Monday, September 5, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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"You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism." - Cindy Sheehan

P I C T U R E   O F  T H E  D A Y

©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte



Signs Economic Commentary
Donald Hunt
September 5, 2005

The price of oil closed at 67.57 dollars a barrel, up 2.2% from last Friday's close of $66.13. The U.S. dollar closed at 0.7954 euros, down 2.3% from 0.8140 euros a week earlier, continuing a negative trend for the dollar. The euro, then, would buy 1.2573 dollars at Friday's close, up from $1.2285 the week before. The price of oil in euros was virtually unchanged at 53.74 euros a barrel compared to 53.83 euros a barrel the previous Friday (down 0.2%). Gold closed at 447.80 dollars an ounce, up 1.4% from last week's close of $441.80. Gold in euros would be 356.16 euros an ounce, down 1% from last week's close of 359.63 euros an ounce. The gold/oil (the number of barrels of oil an ounce of gold would buy) ratio closed at 6.63 down 0.8% from 6.68 a week earlier. In the U.S. stock market, the Dow closed at 10,447.37 up 0.4% from the previous week's close of 10,406.20. The NASDAQ closed at 2141.07 on Friday, up 0.8% from the previous Friday's close of 2123.99. The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note closed at 4.03 percent, down 15 basis points 4.18 the week before.

Hurricane Katrina, of course, dwarfed all other news last week, and for good reason. The political, economic and human repercussions of this event may prove decisive in the months and years to come.

Economically, the disaster struck the United States at a time when its economy was teetering on the brink of collapse. Oil prices were already rising sharply, the citizens and governments of the United States were already drowning in debt, and consumer spending was threatening to fall from the debt and higher energy prices. The immediate effect of Katrina for U.S. citizens was more than a dollar a gallon rise in the price of gasoline. The previous rises in the price of gasoline were blamed on too few refineries. Then Katrina took four more refineries off-line. Add to that the damage to 20 oil rigs and platforms and the importance of the port of New Orleans for oil supertanker shipping and you have an energy crisis in the United States which has shaken the confidence of the citizenry. Steven Lagavulin of the Deconsumption blog sees high inflation and economic collapse as likely results:

[8/31/05] Katrina is looking more and more like the kind of "outside" event that could set the whole house of cards tumbling down on us. The (not really) Federal Reserve's damage control team was out in force yesterday hammering gold and supporting the dollar. The reports on the disruptions to the oil industry--drilling, import-shipping, refining--just look worse and worse. The Port of Louisiana is effectively closed, halting all import / export traffic up the Mississippi. And the insurance industry, which has been hammered almost every year since 9/11, is going to get hit with another doozy of a bill...I can't even guess how it will survive this (oh, wait, yes I can--the public will foot the bill for their underfunded policies...).


"Katrina is no 9/11. It may be much worse."

Good piece in Slate about the inflationary aspects of the Katrina tragedy beyond just oil & gas prices. Here's the gist:

"Economically speaking, Katrina is no 9/11. It may be much worse. In the months after 9/11, stocks rallied. The Federal Reserve slashed interest rates, unleashing a wave of liquidity and paving the way for economy-boosting gimmicks like zero-percent financing. The airlines suffered a grievous blow. But prices didn't jump; there were no shortages of anything. Looking back, the catastrophe of 9/11 had a relatively minor impact on the broad economy.

"And the consensus thus far seems to be that Katrina will be much the same....But because of the nature of the damage, the industries it affected, the role the Gulf Coast plays in the national economy, and the place we're at in the business cycle, Katrina could prove to be inflationary. And as a result, the damage it causes could ripple far beyond the Mississippi Delta."


"The problem is that New Orleans lies at the heavily trafficked intersection of the Old and New Economies. The region's economy is based on agriculture, water transport, and natural resources. But moving and selling goods requires an intricate web of supply chains, pipelines, and commercial arteries that connect producers to consumers. The networked economy isn't just about bytes and fiber-optic cable, it's about oil, grain, and sugar. And when the infrastructure of these networks gets damaged, it can't be replaced easily or cheaply.

"If New Orleans were pure Old Economy - if, for example, it simply grew wheat - its devastation would not cost that much, because other wheat and grain growers would replace it. If it were pure New Economy, like Wall Street, it could bounce back instantly, because its real assets (information and people) would not be irretrievably lost. But because it's right in the middle, the damage will be enormous."


"Energy isn't the only valuable commodity that flows through New Orleans. As the Wall Street Journal notes, New Orleans ports "handle roughly half of the corn, wheat and soybeans exported from the U.S., much of which reaches the city on barges traveling on the Mississippi River."

Katrina has already screwed up the vital supply chains that funnel goods from the Midwest to global markets and from global markets to the Midwest. Farmers have been floating grain to external markets on river barges since the 18th century not because it offers speed, but because it is the most economically efficient means of doing so. As the Associated Press notes, "The Mississippi River is the cheapest route for shipping many crops and other commodities destined for overseas markets." So, farmers looking to get their goods to market will now have to rely on more expensive modes of transport. And importers will either have to eat higher costs or pass them along to consumers. Until yesterday, about 25 percent of Chiquita's banana imports arrived in the United States at the company's Gulfport, Miss., facility. No longer. The company, and many others, will have to scramble to find alternate (and likely, more expensive) arrangements.

Finally, consider the agricultural staples that are produced in huge volume in the Gulf Coast region and that are used in a wide range of products in the United States and overseas: oysters, chickens, cotton, and sugar, to name a few. Katrina will have the effect of making them more expensive and setting off a scramble among the companies that need steady supplies to find new sources. The shortages will drive up prices here and make our exports more expensive - and less competitive - abroad.

Beyond the immediate economic consequences, the confidence of Americans and the confidence of the rest of the world in the United States has been broken, perhaps beyond repair. The value of the dollar was propped up for decades by the world's basic confidence in the competence of the United States as symbolized by U.S. Treasury bonds. Even after the $6 billion a month disaster of the Iraq War, many people still thought the United States was "the sole remaining superpower." Now it is clear that that power was little more than an empty shell. The Iraq War has stretched governmental resources so thin that it could not provide the most basic relief services in the aftermath of the hurricane. Decades of looting the resources of the republic, the "common thing," for the benefit of the super-rich and well-connected has finally caught up with the United States in an embarrassingly public way. Here are the editors of the World Socialist Web Site:

Hurricane Katrina's aftermath: from natural disaster to national humiliation

2 September 2005

The catastrophe that is unfolding in New Orleans and on the Gulf coast of Mississippi has been transformed into a national humiliation without parallel in the history of the United States.

The scenes of intense human suffering, hopelessness, squalor, and neglect amidst the wreckage of what was once New Orleans have exposed the rotten core of American capitalist society before the eyes of the entire world - and, most significantly, before those of its own stunned people.

The reactionary mythology of America as the "Greatest Country in the World" has suffered a shattering blow.

Hurricane Katrina has laid bare the awful truths of contemporary America - a country torn by the most intense class divisions, ruled by a corrupt plutocracy that possesses no sense either of social reality or public responsibility, in which millions of its citizens are deemed expendable and cannot depend on any social safety net or public assistance if disaster, in whatever form, strikes.

Washington's response to this human tragedy has been one of gross incompetence and criminal indifference. People have been left to literally die in the streets of a major American city without any assistance for four days. Images of suffering and degradation that resemble the conditions in the most impoverished Third World countries are broadcast daily with virtually no visible response from the government of a country that concentrates the greatest share of wealth in the world.

The storm that breached the levees of New Orleans has also revealed all of the horrific implications of 25 years' worth of uninterrupted social and political reaction. The real results of the destruction of essential social services, the dismantling of government agencies entrusted with alleviating poverty and coping with disasters, and the ceaseless nostrums about the "free market" magically resolving the problems of modern society have been exposed before millions.

With at least 100,000 people trapped in a city without power, water or food and threatened with the spread of disease and death, the government has proven incapable of establishing the most elementary framework of logistical organization. It has failed to even evacuate the critically ill from public hospitals, much less provide basic medical assistance to the many thousands placed in harm's way by the disaster.

What was the government's response to the natural catastrophe that threatened New Orleans? It amounted to betting that the storm would go the other way, followed by a policy of "every man for himself." Residents of the city were told to evacuate, while the tens of thousands without transportation or too poor to travel were left to their fate.

Now crowds of thousands of hungry and homeless people have been reduced to chanting "we need help" as bodies accumulate in the streets. Washington's inability to mount and coordinate basic rescue operations will unquestionably add to a death toll that is already estimated in the thousands.

The government's callous disregard for the human suffering, its negligence in failing to prepare for this disaster and, above all, its utter incompetence have staggered even the compliant American media.

Patriotic blather about the country coming together to deal with the crisis combined with efforts to poison public opinion by vilifying those without food or water for "looting" have fallen flat in face of the undeniable and monumental debacle that constitutes the official response to the disaster.

Reporters sent into the devastated region have been reduced to tears by the masses of people crying out for help with no response. Television announcers cannot help but wonder aloud why the authorities have failed so miserably to alleviate such massive human suffering.

The presidency, the Congress and both the Republican and Democratic parties - all have displayed an astounding lack of concern for the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been shattered and who face the most daunting and uncertain future, not to mention the tens of millions more who will be hard hit by the economic aftershocks of Katrina.

In the figure of the president, George W. Bush, the incompetence, stupidity, and sheer inhumanity that characterize so much of America's money-mad corporate elite find their quintessentially repulsive expression.

As the hurricane developed over two weeks in the Caribbean and slowly approached the coast of New Orleans and Mississippi, Bush amused himself at his ranch retreat in Crawford, Texas. It is now clear that his administration made no serious preparations to deal with the dangers posed by the approaching storm.

In an interview Thursday on the "Good Morning America" television program, Bush reprised his miserable performance of the previous day, adding to Wednesday's banalities the declaration that there would be "zero tolerance" for looters.

The president blanched when ABC interviewer Dianne Sawyer asked about a suggestion that the major oil companies be forced to cede a share of the immense windfall profits they have reaped from rising prices over the past six months to fund disaster relief. He responded by counseling the American people to "send cash" to charitable organizations.

In other words, there will be no serious financial commitment from the government to save lives, care for the sick and needy, and help the displaced and bereft restore their lives. Nor will there be any national, centrally financed and organized program to rebuild one of the country's most important cities - a city that is uniquely associated with some of the most critical cultural achievements in music and the arts of the American people.

Above all, the suffering of millions will not be allowed to impinge on the profit interests of a tiny elite of multi-millionaires whose interests the government defends.

Later in the day, Bush described the aftermath of the flood as a "temporary disturbance."

The ruthless attitude of those in power toward the average poor and working class residents of New Orleans was summed up Thursday by Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who declared "it doesn't make sense" to spend tax dollars to rebuild New Orleans. "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," he said.

While Hastert was forced to backtrack from these chilling remarks, they have a definite political logic. To rebuild the lives that have been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina would require mounting a massive government effort that would run counter to the entire thrust of a national policy based upon privatization and the transfer of wealth to the rich that has for decades been pursued by both major parties.

