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September 2005
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The Temple of Ultor
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September 30, 2005
Time to mobilize the 101st Fighting Keyboarders!
The Army fell 7,000 short of recruiting targets for the year. That's the first shortfall of any size since 1999, and the largest -- in both percentage and raw numbers -- since 1979. When the recruiting target was twice the size it is now.

Numbers for the Army National Guard were worse.

Perhaps concerned Americans should start putting recruiting flyers under the wipers of all those SUVs with "support the troops" magnets.

Pitching line of the year...
Giants reliever Scott Eyre, May 2, vs. Arizona: 0 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

No base runners, but one run? A strikeout, but no outs? Here's what happened: he came into the game with two out and pitched to one batter. He struck out the batter, but the catcher dropped the third strike and the batter reached first. Eyre was then removed, and a subsequent pitcher gave up a double which drove in the runner from first. Since there had been two out when the third strike was dropped, the run was unearned.

New Frontiers in Human Interface Design?

Actually, it's an art installation. Pretty cool, though.

September 29, 2005
What's to read....?
This is pretty cool. You enter an author you like, and it puts up a "map" of similar authors based on what people who bought books by that author also bought. Here, check out a few of my favorite authors.

(This one certainly didn't look anything like I expected....)

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.
This is just too funny. I'll save you the trip....
As our Sister Toldjah noted earlier, the "indictment" of Tom Delay is entirely bogus - from what I've read, Tom Delay didn't know about the perfectly legal transaction he is accused of conspiring to make. We have now left entirely the field of normal political conflict and entered a twilight world where fantasy is presented as fact and the only standard of conduct is "will it work?". This is not the actions of a political Party engaged in seeking a majority - it is the action of a Party determined to destroy its opponents entirely and sieze all power for itself...it is, in short, the stuff from which civil wars are made.
This, from the people who have brought us Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity. The people who threw the 2000 election into the courts. The people who proudly claim that they "make their own reality".

Two words for you, guys: Ken Starr. OK, two more: Swift Vets. And since it's Friday, two more: Vince Foster.

Oh, the title is Hosea 8:7.

Advances in Investigation
SecDef Don Rumsfeld announced a new breakthrough in making the US military a lighter, more reactive force: several new investigations which have already been closed have been prepared in anticipation of more events such as the detainee deaths at Baghram, the reported detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and Forward Base Mercury, and the "photos-for-porn" reports. This is expected to allow the Pentagon to respond to future events even more quickly.
Incredible.
John Aravosis at AMERICAblog has (mercifully) edited examples of the sort of photos someone - allegedly US soldiers - was submitting to an amateur porn site in exchange for access. And now we are told this:
The Army Criminal Investigation Command in Iraq conducted the preliminary inquiry within the past week but closed it after concluding no felony crime had been committed and failing to determine whether U.S. soldiers were responsible for the photos and whether they showed actual war dead, Army officials said.
Pardon the language, but what the fuck kind of seriously bad drugs are these people on? Look at the photos Aravosis has up. You mean they can't identify the soldiers in those photos? And if those aren't "war dead", exactly what are they?

I weep for my country.

Claude Rains visits Louisiana
People in small-town St. Helena parish are shocked - shocked! - to discover how many among them are all too willing to believe the racist portrayals of Katrina refugees.
"The only thing we see about these people on the news is what happened in the Superdome," said Philip Devall, 42, a white resident of Greensburg, at a recent meeting of the parish government. "They're rapists and thugs and murderers. I'm telling you, half of them have criminal records. I've worked all my life to have what I have. I can't lose it, and I can't stand guard 24 hours a day."

About 2,000 evacuees have been staying with friends and family in the parish since Hurricane Katrina, and police officials here say that crime related to the newcomers has been virtually nonexistent. But many residents say that fear is the driving force behind their opposition.

"I want to know how many sex offenders they're going to move in next to me," said Marci Kent, 36, also a white resident of Greensburg, at the meeting. "And I got daughters, too."

