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Obama: Tone, Truth and the Democratic Party

Friday, September 30, 2005
Sen Obama posted a great article on his blog and on the Daily Kos site today. Read it all, but here is my favorite quote (and the emphais is mine):
Unless we are open to new ideas, and not just new packaging, we won't change enough hearts and minds to initiate a serious energy or fiscal policy that calls for serious sacrifice. We won't have the popular support to craft a foreign policy that meets the challenges of globalization or terrorism while avoiding isolationism and protecting civil liberties. We certainly won't have a mandate to overhaul a health care policy that overcomes all the entrenched interests that are the legacy of a jerry-rigged health care system. And we won't have the broad political support, or the effective strategies, required to lift large numbers of our fellow citizens out of numbing poverty.

The bottom line is that our job is harder than the conservatives' job. After all, it's easy to articulate a belligerent foreign policy based solely on unilateral military action, a policy that sounds tough and acts dumb; it's harder to craft a foreign policy that's tough and smart. It's easy to dismantle government safety nets; it's harder to transform those safety nets so that they work for people and can be paid for. It's easy to embrace a theological absolutism; it's harder to find the right balance between the legitimate role of faith in our lives and the demands of our civic religion. But that's our job. And I firmly believe that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government because, in the end, a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate.

Let me be clear: I am not arguing that the Democrats should trim their sails and be more "centrist." In fact, I think the whole "centrist" versus "liberal" labels that continue to characterize the debate within the Democratic Party misses the mark. Too often, the "centrist" label seems to mean compromise for compromise sake, whereas on issues like health care, energy, education and tackling poverty, I don't think Democrats have been bold enough. But I do think that being bold involves more than just putting more money into existing programs and will instead require us to admit that some existing programs and policies don't work very well. And further, it will require us to innovate and experiment with whatever ideas hold promise (including market- or faith-based ideas that originate from Republicans).

Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will. This is more than just a matter of "framing," although clarity of language, thought, and heart are required. It's a matter of actually having faith in the American people's ability to hear a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter.

quote of the day

Wednesday, September 28, 2005
"Yes, we Democrats will have some fun with Tom DeLay's unhappy "accountability moment" today, if only because of his insufferable self-righteousness, and the rich irony of his angry denunciations of prosecutorial powers, given his central role in the effort to remove Bill Clinton from office based on the dubious findings of a prosecutor far more powerful than Ronnie Earle.
And yes, it's important to note the agony of House Republicans in figuring out how to formally replace the guy who has actually been running the House since Newt Gingrich left town.

But Democrats need to raise their game, raise the stakes, and raise the broader issues involved in the DeLay saga, right now.

I'm sure others are raising similar points elsewhere, but I do want to quote the DLC's statement on the subject today:
"Tempting as it is to dwell on the possibility that this self-appointed moral arbiter of the nation could soon be strolling the halls not of Congress but of a Texas correctional facility, we urge Democrats to keep focused on a much bigger issue: the systemic pattern of corruption, cronyism, influence-peddling, and partisan intimidation in Washington.

"DeLay is clearly a major ink-spot in that pattern; even if he evades imprisonment on the Texas charges, let's remember that the object of the fundraising effort in question was The Hammer's obsessive campaign to launch a re-redistricting of U.S. House seats to buttress his power in the Capitol. And that broader determination to ruthlessly hold and use power by the GOP is what has given us a vast array of ethical lapses and bad policies, from Jack Abramoff's enormous roulette wheel of shakedowns and wirepullings, to a long series of fiscally ruinous special-interest raids on the U.S. Treasury, and even down to the staffing of FEMA with Republican campaign operatives."

It's time for Democrats to connect the dots, and launch an intense, sustained, united reform message and agenda for the country.

DeLay doesn't really matter. What really matters is the system which he has served, and what it has done and is doing to our country."

-- Ed Kilgore

House of Scandal

I suspect that the DCCC site: Tom Delay's House of Scandal will get a few more hit's today...


Take Back the Senate Part II

Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Speaking of taking back the Senate... Senator Reid has a new site and blog set up for exactly that reason... check it out...givemhellharry.com

Dems, 2006 and the Senate

Hat tip to Swing State Project on this quote from pollster Charlie Cook and the Democrats current opportunities with the Senate 06 midterms...Help support the DSCC here:

In the Senate, though, Democrats need a net gain of six seats to win the majority, so logically they need to put six GOP seats in play.

They have accomplished that; in fact, seven Republican-held seats are now in play. They are the seats held by Republican Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, Jim Talent of Missouri, Conrad Burns of Montana, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee.

Democrats have credible candidates in all but one of those states, Ohio.

It appears likely that their nominee will be Paul Hackett, the lawyer and Iraq War veteran who came close to picking off a special election in Ohio's 2nd congressional district against now-Rep. Jean Schmidt.

If GOP Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi retires, as many expect he will, that would set up yet another competitive Republican-held Senate seat, bringing the total to eight...

The party getting pinched usually wins few, if any, challenger races and loses the lion's share of the competitive open seats as well.

The point of all of this is to serve as a reminder that while Democrats certainly need a political equivalent of a tsunami to take control of the House, it is possible.

But the size and power of the wave necessary to flip the Senate might be substantially less than commonly believed.

Reuters News: Bush may find it hard to resist Katrina commission

From Reuters news:

The White House and Republicans may find it difficult to resist mounting pressure for an independent commission to examine government failures in the response to Hurricane Katrina, experts said on Tuesday.

Only two Democrats showed up as a House of Representatives committee began investigating the response to the devastating August 29 hurricane. The Democratic leadership argues that an inquiry controlled by the Republican majority in Congress lacks credibility and cannot be trusted to honestly probe failures of the Bush administration.

Republicans have so far rejected calls for a bipartisan commission similar to the panel that investigated the September 11, 2001, attacks, even though polls show an overwhelming majority of the public supports such a probe.

A Gallup Poll last week found 81 percent of respondents in favor of an independent investigation with only 18 percent backing a congressional investigation.

"I don't know why they are resisting so hard," said pollster John Zogby. "The public is angry and they want answers. The Republicans may have picked a fight they can't win."

The hurricane stranded hundreds of thousands of mainly black, poor, old and sick people in New Orleans for days as law and order broke down. More than 1,000 people in Louisiana and Mississippi died and television images of survivors trapped without food and water stunned the world and raised issues of race and class in the U.S. emergency response.

"It is extremely important that a commission independent of the executive and legislative branches analyzes the Katrina disaster and the events leading up to it," said Kathleen Tierney, director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado.

The center on Tuesday began circulating a letter calling for an independent commission to academic and other disaster management practitioners and experts.

"We need a panel of qualified experts that is knowledgeable and objective and has all the investigative and subpoena powers necessary," Tierney said.

Critics of the administration, including groups like MoveOn.org, are beginning to organize petitions around the country and have already collected 400,000 signatures. Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, also strongly support an independent commission.

Some political analysts believe that ultimately the Republicans will have to give way, just as the White House, which initially opposed the creation of the September 11 commission, was eventually forced to agree to it.

Some senior Republicans have said privately they should avoid a fight on this issue, given the polls.

Republican leaders insist that Congress and the White House, which last week appointed President George W. Bush's homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, to head an internal inquiry, were perfectly capable of getting the facts.

But House Democrats planned to introduce a petition to force a floor debate and vote on creating a commission..."

quote of the day

Quote of the Day and Call to Action:

"The American people have unequivocally called for an independent commission to find out the truth of what went wrong in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, not a partisan whitewash.

Michael Brown's appearance before the sham committee proves that Republicans are adept at staging photo opportunities, not meaningful and rigorous oversight of the Bush Administration. Questioning one Republican crony will not get to the truth of the disastrous federal response to Hurricane Katrina and prevent it from happening again. Nor will it atone for Congressional Republicans abdication of their oversight responsibilities.

House Democrats believe that the victims and survivors of Hurricane Katrina deserve the truth, which will only be provided by an independent commission, based on the rigorous and effective example of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. An independent commission is critical to restoring Americans' confidence that the federal government will adequately respond to disasters, and keep them safer."

