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RAPID RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section.  It will offer fresh, quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in this rapid-fire world of ours.  Of course, as in military campaigns, a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction.  Charge that to "the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or military campaign must maintain to be effective.  But the mission will always be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick", supported by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.  That's all I promise.
GS

Click here to return to the current Rapid Response list

THURSDAY through FRIDAY, September 22 through 30, 2005

Sorry about the long interruption...family business.  Now back to work - in no particular order.

GS

TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, September 20 and 21, 2005

Folks, except for the great mis-fortune that the citizens along our southern borders are facing, THE NEWS IS: THERE IS NO NEWS...at least no new developments in the many stories commented on in the recent past.  To express anything more would be to "bloviate"; and only O'Reilly is allowed to do that.  More when there is something fresh to say.  Meanwhile, check out the rest of the content in these two web-sites.  There's a lot there.   Thank you.

GS

SUNDAY and MONDAY, September 18 and 19, 2005

HYPOCRITES ON PARADE.  Why am I not surprised?

From the Catholic League...

JEWISH CHAPEL BUILT WITH FEDERAL FUNDS:

NO OUTCRY FROM ADL, ACLU or AU

Catholic League president William Donohue commented today about the absence of outcry from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) over the building of a Jewish chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy.  From September 16-18, several events will take place at the Naval Academy celebrating the opening of the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel; formal dedication will take place Sunday.  Here is what Donohue had to say:

"The Catholic League understands the central role that religion plays in the lives of most Americans, and it is particularly sensitive to the need for religious expression among our men in women in uniform.  That is why we congratulate the Naval Academy for opening the Jewish Center and heartily approve of federal funds being used to build the Jewish chapel.  Our problem is with the hypocrites at the ADL, ACLU and AU.

"To the applause of the ADL, ACLU and AU, Catholic schools are denied government money for the purchase of maps in the classroom, but the federal government can spend nearly 2 million dollars to build a Jewish chapel at the Naval Academy without a word of protest from any of them.  Catholic kids in New York City public schools cannot have a crèche in their classroom but Jewish kids can have a menorah (all to the approval of the ADL), and now a U.S. military building on the grounds of the Naval Academy can display a huge Star of David on its exterior without a peep from any of the church-and-state watchdog groups.  Moreover, since 1845 the Naval Academy has had a non-sectarian prayer said before lunch, but the ADL and the ACLU now want it censored; the ADL has even written to the Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate calling the practice 'deeply troubling.'

"In other words, prayer rugs can be purchased with federal funds to accommodate suspected Muslim terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, and Jewish chapels can be built with federal monies, but Christian kids can't sing 'Silent Night' in the classroom.  Got it everyone?"

GS

SATURDAY, September 17, 2005

GS

FRIDAY, September 16, 2005

GS

WEDNESDAY and THURSDAY, September 14 and 15, 2005

GS

MONDAY and TUESDAY, September 12 and 13, 2005

Yes, there have been other subjects in the news recently.  It's catch-up time.

GS

SUNDAY, September 11, 2005

9/11.  One of America's great traumas.  What can be said?  And then, at today's Roman Catholic mass, the readings say it all.  The first is from the Book of Sirach:

         "Wrath and anger are hateful things,
              yet the sinner hugs them tight.
          The vengeful will suffer the Lord's vengeance,
              for he remembers their sins in detail.
          Forgive your neighbor's injustice;
              then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
          Could anyone nourish anger against another
              and expect healing from the Lord?
          Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
              can he seek pardon for his own sins?
          If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
              who will forgive his sins?
          Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
              remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
          Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
              remember the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults"

Does the great Religion of Islam, which holds Abraham as one of its three great prophets, also hold to this instruction?  If so, there is hope for the world.

GS

SATURDAY, September 10, 2005

GS

THURSDAY and FRIDAY, September 8 and 9, 2005

Katrina. The Sequel.   I take no pleasure in this, just anger.  But let's go over what I  wrote and posted on this site on Wednesday, Aug. 31 ( and published in The Day on Friday, Sept. 2), and what facts have come out since then.  The following bullets relate back directly to that posting.

