Tagged: Bush

Hurricane Katrina — 10 years after

Nearly 10 years after Hurricane Katrina overran New Orleans, the city is still recovering from a disaster that was as much human-caused as natural.

Katrina, which formed on August 23, 2005 and hit the Gulf Coast of the US on August 29, was a massive storm that was likely to wreak havoc in the region regardless of how the government reacted. But the government response was so wildly incompetent that it allowed the worst of the catastrophe to continue and sometimes created entirely new, unnecessary problems…

At least 1,800 people died due to Hurricane Katrina

With a death toll of more than 1,800, Katrina was the third deadliest hurricane in US history after Galveston in 1900 (which killed 8,000 to 12,000 people) and Okeechobee in 1928 (which killed 2,500 to 3,000 people), according to US News and World Report. But Katrina is by far the costliest hurricane in economic terms, running up $108 billion in costs…

The levees failed because of bad engineering, not just because Katrina was too big

More than six months after Katrina hit, the US Army Corps of Engineers released a report in which they took blame for the levees breaking, flat-out admitting that the levees were built in a disjointed fashion based on outdated data. Much of this, the report revealed, was due to a lack of funding — resulting in a flawed system of levees that was inconsistent in quality, materials, and design. Engineers also failed to account for the region’s poor soil quality and sinking land, which created more gaps in barriers…

Federal officials were slow to react to local and state officials’ pleas

After the response to Katrina proved to be its own kind of unmitigated disaster, the Bush administration attempted to shift some of the blame to local and state officials — particularly Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Some media outlets, going by information from administration officials, claimed Blanco didn’t declare a state of emergency.

In fact, Horne noted in the Washington Post, Blanco declared a state of emergency on August 26 — a day before Mississippi and the White House did, and three days before the storm made landfall. And while President George W. Bush vacationed in Texas as the storm hit, Blanco pleaded for the administration to send more aid. At one point, the Louisiana National Guard asked FEMA for 700 buses — but, days later, the agency sent only 100, and it took a week to evacuate flood survivors.

RTFA for more of what you might guess. Between bureaucrats who just don’t do their homework to politicians who govern by ideology rather than evidence-based solutions, we get screwed. Add in the opportunist and cowardly complicity of a Free Press in a Free World that defines itself as entertainment – instead of living up to constitutional mandates – and we get screwed in spades.

Psychologists end collaboration with “national security” interrogations


So, why is Gitmo an exception?

The American Psychological Association…overwhelmingly approved a new ban on any involvement by psychologists in national security interrogations conducted by the United States government, even noncoercive interrogations now conducted by the Obama administration…

The vote followed an emotional debate in which several members said the ban was needed to restore the organization’s reputation after a scathing independent investigation ordered by the association’s board.

That investigation, conducted by David Hoffman, a Chicago lawyer, found that some officers of the association and other prominent psychologists colluded with government officials during the Bush administration to make sure that association policies did not prevent psychologists from involvement in the harsh interrogation programs conducted by the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

The ban was approved by the association’s council by a vote of 156 to 1. Seven council members abstained, while one was recused…

The final vote was met by a standing ovation by many of the council members, as well as the large crowd of observers, which included anti-torture activists and psychology graduate students who had come to the meeting to support the ban. Some wore T-shirts proclaiming “First, Do No Harm,” a reference to the physicians’ Hippocratic oath.

RTFA for all the gory details. I think it stands as mute testimony for the sentiment solidly rooted in many Americans that war criminals like George W Bush and Dick Cheney should stand trial for their crimes.

Members of the APA have been expelled for their role in torture. I think that body would support their prosecution. I hope so, anyway.

Psychologists are also still assigned at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where they oversee “voluntary” interrogations of detainees.

Of course a country that spies on its citizens spies on its allies?

American security

France has summoned the US envoy in Paris over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors…

Whistleblower website Wikileaks reports the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Mr Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006-12.

Mr Hollande called the allegations “unacceptable” and is expected to speak with President Obama over the claims.

The US said it would not comment on “specific intelligence allegations”.

Is there any reason to expect the United States to tell the truth about trust and honesty?

The French president called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue and insisted France would “not tolerate” acts that threaten its security…

The NSA has previously been accused of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Brazilian and Mexican leaders…

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned US Ambassador Jane Hartley to discuss the latest claims…

A statement from the French presidency said the US must respect a promise not to spy on French leaders. The statement came after the emergency meeting of security chiefs in Paris.

