Friday, September 30, 2005

More Bennett
Given further opportunities to apologize--this time ABC's Good Morning America--Bennett continues to say that he was just trying to make a point and his enemies are out to get him. I'd like to think that I'm included among his enemies, but I doubt as if he knows I exist (snif). Let's go to the tape:
Jake TAPPER: On Hannity & Colmes, Bennett said he was just making a hypothetical argument.

BENNETT (video clip): This is like Swift's "Modest Proposal," for people who remember their literature. You put things up in order to examine them. I put it up, examined it and said that is ridiculous and impossible, no matter who advances it.

TAPPER: But why immediately link blacks and crime? Bennett told me on the phone that race was on his mind because of recent stories in the media about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

BENNETT (audio clip): Stories about looting and shooting and gangs and roving gangs and so on. ... I'm sorry if people are hurt, I really am. But we can't say this is an area of American public policy that we're not allowed to talk about race and crime.

TAPPER: Robert George, a Republican editorial writer for the New York Post, agrees that Bennett's comments were not meant as racist but he worries they feed into stereotypes of Republicans as insensitive.

GEORGE: He should know better the impact of his words and sort of thinking these things through before he speaks.

TAPPER: In light of accusations that the Bush administration was not as sensitive to victims of Hurricane Katrina because many of them were black, one Republican official tells ABC News that Bennett's comments were probably as poorly timed as they were politically incorrect.

DIANE SAWYER: Well, Jake, I saw that you talked to him. What adjective did he use for what he said?

TAPPER: He didn't -- he said he was being provocative. He has a background in philosophy, and the idea was merely to put out a construct to discuss and shoot down. He did not seem particularly apologetic. He said he was sorry if anybody was hurt, but he saw this as a way that his enemies, his opponents were out to get him.

Let's leave it to Diane to explain to Tapper that "provocative" is an adjective.

If you go back and read the full context of Bennett's original comment, you will see that it was, just as he says, a straw man argument and not a serious suggestion.

My reasons for taking offense at Bennett's remarks were that they were eliminationist and insensitive and, that, in the context of the white fears of black criminality unleashed by the rumors following Katrina, dangerously inflammatory. Most of the stories that came out of New Orleans, about snipers shooting at rescue workers, about roving gangs of rapists, and about multiple murders at the Convention Center and Superdome, have turned out to be racist urban legends. The national news media (and right wing bloggers) eagerly spread these lies without making the slightest effort to confirm them. The myth of African-Americans as a "criminal race" never goes away. They disappear for a while, but at the first sign of urban unrest, the same lies are hauled out and recirculated to a shamefully credulous and easily scared white middle class.

I was willing to give Bennett some semblance of a benefit of the doubt in assuming that this vile statement was an off the cuff argument. I thought that it revealed something profoundly ugly about Bennett, but I was willing to allow that it was an unconscious prejudice and not a carefully thought out statement of his conscious beliefs. I was wrong.

Bennett, in his comments over the last day and a half, clearly says that this was not a spur of the moment thing. He says that it was a carefully thought out argument:
"I was putting forward a hypothetical proposition. Put that forward. Examined it. And then said about it that it's morally reprehensible. To recommend abortion of an entire group of people in order to lower your crime rate is morally reprehensible. But this is what happens when you argue that the ends can justify the means," he told CNN.

He also says that he specifically has New Orleans in mind:
TAPPER: But why immediately link blacks and crime? Bennett told me on the phone that race was on his mind because of recent stories in the media about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

BENNETT (audio clip): Stories about looting and shooting and gangs and roving gangs and so on. ... I'm sorry if people are hurt, I really am. But we can't say this is an area of American public policy that we're not allowed to talk about race and crime.

Bennett is admitting that he is not the same type of fool as Rush Limbaugh--an unthinking loud-mouth who can't figure out that flinging kerosene around a burning room might cause things to go boom. Bennett is saying that this was an intentional argument dropped into an inflammatory situation. He can't claim that the boom was unexpected. He meant to call African-Americans a criminal race.

The man is far more disgusting than I imagined.
Bill Bennett thinks I owe him an apology
With DeLay and Roberts hogging the news cycle, I'm surprised that this got any media attention.
Congressional Democrats blasted former Education Secretary William Bennett on Thursday for saying that aborting "every black baby in this country" would reduce the crime rate, and demanded their Republican counterparts do the same.

"This is precisely the kind of insensitive, hurtful and ignorant rhetoric that Americans have grown tired of," said Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters on Friday that President Bush "believes the comments were not appropriate."


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, had called on President Bush to condemn the comments by Bennett, who was anti-drug chief in Bush's father's administration.

"What could possibly have possessed Secretary Bennett to say those words, especially at this time?" Pelosi asked. "What could he possibly have been thinking? This is what is so alarming about his words."

Harry Reid, the NAACP, and some pundits have also weighed in. I actually find the "gotcha" game of staged outrage and dueling demands for apologies and denunciations to be tedious, childish, and not very effective. It's the kind of thing that turns many Americans off of politics. And it's done so often, by both sides, that it contributes to the relativization of politics, the growing sense that all crimes are equal and "they all do it." The biggest shame of that perception is that, when genuinely serious transgressions occur, they fail to rise out of the background noise to get the attention and outrage they deserve.

That's not to say that I don't think Bennett should be smacked down for a truly reprehensible comment that will only serve to encourage the worst in Americans at a very bad time. I think he should. Bennett is a loud-mouthed, self-righteous jerk. He's made a career out of scolding other people for their lack of shame and personal responsibility while exhibiting neither quality in the conduct of his own life.

I think there is a fundamental difference between Bennett and Tom DeLay. Tom DeLay is an important member in the Republican Party. Many Republicans have profited from his schemes and have submitted to his leadership. It's fair game to hold the entire party responsible for tolerating and encouraging DeLay and his culture of corruption. Bennett does not hold an official position in Republican Party. The GOP as a whole is no more responsible for Bennett's ignorant mouthings off that the Democratic Party is for the rantings of someone like Ward Churchill. Of course, individual members of the parties should be held responsible if they endorse the opinions of the loud-mouthed jerks. It would be a sign of personal virtue on the part of individual Republicans if they distanced themselves from Bennett, but it's not really honest to hold the Party as a whole responsible for him. Bennett himself, however, should be squashed like a bug.

Turing back to Bennett, let's see if he does exhibit any sense of shame or personal responsibility over this. In my last post on the subject, I predicted that he would claim he was just trying to make a point and that we're all picking on him if we don't get it. Let's go to the tape.
Bennett stood by his comments Thursday night.

"I was putting forward a hypothetical proposition. Put that forward. Examined it. And then said about it that it's morally reprehensible. To recommend abortion of an entire group of people in order to lower your crime rate is morally reprehensible. But this is what happens when you argue that the ends can justify the means," he told CNN.


"I don't think people have the right to be angry, if they look at the whole thing. But if they get a selective part of my comment, I can see why they would be angry. If somebody thought I was advocating that, they ought to be angry. I would be angry."

"But that's not what I advocate."

Asked if he owed people an apology, Bennett replied, "I don't think I do. I think people who misrepresented my view owe me an apology."

