Monthly Archives: September 2005

Constance Baker Motley, 1921-2005

MotleyFrom the NY Times:

Constance Baker Motley, a civil rights lawyer who fought nearly every important civil rights case for two decades and then became the first black woman to serve as a federal judge, died yesterday at NYU Downtown Hospital in Manhattan. She was 84.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said Isolde Motley, her daughter-in-law.

Judge Motley was the first black woman to serve in the New York State Senate, as well as the first woman to be Manhattan borough president, a position that guaranteed her a voice in running the entire city under an earlier system of local government called the Board of Estimate.

Judge Motley was at the center of the firestorm that raged through the South in the two decades after World War II, as blacks and their white allies pressed to end the segregation that had gripped the region since Reconstruction. She visited the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in jail, sang freedom songs in churches that had been bombed, and spent a night under armed guard with Medgar Evers, the civil rights leader who was later murdered.

But her métier was in the quieter, painstaking preparation and presentation of lawsuits that paved the way to fuller societal participation by blacks. She dressed elegantly, spoke in a low, lilting voice and, in case after case, earned a reputation as the chief courtroom tactician of the civil rights movement.

Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama and other staunch segregationists yielded, kicking and screaming, to the verdicts of courts ruling against racial segregation. These huge victories were led by the N.A.A.C.P.’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, led by Thurgood Marshall, for which Judge Motley, Jack Greenberg, Robert Carter and a handful of other underpaid, overworked lawyers labored.

In particular, she directed the legal campaign that resulted in the admission of James H. Meredith to the University of Mississippi in 1962. She argued 10 cases before the United States Supreme Court and won nine of them.

Judge Motley won cases that ended segregation in Memphis restaurants and at whites-only lunch counters in Birmingham, Ala. She fought for King’s right to march in Albany, Ga. She played an important role in representing blacks seeking admission to the Universities of Florida, Georgia Alabama and Mississippi and Clemson College in South Carolina.

I gave an oral argument before her once, and I saw her lecture several times.  One hell of an interesting lady.

Freedom Haters Succeed In Yanking Plans For Freedom Museum

The hysterical moonbats won one:

Governor George Pataki said today he will direct development officials to drop plans for a museum of freedom at the World Trade Center site, saying it has stirred “too much opposition, too much controversy.”

The International Freedom Center would have been put in a cultural center adjacent to a memorial for the Sept. 11 victims, and was part of the master plan for redeveloping the devastated 16-acre site of the nation’s worst terrorist attack.

In the last several months, some victims’ families, groups of firefighters and police officers and public officials said the center, which would feature historical exhibits expressing the worldwide struggle for freedom, would detract from the Sept. 11 themes and provide a possible forum for anti-U.S. messages.

“Today there remains too much opposition, too much controversy, over the programming of the IFC and we must move forward with our first priority, the creation of an inspiring memorial to pay tribute to our lost loved ones and tell their stories to the world,” Pataki said in a prepared statement.

“I am directing the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. to work with the IFC to explore other locations for the center,” the governor said.

The rightosphere objected to the International Freedom Center, seeing it as unrelated to the events of 9/11.  Ironically, the rightosphere thinks the liberation of Iraq is related to the events of 9/11.  So, go figure.

Delay Indicted

Delay This just in…

WASHINGTON – A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post.

DeLay attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay’s national political committee.

"I have notified the speaker that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader pursuant to rules of the House Republican Conference and the actions of the Travis County district attorney today," DeLay said.

Related:  SEC commences formal investigation of Frist

Not a good day to be a Republican leader.

The “Most Challenged Books” Meme

Via Majikthise

"How many of the American Library Association’s top 100 most frequently challenged books have you read?"

Mmmmm….

3.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

5.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

6.  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

13.  The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

18.  The Color Purple by Alice Walker

41.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

47.  Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

52.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

56.  James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

59.  Ordinary People by Judith Guest

69.  Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

77.  Carrie by Stephen King

84.  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

That makes thirteen . . . not so good.

Don’t Dream It, See It

140_logoplainI generally don’t write about local events, but my weblog stat counter thingee informs me that I am averaging a couple hundred hits a day now, and many of you are from the Triad region.   So to anyone within driving distance of Winston-Salem, have I got a show for you to see.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the cult film "The Rocky Horror Picture Show".  Yup, thirty years.  Feel old?   I do (and not just because my birthday is Tuesday).   Yes, I was one of those people who went to the occasional midnight showings of "Rocky Horror" in Boston or New York in the 1980s.  (The film, in fact, practically invented the concept of the midnight showing, not to mention "goth" fashion).  Usually my Rocky Horror movie-going was a spontaneous outting with theater friends — something to do post-rehearsal and under the influence of less-than-legal mind-altering substances.

Thumb_rockyhorrorlipsSo I was extremely pleased and a little nostalgic when my theater group announced that it was mounting a production of "The Rocky Horror Show" (the stage musical on which the movie is based).  I opted not to audition — I was musical-ed out at the time (and singing/dancing isn’t my strongest suit) — and I almost instantly had regrets for that decision.

The saving grace was that I actually got to see the production Saturday night at a one-time-only midnight performance.  And seeing a stage version of "Rocky Horror" is pretty damn close to being a part of the production, what with the audience participation and all.  And man, was it fun!  Even without less-than-legal mind-altering substances.

Republicans Screw The Pooch

This news as huge ramifications for the upcoming elections.  From Political Wire:

As the 2006 midterm election season approaches, Political Wire has seen a copy of a new Winston Group (R) poll that shows Americans turning away from the Republican party. (There’s no link yet on the firm’s website.)

Those surveyed had less confidence in Republicans to handle a wide range of issues, including education, Social Security, health care, jobs and energy prices. Democrats beat Republicans by at least 9 percentage points in each category. In addition, Democrats were also viewed as better able to handle war in Iraq and the economy.

In fact, the only bad news for Democrats is that they are viewed as overly partisan. In particular, Democrats were seen as more likely to instigate partisan attacks over two recent issues in the news — the federal government’s hurricane response and the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.

Post Of The Day

From The Talent Show:

I gotta say, the federal, state, and local authorities did a fantastic job in responding to Hurricane Rita. It’s almost as if they were trying to make up for something. It’s funny how a "trial run" like the complete destruction of a major American city can motivate people. I just wish every major disaster was immediately preceded by one that’s nearly identical in its details, but much, much worse in its impact.  Wait, that came out wrong….

Eye On Dover

Zap360_2Intelligent Design in schools comes to the courtroom.  Keep an eye on this case.  The New York Times sets the stage:

DOVER, Pa., Sept. 23 – Sheree Hied, a mother of five who believes that God created the earth and its creatures, was grateful when her school board here voted last year to require high school biology classes to hear about "alternatives" to evolution, including the theory known as intelligent design.

But 11 other parents in Dover were outraged enough to sue the school board and the district, contending that intelligent design – the idea that living organisms are so inexplicably complex, the best explanation is that a higher being designed them – is a Trojan horse for religion in the public schools.

With the new political empowerment of religious conservatives, challenges to evolution are popping up with greater frequency in schools, courts and legislatures. But the Dover case, which begins Monday in Federal District Court in Harrisburg, is the first direct challenge to a school district that has tried to mandate the teaching of intelligent design.

What happens here could influence communities across the country that are considering whether to teach intelligent design in the public schools, and the case, regardless of the verdict, could end up before the Supreme Court.

***

For Mrs. Hied, a meter reader, and her husband, Michael, an office manager for a local bus and transport company, the Dover school board’s argument – that teaching intelligent design is a free-speech issue – has a strong appeal.

