Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Rice to New York: "Suck it!"

And by it I mean Toxic Air and by Suck I mean breathe it thinking you are fine.

From the New York Post!

September 24, 2006 -- Condoleezza Rice's office gave final approval to the infamous Environmental Protection Agency press releases days after 9/11 claiming the air around Ground Zero was "safe to breathe," internal documents show.

Now Secretary of State, Rice was then head of the National Security Council - "the final decision maker" on EPA statements about lower Manhattan air quality, the documents say.
Scientists and lawmakers have since deemed the air rife with toxins.

Early tests known to the EPA at the time had already found high asbestos levels, the notes say. But those results were omitted from the press releases because of "competing priorities" such as national security and "opening Wall Street," according to a report by the EPA's inspector general.

The chief of staff for then-EPA head Christie Todd Whitman, Eileen McGinnis, told the inspector general of heated discussions, including "screaming telephone calls," about what to put in the press releases.

The notes come from a 2003 probe into public assurances made on Sept. 16, five days after the 9/11 attacks. They tell how a White House staffer "worked with Dr. Condoleezza Rice's press secretary" on reviewing the press releases for weeks.

Whitman said through a spokeswoman Friday that she never discussed her press releases directly with Rice. She also defended her collaboration with the White House.

Now-retired Inspector General Nikki Tinsley told The Post her auditors tried to question the head of President Bush's Environmental Quality Council, but "he would not talk to us."
Calls and e-mails to Rice were not returned.

When Whitman was asked about this the interviewer didn't push to the real question, "Who told you to lie in the press release about the quality of the air?"
Answer: Condi Rice

So now all the first responders and people with 9/11 lung disease, you know who to direct your ire to. Send those medical bills to Condoleezza Rice's office.

One person has died because of the toxic air. Now can we say, "Rice lied, people died?" or do we need to wait for a few more deaths?

I know how people parse words to the press. Now someone needs to ask Rice about this and please, please, please be prepared with a follow-up to her bullshit answer.

Oh and I had this before Atrios! But blogger failed me.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Light, Sweet Crude Oil and Political Levers

First. I love the term "Light, Sweet Crude Oil" vs. what? "Heavy, Sour Sophisticated Oil"?

tristero over at Digby had a great comment about October Surprises. I remember trying to guess October surprises in 2004. And like most official pundits I was wrong. Of course they are always invited back after they continue to guess wrong time and time again, because it's not about if you are right or not, but HOW you say it and WHAT your conservative credentials are. That's all that matters. Any way Tristero makes lots of predictions. The one that makes the most sense to me (which means it probably WON'T happen) is the oil price one.
Frankly I'm still puzzled by the price of oil. Even at the HEIGHT of the gas prices (over $3.50 here in SF) the cost per gallon still seemed too low compared to what oil per barrel was selling at.
I'm not an economist like Atrios or ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES, just a brain in a box, but the ratios of Price per gallon of oil to price per gallon of gas when it was 20 dollars a barrel vs when it is 69 or 80 dollars a barrel still seems strange.

Just for grins how about some round numbers? Let's say that:

20 per barrel equals 2 dollars per gallon of gas. But...
60 per barrel NEVER was equal to 6 dollars per gallon of gas.
80 per barrel NEVER was equal to 8 dollars per gallon of gas.

Now I'm sure that they come up with all sorts of formulas about why the pricing is as it should be based on history and production and economies of scale, but we all know that pricing is a black art that is NOT straightforward. It is impacted by rumor and fear and news reports of rumors of scary things said by scary people.

And I wonder if the reverse ratio is going to be true. When oil was 3.50 when it was at 80 will it drop back at the same ratio? Will we have gas per gallon until the election that will NOT have the same relationship on the way down as it did on the way up?
So, if they need to keep gas at under 3 dollars a barrel to keep people from voting Democrat will they say, "Hell we can eat the costs for a month or two as long as we keep the current team in congress. Besides, we already didn't take as much cash as we could have and we got into trouble from people for that!"

