Chris's Rants

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Impeachment is now our only salvation

From today's WaPo -- Katrina Report Spreads Blame (emphasis mine):
The 600-plus-page report lays primary fault with the passive reaction and misjudgments of top Bush aides, singling out Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Operations Center and the White House Homeland Security Council, according to a 60-page summary of the document obtained by The Washington Post. Regarding Bush, the report found that 'earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response' because he alone could have cut through all bureaucratic resistance.

The report, produced by an 11-member House select committee of Republicans chaired by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), proposes few specific changes. But it is an unusual compendium of criticism by the House GOP, which generally has not been aggressive in its oversight of the administration.
Oversight? What oversight? Characterizing it as "not aggressive" is a little too generous, if you ask me. Congressional oversight of this administartion has been non-existant. The White House basically flips congress the bird any time it is asked to produce evidence and cries "executive privilage" much like Gomer Pyle proclaiming "citizens arr-ey-est", but I digress.
At the same time, weaknesses identified by Sept. 11 investigators -- poor communications among first responders, a shortage of qualified emergency personnel and lack of training and funding -- doomed a response confronted by overwhelming demands for help.

"If 9/11 was a failure of imagination then Katrina was a failure of initiative. It was a failure of leadership," the report's preface states. "In this instance, blinding lack of situational awareness and disjointed decision making needlessly compounded and prolonged Katrina's horror."


White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Bush had full confidence in his homeland security team, both appointed and career. "The president was involved from beginning to end," implementing emergency powers before the storm and taking responsibility afterward, Duffy said.

Duffy objected to a leaked draft of an unpublished report, and said the White House is completing its own study. "The president is less interested in yesterday, and more interested with today and tomorrow," he said, "so that we can be better prepared for next time."
I would simply cite George Satayana: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Apparently, the preznit is sealing his own fate here. He didn't learn from 9/11, resisting any serious investigation at every step and voilà... déjà vu all over again.

Feel safer, yet?
Democrats, whose leaders considered the investigation a partisan whitewash and boycotted it, called for Chertoff's removal. Reps. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) and William J. Jefferson (D-La.),who informally participated in the inquiry, renewed calls for an independent commission styled after the one that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that the investigation, while comprehensive, was rushed, failed to compel the White House to turn over documents and held no administration officials accountable.


However, the committee found U.S. disaster preparedness -- individual, corporate, philanthropic and governmental -- remains dangerously inadequate.

"All the little pigs built houses of straw," it wrote. "Katrina was a national failure, an abdication of the most solemn obligation to provide for the common welfare."
This next part is a doozie, though. House Republicans basically call the administration a pack of liars, which anyone paying attention already knew. The difference here is that we are hearing this for the first time from Republicans.
The report said the single biggest federal failure was not anticipating the consequences of the storm. Disaster planners had rated the flooding of New Orleans as the nation's most feared scenario, testing it under a catastrophic disaster preparedness program in 2004.

About 56 hours before Katrina made landfall, the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center cited an "extremely high probability" that New Orleans would be flooded and tens of thousands of residents killed.

Given those warnings, the report notes Bush's televised statement on Sept. 1 that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees," and concludes: "Comments such as those . . . do not appear to be consistent with the advice and counsel one would expect to have been provided by a senior disaster professional."
Wow! Imagine if this investigation were performed by an independent investigative commission with supoena powers (not that the WH would have behaved any differently... they would have rebuffed any attempts to get to the bottom of this disaster just as they rebuffed the House and Senate committees).

Finally, I'll leave you with this gem:
It added that the crisis showed the government remains "woefully incapable" of managing information, much as it was before the 2001 attacks.
Got that? Bu$hCo has done nothing to improve disaster preparedness. Nothing. If anything, things are now worse than they were on September 11th, 2001 because the Bush administration has effectively purged what is left of FEMA of career disaster officials and replaced them with clueless political hacks.

The Bush administration is all talk (most of it lies and propaganda), all politics and no action.

In related news, this article caught my eye this morning:
NEW YORK Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) has asked Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson for a thorough inquiry of his agency's investigation into whether a V.A. nurse's letter to the editor criticizing the Bush administration amounted to "sedition."

Merely opposing government policies and expressing a desire to change course "does not provide reason to believe that a person is involved in illegal subversive activity," he said.
Bingaman said such investigations raise "a very real possibility of chilling legitimate political speech."

Laura Berg, a clinical nurse specialist, wrote a letter in September to a weekly Albuquerque newspaper criticizing how the administration handled Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War. She urged people to "act forcefully" to remove an administration she said played games of "vicious deceit." The agency seized her computer and launched an investigation.

But Bingaman wrote: "In a democracy, expressing disagreement with the government's actions does not amount to sedition or insurrection. It is, and must remain, protected speech. Although it may be permissible to implement restrictions regarding a government employee's political activities during work hours or on government premises, such employees do not surrender their right to freedom of speech when they enlist in government service."
Add to that, this NYT article via Glen Greenwald, who writes (emphasis mine):
Beyond that, consider the effects of these threats on other people who may be tempted to come forward and expose other serious wrongdoing on the part of the Administration. They hear that the Justice Department is "laying the groundwork for a grand jury inquiry that could lead to criminal charges" -- might that have an effect of intimidation against anyone who might consider blowing the whistle on other forms of serious misconduct by the Bush Administration?

And it isn't just potential whistle-blowers whom they are attempting to intimidate, but journalists as well:
At the same time, conservatives have attacked the disclosure of classified information as a illegal act, demanding a vigorous investigative effort to find and prosecute whoever disclosed classified information.

An upcoming article in Commentary magazine suggests that the newspaper might be prosecuted for violations of the Espionage Act and said, "What The New York Times has done is nothing less than to compromise the centerpiece of our defensive efforts in the war on terrorism."
So now we're a country which allows its leaders to flagrantly violate the law -- even cheering them on as they do it -- and we imprison the journalists who report that illegal behavior to the public. That sounds like a lot of things. The United States isn't one of them.
So much for the 1st Amendment. Any criticism of Dear Leader is now considered sedition, and the administration's Brown Shirts are tracking down the whistleblowers and journalists and threatening them with prison. Stalin would be proud.

Meanwhile, today's NYT editorial calls "bullshit" on the administration's plea to "trust us" when it comes to the NSA spying on Americans:
We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers — and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less.

This has been a central flaw of Mr. Bush's presidency for a long time. But last week produced a flood of evidence that vividly drove home the point.


Like many other administrations before it, this one sometimes dissembles clumsily to avoid embarrassment. (We now know, for example, that the White House did not tell the truth about when it learned the levees in New Orleans had failed.) Spin-as-usual is one thing. Striking at the civil liberties, due process and balance of powers that are the heart of American democracy is another.
Finally, the Telegraph reports that the war criminals are not only ratcheting up the rhetoric over Iran's alleged attempt to pursue nuclear weapons, they are making plans for war:
Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran's nuclear sites as a "last resort" to block Teheran's efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt.
"Last resort". Yeah, right. Now when have I heard that before... (emphasis mine)
POWELL: War should never be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It should always be a deliberate act by people acting rationally, hopefully. And in this case, as the president said the other night, we are trying to see war as a last resort.
Talk about your déjà vu all over again.

Impeachment is now our only salvation.


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