Thursday, December 8

Michael Schiavo Fights Back with a PAC

Terri Schiavo's husband starts a PAC devoted to defeating the Bible-thumping politicians who used his comatose wife as a football.

By Michael Scherer

Dec. 07, 2005 | At the height of the battle, Michael Schiavo appeared to be a reluctant cultural warrior. His wife, Terri, lay comatose, in her 15th year of vegetative slumber, connected to a feeding tube, but well beyond resuscitation. Around her hospice, a political hurricane swirled.

In Terri's name, President George Bush interrupted his vacation, Sen. Bill Frist played doctor from the Senate floor, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush launched a flimsy criminal investigation, and Rep. Tom DeLay issued ominous political threats to the judiciary. The religious right had turned Terri into a symbolic beachhead in the battle for a "culture of life," and the Republican Party had answered the call.


But now, as the one-year anniversary of Terri Schiavo's death approaches, Michael Schiavo is changing his approach and preparing to enter the political fray. Terri's fate has already been decided. Now her husband wants to claim her legacy. "For 15 years, I have been watching the politicians working their ways into my case. I felt I needed to do something when this was all said and done," Schiavo told Salon on Tuesday. "I didn't ask for this fight, but now I am ready."

This week Schiavo will roll out a new political action committee, called Terri PAC, with the hope of raising money to defeat the politicians who tried to intervene in the legal battle between Schiavo and Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler. "Whatever I can do, I am going to do," says Schiavo, who works as a nurse in the Pinellas County Jail in Clearwater, Fla. Starting in January, he plans to change his work hours to three 12-hour shifts a week, allowing him more time to work on politics.


Wednesday, December 7

Katrina Survivors Cry Racism, Ethnic Cleansing and Sabotage

This week, hearings on the catastrophy that was Katrina began on Capital Hill - to rather explosive results.

Image: Leah HodgesWASHINGTON - Black survivors of Hurricane Katrina said Tuesday that racism contributed to the slow disaster response, at times likening themselves in emotional congressional testimony to victims of genocide and the Holocaust.

The comparison is inappropriate, according to Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. “Not a single person was marched into a gas chamber and killed,” Miller told the survivors.

They died from abject neglect,” retorted community activist Leah Hodges. “We left body bags behind... The people of New Orleans were stranded in a flood and were allowed to die.”

Angry evacuees described being trapped in temporary shelters where one New Orleans resident said she was “one sunrise from being consumed by maggots and flies.” Another woman said military troops focused machine gun laser targets on her granddaughter’s forehead. Others said their families were called racial epithets by police.

“No one is going to tell me it wasn’t a race issue,” said New Orleans evacuee Patricia Thompson, 53, who is now living in College Station, Texas. “Yes, it was an issue of race. Because of one thing: when the city had pretty much been evacuated, the people that were left there mostly was black.”

According to a recent Gallup poll, NBC News’ Kerry Sanders reported on Tuesday, six out of every 10 black New Orleans residents said if most of Katrina’s victims were white, relief would have arrived sooner.

Discussions about race began almost immediately after Katrina hit on Aug. 29. On Sept. 9, according to NBC News, President George W. Bush told the public, “The storm didn’t discriminate and neither will we in the recovery effort.”

Mama D - "Ba-boooom"!
One of the more telling and distressing exchanges occured between Rep Chris Shays (R) and Mama D a local activist who has turned her home into a shelter in the area when it come to discussion of whether the levee's had been bombed, and mentioned that this has occured before, in 1927 by one Louisiana town in order to protect itself from flooding.

After being reminded that they were "under oath", Mama D responded that "she does not stand to get rich by lying before Congress. Unlike the oil execs. [who were not sworn in during their hearing just a few weeks ago]".

As noted on Dailykos: was a gross display of cultural insensitivity. At one point, Shays said to Mama D, [paraphrase] "Let's not start speaking in tongues..."

A couple of faces in the background registered surprise and shock at that comment.

