Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Taste Of Victory

The photo, Sept. 24: part of the massive turnout for the three-day D.C. antiwar mobilization. Posted by Picasa

To see into impermanence, to actually see impermanence...this is the mind which determines that I must wake up for the benefit of all beings.

---Dogen, describing his experience as a small boy

The center is everywhere. Bent is the path of eternity.

---Friedrich Nietzsche

I cannot come nearer to God and Heaven
Than I live to Walden even.
I am its stony shore,
And the breeze that passes o'er;
In the hollow of my hand
Are its water and its sand,
And its deepest resort
Lies high in my thought.

---Henry David Thoreau

Since Mr. Gore, in a political panic, was denied the presidency, many in the United States have worked tirelessly---and with increased vigor this past year, as Mr. Kerry found himself in a sort of rerun---to point out errors and alleged crimes that initiated and have carried on our horrifying decline. Obviously some of us have lost sleep (it's 3AM) over stupefying Yankee blindness. My own writings have become increasingly aggressive, and I have lost favor with some...who prefer my essays about Nature and humorous reminiscences. I haven't kept up with editing my online logs as I used to, but what has piled up here , or may provide some kind of record at least of one family's re-involvement with American grassroots political process. Sometimes lately I have felt the hopelessness of despair that the real promise and hope of the United States has been lost forever in the decay and fall of another Western civilization. And worse, I have feared we're taking the planet with us. Crash, explode and burn is a popular deathwish. Here in the countryside rarely does an evening pass by anymore that some neighbor or another isn't out on his hillside target-shooting with an automatic weapon.

But despite the new study that shows there'll be no ice in the Arctic by the end of the century , in the past week there has been some evidence that American know-how and a spirit that built our system of Justice may pull us out of this slump yet. I don't have a nourishing and nutritious banquet of victory before me, but there is a whiff maybe of something cooking in the kitchen. A summary of good news was sung to us yesterday by our burgeoning young writer William Rivers Pitt. If you remember the tune, do sing along~~~

Hey, Hey, Woody Guthrie, I Wrote You a Song
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t Perspective

Wednesday 28 September 2005

I'm out here a thousand miles from my home, Walkin' a road other men have gone down. I'm seein' your world of people and things, Your paupers and peasants and princes and kings. Hey, hey, Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song 'Bout a funny old world that's a-comin' along. Seems sick and it's hungry, it's tired and it's torn, It looks like it's a-dyin' an' it's hardly been born.

-- Bob Dylan, "Song for Woody"

The unbelievably arrogant and power-mad GOP Representative from Texas, Tom DeLay, got a taste of the whip hand on Wednesday. Indicted on a charge of conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, DeLay has been forced to step down as Majority Leader in the House. There is no telling how long it will take for the case to wend its way through the courts, but informed opinion puts the time frame at about a year or so. If Tom gets convicted, however, we will never again see his political face. One hopes he saved his bug exterminator equipment. Perhaps, in his new career, he can disprove that old chestnut about not being able to go home again.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is staring down the barrel of an SEC charge that he dumped stock based on insider information. The stock he owned was from HCA, Inc., a company his family founded. Almost immediately after Frist dumped his stock, the value of those holdings dropped nine percent. "If there is really any evidence of insider trading, then he's in very serious trouble, and so is his party,'' said Gary Jacobson, professor of political science at the University of California in San Diego. "It adds another brick to Democrats' argument that Republicans are corrupt.'' Is it possible that Frist could have been given insider information on a company his own family started? Do the math, and then subtract from Frist's chances of being President in 2008.

A little more than a week ago, the White House's top federal procurement officer, David Safavian, was arrested - not accused, not indicted, but actually slapped with the bracelets - for lying and obstructing a criminal probe against super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Safavian is part of a larger investigation surrounding Abramoff's indictment on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy. The names flying around these charges include GOP Rep. Robert Ney of Ohio, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. Had Safavian not resigned his White House post on the day he was arrested, they would have clapped him in irons right there inside 1600 Pennsylvania. Sic semper moral majority.

