Friday, September 30, 2005

friday summary

Bill Bennett should be careful with his "logic" in arguments.

Tom DeLay should be in jail. But he won't be, and the fact is the GOP will still hold those 5 Texas seats in Congress that he helped engineer with the illegal donations. Just hope the drip-drip-drip of corruption and incompetence will reach a level where people vote the GOP out - and then hope that the voting machines owned by Republicans don't fix the votes.

Ashley Smith (the woman taken hostage in Atlanta who talked her way out of it) not only read to her captor from Rick Warren's A Purpose-Driven Life, she gave the guy some crystal meth out of her personal stash. Maybe her book should be A Meth-Driven Life?

If those uppity Italians insist on prosecuting our people for breaking Italian law in abducting a radical Muslim to Egypt where he could be tortured on our behalf, will we bomb Rome?

Will Judith Miller's testimony let Patrick Fitzgerald bring the Plamegate investigation to the point where we'll have more indictments of Republicans?

Will Boston sweep the damn Yankees and will the Indians win enough games against the White Sox to allow us a Yankee-free baseball post-season?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

two amusing things

Two things amused me today. This is the first:

And this is the second -- Tom DeLay says “I have done nothing wrong. ... I am innocent.” He accuses Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle (D) of being a "partisan fanatic."

Funny DeLay doesn't like it when a duly elected prosecutor goes about doing his job (Earle has prosecuted a helluva lot of Democrats, too) but didn't seem to mind when a partisan GOP hack appointed to look into a real estate deal (one where the object of the investigation LOST money, which is how you can tell it wasn't a Republican) ends up coming around to investigating consensual blowjobs.

Anyhoo, we've got the Republican Majority Leader of the House under indictment; the Republican Senate Majority Leader under investigation for insider trading and conflict of interest; and the de facto Administration still being investigated for revealing the name of a CIA agent, and being hammered even by fellow Republicans for the befuddled response to Hurricane Katrina. And spending absurd amounts of money on various no-bid contracts, including this sweetheart deal for Carnival Cruise Lines.

But at least they see things right on cutting taxes and curbing abortion, right Mr. and Mrs. Kansas? 'Cause you sure can't vote for 'em based on honesty or competence.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

what a racket

The de facto Bush administration proposes to pay religious groups for helping Katrina evacuees. Huh? These are charities, not subcontractors. These groups enjoy tax-free status, get tax-deductable donations - and now they get FEMA money too? Now, that sounds like a good deal. Maybe Halliburton should reconsider its business model.

Not all faith-based charities are keen. The head of a Southern Baptist group said "Volunteer labor is just that: volunteer. We would never ask the government to pay for it." Well said. Even Flip Benham, with Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue -- the radical antiabortion group) gets it right: "The people have been so generous to give that for us to ask for reimbursement would be like gouging for gas. That would be a crime against heaven."

It's just a way for the Bushies to make a little political hay out of the Katrina mess by bribing, excuse me, paying religious groups to remember who their friends are in Washington.

Monday, September 26, 2005

mccain opposes torture

I thought opposing torture was, for a democratic society, akin to liking babies or thinking that people should be free to read whatever they want. So is depressing to think that we even NEED legislation to make our military NOT engage in torture. But apart from any human rights concerns, McCain is correct that our treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Gitmo is hurting our image abroad.

And could encourage people to take up arms -- or car bombs -- against America.

evolution and intelligent design

I suspect that this soon-to-start trial in Pennsylvania will soon come to dominate the news, assuming we don't get bitch-smacked by Hurricane Zelda or something. One lady in the school district where they've decided to teach "intelligent design" said, "I think we as Americans, regardless of our beliefs, should be able to freely access information, because people fought and died for our freedoms."

Dammit lady, nobody is limiting the access to information. We want to be free from religious instruction in schools, but we are all free to continue religious instruction outside the public schools. Where do you draw the line? I'll bet this lady would oppose demonstrations of how to put a condom on in the schools, but don't high school kids have the right to freely access THAT information? In any case, this theory is just about as good as "intelligent design" -- it is equally unscientific, equally untestable, and equally a tenet of (perhaps less than sincere) faith that better belongs in a philosophy class.

This Washington Post article has a long, interesting look at new analyses that reinforce the scientific basis for the theory* of evolution. It also helps dispell various lame "intelligent-design" points, like the one that the fact that all animals and plants on the planet are well-suited to live in an oxygen-rich atmosphere. No duh -- anything that was NOT well-suited has died off, leaving us oxygen-breathers to flourish. If Earth's atmosphere consisted of a soupy mixture of ginger ale, ginger-ale breathers would have flourished instead!

* A theory isn't just some lame supposition like, "Well, my theory is that Bobby-Sue dumped Bubba because the oxycontin ran out." A theory, to quote from Houghton-Mifflin's dictionary, is
A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.
Put that in your theoretical pipe and smoke it. The theory of evolution qualifies. "Intelligent design" is no more rigorous than the oxycontin idea above.

disguising pork

There is a lot of talk about Louisiana politics being corrupt. So I guess mixing those politics with the U.S. Senate and a bunch of federal money is a tempting recipe for real corruption. Louisiana Senators Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R), in a touching example of bipartisan cooperation, with the help of their House counterparts, have requested $40 billion in programs from the Army Corps of Engineers -- about 10 times the Corps' entire annual budget and 16 times what the Corps says it needs in Louisiana post-Katrina.

The Senators stuck it in the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief and Economic Recovery Act. They also want to create the "Pelican Commission," which would be 2/3 comprised of Louisiana residents, to decide how to spend the Corps dollars which will flow to the state for reconstruction.

This is pretty bad. I have no problem with Federal bucks helping to rebuild. But not with giving the Louisiana congressional delegation a blank check, and giving Louisianans essentially complete control of decision-making about Corps projects. Those are dollars from taxpayers in California and Texas and Wyoming and Rhode Island, not just Louisiana. And with all due respect, a lot of the programs the Louisianan delegates want to fund are ones that have been rejected before. How are THEY reconstruction projects?

Louisiana politics. Halliburton. No-bid contracts. The Army Corps of Engineers. What a brew. It isn't just the sewage in the streets of the lower 9th Ward that stinks.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

times pulls stuff back

I was gonna post on how Frank Rich today expanded on the theme that the de facto Bush administration is rife with cronies and hucksters. However, I can't link to the damn article because it is hidden in the new Times Select "service. The use of the phrase "new service" is rather Orwellian. I mean, columns by Frank Rich and other NY Times columnists USED to be available freely, and now it isn't.

That really sucks. I knew it was coming but this is the first time I've tried to link to something that is no longer available. So, if you have the paper version of the NY Times, read Rich today. But if you HAVE the paper version, you don't need me to tell you...

Sigh. It'll be interesting to see if this sticks or not. Another episode in the ongoing Internet "free vs. subscription" battle.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

isn't that convenient?

