Thursday, September 8, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
Signs Logo
Printer Friendly Version
Fixed link to latest Page


"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



New York Post
September 6, 2005

WASHINGTON - U.S. counterterrorism authorities have been engaged for months in a shadow war with a computer hacker extraordinaire who is using cutting-edge technology to help al Qaeda and other jihad groups with their vast Internet operations, The Post has learned.

Experts inside and outside the government confirmed in recent interviews that an intensive effort has been under way for more than a year to track and shut down the mysterious cyber-ghost, who identifies himself as Irhabi 007 - or "Terrorist 007."

While officials said Irhabi 007 might not be a hardened al Qaeda terrorist, they believe he is a vital cog in the jihadi network, which relies on the Internet for communications, recruitment, fund-raising and propaganda.

"We don't know whether Irhabi 007 is a man or woman - an al Qaeda terrorist or a 16-year-old kid in a basement somewhere. But he is a fairly important figure who is getting increasingly popular and has a growing following," said terror expert Rita Katz, whose SITE Institute monitors al Qaeda communications on the Internet.

The FBI has been investigating Irhabi 007 since July 2004, when the Web site of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department was hacked.

The site was transformed into an al Qaeda message board, and links were posted that allowed visitors to view videotapes of Osama bin Laden and tributes to the 9/11 hijackers.

The person who hacked into the Arkansas government site and posted the links identified himself as Irhabi 007.

Terrorist expert Evan Kohlmann, who also monitors al Qaeda activities on the Web, told The Post that Irhabi 007 played a key role in the distribution and broadcast of the horrifying videotapes of the beheading of American and other foreign hostages in Iraq by terror master Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Comment: As the new boogeyman who has replaced Osama, of course we would be told that Zarqawi and Irhabi 007 are linked...

Irhabi 007 also is at the helm of the cat-and-mouse game with U.S. other and Western intelligence agencies to keep al Qaeda's Web operations up and running at a time when there is a massive effort to shut down terrorist infrastructure on the Internet, Kohlmann said.

Comment: Are we actually supposed to believe that the combined efforts of US and other Western intelligence agencies are incapable of tracking down one little "internet terrorist"??

There is growing evidence 007 is in direct contact with the media wings of several terror groups including Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq, Kohlmann said.

What's most intriguing about the case is that Irhabi 007 claims he is U.S.-based, and may be an American.

Comment: Gradually we are seeing that the "terrorists" are moving from "over there" to inside the US itself. With the recent FBI monitoring of affirmative action and anti-war groups, it seems inevitable at this point that there will be some event which brings the threat into the open, striking even more fear into the hearts of the average US citizen. In one fell swoop, the people could be manipulated into demanding controls on the internet and turning on their neighbors. Imagine the tips that would roll in when your neighbor notices that you don't go out on the weekends, and instead spend all your time reading potentially "disturbing sites" and communicating with others via the internet...

Click here to comment on this article

Australia tightens terror laws
Thu Sep 8, 2:57 AM ET

CANBERRA - Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced plans for tough new counter-terrorism laws including the detention and control of suspects and tighter citizenship requirements.

Suspects could be fitted with tracking devices and have their movements restricted through 12-month "control orders" under the new legislation to be discussed at a summit meeting of state government leaders on September 27, he said.

The government would also create new offences including inciting violence against the community or Australian troops abroad, Howard said.

Australian states would also be urged to introduce longer periods of preventative detention without charge of up to 14 days.

Describing the changes as "significant", Howard said police would be given greater powers to stop, question and search people.

The government was trying to balance the rights of individuals against the needs of the community, he said.

"We are very conscious that in all of these things a balance has to be struck between the liberty of the subject and the right of the community to be protected.

"We are, unfortunately, living in an era and time when unusual but necessary measures are needed to cope with an unusual and threatening situation."

The tougher security measures follow the London bombings in July which killed more than 50 people and fueled concern that Australia could face a similar attack.

Howard last month called a meeting of top leaders of Australia's 300,000-strong Islamic community to enlist their help in fighting extremism.

The period of waiting for citizenship approval for permanent residents will be increased from two to three years.

Comment: Meanwhile, Tony Blair has rallied to troops to push the rest of Europe into adopting the police state model:

Click here to comment on this article

EU ministers, under British pressure, examine terror response
September 8, 2005

NEWCASTLE, England - EU interior ministers are to meet to try to hone Europe's response to terrorism, including nailing down a controversial deal to improve police access to telephone and Internet data.

British Home Secretary Charles Clarke is hosting their talks in Newcastle, northern England, and has given a sense of urgency to them by pushing his EU counterparts to move more quickly after the London bombings.

The attacks on the capital's transport system on July 7, in which 52 commuters were killed and four suspected suicide bombers, were followed by a failed similar plot two weeks later and frequent other warnings of more to come.

Britain has since led the charge for the more rapid implementation of anti-terror laws and for new ones to be drawn up, and the pace of efforts will again be discussed during Thursday's sessions.

But its leaders have also called, quite disturbingly to civil libertarians, for a "new balance" between individual rights and the security needs of the wider community.

"I have concluded that the balance now is not right and that it needs to be closely examined in the heightened threat that we now face," Clarke reiterated to members of the European Parliament on Wednesday.

The plan to better retain telecommunications data is one element of Europe's new security thrust that has angered many for its potential to invade privacy.

The EU ministers, who will hold talks and workshops for two days at Newcastle racecourse, want to improve judicial cooperation, particularly in dealing with terrorism, by harmonising legislation in the 25 EU member states.

Under the project, set to be completed by next month, telecoms operators and Internet providers would keep for between six months and a year information on the sender, receiver, time, place and length of any communication.

No record of the conversation or message itself would be kept.

Comment: There are already systems capable of recording every conversation in place. The push for more "anti-terror" laws is simply an attempt to acclimatize the public to the idea that they need to willingly relinquish their civil liberties, one little bit at a time.

The rules would apply to a large range of equipment including land lines and mobile telephones, text messages, e-mails and Internet protocols.

The ministers also want records of calls or messages that went unanswered to be included; details of which helped Spanish police get their investigation rolling into the Madrid bombings in March 2004.

The project has to be adopted unanimously.

Currently telecoms firms in Germany are not obliged to keep the records of telephone calls or e-mails while those in France are. The length of time for retaining such records varies from two months in the Czech Republic to four years in Italy.

The ministers, meeting amid extremely tight security, will focus on Friday on two case studies of how cooperation is working with countries outside the bloc, with others sessions on migration and Africa, and Afghanistan and drugs.

Comment: If the project is not unanimously approved, we can probably expect another "terror attack" to force everyone to get into line. After all, it worked before for MI5 and Tony Blair with the London bombings. From the August 6, 2005 transcripts:

Q: Who carried out the Madrid train bombing?

A: Our favorite false flag gang.

Q: And where they also behind the London train bombings?

A: MI5 involvement there. Lack of professionalism shows.

You can also read some of our analyses on the Madrid and London bombings here and here.

Censorship is a key component of a police state, and the Bush administration has ramped up its efforts in this department to prevent the public from seeing the reality of the aftermath of Katrina...

Click here to comment on this article

U.S. agency blocks photos of New Orleans dead
Tue Sep 6, 2005 8:56 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS - The U.S. government agency leading the rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims.

An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats and that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect."

