Friday, September 16, 2005

Just Who Is Playing the Blame Game, Mr. Bush?

The following is taken from the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger.

Federal officials appear to be seeking proof to blame the flood of New Orleans on environmental groups, documents show.

The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of an internal e-mail the U.S. Department of Justice sent out this week to various U.S. attorneys' offices: "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."

Cynthia Magnuson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said Thursday she couldn't comment "because it's an internal e-mail."

Shown a copy of the e-mail, David Bookbinder, senior attorney for Sierra Club, remarked, "Why are they (Bush administration officials) trying to smear us like this?"

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups had nothing to do with the flooding that resulted from Hurricane Katrina that killed hundreds, he said. "It's unfortunate that the Bush administration is trying to shift the blame to environmental groups. It doesn't surprise me at all."

Federal officials say the e-mail was prompted by a congressional inquiry but wouldn't comment further.

Whoever is behind the e-mail may have spotted the Sept. 8 issue of National Review Online that chastised the Sierra Club and other environmental groups for suing to halt the corps' 1996 plan to raise and fortify 303 miles of Mississippi River levees in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

The corps settled the litigation in 1997, agreeing to hold off on some work until an environmental impact could be completed. The National Review article concluded: "Whether this delay directly affected the levees that broke in New Orleans is difficult to ascertain."

The problem with that conclusion?

The levees that broke causing New Orleans to flood weren't Mississippi River levees. They were levees that protected the city from Lake Pontchartrain levees on the other side of the city.

When Katrina struck, the hurricane pushed tons of water from the Gulf of Mexico into Lake Pontchartrain, which borders the city to the north. Corps officials say the water from the lake cleared the levees by 3 feet. It was those floodwaters, they say, that caused the levees to degrade until they ruptured, causing 80 percent of New Orleans to flood.

Bookbinder said the purpose of the litigation by the Sierra Club and others in 1996 was where the corps got the dirt for the project. "We had no objections to levees," he said. "We said, 'Just don't dig film materials out of the wetlands. Get the dirt from somewhere else.' "

If you listen to what some conservatives say about environmentalists, he said, "We're responsible for most of the world's ills."

In 1977, the corps wanted to build a 25-mile-long barrier and gate system to protect New Orleans on the east side. Both environmental groups and fishermen opposed the project, saying it would choke off water into Lake Pontchartrain.

After litigation, corps officials abandoned the idea, deciding instead to build higher levees. "They came up with a cheaper alternative," Bookbinder said. "We didn't object to raising the levees."

John Hall, a spokesman for the corps in New Orleans, said the barrier the corps was proposing in the 1970s would only stand up to a weak Category 3 hurricane, not a Category 4 hurricane like Katrina. "How much that would have prevented anything, I'm not sure," he said.

Since 1999, corps officials have studied the concept of building huge floodgates to prevent flooding in New Orleans from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane.

Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2001 listed a hurricane striking New Orleans as one of the top three catastrophic events the nation could face (the others being a terrorist attack on New York City and an earthquake in San Francisco), funding for corps projects aimed at curbing flooding in southeast Louisiana lagged.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has said the White House cut $400 million from corps' requests for flood control money in the area.

In fiscal 2006, the corps had hoped to receive up to $10 million in funding for a six-year feasibility study on such floodgates. According to a recent estimate, the project would take 10 years to build and cost $2.5 billion.

"Our understanding is the locals would like to go to that," Hall said. "If I were local, I'd want it."

Bolivia: More Protests

Once again protests have brought the Bolivian capital to a halt. On Wednesday, ISN reports, that students and unionists took to the streets to demand jobs and a greater share of the country’s oil and gas revenues.

The next day, according to Prensa Latina, saw a one day general strike demanding that, “increased resources from oil taxes be written into the budget for La Paz and Santa Cruz.” Lorgio Balcazar, leader of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee, under strong influence by business and rightwing interests, declared the strike completely effective in that city, while the strategic east-central highway was blocked in Yapacani, stopping exports to Chilean and Peruvian ports.

Bolivia’s new hydrocarbon law raises royalty and income percentages levied on foreign gas companies to a combined total of over 50 per cent, and protesters are concerned how that windfall of wealth is going to be spent. The government’s current plan designates 42 per cent of the revenue for the Bolivian state treasury, while the rest is earmarked for Bolivia’s regional governments. Departmental governments are slated to receive 33 per cent, municipalities 20 per cent, and universities the remaining 5 per cent.

One big project the money is to go toward is the construction of an international highway that will pass through Bolivia to link Brazil’s Atlantic coast with Peruvian Pacific ports.

There is a political reason behind the roadway project. Bolivia’s limited number of highways has continuously been a weak point exploited by any organization willing to throw enough rocks and debris to span the width of a two-lane road. “The power structure in Bolivia is set up to represent the elites,” Founding Director of The Democracy Center, Jim Shultz, told ISN Security Watch, adding that, “The government will not listen to anything less than [road blockades].”

The latest round of protests began on September 7th with hunger strikes and other actions. Sources: Prensa Latina, RHC, ISN (Switzerland)

Myths About the Loyalist Violence in Northern Ireland

I’ve never been sure why American leftist and progressives seem so little concerned with the long struggle in Northern Ireland. It baffles me. Anyway, the Oread Daily, which has always kept an eye on the situation in Northern Ireland, will continue to follow the current crisis as it develops.

The latest outbreak of loyalist violence has been mostly described by the mainstream media as an attack on the police and as a result anger over over too many concessions to republicans and the deprived condition of the loyalist and Protestant community. Neither of the assertions deals with the facts on the ground however.

The media has basically ignored the loyalist attacks on the republican (or nationalist) and Catholic communities (which as the OD has reported have actually been going on all summer and have just simmered over the top in the last week).