Let me make sure I have this straight. For years, Bill Frist refused to sell stock in his family company, HCA -- the largest hospital company in America. Conflict of interest be damned, Dr. Bill was gonna hold on to his family stock. But then, in June, Dr. Bill suddenly decides to have the "blind trust" sell the stock to avoid any conflict-of-interest concerns. What, pray tell, was the cause of the change of heart? Did Dr. Bill decide it really wasn't appropriate to be the Senate majority leader while still owning significant stock in a corporation with lots of interests before the Congress? Or was it the fact that he knew there was about to be a very disappointing report about weakening earnings?

Clearly the latter, IMHO. Otherwise, why hold it for years and years before selling? Hey, they threw Martha Stewart's ass in jail for stuff like this, maybe they'll get Dr. Bill too.

This might put an end to Dr. Bill's presidential ambitions. He'd clearly been positioning himself, pandering to the right-to-life crowd with his pathetic interventions in the Schiavo fiasco, then swinging more moderate with his recent pronouncements on stem cell research. Trouble is, Dr. Bill's Skeletor-like face and personality were gonna be tough enough to sell to Republican primary voters without the beginnings of what could be a major scandall on top of it.

Friday, September 23, 2005

would i?

Today I visited the Holocaust Museum. I've been there before, but not in a few years. Nothing much to add, except that the part where the museum recognizes the heroic and sometimes fatal efforts of non-Jews to save people from the Nazis always makes me wonder. Would I be brave, like some of those people? Would I just go along and try to keep out of trouble? Or would I take advantage of the situation to get ahead somehow?

I don't want to ever be in a position where the answer to these questions is more than academic.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

not-so-lovely rita

This doesn't look so good. At least the folks in Texas have some advantages over those in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama:
-- having seen what Katrina wrought, fewer people are likely to refuse to evacuate;
-- city, state, and Federal agencies want to make sure the piss-poor response to Katrina isn't repeated, so efforts are being redoubled; and
-- Michael Brown has retired.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

subsidizing the rich

Occasionally Anne Applebaum gets it right. This is one such occasion. Trent Lott's house and all that other nice beachfront property on the Gulf of Hurricanes, I mean Gulf of Mexico, not to mention the houses on the Atlantic beaches from Miami up to say Virginia Beach are enjoying fat subsidies from schmucks like you and me. Developers can't get the beachfront stuff built without all the subsidies and guarantees provided by the Federal government.

And how much do you wanna bet that most of these same people -- people like Trent Lott, people who can afford second homes or retirement homes on the beach -- are all gung-ho about reducing the government's role, cutting taxes, etc? You know it's true. Government's role should be reduced -- to subsidizing the rich's businesses, and their lovely beachfront palaces.

Speaking of hurricanes, apparently the God of Developers has once again heard their prayers and is planning a little coastal clearing for Galveston or Corpus Christi, just like the good citizens of Gulfport had.

a well-qualified nominee

So, what are the qualifications to run the large federal bureaucracy charged with development and enforcement of immigration policy? Apparently, a couple of staff jobs, having USAF General Richard Meyers as your uncle, and
marrying Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff's chief of staff will do it. What really troubles me is, I see NO indication that 36-year-old Julie Meyers is qualified to deal with the growing influx of illegal Arabian horses crossing our borders from Mexico and Canada. Michael Brown, where are you when we need you?

Ironically, by law to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, you must have five years of experience in both law enforcement and management -- most jobs have no legal minimum qualifications (see, Head of FEMA). I guess those qualifications are open to interpretation.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

praying for a hit

Today we learn about how an FBI agent is preaching to the Washington Nationals. This holier-than-thou G-man Jon Moeller, when not doing whatever the hell he is supposed to do to earn his federal paycheck, serves as chapel leader for the local Major League Baseball team, part of an organization called Baseball Chapel that specializes in preaching to steroid-popping, horsehide-hitting, groupie-boffing millionaires. Nowadays, roughly a third of MLB players participate in their Christian church services. If you have a strong stomach, you can check out their web site here. (Just joking, here is their real site. Really.)

Not that long ago, as Nationals interim (I hope) general manager and golden-haired pitcher-trading God-boy Jim Bowden* pointed out, players and coaches saw religion as a crutch. Well, after years of increasingly intensive proselytizing, the God Squad is getting better attendance. But to what end? What is so special about a bunch of baseball players that they need dedicated ministering from some smug prig like Jon Moeller? Shouldn't this effort be spent on helping people who really need help? I mean, it's not like churches exclude baseball players or other pro athletes. I am sure it is nerve-wracking to stand at the plate with 40,000 people watching and the game on the line. But really, how much of this Baseball Chapel bullshit is just giving somebody the chance to hang out with celebrities and get free tickets to baseball games? Surely, there are people with greater needs than the appropriately-monikered Ryan Church?

Although the hero-worship (hey, isn't that un-Christian?) angle I suspect is a significant motive for a lot of the individuals who get involved (would Moeller rather offer special prayer sessions to professional baseballers or to a bunch of HVAC maintenance guys? Surely, they're equal in the Eyes of the Lord?), I think the real goal of Baseball Chapel and its football and basketball counterparts is to improve their religion's visibility among sports fans by getting a few prominent athletes in their camp, like Kansas City Royals star Mike Sweeney (whom God is CLEARLY ignoring nowadays judging from KC's 48-98 record). You know, the way Tom Cruise helps the Scientologists with his public expressions of his "church's" views.

To me it seems the religious aspect is more deeply ingrained in football. Frank Robinson to his credit wants nothing to do with the organized worship. But I can't keep track of how many times I've heard coaches, especially in college, talk about how God is on their side, or how often I've heard football players thank God for answering their prayers and ensuring their team's victory. I just find it hard to believe that God really would give a damn who wins a football game between Football Factory State University and the University of the Rich Spoiled Alumni's Brats, when He could be busy sending hurricanes to smite the American Gulf Coast and facilitate the redevelopment of Gulfport, Mississippi. In any case, as Preston Wilson noted, "If the guy on the other team is a better Christian, is the other team going to win?" Jim Bowden, move quickly -- sign Ned Flanders! Hell, he's even a lefty.

Meanwhile, in case you were wondering, this doesn't much sound like the ecumenical, goodwill-to-other-faiths variety of Christianity. Poor rookie outfielder Ryan Church is all shook up after Moeller "confirmed" that his ex-girlfriend was "doomed" because she's Jewish. Church went on, "I was like, man, if they only knew. Other religions don't know any better. It's up to us to spread the word." Gotcha Church-boy, that's what Baseball Chapel wants to hear.

* I assume Bowden prayed for guidance before signing the washed-up Coors-Field-dependent "slugger" Vinnie Castilla and the over-rated, average-at-best-fielding out-machine Christian Guzman during the off-season. I wonder if this has shaken Bowden's faith in God? These signings, and trading away over the course of two months what could be the core of a very decent starting rotation for bit players like Junior Spivey, certainly has ME praying to the Gods of Baseball that Bowden loses his job as soon as Bud Selig gets around to blessing the Washington franchise with permanent ownership.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

being bred for the presidency

Good to see another scion of the Bush family preparing to follow in the illustrious footsteps of the de facto president. Take heart, John Ellis Bush -- you can drink and do cocaine and screw around for another 19 years before going sober, and then piously blame your excesses on youth while not cutting any slack for other drug addicts.

