Friday, September 23, 2005
And maybe, just maybe, unelected President George Dubya has tempted the fates one time too many. So this wrathful god that we all read about in various scriptures, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu etc., may have said, "Alright old Georgie, you and everyone else are gonna pay and pay real big!" And vwalla! Monster hurricanes!
Yes I know. You ask why should perfectly innocent civilians down south pay for Georgie's indiscretions. You know, the needless killing and maiming of tens of thousands of Iraqis, the killing of nearly two-thousand U.S. troops, coalition forces, and the maiming of their brothers and sisters. Why should innocent Americans pay?
Well some may ask, "why not?" We let it all happen. It happened "on our watch!" We didn't speak out loudly enough to our elected representatives. We didn't vote in large enough numbers. We chose to play computer games or surf web porn or satisfy our egos with Hummers or BMWs or houses the size of small villages or just plug our ears with the latest iPods. Or maybe we just sat around and read blogs all day? Please don't stop!
Karma is a terrible thing when you engage in evil deeds. That wheel of life will come back to bite in unpredictable ways. We've all read the stories, or seen the movies where Joe bargains with Satan for something wow-wee, then finds out that what he wanted came with totally unforeseen consequences? Usually "collateral damage." Perhaps it's time for Georgie's karma to come due. Only we may be joining him in payment.
Honestly? I don't know whether to take this karma thing seriously or not in this particular case. But how long can the Universe allow this person to lead America - and the world - into oblivion?
How long can YOU?
Thursday, September 22, 2005
"We must be prepared for more violence as elections approach." Pardon me. I don't understand your meaning, Mr. President. Do you mean that we should be accepting that more people will just be killed and wounded? Do you mean that we will be beefing up our forces and those of the Iraqis in an effort to prevent more violence? I suspect that you really meant the former because it's clear that for all of your talk about Iraq becoming a safer place, the reports from the ground clearly do not reflect your Pollyanna view of the world - no insult meant to Pollyanna of course.
"Baghdad and Mosul...are more stable." In his comments regarding the increased effectiveness of Iraqi security forces, President Bush remarked about how areas of Iraq had become more stable. What? Mr. President, just how do you define "stable?"
As the war in Iraq has been largely pushed aside in the media since Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast on August 29, let's take a close look at this stability:
Data from August 29 - September 21, 2005
Iraqi Security Forces (military and police): 201 DEAD 158 WOUNDED
Iraqi Civilians: 1506 DEAD 1289 WOUNDED
U.S. Military: 32 DEAD 376 WOUNDED
These sums are culled from reliable media sources and Pentagon reports.
So in about a three week period, 1,739 dead and 1,823 wounded. Granted, those totals include the 965 dead and 475 wounded during a panic on a bridge in Baghdad, exact cause unknown. But it's all part of the cost of Bush's war for oil.
Oh, almost forgot, that more stable Baghdad:
Iraqi Security Forces (military and police): 59 DEAD 44 WOUNDED
Iraqi Civilians: 1211 DEAD 1128 WOUNDED
Hmmm. Now that's what I call a quiet neighborhood. Not much different than a typical three weeks in Detroit in the late 1960s, right?
Come on now, Mr. unelected President.
"They have a strategy and we have a strategy...They have had attacks." Well yes, that may be correct. But Mr. President, do you really understand "their" strategy? You think, in your "team's" infinite wisdom, that "these people" have as their objective the Talibanization of the entire world, that they hate freedom...that this is what their terrorism is all about. So in return, you decide to unilaterally attack sovereign states in order to defeat the non-state terrorists. Hmmmm (rapping my fingers on the desk, pondering.) And what about Osama Binladen, Mr. President? He is far, far away...in Afghanistan! And you have 18,000 U.S. troops there, one-eighth of the forces in Iraq. And you have no idea where he is and your strategy is apparently clear to me now. Binladen is just small fry. So what if he and his organization of thugs are responsible for 9/11 and many earlier attacks against the U.S. One group of Arabs is a good or bad as another, right? We can tell the difference between good ones and bad ones by whether or not they sell us oil. And Iraq was not selling us oil. Hmmmm. Oh but I forgot, we had a severe economic embargo on Iraq. They couldn't sell us oil...without smuggling it.
