September 30, 2005

Native peoples as mascots - NCAA denies UND's appeal over Fighting Sioux nickname, logo: "North Dakota President Charles Kupchella had raised the threat of legal action in an August open letter to the NCAA. The school argued in its appeal that the nickname and logo 'are used with the utmost respect and class and are in no way inherently hostile or abusive,'"

Translation: UND tells Indian peoples that they are not actually offended and should not be offended. Jedi mind trick doesn't actually work.
This, btw, from the GOP's big gambler AND writer on ethics and virtues. I am just tired of it. Tom Delay continues to play his Christian virtues, as he acts like a thug.

But Bennett's remarks are even worse:

"If it were your sole purpose to reduce crime, Bennett said, "You could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.

"That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down," he added."

As others have noted, Bennett clearly was not advocating genocide. In fact, he is being critical of abortion and the justification of abortion. But to single out black children and imply that they are more of a crime problem than, say, whites, is just ridiculous.

September 28, 2005

This will make some people very unhappy

This story will surely make some eyebrows go up. Disclaimer, I have not read the study and don't know about the validity of the study, but it intrigues me. Here is a tease: "Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today."


In sum, this study shows a correlation between religious belief and the "moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society." The Religious Right suggests that a secular society would lead to chaos. They think that the irreligious are immoral.

This study suggests that the right is wrong. Instead of being immoral, the less religious nations are actually better at the above issues. They have less abortion, murder, etc. Why would that be?

The study points at the evolution v. creation debate. And while that seems an odd linkage, I think I understand it. It has to do with people who ignore evidence in lieu of blind faith. Don't get me wrong. I like faith. I am trying to understand mine. But we live in a complex world that is not easily explained all the time. And sometimes, what our heart and faith tells us needs to be challenged with other evidence. The part that bothers me is that the big stuff--the existence of God; the trinity; faith in God, Jesus, etc.--are not really at issue here. Evolution doesn't negate that, nor do other scientific theories. They are issues of faith and there is nothing wrong with that.

But those who rely on faith over reason and evidence, have decided to approach other issues in the world the same way. Consider the laudable goal of reducing unwanted pregnancies, abortions and stds. Christian conservatives say abstinence only, and don't even want contraceptives mentioned. The reality and the evidence shows that abstinence only doesn't work, and it makes kids less safe, not more. The death penalty is supported by so many conservatives for a variety of reasons, including the belief that it deters crime. But it doesn't. Add to that DNA evidence, and we have another policy that means we are doing more harm than good. Abortion has increased under Bush. The list goes on.

Christian conservatives need to hear this report as a criticism, but not an indictment. It isn't a charge that faith or religion are bad, per se. It is a suggestion that there are policies and issues that are best handled with a pragmatic approach, where broad moral and religious principles play a role. But governing from a literal Bible is irrational, and this study suggests, more destructive than helpful. We need not abandon our faith, but we should use the reason and expertise that God gave us. But that means listening to evidence when it matters.


Am I wrong to chuckle at this?

Karen Hughes challenged

Karen Hughes, who is one of my least favorite Bush people, has been hired to improve how Americans are seen overseas. At this meeting with some Saudi women she received a little comeuppance for her American arrogance. Don't get me wrong, I would like Americans to be viewed more positively as well, and I am glad that the Administration at least recognizes this problem. Given that Bush took office with his middle finger extended to the rest of the world, it is no wonder we are viewed negatively. I met a young French student the other day and she said that the French find Bush completely ridiculous and they also hold the American people responsible. Can't argue with her on that.

But back to Karen Hughes. Here are a few highlights:

Many in this region say they resent the American assumption that, given the chance, everyone would live like Americans.

That sense of American arrogance is part of our downfall. We assume that our country is the best at everything and that everyone wants to be us. People start to resent that. I know some people who act that way and I don't like it.

Ms. Hughes, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy, is on her first trip to the Middle East. She seemed clearly taken aback as the women told her that just because they were not allowed to vote or drive that did not mean they were treated unfairly or imprisoned in their own homes.

Interesting. I must say that I need some more education on Muslim society as well, and have not been fond of how women are treated in those societies. But we must be careful in assuming that everyone wants to be us--or that everyone defines freedom the way we do.

I found this next exchange interesting. After all, do we all remember how Ari Fleischer addressed American use of oil and driving?

Q Is one of the problems with this, and the entire energy field, American lifestyles? Does the President believe that, given the amount of energy Americans consume per capita, how much it exceeds any other citizen in any other country in the world, does the President believe we need to correct our lifestyles to address the energy problem?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's a big no. The President believes that it's an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one.

See, driving and using oil is an American birthright, or divine right, or some stupid shit like that. But the point here is that it should be no surprise that Hughes talked about how important driving was to her. She called it an "important part of her freedom." But one of the audience members, clearly an elite, but still someone who saw the situation differently.

"I don't want to drive a car," she said. "I worked hard for my medical degree. Why do I need a driver's license?"

This last exchange bothered me the most, I think. Even though it was clearly an attempt at humor, it kind of betrays how the Bush admin really sees the country. They would be perfectly happy if any media criticism didn't exist. I don't think they really understand democracy and have confused their election with some kind of divine mandate. That scares me. One of the women in Saudi Arabia asked about the media:

A woman in the audience then charged that under President Bush the United States had become "a right-wing country" and that criticism by the press was "not allowed."

"I have to say I sometimes wish that were the case, but it's not," Ms. Hughes said with a laugh.


September 26, 2005

Couple of annoyances

One of the nice things about going to the music festival is that you concentrate on something other than work and politics for a while. Well, there was this funny moment: This nice man allowed me to take a picture of his shirt. Maybe it was the 100 degree weather, but I thought it was funny.

But then we hit the road this morning and politics were back on the front burner--or in this case NPR. Coming out of Austin, we heard this story about Intelligent Design and education--this time in Pennsylvania. Seems the school board wants a disclaimer that students hear before learning evolution. Something that says that evolution is "only a theory and not a fact."

Man, I am getting tired of hearing that. I think scientists should push for a mandatory education at a young age (and perhaps when you get your drivers license) that teaches what a scientific theory is and how scientific research occurs. No mention of evolution--just an education in what a "theory" is. Maybe then we wouldn't have so many people saying that evolution is "just" a theory.

Oh, and btw, I really want critics of evolution to understand evolution. I have run into way too many people lately who say that evolution is wrong, but they don't even know what it is. I know what Intelligent Design is. It is the argument that life is too complex to occur from chance. I also know they have no evidence. I also know what creation is. It is the belief that God created the earth and human beings directly. I don't have a problem with that belief, but don't want it taught in science class. Again, no evidence.

Perhaps that mandatory education thing I mentioned above should include teaching what a "myth" is as well.

But then they throw in that 2/3's of Americans want creation taught alongside evolution. Is this the same population that at least last year believed that Iraqi citizens were the ones who flew planes into our buildings? And that started me thinking about other areas where a majority of Americans hold beliefs that are false. Any out there you want to suggest?


So then we stopped at Cabelas in Fort Worth. Huge store with way too many decoys and fish lures to count. But I like their shoe section (don't ask) so we stopped. While I was waiting to try on some Rockports, the salesman was in a conversation with two stern customers. I am assuming husband and wife, but that is a guess. Anyway, salesman was talking about the hurricane and I realized the three of them were talking about the difference between Katrina and Rita. Angry wife-woman said that the difference was the governors. "Ours was in charge, theirs didn't do anything." Idiot husband-man jumped in and said that congress had a plan to protect New Orleans until "liberal democrats and environmentalists blocked it."

So I threw the Rockport at the husband and yelled "too bad that is complete nonsense, Rushbo, but thanks for giving us the President's talking points. And thanks for bringing the Wicked Witch of the West back into public life!" Then I told them to go to hell and took the bus home.

Ok, I didn't actually do that. But I thought about it.


And one more thing: Sad news today from the entertainment world. Don Adams died. I really loved "Get Smart" as a kid and am sad to see him go.


We are back and very glad to be home. The drive home was uneventful. Well, except for the stop at Cabelas, but more on that later.

The last day at ACL was both great and problematic. Problematic because the temperature soared over 100 and this particular festival was unusually dusty. After Wilco we walked down to the SBC stage (the biggest venue in the park) for Coldplay. The SBC is down a little hill and as I walked down that hill, you could barely see the stage in the distance. The brown haze was very apparent. I ended up using one of my wet bandanas to cover my mouth, but at the end of the night, we both felt like our lungs were a little heavy.

