Friday, September 30, 2005

Happy Friday! It's great to be alive and an American!


I woke up today in my warm cozy bed with Rick Santorum's book, "It Takes a Family" next to me. I was sent into a peaceful slumber reading it before bedtime last night. I had just read page 138 where he wrote, "The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong," when the sandman got me.

I missed the crepuscular adieu of the sun last night but I was able to watch the god affirming sunrise while drinking a double chocolate Pat Robertson diet shake. I turned on Fox News, (is there really any other choice?) and saw the economy going great, (my house is now worth $500 million!), the Iraq War has been downgraded to a "police action" and the surrender of the evil-doers is set for noon on the U.S.S. Missouri and District Attornet Ronnie Earle is going to be indicted for prosecutorial misconduct. Why can't he leave that nice man Mr. DeLay alone? Hasn't he been through enough with three slaps on the wrist by the House Ethics Committee?

So I climb into my Hummer 2 and drive around town taking the least efficient route just so the terrorists don't win. Gas at $3.00? Bottled water and organic milk is more expensive! It is my American birthright to send my tax cut earned dollars to the regimes funding terrorism just so I can get a tall skim latte at Starbucks. I may even drive in circles in a parking lot for no reason just so the terrorists don't win!

I'm off to Best Buy to pick up a few plasma screen HD tvs. In fact, HD tvs for everyone. Put it on my Mileage Plus card I say. If deficits don't matter to the federal government, Cheney told us "Reagan proved deficits don't matter," then my personal deficit doesn't matter to me either.

Oh I can't wait to see Ann Coulter in high definition. The bony, lanky, blond, laugh while you call people traitors is so sexy. There she is saying, "I'm not blaming the Democrats for 9-11 alone. I'm blaming them also for the [USS] Cole bombing, for the embassy bombings, for 20 years of attacks that have not been stopped." If we just had that Republican Harry S. Truman around to nuke some of those people. He didn't just drop the big one he dropped two! We're not going to declare victory and get out of Iraq like that bleeding heart Democrat Richard Nixon. No way.

I pick my kids up at school and take them home. I tried home schooling for a bit but it got in the way of me taking care of my parents and grandparents all four of whom are in a persistent resting state at the local hospice and I expect them to be up and about soon. I watch an awful story on Fox News about religious indoctrination at madrasas in Pakistan but I had to turn it off to fill out a application to Patrick Henry College where Christians can be prepared to take back our country. As Sen. Santorum said on page 386 of his book, "It's amazing that so many kids turn out to be fairly normal, considering the weird socialization they get in public schools." Amen.

Well, time for dinner then I'll read my kids their favorite book, "Help! Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed!" I'm glad my giving it as gifts to all my friends and family has helped get it to #33 on Amazons most purchased list for all books.

Time for bed. I think I'll leave Bill O'Reilly on so his sweet, manly, American voice can soothe me to sleep. Boy I wish I had the American flag lapel pin concession at Fox News. Another happy, happy, proud to be an American day. God Bless America.


P.S. Wall Street, the 1987 movie is as good now as then. To wit: "Buddy, don't tell me you're so naive to think you live in a democracy?" Or this: "The main thing about money is it makes you do things you don't want to do." Calling Tom "I am the federal government" DeLay.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Republicans win - Tom DeLay indicted

At first glance Republican House Majority leader "Hot Tub" Tom DeLay's indictment on criminal conspiracy charges seems like a huge plus for Democrats. Although it seems statistically impossible to take back the House in 2006, where Republicans lead a majority of 232 to 202, Dems might be able to narrow the gap by winning up to 10 seats more than they have now. But the real losers of this latest scandal are regular, ordinary conscientious voters like the Curmudgeon.

In Illinois, former Republican Governor George Ryan is on trial in federal court for corruption. Seventy-three convictions related to his administration have already occurred. Illinois' current Democratic Governor, Rod Blagojevich has been referred to as "Official A" in U.S. Attorney filings. (Note to elected officials: being referred to as "Official A" or "B" or "C" in U.S. Attorney filings isn't a good sign.) Chicago's Democratic Mayor Richard Daley claims not to know about a variety of hiring scandals and kickback schemes under his long tenure. And this goes on and on in many other states.

The point is that those of us who don't profit or benefit from the political process may increasingly see it as a futile waste of time and not participate at all. This is a benefit for those in and seeking office as their money driven machines work more efficiently when there is little public attention or participation. Republicans cut education so that the electorate isn't intellectually equipped to fully understand what those in power are saying and doing. Then the good little voters vote against their interests, politicians and their friends and families benefit and then even inject a lethal dose of corruption into the sweatheart deals. Voters find out about it and say, "forget this, I'm going to watch the Packers." Or the Bears or Sox or whatever but they won't be watching the suits in Washington. And the cycle starts all over with a new crop of clueless voters turning 18.

So while DeLay and Frist and Rove and Savafian and Abramoff and the 100 others who haven't been caught, fight ethical and legal battles, people will slowly give up. What's the point they'll say? Why make phone calls, donate money, knock on doors and get out the vote if a few people can rig the system solely for their benefit?

Delay may be (probably) getting what he deserves. I especially liked his comment, before his whining tirade claiming to be a victim, when he said with a smirk, "Just another day at the office." Gee, you get indicted everyday? Wake up, get dressed, get coffee, read newspaper, drive to office, pick up messages, get indicted? That's some office. The "I look forward to fighting these charges" will come next. Personally, I look forward to ABC's "Wife Swap" rather than hiring criminal defense lawyers and possibly getting two years in state prison. That's just me.

DeLay may get convicted or get away again, (he has been found to have violated House ethics rules in three separate cases), but the Republicans who are in power in all branches of government are the real winners. Drive every voter out of the process and you win by default. And by the way, the Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle has convicted 12 elected Democrats and 3 Republicans. So much for partisan prosecutor claims. On the other hand should we be happy there are that many elected officials getting indicted and convicted in just one small county in Texas?

Curmudgeon '06 - Crankiness instead of corruption.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

FLASH NEWS!!! Tom DeLay Indicted!

House Majority Leader Indicted!

I'm starting to believe in this Intelligent Design thing. At a minimum this is good evidence there is a God.

Stop the insanity

Cranky Story #1:

Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA) closed school in the state for two days this Monday and Tuesday to save fuel. The two-day school closings were intended to save an estimated 500,000 gallons of diesel fuel in a time of peak demand and relatively short supply. Since much of the nation's economy travels by truck, shortages could have a devastating impact on the economy.

ExxonMobil's profits are likely to soar above $10 billion this quarter on the back of the fuel crisis. That's $110 million a day, and more net income than any company has ever made in a quarter.

And you wonder why I'm cranky?

Cranky Story #2:

The greatest nation on earth's energy policy for the 21st century...

White House Press Secretary Scott "Scott!!!" McClellan, after asserting that, actually, the White House has been advocating conservation since 2001 said Bush aides have been "looking at additional ways that we can conserve energy. We'll also be sending out notices to staff about -- reminding them to turn off lights and printers and copiers and computers when they leave the office. We'll continue to move forward on more e-government, paperless systems that would reduce the use of faxes and copiers and printers and things of that nature, encouraging all government vehicles to try to consume less.