Can anyone truly believe that the current administration and its Democratic accomplices in Congress are going to launch a serious program to construct low-cost housing, rebuild schools and provide jobs for the hundreds of thousands left unemployed by the destruction?

Congress has been virtually silent on the catastrophe in the south. It has nothing to say, having voted to support Bush's extreme right-wing agenda of massive tax cuts for the rich, huge outlays for war in Iraq and Afghanistan and an ever-expanding Pentagon budget, and billions to finance the Homeland Security Department.

The millionaires club in the Capitol is well aware that it voted to slash funding for elementary infrastructure needs - including urgently recommended improvements in outmoded and inadequate Gulf Coast anti-hurricane and anti-flood systems.

The Democratic Party has, as always, offered no opposition. Indeed, the president was gratified to be able to announce that former Democratic president Bill Clinton would resume his road show with the president's father, the former Republican president, touring the stricken regions and drumming up support for charitable donations. In this way the Democratic Party has signaled its solidarity with the White House and the Republican policy against any serious federal financial commitment to help the victims and rebuild the devastated regions.

The decisive components of the present tragedy are social and political, not natural. The American ruling elite has for the past three decades been dismantling whatever forms of government regulation and social welfare had been instituted in the preceding period. The present catastrophe is the terrible product of this social and political retrogression.

The lessons derived from past natural and economic calamities - from the deadly floods of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to the dust bowl and Depression of the 1930s - have been repudiated and derided by a ruling elite driven by the crisis of its profit system to subordinate ever more ruthlessly all social concerns to the extraction of profit and accumulation of personal wealth.

Franklin Roosevelt - an astute and relatively far-sighted representative of his class - had to drag the American ruling elite as a whole kicking and screaming behind a program of social reforms whose basic purpose was to save the capitalist system from the threat of social revolution. Even during his presidency, the large-scale projects in government-funded and controlled social development, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, never became a model for broader measures to alleviate poverty and social inequality. The contradictions and requirements of an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and production for profit resulted in any further projects being shelved.

From the 1970s onward, as the crisis of American capitalism has deepened, the US ruling elite has attacked the entire concept of social reform and dismantled the previously established restrictions on corporate activities.

The result has been a non-stop process of social plunder, producing an unprecedented concentration of wealth at the apex of society and a level of social inequality exceeding that which prevailed in the days of the Robber Barons.

Fraud, the worst forms of speculation and criminality have become pervasive within the upper echelons of American society. This is the underlying reality that has suddenly revealed itself, precipitated by a hurricane, in the form of a collapse of the most elementary forms of social life.

The political establishment and the corporate elite have been exposed as bankrupt, together with their ceaseless insistence that the unfettered development of capitalism is the solution to all of society's problems.
The catastrophe unleashed by Katrina has unmistakably revealed that America is two countries, one for the wealthy and privileged and another in which the vast majority of working people stand on the edge of a social precipice.

All of the claims that the war on Iraq, the "global war on terrorism" and the supposed concern for "homeland security" are aimed at protecting the American people stand revealed as lies. The utter failure to protect the residents of New Orleans exposes all of these claims as propaganda designed to mask the criminality of the American ruling elite and the diversion of resources away from the most essential needs of the people.

Here's Cynthia Bogard on why so many people "chose" to remain behind and not evacuate the city before the hurricane hit:

With a horrible decisiveness, Hurricane Katrina has sheared off the front of the American doll house, leaving our decimated national infrastructure for all the world to see. It's not a pretty sight, especially given the current administration's propensity to bluster about America as "the greatest nation on earth" and the "world's superpower."

The consequences of a generation of looting the funding for public works projects, anti-poverty programs, and local and national administrative capacity coupled with rollbacks of federal energy and environmental regulation have been revealed in all their stark reality by this epic storm. Relentless Republican-led but Democratic Leadership Council-supported attacks on "big government" (by which they meant programs of no immediate use to global corporations) in the past two decades have been remarkably successful. "The era of big government," as DLC poster boy Bill Clinton famously declared in the mid 1990s, "is over."

He was talking about what other wealthy democratic nations refer to as their "welfare state"--that constellation of tax-financed regulations and services that provide citizen security on "quality of life" issues such as housing, education, healthcare, safety, a healthy environment and economic stability in times of unemployment. Included also in other nation's welfare states is public infrastructure that can be counted on in such areas as transportation, communication, electricity, and clean water. In other wealthy democracies, that's what government is largely for; these are the kinds of citizen protections those living in poor nations dream about.

Now that Katrina's come to town, it's become all too apparent how far down the road to the wholesale giveaway of America's collective wealth to its wealthy we have traveled. And the consequences of purposely destroying our modest welfare state have become devastatingly clear--well, at least to some.

A few days ago, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco ordered the evacuation of New Orleans, an event which proceeded, according to many accounts, in a remarkably orderly fashion. As it turned out, however, about 20% of residents did not "choose" to leave town--a fact that the governor publicly grumbled about after the levees were compromised, the city inundated and those "left behind" put at risk for their lives in the floodwaters and sweltering heat.

One observant commentator noted that the evacuation was indeed very efficiently run "if you had a car." Those left behind were drawn disproportionately from the 30% of the city's residents who are chronically poor. They had no cars, Governor.

An astute downtown New Orleans attorney interviewed on National Public Radio noted from the safety of a friend's house a safe distance from town that Katrina had happened at the end of the month, "when many of the poor have run out of funds." Put these facts of no cars and no cash together with some typical coping strategies for surviving chronic poverty and gaping holes in public services and infrastructure and it becomes all too clear why many impoverished and disproportionately Black citizens of New Orleans didn't "choose" to evacuate.

It's harrowing enough to leave town in one's reliable vehicle armed with luggage, credit cards and cash, bound for some well-heeled friend or relative who lives at a higher elevation. It's quite another thing to leave with no cash, no car, no credit and no out of town relatives with room to spare. Poor people without employment typically depend on very local resources for their survival, especially when money and food stamps run out. Even in the most generous northern states, public assistance checks usually run out in the middle of the third week of the month no matter how good at budgeting a mother may be. The last ten days of the month are spent trading what resources you have for what you need, calling on those who owe you a favor, asking for leniency in paying for necessities and pawning the few worthy possessions you own. And waiting for the check.

All of these coping strategies require that poor people remain in close proximity to those on whom they must depend for survival. Katrina caught New Orleans' poor just in the most desperate phase of this depressing monthly struggle for survival. As someone who has spent a dozen years listening to the stories of people who have become homeless in less dramatic fashion than the citizens of New Orleans just did, it was no surprise to me that the poor mostly remained home or made their way to the local shelter--the Superdome. Where was the government before the levees broke with buses and trains, assurances about shelters far away, food and cash vouchers for necessities? For many poor people the risk of leaving far outweighed the risk of staying--at least until the levees broke and water poured into their neighborhoods. And by then it was too late.

I've seen footage of people huddled on their rooftops, waving sheets and homemade "help us" posters. I saw hundreds, elderly folks and babies included, left to bake in the ninety degree sun on an unprotected overpass. Where was the evacuation plan and resources to help those who couldn't help themselves?

Some of these people will die. Indeed, some already have, from nothing more than the neglect made more likely because the emergency services infrastructure in many local communities never existed in the first place or has been scaled back due to falling tax revenues and "no big government" attitudes.

The last line of protection in disasters such as this is the National Guard. Only two thirds of these public servants were in the local area and available for deployment. The rest are in Iraq. The communities hit by Katrina, especially the larger, more urban, more impoverished communities simply lacked adequate numbers of trained and ready personnel and equipment to do the job.

In the past few years, an increasingly bold Congress has made matters even worse. Funding for the crucial public works project that could have prevented the loss of New Orleans--the improvement of the levee system--was drastically cut. Wetlands, a natural barrier to storm surges that once characterized the Mississippi Delta, have been given over to developers to fill in and build on. Global warming deniers have also muffled any national conversation about how we should live differently now that dramatic weather events will become more common. In perhaps the most callous example of what occurs when government becomes the tool of capitalism rather than the servant of the citizens, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin now has ordered the police force to abandon their search and rescue mission in favor of halting looters. In other words, police officers are being told they're in the business of protecting property instead of people.

In a disaster of these proportions, there's always the tendency to look for someone to blame. This time we're all to blame, for allowing our collective system of protection, our government, to be hijacked by corporate interests and their politician lackeys. Katrina will take the lives of many. Some of those deaths "big government" could have saved.

Many are arguing that the neglect of public services and infrastructure was deliberate, that the right-wing power structure in the United States wanted to make the public feel abandoned.

A Can't-Do Government

Paul Krugman
September 2, 2005

Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. "The New Orleans hurricane scenario," The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, "may be the deadliest of all." It described a potential catastrophe very much like the one now happening.

So why were New Orleans and the nation so unprepared? After 9/11, hard questions were deferred in the name of national unity, then buried under a thick coat of whitewash. This time, we need accountability.

First question: Why have aid and security taken so long to arrive? Katrina hit five days ago - and it was already clear by last Friday that Katrina could do immense damage along the Gulf Coast. Yet the response you'd expect from an advanced country never happened. Thousands of Americans are dead or dying, not because they refused to evacuate, but because they were too poor or too sick to get out without help - and help wasn't provided. Many have yet to receive any help at all.

There will and should be many questions about the response of state and local governments; in particular, couldn't they have done more to help the poor and sick escape? But the evidence points, above all, to a stunning lack of both preparation and urgency in the federal government's response.

Even military resources in the right place weren't ordered into action. "On Wednesday," said an editorial in The Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss., "reporters listening to horrific stories of death and survival at the Biloxi Junior High School shelter looked north across Irish Hill Road and saw Air Force personnel playing basketball and performing calisthenics. Playing basketball and performing calisthenics!"

Maybe administration officials believed that the local National Guard could keep order and deliver relief. But many members of the National Guard and much of its equipment - including high-water vehicles - are in Iraq. "The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission," a Louisiana Guard officer told reporters several weeks ago.

Second question: Why wasn't more preventive action taken? After 2003 the Army Corps of Engineers sharply slowed its flood-control work, including work on sinking levees. "The corps," an Editor and Publisher article says, citing a series of articles in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, "never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security - coming at the same time as federal tax cuts - was the reason for the strain."

In 2002 the corps' chief resigned, reportedly under threat of being fired, after he criticized the administration's proposed cuts in the corps' budget, including flood-control spending.

Third question: Did the Bush administration destroy FEMA's effectiveness? The administration has, by all accounts, treated the emergency management agency like an unwanted stepchild, leading to a mass exodus of experienced professionals.

Last year James Lee Witt, who won bipartisan praise for his leadership of the agency during the Clinton years, said at a Congressional hearing: "I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded. I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared."

I don't think this is a simple tale of incompetence. The reason the military wasn't rushed in to help along the Gulf Coast is, I believe, the same reason nothing was done to stop looting after the fall of Baghdad. Flood control was neglected for the same reason our troops in Iraq didn't get adequate armor.

At a fundamental level, I'd argue, our current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don't like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice.

Yesterday Mr. Bush made an utterly fantastic claim: that nobody expected the breach of the levees. In fact, there had been repeated warnings about exactly that risk.

So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can't-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying.