A senior French intelligence official is meanwhile expected to visit Washington to discuss the spying claims…

The NSA has come under increased scrutiny since revelations by former employee Edward Snowden…One of the files, dated 2012, is about Mr Hollande discussing Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone. Another one – from 2011 – alleges that Mr Sarkozy was determined to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly without US involvement…

According to the summary of an intercepted exchange, the French envoy to Washington and Mr Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser discussed Mr Sarkozy’s plan to express his “frustration” over US unwillingness to sign a “bilateral intelligence co-operation agreement”.

The main sticking point is the US desire to continue spying on France,” the intercept says.

“Lafayette we are here” no longer describes the arrival of American forces coming to aid of our oldest ally. France, the one nation that stood beside American rebels in our struggle for freedom and democracy.

Not anymore, man.

US refuses to aid Poland investigation of CIA secret prisons


Having no hearts, they put their hands over their wallets

The US is hampering Poland’s investigation into a secret CIA prison by snubbing repeated requests for vital documents, including a Senate report detailing CIA prison locations and practices…

Published in December, the summary of the report by the Senate’s intelligence committee was redacted and did not mention Poland by name, but other facts in it pointed to the country and a secret CIA prison operating there from 2002 to 2003, where terror suspects were submitted to harsh treatment [they mean torture].

Piotr Kosmaty, spokesman for the Appeals Prosecutor’s Office in Krakow that is doing the investigation, said Poland immediately asked US justice authorities for a full version of the document, but has had no response. Previous requests for documents and questioning of the alleged victims – now held in Guantánamo Bay –were ignored, he said, and at one point the US authorities said that providing materials would be against US national interests…

The European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that Poland violated the rights of terror suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri by allowing the CIA to imprison them and by failing to stop the “torture and inhuman or degrading treatment” of the inmates.

The court ordered Poland to pay compensation to the two men. Warsaw said it would abide by the ruling.

The US report prompted Polish leaders at the time, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Leszek Miller, to admit – after years of denials – that they authorised a prison, but not torture.

The world waits for Bush and Cheney to be tried for their war crimes – including illegal detention and torture.

Court rules NSA mass phone surveillance illegal

A U.S. spying program that systematically collects millions of Americans’ phone records is illegal, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday, putting pressure on Congress to quickly decide whether to replace or end a controversial program aimed at fighting terrorism.

Ruling on a program revealed in 2013 by former government security contractor Edward Snowden, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the Patriot Act did not authorize the National Security Agency to collect Americans’ calling records in bulk.

Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch wrote for a three-judge panel that Section 215, which addresses the FBI’s ability to gather business records, could not be interpreted to have permitted the NSA to collect a “staggering” amount of phone records, contrary to claims by the Bush and Obama administrations…

The appeals court did not resolve the question of whether the surveillance was unconstitutional…It also declined to halt the program, noting that parts of the Patriot Act including Section 215 expire on June 1.

Lynch said it was “prudent” to give Congress a chance to decide what surveillance is permissible, given the national security interests at stake…I think he’s stupid to think Congress is capable of anything constructive much less Constitutional.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have introduced legislation to extend Section 215 and other parts of the Patriot Act through 2020.

The existing NSA program has repeatedly been approved in secret by a national security court established under a 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act…

ACLU lawyer Alex Abdo welcomed the decision.

Mass surveillance does not make us any safer, and it is fundamentally incompatible with the privacy necessary in a free society,” he said.

I agree. I believe most Americans with more than the equivalent of a sixth grade level of literacy and understanding of civics would agree. That just leaves miserable, corrupt and cowardly politicians to defend the Patriot act.

We continue to have to rely on a few courts uncorrupted by appointments as sleazy as the Republican Supreme Court to defend constitutional rights – when neither the White House nor Congress is willing to act on our behalf.

Canada prepares to replace democracy with NSA-approved world view

Widespread protest and souring public opinion has failed to prevent Canada’s ruling Conservative Party from pushing forward with sweeping anti-terror legislation which a battery of legal scholars, civil liberties groups, opposition politicians and pundits of every persuasion say will replace the country’s healthy democracy with a creeping police state.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is looking forward to an easy victory…when the House of Commons votes in its final debate on the bill, known as C-51. But lingering public anger over the legislation suggests that his success in dividing his parliamentary opposition may well work against him when Canadians go to the polls for a national election this fall.