- Nancy Pelosi

And be sure to add your name here: http://www.ForceTheVote.com/

quote of the day: 1900

Tuesday, September 20, 2005
AP News:

"The war in Iraq passed a sobering milepost Tuesday when U.S. officials reported 10 more Americans were killed — six of them members of the armed forces, raising to more than 1,900 the number of U.S. service members who have died in the country since the invasion."

House GOP Scraps Plan for Joint Probe on Hurricane Respons

Monday, September 19, 2005
From the LA Times...Good for the Dems in Congress standing against and stopping what would have been a falsely "bipartisan" hearing:

"Congressional Republicans signaled today that they have abandoned their plan to conduct a joint House-Senate probe of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

In announcing a joint probe this month, the Republican leadership had said it would be the most efficient way to investigate the administration's much-criticized initial response to the hurricane. But today, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) conceded that he could not overcome Democratic opposition to a joint investigation.

The Democratic leadership has refused to appoint members to a joint committee, citing the lack of equal representation of Democrats on the panel, and the lack of power to issue subpoenas that the majority opposed. Democrats also have insisted on an independent inquiry.

Democratic opposition has left Republicans little maneuvering room for mounting a credible probe. With the joint investigation apparently off the table, Republicans can only hope that Democrats will participate in each chamber's separate investigation. It was far from clear today that Democrats would do that."

quote of the day

"In the 1960s we fought a war on poverty. Our intentions were good, but sometimes we expected government to do things that only individuals and communities can achieve. Sometimes we gave too much money to bureaucracies, not people. Yet those efforts still helped cut the poverty rate by 43 percent from 1963 to 1973.

Again, in the 1990s, the Earned Income Tax Credit and welfare reform helped lift 7 million more people out of poverty. If we are going to fight poverty, we have to commit ourselves once more, more deeply than ever before.

To be true to our values, our country must build a Working Society - an America where everyone who works hard finally has the rewards to show for it. In the Working Society, nobody who works full-time should have to raise children in poverty, or in fear that one health emergency or pink slip will drive them over the cliff.

In the Working Society, everyone who works full-time will at last have something to show for it - a home of their own, an account where their savings and paycheck can grow.

In the Working Society, everyone willing to work will have the chance to get ahead. Anyone who wants to go to college and work will be able to go the first year for free.

In the Working Society, people who work have the right to live in communities where the streets are safe, the schools are good, and jobs can be reached.

In the Working Society, everyone will also be asked to hold up their end of the bargain - to work, to hold off having kids until they're ready, and to do their part for their kids when the time comes.

The first test of the working society will be in the Gulf. And the central principle of our effort should be the one I just outlined: We can only renew the Gulf if we renew the lives of the Gulf's people by encouraging and honoring work.

The President doesn't get that. At a time when a million people have been displaced, many already poor before the storm; when the only shot many people have is a good job rebuilding New Orleans, the President intervened to suspend prevailing wage laws so his contractor friends can cut wages for a hard day's work.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the President never suggested cutting million-dollar salaries for the heads of Halliburton or the other companies profiting from these contracts. A President who never met an earmark he wouldn't approve or a millionaire tax cut he wouldn't promote decided to slash wages for the least of us.

But will this attention to poverty be sustained or transient? That depends on our leaders - whether we step up and sustain our moral commitment as the country's conscience would naturally want us to do. I hope we all do.

So, today, I implore all Americans - don't turn off the television and put the disturbing images out of your mind. Don't let yourself think that because the levees in New Orleans are being repaired, we have built all of America's levees high enough.

Rather, stand with me today and pledge to work for an America that doesn't ignore those in need and lifts up those who wish to succeed. Pledge to hold your government accountable for ignoring the suffering of so many for far too long. And pledge to do your part to build the America that we have dreamed of - where the bright light of opportunity shines on every person - an America where the family you are born into, or the color of your skin, will never control your destiny."

John Edwards

Another Post-Speech Poll on Bush and Katrina

Another post-speech poll on the nation's reaction to Bush's handling of the crisis:

"3 polling days after George W. Bush's prime-time speech to the nation from Jackson Square in New Orleans, a 'can't win' dynamic is unfolding for the President, according to exclusive SurveyUSA data gathered Friday 9/16, Saturday 9/17 and Sunday 9/18. The number of Americans who now approve of the President's response to Hurricane Katrina is down: 40% today compared to 42% before he announced the Gulf Opportunity Zone. The number of Americans who disapprove of the President's response to Katrina is up: 56% today compared to 52% before the speech."

Editorial: Katrina review/Give the job to the 9/11 group

Sunday, September 18, 2005
Could not agree with this more, from the Star Tribune editorial page...here are snippets:

"The White House and congressional Republicans are resisting mightily the idea of creating an independent commission to examine the failures in preparation for and responses to Hurricane Katrina. What we don't understand is why. If President Bush was sincere in his pledge last week to identify and fix the weaknesses Katrina revealed, an independent commission would seem the best way to proceed, partly because it would avoid overt politicization of the process. Indeed, we know just the group for the job: the 9/11 Commission. It did a masterful job and is still functioning unofficially; what it found bears closely on what went wrong when Katrina hit.

Indeed, Thomas Kean, former Republican governor of New Jersey and commission chairman, said last week that the poor response to Katrina by all levels of government and the communication difficulties that developed "magnify the flaws in our preparation and emergency response system" that the commission identified in its examination of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "With a natural disaster or terrorism, the human toll is the same," he said. "This tragedy should heighten our efforts and raise the priority level to help insure the safety of our citizens..."

So in the commission you have a highly respected, bipartisan group with great expertise on preparing for and responding to emergencies -- and which already has identified, from its study of 9/11, many of the weaknesses that resurfaced in dealing with Katrina. It would be beyond folly to throw that professionalism and expertise aside in favor of a politicized congressional investigation or an administration-run review. Neither would have the credibility the 9/11 Commission would bring to the effort. Neither would also be likely to contribute as much to the vital effort of truly getting the nation ready for the next catastrophe.

Minnesota's Sen. Norm Coleman insists that evaluating what went wrong is a job for Congress because of its oversight responsibilities. He has a point, but that congressional role has been severely compromised by increased partisanship. As Sen. Robert Byrd rightly laments, members of the Senate, once fiercely protective of Senate prerogatives, no longer have any sense of institutional loyalty and independence; their loyalty is to the party, and if they are Republican, that loyalty extends currently to this White House and its protection.

Thus any congressional review of what happened when Katrina hit is likely to be far less thorough, less objective and less credible than if the job goes to an independent commission -- preferably the 9/11 Commission."

Rasmuessen Poll: Bush Katrina Ratings Fall After Speech

Interesting new polling that Bush's approval actually dropped after the Prime Time speech...I haven't seen any other polling yet that sees the same thing, but interesting to see this poll indicating that some of Bush's conservative base fraying...

"Thirty-five percent (35%) of Americans now say that President Bush has done a good or excellent job responding to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. That's down from 39% before his speech from New Orleans.

The latest Rasmussen Reports survey shows that 41% give the President poor marks for handling the crisis, that's up 37% before the speech...

The spending plan has not been well received by conservative voters--just 43% favor the huge federal commitment partisan while 37% are opposed. This is especially striking given how supportive the President's base has remained throughout his Administration.

The President's reconstruction plan is favored by 66% of liberal voters. Still, only 10% of liberals give the President a good or an excellent rating for handling the crisis.

Following the speech, the President's rating for handling the Katrina crisis fell eight points among Republicans (from 71% good or excellent to 63%). The President also draws good or excellent marks from 11% of Democrats and 31% of those not affiliated with either major political party."

First Survey of Katrina Survivors

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Washington Post did the first polling of Katrina survivors I'd seen. They interviewed displaced New Orleans residents who had been moved to a Houston shelter, and while the whole poll has interesting facts in it -- including the number that 61% say that the experience had made them feel that "governement didn't care for people like them" -- the thing that suprised me was that 81% said that the experience had "strengthened their religious faith" and over 80% said they were "hopeful" and "grateful."