Anyway, I'm sure that the cartels and companies never act in concert. They just all have the same ideas about the same self interest actions at the same time and justify it the same way. It's "in the air". They don't need to conspire to know that keeping the public happy on gas prices is the one thing they should do to avoid an angry mob that will wake up screaming suing them and passing laws that demand fair pricing (see prop 87).

If the media dont' show real images of war and people's day to day life aren't effected, they don't care. They go about their day, tsk tsk the news and tune into Dancing with the Stars (I'm so glad Tucker Carlson lost!)

If the gas prices don't kill them they won't care. People like me who follow the debt picture, who care about our torturing and killing people from torture will notice this stuff, but most people don't, so it makes sense to me that the Bush admin will do what it can to fix the one thing that has (in the past) got people to FINALLY notice they are being screwed (at least in one area). And if the cartels and companies only have to maintain it for a few weeks, why not? In the mean time they can push all the other crazy stuff that they love to push for the political junkies and to drive the voters in their own base to the polls. "Guns, Gays and God"

Saturday, September 16, 2006

New Orleans is unwell. Why we must rebuilt it, there.

Scout recommended this blog American Zombie. He has a great answer to the "Why should we rebuild New Orleans?" answer. Here he is talking to a smug Republican on his way to law school (who hopes someday he will be a judge. He must think that being a judge means you should be a judgmental sort.)

Initially, I thought I might get through the night without “the issue” coming up…no such luck.

“So you’re from New Orleans….how’s it going down there?”


I like the semantic impact of unwell…it usually just hangs in the air and people don’t really know what to do with it. I’ve successfully cut off conversations about “the issue” a number of times with unwell. But not tonight…I was sitting next to Mr. Neat and unwell didn’t quite fit into his compartments.

He started to dig.

“Why is it so bad down there? I don’t understand why you guys can’t get anything done.”

“Well, we don’t have the financial resources or political leadership to do it.”

“How can that be true? Haven’t we been sending you all that money?”
I assume by "we" he meant America...or maybe he had a mouse in his pocket and donated to the Red Cross. [ed note: I LOVE that line]

“I’ve heard there's money coming…but I haven’t seen it. Look, it’s important to understand the breadth of destruction in the city…80% of the city was flooded.”

“If it’s that bad, why rebuild it?”

I was still ok…really….I was cool.

“Well, aside from the fact that many of us who live there really love our city, it’s a very important city and area to sustaining the country’s economic infrastructure. ..over 30% of the country’s energy supply runs through the southern end of our state. Our port is one of the busiest in the world. We have petro-chemical plants lined along the Mississippi between New Orleans and Baton Rouge which are absolutely vital to our food supply…we do a lot for this country quite often at the expense of our own health.”

“I don’t get it, why can’t we just move all that stuff to another state?”

Aside from the fact that it’s geographically and financially impossible….no other states want these type of factories in their backyard. Refineries and Petro-Chem plants…they’re very nasty creatures. They create a lot of poor health conditions for the people in the surrounding areas. They call the area between New Orleans and Baton Rouge ‘Cancer Alley’”

“Why the hell would people live around them or work in them? Why don’t they just leave…are they just to stupid to realize what they’re living in?”

For some reason…that’s what set me off. It doesn’t even bother me that much now that I read it, but when he spoke the words, it very much chapped my ass.

“Because some people have to work for a living. Someone has to make plastic so you can eat fresh Pop-Tarts before you go to your business ethics class. Some people don't have as many options as you do.”

He rambled on about it being a free country and regurgitated a wave of asinine platitudes he pulled off the conservative bookshelf. I was waiting for him to ask why we couldn't get Mexicans to work in those plants...that's the kind of crap that was flowing out of his mouth.

Luckily the food showed up pretty quickly and his hunger took precedence over his need to rationalize “the issue”.
(whole post here)

I was impressed by the various types of arguments he used and by his ability to articulate them. I always like to give my readers these kind of responses based on the information from people on the ground. Feel free to memorize them and use them when confronting these "young Republican types" who spout the crap they hear on commercially supported broadcast radio, Fox and read in the mainstream newspapers from paid conservative think tankers writing op-ed pieces.