Yes, I know it's unfair to poke fun at a dumb 21-year-old kid whose arrest is only news because of who his uncle and father are. But it's a lot less unfair than making vicious and unfounded jokes at the expense of the daughter of the (previous) president, isn't it?

Friday, September 16, 2005

conservative humor?

The past few days Scott Stantis' avowedly conservative comic strip "Prickly City" has repeated conservative lies about Katrina. On Wednesday it said flat-out that "Liberals said Katrina was all Bush's fault". This of course is simply not true -- but many liberals AND moderates AND conservatives have blamed Bush for his de facto administration's slow-ass response in helping those stranded by Katrina's winds and floods. Hell, even George W. "What, me admit anything is wrong?" BUSH accepted responsibility and said the response was not good.

On Thursday, our favorite O'Reilly-style comic strip said that "The intensity of recent hurricanes has actually decreased". Utter bullshit, read this article about how most scientists agree that despite the real cyclical element to hurricanes, intensity HAS increased and is being made WORSE by the warmer waters we have created through global warming.

Then Prickly City's little black conservative girl character today said said "The hurricane cycle we're in right now is actually very normal." True in the sense that there is a cycle -- but that doesn't excuse the fact that the STRENGTH of storms is exacerbated by the warmer water produced by global warming.

Prickly City once in a while draws a smile with some little observation or funny drawing -- usually non-political observations or drawings. More often, it is "humorous" only for those who find the same lame disparaging remarks about Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean to be funny. Nothing wrong with poking fun from a conservative point of view (and it is far better than the overtly preachy B.C.), but this is nothing but a pack of lies. Oh, wait -- I guess that's why it appeals: listeners to Limbaugh, viewers of Hannity and O'Reilly, readers of the Post and Times -- New York Post and Washington Times, that is -- are USED to listening to packs of lies. They like them; the lies feel good, make them feel all warm and fuzzy, and allow them to stop thinking and allocate that particular responsibility to their superiors, occasionally letting loose with a "ditto" to show they're involved.

But all week Stantis ran info for the American Red Cross. Guess his feelings of guilt about repeating The Big Lie got to him a little, or he thought a feeble bit of "help" for the hurricane's victims would make his strip look less partisan and servile. And I guess having the little conservative girl be black is just another piece of conservative camouflage, like the GOP's habit of putting token people of color behind Bush when he speaks to an otherwise lily-white crowd.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


I haven't had the heart to post much about the ongoing Roberts hearings. It's pretty obvious he's gonna be confirmed fairly easily. He's being cagey and refusing to reveal too much, but I think we all know that under that pretty-boy face beats the heart of an extreme fundamentalist conservative. The September Harpers has an interesting essay by Cass Sunstein about how far to the right the American courts have lurched over the past 30 years, and how ultra-rightists are hiding behind "original intent" to drag the country farther to the right using the courts, because they know they could never achieve their goals thru the elected political process. Very discouraging. Does Norway take refugees?

grab that sweater

Heating prices are gonna be way up this year, and the experts seem to think it will be a cold winter... Time to pull the fleece out of the closet soon enough.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

another day in iraq

At least 150 people killed in Baghdad, with several bombs going off around the Iraqi capital. The Iraqi goverment said this proved the fighting in Tal Afar had badly hurt the Sunni insurgency. Juan Cole sees it differently. The insurgents retreated from Tal Afar (for that matter, so did most city residents) before US troops could bring them fully to battle. And boom, the insurgents immediately inflict the second-bloodiest day since Saddam fell on Shiites in Baghdad. (BTW, unlike earlier US offensives in Fallujah, Tal Afar got very little coverage -- mostly because of the Katrina mess.)

So we control more or less the Green Zone in Iraq, and can't seem to take the battle to the insurgents without them being tipped off in advance. And turning to Cole for the last word, "... the guerrillas' ability at this late date to mount such a shatteringly effective operation in the capital itself is why the pitiful and arrogant Project for a New American Century fantasy of just crushing the Sunni Arabs of Iraq is a K Street wet dream generated by intellectual adolescents, not a realistic policy."

"hurricane highway"

This article points out that a canal connecting the Mississippi with the Gulf of Mexico apparently helped channel the storm surge from Katrina right into the heart of metropolitan New Orleans. Various politicians for years complained about the flooding hazard the channel posed, in particular to St Bernard Parish and New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, but to little avail.

Ironically, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) was a commercial flop -- it averages less than one ship a day, only taking 3% of the traffic of the New Orleans port. Nevertheless, the Army Corps of Engineers spent $13 million dredging the MRGO last year, based on the usual bogus estimate of costs and benefits.

The Corps apparently dismissed concerns that one of the costs would be to undermine the other chief duty of the Corps -- to try to prevent or mitigate flooding. Oops.

As I've posted before, the Corps has a decidedly checkered past in American history. Between the breached levees (NOT entirely the Corps' fault) and now the realization that one of its typical pork-barrel commercially-dubious environmentally-damaging ditch-digging exercises EXACERBATED the flooding, the saga of New Orleans adds another blot to its already-ink-stained record.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

an interview with heroin

The other day I watched a rockumentary about the long-lived Oklahoma City band the Flaming Lips. The movie, The Fearless Freaks, made and narrated by Bradley Beesley using interviews he has done over the course of about fifteen years, supplemented by home movies from the families of band members, follows the trajectory of the Flaming Lips, whose first claim to fame was for being very LOUD (yes, they love The Who) and putting on outrageous live shows with flaming drums and smoke and motorcycles on amps. Over time and over the course of many experiments, including a parking-garage concert featuring several hundred cars playing different specially-recorded tapes on their stereos all at the same time to create a symphonic effect, the Flaming Lips evolved into what they are now -- the creators of some of the most innovative and intelligent rock music today, but still with a wild live show featuring fake head injuries, giant bunny costumes and other theatrical flourishes.

A fairly standard movie really, made more interesting by the artistic evolution of the band itself since its inception in 1983. But it has a long scene that is some of the strongest stuff I've seen in a movie in a long time. The scene was preceded by a short piece with charismatic head Lip Wayne Coyne, who was discussing the the band's long-in-the-making, soon-to-be-released backyard-studio movie project, Christmas on Mars. Coyne mentions how it was rather risky to use fellow Lip Steve Drozd in the lead role in the movie; although he thought Drozd was an interesting actor, Coyne said frankly they didn't know whether Drozd would be alive long enough to complete the project.

