The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Friday, September 30, 2005

Germany's Bizarro World

In Germany, the left wing candidate attacks his opponent for not being strong enough to stand up for peace. In America the right wing candidate attacks his opponent for not being strong enough to stand up and defend America.

Schroeder, Merkel trade jabs on campaign trail - Yahoo! News:

"Schroeder drew loud cheers from a crowd of 5,000 near the Elbe River when he accused Merkel of lacking the strength to stand up for peace if 'powerful world leaders' were to try to pressure Germany into war.

'It's not just enough to have the will, it's a question if she's able to stand up to a powerful partner. She hasn't and that's why she's not capable to lead Germany,' said Schroeder, whose peace stance is popular in the formerly communist east."

Indispensable Reading

Great Op-Ed by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson about DeLay stepping down but essentially about the Republican legislative edifice -- which stands in stark contrast to the disarray on the left in its singularity of purpose, vision and expression.

The Dispensable Man:

"The examples are endless, but two suggest the whole. The Republican leaders play a game called 'catch and release,' in which they allow moderate Republicans to vote against conservative GOP legislation, thereby burnishing their reputations for 'independence' -- but only once it's clear that the leadership has a majority. Along with their Senate compatriots, House leaders have also perfected their use of conference committees (which are supposed to 'merge' House and Senate bills) to shift legislation to the right and then slam it through Congress on an up-or-down vote.

Like DeLay, Blunt has been a major player in a key part of this new regime: the aggressive effort of GOP leaders to induce powerful private interests to work with and through them. In tandem with the White House, the leadership has encouraged major elements of the Republican coalition -- both politicians and organized interests -- to act as a team. Cooperation with the leadership is the price of access.

Not all of these efforts have been successful, but they've increased the willingness of key groups to cooperate with the GOP, which has enhanced the ability of Republican leaders to deliver the goods.

This edifice of power looks more vulnerable today than at any time in the past decade. But the House Republican leadership won't go down without a fight. Roy Blunt is a product and an experienced practitioner of contemporary GOP politics, and his rise to power promises more of the same. House Republicans may be ready to dump their beloved "

For another must read, check out the same authors indispensable diagnosis of the "ownership society" and the kinds of economic/social policies we really need at this time. Click here. & here. & here.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Congenital Blindness of Future Threats

Yes, that would be the Republican Party that I am talking about. Katrina we all know about. The global warming charade of the Right is well known. No comes the refusal to believe that anything might happen because of the avian or bird flu.

Flu pandemic could kill 150 million, UN warns - Yahoo! News:

"Nabarro spoke on the same day as the U.S. Senate agreed to spend $4 billion to stock up on anti-viral drugs and increase global surveillance for the disease.

But the money, attached to an unrelated fiscal 2006 spending bill for the military, has not been embraced by the House of Representatives, where it faces an uncertain future.

Sen. Ted Stevens (news, bio, voting record), an Alaska Republican shepherding the defense spending bill through the Senate, said he would try to block the avian flu provision.

Stevens argued that avian flu 'has not yet become a threat to human beings,' and added, 'We ought to wait
for the scientists to tell us what needs to be done.' "

We ought to wait....

In 1919 houses hung black wreathes on the doors signifiying a death in the family from the flu pandemic of that year. On some streets, hlaf the houses hung these wreathes. 40 million people died world wide. What are we waiting for. The question is not if but when.

Mea Culpa

OK. The Indians are swooning and I have to admit I was wrong.

Yankees edge Orioles to take AL East lead - Yahoo! News

In addition -- Rodriguez breaks Lou Gehrig's righty home run record with 47. Think how many he would have hit if Yankee Stadium were right hand friendly? In addition -- manybe he is becoming somewhat of a clutch hitter these days.

Shawn Chacon shuts down the O's (not much of a feat I admit) and has been phenomenal for the Yanks. Clearly showing the talent that led the Rockies to make him their closer last year. Just another piece of evidence that the League and the Rocks are crazy to not deepen the fences, raise the fences, or better yet, store the balls in a hyperbaric chamber as a physicist has suggested.

In the meantime, let's all wait with baited breath for a fabulous weekend of baseball in Boston. Can you say sports bar?

Is This Number 2 Number 4?

MyDD :: Media Finally Sees Through Bush's 'Number 2 Man' Myth:

"Ever notice how many times the Bush administration and the Pentagon tout the killing or capture of high level al Qaeda operatives? Just how many 'Number 2,' 'Number 3,' and 'Number 4' men can bin Laden and Zarqawi possibly have, anyway? I know, I know. It's an old joke. But while we may realize that, the media has seemed completely incapable of recognizing that maybe not every al Qaeda figure we eliminate is as important as the administration claims he is."

News of the Weird: Law School Prof Sees Pink - Pink opponents make case: Comments made at NCAA review

By Gregg Hennigan
Iowa City Press-Citizen


"The pink visitors' locker room at Kinnick Stadium is intended to have a calming effect on Hawkeye opponents, but the famous color scheme is having the opposite effect on the University of Iowa campus.

Erin Buzuvis, adjunct lecturer at the UI College of Law, gained attention last week after saying the pink visitors' locker room at Kinnick Stadium promotes sexism and homophobia."

To be more precise she is a lecturer rather than a prof. Still if this is the kind of crisis this woman worries about, things in Iowa must be pretty good. Or she must be pretty silly.

With Friends Like These

Also Tuesday, CU president Hank Brown said in a speech at the City Club of Denver that tuition could increase as much as $1,000 per student per year and that a community college and a four-year school in Colorado could close if Referendum C fails.

Funding for higher education has declined from 25 percent of the state budget in the 1970s to about 10 percent now, he said. Without Referendum C, he believes it will go to zero.
Referendum C is a November ballot measure that would allow the state to keep billions of dollars otherwise returned to residents under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.

Jon Caldara, an opponent of Referendum C, said the legislature has several options, such as cashing in tobacco-settlement assets or finding savings at the universities, that would avoid the dire scenario Brown has portrayed.

But Brown concedes that both sides are painting the worst-case scenarios.

"From my point of view, the debate over Referendum C will not set any record for accuracy on any side," he added.

So which comments of Brown's exactly stretch the truth. That has to be one of the odder moments in political theater. A politician makes his pitch and then tells the reporter we are all lying to your face. Instead of focusing on that, what about dissecting Caldara's claim that we can just raid the tobacco funds. Never mind that the money was never meant to pay for higher education. Never mind that the money is intended to help victims of cigarette smoke. Selling the tobacco settlement is window dressing and the kind of budget gamesmanship that the current administration has been playing for the last 5 years. It also isn't likely to raise the state 3.1 billion dollars as C will. Caldara is willing to lie and lie because he knows that no one is going to ever call him on it in this state.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Harry Shearer Finds Something Not So Funny

Don't ever say Michael Brown can't ever get prepared for anything. When it comes to saving his own professional skin, he seems quite adept at inventing whatever falsehoods will suit his cover well in advance. In sworn testimony before Congress yesterday Brown first alleged that evacuation orders from the Governor only came right before the storm hit, when they were plainly made on August 27th. Then he alleged that this apparent screw up highlighted earlier here on this blog of omitting the most ravaged communities from the President's disatster declaration was actually the state's fault.

Harry Shearer: Brownie: Still a Heck of a Job The Huffington Post

Brown's unequivocal testimony that in Governor Blanco's proclamation of a state of emergency, she omitted Orleans, Plaquemine, and Jefferson parishes.

BUYER: I would like to ask some questions about the pre- landfall.

So I'd like to know why did the president's federal emergency assistance declaration of August 27th not include the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines?

BROWN: Under the law, the governor makes the request for the declaration and the governors of the states specify what areas, what counties they want included in that declaration.