"That would include by people sharing rides in government vehicles, not letting cars idle, which wastes gas. We'll be sending out notices to staff to promote mass transit options, as well, letting them know about Metro stops and encouraging ride sharing, telling them where pick-up and drop-off points are at the White House, or reminding them of that, and just scrutinizing staff travel even more, so that people can videoconference where they can versus actually traveling, and things of that nature.

"And other areas -- the President did want everybody to look at the motorcade, too, to see what could be scaled back there, as well. So I think today we probably have a couple less vans than we normally would."

FLASHBACK - May 7, 2001 - White House Press Briefing:

Q: Is one of the problems with this, and the entire energy field, American lifestyles? Does the President believe that, given the amount of energy Americans consume per capita, how much it exceeds any other citizen in any other country in the world, does the President believe we need to correct our lifestyles to address the energy problem?

A: Press Secretary Ari Fleischer: That's a big no. The President believes that it's an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one. And we have a bounty of resources in this country.

Still wondering why I'm cranky?

BONUS QUOTE: Maureen Dowd of the NYT sums it up well today, "W. doesn't really need to worry about turning down the lights in the White House. The place is already totally in the dark>"

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Is it unbearable enough yet?

My very first blog entry title was "I want to leave a legacy of Despair." Of course I was quoting Dr. Evil but great minds think alike and I couldn't have said it better myself. Actually I could have but I don't paid as much as Mike Myers so plagiarism seemed reasonable. But I think that until the Republicans leave their legacy of despair people won't vote them out of power.

The voting against your own interests, ala "What's the Matter with Kansas," idea is quite old. How many slave owners in the Confederacy actually served on the front lines? You think the human fodder mowed down at Gettysburg, Shiloh and Antietam left the comforts of Tara (no, not Reid) to protect their way of life? As Moe said pointing to Curly, "I'll fight to last drop of his blood!" Sounds like W huh?

So we have Wal-Mart greeters fighting to repeal the estate tax which contrary to smirkly lies of the right-wing does not tax death anymore than any other tax taxes life, is around 20 and not 50% and affects around only 20,000 estates a year only 500 of which are over $5,000,000. Keep voting for Republicans who favor the perpetual free lunch, borrow money from the Chinese forever to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy form of government because they won't be around when it all goes bad. The third generation Wal-Mart greeter will be wondering why there isn't federal money for college loans and may figure out, "oh yeah, we gave all that money to the top 1% of the country by cutting their taxes over and over and over and now I have to pay that bill."

Now we have the victims of Katrina and Rita who are going to see first hand the results of the new bankruptcy bill going into affect on October 17. There are so many "kick you in the teeth when you are down" provisions to go over that I don't have space here. Today's New York Times has a small review and it doesn't even explain all the bad details and sections. Click through some of these postings from the brilliant Prof. Elizabeth Warren here, here and especially here and see how bad and unfair it will be. Oh, but don't worry, with asset protection trusts the wealthy have their escape hatch from bankruptcy. I'm not really saying I told you so to Katrina victims but what did you expect from Republicans like Louisiana's own Sen. David Vitter?

The pain, suffering and outright unfairness of the bankruptcy bill as applied to these hurricane victims will be huge. But all you Republicans out there surfing the net saying "too bad," I hope you get a taste of your own medicine one day. For all you victims of Katrina and Rita who voted Republican, your medicine is coming now.

My new political philosophy is to hope it gets so bad people can't deny who made it bad. Then, hopefully, people will be so angry with the way things are run they will vote for anyone else. Poison the waters, cut the trees, pave the forests, close the CDC and NEA, overturn Roe v. Wade, give the rich a 0% tax rate, ban free speech, get rid of campaign financing laws, invade every country, privatize social security, end Medicare, have religious tests for government service, teach creationism, subsidize oil and tobacco, have mandatory minimum sentences for jaywalking, do it all. Just do it quickly so we can put you in the dustbin of history and get past the legacy of despair as soon as possible.

P.S. Today's post is slighly late over weighing the grammatical differences between "affect" and "effect." Thoughts from my literate readers?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Politics, 200 proof

Everything is political. Yes, shocking I know. It shouldn't be a surprise that everything, everything for the foreseeable future will be solely decided on who is in charge. Politics is, in simple terms, who gets what when. But its getting to be a "heads I win tails you lose I, winner takes all" game.

Example, 9/11. If anything needed a fair review and non-political investigation it was 9/11. Of course W didn't want that so the feet dragging turned into dragged kicking and screaming when the 9/11 Widows forced an independent commission.

Nominees for the Supreme Court? The complaint is John Roberts said nothing and the only things memorable about the hearings were his baseball analogies and his two favorite movies are Dr. Zhivago and North by Northwest. If a Republican president has a Republican Senate and has the votes then any nominee won't have to answer any questions. If the Democrats were in control when Roberts came before the Judiciary Committee we would have learned more than movie picks and "I'm just a umpire" nonsense.

Hurricane Katrina embarrassed the U.S. but still no honest investigation will happen. The Congressional committee set up by Republicans to investigate the competence of a Republican administration will say "mistakes were made" and pile on Brownie. What is the point of even bothering? Why spend the money? If the Democrats were in charge of the House of representatives it would be the opposite. Pure politics.

Look at every major or minor news story. Look at it through the lens of pure politics. Then ask yourself if your vote matters. Would things be different if the other party were in charge?

Unfortunately the integrity of election results is also a matter of pure politics and we may never know what things would be like if the other party were in charge.

Happy Monday.

P.S. Here's my political test results:

You are a

Social Liberal
(66% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(38% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

Friday, September 23, 2005

You say Hurricane, I say Hisicane, let's call...

In the aftermath of Hurrina Katrina, you've no doubt seen the flood (pun intended, though plague would be a better word) of Republicans and their lackeys at Faux News claim that Democrats are just playing politics with the devastation. It's interesting how outraged the Republicans were after Janet Jackson exposed a breast during the Superbowl halftime show so much so they had Congressional hearings within a month to berate t.v. executives as being vulgar and disgusting.

Where's the outrage for a 1,000 people drowning? Where are the hearings for Hurricane Katrina? And I mean true hearings. Not the show trial preceeding the "mistakes were made" but no one will be held accountable report issued by House Republicans. Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) was typical of the "heaven's to Betsy" GOP (excluding of course, Henry "youthful indiscretion" Hyde, Bob "that's my kid?" Livinston, Newt "honey, meet my mistress" Gingrich to name a few) during the hearings. With her voice cracking, (do they have an Emmy for best phony outrage in a congressional hearing?) Wilson berated Viacom CEO Mel Karmazin saying she thought the incident was planned and that it was "vile, disgusting and nasty." Oh dear. Oh my. And what was she doing a week after Hurricane Katrina? Speaking out against x-rated spam e-mail. "Priorities" doesn't seem to be a word with which Church lady Wilson is familiar. Thanks to Wilson and her flock now if you say something that offends the holier than thou FCC you could get a fine larger than dumping nuclear waste in the town square or revealing NSA codes to the North Koreans. All three of which I was planning on doing before I die.

But the real digusting use of the destruction from Hurricane Katrina lies with W. At a luncheon for the Republican Jewish Coalition, W "for the first time linked the American response to terrorism and its response to Hurricane Katrina, declaring that the United States is emerging a stronger nation from both challenges, and saying that terrorists look at the storm's devastation 'and wish they had caused it'."

And I wish these clowns weren't setting policy and making laws that are not only wrecking the country but more importantly making me very cranky.

