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Friday, September 30, 2005
Do a Good Turn Every Day

First of all, let me state flatly that I despise Bill Bennett. He's an odious man, the nanny non-pareil, a man who is more than willing to overlook the plank in his own eye if he can look at a mote he thinks could possibly be his brothers'.

That said, I think he's getting more flak for this exchange than he should:

BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don't know what the costs would be, too. I think as -- abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.

CALLER: I don't know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.

BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --

CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, 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. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky

It is unfortunate that Bennet chose African-Americans as his example, but I don't think it was intentionally racist. Indeed, Bennett was using the example to show how questionable he feels that making sweeping demographic projections based on who gets aborted is wrong--and I don't know how much more emphatic he could have been in stating the example was something that should never be done.

Does Bennett evince some racism here? Sure. But it's the sort of ooky, sub rosa racism that permeates our society, unfortunately. It would have been better had he used poor people or men as his example--leaving the race angle out. But I don't think Bennett was being overtly racist.

But Bennett wasn't writing a book where he could consider his words carefully--he was responding to a caller to his show, and picked a demographic group that has a higher-than-mean rate of criminal activity. He may have chosen imprudently, and with the subtle biases we all carry, but his actions were not especially grievous. There's plenty we can go after Bennett for. This ain't it.

UPDATE: See, this is why you don't defend Bill Bennett:

Responding to his critics, Bennett told the Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes":"I'll not take instruction from Teddy Kennedy. A young woman likely drowned because of his negligence . . . . He should make no judgments at all about other people. He shouldn't be in the Senate."

Nice, Bill. All class. Very virtuous.

Again, I don't think Bennett's original comments deserved a high lever of opprobrium. However, all Bennett had to do to quell the ruckus was apologize for making a poor analogy (or at the least, explain his analogy better). Instead, he poured gasoline on the fire. Enjoy, Bill.

Tom De Lay's Got a Secret

This is believable:

BLITZER: Well, that’s an explosive charge you make, that there was some sort of collusion or conspiracy between Ronnie Earle and Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in the Congress. What evidence, if any, do you have to back that up?

DELAY: It’s very good evidence, that they announced this strategy publicly, they put it on their website and this strategy is in their fund-raising letters.

BLITZER: Who specifically — who announced this?

DELAY: The DCCC, the Democratic Campaign Committee, run by Chairman Rahm Emanuel.

BLITZER: They announced that they were working with Ronnie Earle to get you an indictment?

DELAY: No, they didn’t do that.

BLITZER: What evidence is there they consulted with Ronnie Earle, that they talked to him or they had any dealings with him whatsoever?

DELAY: That evidence is coming. But the point is, they announced the strategy, and it’s very funny that two weeks ago, when Ronnie Earle said publicly that I was not part of the investigation, that I hadn’t been investigated, and then turns around in two days — over the weekend — he now is going to indict me. It is quite obvious, because the Democrats announced this strategy. And we all know how this place works. I’m sure they worked closely with Ronnie Earle on this strategy.

BLITZER: When is the evidence going to be made available? You say it’s coming. When are you going to make that evidence available?

DELAY: When it’s timely.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

DELAY: When it’s timely.

I also have an explosive charge: Tom DeLay, the Illuminati, Elvis, and six Jewish bankers in Geneva are conspiring together to steal my fillings. I know, because they announced it on their website. Except they didn't. But they did!

Really, Tom, if you're gonna lie, at least lie consistently.

Friday Random Ten
Somebody Hold Me, Somebody Console Me, Somebody Pour Me a Pot of Pirogies

1. "Rock and Roll Lifestyle," Cake
2. "Don't Wanna Know," The Refreshments
3. "Nicotine and Gravy," Beck
4. "32 Flavors (Live)," Ani DiFranco
5. "Sunken Eyed Girl (Live)," Mike Doughty
6. "Time After Time," Eva Cassidy
7. "The Way You Look Tonight," Frank Sinatra
8. "Crime for Crime," Ani DiFranco
9. "She's an Angel," They Might Be Giants
10. "4 Da Shorteez," mc chris (as Sir Loin)

Thursday, September 29, 2005
The Dread Justice Roberts

Confirmed, 78-22. 22 Dems against, 22 for plus Jeffords.

I've already stated that I supported Roberts' confirmation, if not Roberts' philosophy. Had I been a senator, I would have been voted for confirmation. That said, given the paucity of "no" votes, it's hard to argue the 22 Democrats who voted against him were doing something horrid. 78-22 is a rout, and it's impossible to paint 22 no votes as anything within the same universe as "obstructionist."

Who Does Number Two Work For?


U.S. intelligence officials and counterterrorism analysts are questioning whether a slain terrorist—described by President Bush today as the "second-most-wanted Al Qaeda leader in Iraq"—was as significant a figure as the Bush administration is claiming.

No! You don't mean to say that they're making up killing their twelfth number two guy this year, do you?

To Be Blunt

Josh asks a great question: how did Blunt outmaneuver David Dreier for Majority Leader after Dennis Hastert had already named Dreier? I mean, this is not a minor question. It suggests strongly that Hastert be damned, the rank-and-file is not going to be marching over a cliff for DeLay.

Dreier was a placeholder. He's not chopped liver--he's chair of the House Committee on Rules, which is possibly the most important chairmanship there is--but he wasn't seen as a long-term successor to DeLay, partly because he's a closteted heterosexual.

Roy Blunt, contrawise, was seen as a definite successor--in fact the successor--to DeLay. The fact that the majority caucus seems to want DeLay's successor installed now, even if it means throwing their speaker under a bus...well, it seems to me that speaks volumes about what the caucus thinks of their former majority leader.

Amanda Marcotte notes that DeLay was indicted because "...DeLay's got more dirt on him than a freshly buried corpse." That's about right. And while we can all speculate on what's out there, the House majority caucus knows. And tonight, I think it's fair to say that a majority of that caucus wants no part of what's coming.

Damn the Times!

Save a brief mention by the Wingnuty Professor, Tom Delay gets no follow-up. Things Glenn has written on since apologizing for being too busy to blog more on DeLay:

But, you know, he's too busy to get to DeLay. Maybe tomorrow. If the New York Times doesn't accidentally screw up its crossword, that is.

Tipping Points

Kevin Drum on the demise of Arctic ice, and what it means for the future. Answer: nothing good.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Lighting Stikes Twice

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (love writing that) is indicted, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is under investigation.

Ha-ha! Your position has been usurped.

The Hammer Falls

DeLay is now the former House Majority Leader:

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, 58, 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 in a statement.

GOP congressional officials said Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., will recommend that Rep. David Dreier of California step into those duties. Some of the duties may go to the GOP whip, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri. The Republican rank and file may meet as early as Wednesday night to act on Hastert's recommendation.

Criminal conspiracy is a state felony punishable by six months to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The potential two-year sentence forces DeLay to step down under House Republican rules.

My heart bleeds for him.

This, of course, will create immediate fallout; DeLay is not finished, but he's close.

For now, though, today is a happy day.

"Either break him or destroy him, and do it quickly."

Who said that? Darth Vader? Goldfinger? Dr. Evil?

No--allegedly, it's Donald Rumsfeld, in regard to Capt. Ian Fishback, an American soldier who had the temerity to speak out about torture.

If Andrew Sullivan is to be believed, Fishback is being rewarded for standing up for American principles, enshrined in our very Constitution, with the worst sort of betrayal:

Fishback has now been sequestered at Fort Bragg under orders restricting his contacts (the pretext is that he is a key witness in a criminal investigation and that he should not be in contact with outsiders while it continues). My sources tell me that he has been subjected to a series of long, arduous interrogations by CID investigators. Predictably, the CID guys are out to find just one thing: they want to know the identities of his two or three NCO corroborators. The CID folks are apparently indifferent to the accounts of wrongdoing - telling him repeatedly not to waste their time with his stories. Fishback knows if he gives their identities up, these folks will also be destroyed - so he's keeping his silence, so far. The investigators imply that he failed to report abuses, so he may be charged, or that he is peddling falsehoods and will be charged for that. They tell him his career in the Army is over.

