Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

NOLA: Devastated!

New Orleans and the coast have been devastated. This is a natural and man-made disaster of biblical proportions. We are talking about whether, or not, one of America’s greatest cities will survive.

State and city officials were initially relieved when Katrina weakened to a Category 4 storm and delivered its central blow about 63 miles southeast of New Orleans when it made landfall Monday morning, sparing the city the huge storm surge of up to 28 feet that had been feared. Initially, the levees that protect the city appeared to have largely held.

But the sense of relief faded Monday night and Tuesday morning, replaced with growing dread because of breaches in the levees that keep out water from Lake Pontchartrain just north of New Orleans. Officials and residents feared that the floodwaters could have the same catastrophic effects as the storm surge, even though they were unfolding more slowly.

The Corps of Engineers said in a statement that the city's 17th Street Canal floodwall was breached overnight following Katrina's passage and that another breach occurred on the Industrial Canal during the storm.

Closing the gaps is "essential so that water can be removed from the city," the statement said.

"The Corps is working with the U.S. Coast Guard, Army National Guard and other state and federal authorities to bring in all assets available to expedite the process," the statement said. Walter Baumy, Engineering Division chief and project manager for closing the breach, said the Corps was attempting to contract for materials such as rock, super-sized sand bags, cranes, barges, helicopters and other equipment "to close the gap and stop the flow of water from Lake Pontchartrain into the city."

New Orleans has 350 miles of hurricane levees built to withstand a fast-moving Category 3 storm, the Corps said. "The fact that Katrina, a Category 4-plus hurricane, didn't cause more damage is a testament to the structural integrity of the hurricane levee protection system," the statement said.

In Baton Rouge, a National Guard commander told reporters that the breach in the 17th Street Canal floodwall was almost 300 feet long. The one in the Industrial Canal floodwall is reportedly much smaller.

He said one proposal is to fill large shipping containers with sand and insert them into the breach to plug it.

Gov. Blanco told a late-afternoon news conference that thousands of people have been rescued from flooded homes and rooftops, "and there are many more that have to be saved."

"The volume of the work is incredible," she said. "I just think our people are just going to have to draw on their inner strength." Some neighborhoods will require "total rebuilding," she said. "Many buildings are totally devastated. . . . Some are in shards."

Parts of Intlanco said.

Many of the people who needed to be rescued were residents trying to return to their homes, she said.

As seen from a helicopter, "most of the roads and highways are impassible, and water is still coming into the city of New Orleans," said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). She said the water was "up to the rooftops" in some parishes.

Said Blanco, "There's water lapping at the foot of the Superdome now." Generators at the huge stadium, which was designated a refuge of last resort as the storm approached, are being jeopardized by the rising floodwaters, she said.

At Tulane University Hospital, officials were trying to evacuate about 200 patients, including 60 who were brought to the hospital from the Superdome during the storm.

"If the water continues to rise, we will lose all our backup generator power in the building," hospital spokeswoman Karen Troyer Caraway told CNN.

Blanco said the first priorities are to rescue people and bring in enough supplies to sustain those who are still in New Orleans. Then, she said, they will be evacuated.

Water levels in Lake Pontchartrain and the connecting 17th Street Canal are normally six feet higher than the surrounding city. The levees keep the waters from flowing down into this low-lying city, much of which is below sea level.

The damage to the 17th Street Canal and its levee means that the water from Lake Pontchartrain is now free to flow down to inundate hundreds of thousands of homes and other buildings here.

Once it flows in, the water will not drain from New Orleans because of the very levees that protect the city and that largely held during the hurricane. Those levees, built to keep water out, are now keeping the water in, and reports from across the city indicate that water levels are rising.

As the floodwaters rose, looting was reported -- some of it in full view of National Guard troops and New Orleans police. Amid the flooding, looters raided clothing, jewelry, grocery and drug stores, sometimes filling garbage cans and floating them away on pieces of wood and other building materials in waist-high waters.