GS

TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, September 6 and 7, 2005

Katrina.  Much is being written and reported in the popular media.  But the following is the most informative article I have found addressing the historic and future importance of New Orleans - right where it is - to the entire nation.  GS

By George Friedman
The American political system was founded in Philadelphia, but the
American nation was built on the vast farmlands that stretch from the
Alleghenies to the Rockies. That farmland produced the wealth that funded
American industrialization: It permitted the formation of a class of small
landholders who, amazingly, could produce more than they could consume.
They could sell their excess crops in the east and in Europe and save that
money, which eventually became the founding capital of American industry.

But it was not the extraordinary land nor the farmers and ranchers who
alone set the process in motion. Rather, it was geography -- the
extraordinary system of rivers that flowed through the Midwest and allowed
them to ship their surplus to the rest of the world. All of the rivers
flowed into one -- the Mississippi -- and the Mississippi flowed to the
ports in and around one city: New Orleans. It was in New Orleans that the
barges from upstream were unloaded and their cargos stored, sold and
reloaded on ocean-going vessels. Until last Sunday, New Orleans was, in
many ways, the pivot of the American economy.

For that reason, the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815 was a key
moment in American history. Even though the battle occurred after the War
of 1812 was over, had the British taken New Orleans, we suspect they
wouldn't have given it back. Without New Orleans, the entire Louisiana
Purchase would have been valueless to the United States. Or, to state it
more precisely, the British would control the region because, at the end
of the day, the value of the Purchase was the land and the rivers - which
all converged on the Mississippi and the ultimate port of New Orleans. The
hero of the battle was Andrew Jackson, and when he became president, his
obsession with Texas had much to do with keeping the Mexicans away from
New Orleans.

During the Cold War, a macabre topic of discussion among bored graduate
students who studied such things was this: If the Soviets could destroy
one city with a large nuclear device, which would it be? The usual answers
were Washington or New York. For me, the answer was simple: New Orleans.
If the Mississippi River was shut to traffic, then the foundations of the
economy would be shattered. The industrial minerals needed in the
factories wouldn't come in, and the agricultural wealth wouldn't flow out.
Alternative routes really weren't available. The Germans knew it too: A
U-boat campaign occurred near the mouth of the Mississippi during World
War II. Both the Germans and Stratfor have stood with Andy Jackson: New
Orleans was the prize.

Last Sunday, nature took out New Orleans almost as surely as a nuclear
strike. Hurricane Katrina's geopolitical effect was not, in many ways,
distinguishable from a mushroom cloud. The key exit from North America was
closed. The petrochemical industry, which has become an added value to the
region since Jackson's days, was at risk. The navigability of the
Mississippi south of New Orleans was a question mark. New Orleans as a
city and as a port complex had ceased to exist, and it was not clear that
it could recover.

The Ports of South Louisiana and New Orleans, which run north and south of
the city, are as important today as at any point during the history of the
republic. On its own merit, POSL is the largest port in the United States
by tonnage and the fifth-largest in the world. It exports more than 52
million tons a year, of which more than half are agricultural products --
corn, soybeans and so on. A large proportion of U.S. Agriculture flows out
of the port. Almost as much cargo, nearly 17 million tons, comes in
through the port -- including not only crude oil, but chemicals and
fertilizers, coal, concrete and so on.