People need to hear and have strong arguments against these people. If you only hear strawmen and Bush Republican agenda items all day you might start to be hypnotized. We can't underestimate the power of a multibillion dollar campaign running 24/7 on the radio, TV and think tankers.

And if Dambala's great American Zombie post isn't strong enough try Ashley Morris' x-rated "Al Swearington approved" post. Warning F-word count approaches infinity.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Some say "bin Laden not a top priority"

And by some I mean elected officials, and by elected officials, I mean Republican elected officials, and by Republican elected officials I mean George W. Bush. Commentators on Fox and radio love to use the "some say" phrase to make their straw men arguments.

If a democratic elected official said that "bin Laden was not a top priority" a few months after 9/11 and then again at the fifth anniversary of the event the howls from Fox, Rush, Hannity and their ilk would break the sound barrier. How does he sell this blantant disregard for bring bin Laden to justice? Expand the fight. Why? Because only by expanding the fight can they maintain support for The Forever War. (which is btw, a great SF book from Joe Haldeman)

-- via Atrios via Think Progress

Bush Tells Barnes Capturing Bin Laden Is ‘Not A Top Priority Use of American Resources’

Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes appeared on Fox this morning to discuss his recent meeting with President Bush in the Oval Office. The key takeaway for Barnes was that “bin Laden doesn’t fit with the administration’s strategy for combating terrorism.” Barnes said that Bush told him capturing bin Laden is “not a top priority use of American resources.” Watch it.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

You could feel their emptiness

Digby talks about Bush's evoking images of WWII. Quotes a professor from Alaska who has a great title for his paper, "Operation Enduring Analogy: World War II, the War on Terror and the Uses of Historical Memory,” Analogies are very important to feed the press for their narrative. It helps them when they say, "The world is REALLY like WWII, (not Vietnam!)" And by adding fascists or Nazi to modify Islamo they help keep the analogy going.

Atrios likes to say, "Just go read Digby." So I will too, but I wanted to pull out one of the section from the article that struck me.

I don't think younger people can understand the depth of the generation gap between the baby boomers and their parents, the Greatest Generation. It was a chasm and it turned families inside out for many years. But by the 90's our parents were starting to get very old and for many of us, the fetishizing of the Greatest Generation was a form of generational rapprochement.

For conservative baby boomers, however, it had much more resonance. Vietnam was their war, of course, the most lethal, meaningful hot war of the Cold War, but they had largely avoided it like most of their age group, even as they extolled the warrior virtues and supported the policy. (This led to cognitive dissonance that never left them.) They also sat out or opposed the successful, defining social movements of their generation --- civil rights and women's rights --- and were looking back at a life made up of nothing more than petty culture war resentment. By the time they came into power even the Cold War was over --- resolved by the last presidents of the Greatest Generation. It looked as if the conservative baby boomers were going to be left without any meaningful legacy at all. You could feel their emptiness.

Digby (link)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Senate Finds No al - Qaida - Saddam Link

September 9, Filed at 10:07 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Saddam Hussein rejected overtures from al-Qaida and believed Islamic extremists were a threat to his regime, a reverse portrait of an Iraq allied with Osama bin Laden painted by the Bush White House, a Senate panel has found.

The administration's version was based in part on intelligence that White House officials knew was flawed, according to Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, citing newly declassified documents released by the panel.

The report, released Friday, discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam's government ''did not have a relationship, harbor or turn a blind eye toward'' al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or his associates.

(more at link)

Friday, September 08, 2006

The meaning of the word "Relationship"

One of the challenges in communication is to be clear in a world where people WANT to lie with words. Sometimes weasel words and phrases are easy, "it appears" is a good one. And sometime you can use a perfectly good word, take the accepted meaning to most people and use it with a stronger word to get across a different meaning.

For example: Cheney used the word on March 16, 2003 on Meet the Press regarding Saddam:

"We know he’s out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization."
Bush used it on the aircraft carrier deck:

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida is because there was a relationship."