Amazing. 2,000 evacuess have been living in the parish, but all this guy knows is "what happened in the Superdome". Of course, it didn't actually happen, but when your fear circuits are engaged, reality often comes in a poor second.
Today's Archaeology Item
Archaeologists in Greece believe they have found the tomb of Odysseus. It turns out not to have been on the island we call Ithaca, but on a nearby island called Kefalonia. It is fascinating to consider that the hero of the Iliad and the Odyssey was a real person.
September 28, 2005
McCain gets it.
Not surprising, actually, since he's a former military man with some sense of honor, unlike the crew running the White House. When informed about the allegations of routine torture of "PUCs" (Persons Under Confinement, a Bush administration invention to avoid calling them POWs), he said
"I don't know if these allegations are true," McCain said. "But they have to be investigated. We've got to make it clear to the world that America doesn't do it. It's not about prisoners. It's about us."
He's right. It is about us. As terrible as the happenings at My Lai were, it spoke volumes about America that we were revulsed by the conduct of a few of our countrymen and we did something to deal with the problem. Now, it seems that outrage is in short supply, and "addressing the problem" means "making excuses and locating a few patsies to take the fall."

What have we become, my friends?

Frog! March! Frog! March!
Tom Delay was indicted today on conspiracy charges that could carry a sentence of two years in prison. And it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

OK, it could have.

Pat Tillman deserved better
So do we all. His family has gotten extensive records from the inquiry into his "friendly fire" death, and have found numerous inconsistencies and indications that the incident was really not what it was claimed to be by the administration, who seem to have seen nothing more in his sacrifice than a PR opportunity.

The picture of Tillman that emerges from this story is much more complex than the government and media have given us so far:

Pat Tillman was a more honorable man than George W. Bush will ever hope to be. He is a hero. It is a shame that men who are not fit to have shined his shoes were willing and able to use his death as PR for Bush's illegal war.
Dubious Achievement Awards
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has released their list of the "13 Most Corrupt Members of Congress". If any of these folks are your representatives, give them a call and ask them just what the hell they think they're doing.
September 27, 2005
Maybe they should have asked first.
FEMA is trying to find housing for 200,000 families displaced by Katrina. They ordered 125,000 trailers (mobile homes) which they were going to put as close as possible to the affected cities. Now, you may think (and I'd join you) that putting large numbers of people in mobile homes in an area prone to flooding, hurricanes, and tornadoes is perhaps not the brightest idea you've ever heard. But it doesn't really matter, because it turns out that the entire manufactured housing industry only produced about 130,000 homes during the entire year of 2004, or about 2500/week. FEMA was hoping(!) to install 30,000 trailers every two weeks. Do these people ever visit reality?

On the other hand, the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has identified 65,000 housing units which could be used immediately, and rental rates are at historic lows (adjusted for inflation). So the Senate acted (and good for them!)-- unanimously! -- to provide $3.5B in HUD housing vouchers to Katrina victims. A similar House proposal is pending, sponsored by the Democrats. House Republicans are waiting for marching orders from the White House. The Bush administration is showing their characteristic urgency on policy matters: the GOP official said they're expecting a response in mid-October.

September 25, 2005
Demons? Demons?
Imagine, for a moment, that there was a psychologist who believed in demonic posession. This psychologist is a pretty bright guy; in fact, he's come up with a questionnaire that he claims can identify whether someone is possessed.

You would expect to find such a psychologist:

  1. in a bad made-for-TV movie.
  2. working for Focus on the Family.
  3. being appointed to something important by George W. Bush.
  4. evaluating sex offenders in a Kansas state hospital.
While they're all good (and distressingly likely) answers, the correct answer in this case is (d). Rex Rosenberg works at Larned State Hospital evaluating people who are committed to the Kansas state sexual predator program. And since he's been there, the percentage of people in the program officially designated as "sexual predators" has gone up sharply.

Friends, the brain cell trend out there is not, I say not, encouraging.

September 24, 2005
A "few bad apples", eh?
Two soldiers and an officer from the 82nd Airborne have told Human Rights Watch about "systemic detainee abuse and human rights violations" at US bases in Iraq.
Their statements included vivid allegations of violence against detainees held at Forward Operating Base Mercury, outside Fallujah, shortly before the notorious abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison began. The soldiers described incidents similar to those reported in other parts of Iraq -- such as putting detainees in stress positions, exercising them to the point of total exhaustion, and sleep deprivation.