Comment: It's too bad the people weren't treated with any dignity or respect immediately after the storm hit. If they had been, there probably wouldn't have been a need to censor photographs of the thousands that are expected to be found dead in New Orleans alone.

"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mailed response to a Reuters inquiry.

The Bush administration also has prevented the news media from photographing flag-draped caskets of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, which has sparked criticism that the government is trying to block images that put the war in a bad light.

The White House is under fire for its handling of the relief effort, which many officials have charged was slow and bureacratic, contributing to the death and mayhem in New Orleans after the storm struck on Aug. 29.

Comment: The Bush-controlled media has also ramped up the finger-pointing to take the spotlight off of the administration:

Click here to comment on this article

Blame Amid the Tragedy

Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin failed their constituents.
The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, September 7, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

As the devastation of Hurricane Katrina continues to shock and sadden the nation, the question on many lips is, Who is to blame for the inadequate response?

As a former state legislator who represented the legislative district most impacted by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, I can fully understand and empathize with the people and public officials over the loss of life and property.

Many in the media are turning their eyes toward the federal government, rather than considering the culpability of city and state officials. I am fully aware of the challenges of having a quick and responsive emergency response to a major disaster. And there is definitely a time for accountability; but what isn't fair is to dump on the federal officials and avoid those most responsible--local and state officials who failed to do their job as the first responders. The plain fact is, lives were needlessly lost in New Orleans due to the failure of Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, and the city's mayor, Ray Nagin.

The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters. First response should be carried out by local and state emergency personnel under the supervision of the state governor and his emergency operations center.

The actions and inactions of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin are a national disgrace due to their failure to implement the previously established evacuation plans of the state and city. Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin cannot claim that they were surprised by the extent of the damage and the need to evacuate so many people.

Comment: Blanco and Nagin were not surprised by the extent of the damage. They were publicly surprised by the lack of federal response after the major news networks had broadcast their pleas for assistance. Nagin quite publicly complained that his efforts to strengthen the levees protecting New Orleans were shot down by a federal government that thought it best to divert funds to the occupation of Iraq. Furthermore, it seems that the author believes that Bush can successfully use excuses that Blanco and Nagin cannot.

Detailed written plans were already in place to evacuate more than a million people. The plans projected that 300,000 people would need transportation in the event of a hurricane like Katrina. If the plans had been implemented, thousands of lives would likely have been saved.

In addition to the plans, local, state and federal officials held a simulated hurricane drill 13 months ago, in which widespread flooding supposedly trapped 300,000 people inside New Orleans. The exercise simulated the evacuation of more than a million residents. The problems identified in the simulation apparently were not solved.

Comment: Of course not. The Bush government was too busy reallocating much-needed financial resources to their bogus war on terror.

A year ago, as Hurricane Ivan approached, New Orleans ordered an evacuation but did not use city or school buses to help people evacuate. As a result many of the poorest citizens were unable to evacuate. Fortunately, the hurricane changed course and did not hit New Orleans, but both Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin acknowledged the need for a better evacuation plan. Again, they did not take corrective actions. In 1998, during a threat by Hurricane George, 14,000 people were sent to the Superdome and theft and vandalism were rampant due to inadequate security. Again, these problems were not corrected.

The New Orleans contingency plan is still, as of this writing, on the city's Web site, and states: "The safe evacuation of threatened populations is one of the principle [sic] reasons for developing a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan." But the plan was apparently ignored.

Mayor Nagin was responsible for giving the order for mandatory evacuation and supervising the actual evacuation: His Office of Emergency Preparedness (not the federal government) must coordinate with the state on elements of evacuation and assist in directing the transportation of evacuees to staging areas. Mayor Nagin had to be encouraged by the governor to contact the National Hurricane Center before he finally, belatedly, issued the order for mandatory evacuation. And sadly, it apparently took a personal call from the president to urge the governor to order the mandatory evacuation.

The city's evacuation plan states: "The city of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas." But even though the city has enough school and transit buses to evacuate 12,000 citizens per fleet run, the mayor did not use them. To compound the problem, the buses were not moved to high ground and were flooded. The plan also states that "special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific lifesaving assistance. Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedures as needed." This was not done.

Comment: And where were these "additional personnel" supposed to come from? The federal government, perhaps?

The evacuation plan warned that "if an evacuation order is issued without the mechanisms needed to disseminate the information to the affected persons, then we face the possibility of having large numbers of people either stranded and left to the mercy of a storm, or left in an area impacted by toxic materials." That is precisely what happened because of the mayor's failure.

Instead of evacuating the people, the mayor ordered the refugees to the Superdome and Convention Center without adequate security and no provisions for food, water and sanitary conditions. As a result people died, and there was even rape committed, in these facilities. Mayor Nagin failed in his responsibility to provide public safety and to manage the orderly evacuation of the citizens of New Orleans. Now he wants to blame Gov. Blanco and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In an emergency the first requirement is for the city's emergency center to be linked to the state emergency operations center. This was not done.

The federal government does not have the authority to intervene in a state emergency without the request of a governor. President Bush declared an emergency prior to Katrina hitting New Orleans, so the only action needed for federal assistance was for Gov. Blanco to request the specific type of assistance she needed. She failed to send a timely request for specific aid.

Comment: Here the author degenerates into blatant lies. Blanco and Nagin were on seen on TV by the entire world requesting help from the federal government for days. Bush finally responded after four days, even though he had ordered the preparation of manpower and equipment - and even declared the region a disaster area - before Katrina struck. In a situation as horrific as the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, are the Bush gang and its supporters really going to argue that an official request was not made, so they couldn't do anything?? Apparently so.

In addition, unlike the governors of New York, Oklahoma and California in past disasters, Gov. Blanco failed to take charge of the situation and ensure that the state emergency operation facility was in constant contact with Mayor Nagin and FEMA. It is likely that thousands of people died because of the failure of Gov. Blanco to implement the state plan, which mentions the possible need to evacuate up to one million people. The plan clearly gives the governor the authority for declaring an emergency, sending in state resources to the disaster area and requesting necessary federal assistance.

State legislators and governors nationwide need to update their contingency plans and the operation procedures for state emergency centers. Hurricane Katrina had been forecast for days, but that will not always be the case with a disaster (think of terrorist attacks). It must be made clear that the governor and locally elected officials are in charge of the "first response."

I am not attempting to excuse some of the delays in FEMA's response. Congress and the president need to take corrective action there, also. However, if citizens expect FEMA to be a first responder to terrorist attacks or other local emergencies (earthquakes, forest fires, volcanoes), they will be disappointed. The federal government's role is to offer aid upon request.

Comment: Again, the request was made publicly - and ignored for days while people died.

The Louisiana Legislature should conduct an immediate investigation into the failures of state and local officials to implement the written emergency plans. The tragedy is not over, and real leadership in the state and local government are essential in the months to come. More importantly, the hurricane season is still upon us, and local and state officials must stay focused on the jobs for which they were elected--and not on the deadly game of passing the emergency buck.

Mr. Williams is president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a free market public policy research organization in Olympia, Wash.

Comment: This could be a win-win situation for the Bush Reich if they play their cards right. Not only could they push for some "real [conservative Republican] leadership" in Louisiana, but they could also end up with federal control over local agencies and emergencies.

Not everyone agrees with Mr. Williams, however:

Click here to comment on this article

Bush administration 'negligent" over Katrina: Chinese press
Thu Sep 8, 3:07 AM ET

BEIJING - China's most important state-run newspaper has accused US President George W. Bush and his administration of "negligence of duty" in its response to the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece, said there was no excuse for Bush's slow reaction to the unfolding tragedy.