Ah, but what is the NATURE of this relationship?

I like to say, "Sure they have a relationship. Like my relationship with telemarketers or spammers. They call me and want me to buy stuff from them. I say no. Do we have a relationship? Yes. In one sense of the word. Would I feel it deceitful if they listed on their website they had a relationship with me implying that I buy their products? Yes."

In the political world of word parsing and word definitions you could say that Spocko has a relationship with Joe Telemarketer and Sally Spammer. And you wouldn't be lying, given one meaning of the word relationship. You would just be dishonest given the accepted understanding of the word by most people.

I bring this up because of something Holden at First Draft pointed out in this post:

Sometimes in blogging you focus so much attention on the big stories, like ABC's GOPudrama, that the little stories slip by unnoticed.

There's no evidence Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Qaida, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence that Democrats say undercuts President Bush's justification for invading Iraq.

Bush administration officials have insisted on a link between the Iraqi regime and terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Intelligence agencies, however, concluded there was none.

It discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam's government ''did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates.''

Bush and other administration officials have said that the presence of Zarqawi in Iraq before the war was evidence of a connection between Saddam's government and al-Qaida. Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in June this year.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the report was ''nothing new.''

(extra points to Holden for the new word GOPudrama!)

Then I went and actually READ the report. There are all sorts of ways the word relationship is used. And it even contrasts pre-war intelligence relationships and post-war intelligence relationships. Starting on page 63 up till page 76 they talk about the nature of these "relationships" where meetings were listed. Intelligence gathering is not an exact science and if you really really want to use the word relationship (and all it's connotations) between the two, you can. And to people who want to justify a war costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars, that is enough.

I think it's important to understand how dishonest the use of this word is in the Bush Administration. Because of how they used that word they can pull it out and use it without being called LIARS right to their face. They can say, "Tim, the study shows they have a relationship."
Sure. Technically correct. But what KIND of relationship? Big and bad enough to attack Iraq because of this "relationship"? I would say no.

To not acknowledge the twisted use of this word "Relationship" would be to confuse people from any kind of "moral clarity" they might have regarding who was our enemy at the time of September 11th.

I have to go now. My phone is ringing and I have to disabuse yet another telemarketer of the nature of our "relationship".

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

People are Typecasting Muslims as a Race

Great cover page story in the SF Chronical on Sunday. The title was Typecasting Muslims as a Race.

Read the whole thing, it's good. How does this typecasting and racial profiling get out there? Well, it's pushed by people who would rather have secuity "theatre" that involves easy visual profiling than real security (as Patrick Smith writes in Salon). Smith talks about behavioral profiling as something effective vs. irrational, wasteful and pointless tactics used now at the airport. Profiling based on a Muslim "look" is this kind of irrational theatre.

But I guess people who don't work in the security industry, yet want to tell experts how to do security, don't really care about effectiveness, they just to ramp up fear of "The Other". Of course they won't call it racism, they will say it's for "National Security" as they slam down the visual-based fear card.)

Here are a couple of interesting quotes from the article written by Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, Chronicle's Religion Writer

"Muslims are the new Jews," said Paul Silverstein, an anthropology professor at Reed College in Oregon who studies the intersection of race, immigration and Islam. "They're the object of a series of stereotypes, caricatures and fears which are not based in a reality and are independent of a person's experience with Muslims."

The Muslim caricature has ensnared Hindus, Mexicans and others across the country with violence, suspicion and slurs. And it has given new form to this country's age-old dance around racial identity.

The act of 19 hijackers has been assumed to represent the beliefs of the estimated 6 million Muslims in America, regardless that few share their beliefs.
That narrow prism has been exaggerated by many factors, such as antagonism toward Islam among some evangelical Christians, who have described Islam as "evil" and have viewed the war in Iraq as an opportunity for conversions.

But beliefs are hard to spot on the street, said Professor Howard Winant, a sociologist of race at UC Santa Barbara and co-author of "Racial Formation in the United States." And stigma demands a physical image.

"We have to get racial, because it's got to work through appearance in some way," Winant said.