Saturday, September 10, 2005

Can You Say "Quid Pro Quo"?

Judge J. Michael Luttig rose a little higher on Dubya's short list for the next Supreme Court vacancy with this ruling (may have to register).

What's ironic about this is that, though this is but another "slab of marble," if you will, mounted onto Bushco's kingly pedestal, Padilla is a thoroughly unrepentant character who does not deserve to be held in high regard in any way.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Friday Katrina Roundup

(A little late due to Blogger database maintenance - hey, it happens)...

OK, so let me get this all straight…

Colin Powell, who lied to us about Saddam Hussein’s capability to deliver chemical weapons tipped onto nuclear warheads and thus destroy large portions of our population (which he later called “the lowest point of his life”…waaaaah!), helping to cause the war in Iraq (remember?) which has led to the deaths of almost 1,900 of our people and thousands of innocent Iraqis, is now trying to re-establish himself as some sort of statesman with credibility by telling us that there were failures on all level of government before, during and after Hurricane Katrina?

Gee, maybe there is a new job awaiting him with Bushco after all! Let’s appoint him “UNDERSECRETARY OF THE BLEEPING OBVIOUS,” OK??!!

And Vice Admiral Thad Allen is taking over for “Brownie” so he can go home and broker the sale of more Arabian horses, right?

Oh, and The First Lady decides to interact with Negroes also (better wear your hairnet to keep cooties out of the food, Mrs. Bush…and by the way, the racist element of this whole tragedy was put into place by your husband’s administration and its followers long before Katrina hit).

I guess that about sums up the latest developments (I’ll try to debunk more big lies as the Repug echo chamber proceeds to manufacture them…and speak of the devil, go to The Daily Kos to read about Kyra Phillips’ obnoxious reaction to a caller who criticized her for her interview with Nancy Pelosi yesterday).

And last but definitely not least, Cenk nails it again.

Update 9/9: You go, Al!

Update 9/11: I just got a thought. I'm glad I supported the Kerry-Edwards campaign last year, of course, but how clueless was Kerry not to make the politicization of FEMA an issue in the election? Surely he must have known that Joe Allbaugh, a member of the Bushco "inner circle," and Mike Brown were nothing but typical carpetbaggers with no experience in disaster management. Of course, this ties back to the stupid battle within the Kerry campaign between the Clintonites who wanted to rerun the '90s campaigns and the Kerry staffers who actually understood the mood of the voters and the issues they cared about most, which has a lot to do with why he lost (of course, there are other reasons I and others have mentioned already that we can rehash at another time).

A Bush Vacation Photo

Thoroughly tasteless and dis-obedient I know, but they deserve it (and I'll try to be careful with the photos because I know they take up a lot of space on the server).

(God, will you look at those damn liberals making fun of our president again? At least we got Clinton out of there! He's a serial rapist. Ann Coulter said so!)

Update: David Sirota comments on the metaphorical equivalent brought to us by Bushco.

What A Rude Surprise

(and over breakfast, no less...)

This appeared in this week's issue of Time Magazine towards the back of the issue (it covered a full page).

This is the best contact information I can find so far to complain, which admittedly isn't much; I haven't been able to track down any Email addresses yet. However, I will keep on this and try to update this post.

We were going to let our subscription expire anyway, but this is another good reason for others to do the same.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Calling Him Out

I second, third, fourth, fith, and sixth the sentiments expressed below from The Bulldog Manifesto.

The time has come. It's time to stay on point. The blogs need to unite around a rallying cry of "IMPEACH BUSH." As of this post, the term "impeach bush" is the third most popular search term at Technorati.

President Bush has totally and utterly failed the American people. Almost every day we are presented with further proof why he should not be our president. From 9/11, to WMDs, to Iraq, to Katrina-- the reasons are many and obvious. We need to impeach him NOW.

The only point that should be discussed is-- "IMPEACH BUSH NOW!" We need to pound this point over and over again. It should be mentioned wherever possible, and it should not stop until the mainstream media and all politicans realize that we, the people, will not stand for gross incompetence, nor the utter lies, any longer.

The Bulldog Manifesto hereby calls upon every blog, from large to small, from Eschaton to Spontaneous Arising, from The Daily Kos to Martian Anthropologist, from Crooks and Liars to Bring it On, from The Rude Pundit to The Talking Dog and EVERY BLOG IN BETWEEN!

The Bulldog Manifesto hereby calls upon every activist, from the national activists to the pissed off mothers, from the local politicians to the military families, from the school teachers to the student, spread the word, it is time to IMPEACH BUSH NOW. Cut and paste this post and email it to friends and family, write letters to your senators and congressperson, start your own impeachment blog, sign the Impeach Bush Petition, just do something! It begins with ALL OF US!

It doesn't matter whether the House of Representatives consists of a Republican majority, we cannot wait around until 2006 for that to change. We can no longer afford to wait. Impeachment begins NOW, with all of us!
Amen, brother. A stain on a blue dress doesn't mean jack compared to any of Bushco's antics.