No legislation in memory has united such a diverse array of prominent opponents as the proposed legislation, which the Globe and Mail newspaper denounced as a a plan to create a “secret police force”.

The campaign to stop Bill C-51 grew to include virtually every civil-rights group, law professor, retired judge, author, editorialist and public intellectual in Canada…

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Justice Minister Peter MacKay have described the bill as a “reasonable and proportionate” response to the threat of “jihadi terrorism.” – blah, blah, blah.

Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Canadians signed petitions urging the bill be scrapped and took to the streets in a national day of protest last month.

Critics of the legislation say the imminent law gives Canadian spies sweeping new powers to investigate and disrupt broadly defined threats to public safety, with language that makes no distinction between terrorist plots and legitimate political protests and demonstrations. At the same time, it neglects to provide any increased oversight of the country’s vastly empowered chief spy agency, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

Harper like so many other supposedly independent – but always obedient – leaders of the world’s industrial nations can be counted on to toe the party line established by the White House. Whether that rarely honorable structure houses a Republican or Democrat.

When the topic is homeland security – as defined by Wall Street savants and corporate lobbyists – there is only one source for standards or the lack thereof. That is Uncle Sugar. And if you want to keep your place in the gallery of loyalist ideologues, you had better fall in line.

Obama’s channeling Ronald Reagan — says Venezuela national security threat

The White House took a new step toward the theater of the absurd by “declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela,” as President Barack Obama put it in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

It remains to be seen whether anyone in the White House press corps will have the courage to ask what in the world the nation’s chief executive could mean by that. Is Venezuela financing a coming terrorist attack on U.S. territory? Planning an invasion? Building a nuclear weapon?

Who do they think they are kidding? Some may say that the language is just there because it is necessary under U.S. law in order to impose the latest round of sanctions on Venezuela. That is not much of a defense, telling the whole world the rule of law in the United States is something the president can use lies to get around whenever he finds it inconvenient.

That was the approach of President Ronald Reagan in 1985 when he made a similar declaration in order to impose sanctions — including an economic embargo — on Nicaragua. Like the White House today, he was trying to topple an elected government that Washington didn’t like. He was able to use paramilitary and terrorist violence as well as an embargo in a successful effort to destroy the Nicaraguan economy and ultimately overturn its government. (The Sandinistas eventually returned to power in 2007 and are the governing party today.)

The world has moved forward, even though Washington has not. Venezuela today has very strong backing from its neighbors against what almost every government in the region sees as an attempt to destabilize the country.

“The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) reiterates its strong repudiation of the application of unilateral coercive measures that are contrary to international law,” read a statement from every country in the hemisphere except for the U.S. and Canada on Feb. 11. They were responding to the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela that Obama signed into law in December.

Didn’t read any of this in the English-language media? Well, you probably also didn’t see the immediate reaction to yesterday’s White House blunder from the head of the Union of South American Nations, which read, “UNASUR rejects any external or internal attempt at interference that seeks to disrupt the democratic process in Venezuela.”

RTFA for a history lesson if nothing else. The era of the United States overthrowing Latin American governments and putting little obedient puppets in place ran out of staying power in VietNam. Even if we spent the last decade or so playing at regime change in the Middle East. We all know how well that’s worked out – under a Republican president and under a Democrat.

Along with the mantle of sole superpower on Earth at the end of the World War 2, we acquired the imperial arrogance that comes with the job. During the Cold War years – and nowadays – our government still plays God or at least the chief cop of the world. Pretty much all the inhabitants of the White House over the last seventy years have had no qualms about murdering hundreds of thousands of furriners in the name of American democracy.

The first two examples of imperial gangsterism after the war were overthrowing a democratically-elected government in Guatemala – then doing the same to the first democratically-elected government in the whole of the Middle East – Iran. No one in Latin America or the Middle east needs reminding. Though it seems that Mr. Obama is as poor at recalling the results as George W. Bush.

And politicians that don’t learn anything from history are always doomed to repeat it. Which means sending Americans to kill other folks – who then keep on killing those Americans until we leave their country.