"I think we as Americans, regardless of our beliefs, should be able to freely access information, because people fought and died for our freedoms," Mrs. Hied said over a family dinner last week at their home, where the front door is decorated with a small bell and a plaque proclaiming, "Let Freedom Ring."

What Mrs. Hied doesn’t know is that the government does not have a "right to free speech".  And when you are talking about public school curriculums, that’s "the government", baby.  There’s also this little thing called "separation of church and state".

But more importantly, there’s also this thing called "science":

But in a split-level house on the other side of Main Street, at a desk flanked by his university diplomas, Steven Stough was on the Internet late the other night, keeping track of every legal maneuver in the case. Mr. Stough, who teaches life science to seventh graders in a nearby district, is one of the 11 parents suing the Dover district. For him the notion of teaching "alternatives" to evolution is a hoax.

"You can dress up intelligent design and make it look like science, but it just doesn’t pass muster," said Mr. Stough, a Republican whose idea of a fun family vacation is visiting fossil beds and natural history museums. "In science class, you don’t say to the students, ‘Is there gravity, or do you think we have rubber bands on our feet?’

Anyway, Dover is where the first legal battle line is being drawn.

Monday Morning Fast Facts

Sep24_wagepeacecrowdcrowd_092405* Number attending this weekend’s anti-war rally in Washington D.C.:  150,000 estimated (Photo at right from Bradblog)

* Number attending this weekend’s pro-war counter rally in Washington, D.C.:  400 (although wingers were expecting 20,000)

* Recommended reading: Time Magazine’s "How Many More Mike Browns Are Out There?":

A TIME inquiry finds that at top positions in some vital government agencies, the Bush Administration is putting connections before experience.

* If conservatives think the war in Iraq is vital to our national security, how do they explain this:

Bush plea for cash to rebuild Iraq raises $600

An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600 (£337), The Observer has learnt. Yet since the appeal was launched earlier this month, donations to rebuild New Orleans have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars.

The public’s reluctance to contribute much more than the cost of two iPods to the administration’s attempt to offer citizens ‘a further stake in building a free and prosperous Iraq’ has been seized on by critics as evidence of growing ambivalence over that country.

1_21_tillman_pat* Remember Pat Tillman?  He was the NFL player who gave up a multi-million dollar contract to fight in Iraq.  When he was killed in April 2004, he became a darling of the right wing.  Here’s what Captain’s Quarters wrote in "Pat Tillman, American Patriot, KIA":

In a society sometimes dominated by loudmouthed, preening, self-involved individuals, Tillman stood out for his refusal to think only of himself. Tillman was no one’s fool, either; he graduated early from Arizona State with a degree in marketing and a 3.84 GPA, and conducted himself with both intelligence and honor in his career and personal life. At one point, Tillman turned down an opportunity to make more money with another team because he felt loyalty to the Cardinals, who had given him his chance to play even though he was undersized for his position.

In the intervening months, it was learned that Tillman was killed by friendly fire, taking off some of the sheen for his famous-in-death self-sacrifice.  Now, it turns out, he apparently wasn’t all that was anti-Bush and anti-IraqWar:

Interviews also show a side of Pat Tillman not widely known — a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty.

Desert Fox

Remember this story?

Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Thursday the city would not accept a $10 million donation for disaster relief from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal after the prince suggested U.S. policies in the Middle East contributed to the September 11 attacks.

"I entirely reject that statement," Giuliani said. "There is no moral equivalent for this [terrorist] act. There is no justification for it. The people who did it lost any right to ask for justification for it when they slaughtered 4,000 or 5,000 innocent people."

Well, Prince Alwaleed bin Talel is back in the news:

Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal has purchased 5.46 percent of the Fox corporation, according to Gulf Daily News, raising concern that the conservative Fox News may soften its anti-terror stance due to the views of the new shareholder.

So far, the Fox followers are silent.

NotKatrina Ruins Bush Photo-op

Bush was hoping to show the nation that he learned something from his pathetic non-response to Katrina.  So he was all set to go to Texas.  One problem, though.  The weather was too nice.

President Bush was supposed to land here on Friday afternoon on the first stop of a tour intended to make clear that he was personally overseeing the federal government’s preparations for Hurricane Rita’s landfall. But the weather did not cooperate.

It was too sunny.

Just minutes before Mr. Bush was scheduled to leave the White House, his aides in Washington scrubbed the stop in San Antonio. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, explained that the search-and-rescue team that Mr. Bush had planned to meet and thank here in San Antonio was actually packing up to move closer to where the hurricane would strike.

***

Another White House official involved in preparing Mr. Bush’s way noted that with the sun shining so brightly in San Antonio, the images of Mr. Bush from here might not have made it clear to viewers that he was dealing with an approaching storm.

Hey Big Spender!

Bigspender Conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute did a study on the budgets of the last 9 administrations (LBJ to present) and wrote an article proclaiming "President Reagan, Champion Budget-Cutter".

"Yea!  Reagan!  He was soooo good!"  You get the idea.

Sadly, the AEI buried the lede.  You have to go to the bottom of the article to find out who was the biggest spender since LBJ.  Here’s the graphic for Change in Real Spending for Each Presidential Term since LBJ:

20040609_table1_350

Okay.  So the next time some neo-con Bush supporter says that Bush had to run a huge deficit because he was fighting a war, please direct him to the above chart.  Specifically, the column marked non-defense discretionary.  Then, when they get that dog-hearing-a-high-pitched-whistle look, explain to them what non-defense discretionary is.

You also might want to show them this:

20040609_table2

There you go.  Bush 43 — drunk on spending and booze.

Dr. Dobson On Beating Teens

Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson longs for the good old days:

When I was a kid, it was easier for parents to keep their children in line. They didn’t have to depend as much on closeness and communication.

Yeah.  Fuck "closeness and communication".  When I have kids, I’m never going to speak with them, or even allow them in my presence.

Parents could control and protect their kids, more or less, by the imposition of rules and the isolation of their circumstances.

Shoving them into closets and car trunks works wonders, I hear.

Farmer John could take his sassy son out to the back forty acres and get his mind straight.

Farm tools — good for working the land and working over your kid!

Just the threat of that happening was enough to keep most teens from going off the deep end.

Yup.  Keeps your kids in line so they can grow up and beat their wives and kids, too.

“Sweet Jesus, There’s Always A Tape”*

* Spoken by a Washington Post reporter in the film "Courage Under Fire"

And so there is with Katrina.  NPR got a hold of several taped conference calls between local, state, and federal authorities to discuss emergency plans, evacuations, supplies, coordination, etc.  You should listen to them.

Shakespeare’s Sister describes one such conference call, the last call before Katrina hit:

Jeff Smith, the [federal] deputy director of Louisiana’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness . . . tells them to request everything they need on some computer program designed for that purpose, and they’ll get it. The next call doesn’t happen until Sept. 9, and when [Jefferson Parish Emergency Manager] Maestri asks where the FEMA generator packs they were promised are, Smith tells him “that’s a good question,” and when Maestri then angrily complains about how FEMA ballyhooed during planning exercises that they would be ready in a moment’s notice but “now that we’re on our knees” they’re nowhere to be found, Smith assures him “there will be time for that kind of rhetoric later.” It’s really unbelievable.

The Liberal Avenger Must Be Stopped

Comrades, I regretfully inform you that one of our brothers-in-revolution is divulging secret communiques from the Central Committee.  If you see him at this weekend’s Lenin-palooza, eliminate him at once, without prejudice.  It is your duty to the Motherland.

UPDATE:  I want to write about this a little more.

The underlying message from the rightosphere (as Liberal Avenger points out) is this: "People who demonstrate against the war are either (a) commies; or (b) dupes of commies".  It’s basically the same meme trotted out almost 40 years ago, and it is just as silly now.  More silly, in fact, because communism pretty much died some, oh, fifteen years ago.