"It's downtown Baghdad," said Denise Bollinger, a tourist from Philadelphia, as she watched looting in the French Quarter, the Associated Press reported. "It's insane. . . . I thought this was a sophisticated city. I guess not."

"We're getting reports of sporadic looting," said Lt. Lawrence McLeary, a Louisiana State Police spokesman. The looting began Monday and was continuing Tuesday in a number of areas that are "inaccessible from the outside," he said in a telephone interview from Baton Rouge.

Even in areas that can be reached by New Orleans police, "it's pretty difficult for them to make any arrests, because there's no place to facilitate those arrests," McLeary said. He said police "are just trying to stop that looting and get people out of there."


"The city of New Orleans is in a state of devastation," Mayor Nagin told local television station WWL last night. "We probably have 80 percent of our city under water," in some places as deep as 20 feet. He said both airports were under water, and people were on roofs awaiting rescue.

Michael D. Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, warned in an interview on CBS that residents may not be able to return to their homes anytime soon. In some places, he said, "it's going to be weeks at least before people can get back."

This situation has called for Martial Law in parts of the region.

The states of Alabama and Mississippi have been devastated by Katrina as well.

Here are places to make a difference and the Times-Picayune Update Site.

Help and Visualize Mother Nature giving them a break.

May the Goddess help them all.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

James Wolcott Has it Right on Bush Co., Sheehan, Women, and this War

Here it is, and I don’t think he would mind the copyright infringement:

Flickers at Dusk

Posted by James Wolcott

"Dr. Spock's chief claim to recent attention has been in making a holy fool of himself over the Vietnamese war--something I would have expected a stand-up Christian like [Catholic convert Malcolm] Muggeridge to appreciate. Getting arrested, marching, signing things--these have their silly side after awhile. But, as Angus Wilson has said of a similar situation, what else is one to do?"
--Wilfrid Sheed, "Spock Mugged" (1973)

Interesting transition the other night. We were taxi-ing to Ouest, an Upper West Side restaurant that serves the most divine truffle omelette appetizer, and passed a vigil for Cindy Sheehan at Straus Park. "Park" is perhaps a misleadingly grand word for this slender island of flowers, shade trees, and park benches wedged between Broadway and West End Avenue. The centerpiece of this green respite is a fountain and statue commemorating the couple who went down with the Titanic, Isidor and Ida Straus. In every available walkspace of Straus Park stood vigilants holding candles, their numbers in such a concentrated space giving a chapel glow to the early evening.

At Ouest, we were seated at an upstairs table. At the next table was a quartet, one of whom I'm almost certain was Bernard Goldberg, author of The 100 People Giving Me a Royal Pain in the Tukas. I was 93% sure it was him, and was tempted with the idea of going over and introducing myself in a friendly, joshing way: Hey, it's me--#64!--doin' my darndest to bring America down. But the 7% of me that wasn't sure didn't want to risk being escorted from the restaurant for pestering a stranger trying to dine in peace. That can be so embarrassing.

But if whether or not it actually was Burnin' Bernie, righteous sorehead, either way I can't help wondering (someone should ask) if he'll be including Cindy Sheehan in a future edition of his hit parade of the 100 people screwing up America. I'd like to think that even he has more taste and decency than that, but I'm nearly always disappointed when I err on the side of generosity. Especially since Sheehan seems to have an ineffable gift for inciting wrath and irrational overreaction from pundits and rhetorical lynch mobbers without even trying...a fever Goldberg may not be strong enough to resist.

It's no surprise that the ideological militia of vile bodies on the right would swing into slime mode against Cindy Sheehan. They'll smear anyone (Max Cleland, Jamie Gorelick, makes no diff), though as Steve Gilliard and Arianna document, they've really raided the toxic dump sites for their accusations this time.

Gilliard: "The right is so desperate that they are doing extensive oppo, looking over her public financial records, getting copies of her divorce papers, searching Lexis-Nexis for any comment she made. This ain't cheap or quick."

I have been careful to quote perhaps the most sedate sentence in Steve's post.