"For the Bush administration, 'unexpected' perhaps can be a lame excuse, but it can never explain away the government negligence of duty," it said in an opinion piece carried on its English language website Thursday.

"As a matter of fact, ever since 'September 11', the Congress had cut anti-flood allocation to Louisiana, which later became a main reason for the slow rescue work this time," said the officially controlled paper.

"In the face of the hurricane, Americans accepted the challenge but failed to beat it off. This is really a shame on the United States."

It said the anarchy and chaos seen in New Orleans after the hurricane looked to the world like America was "fighting a city war at home".

"New Orleans has become Baghdad," it said.

"People have reason to feel disgusted: when Indonesia was hit by the tsunami last year, everybody lent a helping hand and nobody looted. But now this happened in the United States, showing people another side of this 'civilized country'.

"In fact, it revealed the fragility of American society, as well as despair and disorder in a state of anarchy."

Katrina left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and possibly thousands dead after it swept through the Gulf of Mexico coastal region on August 29, causing devastation to New Orleans.

Bush has been lambasted at home for a lag in dispatching troops and relief supplies to the afflicted region despite graphic television images of chaos and neglect.

He has acknowledged shortcomings and promised to lead an inquiry into "what went wrong."

Comment: Given Washington's ongoing "anti-China" campaign, these article in the mainstream press will only serve to belittle the idea that the debacle was a federal problem. After all, you don't want to be associated with a bunch of Commies, do you?

Click here to comment on this article

Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences
By Parmedics Larry Bradsahw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky
Sep 6, 2005, 11:59

Note: Bradshaw and Slonsky are paramedics frorm California that were attending the EMS conference in New Orleans. Larry Bradsahw is the chief shop steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790; and Lorrie Beth Slonsky is steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790. [California]

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute they arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

Comment: And who is the commander in chief of the US military...?

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement".

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist.

There was more suffering than need be.

Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

Click here to comment on this article

FEMA Head Bears the Brunt of Katrina Anger
Associated Press
September 7, 2005

WASHINGTON - He's been called an idiot, an incompetent and worse. The vilification of federal disaster chief Michael Brown, emerging as chief scapegoat for whatever went wrong in the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, has ratcheted into the stratosphere. Democratic members of Congress are taking numbers to call for his head.

"I would never have appointed such a person," said New York Sen.
Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Let's bring in someone who is a professional," urged Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

A more visceral indictment came from closer to the calamity. Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish near New Orleans, said the bureaucracy "has murdered people in the greater New Orleans area."

"Take whatever idiot they have at the top of whatever agency and give me a better idiot," he told CBS. "Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don't give me the same idiot."

Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, just back from a week surveying damage in his home state, allowed that "mistakes were made" but tried to counsel restraint Tuesday as calls for Brown's removal escalated. But even Lott displayed some of the potent emotions spawned by the horrific conditions on the Gulf Coast.

"If somebody said, 'You pick somebody to hammer,' I don't know who I'd pick," he told reporters. "I did threaten to physically beat a couple of people in the last couple of days, figuratively speaking."

It's not uncommon for the Federal Emergency Management Agency - and whoever is in charge at the time - to catch blame in the messy aftermath of disaster.

It happened after Hugo hit South Carolina in 1989 and Andrew struck Florida in 1992.

After Andrew, Mikulski slammed the agency for a "pathetically sluggish" response, and on the ground, Dade County emergency director Kathleen Hale famously summed up the frustration felt throughout the stricken areas when she cried, "Where the hell is the cavalry?"

"There is nothing more powerful than the urge to blame," said Eric Dezenhall, a crisis-management consultant who helps corporate leaders and other prominent figures try to repair tattered images. "It happens every time. It is a deeply embedded archetype in the human mind."

He said the Brown episode is playing out in classic fashion.

"You can follow the steps," he said. "First, outrage. Second, the headline: 'What went wrong?' Third, the telltale memo that supposedly suggests somebody knew and did nothing. I just don't find this to be unique at all."

Comment: So should we all just pretend that federal officials aren't incompetent in order to avoid being labeled as someone who is reacting based on "a deeply embedded archetype in the human mind"? If FEMA has historically been rather inadequate at dealing with disasters, then why are they still around? Perhaps their recent incorporation into the Department of Homeland Security and their increasing focus on responding to "terrorist attacks" can give us a clue...

Brown, a 50-year-old lawyer, in some ways is an easy target.

The former head of the International Arabian Horse Association, Brown had no background in disaster relief when old college friend and then-FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh hired him to serve as the agency's general counsel in 2001.

"There is a Jay Leno-esque comic undertone to his background," said Dezenhall. "It sort of conjures up a who's-on-first kind of thing."

But the dim view of Brown's qualifications by senators seems to have emerged only in hindsight. Members of both parties seemed little troubled by his background at 2002 Senate hearings that led to his confirmation as deputy FEMA chief.

Indeed, Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who led those hearings, called Brown's long-ago stint as assistant city manager in Edmond, Okla., a "particularly useful experience" because he had responsibility for local emergency services.

As FEMA chief, Brown has pressed for greater attention to natural disaster planning, including strategies for a major hurricane in New Orleans, and he has had to contend with cuts to FEMA's operating budget while more attention was paid to fighting terrorism.

But as the enormity of the Gulf Coast damage gradually came into clearer focus, Brown did not help his case with a number of comments seen as insensitive or ill-advised. For example, he acknowledged last week that he didn't know there were some 20,000 evacuees enduring heinous conditions at the New Orleans convention center until a day after their difficulties had been widely reported in the news.

ABC's Ted Koppel was incredulous as he asked Brown, "Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio?"

"Forgive me for beating up on you there," Koppel later told Brown, "but you are the only guy from the federal government who is coming out to take your medicine."

The doses keep getting stronger. But, for now at least, President Bush is standing by his embattled FEMA chief.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," the president told him last week.

Comment: The president then continued, "...taking all the blame for me."

And Brown, for his part, is trying to shrug off the criticism.

"People want to lash out at me, lash out at FEMA," he told reporters. "I think that's fine. Just lash out, because my job is to continue to save lives."

Click here to comment on this article

Disaster Used as Political Payoff
The New York Daily News
Tuesday 06 September 2005

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has done it again.

Already under fire for its woeful response to Hurricane Katrina, the federal disaster agency appears to have turned hurricane relief donations into a political payoff - until it was challenged.

All last week, FEMA bureaucrats gave prominent placement on the agency's Web site to Operation Blessing, the Virginia-based charity run by controversial right-wing evangelist and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson.

For anyone wishing to donate only cash, the agency's site listed the names and phone numbers of three groups: the Red Cross, Operation Blessing and America's Second Harvest, a national coalition of food banks.

That first list was followed by a second, longer list of several dozen religious and nonsectarian charities. This second list was for anyone who wanted to give either cash or noncash gifts.

Just as in an ordinary election, however, top ballot position makes it far more likely you'll get noticed and chosen.

The same FEMA list was then disseminated by state and local governments throughout the country. Both Gov. Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg, for example, placed the same top three FEMA charities on their Hurricane Katrina press releases and Web sites last week.

Those familiar with Robertson and his charity were flabbergasted.