Oh yeah, and there's still that pesky matter of the investigation into an outed CIA agent floating around. According to a variety of reputable and rock-solid sources, folks in the White House are decidedly unhappy and nervous about this one. What on earth is the world coming to? These guys control the government, right? They control all the agencies responsible for these kinds of investigations. Despite that, DeLay and Frist and Safavian and Abramoff and Lord only knows who else are getting a crash course in the Justice system.

And how is Mr. Bush coping through all this? One answer can be found in this week's Newsweek, which describes George watching Hurricane Rita like a hawk after the Katrina debacle. "His eyes," reads the Newsweek piece, "were puffy from lack of sleep (he had been awakened all through the night with bulletins), and he seemed cranky and fidgety. A group of reporters and photographers had been summoned by White House handlers to capture a photo op of the commander in chief at his post. Bush stared at them balefully. He rocked back and forth in his chair, furiously at times, asked no questions and took no notes. It almost seemed as though he resented having to strike a pose for the press."

Rocked back and forth? Furiously at times? Sounds like a pathological response. I guess 40% approval ratings across the board will do that. These guys are sharp, though. They'll dig their way out. Or will they? On Monday, just before the DeLay indictment came out, the White House released a statement of support. "Majority Leader DeLay is someone the president considers a friend," read the statement. "The president looks forward to continuing to work closely with the majority leader to get things done on behalf of the American people." Oops. Keep rocking, George.

The Washington Post's Terry Neal published an article titled "Echoes of 1994 with Current Scandals?" on Tuesday. "Is it 1994 all over again?" asked Neal. "Dark and ominous clouds are gathering over the Republican Party these days, with a series of ethical and legal scandals that threaten to further damage a White House and Congress already reeling from a sharp drop in public approval ratings. On top of all of that, a special prosecutor and grand jury continue to investigate what, if any, role White House officials may have played in the leaking of the name of a covert operative to reporters. And the White House has come under increasing scrutiny, in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina fiasco, for rampant cronyism in its appointments to top level jobs, including director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and nominees for head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deputy attorney general, among others."

Somewhere close to a half million people showed up in Washington last weekend to shout the White House down. A variety of organizations, such as Progressive Democrats of America, held conventions to plan their electoral strategies for 2006. On Monday, hundreds of activists swarmed House offices on Capitol Hill to demand an exit from Iraq. The anti-war movement, dismissed as non-existent by the GOP, has gained strength and speed with the actions of heroes like Cindy Sheehan, who got herself arrested on Monday for praying in front of the White House.

Woody Guthrie used to paint "This Machine Kills Fascists" on his guitars. I think he'd be pleased to see how fast the rock has started rolling down the hill.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

And more good news: it's raining in Southeast Ohio at last.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

America Dies In Its Sleep

A British soldier, his uniform in flames, prepares to jump from a personnel carrier during rioting that broke out in Basra when Britain sought the release of two detained commandos. (By Atef Hassan -- Reuters) Posted by Picasa

Sitting in an outhouse, I concentrated upon this doubt, and as time passed I forgot to leave. Suddenly a violent wind came, first blowing the outhouse door open and then shut again with a loud crash. My spirit instantly advanced and ripped apart my previous doubt; it was like suddenly awakening from a dream, or remembering something forgotten. I began to dance in a way I had never learned, and there are no words to convey my great joy.


A reasonable amount o' fleas is good fer a dog---
keeps him broodin' over bein' a dog, mebbe.

---Edward Noyes Westcott

Corruption is more dangerous than terrorism.

---Hadi al-Amiri, Head of Iraqi National Assembly's Integrity Commission

Americans love a good night's sleep...and we spend tons of money trying to get one here and there. Maybe we spend more money on it, including fees to psychologists and therapists, than almost anything else. Yes, we need oil for all the stuff in our garages...and flying around in airplanes. And we spend lots more on our obesity problems than we contribute to the world's populations of the starving. And of course there is a fortune to be spent finding a sex partner and getting any enjoyment out of the activities. But mostly we really love to sleep...and hate to be awakened!