The movie cuts to Beesley's long interview with Drozd, the Lips' drummer and most talented musician, while Drozd prepared his next hit of heroin. Drozd matter-of-factly described how heroin had affected him over the five or six years he had been addicted. He owned basically nothing -- even his drum kit and other musical instruments he sold to the other Lips, who let him borrow them. His relationship was on the rocks, his health was deteriorating, and he was deep in debt. Before it was time to record a new album, Drozd would get off the smack long enough to function and then fall back into the heroin. The whole time Drozd was discussing this, the camera, in black-and-white focussed tightly on him sitting at a little table, heating the heroin on a spoon, filling a syringe, and then finally looking for a vein. Drozd noted how he used to have no problem finding a vein, but now he said it was like they were sick of being abused and were hiding. Finally, Drozd found a vein in his hand and then shot up.

Drozd stood up, and said the effect would hit in about 20 seconds. You can see the change come over him; he describes the rush and how good it feels. But he also knows that the stuff is killing him -- again, he says he has sold everything he ever owned to pay for this rush, no longer an recreational thrill but a daily necessity.

Spellbinding and horrifying. Worth a watch even if you don't care about the music of the Flaming Lips or the inventiveness of Coyne and Drozd. I believe that the war on drugs is counterproductive and that that drugs should be legalized and regulated. Yes, heroin and other drugs will continue to fuck up people like Drozd. But guess what? Today, alcohol fucks up more people than heroin or LSD or crystal meth or cocaine or crack or any of that stuff. And nicotine causes far, far more damage to people's health and lives (and wallets) that marijuana. Marijuana is NOT a gateway drug -- if anything, NICOTINE and ALCOHOL are. The only connection between pot and the harder stuff is that they are all illegal!

Like an alcoholic relying on gin, tequila, or beer, Drozd could have been fucking up his life using heroin without the fear of jail adding to the general misery of his own living hell. Unlike an alcoholic, Drozd had the constant fear of arrest and imprisonment for his drug of choice hanging over his head. An aside -- the documentary also features one of Wayne Coyne's older brothers, who spent 12 years in jail under a three-strikes-and-you're-out law -- two petty drug possession convictions then shoplifting. Wooh, a real hardened criminal and menace to society. How fucking stupid. And ironically, despite rumors and a very odd life and musical style, Wayne said he never touches the stuff. In any case, if these drugs weren't illegal much of the violence associated with the drug trade would also disappear, and it would be easier for addicts to seek help without fear of legal repercussions. Not a panacea, but better than the current absurd system.

I'm not sure when the interview was shot -- I think at least 6-7 years ago. But after a final confrontation where the non-violent Wayne Coyne punched him a couple of times, Drozd finally got off the heroin. Steve Drozd is still alive and healthy, the Flaming Lips are enjoying critical and (some) commercial success, and Christmas on Mars is supposed to come out this year.

Edit: Drozd defended his decision to include this scene in the movie. I'm glad he did. It's brutally honest, and it's one of the most effective ANTI-DRUG messages I can imagine.

Monday, September 12, 2005

one more unpleasant fact about global warming

All those nifty glaciers in the Himalayas? They aren't just a habitat for abominable snowmen, or fun courses for spoiled college kids to go trekking on -- they provide a key source of drinking water for over two billion people in India and China. But they are retreating at an accelerating pace...

It's not just Asians who need to worry about disappearing water supplies. Snowpack is critical for water in the western US. Trouble is, as things get a little bit warmer, you get less winter/spring snow and more rain, which flows into the streams and rivers right away. The advantage to snowpack is it releases its water gradually over the course of the summer, not as soon as it stops raining. The Colorado River is just a big collection of snowmelt, and it provides water for much of California and six other western states.

Global warming does matter. I can't prove it's not purely a natural phenomena but 99% of scientists who haven't been bought by industry interests believe it is. It would be nice to take steps to at least reduce the pace at which carbon dioxide is building in the atmosphere, but we can't even manage a pathetic first step in this country, thanks to short-term profitism in the energy and automotive industry (and among their political servants) and the refusal of large segments of the Republican party to consider these uncomfortable facts.

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel ... thirsty?

somebody give fema a map, and a tasteless quote

FEMA, Meet Biloxi
In reading this article about the de facto President's return to the scene of the crime (of omission), I was stunned to read that two full weeks after Katrina hit, FEMA has yet to establish a disaster relief center in Biloxi, Mississippi. What the hell?

Even with Michael Brown resigning today, FEMA remains a laughing stock. Literally -- I was watching the news tonight and some utility guy in Los Angeles talking about the power outage there said they had things under control and joked that they didn't need to call in FEMA. Just as well, they probably would have ended up in Los Cruces, New Mexico...

Is God A Developer?
In an article about the pre-Katrina boom along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Gulfport mayor Brent Warr has the final words on whether Gulfport can come back from the blow: "We have an opportunity now to make it an absolutely unique place. God has come in and wiped the slate clean for us."

Wow, I had no idea God was a developer. Just imagine the opportunities to erect fancy new condos one day after God levels Kansas City with a few tornados, or the nifty new beachfront property God could create by letting half of California slide into the sea? I mean, what are a few thousand deaths in God's master development plan?

Warr has been mayor for two months. Personally, if I were a Gulfport resident, I'd run him out of town now and not wait for the next election. Yes, put on a brave front about rebuilding. But really, wait until all the friggin' bodies are buried before putting on your Joe Developer cap.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

september 11, 2005

Four years after that awful day where innocents died in New York, Washington, and the fields of western Pennsylvania, here are a few things to think about.

Osama Bin Laden is still at large. I guess the de facto President really didn't mean it when he said he was "wanted, dead or alive." Or at least, didn't mean it enough to keep our military assets in Afghanistan at a time when we could have caught him at Tora Bora.

Instead of winning hearts and minds, we are creating new enemies by our ill-planned, clumsy and bloody occupation of Iraq, founded on either faulty or intentionally falsified information about Iraq's alleged WMD program. Please, please remember that no matter what Cheney and his subordinates (including Bush) say, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was an enemy of Al Qaeda's and had no greater role in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 than the NFL.

Four years after the attack, we are clearly not prepared to deal with a major terrorist attack on an American city. For proof, please look at the Gulf Coast, where a disaster we watched approaching for days was still abysmally mismanaged.

And finally, the Pentagon is using this anniversary to have a war-in-Iraq-promoting propaganda event, again intentionally blurring the line between the struggle against jihadist/Islamic terrorists and our war of choice in Iraq.

... and I feel fine.

katrina timeline -- "christmas is coming"

Today the Washington Post ran a timeline on Katrina, from August 26 thru Bush's arrival in the region on September 2. Some highlights:

-- the Army Corps of engineers couldn't inform the rest of the Federal government that the New Orleans levees had been breached for hours.

-- by Friday August 26, even though FEMA had a Katrina group up and running, one FEMA official said they were wondering why FEMA wasn't "treating this as a bigger emergency? Why aren't we doing anything?"

-- Amtrak on a couple of occasions before and after Katrina hit offered to take hundreds of people out of New Orleans, but said city officials declined.

-- The National Guard contingents in Louisiana and Mississippi had no backup plan for disruptions in communications -- Mississippi had only one satellite phone because the rest are in Iraq.