"It's one thing for the O'Reillys and the Limbaughs to spew anti-Cindy venom. The problem arises when, under the pretense of offering both sides, MSM figures regurgitate the GOP attack machine's most contemptible hits ('she's a puppet,' 'she's anti-Israel,' 'her own family is against her') as if there are always two legitimate sides to every story. I wonder if the civil rights protests were happening today, who at the cable shows would feel compelled to give equal time to the John Birch Society?"

Actually, the rightwing has gotten more sophisticated than that. If this were the Sixties redux, they wouldn't put on a John Bircher opposite a civil rights leader, they'd find some Southern Negro to testify that they don't need some interloper like Martin Luther King marching into their communities and stirring up more trouble than it's worth. Or some Larry Elder or Larry Cain lift-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps pro-business cheerleader to argue that federal intervention isn't needed to uproot segregation, that the free market will remedy black society's ills if only these self-appointed troublemakers would butt out.

That's how the game is played now. Pit members of the same minority against each other for the benefit of privileged white bystanders hoarding their poker chips.

But I think there's something else festering in the mind of Sheehan's slimers: our old friends Rampant Sexism and Snobbish Classism. Men in authority, and those opinonmakers who polish that authority to a fine shine with their diligent tongues, resent being questioned by women. They consider it nagging, and nagging reminds them of their mother or wife, or a wife that reminds them of their mother.

"Bush's self-deprecating humor was evident throughout the lengthy interview. 'Why would you want to marry a weak woman?' he asks rhetorically, at one point. 'I was attracted to Laura because of her strength -- her beauty and her strength. And my mother? I didn't have any choice with her.'"

A very double-edged comment from Bush, lending credence to the suspicion that men who take public pride in declaring they're comfortable around strong women are blowing smoke. They may be conning themselves as much as they're trying to con us, but the truth is that the strong women they respect are those who play by men's rules. Who know just how far to "push it" before they back off.

Many men respect strong women in a professional capacity, and have no problem with being part of a power couple. But "power" is the operative word.

Men in positions of authority are less threatened by a Condi Rice or Hillary Clinton or Lynne Cheney or Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin than they are by--well, we'll get to that. Point is, women who play by power rules and fit into the power grid are granted starring roles in political theater. The others are extras and should stay on the sidelines where they belong.

It's women who aren't on the power grid and refuse to stay on the sidelines who get mocked and derided as nags, scolds, and "emotional predators" (to use the disgusting Edmund Morris's sneer phrase). Who, having made their point, should stifle themselves, as Archie Bunker so often told Edith.

Consider how many of the corporate whistleblowers were women trying to be heard above the clubbish din of male executives and who had the courage to go up against the . Or Coleen Rowley, the FBI whistleblower who sounded the alarm about Zacarias Moussaui, and for her audacity to write a follow-up memo about anti-terrorist strategy and tactics was called "a fool" by National Review Online's Ramesh Ponnuru.

In fact, pause here and read Ponnuru's entire post from March, 2003. Knowing what we know now about Iraq, WMDs, and the efficacy of the Bush doctrine of preemptive war, who's the fool?

Or consider the 9/11 widows, particularly the "Jersey Girls." At first the support and sympathy for their campaign for a 9/11 commission to investigate the unanswered questions and security failures of that day were near universal. But when they kept pushing and prodding, refusing to go away and take no for an answer, the attack poodles turned on them for being publicity gluttons "awash in their sense of victim entitlement." How dare they use their mourning to make demands? How dare they mobilize their grief and frustration into a truth campaign?

So, too, is Cindy Sheehan accused of exploiting her own victim mentality--found guilty of refusing to take the hint and get lost. Of being a public nuisance. It's bad manners for her to hang around longer than Edmund Morris and Bill O'Reilly deem appropriate. Bad manners for her to be so unslick and unschooled in soundbite banter. Bad manners for a mere lowly citizen to question the decisions of the country's leaders, and to insist on a personal accounting, a meeting that would require the president to respond as a responsible leader and not as a swaggering war president showing off his big belt buckle as he moseys up to the mike. Cindy Sheehan's sin is asking Bush to stop playacting, step out of his stilted role, and speak to her like an honest human being.