One Line Bush Speech Review; and A Better Way

Thursday, September 15, 2005
My favorite review so far of Bush's speech came from this comment on the Think Progress blog:

"In a nutshell, Bush’s recovery from Katrina is just what we’ve come to expect: almost unlimited –and unfunded - federal largesse, with no accountability for past mistakes or independent oversight for the future."

For a much better vision, check out the Center for American Progress on a Progressive Vision for the Gulf Coast reconstruction...

Call your Republican Sentator: Ask for an Independent Katrina Commission

From Americablog:

"Call all the Republican Senators, fill their office voice mails with messages. Ask them why they voted against forming an impartial, independent commission to find out the truth about what went wrong with Hurricane Katrina? (Or in the case of the Louisiana Republican Senator, ask him why he didn't vote.) Ask them why they would rather have America unprepared for a future chemical, biological or nuclear attack from Al Qaeda? If we don't know why we were unprepared today, we will surely be unprepared tomorrow."

Then they give a handly list of all the Sentors, phone numbers, and web sites...

Make your voice heard...

quote of the day

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"I called for an independent Katrina Commission because it is simply not appropriate for government to investigate itself. If we are truly going to provide the people in the Gulf – and all Americans – with the answers they deserve, we need an independent commission free of partisan politics. It is also important that Congress not be distracted from the task at hand – making sure that our fellow citizens get all the help they need as they recover and rebuild.

What happened today on the Senate floor is the same thing that happened four years ago when our nation was desperately searching for answers after 9/11. Urgent calls for an independent commission were repeatedly ignored, but the American people did not fall silent. They continued to demand action and eventually the Administration relinquished its opposition to the 9/11 Commission. And our nation was well served by the Commission’s work.

On behalf of the people of the Gulf who I visited with last week in Houston, and all Americans who are demanding answers, I will continue to fight for the creation of the Katrina Commission. I firmly believe that we need to look back to see what went wrong so we can move forward and do better. Only through an independent Katrina Commission will we be able to know that no storm or no act of terrorism will ever again leave us so unable to respond."

-- Sen. Hillary Clinton

AP News: Repubs Vote Down independent Katrina Commission

From AP News...This bid for a truly fair, independent and bipartisan investigation was shot down by every single Senate Republican... Dems need to make the case for true accountability on this and make that case strongly...As with the 911 Commission the Republicans fought against true accountability and it was the voice and will of the people that made it happen, much to the nation's benefit.

Get angry...Make your voice known.... MoveOn helps you write the media here, and DFA is pushing to get over 50,000 signatures in an online petition to the here...

Here is a snippet from the AP News story:

"Senate Republicans on Wednesday scuttled an attempt by Sen. Hillary Clinton to establish an independent, bipartisan panel patterned after the 9/11 Commission to investigate what went wrong with federal, state and local governments' response to Hurricane Katrina.

The New York Democrat's bid to establish the panel — which would have also made recommendations on how to improve the government's disaster response apparatus — failed to win the two-thirds majority needed to overcome procedural hurdles. Clinton got only 44 votes, all from Democrats and independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont. Fifty-four Republicans all voted no.

"Just as with 9/11, we did not get to the point where we believed we understood what happened until an independent investigation was conducted," Clinton said.

The Senate vote is hardly likely to be the last word on whether to create an independent commission or as an alternative a special congressional committee to investigate Katrina. The 9/11 Commission was established in 2002 after resistance from Republicans and the White House, and opinion polls show the public strongly supports the idea. In a CNN/USA Today Gallup poll taken Sept. 8-11, 70 percent of those surveyed supported an independent panel to investigate the government's response to Katrina. Only 29 percent were opposed.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has rebuffed a bid by House and Senate GOP leaders to create a committee patterned after the 1987 Iran-Contra panel that would have a GOP majority — reflecting their dominance of Congress.

Reid has instead vowed that any bid by Republican leaders to establish a special bipartisan committee involving lawmakers from both House and Senate will go forward only if Democrats have equal representation."

Newsweek: A Post Katrina "Come-to-Jesus" Moment

Blog or Website
From the latest Newsweek, on Post-Katrina politics, and Christian morality in the US...I especially like her observation that the mistake of shrinking Christian conern down to a few sexual issues turns out to be "incredibly easy lifting compared to what Jesus actually asks of us." Here are excerpts:

"There was a great piece in Harper's last month, "The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong'' by Bill McKibben, about how three out of four Americans believe the Bible teaches this: "God helps those who help themselves.'' The Gospel according to Mark? Luke? Actually, it was Ben Franklin who came up with these words to live by...

"The thing is," McKibben writes, "not only is Franklin's wisdom not biblical; it's counterbiblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor.

We as a nation—a proudly, increasingly loudly Christian nation—have somehow convinced ourselves that the selfish choice is usually the moral one, too. (What a deal!) You know how this works: It's wrong to help poor people because "handouts'' reward dependency and thus hurt more than they help. So, do the right thing—that is, walk right on by—and by all means hang on to your hard-earned cash.

Thus do we deny the working poor a living wage, resent welfare recipients expected to live on a few hundred dollars a month, object to the whopping .16 percent of our GNP that goes to foreign aid—and still manage to feel virtuous about all of the above.

Which is how "Christian" morality got to be all about other people's sex lives—and incredibly easy lifting compared to what Jesus actually asks of us. Defending traditional marriage? A breeze. Living in one? Less so. Telling gay people what they can't do? Piece o' cake. But responding to the wretched? Loving the unlovable? Forgiving the ever-so-occasionally annoying people you actually know? Hard work, as our president would say, and rather more of a stretch.

A lot of us are angry at our public officials just now, and rightly so. But we are complicit, too; top to bottom, we picked this government, which has certainly met our low expectations.

The Bush administration made deep and then still deeper cuts in antipoverty programs, and we liked that. (The genius of the whole Republican program, in fact, is that it not only offers tax cuts and morality, but tax cuts as morality. Americans do, I think, want to feel they are doing the right thing, and when I hear an opponent of abortion rights say, "I'm voting for the most vulnerable, the unborn,'' I have to respect that. Of course, we also like tax breaks and cheap gas and cranking the thermostat up and down—so when Republicans play to both our better angels and our less altruistic ones, it's not that tough a sell.)

But have Democrats loudly decried the inhumanity—or even the hidden, deferred costs of the Bush cuts in services to the most vulnerable among the already born? Heavens, no, with a handful of exceptions, such as former vice-presidential nominee John Edwards, who spoke every single day of his campaign—and ever since—about our responsibilities toward those struggling just to get by in the "other America..."

Immediately after the disaster, Bush quickly intervened—to make it possible for refiners to produce dirtier gasoline. He has since zapped working people on the Gulf Coast all over again by suspending the 1931 law that requires employers to pay the prevailing wage to workers on all federally financed projects.

Others in his party have expressed concern about all the freebies evacuees will be enjoying: "How do you separate the needy from those who just want a $2,000 handout?'' Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski asked—by way of explaining why debit cards for Katrina victims were a bad idea.

So far, though, I'd love to be wrong, I see no reason to think the president's sinking poll numbers will persuade him that there's more to (pro-)life than opposing abortion.

I still dare to hope Democrats may yet remember why they are Democrats, though. And that would be a real come-to-Jesus moment."

Quote of the Day for 9/11

Sunday, September 11, 2005
Excerpts from this NY Times essay. The whole thing is brilliant, here are bits:

"Four years after we watched the towers fall, Americans have not succeeded in "ridding the world of evil." We have managed to show ourselves, our friends and most of all our enemies the limits of American power.

Instead of fighting the real war that was thrust upon us on that incomprehensible morning four years ago, we stubbornly insisted on fighting a war of the imagination, an ideological struggle that we defined not by frankly appraising the real enemy before us but by focusing on the mirror of our own obsessions. And we have finished - as the escalating numbers of terrorist attacks, the grinding Iraq insurgency, the overstretched American military and the increasing political dissatisfaction at home show - by fighting precisely the kind of war they wanted us to fight...