But here is my prediction.  On Monday, on some right wingnut blog, someone will post pictures of the American Communist Party handing out leaflets at the anti-war demonstration.  Or something along those lines.  The implicit (if not explicit message) is that anti-war people are in tacit cahoots with communists; therefore, their opinions should be taken with a grain of salt.

To demonstrate, let’s take a look at what Captain Ed wrote:

That doesn’t mean that everyone who attends these rallies lacks sincerity in the message. It should warn them, though, that continued association with such groups will eventually destroy their credibility.

Ever hear of a logical fallacy known as "guilt by association"?  That’s exactly what Captain Ed is employing.  Oddly enough, in his post, he quotes from the Washington Times, which is operated by Reverand Moon, who — aside from being a six-time felon — and a buddy to North Korea’s Kim Jung Il — thinks that Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves because they haven’t repented for killing Jesus.

So Captain, maybe you should check out your bedfellows.

Anyway, I don’t doubt that communists are against the War in Iraq.  So is David Duke.  And so are literally millions and millions of people — of all political stripes — in between.  Trying to "swiftboat" all of them as fringe simply does not pass the laugh test.

Captain, wake up.  The people who oppose this war — including a significant percentage of Republicans and a majority of Independents — are NOT the fringe.  It is a broad coalition — so broad, in fact, that I suspect many of them disagree in their fundamental political philosophies.   Thankfully, those disagreements are irrelevant; it is an anti-war protest — not a pro-A.N.S.W.E.R. rally, or a pro-whatever rally.  The people who attend, whether they are affiliated with a group or not (and I suspect most of them won’t be), are there for one thing only: to show their disapproval a war that was, and is, folly.

So try as you might, Captain, you cannot marginalize the majority of American people with smears and generalized labels.  YOU are in the margin, Captain, and if you care to venture outside of your echo chamber and go to Washington (leave your blinders at home, please), you’ll see for yourself.  Asshole.  And fuck you too, Glenn "Spinning the Protests" Reynolds.

Friday’s Random “Titles I Made Up For The Paintings They Just Hung On My Floor At Work”

  1. "A House, And It’s Snowing"
  2. "Autumn"
  3. "Country Boy Standing In A Swamp For Some Reason"
  4. "A Bunch Of Seashells In Front Of A Couple Of Windows"
  5. "Strange Lady (Badly In Need Of A Hairdresser) On Her Porch"
  6. "Another House – Gee, That’s Original"
  7. "Abandoned Boats"
  8. "A French Fop, A Lady From the Folies Bergere, And Spilled Paint"
  9. "Poster From What Was Probably A Really Bad 1980 Art Exposition"
  10. "Shit And Mud Collage #4"
  11. "Yet Another Trippy Sunset"
  12. "Not Leroy Neiman’s Best"
  13. "Painting That Is Part Of A Set #1"
  14. "Painting That Is Part Of A Set #2"
  15. "What The Fuck?!?  Somebody Paid Money For This?!?"
  16. "Sailboats, I Guess"
  17. "American Gothic, Except With Frogs"

Beginning Of The End For Frist

The story has legs:

WASHINGTON – When Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist asked a trustee to sell all his stock in his family’s hospital corporation, a large-scale sell-off by HCA Inc. insiders was under way.

Shares of the Nashville, Tenn.-based hospital company were near a 52-week peak in June when Frist and HCA insiders were selling off their shares — just about a month before the price dropped.

Information about the insiders’ moves was publicly available through disclosures required by the Security and Exchange Commission

About 2.3 million shares, worth about $112 million, were sold by HCA insiders from January through June, with sales getting larger as the spring wore on, said Mark LoPresti of Thomson Financial. In May and June, 770,629 shares were sold for total gains of $42 million, he said.

The sales, which included moves by Hospital Corporation of America’s chief executive, treasurer, senior vice president for government programs and several directors, were among the largest insider selloffs analysts had seen, LoPresti said. Many officers made their largest trades ever in April, only to top them again in May and June, LoPresti said.

Meanwhile, HCA shares continued a steep climb that would ultimately take the price up 56 percent from October 2004 to July 2005, peaking in late June, LoPresti said.

But insider selling is sometimes seen a sign of looming trouble. Uninsured patient admissions were rising faster than those of insured patients, federal reimbursements were declining in real terms and payments did not keep up with cost increases. LoPresti himself discussed the insiders’ moves on an April 11 broadcast on the cable channel CNBC.

Blog Meme Of The Week

I saw this at The Talent Show:

Rules:

1. Go into your archive.

2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).

3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).

4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

Okay.

My result (from a post dated February 12, 2004):

"Maybe something to do with ‘same sex marriages’ or Massachusetts or something."

Geez.  Nice sentence fragment. 

It was a silly post have to do with Mattel’s announcement that Barbie & Ken (you know, the dolls) were "breaking up", and my (failed) quest to find the punchline for that story.

Amazing Video Breakthrough

Playdoh I’m not making this up:

Analog control of digital devices and media has always appealed to me. Like the controllers for a PS2, they allow degrees of fuzziness in a world made of very strict ones and zeroes. Life is not black and white, so for deeper interactive experiences we need to look at control devices that allow our analog thinking brains to influence and control this digital world.

Play-Doh is a fantastic analog material. It’s the total opposite of the ones and zeroes paradigm. So I took the idea of exploring Play-Doh as a fuzzy interface, looking at various ways to use this tactial, fun “interface” and use it to control digital media. [T]he amount of Play-Doh on screen dictates how fast the film plays.

As I twist the Play-Doh and take bits away, the film reacts accordingly in real-time. Add too much Play-Doh and the film rapidly speeds up. An intimate connection is made between the user and the media. Every action has a reaction in the digital space. No scary buttons to press. No instructions to read. It’s just Play-Doh.

Call me old-fashioned, but when I want to speed up the video, I use the remote.

Attention, “Family Values” People!

See how much your President believes in holding up "family values".  Check this out:

President Bush decided Wednesday to waive any financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Washington’s closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism, for failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers.

In June, the State Department listed 14 countries as failing to adequately address trafficking problems, subjecting them all to possible sanctions if they did not crack down.

Of those 14, Bush concluded that Bolivia, Jamaica, Qatar, Sudan, Togo and the United Arab Emirates had made enough improvements to avoid any cut in U.S. aid or, in the case of countries that get no American financial assistance, the barring of their officials from cultural and educational events, said Darla Jordan, a State Department spokeswoman.

Cambodia and Venezuela were not considered to have made similar adequate improvements. But Bush cleared them nonetheless to receive limited assistance, for such things as combatting trafficking.

***

In addition to Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Kuwait — another U.S. ally in the Middle East — were given a complete pass on any sanctions, Jordan said. Despite periodic differences, oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United States have a tight alliance built on economic and military cooperation.

Gee, I wonder if that last bit has anything to do with it.

Yes, We Can Blame Global Warming

3hurricanes_1Yesterday, I blogged about this stupid quote from Jonah Goldberg:

If global warming explained the current spate of big hurricanes, there would be more in the South Pacific and elsewhere. It’s my understanding there haven’t been.

Jonah’s "understanding" notwithstanding, there’s always this, from the latest issue of Science:

We conclude that global data indicate a 30-year trend toward more frequent and intense hurricanes, corroborated by the results of the recent regional assessment. This trend is not inconsistent with recent climate model simulations that a doubling of CO2 may increase the frequency of the most intense cyclones, although attribution of the 30-year trends to global warming would require a longer global data record and, especially, a deeper understanding of the role of hurricanes in the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, even in the present climate state.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE:  Or, if you eschew scientific mumbo-jumbo, there’s this:

Around the world, powerful hurricanes – rated Category 4 or 5 – have become more frequent compared with 30 years ago. Coastal communities can expect more of the same, researchers say, for a variety of reasons that may eventually include global warming.