The MSM Strikes Back?

Gail Shister is an excellent TV and radio columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer. She gets a little too chatty and a little too cute for me at times, but she definitely knows her way around her subject matter. What follows is her most recent column that appeared today.

To show or not show bodies
Networks won't be dictated to by FEMA.

Should networks show images of dead bodies from New Orleans?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency prefers they don't. Media experts and network executives say a government agency shouldn't shape post-Hurricane Katrina coverage.

Particularly when that agency is FEMA.

"This is about message management, not sensitivity," says Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. "FEMA's message management is as messed up as its disaster management."

Under blistering attack for its slow response to flood-ravaged New Orleans and surrounding areas, FEMA discourages journalists from accompanying their boats as they recover bodies.

As many as 10,000 people have died, according to estimates. Thousands of bodies have been floating in floodwater since the levees were breached Aug. 30.

FEMA has no official policy on photographing bodies, says agency rep Mark Pfeifle. It does, however, advise against the practice out of respect for the families of dead and missing loved ones, he says.

Also, FEMA needs space in its boats for rescuers and recovered bodies, he says. Still, several news organizations, including CNN yesterday, have ridden in agency craft, he adds.

Alex Jones, director of Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, labels FEMA's stance a public-relations move.

"I think they want to minimize the perception that the government didn't do its job," says Jones, a former New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winner. "I'm very suspicious of their motives."

CBS's Marcy McGinnis, senior vice president, news coverage, draws a parallel between FEMA's request in New Orleans and the Bush administration's ban on media photographing of flag-draped coffins of troops arriving at Dover Air Force Base from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In both cases, the government said it was disrespectful to show images of dead Americans.

"I find nothing more respectful than a casket, draped in an American flag, being carried by a military honor guard," McGinnis says.

CBS would never show a close-up of a dead person's face, she says. Before running any video, "we take into consideration what time it would air, and on what broadcast. We are totally respectful of the dead and how we portray them."

While the government can control media access to Dover, it cannot prevent journalists in New Orleans from following FEMA's boats in their own vessels during recovery missions, says Rosenstiel, whose organization is associated with Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

"One of the reasons the press is particularly impassioned about this story is precisely because the government wasn't equipped to corral reporters the way they typically do on most major stories," he says. "We've probably seen more dead bodies from New Orleans than from Iraq."

The experts agree that images of the dead are an important element in telling the catastrophic New Orleans story, and that those images should be in good taste and shot from a distance.

"These are difficult and delicate operations for the authorities," says Bob Steele, who teaches ethics at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"It's our obligation as journalists to be there, to seek and report the truth as meaningfully as possible. ... Skillful videographers can capture the images in ways that are both truthful and respectful."

Jon Petrovich, chairman of the broadcast department at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a 15-year CNN veteran, says networks must "cautiously mask the effects of what a dead person looks like."

"It's a matter of taste. It's up to each network to make that decision. You don't want to appeal to a prurient interest by showing something gruesome. We don't need to see maggots crawling over a dead person's skin."

According to Rosenstiel, the single most indelible image of the failure of FEMA and chaos in New Orleans last week was that of a dead elderly woman, alone and slumped in a wheelchair at the Convention Center.

"People were informed by that image. I don't think anybody was offended."
The only people who were offended were Bushco and their zombified loyalists because they couldn't control the pictures for a change (Hunter over at The Daily Kos called Bushco "unrepentant, syphilitic dog whores" yesterday. Whoa!).

A Message From Jim Dean

(By the way, if you get a minute, go to Atrios along with most everyone else and read about the outrageous exchange between CNN "anchor" Kyra Phillips - a pure Buscho partisan as I live and breathe - and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi).

Last week, devastation struck the City of New Orleans. The first disaster was natural. The second was a failure of leadership. Our federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina was slow and mismanaged. And now, hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans are dead.

So what went wrong? This question must be answered -- for the sake of the victims of Hurricane Katrina -- and for future generations. Please join me in calling for an Independent Commission to investigate what went wrong and make sure that this never happens again. Sign the petition:

Republican Senator Bill Frist was right when he said, "America deserves answers."

But Senator Frist and the Republican leadership believe that they should lead the investigation. This is the same Republican leadership that has consistently voted to cut funding for flood control and prevention in the Gulf Coast. And the same Republican leadership that has suggested it is not worth rebuilding one of the most historic cities in America.

Americans want the truth. We cannot allow for the Republican leadership to investigate itself. And we cannot allow Congress to be distracted from the main task at hand -- aiding the victims of this disaster and providing extensive recovery relief.

We need to find out what went wrong -- and we need to find out the truth. But the only way to successfully achieve this is through an Independent Commission. Join me today:

Thanks for all you do.


Jim Dean
Democracy for America

Defending Daylin

I thought Lower Merion, PA attorney Robert M. Lipshutz made some excellent points regarding the saga of PA House representative Daylin Leach that has been raging in the Philadelphia Inquirer over the last few days (this is more PA political stuff, starting with "The Half-Full Glass" post a few days ago...I don't agree with Lipshutz's assessment of John Roberts, however - this appeared in today's Editorial section of the paper).

