Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Criminal incompetence

The most well-rested president in history, President Bush, is cutting short his vacation by two days so he can oversee the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. Great! I feel so relieved now that the most-vacationing president is getting back to work. The first thing he ought to do is fire the head of the New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers office.

Hundreds of thousands of New Orleans east bank residents like myself went to bed Tuesday night with reports that the 17th Street Canal levee breach was draining Lake Pontchartrain into the city, with fears of water rising up to 13 feet - that the bowl was filling up.

Earlier in the day, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin complained that Blackhawk helicopters never showed up to help block the breach.

When asked what sort of day he expected to have when he woke up on Wednesday morning, Colonel Waggoner, the head of the New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers office, said in a Fox News interview that he didn’t expect to approach his job any differently, that he would be getting into the office at 9 AM like he normally did, and would assess the situation then. He said that the levy system around New Orleans was only engineered to handle a “fast-moving” category 3 hurricane. It was never expected to handle a category 4 or 5 hurricane like Katrina. He said that engineers were trying to come up with a plan and were searching for any materials they could find to block the canal breach.

The primary mission of the Army Corps of Engineers is to protect life and property along the Mississippi River by maintaining the levee system. Why is it then that no planning has gone into preparing for precisely the types of problems delivered by Hurricane Katrina? Why weren’t the levees reinforced to handle anything over a category 3 hurricane? What was the Corps of Engineers’ plan – to cross their fingers that nothing stronger would hit New Orleans? What plan, if any, did the Corps of Engineers have for the eventuality of a levee break? Why weren’t the plans and the necessary resources in place to block levee breaches the minute they occurred? Why is the Army Corps of Engineers not staying up all night to make sure the levee problem is getting resolved?

Meanwhile, I've heard from people who were able to watch WDSU coverage online that the reports of 3000 pound sandbags being dropped into the levee breach are nothing more than urban legends - nothing more than something they were thinking about doing. Mayor Nagin's complaint that the Blackhawks never showed up supports that conclusion.

Later in the day, Ray Nagin sounded like he’s been smokin’ too much from the crack pipe when he said in a CNN interview that he had all the resources he needed to handle the hurricane disaster. On the thousands of refugees stuck inside the Superdome – now without toilets that flush, without electricity, and with a leaky roof – Nagin said he thought they could hold out there for another week.

Hey, how about a couple more Blackhawk helicopters Ray-Ray!

People are probably dying, and our homes are being destroyed, but the Mayor said he has everything he needs, and the Colonel got a good night's rest!


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

When and how to return?

National coverage of the devastation in New Orleans sucks! Why they don't put some locals on the story totally escapes me.

How about some aerials of other parts of the city than New Orleans east and the CBD? And, by the way, when they do put up those few rapid aerial pans of neighborhoods, how about some locals to say what the neighborhoods are?

What the national press doesn't understand is that, notwithwithstanding the devastating floods in New Orleans East, that's not the whole picture. It may be the most sensationalist, but the one-foot floods elsewhere around the city - hell, that's like a biennial event. If it isn't over your hubcaps, and it isn't in your house, it's no big deal. In no way do I mean to diminish the horrible tragedy residents in New Orleans East are confronting - horrible! But for the grace of god there go I. I'm just saying, others MAY have something to look forward to, and want news to confirm that.

On that note, does anyone know if any routes are open now, or will open soon, into the city?

I waited out the storm in Pensacola, but even here, the outer bands of Katrina knocked out power to most of the city. There hasn't been much phone communication, and cell phones are worthless. This is actually the first time I've had access to power, a phone line, and a computer.

Thus far, I can only confirm that the twin span by Slidell is blown out.

Is there anything else we should know?

Sunday, August 28, 2005


I-10 east was totally clear of any traffic last night. It was 70mph the whole way to Pensacola. We'll catch the edge here, but there won't be any water events as there will be in New Orleans, where the levees will most likely be topped by 18-20 foot surges pushed up into Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi. After that, the only place for the water to go is into the streets, and into your homes.

This happened so fast. Most people were doing their normal Friday routines, with an eye on the hurricane as it left Florida. But the weather patterns were already lining up to steer the hurricane right up the lane for a ten-pin strike in New Orleans. Saturday morning, everything had changed.

Elsewhere, oyster mercifully found a way to make light of a VERY GRAVE situation with a clever reference to Katrina and the Waves over at Your Right Hand Thief. Thank god for people who can maintain a sense of humor. Other Louisiana bloggers, rob at realitique, Suspect Device, Dead Pelican, Yatpundit, Michael at 2Millionth Web Log - all are saying GET OUT OF NEW ORLEANS. It's probably the case that other Louisianians haven't had anything to contribute because they already boarded up their houses and got the hell out. You don't want to be there! This is it - this is the one everyone was worried about!

If there's any silver lining in this, it's that we'll finally know what the big one is - if that'll be worth anything at all after this.

Good luck friends! I'll see you on the other side.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


We weren't thinking this would happen. PGR might be down for a few days...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Barrettes don't kill teachers, stupidity does

The Times-Picayune:

New Orleans school employees collected nearly $21 million in stipends and overtime last year in a paycheck free-for-all that allowed some to nearly double their salaries with no scrutiny, according to a blistering new report by the state's legislative auditor.

Among the abuses:
The system's math curriculum chief, Mary Thompson...received $38,677 in extra payments, which she approved herself.

Two teachers at separate elementary schools have stayed out of work since the late 1980s after alleged attacks by fourth-graders. In one case, the teacher went back to work but left again after four months, saying she had fallen after stepping on a plastic barrette.

How irresponsible of the school system to allow girls to wear monster barrettes!

Well, that does it. After failing to pass legislation to force kids to wear their pants above their hips, it's high time those legislators got their act together and passed a bill against killer barrettes.

This sounds like a job for State Representative Steve Scalise (R-Jefferson). Hopefully, once those hair plugs start filling in a little more (well, a lot more), he'll find more time for important legislation like statutory dress codes.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Style question: Italics

Readers will find a few English style references in the blogroll. I try to adhere to respected standards.

Recently, I've been unsuccessful trying to find an answer to the question of whether the names of blogs should be italicized when in cited in writing. I tend to think they should, just like the names of newspapers and periodicals should be italicized.

Unfortunately, the online style guides I've searched don't mention how blogs, or names of web sites, should be handled.

There's an interesting (if not very helpful) discussion at the Fire Ant Gazette (or is that Fire Ant Gazette).

Does anyone happen to have a good answer?

Einstein the pinko

While making no profound exhibition of economic theory, Albert Einstein presented a thoughtful argument for the establishment of a socialist economy. In so doing, he openly identified the contradictions inherent in both capitalism and popular democracy, and socialism and private freedom, advocating that the problems of planned economies be discussed openly. His essay appeared in the inaugural May 1949 Monthly Review:

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

Reinforcing the weakness of labor, capitalist economies produce a constant supply of unemployed:
Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists.

Boldly calling for the creation of a planned socialist economy, Einstein squarely identified the contradictions to personal freedom inherent in such a model, calling on further discussion to overcome the contradictions:
Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition.

Still reading? You haven't called my name in to Homeland Security yet? Read more interesting remarks on capitalism by Pope John Paul II in an earlier People Get Ready post.

Write Now! to save Louisiana's wetlands

America's Wetland Write Now! campaign:

Announced by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, the Write Now! initiative is designed as a back to school project to mobilize citizen action and inspire Louisiana natives everywhere to write friends, family members and decision makers around the country to educate them about the urgency and importance of saving America's WETLAND. Citizens are being asked to write letters, send specially-designed free postcards via mail, and visit, where they can write and send electronic postcards free of charge.

Speaking of America's Wetland, the U.S. Senate still hasn't voted on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), but it still contains that Vitter provision that would remove the authority that the Corps of Engineers has to regulate some cypress logging activities.