Two studies by researchers in the past two months, using slightly different approaches, have reported a noticeable increase in storm strength and in the share of strong storms a season experiences.

Editorials We Stopped Reading After The First Paragraph

From our dear friend Kaye Grogan:

Sooner or later people need to realize if they keep building homes in high risk areas, they are not putting too much value on their lives or the lives of their families. Yes, hurricanes and tornadoes hit urban and rural areas as well, but not on the same level and magnitude as coastal areas.

Well, yes, Kaye.  it is true that hurricanes tend to hit coastal areas, rather than inland areas.  I can’t deny that.   Touche.

But as for tornadoes . . . um, Kaye?

Avgtpsm_1

Source.

Not-So-Lovely Rita

Looks like this is going to be an interesting blog for the next few days:

Editor’s note [Houston Chronicle]: Welcome to our experiment in citizen journalism. The bloggers who are posting here live in various parts of the city, and they will be posting their experiences as Hurricane Rita approaches and moves through the area. Bloggers here are posting on their own and are solely responsible for the content of their blogs.

There’s already some interesting posts and photos.

UPDATE:  Yes, I know the title for my post is unclever and predictable.

How Government Does Biz

I really liked what Robert Reich (Secretary of Labor under President Clinton) said yesterday on NPR’s Marketplace.  You should really give it a listen here.

But since you won’t, let me restate his commentary in my own words.

Why are prices so cheap at Walmart?  As most people know, it is because Walmart is so honkin’ huge, that it can demand lower prices on goods and services from its suppliers.  These savings are then passed on to us, the consumers.  That’s the free market at work, baby, and it’s pretty easy to grasp.

But consider this.  The United States federal government is bigger than Walmart.  Waaay bigger.  Federal government spending accounts for one-fourth of the GNP.  So you would think that, like Walmart, the U.S. Government would be able to have considerable clout in getting great deals from the companies that supply goods and services.

So why doesn’t it?  Why doesn’t it require companies to compete for lucrative contracts to clean up Katrina and rebuild New Orleans?  Why, instead, does it simply give no-bid contracts to companies like Halliburton, and allow these companies to pay their employees sub-standard wages (by suspending the Davis-Bacon Act?)

You already know the answer to these questions.  Admit it.  Do I need to go on?

Bush To Bestow Honor On Cindy Sheehan

This is, uh, interesting.  Keep in mind as you read, that on the weekend of September 24-25, there will be a huge anti-war rally in Washington, D.C., in which Gold Star Mom Cindy Sheehan will play a vital role.

America’s Gold Star Mothers carry a great burden of grief,  yet they show a tremendous spirit of generosity in helping their fellow citizens.  With kindness and understanding, they support members of our Armed Forces and their families, provide vital services to veterans, help to educate young people about good citizenship and our Nation’s founding ideals, and bring comfort to many in need.  We commend these proud women for their compassion, commitment, and patriotism, and our Nation will always honor them for their sacrifice and service.   

The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 115 of June 23, 1936 (49 Stat. 1895 as amended), has designated the last Sunday in September as "Gold Star Mother’s Day" and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in its observance.  On this day, we express our deep gratitude to our Nation’s Gold Star Mothers, and we ask God’s blessings on them and on their families.   

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Sunday, September 25, 2005, as Gold Star Mother’s Day.  I call upon all Government officials to display the flag of the United States over Government buildings on this solemn day.  I also encourage the American people to display the flag and hold appropriate ceremonies as a public expression of our Nation’s sympathy and respect for our Gold Star Mothers.

From Tapped, who adds the following:

[I]f Bush meets with any Gold Star mothers on Sunday and not Sheehan, it will be perceived as a snub to a whole subset of Gold Star moms (those who oppose the war), and certainly that can’t be the message the president wants to send on the day he’s asked people to honor them.

Related: Donahue vs. O’Reilly.

Bush Hitting The Sauce Again

DrinkupbushSo says The National Enquirer.

Yeah, I know.  The National Enquirer.  So we can assume it’s not true.  Especially when you read sentences like this in the Enquirer article (which itself reads like a really bad Dallas episode):

"When the levees broke in New Orleans, it apparently made him reach for a shot," said one insider. "He poured himself a Texas-sized shot of straight whiskey and tossed it back. The First Lady was shocked and shouted: "Stop George!"

Now, this implies that President Bush was, you know, actually engaged in what was going on in New Orleans.  Clearly, he wasn’t.  Certainly not at the time the levees broke.  So the veracity of the story is dubious.

BoozecrisisOn the other hand, recall that the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal first "broke" in the tabloids — and those turned out to be true.

And Bush certainly has good reason to drink.  He has fewer and fewer friends.

Here’s what Andrew Sullivan has to say:

A sea-change? Dan Drezner, who actually criticized this administration when it could have made a difference (yes, he even endorsed Kerry in frustration at the incompetence of it all), notices a change in right-wing blogs. Check out the comment section. Money quote there:

Funny, these are the same guys who idolized him for the first five years of his presidency. What changed, all of a sudden? Certainly not Bush, he is still acting the same way he has his entire career.

What’s changed is that after five years of presidency, the elections are finally over. It is now safe to criticise Bush, because such criticism can’t possibly matter any more – it can’t affect his reelection chances.

Forgive me if I don’t perceive this as responsible conservatism. Responsibility would have been criticising him before it’s too late to do anything about his weaknesses.

Ahem.

Even Bob Novak can’t deny the "sea change" against Bush:

Longtime participants in Forstmann Little conferences…told me they had not experienced such hostility against a Republican president at previous events. Yet, they were sure a majority of the guests had voted for Bush.

….U.S. News & World Report disclosed this week, with apparent disdain, that presidential adviser Karl Rove took time off from the Katrina relief effort to be at Aspen. He was needed as a counterweight. I settled in for serious fireworks, expecting Bush-bashers to assault his alter ego at the conference’s final session. However, direct confrontation with a senior aide must have been more difficult than a remote attack on the president. It would be a shame if Rove returned to Washington without informing George W. Bush how erstwhile friends have turned against him.

So it’s not too surprising that Bush might be turning to old reliable friends.  In this case, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam.

“Potentially Catastrophic”

Those are the words being used to describe Rita, the "monster" Category 5 hurricane heading toward Texas.

Of course, it also applies to this situation:

American League
Eastern Division W L Pct GB Home Road Streak
New York 88 63 .583 50-27 38-36 Won 3
Boston 88 64 .579 0.5 50-24 38-40 Lost 1
Toronto 74 77 .490 14.0 40-37 34-40 Lost 1
Baltimore 70 81 .464 18.0 35-39 35-42 Lost 4
Tampa Bay 64 89 .418 25.0 40-38 24-51 Won 1

Useful Database

Phone_jail_300 Tired of being caught up in a big company’s automated recorded voicemail (also known as "voice-jail")?  Want to speak to an actual human being?

If so, then check out this online database.  It shows you the phone "shortcut" so you don’t have to listen to all of the ridiculous menu options.  Some examples:

Astoria Federal Savings — 800-ASTORIA — When you hear the womans voice press zero. Will transfer right away to a human.

Bank of America — 800-900-9000 — Hit zero twice, after menu choices play

Bank One — 877-226-5663 — Press 0 thru the options to get a live person

Chase — 800-CHASE24 — Hit five, pause, then hit one, four, star, zero

CIBC — 800-465-2422 — Enter card# and pin, then press 0

CitiBank — 800-374-9700 — Zero

Ann Coulter Stew

I honestly think she has lost her mind now.

