Friday, September 30, 2005
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Re-capping the week: the ice caps are melting faster than expected, the Red Cross is holding onto donations too tightly, and Head Pharisee Tom DeLay was indited in a campaign finance probe. Please have a good weekend.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
You can fool President Bush once, but try it again and there will be trouble.
Zellweger listed "fraud" as the reason for the breakup after only four months of marriage. I can't help but speculate about what was fraudulent.
"I hit everything so hard this year," Chesney said. "I had the biggest tour I've ever done, I had a record to finish that was real important to me, and, of course, I had something new in my personal life and I was trying to do that too. It really ended up being too much."
The reason for the breakup may be that his wife came in 3rd place on his list of things to work on during 2005.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Anyhow, it seems like Americans have finally come to realize what many of us, and much of the world, have been trying to say: Bush is not a very good president.
Joe Republican writes:
“Globex CEO, how did you get to be such a bleeding-heart liberal?”
Well, I will tell you.
The year was 2000. Microsoft was ruled a monopoly, the dot.com bubble was busy imploding upon itself like a dying star, and the son of former president Bush was running against Al “Lockbox” Gore. I voted for Bush under the logic that he seemed like an every man: the kind of person who might understand my concerns. That man went on to “win” the election after Supreme Court decision. Gore went on to grow a beard and work on a pier in New Jersey.
I am somewhat sympathetic to people who view many of Bush’s “plans” and “policies” as academic and detached from everyday American life, and thus much slower to realize that Bush has no "plan" or decent "policy". But to me, one who was in the Air Force in 2003 when we invaded Iraq, his actions hit close to home. I knew people deployed, or who may be deployed, for the cause. When no WMDs were found in Iraq I began to get suspicious.
Maybe the president knew there were no WMDs, but went in anyway. Then, the president lied to the American people.
Or, maybe the president thought there were WMDs. Then, the president has a terrible intelligence, or should have listened to the UN, France, and everyone else.
Or, maybe, The president was pushed into going by the media and/or Dick Cheney. Then the president is no leader.
We’ll never know what the real answers are, but I can’t see any positive way to view the decision given hindsight. At the very worst, the president is a liar. At the very best he is just an inept leader making bad decisions. And it kind of seems after reading "Plan of Attack", "The 9/11 Report", and watching the news over the last three years, that maybe this president would indeed be a better drinking buddy than the most powerful man in the world. Specifically, as things went from bad to worse in Iraq I began to wonder about the whole idea of spending billions in defense when we don’t even know which countries not to invade, while people here at home go without health care and basic needs. Those seemed incongruous to me.
Hurricane Katrina did something all of the president’s mistakes could not do, it brought the folly home. We can have a war in Iraq, and no one can really be made to comprehend it because there are tax cuts. This allow sthe the average American to reason: how bad can thinks be if my taxes are getting cut? In the past, during a war, people were asked to ration vital items. Drafts were put in place to conscript your children and send them off to fight and die. In the face of such steps, politicians had to be extremely sure that the wars they were fighting were worth the cause because every American was asked to give something in some way.
But this administration has circumvented all of that by not just asking people for no sacrifice, but cutting taxes. They want things to seem as normal as possible, while they enect their plans. If things are normal, no one will pay much attention to the plan and how it's going. There has been a total disconnect between the war and the average American. It has been largely an academic exercise--a media saturated, yet low domestic impact ass-kicking extravaganza to rectify 9/11. And, convienently, Bush can use to be a war president.
So Iraq has no WMDs. We were not greeted like liberators. We have too few troops there, asked to stay too long because of stop-loss, supplied with inadequate armor. There are terrorists where there were none before; a vital threat, a quagmire, where none existed before. Thousands have been killed and more wounded physically and mentally for, at best, a bad judgment call. But all of that remains on the news and not in the lives of average Americans because the administration has fashioned it this way.
But Katrina blew into town and exposed what really has been going on in the White House for the last five years: little to nothing positive; horse show directors, and smirking, and lack fo planning. Four years after 9/11 and our disaster recovery is a disaster, and who knew? Hundreds of billions of dollars spent to remake Iraq and our own people can not afford insurance or the means to escape an incoming killer hurricane. And who cared?
I’m not a smart guy, but I knew long before Katrina that we were going in the wrong direction. But let’s learn from this. Let’s expect more from our leaders than just who would make a good drinking buddy. Let’s expect them to make the right decisions on vital issues, and let’s demand that the impact of those decisions be made known as widely as possible. Don't let this get swept under the rug. You want to help hurricane victims? Put leaders in office who care about domestic issues like poverty, health care, education, and retirement.
