the two countries.

Katrina hit and Chávez, who claims President Bush has plans to assassinate him and invade Venezuela, had a public relations softball.

He was the first foreign leader to offer aid workers, food and fuel. Citgo soon offered a $1 million donation and yesterday the company announced it would sell an additional 1 million barrels of oil to offset losses from the hurricane.

Thus the pickle: the Bush Administration, which accuses Chávez of using oil money to feed populist revolutions in America's "back door," is watching it come through the front in humanitarian envelopes.

But all of Chávez's generosity wasn't about disaster and suffering.

In Chicago, a city with a solid Latino voting block, Chávez's charity machine was at work. The Fiesta Boricua, a popular street festival that draws thousands of Latinos, took place only because a $100,000 donation from Citgo saved it at the last minute, the Chicago Tribune reported last week. "As Puerto Ricans in Chicago salute baseball great Roberto Clemente and other cultural icons at a festival this weekend," the paper said, "they also will pay homage to some unlikely new heroes: the Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S. and the chief executive of Citgo, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company."

Some of the same new heroes will soon be on a six-city, U.S. public relations tour called "Venezuela Matters," which brings together businessmen, artists and academics together to show support for Chávez's social policies.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ignorance Abounds...

SEATTLE INDYMEDIA - Mayor Nagin told ABC news that citizen refugees who were attempting to walk out of New Orleans in search of aid were stopped at the Jefferson Parish line by police with attack dogs and machine guns. The chief law enforcement officer of Jefferson Parish is Sheriff Harry Lee, who is notorious for his views on racial profiling by his officers. He once said his men would stop blacks in 'rinky dink' cars in white neighborhoods at night.

Nagin explained that he suggested the mostly black people at the convention center try walking out because there were no supplies in the city to relive their suffering, and no buses for their evacuation.


Dispatch From Incompetence Central

People who want to volunteer for search and rescue operations, police from outside the state who want to help, all should be able to come to New Orleans without fear of wading through bureaucratic red tape. My constituents don't care who brings them food and water, or take them to safety; just help these people.

BEN MORRIS, SLIDELL MAYOR, 3:32 P.M. - We are still hampered by some of the most stupid, idiotic regulations by FEMA. They have turned away generators, we've heard that they've gone around seizing equipment from our contractors. If they do so, they'd better be armed because I'll be damned if I'm going to let them deprive our citizens. I'm pissed off, and tired of this horseshit"

WWL, 3:11 P.M. - Louisiana's Jefferson Parish is desperate for relief, but parish President Aaron Broussard says officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency turned back three trailer trucks of water, ordered the Coast Guard not to provide emergency diesel fuel and cut emergency power lines. Why? FEMA has not
explained. . .

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Beautiful Mind Strikes Again

by DavidNYC
Mon Sep 5th, 2005 at 17:09:32 PDT
From Daily Kos

Barbara Bush - the woman whom no less an authority than Dick Nixon said "knows how to hate," the woman who didn't want to trouble her "beautiful mind" with thoughts of "body bags and deaths" - has now offered us yet another gem. After visting refugees staying at the Houston Astrodome, she had this to say:

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this (she chuckled slightly)--this is working very well for them."

What a cold, callous, wretched ghoul of a person. I just don't even know what else to say.

Media Focus On Looters Is Institutionalized Bigotry At Best

MITCH COHEN, NEW ORLEANS INDYMEDIA - My friend Les Evenchick, an independent Green who lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans in a 3-story walkup, reports that 90 percent of the so-called looters are simply grabbing water, food, diapers and medicines, because the federal and state officials have refused to provide these basic necessities. Les says that "it's only because of the looters that non-looters -- old people, sick people, small children -- are able to survive."Those people who stole televisions and large non-emergency items have been selling them, Les reports (having witnessed several of these "exchanges") so that they could get enough money together to leave the area.

Think about it:

- People were told to leave, but all the bus stations had closed down the night before and the personnel sent packing.

- Many people couldn't afford tickets anyway.

- Many people are stranded, and others are refusing to leave their homes, pets, etc. They don't have cars.

You want people to stop looting? Provide the means for them to eat, and to leave the area.

Some tourists in the Monteleone Hotel paid $25,000 for 10 buses. The buses were sent (I guess there were many buses available, if you paid the price!) but the military confiscated them and would not let the people leave. Instead, the military ordered the tourists to the now-infamous Convention Center. . .

There is something sinister going down -- it's not simply incompetence or negligence. How could FEMA and Homeland Security not have something so basic as bottled drinking water in the Super Dome, which was long a part of the hurricane plan? One police officer in charge of his 120-person unit said yesterday that his squad was provided with only 70 small bottles of water.

Last year, New Orleans residents -- the only area in the entire state that voted in huge numbers against the candidacy of George Bush -- also fought off attempts to privatize the drinking water supply.