If anyone deserves a medal, it's this guy; he's standing firm in the face of what must be massive pressure. But he's absolutely right, and thus far seems to have the courage of one doing the right thing.

Now, let's be honest: there's an unfortunately large contingent of Americans who believe that torture is somehow justifiable. To them, life is one big episode of "24;" everyone in American custody was caught murdering a soldier, kid, or puppy in cold blood; the interrogator is Jack Bauer; and if he doesn't get an answer in four minutes, the President will die.

Unfortunately, this is real life. The detainees may or may not have done anything, the interrogator is a 19-year-old kid who just saw his friend blown up with an IED, and if he doesn't get an answer in four weeks, nothing whatsoever will change.

But we're torturing anyhow. Torturing despite the fact that it doesn't work, torturing despite the fact that it's against the laws of man and God, torturing despite the fact that we're the United States of America, and we're supposed to be better than that.

This goes to the top. This is a calculated decision by the Bush administration. And it must stop. Capt. Fishback is a hero; let nobody doubt it, let nobody dispute it, let us all support him as best we can. He will need it.

Civil War? Schmivil War!

Courtesy of Tom Friedman, the next big thing in GOP memes:

Maybe the cynical Europeans were right. Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation. That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. If they won't, then we are wasting our time. We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind. We must not throw more good American lives after good American lives for people who hate others more than they love their own children.

To be fair to Friedman, he at least acknowledges the several Bush screwups along the way. But watch for the right to slowly turn to "hey, civil war? It's the Sunnis' fault" meme shortly. After all, after they airlift the last soldier out of Baghdad, the fall will come quickly.

DeLay Indictment Watch

Oh please, oh please....:

DeLay had appeared to escape criminal scrutiny as early as last year when Travis County prosecutors concluded that they did not have the jurisdiction to pursue election code violations against him. Under the law, only DeLay's local district attorney, a Republican, had jurisdiction, and he expressed no interest in trying to topple the second most powerful Texan in Washington.

But a conspiracy charge would fall under the criminal code, not the election statute that bans corporate money from being spent on a campaign.

That tactic is what defense lawyers fear -- and would give Travis County prosecutors jurisdiction over DeLay.

A conspiracy charge would likely allege that DeLay worked with others to circumvent state law.

Will the Hammer be nailed? Stay tuned!

Hindrocket Wuvs Brownie!

Wow, John, get a room:

It's hard to say what a marginally-informed citizen would make of the Katrina hearing, but my own impression was that the only person in the room who had any idea what he was talking about was Michael Brown.

Well, John, the Orkin guy who came to my house yesterday said that Brown blamed everyone but himself, and seemed like a real jerk. He seemed like a "marginally-informed citizen." But then again, that guy hasn't drunk the Kool Aid yet; Hindrocket is evidently mainlining it.

Number Two

You know, when I read about the death of Abu Azzam, the number two guy in al-Qaeda: Iraq, I thought to myself, "You know, I think I've read this before. Haven't we already killed Zarqawi's number two guy?"

Sadly, yes!

DeLay Indictment Forthcoming?

One can only hope.

Blame Game

My personal favorite line on Brownie: "Basically, Brown suggested that Louisiana's governor and New Orleans' mayor are incompetent which seems a bit like the pot calling the pot a pot."

Quite seriously, is there anything Brown could have possibly done to make himself look worse? There's an art to these things. If you want to push the blame off yourself and on to others, you have to actually accept some share of the blame. And not in a "the only place I failed was in not being perfect enough" way.

Look, I'm more than willing to believe that Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin have quite a bit to answer for--and unlike Brownie, I don't care whether they're Democrats or Republicans. Everyone who failed during Katrina deserves what they get. I'm far more interested in not letting this happen next time something similar happens than worrying about political blame.

Not Brownie. As Joe Gandelman asks:

How do you correct your own errors if you have someone who's defensive and points the finger of blame at other levels of government so much that his finger should be registered as a lethal weapon?

You don't. But Brownie isn't interested in correcting errors. Brownie did a heckuva job.

UPDATE: Oh, and unsurprisingly, Brownie managed to lie under oath. More than once. Heckuva job.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Heckuva Job, Brownie

Of course, former Bush administration officials don't play the blame game. No, he's just telling it like it is.

Of course, I'm sure Brownie is not influenced at all by the fact that he's been rehired by FEMA.

Way to go, Brownie.

Shut Up, Dave Thune

Smartie is absolutely right: Dave Thune is an idiot. Look, Dave, I know that there are some rowdy folks leaving the bar at 2:00 AM. But not everyone drinking between 1:00 AM and 2:00 AM "has a problem." I have been in a bar after 1:00 AM, and I average about a drink a month.

This sort of nanny-statism is one of my major problems with the DFL. It would be a bigger problem if the GOP wasn't so hell-bent on out-nannying the nannies.

Bitchy Little Girls With Chips on Their Shoulders

Commenter Jeff (no relation) caught me a bit off guard with his response to this post of mine. Now, as you may recall, given that it's two posts down, the topic of the post was the whopping $600 raised nationally to help rebuild Iraq. Jeff's response was the definition of a non sequitur:

Why on earth do you keep citing these bitchy little girls with chips on their shoulders? "Shakespeare's Sister"? "Pandagon"? Come on! You can do much better than that, Mr. Fecke, much better.

Say it with me: wha--?

Now, perhaps if ShakeSis had been going off on a gendered analysis of the paucity of contributions, I could have understood this response. But as you can see, her post was pretty much boilerplate anti-winger stuff. Good anti-winger stuff, mind you, but boilerplate nonetheless.

So what can explain Jeff's antipathy to this "bitchy little girl?"

Well, let's go off on a tangent, first.

Every blogger has a chip on his or her shoulder. Every single one. It is an act of pure ego to write your thoughts on the world to a world-readable site every day under the assumption that anybody cares about them. Bloggers are either possessed of excessive self-love, a pathological need to expound on the world around them, or a compulsive desire to write--and often, all three.

As such, we bloggers put forth a staggering array of opinions on a staggering array of topics, all the while ignoring the fact that nobody asked us for them. But occasionally, we all write stuff worth reading, and if we're good, people choose to link to us.

Shakespeare's Sister and Amanda Marcotte (the two women Jeff referenced) are no different than other bloggers, save that both have a bit more talent than average. I don't agree with either on everything--both are to the left of me politically--but I think they bring up interesting topics and address them in a clear manner.

In short, I link to them because I like their writing--and gender doesn't enter into it.

For Jeff, it does.

ShakeSis' comment could've been written by Duncan Black or Kevin Drum or Oliver Willis or any of a dozen male political bloggers. Had I linked not to ShakeSis, but to, say, Robert Jung, no doubt Jeff would've passed this post by completely.

He didn't. Instead, he complained that I had the temerity to link to a woman. And this tells us one thing: Jeff isn't interested in what women say. He wishes they'd just shut up. He wishes that they'd leave the menfolk alone to pontificate.

He's the worst sort of misogynist.

So Jeff, I'm going to tell you this once: I don't cotton to racists on this site, and I don't cotton to sexists, either. My daughter deserves a world free of the likes of you. You're a bigot, you're a jerk, and your use of satire makes Bruce Tinsley appear to be funny by comparison.

I don't like you. I don't like sharing a name with you. And given a choice between you and the "bitchy little girls with chips on their shoulders," I'll choose the women every time. Because they've got more balls than you ever will.

Don Adams, 1923-2005

Don Adams, who played Maxwell Smart in "Get Smart" and voiced the title role in the cartoon series "Inspector Gadget" has died at 82. Take care, Agent 86. You will be missed.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Wow. Bush asks for private money to help rebuild Iraq, and the 101st Fighting Keyboarders fork over a grand total of $600.

Way to go, Glenn, Hindrocket, et. al. I'm truly impressed by your, uh, commitment to the cause.