"Washington policy and defense cultures still seek out cold-war models," as members of the Defense Science Board, a Defense Department task force commissioned to examine the war on terror, observed in a report last year. "With the surprise announcement of a new struggle, the U.S. government reflexively inclined toward cold-war-style responses to the new threat, without a thought or a care as to whether these were the best responses to a very different strategic situation."

Al Qaeda was not the Nazis or the Soviet Communists. Al Qaeda controlled no state, fielded no regular army. It was a small, conspiratorial organization, dedicated to achieving its aims through guerrilla tactics, notably a kind of spectacular terrorism carried to a level of apocalyptic brutality the world had not before seen. Mass killing was the necessary but not the primary aim, for the point of such terror was to mobilize recruits for a political cause - to move sympathizers to act - and to tempt the enemy into reacting in such a way as to make that mobilization easier...

We should return here to the lessons of Afghanistan, not only the obvious one of the defeat of a powerful Soviet Army by guerrilla forces but the more subtle one taught by the Americans, who by clever use of covert aid to the Afghan resistance tempted the Soviets to invade the country and thereby drew "the Russians into an Afghan trap."

Bin Laden seems to have hoped to set in motion a similar strategy. According to a text attributed to Saif al-Adel, a former Egyptian Army colonel now generally identified as bin Laden's military chief, "the ultimate objective was to prompt" the United States "to come out of its hole" and take direct military action in an Islamic country. "What we had wished for actually happened. It was crowned by the announcement of Bush Jr. of his crusade against Islam and Muslims everywhere."

After Tora Bora, the Qaeda fighters who survived regrouped in neighboring countries... Not all the fighters would return to Afghanistan. Other targets of opportunity loomed on the horizon of the possible. "Abu Mus'ab and his Jordanian and Palestinian comrades opted to go to Iraq," al-Adel recalled, for, he said, an "examination of the situation indicated that the Americans would inevitably make a mistake and invade Iraq sooner or later. Such an invasion would aim at overthrowing the regime. Therefore, we should play an important role in the confrontation and resistance."

Abu Mus'ab is Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi - or A.M.Z. to the American troops who are pursuing him and his Qaeda in Mesopotamia forces all over the shattered landscape of occupied Iraq. The United States, as Al Qaeda had hoped, had indeed come out of its hole...

It was not a war the Americans had been trained or equipped to fight. With fewer than 150,000 troops - and many fewer combat soldiers - they were trying to contain a full-blown insurgency in a country the size of California. The elusive enemy - an evolving, loose coalition of a score or so groups, some of them ex-Baathists from Saddam Hussein's dozen or so security agencies, some former Iraqi military personnel, some professional Islamic insurgents like Zarqawi, some foreign volunteers from Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or Syria come to take the jihad to the Americans - attacked not with tanks or artillery or infantry assaults but with roadside bombs and suicide car bombers and kidnappings. Iraq, bin Laden declared, had become a "golden opportunity" to start a "third world war" against "the crusader-Zionist coalition..."

It is difficult to think of a place in which terror has been deployed on such a scale: there have been suicide truck bombs, suicide tanker bombs, suicide police cars, suicide bombers on foot, suicide bombers posing as police officers, suicide bombers posing as soldiers, even suicide bombers on bicycles. While the American death toll climbs steadily toward 2,000, the number of Iraqi dead probably stands at 10 times that and perhaps many more; no one knows. Conservative unofficial counts put the number of Iraqi dead in the war at somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000, in a country a tenth the size of the United States...

The sun is setting on American dreams in Iraq; what remains now to be worked out are the modalities of withdrawal, which depend on the powers of forbearance in the American body politic. But the dynamic has already been set in place. The United States is running out of troops. By the spring of 2006, nearly every active-duty combat unit is likely to have been deployed twice. The National Guard and Reserves, meanwhile, make up an unprecedented 40 percent of the force, and the Guard is in the "stage of meltdown," as Gen. Barry McCaffrey, retired, recently told Congress. Within 24 months, "the wheels are coming off." For all the apocalyptic importance President Bush and his administration ascribed to the Iraq war, they made virtually no move to expand the military, no decision to restore the draft. In the end, the president judged his tax cuts more important than his vision of a "democratic Middle East."

The administration's relentless political style, integral to both its strength and its weakness, left it wholly unable to change course and to add more troops when they might have made a difference. That moment is long past; the widespread unpopularity of the occupation in Iraq and in the Islamic world is now critical to insurgent recruitment and makes it possible for a growing insurgent force numbering in the tens of thousands to conceal itself within the broader population...

We cannot know what future Osama bin Laden imagined when he sent off his 19 suicide terrorists on their mission four years ago. He got much wrong; the U.S. military, light years ahead of the Red Army, would send no tank divisions to Afghanistan, and there has been no uprising in the Islamic world. One suspects, though, that if bin Laden had been told on that day that in a mere 48 months he would behold a world in which the United States, "the idol of the age," was bogged down in an endless guerrilla war fighting in a major Muslim country; a world in which its all-powerful army, with few allies and little sympathy, found itself overstretched and exhausted; in which its dispirited people were starting to demand from their increasingly unpopular leader a withdrawal without victory - one suspects that such a prophecy would have pleased him.

He had struck at the American will, and his strategy, which relied in effect on the persistent reluctance of American leaders to speak frankly to their people about the costs and burdens of war and to expend the political capital that such frank talk would require, had proved largely correct."

-- Mark Danner, professor of Journalism and Politics at the University of California

AP: Analysis Sees Deficits Growing Under Bush

Saturday, September 10, 2005
newsFrom AP News:

"Even before the cost of Hurricane Katrina is added to the federal ledger, a Congressional Budget Office study commissioned by Democrats predicts President Bush will fail to keep his promise to cut the deficit in half by the time he leaves office.

The study by the nonpartisan CBO assumes that Congress will heed Bush's call for new tax cuts and for making those passed in 2001 and 2003 permanent. It also assumes a big slowdown in spending on the Iraq war, tight caps on domestic agency budgets and new individual Social Security accounts.

The study was requested by Rep. John M. Spratt (news, bio, voting record) Jr., D-S.C., the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. He says it reflects a likelier budget scenario than CBO's official estimates, which do not foresee new tax cuts.

The study predicts that the $331 billion budget deficit projected for the current budget year would rise to $370 billion by 2009, the year Bush has promised to cut the deficit to at least $260 billion. Bush promised to cut the deficit in half from a projection in February 2004 of a $521 billion deficit for 2009.

By 2015, the deficit would hit $640 billion under CBO's study.

'Under CBO's new analysis of the Bush Administration's policies, every vital sign of the budget grows decidedly worse over the next ten years,' said Spratt. 'These new deficit figures show that the budget has deteriorated dramatically on this administration's watch.'

The White House Office of Management and Budget predicts the 2009 deficit at $162 billion, about 1 percent of the size of the economy.

"The federal budget picture is ... is steadily declining out over the next five years ... toward the President's goal of cutting the deficit in half," OMB Director Joshua B. Bolten said Wednesday. "I feel confident that we will remain on that path as long as we have continued good economic growth."

Bolten says the cost of Katrina — estimated by some Democrats to top $200 billion — will affect the deficit in the next few years but not make it dramatically worse over the longer term.

Critics like Spratt say the White House underestimates or omits likely costs, such as the Iraq war and reconstruction and annual amendments to the alternative minimum tax so that it does not hit more upper middle-income taxpayers."

Mouw: "Our Christian Task is Not to Win the Culture War"

Friday, September 09, 2005
Blog or WebsiteGreat quote from Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary on Christians, compromise, civility and justice in ever more polarized times:

"I have spent some time this summer reading the history of democratic thought. While the origins of democratic theory lie in ancient Greece and Rome, most significant thought on the subject occurred in the past four centuries or so in Great Britain and the United States. These thinkers agree on at least two points. One is that democratic politics requires a willingness to compromise. The other is that democracy at its best is practiced by leaders who engage each other in reasoned debate about the fundamental issues of civil society.