So let's say that while you were asleep, certain parties "disappeared" $10 billion from the United States Treasury. And let's also say that your sons and daughters were standing guard at those vaults of marble. Not only that, the 10 billion dollars was to be spent for weapons and protection for those duties your children have accepted. In fact, some of those kids are doing that work to get enough money to go to college. If that happened and it was discovered, do you think the story would be in a newspaper the next morning? Maybe? Definitely? Absolutely not?

Iraq Losing Billions to Corruption, Lawmakers Say

"(Al-Sabah) Iraq has lost $10 billion because of financial and administrative corruption, Hussein al-Shahristani, deputy head of the National Assembly, said in a press conference Sunday organized by the assembly's Integrity Commission. Hadi al-Amiri, head of the commission, said corruption is more dangerous than terrorism. He cited contracts the former ministry of defense held with a company known as 'al-Ain al-Jariya' to purchase 24 helicopters for $226.8 million. The helicopters were not bought and no check was made as to where the money went, al-Amiri said." (Al-Sabah is issued daily by the Iraqi Media Network.)

The Scotsman
Tue 20 Sep 2005
Ex-minister faces arrest for 'biggest robbery in the world'


"IRAQ'S former defence minister is expected to be arrested in the coming days in connection with the disappearance of more than $1 billion from the country's defence budget, a senior corruption investigator said yesterday.

"Hazim Shaalan, who served in interim prime minister Iyad Allawi's government, ran a ministry which worked with intermediaries, rather than foreign companies or governments, for the supply of defence equipment including helicopters, armoured vehicles, bullets and weapons.

"Not only were contracts with intermediaries forbidden at the time, but the prices paid for the equipment were vastly inflated and the contracts often not fulfilled. On one occasion, it is alleged more than $230 million had been spent on a collection of 28-year-old, second-hand Polish helicopters whose design life was just 25 years.

"Radhi al-Radhi, the head of Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity, said he handed a file of evidence against Shaalan to Iraq's central criminal court two months ago and expected a warrant for his arrest to be issued within ten days.

"'What Shaalan and his ministry were responsible for is possibly the largest robbery in the world,' Mr Radhi said. 'Our estimates begin at $1.3 billion and go up to $2.3 billion.'

"Shaalan, who lives in Jordan and also spends time in London, has denied any wrongdoing and has said that whatever he did was ultimately approved of by US authorities."

But WHERE, you ask, is American coverage of such a report? Sure, maybe the disappearance of somewhere between 1 and 10 billion dollars isn't from our own US Treasury, but our tax dollars must have sponsored at least some of that procurement budget. And it was for equipment for indigenous soldiers so our kids can get out of there. Check Google News and see how many US papers and media are carrying the story. I find only the Washington Post has an Opinion piece on it. Of course we're watching all our hurricanes...and wondering how to pay for all that disaster relief (and nothing for disaster prevention). Coincidentally, $10 billion of it will come from cuts to Medicaid. Molly Ivins was wondering the other day "exactly why the right-wing Republicans chose to make FEMA a political football." Is Molly losing her grip? Girl, disaster relief is where the big bucks are! BILLIONS.

But wait...there's more. You remember the 2004 Election? The long-awaited Carter-Baker Report on our electoral system is out and guess what? Even though there is nothing vitally wrong with our system...except a few computer glitches here and there, the report concludes that public confidence in elections is disappearing. Disappearing...just like all that money. Just...gone with the wind. And we wonder why we're losing sleep.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Work To Save Planet Earth

Natures Bounty by Severin Roesen

The truth is where the truth is, and it's sometimes in the candy store.

---Bob Dylan

I played the wrong wrong notes.

---Thelonious Monk

The path up and down is one and the same.


There are some people in the United States whose faith is shaken in private initiatives to confront various challenges to continued life on this great globe. The news these last few days has been particularly daunting. We need to go through it, and I hope this entry will be helpful to establish your focus in the coming week at least.