Today, Ann takes a bunch of key words and topics of the day, throws them into a large bowl, stirs them up with her bony man-hands, and produces an absolutely incomprehensible editorial on a topic which still eludes me, although I’m pretty sure it is intended to be some sort of liberal-bashing.

Let’s see how many times she mixes and matches topics that have absolutely nothing to do with each other.  First, the title:

ACTUALLY, ‘JUDICIAL ACTIVISM’ MEANS ‘E=mc2’

Okay.  That’s one.  I guess this opinion piece is going to have something to do with judges, or Einstein.  Or both.  Let’s venture further.

Democrats are so excited about Hurricane Katrina, they’re thinking of moving "Camp Casey" to an area outside the National Weather Service.

That’s two.  Even assuming I knew what the subject matter of her editorial was, I still don’t know what this means.  What does Hurricance Katrina have to do with Cindy Sheehan?

What they haven’t figured out yet is how Richard Perle and the "neocons" cooked up a hurricane that targeted only black people.

That’s three.  In only three sentences.

So, what have we learned so far?  Democrats are so excited about a hurricane cooked up by neocons, that we want to move Cindy Sheehan’s protest to the National Weather Service . . . and this has something to do with judicial activism and the Theory of Relativity.

How Stupid Is Jonah Goldberg?

Answer: Pretty stupid.

The issue is whether or not global warming is leading to increases in ocean temperatures, which leads to more ferocious hurricanes. 

I acknowledge that the scientific jury is still out on this issue, but Jonah’s explanation why it is not so is — well — stupid.  Pointing to this NOAA chart, he writes:

We are almost done with 2005. The average number of major (cat 3, 4 or 5) hurricane strikes on the US per decade is 6. There were 10 during the 1940s.

And by gosh, he’s right.  If you look at the NOAA chart, the number of Category 3, 4, or 5 hurricanes from 1941-1950 is indeed listed as 10.  And the average per decade is listed as 6.

A couple of problems, though. 

First of all, the chart shows only hurricanes to strike the U.S. mainland!  A category 5 hurricane which weakens to a Category 2 hurricane by the time it hits the U.S. mainland gets listed as a Category 2, not a Category 5.  And a Category 5 hurricane that hits Mexico mainland, doesn’t get listed at all!

In fact, "hurricanes to strike the U.S. mainland" is a bad indicator of the overall the quantity and ferocity of hurricanes worldwide.  It’s like me saying, "There were fewer car accidents at the corner of Main and First Street this year, therefore, traffic accidents citywide are decreasing in number."

Jonah tacitly acknowledges this problem, when he writes:

If global warming explained the current spate of big hurricanes, there would be more in the South Pacific and elsewhere. It’s my understanding there haven’t been.

Wow.  It’s his "understanding".  Thanks for the factual support.

Secondly, the chart shows that there were three Cat 3/4/5 hurricanes from 2001-2004.  So obviously, it does not include Katrina or Rita (FLASH UPDATE:  Hurricane Rita is now a Category 5 hurricane).  So, if the "average per decade is 6", we have already reached 5 in this decade, which is only half over!  In other words, his "chart" (even assuming the data was relevant to worldwide hurricanes) shows that this is one of the worst decades for serious hurricanes in recorded history.  How exactly does this disprove  global warming?

UPDATE:  More Jonah stupidity here.

Too Busy To Freak Out About This

One of these days, I’m going to read this wikipedia entry from top to bottom, and browse around the Flu Wiki.  I know nothing about the avian flu, but a lot of people who do know about it think we should all know about it.

This blog is supposed to be pretty good, too.  It keeps an eye out on current developments, like this:

With the deaths of two young girls (ages 2 and 5), the Indonesian alarm bells are ringing more loudly. WaPo reports ten more hospitalized with high fever, bird flu suspected (numbers of hospitalized patients differ in various news reports).

Yeah.  I kind of hear those alarm bells ringing, which prompted this post.

But it’s almost baseball post-season, so . . . you know . . . priorities.

God Sending Us Another Vague Message

Weather_ritaOkay.  So according to some wingnuts, God sent Katrina to destroy that city of sin, New Orleans.  Because God hates women showing their tits.  Or gays.  Or jazz.  Or the Napoleonic Code.  Or streetcars named "Desire".  Or something like that.

So the question du jour is, what is God trying to say with regard to Rita, the Category 4 hurricane bearing down on Bush’s home state?

Just wondering….

I long for the good old days went God talked to the people of Earth by, you know, talking to them in a booming voice from the heavens.  With some noted exceptions (burning bushes, rain of locusts, etc.), God was pretty clear about what He wanted to say to us.

And He even sent his son down here as a messenger, which was rather nice, I thought.  That way, He could speak to us face-to-face about how we should be nice to each other and stuff.  Sadly, many of us didn’t listen, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Now, it seems that God has become a cosmic Will Shortz, sending us cryptic messages through the weather, and ambiguous images of the Virgin Mary on taco shells.  C’mon, God.  Enough with the games.  You got something to say, just say it!

SECOND THOUGHTS:  I’m going to get in trouble for saying this, but if God only communicates through cryptic messages and vague "hints", doesn’t this prove that God is a woman?  I’m just saying’….

John Edwards On “The Working Society”

Sure, it’s political rhetoric, but it’s really good political rhetoric.  John Edwards hits all the right notes:

So many young people are struggling against the odds to do right, and they need America’s support. Words are not enough. That’s why it is time for a new social compact. When President Bush talks about an "ownership society," he means the more you own, the more you get. For most Americans, his approach is the more you work, the more you pay and the less you make.

Where I come from, what matters the most isn’t how much you have, it’s how much you give. Work gives pride, dignity, and hope to our lives and our communities. And so the President is wrong: America is not, and never wished to be, a Wealth Society.

To be true to our values, our country must build a Working Society – an America where everyone who works hard finally has the rewards to show for it. In the Working Society, nobody who works full-time should have to raise children in poverty, or in fear that one health emergency or pink slip will drive them over the cliff.

In the Working Society, everyone who works full-time will at last have something to show for it – a home of their own, an account where their savings and paycheck can grow.

In the Working Society, everyone willing to work will have the chance to get ahead. Anyone who wants to go to college and work will be able to go the first year for free.

In the Working Society, people who work have the right to live in communities where the streets are safe, the schools are good, and jobs can be reached.

In the Working Society, everyone will also be asked to hold up their end of the bargain – to work, to hold off having kids until they’re ready, and to do their part for their kids when the time comes.

The first test of the working society will be in the Gulf. And the central principle of our effort should be the one I just outlined: We can only renew the Gulf if we renew the lives of the Gulf’s people by encouraging and honoring work.

The President doesn’t get that. At a time when a million people have been displaced, many already poor before the storm; when the only shot many people have is a good job rebuilding New Orleans, the President intervened to suspend prevailing wage laws so his contractor friends can cut wages for a hard day’s work.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the President never suggested cutting million-dollar salaries for the heads of Halliburton or the other companies profiting from these contracts. A President who never met an earmark he wouldn’t approve or a millionaire tax cut he wouldn’t promote decided to slash wages for the least of us.

Seventy-five years ago, our government was led by a President who actually succeeded in navigating America through a disaster. Faced with the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt saw that relief requires more than food and shelter; it requires the dignity that comes from a job at a decent wage. And he saw something else: as Allida Black put it at a forum here last week, we have to "build to last."

Many of our children still go to schools that the WPA constructed; many of our homes are lighted because of dams that the PWA built; many of our families still hike on trails that his CCC blazed. That’s why trailer parks are not the answer.