I doubt that anyone would hold up our nation’s more recent debates as stellar examples of intelligent give-and-take. And this is cause for lament. A nation can handle the legitimate passionate outcries of those whose lives have been drastically altered by Hurricane Katrina only if we also have nurtured a public culture in which there is a reasonable discussion of the basic goals of civil society. If we now turn to public debates about Supreme Court nominees that echo the understandably angry tones of the desperate folks in Mississippi and Louisiana, we will have failed significantly as a democratic culture.

There are many subgroups who need to be addressed on this subject, but I will limit my pleas here only to my own evangelical Christian kinfolk. We have been failing miserably in our public life at the two requirements I mentioned above. Our most vocal public leaders have shown little interest in finding compromises, and we have not shown much of a tendency to model a reasonable give-and-take approach to public debate. If anything, our public expressions have resembled more frontier revival sermons than the thoughtful writings of our nation’s founders. Yet we talk glowingly of the vision of “our Founding Fathers” and of “the Christian origins” of our nation’s values. Given our own public performance in recent years, this talk borders on the laughable.

There has never been a time when it was more important for our nation to take an honest look at itself, reach across the ideological barriers we have erected, and find new ways of living together in some semblance of order. The Mennonites have a wonderful phrase to describe our present situation as Christians. We are “living in the time of God’s patience.” As someone given to lament, this means that I regularly ask the Lord why he is being patient when so many bad things are happening. But it also means I must work at modeling that patience in important ways, living in the realization that the Supreme Ruler of the Universe will bring about--in ways that I will never fathom--a righteous culmination to a historical process that includes so much suffering.

Our Christian task is not to win the culture wars, but rather to be agents of justice in a world where easy formulas for solving fundamental human problems are not readily available. I hope my fellow evangelicals can be a part of the solution in our seriously divided nation. This may require us regularly also to complain to the Lord about his present “patience.” But it also surely means that we passionately pray for healing mercies--certainly for those who are experiencing intense suffering right now, but also for the important public debates about issues that affect the basic patterns of our lives together."

Quote of the Day: Supply Side Jesus

"And with the pictures we're seeing, they've revealed themselves as, I think, we see that the Republican agenda leaves a lot of people behind. And – you know, you mentioned that these people are a bunch of Jesus Freaks. Where is the Christianity?!...

But I think it's more – I think it's even more sinister than that, because I think that, you know, the thing about if it's not Christianity, what do these people believe in? The religion – the religion is supply-side economics. And that is the religion.

And if you think about it, with George Bush before 9/11, tax cuts. After 9/11, is it national security, terrorism? No. Tax cuts for me.

And I guarantee you the estate tax is coming up. Will any sacrifice be made for the infrastructure? Will any sacrifice be made for our soldiers over there? No. More tax cuts. That is his 'Jesus.'"

-- Actor Bradley Witford on Realtime with Bill Maher, when asked about Bush Administration's reaction to Katrina

Online Action: Petition to Congress for Independent Investigation of Katrina

call to action
From Democracy for America:

"We Need Answers, Not Spin
The federal response to Hurricane Katrina was a failure -- resulting in the cost of too many Americans lives. Our country deserves to know why this happened. President Bush and the Republican Congress cannot be allowed to investigate themselves. Only an Independent Commission with subpoena powers will discover the truth.

Please join us in calling for an Independent Commission to investigate the failed response to Hurricane Katrina..."

Sign the petition here...

Rueters: "White House faces new questions on Katrina relief"

Excerpts from Reuters News today:

"The Washington Post reported that five of the top eight FEMA officials had little experience in handling disasters and owed their jobs to their political ties to Bush.

As political operatives took the top jobs, professionals and experts in hurricanes and disasters left the agency, the newspaper said.

FEMA director Michael Brown, already under fire for his performance as the disaster unfolded, came under further pressure when Time magazine reported that his official biography released by the White House at the time of his nomination exaggerated his experience in disaster relief.

Brown was a friend of former Bush campaign director Joe Allbaugh, the previous FEMA head. Brown had also headed an Arabian horse association. Last week, as criticism of his response to the disaster swelled, Bush gave him a public vote of confidence, saying, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Brown's biography on the FEMA Web site said he had once served as an "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight," but Time quoted an official in Edmond, Oklahoma, as saying the job was actually "assistant to the city manager," with little responsibility. The magazine also said Brown padded his academic accomplishments.

"The assistant is more like an intern," city spokeswoman Claudia Deakins told the magazine. "Department heads did not report to him."

In response to the report on Time's Web site, FEMA issued a statement that took issue with elements related to an unofficial biography, and described his job in Edmond as "assistant to the city manager."

Bush administration officials were busy rushing fresh aid to the region while also trying to blunt the political fallout over the federal response to what, at an estimated $100 billion to $200 billion, could be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Colin Powell, the former U.S. secretary of state and a possible leader for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, criticized the disaster response by all levels of government in an interview to be broadcast on Friday.


"There was more than enough warning over time about the dangers to New Orleans. Not enough was done. I don't think advantage was taken of the time that was available to us, and I just don't know why," Powell said in excerpts of the "20/20" program interview posted to the ABC Web site."

Quote of the Day

Thursday, September 08, 2005
“The American people want Democrats and Republicans to put their differences aside and work together to address the emergency assistance and recovery needs of the victims of Hurricane Katrina and to investigate why the initial federal response compounded the disaster. Speaker Hastert and Leader Frist had an opportunity to join Democrats in this effort and have chosen not to.

For nearly a week, I have urged the Speaker to establish a bipartisan task force that is truly bipartisan, made up of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, has real authority to cut congressional red tape, and would have bipartisan subpoena power.

The partisan proposal that Republican leaders outlined yesterday is completely unacceptable. House Democrats will not participate in a sham that is just the latest example of congressional Republicans being the foxes guarding the President’s hen house.

Americans want an objective assessment of what went wrong during the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Now that Speaker Hastert and Leader Frist have decided to form a partisan committee, the only way to get Americans the truth about what went wrong and correct how we respond to future disasters is by creating an independent commission. It could be modeled after the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission, which did a huge service to our country with its excellent report detailing the urgent task before us to make our nation safer."

-- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi

Push for Bipartisan Independent Review of Katrina Part II

More on the Republican's push to avoid an independant investigation that would produce independant data on what went wrong with the Katrina rescue efforts...This time from ABCNews.com's "The Note":

"Congressional Republicans have decided (for now) that their political interests (as in 2002 and 2004) lie in solidarity with the Bush Administration. "We shall all hang together" is the unofficial mantra, and the clearest manifestation of that is the decision to produce a congressional investigation process that is precisely what the White House wanted, in terms of timing, focus, and the make up of the committee. As of now, the investigation is likely to be as tough as any other that this Congress has done of the Bush Administration (which is to say: not very, or at all), and Democrats have no leverage to change that."

But the same article notes:

"This Los Angeles Times blind quote: 'One Senate Republican aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, predicted that public outrage over the government's perceived failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina would eventually force Congress and the administration to agree to an independent inquiry.'"

Remember, Bush and team didn't want the Independent 911 Commisions either, but were forced to by the voice of the people, especially driven by the 911 families...OK, let's show some "public outrage."

Republicans Reject True Bi-partisan, Independant Review of Katrina Failures

call to actionFrom the Washington Post today... There must some good resources for online petitions and ways to protest this. The Republicans that control Congress seeking to avoid a true indpendent study of the Katriana recovery failures... Anyone know of good places springing up to voice our outrage at this?

"With the midterm congressional elections 14 months away, both parties see high stakes in where blame will eventually fall for the government's lagging response to Katrina. Yesterday, congressional Republicans tried to get a head start, announcing the formation of an investigative commission that they can control.

They rejected Democratic appeals to model the panel after the Sept. 11 commission, which was made up of non-lawmakers and was equally balanced between Republicans and Democrats. That commission won wide praise for assessing how the 2001 terrorist attacks occurred, and for recommending changes in the government's anti-terrorism structure.

House and Senate GOP leaders announced the "Hurricane Katrina Joint Review Committee," which will include only members of Congress, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats by a yet-to-be-determined ratio."