Saturday, September 24, 2005
A National Disgrace

So evidently a few bad apples is wingerspeak for the entire 82nd Airborne:

The U.S. Army has launched a criminal investigation into new allegations of serious prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan made by a decorated former Captain in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, an Army spokesman has confirmed to TIME. The claims of the Captain, who has not been named, are in part corroborated by statements of two sergeants who served with him in the 82nd Airborne; the allegations form the basis of a report from Human Rights Watch obtained by TIME and due to be released in the next few days (Since this story first went online, the organization has decided to put out its report; it can be found here). Senate sources tell TIME that the Captain has also reported his charges to three senior Republican senators: Majority Leader Bill Frist, Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner and John McCain, a former torture victim in Vietnam. A Senate Republican staffer familiar with both the Captain and his allegations told TIME he appeared "extremely credible."


The Human Rights Watch report—as well as accounts given to Senate staff—describe officers as aware of the abuse but routinely ignoring or covering it up, amid chronic confusion over U.S. military detention policies and whether or not the Geneva Convention applied. The Captain is quoted in the report describing how military intelligence personnel at Camp Mercury directed enlisted men to conduct daily beatings of prisoners prior to questioning; to subject detainees to strenuous forced exercises to the point of unconsciousness; and to expose them to extremes of heat and cold—all methods designed to produce greater cooperation with interrogators. Non-uniformed personnel—apparently working for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to the soldiers—also interrogated prisoners. The interrogators were out of view but not out of earshot of the soldiers, who overheard what they came to believe was abuse.

Specific instances of abuse described in the Human Rights Watch report include severe beatings, including one incident when a soldier allegedly broke a detainee's leg with a metal bat. Others include prisoners being stacked in human pyramids (unlike the human pyramids at Abu Ghraib, the prisoners at Camp Mercury were clothed); soldiers administering blows to the face, chest and extremities of prisoners; and detainees having their faces and eyes exposed to burning chemicals, being forced into stress positions for long periods leading to unconsciousness and having their water and food withheld.

Prisoners were designated as PUCs (pronounced "pucks")—or "persons under control." A regular pastime at Camp Mercury, the report says, involved off-duty soldiers gathering at PUC tents, where prisoners were held, and working off their frustrations in activities known as "F____a PUC" (beating the prisoner) and "Smoke a PUC" (forced physical exertion, sometimes to the point of collapse). Broken limbs and similar painful injuries would be treated with analgesics, the soldiers claim, as medical staff would fill out paperwork stating the injuries occurred during capture. Support for some of the allegations of abuse come from a sergeant of the 82nd Airborne who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch quotes him as saying that, "To 'F____ a PUC' means to beat him up. We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs, and stomach, pull them down, kick dirt on them. This happened every day. To 'smoke' someone is to put them in stress positions until they get muscle fatigue and pass out. That happened every day. Some days we would just get bored so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid. This was before Abu Ghraib but just like it. We did that for amusement.

"On their day off people would show up all the time," the sergeant continues in the HRW report. "Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent. In a way it was sport. The cooks were all U.S. soldiers. One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini Louisville Slugger that was a metal bat. He was the cook."

The sergeant says that military intelligence officers would tell soldiers that the detainees "were bad" and had been involved in killing or trying to kill Americans, implying that they deserved whatever punishment they got. "I would be told, 'These guys were IED [improvised explosive device] trigger men last week.' So we would f___ them up. F___ them up bad ... At the same time we should be held to a higher standard. I know that now. It was wrong. There are a set of standards. But you gotta understand, this was the norm. Everyone would just sweep it under the rug ... We should never have been allowed to watch guys we had fought."

Let's be clear: it's not just the 82nd Airborne. This is a systemic problem that goes straight to the top. It is absolutely, positively clear that this administration has knowingly condoned torture as a means of interrogation. Andrew Sullivan is right: Rumsfeld should resign. But he won't, of course. Instead, I expect the usual suspects to begin talking about bad apples again any day now, ignoring the fact that every apple involved is the fruit of a poisoned tree.

Liar, Liar

Bill Frist evidently thinks lying is a-ok:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was updated several times about his investments in blind trusts during 2002, the last time two weeks before he publicly denied any knowledge of what was in the accounts, documents show.

The updates included stock transactions involving HCA Inc., the hospital operating company founded by Frist's family.


Frist, asked in a television interview in January 2003 whether he should sell his HCA stock, responded: "Well, I think really for our viewers it should be understood that I put this into a blind trust. So as far as I know, I own no HCA stock"

Frist, referring to his trust and those of his family, also said in the interview, "I have no control. It is illegal right now for me to know what the composition of those trusts are. So I have no idea."

Documents filed with the Senate showed that just two weeks before those comments, the trustee of the senator's trust, M. Kirk Scobey Jr., wrote to Frist that HCA stock was contributed to the trust. It was valued at $15,000 and $50,000.

So Bill Frist is now a proven liar. Good night, Bill: your presidential aspirations are at an end.

Sunny Days, Sweepin' the Clouds Away

This is frickin' hilarious:

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.

Wow, you can smell the despairation, can't you?


Rita has come ashore, and is still a Category 2 hurricane. It's too early to tell what the extent of the damage will be, but there have been spectacular fires in Houston and Galveston, both of which otherwise avoided the worst of the storm, and there are reports of significant flooding in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

Most of the storm models now show Rita moving very slowly eastward, through Louisiana and Arkansas and into Mississippi. The models seem to suggest that much will depend on how far north Rita drifts--if she makes it into Middle Arkansas, she may get pushed rapidly eastward through Kentucky and Ohio, but if she stays near the Arkansas-Louisiana border, she makes the slow loop back to the gulf. That would be devastating, as Rita will undoubtedly pour down massive amounts of rain even after dropping into Tropical Depression, or even simply low pressure system mode. A big, slow-moving Rita will mean significant inland flooding.

Hopefully, she does drift northward enough for the prevailing winds to sweep her eastward--I suppose we'll know in the next few days. As it is, it could've been worse--Rita was the third-most-intense hurricane ever recorded at one point, but came ashore as an averageish Category Three--which isn't good, but could have been much worse.

See, I Am Too Moderate(ish)

You are a

Social Liberal
(81% permissive)

and an...

Economic Moderate
(56% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

Landfall Imminent

Rita is about to go ashore, and her real wrath may come over the next few days if, as expected, she stalls out over northeast Texas or northwest Louisiana. Indeed, some models are showing her heading right back over her landfall position--and staying there.

Good luck tonight, Texas and Louisiana. Stay safe.

Friday, September 23, 2005
Levee Breached in New Orleans

Rita's trying to finish the job her sister started:

Hurricane Rita's steady rains sent water pouring through breaches in a patched levee Friday, cascading into one of the city's lowest-lying neighborhoods in a devastating repeat of New Orleans' flooding nightmare.

"Our worst fears came true," said Maj. Barry Guidry of the Georgia National Guard.

"We have three significant breaches in the levee and the water is rising rapidly," he said. "At daybreak I found substantial breaks and they've grown larger."

Dozens of blocks in the Ninth Ward were under water as a waterfall at least 30 feet wide poured over and through a dike that had been used to patch breaks in the Industrial Canal levee. On the street that runs parallel to the canal, the water ran waist-deep and was rising fast. Guidry said water was rising about three inches a minute.

I guess the good news is that the city's already evacuated--there's nobody in mortal peril. But this sets back the rebuilding of New Orleans by a month--and God-knows-how-many billions of dollars.

Do The Math

Jack Grant does.


Rita has claimed her first victims before even coming ashore:

bus carrying elderly evacuees from a Bellaire assisted living center caught fire and was rocked by explosions early today on a gridlocked highway near Dallas, killing as many as 24 people, authorities said.

"Deputies were unable to get everyone off the bus," Dallas County Sheriff's Department spokesman Don Peritz said. He said he believes 24 people were killed, but that number could change.

Let's hope they're the last victims.

Hey, It's Only Child Slavery

Okay, riddle me this: in what universe is this okay?

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.


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 the case of Venezuela — which has had a tense relationship with the United States under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez, one of Latin America's most outspoken critics of U.S. foreign policy — Bush also allowed funding for strengthening the political party system and supporting electoral observation.

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.

That left Myanmar, Cuba and North Korea as the only nations in the list of 14 barred completely from receiving certain kinds of foreign aid. The act does not include cutting off trade assistance or humanitarian aid, Jordan said.