Monday, September 19, 2005
The poverty that endangered thousands in New Orleans was starkly off-set by glimpses thousand dollar earrings, diamond necklaces, stretch limos, and the screams of adoring fans. Apparently, by people’s approval, these are our heroes. I even heard that two lucky hurricane survivors were going to be given an Emmy makeover, so—at least for a little while--they could be more like our glittering examples of the good life. Just as well, maybe after a disaster we should stick to what we do best: making things over, rather than honestly dealing with the issues.
After hurricane Katrina, poverty is on everyone’s lips, especially celebrities. People are pointing fingers at filthy rich businessmen like Paul Allen, but no one seems to mind if Oprah or Madonna lives in opulent luxury…because they give us warm fuzzies. Paul Allen does nothing to fill the space in my empty life. But did you see Felicity Huffman’s dress?
Personally, I think it’s even more offensive when these celebrities get out of their stretch limos and then try to talk about hurricane victims. The women are stick figures models--draped in thousand dollar dresses, and diamonds. The men are no better. They perpetuate a level of superficiality unattainable by the average American. But we’ll try because we’re told to try. In a society with winners and losers, they are among the champions. I don’t blame them for getting rich or being rich. I guess I do find fault with so many millions of Americans who want to talk about poverty and emulate people whose hardest decision in a given day is which joke to tell or what shoes to wear to another award show.
If any filthy rich people are going to be singled out I hope it will be these. At least a business man provides jobs. Say what ever else you will. People like Ellen…help us laugh? I want to meet the person who was distraught on the couch until Ellen came on to give that person reason to live.
The problem is not rich people. They are simply the victors in a society whose rules allow for winners and losers. You can own a $5000 dress, live in the Hollywood hills, and command the ear of millions of Americans. Or, you can go without health care, live on food stamps, and have everything you own washed away in a hurricane because you could not afford insurance. That is the problem.
The Emmys tried to help us laugh. But probably what they really did was help America get back on-track to the things it loves best: entertainment and luxury. It bothers me that those people are idolized—and thus rich--for no good reason. And it bothers me that they come out in force to try to talk about poverty when the person working the night shift in a factory, making $10 an hour provides more of a service to society than their attempts at humor.
The multimillion dollar companies our favorite celebrities work for will also be similar to the companies moving into New Orleans, buying flooded property at low prices and renovating it to sell at higher prices… because the people who lived there before can not afford to do that. This happened after the Civil War too by Carpetbaggers.
While everyone else tries to take advantage or leverage their conscience with Katrina, you should too. Put on a magnolia pin and remember Katrina. And make sure you run down to the mall and buy those $100 jeans because your favorite actress wears them too.
The last thing that should happen is that those who were neglected before this disaster end up losing even more. Because, you know somewhere someone is thinking of a way to turn this disaster into financial gain. That is one thing. But I hope we keep poverty on our hearts and minds, after the celebrities have gone back to their gated homes. Until it becomes a national agenda, like defense, the rich will stay healthy and the sick will stay poor.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Monday, September 12, 2005
In the wake of Mike Brown's resignation, many are applauding the choice of R. David Paulison as the new head of FEMA, citing his strong credentials.
"We finally got someone in here with a good, solid moustache," an anonymous FEMA employee commented. "He sure does have a nice moustache." Yes. Yes he does.
Critics questioned his lack of horse show experience.
Brush, as everyone knows, is a metaphor for problems. When Bush puts on that blue shirt, and rolls up those sleeves, he’s telling everyone it’s time to clear some brush.
Bush, visiting hurricane recovery sites for the third time, stayed right on script surrounding himself with a choir of fire fighters, police officers (fellow brush clearers) and victims (people who have a lot of brush to clear). The White House, eager to show the president displaying hands-on, empathetic leadership in the storm effort, decided to go with the photo tested blue shirt—again.
“This blue shirt has been a huge hit for us,” said Stephen Smith, White House fashion advisor. “Once we decided to roll up those sleeves, wow! We had a real working man on our hands. A real doer! Look out! We’ve dubbed it: The Blue Shirt of Compassion. We break it out any time the President has to go fix a major national disaster. And it’s a good thing we have it on-hand, because it’s been used a lot.”