And, based upon the governor's request, that's the recommendation that we make to the president. So if a governor does not request a particular county or a particular parish, that's not included in the request.

BUYER: All right.

Orleans Parish is New Orleans. I was listening to my colleague, Mr. Jefferson's, questions about when they talked about, you know, they asked for this assistance for three days and then president responded the very next day, not the day that it was made -- the request -- but the governor of Louisiana actually excluded New Orleans from the president's federal emergency assistance declaration?

BROWN: Again, Congressman, we looked at the request. The governors make the request by...

BUYER: Let me ask this. Since you went through the exercise in Pam, was that not shocking to you that the governor would excluded New Orleans from the declaration?


Pretty shocking indeed. The liberal site Think Progress reacted to its shock by digging up Gov. Blanco's request to the President for the Emergency declaration:
August 27, 2005

The President
The White House
Washington, D. C.

Regional Director
FEMA Region VI
800 North Loop 288
Denton, Texas 76209

Dear Mr. President:

Under the provisions of Section 501 (a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.35, I request that you declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina for the time period beginning August 26, 2005, and continuing. The affected areas are all the southeastern parishes including the New Orleans Metropolitan area and the mid state Interstate I-49 corridor and northern parishes along the I-20 corridor that are accepting the thousands of citizens evacuating from the areas expecting to be flooded as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

This is the kind of fact-checking major media should be able to do with one hand cut off by budget restrictions. How many caught Mike Brown in this act of apparently premeditated prevarication?

The man is either blatantly lying to Congress (still a felony I believe) or is more poorly informed about the realities of the Hurricane than previously revealed -- in which case he was rightly removed from his post -- albeit too late to save hundreds.

Dan Carol highlights the lights at the end of this tunnel

Catch this great post from Dan Carol at the Huffington Post:

The Blog | Dan Carol: Eureka -- It's A Message! | The Huffington Post

I have written for some time that the search for one single, intelligent and coherent message from this thing people used to call "The Democratic Party" is an exercise in futility. But hey, I'm not above admitting when I am wrong.

Check out the new report from the folks over at The Democracy Corps which serves up a mighty simple roadmap for Democratic message. Here's the relevant portions which suggest four ways to go and a poo-poo for any notion of a blame game, backward-looking Katrina Commission. From a list of more than a dozen proposals from across the political spectrum for moving forward after Katrina, four specific ideas emerged and together form a compelling argument for Democratic leadership:

1. Designate a strong leader with unquestioned integrity to oversee the rebuilding process and the huge sums of taxpayer money going to it. It is most important that this individual have a proven record of efficient, effective management experience and a proven independence from the corporate ties of the Bush administration.

2. Reduce funding and troop levels in Iraq so we can focus more resources on defending and rebuilding our own country. As highlighted earlier, Katrina has fundamentally altered the debate on Iraq and created more support than ever before for this message. But the message framework for this is not about failure in Iraq, it is about taking care of your own home first. There is a growing belief that we are rotting from the inside, ignoring the growing number of poor, homeless, and uninsured in our country while trying to save the rest of the world, and images of people standing on rooftops or bodies floating in flood waters only reinforce this. Given the huge price tag for post-Katrina rebuilding and recovery, everyone but the Republican leadership recognize that hard choices will need to be made, and this is where Americans believe a large share of the funds should come from.

3. Equip first responders across the country with compatible equipment that operates on the same wavelength and allows them to communicate with one another in emergency situations. This relatively modest step is symbolic of the inexcusable failure to make needed changes after 9/11 and;
4. An Apollo project-level commitment to using American know-how to develop and produce alternative energy sources to achieve energy independence within ten years. The panic over gas prices, which we expect will only grow stronger as the weather turns colder, has clearly increased already-strong support on this issue. This is the kind of bold step that Democrats must take if they want to really separate themselves. This issue is very difficult for Republicans, who must either sign on or very publicly carry water for their very unpopular special interests allies.

One last possibility that we must address is the Democratic proposal for an independent commission based on the 9/11 Commission. Voters are not interested in anymore fingerpointing, but they definitively do want to know why government at all levels failed and what we must do to ensure this type of failure never happens again. Broad support for this type of commission is tempered by concern that there was not sufficient oversight and follow through to make sure the changes recommended by the 9/11 Commission were carried out. Americans need reassurance that any investigation include measures for oversight and accountability that will ensure needed changes are indeed made. After all, it is now four years later, and first responders in New York still cannot even communicate with one another in case of another emergency.

Read the full report here.

The Emergence of a Disturbing Pattern

Well it has worked so well so far, why not keep using it until the well runs dry?

Once again the right wing blogosphere has leapt upon a few incidences of inaccuracy in a media accounting to try to discredit all coverage and accounts which emerged post-Katrina. The implicit message? "If one thing is true you cannot believe any of what you heard. The stories coming out of New Orleans and other places were fabrications of the liberal media." Tim Grieve underscores the emerging theme/meme.

Tim Grive @ - War Room

It's quickly becoming conventional wisdom: The media reporting from Hurricane Katrina was largely false, and conditions in New Orleans weren't nearly as bad as the press made them out to be. The right is gloating about another Rather-gate triumph over the liberal media and saying that it's the press, not the federal government, that ought to be investigated. At the National Review Online, Fox News contributor John Podhoretz says that the media is guilty of "retelling fiction as fact." Rush Limbaugh says the press is still spreading false stories about Katrina with the "express purpose" of dividing the nation. And bloggers like Gateway Pundit -- proudly checking in "from the heart of JesusLand" -- are cataloging the "folklore vs. fact" of Katrina.

But before this goes too far, perhaps we should take a look at just what it is that the media got wrong. According to stories in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Los Angeles Times -- the reports on which the "it's the media's fault" meme seems to be built -- the press failed by passing on exaggerated claims about the violence that was occurring in New Orleans. The Times-Picayune says: "As the fog of warlike conditions in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath have cleared, the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know." Building on the Times-Picayune's analysis, the Los Angeles Times reports on conclusions that "newspapers and television exaggerated criminal behavior in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, particularly at the overcrowded Superdome and Convention Center."

So the media, oftentimes relying on rumors that spread through overcrowded evacuation centers and were then repeated by government officials, overstated the death toll of the storm and the barbarity of some of its victims. That ought to be good news and vindication for the citizens of New Orleans, who were often made out to be opportunistic looters and savages -- particularly by voices on the right who seemed to think that criminality was the biggest problem facing that city. But what do these reports say about the government's response to Katrina? How do they undercut criticism that the Bush administration cut funding for levee work, that Republican policies have exacerbated the problems of poverty and race, that the president was slow to return from his vacation, that FEMA bungled matters left and right? They don't. They simply don't say anything about those issues at all.

The same message also appeared yesterday on the Huffington Post. But in all cases the truth is that the poor black folks villified by the media and the Right post Katrina were not as badly behaved as they were depicted. So far, no one has steped forward to contradict the pathetic response of state, local and Federal officials. The Right is asking people to disbelieve their eyes -- of hundred of families perched precariously on rooftops waiting resuce sometimes for days. Of bodies rotting and swelling and floating in the streets. Of looting that went on before our eyes. Of people bearing arms and forming groups out of fear and an effort to stay alive in the mayhem. And what of the distortions?