But let's bomb them anyway, It's a lot more fun, much better television for your FOX network arm, than the more clandestine war of hunting Binladen and his crowd with small squads of special forces through the mountains of Afghanistan. With a really big war, forgetting about the cost in human life and suffering, we can use up lots of weaponry, order billions of dollars more, and put smiles on the faces of our defense contractor political campaign donors! Yahoooo! Yippee Kayeeeee!
"The Iraqi troops...know who the terrorists are." Hmmmm. Let's see. More than 1,700 dead and more than 1,800 wounded in three weeks. Since the end of Bush's major combat operations, "Operation Iraqi Liberation," - or "O-I-L!" subsequently changed to "Operation Iraqi Freedom," or "O-I-F," an average of 115 Iraqi military and police have died each month. So far in September 188 have died.
About 126 Iraqi civilians have been killed each month since OIL concluded major combat operations. So far in September, 389 Iraqi civilians have been killed. Oh and 26 U.S. military have been killed. The good news is that it's way below the post major combat ops average of 63. Oops. Though the average monthly death toll for U.S. military has been almost 69. Hmmmm.
Yes, the price of that "stable" thing is declining...right? If the Iraqi troops know who the terrorists are....maybe they are their FRIENDS! Oh yeah, Mr. President, they know who the terrorists are...they are Arabs just like them! Seems to me, that's about all they know. And for that, I reward you with a great big DUHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
"People gotta understand." Mr. President, you use this tired line over and over again. Has anyone told you how condescending it sounds? "People gotta understand...it's a hard, long global war. People gotta understand...a hurricane's dangerous. People gotta understand...the tax cuts to my best friends are what are driving our economy. On and on he goes.
"Yeah." Now that one! That's the killer that the President uses anytime he is asked a question he thinks is stupid...or simply one for which he really doesn't have an answer. If he is asked about how the federal government is going to cover the cost of Katrina, let alone whatever it is for Rita, he begins with, "Yeah." People gotta understand. These things are difficult. Way to difficult for you average, or poor, American citizens to understand. You know, it's big business, you have to be a Harvard or Yale graduate. You need and MBA or law degree. And best of all, you really need lots of money. Then it doesn't really make any difference if you "understand" or not. You just need trust.
President Bush used this morning in response to a question about Hurricane Rita: "...People must understand the need to evacuate more seriously." Huh? Hopefully, we all need to pray on this, a greater number of the population area of Rita's targeted force will evacuate. Hopefully, all of the less fortunate folks in the region will receive evacuation assistance PRIOR to the hurricane. You know, the very poor Americans that don't own cars, that may not even have bus fare. The folks in hospitals and nursing facilities.
It would have been nice, given the again reasonable warning time prior to Rita's landfall, if the military could be providing large numbers of vehicles, even aircraft, for evacuation efforts. It just doesn't seem like a reasonable expectation for Galveston or any large metropolitan area to have sufficient public and private transportation resources to complete evacuate. But we'll know in a day or so. I am happy to be incorrect on this.
So back to "Classic Bush at the Pentagon." The answers that he gives to questions aren't really answers, are they. That's not a question, by the way. They aren't. More often than not, they are condescending, as I already mentioned. Think about it.
"Yeah." Always accompanied by the President looking down, twisting his neck, general not paying much attention to the questioner.
"People gotta understand." Suggesting that we don't, I suppose. And, of course, it's just beyond us anyway, so don't worry about it. Just buy that $3.00 gas, drive your Hummer, and let "us" take care of everything.
"Things are getting better, we are making progress." I may have paraphrased that, but you have all heard it before. You just don't see it because that liberal media won't cover all of the really keen stuff that we are doing in Iraq and elsewhere. Not to mention all of the preparations that we made for Katrina before it hit. Right!! Flyin' them aeroplanes over land from surrounding states not hit by the hurricane so that emergency supplies and people can readily get into the affected areas is really really tough. But now? Oh now we can sail a couple of hospital ships behind the hurricane and follow it in. That's a plan. And it's all classic bull.