As Sinn Fein News reports in just the first few days of the current spree of loyalist violence which began last Saturday some of these incidents included:

***nationalist community workers, seeking to calm interface tensions on the Springfield Road were set upon by a 50-strong loyalist mob (two men were kicked to the ground and attacked with beer bottles while were beaten about the head and sustaining other injuries to their arms, shoulders and backs), while homes in the area were targeted

***a three-year-old child was hit by a brick and suffered a fractured skull after his father's car was attacked

***across Belfast unionist gangs attacked nationalist homes with petrol and paint bombs

***North Belfast Catholic churches were paint bombed and homes in Ahoghill, County Antrim again come under attack

***in Magherafelt, County Derry up to 20 graves were desecrated at St John's Church

***29-year-old John McKay was set upon as he walked home along a river path on Saturday and severly beaten by a loyalist gang

***as rioting erupted on the West Circular Road, a 100-strong unionist mob from Sandy Row invaded the nationalist Grosvenor Road and were eventually beaten back by local residents

*** In North Belfast a Catholic family had a lucky escape after their car was hi-jacked by unionist gunmen at a slip road on the Shore Road at around 7pm. Margaret Holland, who is in a women in her 70s, traveling with her two sons and eleven-year-old grandson were confronted by loyalist gunmen who stopped and dragged her from the car. "We all thought we were going to be shot. They just started shouting at us 'get out, get out, we want your fucking car', it was very frightening." Margaret, who suffers from a heart condition, said a crowd of about 30 men, all in balaclavas and scarves ran towards the car and her two sons and grandson were then dragged from the car while the PSNI stood idly by and watched their car being set on fire. "The PSNI were about 150 yards away but told us they couldn't leave their position."

*** as a third night of unionist violence erupted across Belfast on Monday around 300 loyalists invaded side streets off the Springfield Road and attacked nationalist homes. A number of windows were broken in the homes before residents drove the unionists back. One resident Louise O'Prey said the attackers were waving swords and machetes and shouting "Kill the Taigs".

*** a busload of pensioners returning to Bangor from a church event in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast was hi-jacked and the pensioners robbed by the unionist thugs involved

***nationalist homes in Ahoghill's mainly loyalist Brookfield Gardens Estate were targeted by on Sunday 11 September

And already today, UTV is reporting traffic disruptions caused by loyalist activities across Belfast. Also reported is the purposeful spreading of rumors by “false” police that business should shut down. All this is an attempt to recreate the chaos on the streets of Belfast this past Monday.

And now as to the Loyalist complaints of economic bias against them, Daily Ireland reports that while some recently published official British government statistics have show that certain unionist areas experience deprivation and unemployment, “…the same statistics have consistently highlighted higher and more widespread levels of deprivation against nationalist communities across the North.”

Those reports clearly show that overall, “Catholics remain at least twice as likely as Protestants to be unemployed – a ratio that has remained virtually unchanged in three decades. Yet both the Irish and British government have utterly failed to implement commitments in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the April 2003 Joint Declaration of “progressively eliminating the differential in unemployment rates between the two communities by targeting objective need”.

As to the British government this week deciding that perhaps the loyalist paramilitaries were violating their own ceasefire, Social Democratic Labor Party (SDLP) leader Mark Durkan MP is quoted on the SDLP web site:

“We have to ask ‘why only now’? The Secretary of State refused to move against the UVF for murders which they were admitting and threatening more. He failed to use his powers against loyalist paramilitaries for their sectarian violence. We said this was wrong and sending a dangerous signal. The message should not go out that attacks on others in the community are allowed, but government only draws the line at attacks on police or army. Is it all right to attack nationalists but too much to affront unionists?” Sources: Andersontown News, SDLP, Sinn Fein News, UTV, Daily Ireland

Thursday, September 15, 2005


No Oread Daily today. Got burgled last night. Have things to do. Until later...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Water For the People, Not For Profits

The worldwide drive to privatize drinking water rolls on…and it continues to meet popular resistance.

In the Philippines where the battle has been going on for a while the Water for the People Network, a broad alliance of non-government organizations (NGOs) and grassroots-based groups campaigning for people’s control over water services and resources, has challenged the United Nations (UN) to issue a strong statement against the privatization of water services due to its disastrous impact on the human right to access and use water as the multilateral body prepares for a high-level review of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on September 14-16 in New York.

The group says a fundamental problem in the MDGs alleged goal of reducing the proportion of the world’s people without sustainable access to safe drinking water is “the promotion of the MDGs of the same neoliberal policies such as privatization that have, in the first place, aggravated chronic global poverty and severe inequity.”

Water for the People Network says, “Privatization grossly violates the people’s human right to water because it distorts the provision of water supply and sanitation as a basic service and regards water just like any other commodity that corporations can exploit and profit from. This distortion results in prohibitive user fees and other charges that poor households could not afford. In Metro Manila, for example, the average tariff before the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) was privatized in August 1997 was PhP8.78 per cubic meter. By January 2005, the private concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad were charging their costumers PhP16.17 and PhP30.19 per cubic meter, respectively. Worse, of the 13 million Metro Manila residents as of 2003, only 9.1 million have water supply and less than 2 million have sewerage connection.”

In the United States water privatization is exemplified by what is happening in Emmaus, Pennsylvania where officials have been wanting to sell the borough’s water system to a private company. The result, writes The Morning Call, has been an upsurge of protests by local residents who have filled council meeting after council meeting to say “no” to such a plan. Citizens worry about the prospect of significant rate increases and the loss of local control of a resource to large companies.

Opponents if water privatization in the US such as Washington, D.C., advocacy group Public Citizen have raised concerns about private ownership of water, saying that communities would have no say on what happens with their water and would experience high rates. They fear that large, mostly foreign companies are more interested in pleasing shareholders than customers.