This Huffington Post is somewhat guilty of glossing over the sordid reality by minimizing the situation. The author notes that only6 people died at the Superdome and far fewer people were raped than we were led to believe. Well, for one thing, I always thought the worst horrors were at the Convention Center, not the Superdome. Second, what kind of world do we live in where we minimize this kind of reality by saying '' it's really not that bad." The truth that should matter is not how badly behaved were citizens (turns out not that bad) but how badly did officials handle the situation. Recently resigned police chief Eddie Compass highlights the situation. He notes he responded to a rumor of gang raping at the Ritz Carlton by rushing over there himself since his daughter was staying there. But as the main official in charge of security -- where was he supposed to be? If the military this is called desertion. I have sympathy for a father's concern, but the police chief can also send officers over there. The Police aren't supposed to curry favoritism in their responses -- recall how many times we have heard stories of police arriving to save a colleagues family member and then leaving everyone else to fend for themselves.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

You have to give credit where credit is due

Who said Republicans don't believe in welfare and handouts? Arabian Horse rules specialist Michael Brown, who has dabbled in emergency relief efforts, has been hired by FEMA as a consultant to aid in the post recovery/relief assessment efforts. Well he certainly knows about what happened their even if we can't quite call him impartial. A little kindness goes a long way. We wouldn't want to throw him out on the street with no way to pay his bills now would we? No one can accuse this administration of not taking care of their friends.

Here Come the Bankruptcies

Tim Grieve at Salon reminds us that thousands of people will likely have to encounter the new world of the Republican bankruptcy bill. If you thought that bill was aimed at spendthrifts who couldn't live within their means and act responsibly -- think again. Any family that is only living month to month and pay check to paycheck will find themselves in the swirling waters of financial catastrophe if a natural disaster like Katrina hit. Think about not being able to earn income while your creditors continue to expect payments -- credit cards, car loans, mortgage companies, let alone the costs of subsistence. The bankruptcy bill won't bring them much comfort and is likely to worsen their plight.

Bankruptcy and Katrina: No one could have predicted it, Part III

....But as with those planes that were flown into buildings and the levees that didn't hold, someone could have predicted that the bankruptcy bill would have an unhappy effect on victims of natural disasters like Katrina -- and someone, in fact, did. As the bill headed toward passage, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee noted that "natural disasters" are often a cause of bankruptcy filings. And as the committee deliberated, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee specifically warned her colleagues about the need to protect storm victims from the bill's strict new requirements.

"Families that are affected by natural disasters such as a hurricane in Florida or the mudslides in California should not have to apply their scarce relief effort monies to bankruptcy debt," Jackson Lee said then. "The intent in providing federal and state monies to families who are victims of such natural disasters is to relieve the burden that the disaster has caused, not to increase their net worth. Bankruptcy reform should address many specific issues, such as the negligent mismanagement of money, but [to] hurt those who are already suffering from flooding or [a] collapsed roof or house that has gone out to sea is absolutely ridiculous."

The amendment Jackson Lee was proposing then went down on a voice vote in the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee, and -- with the help of lots of Democrats in the House and in the Senate -- the bankruptcy bill went on to become law.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Reminder: It's Banned Books Week

Huffington Post Michael Schaub: Banned Books Week: Saving Waldo and Terabithia from the Radical Right:

"How many banned books did you read this year? It's probably more than you think. Take a look at the list of the most frequently challenged books of the last decade - you'll find the usual suspects (Heather Has Two Mommies, The Catcher in the Rye, The New Joy of Gay Sex) mixed in with titles like Where's Waldo? and the children's classic Bridge to Terabithia.

Neither of those last two have been conclusively proven to cause children to go on Satanic murder sprees, but I'm sure the right-wingers have their reasons. Maybe Waldo was hiding in a gay bar. Maybe abortion was legal in Terabithia. Banned Books Week seems like a good time to ask: What the hell is wrong with these people?

There's no telling, of course, though British journalist Ben MacIntyre has a guess: 'The American list of opposed books reveals a society still struggling with major hang-ups about sex, race, religion and Holocaust victims who are insufficiently jolly.' (The last sentence refers to a handful of Alabama bureaucrats who challenged Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl because it's a 'real downer.')"

Saturday, September 24, 2005

This Will Blow Your Mind

The Washington Note Archives:

"I visited the Vatican in early August and met a person who is deeply 'embedded' in the world of those who run Vatican City and who govern the global machinery of the Catholic Church.

According to this person's estimation, he guesses that a 'conservative estimate' of those cardinals and senior church officials who are gay is about 50%. Practicing, as opposed to just flirtatious, homosexuals at the highest levels of the church are probably about 30%.

When I asked whether homosexuals would be better served under Pope Benedict XVI than under John Paul II, he responded, 'Don't think that we will be any better served under a gay pope than a straight one.'"

Friday, September 23, 2005

EJ Dionne Calls It Like He Sees It

Or as Forest says, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Fiscal Policy: Why 'Stupid' Fits
By E. J. Dionne Jr. Friday, September 23, 2005; Page A23

But our current budget policies are built not on honest coherence but on incoherence or, even worse, a dishonest coherence. The president and members of Congress always insist that they are fiscal conservatives who believe in balanced budgets. Yet their actions bear no relationship to their words, and labels such as "conservative" have no connection to their policies. Our federal purse strings are in the hands of fiscal radicals.

I'd have much more respect for these guys if they just came out and said: "Look, we love deficit spending. That's why we waged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and cut taxes at the same time. It's why we'll talk about offsets for Katrina and Rita but never enact them, except maybe a few cuts in programs for the poor. All we really care about are passing tax cuts -- and popular spending programs that get us reelected so we can enact more tax cuts."

Not very politic, I'll grant you, but honest. Vice President Cheney came as close as anyone to this form of honesty when he spoke in support of the tax cuts on dividends shortly after the 2002 elections. His words, alas, came at a closed meeting. According to Ron Suskind's book "The Price of Loyalty," Cheney referred to the former president in insisting to his administration colleagues that "Reagan proved deficits don't matter" and that Republicans owed themselves more tax cuts. "We won the midterms," Cheney said. "This is our due."

Or maybe it's the rest of us who should be called stupid if we keep taking these guys at their word. Are we all so dazed that we'll keep believing them even after a hurricane has blown away their alibis?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Leadership and Success

I once wrote a paper in graduate school about the role of leaders in determining team success using sports teams as the cases/data. I still believe that coaches, managers and leaders matter, but they are pretty helpless in the face of lousy environments without resources and commitment. Case in point - Lou Pinella.

Piniella won't return to Devil Rays next year-paper - Yahoo! News

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lou Piniella will not return to manage the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2006, according to a report Wednesday on the Web site of the Tampa Tribune.

Piniella, 62, has complained publicly about the team's lack of commitment at the ownership level. The Devil Rays' payroll was just under $30 million at the start of the season, the lowest in the majors.

OK, quick quiz. Name the five best hitting teams in baseball. Name the five teams with the best record in the AL since the All Star break.

Team Avg
Boston .282
Yankees .276
Tampa Bay .274
Cubs .272
Cleveland .272

Team W L PCT
Cleveland 41 21 0.6613
Yankees 40 23 0.6349
Oakland 39 24 0.6190
Boston 38 25 0.6032
Tampa Bay 35 27 0.5645

Pinella is good. Just not good enough to deal with the lousy pitching staff his owners threw together.

What I Love about David Sirota

Is that he gets it. He has spine. He wants Democrats to have spine. He knows that the public imputes your character from how you talk about issues and having a fiesty message imputes strength of character and fortitude in crisis -- parameters where Dens are seen as being weak.

The Blog | David Sirota: Time to Put the Bush Tax Cuts on Trial | The Huffington Post

Most importantly, Sirota knows that the key to winning any debate is to set the terms. Controlling the agenda is the first step -- get the other guy to talk about what you want to talk about. You are halfway home.