Chris Floyd:

Where were the resources - the money, manpower, materiel, transport - that could have removed all those forced to stay behind, and given them someplace safe and sustaining to take shelter? Where, indeed, were the resources that could have bolstered the city's defenses and shored up its levees? Where were the National Guard troops that could have secured the streets and directed survivors to food and aid? Where were the public resources - the physical manifestation of the citizenry's commitment to the common good - that could have greatly mitigated the brutal effects of this natural disaster?

"President Coolidge came down here in a railroad train,
With a little fat man with a notebook in his hand.
The president say, "Little fat man, isn't it a shame
What the river has done to this poor cracker's land?"

Well, we all know what happened to those vital resources. They had been cut back, stripped down, gutted, pilfered - looted - to pay for a war of aggression, to pay for a tax cut for the wealthiest, safest, most protected Americans, to gorge the coffers of a small number of private and corporate fortunes, while letting the public sector - the common good - wither and die on the vine. These were all specific actions of the Bush Administration - including the devastating budget cuts on projects specifically designed to bolster New Orleans' defenses against a catastrophic hurricane. Bush even cut money for strengthening the very levees that broke and delivered the deathblow to the city. All this, in the face of specific warnings of what would happen if these measures were neglected: the city would go down "under 20 feet of water," one expert predicted just a few weeks ago.

But Bush said there was no money for this kind of folderol anymore. The federal budget had been busted by his tax cuts and his war. And this was a deliberate policy: as Bush's mentor Grover Norquist famously put it, the whole Bushist ethos was to starve the federal government of funds, shrinking it down so "we can drown it in the bathtub." As it turned out, the bathtub wasn't quite big enough -- so they drowned it in the streets of New Orleans instead.

But as culpable, criminal and loathsome as the Bush Administration is, it is only the apotheosis of an overarching trend in American society that has been gathering force for decades: the destruction of the idea of a common good, a public sector whose benefits and responsibilities are shared by all, and directed by the consent of the governed. For more than 30 years, the corporate Right has waged a relentless and highly focused campaign against the common good, seeking to atomize individuals into isolated "consumer units" whose political energies - kept deliberately underinformed by the ubiquitous corporate media - can be diverted into emotionalized "hot button" issues (gay marriage, school prayer, intelligent design, flag burning, welfare queens, drugs, porn, abortion, teen sex, commie subversion, terrorist threats, etc., etc.) that never threaten Big Money's bottom line.

Again deliberately, with smear, spin and sham, they have sought - and succeeded - in poisoning the well of the democratic process, turning it into a tabloid melee where only "character counts" while the rapacious policies of Big Money's bought-and-sold candidates are completely ignored. As Big Money solidified its ascendancy over government, pouring billions - over and under the table - into campaign coffers, politicians could ignore larger and larger swathes of the people. If you can't hook yourself up to a well-funded, coffer-filling interest group, if you can't hire a big-time Beltway player to lobby your cause and get you "a seat at the table," then your voice goes unheard, your concerns are shunted aside. (Apart from a few cynical gestures around election-time, of course.) The poor, the sick, the weak, the vulnerable have become invisible - in the media, in the corporate boardroom, "at the table" of the power players in national, state and local governments. The increasingly marginalized and unstable middle class is also fading from the consciousness of the rulers, whose servicing of the elite goes more brazen and frantic all the time.

When unbridled commercial development of delicately balanced environments like the Mississippi Delta is bruited "at the table," whose voice is heard? Not the poor, who, as we have seen this week, will overwhelmingly bear the brunt of the overstressed environment. And not the middle class, who might opt for the security of safer, saner development policies to protect their hard-won homes and businesses. No, the only voice that matters is that of the developers themselves, and the elite investors who stand behind them.

The only hope is that the United States may be able finally to face reality – but I would not bet on it.

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As White House Anxiety Grows, Bush Tries to Quell Political Crisis
New York Times
September 4, 2005

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 - Faced with one of the worst political crises of his administration, President Bush abruptly overhauled his September schedule on Saturday as the White House scrambled to gain control of a situation that Republicans said threatened to undermine Mr. Bush's second-term agenda and the party's long-term ambitions.

In a sign of the mounting anxiety at the White House, Mr. Bush made a rare Saturday appearance in the Rose Garden before live television cameras to announce that he was dispatching additional active-duty troops to the Gulf Coast. He struck a more somber tone than he had at times on Friday during a daylong tour of the disaster region, when he had joked at the airport in New Orleans about the fun he had had in his younger days in Houston. His demeanor on Saturday was similar to that of his most somber speeches after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Comment: After four days of doing nothing, Bush finally sends in the troops to begin the relief effort. People are dead and dying in the aftermath of Katrina, and all the Leader of the Free World can talk about is how much fun he had in his younger days in Houston??

"The magnitude of responding to a crisis over a disaster area that is larger than the size of Great Britain has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities," said Mr. Bush, slightly exaggerating the stricken land area. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable."

The president was flanked by his high military and emergency command: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As Mr. Bush spoke, Vice President Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, the president's senior political adviser, listened on the sidelines, as did Dan Bartlett, the counselor to the president and Mr. Bush's overseer of communications strategy. Their presence underscored how seriously the White House is reacting to the political crisis it faces.

"Where our response is not working, we'll make it right," Mr. Bush said, as Mr. Bartlett, with a script in his hand, followed closely.

His speech came as analysts and some Republicans warned that the White House's response to the crisis in New Orleans, which has been widely seen as slow and ineffectual, could further undermine Mr. Bush's authority at a time when he was already under fire, endangering his Congressional agenda.

Mr. Chertoff said Saturday: "Not an hour goes by that we do not spend a lot of time thinking about the people who are actively suffering. The United States, as the president has said, is going to move heaven and earth to rescue, feed, shelter" victims of the storm.

The White House said Mr. Bush would return to Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday, scrapping his plans for a Labor Day address in Maryland. The rest of Mr. Bush's schedule next week was in flux.

The White House also postponed a major visit to Washington next week by President Hu Jintao of China. In a statement issued on Saturday, the White House said both Mr. Hu and Mr. Bush had agreed that "in the present circumstances, it was best not to have" the meeting, which would have demanded much of the president's attention over the next days on growing difficulties between the United States and China over trade frictions, North Korea's nuclear program and China's military buildup.

The last-minute overhaul of the president's plans reflected what analysts and some Republicans said was a long-term threat to Mr. Bush's presidency created by the perception that the White House had failed to respond to the crisis. Several said the political fallout over the hurricane could complicate a second-term agenda that includes major changes to Social Security, the tax code and the immigration system.

"This is very much going to divert the agenda," said Tom Rath, a New Hampshire Republican with ties to the White House. "Some of this is momentary. I think the Bush capital will be rapidly replenished if they begin to respond here."

Donald P. Green, a professor of political science at Yale University, said: "The possibility for very serious damage to the administration exists. The unmistakable conclusion one would draw from this was this was a massive administration failure."

And Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, urged Mr. Bush to quickly propose a rebuilding plan for New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, arguing that an ambitious gesture could restore his power in Congress. [...]

The silence of many prominent Democrats reflects their conclusion that the president is on treacherous political ground and that attacking him would permit the White House to dismiss the criticism as partisan politics-as-usual, a senior Democratic aide said.

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, disputed the notion that Mr. Bush's long-term political viability was endangered and said Saturday that he was confident the administration would be able to push ahead successfully with its second-term agenda. "There are a number of priorities, and we will address all of them," he said.

For all the enormity of the destruction and the lingering uncertainty about how many years it will take to "rebuild the great city of New Orleans," as Mr. Bush said in his remarks on Saturday, some Republicans suggested that the impact could prove fleeting in this age of fast-moving events, and that Mr. Bush's visit to the region on Friday had helped some in addressing concerns about his response.

"Next Tuesday the Roberts hearings start, and that's going to occupy a significant part of the daily coverage," said Richard N. Bond, a former Republican chairman, referring to the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. [...]

But Mr. Bush, reflecting concern within the White House about the president's standing among blacks, notably said in his radio address that "we have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters all along the Gulf Coast, and we will not rest until we get this right and the job is done."

Both Republicans and Democrats noted that the reaction to the crisis has been nothing like what happened after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when both parties joined in a bipartisan show of unity in the face of a clear and identifiable outside threat.

Hurricane Katrina struck at a time, they said, when Mr. Bush was already in a weakened state, with his approval rating in many national polls at the lowest level of his presidency and his political capital in Washington diminishing. [...]

Comment: While it is clear that Katrina is not going away, the Bush administration has moved into full spin mode to deflect criticism away from the president. The death of Supreme Court Chief Justice
William Rehnquist couldn't possibly have come at a better time for the Bush administration. If the confirmation hearings for Roberts do occupy a large part of US news coverage, the attention and pressure surrounding Katrina will be removed from Bush. On the other hand, if the focus remains on the hurricane relief efforts, Roberts confirmation and the appointment of a new chief justice could proceed with far less resistance.

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Bush likely to steer US high court rightward, after death of chief justice
September 4, 2005

WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush promised to quickly nominate a successor to Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, whose death has given the president a chance to put a conservative stamp on the court for decades to come.

Rehnquist, who had been chief justice for 19 years and presided over cases ranging from the impeachment of President Bill Clinton to Bush's controversial election win, died on Saturday night from thyroid cancer at his home in the Washington suburbs, the Supreme Court said in a statement.

The 80-year-old was diagnosed with cancer in October but despite several hospital stays had carried on working on court papers up to the final days before his death, officials said.

Bush, who now has two vacancies on the Supreme Court, which has a huge influence on US society through its decisions, paid tribute to Rehnquist who had been at the centre of the conservative camp within the nine justices. [...]

Rehnquist's death follows the announcement by justice Sandra Day O'Connor in July that she would retire. Bush has already nominated John Roberts, a conservative federal appeals court judge, to take her place.

"There are now two vacancies on the Supreme Court. And it will serve the best interests of the nation to fill those vacancies promptly," Bush said.

"I will choose, in a timely manner, a highly-qualified nominee to succeed chief justice Rehnquist."

Rehnquist had been on the court for 33 years in all. His death, along with O'Connor's retirement, broaden the political fight over the makeup of the Supreme Court.

Confirmation hearings for John Roberts, a conservative, were to start on Tuesday. Democrats had been expected to closely question Roberts, who was once a clerk to Rehnquist, but some senators said the process should be delayed out of respect for the chief justice.

Roberts is expected to face a tough questioning on his positions on issues ranging from abortion to the role of government.

The most mentioned name to become chief justice is
Antonin Scalia, a pillar of the Supreme Court's conservative faction. Appeals court Judge Michael Luttig or Attorney General Alberto Gonzales are seen as candidates to take Scalia's place.

Sensing a sea change ahead, National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy said that Rehnquist's death gives Bush an opportunity to "not only upset the delicate balance on this Supreme Court, but also extend his right-wing ideology and disregard for individual rights to the third branch of government -- the judiciary." [...]

In 1999, he presided over the impeachment trial -- and acquittal -- of President Bill Clinton in the Senate over charges of perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

A year later, Rehnquist and four other Republican-nominated justices, ordered the end of a presidential election ballot recount in Florida, giving the presidency to Bush.