Let's begin with the exhaustive chronicle of the Katrina disaster to the Gulf Coast assembled by on Friday. The group already has edited the timeline twice as additions and corrections have been offered, including one from FEMA. They begin with warnings about the Lake Pontchartrain levees from FEMA itself in July of 2004. Bookmark this one for future reference~~~

Then we have some Federal responses from a couple of sides. First is an article Friday in the Jackson (Mississippi) Clarion-Ledger that reports an email has circulated within the Department of Justice. The message requests various US attorneys' offices to forward information of any lawsuits by environmental groups that may have interfered with the work of the Army Corps of Engineers around New Orleans. Let's see, wasn't the buzzword around DC the "blame game" last week? The second move was reported Thursday in the Washington Post, as Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma announced new legislation he is proposing to suspend the authority of the EPA for the Katrina cleanup. Inhofe is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which group just had concluded a briefing with the administrator of the EPA who had asked that no waivers be applied. Reaction was swift~~~

"Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., the committee's senior non-Republican, said Johnson told the committee 'that current environmental laws and regulations do not stand in the way of EPA's response to Hurricane Katrina.
'"'Based on the administrator's response, I am opposed to a blanket waiver for environmental laws,' Jeffords said. 'If adopted, this waiver could undermine public health protections. We should be focusing our energy on protecting the health and safety of people impacted by this hurricane, not paving the way for environmental abuse.'
"Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said he would fight Inhofe's 'sweeping, unnecessary and ill-conceived' plan, and any attempt to attach it to a bill authorizing relief from Katrina. He said it could allow EPA to put off telling Congress of any waivers for up to two weeks afterward. A provision also says the EPA can seek an extension to continue issuing waivers after the 120 days laid out in the bill.
"Environmentalists also denounced the emerging proposal. 'Here comes the mother of all environmental rollbacks,' said Frank O'Donnell, president of the Clean Air Watch advocacy group. 'This could become a blank check for big polluters. It would also be a terrible precedent.'"

Also on Friday came a headline in The Sacramento Bee (California) that read "Greenhouse-Gas Suit Tossed Out By Judge." is requiring free registration to its site now, so I'll post this whole article for the time being~~~

California, 7 other states had sought emission limits on power plants.By Chris Bowman -- Bee Staff WriterPublished 2:15 am PDT Friday, September 16, 2005Story appeared on Page A3 of The Bee

California's pioneering lawsuit to cap global warming gases from coal-fired power plants as distant as Kentucky and Florida was tossed out of federal court Thursday on jurisdictional grounds.

U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska in Manhattan ruled that the case brought by state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and prosecutors for seven other states and New York City raised sweeping questions of public policy best resolved by Congress and the president, not the courts.

At issue were emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary heat-trapping gas that alters the Earth's temperature, and the nation's highest emitters of the gas - old coal-fired power plants, mainly in the Midwest and the South.

Lockyer and an attorney for a companion complaint brought by three Northeast land conservancies said they would appeal the decision.

The plaintiffs - including Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and New York - sought a court order requiring the nation's top five power producers to cut carbon dioxide emissions every year for at least a decade, by an amount to be determined later by the court.

The electric power industry argued that the technology to capture these gases in the plant doesn't exist, at least not at affordable prices

In her ruling, Preska said the plaintiffs sought "to impose by judicial fiat" limits on carbon dioxide emissions that Congress and President Bush explicitly refused to mandate.

"These actions present non-justiciable political questions that are consigned to the political branches, not the judiciary," Preska concluded.

Lockyer said the opposite is true.

"When Congress has not taken action on a pressing environmental issue, states have the right to take legal action to protect themselves," Lockyer said in a press release responding to the dismissal.

"We filed this lawsuit because global warming poses a serious threat to our environment, our public health, and our economy. We must act now, not later, to combat this threat."

Attorneys for the targeted power companies said they were not surprised by the dismissal.

"We were curious why we were included in the first place," said Pat Hemlepp, spokesman for American Electric Power Co. of Columbus, Ohio.

"We were doing much of what they were seeking through voluntary reductions of carbon dioxide."

The other four companies named in the suit were Southern Co., Xcel Energy, Cinergy Corp. and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The companies own about 175 plants in 20 states that together emit about 652 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, roughly 25 percent of the carbon dioxide from power plants in the nation, according to the suit.