And last month the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace delivered 225,000 cards to the Canadian Government calling for “action by Canada to advocate at the World Bank to end a practice that places conditions on loans for poor countries in the Global South - especially policies that directly or indirectly promote the privatization of public water systems.”

The 225,000 cards were signed by individual Canadians from every part of the country.

"Poor countries need to strengthen their public water services, not have
them placed in the hands of foreign-owned companies. When the profit motive
becomes part of the equation, water prices invariably rise," said Michael Casey of the Canadian group in CNW Telbec . "This practice effectively denies safe, affordable drinking water to millions of people worldwide. At present more than a billion people have no access to clean water. Loan conditions and policies that encourage privatization of water only make that situation worse."

In Ghana where the struggle against the privatization of water is at a fever pitch, you actually can weigh in. To help click here. Sources: CNW Telbec, Water for the People Network, Cyberdyaryo, The Morning Call (Allentown, PA)

Help Me Stop Savage Nation

I have a request for all you faithful readers.

KMBZ radio in Kansas City airs the racist, homophobic, misogynist
rants of Michael Savage every night. One sponsor locally is Bob
Hamilton Plumbing, Heating & A/C.

It would be greatly appreciated if you went to and told them that you and your friends would no longer use their services if they continued to sponsor such trash.

I know you don't likely live in Kansas City, but they won't
know that.

Anyway, thanks.

Katrina Unleashes Corporate Vultures by Bill Berkowitz

Bill Berkowitz is an Oakland-based free-lance journalist and regular columnist with Working Assets’, and the 2005 winner of the American Book Awards for journalism presented by the Before Columbus Foundation.

Katrina Unleashes Corporate Vultures

As the waters finally begin to recede from New Orleans, Joe Allbaugh’s gang of corporate contractors, start cashing in.

By Bill Berkowitz

"Private entrepreneurial activity and vision, not bureaucratic government, must be the engine to rebuild." From Tragedy to Triumph: Principled Solutions for Rebuilding Lives and Communities by Ed Meese, Stuart Butler, and Kim Holmes, The Heritage Foundation, September 12, 2005.

As the toxic waters inundating New Orleans receded into Lake Pontchartrain, headed for the Gulf of Mexico, huge corporations circled the devastated Gulf Coast like vultures. Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary of the Houston, Texas-based Halliburton – the company formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, which has made hundreds of millions of dollars off the War in Iraq – inked a $16.6 million Navy contract to repair Gulf Coast military facilities. The Shaw Group, a Baton Rouge, La.-based $3 billion-a-year construction and engineering firm, announced, “that it had received two contracts of up to $100 million each, one from FEMA, the other from The Corps of Engineers, to work on levees, pump water out of New Orleans and provide assistance with housing,” the New York Times recently reported.

Both KBR and The Shaw Group have at least one thing in common; they are clients of Joseph M. Allbaugh, the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Allbaugh is the man principally responsible for bringing “Brownie” – Michael Brown, the woefully unprepared head of FEMA who recently resigned from the agency – on board. Allbaugh also spearheaded the Bush Administration’s efforts to downsize the agency.

In early September, Allbaugh came to Baton Rouge hunting up business for The Allbaugh Co., the Washington, DC-based lobbying outfit he and his wife Diane established after he left FEMA in 2003. The Allbaugh Co. specializes in advising companies how to get in on lucrative disaster relief projects.

In a related development, on Thursday, September 8, in a stroke of the pen that must have sent hearts fluttering at the conservative Heritage Foundation, President George W. Bush signed a proclamation voiding Section 3142(a) of title 40, of the US Code of Federal Regulations. That’s the section which provides that "every contract in excess of $2,000, to which the Federal Government or the District of Columbia is a party … shall contain a provision stating the minimum wages to be paid various classes or laborers and mechanics."

“The move,” wrote Kate Randall in a piece posted at the World Socialist Web Site, “will affect the thousands of workers who will be employed in the massive reconstruction operation in the wake of the hurricane disaster. With the suspension of the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, companies will not be obligated to match the wages in these areas, which are already lower than in most parts of the country. In the New Orleans area, for example, the prevailing wage for an electrician is $14.30 and for a construction worker or a truck driver working on a levee it is about $9.”

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said that issued a perfunctory statement criticizing Bush’s action. “Taking advantage of a national tragedy to get rid of a protection for workers the corporate backers of the White House have long wanted to remove is nothing less than profiteering,” Sweeney wrote. He concluded with a toothless appeal to Congress to reverse “this short-sighted decision.”

Randall also reported that changes in federal contracting rules will allow contractors “to spend up to $250,000 on hurricane-related contracts and expenses without seeking competitive bids.” In addition, “Restrictions have also been eased that favored the contracting of small and minority-owned businesses. Previously only purchases up to $2,500 in normal circumstances, or $15,000 in emergencies, were exempt. Republicans have sought a change in these regulations for years.”

“Private contractors, guided by two former directors of the Federal Emergency Management Agency [Allbaugh and James Lee Witt, the agency head under President Clinton] and other well-connected lobbyists and consultants, are rushing to cash in on the unprecedented sums to be spent on Hurricane Katrina relief and reconstruction,” the New York Times reported on Saturday, September 10.

In what may likely be the “largest domestic rebuilding effort,” corporations large and small – but mostly large – are poised to “reap a windfall of business.”

With “normal federal contracting rules” already suspended and “hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts” already signed and billions at stake, the possibility for widespread “contract abuse, cronyism and waste that numerous investigations have uncovered in post-war Iraq, is likely to manifest itself, the Times pointed out.

In an op-ed piece in the Boston Globe, Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect, described the Bush Administration’s carefully calibrated spin on its response to Hurricane Katrina: “The message: There's no point in playing a '’blame game,’ ….The New Orleans disaster just proves the unreliability of government in general rather than this feckless president in particular. We should be looking forward to rebuilding -- with the private sector taking the lead.”