One of the first acts of Governor Kathleen Blanco (a Democrat, by the way) during this crisis was to turn off the drinking water, to force people to evacuate. There was no health reason to turn it off, as the water is drawn into a separate system from the Mississippi River, not the polluted lake, and purified through self-powered purification plants separate from the main electric grid. If necessary, people could have been told to boil their water -- strangely, the municipal natural gas used in stoves was still functioning properly as of Thursday night!

There are thousands of New Orleans residents who are refusing to evacuate because they don't want to leave their pets, their homes, or who have no money to do so nor place to go. The government -- which could have and should have provided water and food to residents of New Orleans -- has not done so intentionally to force people to evacuate by starving them out. This is a crime of the gravest sort.


And Then, There's The Nation At War With A Tactic

The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?" And he said, "Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday." And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.

[Breaks into tears] You have to watch. Words fail me, except words of anger. And thoughts of revenge for the people who have murdered thousands of Louisianan's by their callous disregard for their fellow citizens.

Some Nations, With Their Citizens In Mind, Know What They're Doing


Last September, a Category 5 hurricane battered the small island of Cuba with 160-mile-per-hour winds. More than 1.5 million Cubans were evacuated to higher ground ahead of the storm. Although the hurricane destroyed 20,000 houses, no one died.

What is Cuban President Fidel Castro's secret? According to Dr. Nelson Valdes, a sociology professor at the University of New Mexico, and specialist in Latin America, "the whole civil defense is embedded in the community to begin with. People know ahead of time where they are to go."

"Cuba's leaders go on TV and take charge," said Valdes. Contrast this with George W. Bush's reaction to Hurricane Katrina. The day after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Bush was playing golf. He waited three days to make a TV appearance and five days before visiting the disaster site. In a scathing editorial on Thursday, the New York Times said, "nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis."

"Merely sticking people in a stadium is unthinkable" in Cuba, Valdes said. "Shelters all have medical personnel, from the neighborhood. They have family doctors in Cuba, who evacuate together with the neighborhood, and already know, for example, who needs insulin." They also evacuate animals and veterinarians, TV sets and refrigerators, "so that people aren't reluctant to leave because people might steal their stuff," Valdes observed.

After Hurricane Ivan, the United Nations International Secretariat for Disaster Reduction cited Cuba as a model for hurricane preparation. ISDR director Salvano Briceno said, "The Cuban way could easily be applied to other countries with similar economic conditions and even in countries with greater resources that do not manage to protect their population as well as Cuba does."

Working Hard at Nothing All Day

By CORINNE MAIER, New York Times
Published: September 5, 2005

Paris — Thoreau deplored the supremacy of work in this way: "It would be glorious to see mankind at leisure for once. It is nothing but work, work, work." Fortunately, there is one day a year in which one celebrates work without going there: Labor Day.

And it's you Americans who have invented it. We French thank you for that, even if few of us realize that this paradoxical day comes from across the Atlantic. Nonetheless, it was in America, a decidedly pioneering land, where the idea of a shorter workweek, a notion dear to French hearts, was born.

All that began on May 1, 1886. On that historic day, American workers went on strike to demand an eight-hour day; at that time it was habitual to work 10 to 12 hours - quelle horreur! Alas, the strike resulted in the Haymarket tragedy, and European Socialists, shocked, decided to fix May 1 as the day for demanding better working conditions.

Even though the impetus for the May 1 Fête du Travail comes from America, your Labor Day is not celebrated then, but in September. And this difference in date changes everything. For in France, May 1 announces summer, and we also have a saying, "En mai, fais ce qu'il te plaît" - that is, in May, do as you please. The day is also the prelude to a series of warm-weather events that the French dote on: the Cannes film festival, the French Open tennis tournament and especially the Tour de France, even when it's always Lance Armstrong who wins.

Thus, in France, Labor Day is the beginning of a season of pleasures, while for you in America, it is the official end. You don't work that day, but vacation is over and it's time to roll up your sleeves and buckle down. You have one consolation: your Labor Day is always on a Monday, so you are sure of enjoying what we French call with delight a "week-end prolongé." May 1, however, capriciously moves around. This year was especially disappointing: May 1 was a Sunday, so no break from work. Next year, though, yippee: it's a Monday!

Aside from the date, the French and Americans simply celebrate Labor Day differently. Americans have picnics and family gatherings; we have the lily of the valley, brought into the city by rural folk who've gathered it in the woods, and protests. Every year, the famous May 1 protest gathers together union members, militants and leftists. This march, though closely covered by the news media, doesn't usually get a lot of attention from the public. There are exceptions, as in 2002, when the threat of the extreme right's coming to power drove a million Parisians into the streets. I was there too: engulfed in an enormous crowd, I found myself shoulder to shoulder with ... a colleague from the office. Here indeed is proof that May 1 is the Fête du Travail....