Visit Your Right Hand Thief for a post emphasizing the political pressure that needs to bear down upon the White House and Congress in order to keep the required financial resources for coastal restoration from washing away along with Louisiana's disappearing wetlands and coastline.

R&R from the R&R

Hey, with all the time the prez'nit is saving by not speaking to mothers of soldiers killed in Iraq, he's found time for a little extra R&R at an Idaho resort in the Rocky Mountains, far away from his R&R schedule at the ranch in Crawford. With that extra time on vacation, he's striving to achieve what no other president in history has accomplished: The record for the most time spent on vacation. Junior may catch up to paw paw's record set in one term, but Geeduhbya's now spent almost a full year spent on vacation during his 4 1/2 years in office.

Photo: AP/Susan Walsh, published on Yahoo.

Oh...what's that Mr. President? We can't hear you! You said, you're "kind of hangin' loose." Pardon? What's that you say? ... Stay the course in Iraq? Okay, whatever, you just keep on keepin' on. How about someone else handles your job from now on?!

Some people might ask how anyone could love a President who's so carefree he can go boating and mountain biking in Idaho, and then shift gears into addressing veterans of the Iraq war and other soldiers soon to be deployed. Some might say he's callous, or just plain aloof.

Maureen Dowd wrote that President Bush has his priorities mixed up:

As The Financial Times noted, Mr. Bush is acting positively French in his love of le loafing, with 339 days at his ranch since he took office - nearly a year out of his five. ...

Gas is guzzling toward $3 a gallon. U.S. troop casualties in Iraq are at their highest levels since the invasion [and] Afghanistan's getting more dangerous, too.

So our overextended troops must prepare for more forced rotations, while the president hangs loose. ...

Shouldn't the president worry more about body armor than body fat?

After his bike ride, The New York Times quoted Junior, speaking before a group of National Guard troops and their families, saying that the United States must stay on the offense even as troop casualties mount and violence continues. He said that the insurgents were "trying to break our will with acts of violence."

Well, the President's will to vacation certainly hasn't been broken.

Rooting for Rick

The Washington Post:

Since July turned to August Short's batting average has hovered delicately around .400, a near mythic number in baseball that seems simple -- get two hits in every five trips to the plate -- but hasn't been achieved in a full minor league season since 1961, or in the major leagues since 1941.

With the end of the season less than two weeks away, Short -- who plays for the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Washington Nationals' top minor league team -- is hitting .392 and the attention that eluded him his whole baseball life is starting to trickle in.

Ahem, by the way all you cheeseheads, if you weren't already aware, the Zephyrs were a farm team for the Milwaukee Brewers until 1997. They were then affiliated with...ugh...George W. Bush's former team (which was given to him on a silver platter thanks to paw paw), the Houston Astros. Now, they're a farm team to the Washington Nationals


Always on the prowl for an opportunity to criticize Bush, I pounced too soon on the Houston Astros information. Of course, Bush owned the Texas Rangers not the Astros (thanks Michael). No matter - I welcome this occasion to set the record straight because Michael introduced another opportunity to repeat a story that always merits attention where George, Jr. is involved.

  • The cost of private land confiscated using eminent domain for a new Texas Rangers stadium: $0.
  • The price the taxpayers paid to build that stadium: $191 million.
  • George W. Bush's initial investment in the Rangers: $500,000 borrowed from a Midland bank he used to work at.
  • The amount the Texas Rangers franchise invested in the stadium, or paid for the stadium after its construction: $0.
  • George W. Bush's profit on the sale of his portion of the Rangers on an investment of nothing: $14 million.
  • Bilking the taxpayers for corporate welfare: priceless.

My June post on the topic was "Bush feathered nest with eminent domain takings".

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

NPR war propaganda

NPR aired one of the most revolting pieces of propaganda I've ever heard on the network when, on last Thursday's All Things Considered, an open letter by Steven Mansfield to Cindy Sheehan was broadcast.

Here is that letter:

Dear Mrs. Sheehan,

You are in a firestorm of grief, and what must be a disorienting swirl of world attention. For that reason, I will be as brief in my remarks as I hope to be compassionate.

I will not insult you by presuming to know your sorrow.

The loss of a son in armed conflict abroad must be among the most soul-wrenching experiences possible.

You are surely right to rage against the horrors of war, right to demand answers, and right to reach for those of like mind.

I fear though, that what began as a mourning mother's righteous cry for meaning is becoming something that threatens to dishonor Casey's heroism.

Though I mean no disrespect, it is clear you are becoming swept up in a cynical drama that is far afield from the meaning of the war and your son's sacrifice.

From your blogging on Michael Moore's web site, to the pronouncements you feel obligated to make on the cause of Palestine, you risk abandoning the moral high ground of a grieving mother and are in danger of becoming just another fleeting voice on the American pop culture landscape.

The central issue here is not whether George W. Bush meets with you.

The central issue is that when your son volunteered for military service, he placed himself on an altar of sacrifice. Sadly, the ultimate sacrifice was indeed required. Yet he gave himself willingly, as all our soldiers do in this generation, and his death is therefore the noble death of a hero, and not the needlessly tragic death of one accidentally or foolishly taken. What we must understand is that a pledge to military service is a surrender of rights, a surrender of comforts, and potentially, a surrender of life if the nation calls.

What leaves us so stunned at the death of a soldier beyond our grief for a life snuffed out and our personal loss is often our failure to understand the noble calling of the profession of arms and the warrior code that gives this call meaning.

When your son and the thousands like him serving today pledged himself to military service he did not just "join the army." He offered himself to his God and his nation in an act of devotion that has been repeated for centuries. He entered the fellowship of those who offer their lives willingly in service to others. His death, though a horror, was a horror with meaning, willingly engaged.

I cannot know your sorrow. I can urge you though not to allow your son's offering on what Lincoln called the "altar of freedom" to be tainted by the passing parade of trendy causes. I can also [music bed fade in] urge you to live now in the knowledge that your son's passing ennobles our nation just as I trust it will now ennoble you.

With deepest sympathies for your loss,

Steven Mansfield
Author of The Faith of the American Soldier

Not only did I find the letter revolting, but NPR's use of a soft piano for a music bed as Mansfield wrapped up the letter enhanced its false glow of illuminated reason.

My letter to NPR in response to Mansfield:
I have been mulling over a response to the Mansfield open letter to Cindy Sheehan ever since it aired on All Things Considered last Thursday (8/18/05).

I have finally found the words to express my revulsion.

Here, finally, is my reply:

'Revolting' was the first word that came to my mind upon hearing the jingo-dipped open letter to Cindy Sheehan by Steven Mansfield on the August 18th edition of All Things Considered.

Mansfield issued forth a parade of biased metaphors to cast aspersions on Mrs. Sheehan, and to sanctify the Iraq War as something undertaken with a noble, blessed purpose.

Mrs. Sheehan's patient, peaceful vigil to get President Bush to speak to her, and to speak to the nation, more forthrightly about the cause in Iraq, and the steps he is taking to get American lives out of harm's way, was vilified by Mansfield as a "disorienting swirl of world attention," a "cynical drama" which, associated with "trendy causes," "threatens to dishonor" her son.

Mansfield's then launched an imaginative array of euphemisms for death in war, without considering that the rationale for war has seldom in the history of the United States been vindicated by the cause of repelling an attack, or to promote true democracy.

Instead of considering the merits of Mrs. Sheehan's grievance against President Bush for launching an unprovoked war based upon faulty intelligence, if not outright lies, Mansfield buried the issue in the soft glow of propaganda images that would bring tears to the eyes of any Army recruiter.