Born October 1, 1924, William Hubbs Rehnquist grew up in Shorewood, Wisconsin, and got his law degree from Stanford University in California.

Comment: Earlier today, Bush made his nomination for Chief Justice:

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Bush Nominates Roberts for Chief Justice
Associated Press
September 5, 2005

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Monday nominated John Roberts to succeed William H. Rehnquist as chief justice, and called on the Senate to confirm him before the Supreme Court opens its fall term on Oct. 3.

The swift move would promote to the Supreme Court's top job a newcomer who currently is being considered as one of eight associate justices.

"I am honored and humbled by the confidence the president has shown in me," Roberts said, standing alongside Bush in the Oval Office. "I am very much aware that if I am confirmed I would succeed a man I deeply respect and admire, a man who has been very kind to me for 25 years."

"He's a man of integrity and fairness and throughout his life he's inspired the respect and loyalty of others," Bush said. "John Roberts built a record of excellence and achievement and reputation for goodwill and decency toward others in his extraordinary career."

The selection of Roberts, who has drawn little criticism, helps Bush avoid new political problems when he already is under fire for the government's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina and his approval ratings in the polls are at the lowest point of his presidency.

The president met with Roberts in the private residence of the White House for about 35 to 40 minutes on Sunday evening, then officially offered him the job at 7:15 a.m. Monday when Roberts arrived at the Oval Office.

"This had been something that had been in the president's thinking for some time - in case the chief justice retired or that there otherwise was a vacancy," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "The president when he met with him, knew he was a natural born leader. The president knew Judge Roberts had the qualities to lead the court."

McClellan said the White House is confident that Roberts can be confirmed by the Senate by Oct. 3.

Getting a new chief justice of Bush's choosing in place quickly also avoids the scenario of having liberal Justice John Paul Stevens making the decisions about whom to assign cases to and making other decisions that could influence court deliberations. As the court's senior justice, Stevens would take over Rehnquist's administrative duties until a new chief is confirmed.

"The passing of Chief Justice William Rehnquist leaves the center chair empty, just four weeks left before the Supreme Court reconvenes," Bush said. "It's in the interest of the court and the country to have a chief justice on the bench on the first full day of the fall term."

Bush said Roberts has been closely scrutinized since he was nominated as an associate justice and that Americans "like what they see. He is a gentleman. He is a man of integrity and fairness." He said Roberts has unusual experience, having argued 39 cases as a lawyer before the Supreme Court. Bush also said Roberts was a natural leader.

The last time a president chose a chief justice outside the court was half a century ago, when Earl Warren was selected by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The move was engineered to have all nine seats on the high court filled when the court opens its fall term.

The White House is not opposed to a delay in Roberts' confirmation hearings as long as they vote on the confirmation before the court session begins.

"We believe they have enough time to move forward to meet that goal because of all the work that's already been done and Justice O'Connor had previously indicated that she was going to stay on the court until her position was filled," McClellan said.

Bush already had nominated Roberts to fill the seat of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring. It requires just take a little paper shuffling to change the nomination for Rehnquist's seat. Bush still must fill O'Connor's seat but she has promised to stay on the court until a successor is named. [...]

Liberal groups have expressed opposition to Roberts because of his conservative writings as an attorney for the Reagan administration and his rulings as an appeals court judge. However, it does not appear that his opponents have enough votes to block Roberts' confirmation.

That alone might have been impetus for Bush to rename Roberts for chief justice. Bush, with low standing in the polls, might not have the political capital he would need to win a Senate battle over a conservative ideologue who would draw intense opposition.

Rehnquist, 80 at his death, served on the Supreme Court for 33 years and was its leader for 19 years. [...]

Comment: It is clear that Bush is cementing his grip on the judicial branch. Many people are not aware that Hitler's Nazi regime was perfectly legal. The parallels between Nazi Germany and modern day America are numerous.

From the University of South Florida's "A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust":

With Adolf Hitler's ascendancy to the chancellorship, the Nazi Party quickly consolidated its power. Hitler managed to maintain a posture of legality throughout the Nazification process.

Domestically, during the next six years, Hitler completely transformed Germany into a police state. Germany steadily began rearmament of its military, in violation of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles . Internationally, Hitler engaged in a "diplomatic revolution" by skillfully negotiating with other European countries and publicly expressing his strong desire for peace.

Starting in 1938, Hitler began his aggressive quest for Lebensraum,or more living space. Britain, France, and Russia did not want to enter into war and their collective diplomatic stance was to appease the bully Germany. Without engaging in war, Germany was able to annex neighboring Austria and carve up Czechoslovakia. At last, a reluctant Britain and France threatened war if Germany targeted Poland and/or Romania. [...]

On February 27, 1933, the Reichstag building went up in flames. Nazis immediately claimed that this was the beginning of a Communist revolution. This fact leads many historians to believe that Nazis actually set, or help set the fire. Others believe that a deranged Dutch Communist set the fire. The issue has never been resolved. This incident prompted Hitler to convince Hindenburg to issue a Decree for the Protection of People and State that granted Nazis sweeping power to deal with the so-called emergency. This laid the foundation for a police state. [...]

Within months of Hitler's appointment as Chancellor, the Dachau concentration camp was created. The Nazis began arresting Communists, Socialists, and labor leaders. Dachau became a training center for concentration camp guards and later commandants who were taught terror tactics to dehumanize their prisoners. Parliamentary democracy ended with the Reichstag passage of the Enabling Act, which allowed the government to issue laws without the Reichstag.

As part of a policy of internal coordination, the Nazis created Special Courts to punish political dissent. [...]

The following article provides a more detailed view of exactly how Hitler rose to power. Pay special attention to the bold-faced portions of the text, as they highlight the aspects of Nazi Germany that correspond to the actions of the Bush regime since 9/11:

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How Hitler Became a Dictator
by Jacob G. Hornberger
The Future of Freedom Foundation
Posted June 28, 2004

Whenever U.S. officials wish to demonize someone, they inevitably compare him to Adolf Hitler. The message immediately resonates with people because everyone knows that Hitler was a brutal dictator.

But how many people know how Hitler actually became a dictator? My bet is, very few. I'd also bet that more than a few people would be surprised at how he pulled it off, especially given that after World War I Germany had become a democratic republic.

The story of how Hitler became a dictator is set forth in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer, on which this article is based.

In the presidential election held on March 13, 1932, there were four candidates: the incumbent, Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg, Hitler, and two minor candidates, Ernst Thaelmann and Theodore Duesterberg. The results were:

Hindenburg - 49.6 percent
Hitler - 30.1 percent
Thaelmann - 13.2 percent
Duesterberg - 6.8 percent

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, almost 70 percent of the German people voted against Hitler, causing his supporter Joseph Goebbels, who would later become Hitler's minister of propaganda, to lament in his journal, "We're beaten; terrible outlook. Party circles badly depressed and dejected."

Since Hindenberg had not received a majority of the vote, however, a runoff election had to be held among the top three vote-getters. On April 19, 1932, the runoff results were:

Hindenburg - 53.0 percent
Hitler - 36.8 percent
Thaelmann - 10.2 percent

Thus, even though Hitler's vote total had risen, he still had been decisively rejected by the German people.

On June 1, 1932, Hindenberg appointed Franz von Papen as chancellor of Germany, whom Shirer described as an "unexpected and ludicrous figure." Papen immediately dissolved the Reichstag (the national congress) and called for new elections, the third legislative election in five months.

Hitler and his fellow members of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party, who were determined to bring down the republic and establish dictatorial rule in Germany, did everything they could to create chaos in the streets, including initiating political violence and murder. The situation got so bad that martial law was proclaimed in Berlin.

Even though Hitler had badly lost the presidential election, he was drawing ever-larger crowds during the congressional election. As Shirer points out,

In one day, July 27, he spoke to 60,000 persons in Brandenburg, to nearly as many in Potsdam, and that evening to 120,000 massed in the giant Grunewald Stadium in Berlin while outside an additional 100,000 heard his voice by loudspeaker.

Hitler's rise to power

The July 31, 1932, election produced a major victory for Hitler's National Socialist Party. The party won 230 seats in the Reichstag, making it Germany's largest political party, but it still fell short of a majority in the 608-member body.

On the basis of that victory, Hitler demanded that President Hindenburg appoint him chancellor and place him in complete control of the state. Otto von Meissner, who worked for Hindenburg, later testified at Nuremberg,

Hindenburg replied that because of the tense situation he could not in good conscience risk transferring the power of government to a new party such as the National Socialists, which did not command a majority and which was intolerant, noisy and undisciplined.

Political deadlocks in the Reichstag soon brought a new election, this one in November 6, 1932. In that election, the Nazis lost two million votes and 34 seats. Thus, even though the National Socialist Party was still the largest political party, it had clearly lost ground among the voters.

Attempting to remedy the chaos and the deadlocks, Hindenburg fired Papen and appointed an army general named Kurt von Schleicher as the new German chancellor. Unable to secure a majority coalition in the Reichstag, however, Schleicher finally tendered his resignation to Hindenburg, 57 days after he had been appointed.

On January 30, 1933, President Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany. Although the National Socialists never captured more than 37 percent of the national vote, and even though they still held a minority of cabinet posts and fewer than 50 percent of the seats in the Reichstag, Hitler and the Nazis set out to to consolidate their power. With Hitler as chancellor, that proved to be a fairly easy task.

The Reichstag fire

On February 27, Hitler was enjoying supper at the Goebbels home when the telephone rang with an emergency message: "The Reichstag is on fire!" Hitler and Goebbels rushed to the fire, where they encountered Hermann Goering, who would later become Hitler's air minister. Goering was shouting at the top of his lungs,

This is the beginning of the Communist revolution! We must not wait a minute. We will show no mercy. Every Communist official must be shot, where he is found. Every Communist deputy must this very day be strung up.

The day after the fire, the Prussian government announced that it had found communist publications stating,

Government buildings, museums, mansions and essential plants were to be burned down... . Women and children were to be sent in front of terrorist groups.... The burning of the Reichstag was to be the signal for a bloody insurrection and civil war.... It has been ascertained that today was to have seen throughout Germany terrorist acts against individual persons, against private property, and against the life and limb of the peaceful population, and also the beginning of general civil war.

So how was Goering so certain that the fire had been set by communist terrorists? Arrested on the spot was a Dutch communist named Marinus van der Lubbe. Most historians now believe that van der Lubbe was actually duped by the Nazis into setting the fire and probably was even assisted by them, without his realizing it.

Why would Hitler and his associates turn a blind eye to an impending terrorist attack on their national congressional building or actually assist with such a horrific deed? Because they knew what government officials have known throughout history - that during extreme national emergencies, people are most scared and thus much more willing to surrender their liberties in return for "security." And that's exactly what happened during the Reichstag terrorist crisis.