Today I learned that one of the young men on the staff of our co-op building died last week in Iraq. He and another soldier were killed when their Humvee struck a roadside bomb and the vehicle came under small arms fire. He was 29, a real nice guy. I can't pretend to have known him well. He was more of a familiar face. But seeing that familiar face on the front of the condolence card (a photograph of him smiling in his uniform at the camera) hit me hard, brought death to the doorstep. Each death diminishes us as a people. I'm going to plan my evenings better so that the next time there's a candlelight vigil to support Cindy Sheehan, I'm part of it instead of passing by. Such vigils may look quaint, literally candles in the wind, but what else is one to do?

Gilliard has more.

And, please, do read Steve Gilliard and let's all do more.

Burka Gets It Just About Right, and Bush Gets It Wrong!

Tom Burka, over at “Opinions You Should Have,” puts in his Two Cents regarding the Iraqi Constitution, and he shows his usual grip on reality. And this was posted before the latest debacle.

Here it is folks, and don’t laugh too hard as you will have to sober up quickly:

August 15, 2005

Iraq's First Constitutional Crisis Involves Possible Lack Of Constitution

Iran Offers To Write Iraqi Constitution "Just To Help Out"

Iraqis faced their first, and perhaps direst, constitutional crisis today because, by midnight tonight, they may not have a constitution around which to have a crisis. Members of the provisional government are in heated negotiations to agree on the final provisions of a constitution, but still differ on some minor points, such as: who will govern, what states will exist, the rights of citizens, whether Kurds should be considered as whey, what the role of religion in government should be, who gets the oil rights, and whether women can be bought like furniture.

Iraqi leaders said they were "making great progress" on the constitution and that existing napkins held many details of the final document. Nonetheless, in order to make the deadline, they are considering ignoring the demands of many of the country's factions, including those of the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Shards, Nerds and Tribbles. "It is essential that we have a constitution of some kind by the end of today, even if it plunges the country into a state of never-ending civil war," said one Iraqi leader.

Iran has offered to provide the Iraqis with a constitution that is "perfectly indifferent" to the desires of the Iranian government, according to the Iranian government. "We want nothing for the Iraqis but their complete and utter happiness," said Iranian government member Mohammed Awari. "Is that the word? Or did I mean subjugation?"

Contrast that with the “actual” news as reported in the Washington Post today and it is clear that Iran IS winning the WAR in Iraq. Which form of democracy is exactly consistent with Islamic Law, Mr. Bush?

The working draft of the constitution stipulates that no law can contradict Islamic principles. In talks with Shiite religious parties, Kurdish negotiators said they have pressed unsuccessfully to limit the definition of Islamic law to principles agreed upon by all groups. The Kurds said current language in the draft would subject Iraqis to extreme interpretations of Islamic law.

Kurds also contend that provisions in the draft would allow Islamic clerics to serve on the high court, which would interpret the constitution. That would potentially subject marriage, divorce, inheritance and other civil matters to religious law and could harm women's rights, according to the Kurdish negotiators and some women's groups.

Perhaps the U.S. Government and American Taxpayers will fund the airlift of all women and minorities, religious, ethnic and otherwise, out of The Islamist Republic of Iraq. That would at least be a little more consistent with spreading “Freedom and Democracy” in the Middle East.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Let Us Not be Good Germans!

Ray McGovern, of the VIPS, makes a compelling argument for our speaking and acting out. Frankly, it has been said before that doing evil is not the only evil, but that apathy is the real evil. I don’t remember where that quote came from but this quote by Sewell puts it in perspective. “Good men did nothing and evil triumphed because much of America, like me and my buddies, were too young, idealistic, and ignorant or naïve to understand what was happening. What evil awaits us if we do nothing about evils inflicted on others? Apathy is evil.”

Let us put our apathy on the back burner and get out there folks. We have nothing to lose but our souls.