The Blue Shirt of Compassion was made famous in the photograph of President Bush hugging Ashley Faulkner, who lost her mom in the Sept. 11 attacks. “That photo really put Blue on the map, as far as we were concerned.” Smith explained. “After that, every disaster we had the president in that shirt at least for one photo-op.”
The Blue Shirt of Compassion has also been used in photo-ops ranging from brush clearing to golf outings. “It’s a real team player,” Smith continued. “And, it’s an iron man. It goes in disaster after disaster. We wash it and it comes out looking good as new.”
The history and science of Presidential, business casual attire can be traced back to Teddy Roosevelt. The rough-ridding president appealed to the aggressive, rugged, everyman carving out this country’s manifest destiny.
“Before Roosevelt, presidents were seen as boorish stuffed-shirts, suits,” said Dr. Henry McCormick, who teaches a class in political fashion at Columbia University. “Abraham Lincoln comes to mind. He put on a stove-pipe hat and that was the look for presidents for the next forty years. Then Roosevelt came along, and we’re still feeling the effects. Being studious and serious might have been cool during Reconstruction, but these days people want a Brush Clearer, a cowboy, a drinking buddy as president.”
This effect was capitalized on nicely by the Republicans when another man road a horse into the White House—Ronald Reagan. Reagan, in an attempt to win the Cold War, was widely photographed in western garb—slacks, denim shirts, cowboy hat—to show that he was a western everyman, a cowboy who was not above shooting Russians first, and asking questions later.
“Reagan was perfect, “McCormick noted. “First of all, he was a cowboy in movies, which gave him instant celebrity credibility. Any questions about his cowboyishness were neutralized. Secondly, he was from the west. You’ll notice that for the last 30 years every president has either been from the South or from the West. People love the brush-clearing, sheriff type.”
Although from Texas, George Bush Sr. proved to be no brush-clearer. He was widely portrayed as a nasally wimp, rather than anyone who could or wanted to clear brush. He was rarely ever seen in blue shirts of compassion. His son George has since picked up this fumble and ran back a touchdown for the Republicans. He is seen at least once a week in rolled up sleeves, doing everything from kissing babies to sawing down trees.
McCormick noted, “The Republicans knew they needed another president who could clear brush. People know what that means. What they’re asking of any candidate is: ‘can this man clear my brush?’ Could Gore? Could Kerry? Can Hillary?”
The Republican strategy has paid off. After numerous disasters, the brush clearing president can emerge with sleeves rolled up, ready to begin doing some work. He can make short, declarative statements of a brush-clearing nature, and settle everyone’s mind. Indeed, after Katrina it looks like The Blue Shirt of Compassion is back, and paying dividends. Everyone on the beltway knows what this means: it’s time to clear some brush.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Life is indiscriminate. Natural disasters do not target certain people, they can not be controlled. They strike, often suddenly, at will. In the aftermath of such a disaster like Hurricane Katrina humans do some soul searching. They try to link it to the supernatural so life does not appear to be so random and chaotic. Some will say it is the work of God. Others will say it was Satan. That will always be debatable, but there are lessons we can all learn from this event.
Katrina did us all a favor in one sense: it removed the veil that covered the plight of the poor, many of whom also live in our inner-cities. This is a pervasive and systemic problem that has been over-looked for far too long. The disconnect between those who make our laws and levy our taxes and those who struggle to live from day to day was also noticed.
Many, many people live in an
And we can see, from the generous and sympathetic outpouring to charity, Americans realize that we can do better. That the slow, and—at least from TV interviews—apathetic response of our federal agencies is shameful and embarrassing. What our government could not do at first, the average American badly wanted to do. And that gives me hope.
My fear is that after people have reacted to the tragedy and given their money, they will once again turn a blind-eye onto the problem of poverty. I know that for the average person there is not much that they can do, but it can be a concern. It can be an important issue on the scale of nation building and homeland security.
We are pumping billions of dollars into military, defense, security, and where has it gotten us? A quagmire in
People are not going to stand for this. Four years ago we all watched the events of 9/11 unfold. A few weeks ago we watched our own government, bloated by monies and support and power in a post 9/11 world unable to rescue stranded and starving people it was directly responsible for.
Currently we have the worst of all worlds. We have a government that wants money and power and to strip civil liberties in the name of protection. That would be one thing if that government knew what it was doing. Can it keep us save? Can it rescue us? Can it nation-build? Maybe we should error on the side of education and health care. We’re going to have to re-train many of those who lost their jobs in
As one hurricane survivor said, “We had nothing before this. Now we have even less.” Politicians from
Friday, September 09, 2005
“The Bush 2.0 model was never intended to improve education, health-care, or continue budget surpluses,” Newt Gingrich explained. “But it is now painfully obvious that none of what it was supposed to it has done or can do. The only thing it can to is quip, smirk, exercise, and pander to religious nuts.”