Pew Poll: 67% of Americans Criticial of Bush's Management of Gulf Disaster

From the latest Pew Polling:

"The American public is highly critical of President Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Two-in-three Americans (67%) believe he could have done more to speed up relief efforts, while just 28% think he did all he could to get them going quickly. At the same time, Bush’s overall job approval rating has slipped to 40% and his disapproval rating has climbed to 52%, among the highest for his presidency. Uncharacteristically, the president’s ratings have slipped the most among
his core constituents – Republicans and conservatives..."

The deep and enduring differences over Bush’s presidency are once again evident in attitudes toward government’s response to the disaster. Fully 85% of Democrats and 71% of independents think the president could have done more to get aid to hurricane victims flowing more quickly.

More than eight-in-ten blacks (85%) say Bush could have done more to get relief efforts going quickly, compared with 63% of whites. Blacks are also considerably more critical of the federal government’s performance in general – 77% say the federal government’s response was only fair or poor, compared with 55% of whites. While both of these attitudes are also strongly related to partisanship, these racial
differences remain even when party affiliation is taken into account.

Republicans, on balance, feel the president did all he could to get relief efforts going, but even among his own partisans 40% say he could have done more."

God's Baby Talk

Wednesday, September 07, 2005
A more personal story today.

Today was Cameron -- my two year old son's -- first day of school...Well, daycare actually, which I guess technically is pre-pre-school...

But as any member of the Los Angeles Paranoid Parents Community (or LAPPC) will tell you, if you don't get in the right waiting line for the right daycare, you can just forget about getting into the right waiting line for the right pre-school, and if you miss that, you set off a series of domino effects that will inexorably lead to your kid at 30 as a sniper in some tower. Who knew that somehow your mythic "permanent record," apparently now begins at age two?

Anyway, getting him ready for the big day was fun, marking the name "CAM" in felt tip pen on anything he could lose, throw, drop or put in odd places. Buying him his first lunchbox, which is now made mostly out of softer materials than they were when I was a kid. I assume so that it hurts less when kids whack each other in the head. Filling out endless forms.

One task in the process though stood out. it was that parents had to hand write a letter to the child, including a picture of the parents, on the very remote chance that there was a disaster -- Earthquakes or Riot or Terrorist act, or whatever -- would separated the daycare from the parents for a while. If that happened the teachers would hand out each letter to each child, and read it to them if they can't read yet.

We're instructed to write positive, encouraging things, about how they should listen to their teachers and how we would all be back together soon. Clearly it's meant for the older kids who can understand words better than Cammy can right now.

My wife and I both wrote to him and I closed the letter with:

"Cammy, be brave and take care of yourself and be good. I miss you so much and I can't wait to see you again really soon, and I love you so much. Your Daddy."

I thought about a lot of things after writing this disaster letter to Cam. I thought about how hard it must be for temporarily or permanently separated families in the Gulf coast. I thought about how alone people can be in the worst sense of that word. And I thought about the Bible, oddly enough.

I think if you don't have a love/hate relationship with the Bible you aren't really reading it. That said, I think that most of the problems I've had with the New and Old Testaments over my time as a Christian -- let's say 80% of them -- have come from my expectation that it was a different kind of book than it was. Expecting it to act like a Holy Encyclopedia -- an Answer book, for example. With that expectation, you are set up to be disappointed that there isn't a chapter on say the Trinity (alphabetized under the "T" section) that specifically calls out everything God has to say about his "Triune" nature. Or that you can't look up in the "S" section and get everything God has to say about Slavery. In many ways I see Scripture as being as much of a "Question Book" as an "Answer Book" now, raising questions to me, helping me literally to "quest" towards a deeper and truer understanding and connection with God.

Similar problems ensue when we think about Scripture as strictly and only a "historical documentary" or "scientific record." I am not saying that the Bible has no "answers," or that it has no "historicity," nor that it has no "scientific accuracy." I believe that the Bible has all those things inside it as gifts of sorts to us.

But I am saying you have to start by understanding the Book by understanding what type of book it is trying to be, versus what it is not trying to be. None of these literary forms (documentary, encyclopedia, scientific essay) existed as we think about them today when the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures we're being created.

Instead, I've come to see the Bible more like the note I wrote to Cameron. A family message from my Abba Father. Like a letter to a child.

Church reformer John Calvin felt something similarly, I think. When he was 26, he wrote the most influential work of his entire life, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. In them he wrote when God speaks to us in the Bible, it is like he has to use "baby talk" to communicate with us. Calvin wrote that God in his Word "lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children."

I'm at my best place with the Bible when I listen to it from that kinda perspective. And I hear some of the same words I wrote to my own boy:

"Be brave"

"Take care of yourself and be good."

"I love you so much"

"I Miss you so much and can't wait to see you again really soon."

"Speak Up, Be Proud and Change the World"

Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Blog or WebsiteHere is an older posting from Amy Sullivan from about a year ago, that somehow I missed back then to my detriment. It's pretty great. Read the whole post, but this is a good taste of it:

"One month ago, when I was home in Michigan with my parents, I returned to the Baptist Church where I spent my childhood. I hadn't been back in ten years and was feeling a bit ashamed, thinking that perhaps I had been too hard on the Baptists. Sitting in the pew that still bears the remnants of some Silly Putty that got loose from me during a service twenty-five years ago, I sang and prayed and listened with people who are my second family. And then, in the middle of an otherwise perfectly fine sermon, the pastor declared that it wasn't possible to be a good Christian and be a Democrat.

And I remembered why I left.

It is really a horrible feeling to be told that you are an unfit person of faith because of your political views. And it is equally disturbing to be told that your ability to participate in political dialogue is suspect because of your religious views. If I have done nothing else, I hope I have acted as a voice for those who embrace progressive politics because of, and not despite, their faith. You are not alone. Speak up, be proud, and change the world."

Deja Vu All Over Again: Haliburton and the Rebuilding of New Orleans

Monday, September 05, 2005
Blog or WebsiteGood stuff from Democracy Arsenal blog:

"Call me paranoid, but if Iraq is any indication, there's good reason to be concerned to ensure that the devastation of New Orleans does not wind up simply lining the pockets of contractors with deep connections to the Bush Administration.

For the reconstruction of Iraq, exigencies like the need for speed and the lack of security on the ground were used to justify granting massive, long-term no bid contracts to firms with tight ties to senior members of the Administration. The principal beneficiary was, of course, Halliburton, where Dick Cheney was CEO prior to becoming Vice President.

Rep. Henry Waxman has revealed that Halliburton and its subsidiaries have been awarded more than $10 billion in contracts for providing logistical support to US troops in Iraq and helping to rebuild that country's oil infrastructure...

Ten billion dollars have already been appropriated by Congress for the relief and reconstruction of New Orleans. Billions more will follow. Halliburton's already in on the action - under an existing $500 million contract with the navy they are rebuilding a Gulf Coast naval base...

What should happen?

* Competitive bidding for everything, or for everything but the work that must happen over the next few weeks;
* Zero-tolerance for shoddy accounting and over-billing - in Iraq we may have few alternatives, here there are many;
* Strict GAO and Congressional oversight of the reconstruction process from the get-go;
* Immediate planning for how to involve the local community and maximize opportunities for area companies, for skilled people and for the unemployed/unskilled labor;
* Close media scrutiny of the bail-out and reconstruction process as it unfolds - this story will have legs for years to come as either a tale of redemption or a chronicle of abuses piled on other abuses.

Molly Ivans: Katrina's Lesson that Politics Matters

Excerpts from Molly Ivans latest collumn:

"This is a column for everyone in the path of Hurricane Katrina who ever said, 'I'm sorry, I'm just not interested in politics,' or, 'There's nothing I can do about it,' or, 'Eh, they're all crooks anyway.'....

Had a storm the size of Katrina just had the grace to hold off for a while, it's quite likely no one would even remember what the Bush administration did two months ago. The national press corps has the attention span of a gnat, and trying to get anyone in Washington to remember longer than a year ago is like asking them what happened in Iznik, Turkey, in A.D. 325.