This country is at a crossroads. Do you accept torture as right? Do you support this administration lack of support for our troops? Do you support the repeal of civil liberties? Do you support incarcerating American Citizens without charges? Most importantly do you Support the Bill of Rights? Or do you support American Eceptionalism and that anything done in the name of the U.S.A. is moral?

My nephew went to the Holocaust Museum recently and was appalled not by the outcome of the Holocaust, but the lead up to the Holocaust. He was horrified at the “baby steps” that took Germany there. These are the same “baby steps,” he sees as a 26 year old brown skin male, that are taking the United States of America there today.

When a Gold Star Mother is vilified by the American Government for speaking out about the war-of-choice which killed her son, our Country is headed in the wrong direction.

What are you doing to be a Bad German and change the direction this Country is hurtling toward?

What are you doing to save your soul?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Jack May Learn A Lesson in Ethics!,

Well, this article in the Miami Herald, has made my day. Granted an actual conviction would really make my day, but this will have to do for now. The “Rabbi,” Jack Abramoff, has been indicted, and it is in the SunCruz fraud case, which also has a pesky murder component to it as well. Not that I am wishing Jack ill, but he has some explaining to do.

Here is just a taste of what kind of trouble he is in along with his sidekick/accomplice, Kidan:

The Fort Lauderdale bank-fraud indictment represents only one of several potential legal, serious legal, problems for Abramoff and Kidan that stretch from South Florida to the Northeast.

Police have also been questioning them about the gangland-style hit on Konstantinos ''Gus'' Boulis, the rag-to-riches Greek immigrant who sold his fleet of casino ships to the Kidan-led group in September 2000.

Boulis, 51, was gunned down in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 6, 2001. Police have not charged anybody in the homicide investigation.

The sale of SunCruz -- the floating-gambling empire that sank into bankruptcy nine months after the deal -- is at the core of the bank-fraud charges, according to the new indictment and a separate federal lawsuit filed last year in Fort Lauerdale.

Boulis was forced to sell SunCruz in 1999 after federal prosecutors reached a settlement with him on charges of violating the Shipping Act because he purchased his fleet without being a U.S. citizen. Facing a 36-month deadline, Boulis turned to his maritime lawyer in Washington, D.C., who was partners with Abramoff. The power broker set out to find a buyer for Boulis.

Enter Kidan: The 36-year-old New York businessman had known Abramoff for years as Republican activists and had just sold his Dial-a-Mattress franchise in Washington. Kidan was looking for a new investment opportunity.

Abramoff and Kidan would soon become partners in a bid to buy Boulis' business.

But the pair had a problem: securing a loan to seal the deal.

They contacted Foothill Capital, Inc., a California-based unit of Wells Fargo & Co. A second lender, Citadel Equity Fund, Ltd., based in the Cayman Islands, joined Foothill in the financing plan.

According to court records, this is how the SunCruz loan got bungled:

The two lenders agreed to put up $60 million in financing, as long as the business partners guaranteed the loans and invested $23 million of their own money. Also, Boulis agreed to accept promissory notes from Kidan and Abramoff the balance of the sale and keep a 10 percent interest in SunCruz.

But at the September 2000 closing in New York, the lenders allege that Kidan and Abramoff -- as well as SunCruz representatives -- hoodwinked them into believing that the partners had transferred their $23 million to Boulis.

When the lenders demanded proof, both Kidan and SunCruz partner Ben Waldman each sent a Foothill executive faxed copies of a ''wire transfer'' record that purportedly documented the $23 million transfer on the last day of the closing.

The notification, dated Sept. 22, 2000, stated that $23 million had been sent ''by order of Adam Kidan'' from his Chevy Chase Savings Bank to Boulis' Ocean Bank.

Foothill alleged the document was a fraud -- that Kidan's account had already been closed before the purported transfer.

Abramoff, in a counter claim, said Kidan had lied to him about the transfer and that he wasn't not present at the closing.

Read it all, and let’s hope that the “Rabbi” who runs those Ethics Courses learns a lesson or two about the subject.