That said, there was some great music yesterday. The Arcade Fire (a band I had not heard of prior to this year's ACL) was amazingly good. Something like 9 band members, using drums, violins, a French horn, and guitar to produce an amazing sound. Very impressive. Listen to their song "Wake Up" for a good sample. I also heard the Kaiser Chiefs (who I referred to as Kaiser Souze all afternoon) and the Decemberists, as well as the Doves. All were good--with the Kaiser Chiefs perhaps my least favorite of the bunch.

Coldplay, at least for the part we stayed for, was very, very good. I had some doubts going in. Their albums are strong, but I wondered about his vocals in this setting. But they were really good.

Wilco continues to amaze me. Songs I have now heard in concert three times still work, and work well. For me, this band is the most innovative of this recent generation. I kind of think U2 was for the 80s, but Wilco just continues to innovate and still produce quality stuff. Stuff that requires a little work and patience, but lasts. Spoon (probably my second favorite set of the festival) reminds me a bit of them that way.

All in all, the festival was a great success. The hurricane caused some cancelations, and I suspect contributed to the heat wave, but we were all luckier than those who had to flee high waters. I have to say that this particular festival had a few less magical music moments--where the hair stands up on my neck or emotions flow--but they happened. That happened when Steve Earle sang "Copperhead Road," "NYC," and "Amerika 6.0." Or when JT Van Zant did one of his dad's old songs, or when Wilco broke into "Handshake Drugs."

I am sure I will have more to say as this all sinks in, but that will do for now. I am tired and all of our outdoor bags are coated in dust.

September 24, 2005

Day 2

Day 2 started out rough when we found out that Kathleen Edwards had canceled. Not to complain (since the hurricane has inconvenienced so many people in so many serious ways), but three of the groups we wanted to see had to cancel. That happens.

Another impact of the hurricane (we suspect) is that the winds picked up. It is our 4th ACL and the first that was windy and gritty. I feel like I inhaled dirt today. And on top of that, the promised cooler weather just didn't materialize. We bailed a little early to recuperate and get ready for tomorrow. Tomorrow's venues include Wilco, Rachel Yamagata, Arcade Fire, Cold Play and a few others. Long day.

Today lacked the kind of musical magic that tends to moderate for the day. At least for me. Martin Sexton was good, and Robert Randolph (and the family band) were quite good. JT Van Zant (Townes' son) was good and we saw a few others that were fun.

But as the joke goes--the worst live music is probably better than work! :) Live music is amazing and that is why we keep coming. One other thought (as I try to put today in some kind of context) about the festival: the variety of people and good bands kind of makes you feel better about the world. The radio is filled with crap, and the famous musicians (I mean, "musicians") often suck. When popular country is dominated by Toby Keith and Kenney Chesney, and pop music is Ashley Simpson and others, how nice to see good singer-songwriters or bands that really play music. Robert Randolph--during one song--played the pedal steel, bass guitar, and drums. And all of them well. Extremely well. Wow!

Well, that is all for now. I hope everyone is well.

September 23, 2005

ACL again

Yeah, we are at the Austin music festival again. Apologies in advance to anyone who hoped we could meet on our next trip south. This trip was just too hectic and we just ran out of any potential time. The reality was exactly what we expected--jammed and stressed. Some of the stress was family and much of that was good. Some was the fears associated with the hurricane. We felt silly going to a music festival when so many people were fleeing their homes.

But we are here and enjoyed this first day. Steve Earle, Spoon, Keane, and Lucinda Williams were all very good. Spoon might have been the best for me. I loved Steve Earle, but we had to endure the idiots in front of us who chose to meet their friends and do all their talking during the show. Annoying.

Anyway, more later.

September 21, 2005

light blogging

We will be on the road for a bit. Will try to post some as we can.

In the meantime, the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire. discuss.

September 20, 2005

Bush: Townsend to lead Katrina inquiry - Yahoo! News

Bush: Townsend to lead Katrina inquiry - Yahoo! News: "A separate congressional inquiry will also investigate what went wrong with the federal response. But Bush so far has refused to back calls from Democrats for an independent commission to look at the disaster response."

Why in the world would he do that if he really wanted to know where the government failed. Unless, of course, he knows that even a bipartisan commission is going to slam him. But does he really think the American people will believe it when his own people do the investigation?

September 19, 2005

he's right

Clinton Levels Sharp Criticism at the President's Relief Effort - New York Times

Mr. Clinton argued that lower-income Americans had done better under the economic policies of his administration than they are doing now, saying the storm highlighted class divisions in the country that often played out along racial lines.

"It's like when they issued the evacuation order," he said. "That affects poor people differently. A lot of them in New Orleans didn't have cars. A lot of them who had cars had kinfolk they had to take care of. They didn't have cars, so they couldn't take them out."

"This is a matter of public policy," he said. "And whether it's race-based or not, if you give your tax cuts to the rich and hope everything works out all right, and poverty goes up and it disproportionately affects black and brown people, that's a consequence of the action made. That's what they did in the 80's; that's what they've done in this decade. In the middle, we had a different policy."

September 18, 2005


We joined up again. Anglican likes to watch old tv shows on the dvd, and he is right--it is even superior to the Tivo. No commercials to skip.

We are watching the West Wing from the pilot forward. Very fun to watch it at the beginning. Depressing though, too. It alwasy is when the fake president is more convincing than the real one. The second show's title is "post hoc ergo propter hoc."

Smart stuff.


Watched a little football today. Randy Cross is a moron, but Denver won, so I will tolerate him. What an ass, though!

Today I ran to the store for dinner and flipped on the radio. This time, I tried to find football on the radio too, but ended up flipping through AM. Yeah, it sucks. Horrible. As bad as Christian radio is--and it is horrible--conservative talk radio is worse. I think conservatives all owe us an apology for Rush Limbaugh and all the local idiot duplicates he spawned. These people are idiots who simply repeat lies and take calls that repeat those lies. Liberals may have some blogs that do that (though conservatives are well represented there), but there is nothing outside Air America that even comes close to what dominates the bulk of AM radio. I don't want to hear a word about a "liberal media" after listening to this stuff!

But in all seriousness, conservative talk radio repeats a lot of what conservatives believe. And much of that needs to be addressed.

It seems to me that conservatives, for the most part, are well-intentioned people. But to hoe to the conservative line, they have to believe a couple of assumptions--assumptions that I think are false.

1) the first is the belief in the level playing field--or at least the belief that hard work and effort will ameliorate any inequalities that exist. I think this is the foundation for most of the beliefs that racism is not a problem. If you really believe racism is a problem, hard to believe the playing field is level.

2) and even more important, is the belief in the "bootstrap myth." This, best articulated by Horatio Alger, is the idea that every American, if they work hard and apply themselves, they can work their way out of poverty and into wealth.

3) (and all of these are related) Listening to Faux News the other night, and talk radio today, a common refrain is that liberals want to just give "hand outs" to the poor. The poor, goes the reasoning, would assert themselves more if they had to, and, as I heard on the radio today, the only way to self-fullfilment was to "get your hands dirty" and work. No other way.

4) and the corrollary of point 3 is that people who have money and wealth had to "work" for it. According to this view, their wealth is "theirs" and "theirs alone."

There is much here that strikes me as false, and also strikes me as problematic. I don't think anyone seriously thinks that the playing field is level. Race, class, misfortune, etc., all play into changing the landscape we all play in.

The bootstrap myth is hard to refute. It certainly is not the norm, and we all know that the exception does not disprove the rule. The fact that most people born into poverty don't get out of it is still the problem. It also assumes that these people in poverty aren't working, or aren't working hard enough. This annoys me to no end. The working poor often work more than one job and have no benefits. They have no assets, limited access to capital, etc.

And point 4 is the worst. George Bush is the perfect example of point 4. He didn't work for his wealth. Nor his position. Nor his power. He went to a private prep school--not because of his merit or hard work, but because of his family name. He attended Yale and owned businesses and was elected Governor and President because of his family name and power.

But it goes beyond Bush. Many middle class conservatives believe they have earned every bit of their wealth--because they have never taken a welfare check. Yet, (and I am a great example of this) many recieve state subsidized education, benefit from state subsidized highways and transportation, have benefited from state employment or contracts. Not to say there isn't effort involved--but neither is it self-effort alone.

Yet, liberals like myself are not advocating a window where people just receive a bag o' cash. We want assistance that enables people to advance. That means job training, and access to health care and capital and education.

But I understand. It is much easier to support lower taxes and demonize the poor if you think that the poor deserve being poor. But people need to understand what they are arguing.

Now for something completely different

It is college and pro football season once again. My fantasy team is 1-0, though that is the only bright spot so far.