Now it could, and has been argued that the sound of levee collapsing on it's own would have sounded almost identical to an explosion:

Quick little summary of the failure of the levees:

  • The underlying soil sloughed away, therefore the structural levee wall became freestanding
  • This wall was not designed to exist free standing, therefore, the weight of the wall collapsed itself
  • When concrete and steel structures collapse, especially a massive 200 to 300 feet section, there is a lot of potential energy released
  • Energy releases such as this always have a sonic component

I am not discounting anything else, but this is a common misconception. Most people have never experienced a major structural failure, like the levee or the Twin Towers, and the noise associated with the failure can be misconstrued as an explosion, because the sounds are comparable in amplitude and wavelength. Feel free to ignore my points, but as a civil engineer who has witnessed a dam failure one sixth or so the size of the levee breach in New Orleans and multiple explosive demolitions, the sound is freakishly similar.

So it's not entirely fair to discount the sworn testimony of eye witnesses as Shay's did -- and even though it may be tempting to dismiss the comments about the levee being bombed - the collapse may have sounded exactly like a bomb (there are also some indications that the levee had been leaking for weeks) - or that relocation process being similar to "Concentration Camps" -- the simple facts seem to belee such skeptism.

It's quite common these days for people to be highly skeptical of racial claims -- "they're just playing the race card"... but in a situation that has an extremely disproportional impact on individuals of one particular race as a result of - at least - gross and abject neglect- the racial element is hard to ignore.

This country still maintain a great racial divide, one that status and economics have yet to completely fill. But what's sad is that even in an situation as nakedly biased as this one -- we still continue to get bogged down in the semantics of intent (was it deliberate or accidental?) rather than looking toward solutions on how to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

Video of these hearings are available on the C-Span Website


Sunday, December 4

LA TImes: FBI to reopen Niger Forgery Investigation

The LA Times is reporting that the FBI has reopened their investigation into the source of the Niger Forgeries, documents which allegedly led to the famous "16 Words" uttered by the President during his 2003 State of the Union despite the objections of George Tenet and Former Ambassador Joe Wilson.

WASHINGTON -- The FBI has reopened an inquiry into one of the most intriguing aspects of the pre-Iraq war intelligence fiasco: how the Bush administration came to rely on forged documents linking Iraq to nuclear weapons materials as part of its justification for the invasion.

The documents inspired intense U.S. interest in the buildup to the war -- and they led the CIA to send a former ambassador to the African nation of Niger to investigate whether Iraq had sought the materials there. The ambassador, Joseph C. Wilson IV, found little evidence to support such a claim, and the documents were later deemed to have been forged.

Apparently the FBI had already investigated and closed this case claiming that the forgeries were part of a money-making scheme, not a plan to affect U.S. Foreign policy, but apparently their feeling about the money-scheme is - not so much.

The FBI's decision to reopen the investigation reverses the agency's announcement last month that it had finished a two-year inquiry and concluded that the forgeries were part of a moneymaking scheme -- and not an effort to manipulate U.S. foreign policy.

Those findings concerned some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee after published reports that the FBI had not interviewed a former Italian spy named Rocco Martino, who was identified as the original source of the documents. The committee had requested the initial investigation.

"This is such a high-profile issue for a lot of reasons, and we think it's important to make sure there aren't lingering questions," said an aide to Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee. "There's always a chance that you do a little more investigating and you uncover something you hadn't seen before or you hadn't realized."

Not mentioned in the article, is the fact that Sen Rockefeller was the one who originally referred this case to the FBI for investigation following the conclusions of the Senate Intelligence Report. Sen Rockefeller is ranking Democratic Member of the Commitee.

A senior federal law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation, confirmed late Friday that the bureau had reopened the inquiry.

Federal officials familiar with the case say investigators might examine whether the forgeries were instigated by U.S. citizens who advocated an invasion of Iraq or by members of the Iraqi National Congress -- the group led by Ahmad Chalabi that worked closely with Bush administration officials in the buildup to the war.

But the senior federal official said, "I don't expect the results to be any different. I think the answer is going to be that [Martino] wasn't acting in behalf of any government or intelligence agency. This guy was trying to peddle this to whoever he could."

Until now, the FBI's inquiry had been limited to probing whether foreign governments were involved in the forgeries, despite a broader request from Rockefeller that the FBI look into whether the forgeries reflected a "larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq."

"I was surprised that [the FBI] ever closed it without coming to a conclusion as to the source," said former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who was chairman of the Intelligence Committee when the Niger uranium claims first surfaced in the U.S. "It looks as if it's a fairly straightforward investigation trail to who the source was. And I'm glad the FBI has resumed the hunt."

Almost as interesting as who the original source of these document may be -- is the fact that the FBI had decided to give up looking for them in the first place, only to now - reverse themselves.