Just plain political bad luck that, in June, Bush took his little ax and chopped $71.2 million from the budget of the New Orleans Corps of Engineers, a 44 percent reduction. As was reported in New Orleans CityBusiness at the time, that meant "major hurricane and flood projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now."

The commander of the Corps' New Orleans district also immediately instituted a hiring freeze and cancelled the annual Corps picnic.

Our friends at the Center for American Progress note the Office of Technology Assessment used to produce forward-thinking plans such as "Floods: A National Policy Concern" and "A Framework for Flood Hazards Management." Unfortunately, the office was targeted by Newt Gingrich and the Republican right, and gutted years ago.

In fact, there is now a government-wide movement away from basing policy on science, expertise and professionalism, and in favor of choices based on ideology. If you're wondering what the ideological position on flood management might be, look at the pictures of New Orleans -- it seems to consist of gutting the programs that do anything.

Unfortunately, the war in Iraq is directly related to the devastation left by the hurricane. About 35 percent of Louisiana's National Guard is now serving in Iraq, where four out of every 10 soldiers are guardsmen. Recruiting for the Guard is also down significantly because people are afraid of being sent to Iraq if they join, leaving the Guard even more short-handed...

The levees of New Orleans, two of which are now broken and flooding the city, were also victims of Iraq war spending. Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, said on June 8, 2004, "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq."

This, friends, is why we need to pay attention to government policies, not political personalities, and to know whereon we vote. It is about our lives."

DSCC: Take Back the Senate Roadmap

Friday, September 02, 2005
From Senator Harry Reid I've endorsed this online, you should check it out, too:

"The good news is that Senate Democrats have a roadmap for taking back the Senate in 2006 and stopping the right wing from taking over our country. We're going to out-organize, out-maneuver, and out-raise the Republicans to stop to their extremist agenda and return to the business of the American people. And you are the secret weapon.


Our roadmap is simple. First, we're going to build the campaign infrastructure we need to win elections across the country. From effective grassroots strategies to cutting-edge technology to trained communications experts, each one of our campaigns will have everything it needs to win.

Then we'll watch our opponents like a hawk, ready to hold right-wing Republicans accountable every time they pander to their extremist base at the expense of the broader national interest. Finally, we're going to use that momentum to deploy a nationwide grassroots army with cutting edge precision to get out the vote and sell the Democratic agenda. That's where you come in.

If you are ready to join our campaign to take back the Senate and ultimately to take our country back from right-wing Republicans, then I hope you will endorse our roadmap and declare that you are ready to do your part to help us succeed.


I wouldn't give this roadmap my personal approval unless I was confident that it was smart, it was based on fundamental Democratic values, and it would get results. I know this roadmap will work. Now, I need your help to make it succeed."

Here are some of the details:

1. Get the Democratic Message Out. Before we can convince a single voter, we need to make sure they know that Democrats stand for a foreign policy that will keep us safer; a strong economy that will put people to work; and quality, affordable health care for every American.

2. Recruit Top-Tier Candidates. Our campaigns depend on recruiting qualified, dynamic candidates who can take on Republican incumbents in key states. Thanks to early DSCC fundraising and organization, our recruitment efforts have been unparalleled. We already have outstanding Democratic challengers in a number of key states.

3. Coordinate all Levels of the Democratic Party. Because of our special legal status, the DSCC is able to coordinate directly with Senate campaigns and state-level Democratic Party committees. We will be instrumental players in statewide coordinated campaigns that will pool our resources and focus our party’s energy squarely on electing a Democratic Senate. In fact, the DSCC has already teamed up with the DNC and the state Democratic Parties to hire new staff with a variety of skills, including committed grassroots organizers and trained communications experts who can help spread the Democratic message on the ground.

4. Build the Best Technology. We will be providing a unified technology infrastructure based on top-notch open source software to every Democratic Senate campaign. This new platform will allow every one of our campaigns to make use of the newest online community building tools for a much lower cost than if each one had to develop its own systems.

Hold Republicans Accountable

1. Expose Right-Wing Republicans. Our crack truth squad is combing every vote cast and every public statement made by Republican incumbents and challengers so we can expose their true right-wing nature. We will use these facts to make sure that the media reports fully on the right wing’s lust for power. Voters need to know when Republican candidates are hiding their true out-of-the-mainstream ideology.

2. Speak Directly to the Voters. The DSCC’s Media Response Project is our long-term plan to make the case directly to the voters every time the Senate Republicans abuse their power to satisfy their radical right wing base and ignore the real needs of all Americans. Just this month, we worked together with the Montana State Democratic party to show voters there that Sen. Conrad Burns is not working for them.

Activate the Grassroots

1. Recruit a Grassroots Army. The hardest part of this roadmap is finding the thousands of volunteers we’ll need working day and night to succeed. That’s where you come in. Grassroots activists form the soul of any effective Democratic campaign and our quest to take back the Senate is no different.

2. Empower Activists With Our Message. We will make sure that every volunteer is trained in the best way to deliver the Democratic message. That way, when you are talking politics with your friends and neighbors, you’ll know precisely what to say to convince them to vote Democratic.

3. Outsmart Our Opponents. On Election Day, we’ll use cutting-edge computer modeling to identify exactly which doors we need to knock on in order to get out the Democratic vote. We’ll deploy our grassroots army precisely where they are needed to snatch up every vote.

1. It All Starts With You. We have the roadmap we need to take back the Senate in 2006, but it all starts with you. Without your support and your hard work our campaigns will never succeed. That’s why we need you to join our effort to take back the Senate and endorse our Take Back the Senate Roadmap today.

Read more about this here:

Latest Bush Polling on Katrina

SurveyUSA shows another huge dive today in Americans view of the Federal response to Katrina and in Bush's role in particular. Here it is...

"2 of 3 Americans today Friday 9/2/05 say the Federal Government is * not * doing enough to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. This is up from 59% yesterday (Thursday 9/1) and up from 50% on Wednesday (8/31). 49% today say the government's response to the hurricane has been "surprisingly disorganized," up from 34% Thursday and up from 20% on Wednesday.

53% of Americans today disapprove of President Bush's handling of the situation, up from 44% Thursday and up from 39% on Wednesday."

Two Pictures

Too early to say, but I'm starting to suspect that given time, this picture...

...of Bush at impoving on guitar after a 9 AM speech in California on August 30th, while Hurricane Katrina had hit landfall in the Gulf Coast about a day previously on August 29th at 6:15 AM as a Cat 4 storm bearing sustained winds of 145 MPH...

May become as famous as this one...

In both cases, every minute counted.

National Reactions to Bush Admin on Katrina

Blog or Website
In an earlier comment, Kate wonders about how the national mood is reacting over the failure of the Federal response to Katrina... I perceive the national mood definitely shifting to see the Federal response as what it was: confused and weak and inadequate as people were dieing. More below:

From ABC News:

"Unquestionably, the signal political development of the last 24 hours has been the coalescing of a consensus view among elites that the federal response has been inadequate.

The images and the tone of the network TV coverage are problematic for the political leadership at all levels.

Even the Bush administration overnight stepped back from fully defending the quality of the effort, with White House aides telling at least one news organization that the president is angry over the slow response... a sure sign that the administration realizes that they need to "turn the page" on the perception that they haven't done enough.

Some conservative voices have turned in whole or in part against the Bush effort:

The Washington Times, in a scathing editorial: "We're pleased [the president] finally caught a ride home from his vacation, but he risks losing the one trait his critics have never dented: His ability to lead, and be seen leading..."

And elsewhere, Tim Russert writes:

"And it's not as if we didn't know this was coming. There were studies after studies. There were tests after tests. As recently as a year ago there was a tabletop disaster scenario played out as to what would happen to New Orleans in a major hurricane. And the results of those studies have now been proven to be true.

So the questions that have to be asked are:

Why weren't the poor people evacuated? They don't have SUVs. They travel by public bus. Could they have been evacuated?

Secondly, in terms of pre-positioning, where were the troops, where were the National Guard? If people were to be sent to the Superdome, why weren't there cots and water and food there?