Living in Oklahoma is interesting. Anyone who has lived here or been here during football season understands that. We don't have the other distractions or attractions that dilute college sports. When Oklahoma is playing, the people show up in droves--all dressed in variations of crimson. Sometimes their cars are Sooner Red and they all have flags. I still remember the first home game I witnessed here. After living in Houston (never saw UH play football--they were all at the Astrodome) and attending Colorado State where the stadium is out of town and the team was terrible, I had no idea what football mania was like. I awoke that first Saturday and looked out my window to see more ugly red golf pants and Sooner hats than I should have seen. I immediately went out and sold parking.

Now, some dozen years later, we have watched horrible football turn into some of the best in the country. And we are back to the old jokes. When I first got here, the team had some problems scoring and players were getting into trouble. The joke was, "how do you keep a Sooner out of your backyard? Put up goalposts!" We are back to that, though, I suspect, for a shorter period than before. Oklahoma will improve this year and beat someone they are not supposed to--that is my prediction.

I am actually fascinated with how people identify with pro and college sports around the country. What leads people to become a "fan" and wear the hats, t-shirts, or even authentic uniforms of their favorite? Is this good? Does it distract us from more serious things--or is it a good distraction from the banality of Karl Rove's world? I know I am one of those who tends to see the sports world in Manichean terms. Usually that is just fun for me. Though I recall a particularly painful Bronco loss to the Oakland Raiders that sent me to therapy the next day. It was just the last straw!

Anyway, I don't know what to think about sports. I understand the bad side. I know about all the athletes who are exploited to keep a college program going. Kids who don't have a prayer at a pro career who still don't get a decent education. Or the kids in high school and Jr. High who are already starting to use steroids to compete for that scholarship.

I know I enjoy watching football on tv. Even when my teams lose--it is still a great time of year. I know CIL agrees with me here.

September 17, 2005

Economics is a contested area, that is for sure

Kathy has some concerns about how the Republicans are responding to the disaster.
"So how do the Republicans plan to take advantage of the greatest natural disaster in our history and the terrible human tragedy that followed it? Well, besides suspending the prevailing wage laws - something the Republicans have been trying to get rid of for decades, Bush is also waiving some affirmative action requirements for reconstruction contractors. The Republicans in Congress are reportedly planning to pass legislation to limit victim's rights to sue, introduce vouchers for schools, eliminate environmental protection laws, and give tax breaks to companies working in the reconstruction areas."

I agree. I wonder if the Republican war on science has not permeated their entire approach. Evidence to the contrary seems no impediment to their policies. I can think of several issues where Republicans approach something because they think it "should" work or be moral. The fact that it doesn't work is irrelevent. The death penalty is a great example. Most conservatives I know support it even though DNA evidence has shown that our system is horribly broken. But it "should work." Whatever. Abstinence only education? Same thing. Actually both are situations where the programs actually harm the innocent and so you would expect conservatives to care about that. They don't seem to.

But back to economics. I am not an economist, but here goes. The conservative argument is that supply side--or trickle down economics work. you give the rich and investor class more money, and they invest it. The more they get to keep of their own wealth, the more they invest. Those investments, as I understand it, are supposed to "trickle" down to the poorest Americans with increased job opportunities and even elevated wages.

Reagan was the first to try this, and conservatives still think it worked. Despite the fact that the deficit balooned under Reagan, as did the separation between the rich and poor, etc. The late 80s was a horrible economic scene that only got better in the early 90s. I don't think there is evidence to support the idea that those tax cuts to the rich translates into more money for the poor.

Yet I heard a commentator on Faux news saying just that. He said he didn't understand why people wanted to tax the rich in this situation (Katrina) because that won't help. He said that if the rich do well, so will the poor. Really? This African American commentator is paraphrasing the old Coolidge "What's good for Business is good for America" idea?

Again, since the advent of supply side economics, we have seen the gap between rich and poor grow. We have seen the middle class shrink. Since Bush took office, we have seen a 17% growth in the poverty rate. How is that helping anyone?

My Texas friend was not happy about the wage cut in the hurricane zone, but said that there might be a benefit of speeding up the recovery. I can see that. And said so. But I asked why, under this President, have the wealthy been the only ones who are not asked to sacrifice anything? Why are the poor asked to give up services? Why are the middle class expected to live with higher local taxes and less state services? Why are the poor and middle class expected to live with less social safety net? Less health insurance? But the rich are asked to give nothing?

That isn't right.

September 16, 2005

From the Zalm

Holy Crap!

Surely they wouldn't do that just for the Prez, would they?

Daily Nightly: A trick of the light? - Nightly News with Brian Williams - "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."

why does Bush undo his one good moment?

This doesn't sound like someone taking responsibility.
"Federal officials appear to be seeking proof to blame the flood of New Orleans on environmental groups, documents show.

The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of an internal e-mail the U.S. Department of Justice sent out this week to various U.S. attorneys' offices: 'Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation.'"

Can you say "fishing expedition?" And does everyone realize that the guy in charge of reconstruction is Karl Rove? The political guy? The asshole?

What does this tell us about our President? That his contrition was not real, that he is always looking for someone else to blame. That he is so callous about the distruction caused in this storm that he has appointed his chief political operative to oversee things.

He is not a good man nor a good president.

Friday morning

Not really a rant this morning. More musing. A couple of things going on. SOF and I listened to the NPR this morning during our coffee run and several stories caught our attention. This one has a FEMA employee (current) saying that he and his team warned Brown and Chertoff with very strong language well before the storm hit. They showed up to work the next morning expecting to see the response--there was little. Chertoff is not coming off well in this entire disaster. I hope that Brown is not just the sacrificial lamb--he clearly was in over his head, but so are several people above him.

Second story was Juan Williams' exploration of race and class in this storm. Kanye West made headlines with his charge that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." I loved Laura Bush's response that the President "cares about everyone." Right. That is why he has governed with such compassion. John Barry, who wrote the book on the 1927 Mississippi flood says that while he doesn't like the administration, he doesn't think they failed New Orleans because of race. I think he is probably right. It isn't that he doesn't care about black people. He doesn't care about those who don't fit into his political matrix. I suspect if that storm had been headed to Houston, he would have paid a lot more attention.

Back to the first story, I have been mulling over Bootleg Blogger's post on the social safety net. I remember the Y2K craze and the dire predictions that we needed to stock up canned goods and water. Then came the Homeland Security fears and discussions on duct tape. We have always been a little lax on disaster planning. We have food in the house, but have not necessarily kept potable water on hand or stuff like that. In the back of my mind, I have always thought along these lines: If it hits my house, those things won't matter, and if it is catastrophic, it won't be enough. In between, I trusted my government to actually be able to manage things. I believed that while I might be uncomfortable for a while, someone out there was planning to make sure that we didn't starve or run out of water. I no longer feel that way. I feel much more vulnerable than I once did.

Thanks, President Bush. Thanks for preying on our fears for your own political advantage and then undercutting the very social network that we turn to when something actually happens.

One bit of good news from NPR this morning. During one of the reports, a historian remarked that Republican politicians were talking differently than they had before the storm. After making their entire political agenda out of attacking government as evil, and bashing programs that helped the poor and other social issues, they were slowly realizing that government might be important. Finally.

September 15, 2005

The President

Some of my readers were not nearly as welcoming of Bush's "I am responsible" speech the other night. I must admit, it looked better on paper than it sounded. The video was painful, and it made one really question his sincerity.

That said, however, what I think he said or meant doesn't matter. But his policies do matter. As Talking Points Memo points out: "The president's first major initiatives were deep wage cuts for the people who will do the reconstruction."

People who are already poor. That isn't right.

Since I didn't have the energy to live blog this man any more

I direct you to Wonkette--who is funnier than me anyway.