In fact, if we know anything from a half century of urban development, it is that concentrating poor people close to each other and away from jobs is a lousy idea. If the Great Depression brought forth Hoovervilles, these trailer towns may someday be known as Bushvilles.

UPDATE:  Ezra Klein likes it even more than me: "So what say you, John? Ready to be right on everything?"

Quote Of The Day

"I guess this means we’ve won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

— Anonymous FBI agent, on the news that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is making the "war on porn" one of this nation’s "top priorities".

Dealing With North Korea

SynpIt has not escaped me that North Korea is coming to the table, offering to give up its nuclear program.  It’s not a perfect deal, but it is a step in the right direction.

Of course, it was not the threat of war that brought them there — we have no troops (they are in Iraq and Louisiana).  It was the use of  John Kerry-like tactics of diplomacy, and having some flexibility.  Apparently, all the Bush successes, however modest, are based on liberal ideas.

Kevin Drum picks up my thoughts:

Yesterday I was wondering how the conservosphere would react to the recently announced progress in talks with North Korea. After all, the Bush administration pretty much agreed to the same thing Clinton agreed to in 1994, and that’s bad. On the other hand, it’s Bush, so that must be good. What to think?

Apparently it really is confusing: Instapundit and Power Line and Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt are mostly silent. That means we have to turn to Ed Morrissey to get our daily dose of hero worship. Here he takes the New York Times to task for not understanding the steely tactics that produced Monday’s agreement:

If the New York Times wants to pretend it doesn’t understand the purpose of our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Kim regime does not have that luxury. They understood that the Bush administration would not send Rice to Pyongyang to dance cheek to cheek with Kim, a la Madeline Albright, but to deliver an ultimatum that would result in his destruction. After testing the Bush administration several times and finding it unwilling to waver, even after a number of Bush’s political opponents (such as John Kerry) fell for his tricks, Kim knows that Bush has him diplomatically isolated and left with no choice but compliance or war.

Italics mine. And now for the reality check. Here’s what the news columns of the New York Times say about what really happened:

Several [Bush administration] officials, who would not allow their names to be used because they did not want to publicly discuss Mr. Bush’s political challenges, noted that Mr. Bush is tied down in Iraq, consumed by Hurricane Katrina, and headed into another standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. The agreement, they said, provides him with a way to forestall, at least for now, a confrontation with another member of what he once famously termed "the axis of evil."

…The debate over signing the agreement reflected the fact that the North Koreans drove a tough bargain. The agreement has the potential to generate good will for North Korea, increase the aid it receives and possibly reduce its incentive to dismantle its nuclear programs anytime soon.

….As this unfolded over the weekend, the Chinese increased pressure on the United States to sign — or take responsibility for a breakdown in the talks.

"At one point they told us that we were totally isolated on this and that they would go to the press," and explain that the United States sank the accord, the senior administration official said.

The North Koreans "drove a tough bargain." The Chinese told us to sign the agreement or "they would go to the press." Bush wasn’t happy, but since he was bogged down with other problems he grabbed at the chance to "forestall, at least for now, a confrontation."

Yep, that’s some steely negotiating. After all, the North Koreans got nothing out of this deal except for every single thing they’ve ever asked for.

Overall, I’m with Winston Churchill: "To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war." Bush made the right decision to show some flexibility here, regardless of whether this agreement ultimately goes anywhere. But make no mistake: there was no ultimatum on our side. Quite the contrary.

The Hurricane Named After Me SUCKS!

TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1605 UTC TUE SEP 20 2005

TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION FOR THE EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN FROM
THE EQUATOR TO 32N…EAST OF 140W. THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS
BASED ON SATELLITE IMAGERY…WEATHER OBSERVATIONS…RADAR…AND
METEOROLOGICAL ANALYSIS.

BASED ON 1200 UTC SURFACE ANALYSIS AND SATELLITE IMAGERY THROUGH
1545 UTC.

…SPECIAL FEATURES…

HURRICANE KENNETH IS NEAR 13.2N 131.4W 987 MB AT 1500 UTC SEP 20
AND IS DRIFTING W AT 2 KT.  MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE 65 KT
WITH GUSTS TO 80 KT.  NORTHERLY SHEAR CONTINUES TO INHIBIT
CONVECTION IN THE NORTHERN SEMICIRCLE. CURRENTLY…SCATTERED TO
NUMEROUS STRONG CONVECTION IS WITHIN 75 NM OF THE CENTER AND
SCATTERED MODERATE TO STRONG CONVECTION IS ELSEWHERE WITHIN 180
NM OVER THE SOUTH SEMICIRCLE. THE EYE HAS BECOME RATHER LARGE
AND RAGGED OVER THE PAST SEVERAL HOURS. THE SHEAR IS FORECAST TO
CONTINUE WITH A FORECAST FOR WEAKENING TO A TROPICAL STORM
WITHIN 12 HOURS
. KENNETH IS CURRENTLY LOCATED IN AN AREA OF WEAK
STEERING AND THIS IS EXPECTED TO PERSIST FOR THE NEXT 24
HOURS…THEREAFTER A MID-LEVEL RIDGE TO THE NORTHWEST OF THE
CYCLONE SHOULD PUSH KENNETH WNW WITH
KENNETH CONTINUING TO
WEAKEN THEREAFTER
. SEE LATEST NHC FORECAST/ADVISORY UNDER
AWIPS/WMO HEADERS MIATCMEP1 / WTPZ21 KNHC FOR MORE DETAILS.

145848w_sm
It’s not even going to hit land!!!

1900 And Counting

Just in case you haven’t looked at the sidebar counter (scroll down a bit), the number of U.S. fatalities in Iraq surpassed 1,900 today.

Somewhere in this country, four nine families are getting the sad news that one of their loved ones was killed in Iraq.  Some of them will be told "You can be assured that your son died for a good cause", or words to that effect. 

Feel free to reflect on exactly what that supposed "good cause" is.  Because it is lost on me.

More Good People In the White House

The administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, which handles procurement policy for the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, has been arrested on a three-count indictment. His name is David Hossein Safavian.  He’s been charged with making false statements to a GSA ethics officer and the GSA-OIG, along with obstruction of a GSA-OIG investigation.

Josh Marshall has the full story.

Atrios adds more:

[Safavian is] also, well, another hack with no experience in his field.

Mr. Safavian’s wife? Oh, that’s Jennifer Safavian. Her job? Chief counsel on oversight and investigations on the House Government Reform Committee.

Their latest job? Heading up the sham Katrina investigation…

Yeah.  Didn’t see that one coming.