-- The US military was ready to deploy and help, but for days the only thing FEMA requested were a half-dozen helicopters. Naval vessels with hospital facilities and crews experienced with cleaning up were among the offers of assistance delayed by FEMA inaction.

-- Despite claims that FEMA would send buses to the Superdome to send folks to the Astrodome, Houston waited and waited and waited. The first evacuees showed up at 10:00 PM on Wednesday, "on a school bus commandeered by a resourceful 20-year-old." (Maybe FEMA should hire that guy/gal?)

-- Airlines flew into New Orleans' Louis Armstrong Airport staring on Monday, bringing in supplies and taking out people. But when FEMA took over the airport, they told the airlines that their planes weren't needed -- when there were still THOUSANDS of people waiting in the airport for a way out.

-- Finally, on Friday September 2 DHS boss Chertoff visited Jefferson Parish. He told local emergency manager William Maestri that resources are coming. Maestri said "Yeah, well, Christmas is coming too."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

mubarak wins a squeaker

Egyptian king I mean emperor I mean president Hosni Mubarak won a tight election last week, only attracting about 88% of the vote. A lawyer new to politics won the affection of 7% of the voters.

In a shock, about 5% of Egyptians voted for paleocon Patrick Buchanan. Experts blame this on the poor design of Egypt's so-called "camel ballot". Buchanan said through a spokesman that he believed most of these people actually intended to vote for Al Gore.

padilla ruling

Pardon me for expressing doubts, but I find it more than vaguely scary that the US 4th Circuit basically has ruled that the president can detain for as long as he wants any US citizen without bringing charges. What an utterly absurd ruling. I hope the Supreme Court overturns it, rather than taking a blindly partisan path and approving the de facto Bush administration's assertion that it can in fact exert this power.

Padilla sounds like a nut and is obviously potentially dangerous. But this ruling is also potentially dangerous, if it stands. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The power to arrest and hold somebody forever without trial based solely on an assertion by the Justice Department that the person is a "enemy combatant" is far too sweeping for a country that values liberty.

Friday, September 09, 2005

new yorker cover on new orleans

The New Yorker has consistently great cover art, but the illustration on the issue that arrived today is heartbreaking.

so sorry, says powell

Renowned car collector Colin Powell was interviewed by Barbara Walters (airs tonight). He actually admits his speech before the UN Security Council on Iraq's WMD program was wrong and a blot on his record. Powell said he felt just "terrible" about the whole thing.

Gee Colin, now you cop to it. Wish you'd shown a little public backbone when you actually had a job in this frigging lunatic de facto Administration.

katrina, the economy and wages

Most reports seem to predict little impact on the economy due to Hurricane Katrina. I don't agree, and neither does Steven Pearlstein. Remember, hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth were destroyed, around 400,000 people may have lost their jobs because of the destruction of their employers, and the boost to already-rising energy prices could make this a cold winter.

But the ever-vigilant de facto Bush Administration is doing its bit. Moving boldly to help all Americans and support freedom, liberty, and the American way, Bush announced a "national emergency" in order to suspend the application of a law that governs wages paid for work done under Federal contracts. In other words, the big companies that will end up with contracts to help rebuild the Gulf Coast region will be freed from those terrible, onerous restrictions on wages that might have forced them to pay the princely wage of $9 per hour to their employees.

This is typical. A national disaster is treated as just another chance for the Bushies to drive down wages, hurt unions, and benefit their buddies at Halliburton and elsewhere that will now be able to pay less for reconstruction-related projects. And the Republicans accuse the of Democrats of class warfare when they bleat about income inequality or tax cuts for the rich?

Oh well, at least Michael Brown has been called back to Washington from Louisiana to manage other FEMA responsibilities. Only a few years too late for the people of New Orleans. I sure hope the new volcanoes apparently forming in Oregon don't erupt any time soon...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

i agree with tom delay and susan collins!

Tom DeLay Says Something Right, I Mean Correct
I thought I would never say this, but I actually agree with Tom DeLay on something! In this bit is a quote from DeLay about suggestions to deal with higher gas prices by suspending the federal gasoline tax: "Now more than ever you're going to need . . . those highway trust funds, to rebuild the bridges that were destroyed, rebuild the railroads that were destroyed." Yes, lady and gentleman, Tom DeLay is right on at least this one thing! Hell, nobody can be wrong all the time, even the de facto President is right about one thing (for the record, he's right to be ashamed of trading Sammy Sosa).

And Susan Collins, Too
At the other extreme of the Republican Party is Maine Senator Susan Collins. In announcing a probe into the crappy response to Hurricane Katrina, she said:
"If our system did such a poor job when there was no enemy, how would the federal, state and local governments have coped with a terrorist attack that provided no advance warning and that was intent on causing as much death and destruction as possible? How is it possible that almost four years to the day after the attacks on our country, with billions of dollars spent to improve our preparedness, that a major area of our nation was so ill prepared to respond to a catastrophe?"
Fine question. I hope Collins and others pursue this honestly, and it doesn't become a whitewash for the utter failure to handle this disaster competently. Actually, it's not so strange for me to agree with Collins and her sister GOP Senator from Maine, Olympia Snowe. My only question is, ladies why do you stick with the party of Tom DeLay, Tom Coburn, Pat Robertson, and David Duke? (Ok, that last one is unfair!)

the dangerous allure of the coast, and the importance of new orleans

We Americans do like living on the coast -- but with the steady threat of hurricanes, is it wise to be there?

A couple of interesting tidbits from the linked article include the fact that the population per square mile in the coastal US rose from 180 to 275 from 1960 to 1994; those counties include some of the fastest-growing population centers in the country.

Now, here's what happen when people try to do their jobs honestly:
"In 1998, Deputy Assistant Army Secretary Michael L. Davis tried to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from rubber-stamping casino applications without studying the impact dredging would have on marshes that shelter wildlife, purify drinking water and help prevent flooding. This angered Lott, then Senate majority leader, who had recently flown to Las Vegas in a casino executive's jet and had raised $100,000 for Republicans at a casino-industry fundraiser.

Lott got the moratorium lifted, then he got the Army to launch an investigation of Davis. No wrongdoing was found, but Davis was removed from Gulf Coast permitting issues."
And finally, a Duke University coastal specialist noted the expectation of all of us that a technological fix exists for the problems of hurricanes, flooding and coastal erosion: '"It's almost unpatriotic to say we can't stop nature."

The Importance of New Orleans
This interesting article refutes Denny Hastert's suggestion that we just bulldoze New Orleans. Even disregarding the irresistable charm of the city as a tourist and music hub, the fact is NOLA is a key port on the Mississippi River and you can't have a port without people to live and work there. Maybe some of the lowlying areas aren't the best to live in -- but we need New Orleans.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

katrina: 9/11 families, foreigners, and Congress

Some families of 9/11 victims have said they will try to help survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Said William Doyle, who's son Joseph Doyle was killed on September 11, "I think it's really heartbreaking. Unfortunately, these people aren't getting the help that the 9/11 families got."