Still, it is the day when the Americans, like the French, should reflect on the meaning of their jobs. Everybody knows that the two nationalities don't have the same attitude toward work. Americans think the French are lazy, and the French think Americans are interested only in money. Of course, these are stereotypes, as are many other perceptions we have about each other (after all, some Frenchwomen do get fat). But because the French work 35 hours a week, Americans sneer, forgetting that in many years French workers have a higher productivity rate than their American counterparts - proof that you can work better by working less.

Americans also forget that going to work every day is often more a chore than a pleasure. You seem more and more disillusioned about work: only a third of you say that you love your jobs. In such conditions, it's not surprising that you spend on average two hours of your workday ... not working. Answering personal e-mail messages, shopping online, playing computer games or chatting with co-workers ... it's so much more pleasant than working, really.

My American friends, there you are caught, red-handed, being lazy. Is that enough to reconcile the Americans and the French? United in indolence, a foundation of sloth in which Labor Day is the cornerstone. Will Laziness Unlimited be the future of work?

Corinne Maier, an economist, is the author of "Bonjour Laziness: Jumping Off the Corporate Ladder." This article was translated by The Times from the French.



On Wednesday morning a group of approximately 1,000 citizens pulling 500 boats left the Acadiana Mall in Lafayette in the early morning and headed to New Orleans with a police escort from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Department. The flotilla of trucks pulling boats stretched over five miles. This citizen rescue group was organized by La. State Senator, Nick Gautreaux from Vermilion Parish. The group was comprised of experienced boaters, licensed fishermen and hunters, people who have spent their entire adult life and teenage years on the waterways of Louisiana.

The State Police waved the flotilla of trucks/boats through the barricades in LaPlace and we sped into New Orleans via I-10 until past the airport and near the Clearview exit. At that time we were stopped by agents of the FEMA controlled La. Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries.

A young DWF agent strolled through the boats and told approximately half of the citizens that their boats were too large because the water had dropped during the night and that they should turn around and go home.

They were pulling a large (24ft) shallow draft aluminum boat that can safely carry 12 passengers and had ramp access which would allow the elderly and infirm to have easier access to the boat. They then politely informed the DWF agent that the local and national media had consistently reported that the water level had risen during the night which contradicted his statement to them that the water was dropping and no boat over 16 ft. in length would be allowed to participate in rescue operations.

They then specifically asked the DWF agent that they (and other citizens in the flotilla) be allowed to go to the hospitals and help evacuate the sick and the doctors and nurses stranded there. They offered to bring these people back to Lafayette, in our own vehicles, in order to ensure that they received proper and prompt medical care.

The DWF agent did not want to hear this and ordered them home -- all five hundred boats. They complied with the DWF agent's orders, turned around and headed back to Lafayette along with half of the flotilla. However, two friends were pulling a smaller 15 ft alumaweld with a 25 hp. The DWF agents let them through to proceed to the rescue operation launch site.

They were allowed to drive to the launch site where the FEMA controlled La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries were launching their rescue operations (via boat). They reported to me that there were over 200 DWF agents just standing around and doing nothing. They were kept there for approximately 3 hours. During that time they observed a large number of DWF agents doing absolutely nothing. Why? Because FEMA would not let them help! After three hours had passed they were told that they were not needed and should go home. They complied with the DWF's orders and turned around and went home to Lafayette. . .

On Tuesday afternoon, August 30, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee asked for all citizens with boats to come to the aid of Jefferson Parish. A short time later Dwight Landreneau, the head of the La. Depart. of Wildlife and Fisheries, got on television and remarked that his agency had things under control and citizen help was not needed. . .


JOSEPH R. CHENELLY - Combat operations are underway on the streets "to take this city back" in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "This place is going to look like Little Somalia," Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome. "We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control."

Jones said the military first needs to establish security throughout the city. Military and police officials have said there are several large areas of the city are in a full state of anarchy. . . (He means "chaos", of course.--Pete)

While some fight the insurgency in the city, other carry on with rescue and evacuation operations. Helicopters are still pulling hundreds of stranded people from rooftops of flooded homes. . .

Numerous soldiers also told Army Times that they have been shot at by armed civilians in New Orleans. Spokesmen for the Joint Task Force Headquarters at the Superdome were unaware of any servicemen being wounded in the streets, although one soldier is recovering from a gunshot wound sustained during a struggle with a civilian in the dome Wednesday night. . .

Spc. Cliff Ferguson of the 527th Engineer Battalion pointed out that he knows there are plenty of decent people in New Orleans, but he said it is hard to stay motivated considering the circumstances.

"This is making a lot of us think about not reenlisting." Ferguson said. "You have to think about whether it is worth risking your neck for someone who will turn around and shoot at you. We didn’t come here to fight a war. We came here to help."