BONUS POSTING: David H. Safavian, the Bush administration official arrested Monday also had a link to some war on terror persons of interest. The record of Safavian's confirmation shows extensive questioning by the committee staff about his alleged lobbying for local Muslim leader Abdurahman Alamoudi, who in October 2000 made widely publicized comments supporting Hezbollah and the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, at a rally in Lafayette Park. In fact, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee held up Safavian's nomination for more than a year, in part because of lawmakers' concerns about lobbying work for two men later accused of links to suspected terrorist organizations. Ethics and war on terror in a nutshell for this adminstration. (By way of Josh Marshall and WaPo.)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Curmudgeon's Congressman Speaks! Sort of.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a biblical scale disaster that leveled a large part of three states and displaced a 1,000,000 people, hundreds of billions of dollars are being thrown around to re-build. As it has been widely reported no-bid contracts went out to the usual suspects and guaranteed "cost-plus" provisions were included so no matter what these supposed, "free market competitors/bastions of capitalism" are guaranteed a profit. Great deal if you can get it. And not just a buck or two more for a job well done. Count on record billions in profits.

But who exactly will be doing the actually heavy lifting? Who will clean up the fetid and festering Everest-sized mountains of garbage and debris? And who will pick up hammers and plywood (maybe steel reinforced concrete would be a good idea in building codes there like in Florida after they got leveled one too many times) to re-build their communities? People. Regular, humble, out of work, displaced, start from square one Gulf Coast victims of Katrina. And do they get guaranteed profits or no-bid contracts?

The suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 (sounds yummy) by W, his first move after Katrina, is about allowing "those companies lining up for a piece of that $200 or $300 billion to cut the wages of the folks who are actually going to do the work" explains Josh Marshall. Josh, in his usual terse and pithy way says, "What sense does that make? It amounts to wage gouging. Bad values. And actually pretty bad macro-economics since as much as these disaster-stricken regions need roads rebuilt they need people who can take their families out to dinner and buy new clothes. And lower wages for folks involved in the reconstruction -- which is going to be a big slice of the population -- has a ripple effect across the board in those regions."

Talking Points memo also suggested people call their representatives to find out where they stand. After a couple of phone messages I got Matt Towson, the press secretary for Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL, 10th) to give the Curmudgeon a "no comment" on Kirk's position on the suspension of the Act or the bill in Congress to suspend the suspension. The bill, H.R. 3763, has 186 co-sponsors, all Democrats. What a shock. There are rumors that some Republicans, deemed moderate, are circulating a letter for public release but as of yet no Republican co-sponsors of H.R. 3763.

I guess a moderate Republican is someone who claims to feel your pain but does nothing about it. Wonder if the Republicans are in favor of wage caps on CEOs of Halliburton, Fluor, Bechtel, SCI, Kenyon, or anyone of a number of companies involved in Katrina re-construction? Guess the wind, rain and flood survivors and non-survivors of Katrina should have had better lobbyists and political connections. Maybe in the next life. And maybe members of congress, like Rep. Kirk, could actually support the guy with no shoes, no hammer and no house who has to start over in New Orleans rather than the company that employs him. And by the way, "no comment" really is a comment. It speaks loud and clear.

P.S. If there is any chance I get audited because of this, I retract everything.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Cranky News Alert - Cold Front Hits Hell

I spit on myself twice today. Not the hair on my tongue spitting but the slapstick comedy mouth full of a refreshing beverage spray all over yourself type of thing.

I had a free moment to catch up on my DVR television shows I had "Tivo-ed" over the last week. I was watching Meet the Press as the panel was talking about the Supreme Court, the Roberts vote and the as yet unnamed replacement for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Gwen Ifill, of the New York Times, and this was a bit hard to hear as Tim Russert, who has been a huge disappointment in asking tough questions but that's another day's post, talked over her. Ifill said, and I had to rewind twice to hear this said, Pete Williams of NBC News has heard the W administration floating the name of Sen. Mel Martinez for the Supreme Court vacancy! Martinez is a nut-case stooge, he's W's former HUD secretary and he was elected, more or less, as a W proxy. If he is qualified to be on the highest court in America then I should be named Emperor of the Galaxy. (Cranky's Wife did once call me a dictator.) There goes my orange juice, at the back of my mouth, all over me.

So I cleaned myself off and picked up the paper and read about Katrina and then Rita and then, whoops there goes another mouthful of orange juice. I had to make sure I wasn't reading The Onion. Nope. Not The Onion. The headline that cause my second change of clothes? "Israel Seeks Seat on U.N. Security Council." It's not that I'm not for it. It's just a concept I hadn't really given much thought to. Sort of like trying not to be cranky. It just doesn't compute. Then again, if Libya can chair a U.N. Human Rights Commission and Syria, a terror-sponsoring nation, can actually be on the U.N. Security Council then why not Israel?

It's a possibility. Just like me not being cranky and actually being happy...Crap, there goes my orange juice again! Have to change clothes again. Later.

UPDATE: Hamas musing about recognizing Israel? Must have had some free time between building suicide bomb vests. Getting chilly down here. Brrrrr.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Brush with greatness

As loyal readers of the Curmudgeon will recall, top politicos seek me out when they are in Chicago. In August in was Sen. Bill Nelson who sought my presence. Last night it was Congressman Robert Wexler (D-Fl).

A small gathering at a local law firm was the scene where powerful real estate developers and business people were there to meet and greet the congressman. After meeting the Curmudgeon in person, Rep. Wexler said with a smile, "Daily, you're doing a heckuva job!" He was most kind.

Congressman Wexler is a down to earth, normal, very approachable regular guy who happens to in Congress. He actually does have a good heart although that phrase must be retired after W using it so often. He made a name for himself on the Clinton Impeachment panel ably defending Bill against the corrupt and hypocritical Republicans who would later be unmasked as such. He is a stand-up guy and I wish I had the money to buy a house in Boca Raton so he could be my representative. Send donations to get rid of me perhaps?

His voting record, a little info here and here, is remarkably reasonable and based on logic, reason and what works. He also has been a leader in fighting to get paper trails for election re-counts and a secure voting system so that people can have confidence in the results. The Curmudgeon wrote about the latest developments on this issue just yesterday.

I asked him a burning question of national importance, "Who do you hate in Congress? Who would you rather stand in the rain than share a taxi with?" I said, "off the record." Congressman Wexler said, "Forget off the record" and proceeded to tell me who was a miserable human being in the House and Senate. I'll save that for another posting. Let's just say the words "racist, Republican, Senator and Alabama" came up. Another house member from Indiana came up as being horrible and it might be this guy but I could be wrong. (On the other hand have you ever know the Curmudgeon to be wrong?)

I even pressed him on the recent pork filled highway bill that had over 6,000 earmarks, or pork projects, including the famous $250,000,000 Alaskan bridge to an island of fifty people thanks to Republican Don Young. For that price they could each have been bought a Lear jet. I asked Wexler, "so what earmarks did you get?" He said he voted against the highway bill. He did get some exit on a highway somewhere but but he did vote against the bill and that tells you something about him.

After eating as much of the free food I could get my little claws on, I slinked out the gathering so as to avoid the crush of people seeking autographs and political insights. Another cranky day for the Curmudgeon was had by all.

P.S. Wexler has a much better looking press secretary than W. Cheers.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Count the vote because voting counts?

"One man, once vote, once."