I don't suppose Mr. Bennett would like to place a friendly wager as to whether or not he will be receiving that apology.
Social Studies 101
Bush's big plan for making peace with Islamic world involves bombing them till they love us and sending Karen Hughes over to explain why we're wonderful. We all know haw the first part is going, let's check in on the second part.
This week, Hughes embarked on her first trip as undersecretary. Her initial statement resembled an elementary school presentation: "You might want to know why the countries. Egypt is, of course, the most populous Arab country... Saudi Arabia is our second stop; it's obviously an important place in Islam and the keeper of its two holiest sites ... Turkey is also a country that encompasses people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, and yet is proud of the saying that 'All are Turks'."

The Kurds, our important allies in Iraq, and the largest nationality in the world without their own country, make up about a quarter of the population of the Turkish Republic. They are not proud to say "All are Turks." In fact, over the last century they have frequently been in a state violent rebellion against efforts by the Istanbul government to Turkify them.
"Many people around the world do not understand the important role that faith plays in Americans' lives," she said. When an Egyptian opposition leader inquired why Mr Bush mentions God in his speeches, Hughes asked him whether he was aware that "previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our constitution cites 'one nation under God'."

Karen, the constitution does not say "one nation under God." That's the Pledge of Alligance.
With these well-meaning arguments, Hughes has provided the exact proofs for Bin Laden's claims about American motives. "It is stunning to the extent Hughes is helping bin Laden," says Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist...

"If you read Osama's speeches, they begin with descriptions of the US occupation of the Arabian peninsula driven by our religious goals and that it is our religious purpose that must be confronted. That argument is incredibly powerful, not only to religious Muslims but also secular Muslims. Everything Hughes says makes their case."

The undersecretary's blundering tour of the Middle East might be the latest incarnation of Innocents Abroad. "The people stared at us everywhere, and we stared at them," Twain wrote. "We bore down on them with America's greatness until we crushed them."

Once again, the administration shows it' contempt for expertise and competence and doles out important jobs based on cronyism and loyalty to the boss. At least our relations with the Muslim world aren't important to our economy or security or anything. Are they?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Family in need
For a long time, I've had a sticky-note next to my computer with the names of blogs that I need to add to my blogroll. The first name on that list is Shakespear's Sister. We should all be reading her, but today she needs more than just readers. Last night, while celebrating the decline and fall of Tom DeLay she made the mistake of looking at her mail and discovered the notice that her property tax had doubled (that converted into a 20% increase in her morgage). This morning she was laid off from her job. If you can afford to, go drop a few bucks in her tip jar. While you're there, read her resume and see if you can network something her direction. She's one of us; let's take care of our own.
Let's be fair
It has recently come to my attention that there appears to be some kind of law against making movies that don't have Dakota Fanning in them. She's only eleven years old and she's in five movies this year. She hols he own alongside some of the most talented actors alive (Sean Penn and Robert De Niro), she does voice work (Satsuki in the English dubbing of My Friend Totoro), and she has narrated an award-winning documentary. I'm not going to argue that she doesn't deserve to be in every movie made. Sure, she's the most talented child actor of her generation, maybe of all time. But, shouldn't she occasionally let someone else have a chance in the spotlight? Sharing is good--right?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

This is today's Republican Party
This morning on his nationally syndicated radio show, very moral person, Bill Bennett, said:
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.

Media Matters has the full context. It doesn't help. Bennett will surely protest that he didn't say we should do that, it was just an example he brought up to make a point. But what kind of person even thinks of these kinds of examples, much less airs them on national radio. At best this kind of modest proposal is a sick joke that you share with your friends; no one in the right (or in his case, far right) mind says this kind of thing in public.

David Neiwert regularly writes about eliminationist rhetoric on the right. This is a good example of how it begins. Right wing extremists and hopelessly adolescent loud-mouths make these kind of statements and, when confronted with them, cry that they were only joking or trying to make a point. You can bet that hard-core racists will start passing this around as a "good idea" over the next few days.

Forbidden thoughts do have a place in social satire and black humor. Bennett wasn't doing either of those. He was making a flippant, off-hand comment in defense of banning abortion. But if we consider that context, let's also consider that he chose that example at a time when Hurricane Katrina has exposed the persistence of white fears of black lawlessness. Hundreds of news outlets uncritically printed rumors of criminality once New Orleans had been left in the hands of lower class blacks. Almost all of the stories have proven false, but that isn't preventing the evacuees from being treated like criminal hordes wherever they go.

Did that background noise have anything to do with Bennett's choice of example? I don't know, but his perpetuating the idea of African-Americans as a criminal race certainly isn't going to help things. What a sick bastard.
How stupid do we look?
Don't answer that.

Leading Republicans are trying to get Democratic senators to promise not to filibuster the next Supreme Court nominee, even before hearing the name.

With John Roberts' confirmation as chief justice now assured, Republicans on Tuesday began pressuring the Senate's minority Democrats to promise what they called a fair confirmation hearing and vote for President Bush's next Supreme Court nominee.


Democrats have successfully filibustered several of Bush's conservative choices for lower courts, and Republicans are jumping out front to try and dissuade them from attempting to do the same to Bush's next pick, who probably will be someone more conservative than O'Connor.

"Because the nominee might be perceived by some to be more conservative in their view than Justice O'Connor, somebody is going to make the argument that this then makes this more extraordinary, and therefore try to put pressure on Democrats who have not seen fit to filibuster judicial nominees to say, 'Well, this is different,'" said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

Added Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate's No. 2 Republican: "On this particular nomination we conducted ourselves well, and hopefully we can do that again since we'll have another nominee."

In the patronizing language of Republican senators, "conducted ourselves well" means ignored our constituents and gave the Republicans everthing they wanted. In matters like these, I would rather the Democrats be a little more ill mannered. Although, I have to admit, interpreting "advise and consent" to mean "before I ask, you ahve to promise you'll say yes" is a new one to me. I'll have to add it to my Republican - English dictionary.

I think John Aravosis gets it right.
Why should they promise that? Bush hasn't even told us who it's going to be. Not to mention, Bush and the Republicans in Congress are both at - oh - 38% in the polls. Why should the Dems worry about ticking off 38% of the country?

I have an idea, why don't Dems ask President Bush to "promise" now that he'll appoint someone in the image of Justice O'Connor to fill her slot?

Promises go both ways.
DeLay no longer the majority leader
Texas DA Ronnie Earle's grand jury finally indicted Tom DeLay. Today was the last day of the grand jury's session. If I remember previous stories correctly, DeLay would have escaped charges under the statute of limitations for election crimes if Earle had failed to get an indictment by today.

The four-page indictment of DeLay, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee, reads:
The defendants entered into an agreement with each other or with TRMPAC (Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee) to make a political contribution in violation of the Texas election code. The contribution was made directly to the Republican National Committee within 60 days of a general election.

Meanwhile, the House GOP rules that require any member of the leadership wh is indicted to step down are taking effect.
Rep. Tom DeLay said Wednesday he will step aside as House majority leader following his indictment by a Texas grand jury on conspiracy charges.


GOP congressional officials said Speaker Dennis Hastert will recommend that Rep. David Dreier of California step into the duties relinquished by DeLay.

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.

DeLay will keep his seat while the legal dram runs its course. No doubt he will continue to have influence. There are a couple of interesting dramas than will play out now.

The national GOP is going to try and get the troops to rally around DeLay. They might find some resistance. The spreading puddle of slime surrounding DeLay and Abramoff is causing many Republicans to take flight. While some will want to distance themselves from the corruption seeking no more than to protect what they already have, others will see and opportunity to advance their careers. DeLay's "temporary" abdication of his leadership posts creates an opening for others to move up. There are plenty of Republicans who will want to make their advances permanent.