About the writer:The Bee's Chris Bowman can be reached at (916) 321-1069 or © The Sacramento Bee

And all of this comes on top of a most disheartening report Friday by the Science Editor for the UK's Independent Online Edition. Here we read a consensus that global warming now is "past the point of no return." Analysis and evidence is presented in the article of a vicious cycle that has begun in the melting of Arctic sea ice. If you want a refreshment course on what that means, here's the link~~~

At this point, I certainly wish I had some comfort to offer. I think the best we all can do is spread the word of these developments and enter into discussion with those who doubt the reports and who have opposing views. In this country it is clear there are many people whose heads just are in the sand---and I do mean sand.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

How To Make A Recess Appointment Part 1

Jeezus, I gotta take a leak bad. What'll I do?Posted by Picasa

How To Make A Recess Appointment Part 2

Condi, I need a bathroom break. Is that possible here? Posted by Picasa

How To Make A Recess Appointment Part 3

Yes Mr. President, but you have to raise your hand and ask for the hall pass. Posted by Picasa

How To Make A Recess Appointment Part 4

God I hate asking for things! Posted by Picasa

Photos by Larry Downing for Reuters September 14th at the United Nations.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Demonstration

Back row: Mia Lorraine, Kelissa Stanley, Todd Dusenbury, Hart Viges, Vince George
Front row: Lietta Ruger, Beatriz Sadivar Posted by Picasa

The sparrow is sorry for the peacock for the burden of his tail.

---Rabindranath Tagore

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

---Marcel Proust

Zen practice emphasizes being present with your actual experience. By placing our attention with the minute details of our physical posture, we get to know our selves, where we have tension, where we are crooked, where we are holding, where we let go, where we are at ease. Our body reveals who we are. Through this awareness, we enter the path of practice.

---Pat Phelan

I happened to mention, in reply to cancellation of a potluck/teaching I was hoping to attend last Friday down by the River, how busy everyone seems to be these days. It's hard to fit in everything we want to do...and even to keep track of coming events. I explained I probably wouldn't have been able to come to it anyway, since Ilona and I had gone up to Columbus the night before to see Cindy Sheehan and hadn't gotten back until late. With school and work Friday, we were going to be pretty tired by potluck time. A new friend Annie wrote back and said, "Oh, write about what the Sheehan tour is like. I didn't see anything in the news."

Well the first thing to say is Cindy wasn't at the Columbus stop. I could have known that by taking the time really to explore the site but there I had been, early Thursday morning, just stumbling upon it...and in my rush and excitement there was no time. When Cindy Sheehan concluded her encampment outside the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, on August 31st, the word was she would work her way east to Washington by September 24th, when what promises to be among the largest demonstrations in recent history will be held . Not sure if I would get to Washington, I vowed at least to connect to this Tour if it came anywhere near Athens.

It turns out there are 3 different branches of the Tour, and Cindy goes from one to the others. She was with the North Tour the day the Central Tour came to Columbus. We got up to Trinity Episcopal Church from school about 4:30, and managed to hear most of a debriefing about visits the group had done to the offices of Senators DeWine and Voinovich. The figurehead of the Central Tour seems to be Bill Mitchell, a veteran of Viet Nam and father of a son killed in Iraq during the same operation that took Casey Sheehan. You may recall seeing pictures of him next to Cindy at Camp Casey. Other members were mothers and fathers of soldiers in Iraq, both living and deceased. There was a wife there of a Guardsman who has completed one tour of duty and is being sent back.

I have to tell you their presentations may be more intense than most of us care to anticipate. They don't necessarily agree with each other on what they think the nation ought to be doing, and you and I might not agree with them or one another either but it doesn't matter. It seems that, like Cindy, everyone in the Mennonite Meeting Hall, where we had gathered after a magnificent supper together, wants clarity about the Noble Cause for which our country suffers in this warfare. As each parent told his and her tearful story, we realized the normal anger at the loss of a loved one, one's child, one's husband, has been compounded by a sense of betrayal we people feel toward our President and government. Mostly this Tour, and I think Cindy's encampment in Crawford, is about grieving...and I believe the force of that passion is what captured the nation's attention during August. These people are so present in the moment, which is how you get this close to a death, that they are radiant and luminous as they speak and answer questions.