A simple way to think about the New Orleans port complex is that it is
where the bulk commodities of agriculture go out to the world and the bulk
commodities of industrialism come in. The commodity chain of the global
food industry starts here, as does that of American industrialism. If
these facilities are gone, more than the price of goods shifts: The very
physical structure of the global economy would have to be reshaped.
Consider the impact to the U.S. auto industry if steel doesn't come up the
river, or the effect on global food supplies if U.S. corn and soybeans
don't get to the markets.
The problem is that there are no good shipping alternatives. River
transport is cheap, and most of the commodities we are discussing have low
value-to-weight ratios. The U.S. transport system was built on the
assumption that these commodities would travel to and from New Orleans by
barge, where they would be loaded on ships or offloaded. Apart from port
capacity elsewhere in the United States, there aren't enough trucks or
rail cars to handle the long-distance hauling of these enormous quantities
-- assuming for the moment that the economics could be managed, which they
can't be.
The focus in the media has been on the oil industry in Louisiana and
Mississippi. This is not a trivial question, but in a certain sense, it is
dwarfed by the shipping issue. First, Louisiana is the source of about 15
percent of U.S.-produced petroleum, much of it from the Gulf. The local
refineries are critical to American infrastructure. Were all of these
facilities to be lost, the effect on the price of oil worldwide would be
extraordinarily painful. If the river itself became unnavigable or if the
ports are no longer functioning, however, the impact to the wider economy
would be significantly more severe. In a sense, there is more flexibility
in oil than in the physical transport of these other commodities.
There is clearly good news as information comes in. By all accounts, the
Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, which services supertankers in the Gulf, is
intact. Port Fourchon, which is the center of extraction operations in the
Gulf, has sustained damage but is recoverable. The status of the oil
platforms is unclear and it is not known what the underwater systems look
like, but on the surface, the damage - though not trivial -- is
manageable.

The news on the river is also far better than would have been expected on
Sunday. The river has not changed its course. No major levees containing
the river have burst. The Mississippi apparently has not silted up to such
an extent that massive dredging would be required to render it navigable.
Even the port facilities, although apparently damaged in many places and
destroyed in few, are still there. The river, as transport corridor, has
not been lost.

What has been lost is the city of New Orleans and many of the residential
suburban areas around it. The population has fled, leaving behind a
relatively small number of people in desperate straits. Some are dead,
others are dying, and the magnitude of the situation dwarfs the resources
required to ameliorate their condition. But it is not the population that
is trapped in New Orleans that is of geopolitical significance: It is the
population that has left and has nowhere to return to.

The oil fields, pipelines and ports required a skilled workforce in order
to operate. That workforce requires homes. They require stores to buy food
and other supplies. Hospitals and doctors. Schools for their children. In
other words, in order to operate the facilities critical to the United
States, you need a workforce to do it -- and that workforce is gone.
Unlike in other disasters, that workforce cannot return to the region
because they have no place to live. New Orleans is gone, and the
metropolitan area surrounding New Orleans is either gone or so badly
damaged that it will not be inhabitable for a long time.

It is possible to jury-rig around this problem for a short time. But the
fact is that those who have left the area have gone to live with relatives
and friends. Those who had the ability to leave also had networks of
relationships and resources to manage their exile. But those resources are
not infinite -- and as it becomes apparent that these people will not be
returning to New Orleans any time soon, they will be enrolling their
children in new schools, finding new jobs, finding new accommodations. If
they have any insurance money coming, they will collect it. If they have
none, then -- whatever emotional connections they may have to their home
-- their economic connection to it has been severed. In a very short time,
these people will be making decisions that will start to reshape
population and workforce patterns in the region.

A city is a complex and ongoing process - one that requires physical
infrastructure to support the people who live in it and people to operate
that physical infrastructure. We don't simply mean power plants or sewage
treatment facilities, although they are critical. Someone has to be able
to sell a bottle of milk or a new shirt. Someone has to be able to repair
a car or do surgery. And the people who do those things, along with the
infrastructure that supports them, are gone -- and they are not coming
back anytime soon.

It is in this sense, then, that it seems almost as if a nuclear weapon
went off in New Orleans. The people mostly have fled rather than died, but
they are gone. Not all of the facilities are destroyed, but most are. It
appears to us that New Orleans and its environs have passed the point of
recoverability. The area can recover, to be sure, but only with the
commitment of massive resources from outside -- and those resources would
always be at risk to another Katrina.