So without further ado, I say let's get it on. Let's have the debate about taxes that those arrogant conservative elitists like Grover Norquist think they control. Let's let America decide whether it supports conservatives' argument that says more tax cuts are going to strengthen those dangerously creaky dams, more tax cuts are going to strengthen homeland security, and more tax cuts are going to provide better body armor to our troops fighting in Iraq. Let's let America decide whether it thinks it was a good idea to ignore expert warnings about inadequate hurricane/flood infrastructure on the Gulf Coast and instead spend billions giving Bill Gates another tax cut. The simple truth is that sooner we put the tax cut debate into these real-world terms, the sooner progressives will start winning a tax debate that we have lost to devastating consequences.

Statistical Illiteracy

Kos points to a recent study from the University of Wisconsin Madison that gets touted in the UK Guardian. But he titles it: Daily Kos - Not So Fast Summers.

[A] scientific study just published in American Psychologist provides strong reasons to doubt that there are many inborn differences between genders. Janet Shibley Hyde, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has shown that in most cases psychological differences are small or nonexistent. It turns out that there is no difference in how good girls and boys are at maths.

NOTE: Yeah I know Summers didn't say men were smarter than women, he just said they had greater aptitude in math and the sciences than women. Huge difference.

Errr... No he didn't. What he said was that at the tails of the distribution there may be morer men than women, meaning the shapes of their statistical distributions for intelligence are likely to be different. He said nothing about means or averages which is what Kos implies he says. If men were smarter than women in math and science they would be smarter on average. But he didn't say that. He suggested that the distribution of men's science and math intelligence may be different by being wider than womens.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cleveland Surging - My Call

Maybe it is because I am an inveterate Chicago sports fan (read pessimist) but low and behold the White Sox, have managed to squander the 15 1/2 game lead they held on August 1st. The surging Indians are 2 and a half back and lead the Yankees by 1 and a half in the Wild Card standings. A few weeks ago, I told a commentor on the blog that I thought the Indians would not be the wild card team this year. I say it again now. My prediction, Yankees win the East, Indians win the Central, the Angels win the West, and..... The Red Sox win the wild card. In other words, the usual season ending scenario. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I don't see the White Sox doing anything. The West is harder to call. The key is the four game series at the end of the year -- great foresight in the League office. But both teams are playing like crap now and can only beat the worst teams in the League. Lucky for them, the Angels have Texas and Tampa Bay up next while Oakland has Minnesota and Texas. None of this really matters though. The Indians are looking like the 2003 Marlins of this year and head into the post season the best team in baseball.

Yahoo! Sports - MLB - Standings

Time Charts the Misteps

Time's cover story charts the successive missteps of the Administration over the course of the Iraq conflict. An excerpt: Saddam's Revenge -- Sep. 26, 2005 -- Page 9:

"Another hot debate in the intelligence community is whether to make a major change in the counterinsurgency strategy--to stop the aggressive sweeps through insurgent-riddled areas, like the recent offensive in Tall 'Afar, and try to concentrate troops and resources with the aim of improving security and living conditions in population centers like Baghdad. 'We've taken Samarra four times, and we've lost it four times,' says an intelligence officer. 'We need a new strategy.'

But the Pentagon leadership is unlikely to support a strategy that concedes broad swaths of territory to the enemy. In fact, none of the intelligence officers who spoke with TIME or their ranking superiors could provide a plausible road map toward stability in Iraq. It is quite possible that the occupation of Iraq was an unwise proposition from the start, as many U.S. allies in the region warned before the invasion. Yet, despite their gloom, every one of the officers favors continuing--indeed, augmenting--the war effort. If the U.S. leaves, they say, the chaos in central Iraq could threaten the stability of the entire Middle East. And al-Qaeda operatives like al-Zarqawi could have a relatively safe base of operations in the Sunni triangle. 'We have never taken this operation seriously enough,' says a retired senior military official with experience in Iraq. 'We have never provided enough troops. We have never provided enough equipment, or the right kind of equipment. We have never worked the intelligence part of the war in a serious, sustained fashion. We have failed the Iraqi people, and we have failed our troops.' --"

I have been saying this for some time now.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Mr Onpoint

Q. Mr. President… what would you say to American families who may pay as much as $3 at the pump this summer, at the same time that oil companies in this country are experiencing and enjoying record profits?

THE PRESIDENT: What is say is I worry about the fact that hard-working people are paying high prices at the pump. It concerns me a lot. And, therefore, the Congress needs to cut taxes as quickly as possible, to give people money to be able to deal with this situation.

Press conference, 11 May 2001

Does this guy ever respond to a policy challenge by not suggesting tax cuts?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Are Socialists Born Liars?

Judging from the way the press treats them, you would think so. Some of you may have noticed that I referenced an account of some hurricane survivors of their ordeal trying to escape the hell hole of New Orleans. Central in that account was their being turned back at the county line by a row of heavily armed police with attack dogs who fired over their heads. But if you clicked the link you would have seen that the story first appeared in the Socialist Worker. Which supposedly explains why most people haven't heard this story and the press have been loath to pick it up.

Dept. of Media . Washington City Paper: A Bridge Too Far - The print media get picky about a story involving police forcing evacuees back into New Orleans. by Jason Cherkis and Erik Wemple

In covering Katrina, journalists expertly documented the seismic fuckups of officialdom—the stifling conditions at the Superdome, the convention-center fiasco, the weak levees that gave in to floodwaters. The coverage turned Michael Brown from an obscure political appointee at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) into cannon fodder for Bush-administration detractors nationwide. And it told the compelling stories of people who never made it out of the Crescent City. But it largely ignored the most compelling one, in large part because a pair of lefty Web types were first on the scene.

On the Sept. 4 Nightline, ABC reporter John Donvan stumbled on the margins of the story during a sitdown with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. During the interview, Nagin brought up the barricade without prompting: “They started marching. At the parish line, the county line of Gretna, they were met with attack dogs and police officers with machine guns saying, “ ‘You have to turn back.’ ”

The next day, Nightline reran parts of the Nagin interview and broadcast comments from a blustering police official. But the segment lacked critical, eyewitness reports.

That’s where Slonsky and Bradshaw had their scoop. On Sept. 6, published their account, which chronicled the events and the dim light they cast on the barricading police forces. After the initial bridge clash, Slonsky and Bradshaw organized a makeshift camp at the foot of the bridge. They wrote of scavenging for food and water, making beds out of cardboard, and turning a storm drain into a bathroom. Their encampment closed down when a cop showed up to wave his pistol and order them away.

“As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water,” they wrote.

The Gretna story provided a fresh bit of content for Socialist Worker Editor Alan Maass, who recently published a dispatch on a July socialist convention in Chicago and a column on class warfare in ancient Rome. Maass never had a doubt about the story’s integrity, either—he had known the correspondents for years, and Slonsky and Bradshaw had long been contributors. “There are so many amazing stories out there, and this is one of the most amazing out there,” Maass says, noting that his daily traffic spiked from roughly 12,500 hits to 20,000 after the bridge piece. Via links and blogs and whatnot, the piece was bouncing all over the Internet, including an appearance on alt-porn site

But that was pretty much it. Almost in unison, newspaper editors across the country pooh-poohed the news value of cops’ firing toward black people on a bridge in the deep South. In the days following its publication in the Socialist Worker, the drama clambered onto the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle in addition to scoring a brief on UPI. The relative silence proved a maxim of print journalism: It’s painful to credit other journalists, and it’s really painful to credit a pair of part-time socialist journalists.

The New York Times, at least, had the smarts to realize that its readers weren’t surfing socialist chat rooms or grabbing their news from On Sept. 10, Gardiner Harris produced an account that drew in part from the Socialist Worker’s scoop and in part from the author’s enterprise. Harris confirms that the story’s provenance gave it a radioactive glow in the office. “We were all hesitant,” he explains. “We all worry about things that bounce around the Internet. But because I heard this story directly from people in the region—I had been in Jefferson Parish; I had spoken to people who saw similar things—I wasn’t quite as worried as my editors.”