So I am watching CNN over breakfast this morning. A reporter is phoning in from their car on the interstate as they depart Houston for drier points. They are traveling on what appears to be a modern interstate highway with perhaps six lanes in either direction. They report that traffic is at a virtual standstill. Actually CNN viewers can see the traffic jam courtesy of helicopter video while they are talking.
I can understand the jammed traffic. The reporter adds that they have been traversing about one mile every half-hour, thousands upon thousands of vehicles. Here's the rub. All of this traffic - evacuees ahead of Cat 5 Rita - is confined to one direction of this modern highway. The other side is open for the opposite direction. Yet sitting in the dry comfort of my Colorado livingroom, I can see perhaps five cars a minute driving towards Houston? That's not even enough traffic to keep one lane open.
So why, in their infinite wisdom, can the planners of this evacuation not expand the escape route to permit "wrong way" traffic on the other side of the median?
Well there is less than 24-hours before Rita is predicted to make landfall, so what's the rush, right? It's difficult for me to wish anything positive for Texas' Republican governor, let alone President Bush and his cadre, but we ARE talking about lives here, folks. And politics and POOR PLANNING AND EXECUTION must step aside at times like this, don't you think? Why should anybody be accommodating folks driving into Houston at this time?
Last comment - I planned for this to be but a brief note. Won't it be interesting to note if the aftermath reports of Hurricane Rita and its effect on Texas are remarkable more like those from Hurricane Charlie in Florida last election season than from Katrina a few short weeks ago?
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Ah but to be a high-ranking senior Republican Senator or Congressperson. To be in control of all of those hundreds of billions of dollars of your money and mine! Money that WE actually worked for! I'm talkin' pork fat, as Chef Emeril Lagasse would term it. Pork fat! Now before you get started, I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday. When Democrats have power, they are as guilty as anyone in abusing power and trust and diving into that bottomless barrel of pork fat as well. I am talking today specifically about the recently passed $286.4 Billion dollar transportation bill signed by - guess who - President Bush back on August 10, 2005. This 1000-page bill includes an estimated 6,371 "pet" projects. And, of course, where did the Republican right wing's President sign the bill into law? Why at a Caterpillar Tractor plant! Imagine that! No subtley there, Mr. President.
To quote Bush at the signing, "I'm here to sign the highway bill because I believe by signing this bill, when it's fully implemented, there's going to be more demand for the machines you make here," Bush said, adding that a piece of Caterpillar equipment is used at his ranch.
Keith Ashdown, vice president of policy for Taxpayers for Common Sense, called the measure a "bloated, expensive bill" that the Bush should veto. It is fitting that the president signed this legislation in Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert's district, Ashdown said, "because the speaker's district has the third highest amount of highway pork in the nation."
According to Ashdown, the previously mentioned 6,371 pet projects are valued at more than $24 billion, or about 9 percent of the bill's total cost. The distribution of the money for these projects "is based far more on political clout than on transportation need," Ashdown said.
PORK DU JOUR
Take Alaska. Only two states - TWO STATES - have smaller populations. Alaska received the fourth most money for special projects — $941 million — thanks largely to the work of House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young - and Alaska Republican Congressman. That included $231 million for a bridge near Anchorage to be named "Don Young's Way" in honor of the Republican. I'll return to that later.
Not to be entirely outdone by lowly Alaska, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, bagged $630 million, including $330 million for the Centennial Corridor Loop in Bakersfield, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Not all Republicans - or senators for that matter - voted affirmatively for the bill. Senator John McCain, Arizona Republican, voted no. He was one of four senators voting no. The final vote was 91 yea, 4 nay and 5 abstaining. Who voted no? McCain (R-AZ), Cornyn (R-TX), Gregg (R-NH), Kyl (R-AZ). Alright, I'll give the Republicans some credit. No Democrats voted nay on this artery buster (pun intended). Now who abstained? Boxer (D-CA), Feinstein (D-CA), Roberts (R-KS), Smith (R-OR), Sununu (R-NH). Something important must have been happening in California that day. Nothing important happens in Oregon, Kansas, or New Hampshire.