Over three days last week, there were several news stories on my state representative, Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery). Did the coverage deal with his final success in bringing hybrid cars into the commonwealth's auto fleet? Did it address his efforts to resolve the medical malpractice issue, or his constituent services, his work on the budget, or his giving up his law practice when he entered the General Assembly?


Instead, focus fell on his off-hours entertainment - a non-governmental Web site, now removed, that he composed for the amusement of his friends and himself. Even though I am a news junkie, I didn't know about the Web site until newspaper articles told of its existence. Did the Web site reveal a sense of humor that is sophomoric and sex-obsessed? Probably, but isn't the sense of humor of 99.3 percent of all men (including me) the same? Isn't he joking about things most men joke about with their friends?

Leach is a man who has been described by 23-year veteran Rep. Frank LaGrotta (D., Lawrence) as: "a real person who doesn't take himself or his title too seriously." He further said of Leach: "... of every person who walks in - or ever has walked into the Capitol, Daylin is the least prejudiced, most open-minded, most inclusive person I have ever met." Larry Ceisler, a political consultant with decades of experience in Pennsylvania politics, said: "If more legislators in Harrisburg were like Daylin, there would be more civility and bipartisanship."

The past of every American is an open book, thanks to Google, Lexis Nexis, litigation databases, our credit-card bills, and, as Law and Order fans know, the logs of our phone calls and ATM transactions. Our present is often captured by the security cameras of banks, convenience stores and toll booths, the camera cell phones of passing pedestrians, by E-Z Pass or by Global Positioning Systems such as On-Star. For most of us, our privacy is best protected by our anonymity.

The end of privacy is having a devastating effect on public service. Call it the "John-Roberts-ization" of American politics. Quite aside from the nominee's qualifications, President Bush clearly put forth Judge Roberts because he has never been quoted as saying, doing or even thinking anything that could be found to be offensive to anyone, ever.

Our increasing ability to observe and permanently record everyone all of the time will soon cause anyone wishing a career in public life to be forced, clearly before reaching puberty, to adopt the "Spouse-Wallace" test: "Would you say, do, or even think what you are about to say, do or think if your spouse (or future spouse) and/or Mike Wallace and a 60 Minutes camera crew were confronting you about it?"

In the 2000 presidential campaign, then-Vice President Al Gore hired a feminist writer, Naomi Wolf, at $15,000 a month to tell him how to appeal to people. Her advice, in summary, was: "Get out of the blue suit and act like a human being."

Daylin Leach does not have to hire someone to tell him how to act like a human being. He is one. He is not the robot that the media's system of relentless exposure would require as a public servant. And if, for the sake of a few column inches of "gotcha" journalism, the papers make him a victim of "Republicans ... targeting his 149th District as a winnable seat next year," then they will not only have harmed a good man and a good public servant, but also the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Is This A Surprise?

The intial results are in...

And Bernard Weiner asks an excellent question here.

(Light blogging lately - I may return to my normal mode soon.)

The Whitewash Kicks Into Overdrive

Harry Reid is absolutely right about this face-saving PR gesture from Bushco and the Repugs in Congress (you may have to view a Dell PC ad before you can read this).

Oh, and Tom DeLay is suddenly such a statesman for suggesting the consolidated House-Senate Repug panel, isn’t he (the fact that HE suggested it should be the first clue that “the fix is in”).

And the Talking Points Memo Cafe has this illuminating moment with Larry Johnson and MSNBC.

Meanwhile, the ugly reality continues to deflect Bushco’s PR spin (and Greg Mitchell nails it also).

Update: "Mr. Rove says to tell those freeloader cancer patients to get with the program. The President needs a photo-op and he needs it now!"

(Thanks to The Raw Story...I can hardly wait to read any one of the books that are going to be written about this depressing fiasco.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

And I'll Be At Tipitina's

Thank you, Jerry Shriver of USA Today, for providing this fond memory. May everything you describe return one day.

Didn't Hafta Vote For CAFTA

(Sorry – I know, it was too easy)…

So our U.S. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick spent yesterday telling us in the Bucks County Courier Times how much he opposed the fraud energy bill that the Repugs ramroded through the supine Congress a little while ago. How nice of him to be so selective in opposing the royal Bushco scam that is being foisted on all of us on a day-to-day basis.

(By the way, I would link to the story except for one problem. The Bucks County Courier Times has absolutely, without a doubt, the worst web site for a newspaper that I have ever seen. It is IMPOSSIBLE to find the story or column I want, though I usually can link to anything written by their Harrisburg correspondent, Alison Hawkes. I have a feeling that they’re trying to manage their content “on the cheap.” That is usually the reason and not the fault of a particular person.)

I’m not forgiving of Fitzpatrick because, among the other criminal acts brought to us by the individuals supposedly working on our behalf, he supported the Central American Free Trade Agreement, otherwise known as CAFTA. This fact was not ignored by David Sirota and Public Citizen (link one for information on the questionable votes and link two for more FTAA context), who to their credit are holding Fitzpatrick and others (including, sadly, some Dems in name only) accountable.