Foreigners are offering aid to us in Katrina's aftermath. We rejected assistance from Cuba, but otherwise have apparently been accepting help. I think that's fine -- the US can afford to do this on our own, but symbolically if nothing else it's good to accept the assistance from others.

As Congress returns from its nice, Bush-like summer vacation, Republicans face the fact that their usual legislative diet of tax breaks for the rich and subsidies for big businesses might be more difficult to do while faced with the task of rebuilding after Katrina. I agree with the writer -- Katrina, if handled properly, could have been a significant boost for Bush's standing on the Hill. But as it is, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, tired of the de facto President's badmouthing of local officials, said "One more word about it after this show airs and I might likely have to punch him. Literally."

Now I'd pay to see that on HBO!

Monday, September 05, 2005

a question about flags...

No knock at William Rehnquist intended here, but I was struck that far as I can tell, Federal government flags were NOT at half mast after Katrina hit, but were after one old, frail cancer patient finally died. They were half-mast after 9/11, right? And it looks increasingly likely that more people will have died from Katrina and the aftermath than from those attacks.

I guess it's just harder to make political hay from a fucked up relief operation than from a "gosh we didn't see it coming" terrorist attack.

more inconvenient science

In a way, you gotta feel sorry for the de facto Bush Administration. So often, those damn scientists, who have absolutely NO sense of political timing or morality, turn up information that is inconvenient to the Bush political agenda and contrary to the belief of the religious zealots who are trying to steer this country in the direction of a modern theocracy.

The latest inconvenient finding proves that embryonic stem cells kept in captivity do NOT remain young forever. Over time, they acquire mutations that eventually render them useless for transplant into patients. If true, this will render useless Bush's compromise decision a couple of years ago to allow research to continue on the existing cell lines while banning the use of new cell lines.

I have a great deal of sympathy with people who are concerned about the ethics and morality of such research -- especially if we get close to cloning humans. There are important ethical issues to consider. But the knee-jerk attempt to prevent American scientists from conducting important medical research is absurd. Such research is well underway in Britain, S. Korea, and elsewhere -- some of it sponsored by American companies who can't do the work at home. We're costing ourselves well-paid jobs with this stem cell ban and further, we may be missing out on cures for diseases. Strong-willed shortsightedness, again.

washington's official sport and more

Washington's official sport is well underway -- fingerpointing. One Republican quoted in this piece said one reason for the slow White House response was that so many people were on vacation. I'm sorry, that doesn't cut it. Remember before how the Bushies were saying that el jefe's five weeks in Crawford weren't really just a vacation? How he was holding meetings, including classified briefings with his Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, and video conferences, and doing all the paperwork and all that crap? Now suddenly they want to flip-flop on the whole vacation thing and say

"well gosh and golly, we were all in the sticks of Texas, or in Wyoming, or watching Spamalot in New York City, and none of our Blackberries were working and you know how hard it is to get Fox News out here, and well by the time we had booked a Greyhound ticket back to Washington it was, well..."


William Kristol, second-generation conservative *^$#, this time is actually reasonably on the mark in expressing Republican disappointment: "(Bush) has never really focused on the importance of good execution. I think that is true in many parts of his presidency." Yep, that's true. Remember the pledge to get Bin Laden "dead or alive"? Well, he's still alive and at large ALMOST FOUR YEARS LATER. Afghanistan is still a borderline disaster, the Taliban still around too. Iraq, well we ALL know how marvelous the follow-up there has been. The only piece of "good execution" there was with the White House print shop getting that "Mission Accomplished" banner out to that Navy aircraft carrier back in May 2003 just in time for the still-AWOL-from-the-Guard Bush to strut in front of the cameras and declare that Iraq was just peachy and our boys and girls would be home by the 4th of July. That, and in cutting taxes... oh yeah, Bush is also pretty good at approving the execution of retarded people in Texas, should give him credit for that too.

I went to school with terminal stoners who could do a better job than this, and with more compassion.

I am glad to see that at least in New Orleans most of the folks have been evacuated. It's gonna get ugly as they start opening doors and finding bodies. And many rural areas have yet to be reached by FEMA or anybody else. I'm guessing we'll end up with a body count higher than that of September 11; for sure the economic impact will be greater.

Read This

This is a harrowing read. I can't imagine being in a house and having to beat a hole in the roof as the water rises. And I can't imagine the guilt the author is feeling, having convinced one friend to stay to ride out the hurricane and now believing that friend is dead. Good luck to the author, and everybody else in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida hurt by the storm.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

thousands dead, and what went wrong?

Thousands likely dead
For the first time, a Federal official (Health Secretary Michael Levitt) today said the death toll from Katrina would likely be in the thousands. Dysentery in Biloxi, last thing the folks down there need is an outbreak of disease.

Meanwhile, outside New Orleans...
Not getting as much attention as New Orleans or Biloxi, but St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans with a population of 68,000 is completely empty, and local officials say that hundreds of its residents are dead. A local sheriff pointed out that a team of rescuers sent by the city government of faraway Vancouver, British Columbia (as in, Canada) got to his parish quicker than anybody from the Federal government.

What went wrong?
The Washington Post today ran a long analysis of what went wrong in the run-up to and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Read it, it is a tale of stupidity and blindness, as FEMA was downgraded from an independent Cabinet-level agency under Bill Clinton to just one small part of the colossal DHS bureaucracy, subject to plunder and theft by other elements of DHS with a higher post-9/11 profile, plus Federal officials lamely blaming the federal nature of our government in passing the buck most un-Harry-Truman-like to state and local governments. A couple of highlights...

-- A study shows the US spends $20 billion versus terrorism, and $180 million to fend off natural disasters.

-- An anonymous senior FEMA official quoted Joe Allbaugh, the guy who was Bush's campaign chairman and first FEMA chief who hired and promoted the current FEMA Chief Michael Brown, as saying "You don't get it." The official said, "If you brought up natural disasters, you were accused of being a pre-9/11 thinkers."

-- Allbaugh, contradicting what others have said this week, said "Beyond terrorism, this (a hurricane hitting New Orleans and causing flooding) was the one event I was most concerned with always." But not enough to keep him from belittling others in FEMA for pointing out that natural disasters would not take a sabbatical just because a bunch of terrorists decided to fly planes into buildings.

"How Could This Happen in the US?"

Various foreigners wonder how the world's most technologically- and militarily-advanced country could fuck up a relief and rescue operation so badly.

Believe me, we're wondering the same thing.

Frank Rich and David Brooks offer their thoughts on the botched relief. Rich compares the President's bleat of ignorance that "nobody" thought New Orleans's levees would be breached to Condi Rice's post-9/11 statement that nobody "could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center" and noted that even Fox News' Shepard Smith and others on that Republican-run news network were exasperated with the poor response. Meanwhile, Brooks wonders whether this latest in a long series of Bush/GOP failures will provoke a political reaction against the current prevailing political philosophy. I hope so.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

chertoff adopts a familiar tactic

Today Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued that planners never expected "two" disasters to hit New Orleans at the same time - a major hurricane followed by major flooding. He said "That 'perfect storm' of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight."