They also detailed regular attacks that left detainees with broken bones -- including once when a detainee was hit with a metal bat -- and said that detainees were sometimes piled into pyramids, a tactic seen in photographs taken later at Abu Ghraib.

Why does the 82nd Airbore hate America?
At 2:21 AM, Anonymous Terri said...

You forgot to mention that the 82nd Airborne is now helping out in Louisiana.

 
September 22, 2005
Tool or Fool? You make the call!
Media Matters rips Bill O'Reilly several new orifices over the mixture of lies and stupidity used to defend the Bush administration in a recent show.
Bush as temporal metawizard...
It's brilliant. Bush's secret strategy. It doesn't matter if our being in Iraq is creating more terrorists, because we're fighting them now so we won't have to fight them in the future! Bow to the Medium Lobster.
Heavy Metal. Bush Supporter.
Poor Bill Buckley, having to watch what's been done to his once-intelligent magazine.
At first glance, Eric Paone does not seem your typical conservative true believer. The 35-year-old guitarist of the New Hampshire thrash metal band Candy Striper Death Orgy (yeah, no typo) has a flowing mane of hair, swears like he’s in a Make-the-Sailor-Blush contest and cackles as he relates dirty jokes. His band’s odd name was inspired by an…um, adult feature Paone and his friends checked out once in college, which is appropriate enough, actually, since the thrasher’s day job consists of running a string of adult bookstores christened "The Moonlight Readers."
Gee, wonder if Paone has heard about AG Gonzalez' plan to crack down on porn?
When he’s behind that counter selling “marital aids” and creatively titled magazines, however, Paone’s always wearing either a George W. Bush hat or button along with his Nuclear Assault T-shirt and Napalm Death shorts. Contradiction? Hypocrisy? Paone doesn’t see it that way.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
“The commies have closed more porno stores from us than the Bible thumpers ever did,” he said authoritatively. “There are people on both sides that want to take away everyone’s fun, whether it’s for the kids or the environment or whatever. They’d have no porn stores and we’d all be riding horse-drawn buggies to work if it were up to them. Still, nobody believes me, but the Republican party really is the party of tolerance these days.
Yes, well, there is a limit to the number of impossible things you can get people to believe.
“I’d never start in on guys in my store wearing Kerry shirts or Howard Dean pins they way they start in on me for my Bush gear; for thinking different than them, basically,” Paone added. “I’d never stoop that low. Never. But liberals do it all the time.”
Can it be...I think it is...yes! YES! He's played the "poor persecuted conservative" card!
As one might imagine, supporting Bush in the last election cycle wasn’t exactly a cause celeb in the underground music scene and Paone took more than a little guff for his politics at shows and on online metal gossip forums. He’s been mocked and blacklisted, but never defeated, only emboldened. In fact, the worse he’s treated the closer he assumes he is to the truth, he said.
They laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Einstein. Of course, they also laughed at Bozo. And Jeebus, guys, I know it's French and all, but it's not that difficult to get cause cèlébre correct. You'd think that they didn't have copy editors, or maybe it's just that their official language is English so nobody's allowed to actually know a foreign language. Oh, and once you spell it correctly, you might even look up what it means. A cause cèlébre is a cause or issue that rouses public opinion. In other words, he's just been saying that it was a cause cèlébre before claiming that it wasn't. With bad spelling. But hey, it's not like he's getting paid to write like this or anything. What? He what? Damn.
Paone’s experience speaks to a larger truth: There always has been a delicious-yet-maddening irony in anarchists and punk rockers — for who the individual is supposed to be supreme — vociferously supporting candidates that want to expand government and narrow the ability of individuals to function as they choose.
Candidates like....George W. Bush, perhaps? Sponsor of the Patriot act, expander of government, mangler of the English tongue?
“These bands and kids are dumping on government all the time, talking about all this conspiracy theory stuff and how we’re like this Nazi fascist state, and then when it comes time to vote they fall for this mindless talk and vote liberal,” Paone said. “They vote for more government. They fall into the trap. They hate the government but they’re basically asking for it to run their lives.”