The last two presidential elections made it clear to everyone, at least all those who lost, that the intregrity of the actual voting process including counting the votes was less than, well, integritous. (google says it's a word, I'm not so sure.) I get a paper receipt for that Zagnut bar I bought at the Citgo station but not when I vote in a presidential election. Pitiful.

And what's worse is that after recommendations were made to correct this problem after 2000, there was fierce resistance from, guess who, Republicans in power in Florida and Washington. My favorite complaint was the cost of around a billion or two for the nation. A billion. Isn't that like a rounding error on the hundreds of billions being incinerated in the Iraq rat hole or in the mountain of money W is throwing at New Orleans? (Is he trying to fill in the New Orleans "bathtub" with money to bring it above sea level?) Estimates at the low end are that roughly $200,000 will be spent for each person who was displaced by Katrina and yet $4 a person to fix our election machines can't be found. And you wonder why I am perpetually cranky?

The Washington Post today catches everyone up on this issue - page 3 though. "Warning that public confidence in the nation's election system is flagging, a commission headed by former president Jimmy Carter and former secretary of state James A. Baker III today will call for significant changes in how Americans vote, including photo IDs for all voters, verifiable paper trails for electronic voting machines and impartial administration of elections." The Post went to say, "disputes over the counting of provisional ballots, the accuracy of registration lists, long lines at some polling places, timely administration of absentee ballots and questions about the security of some electronic voting machines tarnished the 2004 elections." Commission leaders say the goal of the panel's 87 recommendations -- at an estimated cost of $1.35 billion -- is to make participation easier while also enhancing ballot integrity.

The Brad Blog by way of Capt. Fogg pointed out a story that the Curmudgeon hasn't confirmed, about, what a shock, potential tampering with Diebold voting boxes. Even if the story is not true maybe W and his merry band of corrupt cronies can take $1.35 billion from one of the Iraqi slush funds and fix the problem. If people do not have faith in election outcomes then all the blogging and carping and complaining and reporting is just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It's a pointless waste of time. (As opposed to a pointed waste of time like a typical day for the DC.) Since politics is packaged about the same as a Zagnut bar shouldn't we all get receipt for both?

BONUS POSTING: Remind me never to drive into the city. Got on highway at 7:00 a.m. got in office at 8:45 a.m. I think my old school roomie (no not Michael Brown but I do wish I was an old roomie of Joe Allbaugh) was right when he mused that traffic was one of the plagues Moses placed on Egypt. On the Curmudgeon too.

BONUS POSTING II: Letterman Top Ten List on questions for new FEMA director. (By way of Andrew Sullivan blog)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Raise don't call

The current endlessly debated question among Democrats is "how can we start winning elections?" Democrats, long the majority in the House and in control of the Senate more often than not is playing catch-up. The House went Republican in 1994 and the Senate in 2002. The White House, well, we all know that story. Since 1980, Republicans have been in the Oval Office 17 of the last 25 years. How do Democrats win elections? Fielding better candidates is a good start but without a "brand" it's just someone trying to sell you something rather than you being excited about buying. They knock down the doors to buy iPods not Democrats.

David Mamet in the Los Angeles Times has a brilliant poker/political strategy piece that is must reading for anyone interested in how the Demcrats can win elections. It's what the Curmudgeon has been saying, although not as eloquently as Mr. "first place gets a Cadillac, second place gets a set of steak knives, third place you're fired." I've said ala The Untouchables, if they pull a knife you pull a gun, if they send one of yours to the hospital you put two of theirs in the morgue. That's the Capone, Chicago and political way.

Mamet wrote, "In combat, in politics, in poker, there is no certainty; there is only likelihood, and the likelihood is that aggression will prevail." Another gem, "The Republicans, like the perpetual raiser at the poker table, became increasingly bold as the Democrats signaled their absolute reluctance to seize the initiative." Whereas, "[t]he Democrats, similarly, in their quest for a strategy that would alienate no voters, have given away the store, and they have given away the country." Amen.

I don't know what the magic branding needs to be, maybe something George Carlin talked about on Real Time With Bill Maher, that is that the right wingers - Republicans, are mainly interested in property and property rights and left of center - Democrats, are mainly interested in people and human rights. Not a bad place to start. A sort of grand unification theory for Democrats and Republicans. Look at Katrina, Republicans are interested in the looting of some televisions, (except in Iraq), who gets free $2000 debit cards, no-bid contracts for their friends at Halliburton and Bechtel and suspending minimum wage laws for workers doing the reconstruction. Democrats are interested in getting food, shelter and a chance for a better life for the victims of Katrina and bad government. It's a clear difference.

Leading i.e. raising, is not about following the pack and running ahead to get in front of it. It's about getting the pack to follow you when you are already in front. Take a stand, go all in. If you lose elections in the short run it won't be much different than what's going on now. Let the Republicans show the country how bad it can get under their governance. People are figuring it out. They will see the bad product they are buying. Offer a better, bolder more elegantly designed product and they will beat down the doors to vote for it.

On the other hand, the real world example of a bad product that runs poorly is a monopoly/dictatorship. Microsoft Windows, a error and security-ridden operating system has over 90% of the market and a bold, brilliant and elegantly designed, perfectly functioning and secure product like Apple OS X Tiger has about 3%. So much for relying on the good sense of the American public to figure it out. But it's still worth the risk.

BONUS POSTING: Last night on Faux News' The O'Leilly Factor, Former judge Andrew Napolitano, identified as not just a "judicial analyst" but a "senior judicial analyst" said of the recent pledge of allegiance ruling that "under god in the pledge of allegiance is not religious, it's not an affirmation of religion, it's cultural and historical accepted since 1954." Uh-huh. And the nativity scene is just a argument for better pre- and postnatal health care.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Can you lend a hand?

Aron Ralston, is the man who cut off his own hand after getting it stuck after taking a fall while mountain climbing. You can read about his ordeal in his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

He was recently interviewed on the Howard Stern Radio Show. Aron explained that while he was climbing a mountain in Utah, he accidentally pulled a large rock out and it ended up crushing his right hand and trapping him. He was out alone and couldn't free his hand. He immediately thought about amputating his arm to get free. He tried chipping away at the rock but figured it would have taken a month to get himself out that way. Aron said that a vision of a young boy appeared to him and recommended he amputate his hand. Aron commented that he thought the image was of his future son, so he needed to take his advice.

After a day of being stuck, Aron made his first attempt at cutting off his hand since his hand was already dead, without circulation and developing gangrene. Aron had a dull knife with him and putting the knife into his skin felt like cutting through room-temperature butter, and that as soon as his dead hand was punctured, a gas came out of it. He was unable to saw through his hand.

After six days of being stuck he realized he wasn't going to be able to cut through his bones with the knife he had. Aron decided he had to snap the bones off to get free of the rock if he had any chance of surviving. In order to accomplish this, Aron maneuvered his weight to use the leverage of the rocks to break the bones. Once his hand was off, Aron still had the task of climbing back to his vehicle, which was eight miles away and then driving the manual transmission truck, without a right hand, two hours to get to a phone. Given the amount of blood he had already lost, two of his body's five liters, doing so would have been nearly impossible. Fortunately, a rescue helicopter appeared as he was heading back to his truck and took him to a hospital within hours of his probable death.

Aron said there was a time when he was trapped that he figured he was going to die. He even shot a goodbye tape for his family with a video camera he was carrying with him on the trip. However, when he figured out that he needed to break his own bones to survive, he did so without hesitation because, as he said, the worst pain imaginable would've been better than dying.