Wow. The sheer dishonesty of this -- remarkable even by Bush Administration standards -- really takes my breath away. Of COURSE people anticipated a hurricane followed by flooding. It wasn't a hurricane's winds that were expected to bring New Orleans to its knees, but the surge of waters and the breaking of levees and ensuing major flooding that everybody, and I mean everybody, feared. Check out some of my earlier posts on this, or read the CNN article linked above, for links proving that this "combination" WAS anticipated by academics, by journalists, by local governments and EVEN by the Federal government. Hell, just last year there was a major exercise in New Orleans based precisely on Chertoff's "surpries scenario" of a hurricane hitting and the levees breaking.

The familiar tactic Chertoff has adopted is what Goebbels called The Big Lie. For today's Republicans, that translates to saying something often enough and let Fox and Limbaugh and Drudge and the rest of the right-wing media machine repeat it often enough to cow the rest of the media and much of the public into more or less accepting it as truth. You know, like Bush did when he alleged Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the attacks of September 11.

In other times and other places, government officials who lie so boldly and so baldly in the face of an utter disaster founded on disregard and sheer incompetence are fired. In the Republican America of 2005, Chertoff and FEMA Director Michael Brown instead should be thinking about what suit will go best with a Medal of Honor.

rehnquist dies

Pat Robertson's prayer for more vacancies on the Supreme Court has been answered; Rehnquist has died. What timing for Bush -- a chance to get something else on the front page of the news other than the incredible screw-up his de facto Administration has made out of the hurricane relief and recovery operation.

Does Gonzales get the call this time?

lott's house, strong-willed shortsightedness, and more post-hurricane stuff...

A few items that caught my eye today on the mess on the Gulf Coast...

Third World Countries Do It Better?

A letter-writer from the Philippines points out that in his country, relief and rescue teams are mobilized BEFORE storms hit. He asks, "Can it actually be true that the richest nation in the world can do no better than a third-world country in providing relief to its citizens in need?"

Apparently, yes.

Limits of Political Appointees
I probably shouldn't be surprised that before joining FEMA in 2001, Michael Brown worked for the International Arabian Horse Association. Intensive research by me (i.e., I visited their home page) uncovered a link asking people to help the horse victims of Hurricane Katrina, but otherwise I see no obvious clues that the IAHA is anywhere near the cutting edge of disaster relief and emergency management. I imagine Brown's best qualification was being active in Republican politics. I know the American political system relies on partisan hacks, I mean political appointees, and sometimes they can be very very good. But really, for the head of FEMA I'd kinda want somebody with some relevant experience and background, maybe ex-military or ex-law enforcement, somebody who's worked for organizations that deal with emergencies and crisis management. Not somebody who gave legal advice to an association representing a bunch of horse owners.

Rebuilding Trent Lott's House
De facto President Bush visits Alabama, and what's the money quote? "Out of the rubble of Trent Lott's house - he's lost his entire house - there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." Now as racist, Strom-Thurmond admiring, government-services slashing, war-mongering, big-business subsidizing, lacquered-hair Republican Senators go, Trent Lott isn't the worst. But really, even Karl Rove must realize that talking about building Lott's house (his beach-house, he owns another one in Mississippi and probably in the Washington area too, minimum) while people in New Orleans are STILL STRANDED AND DYING is just a tad crass, no?

Another thing that caught my eye was the shifting nature of how Bush characterized the relief effort during the course of the day on Friday. Before leaving Washington, he said the results of the relief effort were "not acceptable" -- an accidental lapse into honesty. Obviously, his handlers got to him, because later in the day he was praising Brownie (FEMA) and promising that everything would be made nifty real, real soon.

Oh sure. Just as soon as Trent Lott's house is rebuilt, and Bush can sit on the porch and gaze on the Gulf of Mexico and reflect on his heroic accomplishments.

"Strong-willed shortsightedness"
Writing in Newsweek, Ellis Cose on the Bush Administration:
I predict, however, that the more persistent and damning question about the president and his leadership will have less to do with class or race bias than with what looks a lot like strong-willed shortsightedness. There have been calls for years to make Louisiana more resistant to the threat of hurricanes; just as there were calls well before 9/11 to take the threat of Al Qaeda more seriously than we did. In both cases, as some commentators have noted, the record is rather damning.
"Strong-willed shortsightedness." A good, pithy summary of the Bush Administration's entire reign of error and terror. Whether failing to prepare for this hurricane, ignoring terrorism in the first eight months of 2001 out of a stubborn refusal to credit the Clintonistas for being right about anything, or refusing to admit that the situation in Iraq is seriously fucked up and in no way resembles the rosy scenario that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld sold us before we invaded, "strong-willed shortsightedness" covers it all pretty well.

Friday, September 02, 2005

which star do you pick?

More on the debacle in Louisiana and Mississippi...

"which star do you pick?"
I came across a quote today that haunts me. Coast Guard rescuer Dustin Skarra described flying over New Orleans at night, looking for stranded people:
Everyone is shining their flashlights, so as you're flying over, it's kind of like you see a sky full of sparkling stars. So which star do you pick?
"an embarrassment"
Massachusetts Governor and Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney described the Federal government's response as "an embarrassment." Newt Gingrich observes, “If we can’t respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the gulf for days, then why do we think we’re prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?” Florida Congressman Mark Foley urges de facto President Bush to bring home the National Guard from Iraq. They are all Republicans, so this isn't partisanship.

This is unacceptable. Part of the problem has been the all-terror, all-the-time focus of Bush since 9/11. According to MSNBC, a July 2004 government document listed 222 various exercises to deal with national emergencies. Only TWO mentioned hurricanes, and both of THOSE were focused on how to deal with a terrorist attack that coincided with a hurricane! In this same story, a Louisiana expert said FEMA officials giggled as he described all too accurately the difficulties New Orleans could face if hit by a major hurricane like Katrina. Giggles?

Back in 2001 commentators in the so-called liberal media talked about how the Bush-Cheney junta I mean administration was full of "competent" people, and said it would be a government of mature adults capable of doing the job. Well, four years later, after long vacations clearing brush while counterterror experts tried to get the President's attention about upcoming attacks, after volumes of intelligence misinterpreted through either stupidity or cupidity, after economic policies that have raised poverty levels, after energy policies that have failed to improve energy efficiency, after revelations of un-American torture condoned at the highest levels, and now after the utter failure to respond to an admittedly very difficult national emergency, I think the air of "competence" the vulcans try to project should be finally, definitively dispelled.