This analysis by Krystal Kyer also provides more information regarding the evils of this dreaded agreement, which will inevitably entail the loss of more jobs in this country as Central America becomes the new headquarters of offshoring in the ongoing effort of the investor class to forever pillage everyone but themselves.

Why I Hate The Repugs

This is a case study.

So Scumbag Santorum gives an interview and says that people who cannot leave pending disaster sites in advance of warnings should be penalized. Of course he’s referring to people in New Orleans and elsewhere on the gulf coast who surely would have left if they could (or, as Bill Maher said in tongue-in-cheek fashion last Friday, making fun of Bushco’s attitude towards the poor along the Gulf Coast: “I don’t understand it. Why didn’t these people just load up the Range Rover with extra cases of spring water and drive off to their summer homes?”).

So the Casey, Jr. campaign FINALLY shows a sign of life and calls Santorum on his remarks. Santorum backpedals and says, no, of course I wasn’t referring to the people I was really referring to. But local officials should be blamed for not making transportation available to people who needed it.

I hate to agree even slightly with anything from the Repugs, but I have to give them that. Gov. Kathleen Blanco should have seen to it days in advance that people were transported out of there if possible. However, that will be one of the subjects of the investigation into this disaster that will follow, and it may turn out that she took the correct action but was ignored. Also, to criticize her for this is utterly incidental when looking at FEMA’s managerial and administrative incompetence and Bushco’s failure to coordinate the relief effort in time despite NUMEROUS warnings that a Category 5 hurricane would hit the area one day.

So Casey Jr.’s people said Santorum should have clarified his remarks. They’re right, and that should have been the end of it.

But no. Dan Ronayne, Santorum’s spokesman, said this about Casey Jr.

"This is exactly the kind of lowbrow politics that Casey Jr.'s campaign employed against Ed Rendell because they have a candidate with a thin resume who doesn't take positions on issues," he said.
Mr. Ronayne, your guy screwed up. Again. Be a man, take the hit, and shut up.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Reconsidering Forrestine '05

This editorial in today's Philadelphia Inquirer got me to thinking a bit.

The race for governor of New Jersey has gotten nastier than usual, earlier than usual. So far, Democrat Jon Corzine and Republican Doug Forrester have not given New Jersey residents the campaign they deserve.

Their camps spent most of August trading "gotcha" accusations over the legality of Forrester's large campaign donations to fellow Republicans and Corzine's gift mortgage loan to a former girlfriend.

Neither of these tempests provides valuable insight into how either man would govern. Now that Labor Day has arrived, it's time for the candidates to get their messages across on issues that will make a difference in the lives of New Jerseyans.

Property taxes, which are the highest in the nation, should receive much of the attention. Corzine and Forrester have yet to make a convincing case that they can provide sustainable relief.

Forrester's plan is to amend the state constitution to guarantee a 30-percent reduction in property taxes over three years.

He proposes to pay for these automatic rebates partly by cutting waste in state government. Hmmm, where have we heard that before? Only from every candidate who wanted to sound like he had a tax reform plan when he really didn't.

A tip-off that Forrester's not serious: He pledges not to raise other taxes. Forrester says his plan would involve about $6 billion over three years; Democrats say the figure is more like $10 billion.

Railing against wasteful spending always sounds nice. But many politicians have charged the ramparts of waste, fraud and abuse only to find that the savings don't add up to their promises. Forrester claims he'll find the savings in a state budget that rose $14 billion in four years.

Corzine says he will increase state property tax rebates by 10 percent per year for homeowners and renters earning less than $200,000. This, after a budget season in which a Democratic governor and Democratic lawmakers fought over trimming those rebates.

He projects that his plan would cost $7.67 billion over four years. He, too, needs to specify how he'd make the books balance. Republicans say Corzine's plan offers too little relief to the average homeowner.

Acting Gov. Codey did take steps this year toward controlling the state budget; both candidates need to spell out in far more detail their plans for restraining spending - being honest that sometimes what will be cut is a program that is useful, not wasteful, but simply is a lower priority.

With gas prices rising, Forrester says he is opposed to raising the state's gasoline tax. But the state's transportation trust fund is running on empty. Corzine has said he would raise the tax only as a last resort. Fine, gentlemen, explain how this bankrupt fund will somehow manage to keep New Jersey's roads, bridges and mass transit in decent repair.

The list of New Jersey's pressing needs goes on. Combating corruption, making higher education more affordable, curbing sprawl - all must be prominent in this discussion.

Right now, these candidates are flunking the job interview by squabbling between themselves rather than addressing the questions their prospective employers - the voters - really want answered.
To learn more, I visited the web sites of the Forrester and Corzine campaigns so I could read up and feel a little less jaded about this whole race.

I actually have to admit that Forrester seems to be better ideas related to homeland security, including training modules for first responders and security cameras in smaller airports, but somehow I don’t think that money for these ideas is going to be forthcoming when New Jersey or Pennsylvania can’t even get the matching federal funds for security measures that are already in place.