Second-guessing is easy, but it is also, I think, a requirement of those in a free society to challenge their government, when the primary function of the government is to protect its citizens and they haven't been protected."

Others have asked good questions such as if this is how we are handling this type of national emergency, how would we respond to a major terrorist attack?

Live Blogging From New Orleans

From AP News, this story about a small company in New Orleans company fighting to keep even some Internet connectivity to and from the city. The story points to their own real time blog on what is going on from their POV in the middle of everything. Here is a link to his blog:


And here are excerpts from the AP news story:

"As employees try to keep sites up, crisis manager's blog offers vivid details

Even as its employees sleep on the office floor, breathing diesel fumes from a generator and watching looters from their windows, a Web company in New Orleans vows it won't let the hurricane shut it down.

Employees of Intercosmos Media Group Inc. have been holed up in a 27-story skyscraper since Sunday morning, according to crisis manager Michael Barnett.

They are trying to keep their data center alive and with it some 800,000 Web sites that would otherwise go offline, including online backup site dataprotection.com...

The central business district that Intercosmos occupies is dry, but civil order has broken down and getting diesel fuel for the generator has been a major concern.< "We need diesel. We'll find some. We have people depending on us and we are not going to let them down," Barnett wrote in his "interdictor" Web journal. "It is a zoo out there though, make no mistake. Anyone who is on the streets is in immediate danger of being robbed and killed. It's that bad..."

For security reasons, Barnett would not reveal how many people were in the building or how they were armed.

On Wednesday, the company gave shelter to a police officer whose station was underwater. It also helped another company bring one of its most critical computers to Intercosmos' own data center. An unexpected payoff: 25 gallons of water from the other company's office.

Employees haven't been lacking food. The company has routinely supplied its employees with lunch up to twice a week, and chief executive Sigmund Solares was storing food "just to keep ahead," Barnett said via instant messaging.

Barnett started the blog last week. One of his first entries: "Hmm. This could actually be a nasty storm."

Poll: 59% Say Federal Government Not Doing Enough about Katrina, Up 9 Points in 24 Hours

SurveyUSA Polling:

Federal government not doing enough: 59% of Americans today say the Federal government is not doing enough to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, according to an exclusive SurveyUSA nationwide poll of 1,200 adults conducted Thursday 9/1. This is up 9 points, from 50%, in the past 24 hours.

75% of Americans today say that local officials are unprepared to meet the challenge that is before them. That is up 14 points, from 61%, in the past 24 hours.

Government surprisingly disorganized: 34% of Americans today say the government's response to the hurricane has been surprisingly disorganized, up 14 points in 24 hours.

Quote of the Day: "Where is the Leadership?"

Thursday, September 01, 2005
Blog or Website
"Again, just this past week, there was at least 36 hours notice that a major hurricane was going to hit the Gulf Coast, including likely a devastating blow to New Orleans, which certainly came to pass. The President continued with his regular schedule on Monday and Tuesday in California, Arizona, and Texas to hold some staged Medicare events and enjoy more vacation time, while finally returning to the White House yesterday. The joint task force including National Guard set up by the Pentagon failed to be on the scene in New Orleans in a timely manner to stop the looting and assist in the evacuation. Where is the leadership?

Then just this morning, the President claimed that no one could have anticipated the levee breaches we've seen in New Orleans after Katrina hit. That's not leadership, that's an excuse. In fact, people have predicted this kind of disaster for many years, including President Bush's own FEMA in 2001, when they ranked hurricane flood damage to New Orleans among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing America. Instead, funding was significantly cut back, leaving key engineering projects on hold. Instead, this Administration focused on the war in Iraq, tax cuts, and private sector economic growth without asking the American people to make needed sacrifices for the good of the country. Again I ask you, where is the leadership?"

-- Westley Clark

Another way to Give to the Red Cross

call to actionFrom MYDD.com and others:

Hurricane Katrina has devastated thousands of lives. Today, we're announcing a coordinated effort by the liberal/progressive blogosphere to help the victims of the devastation. Together, we're going to raise $1 million for the American Red Cross - and prove that the liberal blogosphere can help our fellow citizens in need. Make a donation for hurricane relief.

The most prominent lefty blogs in the nation, represented by the Liberal Blog Advertising Network, are leading the way by running donated ads and asking readers to join us in making a difference. Combined, these blogs will display their ads over 12 million times each week over the course of the campaign.

This effort is a combined effort of four organizations:

* The Liberal Blog Advertising Network who are donating their ad space.
* MandateMedia.com - producing the creative and organizing the campaign.
* BlogAds.com - donating their advertising infrastructure to deploy the ads.
* DropCash.com - providing the mechanism for tracking our progress.

All of the proceeds will be sent to the Red Cross. Donations are being tracked by Drop Cash. Transactions are secured through Paypal. You can be certain that your contribution will be secure, for a good cause, and people will know it came from the liberal blogosphere.

If you are a blogger who wants to run this ad on your site, you can get the HTML code here.

Liberal Blogosphere for Hurricane Relief

"There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." - Bill Clinton.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed thousands of lives. Together, we're raising $1 million for the Red Cross and prove that the liberal blogosphere can help our fellow citizens.

Please donate now.

Lindy for Congress Kick-Off

Press Release from last week's Lindy Scott for Congress Kick-off Event in Illinois...You can support this race that deserves it at the Scott Actblue Page:

"Democratic Wheaton College Professor, Lindy Scott, launches his campaign for US Congress in the 6th District at rally with over 250 supporters in Wheaton’s Memorial Park on Friday...

On Friday August 26 Wheaton College Professor Lindy Scott launched his run for Congress to represent the 6th District of Illinois. Over two hundred and fifty supporters and friends gathered at Wheaton’s Memorial Park to hear Scott explain the motivation for his campaign and his strategy to win. He drew upon a parable of St. Augustine. Hope had two beautiful children, Anger and Courage: Anger at the way things are, and Courage to make life better.

Scott listed many of the ills of our society that should produce a holy anger within us. He then went on to describe the courage that he has to change things and the encouragement he has received from others. The crowd responded by shouting: Run, Lindy, Run!

Scott begins his campaign with 300 public endorsements. The endorsements and his policy positions can be seen at http://www.scottforcongress.net. His support builds upon the traditional Democratic commitments to education, health, Social Security, and a strong multilateral international policy. He expands that base with wide support from evangelicals, pro-life Catholics, Hispanics and other immigrant communities, and a special following among
college students.

Illinois 6th Congressional District stretches from the Wheaton area north through Northeast DuPage County (in all or part of 6 townships) into Northwest Cook County (in all or part of 4 townships). For more information contact (630) 871-0545."

Did New Orleans HAVE to be THIS bad?

Blog or Website
From Talking Points Memo:

"Then there's this piece in the Chicago Tribune. First three grafs ...

Despite continuous warnings that a catastrophic hurricane could hit New Orleans, the Bush administration and Congress in recent years have repeatedly denied full funding for hurricane preparation and flood control.

That has delayed construction of levees around the city and stymied an ambitious project to improve drainage in New Orleans' neighborhoods.

For instance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested $27 million for this fiscal year to pay for hurricane-protection projects around Lake Pontchartrain. The Bush administration countered with $3.9 million, and Congress eventually provided $5.7 million, according to figures provided by the office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

And further down in the piece there's this ...

'I'm not saying it wouldn't still be flooded, but I do feel that if it had been totally funded, there would be less flooding than you have,' said Michael Parker, a former Republican Mississippi congressman who headed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from October 2001 until March 2002, when he was ousted after publicly criticizing a Bush administration proposal to cut the corps'budget."

...You can't watch that stuff and not know that this, in that corny phrase, was the big one. And even with the best preparation, with all the organizational pistons firing, there was going to be death and dislocation and property damage on a grand scale.

But how much might have been prevented? And how much more rapid might the rescue and recovery have been?

The flooding situation in New Orleans is at least somewhat unique in natural disaster terms, since there's at least a bit of an all or nothing quality to the situation. If the levees had never been breached, or if there'd been fewer breaches, a lot of that water just never would have gotten into the city. And then the situation would be radically different. "