Suspending civil liberties

The day after the fire, Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to issue a decree entitled, "For the Protection of the People and the State." Justified as a "defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state," the decree suspended the constitutional guarantees pertaining to civil liberties:

Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

Two weeks after the Reichstag fire, Hitler requested the Reichstag to temporarily delegate its powers to him so that he could adequately deal with the crisis. Denouncing opponents to his request, Hitler shouted, "Germany will be free, but not through you!" When the vote was taken, the result was 441 for and 84 against, giving Hitler the two-thirds majority he needed to suspend the German constitution. On March 23, 1933, what has gone down in German history as the "Enabling Act" made Hitler dictator of Germany, freed of all legislative and constitutional constraints.

The judiciary under Hitler

One of the most dramatic consequences was in the judicial arena. Shirer points out,

Under the Weimar Constitution judges were independent, subject only to the law, protected from arbitrary removal and bound at least in theory by Article 109 to safeguard equality before the law.

In fact, in the Reichstag terrorist case, while the court convicted van der Lubbe of the crime (who was executed), three other defendants, all communists, were acquitted, which infuriated Hitler and Goering. Within a month, the Nazis had transferred jurisdiction over treason cases from the Supreme Court to a new People's Court, which, as Shirer points out,

soon became the most dreaded tribunal in the land. It consisted of two professional judges and five others chosen from among party officials, the S.S. and the armed forces, thus giving the latter a majority vote. There was no appeal from its decisions or sentences and usually its sessions were held in camera. Occasionally, however, for propaganda purposes when relatively light sentences were to be given, the foreign correspondents were invited to attend.

One of the Reichstag terrorist defendants, who had angered Goering during the trial with a severe cross-examination of Goering, did not benefit from his acquittal. Shirer explains:

The German communist leader was immediately taken into "protective custody," where he remained until his death during the second war.

In addition to the People's Court, which handled treason cases, the Nazis also set up the Special Court, which handled cases of political crimes or "insidious attacks against the government." These courts

consisted of three judges, who invariably had to be trusted party members, without a jury. A Nazi prosecutor had the choice of bringing action in such cases before either an ordinary court or the Special Court, and invariably he chose the latter, for obvious reasons. Defense lawyers before this court, as before the Volksgerichtshof, had to be approved by Nazi officials. Sometimes even if they were approved they fared badly. Thus the lawyers who attempted to represent the widow of Dr. Klausener, the Catholic Action leader murdered in the Blood Purge, in her suit for damages against the State were whisked off to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where they were kept until they formally withdrew the action.

Even lenient treatment by the Special Court was no guarantee for the defendant, however, as Pastor Martin Niemoeller discovered when he was acquitted of major political charges and sentenced to time served for minor charges. Leaving the courtroom, Niemoeller was taken into custody by the Gestapo and taken to a concentration camp.

The Nazis also implemented a legal concept called Schutzhaft or "protective custody" which enabled them to arrest and incarcerate people without charging them with a crime. As Shirer put it,

Protective custody did not protect a man from possible harm, as it did in more civilized countries. It punished him by putting him behind barbed wire.

On August 2, 1934, Hindenburg died, and the title of president was abolished. Hitler's title became Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor. Not surprisingly, he used the initial four-year "temporary" grant of emergency powers that had been given to him by the Enabling Act to consolidate his omnipotent control over the entire country.

Accepting the new order

Oddly enough, even though his dictatorship very quickly became complete, Hitler returned to the Reichstag every four years to renew the "temporary" delegation of emergency powers that it had given him to deal with the Reichstag-arson crisis. Needless to say, the Reichstag rubber-stamped each of his requests.

For their part, the German people quickly accepted the new order of things. Keep in mind that the average non-Jewish German was pretty much unaffected by the new laws and decrees. As long as a German citizen kept his head down, worked hard, took care of his family, sent his children to the public schools and the Hitler Youth organization, and, most important, didn't involve himself in political dissent against the government, a visit by the Gestapo was very unlikely.

Keep in mind also that, while the Nazis established concentration camps in the 1930s, the number of inmates ranged in the thousands. It wouldn't be until the 1940s that the death camps and the gas chambers that killed millions would be implemented. Describing how the average German adapted to the new order, Shirer writes,

The overwhelming majority of Germans did not seem to mind that their personal freedom had been taken away, that so much of culture had been destroyed and replaced with a mindless barbarism, or that their life and work had become regimented to a degree never before experienced even by a people accustomed for generations to a great deal of regimentation.... The Nazi terror in the early years affected the lives of relatively few Germans and a newly arrived observer was somewhat surprised to see that the people of this country did not seem to feel that they were being cowed.... On the contrary, they supported it with genuine enthusiasm. Somehow it imbued them with a new hope and a new confidence and an astonishing faith in the future of their country.

Comment: Given the stunning similarities to modern events in the US, we have to wonder what may come of the growing unhappiness with Bush and his government, especially since peaceful anti-war, affirmative action, and animal rights groups are being monitored by the FBI.

Getting back to the post-Katrina blame game...

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Charities, U.S. military mobilize to help

Katrina aid effort could be longest, costliest in U.S. history
The Washington Post
Updated: 12:24 a.m. ET Aug. 31, 2005

Charities and the federal government launched what aid agencies predicted could be the longest and costliest relief effort in U.S. history, as workers began arriving last night in states devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and as the U.S. military organized an intensive response by already stretched National Guard and active duty forces.

The American Red Cross, working in concert with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, called its plan to house and feed tens of thousands of people its biggest response to a single natural disaster in the organization's 124-year history. With deep flooding that may not recede for weeks in areas across three states, charities said thousands could remain homeless for more than a year and that the rebuilding would probably take even longer.

"This disaster response is going to exceed our response to last year's back-to-back four hurricanes" in Florida, said Red Cross spokeswoman Devorah Goldburg. That effort included serving 16.5 million meals and providing the equivalent of 430,000 nights of shelter. "We're anticipating that Katrina will exceed those numbers."

The needs were as immense as they were varied, ranging from urgent search-and-rescue requests to pressing demands for shelter and clean water, and daunting longer-range challenges that were barely coming into focus last night.

The Air Force, Navy and Army began mobilizing troops and equipment to augment National Guard units, including helicopters with night-search gear and amphibious watercraft with civilian teams for rescuing stranded citizens. The Navy and U.S. Merchant Marine readied five ships in Norfolk and Baltimore: the hospital ship USNS Comfort, as well as helicopter-carrying vessels and ships that can carry landing craft, construction equipment, Humvees, forklifts, food, fuel and water-purification equipment.

'Sheer magnitude'

For the first time, the Pentagon yesterday created a joint domestic task force -- headed by a three-star general and based in Mississippi -- to coordinate emergency operations by Guard and active-duty forces across four states. Driving the U.S. military response was the realization of the "sheer magnitude" of the catastrophe once dawn broke, said Michael Kucharek, spokesman for U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs.

The Red Cross had opened more than 200 shelters yesterday in concert with FEMA, which mobilized before the storm when President Bush designated Louisiana and Mississippi disaster areas. That allowed FEMA rescue workers to bring in water, ice and ready-to-eat meals before Katrina hit.

While rescue units pulled stranded residents from floodwater yesterday, a 50-member FEMA team was in Louisiana, making plans to buy, order and move hundreds of thousands of mobile homes into the area. FEMA will reimburse flood victims for rental housing, FEMA spokeswoman Natalie Rule said. The need was made more urgent yesterday when Louisiana officials decided to evacuate the Superdome, a city-designated shelter damaged by wind and flooding and made miserable for its inhabitants by a lack of electricity and clean water. [...]

Floodwaters 'holding us back'

"We're getting phone calls asking for teams to rescue people still trapped in their homes," especially in New Orleans and the Mississippi cities of Biloxi and Gulfport, said Maj. George Hood, national community relations secretary for the Salvation Army. The charity was feeding and housing storm victims on the perimeters of the disaster. "We have a team 400 or 500 people in Jackson, Mississippi, [waiting for] the green light, but it's the floodwaters holding us back," Hood said. Accurate information about the disaster area was scarce, "because nothing is working," he said. [...]

Comment: This page was sent to us by a QFS member. Before Katrina hit the coast Bush had declared Louisiana and Mississippi disaster areas, allowing FEMA to swing into action.

If FEMA was already preparing before Katrina struck at Bush's instruction, then why did it still take them four days to really begin rescue operations? And why isn't anyone talking about Bush's early disaster declarations now?

Obviously, officials would have been aware of the possibility of massive flooding, so they would have obtained the necessary vehicles. The trucks that did eventually roll into New Orleans even drove through flooded streets without a problem...

This story disappeared off of MSNBC's web site, but it can still be found at the above link in Google's cache.

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New Orleans collects dead as officials dodge blame
By Mark Egan
September 4, 2005

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans began the gruesome task of collecting its thousands of dead on Sunday as the Bush administration tried to save face after its botched rescue plans left the city at the mercy of Hurricane Katrina.

Except for rescue workers and scattered groups of people, streets in the once-vibrant capital of jazz and good times were all but abandoned after a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighboring Texas and other states.

Battered and sickened survivors made no attempt to disguise their anger: "We have been abandoned by our own country, " Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, just south of New Orleans, told NBC's Meet the Press.

"It's not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans," Broussard said. "Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now."

After a nightmare confluence of natural disaster and political ineptitude that al Qaeda-linked Web sites called evidence of the "wrath of God" striking America, National Guard troops and U.S. marshals patrolled the city, stricken in the days after the hurricane by anarchic violence and looting. [...]

President George W. Bush, who in a rare admission of error, conceded on Friday that the results of his administration's relief efforts were unacceptable, said on Saturday he would send 7,200 more active-duty troops over three days.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld toured a medical facility at New Orleans' international airport on Sunday. He spoke and shook hands with military and rescue officials but walked right by a dozen refugees lying on stretchers just feet away from him, most of them extremely sick or handicapped.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was touring the Mobile, Alabama, area, in her native state.

A further 10,000 National Guard troops were being sent to storm-hit Louisiana and Mississippi, raising the total to 40,000. A total of 54,000 military personnel are now committed to relief efforts.

Lawmakers promised to allocate more relief money in coming weeks after Bush signed a $10.5 billion aid package for Gulf Coast areas hit by Katrina. [...]


Defending the administration's response and disaster planning, Chertoff said the hurricane and flood in New Orleans were "two catastrophes" that presented an unprecedented challenge.

"That perfect storm of combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners and maybe anybody's foresight," the homeland security chief said.

Critics have said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has lost its effectiveness since it became part of the Homeland Security Department in a post-September 11 reorganization.

Rice was slammed by critics on the Internet after she attended a New York performance of the Monty Python musical "Spamalot" on Wednesday, a day after New Orleans flooded.

After returning to Washington, she defended the administration against charges the slow government response and prolonged suffering of New Orleans' predominantly black storm victims were signs of racial neglect.

"That Americans would somehow in a color-affected way decide who to help and who not to help, I just don't believe it," said Rice, the administration's highest-ranking black official.

Comment: Condi is apparently unaware of the numerous instances in US history where minorities were treated as an inferior people. As an African-American woman, it is difficult to believe that she actually is so profoundly ignorant. She is clearly grasping at straws to defend Bush.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Bush administration officials were blaming state and local authorities for the disaster response problems. The newspaper said the administration was rebuffed in an effort to take control of police and National Guard units reporting to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat.