Casey Sheehan died, said Mansfield, "a noble death of a hero" on "an altar of sacrifice," - "the altar of freedom," – an ancient tradition of sacrifice for God and country repeated for centuries. He wasn't participating in a killing organization. No, the military is a " service to others."

The founders of our nation were so opposed to war that they created a democratic process by which presidents were supposed to adhere – precisely so that our sons and daughters wouldn't have to die for causes that weren't justified. That the Bush administration is, in Iraq, repeating the centuries-old mistake of slaughtering soldiers for a cause that we now know wasn't justified, and that a majority of Americans don't support, should provide no comfort to Mrs. Sheehan, nor to the rest of America.

To the contrary, Mr. Mansfield is himself trapped in a "disorienting swirl" of ill-placed mystique about war. Notwithstanding his pronouncement that Casey Sheehan "gave himself willingly," no one can truly know if Casey Sheehan himself thought so as he drew his last breaths. Were he here today, we could ask Casey Sheehan if he really thought the career, the money, the honor, were worth the loss of his own life, the missed opportunities to live a more complete life, filled with all the joys that those who do not die in combat can appreciate.

No Mr. Mansfield. You don't speak for Casey Sheehan. No one can. That is the great tragedy of war – that those who perish can never speak for themselves of the lives and the families they will never see. Casey Sheehan and his fallen brothers and sisters will never have the chance to answer for themselves if the cause for which they died was truly worth the sacrifice, although Mr. Mansfield, and many others like him, will attempt to speak for them as though they know the true cost borne by those soldiers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pat Robertson, licensed to kill

Imagine the United States response if a Muslim from the Middle East made the same threat against the President of the United States. Pat Robertson (quoted in The Washington Post today:

We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said Monday on his Christian Broadcasting Network. "We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.

Hey that's funny! I mean, not funny funny - just funny. Maybe Pat Robertson should have been running the Bush administration's Iraq policy. I mean, it was just one guy, right? And it would have saved us $200 billion.

Oh? What's that you say? The insurgency filled the void left after Saddam Hussein was deposed due to poor planning by the Pentagon and the Bush administration? There's every possibility that by cutting off the head of the Baath Party, and not planning for the aftermath, the United States could lose the war in Iraq?

Actually, fans of Hugo Chavez (and I'm not stating my opinion here) should be dancing in the streets right now. Imagine if something actually happened to Chavez? Imagine how easy it would be for Chavez now to consolidate his power by just staging an attempted coup?

Good job Pat. Next stop, the United Nations.

Bring 'em on, August 23rd, 2005

Just one of several attacks by Iraqi insurgents on August 23rd, listed in Today in Iraq:

Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqis, one US soldier, and one US civilian contractor killed and twenty people wounded, including nine US soldiers, a civilian American contractor, six Iraqi civilians and four Iraqi police officers, in suicide bombing of the Diyala Provincial Joint Coordination Center northeast of Baghdad.

Hey, just one more mission accomplished for the bad guys. Thank you George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, the total number of wounded Americans (listed officially) just surpassed 14,000.

Keep an eye on the war cost meter. It's going to pass the $200 billion mark before the end of August.

And Americans killed in action? Sadly, if the August toll keeps up, that number will probably pass the 2000 mark before the end of September. Who's next? Who's father or mother? Who's son or daughter, brother or sister?

What are we doing in Iraq?

Ask Dick Cheney. Addressing a group of veterans in Missouri last week, Cheney said that the United States will not give up the fight against insurgents in Iraq. "They believe that America will lose our nerve and let down our guard," said Cheney. So we are fighting to prove that "America" has the nerve to keep on fighting. Well, that attitude should serve us well if we get bogged down in another quagmire in, say...oh, what the heck! Let's invade Iran too!

How convenient that Cheney didn't have to name names with such a sweeping characterless sacrifice as "America." It's always easier to speak of the sacrifice of the nation as a whole, than to speak of the actual individuals who make the sacrifice. Keeping a distance from their suffering is the key to the Bush administration's resolve. It's easy to fight the war when you don't suffer any pain yourself.

Let's see, what views did Dick Cheney have when his turn came around to fight just to show that "the United States" had nerve? Oh yeah, it was the 1960's. He told a reporter years later:
I had other priorities in the '60s than military service.

The New Orleans Agnostics

Neutral grounds, lawns, and bumper stickers around New Orleans have been sporting signs that say simply, "Faith!" No, it's not a campaign to promote attendance at mass in this historically Catholic city. To locals, the black and gold lettering is the giveaway that this is a desperate campaign to promote sales of Saints football tickets.

Unfortunately, Saints owner Tom Benson has in the last few years been trying to milk this tax-poor city to further increase his private dole of public money. He's already guaranteed a yearly $15 million payment from the state. He lowered his demand for a new stadium, mercifully, but he still wants the city and state to pay for a $170 million renovation of the Superdome or he'll take the Saints to another market like Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, in one of the poorest states in the nation, and with New Orleans anxiously trying to come up with a shortfall of $48 million in the school system, the mega-millionaire's campaign to increase his take of taxpayer money has soured the attitudes of thousands of sucker fans who prayed year after year for a winning team. Saints fans had faith - once upon a time. Tom Benson turned them into agnostics.

Benson's strategy has been been to play coy with with Governor Kathleen Blanco, who ought to be concerned, rightfully, that she would be remembered as the governor who lost the Saints. Now Benson's gameplan appears to have changed. Nevertheless, Blanco has been a shrewd negotiator, explaining to citizens that if Benson wants public assistance, he ought to show what he's worth, and how much he makes from the Saints, just like any welfare recipient.

In his August 17 column, John Maginnis of Louisiana Politics explained the transformation of Tom Benson from coquette little girl to rich debutante:

When he broke off talks with the state in April, Benson said he would wait until the post-season before resuming negotiations. Part of what's happened, or not happened, since then is seen at the box office, where season ticket sales are running 20,000 below the highs of just a few years ago. ...

If attendance dips even an average of 10,000 per game, the loss of ticket, concession and parking revenue could easily top $750,000 per game, or $6 million for the season.

So now Benson wants to talk to Governor Blanco again. The whole debacle is best summed up in this frame from Greg Peter's Suspect Device (hat tip Right Hand Thief):

Elsewhere in People Get Ready, I've called for an end to the monopoly that sports franchises use to strongarm local governments into financing private for-profit projects.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Robert Moog

Robert Moog, 1931-2005.

Those were the Sixties baby! Check out the tie!

How timely that, just last night on WTUL's 20th Century Classics, Isao Tomita's Moog music was played.

Profiles are available in the New York Times obituary, Wikipedia, and the Electronic Music Foundation.

One of the earliest recordings using the Moog synthesizer was The Beatles Abbey Road, the second side of which would have to number among my top 100 essential recordings.

Golden slumbers fill your eyes.
Smiles await you when you rise.

Thank you Robert Moog. Generations of music lovers will remember your incredible contribution. Rest in peace.

You'll need a very big sheet to cover that boo'tay

Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer confirmed last week that the military intelligence unit, Able Danger, did in fact discover a full year before 9/11 that Mohammed Atta was an Al Qaeda operative working in the U.S.

Can Shaffer produce the documentary evidence to support his claim?

Of course not! His security clearance was taken away in 2004 for what his lawyer described as "petty and frivolous" reasons, like making personal calls on a work cell phone.

Conveniently, the Pentagon too is having difficulty substantiating Shaffer's Able Danger allegation, The NY Times reported today.

Thus far, said Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita, "mostly general references to terrorist cells" have been found - no specifics.