Because he was so dehydrated, Aron talked about the fact that he had to drink his own urine while he was stuck. Apparently, the top part of a cup of urine is easier to consume than the bottom portion, so Aron used his water bottle and camel back to get only the urine he thought he could stomach. He commented that the urine didn't quench his thirst, but it did give him enough nourishment to survive.

Ralston isn't upset by what happened and plans on climbing alone again adding that the rush he gets from the activity outweighs any pain it may have caused him. Aron said that the lesson he learned from his amputation was that anyone can overcome adversity by turning it into an advantage.

Howard Stern reasoned the real lesson was for people to never leave their homes.

My thought exactly.

BONUS POSTING: Sen. John McCain was on Sean Hannity's radio show last night talking about the recent federal court decision affirming the ruling that the reciting of the pledge of allegiance in school was unconstitutional. The court held that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God." McCain said the ruling won't stand and that in the meantime it's great news for the Republicans for fund raising purposes. He also said the case won't survive review in the Supreme Court and if it does, he said the right of the government to force little kids to swear an oath every morning to god will be protected by a constitutional amendment voted out of Congress and supported by W. Forced to read a written statement? I guess one prisoner of war's coercion is a religiously obsessed man's constitutional amendment. And to think I once had respect for this guy.

"More Jesus, less freedom. McCain '08"

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ribs and Beer

What a surprise!

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Sept. 11 Commission hearings, April 8, 2004:

"No one could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon -- into the World Trade Center, using planes as a missile."

Previously secret portions of Sept. 11 Commission report completed in August, 2004 and whose release was opposed by The White House for a year:

American aviation officials were warned as early as 1998 that Al Qaeda could "seek to hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a U.S. landmark." The officials also realized months before the Sept. 11 attacks that two of the three airports used in the hijackings had suffered repeated security lapses.


Last night I had ribs and beer with two friends who are political junkies although much less cranky than I am. We, of course, solved most of the world's problems before dessert. We did come up with a few cranky thoughts:

1. Assuming Hillary will be the Democratic nominee in 2008 that would mean a Bush or Clinton has been on the national ticket in every election since 1980. Seven straight presidential elections. Amazing that over 28 years in a country of about 300,000,000 people only two families can produce such "qualified" candidates. P.S. "Family" is a good choice of word for the "go to the mattresses" Bushies.

2. No Democrat from Massachusetts should ever again be a presidential or vice-presidential nominee.

3 No more women managing presidential campaigns. Sorry. Susan Estrich, Donna Brazile and Mary Beth Cahill ruined it for you double xx-ers. If an entire state's population are given the boot from national elections a few women must go as well. I think if you don't have family jewels you don't understand the level of pain getting kicked in them produces and that level of pain must be inflicted on the other side to win elections. (Childbirth notwithstanding.)

4. Kerry needed a tailor and shorter answers to even have a chance of winning. The lanky, hunched over look while droning on about wonkish details could have been replaced with shoulder pads and "Vote to make things better, not worse. Vote Kerry-Edwards" (nod MC).

Of course this could just be the beer talking.

P.S. If Democrats don't gain seats in the House or Senate, I'm done. No more politics, no more blog, no more nothing. And given this rough projection of the toss-up competitive races in the U.S. Senate, the Curmudgeon could likely go back into his cave permanently in November 2006.

BONUS POSTING: From the "Some animals are more equal than others" file:

ABC's Nightline from Tuesday, Sept. 12:

U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (D-NO), and eight-term, senior member of Ways and Means committee has a house in the affluent Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans. First he was let through a military blockade of the city on friday Sept. 2, five days after Hurricane Katrina struck. A criminal investigation into Jefferson's dealing with a high tech company in Virginia has been ongoing and the has FBI raided his NO house his Washington, DC house, his car and his accountant's house.

While people were still trapped on roofs and in their homes, Jthe Democratic Congressman began to tour the damage using a National Guard 5-ton truck and at least half a dozen military guards. During the tour Jefferson directed the military escort to drive to his house. Although this was not part of tour they complied with the demand. The truck was parked on the lawn of his house and the congressman went in alone. After an hour Jefferson emerged with a laptop computer, 3 suitcases and a box the size of a small refrigerator and the military guards loaded it on the truck.

Unfortunately the 5-ton truck was struck on lawn and the group signaled a rescue helicopter that was carrying 4 civilians having just been saved. A coast guard rescuer was lowered and Jefferson considered leaving but decided against it. The rescuer was hoisted up alone but then for some reason was lowered again to make sure Congressman Jefferson didn't want to go in helicopter which he declined again. After spending 45 minutes hovering over house, the rescue helicopter left, rescued 3 other civilians and then running low on fuel ended that mission. A second 5-ton truck was sent out to rescue the first truck and eventually the congressman and his and his personal items were recovered.

Congressman Jefferson said nothing he retrieved from his house related to his criminal investigation. Uh-huh. I'm sure it was just sock balls and AOL buddy lists on those suitcases and laptop.

BONUS POSTING 2: From the "that was fast/what a surprise" file -- The ink isn't even dry on the Katrina relief packages Congress passed and the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that his office had received accusations of fraud and waste in the multibillion-dollar relief programs linked to Hurricane Katrina and would investigate how no-bid contracts were awarded to several large, politically well-connected companies.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Cranky Thoughts

Item #1:

Wakeman, Ohio -- Sheriff’s deputies found 11 children, who range in age from 1 to 14 and who have various disabilities, locked in cages less than 3½ feet high inside a home. The children had no blankets or pillows, and the cages were rigged with alarms that sounded if opened.

The couple denied they had abused or neglected the children.

Chicago, IL -- Two genes involved in determining the size of the human brain have undergone substantial evolution in the last 60,000 years, researchers say, leading to the surprising suggestion that the brain is still undergoing rapid evolution.

Wakeman, Ohio must not have been a part of the brain gene research.

Item #2:

As the Gulf Coast region struggles to recover from the catastrophe inflicted by Hurricane Katrina, a campaign is under way to persuade both parties to hold their 2008 presidential nominating conventions in the now-devastated city of New Orleans.

Is this sort of like returning to the scene of the crime?

Item #3:

Washington, D.C. -- David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times:

"From Day One, they [the White House] had decided that our
public relations is not going to be honest. Privately, they
admit mistakes all the time. Publicly -- and I've had this debate
with them since Day One; I always say admit a mistake, people will
give you credit. [I've had this debate] with people who work in the
White House."

Herat, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai urged voters Tuesday to support honest candidates in landmark legislative elections this weekend.

America could use that urging too.

Monday, September 12, 2005

See I told you so

To say that government failed the victims of Hurricane Katrina is about as obvious as saying that I will be cranky today -- it's a universal truth. But government failure, state local and federal, largely federal, is the goal of the conservatives in control of America. (When I use the term "conservative" I'm really talking about Republicans as they don't really conserve anything -- money, the environment, energy, etc.). Katrina is a political and economic windfall for W and his cronies serving dual purposes. The first is to prove government is the problem and then to profit from it. In the words of Colin Powell, first we're going to cut it off and then we're going to kill it.

Ronald Reagan dramatically increased defense spending throughout the 1980s in an effort to challenge and defend against the Soviet Union in the fourth decade of the Cold War. The spending was self-fulfilling. If the Soviets kept up with America's defense spending then the Reagan Republicans would say, "See, we had to spend all that money just to keep up with the Evil Empire." And if, as it turned out, the Soviets couldn't keep up with the spending, they would implode. "See, we spent them into oblivion." Either way the purpose of the spending would be self-fulfilling. It's a can't lose argument.