However, Corzine does a much better job of articulating the problems facing the state concerning the environment and the day-to-day issues of kids, families, and jobs. His site articulates ivory-tower goals for a wider range of issues than Forrester does (with Forrester mimicking much of the same type of rhetoric, which every politician does, I realize).

Also, Corzine’s site is pleasantly free of the “Doug did this, Doug did that” stuff that pollutes Forrester’s home page against Corzine, as well as the typical Repug snarly attitude that reverberates all over the place. I realize that that’s the way it goes when you’re trailing and all you can do is follow the playbook given to you by your handlers in Washington, D.C., but that’s still no excuse (and if Forrester cared a whit about appearances – and he obviously doesn’t – he would do what Frank Lautenberg said and give back the campaign money he raised when Karl Rove appeared with him, though I’m sure Forrester needs all the dough he can get with the question of the campaign donations he was not allowed to make still up in the air).

Oh, and regarding allegations of impropriety, am I the only one who greeted the news of Corzine’s half-million dollar loan to his girlfriend with a great big yawn? Wow, a Democratic politician in New Jersey in bed with organized labor (literally and figuratively). Stop the presses!

Does that make it right? Of course not. Is there a lot of institutional rot in New Jersey from years of primarily Democratic patronage? Apparently so (I can’t say for certain because I don’t live there, but that’s what I hear).

But Forrester is nothing but a Repug water boy for the cabal of crooks and supposed Jesus freaks that are running our country right into the ground. Better the imperfect status quo with potential for improvement with Corzine than the ruin, budget deficits and pseudo-neocon blather of Forrester as he tries to turn New Jersey into a satellite of Bushworld.

See Ya' Little Buddy

May you ride a nice, pleasant little cloud of hemp up to the great beyond, while all here remains as primitive as can be.

And with that in mind…

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale
Of our old prosperity
No war, job growth, and the stock market
Were making history

The mate was a prince but a mannequin
The “skip” had much allure
They butted heads but ruled as one
And a “third term” seemed so sure, a “third term” seemed so sure

(feel free to supply your own sound effects…)

The weather started getting rough, the ship of state was tossed
The millennium saw the Florida crash and everything was lost

Now we’ve set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert aisle
With Gilligan (the preznit)
The Skipper too (Cheney)
The millionaire and his wife (“Poppy” and the “beautiful mind”)
The movie star (Ahh-nold)
The Professor (Rove)
And Mary Ann (Condi)

Here on Dubya’s Isle.
Yeah, I know, I can do better. I wish I could've found a way to fit Rummy in also.

That's More Like It

I lambasted Clinton on Saturday for his initial response to Bushco's feeble effort, if you can call it that, as a result of Katrina's devastation, but this is a much more realistic analysis. Say what you want about him, but he's way too smart to actually believe what he said standing next to Dubya a couple of days ago.

Also, it's nice to see the Bush clan continuing to win popularity by blaming others for their mistakes. Memo to H.W. - The New York Times isn't responsible for the deaths of what could turn out to be 10,000 people, if New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin's grim estimate is correct. Your boneheaded progeny (who, of course, is now blaming Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco - also see "Bush and Blanco" at The Daily Kos yesterday) took care of that on his own (and kudos to Blanco for bringing on former FEMA director James Lee Witt to oversee the recovery efforts, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune).

The MSM Returns To Work

What follows is “analysis” from Ron Fournier of the AP regarding John Roberts’ nomination as Supreme Court chief justice (courtesy of the Bucks County Courier Times):

In fairness to Bush, he had weeks to consider Roberts’ qualifications, and a summer spent in the spotlight turned up no warts on the nominee.
Obviously, Fournier has not taken the trouble to review either this blog or those of some of the big-hit lefties out there such as Atrios or The Daily Kos. I guess this is another feeble attempt at justifying Roberts as a “safe” pick for Supreme Court justice instead of confronting the bald-faced absurdity of naming a guy who hasn’t even been confirmed for the high court yet.

(Someone else theorized that this is another Bushco game to get the Dems to lay off Roberts and let him walk in while the Dems gear up to attack the next nominee who will be the likely swing vote on the court. I sincerely hope the Dems don’t fall for that, though their recent track record isn’t encouraging. With Roberts’ conservative baggage and Bush’s plummeting approval rating in the wake of Katrina, I see ABSOLUTELY NO REASON why the Dems shouldn’t fire at will on Bush and his cronies on a 24/7/365 basis.)

Monday, September 05, 2005

"Real Time" Update


I already referred to Anderson Cooper earlier in another post and his excellent interview on “Real Time,” though it seemed as if he wanted to make another point before Maher cut him off. Also, climatologist Stephen Schneider stated that most of his peers in the field have accepted global warming as a reality and have taken it as a given that it played a part in Hurricane Katrina. Schneider said that even a temperature fluctuation of one to two degrees in the water can turn a bad hurricane into something like Katrina, and we can't keep dumping garbage into the atmosphere from our industrial processes and not expect that to happen.