I wonder if he's talking about "general references" in the same way that Condaleeza Rice said before the 9/11 commission hearings that the August 6 Presidential Daily Briefing was just "historic" in nature. Just for the sake of comparison, and to keep alive the memory, indulge me in repeating one of the most ignominious lies in U.S. history stated in this now historic little exchange between Richard Ben Veniste of the 9/11 commission, and Condaleeza Rice. As you do, recall that even mentioning the title of the PDB was forbidden by the Bush administration until Condaleeza Rice revealed it (my emphasis):

BEN-VENISTE: Isn't it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6th PDB warned against possible attacks in this country? And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB?

RICE: I believe the title was, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."

Now, the...

BEN-VENISTE: Thank you.

RICE: No, Mr. Ben-Veniste...

BEN-VENISTE: I will get into the...

RICE: I would like to finish my point here.

BEN-VENISTE: I didn't know there was a point.

RICE: Given that -- you asked me whether or not it warned of attacks.

BEN-VENISTE: I asked you what the title was.

RICE: You said, did it not warn of attacks. It did not warn of attacks inside the United States. It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information. And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States.

The Pentagons' reluctance to be more forthcoming about Able Danger reinforces Shaffer's notion (repeated in realitique) that the Pentagon is just covering its ass for not saying anything about Mohammed Atta before 9/11, then as now, to cover its ass.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The merit of losing causes

Because it's such a great line (which I posted over at Yatpundit), I can't help but repeat it here (with no intended offense to any of my southern friends who have tolerated this ex-patriate yankee over the years):

Southerners can never resist a losing cause.

Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind.

I first heard the quote on NPR, but I corroborated it (oddly enough) at the California Sons of Confederate Veterans web site.

I guess that one of the reasons the quote struck me was because I used to be, before I moved to New Orleans, one of those ignorant yankees (as 2Millionth Web Log's Michael pointed out in a PGR comment somewhere) who thought all southerners were a bunch of ignorant rednecks with a confederate flag hanging in the back of their pickups. Now, I've seen some pretty offensive stuff, but there are just as many ignorant rednecks up north. As in the south, most of 'em have just been livin' out in the elements too long.

Meanwhile, thinking about Yatpundit...hey all y'all mudbug eaters, there's a nice discussion going on about crime in New Orleans over here, and earlier, here.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Favorite swimming holes

A story on secret swimming holes appeared in the the NY Times on Friday. To Wisconsin readers of PGR who might be curious, I might let you in on a limestone or lannon stone quarry I used to frequent in Mequon when I was a kid riding around on two wheels.

I'm not sure how I feel about letting the whole world know where your favorite swimming spot is because once everyone else knows it's no longer secret, nor private. Nevertheless, the Swimming Holes web site has a map with listings of favorite spots to cool off.

Is that lump in John Roberts' throat a noose?

President Bush's Supreme Court nominee John Roberts said recently that he "always got a lump in my throat whenever I walked up those marble steps."

Quoted in the Washington Post his tone was a little different in 1983:

The federal judiciary today benefits from an insulation from political pressure even as it usurps the role of the political branches.


"Usurps" is a pretty strong word. I'd choose "reviews" instead.

Isn't that why the Supreme Court exists, to be the independent arbiter of politics, to keep the tendency toward a tyranny of the majority in check, to force Congress to adhere to the principles of the Constitution?

Feel the noose tightening John?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Community radio rocks mo' bettah

Channel surfing on my way to work this morning, I heard "Old School" 102.9 play a funky New Orleans brass band. It was probably the Soul Rebels or Rebirth. Wow! What a concept! Local music played on a local station?


It's probably the only nice thing about satellite radio. I'm no fan of satellite radio because its just too civilized and characterless. Plus, it robs revenue and listeners from the thousands of local radio stations across the country.

Oh, I know. You're saying local radio sucks. But there are exceptions, and it could be different. There are some changes afoot that could dramatically alter the radio landscape.

In addition to satellite, webcasts are also playing a huge role in stimulating more competition for captive listeners. Why would anyone listen to a local radio station that plays the same songs 24 times a day when there is so much more variety? The same applies to internet listening. Why would anyone listen to an adult soft rock station in another town that plays the same crap that an adult soft rock station in their home town offers. With webcasting, everything becomes locally accessible. How interesting would it be if you could be driving down the road in New Orleans and tune into a college radio station in Toronto on your wireless radio receiver. Now there's innovation. Screw satellite. I want the technology that provides virtually limitless possibilities.

The times they are a changin'.

So now, the locals have to demonstrate that they offer something unique that listeners can't find anywhere else. I'm not sure it's going to produce better radio, necessarily, but the prospects are better now than they've been in some twenty years.

My hope is that digital radio, LPFM, and technological improvements to sound quality on the AM band will diversify the spectrum of local radio, opening up the medium to many more, and more local, participants. Community radio could explode, because with so much competition, strictly for-profit radio could become a lot more challenged.

Speaking of which, New Orleans needs to get an LPFM station going. I've been thinking of forming a Board of Directors to get the idea off the ground. Anyone interested?

Me, I'll always love WTUL here in New Orleans. The dj's are a bunch of boneheads for the most part, but they freakin' rock the mic (as the in-house self-parody goes). That is to say, it's a totally free-form radio station where the freedom to program musical choices is more important than ratings.

Meanwhile, here's a very special treat - or poison as the case may be - for PGR readers. I subbed the Alternative Oldies show. There's a little dedication to a WMSE dj, Mary Bartlein, who's had a Saturday night time slot for years. Back in the day, there was no one around doing what Mary was doing. Her show was like a forerunner to Hearts of Space, but with a little more heart and soul.

Being a two-hour show, the file sizes are fairly large. I wouldn't recommend trying to download from a dial-up connection. The download I tested of the smaller file took 15-20 minutes even with the fiber connection I have at work. I got the file size down as far as I thought reasonable while retaining the sound quality.

Good (variable 96-128kbps 11025kHz, 83mb)

Better (fixed 128kbps 44100kHz, 111mb)

I think this will be available for a limited time (maybe just through the weekend).

Aim for the stars

A photo of an F-15 with the space shuttle lifting off in the background (it almost looks altered (no jet trail), but I think the light color on the underside suggests a dawn shot, which correlates well with the background).

I almost posted this over at my alter ego's web site, Serendipity Happens, because it's more reflective in nature, but the F-15 fighter isn't appropriate there.

This is one of many interesting photos and reflections by Damaris, a young woman who's blog is how I am becoming an astronaut. I'm particularly interested in her story, because I (showing my age) can remember the latter Apollo missions. I wish there were more than a possibility of a shadowy memory of seeing the very first landing. I'd have to check with my parents to see if they had me parked in front of the TV. I was probably at the babysitter's house - Mrs. Bridger. I can't imagine why I would have missed it. Everyone in the world with access to a television was watching.

I always wanted to be an astronaut growing up (yeah sure, I know - who didn't). Those moon landings inspired me to challenge myself, and to excel in areas of study that I might not otherwise have attempted.

Along the way, I found other things that captured my imagination, but I still look toward the heavens in wonder (much easier to do in Wisconsin than in New Orleans where there's almost always a haze over the city from the heat and humidity).

Well Damaris - aim high. Good luck!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Soldiers, surrender your nail clips!

This originally came to my attention via the Louisiana Democrat Yahoo group. The writer said he found it in Air Finance News magazine. I can corroborate the story by way of Marina Hyde for The Guardian UK:

Once again, it is left to the Americans to demonstrate that their fabled struggle to get to grips with irony is no bar to an intelligent engagement with security procedures for air travellers. US troops deploying to Iraq from Savannah, Georgia, are required to surrender any of those personal accoutrements that could be used as weapons before boarding their chartered airliner, according to a report from the Air Finance Journal picked up by the Wall Street Journal. On a recent flight soldiers of a national guard unit, the 48th Brigade Combat Team, were advised by their CO that they could hang on to their assault rifles, combat shotguns, pistols, bayonets and body armour. Unfortunately, though, they would need to give up any nail scissors, pocket knives or cigarette lighters at the gate. Thoughtful work.