Operation Blessing, with a budget of $190 million, is an integral part of the Robertson empire. Not only is he the chairman of the board, his wife is listed on its latest financial report as its vice president, and one of his sons is on the board of directors.

Back in 1994, during the infamous Rwandan genocide, Robertson used his 700 Club's daily cable operation to appeal to the American public for donations to fly humanitarian supplies into Zaire to save the Rwandan refugees.

The planes purchased by Operation Blessing did a lot more than ferry relief supplies.

An investigation conducted by the Virginia attorney general's office concluded in 1999 that the planes were mostly used to transport mining equipment for a diamond operation run by a for-profit company called African Development Corp.

And who do you think was the principal executive and sole shareholder of the mining company?

You guessed it, Pat Robertson himself.

Robertson had landed the mining concession from his longtime friend Mobutu Sese Seko, then the dictator of Zaire.

Investigators concluded that Operation Blessing "willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements ..."

After the investigation began, Robertson placated state regulators by personally reimbursing his own charity $400,000 and by agreeing to tighten its bookkeeping methods.

Separating Operation Blessing from Robertson's many politically oriented endeavors is not that easy, however.

The biggest single US recipient of the charity's largess, according to its latest financial report, was Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. It received $885,000 in the fiscal year ended March 2004.

Robertson uses that Christian network for some markedly unchristian purposes.

A few years back, he repeatedly defended Charles Taylor, the former brutal dictator of Liberia who is under indictment by a UN tribunal for war crimes.

As with Mobutu in the Congo, Robertson had a personal stake in the matter: He had millions invested in a Liberian gold mine, thanks to Taylor, according to press reports.

Recently, Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Those who know Robertson's record raised such an uproar that on Sunday FEMA suddenly rearranged its entire Web site for hurricane donations.

Gone was Operation Blessing's name and choice location. Replacing it was an alphabetical list of nearly 50 national relief organizations.

At FEMA, they take a while to get things right.

Click here to comment on this article

Evacuation showdown looms in New Orleans
September 8, 2005

NEW ORLEANS, United States - The prospect of Hurricane Katrina survivors being dragged from their homes loomed larger while lawmakers in Washington locked horns over probing the federal response to the disaster.

With officials saying anywhere between 10,000 to 15,000 people remained in New Orleans, police and soldiers faced some difficult choices in enforcing a mandatory order to empty the city.

Mayor Ray Nagin authorised the use of force on Tuesday but, with a number of residents still awaiting voluntary evacuation, rescue teams have so far postponed physical confrontations with those determined to stay.

Eventually, however, only the diehards will be left.

"Once all the volunteer evacuations have taken place, then we'll concentrate our efforts and our forces to mandatorily evacuate individuals," New Orleans police chief Eddie Compass said, promising that his officers would use "the minimal amount of force necessary."

Federal troops have joined in the house-to-house search for survivors, but senior military officers made it clear they would stand back if it came to manhandling people out of their homes.

"When this turns into a law enforcement issue, which we perceive forced evacuation is, regular troops would not be used," said Major General Joseph Inge, deputy commander of the US Northern Command.

As of Wednesday, there were 18,000 active-duty soldiers and 45,000 National Guard troops in the area of the US Gulf coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina on August 29.

The decision to authorise forced evictions was clearly taken reluctantly, with officials anxious to avoid traumatic scenes involving people who have already suffered extreme deprivations since Katrina hit.

In giving the order, Nagin cited the growing threat of disease posed by the putrid waters surrounding the wooden homes of many of the holdouts.

Health authorities said five people evacuated from the Katrina disaster zone had died as a result of contact with contaminated water.

The five had been killed by vibrio vulnificus, "a bacteria that can enter somebody through a cut, a scratch or a wound," said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Other medical officials said the deaths should not be seen as presaging an epidemic, as the bacteria preys mostly on the very old or those already suffering from a chronic illness.

The floodwaters in low-lying New Orleans have receded as US Army engineers have brought more of the city's damaged pumps back in operation.

The drainage process is expected to take close to three months and Nagin warned the country to brace for some "awful" revelations as the dropping water levels reveal more of Katrina's human cost.

The mayor said as many as 10,000 people may have died in the city and a Louisiana health official revealed Wednesday that some 25,000 body bags had been brought into the area.

The city's official death toll currently stands at 83, but that number is certain to rise over the coming week.

In Washington, President George W. Bush asked lawmakers for a further 51.8 billion dollars in emergency funding to cover costs tied to the hurricane relief and recovery effort.

Bush, who has come under fire for the federal response to one of the worst natural disasters in US history, had signed an initial emergency package totalling some 10.5 billion dollars last week.

"We are sparing no effort to help those who have been affected by Katrina and are in need of help," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Congressional leaders, meanwhile, battled over the question of who should handle the inquiry into how the Katrina crisis was managed.

Democrats are demanding an independent probe like the one, at first resisted by Bush, that looked into the September 11, 2001 attacks. They have also started a petition to sack the much-criticised head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown.

Bush's majority Republicans only agreed Wednesday to a joint Senate-House of Representatives investigation to look into the actions of "all levels of government."

After promising to lead his own inquiry, Bush would not say whether any aides would be fired over the slow response that he has admitted was "unacceptable."

A USA Today survey released Wednesday said 42 percent of Americans felt Bush had done his job handling Katrina "badly" or "very badly". Thirty-five percent backed the president's effort.

Comment: In other words, a majority of Americans believe that Bush is at fault - not local officials.

Twenty-five percent criticised local authorities and 18 percent the Louisiana state for the chaos.

Meanwhile Germany dispatched a team of disaster relief workers Thursday to help hurricane victims, the Technisches Hilfswerk (THW) agency said.

The 54-member THW team left the Ramstein US military airport in western Germany bound for New Orleans early Thursday in a C-17 Globemaster transport plane loaded with water pumps and trucks.

A second contingent of 40 aid workers was to leave from Ramstein later Thursday.

The move came as The Washington Times reported that nearly 900 foreign nationals, many of them French and British, are still missing in the areas devastated last week by Hurricane Katrina.

While consular officials consulted by the daily reported some 160 French citizens and 96 Britons missing, Mexicans, especially illegal immigrants, were expected to outnumber all other nationalities, the daily said.

The US State Department Wednesday afternoon told the newspaper that, based on numbers provided by various embassies, 883 foreign nationals were still unaccounted for in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Comment: At the same time, those mostly poor folks who were abandoned in New Orleans are getting all kinds of goodies from the federal government in order to placate them:

Click here to comment on this article

Katrina Victims to Get $2K Debit Cards
Associated Press
September 7, 2005

WASHINGTON - The federal government plans to hand out debit cards worth $2,000 each to families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff, under fire for his agency's response to the disaster, held a conference call with governors of states with evacuees and described the plan. While many details remained to be worked out, the plan was to quickly begin distributing the cards, starting with people in major evacuation centers such as the Houston Astrodome.

Michael Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency which is administering the novel card program, said it is aimed at those with the most pressing needs.

"The concept is to get them some cash in hand which allows them, empowers them, to make their own decisions about what do they need to have to start rebuilding," Brown said.

Comment: $2000 won't get them very far in rebuilding anything, especially with the housing bubble...

Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who participated in the conference call, said the cards will be offered "to people in shelters as well as people who are not in shelters but who have evacuated the area and need help." He said the hope is the cards will encourage people to leave shelters voluntarily.