Paul Krugman is not quite right when he calls this a can't do government. The Bushies CAN do the things they think important. You know, like cutting taxes for the rich, opening federal lands to oil exploration and logging, conning people into believing lies about Saddam and Al Qaeda, destroying whistleblowers and slandering those who dare speak the truth, and did I mention cutting taxes for the rich? It's amazing that Bush can with a straight face lie about not knowing the risks New Orleans faced -- back in early 2001 (before 9/11) FEMA, which had been nurtured and given a high profile in the just-ended Clinton Administration, very accurately described the three worst risks we face: a terrorist attack in New York, an earthquake in San Francisco, and a major hurricane in New Orleans -- with the Big Easy scenario being perhaps the most dangerous to American lives. In 2002 the Times-Picayune ran a series detailing what to expect if New Orleans were hit by a major hurricane. Guess Andrew Card didn't read that article, because clearly Bush nor FEMA ever gave it any notice. Probably because New Orleans is full of Democratic voters.

In this article at, the writer asks
How is it possible that with the fourth anniversary of 9/11 almost upon us, the federal government doesn't have in hand the capability to prepare for and then manage a large urban disaster, natural or man-made?
George W. Bush, the MBA President, the guy who ran businesses (they all failed except the Texas Rangers, who just sucked but profitably) and made decisions, the hands-on manager who said he would bring corporate-style rationality to decisions in government, allowed the Clinton-era FEMA to deteriorate to the point where they can't even get water to some poor bastards in the middle of New Orleans, choosing instead to play war in Iraq. I wonder if any of the five Supremes who voted for Bush in December 2000 ever regret their partisan decision?

Can you blame New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and others for their increasing anger at the Bushies' feckless response? People are dying while FEMA Director Michael Brown TODAY, FIVE DAYS AFTER KATRINA HIT, says, "What we're doing, we're ramping up." Wow. Maybe FEMA'll be sufficiently ramped up when it's time to bury all those people still waiting for food and water. As Mayor Nagin said, FEMA and the Feds should "get off their asses."

Bush-Clinton Relief Efforts
One thing Bush has done is appoint his dad and Bill Clinton to lead another relief effort. It's all well and good to encourage private assistance, and I'm heartened and NOT surprised at the generosity of people in helping, especially folks in places like Houston that are close and unscathed. But we shouldn't have to rely on private money to deal with such disasters. The most fundamental duty of a government is to protect its citizens.

This government has clearly failed that test in Louisiana and Mississippi, and honestly I don't think they give a shit, except to the extent that they worry about political blowback. But the White House is per normal practice evading legitimate questions like a champion dodgeball player and no doubt preparing hapless DHS Secretary Chertoff to be the sacrificial goat. Don't you think that at a press conference when the largest national disaster in our country's history is under way that Scott McClellan could take a fucking question?

How often have we heard a quote like this from the Admin: "This is not a time for finger-pointing or playing politics," McClellan said here. This time it was about the decision to cut the budget for flood control around New Orleans, but it could have been about ANYTHING the Administration wants to stonewall since 9/11 -- Iraq, Afghanistan, rising poverty levels, Rove's outing of CIA agent Victoria Plame, anything. The only time for fingerpointing and playing politics is when the Administration feels like it, on their terms. Otherwise, you are Aiding the Enemy -- Al Katrina in this case, I guess.

I wonder how many people in Louisiana and Mississippi are regretting their votes in 2000 and 2004 now?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

no saints this year

The NBA and NFL are considering what to do with the New Orleans Hornets and Saints for the upcoming seasons. The NBA is even considering the idea that the city may not be ready for pro basketball until October of 2006.

Ouch. I don't blame the NBA and NFL -- they have seasons to run. But American cities really identify with their pro sports teams, and pay absurd premiums to have such teams. It's just one more thing for the Gulf Coasters. Dunno if Saints owner (and San Antonio resident) Tom Benson will use this as an excuse to move the team permanently to the Alamo, or if he will be shamed into staying in New Orleans. Oops, sorry -- I didn't mean to imply that the owners of professional sports teams actually feel any shame in using anything they can to coerce localities to build them new taxpayer-funded facilities, but it'll be difficult to justify that for the people of Louisiana right now.

sharing the pain

If you feel guilty about the suffering in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, maybe it will please you to realize that we will all be able to share indirectly in the pain. Not literally of course -- you and I are in places with food and power and law & order and our own beds, with nobody dying next to us, unlike the folks in New Orleans and elsewhere.

It may seem to many city- or suburb-dwellers to be something out of Mark Twain stories, but the Mississippi River is still a critical economic artery for the United States, and New Orleans and its neighboring ports are crucial to the flow of goods along that route. A key White House economic adviser on Wednesday said the economic impact would be limited but this article in the Post offers a different perspective. For beginners, 60% of our grain exports go through New Orleans -- and the harvest in Iowa and Minnesota and Nebraska, which largely travel down the Mississippi is soon set to begin; a senior US Department of Agriculture official noted that if the disruption in river traffic goes longer than a week, it could be a serious problem. A quarter of the US supply of raw coffee beans are warehoused in New Orleans. And we've already seen the spike in gas prices due to disruption in the operations of refineries in Louisiana.

Stay tuned, and consider trading that SUV in for a hybrid...

gulf coast desperation grows

Incredible, appalling images from New Orleans, on the web and now on Olbermann's Countdown. Where the hell is the cavalry? Not just New Orleans suffering of course -- footage from places in Mississippi are incredible, the analogy is trite but it looks like a big, soggy battlefield.

A heartbreaking blog for people trying to locate family and friends.

Dissatisfaction and anger growing at the slow response to the situation in New Orleans.

The Post this morning ran a fascinating, Lord of the Flies-type story about the situation in the Superdome. Four levels of hell -- the relatively civilized lower levels, which are merely uncomfortable and full of hungry, thirsty, dirty people. The filthy second level with its overflowing bathrooms. The speak-easy on the third level, a small hint of the old New Orleans spirit. And finally the lawlessness, drugs, assaults and rapes on the highest, darkest fourth level, avoided by most of the poor people stranded there. A quote from one National Guard MP at the Superdome who recently returned from 14 months in Iraq: "To tell you the truth, I'd rather be in Iraq. You got your constant danger, but I had something to protect myself. [And] three meals a day. Communications. A plan. Here, they had no plan." Those poor bastards.

Speaking of no plan, the idea of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans wasn't exactly a science fiction scenario. The response of the de facto Bush Administration and GOP Congress? Cutting funding for flood control for New Orleans by 44% since 2001, to pay for the war in Iraq. And again, the degradation of wetlands reduces the ability of Louisiana to sustain a major hurricane. Bush said such a flood was unimaginable, but in July, US News and World Report ran a prescient article pointing out New Orleans' vulnerability. Guess US News had access to information that Bush and the GOP Congress didn't... Incredibly, the levees were NOT intended to protect New Orleans from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane! Oops.

Images now on MSNBC of dozens of buses entering New Orleans. Maybe some of those refugees at the Superdome and Convention Center will get to somewhere with food and water and electricity and civilization soon.

Bush did cut his vacation a bit short to go to Washington, but the lack of leadership has been pretty bad. As the Times noted, Bush's Wednesday speech was awful. Seemed to me he was more concerned about oil than anything else. Oh, wait, of course...