The national Democrats have an amazing opportunity here. In the last few weeks, the national news media has finally begun to develop a narrative of corruption, cronyism, and incompitence for the Bush administration and Republicans in general. This is old news to most of and we have been beating our heads bloody waiting for them to catch on. Well, they're here. Now we need "our" party to do their part.

This is where all of that talk about messaging comes into play. Many people find the whole messaging meme to be annoying. It can be over emphasized. "Message" grates on many people's nerves as appearing to value image over substance. We also need good policies, smart candidates, and money. But these don't mean squat if we can't communicate them to the voters. The art of politics is just marketing with politicians and policy as the product. We need to convince people that our product is better than the conservative/Republican product.

In 1994, Newt Gingrich told Republicans to never use the name "Clinton" without getting the word "criminal" in the same sentence. With nothing specific to back it up, people began to feel that there was something slippery, something not quite right about the Clinton administration. They liked most of their policies and voted for them, but most people felt like they had to qualify their approval or apologize for it.

Gingrich managed to create that sense when there was nothing really wrong with the Clintons. Imagine how much easier it should be for us when there really is abundant corruption, cronyism, and incompetence in the ruling party. At this point we need message discipline. Our goal should not be to destroy DeLay, but rather to make every Republican in the country responsible for DeLay. When ever any Republican, right down to the dog-catcher and school-board level shows their face in public, they should be confronted with DeLay and Abramoff and made to defend their association with the party of corruption.

If we get tired of talking about DeLay and Abramoff, let's talk about the religious fringe. Let's talk about the party that believes in creationism and that hurricanes are caused by skimpy Mardi Gras costumes and gay pride parades. Let's hang Robertson and Dobson around their necks along with DeLay and Abramoff.

There is easily enough sleaze and craziness out there to carry us through the 2006 election season and beyond. If the Democrats fail to carry this through, they don't deserve to be a party any more.
This is nice way to start the day
CNN has a breaking news bar up that reads: "House Majority Leader Tom DeLay indicted on one count of criminal conspiracy by Texas grand jury, according to Travis County clerk's office." We eagerly await details.

Update: The AP is reporting it too:
A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, an indictment that could force him to step down as House majority leader.

House GOP rules require any member of the elected leadership to step down temporarily if indicted, and it would be up to the rank and file to select an interim replacement. Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., could make a recommendation, whether choosing to elevate another member of the leadership or tapping an alternative to reduce the possibility of a struggle if DeLay were cleared and then sought to reclaim his post.

Lawyers with knowledge of the case said the DeLay defense team was concerned that the Travis County grand jury might consider counts of conspiracy to violate the state election code.

Update: I misread two associates as two indictments in the AP story. That has been corrected.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Buy me a drink, sailor?
I'm going to drop by the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally tonight. Mom thinks I need to go make some friends and Clever Wife thinks I should start networking for a better job. They're both right. If you want to drop by and say "howdy" I'll be the pasty-complected, grumpy, middle-aged guy with limited social skills (that should stand out in a room full of political junkies).

The local chapter meets at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Ave E., which is about equidistant from Broadway and the University district.

Monday, September 26, 2005

No crime too great
It has often been said that the only crime that gets someone fired from the Bush team is percieved disloyalty to the boss. No one gets fired for corruption. No one gets fired for incompitence. No one gets fired for nepotism or cronyism. No one gets fired for scandal. If there was ever any doubt in your mind that this was true, I give you this:
CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that Michael Brown, who recently resigned as the head of the FEMA, has been rehired by the agency as a consultant to evaluate it's response following Hurricane Katrina.

Kos has reports on this from four different sources. There has been no formal statement from the administration. It's not actually clear whether Brownie has been re-hired as a consultant or has had his final severance delayed, but in all versions he is on the payroll as an expert in screwing up emergency responses. I suppose this explains why he wasn't immediately Roved last week. keeping him on the payroll is one way to assure that he will stay on message with the rest of the team.

Update: Testifying today (Tuesday), with full pay, Brownie said that, in his expert opinion, most of the blame for the fumbled Katrina response goes to local Democrats. However, he did manfully take some of the blame--for not noticing how bad those bad Democrats were.

Friday, September 23, 2005

It is too a word
Did you know that Microsoft Word's spell checker doesn't recognise "dumbass"? You did? Figures.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Crime of the century
Somehow this bit of news managed to get submerged when Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf coast.
A rare pair of the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the classic movie "Wizard of Oz" were stolen during the weekend [of August 27-28] in what appears to be a targeted burglary at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn.

Insured for $1 million, the shoes are one of four pairs known to exist that were used in the 1939 movie, said their owner, Michael Shaw, a North Hollywood movie memorabilia collector.

"It's the worst nightmare for me," he said. "The theft is not only a crime against me but against children. Those shoes have been used to raise money for AIDS, for helping get kids off the street, reading programs, and for children with Downs syndrome and autism."

Of the other three pairs, two are in private collections and one is in the Smithsonian. Mr. Shaw loans his pair out for charity fundraising events, fan gatherings, and general public display. His public-mindedness made him a good target for a thief. There's not much I can add except to say that it really sucks and I hope the slippers find their way home soon.

Meanwhile, in happier movie news, the Empire State Building has established a permanent display of Fay Wray memorabilia in their lobby. Like many actors who became identified with one role in the public mind, Wray had something of a love hate relationship with her King Kong fame. And like many of those actors, she later made peace with the role and came to enjoy the instant recognition. She titled her autobiography On the Other Hand and said "Every time I'm in New York I say a little prayer when passing the Empire State Building. A good friend of mine died up there."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A big disappointment
Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, announced today that he will vote to confirm John Roberts for Chief Justice. I’m disappointed in Leahy. I think a lot of Democrats are still under the mistaken impression that there is something to be gained by being “reasonable” or “accommodating.” What I'm not clear on is who it is that they think that they are gain something from.

Bush? Don't be absurd. Bush has never shown himself to interested in even hearing anyone else's opinion, not from his own party and certainly not from the opposition. Are they trying to send a message of "more like this please" (and I hope they're not sending that message)? Do they think Bush will understand the message, or care? There is nothing to be gained by compromising with Bush. He regards compromise as a sign of weakness; he will take what he can get and give nothing in return.

The Senate Republicans? Once upon a time this would have been well within the standards of Senatorial courtesy. But those days are long gone. The congressional Republicans have been thoroughly Bushized. The majority of them have no interest in compromise.

The voters? Why would their constituents want the Democratic Senators to vote for Roberts. Has there been an irresistible groundswell of popular support for him. Most voters don't follow confirmation hearings. Do the Senators think that because many of their constituents voted for Bush that they want him to be given a blank check to appoint whomever he wants? For decades, most Americans have been of the vocal opinion that they do not want either party to have unlimited power. They split their votes between a Republican president and a Democratic senator because they want balance.

Are they so intimidated by the Republican noise machine that the mere prospect of being called negative or obstructionist is enough to make them fall apart? Perhaps instead of worrying about Republicans or Republican operatives, the Democratic senators should worry about Democratic voters. What message are they sending to us? Max Baucus of Montana plans to vote for Roberts. What message does he expect his western libertarian supporters to hear when he votes for someone who has asserted that there is no right of privacy? Most Democratic voters are pro-choice. What are we to think of Senators who support a judge who has argued in favor of overturning Roe?