After election, and a 9 month battery charge, Bush 2.0 was unveiled on Sept. 12, 2004. He moved swiftly to action by invading Afghanistan, attempting to block the formation of what would become the 9/11 Commission, installing the Patriot Act, and then starting a faux war in Iraq.
“Once Bush 2.0 got a little taste of power, I think we lost control of him,” a top White House engineer admitted. “Invading Iraq on such shady evidence was a real stretch. We all kind of looked at each other for a moment. But, luckily, the people bought it. However, installing unqualified men to run FEMA has proven to be a deathblow.”
This is referring to five of the eight top FEMA officials having virtually no experience in handling disasters. And, in the wake of the destruction of New Orleans after a major hurricane, and the slow-moving disaster response from said FEMA officials, this may be the levee breaking on Bush 2.0’s support.
“Putting campaign cronies into top government positions is a time honored tradition dating back to Andrew Jackson.” Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas said. “But there seems to be some bad logic in 2.0, putting those lackeys into such important positions. Everyone was nervous about a major urban disaster. We were thinking terrorists, but the hurricane showed that we are worse off than we were four years ago. I think people are fed up.”
Indeed. The public seems to be demanding a recall, a change to vote again. "We've learned our lesson" a Republican from Kansas said. "If the elections were this year I'd vote for Kerry. Hell, I'd even vote for Dean." Bush 2.0’s approval ratings are down into the 30s. The only people not distancing themselves from it are his long-standing advisors, and religious nuts.
“He’s totally out of control.” A former cabinet member confided to me. “He only accepts input from four or five people. And when those people are Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Rice, you know you’ve got a problem. But the most amazing thing is not that it is out of control—it’s been that way for years—but that it was re-elected.”
Knowing that Bush 2.0 can not be re-elected again, top Republican wizards are currently working on the next generation of Republican president. “This one will work as advertised because I think we’ve used up most of the people’s patience for lies. The next model will be the real compassionate conservative.”
Democrats are furiously working on Clinton 2.0 dubbed “The Hillary”, to counter anything the Republicans can put together. “The Hillary, like Clinton 1.0, will be designed to augment health care, stimulate the economy, give peaceful resolution to problems, and work on budget surpluses. Happily, I think we’ve weeded out the infidelity bug.”
Despite high hopes by Democrats, Republicans remain confident. “People don’t want that kind of thing,” Karl Rove stated. “Our model will be a patriarch who will brutalize criminals, lower taxes, and run interference in countries around the world. We also have the backing of big business and you’d better believe they won’t give up power easily. Besides, the masses bought Bush 2.0 wholesale. They never knew he was defective, and we couldn’t believe it. It was so obvious by the way he walked and talked!”
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
On a side note, President George W. Bush refers to him affectionately as “Brownie”. And says he is doing a “heck of a job!”
Democrats, unable to stop his confirmation, were wary when he was nominated. And now even stalwart conservatives like Bill Kristol are disavowing him. “The more one learns about him one is surprised that he’s in that job in the first place” he said. Yes, one is surprised.
Brown, replaced Joe Allbaugh, an old college buddy. Allbaugh resigned in 2002 so he could start a company that makes money from rebuilding Iraq. That one speaks for itself as far as I’m concerned. Brown’s qualifications for the job are as follows: he ran unsuccessfully for congress in 1988, then practiced law, then managed a horse show for 10 years. After Allbaugh became director of FEMA in 2001, Brown was hired as general counsel. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Remember that.
While others want to play the blame game, I’m a little sympathetic to Brown, from Oklahoma. I mean come on, who knew a major hurricane was going to hit New Orleans, the levees would break, and the city would flood, causing the biggest natural disaster in American history? Well, I guess a lot of people sort of predicted that was going to happen. But…but who expects that something terrible will happen in one of our urban centers this day and age? Hmm, I guess a lot of people are afraid of that. Who really expects an agency like Federal Emergency Management Agency to aide and rescue helpless people after a natural disaster? Who really expects bureaucrats who are in position because of their connections, family, or money, to also be effective at their jobs? Or to care? Or to take the time to at least come up with some kind of thoughtful planning? What planet are you guys living on? Where have you guys been lately?
