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September 13, 2005

Independent investigation of response to Katrina

[Through moveon.org]

To Senators Wyden and Smith, Representative Wu:

In recent years, FEMA was an admired model for rapid, large-scale response to domestic disasters, including horrendous hurricane damage in Florida, when local and state governments were inadequate.

With the response to hurricane Katrina, we saw a failure to respond appropriately -- what was working was broken and thousands paid for it with their lives.

We need an independent investigation to understand what happened and to restore our government's ability to provide for the common welfare in the face of disasters.

The spin doctor: Bush's "speechalist"

The Spin Doctor - hilarious.

September 12, 2005

Al Gore on the American Challenge

In the last two years, Al Gore has been one of the most forceful speakers in America on America.  I missed his Portland speeches last week, but here is the transcript from a few days later in San Francisco, which is definitely worth a read.

Below are some key excerpts I pulled out:

On Katrina, Global Warming
Speech given by Al Gore


In the early days of the unfolding [hurricane Katrina] catastrophe, the President compared our ongoing efforts in Iraq to World War Two and victory over Japan. Let me cite one difference between those two historical events: When imperial Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt did not invade Indonesia....

We were warned of an imminent attack by Al Qaeda; we didn't respond. We were warned the levees would break in New Orleans; we didn't respond. Now, the scientific community is warning us that the average hurricane will continue to get stronger because of global warming. ....

It is important to learn the lessons of what happens when scientific evidence and clear authoritative warnings are ignored in order to induce our leaders not to do it again and not to ignore the scientists again and not to leave us unprotected in the face of those threats that are facing us right now.....

The president says that he is not sure that global warming is a real threat. He says that he is not ready to do anything meaningful to prepare us for a threat that he's not certain is real. He tells us that he believes the science of global warming is in dispute. This is the same president who said last week, "Nobody could have predicted that the levees would break." It's important to establish accountability in order to make our democracy work....

It is time now for us to recover our moral health in America and stand again to rise for freedom, demand accountability for poor decisions, missed judgments, lack of planning, lack of preparation, and willful denial of the obvious truth about serious and imminent threats that are facing the American people....

Some are now saying, including in the current administration, that the pitiful response by government proves that we cannot ever rely on the government.... The fact that an administration can't manage its own way out of a horse show doesn't mean that all government programs should be abolished. FEMA worked extremely well during the previous administration....

This is a moral moment. This is not ultimately about any scientific debate or political dialogue. Ultimately it is about who we are as human beings. It is about our capacity to transcend our own limitations. To rise to this new occasion. To see with our hearts, as well as our heads, the unprecedented response that is now called for. To disenthrall ourselves, to shed the illusions that have been our accomplices in ignoring the warnings that were clearly given, and hearing the ones that are clearly given now....

To those who say  [solving globaly warming is] too big for us, I say that we have accepted and successfully met such challenges in the past.

  • We declared our liberty, and then won it.
  • We designed a country that respected and safeguarded the freedom of individuals.
  • We freed the slaves.
  • We gave women the right to vote.
  • We took on Jim Crow and segregation.
  • We cured great diseases.
  • We have landed on the moon.
  • We have won two wars in the Pacific and the Atlantic simultaneously.
  • We brought down communism.
  • We brought down apartheid.
  • We have even solved a global environmental crisis before - the hole in the stratospheric ozone layer - because we had leadership and because we had vision and because people who exercise moral authority in their local communities empowered our nation's government "of the people by the people and for the people" to take ethical actions even thought they were difficult.

This is another such time. This is your moment. This is the time for those who see and understand and care and are willing to work to say this time the warnings will not be ignored. This time we will prepare. This time we will rise to the occasion. And we will prevail.

Thank you. Good luck to you, God bless you.