Shouldn't Democratic Senators at least appear to be on the side of Democratic voters?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Lab rats on the gulf
I've seen a few reviews of Bush's bring-your-own-electricity speech on Thursday that seem to feel that he was pushing a semi-liberal agenda. I didn't see or hear the speech; I read it. I didn't get that impression at all. Are people so separated from real liberalism that they think all liberalism is measured by is the size of the program? Liberalism means helping people improve their lives by themselves. Conservatism means challenging people to prosper or die. Liberals have no fear of using the power of the state to help people. This makes the big federal program to locate and reach out to the needy a hallmark of modern liberalism. Largeness is the only or most reliable measurement of liberalness. Conservatives can also use big programs, for instance the massive military build up, to achieve their ends.

Digby quotes an article from the Wall Street Journal that confirms what many of us feared all along.
Congressional Republicans, backed by the White House, say they are using relief measures for the hurricane-ravaged Gulf coast to achieve a broad range of conservative economic and social policies, both in the storm zone and beyond.

Some new measures are already taking shape. In the past week, the Bush administration has suspended some union-friendly rules that require federal contractors pay prevailing wages, moved to ease tariffs on Canadian lumber, and allowed more foreign sugar imports to calm rising sugar prices. Just yesterday, it waived some affirmative-action rules for employers with federal contracts in the Gulf region.

Now, Republicans are working on legislation that would limit victims' right to sue, offer vouchers for displaced school children, lift some environment restrictions on new refineries and create tax-advantaged enterprise zones to maximize private-sector participation in recovery and reconstruction. Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would offer sweeping protection against lawsuits to any person or organization that helps Katrina victims without compensation.

"The desire to bring conservative, free-market ideas to the Gulf Coast is white hot," says Rep. Mike Pence, the Indiana Republican who leads the Republican Study Group, an influential caucus of conservative House members. "We want to turn the Gulf Coast into a magnet for free enterprise. The last thing we want is a federal city where New Orleans once was."

When the radical conservative had all of Iraq as their playground, they flooded the country with think-tank interns and corporate looters to create a conservative playground. The corporate looters had more success achieving their goals than did the think-tank interns. The embryonic civil war and basic foreignness of the country provided the think-tank interns with convenient excuses for their failure to create an objectivist utopia. Now they have an American playground for their experiments.

In my last post I mentioned the preference of the Bush administration to bypass the compromise and messiness of legislative democracy and pursue their goals by executive fiat. So far, the gulf is providing a beautiful proof for that proposition. The administration is using its executive power to terminate seventy years of federal regulation and legislation in large parts of three states. So far the only role they have allowed the legislative branch of the government has been to rubber-stamp the budget.

The rebellion in Iraq has many causes. Their being used as lab rats for conservative social experimentation is probably quite low on the list. I suspect that this will not be the case on the gulf coast. Southern blacks have been used for experimentation before, and the results did not make them happy.

In 1932, the United States Public Health Service began a study of the natural history of untreated syphilis. Their subjects were 400 mostly black, illiterate, and poor sharecroppers around Tuskegee, Alabama. The subjects of the study were not informed of their diagnosis or of the goals of the study. When consent was needed for various study procedures (such as spinal taps,) they were told they had "bad blood" and needed to sign to receive free treatment.

Even after penicillin had become standard treatment for syphilis and the the Nuremberg Code had been formulated to protect the rights of research subjects, the Tuskegee subjects were allowed to go untreated so the clinicians could observe how the disease develops and kills. A whistle-blower ended the study in 1972. "By the end of the study, only 74 of the test subjects were still alive. Twenty-eight of the men had died directly of syphilis, 100 were dead of related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected, and 19 of their children had been born with congenital syphilis."

I suppose some people might say that the New Deal and the Great Society involved a significant amount of social experimenting with the lives of poor people and black people; how is Bush's plan for the gulf so different? To such sincere and reasoned criticism, I can only answer, don't be a silly git! There is a very real and large difference in engaging in social experimenting to the direct and immediate benfit of a population in question and in experimenting on that population in order to achieve results that may or may not benefit their descendents somewhere down the line. Many black people have probably benefited from the medical knowledge gained from the Tuskegee syphilis study. Do you think that makes most blacks thankful and appreciative of the study?

Bush and his radical conservative supporters want to use a couple of million, mostly black, Americans as lab rats to test their social and economic theories. These people have no say in whether or not they will be lab rats (except by moving away from their homes).

To date, massive immorality, opportunism, and contempt for democratic norms have been the hallmarks of the Bush administration. I've known that and been very vocal about it, yet the scale of their plans for the gulf takes even my breath away.
Conservative advances
Last week Kevin Drum wrote a post saying that the conservatives have not been doing a very good job of enacting their agenda.
Ross Douthat writes today that conservatism hasn't accomplished much since taking over the country four years ago (or 10 years or 25 years ago depending on how you count). You know what? Despite all the griping that liberals do about George Bush, Ross is right. Here's a quick recap of the major legislative and executive actions of Bush's first term:
  1. No Child Left Behind
  2. Some big tax cuts
  3. Big spending increases, both in defense and nondefense spending
  4. The stem cell straddle
  5. Patriot Act
  6. Invasion of Afghanistan
  7. Sarbanes-Oxley
  8. McCain-Feingold
  9. Department of Homeland Security
  10. Invasion of Iraq
  11. Medicare prescription bill
  12. Some conservative judges

Of these, some are just plain liberal (3, 7, 8, 11), some were basically neutral or bipartisan (1, 5, 6, 9), and only a couple are clearly conservative (2, 12). Of the remaining two items, the stem cell straddle was....a straddle, and if the Iraq war is a conservative cause, it's only because George Bush is fighting it. Outside of PNAC circles, conservatives have not exactly been baying for more foreign wars over the past decade.


The fact is, conservatives haven't won much of anything in the last 10 years except a PR triumph. Their biggest successes have been on taxes - a Pyrrhic victory at best without corresponding spending cuts - and in the court system, which hasn't actually delivered much real world benefit. Plus they have a war in Iraq, for whatever that's worth. Public opinion simply hasn't allowed them anything more.
Conservatives since Reagan have managed to slow down the march of liberalism - something that was probably inevitable after the 60s anyway - but PR triumphalism aside, that's about it.

There are a few problems with his list, the most glaring to me being his implication that spending (point 3), for it's own sake, is a liberal goal. The other big flaw being that he conflates liberal and Democratic; just because Democrats voted for some of these bills doesn't make them liberal (point 1). He also neglected to mention the various anti-progressive "reforms"-tort and bankruptcy--that the conservatives have passed. But leaving aside such quibbles, his main point just sounds wrong. Though I can't dispute the broader line of argument that his list seems to make, I know in my gut that the conservatives are making progress.

It took me a few moments to realize why my empirical gut feeling was so at odds with his simple list of evidence. You're probably ahead of me here. The majority of the advances of the conservative agenda have not been achieved through the legislative process. The legislative process is open to public scrutiny and it requires compromise. The Bush administration prefers to operate by administrative fiat under a veil of secrecy.

Some of the most enduring damage that the Bush administration has inflicted on us has been in the form of dismantling a century's worth of regulatory machinery and in reversing a half-century of international law and cooperation. They didn't need to pass a bill through congress to stop enforcing environmental regulations. To have attempted to do so would have drawn attention of a public that, for the most part, wants environmental protections. They didn't have a public debate in congress over torture and holding suspending rights for a whole class of prisoners, they simply had someone at the Justice Department write an opinion saying that the president can do whatever he wants to whomever he wants. While the Senate has to be involved in ratifying treaties, the president can repudiate treaties on his own. When Cheney developed a new energy policy for the country, he was willing to fight to the death to keep the public and congress from finding out who he turned to for advice.