Wonkette - liveblogging. Some highlights:

"9:02 PM My that was a long walk.
9:04 PM 'A wasteful storm' as opposed to productive ones he's so fond of. Also, 'we' saw 'dead bodies lying in the street': Good thing they put together that DVD for him.
9:06 PM He's more wooden than ever. He only looks comfortable when talking about how powerful America is. He's like a national Viagra commercial. 'If your patriotism should last longer than four hours....'
9:08 PM He's totally tripping over words. Also? Giving out the phone number? It's SO the detail thing a President shouldn't have to do. He sounds like Lionel Hutz. 'Free set of knives if you act now.'
9:14 PM 'As all of us saw on television, there is deep and persistent poverty in the region as well.' Again: THANK GOD FOR THE DVD VERSION, or else our filter-averse CoC would have thought everyone in the Gulf was just waiting to sit on Trent Lott's porch.
9:17 PM A correspondent writes: 'He acknowledged that there are poor black people, AND that that's a bad thing. And it can be solved by lowering their wages, naturally.'
9:19 PM 'Good people wanting to make a difference, deployed to the Gulf Coast'.... five days too late.
9:22 PM Scout troops! That's who Brownie should have called! The missing link!! Just NO gays
9:22 PM So the reason it was so bad was that it was not a 'normal hurricane.' Discuss: What is a 'normal hurricane'? A 'normal' disaster response?
9:22 PM Getting DHS involved. He's so totally bombing the next hurricane.
9:25 PM Another correspondent writes: 'Sure, Let's fix this fuckup by having the fucked up agency investigate it.'
9:26 PM Oh no. No, please no. He didn't just reference the fact that black people are optimistic and have a sense of rhythm, did he? Oh, sorry, that's 'jazz musicians.'
9:27 PM Cue dixieland band.
9:28 PM Asshole."

The viagra comment was just too damn funny. I also like the assumption that lowering wages will really help with poverty.

Humor is really more fun than rage! :)

As Bush prepares to speak in New Orleans

This from a bleeding heart dem :): "No matter whose fault the slow relief effort was, the fact of the matter is that these are Americans, and this is their president, and the fact that they were homeless, starving, dying of thirst, and deprived of medication never once seemed to actually bother him."

Read the whole thing. She is right. I would have liked Bush to respond as if this bothered him. Watching his responsibility speech (and I am still glad he took some responsibility) he looked incredibly uncomfortable--but not because of what happened, but because he really hated having to say that he took responsibility.

He has a long way to go before he ever earns our trust.

September 14, 2005

more thoughts on music and faith

Glad others liked Gilkyson's "Requiem." I played it for SOF last night and we both cried. What an amazing song. It reminds me a little of Patty Griffin's "Mary." As a protestant, I never understood (and often mistrusted) the role that Mary plays in the Catholic tradition. Listening to both of those songs, I am struck by how powerful the image is of reaching out to Mary. This Is Texas Music | Featured artist: Eliza Gilkyson

Mother Mary, full of grace, awaken
All our homes are gone, our loved ones taken
Taken by the sea
Mother Mary, calm our fears, have mercy
Drowning in a sea of tears, have mercy
Hear our mournful plea
Our world has been shaken
We wander our homelands forsaken
In the dark night of the soul
Bring some comfort to us all
Oh mother Mary come and carry us in your embrace
That our sorrows may be faced
(From "Requiem" by Eliza Gilkyson)

Another line that just about does me in is this: "illuminate the path where we are going, have mercy on us all." I think we all want that.

The album has a lot of spiritual content. I have no idea where she is faith-wise, but she, like so many of us, can see the contradictions with the current admin and the idea of faith. Zalm mentioned another song from the Eliza Gilkyson album. "Man of God" does a great job of highlighting those problems.

The cowboy came from out of the west
With his snakeskin boots and his bulletproof vest
Gang of goons and his big war chest
Fortunate son he was doubly blessed
Corporate cronies and the chiefs of staff
Bowing to the image of the golden calf
Startin' up wars in the name of God's son
Gonna blow us all the way to kingdom come
Man of God, man of God
That ain't the teachings of a man of God

(From 'Man of God' by Eliza Gilkyson)

Adding to that, this: "jesus said, blessed are the meek, jesus said, i turn the other cheek." Some key principles that seem to be lacking in Bush and his religious right cronies.

Lest you think this is just a downer album, there are several very good tracks. I have only listened to the entire thing a couple of times, but I like a real nice duet with Shawn Colvin called "Calm before the Storm." Colvin harmonizes almost as well as Emmylou. (She sings on other songs here too. BTW, her harmony on Robert Earl Keen's cover of James McMurtry's "Out here in the middle" is also amazing. Great song--"out here in the middle, where the center is on the right, and the ghost of William Jennings Bryan preaches every night. Saving lonely souls by the dashboard light.")

Music is good.

One of those driveway moments

I was in the car listening to NPR. Not Christian radio. NPR. And this story came on. Eliza Gilkyson talked about watching a tribute concert for the tsunami. She wondered why all the music seemed so disconnected from the tragedy and decided to write one of her own. You can hear it at the NPR site I linked to above. I went home and bought the album from Itunes.

Grief is an amazing thing. As I sat in the parking lot and listened to the song, I felt it welling. Grief about loss, both personal and communal. Grief over the losses in Katrina and Iraq and....

September 13, 2005

Bootleg Blogger

Some very good thoughts on American exceptionalism.

Cold front down south?

Well what do you know? Did hell just freeze over?

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," Bush said at joint White House news conference with the president of Iraq.

"To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush said.

I respect him saying this. Only 5 years into his Presidency and now this. I would have respected him for doing this sooner and more often, but I will take this.

September 12, 2005

Daily Show, hah!

The Daily show has a great series on Evolution. Watching their antics made me sad, though. The religious right has succeeded in politicizing our science to the point where our kids will not learn "science," but religious doctrine. No need to choose. But the lies of the right continue.

Likewise, and I am trying not to rant as much, but the right has succeeded in robbing this generation of any faith in government or in the social safety net. Thanks for that. Those who are well off will be fine, but those at the poorer end will suffer. Just as Jesus advocated, right?

Oh, wait.

September 11, 2005


This one snuck up on me. I remember the day like everyone does. I remember SOF coming in and telling me that a plane had hit the World Trade center. I was in the shower when she told me that another plane had hit the other tower.

I remember feeling sick that day. I have never handled catastrophes well. Things that recall apocalypse frighten me. I suppose they do everyone.

Since then it feels like we have all lost a lot. My grandmother. SOF's grandparents. I have lost relationships that I thought were solid.

But I have a lot. I have a good relationship with my parents. I have a lot of amazing friends. M&M (and M, even though she lives in Montana now). Anglican and Bucky the Badger and Cold in Laramie. Three amazing friends. Bootleg Blogger and my Texas Friend who I berate on a regular basis. My new blog friends. I don't know that I deserve these friends. But I have them and am not giving them back.

And of course, SOF. We have been together 17 years. Actually longer, but that is the official count. We have been friends for much longer. I know how lucky I am. Not giving her back either.

I watched with horror as those planes hit. I watched further as that man politicized it. But I have seen much good in people around me. I hope to see more.

September 10, 2005

Conservative Christians, these are the people you are supporting

Some say I am too critical of the church, but if you read this it is hard not to be. Great example. Pat Robertson gets roundly condemned (even by Al Mohler) for calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez. He then does one of those non-apology apologies, and the sheeple go back to listening to his show. He mentions that Judge Roberts has to be happy that Katrina came along because it will help him get confirmed. And lets not forget the asshole praying for openings on the Supreme Court. So, after all that, what happens during Katrina? Operation Blessing (Robertson's charity/diamond smuggling operation) gets prominent promotion on FEMA's website.

I have a friend in Texas who routinely dismisses Robertson as a "goober." Yet, Bush and the rest of the Religious right are in bed with him. If Robertson is unworthy of your support, so is Bush. As Moyers says:

We’re talking about a powerful religious constituency that claims the right to tell us what’s on God’s mind and to decide the laws of the land according to their interpretation of biblical revelation and to enforce those laws on the nation as a whole. For the Bible is not just the foundational text of their faith; it has become the foundational text for a political movement.

All of that would be good. But this agenda lacks any sense of social justice or attention to poverty. It is as if we are reenacting the life of Christ, but this time cheering for Caesar. Those of you who cheer on these "patriot pastors" are cheering for more poverty, less social justice, less environmental responsibility (remember, a little of that might have lessened the impact of the storm on New Orleans).

I know I am redundant. I have been saying this for the last year or two. But it is still true. I am hoping that the Christians who actually believe in justice and mercy will wake up and see that Pat Robertson--far from being some odd ball on the fringes of our political consciousness--is actually the best representative. Crazy as a loon, and more concerned about wealth than justice. In other words, not Christian.

A pretty good list of the stupid things our public officials have uttered

Thanks to Anglican for this great list.