In order to make as clean a break with that way of thinking as possible (and to further enrage the people who wanted him to shut up), Paone recently went back and rewrote the lyrics to several older songs from the band’s 15-year oeuvre to take away any sort of lefty slant possible, turning some older bits on nuclear warfare and environmental devastation into ruminations on terrorism and a call to arms to fight it.

Well, bonus points for getting oeuvre, though I think that may be the first time I've heard it applied to a C-list heavy metal band. Hey, you know, now that they've raised the recruiting age limits, somebody should suggest to this guy that if he's so concerned about terrorism, maybe he should enlist instead of playing the same local venues for 15 years!
“I don’t want people thinking I’m liberal because I’ve got long hair and play guitar,” Paone lamented. “So I got to be careful to be very clear. I don’t want to get lumped in with these Rock Against Bush idiots.”

Paone talks about politics like the uncle who just discovered the Drudge Report, reeling off a litany of Clinton missteps and shortcomings from the 1990s and rejecting the Democrats’ desire to fight the War on Terror by “sitting around the U.N. building and feeling sorry for crazy terrorists.”

That is actually a very apt description: "like the uncle who just discovered the Drudge report". Just drill right into the skull, install the funnel, and dump in the propaganda.
“People say to me now, ‘You’re starting to sound like Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh,’ and I just have to tell them, ‘Fine by me. I like those guys,’” Paone laughed. “I want lower taxes. I am all for cleaning up that mess in the Middle East. Try telling that to anyone raised on this Hollywood garbage, though. It’s impossible. They want everything handed to them and they don’t care if some working stiff has to pay for it all.”
Wow. He doesn't want "everything handed to him". Why, I bet he's off at his local recruiting office right now to help with "cleaning up that mess in the Middle East". Huh? What? No, I don't want to place a bet on that.
A self-described right-leaning independent, Paone said he never liked John Ashcroft and was open to voting for a Democrat in the last election — he looked seriously at Wes Clark — but ultimately stuck with Bush when the “insanely liberal” Kerry was nominated.

“In the middle of a war they want me to vote for a guy who crapped all over his brothers when he came back from ‘Nam?” Paone asked incredulously. “I don’t think so. I never knew what he was talking about. His wife had more of an agenda than he did. I could vote for a Democrat in the future, but not any like of liberal like they put up this last time. And if it’s Hillary? Forget about it.”

All righty, then. As long as they nominate a Republican, he could vote for a Democrat. That makes perfect sense on his planet, I guess.
It can be surreal to have a guy you once heard bellow “God bless nuclear warfare” at a dirty beach club explain his theories on skyrocketing gas prices.

“Look at the EPA,” he said. “We haven’t built a refinery in years. They know where the oil is in Alaska and how to drill for it without making a mess, but the tree huggers won’t let us go get it. GPS is good from something other than spying on ourselves, you know.”

Wow. Just....wow. How oblivious can you be? Even if you didn't know that the reason we haven't built a refinery in years is because the oil companies didn't want to build any (and in fact, shut down a couple because they weren't making enough money), how stupid do you have to be to think that allowing drilling in ANWR would do anything about gas prices now? It's like they believe that there's some sort of sympathetic magic that would miraculously ratchet down gas prices the moment the bill allowing drilling was passed.
According to mainstream-media mythology, Bush pulls the wool over voters’ eyes by playing the average guy, not by convincing them his policies are right. So, if that’s true, what does an adult-bookstore-owning thrash-metal guitarist have in common with our in-bed-by-10-P.M. president?
A simple-minded approach to the world? Blind faith in the right wing mythology? Native stupidity? Wait, I bet he's going to tell us!
“I don’t want a president exactly like me,” Paone answered. “You know, I’m all for screwing or whatever, but I like that Bush has always been with Laura and is kind of boring. Clinton was a party animal who worked in as many ladies as he could, and look what that got us: A nuclear North Korea, Saddam spitting in our faces and Osama bin Laden having plenty of time to do whatever he wanted. Thanks, anyway. I’ll take boring any day.”
Eeeeeerrrright. 1900 dead servicemen is boring? 9/11 is boring? The London subway bombings are boring? Abu Ghraib is boring? A significant recession and loss of jobs is boring? Please. Excite me some more.
September 21, 2005
May I have your attention, please?
What would you say with one minute of free, totally anonymous public speech? I'm still thinking about it....
The Ice Capades...
Your tax dollars on tour: turns out FEMA has been paying truckers to carry ice all over the country.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds of ice meant for the Gulf Coast arrived yesterday not in storm-ravaged New Orleans or Mississippi, but in Gloucester [MA], where almost two dozen tractor-trailers spent the day idling.