I'm okay if you want to say that the military relationships with some of these countries necessitate that we turn a blind eye to this.

But if you do, don't talk to me about rape rooms. Because if rape rooms are the reason we went to war in Iraq, child sex slavery is reason enough for economic sanctions. Even against Saudi Arabia.

Well, It Was a Nice Run

Bill Frist's presidential ambitions effectively end with this bit of news:

HCA Inc. said Friday it has received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. The Nashville, Tenn., hospital operator said the subpoena calls for the production of documents, and HCA believes it relates to the sale of HCA stock by Sen. William H. Frist.

So if Good People Beget Good People, who begets those who engage in potentially criminal insider trading?

The Smoking Gun

Via Gandhi, the Brits are apparently concerned:

Super-powerful hurricanes now hitting the United States are the "smoking gun" of global warming, one of Britain's leading scientists believes.

The growing violence of storms such as Katrina, which wrecked New Orleans, and Rita, now threatening Texas, is very probably caused by climate change, said Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. Hurricanes were getting more intense, just as computer models predicted they would, because of the rising temperature of the sea, he said. "The increased intensity of these kinds of extreme storms is very likely to be due to global warming."

In a series of outspoken comments - a thinly veiled attack on the Bush administration, Sir John hit out at neoconservatives in the US who still deny the reality of climate change.

Referring to the arrival of Hurricane Rita he said: "If this makes the climate loonies in the States realise we've got a problem, some good will come out of a truly awful situation." As he spoke, more than a million people were fleeing north away from the coast of Texas as Rita, one of the most intense storms on record, roared through the Gulf of Mexico. It will probably make landfall tonight or early tomorrow near Houston, America's fourth largest city and the centre of its oil industry. Highways leading inland from Houston were clogged with traffic for up to 100 miles north.

Don't count on it. The "Climate Loonies" are as unaware of the reality of global warming as the tobacco companies were unaware of cancer.

Friday Random Ten
And I Want to Kiss You, But I Can't

1. "Becky's Hand," Honeydogs
2. "Concrete Sky," Beth Orton
3. "Selfless, Cold, and Composed," Ben Folds Five
4. "You Don't Know Me," Love Jones
5. "Vaseline," Elastica
6. "Subliminal," They Might Be Giants
7. "Not An Addict," K's Choice
8. "A Plane Scraped Its Belly On a Sooty Yellow Moon," Soul Coughing & Roni Size
9. "Down On The River By The Sugar Plant," Mike Doughty
10. "Take Five," Dave Brubeck

Thursday, September 22, 2005
Alcoholics Go To Meetings

Steve Gillard adds fuel to the fire. Look, seriously, if Bush is drinking, we do need to know. Our nation cannot, at this time in our history, have an alcoholic at the levers of power. God help me, I'd much rather have Cheney running the show.

Again, if this is not true, the Enquirer should be ashamed of itself. Substance abuse is no laughing matter. And if there's nothing to this, then great.

But if there's something to this, I say again: the President needs to step aside as temporarily disabled, and turn power over to Dick Cheney as Acting President. Then George needs to get help, get sober, and get back to work.

The Morning Breaks, Eternal, Light, and Fair

There is apocalypse in the air.

I don't know how else to put it. Katrina and Rita, in conjunction to the tsunami of last December and the neverending, never-won war on terror have set society itself into a queasy, uneasy state. Disbelieve me? No, you don't. Because most likely you feel it too.

Hurricanes are one of nature's most awesome weapons--capable of destroying miles of land in a single swipe, of creating lakes where cities used to be, of blowing trees out of the ground and killing any living thing in its path.

And yet hurricanes are just a part of the natural cycle of our world, nature's way of taking energy from one place in the atmosphere and moving it somewhere else. Hurricanes predated man by billions of years; they will undoubtedly continue, here and on distant worlds unimagined, for billions of years after man has ceased to be. They are not God's wrath, nor nature's. They are just a strong storm, a powerful reminder of how impotent man is in the face of the awesome power of nature simply cleaning up her house.

Hurricanes may not be God's hammers, but to mankind, they feel like it. Perhaps it is because we anthropomorphize them--it is not just storms, but named storms which attack us. Perhaps it is because the devastation caused by hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and all of nature's other housecleaning mechanisms remind us of deep, vestigal memories of a world where things were incomprehensable, where lightning was obviously the work of Zeus (or Thor, or Yhwh), where storms and earthquakes and floods were proof of the anger of God (or Gods, or Goddesses) at our wickedness and sin, and that if we would just sacrifice our prized goat, perhaps God(ess)(es) would be placated, and spare us.

Whatever the reason, Katrina and Rita, be they evil twin sisters or merely significant low-pressure systems, have caused me--and no doubt, others--to have a sick, sinking sensation, like we're reading the prologue of a story that will flash forward fifty years to the sunken cities of the coast, the sage old man telling the young hero how mankind brought on its own destruction.

Have we? One can't help but wonder. No matter how many times Glenn Reynolds snarks about it, global warming is widely accepted as being real. The Gulf of Mexico is one degree warmer than it was thirty years ago. That represents a tremendous amount of energy--energy that Katrina and Rita fed on as they grew to be Category Five storms.

Hurricane Katrina was the earliest formed 11th named storm in history.

Hurricane Rita is only the second "R" named storm in history, and also the earliest formed 17th named storm in history.

Katrina is the fifth-strongest hurricane in recorded history--stretching back 135 years.

Rita is the third-strongest.

They formed four weeks apart.

I have long been fatalistic on global warming. We as a species are bad at dealing with problems until we are up against them, and global warming is complex and confusing and slow-moving enough that we have been able to ignore it. I do not believe it prudent for us to have done so or continue to do so, but I have met us. We'll dither until it's too late, and then, at a cost far higher than they should've had to pay, our grandchildren will figure out how to deal with the fallout. We'll survive--we're tough. But it's going to be more difficult than it should've been.

But as I watch Rita steam toward Port Arthur, I can't help thinking: what if "our grandchildren" are us?

What if Katrina and Rita are not two freak storms, but the start of the long slide?

What if next year it's Hurricane Valerie that decimates Pensacola? What if that's followed by Hurricane Beta hitting New Orleans again--just as it starts to get back on its feet?

What if the following year, Hurricane Melissa tops out with winds at 200 miles per hour, with pressure at 871 mb?

Do you doubt it could happen?

I don't.

I have an awful feeling that we have crossed the line already, that we have already done too much damage to walk it back. That the fallout began with Katrina. That it will continue with Rita. That fifty years from now, that sage talking to that young child in the deserts of Kansas tells her that it was 2005 that the weather started to get bad, and it only got worse from there.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope what I'm feeling is just the off-kilter sensation of a hairless primate remembering the terror first felt by his forebearers when they were tiny and helpless against the storm.

I hope that's what I'm feeling. Because as much as we have mocked the doomsayers, we forget: Cassandra was reviled and mocked. But she was right.

Hey, It's Only One Letter

You know, if you want us to take your cuts plan seriously, maybe you shouldn't use the word "billions" when you should be using "millions."

Oh, yeah, one proposal of yours that would save billions would be the proposed $1.8 billion in cuts to the CDC. Because they've got nothing to worry about. Good call.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Looks like Bush's laser focus is blurry:

Hortense Davis is waiting at the Houston Greyhound station for a bus that may not be coming.

The 73-year-old woman called the Red Cross today to find out what she should do about the storm. She said she was told to go to the bus station and tell them she had no money and needs to get out of the city.

"But when I got here, they said they couldn't help me," she said. "So now I'm just sitting here."

Davis is trying to evacuate to Lufkin because she is scared hurricane Rita is going to causing major flooding in Houston.

"I'm stuck here," she said. "I don't have anywhere else to go."

Hundreds of people packed the downtown Greyhound station tonight hoping to get a ticket to safety.

Carolyn Rivera, 62, said she bought a bus ticket to Dallas today, but when she arrived at the station she discovered all the buses were filled. So she called her daughter and the two women plan to drive to Arkansas tonight.