Ultimately, “Katrina could even be a political windfall, [for the administration] promoting the campaign to cripple government, permanently displacing some reliable Democratic voters from the swing state of Louisiana, causing the faithful to rally 'round their beleaguered president, and knocking even more unpleasant news off the front pages and network TV.”

It appears that those that will reap the greatest benefits from the clean up and rebuilding efforts are corporations, particularly those receiving no bid contracts, and conservatives, whose reduce-government-at-all-cost agenda is coming to fruition.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Teachers and Supporters Take to the Streets of Namibia

Teachers, students, parents as well as traditional leaders are taking to the streets of Namibia today to express their anger at the government’s refusal to increase salaries and benefits for veteran teachers. In Windhoek, marches began this afternoon.

The Namibia National Teachers' Union (NANTU) and the government spent yesterday behind closed doors trying to get a deal. They didn’t.

The government claims there is no money.

Teachers aren’t buying that the government's coffers are bare. They point to the millions in public funds that are being misappropriated through dubious investment schemes.

The Namibian reports that, “NANTU has followed all legal procedures as the union pushes Government to honor its undertaking to increase salaries and benefits for long-serving teachers.”

Today’s demonstration is happening to impress upon the government that union leaders have the support of their rank and file.

Teachers argue that the undertaking to upgrade their salaries was a Government initiative, which was approved by the Office of the Prime Minister some 19 months ago. However, Cabinet informed NANTU three weeks ago that the promise to implement a universal salary structure for all teachers was "incorrect".

The govenment said that the appointment of 191 teachers at higher salaries since February of last year was "erroneous". The 191 were ordered to pay back the difference because they were "overpaid".

A strike is a distinct possibility. NANTU says care will be taken to insure that members are aware of the consequence of striking.

According to New Era, the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) is also poised to join such a legal strike in the event of negotiations between NANTU and the Ministry of Education failing. It was announced by union president Gert Jansen "TUN has already demonstrated earlier this year in March in protest against low salaries and other perks of teachers. We don't see the need or the wisdom to join NANTU's demonstrations. Our members are waiting for action, a legal strike, which seems to be eminent," Gert Jansen told the paper.

"TUN urges parents to support the plight of teachers in efforts to move the government to revisit its decision in implementing the new teachers' appointment requirements. Government must realize that teachers are very serious. They will not act irresponsibly when it comes to the education of the nation. TUN therefore calls on the parent community to support any legal action, pending the outcome of the negotiations with the government," said Jansen.

"We are just waiting for the green light from NANTU to strike and we will. We will strike as teachers and not as members of any specific union because teachers' salaries are and have been a major contributing factor towards the lowering of our economic status. Come to think of it, the Ministry of Education is bound to loose millions more during a strike, instead of paying teachers their rightful salaries as was agreed to by the government," Robert Hoeseb, a math teacher at Dawid Bezuidenhout in Khomasdal told New Era.

Hoeseb adds, "Teachers can simply not make a living anymore because of the low pay. One cannot afford a decent house anymore. The little we earn is hardly enough to buy a small house in Katutura, let alone somewhere else. Parents of learners must understand that teachers will not be striking to spite them or their children, but for their own survival.”

NANTU is the government recognized union. Sources: Namibian, Allgemeine Zeitung (Namibia), New Era (Namibia)

Count That As An Assist for Shaq

Score a big assist for Shaquille O'Neal, The 7-foot-1 Miami Heat center, for helping to nab the suspect of a hate crime on South Beach (Florida) early Sunday morning.

The Miami Herald says two men walking down the street about 3 AM became the targets of anti-gay slurs from a passing car before one of those in the car leaped out and threw a bottle at them.

''Shaquille O'Neal happened to be driving by and saw the incident in progress, and he followed the vehicle until it turned onto Palm Island,'' said police spokesman Robert Hernandez. ``He flagged down the Miami Beach officer on duty there, and the officer was able to apprehend the subject.''

Shaq is currently training to become a reserve police officer for Miami Beach and has already completed a training program with the U.S. Marshal's Office in Virginia.

"For this incident I don't want to be credited as an individual who does police work," O'Neal said in a statement. "I want to be credited as a Miami Beach police officer." Sources: Miami Herald, All Headline News, The Tribune of San Luis Obispo

Katrina Aftermath: Myth VS Reality

The following was taken from ThinkProgress:

Right-Wing Myths About Katrina, Debunked

There are a lot of right-wing myths about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. ThinkProgress has created this guide to help you set the record straight.

CLAIM — STATE AND LOCAL OFFICIALS WERE MOSTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR FAILURES: “White House Shifts Blame to State and Local Officials” [Washington Post, 9/4/05]

FACT – BUSH PUT FEMA IN CHARGE OF EFFORT BEFORE KATRINA STRUCK: “Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.” [White House, 8/27/05]

FACT — FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ABLE TO ACT WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM STATES: The Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Chertoff activated the National Response Plan last Tuesday by declaring the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina an ‘Incident of National Significance.’ The plan, which was rolled out to much fanfare in January, essentially enables Washington to move federal assets to the disaster without waiting for requests from state officials.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/13/05]

CLAIM — NO ONE COULD HAVE PREDICTED BREACHED LEVEES: On ABC’s Good Morning America, Bush said, “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.” [Good Morning America, 9/1/05]

FACT — LEVEE BREACH PREDICTED REPEATEDLY: Responding to Bush’s comments on Meet the Press, Dr. Ivor Van Heerden of the LSU Hurricane Center “I didn’t buy that because, you know, we had discussed on numerous occasions that a worst-case scenario would be if we had one of these major hurricanes and then we lost the levee systems.” A White House advisor sat in on the “Hurricane Pam Exercise,” a computer simulation of the possible effects of a Category 3 hurricane on New Orleans. The exercise found that “…a storm like Hurricane Pam would: cause flooding that would leave 300,000 people trapped in New Orleans, many of whom would not have private transportation for evacuation.” [Meet the Press, 9/11/05]