Comment: You see, none of this would ever have happened if a Republican was governor of Louisiana! Apparently, we are actually supposed to believe that the Bush's administration's lack of action to save the lives of thousands of people was completely the fault of the Democrats. Nevermind that Bush has never let any political resistance stop him before...

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Chertoff: Katrina scenario did not exist

However, experts for years had warned of threat to New Orleans
Saturday, September 3, 2005; Posted: 7:21 p.m. EDT (23:21 GMT)

Defending the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued Saturday that government planners did not predict such a disaster ever could occur.

But in fact, government officials, scientists and journalists have warned of such a scenario for years.

Chertoff, fielding questions from reporters, said government officials did not expect both a powerful hurricane and a breach of levees that would flood the city of New Orleans.

"That 'perfect storm' of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight," Chertoff said.

He called the disaster "breathtaking in its surprise."

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

Katrina was a Category 4 hurricane when it struck the Gulf Coast on September 29.

Last week, Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told CNN his agency had recently planned for a Category 5 hurricane hitting New Orleans.

Speaking to "Larry King Live" on August 31, in the wake of Katrina, Brown said, "That Category 4 hurricane caused the same kind of damage that we anticipated. So we planned for it two years ago. Last year, we exercised it. And unfortunately this year, we're implementing it."

Brown suggested FEMA -- part of the Department of Homeland Security -- was carrying out a prepared plan, rather than having to suddenly create a new one.

Chertoff argued that authorities actually had assumed that "there would be overflow from the levee, maybe a small break in the levee. The collapse of a significant portion of the levee leading to the very fast flooding of the city was not envisioned."

He added: "There will be plenty of time to go back and say we should hypothesize evermore apocalyptic combinations of catastrophes. Be that as it may, I'm telling you this is what the planners had in front of them. They were confronted with a second wave that they did not have built into the plan, but using the tools they had, we have to move forward and adapt."

But New Orleans, state and federal officials have long painted a very different picture.

"We certainly understood the potential impact of a Category 4 or 5 hurricane" on New Orleans, Lt. General Carl Strock, chief of engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Thursday, Cox News Service reported.

Reuters reported that in 2004, more than 40 state, local and volunteer organizations practiced a scenario in which a massive hurricane struck and levees were breached, allowing water to flood New Orleans. Under the simulation, called "Hurricane Pam," the officials "had to deal with an imaginary storm that destroyed more than half a million buildings in New Orleans and forced the evacuation of a million residents," the Reuters report said.

In 2002 the New Orleans Times-Picayune ran a five-part series exploring the vulnerability of the city. The newspaper, and other news media as well, specifically addressed the possibility of massive floods drowning residents, destroying homes and releasing toxic chemicals throughout the city. (Read: "Times-Picayune" Special Report: Washing awayexternal link)

Scientists long have discussed this possibility as a sort of doomsday scenario. [...]

But Chertoff seemed unaware of all the warnings. [...]

Chertoff also argued that authorities did not have much notice that the storm would be so powerful and could make a direct hit on New Orleans.

"It wasn't until comparatively late, shortly before -- a day, maybe a day and a half, before landfall -- that it became clear that this was going to be a Category 4 or 5 hurricane headed for the New Orleans area."

As far back as Friday, August 26, the National Hurricane Center was predicting the storm could be a Category 4 hurricane at landfall, with New Orleans directly in its path. Still, storms do change paths, so the possibility existed that it might not hit the city.

But the National Weather Service prediction proved almost perfect. [...]

Comment: In addition to placing the blame on the Democrats, administration officials are also using the "We didn't know" defense, which the entire world already knows is completely false.

According to the New York Times, Chertoff also said:

...the war in Iraq was not hurting the Guard's ability to respond to domestic catastrophe. He said the issue was not numbers, but logistics. "These are citizen soldiers, we have to get them mobilized and deployed," he said.

So, the delay was the Democrats' fault, Bush administration officials didn't know it was going to be a big disaster, and the National Guard took four days to get ready. And, last but not least:

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Brown pushed from last job: Horse group: FEMA chief had to be 'asked to resign'
By Brett Arends
Boston Herald
Saturday, September 3, 2005

The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows.

And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.

The Oklahoman got the job through an old college friend who at the time was heading up FEMA.

The agency, run by Brown since 2003, is now at the center of a growing fury over the handling of the New Orleans disaster.

"I look at FEMA and I shake my head," said a furious Gov. Mitt Romney yesterday, calling the response "an embarrassment."

President Bush, after touring the Big Easy, said he was "not satisfied" with the emergency response to Hurricane Katrina's devastation.
And U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch predicted there would be hearings on Capitol Hill over the mishandled operation.

Brown - formerly an estates and family lawyer - this week has has made several shocking public admissions, including interviews where he suggested FEMA was unaware of the misery and desperation of refugees stranded at the New Orleans convention center.

Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, Brown spent 11 years as the commissioner of judges and stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association, a breeders' and horse-show organization based in Colorado.

"We do disciplinary actions, certification of (show trial) judges. We hold classes to train people to become judges and stewards. And we keep records," explained a spokeswoman for the IAHA commissioner's office. "This was his full-time job . . . for 11 years," she added.

Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures.

"He was asked to resign," Bill Pennington, president of the IAHA at the time, confirmed last night.

Soon after, Brown was invited to join the administration by his old Oklahoma college roommate Joseph Allbaugh, the previous head of FEMA until he quit in 2003 to work for the president's re-election campaign.

The White House last night defended Brown's appointment. A spokesman noted Brown served as FEMA deputy director and general counsel before taking the top job, and that he has now overseen the response to "more than 164 declared disasters and emergencies," including last year's record-setting hurricane season.

Comment: Despite the White House's comments defending him, they will need a fallguy, and Brown looks like the prime candidate.

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People of the Dome

"Let Them Eat Sh*t..."
September 3 / 4, 2005

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 to use not for transporting people in the Dome but for the military. The tourists were not allowed to leave. Instead, the military ordered the tourists to the now-infamous Convention Center.

How simple it would have been for the State and/or US government to have provided buses for people before the hurricane hit, and throughout this week. Even evacuating 100,000 people trapped there -- that's 3,000 buses, less than come into Washington D.C. for some of the giant antiwar demonstrations there. Even at $2,500 a pop -- highway robbery -- that would only be a total of $7.5 million for transporting all of those who did not have the means to leave.

Instead, look at the human and economic cost of not doing that!

So why didn't they do that?

On Wednesday a number of Greens tried to bring a large amount of water to the SuperDome. They were prevented from doing so, as have many others. Why have food and water been blocked from reaching tens of thousands of poor people?

On Thursday, the government used the excuse that there were some very scattered gunshots (two or three instances only) -- around 1/50th of the number of gunshots that occur in New York City on an average day -- to shut down voluntary rescue operations and to scrounge for 5,000 National Guard troops fully armed, with "shoot to kill" orders -- at a huge economic cost.

They even refused to allow voluntary workers who had rescued over 1,000 people in boats over the previous days to continue on Thursday, using the several gunshots (and who knows who shot off those rounds?) to say "It's too dangerous". The volunteers didn't think the gunshots were dangerous to them and wanted to continue their rescue operations and had to be "convinced" at gunpoint to "cease and desist."

There is something sinister going down -- it's not just incompetence or negligence.

How could FEMA and Homeland Security not have something so basic as bottled drinking water in the SuperDome, 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.

Two years ago, 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. There have also been major battles to block Shell Oil's attempt to build a Liquid Natural Gas facility, and to prevent the teardown of public housing (which failed), with the Mayor lining up in the latter two issues on the side of the oil companies and the developers.

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.

We need to understand that the capability has been there from the start to drive water and food right up to the convention center, as those roads have been clear -- it's how the National Guard drove into the city.

Let me say this again: The government is intentionally not allowing food or water in.

This is for real.

MSNBC interviewed dozens of people who had gotten out. Every single one of them was white.

The people who are poor (primarily Black but many poor Whites as well) are finally being allowed to leave the horrendous conditions in the SuperDome; many are being bussed to the AstroDome in Houston.

Call them "People of the Dome."

If people resist the National Guard coming to remove them against their will, will New Orleans become known as the first battle in the new American revolution?

Mitchel Cohen is co-editor of "G", the newspaper of the NY State Greens. He can be reached at:

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Rapes, killings hit Katrina refugees in New Orleans
By Mark Egan
3/9/2005 8:29:08 PM

NEW ORLEANS - People left homeless by Hurricane Katrina told horrific stories of rape, murder and trigger happy guards in two New Orleans centers that were set up as shelters but became places of violence and terror.

Police and National Guard troops on Saturday closed down the two centers -- the Superdome arena and the city's convention centre -- but then penned them in outside in sweltering heat to keep them from trying to walk out of the city.

Military helicopters and buses staged a massive evacuation to take away thousands of people who waited in orderly lines in stifling heat outside the flooded convention centre.

The refugees, who were waiting to be taken to sports stadiums and other huge shelters across Texas and northern Louisiana, described how the convention centre and the Superdome became lawless hellholes beset by rape and murder.

Several residents of the impromptu shantytown recounted two horrific incidents where those charged with keeping people safe had killed them instead.

In one, a young man was run down and then shot by a New Orleans police officer, in another a man seeking help was gunned down by a National Guard soldier, witnesses said.

Police here refused to discuss or confirm either incident. National Guard spokesman Lt. Col Pete Schneider said "I have not heard any information of a weapon being discharged."

"They killed a man here last night," Steve Banka, 28, told Reuters. "A young lady was being raped and stabbed. And the sounds of her screaming got to this man and so he ran out into the street to get help from troops, to try to flag down a passing lorry of them, and he jumped up on the truck's windscreen and they shot him dead."

Wade Batiste, 48, recounted another tale of horror.

"Last night at 8 p.m. they shot a kid of just 16. He was just crossing the street. They ran him over, the New Orleans police did, and then they got out of the car and shot him in the head," Batiste said.

The young man's body lay in the street by the Convention Center's entrance on Saturday morning, covered in a black blanket, a stream of congealed blood staining the street around him. Nearby his family sat in shock.

A member of that family, Africa Brumfield, 32, confirmed the incident but declined to be quoted about it, saying her family did not wish to discuss it. But she spoke of general conditions here.

"There is rapes going on here. Women cannot go to the bathroom without men. They are raping them and slitting their throats. They keep telling us the buses are coming but they never leave," she said through tears.

People here said there were now 22 bodies of adults and children stored inside the building, but troops guarding the building refused to confirm that and threatened to beat reporters seeking access to the makeshift morgue.

People trying to walk out are forced back at gunpoint - something troops said was for their own safety. "It's sad, but how far do you think they would get," one soldier said.

"They have us living here like animals," said Wvonnette Grace-Jordan, here with five children, the youngest only six weeks old. "We have only had two meals, we have no medicine and now there are thousands of people defecating in the streets. This is wrong. This is the United States of America."

One National Guard soldier who asked not to be named for fear of punishment from his commanding officer said of the lack of medical attention at the centre, "They (the Bush administration) care more about Iraq and Afghanistan than here."

The Louisiana National Guard soldier said, "We are doing the best we can with the resources we have, but almost all of our guys are in Iraq."