This administration has shown itself remarkably adept at leveraging the power of the executive, not only to achieve change without compromise, but to hide their actions from the public eye. It is no coincidence that two of the names that most frequently show up on lists of possible high court appointees are Ted Olsen and Roberto Gonzales, zealous defenders of the unlimited power of the executive branch and of the right of the executive to operate in secrecy.

The conservative agenda is not being advanced in the light of day. Instead, they operate best in the dark, like chicken thieves and assassins*. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of open government, international cooperation, and the progressive regulatory function of the federal government. Even before 9/11, the attempts by the Bush administration to dismantle treaties and the regulatory system made my skin crawl. My skin hasn't stopped crawling since.

* It's just a coincidence that the propaganda arm of the conservative movement is named after that best known of chicken assassins, the fox.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I can't bring myself to view Bush's "taking responsibility" for some of the post-Katrina failures as anything but a PR maneuver. Sure, given his personal pathology, this was a hard move to make, but I still can't allow him very much credit for it. Lambert called Bush's first attempt to take responsibility on Tuesday "the incredible triple weasel" based on the number of qualifications Bush applied. Last night he managed to make a less ambiguous statement, "When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I as president am responsible for the problem, and for the solution." But this followed the statement that "It was not a normal hurricane, and the normal disaster relief system was not equal to it," so he's still qualifying. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and I hope no one thought that Bush "taking responsibility" meant that his team would give up on finding someone else to blame.

This (discovered by Kos) sounds to me like a shoe:
JACKSON, Miss. - The federal government is trying to find evidence of any past efforts by environmental groups to block work on New Orleans' levees, according to a published report.

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


Shown a copy of the email, David Bookbinder, senior attorney for Sierra Club, said: "Why are they (Bush administration officials) trying to smear us like this?"

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups had nothing to do with the flooding that resulted from Hurricane Katrina that killed hundreds, he said.

"It's unfortunate that the Bush administration is trying to shift the blame to environmental groups," he said. "It doesn't surprise me at all."

Though the Justice Department says this is nothing more than research in response to a routine request for information from Congress, it has all of the hallmarks of a Rove job: using a national tragedy as an opportunity to bash political opponents and advance the agenda. This doesn't mean that Rove himself or the White House is directly behind this operation. It doesn't have to be; the entire Republican Party is now well-schooled in the methods of Rove and capable of thinking of dirty tricks like this all on their own. If it's not Rove, my votes go to DeLay or Inhofe first.

We live in a cynical world. My cynicism consists of thinking they are cynical to try something this low. These days, is there really such a thing as being "too cynical?"
Friday top ten
I still don't have an I-pod, but I do have an unending supply of random facts floating around inside my head. Today I hit the random play button and came up with famous horses of the 20's, 30's, and 40's.
  1. Clever Hans
  2. Trigger
  3. Scout
  4. Seabiscuit
  5. Tony
  6. Silver
  7. Sparkplug
  8. Black Beauty
  9. Champion
  10. Horace Horsecollar

Thursday, September 15, 2005

That vision thing
Tonight President Bush gave us a glimpse of his vision for New Orleans. Wow. Vision from a Bush male. That's something to give me dry heaves and make me run screaming into traffic in horror.

Without knowing the content of his speech, I can predict what his vision includes. Iraq 2. The reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf will look a lot like the reconstruction of Iraq. Bush will throw truck-loads of money at the problem, but willl make no effort to pay for it all. There will be no-bid contracts to well connected companies, at least one of which begins with the letters H-A-L-I-B-U-R-T... There will be a wholesale exemption from federal regulation. There will be widespread experimentation with wingnut economic and social theories. There will be a shameless land-grab by the white and privileged and an attempt to prevent the poor and dark from returning. There will be no financial oversight. Tens of billions of dollars will vanish. The Democrats won't make a peep.

All of this has been predicted by my blogging and punditocratic superiors. Yet there is one element of the destruction/reconstruction that has been ignored. At this point, many tens of thousands of the citizens of New Orleans have been moved out of the state as refugees. A significant number of these will not return. Some will be kept out by land-grabs by the privileged classes. Many will voluntarily choose to stay in their temporary new homes. The electoral effect of this will be to have moved thousands of Democratic voters out of a state where elections are usually very tightly contested. Most of these voters have been moved to very Republican states, where a few thousand Democrats are not enough to swing the elections.

Mother Nature just gave the Republicans a safe margin in one or two congressional seats and probably cost Mary Landriue her re-election chances. Mother Nature just made Louisiana a safe state for the Republicans in the next presidential election. Local power brokers don't need a race reason or a class reason or an economic motive to keep the refugees from returning, they have perfectly good partisan reasons to do so. The rest is just gravy.
The best argument against white supremacy is the people who become white supremacists
Via Steve Gillard, who I do not read often enough.
The undershirt the white student wore had a confederate flag on the front with the words "Keep it flying." On the back, a cartoon depicted a group of hooded Klansmen standing outside a church, waving to two others who had just pulled away in a car reading "Just married."

Two black men in nooses were being dragged behind.


"I'm not racist or anything," he said. "It's just, some people I hate, some people I don't get along with. And black people just happen to be the ones because they think they're better than everyone else."

Arguing in his favor, is the fact that the kid is aware enough to know that racism is bad. Arguing against him, is the fact that the kid is too stupid to know what the word "racism" means.

Stupid or evil, it's not an either/or question.
Condi, shut up
Just when we though she couldn’t embarrass herself any further.
O’Reilly: The truth of the matter is our correspondents at Fox News can’t go out for a cup of coffee in Baghdad.

Rice: Bill, that’s tough. It’s tough. But what — would they have wanted to have gone out for a cup of coffee when Saddam Hussein was in power?

At least now they're afraid to go out for coffee in a free and democratic Iraq. Right.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"Privacy" also means privacy
Twenty years ago, when Robert Bork said there is no right to privacy in the constitution, many people--right and left--were shocked. While most people believed that other people shouldn't claim the right to privacy to hide their doing bad things, most believed that there is a right to privacy, at least for themselves. Hearing it said so bluntly made us take pause.

Since then, the movement conservatives have waged a war on privacy by indoctrinating the faithful to believe that the word "privacy" is just a liberal code word for sexual immorality. "Privacy" means promiscuous women killing their blastocysts, sodomites doing the santorum, teenagers fornicating, cohabitation, and married couples having sex for fun. Since they want to stop all of these things, destroying the shield of "privacy" seems to be the right thing to do.

Liberals have supported the proposition that "privacy" means sex by limiting their defense of privacy to women's reproductive freedom, access to birth control, and gay civil rights. From a short-term tactical perspective, this makes sense. When "privacy" comes before the Supreme Court, it will not come as a broad philosophical issue; it will come as the application of an abstract right to specific issues, like women's reproductive freedom, access to birth control, and gay civil rights.

The problem with the conservative message and the liberal tactical response is that "privacy" also means privacy. The right to privacy is not a product of the sexual revolution of the sixties as many believe. Legal scholars described the unenumerated right to privacy in the 1890's and it was recognized by the Supreme Court during the generation that followed. In a 1928 decision (Olmstead v. the U.S.) Justice Louis Brandeis called privacy "the right to be left alone, the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men." He went on to say, "To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment."