Jitters, however, kept the Times from elaborating on the racial dimension of the Socialist Worker story. “I thought it was very important, but we couldn’t confirm it.…It was an explosive enough allegation that we felt we couldn’t go with it unless we had it pinned down,” says Harris.

Even though the Times didn’t showcase the story—it landed on A13 of a Saturday edition—the paper ultimately put service to the reader ahead of journalistic pride. “I think the story was important enough that we don’t have to be first all the time,” says Harris. Slonsky says the Los Angeles Times almost made the same judgment but declined to run a piece. The Los Angeles Times refused to comment.

The Wall Street Journal passed on the bridge story, too. “When we decide we want to go along, we go along. We kill a lot of stories each day because we’re judicious about what we put in the paper,” says a Journal editor.

And what’s the Washington Post’s excuse? Those legions of news consumers who rely solely on the Post have no idea what happened to this group of evacuees. “We’re still looking at a lot of reporting targets,” says Liz Spayd, the Post’s top national editor. “We’re very focused on accountability both before Katrina landed and what happened afterward.”

Says ABC’s Donvan, “I was very surprised more people didn’t go for it.”

At some point, the Post and its competitors may have to interview the heroes of Socialist Worker. That’s because the tale is starting to make the rounds on cable TV, with CNN and MSNBC finding time to retell the bridge encounter. The trickle of coverage could trigger an official inquiry of some sort, forcing the big boys to finally write the juiciest story to date of Hurricane Katrina.

Until then, Slonsky will continue shaking her head about the mainstream media. “It feels like our story is just one of thousands upon thousands,” she says. “We just wish the thousands had the space or energy to share that. We wish the media would call for the impeachment of George Bush and call for health care and housing for everyone.”

The Treasured Scribblings of George Bush

Saw this today while surfing for some articles. The Reuters caption that accompanies the picture is below. This speaks volumes eh?

U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005. World leaders are exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's vision of freedom from want, persecution and war.


OK - giggle break. You deserve it. Click the link below and laugh.

Am I Right - Misheard Lyrics, The Beatles

Some of My Favorites:

The Beatles', "A Hard Day's Night"
Misheard Lyrics:
And when I get home to you, I will be doing a poo.
Original Lyrics:
And when I get home to you, I find the things that you do.

Misheard Lyrics:
But when I come home to you
I wanna spit in your stew.
Original Lyrics:
But when I come home to you
I'll find the things that you do.

The Beatles', "Across The Universe"
Misheard Lyrics:
Gaga wookie diva, its on!!!
Original Lyrics:
Jai guru deva om

Samples from more bands here:

The Source of Offense

Can you see it? Squint

Supposedly, this is an Islamic symbol. Sadly, the lunatic fringe has enough sway that they have managed to get some changes made. Perhaps they will be modest enough that this can pass.

Flight 93 memorial design to be altered
Critics said crescent shape could be seen as symbol of Islam
By M.E. Sprengelmeyer, Rocky Mountain NewsSeptember 15, 2005

WASHINGTON - Planners of a Sept. 11 memorial in rural Pennsylvania plan to alter its crescent- shaped design after critics said it could be seen as a tribute to the hijackers.

U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and others had called on the Interior Department to reject an advisory commission's preferred design, titled Crescent of Embrace, saying its arc of maple trees resembled the lunar crescent used as a symbol of Islam.

Here's the symbol in question, taken from the Turkish flag.

The similarity is striking is it not? NOT!

I suppose if we tried to build the Vietnam Memorial today, one of the most moving war tributes in the world and one that has become one of DC's most sacred landmarks and visited sites, Tancredo would object that it could be portrayed as a V for Vietnam. Such is the state of reactionary discourse.

Demagogue or Fruitcake?

Here's the latest from Colorado's blowhard congressman.

'Crescent' not fully embraced - News - Mtn News

9/11 memorial design resembles symbol of Islam, Tancredo says
By M.E. Sprengelmeyer
Rocky Mountain News

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo wants the National Park Service to reject the crescent- shaped design of a proposed Sept. 11 memorial in rural Pennsylvania, saying it resembles the lunar crescent symbol of Islam and could be seen as a "tribute to the hijackers."The design by Paul and Milena Murdoch, of Los Angeles, is titled Crescent of Embrace and was unveiled last week after a yearlong design competition.

It would be built near Shanksville, Pa., where 40 passengers and crew members died in the crash of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

The memorial includes a chapel with 40 metallic wind chimes, one for each of the victims, and a crescent- shaped cluster of maple trees and white marble wall inscribed with the victims' names at the crash site.

Does this guy have nothing better to do? Does he go looking for insult to his jingoistic sense of nationality? It would be one thing to think that Tancredo is a demagogue trying to incite the crowd in his district (and nationally if his foolish Quixotic quest for the Presidency is to be believed). But I honestly think there is something genuine in this demented nationalism he espouses and this beseiged mentality he portrays of an America under constant attack. There is something ugly in the way his mind works. But something passionately sincere. Can a demagogue be this consistent?

It would be one thing if he could point to some loony artists and flakey artists commission as the culprits -- but the relatives of the victims helped choose and design the memorial.

The Plague of the Trademark - Trial Of The Century: Keillor V.

A Prairie Homeboy Companion

On a Tuesday night two weeks ago, the letter showed up in the mail. It is included below, so you can see for yourself the kind of verbal mastery it takes to make a legal document sound like Keillor's forlorn nostalgic prose.

Let's quickly review the situation: Garrison Keillor -- a liberal comedian! -- is threatening to sue MNspeak -- some blog! -- that uses a t-shirt to poke fun of his mega-gigantic media empire. You'd think we shot Guy Noir or something.

Here's the T Shirt in question. My wife and I are big fans of Garrison Keillor, but any way you slice this -- this is pretty shitty. The most telling item in regard to this comes in the comment section.

You should submit this to Chilling Effects. I went through a similar situation as webmaster for the band Beatallica, and learned a few things:

- Even if you think your use is "fair use", the only way you can prove it is to go to court, and copyright infringement cases typically cost $100,000-$200,000. The system is financially slanted towards copyright holders.

- The more publicity you can get, the better. Shame the bastards, and they'll back down.

The system is slanted toward the copy-right holder. Shouldn't it be the other way around in a system where the First Amendment is supposed to be sacrosanct? It's that way in libel suits. So why the contradiction? Perhaps it's no contradiction for in each case the system sides with the financial interest -- the media in libel law and the trademark holder in the other. Both are making money from the interpretation of the First Amendment. Typically the parodist isn't. And if he or she is, then he or she has the resources to go to court to protect him/herself. The person who is left exposed is the person without money or means for legal protection.

The patent system exists by a somewhat miraculous act of foresight on the part of our Founding Fathers who wanted to preserve incentives for innovators to pursue advance and invention. The patent carves out a protected, temporary monopoly for the inventor so that he or she can profit from the sometimes lengthy, uncertain, and arduous process of development and innovation. Trademarks are dicier. Copyright exists to protect a creator whose work can be easily appropriated. By the same token, trademarks protect the business from imitators who would profit off of their reputation efforts. You can't open a Safeway store and sell groceries without signing a franchise agreement because you are piggy backing on Safeway's commerical efforts. But Beatallica instead of the band Metallica (they of Napster quashing fame)? A Prairie Ho Companion rather than a Prairie Home Companion? The infringement is pretty hard to see. The parody is clear. And the expansive claim of the trademark takes with it a host of possible permutations that are never intended to be protected.