So "our" Senate voted 91-4 in favor of this pet project bill. And the House? 412 yea, 8 nay.
PARADISE ON EARTH
Ketchikan, Alaska, a truly beautiful place, great fishing and scenery, is receiving the Golden Calf our of this. Ketchikan, for those of you who are not into these sorts of things, is "well known: as the Salmon Capital of the World. A brand new $231 million "Bridge to Nowhere," as its critics have dubbed the pork fat. Actually its name-to-be is the Gravina Island Bridge (that's the location of the airport). It will span the Tongass Narrows to Ketchikan's airport, named Ketchikan International Airport (who knew?), replacing a ferry service. By the way, the bridge goes to the airport, that's it. This bridge is sorely needed for this burgeoing community. Let's just look at the numbers, shall we?
Just in case you think that Ketchikan may be a financially deprived place in which to live? Here is some U.S. Census data for you:
|Median household income|
|Source: 2000 census, U.S. Census Bureau|
Also, 67% of the population white, only about 18% Native American or Alaska native. Oh and higher proportions of the population have at least some college than the national average.
Ketchikan has a population of about 8,000, but the "metropolitan area" has a population of about 14,000. The bridge will be 6,470-feet long. By comparison the Golden Gate Bridge is 8,981-feet long, the George Washington Bridge 4,760-feet.
In terms of cost per population, the Bridge to Nowhere will cost $16,857 per person. This does not include a) future cost overruns or b) any interest charges if any borrowed money is used. Compare that to another huge piece of pork that the Republican are always happy to point to as an example of Democrats' excess pork, Boston's Big Dig. It cost $14 Billion by the time that all of the cost overrun dust settled. But it serves a population of about 5.8 million people, for a cost per person of about $2,414.
The Ketchikan International Airport handles about 44 traffic operations per day. This consists of 60% air taxi, 33% commercial (so that would be about 14 flights per day?), 7% general aviation, and less than 1% military. Did I mention that the airport sits on its own little island, so there is little room for future expansion for its "international" traffic.
Folks, even allowing for modest flight growth, you simply cannot justify the investment in this boondoggle.
By the way? Think I'll toss this in. The Ketchikan ferry ride costs $4.00 one-way.
PORK, PORK, PORK. My Jewish parents instructed me not to eat pork. But how can I stop given that I am force-fed this bilge everyday? Is there no stopping it? Does no one really care? Most certainly no one in Congress. No one in the White House. Caterpillar Tractor certainly cares.
Here's a calculation for you to ponder, as long as I have my calculator out. The estimated $24 Billion in outright pork contained in just this single bit of legislation? It could fund the purchase of 480,000 doublewide mobile homes - assuming that the industry had the capacity to build them, of course, which they don't. They'd sure come in handy down in the Gulf Coast, wouldn't they? Change the numbers a bit and that $24 Billion could fund the construction of 120,000 homes at $200,000 each. Sure could use those down there, too.
Anyway you chop it up, $24 Billion is a lot of pork. And Bush and Company has recently approved more than $50 Billion in funds for Katrina relief. Let's just watch and see what we, the voters, get for our $50 Billion shall we? Also, that $24 Billion of pork? That's about five months of military occupation operations in Iraq. And, again, it is only 9% of the entire transportation bill. Mr. unelected President Bush...if you and your greedy elected friends are unwilling to part with your tax cuts for the wealthiest, maybe you could at least part with some bridges to nowhere?
Monday, September 19, 2005
Well perhaps those people are at least partially right. After all, isn't that one way we can explain the steady slide in approval ratings for President Bush? That he is paying no attention to what Americans are saying, according to opinion polls? That he has picked the wrong issues to focus on? That he is on the wrong side of issues?