See also my blog entries of letters to the editor last week: Re: For Bush, a Deepening Divide [Washington Post], Bush and Katrina [Christian Science Monitor], Bush and Katrina [Oregonian, Bush and Katrina [USA Today], Re: It's Not a 'Blame Game' [New York Times]

September 07, 2005

No alternative theories to evolution [News-Register]

[Submitted 9/7/2005 to the New-Register published 9/17/2005 as Scientists have explored and rebutted Creationism]

To the Editor -

Lately, some readers have written to extoll the idea of teaching creationism or intelligent design alongside evolution because, they assert, these are alternative theories that address perceived weaknesses in evolution.

Over the years, literally hundreds of claims against evolution have made by creationists and “intelligent designerists”.  Yet, every single claim has, in fact, been subjected to scientific inquiry ... and found to be wrong or not applicable (not relating to scientific inquiry).  One can find a compilation of some 600 claims and read for each claim a summary of the investigation rebutting them here.

There is no alternative scientific explanation, not a bad one, nor a weak one, nor even one that scientists are too close-minded to consider: on the contrary,  scientists have looked at every claim in order to see if there was anything there!

This is a serious issue because evolution rests on the underlying science of physics, chemistry, etc.  Once, as a society, we choose to be relativists about evolution and leave it up to each school kid’s opinion, then that is a slippery slope: to reject evolution requires rejecting the other underlying science and this becomes rejection of science in general over time.

Instead of using science to tell us if a species is threatened with extinction, we’ll ask the politically appointed Interior Secretary to choose.  We’ll ignore global warming.  We’ll decide more arsenic in water is cleaner water.  Whatever!  After all, it is all just opinion!

So then those with political power will decide what the "facts" are in order to justify pre-ordained policies instead of politics being used to determine what policies should address the facts.

September 06, 2005

Bush and Katrina [CSM]

[Submitted 9/6/2005 to the Christian Science Monitor ]

Earlier in the Bush administration, the FEMA Bush inherited from Clinton was an admired model for rapid, large-scale response to domestic disasters, including horrendous hurricane damage in Florida.

Our Republican Party-controlled government has systematically routed out scientists and ignored experts’ warnings in all fields from yellow cake in Niger and enough soldiers to secure the peace in Iraq to global warming, from the EPA and to, now, the weather service warnings about hurricane Katrina.

Having firmly planted a conservative brand on government, we know how to identify it: it is less informed than the average TV viewer; it cannot do the job; and it won’t take responsibility.

Re: For Bush, a Deepening Divide [Washington Post]

[Submitted 9/6/2005 to Washington Post re: For Bush, a Deepening Divide]

The humanitarian crisis in New Orleans happened on Bush’s watch.  But not with the FEMA that was so effective earlier, that Bush inherited from Clinton.  You know, the one that saved lives, not the one that knew less than the average TV viewer about what was going on.  (See also Iraq.)

Bush and Katrina [Oregonian]

[Submitted 9/6/2005 to the Oregonian ]

You go to a disaster with the FEMA you have, not the FEMA you want.  The national disaster is that Bush broke what was working and thousands paid for it with their lives.

Bush and Katrina [USA Today]

[Submitted 9/6/2005 to USA Today]

After watching our government make thousands of people die needlessly, it makes one long for the FEMA and the government of Democrats, not the government the Republicans are destroying by putting their “mark” on it.

Re: It's Not a 'Blame Game' [NYT]

[Submitted 9/6/2005 to the New York Times following It's Not a 'Blame Game' ]

The humanitarian crisis in New Orleans happened on Bush’s watch with the FEMA he broke.  The fault is clear: this is the FEMA Bush broke, not the one he inherited that used to work so well.

Reform, not repeal the Estate Tax

[To Oregon Senator Ron Wyden]

Ron - I am urgning you to support estate tax reform, but not it's repeal.  As someone who's estate is currently likely to be subect to the estate tax, I never-the-less feel that it is small recompense for the benefits I and my family have recieved from our system.

Reform can reduce the impact on family farms and businesses, but the repeal "solution" creates a worse problem.  Too much opportunity is locked up with those that already have wealth, and to enable dynasties of families with emense wealth would be tragic.

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