Other FEMA officials warned not all families that fled their homes will be eligible.

"For instance you may have some people who have insurance and insurance is meeting their living expenses while they have been displaced," said Ed Conley, a FEMA spokesman in Houston. "You have some people who may be looking at an option such as a cruise ship where all of their needs are going to be met. It is going to vary by family."

The cards are to be used to help victims purchase food, transportation and other essentials.

It's unclear how much the debit card program will cost the government, but it could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars since hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. [...]

Click here to comment on this article

Stylish seized clothing headed to refugees
Tue Sep 6, 2005 4:09 PM ET

HOUSTON - Three truckloads of fashion clothing seized by government agents for violating import quotas arrived at Houston's Astrodome on Wednesday so Hurricane Katrina refugees there can put it to use.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection delivered about 100,000 items of summer clothing, with an estimated value of $2.3 million, and said much more is on the way to evacuees elsewhere.

"We normally would either sell this merchandise or destroy it," said Robert Trotter, the agency's director of field operations. "Or we would donate it on a smaller scale."

Some of the items are fakes, but Trotter said most are legitimate.

The hurricane relief operation, aimed at the more than 1 million Gulf Coast residents displaced by Katrina last week, will involve a total of $168 million worth of clothing.

The items delivered on Tuesday, much of it with designer labels like Fubu and Code Blue, were handed to the Red Cross and local church officials who were to distribute it.

"They will be able to tell us specifically what they want and a personal shopper will go back and get it for them," said Mike Firenza of St. Luke's Methodist Church. "It will be one of the finest-dressed shelters that there's ever been."

The Astrodome, a 40-year-old sports stadium that had fallen into disuse recently, housed about 16,000 refugees on Tuesday. Three other major shelters in Houston housed a total of 10,000.

Comment: As the poor "refugees" situation continues to "work very well for them" as Barbara Bush noted, not everyone is so sure that the economy will emerge untouched by Katrina's wrath:

Click here to comment on this article

Summary Box: Katrina Wipes Out Job Gains
By The Associated Press
Thu Sep 8, 3:09 AM ET

FIRST ASSESSMENT: Hurricane Katrina will cause national employment to drop by 400,000 jobs, the Congressional Budget Office predicted. Such a loss would wipe out recent jobs gains achieved under the Bush administration.

ADDED WOES: The storm's havoc may also slow economic growth by as much as a full percentage point this year and cause gasoline prices to jump 40 percent this month.

UNCLEAR FUTURE: With economists and politicians forecasting varying outcomes, the hurricane's long-term impact remains uncertain.

Click here to comment on this article

Update: White House: Mrs. Bush Comment 'Personal'
September 7, 2005

WASHINGTON - Barbara Bush was making "a personal observation" when she said poor people at a relocation center in Houston were faring better than before Hurricane Katrina struck, President Bush's spokesman said Wednesday.

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, did not answer directly when asked if the president agreed with his mother's remarks.

Mrs. Bush, after touring the Astrodome complex in Houston on Monday, said: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." She commented during a radio interview with the American Public Media program "Marketplace."

McClellan, at the White House briefing, said: "I think she was making a personal observation on some of the comments that people were making that she was running into. ... But what we're focused on is helping these people who are in need."

Asked if Bush agreed with his mother, McClellan said: "I think that the observation is based on someone or some people that were talking to her that were in need of a lot of assistance, people that have gone through a lot of trauma and been through a very difficult and trying time. And all of a sudden, they are now getting great help in the state of Texas from some of the shelters."

Comment: Yes, it was indeed a personal observation. It just happened to be a rather heartless, cold, and inconsiderate personal observation of mostly poor African-Americans who had lost their homes and loved ones which was made by an obscenely rich and powerful old white woman whose son just happens to be the president. It seems the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Click here to comment on this article

Memos Show Oil Companies Closed Refineries To Hike Profits
Jamie Court
The Huffington Post

If you believe the oil industry's response to Katrina, you'd think demanding environmentalists are to blame for $3 per gallon gasoline because the tree huggers shut down refineries with tough new rules. President Bush even mimicked the industry excuse by waiving environmental standards in the wake of Katrina. Well, the industry's own internal memos show the intentional shrinking of American refinery capacity in the 1990s was the oil companies' own idea to pump up profits.

Take this internal Texaco strategy memo:

"[T]he most critical factor facing the refining industry on the West Coast is the surplus of refining capacity, and the surplus gasoline production capacity. (The same situation exists for the entire U.S. refining industry.) Supply significantly exceeds demand year-round. This results in very poor refinery margins and very poor refinery financial results. Significant events need to occur to assist in reducing supplies and/or increasing the demand for gasoline."

The memo went on to discuss a sucessful campaign in Washington State to shrink refined supply by removing other additives in the gasoline that filled gas volume.

Another Mobil memo shows the company promoted tough regulations in California to shut down an independent refiner. A Chevron memo acknowledged the industry wide need to shutter refineries and discussed how refiners were responding in kind.

Large oil companies have for a decade artificially shorted the gasoline market to drive up prices. Oil companies know they can make more money by making less gasoline. Katrina should be a wakeup call to America that the refiners profit widely when they keep the system running on empty. It's time for government to regulate the industry's supply. The fact that President Bush received $2.6 million from the oil industry for his reelection in 2004 should make regulation of the nation's gas supply one of the Democrats' most important talking points.

Click here to comment on this article

Winds, Yes; Of Change? Not Likely

No Direction Home
September 7, 2005

"How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home."

Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"

Let's be clear about one thing. Nothing that has happened in the past week -- the mass destruction in the Mississippi Delta, the obliteration of the city of New Orleans, the murderous abandonment of thousands of people to death, chaos and disease ­ will change the Bush Administration or American politics at all. Not one whit. The Bush Administration will not reverse its brutal policies; its Congressional rubber-stamps will not revolt against the White House; the national Democrats will not suddenly grow a spine. There will be no real change, and the bitter corrosion of injustice, indifference and inhumanity that is consuming American society will go on as before.

One proof of this can be found in the first polls coming out after the disaster, which show that a full 46 percent of the American people approve of Bush's handling of the relief effort. It seems inconceivable that any sentient being could witness the agonizing results of the Bush team's dithering, dilatory response ­ an agony played out in the full glare of non-stop media coverage ­ and not come away with a sense of towering anger at this criminal incompetence. But it's obvious that nearly half the American people have now left the "reality-based community" altogether; they see only what they want to see, a world bathed in the hazy, golden nimbus of the Leader. The fact ­ the undeniable truth ­ that behind this carefully-concocted mirage lies nothing more than a steaming pile of rancid, rotting offal means nothing to these true believers. The Lie is better, the Lie is more comforting, the Lie lets them keep feeding on the suffering of others without guilt or shame.

This painful split between obvious reality and popular perception is nothing new, of course. Today we look at old footage of Adolf Hitler and wonder how on earth such a pathetic and ludicrous creature could ever have commanded the adoration and obedience of tens of millions of people. Yet he did. As Eliot said, "Human kind cannot bear very much reality."

The fact that a few conservative commentators and politicians are making mild criticisms of Bush means nothing. There has been much trumpeting of the remarks by David Brooks of the New York Times that Bush's manifest failures in the Delta ­ coming after the debacle of the Iraq occupation, the torture revelations, etc. ­ could be a "watershed" moment when the nation loses faith in its institutions, a situation Brooks likened to the 1970s. But even in making these comments on one hand, Brooks was taking them back with the other, saying clearly that he might "get over" his disappointment with Bush soon enough. Think of it: Brooks has watched people literally dying before his very eyes after being abandoned to their fate for days by Bush's criminal negligence ­ and he thinks he can "get over" that at some point, and give his full-throated approval to the Leader once again.