What then must we do?

Unfortunately, Cindy Sheehan has to leave her vigil in Crawford to tend to her ailing mother. She may return, but if she can't, she deserves a salute from every American for standing up for what she thought she needed to do. Even Bush's most ardent supporters are completely deluded should respect her peaceful act of defiance.

It seems to me extremely significant that the local 10:00 news Wednesday night started out with a national report on the vigils held nationwide in support of Cindy Sheehan.

Dan Froomkin's Washington Post column today cited reports estimating anywhere from 1000 to 1500 vigils all over the country. Many of those vigils numbered from 100 to 300 people.

If you do the numbers, that's anywhere from 100,000 to 450,000 people. Just for the sake of argument, take the smaller number. Then, ask yourself what it would mean if 100,000 people held a vigil in Washington, D.C., or right there in Crawford, Texas. How significant would that number be? And what would the people demand?

New Orleans blogger oyster today presented a larger discussion about the efficacy of liberal political tactics using Cindy Sheehan's demonstration as a point of departure. It's a fine post, and worthy of attention.

Froomkin's survey of opinion across the spectrum is perhaps most succinctly summed up in a Bill Straub column for Scripps Howard:

Immanuel Wallerstein [a Yale scholar] said the public is still split on the wisdom of the Iraq war but that Bush's effort to rally support is "basically shot." ...

"The whole middle has lost faith. They see no light at the end of the tunnel, and they're right - there is no light at the end of the tunnel."

The public's dominant mood, he said, seesaws from wanting the United States to send more troops, to wanting to bring them all home, Wallerstein said. But the message is the same in each case - "we can't go on like this."

Senator Feingold agrees that we can't continue down the same path, using the same rhetoric. He wants President Bush to give up the ad nauseum refrain about how we need to stay the course, and setting deadlines encourages the terrorists. Feingold believes that NOT setting a deadline for withdrawal encourages the terrorists. He's proposing that a deadline be set to withdraw all 138,000 American troops by the end of next year.

Refuting Bush's claim that withdrawal would strengthen the hand of insurgents and terrorists, here's a guy who's no pacifist left-winger: William E. Odom, head of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration. Froomkin quotes Odom's essay on
"If I were a journalist," Odom writes, "I would list all the arguments that you hear against pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, the horrible things that people say would happen, and then ask: Aren't they happening already? Would a pullout really make things worse? Maybe it would make things better."

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the White House webmaster is sweating bullets trying to make this president look like he's actually doing some work. Here's one photo up on the White House web site:

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney listen Thursday, Aug. 11, 2005, to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during a meeting with the Defense Policy and Program teams at the Bush Ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Note that the caption dated the meeting August 11th. As I write this, it's August 18th. Has President Bush done anything significant with his national security staff in the last week? Or does he just spend his days clearing more brush in the longest vacation by a president in 36 years.

We can only hope the fool is starting to feel like the guy riding that bronco in the stupid artwork hanging on the wall.

What's up with Scott McClellan

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei talked about the Plame investigation in a Live Online session yesterday (my emphasis):

Scott McClellan was either lying or was lied to about Rove's involvement in the Plame affair. If Scott is a good guy he should resign instead of working for liars. If he lied, the media should shun him. But instead the media plays the game. 'Scott's a great guy'. Once again, a lie is made and no one is held accountable. If the media does not begin to look for truthful sources, the people of this country will shun the media.

Why isn't Scott giving the briefings down in Crawford? He hasn't done a briefing since August 3rd.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bush bucket o' boneless chicken

As Cindy Sheehan nears the completion of day 11 of her vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, it's time to issue another boneless chicken award.

The first boneless chicken award went to Bill Frist when he flip-flopped on how much he was willing to fight for John Bolton, and later, when he flip-flopped on stem cell research.

George W. Bush is such a spineless chicken hawk, he can't even muster the courage to hear the concerns of the mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq.

There are two more boneless chicken awards going out today. One of them goes to Larry Northern. He's the guy who ran over the crosses and flags lined up at Camp Casey to pay respect to American soldiers killed in Iraq. According to a report posted on 2millionth web log (via NTodd), Northern wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed. He was caught

because one of the truck's tires was impaled by a cross, and the cops found a couple more crosses apparently jammed in the undercarriage.

Elsewhere, I've suggested that since Mr. Northern is so good at hitting things by the side of the road, an appropriate punishment might be to have him drive his chicken hick mobile up and down the airport highway in Baghdad until he finds an IED.

I'm issuing a last boneless chicken award to Larry Matledge. He's the guy who, while the Camp Casey protestors were conducting a prayer service, showed up at the edge of his property and fired two shots into the air with his shotgun. When sheriff's deputies and Secret Service later turned up, Matledge managed to get a few words out of his little redneck chicken brain:
"I ain't threatening nobody, and I ain't pointing a gun at nobody," Matledge said. "This is Texas."

If anyone comes across a better picture of Mr. Matledge, I'd be happy to stick his mug on a bucket of boneless chicken.

At least Matledge's cousin, Fred Matledge, has a bit more common sense, courage, and principles. He's a military veteran who offered Cindy Sheehan and her supporters a spot on his property closer to the Bush ranch to continue the vigil. Fred Matledge deserves a medal for his gracious decency.

Where do we go from here?

Meriting attention today are a couple of NY Times letters to the editor published yesterday in response to Frank Rich's August 14 column, "Someone Tell the President the War Is Over":

Sheila R., Middletown, R.I. said (excerpt):

I never agreed with this war, but we are there. So wouldn't it be wrong to pull up and move out, and leave Iraq in such a fragile state? Wouldn't it set back any agenda we had to bring democracy to the Middle East (the only possible justification for this war that ever made sense to me, and even then, thin as a rationale)? What does it do to the United States' standing in the world not to clean up the mess we created?

The only solace I can find in this situation is that we did precisely this in Vietnam, and the nightmare scenario that the hawks predicted then - the "domino effect" - never occurred. In fact, eventually, Vietnam drew itself out of distress. Is there anything we can learn from that?

Nancy H., Newcastle, Me. (excerpt):
What will be most memorable about this war is that most Americans, especially those who supported it, did not serve.

Insistent Phrma gonna get you!

On a visit to WebMD today, the home page features this photo and caption:

Snoring Keeping You Up? Find out if your partner's sleep problems could be affecting your health.

Wow! She looks really annoyed...troubled. She should really do something about that.

Then again, maybe she's not worried about her husband's snoring. Maybe she's really worried about a terminal disease she has, or a loved one has, that can't be cured.

Oh well. Ce la vie. At least the pharmaceutical companies have found drugs to help shut up those obnoxious snorers. And then there's that medication you can take to cure that unsightly toe fungus. Yuck! No open shoes in your funeral. Oh yeah, but it'll cost you an arm and a leg, so it's half a dozen of one, half a dozen of the other.

You might be dying, but at least you'll look great and you'll be well rested.

The WebMD article had a disclaimer at the top which stated that:
This content was created by WebMD under its sole editorial control and is brought to you by Sepracor.

Really? Sole editorial control? The questionnaire readers can complete provides only one remedy (sur-priiize!): Sepracor. I guess "sole editorial control" means that the editors make "sole" decisions about what issues they'll present front and center after their sponsors' checks clear.

On the topic of expensive drugs people need to live healthier lives, or to just survive, and what the government's doing to help, if you head over to the Phrma (pronounced "pharma") web site (not that you would), you can see good old boy and former Representative Billy Tauzin (R-LA), who pushed through the Medicare prescription drug bill great pharmaceutical company giveaway of 2003, pressing the flesh with a well-screened, or well paid, cadre of supposed supporters. Oh...that's he's the President and CEO of Phrma.