The right to privacy lies behind our right to read the books we want, to eat what we want, to hold unpopular and unfashionable opinions, to attend the church of our choice, or not to attend any church. The belief that we have a right to privacy is what animates us when we feel compelled to say "none of your damn business" to busybodies. It is the essence of totalitarianism that the state claims to have a right to intrude in all aspects of a citizen's life, to totally control them. Privacy, the right to wall a part of our life off from intrusion, is the most complete denial of totalitarianism that our constitution affords.

Today, the issue of privacy is at the center of the John Roberts confirmation hearings. Unfortunately, the conversation appears to be primarily limited to "privacy." While the specific issues of women's control over their bodies and sexual privacy are important, they can't be fought without consideration for the larger abstraction of privacy. Privacy itself needs to be defended.

By making privacy a synonym for sex, we have allowed a non-partisan issue to become partisan. But both sides of the aisle have an interest in the greater right of privacy. If the conservatives allow that right to be destroyed in the name of policing sex, they will come to regret it. They will regret it when liberals start policing their child rearing practices. They will regret it when insurance companies and HMO's start policing their dietary and exercise habits. They will regret it when the whole world has access to a record their reading, gaming, and television choices.

We all want privacy. We should all defend privacy.

Monday, September 12, 2005

What's that on the road? A head?
Brownie is gone and Bush has already appointed a successor. I actually feel a little sorry for Brown, but only a little. On one hand, Brown is no more than some hapless fool who let himself get into something way over his head and stayed too long. On the other hand, that something got a lot of people killed. So, he's out. We're glad. Let's put him behind us and look ahead.

Unfortunately, when I look ahead, I see more Mike Brown. Though his service to the people of the United States may be over, his service to George Bush and the Republican Party is not. The Party still needs Brownie to play a role in their butt covering narrative.

A week ago, Bush and his handlers had no idea how big their problems were. They tried narrative number one, the Mad Magazine Gambit (also known as the charm offensive). Bush was shoved in front of the cameras to deny that there even was a problem, to smile his "what me worry" smile, to reminisce about drinking himself into oblivion when he was younger, and to say that it's all for the best because Trent Lott will get a fantastic porch out of it. Bush had to say Brownie did "a heck of a job" because to say anything else would be to admit how bad the whole team had failed. Bush appointed Mike Brown and the rest of the self-proclaimed grown-ups who should have been on top of this.

This gambit not only didn't work, but it backfired. It angered people. Bush came across like a callow frat boy, with no empathy, and no grounding in the reality the rest of us have to live in. How could Bush deny that there was a problem? One of the great cities of the world was under eight feet of water with hundreds of thousands homeless. New Orleans isn't Iraq, so distant that they can simply say it's not that bad and the press isn't telling you the good parts. New Orleans is right here before our very eyes. We know it's bad.

Bush and his handlers brought out narrative number two, the Rove Gambit (also offensive, but with no charm). Talking points were distributed telling the loyalists in the Party to attack the Democrats and attack the press. This time they admitted that there was a problem, but that it was all the Democrats' fault. The federal government provided no help because the bad Democrats didn't say "mother may ?" when they requested help.

This gambit failed because, for four years, Bush and his handlers have been telling us that only Bush caqn keep us safe. It's not believable for us to suddenly find out that we're not safe and to have Bush tell us that the Democrats were supposed to be keeping us safe.

Still in attack mode, Bush tried to say that it was all the "bureaucracy's" fault. This also failed the sniff test. The bureaucracy (formerly known by the much more positive name "the civil service") is all of those people who work for the various departments of the federal government. That is, they are the executive branch. Who leads the executive branch? Who is--shall we laughingly say--responsible? That would be George W. Bush, the CEO president.

Rove's hatchet men can't very well go around saying it's all Bush's fault. They need someone to play the role of Bush-betrayer. Which brings us back to Mike Brown.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Though the Bush administration is ruthless and completely without scruples, they have never just tossed someone to the wolves. At least not in the way that Bush's closest parallel among modern presidents, Richard Nixon, would have. Nixon had no problem firing cabinet members or even sending his own Vice President to jail for a moment's advantage.

Bush's supporters like to use this reluctance to portray their boss as loyal to a fault. Loyalty might be involved, but I don't think that it is the main personality trait involved in his reluctance to sacrifice his allies. Remember that creepy moment during the debates when Bush was unable to name any mistakes he had made as president? This was supposed to be a softball question that allowed him to display his humility. But Bush has no humility and this was painfully obvious as he stuttered and made faces before finally spitting out something about maybe he could have made some better appointments. The psychology he revealed was stunning. Not only was he unable to admit to an error, but the closest he could come was to say his only error was in trusting people who disappointed him. This was a clear slam at Paul O'Neill and other members of the administration who had dared to disagree with their boss.

In the past I've compared Bush to a certain type of school bully, who uses the power of conferring or withholding social acceptance the same way other bullies use physical violence. These bullies are almost invariably rich and the leaders of a desirable clique. Bush's idea of working together never involves compromise on his part; it involves allowing others to have a part in his successes. When he meets with foreign leaders, he never listens to their concerns: he tells them what he's planning so that they may support him. I'm sure he views this as magnanimous. In the schoolyard, he's the golden boy who draws out the suspense in picking of team members so that the last picked will be relieved and grateful for his favor.

A normal bully would have no hesitation in destroying someone who failed to live up to their royally conferred confidence. But Bush has his almost pathological reluctance to admit error. And admitting that someone failed him means he must admit that he was mistaken to have trusted them in the first place.

I have no doubt that Brown will be scapegoated and the narrative will involve a great deal of pity for poor Bush--the real victim here--who was let down by someone he trusted. It will be tricky to strike the right balance in all of this. How much sympathy can people spare for poor trusting George when real people are experiencing real pain. Maybe they'll combine the betrayal narrative with a swift and decisive Bush narrative, pointing out that, after only five years, he finally appointed someone who understands this job.

As much as it might be tempting for us to take just a moment to give Brown one last kick, we should resist the temptation and keep our attention focused on the man and the Party that put him at the head of FEMA. No sympathy, no forgiveness, and no amnesty for Bush and his crowd.
I'm taping it
This is gonna be good.
Science vs. Religion. Evolution vs. Creation. It is an age-old battle whose time has come. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" will gather together all the experts (or at least those who will talk to them), travel to the places that matter in the debate (basic cable budget permitting) and ultimately settle the controversy once and for all. "Evolution Schmevolution: A Daily Show Special Report" will premiere on Monday, September 12 and air nightly at 11:00 p.m. through September 15.

For one full week, "The Daily Show" goes in-depth, around, through and quite possibly under, one of the hottest hot-button issues facing our nation: evolution. It's the accepted theory on the origin of life by an overwhelming majority of the world's biologists, but maybe they're all wrong. What's so great about the scientific method anyway?

Tonight, Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, will be on the show.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Irony is impossible
From Medium Lobster via Corrente:
More importantly, one must recognize that there are limits to what powers the federal government should exercise in a crisis. Yes, it is the right and duty of the president to override state drug policy, to determine who can or cannot marry, to indefinitely detain citizens without due process and to torture and kill prisoners as he sees fit, but disaster relief is a matter that should be left to the states. Yes, the images of the drowned, the diseased, and the desperately dying drove much of the country to outrage, but how much more outraged would America have been if FEMA had fed the Superdome refugees without the full oversight and authorization of the State of Louisiana? Had the president sent rescue helicopters to evacuate New Orleans the day the levees burst, he might have saved thousands of lives, but he would also have overstepped his authority - and if there's one thing George W. Bush refuses to countenance, it is abuse of power.