This is the general mind-set (if you want to dignify the inch-deep shallowness of Brooks' intellect with the word "mind") of all the conservative critics: gosh, Bush really dropped the ball on this one! He'd better turn the PR thing around, or he might lose some of the "political capital" he needs to "advance his second-term agenda." That's it. That's as far as it goes.

After all, they fully support the "agenda" ­ more war, more tax cuts for the rich, more impunity for big corporations, more welfare for the oil barons, the coal barons, the nuke barons, more coddling of elite investors, more state power for Christian extremists, more media consolidation, more graft, more kickbacks, more easy money for greasy palms. And now that Karl Rove has finally figured out his response ­ employing brazen lies to smear state and local officials ­ you will very quickly see the conservative critics, especially in Congress, fall into lockstep with the porcine counsellor's program.

By the time Congress holds hearings into the disaster, they'll be singing love songs to the Leader; the hearings themselves will doubtless turn into a pageant of heroic tableaux -- glittering stories of the heroic federal effort to rescue the perishing, all of it driven by the calm and steady hand of the Commander-in-chief. Oh, there might be a scapegoat or two for the Congressmen to pummel with puff-cheeked righteous rage for the cameras. But anyone hoping for a fearless, presidency-shaking probe will be disappointed.

Just as the media have always overhyped Bush's popularity, they are now overhyping the "political crisis" he is supposedly facing. There is no political crisis whatsoever, if by "political crisis" you mean something that will cause Bush to alter his policies. The war in Iraq will go on. The war against the poor will go on. The slow destruction of middle-class security and stability will go on. The long and ferocious rightwing campaign against the very idea of a "common good" will go on, unabated ­ perhaps even strengthened as it faces a backlash from the half of the American public that actually accepts the reality of what they saw in New Orleans and all along the ravaged Gulf Coast.

This is what you must understand: Bush and his faction do not care if they have "the consent of the governed" or not. They are not interested in governing at all, in responding to the needs and desires and will of the people. They are only interested in ruling, in using the power of the state to force their radical agenda of elitist aggrandizement and ideological crankery on the nation, and on the world.

They have a large, hard core of true believers who will countenance ­ even applaud ­ any crime, any corruption, any incompetence of the Leader and his minions. With this base, and with all of the branches of government already in their hands, the Faction need only procure the reluctant support of just a small percentage of the rest of the population ­ through fearmongering, through smears and lies, and, as we saw in 2000 and 2004, through the manipulation of election results via politically connected voting-machine corporations and politically partisan election officials.

None of this will change because of what happened in New Orleans. If these people could be touched by suffering and injustice, by death and destruction, by corruption and incompetence, then they would not be where they are today. If there was a viable opposition in the American Establishment to Bush's policies, it would have stood up long ago. Like the people left behind in New Orleans, we're all on our own ­ "with no direction home."

How does it feel?

Chris Floyd is a columnist for The Moscow Times and regular contributor to CounterPunch. A new, upgraded version of his blog, "Empire Burlesque," can be found at

Comment: As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same:

Click here to comment on this article

White House Wants Gitmo Appeal Rejected
Associated Press
Wed Sep 7,10:11 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to turn away a challenge to the military commissions the Bush administration created to put some detainees at Guantanamo Bay on trial for war crimes.

Lawyers for Salim Ahmed Hamdan are seeking Supreme Court review of an appeals court decision in which Judge John Roberts sided with the other two judges in favor of the Bush administration.

While the Hamdan case was pending last April, Roberts began interviewing with administration officials for a possible Supreme Court spot. Democratic senators Charles Schumer of New York and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin have said they want to ask Roberts about a possible conflict of interest.

The senators said it raises ethical issues to continue to work on a case in which one of the parties is considering you for another position.

In its brief to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department said the trial of Hamdan, a Yemeni who once was al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's driver, should be allowed to proceed and said he will have ample opportunity later to raise any legal objections. Even if acquitted at trial, he will still be detained as an enemy combatant, the department said.

Hamdan's lawyers object to the possibility that classified documents will be introduced against him at trial and that he would not be given access to the information.

It is entirely possible that no classified material would be presented by the prosecution, the government said in asking the Supreme Court not to hear Hamdan's case.

The Justice Department pointed out that the Pentagon relaxed the rules for tribunals a week ago, enabling classified information to be shared with defendants "to the extent consistent with national security, law enforcement interests and applicable law."

The rewritten rule also bars the admission of classified information if it "would result in the denial of a full and fair trial."

The rule changes also mean that the makeup of the tribunal hearing Hamdan's case is likely to change, overcoming another of Hamdan's objections, said the Justice Department.

Hamdan was not allowed to be present when his lawyers challenged the impartiality of the U.S. military officers sitting on the commission that was to hear Hamdan's case.

Under the new rules, the presiding officer is more like a judge in a court martial or civilian court and is required to rule on all questions of law; the other members of the commission will function more like a jury and are no longer permitted to participate in deciding most legal questions.

The shift in responsibilities is likely to result in replacing the other members of the commission. They were the ones challenged by Hamdan's lawyers, so the fact that Hamdan was not allowed to be present when their impartiality was called into question is no longer an issue, the department said.


"Even if acquitted at trial, he will still be detained as an enemy combatant, the [Justice] department said."

What is the point of having a trial, then? The question of a conflict of interest regarding John Roberts is also a moot point. The Bush administration has already decided that Hamdan is guilty. Evidence doesn't matter. Proof doesn't matter. The court case is just for show.

Click here to comment on this article

Anonymous Donor Thanks America for Rescue
September 7, 2005

WASHINGTON - The anonymous donor turned up at a U.S. diplomatic office and presented an envelope with 1,000 euros, about $1,200, for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

It was a way of repaying a debt to the United States for being liberated by American soldiers from a concentration camp and treated more than 60 years ago, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said Wednesday in relating the incident.

The donor was 90 years old, but that is all McCormack would say by way of identification, although it was learned later the donor was a woman. "This is a person who is not seeking any publicity for this act - which in the time we live makes it even more extraordinary," he said.

"This is a selfless act by somebody who is repaying what they felt was a deeply felt debt of gratitude to the United States," the spokesman said.

This is one of many stories from around the world of individuals being very generous with the American people at a time of need, McCormack said.

"It's extraordinary," he said.

Comment: That's funny, because this is the very first story we've encountered of individuals from around the world being very generous with the American people in a time of need - which does, of course, make it all the more extraordinary...

Click here to comment on this article

Typhoon Nabi leaves 32 dead or missing in Japan
Thu Sep 8,12:11 AM ET

TOKYO - Powerful typhoon Nabi left Japan after crisscrossing north to south in a path of destruction that left 32 dead or missing in Japan and South Korea and flooded thousands of homes.

The typhoon headed onto the Sea of Okhotsk east of Siberia nearly a week after it first built up in the subtropical Pacific waters south of Japan.

The worst hit area remained Miyazaki province on the southern island of Kyushu, where rice fields were deluged by a powerful downpour.