A few good ones:

1) "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." –President Bush, on "Good Morning America," Sept. 1, 2005, six days after repeated warnings from experts about the scope of damage expected from Hurricane Katrina (Source)

2) "What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle) – this is working very well for them." –Former First Lady Barbara Bush, on the Hurricane flood evacuees in the Houston Astrodome, Sept. 5, 2005 (Source)

4) "We've got a lot of rebuilding to do ... The good news is — and it's hard for some to see it now — that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house — he's lost his entire house — there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." (Laughter) —President Bush, touring hurricane damage, Mobile, Ala., Sept. 2, 2005 (Source)

5) "Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well." –FEMA Director Michael Brown, Sept. 1, 2005 (Source)

6) "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." –President Bush, to FEMA director Michael Brown, while touring Hurricane-ravaged Mississippi, Sept. 2, 2005 (Source)

7) "I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water." –Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, on NPR's "All Things Considered," Sept. 1, 2005 (Source)

9) "I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.” –Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Sept. 6, 2005 (Source)

10) "You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals...many of these people, almost all of them that we see are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold." –CNN's Wolf Blitzer, on New Orleans' hurricane evacuees, Sept. 1, 2005 (Source)

12) "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?" –House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX), to three young hurricane evacuees from New Orleans at the Astrodome in Houston (Source)

15) "I also want to encourage anybody who was affected by Hurricane Corina to make sure their children are in school." –First Lady Laura Bush, twice referring to a "Hurricane Corina" while speaking to children and parents in South Haven, Mississippi, Sept. 8, 2005 (Source)

17) "I believe the town where I used to come – from Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself, occasionally too much – will be that very same town, that it will be a better place to come to." –President Bush, on the tarmac at the New Orleans airport, Sept. 2, 2005 (Source)

20) "We just learned of the convention center – we being the federal government – today." –FEMA Director Michael Brown, to ABC's Ted Koppel, Sept. 1, 2005, to which Koppel responded " Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting on it for more than just today." (Source)

23) "I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans." –FEMA Director Michael Brown, arguing that the victims bear some responsibility, CNN interview, Sept. 1, 2005 (Source)

24) "I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen." --GOP strategist Jack Burkman, on MSNBC's "Connected," Sept. 7, 2005 (Source)

September 9, 2005

I am sure I will feel better

But this week has not been easy. I keep saying it, but it's still true. World leaders are looking at our poverty and thinking, "don't you ever lecture me on anything again." To be fair, Bush is not responsible for the horrible poverty in the South. We all are. But he has done nothing to make it better and everything to make it worse.

I have moments of hope, when I read that Robert Novak has criticized Bush or when I flip on Faux News and they say he dropped the ball. William Kristol says that Republicans are all disappointed with him, but they will continue to support Bush on tax cuts. Feh. What assholes.

It is nice that the staunchest supporters--the ones who thought Bush represented Jesus' own candidate (some anyway) are acknowledging that the frat boy jokes about New Orleans and Trent Lott's house were juvenile. Some, the most honest, recognize that his "we didn't think the levees would fail" was pure bullshit.

But that really isn't enough. I am still so pissed off that people ignored all the warning signs that this President was inept. Sure he invaded the wrong country and he can't speak the English language, but you assured me he was Godly or "street smart" or whatever. You were wrong. You were so damn wrong. This guy has never been successful at any thing he has ever done, and his only putative successes have come from his family name. His "born again" experience doesn't change that one bit.

I know that I have said I am trying to forgive his supporters for giving us the worst President in American history. But for tonight, I am angry. You owe me a damn country! You owe me a damn social safety net. You owe me an administration that looks at in creased terrorist acts in Iraq as proof democracy is working! You owe me an administration that isn't so fucking dumb! One that doesn't think that global warming is a myth, but intelligent design is science.

I will work on the forgiveness. Tonight I will say I was right and you were wrong. Supporting this man for any office is negligent. Foisting him on the world as a Christian leader is criminal.

Bush's Presidency: One big Brain Drain

Leaders Lacking Disaster Experience: "But experts inside and out of government said a 'brain drain' of experienced disaster hands throughout the agency, hastened in part by the appointment of leaders without backgrounds in emergency management, has weakened the agency's ability to respond to natural disasters. "

It isn't just FEMA--it is ignoring Colin Powell. It is rejecting global warming science because it is inconvenient. It is our "intellectual" president saying that Intelligent Design should be taught alongside Evolution in Science classes. Right, because he has such a good grasp of the issues! It sums up the entire presidency. Brain Drain.

And, btw, while I am on a Friday rant, I think I could deal with someone like Bush if they had an ounce of humility. But more than that, the man has no curiosity. None. He has no interest in learning. No ability to learn from his mistakes or the mistakes of others.

Photoshop job or not--still true

September 8, 2005

Dick Cheney gets his own treatment

Watching the Daily Show this evening. It is good to have someone put a humorous face on this administration. Bush woodenly reading the bio of Rhenquist was vintage Bush. Just proud of his ability to read, he looks up for approval when he finishes a sentence. Jeesh. And the American people elected him?

Well, Bush may be completely losing his political savvy. Or I am missing something. Cheney is sent to the south? Why? Because they are trying to humanize the administration? This, from the VP, who remained on vacation well through last week's disaster. Fishing. Good old Dick.

So, and this is where it got funny. Cheney is down there talking to the media. Someone asks him about antagonism to the administration's response avoidance of the hurricane. He says not from what he is hearing. Out of the crowd, you hear, "Mr. Cheney, go fuck yourself."

Ah, there it is. Damn that is funny. And for those of you who just wrinkled your face in horror at the word, just remember that the good VP used that very phrase on Patrick Leahy. I didn't mind it then. I certainly don't mind it now. The worm is starting to turn. Brian Williams is on the Daily Show and he is pissed off. Jack Cafferty (cnn) did a 5 minute rant on Bush stocking FEMA with political hacks. People are starting to see the difference between the reality and what the administration wants to tell us is the reality.

More on dialogue

Kbonline had some great points about the problems with dialogue between the left and right.

Thinking about that again, I was reading (and participating) in an exchange over at Anglican's blog. And I mean this in the most respectful way, but the exchange highlighted some of our problems. Here is a short version:

Anglican: I like Ray Nagin--he is willing to stand up to Bush.

Anonymous: No, he is the problem. A true leader doesn't point fingers--he takes responsibility.

Anglican (and me): True, and probably right with Nagin, but also Bush, right?

Anonymous: No need to point fingers. Why talk about blame?

It almost seems that many Bush supporters are almost incapable of admitting that Bush completely failed on this. Are they taking their cues from the man himself--who seems genetically incapable of admitting an error about his policy. Or anything. I have never seen so many people who act themselves with integrity and honor, excuse this man over and over again. What is it?

Why can't they acknowledge that he royally screwed up and handled the tragedy of this hurricane with the sensitivity of a French aristocrat? Is it because they fear if they do, they are admitting that God screwed up by putting this man in office?

For what it is worth, I have always resented your blaming God for this man. You elected him, not God. This isn't God's fault. I am clear on that.

Maybe you would be better off if you admitted that too. Maybe then you could look at Bush as a flawed human being who has real issues with his own arrogance and lack of humility, you would be better off.

That is part of this problem with dialogue. When talking about Bush, we seem to be arguing with God. But we aren't really. Don't blame this on God.

September 7, 2005

This is tough stuff

This has been a really hard week. Work is obviously part of it, but I think the disaster and how it has been discussed has really gotten to me. Like Bootleg Blogger, I think I believe in and trust a certain social safety net. Watching the Republicans gut it and then point fingers dismays me. It is horrifying. And it is horrifying because this is the ultimate outcome of a policy driven by Grover Norquist's sick joke about "drowning the government in a bathtub." Government has been the whipping boy for conservatives--and religious conservatives have jumped on the bandwagon. And those of us who dissent are referred to as communists or socialists. Why?

Government is that social contract where people get together and decide to create a livable society. Codify their laws and determine how to live in a relative degree of harmony with each other. It isn't perfect and it isn't the solution to everything, but the absence of government is, well, living in caves. We developed government over the years to work together. Yes, governments have been used to oppress people. But so have churches. You don't hear me getting rid of churches.

I was thinking of that today when I heard James Dobson's self-congratulatory "look at how well we Christians are doing" speech on the hurricane (btw, he offers a Christian perspective on the storm for his listeners, because as he mentioned, that differs from what you will hear on the news.) What a giant braying ass. Not that churches aren't doing great work in this disaster, and not that churches don't do great work every day. But so do other organizations and so do people who aren't Christians. We need churches and other civic organizations.

But we also need government. We are supposed to be "a" people. And when the patriotic idiots are blathering, they warn us to be together. That we all have to unite behind the Prez. Yet when it is time to pay taxes for roads or levees or for an agency to protect us from disaster--it is everyone for themselves.

We don't need to love government. But hating it is stupid. And indefensible. And needs to be stopped. We need to, as kbonline said in my comments, speak the truth with integrity. We can do better. But it won't be by turning over our society to chaos.