"There are so many people and so few buses," she said

Horrible local incompetence! Gov. Perry should be ashamed! He's--

He's what?

A Republican?

Never mind.

Bush Off The Wagon?

Enquiring minds want to know!

Okay, it is the Enquirer, which means it's only a 50% chance of truth. But as ShakeSis notes:

Now before you get all snooty about the credibility of The National Enquirer, I’d just like to remind you that particular rag has broken none too few political scandals wide open—including Gary Hart’s tryst with Donna Rice, Jesse Jackson's affair and illegitimate child, Pardongate, and Rush Limbaugh’s drug addiction. As far as political scandals go, they’re usually, well, right.

The timing is interesting, too… Remember it was right at that time that Bush had to be helped up the steps of Air Force One by Laura and was noted as having a “wavering gait” by a reporter at the scene.

Don't forget about Gennifer Flowers.

I think this is a fair question for someone to ask--and should be asked. Bush has tacitly admitted to substance abuse problems. That's no shame, and indeed, it's to his credit that he has overcome them (such as he has). But there's a difference between a President who is a recovering alcoholic and a president who is an active alcoholic. If there's nothing to this, then let's put it to bed, and shame on the Enquirer. If there's something to this, it's time to consider invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, for the good of the country and the good of the president.

Fun With Archives

Via PZ, a fun little game:

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.

For me that's December 4, 2002, "Karl Rove making politicized decisions? Nah....":

"I maintain that the Bush Administration morally is much like the Clinton Administration--all it lacks is a sex scandal."

I was being too hard on Bill.

Good News on Rita

Let's hope this turns out to be true:

All these signs indicate that Rita will continue to weaken today as her inner eyewall collapses and an eyewall replacement cycle begins. Additionally, Rita is about to leave the vicinity of a warm eddy of Gulf water called the Loop Current that has been aiding her intensification. Also, 10 knots of shear has developed on her south side, thanks to the fact that the upper-level high pressure system that was providing such excellent outflow for Rita has now shifted to the southeast of the storm. All these signs point to a substantial weakening trend for Rita that will continue through Friday and probably reduce her to a Category 4 hurricane. The GFDL forecast model predicts that this weakening trend will continue until landfall Saturday, when Rita will be a Category 3 hurricane.

Of course, "good news" is relative:

While this is cause for some relief, Rita, like her weaker sister Katrina did, will still bring a Category 5 level storm surge along a 60 - 80 miles stretch of coast to the right of where the storm makes landfall on Saturday. Storm surge heights will peak at 20 - 25 feet in some bays, and bring the ocean inland up to 50 miles from the coast. Large sections of I-10 between Houston and Beaumont will be inundated, and the flood waters will reach the cities of Beaumont, Orange, and Lake Charles. Wind damage will be severe, and Houston can expect a hazardous rain of glass from its high rise building like was experienced during Hurricane Alica in 1983. If the eye passes just west of Galveston Bay, the storm surge will push 1 - 3 of water into some of Houston's eastern suburbs, such as Deer Park.

I'd still recommend getting out of Dodge if you live in Texas. Even a Cat 3 hurricane is cause for concern.

Katrina Death Toll Tops 1,000

The only thing about this is that the death toll isn't yet higher, leaving hope that Katrina's ultimate toll will be in the 1,500-2,000 range, not the catastrophic 10,000 that was discussed earlier. Unfortunately, Rita's entry in the picture should delay and complicate recovery in New Orleans further. Let's just hope we don't have to do this in Galveston or Houston in a few weeks.

George W. Bush, Fascist?

Sully goes there: "More like Spain and Italy in the 1930s than anything resembling Anglo-American conservatism." Wowzers, that might be harsher than anything I've written about Bush, and I've called him a "cocksucking asshole."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Rita Redux Part Trois

Could Hurricane Rita stall out over Texas, dumping 15-30 inches of rain on Dallas? A few computer models suggest it might. As it is, Rita is now the third-strongest Hurricane ever recorded, behind only Hurricane Gilbert and the Great Labor Day Hurricane. Yes, that means Rita is now stronger than her twin sister Katrina, stronger than Camille, stronger than Andrew.

Incidentally, yesterday I said that Rita didn't have anything on her sister. I stand corrected:

Texas, time to get out while the getting's good.

Rita Redux Part Deux

Category Five.

Rita Redux

Rita is now a Category Four storm.

'Round the Decay of that Colossal Wreck

Hurricane Rita is now a Category Three storm.

She is expected to strengthen to Category Four before landfall.

Fortunately for New Orleans, she appears to be heading too far west to cause much additional damage. Unfortunately for Texas, they are west of Louisiana, and Rita appears set to land somewhere between Corpus Christi and Galveston. Now, neither of those cities (nor San Antonio or Houston, for that matter) are in as precarious a spot as New Orleans, but a Category Four storm is bad no matter what.

Incidentally, don't be surprised if you're soon hearing of Hurricane Alpha. Rita is the seventeenth named storm of the season. There are only 21 names on the list. Stan, Tammy, Vince, and Wilma are the only names left. After that, we go to the Greek alphabet (alpha, beta, gamma, etc.)

Of course, all of this has absolutely nothing to do with global warming. Keep repeating that to yourself as you put your SUV to bed tonight.

UPDATE: Here's a pretty good look at Rita from the GOES site:

As bad as she is so far, she still doesn't have anything on her sister. Yet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Jeb Bush Has An Imaginary Friend

Aww, they're so cute at that age:

"Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.

“I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life. He has been by my side and sometimes I let him down. But Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down.”

Bush then unsheathed a golden sword and gave it to Rubio as a gift.

‘’I'm going to bestow to you the sword of a great conservative warrior,'’ he said, as the crowd roared.

Rumors that this is actually my friend Chris' college roommate Chang Li have not been confirmed. Rumors that Jeb Bush is batshit crazy, contrawise, appear to have been confirmed.

Simon Wiesenthal, 1908-2005

Simon Wiesenthal died today at age 96--or about 65 years older than Adolf Hitler would've liked. Wiesenthal was tireless in bringing former Nazis to justice, most famously Adolf Eichmann. Through his efforts, some measure of justice was done for those who died at the hands of the most evil government of the last millenium--including 89 relatives of Wiesenthal himself, who died at the hands of the Nazis.

In all, Wiesenthal helped bring to justice 1,100 war criminals. No man could truly square the scales of justice--not for the six million dead. But Wiesenthal did all any man could possibly do. He will be remembered for generations as a symbol of that which is good in humanity.

My Biznitch is the Shiznit

Research shows that profanity may be among the earliest words ever used, and that it may be an inherent feature of our brains. This is of course not a surprise to anyone human. I myself generally refrain from swearing--I believe in making profanity count. But there is a time and place for everything, even profanity--and evidently, fighting it may be an exercise in futility. Damn it.


Letterman's Top Ten Questions on FEMA application:

10. "Are you able to convey a false sense of security?"

9. "What percentage of your resume is fabricated?"

8. "In a crisis, which state or local officials would you blame?"

7. "What are your plans after you resign?"

6. "Do you mind if the last guy left the office smelling like Arabian horses?"

5. "Which is most serious: A disaster, a catastrophe, or a dis-astrophe?"

4. "Does Robert Blake dating again count as an emergency?"

3. "Can the president easily add '-ie' to your last name to form a nickname?"

2. "Can you screw up bad enough to take the heat off the president's mistakes?"

1. "Michael Brown...Idiot or moron?"

Monday, September 19, 2005

George W. Bush failed t' inspire our nation in his New Orleans talk. I have a theory, which I'll expound upon later, but I'll summarize in advance fer yer: George W. Bush be a liar, and Americans no longer trust him. Blow me down!

Arrr! Shiver Me Timbers!

From that scurvy dog P.Z. Myers comes word that today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Drink up, me hearties! 'Tis but a few more leagues 'till we reach the Island of Lost Souls, and thar be treasure the likes of which man has never seen!

Look On My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair

Check the storm track on Tropical Storm Rita, and start worrying.

Friday, September 16, 2005
To The Ramparts!