CLAIM — GOV. BLANCO DELAYED STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARATION: In a Sept. 4 Washington Post article, which was corrected hours later, an anonymous Bush administration source claimed Governor Blanco had not yet declared a state of emergency in Louisiana. The Post reported, “As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.” [Washington Post, 9/4/05]

FACT — GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY IN LOUISIANA ON AUGUST 26: Three days prior to when Katrina made landfall. [Office of the Governor, 8/26/05]

CLAIM — GOVERNORS WANTED FEMA TO BE WEAK: Brit Hume: “FEMA, first of all, is not a first responder. FEMA is basically a tiny little agency that has been kept weak. And you know why it’s been kept weak? The governors want it that way.” [Fox News Sunday, 9/11/05]

FACT — STATE OFFICIAL COMPLAINED ABOUT WEAKENING OF FEMA UNDER BUSH: “State and local disaster-relief officials have been complaining about the lack of federal involvement in emergency response for some time. Trina Sheets, the executive director of the National Emergency Management Association, which represents local emergency personnel, told Salon that “since the Department of Homeland Security was established there has been a steady degradation of the capabilities.” [Salon, 9/7/05]

CLAIM — RESIDENTS WHO REMAINED IN NEW ORLEANS ARE TO BLAME FOR NOT EVACUATING: Sen. Rick Santorum said, “I mean, you have people who don’t heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.” [Associated Press, 9/6/05]

FACT — MOST RESIDENTS WHO REMAINED COULDN’T AFFORD TO LEAVE: New York Times: “The victims, they note, were largely black and poor, those who toiled in the background of the tourist havens, living in tumbledown neighborhoods that were long known to be vulnerable to disaster if the levees failed. Without so much as a car or bus fare to escape ahead of time, they found themselves left behind by a failure to plan for their rescue should the dreaded day ever arrive.” [New York Times, 9/2/05]

CLAIM — BUSH “STRUCK THE RIGHT BALANCE” BETWEEN HIRING POLITICAL CRONIES AND EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONALS: Vice President Cheney said Bush had “struck the right balance between political appointees and career professionals to oversee the relief efforts.” [AP, 9/8/05]

FACT — MOST TOP FEMA OFFICIALS WERE POLITICAL HACKS: “Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters.” [Washington Post, 9/9/05]

CLAIM — MAYOR NAGIN LEFT 2,000 SCHOOL BUSES BEHIND IN THE FLOOD: Sean Hannity said, “You would have thought that the 2,000 buses, school buses, that sat in the yards would have been used to help those people that were incapable of getting out on their own, but none of that had happened locally.” [Hannity and Colmes, 9/6/05]

FACT — NEW ORLEANS HAD LESS THAN 300 WORKING SCHOOL BUSES: “The [Orleans Parish school] district owns 324 buses but 70 are broken down.” [New Orleans Times-Picayune, 9/5/05]

CLAIM: LOCAL OFFICIALS DESERVE BLAME FOR LACK OF EVACUATION BUSES : Rick Santorum claimed, “Many didn’t have cars … And that really was a failure on the part of local officials in not making transportation available to get people out.” [Times Leader, 9/6/05]

FACT: LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD REQUESTED 700 BUSES FROM FEMA FOR EVACUATIONS, FEMA ONLY SENT 100: The Boston Globe reported, “On Sunday, the day before the storm, the Louisiana National Guard asked FEMA for 700 buses to evacuate people. It received only 100.” [Boston Globe, 9/11/05]

CLAIM — MILITARY NOT STRETCHED THIN BY IRAQ: President Bush said, “We’ve got plenty of troops to do both. Let me just — let me just talk about that again. I’ve answered this question before, and you can speak to General Honore if you care to. He’s the military man on the ground. It is preposterous to claim that the engagement in Iraq meant there wasn’t enough troops here, just pure and simple.” [White House, 9/12/05]

FACT — MILITARY LEADERS SAY IRAQ HAMPERED THEIR EFFORTS AFTER KATRINA: National Guard Chief Lt. Gen. Steven Blum said, “Had that (Mississippi and Louisiana) brigade been at home and not in Iraq, their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear.” The Washington Post reported “In Louisiana and Mississippi, civilian and military leaders said the response to the hurricane was delayed by the absence of the Mississippi National Guard’s 155th Infantry Brigade and Louisiana’s 256th Infantry Brigade, each with thousands of troops in Iraq.” [AP, 9/10/05, Washington Post, 9/10/05]

CLAIM: NEWSPAPERS REPORTED NEW ORLEANS HAD BEEN SPARED SIGNIFICANT HURRICANE DAMAGE: Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said, “I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, ‘New Orleans Dodged The Bullet.’” [Meet the Press, 9/4/05]

FACT: HEADLINES ACROSS THE COUNTRY ANNOUNCED “CATASTROPHIC” DAMAGE TO NEW ORLEANS: The Tuesday, August 30th edition of the Times-Picayune led with a banner headline reading, “CATASTROPHIC: Storm Surge Swamps 9th Ward, St. Bernard; Lakeview Levee Breach Threatens to Inundate City.” Dozens of other major newspapers led with headlines describing Katrina’s horrifying aftermath. [Times-Picayune, 8/30/05; Newseum via Wonkette]

Could Loyalist Rioting Be A Calculated Plot To Detroy Prospects For Peace???

Following yet another night of loyalist rioting in Belfast, UTV is reporting a number of incidents have already occurred today across the troubled city today.

Last nights violence marked the third straight night of loyalist mayhem. The trouble broke out yesterday evening after gangs of loyalists brought rush-hour chaos to routes out of the city.

Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said: "Last night we saw continued violence in parts of Belfast and outside the city. Police came under attack from petrol and blast bombs.”

Indeed, areas outside of Belfast have also been affected reports the Belfast Telegraph.

The mayor of Lisburn today condemned overnight violence in the city during which a woman was dragged from her car as it was set ablaze. Police say they came under attack from 14 petrol bombs during the rioting, which was mostly based at Longstone Street.

In Bangor County, North Down politicians today pleaded with loyalist rioters to think of the long-term damage they are doing to their own communities after a third night of violence spread to the area. Residents and workers in Bangor were today coming to terms with yet another night which saw tensions spread from Belfast. The trouble, on a much smaller scale than previous incidents, saw the Green Road being closed off because of a burnt out vehicle, one man arrested in the Kilcooley area and 25 petrol bombs and an eight gallon drum of petrol seized. North Down Ulster Unionist mayor Roberta Dunlop branded the trouble "a disgrace and a scandal". "These people call themselves loyalists - loyal to whom?" she said. "These gangsters are only interested in terror and control and lining their own pockets. I thought we had left those days behind. These thugs are doing this to their own community. Hijacking cars which people have worked hard to buy and keep on the road is not acceptable. I cannot accept any excuses being made for this - this is wanton violence." Alliance deputy mayor Tony Hill said, "These so-called loyalists are setting Northern Ireland back 25 or 30 years," he said.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) mayor of Newtownards today hit out at loyalist rioters who have wreaked havoc in the area saying he was "disgusted" by their actions. Terence Williams called on the thugs to stop their campaign of violence. "This is nothing but thugs intimidating people and it has to stop," he said. "The people behind this do not speak for the Protestant community. They are just trying to be big boys but are only damaging their own future by bringing this sort of trouble to their own area.”

Trouble also erupted in loyalist areas of Ballymena for the third night as mobs attacked police with fireworks and burned cars. SDLP councillor Declan O'Loan said he hoped the situation would not escalate.

Belfast's most senior Orangeman, Dawson Bailie, refused to condemn the violence during a television interview. He said: "I'm not condemning anything at all at this moment in time . . . the people in my eyes to blame is the Secretary of State, the Chief Constable and the Parades Commission."

However, today some loyalist leaders are beginning to change their tune. UTV is reporting now. The Ulster Defense Association (UDA) has issued a statement which reads "We are instructing our own membership to avoid any confrontation on the streets and steer away from any acts of violence." The organization called on politicians to use their influence to help restore order.

Meanwhile, loyalist political leaders continue to say that the riots are the result of anger over what they claim are concession after concession being made to Sinn Fein, the IRA and the Republican movement.

As if!

Since the Irish Republican Army announced in July that it was renouncing violence, not a single act of destruction has been attributed to its members.

And today there is growing speculation that John de Chastelain, head of the international decommissioning team, is close to witnessing a major IRA disarmament. The former Canadian General, who has returned to Ireland, will oversee the weapons destruction expected since the Provisional IRA announced an end to its armed campaign in July.

This, unfortunately, leads directly to the question of if the loyalist rioting leads to 1969 like pogroms against Catholics just who will be there to protect them. The PSNI? The British Army? I wouldn’t count on that.

Perhaps, the goal of the loyalist is to force the IRA to rethink its pledge to totally disarm in the face of the growing threat to the Catholic community and to republicans.

So perhaps all the rioting and the summer of paramilitary sectarian attacks on Catholics is not at all random, nor the result of “simmering Protestant anger.”

Perhaps, it is, in fact, a calculated attempt to wreck the peace process. Sources: Irish Times, Baltimore Sun, Belfast Telegraph, UTV


The Korean Federation of Service Workers' Unions (KFSU)is calling for
international support for their struggle against an insidious form of
union busting at the Hotel Riviera in Daejeon City.

In the past, such support has been vital in getting governments and
companies to obey the law and to accept the rights of workers to form

Union members at the Hotel Riviera have been struggling since August
last year against the owners' contrived closure of the facility, which
the union has proven was carried out on fraudulent grounds in order to
close the facility long enough to break the union.

Their struggle is now at a crucial turning point. And your help is
needed -- right now.

The National Labour Relations Commission has ruled in favor of the
union's contention that the closure was a fake designed to break the
union. The owners should now reinstate all dismissed union members with
full back pay and resume normal operations. But Korean law is full of

Please write now to the President and Labour Minister of Korea,
demanding that they act to ensure the decision of the National Labour
Relations Commission is quickly and effectively implemented. Click here:

Please pass this message on -- let's build a huge international campaign
in support of our brothers and sisters in Korea and send a message to
employers everywhere.

Eric Lee

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Grave Desecration

So how would you like someone to come along and build a Civic Center on top of your relatives’ graves?

The Tesuque Pueblo Indians aren’t any happier about it then you would be.

Tesuque Pueblo Gov. Mark Mitchell said the site selected for the new Santa Fe Civic Center, where human remains have been revealed during construction, is on the tribe's ancient Pueblo. Mitchell said downtown Santa Fe is the ancestral home of Tesuque Pueblo, and it is time for the city of Santa Fe to deal with the Pueblo with respect and enter into a government-to-government relationship. ''The downtown part of Santa Fe was where our Pueblo - Tesuque - was located,'' Mitchell told Indian Country Today.

According to the Pueblo’s oral history, Tesuque people once inhabited what is now Santa Fe. The remains are evidence that “our oral history is true,” Mitchell said during a recent meeting of the state Cultural Properties Review Committee. “We hold those sites sacred. In our hearts, we knew those people.” Mitchell said the city has been informed that Tesuque elders will provide them with the oral history, details of which would be confirmed by archaeologists when human remains at the site are identified.