One of the speakers had joined the Tour that day, just having passed by the group as they arrived. Another woman traveled today from Philadelphia to speak at length about the loss of her son. She said she wanted to get to Ohio because so much has happened in this state over the last year...and we represent the true battleground for the heart and soul of this country. Someone else reminded us the rest of the world looks upon Ohio this way too. I only hope the people of Ohio realize it! The Tour looks like this, with individuals coming along because they were in Crawford, or because they heard about it. Anyone with a personal story to tell and a desire to share grief in this way is welcome. It is impossible to look at this array of individuals and think it is some well-oiled conspiracy of the Left. As if the splintered Left even could organize such a project!

We had the opportunity Sunday to compare this approach to the Right's Freedom Walk at the Pentagon to honor the losses of 9/11. Here we had a setup many of us got used to during the past year if we attempted, for instance, to see the President during one of his presentations. The first thing you had to do, for Freedom's sake, is register and be accepted. No one was allowed on the Freedom Walk Sunday unless they had signed up by Friday afternoon at 4:30. No exceptions. The Walk itself was within a snow-fenced area lined with policemen. Allison Barber, assistant secretary of defense (yes, this was government sponsored), said she wanted the demonstration to be "sterile." The Washington Post's story Friday about the coming event declared, "The U.S. Park Police will have its entire Washington force of several hundred on duty and along the route, on foot, horseback and motorcycles and monitoring from above by helicopter. Officers are prepared to arrest anyone who joins the march or concert without a credential and refuses to leave, said Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford." Clint Black was to sing his song "Iraq and Roll." I guess probably nobody sang "O Freedom!"

I hope the folks going to Washington on September 24th don't have to face this kind of security..but maybe they will. Maybe Homeland Defense is planning to protect participants with more preparation than was mustered for Katrina. It's hard to predict what's going to happen on that day, and I confess to a feeling a bit more than ominous. The passion of grieving is strong, but there also is the passion of aggression on the other side. Tempers flare and there is cruel laughter. One member of a megachurch congregation and former Marine in Viet Nam asked me last week if I knew the new name for garbage can liners. When I said no, he said, "New Orleans suitcases," and laughed at his own joke. There are 2 clashing realities in America today. I hope we can sort out the differences peacefully.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Beautiful New Orleans Stirs America's Soul At Last

The body of a victim of Hurricane Katrina floats in floodwaters in New Orleans September 1, 2005. Up to 300,000 survivors from the hurricane still needed to be evacuated out of disaster zones in Louisiana, Governor Kathleen Blanco said Thursday.Posted by Picasa

We sit to settle the self on the self and let the flower of our lifeforce bloom.

---Dainin Katagiri

You are not thinking. You are merely being logical.

---Niels Bohr to Albert Einstein

A monk was asked, "What do you do there in the monastery?"
He replied, "We fall and get up, we fall and get up, we fall and get up."

---St. Benedict

American humorist Harry Shearer devoted his entire hour to a loving portrait of New Orleans last night. If you've never lived there, which is probably the only way really to know this uniquely diverse gumbo of a city, this show might be the best way to get inside. It will be available for streaming sometime this week at his site by clicking Le Show link. He said, "Here is a city, known throughout the world for its cuisine, on its knees begging for food."

The lead story featured by Google News at the moment is a feature from BBC News that went up an hour ago. Its author is Matt Wells, a journalist uniquely qualified in the UK to write a story like this.

BBC News
Viewpoint: Has Katrina saved US media?
By Matt Wells
BBC News, Los Angeles

As President Bush scurries back to the Gulf Coast, it is clear that this is the greatest challenge to politics-as-usual in America since the fall of Richard Nixon in the 1970s.

Then as now, good reporting lies at the heart of what is changing.

But unlike Watergate, "Katrinagate" was public service journalism ruthlessly exposing the truth on a live and continuous basis.