Survival Tips From The Emmy-Award Winning Series “Lost”

As a public service, I thought I would pass on some knowledge that I have accumulated by watching the hit ABC series "Lost".  These tidbbits might come in handy the next time your plane crashes on a remote tropical paradise:

  1. Lostposter_smAfter a few days on the island, abandon all hope of being rescued at all . . . ever.  Chances are very good that your island, a mountainous tropical paradise that has an area of hundreds of square miles, and beautiful virgin beaches, will never ever be discovered by mankind.  Belittle any idea that strikes of any attempt at self-rescue ("Build a raft?  What are you, crazy?!?")
  2. Do not bemoan the fact that you are never going to be rescued.   Don’t even cry for your lost family and friends.  And why should you?  They were just jerks who knew of your terrible secret anyway.
  3. Despite what you may think, there are an awful lot of  9-mm handguns that make their way on to a typical airline flight.  If your plane crashes on a deserted island, take the time to find those guns.  You’ll be glad you did.
  4. The same goes for huge hunting knives.
  5. There will be many dangers, but the one you are most likely to encounter is getting bonked on the head from behind when you are looking the other way.
  6. Try to become one of the "central characters" of your band of survivors.  The odds of you surviving is much better.  The core group of twelve is all that matters.  Although not a hard-and-fast rule, good-looking people have a better chance of being in the core group.  The other thirty or so survivors don’t count for shit.  Since you won’t see them much, don’t bother to learn their names. 
  7. Also, try to be a minority or a woman.  They don’t die as readily either.
  8. Be grateful for the fact that you can always find clothes that look really good on you.  In fact, your wardrobe will be more far more extensive and flattering than what you would normally have.
  9. Avoid sleep if possible.  You’ll only have nightmares about your wretched and controversial past.  Exception: If it is your turn to stand watch against the "boogeyman" or whatever threatens your party of survivors, then it is okay to sleep.
  10. It is a little known fact that tropical islands have incredible regenerative powers.  You can get bonked on the head from behind, or get in a brutal kickboxing-like fight with a fellow castaway, or — hell, get into a plane crash — and you’ll have scars and bruises, to be sure.  But they won’t last long.
  11. If there’s an attractive woman in your party of plane crash survivors, be an asshole to her and everyone else.  Sarcastically call her "Freckles" or "Sweetmeat" or something, even though you don’t know her.  She’ll be yours in a heartbeat.
  12. You should always be keenly aware of the fact that many of your fellow passengers have killed a man in their past.  Or been involved some other crime (drugs, etc.).  Trust nobody, except doctors.
  13. Children have special psychic powers.  Or something.
  14. If members of your survival group get killed by a polar bear, even though you are on a tropical island, shrug and say "Mmm.  Now that’s odd."  And then put it out of your mind.
  15. If there is a crazy woman already on the island with her own electrical power supplied by a sub-oceanic cable, and if you have a radio transmitter that needs electrical power, don’t bother her.  She’s crazy.
  16. DO NOT, under any circumstances, share information about the island with your fellow castaways.  For example, if you wandering alone in the jungle and it "whispers" to you, just keep it to yourself.  Information is power, and you need to hoard all the power you can.
  17. Contrary to stereotype, California surfer "dudes" can sometimes be fat.  Really fat.
  18. Take long strolls alone in the jungle.  Do not be detered by the fact that something bad always happens to other people whenever they walk alone in the jungle, like getting bonked on the head from behind.  Do not be detered by the fact that there are loud Tyrannasaurus-like roars coming from the jungle, either.  Don’t worry about the killer polar bears in the jungle.  Or wild boars.  Or crazy psychos.  Or strange whispers.  None of these should prevent you from taking your private jungle perambulations.

Republicans Say The Darndest Things

Example No. 1:  "D’oh!"

It seems that a fax memo intended for Karl Rove was accidently sent to the wrong fax machine and got out.  In it, it describes how the administration should confront immigration problems. 

What factors should be considered in confronting such this unique and complex issue — an issue which direct impacts our national security concerns?  Cost?  What works?  What is morally right?

Nope.

Media bias.

And wooing the Republican base.

Raw Story has the full story . . . and the memo.

Example No. 2:  "We’re Sunk"

From the very conservative American Spectator:

But at this stage of the game, barring some imaginative political moves that bear some resemblance to the Bush Administration circa 2002, Republicans on Capitol Hill and even some longtime Bush team members in various Cabinet level departments say this Administration is done for.

"You run down the list of things we thought we could accomplish and you have to wonder what we thought we were thinking," says a Bush Administration member who joined on in 2001.

"You get the impression that we’re more than listless. We’re sunk."…

Congressional committee sources on both sides of Capitol Hill predict tough slogging on anything of policy consequence. "Social Security is dead as far as my chairman is concerned. So are the tax cuts," says a Ways and Means staffer of Chairman Bill Thomas.

Before hurricane season wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast and in Washington, the thinking was that Thomas was poised to take up a major tax bill that might feature several critical components of the Bush Administration’s Social Security reform. Now those plans appear to have dimmed considerably.

Arrrrrr, Matey!

PirateCurse it!  I didn’t get thee memo!  I wurz supposed to be talkin’ like the pirate that I be!  Avast ye!  Someone shall be walin’ the planks fer this!

And mehears there be a program for to be doing that thar very thing.  Ye can download it here, shiver me timbers!

Find The Money

With Bush proposing upwards of $200 billion to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, many fiscal conservatives are understandably edgy.  Likening Bush’s proposal to Roosevelt’s New Deal programs (which is, to them, a bad thing), they wonder where the money is going to come from.

Of course, some  conservatives are being blatently stupid about the effort.  This moron notes that the spending amounts to about $400,000 per family.  And while that may be true, it is a rather meaningless statistic, since the lion’s share of the rebuilding will involve revitalizing public buildings and infrastructure.

But will the conservatives suggest rolling back the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?  Or shelve their efforts and doing away with the estate tax

Hell, no.  They apparently think that it can be paid for by cutting down on pork.  Not the pig kind, but the kind where government’s wasteful spending is curtailed.

Michelle Malkin is hawking the idea.  Glenn Reynolds, too.  And they’ve even set up a website, Porkbusters, where readers can contribute egregious (and largely misinformed) examples of "pork".  For example, these moron contributors think that that spending federal dollars to improve infrastructure is necessarily a bad idea . . . without giving much thought to the notion that when you improve a region’s infrastructure, it creates more incentives for businesses and jobs to be created, thereby increasing the tax base.  That sort of thinking is too, uh, nuanced, I guess.

Of course, there is a legitimate pork problem, and I am not suggesting otherwise.  But it is not going to cover the cost of the post-Katrina rebuilding.  Besides, when you call cutting medicare an example of getting rid of pork, then you are engaging in outright dishonesty.  Or, as one blogger wrote in his "let me get this straight" post:

we take on an optional war in Iraq, and it is fine to put that on a credit card for the past three years and for years to come; but the minute we need to launch a two-year rebuild of a major region of the United States, we have to find budget offsets such as delaying/gutting the new Medicare drug benefit?

UPDATEKevin Drum has a better analysis, complete with graphs and stuff:

The bottom line is simple: as much as we’re all in favor of cutting unnecessary spending, spending is just not a big problem right now. The simple fact is that total federal spending is about 20% of GDP, the same as it was 30 years ago.

Thanks to George Bush’s tax cuts, however, revenues are lower than they’ve been since the 1950s. So if you’re really serious about paying for Katrina reconstruction, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has the answer: repeal of a pair of tax cuts scheduled to go into effect in January that are aimed exclusively at families with high incomes (97% of the benefit goes to families with incomes over $200,000). What’s more, this windfall is solely a creature of Congress. President Bush never asked for it.

Well off families have already gotten plenty of tax cuts in the past four years. They can do without another one, and repealing these two measures would save an estimated $197 billion. It’s not a tax increase, since it would leave current law just as it is, and it would save enough to pay for Katrina without blowing an even bigger hole in the budget than we already have. Responsible conservatives should give this their blessing.

What The Wingnuts Are All A-Flutter About Now

Malkin39idPresident Clinton has opinions that most of the country agrees with [UPDATE:  About Powerline’s outrage, Jesse’s response is a must-read]

Ariana Huffington being picked up in an SUV

The Red Menace (communists) (still)

Guns, not butter . . . or homes . . . or jobs (for New Orleanians)

Also, birds that occupy the airways.

How complaining about the shape of memorials is entirely different from complaining about the shape of Burger King dessert logos.  Because the latter would be, you know, silly.