The New Mexican reported last month that the state Cultural Properties Review Committee unanimously tabled a decision to grant a burial-excavation permit for the site until its next meeting Oct. 14. Before it can decide whether to grant a permit, the state committee said the city would need to consult with Tesuque Pueblo about the project. “The city has a responsibility for tribal consultation — which is why I think they (the committee) tabled it,” said Stuart Ashman, secretary of the Department of Cultural Affairs. He is not a member of the committee. The subject of burials is a sensitive issue, he said.

The former Santa Fe High School which sits at the site was constructed before passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Besides Tesuque, other Tewa-speaking tribes in Northern New Mexico also claim to be related to those buried at the site. The, All Pueblo Council composed of members of the 19 pueblos of New Mexico, and the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council, also oppose unearthing the bones.

Archaeologists with the state Office of Archaeological Studies, who were under contract with the city and had a state permit to dig, found at the site about 100 human bones and a village dating to between A.D. 1350 and 1400. The archaeologists covered the bones with dirt because the city must obtain a separate permit to excavate a burial site, said OAS Director Timothy Maxwell.

Indian Country Today says some of the anthropologists recommended that the site not be used. Mitchell said the city did not heed the advice. He said the city ignored anthropologists' recommendations and continued with their fund-raising and plans for the new civic center. ''They ignored that and kept going,'' Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the city has not made a sincere effort to consult with Pueblos concerning the site and remains. He said the previous governor of Tesuque requested to meet with the city concerning the site, but the city did not respond. Then, Pueblo leaders learned of the city's plans when they read about it in the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper.

During a similar battle a few years ago up in South Dakota Ellsworth Chytka, a Yankton Sioux tribal member who has worked to preserve burial sites along the Missouri River argued, "A tribal burial ground is no different than where they have laid popes and cardinals to rest. Nobody would think of tampering with their remains because of the spirituality they commanded. These are sacred grounds to us as Indian people. It's a place of burial and a place of prayer. It's a place where we say the spirit is strong."

AIM’s Dennis Banks has put it this way, “The disturbance of burial sites challenges the very nature of who we are as human beings and our value system of what is held sacred…Before the coming of the white man, we never worried about the bones of our ancestors. We never thought that our people would ever be disturbed."

Banks added, “The Spirit Journey may take four days, eight days, or it may take months or years; but one of the basic beliefs is that our journey will continue as long as our bones are returning to Mother Earth. Should a disturbance ever occur, our journey is interrupted. So for the many skeletal remains of our people, the journey has been interrupted. The journey will never be completed until their bones are returned completely back to the Earth. This is a very strong belief that we have.” Sources: Indian Country Today, The New Mexican (August 20), National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, Walk for Justice

"A Culmination of Nearly Two Months of Sectarian Attacks Against Catholic Churches, Homes, Businesses and People"

Belfast is mired in gridlock this afternoon, according to UTV, amid rumors…rumors of shop closings, street violence and more Loyalist riots. The disruption comes after a weekend of violence on the city’s streets. Fears of further violence were also raised by a security alert at Harryville Primary School in Ballymena today. Pupils and residents of the nearby Casement Street were evacuated after a number of suspicious objects were discovered.

More violence rocked the city last night ending a weekend that saw some of the worst rioting in decades. The Irish Times says hundreds of loyalist, many masked paramilitaries, took to the streets and attacked local police with “petrol” bombs. The Loyalist took time to steal a mechanical digger and use it to rob a bank ATM while they were at it.

In Newtownabbey, on the outskirts of north Belfast, rioters returned to the streets to pelt police with petrol bombs. A bank in the Cloughfern Corner area was set alight. There was also trouble in the Ballyclare Road area of Glengormley.

The Police Services of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable said the violence was "one of the most dangerous riot situations in the history of policing in the United Kingdom."

Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly told the Andersontown News the weekend violence was not an isolated incident or isolated day. “This was the culmination of nearly two months of sectarian attacks against Catholic churches, homes, businesses and people themselves, and after one of these paramilitary groups committed four murders. It’s no coincidence that all this activity in North Belfast in places like Hesketh Road, Ardoyne Road, Alliance Avenue and Tigers Bay, are all on the edge of loyalist areas. Throughout the course of events yesterday they attempted to draw young republicans into this conflict, and I’m glad it was resisted.”

In the wake of the loyalist violence, Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State indicated that he has started the legal process to name at least one of the loyalist groups, the UDA, as a terrorist outfit which has breached its ceasefire. The Belfast Telegraph says Hain already had the UVF under scrutiny over recent feud killings, but he seemed convinced of the need for action after watching police footage of the riots and talking to Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde this morning. The Chief Constable has already blamed the UVF and UDA for the violence. "If the evidence wasn't clear cut before, it's absolutely clear now," Hain said. Hain also said he saw footage of Orangemen attacking police, contradicting Orange Order claims that its members had not been involved in the violence.

Hain has faced repeated calls to declare a breach in the UVF ceasefire already, but has resisted taking action.

Sinn Fein News reports that Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams who was meeting with U.S. special envoy Mitchell Reiss in Belfast today on a variety of matters raised the issue of unionist violence over the weekend.

Speaking before the meeting, Adams accused Ian Paisley and Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey of giving "wrong and negative leadership". He said they could not wash their hands of what happened. Adams said responsibility for the violence "lay with comments made by the unionist leaders". He said a "concerted attempt" had been made to engulf nationalists in rioting.

"Thus far,” Adams said, “due to the discipline of nationalists and republicans, things have remained fairly calm. However, there is a concerted attempt under way to draw young nationalists and republicans into conflict at interface areas across Belfast."