The panel discussion guests last Friday night were writers Michael Eric Dyson and Mary Frances Berry, both of whom are African American, and actor Bradley Whitford from “The West Wing,” who is not.

(Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Repug from Tennessee, was scheduled to appear but didn’t, though Berry filled in well I thought. I’m sure Blackburn was supposed to be the token Bush apologist, though I don’t see how anyone could have performed that task in the aftermath of Katrina. Maher started the discussion by acknowledging that there were three liberals on the panel, or words to that affect, and he knew someone would complain that there was no conservative, but for tonight, given the fallout from Katrina, he didn’t care. As it was, everyone blasted Bushco and FEMA for their incompetence.)

Michael Eric Dyson also took on Bill Cosby, saying you don't hear a thing from Cosby for years and years about race, though he's donated and helped behind the scenes, but suddenly he comes out and makes critical remarks towards blacks. Chris Rock is popular on race, for example, because he says critical things about both blacks and whites.

Maher said later, again, that he couldn’t find anyone to absolve Bush, and Berry defended Bush a bit because the state disaster plan, which wasn't followed or maybe even created properly, wasn't his responsibility. Maher also made a remark to the effect of Bush congratulating himself at the end of the day after he arrived on the scene “for hugging so many Negroes today” which brought forth a few chortles.

Maher also spoke with commentator Fareed Zakaria via satellite, and Zakaria said, about Iraq, that even though the scenario isn't as rosy as Bush says, it's still interesting and encouraging to see the religious factions in Iraq trying to work together on a constitution (and Maher also mentioned how first we wanted the Sunnis out when we disbanded the military, then decided at the last minute that we'd better get them back into the picture, and what a goof that was).

In a comedy bit about how the drug makers are opposing the “Plan B” morning after pill, Maher came up with some suggested products that the drug makers might want to market themselves ("Pepto Jizz No" or something was amusing).

Bradley Whitford came up with some good lines, I thought, saying that, because of the general absence of Democratic leadership vs. the Republicans, it’s like “a jazz fusion band vs. The Rolling Stones,” which was a bit clever I thought. Also, since the answer to everything for the Republicans seems to be tax cuts, Whitford stated that, to all these co-called Christians, “tax cuts are their Jesus.” Maher responded that (and I’m paraphrasing), speaking of Him, if he came back now, speaking out about helping the poor, against war and against corporate greed, they would think he's a lazy hippie, a skinny Michael Moore.

It was a good show, but as I said earlier, without much fireworks.

Apple Doesn't Rot Far From The Tree

A great big nod of gratitude to DavidNYC and The Daily Kos for this one (makes my skin crawl)...

Barbara Bush - the woman whom no less an authority than Dick Nixon said "knows how to hate," the woman who didn't want to trouble her "beautiful mind" with thoughts of "body bags and deaths" - has now offered us yet another gem. After visting refugees staying at the Houston Astrodome, she had this to say:

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this (she chuckled slightly)--this is working very well for them."

What a cold, callous, wretched ghoul of a person. I just don't even know what else to say.
Neither do I. Previously, I had a modicum of respect for her. That is gone.

Daylin Leach Equals Dumb Laughs

That having been said, though, I should point out that I think John Grogan did a hatchet job on Leach today in the Inquirer (I would link to it, but you have to register...more PA politics, re: "The Half-Full Glass" below).

Look, I know what Leach posted in his blog was moronic and offensive on all kinds of levels including ethnicity, sexual orientation, and glorification of drinking to excess (and those are only the once I can remember off the top of my head).

But I'm sorry - I just find it hard to get worked up by stupid frat boy antics when the pay raise issue is still out there, and I, for one, am paying closer attention to how these clowns in Harrisburg spend our money (actually, I find John Perzel's sanctimonious disdain for even addressing the pay raise issue to be a lot more galling than any of Leach's nonsense).

I'm sure Grogan is particularly peeved because I have a feeling Leach represents the district where he lives. He has a perfect right to feel that way. So, he can choose to pour his time and energies into working for Leach's opponent in the next election (and Grogan is absolutely right that Leach's next opponent is going to bludgeon him over this).

Still, though, I was annoyed when Grogan took Leach's statement about "progressive values" out of context. Grogan also failed to mention the anecdote about Leach and his wife naming their daughter "Brennan" after former Supreme Court justice William Brennan, which I found to be touching.

Finally, Grogan referred to Leach's "not-quite-an-apology." Leach did apologize, and this leads me to this question.

Is forgiveness a possibility for a contrite individual, which I believe Leach is? As with Bill Clinton, how many times is someone supposed to apologize after they've done wrong (and yes, I know Clinton lied and shaded the truth all over the place before he finally caved and said, yes, I received a carnal favor from Monica Lewinsky). What did Leach do to imperil someone's health or livelihood or that of their family? What is his voting record regarding legislation that affects our lives? That is the stuff that I care about.