Hundreds of truckers from Minnesota, Alabama, Georgia and even Massachusetts have been crisscrossing the country since the beginning of September, moving loads of ice from storage facility to storage facility and earning big bucks from the federal government to do little more than sit in their cabs and not unload their precious cargo.
...
[Trucker Ron] Johnson said he picked up an oversized load of ice in Sandwich last Tuesday. From there, he drove to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., where he spent eight days waiting to unload. All the while, his truck's engine continued to run in order to keep the ice from melting.

And after those eight days — he made around $900 per day, with some truckers earning in excess of $2 per mile — Johnson said he got the news his load was needed in Gloucester.

Yes, it's as crazy as it sounds. But surely FEMA has an explanation? Yes! Here's Kathy Cable, FEMA spokesbeing:
"Sometimes we have more ice and water that was ordered than is necessary," she said. "The drivers are then redirected to various mobilization centers across the country. If these centers are full, which sometimes happens, they are sent to another storage facility. Unfortunately, the truckers don't quite understand that. We know that they want to help."
Oh, those poor dumb truckers.

You know, I bet most of those truckers could come up with a better logistical plan given 45 minutes and a white board.

Worst. Administration. Ever.

September 20, 2005
I really don't get this one...
British troops - with armor - broke down a wall at an Iraqi detention center in Basra to reclaim two "undercover troops" being held by police. Now, under the Bush rules, since these guys were captured while armed but not wearing uniforms, the "sovereign" Iraqi government should be able to hold them indefinitely or render them secretly to another country which will take them and torture them. I guess he forgot to tell Tony Blair.
Honor, or Dignity?
Somebody's going to have to tell me whether this comes under the heading of returning honor to the White House, or dignity.
David Safavian, then-chief of staff of the General Services Administration and a former Abramoff lobbying associate, concealed from federal investigators that Abramoff was seeking to do business with GSA when Safavian joined him on a golf trip to Scotland in 2002, according to an FBI affidavit and the officials.
Yep. The guy who's in charge of fairness in government contracting has been indicted on corruption charges. That story doesn't mention that he worked for Jack Abramoff before coming to GSA, or that he'd previously worked for Grover Norquist.

Worst. Administration. Ever.

R.I.P., Simon Wiesenthal
The indefatigable Nazi hunter goes to his final rest.
September 19, 2005
Too much is not enough
Wow. Somebody's getting their chutzpah merit badge for this one.

The Bush administration, not content with sending your tax money to Iraq by the C-130 load, is going to be doing internet-based fundraising for the reconstruction effort. Yep, you read that right. They're asking you to give them more money to send to Halliburton. Well, they won't say that it's going to Halliburton. You'll just have to trust them. In fact, no donors will know where the money is going or who's getting it for (wait for it) "security reasons."

September 18, 2005
The stupid leading the idiots.
Pandagon notes the idiotic poll on Instapunkit's site about how to pay for the $200B in Katrina relief. Here are the items they suggest: Someone should have spent some time with the Federal Budget Explorer, which lets you make changes to various programs and see the effects on the budget. So let's look at those suggestions just a touch more closely, shall we?

Let's leave aside for the moment that it would be utter politcal suicide to go after farm subsidies. Leave aside also that a lot of them go to states that supported Bush and have Republican Congresspeople. Things that would probably be considered "farm subsidies" are mostly in the Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency; total budget, $20.1B. There's also the "Agricultural Marketing Service" ($1.1B), so call the total there $21.2B. Just a touch over 10%.