The Bootleg Blogger raises the big question

The Bootleg Blogger: Will Our Uncle Be There When We Need Him?: "I am probably one of many Americans who have always had an underlying assumption of a governmental safety net that would be there if something really catastrophic happened, i.e. the government (local, state, national) would be there to step in. I can't help but wonder if much of the frustration and anger being expressed by those affected by the storm, but especially those NOT affected by the storm watching from the comfort of our homes, might have as a component of it the realization that the safety net isn't really there. I'm not debating whether or not it should be there or not, just making the point that for thousands of people it was not there. Only time will tell what affects this my have on the national psyche. Will the way local governments plan be affected by this, knowing that the feds may not be there? Will this affect where we locate? How we vote? For many of the victims of the hurricane such a discussion is a real luxury. Where they live, work, and travel involves much less freedom of choice than some of the rest of us on the outside looking in. But for those who do have choices and aren't trapped by necessity, what will we do with the revelations of the past weeks? Will Uncle Sam be there when we need him?"

That is the question raised by this storm. Do we as a people want our government to try to be that social safety net? Or, as the Republicans in charge seem to be saying now, we shouldn't expect the government to be able to help us. Like BB, I believed it was there. I thought that there was a shared belief and dedication to such a safety net. In fact, I agree that most Americans think that way. Unfortunately, our President and VP (who I understand just stayed on vacation--what a dick) don't seem to share that.

I restate my challenge. Conservative Republicans? I think you want more responsive and efficient government. Why do you let this administration gut government? You can make a difference.

Only question is whether you are bought off by a tax cut or convinced that Bush and his family (these poor people? wow, they don't even have an investment portfolio--is that really a life?) are the best current representatives of the Christ who chastized the wealthy and fed the poor?

That still puzzles me. How do people who talk about Christ so much support a guy who acts like a Roman emporer?

Friedman is shrill

Osama and Katrina - New York Times

Unfortunately, he used that mandate not simply to confront the terrorists but to take a radically uncompassionate conservative agenda - on taxes, stem cells, the environment and foreign treaties - that was going nowhere before 9/11, and drive it into a post-9/11 world. In that sense, 9/11 distorted our politics and society.

Well, if 9/11 is one bookend of the Bush administration, Katrina may be the other. If 9/11 put the wind at President Bush's back, Katrina's put the wind in his face. If the Bush-Cheney team seemed to be the right guys to deal with Osama, they seem exactly the wrong guys to deal with Katrina - and all the rot and misplaced priorities it's exposed here at home.

These are people so much better at inflicting pain than feeling it, so much better at taking things apart than putting them together, so much better at defending 'intelligent design' as a theology than practicing it as a policy."

And of course, he seems ill-equipped to fight Osama too. Better at attacking countries disconnected to 9-11.

September 6, 2005

Rant coming

Today's news has not helped my sense of this country. Barbara Bush chuckles that poor people are better off and Republicans are pushing for more tax cuts. I am not surprised, mind you. Republican shock that Bush and his family are callous to the poor bothers me. Everything they have done in office has been to help their own class--why are we surprised that they are callous? Or is the surprise that they actually said it? Not that they felt it and believe it, but that it was aloud?

So, let me tell you my fears. My fear is that people will continue to say that we can' t criticize the President--"that there is plenty of time for that." Meanwhile Bush (who has already said he will oversee an investigation into the response--I am pretty sure he won't find himself to blame) will undoubtedly fire the FEMA director--which will actually make news since he hasn't fired anyone for incompetence yet. But the overall conservative attack on government will continue. House Republicans are already talking about tax relief as a part of the Hurricane recovery. I am sure that will really help those who lost everything--but maybe a nice tax break for the wealthy who have to rebuild? Meanwhile the military has admitted that it had ships and people ready to go last weekend, but had to wait for the President to order it. But he didn't and he won't take responsibility. He never has. I am not expecting him to do so now.

So what will happen? Middle class republicans will get more tax breaks--the poor will see their services cut further, and the rich will do just fine. Our preparedness for another disaster will be talked about but all the repubs who vote for Bush because he is such a good christian will ignore any faults. Midterm elections next year, repubs will continue to vote repub and the gutting and killing of our government will continue. Other christians will flock again next year to fight off the evil gays--who despite being badmouthed and beaten up more than in the past, will continue to be gay. Abortion rates will continue to go up as people (especially the poor) realize there is no social safety net, but abortion will be blamed on liberals.

You and I better hope the next disaster isn't in our area--because I can only imagine Barbara Bush looking at the shell of my house and chuckling "you are better off now."

Bucky the Badger sends this

Read the entire thing. This is the theology that more than puzzles me.

This is an open letter to the man sitting behind me at La Paz today, in Nashville, at lunchtime, with the Brooks Brothers shirt:

You don't know me. But I know you.

I watched you as you held hands with your tablemates at the restaurant where we both ate this afternoon. I listened as you prayed, and thanked God for the food you were about to eat, and for your own safety, several hundred miles away from the unfolding catastrophe in New Orleans.

You blessed your chimichanga in the name of Jesus Christ, and then proceeded to spend the better part of your meal--and mine, since I was too near your table to avoid hearing every word--morally scolding the people of that devastated city, heaping scorn on them for not heeding the warnings to leave before disaster struck. Then you attacked them--all of them, without distinction it seemed--for the behavior of a relative handful: those who have looted items like guns, or big screen TVs.

I heard you ask, amid the din of your colleagues 'Amens,' why it was that instead of pitching in to help their fellow Americans, the people of New Orleans instead--again, all of them in your mind--chose to steal and shoot at relief helicopters.

I watched you wipe salsa from the corners of your mouth, as you nodded agreement to the statement of one of your friends, sitting to your right, her hair neatly coiffed, her makeup flawless, her jewelry sparkling. When you asked, rhetorically, why it was that people were so much more decent amid the tragedy of 9-11, as compared to the aftermath of Katrina, she had offered her response, but only after apologizing for what she admitted was going to sound harsh.

'Well,' Buffy explained. 'It's probably because in New Orleans, it seems to be mostly poor people, and you know, they just don't have the same regard.'

She then added that police should shoot the looters, and should have done so from the beginning, so as to send a message to the rest that theft would not be tolerated. You, who had just thanked Jesus for your chips and guacamole, said you agreed. They should be shot. Praise the Lord.

Your God is one with whom I am not familiar.

jaw dropping

Thanks to Citizen's Rent for this one. Barbara Bush (the mother of our esteemed current Pres) had the following to say about evacuees.

: "'And so many of the people in the arena here, youknow, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them.' "

Maybe we now know where the disconnect comes from. Good god.

The state of our dialogue

We know that our country is divided. Over at BadChristian, one of Brandon's commenter's (probably provoked) blamed liberals like me for creating the partisan environment that just enourages the divide.

I don't know. I am not convinced. I know we are divided. And I don't know how to bridge it. Not to sound overly partisan, but I believe that Karl Rove likes it just that way--dividing the country is beneficial for him. But it isn't for us.

Brandon had another post on the "ethics of outrage" and how we disagree (sometimes vehemently). How are we to respond. DLW has written a lot on trying to find ways through the mess. He makes some really good points about the differences between economic and social conservatives, and offers some ways for the two sides to bridge conflicts in constructive ways.

It does feel like we are stuck. And that we are speaking a different language. Be it over church or the Bible or the President--our language is divided. How do we find common ground? How do we fight, with integrity, for what we believe in and find agreement with others?

Perhaps a good explanation

Thanks to Bootleg Blogger for this explanation for how people might still see Bush as a good leader. For so many of us, he is so shockingly bad that it is hard for us to imagine him still having positive numbers.

And this is part of the story of the Bush presidency: at each point they have created situations in which to believe the worst about the president requires a difficult and unsettling surrender of your own assumptions and sense of security. It's easy and comfortable to believe that the president gets blowjobs from interns, and even to get comfortably outraged about it. But it's much more difficult to accept that he would lead us into war on false pretenses, or countenance the betrayal of a covert agent for political gain, or treat the federal disaster management agency as a "turkey farm" for cronies of cronies who washed out at their previous trivial jobs, or ignore warnings of a terrorist threat, or...

That's also part of the disconnect or polarization in American politics. Those of us who at some point crossed over the river -- we've come to grips with the fact that our lives and our assumptions are in some degree of peril because of the president, in a way that we never felt about Nixon, Reagan or Bush I -- will believe anything, and have trouble understanding those who haven't crossed over, who still want to believe where it's possible to believe.