Across town at the Superdome, where as many as 38,000 refugees camped out until Wednesday night when evacuation buses first came, the 4,000 still there were corralled outside, hoping to get on four waiting buses with seats for only 200.

The scene at the sports stadium was one of abject filth. Crammed into a small area after the building was shut to them last night, those remaining sat amid heaps of garbage, piled in places waist high. The stench of human waste pervaded the interior of the now vacant stadium.

One police officer told Reuters there were 100 people in a makeshift morgue at the Superdome, mostly people who died of heat exhaustion, and that six babies had been born there since last Saturday, when people arrived to take shelter.

At the arena, too, there was much talk of bedlam after dark.

"We found a young girl raped and killed in the bathroom," one National Guard soldier told Reuters. "Then the crowd got the man and they beat him to death."

Comment: Not to worry - the Bush Reich is sending some of their latest non-lethal weaponry to the devastated areas as a 'replacement for the lost communications infrastructure':

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Sonic 'Lasers' Head to Flood Zone
By Xeni Jardin
Wired News
02:00 AM Sep. 02, 2005 PT

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, California -- Air-raid sirens, Frank Sinatra songs and Muhammad Ali trash talk blared over the Southern California desert in a demonstration of new acoustic technology for crowd control and disaster communications.

In mid-90's morning heat at Edwards Air Force Base, HPV Technologies and American Technology demonstrated prototypes of non-lethal sonic devices for a group of military and law enforcement guests, including representatives of the U.K. Home Office.

Representatives of both companies say that within days, they will ship some units of their respective products to areas hit by Hurricane Katrina, so authorities can use the tools for crowd control, aid distribution and rescue operations.

Costa Mesa, California-based HPV showed off three sizes of its Magnetic Acoustic Device, or MAD, a black square panel composed of multiple speakers. The units on display ranged from about 4 to 10 feet across.

The device uses magnets approximately 6 inches tall and 9.25 inches wide to convert electrical pulses into sound waves, and is capable of aiming sound precisely for thousands of feet -- like the sonic equivalent of a laser, or spotlight.

Its path and reach can be affected by environmental factors such as nearby flat surfaces, hills, bodies of water or strong bursts of wind.

A series of test sounds beamed out by MAD, including gunfire, music and instructional commands, were audible and intelligible at distances of up to a mile.

When a subject is at close range in MAD's sonic path, and it is set to high volume, the sound can be excruciating.

The ability to broadcast instructions or alerts at great distances with minimal distortion could be useful for authorities and rescue crews in areas where other communications systems are unavailable.

American Technology is donating four devices -- three MRADs (medium-range acoustic devices) and one LRAD (long-range acoustic device). The four devices will be shipped out Friday to a Marine military police unit that is deploying to the Gulf States area for disaster-relief efforts.

"We are donating the use of one of our most powerful prototypes, LTPMS-2, for use in Mississippi as soon as possible, because the governor of that state said that the biggest problem they have right now is the fact that they have no communications infrastructure to get information or instructions out to people," he said. "They can very easily put this on a truck and send sound out for a minimum of at least a mile in either direction."

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, which hosted the event as a guest of the Air Force base, is considering using MAD to replace conventional public address systems and as a non-lethal "area denial option" -- a way to clear crowds in civil unrest without using chemical agents, rubber bullets or the like.

"You don't appreciate how powerful this stuff is until you stand a mile away and can't see the transmitter -- but can hear every word in a Queen song," said Cmdr. Sid Heal, who heads the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department technology exploration program. "At a quarter mile, it sounds as clear as a car radio; at a half a mile, you have to raise your voice to talk to the guy next to you; at three quarters of a mile, laborers raking up leaves were putting in music requests."

Comment: And if the devices have to be used to ensure law and order, then the company that builds the MAD and the military get some free real-world testing...

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Law Officers, Overwhelmed, Are Quitting the Force
New York Times
September 4, 2005

NEW ORLEANS - Reeling from the chaos of this overwhelmed city, at least 200 New Orleans police officers have walked away from their jobs and two have committed suicide, police officials said on Saturday.

Some officers told their superiors they were leaving, police officials said. Others worked for a while and then stopped showing up. Still others, for reasons not always clear, never made it in after the storm.

The absences come during a period of extraordinary stress for the New Orleans Police Department. For nearly a week, many of its 1,500 members have had to work around the clock, trying to cope with flooding, an overwhelming crush of refugees, looters and occasional snipers.

P. Edwin Compass III, the superintendent of police, said most of his officers were staying at their posts. But in an unusual note of sympathy for a top police official, he said it was understandable that many were frustrated. He said morale was "not very good."

"If I put you out on the street and made you get into gun battles all day with no place to urinate and no place to defecate, I don't think you would be too happy either," Mr. Compass said in an interview. "Our vehicles can't get any gas. The water in the street is contaminated. My officers are walking around in wet shoes."

Fire Department officials said they did not know of any firefighters who had quit. But they, too, were sympathetic to struggling emergency workers.

W. J. Riley, the assistant superintendent of police, said there were about 1,200 officers on duty on Saturday. He said the department was not sure how many officers had decided to abandon their posts and how many simply could not get to work.

Mr. Riley said some of the officers who left the force "couldn't handle the pressure" and were "certainly not the people we need in this department."

He said, "The others are not here because they lost a spouse, or their family or their home was destroyed."

Police officials did not identify the officers who took their lives, one on Saturday and the other the day before. But they said one had been a patrol officer, who a senior officer said "was absolutely outstanding." The other was an aide to Mr. Compass. The superintendent said his aide had lost his home in the hurricane and had been unable to find his family.

Because of the hurricane, many police officers and firefighters have been isolated and unable to report for duty. Others evacuated their families and have been unable to get back to New Orleans.

Still, some officers simply appear to have given up.

A Baton Rouge police officer said he had a friend on the New Orleans force who told him he threw his badge out a car window in disgust just after fleeing the city into neighboring Jefferson Parish as the hurricane approached. The Baton Rouge officer would not give his name, citing a department policy banning comments to the news media.

The officer said he had also heard of an incident in which two men in a New Orleans police cruiser were stopped in Baton Rouge on suspicion of driving a stolen squad car. The men were, in fact, New Orleans officers who had ditched their uniforms and were trying to reach a town in north Louisiana, the officer said.

"They were doing everything to get out of New Orleans," he said. "They didn't have the resources to do the job, or a plan, so they left."

The result is an even heavier burden on those who are patrolling the street, rescuing flood victims and trying to fight fires with no running water, no electricity, no reliable telephones.

Police and fire officials have been begging federal authorities for assistance and criticizing a lack of federal response for several days.

"We need help," said Charles Parent, the superintendent of the Fire Department. Mr. Parent again appealed in an interview on Saturday for replacement fire trucks and radio equipment from federal authorities. And Mr. Compass again appealed for more federal help.

"When I have officers committing suicide," Mr. Compass said, "I think we've reached a point when I don't know what more it's going to take to get the attention of those in control of the response."

The National Guard has come under criticism for not moving more quickly into New Orleans. Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, the head of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters on Saturday that the Guard had not moved in sooner because it had not anticipated the collapse of civilian law enforcement. [...]

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The Two Americas
By Marjorie Cohn

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.

Comment: No wonder Americans are forbidden from even visiting Cuba. They might find out just how bad their situation has become in the "Greatest Democracy on Earth"...

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."

Our federal and local governments had more than ample warning that hurricanes, which are growing in intensity thanks to global warming, could destroy New Orleans. Yet, instead of heeding those warnings, Bush set about to prevent states from controlling global warming, weaken FEMA, and cut the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for levee construction in New Orleans by $71.2 million, a 44 percent reduction.

Bush sent nearly half our National Guard troops and high-water Humvees to fight in an unnecessary war in Iraq. Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Paris in New Orleans, noted a year ago, "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq."

An Editor and Publisher article Wednesday said the Army Corps of Engineers "never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security - coming at the same time as federal tax cuts - was the reason for the strain," which caused a slowdown of work on flood control and sinking levees.

"This storm was much greater than protection we were authorized to provide," said Alfred C. Naomi, a senior project manager in the New Orleans district of the corps.

Unlike in Cuba, where homeland security means keeping the country secure from deadly natural disasters as well as foreign invasions, Bush has failed to keep our people safe. "On a fundamental level," Paul Krugman wrote in yesterday's New York Times, "our current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don't like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on prevention measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice."

During the 2004 election campaign, vice presidential candidate John Edwards spoke of "the two Americas." It seems unfathomable how people can shoot at rescue workers. Yet, after the beating of Rodney King aired on televisions across the country, poor, desperate, hungry people in Watts took over their neighborhoods, burning and looting. Their anger, which had seethed below the surface for so long, erupted. That's what's happening now in New Orleans. And we, mostly white, people of privilege, rarely catch a glimpse of this other America.

"I think a lot of it has to do with race and class," said Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. "The people affected were largely poor people. Poor, black people."

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin reached a breaking point Thursday night. "You mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources we need? Come on, man!"

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had boasted earlier in the day that FEMA and other federal agencies have done a "magnificent job" under the circumstances.

But, said, Nagin, "They're feeding the people a line of bull, and they are spinning and people are dying. Get off your asses and let's do something!"

When asked about the looting, the mayor said that except for a few "knuckleheads," it is the result of desperate people trying to find food and water to survive.

Nagin blamed the outbreak of violence and crime on drug addicts who have been cut off from their drug supplies, wandering the city, "looking to take the edge off their jones."

When Hurricane Ivan hit Cuba, no curfew was imposed; yet, no looting or violence took place. Everyone was in the same boat.

Fidel Castro, who has compared his government's preparations for Hurricane Ivan to the island's long-standing preparations for an invasion by the United States, said, "We've been preparing for this for 45 years."

On Thursday, Cuba's National Assembly sent a message of solidarity to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It says the Cuban people have followed closely the news of the hurricane damage in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and the news has caused pain and sadness. The message notes that the hardest hit are African-Americans, Latino workers, and the poor, who still wait to be rescued and taken to secure places, and who have suffered the most fatalities and homelessness. The message concludes by saying that the entire world must feel this tragedy as its own.

Marjorie Cohn, a contributing editor to t r u t h o u t, is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists.

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Bush to Return to Gulf Coast
By Paula Wolfson
September 5, 2005

WHITE HOUSE -- President Bush heads back to America's Gulf Coast today (Monday) for an update on efforts to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It will be his second visit to the storm-ravaged area in four days.

This is the Labor Day Holiday in the United States. But there is no celebration along the Gulf Coast, where many are focusing on surviving from one day to the next.

Soldiers and supplies have been pouring into the region, and the chaos that plagued so many communities has begun to ease.

But a week after the hurricane struck, search and rescue efforts are continuing, with stranded storm victims being plucked one by one off rooftops in the hard-hit city of New Orleans. Hundreds-of-thousands of people are displaced, and many towns are piles of rubble and debris. [...]

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Gunmen Attack Contractors on La. Bridge
Sun Sep 4, 7:35 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS - Police shot and killed at least five people Sunday after gunmen opened fire on a group of contractors traveling across a bridge on their way to make repairs, authorities said.

Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley said police shot at eight people carrying guns, killing five or six.