In awarding Metallica trademark protection we never meant to award them protection against anything else that might be remotely similar. This expansive quashing of commericial activity was never intended orginially -- although a fair case could be made that when Congress reauthorized this legislation they knew exactly what they were doing when they expanded trademark protections (they know the side their bread gets buttered on). Trademark and patent law have both expanded in strange ways that are more likely to suppress commerial activity than promote them. If a dry cleaner is the first to have a drive through, by what right does he have to patent this innovation and prevent others form adding this? According to US Courts now, he has lots of rights here. In the New Yorker several years ago, James Suroweicki wrote:

For most of American history, it was next to impossible to get a patent on what the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office called "a mere method of doing business." A business method was considered to be an idea-selling newspapers in the streets, delivering packages overnight-and ideas of this sort were not patentable. But in July, 1998, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit did away with that principle. The case, State Street v. Signature Financial, involved software that Signature had written to enable it to administer mutual funds more efficiently. But the court's language was broad enough to embrace any business process (as long as it was new and "nonobvious" and had a "useful, concrete, and tangible result"). The gates opened, and in the past five years thousands of business-method patents have been granted. One inventive soul won a patent for a system of using pictures to train janitors. Another got one for describing a way to cut hair with both hands.

Suroweicki points out that when the New York Sun was first published it sold at 1/5 the price of competitors because it was the first paper to employ advertising. Think how much less productive our society would be if no one else were allowed to sell advertising in a publication.

This about says it all

That same day, the New Orleans police made a dramatic entrance. Sgt. Hans Ganthier and 12 other New Orleans SWAT team members entered the center, M-4 commando rifles at the ready. Prayers had been answered -- only it was a rescue mission of a different purpose.

A Jefferson Parish police deputy had appealed to SWAT team Capt. Jeff Winn for help in bringing out his wife and a female relative from the center. "He knew they were there and was hearing nightmarish stories," said Ganthier, who declined to identify the officer for security reasons.

Winn approved the mission.

When the SWAT team entered at 11 a.m., the Jefferson Parish officer called out his wife's name. She heard him, and along with the relative rushed to his side. The SWAT team put the women in the middle of the team, then backed out the door.

Once it became clear that the SWAT team had come with the single goal of rescuing two white women, anger exploded.

"Racists!" one man cried out.

"Some people were upset we weren't rescuing them," said Ganthier. "It's hard to leave people behind like that, but we were aiding an officer."

The thin blue line. The strange code of officers to protect their own regardless of the relationship with their mission as officers is one of the things I have never understood. I don't understand why IAD's are always viewed with suspicion. I don't understand why police would rather protect a crooked one of their own than do their job and prosecute and prevent all crimes. And I don't understand how a SWAT team could have left the Convention Center like that. I understand it. But it's a sad commentary on the whole state of policing in America.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Will There Be Any Pension Plans Left?

Since two bankruptcy judges have allowed US Airways and United to walk away from their obligations to the employee pension funds the incentives are now clear. File for bankruptcy and dump the financial liability as soon as possible.

Northwest and Delta Are Said to Be Preparing for Bankruptcy - New York Times:

"Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines are both preparing to seek bankruptcy protection as soon as Wednesday, people close to both companies said today.

Northwest and Delta are each finishing the details of their bankruptcy cases, including the financing that they will require to operate under bankruptcy protection, these people said. That could cause delays, but the fundamental work of preparing each bankruptcy case is complete, they said."

Monday, September 12, 2005

How Much Coverage Will This Get in The US?

BBC NEWS Karzai urges terror fight rethink:

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the US and other international forces need to reconsider their approach to bringing peace to Afghanistan.
Violence largely blamed on the Taleban has claimed at least 1,000 lives this year - the worst toll since 2001.

He said there had to be a focus on 'the sources of terrorism' where extremists get their training and inspiration. Many Afghans will interpret that as meaning neighbouring Pakistan, from where militants often launch attacks.

Pakistan, meanwhile, has offered to build a fence along the border with Afghanistan to prevent the movement of militants. In an interview with the BBC, Mr Karzai said the US military strategy since the fall of the Taleban had not failed, in spite of the recent increase in violence.

But he warned: 'We and the international community and the coalition must sit down and reconsider and rethink whether the approach to the defeat of terrorism that we have taken is the right one.' "

LBJ Redux

Dan Froomkin of the WaPo does a run down of post- Katrina coverage and the sudden willingness of the press to reveal a different side of George Bush. Where he used to be portrayed as jovial and decisive -- they are now showing a different side of him.

How Bush Blew It - Newsweek Hurricane Katrina Coverage - Newsweek & by Evan Thomas

By Evan Thomas
Sept. 19, 2005 issue - It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States

President Bush knew the storm and its consequences had been bad; but he didn't quite realize how bad.

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans.

Froomkin summarizes Mike Allen of Time thusly:

Mike Allen writes in Time: "Longtime Bush watchers say they are not shocked that he missed his moment -- one of his most trusted confidants calls him 'a better third- and fourth-quarter player,' who focuses and delivers when he sees the stakes. What surprised them was that he still appeared to be stutter-stepping in the second week of the crisis, struggling to make up for past lapses instead of taking control with a grand gesture. Just as Katrina exposed the lurking problems of race and poverty, it also revealed the limitations of Bush's rigid, top-down approach to the presidency. . . .

"Bush's bubble has grown more hermetic in the second term, they say, with fewer people willing or able to bring him bad news -- or tell him when he's wrong. Bush has never been adroit about this. A youngish aide who is a Bush favorite described the perils of correcting the boss. 'The first time I told him he was wrong, he started yelling at me,' the aide recalled about a session during the first term. 'Then I showed him where he was wrong, and he said, "All right. I understand. Good job." He patted me on the shoulder. I went and had dry heaves in the bathroom.' . . .

"The result is a kind of echo chamber in which good news can prevail over bad -- even when there is a surfeit of evidence to the contrary. For example, a source tells Time that four days after Katrina struck, Bush himself briefed his father and former President Clinton in a way that left too rosy an impression of the progress made. 'It bore no resemblance to what was actually happening,' said someone familiar with the presentation."

Allen has an exclusive look at the administration's "three-part comeback plan."

Part one: "Spend freely, and worry about the tab and the consequences later."

Part two: "Don't look back."

Part three: "Develop a new set of goals to announce after Katrina fades. Advisers are proceeding with plans to gin up base-conservative voters for next year's congressional midterm elections with a platform that probably will be focused around tax reform."

Live in hermetically selaed bubble. Make policy fit for hermetically sealed bubble.

The history of Vietnam repeatedly makes mention of this trait as characteristic of Johnson during the Vietnam War. Former Sec of Defense Bob McNamara recounts as much in the documentary The Fog of War. Now we confirm what liberal bloggers have long speculated. This administration is run in pretty much the same way. With pretty much the same tragic consequences.

So what's the upshot of all this? Let's go back to Froomkin for some insight as he rounds up the coverage:

Yochi J. Dreazen writes in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "The Bush administration is importing many of the contracting practices blamed for spending abuses in Iraq as it begins the largest and costliest rebuilding effort in U.S. history.

"The first large-scale contracts related to Hurricane Katrina, as in Iraq, were awarded without competitive bidding, and using so-called cost-plus provisions that guarantee contractors a certain profit regardless of how much they spend."


Reuters reports: "Companies with ties to the Bush White House and the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President George W. Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast."

No snarky commentary necessary.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

One of the richest arguments against affirmative action is the claim that while the US used to suffer from racism, we no longer do so the need for affirmative action has long passed. I submit two items in response.

Georgia's New Poll Tax - New York Times:

"In 1966, the Supreme Court held that the poll tax was unconstitutional. Nearly 40 years later, Georgia is still charging people to vote, this time with a new voter ID law that requires many people without driver's licenses - a group that is disproportionately poor, black and elderly - to pay $20 or more for a state ID card. Georgia went ahead with this even though there is not a single place in the entire city of Atlanta where the cards are sold. The law is a national disgrace."