There are also two ways to look at this dilemma. One way is to conclude that President Bush is a brilliant, insightful politician who is leading us in a direction that ultimately is "right" (pun intended) for America. The other way is to conclude that he has no idea what he is doing, he is disconnected from Americans and their view of the world and our nation, and that he lacks any essence of leadership whatsoever.
So all of that said, let's take a look, not at one isolated poll, but at a series of recent polls. Further, let's look at these same polls at some other historical marks.
FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. Sept. 13-14, 2005. 900 registered voters nationwide (MoE ± 3)
"Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?"
9/13-14/2005 Approve 41% Disapprove 51% Unsure 8%
12/14-15/2004 Approve 48% Disapprove 45% Unsure 7%
4/8-9/2003 Approve 71% Disapprove 20% Unsure 9%
11/14-15/2001 Approve 88% Disapprove 7% Unsure 5%
CBS News/New York Times Poll. Sept. 9-13, 2005. 1,167 adults nationwide (MoE ± 3)
"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?"
9/9-13/2005 Approve 41% Disapprove 53% Unsure 6%
11/18-21/2004 Approve 51% Disapprove 44% Unsure 5%
4/11-13/2003 Approve 73% Disapprove 21% Unsure 6%
11/13-14/2001 Approve 85% Disapprove 7% Unsure 8%
NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by the polling organizations of Peter Hart (D) and Bill McInturff (R). Sept. 9-12, 2005. 1,013 adults nationwide (MoE ± 3.1)
"In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job that George W. Bush is doing as president?"
9/9-12/2005 Approve 40% Disapprove 55% Unsure 5%
12/9-13/2004 Approve 49% Disapprove 44% Unsure 7%
4/12-13/2003 Approve 71% Disapprove 23% Unsure 6%
11/9-11/2001 Approve 88% Disapprove 7% Unsure 5%
ABC News/Washington Post Poll. Sept. 8-11, 2005. 1,201 adults nationwide (MoE ± 3)
"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?"
9/8-11/2005 Approve 42% Disapprove 57% Unsure 1%
12/16-19/2004 Approve 48% Disapprove 49% Unsure 2%
4/16/2003 Approve 74% Disapprove 23% Unsure 3%
11/5-6/2001 Approve 89% Disapprove 9% Unsure 2%
Gallup Poll and CNN/USA Today/Gallup Pol. Sept. 8011, 2005. 1,110 adults nationwide (MoE ± 3)
"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?"
9/8-11/2005 Approve 46% Disapprove 51% Unsure 3%
12/17-19/2004 Approve 49% Disapprove 46% Unsure 5%
4/14-16/2003 Approve 71% Disapprove 24% Unsure 5%
11/8-11/2001 Approve 87% Disapprove 9% Unsure 4%
Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Sept. 8-11, 2005. 1,523 adults nationwide (MoE ± 3)
"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?" If "Depends": "Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?"
9/8-11/2005 Approve 40% Disapprove 52% Unsure 8%
12/1-16/2004 Approve 48% Disapprove 44% Unsure 8%
4/10-16/2003 Approve 72% Disapprove 22% Unsure 6%
11/13-19/2001 Approve 84% Disapprove 9% Unsure 7%
Six nationwide polls. The averages are as follows:
September 2005 Approve 41.7% Disapprove 53.2% Unsure 5.2%
November 2004 Approve 48.8% Disapprove 45.3% Unsure 5.7%
April 2003 Approve 72.0% Disapprove 22.2% Unsure 5.8%
November 2001 Approve 86.8% Disapprove 8.0% Unsure 5.2%
The Roper Center at the University of Connecticut compiled Gallup Poll data from the Nixon Administration, January 1969 through his "departure" in August 1974.