I must confess, some of the shots of New Orleans post-flood seemed eerily familiar. Like every global warming dystopia I've ever seen portrayed--the coastal city innundated by flood. It's the nightmare scenario of global warming--well, that and the paradoxical global cooling when the Gulf Stream dies out.

Expect the usual suspects to claim there's nothing to this:

he number of hurricanes in the most powerful categories — like Katrina and Andrew — has increased sharply over the past few decades, according to a new analysis sure to stir debate over whether global warming is worsening these deadly storms.

While studies have not found an overall increase in tropical systems worldwide, the number of storms reaching categories 4 and 5 grew from about 11 per year in the 1970s to 18 per year since 1990, according to a report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

Peter J. Webster of the Georgia Institute of Technology said it's the warm water vapor from the oceans that drives tropical storms, and as the water gets warmer the amount of evaporation increases, providing more fuel for the tempests. Between 1970 and 2004 the average sea surface temperature in the tropics rose nearly 1°F.

But I'm sure if we clap harder, global warming will go away.

Confirm Roberts

So says the Star Tribune, and so say I. Look, Roberts isn't my cup of tea ideologically--I'm quite sure of that. But he's obviously bright and competent, obviously qualified for the position. Yes, yes, ideologically he's conservative. Guess what? George W. Bush is president. If we Democrats want liberals on the court, we need to win in 2008.

Frankly, I'm tired of the gamesmanship on both sides with judges. Yes, extremely reactionary judges should be blocked, as should extremely liberal judges--the courts don't need more ideologues. But arguing that because a potential justice is conservative (or liberal, for that matter), he shouldn't be confirmed is ridiculous.

It was wrong for the GOP to block Clinton judiciary nominees (save in extreme instances), and wrong for Democrats to block Bush judiciary nominees (except in same). Roberts is a conservative. I wish he was a liberal. But unless Bush turns into a hippy by getting bonked on the head in wacky sitcom fashion, none of his nominees will be. Roberts is qualified, though. For that reason alone, he deserves confirmation.

No Gays Need Apply, Unless We Need Them To....

Kevin Drum notes that the military is holding off on discharging gays who are due to deploy to Iraq, waiting until their units are rotated out. Key evidence? In 2001, over 1200 soldiers were kicked out under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In 2002, less than 900 were. In 2004, about 600 were. Now, what happened in 2001 that would change the military's feelings on gay soldiers? Hmm....

Of course, if gays are okay to fight in wartime, there's no sane reason to keep them out in peacetime. After all, the whole anti-gay argument is that they destroy unit cohesion with, I don't know, Gay Rays or something. Obviously the military doesn't believe that any more than I do.

Friday Random Ten
My Name is Ted, and One Day, I'll Be Dead, Yo Yo

1. "Battleflag," Lo Fidelity All-Stars
2. "Sentimental Guy," Ben Folds
3. "Rusty Cage," Johnny Cash
4. "Dr. Evil," They Might Be Giants
5. "I Want to Be a Cowboy," Boys Don't Cry
6. "This Bouquet," Ani DiFranco
7. "Snowball in Hell," They Might Be Giants
8. "Midway Park," Whiskeytown
9. "Old Man on the Back Porch," The Presidents of the United States of America
10. "Sell Out," Reel Big Fish

Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Hell Freezes Over

I think it's important to welcome the fact that George W. Bush has accepted some responsibility for failures in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I hope he is serious when he says he wants to get to the bottom of what went wrong. As I've said before, multiple times, my primary concern is that those responsible for this are identified and, if appropriate, punished. But more than that, I want us to learn our lessons from Katrina so that when next disaster darkens our door, we are able to better handle it. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, but an American one.

And Then Scott Baio Gave Me Pinkeye

Light posting over the next couple of days as I deal with the joy of mild conjunctivitis, which is not debilitating, but is annoying enough to keep me from writing--at least, writing well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Kevin Drum sums up my own feelings:

For all that I despise George Bush, this is why it's not his ideology that bothers me the most. What's always bothered me more is his corporate cronyism and his clueless incompetence. He hasn't really managed to do all that much ideological damage — and most of it can be repaired in any case — but he has managed to screw up Iraq, screw up the future of the economy, screw up FEMA, and even screw up things like the Medicare bill, which I'd otherwise support. In the long run, those things matter a lot more than some new logging rules or the demise of New Source Review.

Exactly. Ideological battles are fine. You win some, you lose some, sometimes you win some later that you lost before. That's the whole point of politics--and in truth, it's why democratically-elected governments tend to do okay over time. It's a self-correcting system.

That doesn't mean I agree with Bush's ideology; "Big Government Conservatism" might be the political philosophy I disagree with the most. Certainly for a Concord Coalition Democrat like myself, the idea of infinite tax cuts and expanding spending is abhorrent. Not to mention the fact that I'm pretty much opposed to Bush's entire social package, from abortion to gay rights to stem cell research to...well, I'm sure there's something starting with "z" I oppose, too.

But all that said, the ideology is a secondary concern. The damage Bush has done to our international standing, to our long-term fiscal health, to the ideal of bipartisanship, to Iraq, to New Orleans...the list goes on and on. He's a lousy president. The nation deserves better.

Monday, September 12, 2005
And Now For Something Completely Different

You are a Gumby! You like to smash bricks and say
things that no-one can understand...

What Monty Python Sketch Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Heckuva Job, Brownie

Mike Brown has resigned. The question: what Bush crony takes over?

30 Ways FEMA Failed

Via Kevin. Of course, the usual suspects no doubt will still wonder what specifically FEMA did wrong. Because for them, this isn't about avoiding future tragedies like New Orleans, it's about George Bush's poll numbers.

I won't deny that I'm glad to see Bush's numbers slipping; I am. But more than anything, what has and continues to animate my anger is my belief that we must, for our country, ensure that we never have a failure of this magnitude again. If that means some Democrats are brought down by this, so be it; I have no love of incompetent Democrats, and if Kathleen Blanco is guilty of dithering, for example, then fine. Unlike John Tierney, my primary concern is not partisan politics. It's the hundreds of thousands of displaced people, and the thousands dead. We owe them better.

Sunday, September 11, 2005
The Bubble

George probably should turn off ESPN and turn on CNN, or heck, even Fox once in a while:

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.

President George W. Bush has always trusted his gut. He prides himself in ignoring the distracting chatter, the caterwauling of the media elites, the Washington political buzz machine. He has boasted that he doesn't read the papers. His doggedness is often admirable. It is easy for presidents to overreact to the noise around them.

But it is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there. Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. Bush can ask tough questions, but it's mostly a one-way street. Most presidents keep a devil's advocate around. Lyndon Johnson had George Ball on Vietnam; President Ronald Reagan and Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, grudgingly listened to the arguments of Budget Director Richard Darman, who told them what they didn't wish to hear: that they would have to raise taxes. When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority.

There's no excuse for the President of the United States not being aware of the worst natural disaster in a century. None.


Four years ago today--1,431 days, to be exact--terrorists flew planes into both towers of the World Trade Center, as well as the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers revolted against the hijackers. Almost three thousand innocent civilians died.

Four years is an eyeblink in the grand history of humanity, but it's a moderately long time in the scale of a human life--long enough for time to begin to heal the wounds those attacks brought.

For some people, it is always 9/11/01, noonish. The barbarians are always at the gate, the sword is always ready to strike.

But for many of us, I think, September 11 is beginning to become, if not just another date, then a date less fraught with grief. The past four years have had tragedy and triumph; indeed, August 30, 2005 may go down as a more deadly day. We have begun to see, I think, that time marches on, and that is comforting, in a way.

The NFL begins its season for most teams today, obviously unconcerned by the date; I'd wager more Minnesotans are concerned about the Vikings' running game than rehashing yet again the events of four years ago. That is not to say we won't remember--we will. We do. September 11 is a singular event, and not just because the date has come to symbolize the very acts we remember.

My daughter is three years old. On the scale of her life, September 11, 2001 is infinitely deep in the past. For her, 9/11 will be a date like 12/7 or 11/2 or 4/4--dates that were mileposts in American history--past tense. She will learn about the attacks in school, no doubt; possibly in college she'll write a paper or two on the reacton of America in the wake of the attacks. But she will never feel the momentary grief I do when I see the date out of nowhere, never remember where she was on that day.