"We found another body, believed to be a 28-year-old man who had gone missing, in a rice field" flooded by the typhoon, an official at Miyazaki prefectural police said.

It has raised the death toll in Japan to 19, with at least eight others still missing. The search was also on for five people who are unaccounted for in South Korea.

With the typhoon bringing violent rains to most of the country, police said 139 people had been injured in 30 of Japan's 47 prefectures.

After hitting Kyushu, the typhoon made a sharp turn to the east, slamming into the northern island of Hokkaido but bypassing Japan's central population hubs.

Television footage showed residents in Hokkaido, which is rarely hit by typhoons, using buckets to bail water from their flooded houses as high waves lashed the coast.

"We have not received reports of injuries or deaths over the typhoon ... but we need to be on alert," a Hokkaido police official said, noting waves were still high and rivers were swollen.

Nabi, which means "butterly" in Korean, was 300 kilometers north of Abashiri City on Hokkaido's Okhotsk coast at 10:00 am (0100 GMT) and is forecast to weaken into a temperate depression later Thursday.

At its height, the typhoon packed winds of more than 90 kilometers (56 miles) an hour across a radius of nearly 300 kilometers, a greater area than Hurricane Katrina which ravaged New Orleans.

The typhoon flooded more than 8,000 houses, triggered 155 landslides and damaged 80 roads since the weekend, Japanese police said.

The disaster also indirectly hit Japan's election on Sunday, with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi calling off campaign stops in the Osaka area Wednesday and staying near Tokyo due to the heavy rain.

Rescue workers in southern and western Japan continued to search for the missing using long, metal rods to feel under piles of mud for any buried victims.

In the southern rural town of Tarumi, rescuers found the bodies of two elderly women in their 70s at a house that was engulfed by a landslide.

In western Yamaguchi prefecture, a landslide collapsed a section of a highway, burying three people who were inside two houses.

Mainland Japan was struck by a record 10 typhoons last year. One of them, Tokage, was the deadliest in a quarter-century, killing 90 people.

In South Korea, an 18-year-old student was missing after heavy rains sent her car into a river, police said Wednesday.

Floods also swept away a 70-year-old man and three other people went missing overnight in South Korea, Yonhap news agency reported.

Click here to comment on this article

Earthquake shakes Alpine region in Italy
Associated Press
Thu, Sep. 08, 2005

ROME - An earthquake rattled the Alpine region near the Italian ski resort town of Courmayeur on Thursday, officials said, but no damage or injuries were reported.

The tremor had a preliminary magnitude of 4.4 and its epicenter was at a depth of some 21,000 feet under the Pennine Alps in the Swiss-French border area, according to the National Institute of Geophysics in Rome.

A quake of magnitude 4 to 5 can cause moderate damage in populated areas. The national civil defense office said initial checks indicated no injuries or damage occurred.

The ANSA news agency, reporting from Aosta in northwest Italy, said some people on lower floors of buildings heard a creaking sound that lasted a few seconds.

"I heard a rumble and then two jolts that lasted a few seconds," said Giorgio Gialdrone, owner of a Courmayeur restaurant.

"I was on the second floor so I felt it more," said Gialdrone, speaking by telephone. "It was quite a vibration, but nothing was damaged."

Comment: The USGS web site report is slightly different:

Click here to comment on this article

Magnitude 5.1 Quake - SWITZERLAND
2005 September 8 11:27:17 UTC

A moderate earthquake occurred at 11:27:17 (UTC) on Thursday, September 8, 2005. The magnitude 5.1 event has been located in SWITZERLAND. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

Click here to comment on this article

Magnitude 5.7 - MOLUCCA SEA (Indonesia)
2005 September 8 04:10:10 UTC

A moderate earthquake occurred at 04:10:10 (UTC) on Thursday, September 8, 2005. The magnitude 5.7 event has been located in the MOLUCCA SEA. The hypocentral depth was estimated to be 42 km (26 miles). (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

Click here to comment on this article

Deep Impact space collision reveals comets to be fluffy balls of powder
Ian Sample, science correspondent
The Guardian
Wednesday September 7, 2005

To medieval observers, they were mysterious harbingers of doom, but thanks to an unprecedented act of celestial vandalism, scientists have unveiled some of the innermost secrets of comets.

Out is the long-held view of hardened, dirty snowballs hurtling through space. In is the comet as a fluffy ball of powder, blowing puffs of dust whenever sunlight falls on it.

The insight came yesterday when researchers announced the first detailed results of Deep Impact, an elaborate experiment played out in space on July 4. Under the gaze of cameras on nearby spacecraft and more than 70 ground-based telescopes, the Deep Impact probe fired a metre-long copper bullet on a collision course with a 4-mile-wide block of dust and ice known as Comet 9P/Tempel 1.

The 23,000mph collision produced a huge crater and gave scientists their first ever look inside a speeding comet.

"Prior to our Deep Impact experiment, scientists had a lot of questions and untested ideas about the structure and composition of the nucleus of a comet, but we had almost no real knowledge," said Michael A'Hearn, professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland and lead scientist on the Deep Impact project.

Prof A'Hearn's team is still trying to locate the crater the projectile gouged out of the comet, because the cloud of dust produced on impact obscured cameras aboard the Deep Impact probe as it flew past. But measurements of the particles knocked out of the comet during the collision revealed some intriguing details of its make-up.

Most striking is that the comet is not made up of very much at all. "It's mostly empty," said Prof A'Hearn. The fine particles of dust and ice are held together extremely loosely, with pores thought to run throughout. "We have deduced that around 75% to 80% of the nucleus is empty and that tells me there is probably no solid nucleus. That is a significant advance in our understanding," said Prof A'Hearn.

The finding overturns the view held by some scientists that comets were hard balls of solid dust and ice. "The outer several tens of metres of the cometary material is extremely fragile," said Prof A'Hearn whose study is published online by Science Express today.

Images of the comet before impact showed it released bursts of gas and dust into space when sunlight heated up its surface.

When Deep Impact's copper bullet slammed into the comet, it produced a crater estimated to be the size of a football pitch and some tens of metres deep. The impact knocked thousands of tonnes of material into space.

Among the material were a host of organic molecules. Some scientists believe that comets carried these compounds to other planets, releasing them on impact, and seeding them with the building blocks of life. "I'd argue that's more likely now, because we saw this big enhancement of organic material coming out on impact," said Prof A'Hearn.

The researchers were also keen to see if their speeding projectile would divert the comet from its orbit, a strategy that might be used in defence should a comet or asteroid be detected on a collision course with Earth.

"What we have learned is important to designing a diversion technique. Knowing it's highly porous and highly fragile is important and knowing how much material came out, and how fast, tells you how efficiently you can transfer energy to it," said Prof A'Hearn.

Comment: There are two problems with this report. The first is that one cannot immediately assume that all comets have the same composition. Certainly the new data is interesting, but shouldn't the new theory be verified? The second problem is that scientists involved in Deep Impact previously claimed that there was little chance the comet would disrupt the orbit of Tempel 1. Now they say there were quite interested in learning if the impact would disrupt the orbit so that a similar experiment could intentionally alter the orbit of a comet headed for Earth in the future.

Click here to comment on this article

Largest Asteroid Might Contain More Fresh Water than Earth
By Bjorn Carey Staff Writer
posted: 07 September 2005

The largest known asteroid could contain more fresh water than Earth and looks like our planet in other ways, according to a new study that further blurs the line between planets and large space rocks.