Tax cuts are another area of phony self-fulfilling argument. If the economy is not doing well -- high unemployment, low GDP growth, high interest rates, etc. -- the Republicans argue tax cuts are needed to stimulate the economy. When the economy is strong -- low unemployment, solid GDP growth, low interest rates, etc. -- Republicans argue tax cuts are returning the people's money and the government can afford to do it. It's self-fulfilling, it wins elections and why pay your bills when the government can't be forced into bankruptcy unlike Katrina victims. Hope they grabbed their last six months of pay stubs as the water rose otherwise they can't even file under the new law. And no, there is no exemption for natural disasters, thank you very much compassionate conservatives.

Today's W Republicans are not that different in the way they govern. While denouncing big government they dramatically increase its size, budget, deficit, debt, scope, power and control, they spend like a drunken Paris Hilton arguing that we need to spend to defeat terrorists and rogue regimes. If we do, it's "good thing we spent all that money to defeat them," if we don't it's "good thing we spent all that money just to keep up." Self-fulfilling. It's a can't lose argument.

With Hurricane Katrina it's the same thing. FEMA became a political dumping ground for W cronies. The current and former FEMA chiefs were college roommates. Small world. Out of all the people in America who could lead the federal agency responsible for reacting to disasters, natural and man-made, including nuclear, biological and chemical accidents and terrorism, the last two were a former W campaign manager and the other was the W campaign manager's roomie at Oklahoma. So much for the harder you work the luckier you get. The more you know the Bush family the luckier you get. So how do we fix FEMA? We privatize it! To our friends of course.

So the hurricane scenario that everyone but W could have imagined happened and New Orleans was turned into a cross between Atlantis and Lord of the Flies. Karl Rove, suffering from kidney stones, was still no doubt well enough to "focus group" his response and "the blame game" became the shibboleth of the W Republicans. It's quite a good choice of words since they see everything as a political game even the rescue of dying Americans. "See," they tell you, "government failed. Government is the problem not the solution." Of course they are the government but that's a minor detail for these people. Expand government -- translation, expand cronyism, build up the network of insiders in and out of government, spend trillions of dollars funneled through government contracts to private crony corporations, then when government fails as in Katrina, spend even more money to the same crony corporations to fix what you broke profiting two or three times for the same work. It's a mobius loop of corrupt governance.

They're from the government and they're here to help -- themselves that is.

BONUS UPDATE: FEMA Director Michael Brown just resigned. If Joe Allbaugh and "Brownie" have other roomies from college, keep your phone lines open.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Compassionate Conservatism

"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." --Rep. Richard Baker (R-LA), "overheard" in a conversation with lobbyists.

"I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving." --Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA).

"Given the abysmal failure of state and local officials in Louisiana...I hope the House will refrain from directly appropriating any funds . . . to either the state of Louisiana or the city of New Orleans." --Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Co.) in letter to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

"I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me." --Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) asked in the interview whether it made sense to spend billions rebuilding New Orleans since it lies below sea level.

"The question is how do you separate the needy from those who just want a $2,000 handout." --Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK).

"Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we're going to move to Houston. What I’m hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this --this is working very well for them." --Barbara Bush, Sept. 5 to NPR.

“the question is if people know year after year after year a natural disaster occurs in a particular place and people continue to build there and want to live there, should they bear the responsibility of buying insurance or should everyone else bear the responsibility?” --Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) in radio interview who supports federal assistance for homeowners in Arizona after repeated forest fires.

"I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen." --Jack Burkman, Republican Strategist.

"The Lord Jesus Christ is going to come on time. If we just wait." --Sec. of State Condi Rice, Sun. Sept. 4 saying a few words at a church service in Whistler, Alabama.

"Judge Roberts can, maybe, you know, be thankful that a tragedy has brought him some good." --Pat Robertson, Sept. 1, 700 Club.

"The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." --W, Sept. 2, 2005, Mobile, AL.

"The death tax is an unfair double taxation of income, which hurts America's small businesses and farms and threatens job growth." RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, Sept. 1, 2005 in e-mail pushing tax cut while New Orleans drowns.

"I believe that the great city of New Orleans will rise again and be a greater city of New Orleans. (Applause.) I believe the town where I used to come from, Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself -- occasionally too much -- (laughter) -- will be that very same town, that it will be a better place to come to." --W, Sept. 2, 2005, longingly remembering his partying youth.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." --W, Sept. 2, 2005, Mobile, AL.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A simple question

Forget all the spin all the talk. Forget the litany of stories of how bad things were and are in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Forget about who declared what when even though it's clear the attack dogs of the right are lying about it. Just ask one question to those in chrage - "Why couldn't you get water to dying people?" Related questions would be "Why did babies die, and they did, because FEMA couldn't get a bottle of water to them?" Mind you, these were babies held in the arms of their mothers who were being interviewed by t.v. reporters, with camera and sound crews, a producer and a few armed escorts, who got to them. So if Gerald Rivera can get to them or Duke students can get to them or Oprah or Sean Penn can get to them how can FEMA cannot?

It's a simple question. Why can't you get bottles of water to dying people at the Superdome or Convention Center? Media and rescue helicopters were throwing bottled water down to roof survivors. How come the mighty U.S. government can't? Oh, maybe it's Mayor Ray Nagin's fault since he lords over a fleet of helicopters. Or maybe it's Gov. Blanco's fault since see has control over the 6th Fleet and search and rescue air wings. Water. Simple question. Water.

Not when a disaster area was declared or when an evacuation was ordered. Water. Why can't you get water to dying babies? And they did die from lack of water.

Michael "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" Brown is the head of FEMA and on their website brags, "Under Secretary Brown has led Homeland Security’s response to more than 164 presidentially declared disasters and emergencies, including the 2003 Columbia Shuttle disaster and the California wildfires in 2003. In 2004, Mr. Brown led FEMA’s thousands of dedicated disaster workers during the most active hurricane season in over 100 years, as FEMA delivered aid more quickly and more efficiently than ever before." All that experience but he can't get water to dying babies.

Michael Chertoff, the Director of Homeland Security, who along with Brownie only seems to want to secure his next job rather than secure food and water to dying toddlers was also breathtaking in his calm explanation of baby murder due to lack of water. He along with Brownie are playing the "no one thought," "no one could have imagined," "we just found out about those people today" cards and unfortunately some people are buying. Maybe someone should ask him if he could imagine toddlers and infants dying because they couldn't get water to hurricane victims in an American city?

Water to babies. They couldn't do it. Brownie told Ted Kopple about the people at the convention center who had no food or water, "My heart goes out to those people." As Jon Stewart so brilliantly commented, "Can they drink your heart? Can they eat it?" I would add, "do you have a heart?"

Water. A simple question.

Oh, and by the way, FEMA's website also proudly proclaims that Brownie is in charge and directs the Nuclear Incident Response Team. Sleep well tonight.

BONUS POSTING: Andy Borowitz gets the Curmudgeon to crack a brief smile. Read how it happened here.