That drug company giveaway will cost the American taxpayer $1.2 trillion over the next ten years, according to the Medicare chief, Mark McClellan. That's a long shot from the less than $400 billion that Republicans touted before the bill's passage (with the extraordinary tactic of Republican arm-twisting going on into the long hours of the night until they could secure enough votes for passage).

Oh yeah, there's one more thing! Remember how the bill bans the government (which could be a bulk purchaser) from negotiating with drug companies for LOWER DRUG PRICES?!! Gosh no. We couldn't have THAT! Why, there'd be a run on toe fungus medication!

Oh wait, there's still MORE!! Does everyone remember how, before the November election, Geeduhbya said he would consider allowing drug importation? Heard anything about that since? That's right, importing drugs from Canada is STILL illegal, and if you work for the drug industry, you better keep your mouth shut if you think it's a good idea.

By the way, in case you didn't get the title, that's a reference to John Lennon. We miss you so!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Random Insult Generator

Mixter has a hilarious post on the North Korea News Database of North Korean Propaganda web site, where the Supreme Commander will insult you all day long if you like.

You shameless lackey, we will mercilessly crush you with the weapon of singlehearted unity!

Check out mixter's post, then visit the NK News. It's full of bizarre things. I simply can't do it justice. Go see it for yourself!

If a cross falls...

If a soldier's cross is knocked over by a redneck Texan in the middle of the night, and the mainstream press doesn't see it, did it ever really happen?

Cindy Sheehan continues her vigil at Camp Casey, outside the Bush ranch in Crawford, where late Monday night, some right-wingnut hick ran over the crosses staged to remember American soldiers sacrificed in Iraq.

Baton Rouge blogger Michael at 2Millionth Web Log interpreted the act this way:

The Rove-worshipping minions of wingnuttia managed to pull off a twofer in Crawford--in the absence of any SwiftBoatable evidence to truly attack Cindy Sheehan, they've decided to hoot and holler about Ms. Sheehan's personal life and/or family...and at least one wingnut decided he wanted to spit on a memorial to the fallen...ok, he didn't actually spit--instead, he went after the memorial with his hillbilly chariot.

Japhet Els and Emily Sharpe, who are both part of the support crew at Camp Casey, provided a poignant interpretation of the attack in their Crawford Update post (via Daily KOS):
Respect for this country's dead is not a partisan issue. Putting up memorials of our country's fallen is not a "liberal" act. It is an American act.

Said patrioticliberal about the flags that were run over:
So much for caring about the flag, huh, right-wingers?

Monday, August 15, 2005

The breath of life

In another listserv discussion about the precise moment when life begins:

The Bible says that the ability to breathe is the point at which life begins:

"Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).

"Everything with the breath of the spirit of life in its nostrils -everything on dry land died" (Genesis 7:22).

"I will put tendons on you, make flesh grow on you, and cover you with skin. I will put breath in you so that you come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord" (Ezechial 37:6).

My earlier post on this topic was "The waiting room of the soul".

Federal sex offender registry lacking

Senator Vitter's legislation to create a federal sex offender registry is a laudable, but insufficient effort to ensure compliance with the public notification requirements, and to facilitate public awareness of sex offenders living in their communities.

The bill passed in the Senate, but needs to be modified before the House votes on it, and before a joint resolution is passed.

Here is an excerpted letter I sent to Senator Vitter on the issue:

Please ask Senator Vitter to:

1) Eliminate non-violent sex offenders from the database.

2) Create a truly GIS-enabled search engine so that the boundary problems of zip code polygons don't prevent users from identifying potentially threatening offenders who reside in the next zip code area.

3) Ensure the systems and funding are in place to validate addresses on a regular basis.

As I said, I've spent a significant amount of time trying to sell the idea to various law enforcement decision makers without success. I strongly believe in the issue of public notification - for dangerous offenders - but quite frankly, I've seen many opportunities and a fortune in tax dollars spent on badly designed projects. So I was both excited by Senator Vitter's bill to create a zip code database, and disappointed. I was disappointed because a zip code database is a step in the right direction, but geographically, insufficient to ensure citizens' safety.

When the Louisiana State Police first came out with the sex offender database, I judged the utility of the database to be virtually nil, unless a person had a lot of time to page through the results and knew where all of the listed addresses were relative to where they lived. Very disappointing. Furthermore, it's very difficult, without clicking the hyperlinks to the offense descriptions, to know who the really bad offenders are. This is not just an issue of politics (protecting the privacy of non-violent offenders). It's also an issue of safety. Why obscure the really violent offenders who might hurt you or your children by mixing them up with the multitudes of non-violent offenders?

In order to demonstrate how to better make use of offender residence locations, I created a prototype application that would allow a user to type in his or her home address and get a map and listing of all the offenders who resided within a user-defined radius of his or her home (approximately what you see in the map included with this message).

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office should be commended for implementing precisely this type of radius search tool on its web site (example of a search result attached, sttammany_search.jpg):

Please indulge me a moment longer to elaborate upon an additional, vital reason for GIS-enabling a federal sex offender registry.

The map I attached actually presents a hypothetical abduction scenario I created. In this scenario, the victim was abducted while walking to school from home. I mapped the home address, the school the victim was traveling to, and the victim's likely route traveled. I then mapped any sex offenders who lived within a quarter-mile of the route the victim traveled. These offenders would be the first for officers to investigate.

Law enforcement agencies need to respond immediately in abduction cases. The chances of finding a victim alive an unharmed may rapidly diminish. Public notification via the Amber Alert is good, but law enforcement needs to be empowered to respond with information technology to improve the likelihood of finding the victim. The ability to search offender residence locations within and across jurisdictions can greatly improve the response time.

The best example I can think of in which information systems deficiencies seriously handicapped law enforcement was the Lisa Bruno abduction in 2000. She was taken to Houston where her abductor was a registered sex offender. Until she escaped and was found in a New Orleans bus station, she was missing for days, and law enforcement was clueless about how to find her. Amber Alerts still weren't established statewide, and there were few reliable sex offender databases available. They would be useless anyway, since none were GIS-enabled. I imagine that then police chief Morris was just frantic calling around to different jurisdictions to try to piece together lists of offenders and any other clues.

Had Lisa Bruno not escaped, or been released, her story might have ended tragically - as many other stories like hers, sadly, have ended, and will continue to end, until a smarter approach to registering sex offender location information is created, a systematic approach to validating that those addresses are accurate is followed, and the resulting data is GIS-enabled.

Improving public awareness and rapid response is possible. I implore Senator Vitter to revisit his legislation, and to work with the House to make the changes I have outlined.

Monday morning blue collar blues

In France, Germany, and Japan, corporate executives receive 11-15 times more in pay than the average worker. Think that's enough?

Here's a graphical representation of what the disparity is in the United States (via PBS' Now, from The Economist):

Say you make $40,000/year - times 475 equals $19 million/year. That should just about cover the home in exurbia, a beach house, summer cottage, vacation ranch, a yacht, luxury car collection, aaahhh...I don't know, what else do you do with $19 million a year?

Sadly, lots of people think that even that much isn't enough money.

One word: obscene!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Re-regulating media

The next time you hear big broadcast media corporations complaining that they need more deregulation, what they're really saying is they want re-regulation that benefits them, improves their bottom line, not your interests, not your pocketbook, not your democracy.

Robert McChesney on the Aug. 5th episode of PBS' Now:

This idea of deregulation--I mean, who's not in favor of deregulation? I don't wanna be regulated. It sounds great. It's a gushy word. It gives you a warm feeling. But, it's very misleading. There is no such thing as deregulation in media.

For example, radio and TV are all monopoly licenses given out by the government to private firms, or to public broadcasters. They have monopoly access to frequencies. Now, in the case of radio they say they deregulated it when they allowed companies to own more and more of these monopoly licenses.