Bite Me, Karl

Seriously, this man is scum.  From Huffington Post:

Karl Rove, President Bush’s top political advisor and deputy White House chief of staff, spoke at businessman Teddy Forstmann’s annual off the record gathering in Aspen, Colorado this weekend. Here is what Rove had to say that the press wasn’t allowed to report on.

On Katrina: The only mistake we made with Katrina was not overriding the local government…

On The Anti-War Movement: Cindy Sheehan is a clown. There is no real anti-war movement. No serious politician, with anything to do with anything, would show his face at an anti-war rally…

On Bush’s Low Poll Numbers: We have not been good at explaining the success in Iraq. Polls go up and down and don’t mean anything…

On Iraq: There has been a big difference in the region. Iraq will transform the Middle East…

On Judy Miller And Plamegate: Judy Miller is in jail for reasons I don’t really understand…

On Joe Wilson: Joe Wilson and I attend the same church but Joe goes to the wacky mass…

In attendance at the conference, among others were: Harvey Weinstein, Brad Grey, Michael Eisner, Les Moonves, Tom Freston, Tom Friedman, Bob Novak, Barry Diller, Martha Stewart, Margaret Carlson, Alan Greenspan, Andrea Mitchell, Norman Pearlstein and Walter Isaacson.

Friday Random Vogon Poetry

VogonOh freddled gruntbuggly,
Thy micturations are to me
As plurdled gabbleblotchits
On a lurgid bee.
Groop, I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes
And hooptiously drangle me
with crinkly bindlewurdles,
Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon
See if I don’t.

Vogon Captain

[For those of you who don’t know….

Vogon poetry is of course, the third worst in the universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in my Armpit One Midsummer Morning" four of his audience died of internal haemorrhaging and the president of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived only by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos was reported to have been "disappointed" by the poem’s reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his 12-book epic entitled "My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles" when his own major intestine, in a desperate attempt to save humanity, leapt straight up through his neck and throttled his brain. The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paul Neil Milne Johnstone of Redbridge, in the destruction of the planet Earth. Vogon poetry is mild by comparison.]

Lights Return To New Orleans – Um, Not So Much

From Brian Williams’ blog at MSNBC":

I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It’s enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it… jump to certain conclusions.

President Flopsweat?

Flopsweat

Bush boards Air Force One after delivering his Katrina-related speech to the nation last night.

Hat tip: Shakespeare’s Sister

REACTIONS FROM OTHERS:

Balz/Washington Post:  The main text of President Bush’s nationally televised address last night was the rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, but the clear subtext was the rebuilding of a presidency that is now at its lowest point ever, confronted by huge and simultaneous challenges at home and abroad — and facing a country divided along partisan and racial lines.

Krugman/ NY Times:  But George W. Bush isn’t F.D.R. Indeed, in crucial respects he’s the anti-F.D.R.  President Bush subscribes to a political philosophy that opposes government activism – that’s why he has tried to downsize and privatize programs wherever he can. (He still hopes to privatize Social Security, F.D.R.’s biggest legacy.) So even his policy failures don’t bother his strongest supporters: many conservatives view the inept response to Katrina as a vindication of their lack of faith in government, rather than as a reason to reconsider their faith in Mr. Bush.

The Moderate Voice/Michael Stickings:  Personally, I didn’t think much of it. I don’t doubt his compassion, and he may have said the right things ("there is no way to imagine America without New Orleans"), but I can’t get past his obvious incompetence and the utter lack of leadership he showed after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. . . . . David Kusnet, former Clinton speechwriter, liked Bush’s speech. As a speech, not necessarily for the content (though he liked much of that, too): "Never before has a president spoken so well and acted so ineptly. Perhaps the rhetoric will win Bush a second chance." I just don’t think he spoke that well, though the rhetoric may indeed give him "a second chance".

Conservative "Christian" La Shawn Barber in "Bush the Sugar Daddy":  What Bush proposes is not an improvement; it’s just a lateral, welfare-dependent move to different cities and states. It’s certainly not his job to vanquish poverty. That’s the job of individuals. But an honest speech would’ve acknowledged that government dependency does not improve lives. Part of the reason so many were stranded in the storm without food and water in the first place is because they were too dependent on the government for subsistence. Why couldn’t he say that?

The Next Hurrah/DemFromCt:  This most partisan President who has poisoned the well has no reservoir of good will left. He has governed his entire Presidency by forcing his way into the WH (no, we have not gotten over 2000 – it matters). He has forced Democrats who supported his major initiatives out of office (see Max Cleland 2002) and replaced bipartisanship with crony-directed Republicans only policy (see Texas residtricting).   He has played to the base so often that no one outside the base thinks it’s normal, or usual, or even expected to support him.    Well, he’s got what he’s created… George W Bush is President of the United 40%, and even they aren’t so united any more. Bush’s speech was not especially well received… it reaches his low bar of beign better than anything else he’s said on the topic, but there’s a whiff of desperation to the theatrics and visualos. He came across as hermetically sealed in his beauty shop, clueless and out of touch. In other words, it was far more revealing than it was meant to be, and jarring compared to the real NOLA situation.

Military Analyst William Arkin/WaPo:  Amidst all of President Bush’s proposals last night was one decree that the Commander-in-Chief can implement without Congressional or public intervention: "It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces — the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment’s notice."… I for one don’t want to live in a society where "a moment’s notice" justifies military action that either preempts or usurps civil authority. … What is more, nothing about what happened in New Orleans justifies such a radical move to give the military what bureaucrats call "a lead role" in responding to emergencies. … In the wake of Katrina, the military was standing by awaiting orders, as it should be.  The White House and the federal government were for their part either on vacation or out to lunch. The problem wasn’t the lack of resources available. It was leadership, decisiveness, foresight. The problem was commanding and mobilizing the resources, civil and military.

Howard Kurtz/WaPo: Well, the choreography was pretty impressive.

Is THAT Charity?

So I was listening to Bush’s speech about Katrina.

It started off boring — a laundry list of things that happened as a result of Katrina (we know what happened, George; we were paying attention), and a laundry list of things that are happening now in terms of recovery.

Yawn.

Then he started going into rebuilding efforts.  I thought parts of it were nice, and a few of the ideas were good.  Of course, it sounds like much of the federal help is going to go to "entrepreneurs", rather than actual people.  I can understand helping out businesses through tough times, but construction businesses in New Orleans are NOT going to be hurting in the next several months and years.  Why do they need federal aid?

And where is all this money going to come from?  How are fiscal conservatives going to respond to Bush’s spending?  

The most awkward moment was when Bush openly admitted that there are a lot of poor black people in this country.  If he had an ounce of shame, he would be embarassed that it took a hurricane for him to sit up and actually DO something about it.

And for all his talk about revitilizing the area, let’s remember that Bush’s first directive for the post-Katrina rebuilding was to enact deep wage cuts for the people who will do the actual reconstruction.

As for taking blame, and figuring out what went wrong — well, I’m glad he’s interested in learning from his mistakes, but if he’s TRULY interested in that, he’ll allow for an independent commission.   

He outright lied when he said that one of the lessons of Katrina was that the federal government should have more authority.  The federal government always had that authority.  They just bungled it.

Anyway . . .

Bush then said something that made me shoot up in my seat:

For example, the private fundraising effort led by former Presidents Bush and Clinton has already received pledges of more than 100 million dollars. Some of that money is going to governors, to be used for immediate needs within their states. A portion will also be sent to local houses of worship, to help reimburse them for the expense of helping others.

What the fuck?!?

You mean money from private fundraising is going to help reimburse churches for their charitable efforts?   Is that how charity works these days?  It’s not charity if you get reminbursed by others.   It’s called robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I hope people follow up on this.  I want to know which churches are insisting that they get reimbursed for helping people.