BONUS SIMPLE QUESTIONS: If Brownie hadn't known someone, would this graduate of a non-accredited law school, former Arabian horse commissioner for stewards and judges have been named general counsel of FEMA? Except for knowing someone should a FEMA chief be selected without disaster relief and management experience? Do you W lovers really believe that FEMA chiefs should be selected because of who they know or what they know? Are there any standards left or is it all just about good connections, good hearts but no brains?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina and the Bat-Signal

I find it interesting, in a sad and resigned way, how W and Rove have responded to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. After a few days of acting like this was a flooded basement rather than a city, Republicans got their marching orders from W's Special Assistant for Propaganda Karl Rove. Say we shouldn't play the "blame game" right now and not try to make political points with hurricane victims then go out and blame Louisiana Governor Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. It's their fault they say. Nagin should resign they whisper. Lie about when Gov. Blanco declared a state of emergency. Probably Clinton's fault they say as everything before and after Clinton is his fault. And the sheer force of Hurricane Rove fighting the headwinds of Katrina is having some success.

All the talking heads, who would defend W even if there was videotape of him ordering the destruction of the levees and floodwalls in NO, now sound like a chorus in perfect harmony. State and local government is to blame, they are the front line and first responders, they should have prepared better, blah, blah blah. Trouble is that under a heading of "Strategic Goals" on its website, the Department of Homeland Security brags:

"Protection -- Safeguard our people and their freedoms, critical infrastructure, property and the economy of our Nation from acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies.

Response -- Lead, manage and coordinate the national response to acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies.

Recovery -- Lead national, state, local and private sector efforts to restore services and rebuild communities after acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies."

Oops. Who gets fired or promoted for that one? Maybe the same lackey who boldly stated in the DHS Strategic Goals section, "Organizational Excellence -- Value our most important resource, our people. Create a culture that promotes a common identity, innovation, mutual respect, accountability and teamwork to achieve efficiencies, effectiveness, and operational synergies."

I guess it reads better on paper than in practice. Sort of like my blog.

For its part FEMA's website says, "as it has for more than 20 years, FEMA's mission remains: to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters..." What part of lead don't you understand?

If a major terrorist attack struck Washington D.C. would the same talking heads argue that Mayor Anthony Williams is in charge and FEMA, DHS and the 82nd Airborne should just wait for his Bat Signal? Rove and his band of propagandists are truly earning their paychecks, payoffs and government contracts this week. Before you know it there will be investigations and prosecutions of the construction workers who built the Superdome and the floodwalls. Hey, it worked for Abu Ghraib. As for me I'm going out and buying bottled water, Captain Crunch with crunch berries, duct tape, plastic sheets, a gun and a Bat-Signal. You never know when it may come in handy.

BONUS POSTING: From the adding salt to their wounds department, the LA Times raises the point that the new bankruptcy bill will keep the Katrina victims drowning in debt long after the water recedes. Guess all those reckless borrowers brought this on themselves. Another compassionate day in Bush world.

BONUS UPDATE: From the I told you so department, Sen. Rick (man on dog sex) Santorum wants to prosecute the Katrina victims who didn't evacuate. (Nod to Andrew

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Fool me twice

Anyone remember the 2004 election? The one where Bush-Cheney portrayed themselves as international superheroes who would keep you safe? The one where Democratic policies would lead to the destruction of the nuclear family by either nuclear terrorism or same-sex marriage? "Under W everything will be fine. Under Kerry, gay jihadists will burn your house to the ground." (A nod goes out to Saturday Night Live). Talk about breaking campaign promises.

Is it impossible to get enough qualified people at senior levels of government to make things work right? Why don't we try it once and find out. FEMA director Michael Brown, himself deluged by a hurricane of criticism of his background and qualifications, or lack thereof, got support from W when he came down to Mississippi and said, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Now that could be parsed to mean you're doing a heck of a bad job but Brownie is still employed. Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security director said of the uncounted dead, "It's going to be an unhappy number." Unhappy? An unhappy number is my property taxes. This may turn out to be a multiple 9/11 death toll. Chertoff, another tough guy on camera but failure when real work needs to get down is still there and no doubt is well on his way to even higher levels of government service.

A lot of us knew how bad it would be with these stuffed shirts in charge. A profanity laced rant saying we told you so is worth reading again here. The only way this gets worse is if some former hairdresser of Laura Bush, now promoted to Undersecretary of Karl Rove, uses "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina & the Waves for some political ad. Given the intellectually lazy and politically insensitive track record of these people I wouldn't put it past them.

BONUS POSTING: Three Duke students pass themselves off as AP reporters and rescue people FEMA and DHS said couldn't be rescued just yet. After these students replace Brownie and Chertoff maybe the third can take over for Rumsfeld. (Nod to Andrew Sullivan)

Monday, September 05, 2005

What more can you say?

There has been so much said and printed on Hurricane Katrina that there is not much more to add. Anyone who has been following this story pretty closely has heard about FEMA being folded into Homeland Security, having their budget cut and talk of getting rid of it completely. You've heard the current FEMA director, Michael ("Brownie, you're doing a great job") Brown, was friend of a friend of W's and was a disaster himself as the attorney for an Arabian horse association. You've heard Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff being ripped a new one by even Faux News when he repeatedly claimed that the Feds didn't know about the Lord of the Flies sequel going on at the New Orleans Convention Center.

And if you've been listening closely it sounds like no levees failed but it was actually the concrete floodwalls, designed in the 60s to withstand a category 3 hurricane, that broke. Kind of makes you want to start doing those home repairs you've been putting off. So the hundreds of millions or a few billion that should have been spent over the last 20 years is now going to cost something like $100 billion. Probably closer to $200 billion after the frenzied waste of throwing money to anyone connected to W before they contract again to do it right. Halliburton is already getting their first drink of government nectar.

You've heard the party line, and when I say party I'm talking about the Republicans, that "now is not the time to point fingers. Fix the problem not the blame." Only the problem is the incompetent and arrogant Medal of Freedom to-be recipients who are in charge right now. The same people, Brownie and Chertoff who have said that people were warned to get out and a lot didn't. Forget about the argument that they might not have been able to get into their Hummers and drive away, it's interesting that these guys think the people of New Orleans should have known how biblically devastating Hurricane Katrina was going to be but they and the fedral government didn't. Once again personal responsibility is for other people who didn't have foresight to be a friend of W's.

What more can you say? New Orleans is now Atlantis because we didn't fix the floodwalls when people who weren't war profiteers said that's what we should spend money on. We've seen there is no plan for a disaster this size even though that's what we've been told is coming from the evil doers in caves around the world. And New Orleans isn't even huge - it's 500,000 people. So Chicago, LA, New York, Kansas City, Atlanta - hope you sleep well at night. I can't.

BONUS UPDATE: Karl Rove has set up a war room in the White House to fix political not storm damage. The New York Times lays it out here and the Republican "blame state and local officials" memo is already being repeated by every employee of the GOP which means Faux News, Rush, Hannity, O'Lielly, G. Gordon, Tony Snow, etc., etc. The strategy is always protect the man, W, not the country no matter what.

BONUS POSTING: Look and listen to this and then try to figure out if it's fake and a sick joke or real and a sick joke that your tax dollars paid for.

BONUS POSTING II: God vs. God? The New Orleans Audubon zoo lost none of its large population of flamingos. "They evolved in a hurricane-prone area," said its curator. "They just hugged the ground, and their bodies are very aerodynamic. We didn't lose a single one."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina Bin Laden

It was a tropical storm at first and they knew it was coming. It was then a category 1 hurricane and they knew it was coming. It passed over Florida killing at least 11 people and they knew it was coming. It grew in strength in the Gulf of Mexico and whether it hit the gulf states as a category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane is meaningless. It was a disaster that was a certainty to happen. The only question was the exact zero hour of D-Day.