That's not deregulated it. That's just regulating it on behalf of the big radio companies, the big media companies. If you go out and try to broadcast on one of these monopoly licenses that Clear Channel has, you'd get thrown in jail. That's regulation. That's not a deregulated place where anyone can broadcast on the airwaves. So, we don't have deregulation. We never will have deregulation. Policies are fundamental to a media system.

Even if you wanted a free market system-- even if you woke up with a copy of Milton Freedman taped to your chest and said, "I want a free market system," it would take extensive government policies to create a free market system.

Biden confirms 2008 run

My letter to WDSU describes one despairing change in the New Orleans lineup of Sunday morning talking head programs:

First, check your 201-WDSU line. The navigation system isn't working in order to leave comments - but maybe that's the way you like it.

Second, you're not "building WDSU around me" by changing the broadcast time for Meet the Press. How dare you fill the Sunday 9-10 AM time slot with a repeat of how people feel about the summer heat every ten minutes. That's programming for idiots. Sunday morning is the time when viewers have an opportunity to find out how events are getting spun inside the beltway, and Meet the Press has always been the best of the lot of these programs.

Your decision is all the more reprehensible because it allows Fox to run the most politically-biased interview program without a competitive alternative.

Your momma otta slap you silly for such a stupid idea!

Notable in Fox (at least before I had to turn it off) - nothing. Cindy Sheehan is in the news, but neither Chris Wallace nor John McCain could figure out why. John McCain sold his soul to the devil for the Bush administration, and all he got was...nothing. Oh yeah, Rupert Murdoch is the devil in case anyone forgot. He's just one more friend of the Bush administration taking a free ride on American taxpayers.

Meet the Press began with today's disconcerting Washington Post lead story describing the Bush administration now downgrading the achievable progress in Iraq:
The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.

Senator Joseph Biden (D-De) agreed, "They have squandered about every opportunity to get it right."

On the NY Times story about how American troops in Iraq have been taking the flak, literally, for the the Bush administration's failure to get them some updated body armor that actually works, Biden said:
I don't understand how it happens. Imagine if Secretary Rumsfeld was the CEO of a corporation. These guys talk about how they came from business backgrounds. He'd be fired by now. The idea that we are at this moment, with this headline saying "U.S. Struggles to Get Soldiers Updated Armor," is absolutely irresponsible. And I realize all the problems. If you read the article, it goes back two and a half years and the mistakes consistently being made.

I've said a lot about Donald Rumsfeld elsewhere in PGR.
On Bush's comments that he's pleased with the training of Iraqi troops, Biden said:
I can tell you with absolute certainty that the number of troops that we have trained out of 100 battalions that are in uniform--and battalions make 300 to 800 people in each battalion. These are Iraqi battalions. We have fully trained fewer than 3,000. Fully trained meaning they can take the place of an American troop. We have another probably 20 to 30 battalions out there that, with embedded U.S. military, are able to do a serious, positive job. After that, it falls off the cliff.

If we have 178,000 troops that are already trained, Andrea, why do we need 130,000 American troops which would get you over 300,000 people in Iraq, with the body counts going up, with the insurgency gaining strength? And the president continues to say he is pleased with the training schedule. I don't know any military man or woman in Iraq who's pleased with that schedule.

Will Biden run for president in 2008, as he suggested he would in June?
Well, yes. I'm out there. I've spent a lot of time in the red states, Andrea, trying to find out if there's anybody but me that thinks I should run for president of the United States of America.

I can't wait to vote!

There isn't anyone out there who can stand up against Biden. He's a no-nonsense speaker who can talk himself out of any situation and come out on top.

Who to run with? Here are a few suggestions off the top of my head:

: It's obvious isn't it. He's from Wisconsin. He fights for blue collar Americans. He's capably filled the shoes that my favorite senator Paul Wellstone left behind (R.I.P.). Hands down - my favorite choice.

Biden-Blanco: She's the centrist Louisiana Governor who has demonstrated, by locking up the cajun vote, her ability to appeal to a "broad" base. She's also proven herself to be extremely shrewd as a negotiator with business interests.

Biden-Landrieu: She's not "my" Senator, even though she does represent me, but she's positioned herself as a centrist, and she has the benefit of being a southerner.

Update: Earlier errors in which I mistakenly attributed quotes to McCain have been corrected to show that they were instead made by Biden.

Monkey see, monkey do

I'd like to take a moment to recommend New Orleans blog Yatpundit where New Orleans Commentary, Funky Music, and Hubig's Pies are the fare. Yatpundit also has an unavoidable interest in national politics, and like me, shares a fascination with space science.

So you're wondering what a Yat is? Gumbo Pages has an explanation of the local vernacular - one of many in this city of diverse neighborhoods and cultures.

A recent post on Yatpundit observed that the Bush vacation death count was 47 - i.e., 47 deaths in Iraq since Bush left the White House for some rest and relaxation. Hey Mr. Preznit, do you think some of those troops in Iraq could take the month of August off too - you know, like Scott McClellan said, modern communications being what they are and all, maybe they could just call into Iraq once a day to make sure everything's under control.

I wouldn't normally dignify a vitriolic blathering whore of the Bush administration with a link, but a blog now disparaging Cindy Sheehan, a mother mourning the death of her son Casey, definitely merits tarring and feathering in the great patriotic tradition.

Yatpundit has a post (via tbogg) about Darleen's Place, where you can find the age-old Rovian tactic redux of assailing the mental well-being of an opponent when the Bush team can't win an argument. Once again, the fascist wing of the Republican party is stepping up to the plate, hoping to allow Duhbya to remain above the fray, speeding past Camp Sheehan in his black SUV motorcade without having to bear the grief of Americans who lost loved ones in Iraq. Bush administration surrogates have now stooped to attacking mothers who lost their sons in the Iraq war:

Enter Darlene, just a good old-fashioned common-sense mom with good old-fashioned common-sense advice for the common people for their own good. Darlene strings together a series of posts in the time honored manner of over-the-backyard-fence gossip. You know:

"Oh that poor Mrs. Sheehan down the street. She lost her son, bless his soul, and now she's gone bull-goose, bat-shit loonier than a shit house rat, bless her heart."

Just to get your underwear in a twist, here's an image of Ms. Sheehan which Darleen posted on her blog:

How bizarre that with such bilious defamation spewing from the keyboard of Darleen, she should see fit, on the same page, to solicit the generosity of her readers to help get her daughter through college. So I guess once you've started prostituting your conscience for the Bush administration, pimping out your daughter is the next logical step (I have smudged the image to protect the innocent):

By the way, if I had a daughter, I wouldn't take a million dollars from anyone to post her picture on the internet. That pretty much explains Darlene's value system to anyone who remains unsure.

Meanwhile, tbogg hit the nail smack on the head when he proposed that Darlene's daughter help out the military with that recruiting shortage. The army would be happy to give her a signing bonus and enough money for college to get a great two-year degree. Note the appeal to visit Darlene's Place to ask this very question, which I wholeheartedly endorse:
When was the last time that you sacrificed something Darlene? After all, I notice that you've put a link on your blog to raise money to send what I presume to be your daughter to college.

Couldn't she avail herself of the many educational opportunities and signing bonuses from one of the fine arms of our military branches?

This comment was subsequently deleted by the blog owner. If you have a spare moment, perhaps we all could ask her why she's not encouraging her daughter to sacrifice?

Casey Sheehan, and hundreds of other soldiers who died in Iraq thought the college money was a good trade off for risking their lives when they enlisted.

Sadly, not a single man nor woman killed in Iraq now has the opportunity to say whether it truly was worth it.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

News from Camp Casey

New Orleanian blogs from Camp Casey: NO Goddess posts, and photos.