In one particular incident Sinn Fein Councillor Fra McCann told Daily Ireland that as a loyalist mob approached a Catholic neighborhood along Grosvenor Road many locals feared a repeat of Bombay Street in 1969 when Catholics were burnt out of their homes by loyalists. “This mob was making threats, telling the residents that they were gong to be burnt out. They were throwing missiles, shouting sectarian abuse. They smashed a car windscreen and were doing their best to get to a statue of Our Lady that was in the garden of a house in Devonshire Street,” said Councillor McCann. It wasn’t until people heard the mob and came out of their homes and local shops to defend themselves that the crowd finally retreated back across the Westlink. “The young people of this area must be commended for their efforts in chasing this mob from the road. This was an orchestrated attack which saw loyalists clearly try to provoke nationalists into a riot situation but our appeals for calm and restraint were heard and nationalists refused to get involved.”

And what do the loyalists have to say for themselves. "This is not a peace process, this is a republican process," one young loyalist told the Guardian. "We have got the guns out now and we are not putting them away," another added. "They have got rid of everything Protestants hold dear, the UDR and the Royal Irish Regiment. The police is now filled with Taigs* [Catholics] and they treat us young Protestants as scum."

Ironic is it not that while we’ve all heard for years the demand for the IRA to lay down its weapons, little was heard about a plan of decommission of weapons for the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Almost no one was demanding that the Ulster Defense Association (UDA) declare its war over.

The Guardian writes, “The double standard looks especially glaring given the IRA's July declaration that its armed campaign is over and that it will lay down its arms. As republicanism moves into a new phase, loyalism remains in the brutal past. Just yesterday a senior UVF source was quoted saying that, yes, his group would wind up its activities - but that it would never decommission its weapons.” Sources: Guardian, Irish Times, Sinn Fein News, Belfast Telegraph, Andersontown News, Irish Times, UTV

Taig is a derogatory term for Catholics used (mainly) by Loyalists. The origin of the word Taig is unclear, it may derive from a common firstname for Catholic boys or may be a derivation from the surname Teague. The letters 'KAT' are still painted on walls in Northern Ireland and are an acronym for 'Kill All Taigs'. Loyalist prisoners in the Maze prison had a mural in one of the 'H-blocks' which contained the wording: "Yabba-Dabba-Doo, Any Taig Will Do" implying that all Catholics were legitimate targets. Source: CAIN Web Service (Conflict Archive on the Internet)

I Told You So

Didn’t I tell you that somehow, someone would blame the IRA for the latest Loyalist riots and pogroms in Belfast (see below)? Well, according to Davud Sharrock writing in the Times (UK) about the causes for the violence,

“To understand this step backwards, according to Unionists, one must consider the history of secret negotiations between the Government and the IRA’s political masters. The release of Sean Kelly, convicted of killing ten Protestants in a bomb attack, on the eve of the IRA’s July announcement that its campaign was over, increased the suspicion that republicans were being rewarded. This was quickly confirmed in loyalist minds by the announcement that the locally raised home battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment were to be disbanded.”

It’s all the result of IRA trickery.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Loyalist Paramilitaries Lead Rioting in Northern Ireland

Loyalist paramilitary gunmen fired on security lines in Belfast as loyalist mobs threw bombs of various types in the streets of Belfast this weekend. Cars, busses and trucks were burned. Streets were blocked by loyalist thugs. In north Belfast, children were said to be shocked after a bus was attacked with stones and bottles. A window of the vehicle was smashed and some people on board were screaming in terror. The Guardian reports a BBC TV crew was attacked and a cameraman abducted by gunmen and taken into the loyalist Lower Shankill estate. His camera was taken and his videotape destroyed before he was released.

The attacks left 32 cops injured. This led to an almost unprecedented criticism of the Orange Order (the group behind the “parade”) by the Police Services of Northern Ireland (PSNI). Chief Constable Hugh Orde said it "must bear substantial responsibility for this. They publicly called for people to come onto the street and cannot abdicate responsibility." He said two major outlawed Protestant groups, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), helped to orchestrate what he called "completely organized" attacks. He said police seized a loyalist bomb-making factory and seven firearms in follow-up raids Sunday.

The UDA and UVF are supposed to be observing cease-fires in support of Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord.

So why the violence this time?

On the surface, at least, it seems the reason is that a provocative Orange Order parade was re-routed to the west of the city – rerouted away from the predominantly Catholic area they wanted to march through.

The scale of the rioting was said to be among the most widespread outbreaks in recent years, with people in a number of districts reported hearing automatic gunfire.

Someone is sure to blame the IRA. They always do.

UTV reports that more than 2000 police and soldiers were needed to deal with the loyalist mayhem last night “as it spread overnight into surrounding towns and villages in Co Antrim.” After clashes in north, west and east Belfast, loyalists in the towns of Ballymena, Antrim, Carrickfergus, Larne, Ballyclare and Glengormley then either blocked roads or petrol bombed police. Gangs of youths also gathered in the village of Ahoghill, Co Antrim, which has been blighted by several weeks of sectarian attacks, to burn out cars, attack homes and pelt police with fireworks.

But while the mainstream media focused on attacks against the PSNI, they were far from the only target.

Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator, Martin Mc Guinness accused unionist politicians of creating a political vacuum filled by loyalist paramilitary violence. The Mid Ulster MP added: "Contrary to the picture being painted in the media this violence was not just directed at the PSNI and British Army. Numerous nationalist homes and properties have been attacked in many areas of the North."

Catholics in the Shortstrand area of the city were surrounded by gangs of loyalists reported Ireland On Line.

Alasdair McDonnell, deputy leader of the moderate nationalist SDLP, said the violence was well planned and totally insane. Warning that it had seriously damaged the political process, the South Belfast MP claimed it was reminiscent of the worst days of the Troubles.

As Oread Daily readers know, all summer long loyalists led by paramilitary groups like the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) have been carrying out attacks on Republicans and Catholics. Sources: Guardian, The Independent, Irish Times, The Times, Ireland On Line, UTV, myTELUS