August 1974 Approve 24% Disapprove 66% Unsure 10%
November 1973 Approve 27% Disapprove 63% Unsure 10%
April 1971 Approve 50% Disapprove 38% Unsure 12%
November 1969 Approve 67% Disapprove 19% Unsure 14%
No post WWII president has seen the magnitude of declines in the polls that we have seen with Bush II. By that, I mean the slide from the peak of "popularity" to an "ebb." Though who can predict the future? While clearly Bush has not reached the lows of infamous Richard Nixon, his approval ratings are the lowest of any president since WWII with the exception of Nixon.
The American people rallied around the unelected President after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. What choices did we have? We needed the President to be a strong leader, whether he actually was or not. We should have known better shortly after learning that his reaction to being told that the United States was under attack was to continue sharing a pet goat storybook with second-graders in Sarasota FL. Under the greatest test faced by a president, perhaps since the Cuban Missile Crisis during President Kennedy's administration, Bush II hesitated.
No hesitation on his part, though, in invading Iraq in March 2003. The vast oil reserves were simply too tempting for this oil tycoon wannabe - and his family, of course. The Bush family relations with the oil industry, Saudi Arabia and its princely rulers, even the Binladen family, are well known and documented.
Hurricane Katrina? After designating the Gulf Coast region a disaster area, even before Katrina made landfall, more hesitation. Not only on his part, but apparently by the entire federal government, the Louisiana state government, and the local governments in the New Orleans area.
Firing the incompetent and unqualified Michael Brown, his head of FEMA? Hesitated once again, allowing this guy, who apparently couldn't even manage horse judges, to resign and slink away into what will hopefully be obscurity.
Rolling back at least a portion of his earlier tax cuts for the very wealthiest and unneediest Americans in order to pay for what will be an enormous recovery project along the Gulf Coast? No hesitation there. Face it, we all know that the U.S. economy's recovery from the 9/11 aftermath and the "dot-com" Wall Street bubble has been solely due to our neighbors and employers buying all of those Lexus automobiles (not made by Americans, by the way) and Hummers (made by Americans, to be fair). Right? Well, isn't that true? Low interest rates that have fueled the ongoing housing boom has had no impact on economic growth, right? Increased government spending on wars has had no positive impact, right?
So now the President will not hesitate to propose that we all Americans, meaning the neediest among us of course, share the burden of rebuilding the Gulf Coast. And we can accomplish this easily by slashing spending on Medicare, Education, Social Security...and simply pilling on yet more hundreds of billions of dollars of debt that will, sooner or later, cause interest rates to explode. We experienced it in the early 1980s people. We all know that history has a tendency to repeat itself. After all, we are on our second Bush presidency. Hmm. And the first Bush went to war with Iraq...hmmmm...in defense of an autocratic Arab country where women struggled for rights, where they had been invaded...for THEIR OIL!
Let's cut to the chase, shall we? President Bush is among the most incompetent presidents America has ever had, during what may be the most dangerous time in our nation's history. Under his watch, we have incurred more debt than at any time in our history. The middle class is under attack like at no other time. Our health care system, already severely ailing prior to Bush's watch, is failing almost any reasonable test and is increasingly unaffordable for most Americans - while hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and the like are generally prospering from Americans' misery. Opinion polls show America's popularity abroad is dismal.
We are engaged in two wars. We seem to have largely walked away from the original war emanating from 9/11, the war in Afghanistan against Usama Binladen's al-Qaida terrorist gang, though Americans and others continue to lose their lives and come home maimed without any clear objective in site.
Iraq is likely a no-win situation for America, likely to end in civil war should we actually withdraw our military forces. Every justification offered to us by Bush and Company was false, either fabricated, manipulated, or otherwise proven to be untrue...after we decimated the country and killed tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians.
So in closing, back to the recent polls. Dig deeper into the other questions asked and you find that, in general, Americans are opposed to the Iraq war. The recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that only 37% of respondents approve of Bush's handling of Iraq, while 58% disapprove, both all-time lows. In the same poll, 55% of respondents want to reduce the number of tropps in Iraq, while 36% want to maintain the current level.
By comparison, in May 1971, according to a Gallup poll, 61% of Americans believed that the Vietnam War was a mistake, while only 28% thought not. Sound familiar?