And that makes me glad. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassinations of Kennedy and King were horriffic events--but our nation grieved, and moved on. Had we remained mired in hatred, we could not have rebuilt Japan into a friend, we could not have tried to come to terms with civil rights, we could not have continued to be the best our country can be. Time and history march on, thank God. And finally, I think, we have moved through depression to acceptance.

That does not mean that the attacks were not horrible--they were--nor that we should not continue to root out al Qaeda and, God willing, finally capture and kill Osama bin Laden--we must. But we must do so not because of blind fury, but because of cold calculation--because it is the just and proper thing to do.

In the end, for those of us who lived through it, 9/11 will never truly be just a date on the calendar. But it's closer to that than it once was, and that is good for us all.

Friday, September 09, 2005
Poll Watch
And the Bottom Drops Out

Associated Press-Ipsos, September 6-8, 2005, 1,002 Adults, MOE +/- 3.1%

Approve of President?

Yes 39% (-3)
No 59% (+4)
Mixed 1% (-1)
Unsure 1% (+1)

Country on Right Track?

Right Direction 32% (-5)
Wrong Track 65% (+6)
Not Sure 3% (-1)

Bush Issue Approval
Approve 41% (unc)
Disapprove 57% (+1)

Approve 38% (+1)
Disapprove 59% (-1)

Foreign Policy/War on Terror
Approve 43% (-4)
Disapprove 55% (+4)
Approve 37% (-1)
Disapprove 62% (+3)
Social Security
Approve 35% (-2)
Disapprove 61% (+2)
Hurricane Katrina
Approve 46%
Disapprove 52%
Gas Prices
Approve 27%
Disapprove 70%

Rebuild New Orleans?
As Before (Better Levees) 42%
On Higher Ground 54%

Gas Prices Causing Hardhip in Next 6 Months?
Will 70% (+6)
Will Not 30% (-5)

* * *

Well, the good news for George is, Bush isn't hammered too hard on Katrina, right?

I said a few days ago that this disaster would alter perceptions of politics in coming years, and I think that is starting to be reflected in this, Bush's first sub-40% major poll. Yes, Bush gets poor-but-not-disastrous ratings on Katrina in this poll, as opposed to disastrous ratings in most others.

But what's interesting in this poll is that Bush's Katrina ratings are higher in this poll than his top-line approval rating. That suggests something far more dangerous for the President.

Bush has, as Ezra noted the other day, created a cult of personality--the True Believers. For these people, Bush was always standing at Ground Zero with a bullhorn in one hand and an M-16 in the other, the only man that can stand between Osama Hussein's Demon Army of Destruction and America's splendor and/or the evil liberals and the armies of Satan.

For these people, Bush the idea was more real than Bush the man. They believed in him, they liked him, they trusted him to protect them. More than that, they believed he reciprocated their feelings.

What Katrina has done, I think, is to peel some of the verneer back on Bush. His diffidence at the start of the disaster is, in some ways, the most important dynamic here. People sensed, viscerally, that Bush really didn't care about the hoi polloi. They saw that he was watching the disaster from Air Force One, not standing boldly in the midst of the fray. They watched him stumble forward, his voice showing no sign of heartfelt emotion, noticed his poor sense of the gravity of the situation (joking about Trent Lott's house, or Al Gonzalez's SCOTUS odds).

More than that, we--all of us--watched for a week as people died in New Orleans who did not have to die, and--almost worse--as people suffered who did not have to suffer.

For some of us, it was business as usual; I have never felt Bush cared about anyone but Bush, and perhaps a few billionaire friends. For others, though, this is a rude awakening.

And that's why Bush underperforms his own tepid response on Katrina here--because some people might be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on Katrina. After all, there seems to be a lot of blame to go around.

But Bush has finally and utterly lost his "common touch." As I noted yesterday, as a political force, Bush is done.

True Savagery

This story sickens me, and should sicken you, too. As the people trapped in New Orleans were literally starving to death and drowning, police from the suburbs closed the Crescent City Connection to foot traffic--trapping people in the city. Why?

Members of the group nonetheless approached the police lines, and "questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge ... They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City.

"These were code words," the paramedics wrote, "for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans."

Yes, that sounds about right.

For all the talk of the savagery of looters, there's not a more inhuman bunch than these subhuman, evil, sadistic fucks who undoubtedly condemned some to die in order to keep "those people" out of their city.

In this case, "those people" was the right term; the people trapped in New Orleans were human. Those who helped trap them there were not. It's times like these I wish I believed in Hell, because there's no better place for these demons than there.

Insanely Idiotic

Wow, Bush can't even manage to successfully fire someone:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will replace Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown from his role leading the relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina, Cable News Network reported.

Brown will return to Washington, CNN said.

That's right--Mike "The Big" Brown "Bear" will be relieved of his job...overseeing recovery operations. But he will retain his paycheck, his title, and ultimate authority over FEMA.

It appears Bush tried to have it both ways--remove Brown without firing him. But of course, that's not real accountability. I work in freight. If I inadvertently routed a bomb onto a plane, I can tell you that I would not be reassigned to desk duty. I would be fired. And I would deserve it.

How many hundred--how many thousand--people died due to Mike Brown's incompetence?

Lying on his resumé alone should have caused his discharge.

But Bush couldn't do it. He couldn't because he said, on the record, "'Brownie,' you're doing a great job." Because to reverse himself now might open him to criticism.

You know what? It might've--though I had already vowed simply to recognize Brown's firing as a positive step. Indeed, I planned to say, "It's good the President is finally starting to realize that the performance of FEMA in this debacle was unconscionably bad--and that he's finally holding somebody accountable for something."

But of course, he isn't really doing that, is he? No, Bush can't even fire Mike Brown--a man who lied on his resumé, a man who seems patently unqualified for the job, a man who has failed his nation.

I didn't think that the removal of Mike Brown could make me feel worse about Bush. Congratulations, Mr. President: somehow, some way, you keep sliding under my lowest expectations.

Friday Random Ten
The Price of a Memory is the Memory of the Sorrow it Brings

1. "Drumsville," Soul Coughing
2. "Taxi Fare," Hey Day
3. "Good Enough for Now," "Weird Al" Yankovic
4. "Maps," Yeah Yeah Yeahs
5. "The Idiot Kings," Soul Coughing
6. "Rappers' Delight," Sugar Hill Gang
7. "Peepin'," Love Jones
8. "First Kiss," They Might Be Giants
9. "Mrs. Potter's Lullabye," Counting Crows
10. "Midway Park," Whiskeytown

Thursday, September 08, 2005
George W. Bush's Intern Problem

Good God, can we fire "Brownie" now?

Before joining FEMA, his only previous stint in emergency management, according to his bio posted on FEMA's website, was "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing the emergency services division." In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an "assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. "The assistant is more like an intern," she told TIME. "Department heads did not report to him." Brown did do a good job at his humble position, however, according to his boss. "Yes. Mike Brown worked for me. He was my administrative assistant. He was a student at Central State University," recalls former city manager Bill Dashner. "Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt."

This is the man George W. Bush chose to head our nation's Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Two years after 9/11.

Mike Brown should be fired forthwith. And George W. Bush should resign--placing our nation's disaster recovery in the hands of an unqualified lackey like Brown is prima facie evidence that Bush, himself, is incapable of fulfilling his sworn duty to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Poll Watch
Blame, Blame, Bo-Bame, Banana-fana-fo-fame, Me-my-mo-mame....

He who denies it, supplies it:

Pew Research Center (.pdf), September 6-7, 2005, 1,000 Adults, MOE +/- 3.5%:

Bush Approval

Approve 40% (-4)
Disapprove 52% (+4)

In Handling Relief Efforts, President Bush....

Did all he could 28%
Could have done more 67%
Don't Know 5%

Most Important Priority for President

Domestic Policy 56% (+16)
War on Terror 25% (-19)
Both/Neither 13% (-1)
Don't Know 6% (+4)

Gov't response if most victims white?