You can add in a whopping $.4B for the Corporation for public broadcasting, $.8B for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (Dept. of Ed.), which probably covers DARE, and throw in the entire House ($.8B) and Senate ($1.2B) budgets and come to a grand total of...

$24.4 Billion

Yep, a whole 12% of the recovery cost.

But you know, as much fun as it is to point out that these people have no clue what they're talking about, there's a larger point. Bush has been in office for 5+ years now. The GOP has controlled the Congress for 2.5+ years. If there's $200 billion in "unnecessary spending" (as Bush put it) in the budget, just who put it there? It's a typical Bush maneuver: try to arrange it so you get credit for fixing something that you broke in the first place.

Ghouls, Opportunists, and Pretenders?
The GOP is actually looking for someone who owned a business that would be subject to the estate tax and who lost their life in Katrina to use as support for repealing the estate tax. But, of course, it would be dreadful to policitize this tragedy.
Now here's a true disciple of Ultor....
An Australian man built up a 40,000-volt charge of static electricity in his clothes as he walked, leaving a trail of scorched carpet and molten plastic and forcing firefighters to evacuate a building.

Frank Clewer, who was wearing a woolen shirt and a synthetic nylon jacket, was oblivious to the growing electrical current that was building up as his clothes rubbed together.

When he walked into a building in the country town of Warrnambool in the southern state of Victoria Thursday, the electrical charge ignited the carpet.

September 17, 2005
Glad it's not just me...
I'm glad to see that I'm not the only person who thinks that putting up lots of evacuees in mobile homes in the middle of an area that's prone to hurricanes and tornadoes is perhaps not the best of ideas.
Shorter New York Times: FEMA Still Sucks
Blah3 makes it easy for you. But you have to start wondering at what point incompetence stops being a plausible explanation for so much going wrong.
At 12:49 AM, Anonymous Chipmaker said...

This has been such a monumental screwup that "incompetent" no longer captures the essence. After some reflection and surfing the thesaurus, I think "malfeasant" nails it.

 
The Potemkin Presidency continues
Lights were turned on along the route followed by the President's motorcade to the site where he gave his speech last night about an hour before the motorcade arrived. They went off again about an hour after he left.
September 16, 2005
Sigh.
Looks like the Vatican is joining the US military in abandoning "don't ask, don't tell".
Investigators appointed by the Vatican have been instructed to review each of the 229 Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States for "evidence of homosexuality" and for faculty members who dissent from church teaching, according to a document prepared to guide the process.
...
In a possible indication of the ruling's contents, the American archbishop who is supervising the seminary review said last week that "anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity or has strong homosexual inclinations," should not be admitted to a seminary.
...
American seminaries are under Vatican review as a result of the sexual abuse scandal that swept the priesthood in 2002. Church officials in the United States and Rome agreed that they wanted to take a closer look at how seminary candidates were screened for admission, and whether they were being prepared for lives of chastity and celibacy.
It's sad to see that the Vatican is falling into the "pedophiles are homosexuals" error. And even sadder to hear that they thing that anyone with "strong homosexual inclinations" should be excluded from the already-sparse priesthood. How are they going to measure that, anyway? Do they have a "homosexual inclinometer" or something? It sounds pretty arbitrary to me, frankly.
September 15, 2005
Damn! There goes another boggle-o-meter.
Sometimes, you can't top their own words. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Tom DeLay:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an "ongoing victory," and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.

Mr. DeLay was defending Republicans' choice to borrow money and add to this year's expected $331 billion deficit to pay for Hurricane Katrina relief. Some Republicans have said Congress should make cuts in other areas, but Mr. DeLay said that doesn't seem possible.

"My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet," the Texas Republican told reporters at his weekly briefing.

Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."

Reality Check:

Annual nonmilitary and non-homeland security spending increased $303 billion between fiscal year 2001 and 2005; the acknowledged federal debt increased more than $2 trillion since fiscal year 2000; and the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill is estimated to increase the government's unfunded obligations by $16 trillion.

Karen Huges is on the march!
Yep, the White House is mobilizing quickly - to defend Bush's image. Too bad she wasn't running FEMA.
Hughes picked up the theme. "We have to offer a positive vision of hope," she began. As if preparing troops for combat, she described her plans for improving world opinion of the United States: a "rapid-response unit," a plan to "forward-deploy regional SWAT teams" and create "a dual-headed DAS for public diplomacy."