And consider this; outside of Richard Clarke's tearful admission to the families of the 9/11 victims, when was the last time you heard a Republican apologize for anything? Take your pick...failure to heed warnings from the intelligence community before the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as the PA plane crash, the rush into Iraq War II, the disaster of Katrina, etc.

Yes, I'm probably "mixing apples and oranges," but it's all politics in the end, whether local or national. And Daylin Leach's stupid remarks about "ta tas" and getting stoned with Henry Kissinger don't mean much to me with everything else going on.

The Gloves Come Off

Keith Olbermann on MSNBC absolutely nailed it today.

SECAUCUS — Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said it all, starting his news briefing Saturday afternoon: "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater..."

Well there's your problem right there.

If ever a slip-of-the-tongue defined a government's response to a crisis, this was it.

The seeming definition of our time and our leaders had been their insistence on slashing federal budgets for projects that might’ve saved New Orleans. The seeming characterization of our government that it was on vacation when the city was lost, and could barely tear itself away from commemorating V.J. Day and watching Monty Python's Flying Circus, to at least pretend to get back to work. The seeming identification of these hapless bureaucrats: their pathetic use of the future tense in terms of relief they could’ve brought last Monday and Tuesday — like the President, whose statements have looked like they’re being transmitted to us by some kind of four-day tape-delay.

But no. The incompetence and the ludicrous prioritization will forever be symbolized by one gaffe by of the head of what is ironically called “The Department of Homeland Security”: “Louisiana is a city…”

Politician after politician — Republican and Democrat alike — has paraded before us, unwilling or unable to shut off the "I-Me" switch in their heads, condescendingly telling us about how moved they were or how devastated they were — congenitally incapable of telling the difference between the destruction of a city and the opening of a supermarket.

And as that sorry recital of self-absorption dragged on, I have resisted editorial comment. The focus needed to be on the efforts to save the stranded — even the internet's meager powers were correctly devoted to telling the stories of the twin disasters, natural... and government-made.

But now, at least, it is has stopped getting exponentially worse in Mississippi and Alabama and New Orleans and Louisiana (the state, not the city). And, having given our leaders what we know now is the week or so they need to get their act together, that period of editorial silence I mentioned, should come to an end.

No one is suggesting that mayors or governors in the afflicted areas, nor the federal government, should be able to stop hurricanes. Lord knows, no one is suggesting that we should ever prioritize levee improvement for a below-sea-level city, ahead of $454 million worth of trophy bridges for the politicians of Alaska.

But, nationally, these are leaders who won re-election last year largely by portraying their opponents as incapable of keeping the country safe. These are leaders who regularly pressure the news media in this country to report the reopening of a school or a power station in Iraq, and defies its citizens not to stand up and cheer. Yet they couldn't even keep one school or power station from being devastated by infrastructure collapse in New Orleans — even though the government had heard all the "chatter" from the scientists and city planners and hurricane centers and some group whose purposes the government couldn't quite discern... a group called The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

And most chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection — or at least amelioration — against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological.

It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.

Mr. Bush has now twice insisted that, "we are not satisfied," with the response to the manifold tragedies along the Gulf Coast. I wonder which "we" he thinks he's speaking for on this point. Perhaps it's the administration, although we still don't know where some of them are. Anybody seen the Vice President lately? The man whose message this time last year was, 'I'll Protect You, The Other Guy Will Let You Die'?

I don't know which 'we' Mr. Bush meant.

For many of this country's citizens, the mantra has been — as we were taught in Social Studies it should always be — whether or not I voted for this President — he is still my President. I suspect anybody who had to give him that benefit of the doubt stopped doing so last week. I suspect a lot of his supporters, looking ahead to '08, are wondering how they can distance themselves from the two words which will define his government — our government — "New Orleans."

For him, it is a shame — in all senses of the word. A few changes of pronouns in there, and he might not have looked so much like a 21st Century Marie Antoinette. All that was needed was just a quick "I'm not satisfied with my government's response." Instead of hiding behind phrases like "no one could have foreseen," had he only remembered Winston Churchill's quote from the 1930's. "The responsibility," of government, Churchill told the British Parliament "for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is in fact, the prime object for which governments come into existence."

In forgetting that, the current administration did not merely damage itself — it damaged our confidence in our ability to rely on whoever is in the White House.

As we emphasized to you here all last week, the realities of the region are such that New Orleans is going to be largely uninhabitable for a lot longer than anybody is yet willing to recognize. Lord knows when the last body will be found, or the last artifact of the levee break, dug up. Could be next March. Could be 2100. By then, in the muck and toxic mire of New Orleans, they may even find our government's credibility.

Somewhere, in the City of Louisiana.

Hard Labor Day

Here are links to three articles to read and contemplate (hope the sun in shining as it is here, even in the blighted Gulf Coast - Arianna referred her readers to Instapundit for a bunch of other links where they can go to give help...fortunately, no shortages in that area, and I'll put aside my differences with Glenn Reynolds and his crew if it means lending a helping hand):

1) Lee Drutman reviews a new book on Wal-Mart that is surprisingly even handed and looks the problem square in the face as far as I'm concerned.