Faster 26% (White 17%, Black 66%)
Same 68% (White 77%, Black 27%)
Don't Know 6% (White 6%, Black 7%)

Response of Federal Government

Excellent/Good 38% (GOP 63%, Dem 22%, Ind 34%)
Fair/Poor 58% (GOP 32%, Dem 76%, Ind 64%)
Don't Know 4% (GOP 5%, Dem 2%, Ind 2%)

Response of State/Local Government

Excellent/Good 41% (GOP 41%, Dem 44%, Ind 41%)
Fair/Poor 51% (GOP 54%, Dem 51%, Ind 52%)
Don't Know 8% (GOP 6%, Dem 5%, Ind 7%)

Can gov't handle terror attack?

Less Confident 42% (GOP 25%, Dem 56%, Ind 46%)
No Effect 46% (GOP 65%, Dem 32%, Ind 45%)
More Confident 7% (GOP 7%, Dem 8%, Ind 7%)

Following Story?

Gas Prices
Very Closely 71%
Fairly Closely 19%

Hurricane Katrina
Very Closely 70%
Fairly Closely 21%

* * *

Well. I look forward to seeing what meme spreads now.

First we had looting, but that fell by the wayside when it became evident that people were starving to death. Then the President was decisively involved, except he wasn't. Then it was the local and state government's fault, which it was, to some extent--but everyone agrees on that. Then, finally, it was "blame game," which would be catchy, except the death of several thousand people isn't a game, and America pretty much knows who's to blame.

The poll is interesting for a whole host of reasons, but I think the most interesting is the question on the failure of Louisiana and New Orleans' government. Note that Democrats, independents, and Republicans are all within 3% of the overall numbers on that question. There's general agreement--a majority believes the state and local governments didn't do a good job.

Now look at the view of the federal government's job. The Democrats are predictably harsher than the independents, but both are far harsher than the overall numbers--because 64% of Republicans believe that the federal government has done a good to excellent job in responding to this crisis.

That 64% of Republicans, I suspect, would think the President was doing a great job even if there was video of him personally breaching the levees and then ripping food from starving children's hands.

It is important that we do investigate this matter fully; as has been noted by many, the woeful disaster response in New Orleans was with forewarning and most of the city already evacuated. Had a terrorist blown the levees with no warning and no prior evacuation, how many hundreds of thousands would've died with a similar governmental effort?

As for the political fallout, it's now clear: George W. Bush's political capital is nil. He retains those powers delegated to the President--the power to make appointments, to veto legislation, and so forth. But his power to effectively lead the nation has been washed away along with New Orleans. His agenda is finished, and the only question for Republicans is how they distance themselves in 2006 and 2008. As an effective leader, George W. Bush is finished.

Dumbness From the Left

Okay, first, a definition:

ref-u-gee, n.. One that flees; especially: a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution. (Source: Merriam-Webster.)

Yes, by this definition, refugee is an inapt term for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina; evacuee seems to be more appropriate.

But refugee isn't a horribly inapt term, nor is it pejorative. A "refugee" is "one who flees." There's nothing negative about that. Refugees are innocent; they flee to avoid harm, not due to any sort of personal defect. Indeed, the plight of refugees the world over are a consistent and terrible problem.

So when a sitting US Representative says that using the term refugee to describe the evacuees is almost a "hate crime", she should be called out for excessive sensitivity.

Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA) may be a great Representative, or may be a terrible one--I know nothing whatsoever about her record. But on this issue she's horribly, horribly wrong, in a way only liberals can be. Because in the case of the evacuation of Hurricane Katrina, there were a number of morally criminal things that were done to the evacuees. People were tormented and died because of the failure of their government. That is a tragedy, and those responsible deserve punishment.

That is a hate crime. That deserves opprobrium.

Only someone from my party's extreme left could think that the misuse of a word that is not inaccurate or pejorative is a "hate crime" worth noting in light of all the other real and disturbing degradation left in Katrina's wake.

Refugee has a connotation that suggests "foreign;" fine. I will begin using evacuee. Indeed, I already have. But the vast majority of us who used refugee in the first place did so to highlight the plight of people whose government was not helping them--to emphasize that our fellow Americans had been forced into a chaotic and lawless and seemingly hopeless position. That they were now refugees in their own country--that we had fallen, alas, to a third-world level in caring for those who needed care.

It was not done with malice; only one willfully blind could think it was.

Not With a Bang, But a Whimper

Abu Aardvark reads the Oil-for-Food report so you don't have to. I'll summarize even further: some bad stuff happened, but nothing earthshaking--and the United States may have been Saddam's best friend. Again.

That Was Never Five Minutes Just Now

Oh, Scotty, you're no John Cleese.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005
...Abridging the Freedom of Speech, or the Press....

Hell, no.

A few questions:
  1. Hey Glennonites and Powerlinians: if George and FEMA's conduct has been so great, why is FEMA attempting to censor the press and prevent them from covering the recovery in New Orleans?
  2. Hey, NARNians and Cornerites: do you believe that it's a good precedent to allow the administration to restrict the press' access to a domestic, nonmilitary crisis?
  3. Hey, Freepers and Townhallies: If you don't believe that it's a good idea to allow an administration to restrict the press (not to mention if you think it's possibly unconstitutional), will you stand up and state clearly and explicitly that this is not a good thing, and that (just perhaps) the Bush administration is wrong?
I will. If the press doesn't have reasonable access to New Orleans, Biloxi, and Gulfport, then our government has crossed a very dangerous line--and every bad thing I've said about the Bush administration will pale in comparison to the utter hatred and contempt I will have for them.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." Press freedom is, above all else, the bedrock of our liberty and the ultimate guarantor of our democracy. If George W. Bush does not understand this, he is not fit for the presidency--for he is not, at heart, an American.

Sent There To Die

This is why we're angry. And this is why we want answers.

FEMA Failed

So say the crazy, finger-pointing liberals at the Washington Times

Fire George W. Bush

Incompetent ass:

I had heard it suggested by a knowledgable source that a White House representative was listening in when National Hurricane Center Chief Max Mayfield gave that briefing to Brown and Chertoff before Katrina hit.

But according to this August 30th article in the St. Petersburg Times, on Sunday the 28th, Mayfield arranged a video conference call with President Bush himself at the Crawford Ranch during which he explained the hurricane's force and destructive potential.

Perhaps this is common knowledge. But I hadn't heard it before. And it would seem to leave little question that the president himself knew the critical information from Mayfield before Katrina even made landfall.

But of course, nobody could've predicted the levees would fail, right?

Oh, incidentally, while the Bush administration may have taken a week to take care of little things like saving lives and stuff, they're all over the reconstruction contracts. What was the right saying should be done to the "looters?"

People on the right are right now fond of suggesting that this is all a local failure, that Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco bear the lion's share of responsibility for this. Maybe they do. I, for one, don't care if this takes down Nagin, Blanco, Brown, or Bush, or all four of them. This debacle is big enough for more than one villain. And anyone with responsibility for this deserves all the opprobrium that can be heaped upon them.

But with regard to Bush, one thing is clear: he bears direct responsibility for this failure, and all the heat he's received and more. If nothing else, he hired an incompetent political crony to run FEMA who took over two days to even start getting aid to the region. And when he had a chance to make a statement on Brown, it was to praise the work that "Brownie" had done.

Add to that the fact that Bush stayed on vacation for two days while Louisianans drowned and residents of Biloxi and Gulfport saw their cities torn apart, and you have an absolute failure of federal leadership.

I have no problem with holding local and state leadership accountable, too--being Democrats does not make Nagan or Blanco into great and perfect leaders. If they failed New Orleans (and Blanco, at least, appears to have), then they should go. Period.

Bush failed New Orleans. I wonder if anyone on the right will be willing to make the same statement about him that I just made about Blanco and Nagin. Somehow, I doubt it. As we've seen far too often, if George W. Bush were caught having sex with dead bodies in New Orleans right now, the right wing chatterers would claim he was doing it for freedom, that the local authorities were really the ones at fault, and besides, it was all the fault of the dead people for dying in the first place.