And from the description of being stuck in New Orleans posted last week, I include:

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

It's Not About Brownie

Colorado Luis has a good post urging folks to rethink the framing on the post hurricane discourse. For one thing, he points out that FEMA was not a dumping ground for political operatives (as I have been prone to say) but merely an extension of the Bush re election campaign.

The emerging meme that Bush allowed FEMA to become a dumping ground for people from his campaign who needed jobs is all wrong. Having a political campaign background was considered a positive asset for FEMA, because the most hurricane prone state is Florida. PERRspectives details how the Bush people were ready, willing and able to use the hurricanes that struck Florida last year as an excuse to pour FEMA money all over the state -- even to places like Miami that the hurricanes missed -- turning FEMA into the Florida Election Management Agency:

I also happen to think it's a mistake to foist all of this on Brown. Not only because he hardle bears all the blame here (there's plenty to go around) but it lets everyone else higher up the food chain off the hook. So Dems would be well served to stop carping about Brown and focus more on the question -- what have wew been doing for the last 4 years with all our concern about Homeland security?

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Defense of Price Gouging Begins

A number of bloggers have caught some on the Right as they begin a full throated defense of price gouging. I am certainly not sympathetic to much of the rhetoric from the politicians about price gouging. When it comes to the petroleum market -- this is pretty efficient market and resources get distributed and conserved quite well. I am not quite sure how you define price gouging. That's the real problem. We would like to think that in most cases suppliers are sufficient to ensure that those who gouge are driven from the market. There are likely to be some exceptions where suppliers are limited in number. Hence the price jumps after 9/11 in Oklahoma of all places where prices shot up for a brief time to $6.00 and lines formed at the pump. But some of this was likely due to a jump in demand from irrational folks who thought the Taliban were about to do a land rush into the state unseen in 100 years.

Stossel: Price gouging ensures that scarce resoresources go only "to those who really need it" [Media Matters]

The deeper problem with the defense put forth by folks like Stossel and others concerns whether we want a market to be the means of distributing scarce resources in a time of disaster. Imagine you are on the Titanic. The boat sinks and you board a life boat with 30 other folks. You have only enough water for a brief time. Do you parcel it out on the basis of ability to pay? Molly Brown and the society dames get the water while the immigrant women and children die of thirst. Or do you find another means. The issue of the debate should not be about gouging in places like Texas, Colorado and California. The issue should be focused on distribution in the hard hit areas where folks have limited access to cash and supply is severely constrained. The problem with Stossel's argument is that he forgets income and the role this plays in defining need. On our lifeboat -- who really needs the water? The person with money or the person with a dying child? Markets are wonderful tools. But they are only that - tools. They are a mechanism for distributing scarce resources in ordinary times under good market conditions. But they are not the only mechanism and not always the most preferred mechanism. Free marketeers never reconcile the logic of their argument with how we deliver police services, fire services, postal services in this country. Sadly we still deliver health services on this market basis. But the limited logic and ethics of their argument need to be exposed.

Why Didn't They Leave?

That's a question many have been asking -- in particular conservative bloggers who blame the victims for the human toll in suffering. Here's a first hand account from two EMTs who were stuck in New Orleans for a convention. If you want to know what things were like on the ground here's a good tale. What's frightening about the story is that it seems that not only were innocent victims terrorized by the looters but they were also terrorized by a security aparatus that had broken down and was indiscriminantly clamping down on everyone. The main goal it seems was to contain the poor in the disaster area.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement".

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

I wonder if the press will carry this story?

So Much for Civil Liberties

The gubmint continues its assault on civil liberties on two separate fronts:

Bush's power to detain US enemy combatant upheld - Yahoo! News:

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush has the power to detain Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen who has been held in a South Carolina military brig for more than three years as a suspected enemy combatant without any charges, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday. "

What about habeus corpus? It's one thing for courts to overturn laws in light of their (un)constitutionality. But its quite another for courts to be complicit in overturning the very Constitution itself. Jose Padilla is likely to be a very bad man. But is it too much to ask that the government prove it's case in a court of law -- as the Constitution requires? The conservative Bush appointee who ruled from Virginia stated that Padilla had taken up arms against the US with Al Qaeda and had plans to do damage in the US. But isn't a jury supposed to decide these things? The status of non-citizen enemy combatants is more complicated. But in this case, the constitutional question seems clear. No government should have the power to declare (on its whim and discretion) someone an enemy combatant and detain them indefinitely without charges or trial. It would be nice to think that this is one thing we Americans agree on.

Police Begin Seizing Guns of Civilians - NY Times

Mr. Compass, the police superintendent, said that after a week of near anarchy in the city, no civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to carry pistols, shotguns, or other firearms of any kind. "Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons," he said.

That order apparently does not apply to the hundreds of security guards whom businesses and some wealthy individuals have hired to protect their property. The guards, who are civilians working for private security firms like Blackwater, are openly carrying M-16s and other assault rifles.

Mr. Compass said that he was aware of the private guards but that the police had no plans to make them give up their weapons.

I don't have much quibble with trying to reduce the violence in New Orleans but I wonder what the NRA's position on this is? What I do object to is the notion that private security firms can patrol a city armed but the ordinary citizens cannot. One thing is for sure, the cuase of gun control has probably been set back 20 years by this event.

Democratic Talking Point #1

Advance Men in Charge - New York Times:

"It's not really all that surprising that the officials who run FEMA are stressing that all-important emergency response function: the public relations campaign. As it turns out, that's all they really have experience at doing.

Michael Brown was made the director after he was asked to resign from the International Arabian Horse Association, and the other top officials at FEMA don't exactly have impressive r�sum�s in emergency management either. The Chicago Tribune reported on Wednesday that neither the acting deputy director, Patrick Rhode, nor the acting deputy chief of staff, Brooks Altshuler, came to FEMA with any previous experience in disaster management. Ditto for Scott Morris, the third in command until May.

Mr. Altshuler and Mr. Rhode had worked in the White House's Office of National Advance Operations. Those are the people who decide where the president will stand on stage and which loyal supporters will be permitted into the audience - and how many firefighters will be diverted from rescue duty to surround the president as he patrols the New Orleans airport trying to look busy. Mr. Morris was a press handler with the Bush presidential campaign. Previously, he worked for the company that produced Bush campaign commercials."

Bush and his minions filled FEMA with political hacks and campaign reward appointments. His team has never taken disaster preparedness and response seriously.

'You Can't Govern if You Don't Believe in Government'

From Thom Hartmann: "In a May 25, 2001 interview, Grover Norquist told National Public Radio's Mara Liasson, 'I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.'

Norquist got his wish. Democracy - and at least several thousand people, most of them Democrats, black, and poor - drowned last week in the basin of New Orleans. Our nation failed in its response, because for most of the past 25 years conservatives who don't believe in governance have run our government. "

I would put it this way. "Republicans have always wanted a government small enough to drown in a bathtub. Well guess what, they got it and managed to drown 10,000 people in New Orleans."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

You Have to See This

Click the link and see for yourself

Bush Orders FEMA to Protect Upsidedownland

There has to be some kind of mistake here. But Bob Harris can't find one.

A Blot to Say the Least

Powell Says U.N. Speech a 'Blot' on Record - Yahoo! News:

"WASHINGTON - Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday his prewar speech to the United Nations accusing Iraq of harboring weapons of mass destruction was a 'blot' on his record.

'I'm the one who presented it to the world, and (it) will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It is painful now,' Powell said in an interview with Barbara Walters on ABC-News."

Well at least he is willing to admit this.

Eric Boehlert at Salon has an excellent piece reminding folks to temper their enthusiasm for the press' new-found beligerence and dogged pushing for the 'truth.'