A little more frequently updated blog from Camp Casey by William Rivers Pitt and Scott Galindez on One Mother's Stand

Photos on Yahoo:

Cindy Sheehan outside President Bush's Crawford compound.

The Bush motorcade speeds past Camp Casey.

What a friggin' fiasco! Junior will need someone to change his diapers before this is over. If he hasn't talked to Cindy Sheehan by Monday, I'm taking Frist off of the box of chicken, and putting Bush there instead.

The waiting room of the soul

In a listserv discussion about the precise moment when life begins:

St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, wrote that the soul does not enter until 40 days after conception.
You'd better save some of those cigars gents!

Depleted uranium discussion

The Horror of War Doesn't End With Withdrawal.
Iraq, Depleted Uranium & American Troops.

Public Discussion
Speaker: Bob Smith
Thursday, August 18, 2005, 7:00pm
St. Jude Community Center
400 N. Rampart St.
Free and open to all!                        

Washington's insistence that the U.S. military in Iraq utilize bombs loaded with depleted uranium is inflicting radioactivity poisoning on thousands of  American troops and countless numbers of Iraqi non-combatants. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the Pentagon is refusing to test American troops returning from Iraq for radioactivity poisoning.  Radioactivity poisoning frequently inflicts cancer and other maladies on its victims.  The loss of  U.S. life as a result of exposure to depleted uranium in Iraq is likely to surpass the loss of  U.S. life in that Middle Eastern country as a result of combat.  Yet Washington remains silent.

Hear Bob Smith, a Vietnam War veteran and a soldiers' rights activist, address the current struggle to compel the U.S. government to provide testing for depleted uranium poisoning to soldiers returning from Iraq. 

This event is sponsored by C3(Concern, Community,Compassion).
For additional information call 587-0080.

George W. Bush has disgraced the White House

The Associated Press (emphasis added):

The war in Iraq and the soaring price of gasoline are drowning out a succession of positive reports on the economy, putting President Bush on the defensive at a time when he could be basking in good economic news.

Despite months of economic growth, tame inflation, resurgent job growth and an unemployment rate near a four-year low, public approval of Bush's handling of the economy is at the lowest levels of his presidency.

That has left his supporters perplexed over why Bush hasn't gotten more credit for the improving economy.

Later, the same article found at least part of the answer in an interpretation of poll data by Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center (my emphasis):
Americans are far more negative about their personal finances than the government data cited by Bush would suggest.

Despite the job-creation figures and a relatively low unemployment rate of 5 percent, "people continue to tell us the job market in their local communities is not particularly good," Kohut said.

"Since we know that unemployment is not very high, the only inference we can draw is that they are complaining about the quality of jobs that are available."

Ahh...maybe Bush's "supporters" aren't asking the right questions? Or maybe they pre-select Bush supporters for their own poll samples.

As Mixter recently raged, most Americans would agree:
He's a liar. A big, fat liar. He lied to get our country into this war. He lied to Congress, he lied to the American people, he lied to our troops, and he lied to Mrs. Sheehan.

Bill Clinton was a wretched husband and a pig for what he did with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval office (ugh, who needs to be reminded of the visuals). Bill Clinton lied about his personal failings, under pressure from unpopular Republicans desperate for any political advantage, but Bill Clinton's lies didn't hurt anyone.

Once Republicans had their man in the White House, he too lied. George W. Bush's public failings as a leader, in stark contrast to Bill Clinton, caused the deaths of over 3,000 Americans on September 11th, and the deaths of 1,846 Americans in Iraq for a war that was premeditated, pre-emptive, and thoroughly unjustified.

Sadly, I think most voters hoped for something different. I think most of George W. Bush's supporters voted for something other than what they got. I can forgive them, because they were lied to.

Now Americans are finally beginning to realize the horror. Now Americans are beginning to wonder who has truly disgraced the Office of President. Now Americans see a man who, barely able to contain his contempt for democracy, smirks while signing an energy bill that gives away billions of taxpayer dollars to oil companies like Exxon-Mobil - a company that last year recorded a world record $25 billion profit in one year - while doing nothing to bring down gasoline prices. Bush could have done more to help working Americans and his own approval ratings if he just bought a bunch of gasoline and gave it away...oh, but that wouldn't have boosted the revenues of his pals in the oil business.

Hint to the clueless: I'd rather have a president who can't keep his pants zipped up, than a president who intentionally, mercilessly, sent 1,846 Americans to their deaths, who caused grave injury to over 13,000 Americans, who killed 20-30,000 non-combatant Iraqi men, women, and children, and who by his actions has injured the global reputation and safety of Americans for generations to come.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Rage against the dying of the light

I wasn't concentrating when I read this, so I was forced to pass over this line a few times before its meaning smacked me across the face. These are incredibly sharp words whose meaning cuts through all the bullshit of the Bush administration lies, and how the press has failed to treat them as lies:

Unreality is a hallmark of media coverage for war.

The line was written by Norman Solomon in an article for Common Dreams:
Unreality is a hallmark of media coverage for war. Yet -- most of all -- war is about death and suffering. War makers thrive on abstractions. Their media successes depend on evasion. ...

Cindy Sheehan has disrupted the media-scripted shadow play of falsity.

And then came this powerful testimony by Gold Star Families for Peace co-founder Celeste Zapata, whose son Sherwood Bakers was killed in Baghdad 16 months ago:
"George Bush talks about caring about the troops who get killed in Iraq. Sherwood was killed protecting the people looking for weapons of mass destruction on April 26, 2004. This was one month after Bush was joking [at the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner, on March 24] about looking for weapons of mass destruction. And then my Sherwood is dead trying to protect people looking for them because Bush said it was so important to the safety of our country."

Finally, another line that knocked me out of my stupor:
When a mass killer is at the helm of the ship of state, taking a bow now and again while "Hail to the Chief" booms from big brass bands, a significant portion of the country's population feels revulsion. And often a sense of powerlessness -- a triumph for media manipulation. Passivity is the health of the manipulative media state.

The Bush relationship to the Saudi family

Robert Scheer for the Los Angeles Times, reprinted in Common Dreams:

The only evidence you need that President Bush is losing the "war on terror" is this: On Sunday, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia said that relations with the United States "couldn't be better."

Tell that to the parents of those who have died in two wars defending this corrupt spawning ground of violent extremism. Never mind the ugly facts: We are deeply entwined with Saudi Arabia even though it shares none of our values and supports our enemies. ...

Yes, it has stuck deep in the craw of many of us Americans that after 9/11, Washington squandered global goodwill and a huge percentage of our resources invading a country that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, while continuing to pander to this dysfunctional dynasty. After all, Saudi Arabia is believed to have paid Bin Laden's murderous gang millions in protection money in the years before 9/11, and it lavishly funds extremist religious schools throughout the region that preach and teach anti-Western jihad.

"Al Qaeda found fertile fundraising ground in the kingdom," noted the 9/11 commission report in one of its many careful understatements. The fact is, without Saudi Arabia, there would be no Al Qaeda today.

Our president loves to use the word "evil" in his speeches, yet throughout his life he and his family have had deep personal, political and financial ties with a country that represents everything the American Revolution stood against: tyranny, religious intolerance, corrupt royalty and popular ignorance. This is a country where women aren't allowed to drive and those who show "too much skin" can be beaten in the street by officially sanctioned mobs of fanatics. A medieval land where newspapers routinely publish the most outlandish anti-Semitic rants. A place where executions are held in public, torture is the norm in prison and the most extreme and expansionist version of Islam is the state religion.

It's hard to see how Saddam Hussein's brutal and secular Iraq was worse than the brutal theocracy run by the House of Saud. Yet one nation we raze and the other we fete. Is it any wonder that much of the world sees the United States as the planet's biggest hypocrite?