The Medium Lobster writes at Fafblog, which is supposed to be a humor site. Yet what Medium Lobster has written here is a pretty accurate summary of our situation. Their outrages have outstripped our ability to mock them. It's only a matter of time before the wingers start denouncing Democrats and liberals as "objectively pro hurricane." That is, if they haven't already started.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Lies, damned lies, and press releases
It looks like Brownie is being kicked upstairs.
Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen will replace Michael Brown, the embattled FEMA director, as the on-site head of hurricane relief operations in the Gulf Coast, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced at a news conference in Baton Rouge Friday afternoon.

Brown will head back to Washington from Louisiana to oversee the big picture, the official said.

What does the big picture involve?
Earlier, Brown confirmed the switch. Asked if he was being made a scapegoat for a federal relief effort that has drawn widespread and sharp criticism, Brown told The Associated Press after a long pause: "By the press, yes. By the president, No."


"I'm anxious to get back to D.C. to correct all the inaccuracies and lies that are being said," Brown said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

So the big picture involves protecting Brownie's (and presumably the President's) ass.

If one thing has been made clear by this hurricane it's that job number one with this administration is protecting the president's ass and making him look good. On August 29 Brown sent out a memo to FEMA employees stating that one of their duties was to "convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public." When Bush finally went down to New Orleans on September 2, relief flights were grounded and relief workers were redirected to pose in the president's photo-ops rather than continue trying to help the stranded and dying. The nearly 1000 firefighters that came down from other fire departments around the country have been deployed as community-relations officers handing out fliers (out-of-shape middle-aged guys like me can hand out fliers; put these professionals to work!) and fifty were sent to act as props in a presidential photo-op.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

This is about right
A friend of Clever Wife's sent us this righteous rant by Miss Alli of This is Not Over.
My problem with Bush -- and here, I do indeed address Bush individually, as a guy -- is that during the time that the crisis was developing, from Monday to Friday, he never seemed to experience any actual sense of urgency as a result of the simple fact that people were, minute by minute and hour by hour, dying.

Let's give him the benefit of the doubt that he was being prevented from acting by bureaucracy and the sheer magnitude of the situation. Where are the stories of how he was in his office freaking the fuck out because there were tens of thousands of Americans trapped without food and water? Where's the story of how he ripped a strip off of somebody, demanding to know what the holy hell the holdup is getting water and food to those people?

I want to hear about how he was demanding that extraordinary steps be taken.


Why is he even trying to shift blame to anyone else? Why isn't he wracked with such guilt, justified or not, that he can't stand up straight? How is it possible that late in the week, when it was so obvious that every safeguard meant to guard against just this kind of catastrophe had failed and he had failed every citizen of that city, he had the joviality to make jokes about his partying days in New Orleans? I'm not talking here about appropriateness or sensitivity, although both were obviously lacking, and there's been no apology for that, either. I'm wondering how it's possible that he felt that way. How was he not tormented? Because he wasn't. You can see that he wasn't. I would feel better if there were some report that he seemed, at some point... shaken. Upset. Angry. Desperate. Something.


The stupid comment about Trent Lott's porch doesn't infuriate me because Trent Lott can't miss his porch. He has as much right to be sad over his losses as anyone. But the lighthearted way in which Bush delivered those remarks was absolutely chilling.

We don't think he's a bad person just because he's a bad president. We decided he's a bad person completely independently of deciding he was a bad president. Go read the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Conservative comapassion in action
Capitol Buzz just ran this. It's Rick Santorum on a Pittsburgh television station suggesting that the survivors of Hurricane Katrina be fined for their suffering.
I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.

I can't even get outraged at something like this. My first reaction is to be amazed that anyone this stupid and self-destructive is still allowed out in public without a caretaker. Santorum shows all of the humanity and sense of a fourteen year-old freeper (and the freepers are all fourteen years old, in mind if not in body). When he hears someone say something outrageous or viscious (in this case the meme that the poor are to blame for staying in the city when the storm hit), instead of turning away in disgust, like any sane person would, he feels compelled to jump into the conversation and one-up the vileness. Teenaged boys mouth off this way to impress each other, mature job-holding grown-ups do not. This is by no means his first demonstration of this kind of behavior.

I guess this means he was serious when he said he didn't want to be president. Looks like he doesn't want to be a senator any longer either.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Is "refugee" derogatory?
Chris Rabb of AfroNetizen finds the word "refugee," when applied to the displaced inhabitants ofthe Gulf Coast, to be offensive.

Hurricane Katrina victims are Americans!

If Mississipians fled to Jamaica, then they would be refugees.

Notice the imagery and language CNN and the rest choose use when identifying looters and such.

The rest of his post is about bias in the news and the moral responsibility for corporate America to help in a crisis. He doesn't explain any further what bothers him so much about the word "refugee."

I'm sure that under certain canons of international law, crossing a border is a requirement to gain the legal status of "refugee," but that has little bearing on the use of the word in common language. Reporters and academics regularly refer to large numbers of suddenly displaced people, for whatever cause--natural disaster or civil war--as "refugees." The fact that the Katrina survivors are internally displaced might affect the authority of UN High Commissioner on Refugees to look in on their plight, but what better term is there to use for tens of thousands of people camping in public arena, hundreds of miles from home, and completely dependent on aid groups for their survival?

As a word choice, I suppose there's room for debate here. What puzzles me is that Rabb seems to find the word derogatory, even racist. That is, at least, the implication of the rest of his essay and of his juxtaposing his complaint about "refugee" next to reminder of the explicitly racist way the word "looter" has been applied in the news.

So I'm curious, what do the rest of you think? Is "refugee" a slur? Does it have some derogatory meaning that I'm unaware of?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Preview of coming attractions
Is everybody ready for the granting of the reconstruction contracts in New Orleans? I'm sure they will be fairly and honestly chosen in such a way that they provide the most efficient use of our tax dollars while contributing the best boost to the local economy possible. Politics will play no part in the granting of contracts.
Probably bad
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died Saturday evening at his home in suburban Virginia, said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg.

I'm not a person who says nice things about people I disliked just because they're dead. At most, I'll hold my silence out of respect for the living. Obviously, Rehnquist was not my favorite member of the court. I disagreed with most of his decisions. But I respected him for one very important thing. At a time when the conservative dogma requires hatred of the very concept of the supreme court, William H. Rehnquist defended the independence of the judiciary. That will be a powerful loss.

So, what now? Bush gets to name another member of the court. In one respect, this won't matter much. Rehnquist was in the conservative third of the court. Bush will name a conservative. This won't change the balance of power nearly as much as replacing O'Connor, who was in the swing third. On the other hand, Rehnquist was the chief justice and Bush gets to name or promote someone to that position. No doubt, Bush and his cronies will show the proper level of respect for the dead by high-fiving each other and shouting, "Yee-haw, a twofer!" The chief justice decides which cases the court will or will not hear. In getting to name the next chief, Bush gets to screw us for years after he has retires to Crawford.

Fox News vs. reality
Neal Cavuto:
Maybe I missed it, but I have a question: Where's the global relief effort for us today?

New Orleans is under water. Mississippi is a disaster. Scores are dead. Homes are destroyed. Businesses are shut down.

When this kind of stuff happens to other folks, we're there. When this kind of stuff happens to us, who's here?

I know we're a rich country. But I think it a bit rich so few call to wish us well in this country. Perhaps some have and perhaps I've missed it.