And, do I need to mention again, that the man loves horses? No one who loves horses can be that bad.
Someday, when all of this controversy as blown-over, Mr. Brown will be back on his ranch in Oklahoma, with his horses. He’ll think back with a gleam in his eye, to the time he was a powerful man in Washington. What a great country, where the director of a horse show can rise to become the head of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency!
It’s not easy being a horse. One minute you’re as popular as a rock star, racing around the pasture, being put out to stud, and flicking flies off your back with your tail… the next minute you’re being put down for a broken leg. Things change that fast in politics too.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
15% - Sideshow Bob
23% - Steve from Accounting
40% - The ashes of Roy Rogers
12% - A Republican Hollywood celebrity
10% - Some other inept guy no one has ever heard of, but probably with adequate facial hair.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Hurricane Katrina did more than break levees and flood a city. It exposed the deep problems this country has; problems that no one seems to want to admit or talk about. Obviously, if we can fly troops to Iraq in 24 hours we could have helped those stranded in New Orleans in less than three days. We describe the scene in New Orleans as a "refugee camp" or as a "third world country" and that is exactly how we view blacks, as refugees in their own country. We witnessed the events like we witnessed a Rwandan or Sudanese tragedy unfolding: unfortunate, but not urgent. The media even dispatched its foreign correspondents to heighten the feel that this was something other-worldly going on. But it was right here in America. Had this disaster occurred in New York, or San Francisco, had it occurred among a majority of whites, it would have been taken much more seriously.
There are so many levels in which we can examine this drama. The secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, is already trying to deflect blame and questions. The argument: we have a disaster here, let's not place blame. That's the same rhetoric that got Bush around serious questions in Iraq. But we should look at how this disaster happened. This was an example of a major urban disaster: infrastructure destroyed, power lost, people stranded, no food, no water, no sanitation. This is an example of the very thing we fear terrorists may do to our cities if given the chance. And where was our Department of Homeland security? Confused? Where was our National Guard? Iraq? What was the plan to evacuate people after such a disaster? Ill conceived?
People can say that we did not see this coming, but we had about as much prior warning as we will ever have for a major urban disaster. This was not a surprise attack like 9/11. This was a hurricane that everyone knew was coming. The Army Corps of Engineers knew the levees may not hold versus a category three or four hurricane. People knew the city was below sea level and may flood. People knew the hurricane was a category four and it landed almost exactly where we thought it would. And yet no plan was in place? I find this discouraging to say the least. I have to go to work every day and do my job. How much more seriously should leaders take their jobs when people's lives rely on their planning? I'll give my money to the Red Cross, but what are we paying taxes for?
And that was just the natural disaster. The next five days were man-made disasters. The hurricane exposed not just flaws in preparation, planning, and prevention, but also our problem of poverty and race. 40% of children in New Orleans live below the poverty line? Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the country? How can we attempt to tell the rest of the world how to live when so many in our own country live hand to mouth, struggling for their basic needs every day?
We are like that obnoxious parent, telling other people how to raise their children, when our own are dysfunctional from example. We want to go break, and rebuild Iraq in a better way and we can't even feed, and provide basic services to many in our own country. We can't even rescue them from a flooded city, after a disaster with a week's warning. It has to make you wonder what would happen if another terrorist attack occurs. After the billions we have spent in Homeland Security, this was a nice test of the results. And the results are shameful, but they also expose the flaws that will need to be dealt with.
I do not say this because I hate America. Of course I believe in the good things this country does, and the ideals which it stands for. But why do we deny the obvious? Kanye West speaks about race being an issue in the slow relief effort, and NBC disavows that statement. It is obviously true. Some politicians try to talk about poverty, and health care, and education, and they are trumped by tough talk about war, brutalizing criminals, and privatizing our social plans. The real war is right here at home, and we have abandoned it.
People seem to hate to use hindsight as a guide. No one wants to learn from Vietnam. No one wants to criticize how we've handled Iraq. No one wants to accept the dark answers that lurk behind what made Hurricane Katrina a human tragedy. Like Rome we are off on far-flung adventures while the problems with the Empire decay it from within. And I guess my point, and the point of many of my posts, is that we can learn from history. An ounce of prevention is worth a proud of cure. Yes, we'll rebuild New Orleans. That goes without question. But will we ever answer the question of race, poverty, urban disaster readiness? Or are those too complex, and too ugly to delve into? Are we made content to take out our problems on other countries, and sweep the real problems at home back under the rug?