As we have all seen in horrifying and head shaking disbelief this was a nuclear explosion in weather form. The very catastrophic event W and his college and father's friends, who run the country, have been warning was only a matter of time since 9/11, happened. So now is the time and it's clear that all the billions spent and all the "preparation" by the Department of Homeland Security in the last four years has been a fraud. There is no emergency plan. The homeland security money is safely in the hands of W and his Soprano-like "family." You are on your own. You and your duct tape and plastic sheets.

Can you image a dirty bomb going off in New York City? How about one of those mushroom clouds over an American city that Condi, when she isn't buying Ferragamo shoes or Cheney when he isn't hiding from reality, warned us about? What about an anthrax or ricin attack through aerial unmanned planes that didn't exist in Iraq? If this is the reaction by the government, federal and state, (I'd say local but the Mayor of New Orleans would have to be Aquaman to command anything there now) for a natural and known disaster what hope is there for us when a jihadist disaster hits us? Sorry to be negative about it but the answer is none.

We can't get field hospitals set up in hours? We can't get water to the Superdome? How did NBC get there? Too dangerous for convoys? Order them to drive to the convention center! Is the risk of driving through the Big Easy even a minute fraction of the risk convoys, driving under orders, face in Iraq everyday? Is the mission any less important to get food, water, medicine and diapers to victims in New Orleans than it is to get payoff money to Tikrit?

And what's worse is now that we see that communications don't work and emergency response is fourth-world in competence (notwithstanding Faux News Radio blaring, "Hurricane Katrina - America Responds!" before and after commercial breaks), hundreds of billions will be re-spent to the same thieves who got all those Homeland Security contracts the first time around only this time they'll "do it right." And that's on top of the $100 billion, estimated by one firm, it's going to cost to re-build New Orleans. One guess who's going to pay for all that and one guess who is going to benefit.

The worst thing about the Hurricane Katrina Bin Laden is that it pulled back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz-like fantasy "Homeland Security" world W and company have created. Let the word go forth from this place that a new generation of incompetent politicians haven't done the basic job of government. Protect its citizens. If they can't protect us from the aftermath of a natural disaster we knew was coming--just turn on the Weather Channel, then how can we think we are prepared for the jihadist disaster we claim we know is coming? Congrats W, you just gave category 5 aid, comfort and inspiration to an enemy who gets cable tv in those dark caves.

BONUS UPDATE: An f-word laced rant that sounds like the Curmudgeon offline is truly worht a read here.

Friday, September 02, 2005

America's worst hour

A disgrace. That sums it up pretty well. W playing with a guitar and Barney as New Orleans drowned, Condi having a laugh at the Broadway musical comedy Spamalot and Ken Mehlman, RNC Chairman emailing Ohioans on Thursday to call Sen. George Voinovich to get behind the repeal of the estate tax so the heirs of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates can keep their untaxed fortunes forever. All this while people, most heartbreakingly, infants are suffering and sometimes dying because we don't have the political competence to get water and crackers to the New Orleans Convention Center? A disgrace.

The damage and destruction is biblical in the Gulf States but the lack of planning and response is biblical in its own way. Scratch faith-based hurricane relief, it doesn't work. The truth is the Republicans who claimed, "voted for us because we know how to run things," don't. Now their tactic will be to print tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars that someone else will have to pay back 30 years from now and try to be the party that saved New Orleans. A disgrace.

And Democrats aren't blameless in the handling of this disaster either. A small but telling example happened on CNN between Anderson Cooper and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). She took the opportunity to thank President Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Sen. Frist and Sen. Reid and Cooper interrupted and said excuse me Senator there is a woman dead in the street here being eaten by rats and listening to politicians thanking and congratulating each other is sickening. Watch the video here.

Nearly a week after Katrina hit, babies don't have food or water and tens of thousands of people are suffering, dying and emotionally shattered. And the greatest nation on earth can't help them faster than Fedex can get my sale of X-box video games sold on ebay to Honolulu? The only thing more disgraceful will be the Medals of Freedom W will probably give to the head of FEMA and Homeland Security. Print money, print medals, politicians thanking each other while rats eat bodies of dead Americans in an American city. America's worst hour.

BONUS POSTING: Once again, proof The New York Times plagiarizes from The Daily Curmudgeon. Today's Times editorial entitled "Baghdad and Philadelphia" looks and sounds a lot like "Baghdad is just like Philadelphia" posted by yours truly two days ago.

UPDATE: W just had a photo op with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Alabama Gov. Riley and after a few "we'll fix everything comments" he actually said, "Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house, this guy lost his entire house, there's going to be a fantastic house and I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." I wish I could say I made this quote up. I didn't.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Bush

You may have heard or read about W cutting funds for levee repair and upkeep for New Orleans to prevent against a flood disaster that was widely known to be just a matter of time. Editor and Publisher writes that beginning in 2003, "the flow of federal dollars toward" flood control in Southeast Louisiana "dropped to a trickle." The Army Corps of Engineers "never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain." In addition, "at least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars." The Washington Post also explains that under W, FEMA has been, in effect, systematically downgraded and all but dismantled by the Department of Homeland Security.

I'm not going to blame New Orleans becoming Lake New Orleans on W but no doubt he shares the blame with any and all officials who were in a position to fund the upkeep, maintenance and re-building of those levees and didn't. It's much sexier to stand in front of troops and fancy flat-screens and computer terminals at some national threat center than to fix a wall. How about build a second or third barrier like the Dutch did to protect the Netherlands? Too late. It's the roads, bridges, levees and other infrastructure that needs some attention - not tax cuts for Paris Hilton.

How about this - what else isn't being fixed that may end up killing a bunch of people here? And adding insult to injury, Bill O'Lielly of Faux News said last night we can't pay to fix these things because "we are already taxed up to our eyeballs." Amazing. We have billions and billions to reconstruct Falluja but not New Orleans. Simply amazing. By Friday night Faux News will be blaming Clinton, (both of them), the New York Times, and maybe even Cindy Sheehan.

So after years of degrading levees and FEMA why is it any surprise that tsunami-like flooding occurs and the disaster response is slow, ineffective and on par with Banda Aceh, Indonesia? It's a disgrace. What does this say about the ability of the federal government to response to large scale disasters? It says you are on your own. Any outrage by the media? Nope. They endlessly talk about looters stealing crackers and peanut butter for survival and give attention to some wealthy couple who paid $3,700 to get junior a limo ride back to suburban Glencoe near Chicago.

Since most of the residents of New Orleans can't hire a limo to drive them to one of the wealthiest suburbs in America maybe some attention should be given to how this happened and why there was no disaster plan to implement. The people of New Orleans deserve better whether they voted for W or not. And the people of Mississippi deserve better even though they did vote for W. We all deserve better. Doubt we'll get it from W who values a man with a "good heart" rather than a logical, scientific and thoughtful brain.

BONUS POSTING: A Hong Kong jury Thursday convicted an American of murdering her wealthy investment banker husband by drugging him with a milkshake laced with sedatives and then beating him to death. My wife wanted and just bought a smoothie maker presumably for cranky jr. Should I be worried?