2) Stanley Aronowitz takes a look at the AFL-CIO split (I'll dig deeper into that later).

3) (added 9/6) Molly Ivins provides some excellent, though sadly accurate, analysis.

One more thing...I haven't forgotten about the wrapup for this week's "Real Time With Bill Maher" episode. It's on the way.

Unconfirmed, But Presiding Over All?

Uh, I'm no scholar in the process of confirming a Supreme Court judge, but doesn't this person have to be already sitting on the bench before he/she is named to be in charge?

Well, I hope this makes Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor happy (I guess O'Connor doesn't care at this point, though), because their perverse ruling (along with the late but not lamented - by me, anyway - Rehnquist) in Bush vs. Gore 2000 enabled the empty-suit-in-chief to take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I guess they were expecting Dubya to "scratch their back"...

(For the information of this "gang of four," I just did a Google search on "George W. Bush" and "Bait and Switch" and came back with 96,500 hits. There's a message there.)

George W. Bush isn't just egotistical beyond belief and totally ignorant of the workings of our government. He's certifiably nuts.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Eye Of Another Storm

As far as Trudy Rubin's excellent column is concerned, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich can both take a long walk off a short pier (never thought I'd say that about Giuliani after 9/11, but he's shown himself to be a shameless opportunist unfortunately), but otherwise, this is definitely food for thought.

There's something ghoulishly fitting about talking by phone to Baghdad while watching the chaos in New Orleans.

In my ear I'm hearing about the absence of electricity or water in 120-degree heat and daily shooting in Baghdad's streets. On CNN, a doctor from New Orleans' Charity Hospital is relating how nurses are giving each other IVs so they can keep working because there's no more water or food. Meanwhile, there's gunfire in the hospital's garage.

How is it possible that Americans have been watching victims of Hurricane Katrina clinging to rooftops for days? How is it possible that we watched, like helpless voyeurs, as mothers and babies roasted in the Superdome without food or water - while women were reportedly raped in the restrooms?

Do we not live in the richest country on earth? How dare anyone claim that it is "playing politics" to ask why officials weren't prepared to cope with this hurricane.

The Baghdad and New Orleans debacles lay bare the dangerous American aversion to long-term planning. Lack of planning for the postwar gave us the current mess in Iraq. Lack of preparedness for a New Orleans flood produced a disaster that makes America look like a Third World country. Offers of help are pouring in from around the world as if we were Bangladeshis; even Cuba offered more than 1,000 doctors.

Who can believe, after the New Orleans fiasco, that the Bush administration is prepared to handle another terrorist outrage? As former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich asked bluntly on Friday: "If we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf [of Mexico] for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?"

There were plenty of predictions about a catastrophe in New Orleans (just as there were plenty of warnings about violence in postwar Iraq). In 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked a hurricane strike in New Orleans among the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America. In July 2004, federal, state and local officials carried out a drill, called Hurricane Pam, that predicted 10 to 15 feet of water covering much of the city and evacuation of one million people.

Many studies predicted that the levees might be breached by a hurricane; the New Orleans Times-Picayune did an award-winning series three years ago called "Washing Away." But federal officials were never willing to spend the money to fix the problem.

The Bush White House axed funding requests from the Army Corps of Engineers to improve the levees. It lobbied against plans to rebuild coastlines and wetlands that serve as buffers against hurricanes.

A former Republican congressman and assistant secretary of the Army named Michael Parker told the Washington Post that the governnment resisted long-term investment in projects like flood control. Parker was fired by the Bush White House after accusing it of shortchanging the Corps of Engineers.

Parker nailed the problem. Federal flood-control projects offer protection against future dangers but provide no political gains in the short term. Especially if the money would be spent on New Orleans, where the population is largely poor and black.

Such projects aren't attractive to an administration that wants to "starve the beast," i.e., shrink federal government. Flood control costs big bucks at a time when the administration prefers to cut taxes for the rich.

In a sane world, the New Orleans tragedy would sound a wake-up call. The failure of national planning has shocked the world as well as American citizens. It has raised questions about America's internal strength. Osama bin Laden must be chuckling; one Kuwaiti newspaper published an article by a religious official praising Hurricane Katrina as a "wind of torment" sent to punish the American empire.

In a sane world, the White House would rethink its aversion to rebuilding America's infrastructure. It would finally provide adequate funds to secure America's ports, railroads and chemical plants.

It would rethink its method of organizing for natural disasters. It would rethink the doctrine of "regime change" - which has strained the military and National Guard. It would reconsider tax cuts that will strap the country in its rebuilding effort.

And the White House would appoint former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to head up disaster relief for New Orleans and the South. This was Newt Gingrich's excellent suggestion. He knows Giuliani could rally the country for a massive reconstruction effort in a way the President has failed to do during these crucial days.

That would be the first sign of a long-term plan by an administration whose planning failures have disgraced our country.

Who'd have imagined a situation where Castro would be offering charity to the suffering people of New Orleans?