Instead of secretive "Deep Throat" meetings in car-parks, cameras captured the immediate reality of what was happening at the New Orleans Convention Center, making a mockery of the stalling and excuses being put forward by those in power.

Amidst the horror, American broadcast journalism just might have grown its spine back, thanks to Katrina.

National politics reporters and anchors here come largely from the same race and class as the people they are supposed to be holding to account.

They live in the same suburbs, go to the same parties, and they are in debt to the same huge business interests.
Giant corporations own the networks, and Washington politicians rely on them and their executives to fund their re-election campaigns across the 50 states.

It is a perfect recipe for a timid and self-censoring journalistic culture that is no match for the masterfully aggressive spin-surgeons of the Bush administration.

'Lies or ignorance'

But last week the complacency stopped, and the moral indignation against inadequate government began to flow, from slick anchors who spend most of their time glued to desks in New York and Washington.

The most spectacular example came last Friday night on Fox News, the cable network that has become the darling of the Republican heartland.

This highly successful Murdoch-owned station sets itself up in opposition to the "mainstream liberal media elite".

But with the sick and the dying forced to sit in their own excrement behind him in New Orleans, its early-evening anchor Shepard Smith declared civil war against the studio-driven notion that the biggest problem was still stopping the looters.

On other networks like NBC, CNN and ABC it was the authority figures, who are so used to an easy ride at press conferences, that felt the full force of reporters finally determined to ditch the deference.

As the heads of the Homeland Security department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) appeared for network interviews, their defensive remarks about where aid was arriving to, and when, were exposed immediately as either downright lies or breath-taking ignorance.

And you did not need a degree in journalism to know it either. Just watching TV for the previous few hours would have sufficed.

Iraq concern

When the back-slapping president told the Fema boss on Friday morning that he was doing "a heck of a job" and spent most of his first live news conference in the stricken area praising all the politicians and chiefs who had failed so clearly, it beggared belief.

The president looked affronted when a reporter covering his Mississippi walkabout had the temerity to suggest that having a third of the National Guard from the affected states on duty in Iraq might be a factor.

It is something I suspect he is going to have to get used to from now on: the list of follow-up questions is too long to ignore or bury.

And it is not only on TV and radio where the gloves have come off.

The most artful supporter of the administration on the staff of the New York Times, columnist David Brooks, has also had enough.

He and others are calling the debacle the "anti 9-11": "The first rule of the social fabric - that in times of crisis you protect the vulnerable - was trampled," he wrote on Sunday.

"Leaving the poor in New Orleans was the moral equivalent of leaving the injured on the battlefield."

Media emboldened

It is way too early to tell whether this really will become "Katrinagate" for President Bush, but how he and his huge retinue of politically-appointed bureaucrats react in the weeks ahead will be decisive.

Government has been thrown into disrepute, and many Americans have realised, for the first time, that the collapsed, rotten flood defences of New Orleans are a symbol of failed infrastructure across the nation.

Blaming the state and city officials, as the president is already trying to do over Katrina, will not wash.

Beyond the immediate challenge of re-housing the evacuees and getting 200,000-plus children into new schools, there will have to be a Katrina Commission, that a newly-emboldened media will scrutinise obsessively.

The dithering and incompetence that will be exposed will not spare the commander-in-chief, or the sunny, faith-based propaganda that he was still spouting as he left New Orleans airport last Friday, saying it was all going to turn out fine.

People were still trapped, hungry and dying on his watch, less than a mile away.

Black America will not forget the government failures, nor will the Gulf Coast region.

Tens of thousands of voters whose lives have been so devastated will cast their mid-term ballots in Texas next year - the president's adopted home state.

The final word belongs to the historic newspaper at the centre of the hurricane - The New Orleans Times-Picayune. At the weekend, this now-homeless institution published an open letter: "We're angry, Mr President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry.

"Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been, were not. That's to the government's shame."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/09/05 06:58:16 GMT

Matt Wells was a reporter at the Edinburgh Evening News, before moving to The Scotsman, first as its education correspondent and then as London reporter. He joined the Guardian in 1999 and moved and became its media correspondent the following year. Like everyone I suppose, he's always had mixed feelings about the BBC.