The consensus among observers of this press phenomenon is that reporters in the besieged city experienced such a huge disconnect between what they were seeing up close and what they were hearing from relief officials (e.g., Brown's early assertion that the federal relief effort was "going relatively well") that they couldn't help boiling over on the air. No doubt that's true. But for how many months (years?) have reporters in Iraq been witnessing the disconnect between the often burgeoning, bloody insurgency and rhetoric from White House officials who insist the insurgents are actually in their "final throes"? Why have so little anger and passion about Iraq appeared on TV screens? One answer: There's a powerful conservative push-back against the press when it hits hard on Iraq -- which so far has not occurred regarding Katrina.

Matt Yglesias and Sam Rosenfield at The American Prospect Blog caution that the beligerence seems to be fading already. Here and here

Skimping on Disaster Preparedness

Does anyone else wonder why we have been using sports arenas as refugee centers? Why doesn't the government have the capability to set up large scale refugee centers in the event we need to evacuate a major city? Wasn't that something we were supposed to have learned after 9/11?

War and Piece comments on this::

"...'I fear the worst is yet to come,' said Jennifer Leaning, a Harvard University public health professor who is helping with the Red Cross relief coordination. 'No refugee population in the world lives like this. There is a vast need for at least a little personal privacy. The sanitation problems, disease, and civil unrest will grow. To think that we can house people in the open in these vast shelters like the Superdome and the Astrodome for more than a couple weeks is delusional.'"

My bet is that it was deemed too expensive and so someone came up with the bright idea we can just house folks in whatever is available.

But Of Course It Will

New Bankruptcy Law Could Exact a Toll on Storm Victims - Los Angeles Times:

"New Bankruptcy Law Could Exact a Toll on Storm Victims. Unless changes are made, some say the overhaul due to take effect soon could make it tougher for Gulf Coast residents to recover."

WASHINGTON — After virtually every major hurricane of the last 25 years, bankruptcy filings have grown significantly faster than usual as victims sought to shake off old debts in order to rebuild their economically ruined lives.

But unless changes are made to an overhaul of the nation's bankruptcy law due to kick in next month, many of those affected by Hurricane Katrina and the resulting floods will have a substantially harder time winning court relief from loans they incurred for homes and businesses that are now gone, according to a variety of judges, lawyers and policy experts.

"Just because your house or car is somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico doesn't mean that your auto loan or mortgage went with it," said Brady C. Williamson, who was appointed by President Clinton to head a national bankruptcy commission in the mid-1990s.

UCLA professor Kenneth N. Klee said, "The new law is going to make it much more difficult for people to put their lives back together." Klee is a former Republican congressional staffer who was a chief author of the previous major bankruptcy-law change in the late 1970s.

Why should this be surprising? We already knew that most bankruptcy filings are not the results of careless people who took on too much credit card debt but people who lost everything because of a medical illness or catastrophe. That's a health insurance issue. When do the Repugnicans (sic) bring back the poor laws and debtors prisons?

Does this Come with Martial Law?

Reuters AlertNet - U.S. agency blocks photos of New Orleans dead:
07 Sep 2005 00:56:29 GMT

NEW ORLEANS, Sept 6 (Reuters) - The U.S. government agency leading the rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area.

What Kind of Kool Aid Are These Folks Drinking?

Republicans say hurricane won't stop budget cuts - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in Congress on Wednesday rejected calls by Democrats to suspend work on tax cuts, that would mainly benefit the rich, and spending reductions on social programs because of the huge costs of hurricane relief.

"Now is not the time to cut services for our most vulnerable, cut taxes for our most fortunate and add $35 billion to the deficit," the Democratic leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives said in a letter to their Republican counterparts.

Congressional committees face a September 16 deadline to come up with $35 billion in spending reductions over five years to programs including the Medicaid health-care program for the poor, student loans, food stamps and pension insurance.

The committees are also scheduled to approve $70 billion in tax cuts this month. The cuts could be extensions of reductions on capital gains and dividends, which affect mainly the incomes of the wealthy.

The Democrats said that budget plan "would likely cut programs that many victims of Hurricane Katrina will be relying on" and asked that it be suspended "indefinitely."

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, a Republican from New Hampshire, said "nothing could be further from the truth" and insisted that the spending reductions being considered could have an impact on Gulf Coast aid efforts.

For example, he said that slowing growth in Medicaid by one percent over five years would improve its efficiency by giving governors more flexibility in administering the health care.

"Dramatically more people will be covered" if the budget changes are made, Gregg said

Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the senior Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, countered: "You don't just stick with the same old plan when something of this consequence occurs."

House Republicans said hurricane disaster relief legislation would slow the spending and tax cut legislation by only about two weeks.


You can have your cake and eat it too. If I am correct the message coming from the Republicans is: "we need an extra 60 billion for hurricane relief. But we also need to cut the Paris Hilton Tax. And cut Medicaid. And other programs aimed at the most vulnerable." Just after our society has had to add 1 million more people to the ranks of the most vulnerable because of the disaster.

I am glad the press has gotten a little outraged over the actions of government during the hurricane. But I would be gladder if they could maintain their outrage and skepticism a little longer. The Medicaid program already pays about 25 cents on the dollar of what it costs to deliver medical care. Already only 20% of doctors will accept Medicaid patients becuase reimbursements are so low. Cutting the pension insurance program? Oh yeah, that would be the program that insures against events like US Airways and United from defaulting on their pension obligations. Are these people mad? New Orleans was lost for want of about half a billion in levee repairs and upgrades. The administration wanted to cut $100 million for New Orleans this year while approving a $300 million bridge in Republican Alaska (Approp Comm Chair Ted Stevens) that leads literally to nowhere. We now face a bill of probably $150 billion that we will all pay in some way. Either in higher prices or in higher taxes. The money to rebuild that town will have to come from somewhere. This is madness. It's not simply immoral. It's not simply contrary to my progressive values. This is just madness happening on a daily basis. The media's job is to point this out, not to revert to he said she said discussions of what to do on policy. There are some insights to be drawn here that are not partisan and that should be made. Where are they?

We''ll We Proved You Could Fool the Press and the Public in Iraq, Why not NOLA?

Daily Kos: Operation "Save Bush's Skin": Now Curbing the Press?

Daily KOS picks up this report that FEMA has turned media turcks away from Jefferson Parish in an attempt to prevent pictures being broadcast of body recovery. Well if you can stop folks from seeing the coffins arrive Dover why not just practice this everywhere. The grounds for this supposed policy are mystifying. That the media haven't kicked up a hell storm and cried cover up is a greater mystery. What country is this?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

BBC NEWS - Bush to lead inquiry into Katrina

And in related news Mrs O'Leary has announced she will head a committee to investigate what went wrong when Chicago burned down a hundred years ago.

Surprisingly, Democrats Find Their Minds -- if not their Spines

The Democrats issued a detailed plan to help in the post hurricane recovery. It surprising in its scope and detail. Remarkable really. They may not yet find their voice on pinning the blame where it lies, but this is the best contribution they could have made at this point. Hopefully it will get government moving.

The Raw Story | Advance: Senate Democrats issue relief plan for Katrina:

"Although the Congress last week appropriated $10.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Defense Department, it is clear much more will be needed given the enormity of this disaster. While government authorities and others assess the scope of the problem and decide how much additional funding will be needed to address specific problems, there are a number of legislative items the Senate can and should promptly approve that can help Katrina's victims. After the Senate has completed action on this emergency legislation, we hope the Senate will quickly provide significant new funding, and consider other substantive proposals that could help address short- and medium-term needs. These proposals must be followed by a much broader, long-term effort to rebuild and rehabilitate the Gulf Coast region and substantially improve efforts to prevent, mitigate and respond to future disasters."