It's why it's extremely important not to fall into the trap of "let's not be political at a time of crisis." This is a moment where the unthinkable finally becomes real for a lot of people. Because it is real.

Many of the comments are good as well.

September 5, 2005

I feel a little sick this morning Times-Picayune Breaking News Weblog: "
"We were briefing them way before landfall," Mayfield said. "It's not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped."

It isn't just this. I knew this, or at least most of it. Then I read this where the Bush administration is making a concerted effort to blame the states and local governments.

Aaron Broussard, president of decimated Jefferson Parish in Louisiana, broke down in tears on NBC's "Meet the Press" as he chided officials. "Nobody's coming to get us," Broussard said, his head sagging. "The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God's sake, shut up and send us somebody."

In public statements and even more bluntly behind the scenes, Bush administration officials have questioned local efforts to rescue thousands of people who were stranded for days without food, water and shelter, resulting in death of an unknown number of Americans. The Bush administration says the death tolls will reach into the thousands by the time New Orleans is drained, and three top officials were dispatched to survey the region.


Bush is trying to undo what many Republicans described as considerable damage to the White House inflicted by Bush's crisis management. "Almost every Republican I have spoken with is disappointed" in Bush's performance, said William Kristol, a conservative columnist with close White House ties. "He is a strong president . . . but he has never really focused on the importance of good execution. I think that is true in many parts of his presidency."

As president, Bush typically has been loath to admit mistakes, and this situation is no different.

Anonymous said I was too hard on the church, yet the conservative church tells me continuously that this man is a good Christian. Yeah, just like Jesus would do--he refuses to accept any blame and turns it on others. Pardon me for wanting to puke. Please don't ask me to respect that. At least until someone, anyone, can give me something beyond lip service that shows Bush really believes and takes it seriously. Jesus truly cared for the least of these--and Katrina has exposed the least of these. Bush mustered a fake photo-op.

We will continue to do things to help. We will do what limited things we can. I will try to stay away from the news for a while. The horror of the hurricane's aftermath is bad enough. The unbelievable callousness of the Bush administration is more than I can bear. But maybe we will get that tax cut we need so badly! :(

September 4, 2005

Sorry, but this is shameful

It reminds me of Governor Arnold having a pothole dug in the street so he can fill it in on camera. Senator Landrieu is not happy with the President's visit. Is this a fair critique? - Louisiana Politics and News: "But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast -- black and white, rich and poor, young and old -- deserve far better from their national government."

One more good one

And I know this is just one of those out there. SOF and I attended this church a few years back. As she reminded me, when the rest of the country was freaking out about AIDS, this church had a ministry. They purposefully decided to not flee to the suburbs when the others were--staying in the downtown area. And when new building happened, it wasn't to add a restaurant. South Main holds a pretty important place in our hearts.

They have a multi-purpose gynmasium and they are opening it to house people from the storm. They are accepting donations.

Interesting story

Told you I would go positive for a bit. Computer guy uses the technology and people to build an interactive map where people can leave information.

Pretty impressive.

BTW, a good thing from Oklahoma Baptists. They are opening their big camp facility to hurricane victims. That is good--probably the best use of that facility. And I know there are many, many other similar stories out there of churches and private organizations working to help these people. has a site where people can both offer and request housing. Lots of people from all sides of the spectrum are doing good.

Maybe the media is not so weak

Slate has a great piece on the media's coverage of this. It is truly stunning to watch how reporters who have made their career as stenographers for the Bush administration actually ask hard questions. Watch the video when Anderson Cooper goes after LA Senator Landrieu.

Excuse me, Senator, I'm sorry for interrupting. I haven't heard that, because, for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated.

Or listen to Robert Siegel at NPR finally get Michael Chertoff to stop talking about (finally) getting help to the Superdome and admitting that he doesn't know what is going on at the Convention center. But even then, Chertoff is defensive and annoying--suggesting that NPR is repeating rumors. Siegel points out these reports are coming from seasoned reporters who have covered wars.

All of these politicians have failed us. All of them. Maybe this will get the media to be more aggressive. If that happens, then we might have some hope. Bush should not be able to say with a straight face "no one thought the levees would fail." That is just plain bullshit and either he is lying or ignorant. Or both.

SOF sent this from Wired Magazine: "They Knew What to Expect"

"In light of that, said disaster expert Bill Waugh of Georgia State University, 'It's inexplicable how unprepared for the flooding they were.' He said a slow decline over several years in funding for emergency management was partly to blame.

In comments on Thursday, President Bush said, 'I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.'

But LSU engineer Joseph Suhayda and others have warned for years that defenses could fail. In 2002, the New Orleans Times Picayune published a five-part series on 'The Big One,' examining what might happen if they did.

It predicted that 200,000 people or more would be unwilling or unable to heed evacuation orders and thousands would die, that people would be housed in the Superdome, that aid workers would find it difficult to gain access to the city as roads became impassable, as well as many other of the consequences that actually unfolded after Katrina hit this week."


One more negative thing and then I am going to "go positive." (for today or for right now). I heard Frankling Graham on MSNBC last night. The very first thing he did was tell people to stop pointing fingers (ok, fine, whatever). Then he called on all the churches to solve the problem (almost implying that federal agencies shouldn't even be asked) and then listed some denominations. All were conservative evangelical. He certainly didn't name synagogues or mosques.

It reminded me of the Simpsons where Homer burns down his house after he has lost some faith in God. Reverend Lovejoy reminds him of all the people of faith who helped rescue him, "be they Christian, Jew or Misc (referring to the Hindu, Apu)."

A list of misstatements lies by this Administration

A blogger over at the Talking Points Memo Cafe (nice little portal, btw) has a handy list of the lies.

Not sure Which President he was watching

I normally like David Brody, but this is really weird.

It took almost no time for President Bush to put his stamp on the national response to the tragedy that has befallen New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, a reminder that modern communications have reshaped the constitutional division of powers in our government in ways that the Founding Fathers never could have imagined.

I will agree that he put his stamp on it. It was a giggling smirking stamp. A stamp of incompetence. But in no way did he sound Presidential. Those who watched his address at the White House said that he was less articulate than usual. And that is saying something.

Because the commander in chief is also the communicator in chief, when a crisis emerges the nation's eyes turn to him as to no other official. We cannot yet calculate the political fallout from Hurricane Katrina and its devastating human and economic consequences, but one thing seems certain: It makes the previous signs of political weakness for Bush, measured in record-low job approval ratings, instantly irrelevant and opens new opportunities for him to regain his standing with the public.

Seriously? Blaming others? Saying stupid things like "no one ever thought the levees would break." Right. Only everyone thought that, you jerk.

We have seen this before. Bill Clinton was foundering in his third year in office when the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City shocked the nation and set the stage for his flawless performance of the symbolic rites of healing and comfort for the victims.

And of course we saw how Bush's response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon revived a presidency that looked to have lost its direction and purpose after eight months in office in 2001.

Right, the blank look when someone told him what happened. Geesh. What fucking leadership?

The challenges posed by this natural disaster are in some ways even more difficult than those of the terrorist attack, with anger and frustration now being expressed about the response of governments at all levels. But for a president who believes that actions speak louder than words, this is an advantageous setting.

Too bad he is bad at actions too.

By coincidence, the same day that the president flew back from vacation to take command of the hurricane response. . .

Right, flew back from vacation on the Wednesday after the disaster! UB will probably jump in here and talk about my Bush hating.

But Brody has it completely wrong. Bush had a chance to step out there and act presidential. He didn't. Those who think he did are still wearing the Bush goggles. You know, the ones where an arrogant ass appears to be a man of character. Where a person who laughs about war and treats his enemies with disdain and disrespect looks like a good Christian.

Well, the spin has begun spinning

That shouldn't be a surprise. Bush looked decidedly unpresidential this week and his handlers have to hate how much criticism he has taken. They are turning in typical Bush fashion and blaming others.

Bush, who has been criticized, even by supporters, for the delayed response to the disaster, used his weekly radio address to put responsibility for the failure on lower levels of government. The magnitude of the crisis "has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities," he said. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable."

Evidently Bush and Cherthoff are saying that they have tried to work with the Democratic governor of LA, but she has been resistant. Yeah, resistant to a complete federal takeover--but all of this is well after the fact and has nothing to do with the preparedness issue. Let's not forget "Brownie" (Bush's nickname for his favorite political hack running FEMA) blaming the poor for not leaving or not having the means to leave.