Fourteen contractors were traveling across the Danziger Bridge under police escort when they came under fire, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.

They were on their way to launch barges into Lake Pontchartrain to help plug the breech in the 17th Street Canal, Hall said.

None of the contractors was injured, Mike Rogers, a disaster relief coordinator with the Army Corps of Engineers, told reporters in Baton Rouge.

The bridge spans a canal connecting Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River.

No other details were immediately available.

Comment: This article is a bit different than the following report:

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Five dead were army workers: report
Herald Sun
05 September 2005

Associated Press reports that at least five people shot dead by police as they walked across a New Orleans bridge yesterday were contractors working for the US Defence department.

A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers said the victims were contractors on their way to repair a canal. The contractors were on their way across the bridge to launch barges into Lake Pontchartrain, in an operation to fix the 17th Street Canal, according to the spokesman.

The shootings took place on the Danziger Bridge, across a canal connecting Lake Pontchartrain to the Mississippi River.

Early on Sunday, Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley of New Orleans said police shot at eight people, killing five or six.

No other details were immediately available.

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Crude Oil Prices Fall to $64.85 a Barrel
Monday, September 5, 2005

Oil prices fell Monday after industrialized nations agreed to release 60 million barrels of crude from their strategic stockpiles to help avert a severe fuel shortage in the United States.

The U.S. refinery system was struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Two storm-shuttered facilities restarted and flows of crude oil improved enough to allow refineries in the Gulf Coast and Midwest to ramp up production. But four damaged Gulf Coast refiners look likely to remain shut for weeks or even months, taking with them more than 5 percent of U.S. capacity.

Still the decision by industrialized nations to alleviate the hurricane-caused shortfall from their own stocks appeared to calm the waters. Vienna's PV oil associates said that by Monday about 30 cargoes of gasoline from those countries to the United States had been arranged.

On London's International Petroleum Exchange, October Brent was down $1.21 to $64.85 a barrel by midday in Europe - close to what it had been fetching before Katrina hit.

The New York Mercantile Exchange was closed for the Labor Day holiday. Benchmark light, sweet crude had closed Friday at $67.57 a barrel, down $1.90 after the International Energy Agency on Friday announced its 26 members would release 2 million barrels daily for 30 days to meet shortfalls in world energy markets.

The International Energy Agency groups industrialized nations under the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development umbrella. Its members began stockpiling crude following the oil shocks of the 1970s.

The total release from the IEA includes 30 million from the United States' own Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is near its capacity of around 700 million barrels stored in salt caverns in Texas and Louisiana - the state hardest hit by Katrina.

But analysts urged caution, despite the respite.

"Be wary of good news. The situation remains horrific and light will be at the end of a very long tunnel," brokerage Fimat Inc. said in a research note. [...]

Even before Katrina, markets were on edge because high demand in the United States and China had whittled back global excess capacity to just 1.5 million barrels of the global daily diet of crude, which means there was little left to offset any unplanned production snag.

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Magnitude 5.9 Earthquake - CELEBES SEA
2005 September 4 23:58:33 UTC

A moderate earthquake occurred at 23:58:33 (UTC) on Sunday, September 4, 2005. The magnitude 5.9 event has been located in the CELEBES SEA. The hypocentral depth was estimated to be 428 km (266 miles). (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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Teenage girls started latest Paris fire, killing 16
September 5, 2005

PARIS - Two teenage girls confessed Monday to starting a fire that killed sixteen people over the weekend, including three children, and injured more than 30 in an apartment block fire in a suburb south of Paris early Sunday -- the third fatal fire to hit the French capital in nine days.

The blaze broke out at around 1:00am in the hall of an 18-storey highrise containing 110 local authority flats at L'Hay-les-Roses near Orly airport. The casualties -- including 11 who were seriously injured -- were all caused by smoke inhalation.

According to a final official report on casualties, 11 people were seriously injured. Of those killed, three were children about 10 years old, officials said. A young man died died in hospital of severe smoke inhalation late Sunday. Five people remain in critical condition, doctors said.

The girls -- one aged 16 and the others 18 -- were held for questioning on Sunday and admitted setting light to letter-boxes in the hall of the 18-storey high-rise in the working-class suburb of L'Hay-les-Roses near Orly airport, police said.

"They said they did it for fun. They didn't mean to kill but things got out of control," a police officer said on condition of anonymity.

Two of the girls live in the high-rise, which contains some 110 apartments, police said. A third girl was also being held for questioning.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told French television that the fire was the result of a "criminal act" which needed to be "punished as such".

He rejected suggestions by the local mayor that the blaze was the consequence of an "anti-social act".

Residents told investigators that vandals had been spotted setting light to letter-boxes on the ground floor of the highrise. Low-level arson attacks on cars and property are a regular problem in run-down housing estates that surround many French cities.

Altogether 39 people have been killed in three fires in Paris in little over a week, but authorities were at pains to play down any similarity between the latest disaster and the fires on August 26 and 29 that killed 24 African immigrants in two dilapidated Paris buildings.

"This is a block of flats. It's got nothing to do with the fires in the Paris squats," said fire service spokesman Captain Michel Cros. [...]

Police were working on the theory that one fire, which killed 17 West Africans near Austerlitz station on August 26, may have been set deliberately, but last Monday's at a squat in the fashionable Marais district was almost certainly an accident.

Both of those buildings were run-down condition and overcrowded, and lacked safety equipment. By contrast the apartment bloc at L'Hay-les-Roses appeared to have been properly maintained.

Thousands of protesters marched through Paris on Saturday demanding urgent investment in low-cost housing for immigrants, and condemning the forced evacuation of two Paris squats late last week.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy ordered the evictions as a safety measure, but the Socialist-controlled city council said no long term alternative accommodation had been found for the 150 residents, many of whom are in France illegally.

He told French television he took full responsibility for the evictions and did not regret them.

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Dark matter highlights extra dimensions

Three new 'directions' could explain astronomical puzzle
Philip Ball
2 September 2005

Welcome to the fourth dimension. And the fifth, and the sixth. A team of astrophysicists claims to have identified evidence that space is six-dimensional.

Joseph Silk of the University of Oxford, UK, and his co-workers say that these extra spatial dimensions can be inferred from the perplexing behaviour of dark matter. This mysterious stuff cannot be seen, but its presence in galaxies is betrayed by the gravitational tug that it exerts on visible stars.

Silk and his colleagues looked at how dark matter behaves differently in small galaxies and large clusters of galaxies. In the smaller ones, dark matter seems to be attracted to itself quite strongly. But in the large galactic clusters this doesn't seem to be the case: strongly interacting dark matter should produce cores of dark material bigger than those that are actually there, as deduced from the way the cluster spins.

One explanation, they say, is that three extra dimensions, in addition to the three spatial ones to which we are accustomed, are altering the effects of gravity over very short distances of about a nanometre.

The team argues that such astronomical observations of dark matter provide the first potential evidence for extra dimensions. Others are supportive, but unconvinced. Lisa Randall, a Harvard physicist who has explored the possibility of extra spatial dimensions, says "Even if their idea works, which it probably does, it may be an overstatement to use these observations as evidence of extra dimensions."

Silk himself acknowledges that the proposal is "extremely speculative".

Too small to see

Physicists have suspected for years that 'hidden' dimensions exist, largely because they seem to be predicted by string theory, the current favourite for a theory of fundamental subatomic particles.

Comment: What if string theory is wrong? After all, it is still only a theory.

These extra dimensions are generally thought to be tiny: many billions of times smaller than atoms. This would make these dimensions very hard to detect, explaining why the Universe looks as if it has just three. Physicists such as Randall, however, have proposed that some extra dimensions might be relatively big, but inaccessible to us.

The extra dimensions that Silk and colleagues say they have identified are likewise 'big', at about a nanometre across. In other words, they say, the Universe is only about a nanometre wide in these three 'directions'.

They argue that the force of gravity does not obey Isaac Newton's famous laws over small distances, where these dimensions come into play. This has never been tested experimentally: no one has measured how gravity behaves over distances below about a hundredth of a millimetre.

Dark stranger

This variation in gravity, says Silk, could be why dark matter behaves differently in different galactic environments.

According to one interpretation of the astronomical observations, dark matter, which is thought to account for 85% of all the mass in the Universe but not to be made from the known fundamental particles, seems to attract itself through some unknown force. And this attraction seems to be stronger in dwarf galaxies than in galactic clusters. This is very odd: it is rather as if apples were to fall faster from single trees than from trees in an orchard.

But the attraction isn't due to an unknown force, argue Silk and his colleagues, but to the effect of extra dimensions on gravity. And because dark matter particles are accelerated to higher speeds in massive galactic clusters than in dwarf galaxies, they spend less time close to each other, so the effects of these extra dimensions are felt less.

Radical answer

There are other ways of explaining the puzzling dark-matter distributions, admits Silk's colleague Ue-Li Pen of the University of Toronto in Canada. For example, one could assume that the rate at which stars explode, as supernovae, was quite different in the past.

"Personally, I think changing the supernovae rate is more conservative than changing the number of spatial dimensions," Pen confesses. But he thinks that invoking extra dimensions is such an exciting idea that it is worth investigating, "even if it is a long shot".

The most popular versions of string theory suggest that there are as many as eight extra dimensions, not just three. But thankfully this needn't be a problem. There's no reason why, in addition to the three large extra dimensions predicted by Silk and colleagues, there might not be several other small ones too.

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New Song! Signs of the Times

As featured on our latest podcast page, Relic has written, produced, and performed a new song called "Signs of the Times".

"Signs of the Times" words & music by Relic

There are UFOs over Mexico
Hurricanes in Florida
You may be surprised to know
It's raining frogs in Serbia

Tornadoes over Texas
California quakes
The ring of fire is the next to blow
And all of Europe is left to bake


These are the Signs of the Times
The world is burning, yeah
These are the Signs of the Times
The tides are turning, yeah
See the signs

The weather's changed
Everything is strange, somehow
It's all connected

Our leaders lie
Our children die, somehow
It's all connected

Locust plagues and wildfires
Ice age follows climate change
What to do with the avian flu
And HAARP is turned on again

The beast of revelation
Is living in the states
Jesus seen in a grilled cheese
Virgin Mary's on the interstate


Butterfly wings
Start so many things, somehow
It's all connected

Gravity waves
Change your DNA, somehow
It's all connected

There's drought in Australia
While China floods
Tsunami wash it all away
Persian rivers run with blood

The sun's dark companion
Comes around again
Auroras in the atmosphere
Meteors falling down like rain


So raise your voice
Time to make a choice, somehow
It's all connected


Copyright 2005 Relic

Download MP3 (Right click and "Save link as...") (6 MB)

Let us know what you think.

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NEW! Signs Commentary Books are Now Available!

For the first time, the Signs Team's most popular and discerning essays have been compiled into book form and thematically organized.

These books contain hard hitting exposés into human nature, propaganda, psyop activities and insights into the world events that shape our future and our understanding of the world.

The six new books, available now at our bookstore, are entitled:

  • 911 Conspiracy
  • The Human Condition
  • The Media
  • Religion
  • The Work
  • U.S. Freedom

Read them today - before the book burning starts!

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