The displacement of population is the crisis that New Orleans faces. It is
also a national crisis, because the largest port in the United States
cannot function without a city around it. The physical and business
processes of a port cannot occur in a ghost town, and right now, that is
what New Orleans is. It is not about the facilities, and it is not about
the oil. It is about the loss of a city's population and the paralysis of
the largest port in the United States.

Let's go back to the beginning. The United States historically has
depended on the Mississippi and its tributaries for transport. Barges
navigate the river. Ships go on the ocean. The barges must offload to the
ships and vice versa. There must be a facility to empower this exchange.
It is also the facility where goods are stored in transit. Without this
port, the river can't be used. Protecting that port has been, from the
time of the Louisiana Purchase, a fundamental national security issue for
the United States.

Katrina has taken out the port -- not by destroying the facilities, but by
rendering the area uninhabited and potentially uninhabitable. That means
that even if the Mississippi remains navigable, the absence of a port near
the mouth of the river makes the Mississippi enormously less useful than
it was. For these reasons, the United States has lost not only its biggest
port complex, but also the utility of its river transport system -- the
foundation of the entire American transport system. There are some
substitutes, but none with sufficient capacity to solve the problem.

It follows from this that the port will have to be revived and, one would
assume, the city as well. The ports around New Orleans are located as far
north as they can be and still be accessed by ocean-going vessels. The
need for ships to be able to pass each other in the waterways, which
narrow to the north, adds to the problem. Besides, the Highway 190 bridge
in Baton Rouge blocks the river going north. New Orleans is where it is
for a reason: The United States needs a city right there.

New Orleans is not optional for the United States' commercial
infrastructure. It is a terrible place for a city to be located, but
exactly the place where a city must exist. With that as a given, a city
will return there because the alternatives are too devastating. The
harvest is coming, and that means that the port will have to be opened
soon. As in Iraq, premiums will be paid to people prepared to endure the
hardships of working in New Orleans. But in the end, the city will return
because it has to.
Geopolitics is the stuff of permanent geographical realities and the way
they interact with political life. Geopolitics created New Orleans.
Geopolitics caused American presidents to obsess over its safety. And
geopolitics will force the city's resurrection, even if it is in the worst
imaginable place.


MONDAY, September 5, 2005

LABOR DAY, 2005

"The fact that organized labor is fractured, weak and out of touch is nothing for Americans to celebrate."  That sentence summarizes an insightful editorial that must be echoing through commentaries throughout the country today (The Day today, Opinion, pA6).  But this state of affairs began long ago.  The National Labor Relations Act guarantees the right of workers to unionize in behalf of salaries and conditions of employment.  It never guaranteed employment, certainly not the same employment for life.  But many unions have long attempted to guarantee precisely that through various mechanisms that have produced much more heat than light in the workplace.  They are now too close to the flame. What they should be doing is fighting for living wages - including minimum wages, safe and healthful working conditions, promoting meritocracy in place of seniority, providing a nation-wide re-training programs for workers whose current jobs - thanks to that great and unavoidable "sucking sound" of NAFTA, CAFTA and the other vegetable soups, have disappeared forever, suing everyone in sight to enforce contractual rights to pensions already earned and promised, seeking Federal legislation to guarantee this, eliminating Federal and State laws that have raised featherbedding to a fine art, promoting vouchers for public education to improve the yearly crop of new "laborers", and eliminating internal corruption.  That platform would produce a rebirth of unionism in this country, a necessary counter-weight to the "greed is good" bible of American Business, where "business ethics" has become an oxymoron.  It would also help if the "union vote" for Democrats were not as predictable as the tides.

GS

SUNDAY, September 4, 2005

GS
 

FRIDAY and SATURDAY, September 2 and 3, 2005

Katrina.  WHAT A DISASTER, FOR AMERICANS AND FOR AMERICA.  I cannot add anything substantive to what was already posted on Wednesday.  Just read and cross-read the accounts in several newspapers, including accounts from overseas.  The soft geographic, social and political underbelly of this country has been exposed for all to see.  Now, let's see what we do about that, individually and as a nation.

GS

THURSDAY, September 1, 2005

GS


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