Maybe some countries have offered rescue personnel. I just haven't seen them. I'll keep looking. I'll keep waiting. I'll keep wondering.

All I know is for now, the silence is deafening. And the water in New Orleans isn't the only thing that stinks.

The State Department said offers so far had come from Belgium, Canada, Russia, Japan, France, Germany, Britain, China, Australia, Jamaica, Honduras, Greece, Venezuela, the Organization of American States, NATO, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, South Korea, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

There is something patalogical about this kind of behavior. He admits that the facts probably won't to back him up, but he still has to haul out he conservative persecution complex and ladle on a good helping of xenophobia. Those foreigners are picking on us. This noise might be understandable from an ill informed neighbor or relative spouting off after a few drinks, but this is professional journalist. It's his job to know the facts, especially when one ofthose facts is that the president of his country and the leader of his political faction is out there telling the world, "we don't want your help."
However, in Moscow, a Russian official said the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency had rejected a Russian offer to dispatch rescue teams and other aid.


Bush told ABC-TV: "I'm not expecting much from foreign nations because we hadn't asked for it. I do expect a lot of sympathy and perhaps some will send cash dollars. But this country's going to rise up and take care of it.''

I guess people like Cavuto just can't help themselves. What's reality compared to a good self-righteous persecution narrative?

Friday, September 02, 2005

A new record
Sadly No! discovered this gem while digging through the comments on
An earlier post said that New Orleans is 400+ years old. If our country is 229 years old, how is this possible? The Indians had a city here?

For once, my sarcasm fails me.
Squids in space
Last week, PZ Myers, noted cephalapod fanatic, mentioned a site called Talking Squids in Outer Space that is run by the author Vonda McIntyre and dedicated to our tentacled friends in science fiction. When I checked it out, I noticed that she was missing Ken MacLeod's Engines of Light series. I dropped her a line to point out the lacuna and she has since, not only added MacLeod, but added a bunch of new squidy space opera. Tentacled beings have a long and honerable role in science fiction and it's about time they got the credit they deserve. So, go check out McIntyre's site and order a few of the books.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

This is your government at work
Go to the FEMA page on Hurricane Katrina. Scroll down to the heading "Donations." After a warning about fraud and tax-deductability, there is an alphabetical list of organizations through which you can donate cash and/or volunteer. A few groups have been pulled out the alphabet and placed at the top of the list. They are: the American Red Cross and Operation Blessing.

We all know who the American Red Cross is but who is Operation Blessing? Take a big breath; you'll need it to scream. Operation Blessing is Pat Robertson.

Just for the record, most of the recommended charities are religion based.
Fats Domino is missing
New Orleans is a special city that holds a unique position in the American psyche. As a human tragedy, Hurricane Katria would have been just as bad wherever it happened. But as a cultural tragedy, there is something extra horrible about smashing New Orleans. For years to come, we'll still be sorting out the losses for food, for architecture, for language, and for music. The city has probably done more for American music than any other city in the country. That's why this story stood out for me more than any other story.
Fats Domino is among the tens of thousands of New Orleans residents unaccounted for after floodwaters swamped the city famed for its musical heritage, friends said on Thursday.

The 76-year-old musician, beloved for his boogie-woogie piano style and such hits as "Ain't That a Shame" and "Blueberry Hill," told his manager Al Embry on Monday that he planned to "ride out" Hurricane Katrina at his home in New Orleans...

That Monday phone call was the last confirmed contact with him. But, Harry Shearer told Reuters that he had heard from friends that Domino had made it to the Superdome, where the equally-legendary singer-songwriter Allen Toussaint was also among the refugees. In one respect, these are just two more old men among the refugees. Their hunger, thirst, and exhaustion is no more special or tragic than anybody elses. But for me, they are two old men that have made my life a little better, so I'll pay extra attention to their fate. I hope they, and all the other tired old men of the city, get out okay.
By the leader of the free world:
"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."
--George Bush

By the man whose agency includes FEMA:
"The critical thing was to get people out of there before the disaster," he said on NBC's Today program. "Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part."
--Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Defense

By the number three person in the executive branch:
According to Drudge, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recently enjoyed a little Broadway entertainment. And Page Six reports that she’s also working on her backhand with Monica Seles. So the Gulf Coast has gone all Mad Max, women are being raped in the Superdome, and Rice is enjoying a brief vacation in New York. We wish we were surprised.

What does surprise us: Just moments ago at the Ferragamo on 5th Avenue, Condoleeza Rice was seen spending several thousands of dollars on some nice, new shoes (we’ve confirmed this, so her new heels will surely get coverage from the WaPo’s Robin Givhan). A fellow shopper, unable to fathom the absurdity of Rice’s timing, went up to the Secretary and reportedly shouted, “How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!” Never one to have her fashion choices questioned, Rice had security PHYSICALLY REMOVE the woman.

The spokesman for the leader ofthe free world:
As I have indicated, this is not a time for politics. This is a time for the nation to come together for those in the Gulf Coast region and that's where our focus is. This is not a time for finger-pointing or politics.

That's the word from the administration that has shamelessly whored the greatest terrorist attack in our history for maximum partisan advantage for four years without break. That's the word from the administration that invariably treats truces and calls to set aside politics as signs of weakness and invitations to attack. That's the word from the administration that will be on the receiving end of many of those pointing fingers.

At a time like this, our first priority must be to aleviate pain and suffering. Our second priority, however, must be to determine how much humans are to blame for that pain and suffering, to find them and to make them pay. Bush did not cause the hurricane (unless you believe the HAARP theory). Nature caused the hurricane. But nature isn't the only source of pain and suffering in a disaster like this. People bear a lot of responsibility. Bush is not the only person responsible. Certainly some state and local officials will bear some responsibility for the failures of preparation and response. Human predators who try to profit from pain and misery will bear total responsibility for their actions. I think when everything is added up and sorted out, the Bush administration will have a lot to answer for.

No amnesty for Bush.
Bad History? Yes, Bad History!
The Carnival of Bad History # 3 is here. Horatio at Dodecahedron has the latest edition for your reading pleasure. He's made it a very special Michael Jackson edition. Michael Jackson? Yes Michael Jackson! Horatio has something for everyone. He has Nazis. He has terrorists. He has Intelligent design. He has Paul Harvey. Paul Harvey? Yes, Paul Harvey!

History isn't just that highschool class taught by coaches (badly), history is everything. Culture, politics, movies, the good, the bad, and, yes, the ugly. Bad history is mostly the ugly. Go, read up, get inspired, and track down your own bad history for the next carnival.
Wow. My first deathwish
I've never really had a problem with trolls or attracked the attention of some of the more eliminationist members of Right Blogistan, but today that changed.

Tony the Pony wants me killed.
ive thought long and hard about what we could do to remedy these people who do nothing more than complain about how bad our lord and president is but have never said how they would do things differently...its so easy to criticize, especially when you're worthless.

here is my solution. since the "people" in the liberosphere dont really add anything to our country, we should send them to iraq to hug the terrorists and to talk the terrorists into leaving us alone. hopefully the terrorists will show them the same hospitality as they showed Daniel Pearl.

Of course Tony wants all of us liberals to die, but I got a specific link on the word "differently" in the first paragraph. I feel so honored. I'm right up there with the big bloggers.

Tony's upset because all we liberals do is complain, but we never offer constructive solutions, like mass deportation to certain death for those who annoy us. Now that he's shown me how to do it, I'll be much better in the future.