And finally, I have said this multiple times, but it still stuns me. Why can't this man take a bit of responsibility? For anything? Why does this Christian President who talks about his faith have nothing approaching humility? And forget his faith (as I think he does) what about politics? What would cost him to admit that he had not responded as well as he wanted to? What is it about this man that he can't admit a mistake? And why do all the people who talk about moral values not mind that?

I would have respected him if he admitted that in the shuffle to improve Homeland Security, obviously (because it is obvious) some organizational steps were missed. Those need to be improved before next time. But not this guy. He just blames those around him. Everyone else is at fault.

I think I am going to start doing that. When I forget to meet someone for lunch, I will blame them for not reminding me or the lowly person who made my watch. Let's see how people like that. :)

September 3, 2005

Maureen Dowd

"But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.

When the president and vice president rashly shook off our allies and our respect for international law to pursue a war built on lies, when they sanctioned torture, they shook the faith of the world in American ideals.

When they were deaf for so long to the horrific misery and cries for help of the victims in New Orleans - most of them poor and black, like those stuck at the back of the evacuation line yesterday while 700 guests and employees of the Hyatt Hotel were bused out first - they shook the faith of all Americans in American ideals. And made us ashamed.

Who are we if we can't take care of our own?"

NY Times editorial

Just curious. Those who accuse me of playing the blame game, do you find it problematic that Republicans are pushing for more tax cuts and reductions in programs during this? Tax cuts that won't help the refugees, and cutting services that might? Do we have a shared responsibility to sacrifice?

Katrina's Assault on Washington - New York Times: "There are dozens of questions Americans will demand to have answered once this emergency has passed. If the Homeland Security Department was so ill prepared for a natural disaster that everyone knew was coming, how is it equipped to handle other kinds of crises? Has the war in Iraq drained the nation of resources that it needs for things like flood prevention? Is the National Guard ready to handle a disaster that might be even worse, like a biological or nuclear attack?

One thing is certain: if President Bush and his Republican Congressional leaders want to deal responsibly with a historic disaster of this scale, they must finally try the path of honestly shared national sacrifice. If they respond by passing a few emergency measures and then falling back on their plans to enact more tax cuts, America will have to confront the fact that it is stuck with leaders who neither know, nor care, how to lead.

The pre-Katrina plan for this Congressional season was to enact more upper-bracket tax cuts for the least needy, while cutting into the safety-net programs for sick and impoverished Americans. These are the very entitlement programs most needed by the sudden underclass of hundreds of thousands of hurricane refugees cast adrift like Dustbowl Okies. Will Congress dare to go forward with these retrogressive plans in the face of the suffering from Katrina? Its woeful track record suggests that, shockingly, the answer may be yes."

Remember, Ken Mehlman (RNC head) sent out an email on Thursday (of this week) to Ohio pressing them to push for the end of the estate tax.


The Boston Herald is reporting that FEMA director Michael Brown was fired from his last job of overseeing horse shows. He was bad at organizing and supervising HORSE SHOWS! But was hired as deputy director at FEMA by his old college buddy (from Oklahoma, unfortunately). That college buddy was appointed by Bush based on his great experience at, oh right, running part of Bush's 2000 campaign. Hmm. If you appointed a car salesman in charge of your fire department, would you be surprised if there were problems?

Now this:

"As reports continued of famished and dehydrated people isolated across the Gulf Coast, angry questions were pressed about why the military has not been dropping food packets for them -- as was done in Afghanistan, Bosnia and in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami.

Bill Wattenburg, a consultant for the University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and one of the designers of the earlier food drop programs, said that he has lobbied the administration and the military to immediately begin something similar. He said he was told that the military was prepared to begin, but that it was awaiting a request from FEMA."

And this:
"Several states ready and willing to send National Guard troops to the rescue in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans didn't get the go-ahead until days after the storm struck -- a delay nearly certain to be investigated by Congress.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard on Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday."

Unfortunately, this is shaping up more and more like Michael Brown is going to bear the brunt of this--and it appears that he deserves much of it.


Just found this (emphasis mine): KRT Wire | 09/02/2005 | FEMA director struggles to defend Katrina response:

"Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican who chairs the Senate Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security Subcommittee, declared Friday he would hold hearings on 'the inadequate federal and state governments' level of preparedness.'

President Bush, however, gave Brown a vote of confidence Friday, telling him he was 'doing a heck of a job.' [maybe he should get the Presidential Medal of Freedom or an appointment to the Supreme Court?]


. . . Brown hasn't spent much of his career in the public eye or on TV. He isn't a politician, one friend said, but a 'nitty gritty manager, a guy who wants to see all the flow charts and how things fit together.' 'Mike is more of a manager who drives the process,' he said. 'He's not a big-picture thinker.'


In 2001, however, his old friend Joseph Allbaugh - who managed President Bush's 2000 campaign for president - took over FEMA and hired Brown as his general counsel. And when Allbaugh left FEMA in 2003, Brown succeeded him.

'It was not a patronage job in any way,' said Marc Lampkin, who was Allbaugh's deputy in the Bush campaign of 2000."


Funny moment. Remember that Dennis Hastert raised questions the other day about rebuilding New Orleans. He is trying to backpeddle, but someone had a strong response to his comment.
"In Syracuse, N.Y., former president Bill Clinton was discussing New Orleans's dilemma when someone described the speaker's comments. Had they been in the same place when the remarks were made, Clinton said, 'I'm afraid I would have assaulted him.'"

I miss him.

I don't think Sully likes Bush - Daily Dish: "QUOTE OF THE DAY II: ''The good news is - and it's hard for some to see it now - that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house - there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch.' (Laughter).' - president George W. Bush, today. Just think of that quote for a minute; and the laughter that followed. The poor and the black are dying, dead, drowned and desperate in New Orleans and elsewhere. But the president manages to talk about the future 'fantastic' porch of a rich, powerful white man who only recently resigned his position because he regretted the failure of Strom Thurmond to hold back the tide of racial desegregation."

Thinking more about UB's comment in the previous thread about me being unahppy no matter what Bush does. I think there are two major issues at work. One is more trivial and more about style. The other is about substance. They are related and the style betrays facts about the substance. Bush's style sucks. As Sully notes, laughing about the house of a powerful rich white man while the poor and black and old die is just bad taste. I have watched this president stumble through the week and there is a part of me that wonders where Rove is? These seem like gimmes to me. End vacation early, tour the damage--look presidential. But he can't do that.

If UB is mad because I harp too much on the style of this inarticulate President, then I plead guilty. I hate the way he speaks. I hate that the most powerful man in the world barely knows English (Disassemble: that means to not tell the truth).

But my bigger complaint is the substance betrayed by the joke about Lott's house. As I noted before, Katrina ripped the cover off our pretense. Our poverty laid bare for the rest of the world to see. That is not all Bush's fault, by any means. Southern poverty has deep roots and complex problems. That revelation should be shaming to all Americans--Americans who are blogging on computers or reading this blog. Our poverty here at home is shameful.

And that is why I harp on the political. Government was obviously the only entity that could manage and organize something this big. But Grover Norquist's vaunted goal to make government small enough to "drown in a bathtub" seems more than a sick joke now. It is reality.

We need to reclaim this. I have a hope that out of the rubble of this storm will rise an American belief in the importance and value of all Americans. A return to the idea that while Government is hardly the answer to everything--indeed there are many areas where government is ill-equipped to act--it can do some very important things to better the lives of Americans.

September 2, 2005

NOLA mayor responds

New Anglican has this. Read it. I keep hearing that this is not the time to point fingers. But the fingers need to be pointed. I am tired of the bullshit surrounding this President. Had conservatives held him accountable for anything up till now, I might be impressed. But they haven't. And they won't.

This is it people. These are the "least of these." Katrina has ripped open the facade of our poverty and shown it to the world. And while the Bill O'Reilley and Sean Hannity's talk about looting, an administration that obviously couldn't evacuate Crawford, Texas (unless there was a photo-op) the poor of Mississippi and Lousiana made the big mistake of assuming that there were agencies that were trying to help them. The assumed that some government agency would step in and coordinate what they couldn't do themeselves. But that agency was gutted for one of Bush's golf buddies.

I was chided today for not loving what Jesus loves. You tell me. Does Jesus look down on this and say, "hey, yeah emergency planning is good, but you got a $300 tax cut instead!" Silly me. I think Jesus is in on Canal Street fighting the levee--trying to help the poor and the sick and old get to safety. He isn't photo-opping his way through a Presidency. "we will rebuild Trent Lott's house (screw the poor) and I will sit on his porch."

Obvious statement of the day: Bush has no idea what his favorite philosopher stood for. Or stands for.