Astronomers took 267 images of asteroid Ceres using the Hubble Space Telescope. From these images and subsequent computer simulations, they suggest Ceres may have a rocky inner core and a thin, dusty outer crust.

A team led by Peter Thomas of Cornell University said today that Ceres is nearly spherical, which suggests that gravity controls its shape. Also, the asteroid's non-uniform shape indicates that material is not evenly distributed throughout the inside.

These and other new clues, including Ceres' low density, point to an interior loaded with frozen water, the astronomers said.

The results are detailed in the Sept. 8 issue of the journal Nature.

Big and round

Ceres has long been considered one of the tens of thousands of asteroids that make up the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. At 580 miles (930 km) in diameter – about the size of Texas – it's the largest asteroid in the belt, accounting for about 25 percent of the belt's total mass.

Astronomers had thought Ceres might never have been heated enough to create layers of material.

But computer models now suggest Ceres has a differentiated interior – dense material in the core and lighter stuff near the surface. Possible configurations include a mantle rich in water ice around a rocky core.

If this mantle is composed of at least 25 percent water, Ceres would have more fresh water than Earth, according to a statement released by the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates Hubble for NASA and the European Space Agency.

"The most likely scenario from the knowledge we have on how other objects form, it probably has a rocky core and a mantle. That mantle is probably some watery, icy mix, with other dirt and constituents. That mantle could be as much as ¼ of the whole object," study coauthor Joel Parker of the Southwest Research Institute told "Even though it's a small object compared to Earth, there could be a lot of water."

On Earth, fresh water makes up only a thin layer just a few miles deep in some places, less in others. The water layer proposed for Ceres, while smaller in circumference, is many miles thicker.

The total volume of water on Earth is about 1.4 billion cubic kilometers, around 41 million of which is fresh water. If Ceres' mantle accounts for 25 percent of the asteroid's mass, that would translate to an upper limit of 200 million cubic kilometers of water, Parker said.

Since all the nine "regular" planets have differentiated interiors, this new view of Ceres has some astronomers calling Ceres a "mini-planet," adding fuel to an ongoing debate over exactly what qualifies as a planet.

Embryonic world

Other researchers recently announced the discovery of 2003 UB313, a round object in our solar system 1-1/2 times larger than Pluto and about three times further away from the Sun. But even an object of this size – at 2,100 miles in diameter roughly four times the size of Ceres – doesn't receive universal endorsement as being a planet.

One astronomer, Brian Marsden, who runs the Minor Planet Center where data on small bodies is collected, says that if Pluto is considered a planet, then any other round worlds should also be considered planets. Under this definition, which some other astronomers subscribe to, Ceres 2003 UB313 and a handful of other large objects would be named planets. The alternative, Marsden and others say, is to stop calling Pluto a planet.

Another explanation is that Ceres is a sort of 'baby' planet – an underdeveloped version of Earth and other rocky planets. Looked at this way, Ceres appears as other fledgling planets might have looked more than 4 billion years ago.

The leading theory for planet formation holds that small rocks collided, stuck and gradually grew. Depending on location and orbit, a developing world may or may not have encountered enough raw material to become as large as the four traditional rocky planets.

"Ceres is an embryonic planet," said observation team member Lucy McFadden of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland. "Gravitational perturbations from Jupiter billions of years ago prevented Ceres from accreting more material to become a full-fledged planet."

In 2015 scientists will get a close up look at Ceres when the NASA Dawn mission orbits the asteroid. A closer look should provide more clues about the asteroid's composition.

Click here to comment on this article

Sandia Lights Mystery Solved ... Maybe
By Bruce Daniels
Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Will the Sandia Lights - a string of stationary lights seen along Sandia Crest Tuesday night - join the Taos Hum and the UFO Crash near Roswell as part of New Mexico's permanent museum of weirdness?

Apparently not. Just as the state's newest mystery was deepening, eyewitnesses told U.S. Forest Service officials Wednesday they had seen people on the crest Monday carrying large boxes with photographic equipment and again on Tuesday people setting up large "can-shaped lights" along the crest for some kind of photo shoot or photo experiment.

Phones were ringing off the hook at news media outlets and official agencies Tuesday night and Wednesday morning as a string of lights - some said five or six placed at regular intervals along or just below the Sandia Peak ridge - appeared between just after sundown until around 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Officials were just as baffled as the general public until people came forward Wednesday and told the Forest Service what they had seen.

"Someone saw a group of three people Monday afternoon carrying large boxes with photo equipment," District Ranger Jackie Andrew of the Sandia Ranger District said Wednesday. "They were told it was kind of a photography experiment."

Then, a person living at Sandia Peak's Crest House with Forest Service authorization told officials he had seen some seven or eight battery-operated lights, similar to those found at construction sites, lined up along the crest, Andrew said.

Whoever lined up the lights "took the photos and left," said Forest Service spokeswoman Karen Takai.

The explanation "wasn't terribly exciting," said Andrew, who earlier Wednesday had joked, "There were no reports of aliens on the crest this morning."

More likely, Andrew said before the Forest Service had the witnesses come forward, the lights had been caused by nighttime hikers placing lights at regular intervals along the trail, "a see-the-woods-at-night kind of thing."

Mark Chavez, spokesman for the Cibola National Forest, said the same thing. "We suspected it was a group of hikers hiking at night."
But, he added, "we're just as curious to find out what it was as everybody else."

A Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy was dispatched to the crest Tuesday night and found nothing, said BCSO spokeswoman Erin Kinnard. "The deputy cleared the call around 10:15 (p.m.) and said it was nothing."

In fact, the whole public uproar about the lights was much ado about nothing, Kinnard said.

"We got lots of calls," she said. "But we didn't spend a lot of time on it."

Sandia Peak Tramway manager George Boyden said the tram got "all kinds of phone calls" from newspapers, radio and television stations and the general public. "We still don't have any idea what it was," Boyden said.

The first light appeared shortly after sunset, around 7:30 p.m., Boyden said. Then five or six lights appeared at regular intervals, "all right along the ridge" between the Crest House and the tramway terminal, he said.

Boyden said the lights were visible from below the crest as he was driving home around 9 p.m. and were still visible around 10 p.m.

Boyden said he thought when the first light was reported was that somebody had gotten lost, but when more lights appeared he said he joked to coworkers that "maybe the UFOs had landed."

More likely, Boyden said, the lights could have been part of a promotional stunt - one that could well backfire if it was an organized activity that had failed to get a permit from the U.S. Forest Service.

District Ranger Andrew said that a check of the trail where the lights were set up didn't even find a footprint. But whoever engaged in the photo experiment or photo shoot should have checked in with the Forest Service to see whether a permit was needed.

Click here to comment on this article

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!

Click here to comment on this article



Readers who wish to know more about who we are and what we do may visit our portal site Quantum Future

Remember, we need your help to collect information on what is going on in your part of the world!

We also need help to keep the Signs of the Times online.

Send your comments and article suggestions to us Email addess

Fair Use Policy

Contact Webmaster at
Cassiopaean materials Copyright ©1994-2014 Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk. All rights reserved. "Cassiopaea, Cassiopaean, Cassiopaeans," is a registered trademark of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.
Letters addressed to Cassiopaea, Quantum Future School, Ark or Laura, become the property of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk
Republication and re-dissemination of our copyrighted material in any manner is expressly prohibited without prior written consent.