One of her underlings rose to ask how this effort squared with the administration's famously tight control over its message. "Recently, we've had tremendous amount of difficulty in some cases getting clearance for our ambassadors to speak," he said.

Hughes replied that ambassadors are free to talk -- if they use the talking points she sends them. "If they make statements based on something I sent them," she said, "they're not going to be called on the carpet."

Katrina: the Gathering
OK, this is tasteless in a way. But it's also really inventive, and really funny in places. Well worth a look.

This had to involve some good drugs.
What if Hamlet were an Adventure game? It would probably look something like this....
It's so unfair! You're in trouble again, just because you called your uncle - or rather, your new stepfather, Claudius - a usurping git. It's true, though. Your real dad was SO much better than that guy. Too bad he was found mysteriously dead in the orchard a couple of weeks back. Anyway, your mother (who was, incidentally, looking quite something today in a sparse leather number, er...) sent you to your room, and here you are.
So go play, already! Just don't forget to wash your hands afterward....
September 14, 2005
A study in contrasts
[LA Governor] Blanco has had several skirmishes with Bush and sent signals that she did not trust his administration. She brought in James Lee Witt, former president Bill Clinton's emergency management director, to advise her. She rejected Bush's proposal that the federal government take control of National Guard troops under her command. ("If that would have improved our situation, it would have been a no-brainer," she says).

She says that two days after Katrina, desperate for help, she couldn't get through to Bush and didn't get a callback; hours later, she tried again, and they talked.

vs.
[MS Governor Haley] Barbour hasn't had to wait hours to talk to Bush. In fact, Barbour said in an interview with USA TODAY, the president called him three to four times in the wake of Katrina. "I never called him. He always called me," he said.
Amazing how much difference being of the same party as the President can make. At least when the President is as small and petty as the current one.
September 13, 2005
Mister Roberts
I heard parts of the questioning of Judge Roberts today on NPR. I heard the entire question period for Sens. Hatch and Kennedy this morning, and most of Schumer this evening. Between listening to that and what I've read about the hearings, I'm having a hard time coming up with any good reasons to oppose his nomination. I'm a bit concerned about having a Chief Justice with so little time on the bench before his nomination, and I think Bush has earned a blanket suspicion of anybody he nominates, but I haven't heard someone who sounds like he's going to be in lockstep with Thomas and Scalia.
At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Steven Staton said...

I have to disagree. For three years, the "Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (the self-named GOP cabal who has been vetting SC nominees for the Bush Administration) has worked hard to find the perfect stealth candidate for the SC. Now they have their man, who won't answer a straight question regardless, and who has the steely eyed glint to make me suspect more than just mere right wing motives are at play here. He's going to dismantle the Great Society and the New Deal and we're going to be a corporate fascist state before this guy finishes his work in 2050. Slick isn't the same as compassionate, nor even sane.

 
At 1:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For once, I agree with Steve. Did you miss Robert Reich? He made very good points--most particularly that Judge Roberts' record and language show that he consistently values property rights over human rights.

 
Charity begins at home?
It may have seemed a bit odd to see Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing listed as one of the three "special" charities for Katrina contributions on the FEMA web site. If it didn't, it will after reading this....
According to its most recent filing with the Internal Revenue Service, Operation Blessing gave more than half of its yearly allocation of cash donations -- $885,000 -- to the Christian Broadcasting Network, or CBN, of which Robertson is also the chairman.

"There is no accountability when you have two boards working hand in hand like this," said Henderson. "One never knows when you're contributing to Operation Blessing whether the money is really going to the hurricane victims, or whether it's going to pay for some more television time for Pat Robertson's television show."

Some charity watchdog groups have given high marks to Operation Blessing. Bill Horan, the charity's president, at first denied his charity gave any money to Robertson's television operation.

"Well, that's an absolute, total and complete distortion of the truth," Horan said. "Operation Blessing does not give 1 red cent to CBN."

When he was told of the Operation Blessing documents obtained by ABC News, which show a contribution of $885,000 to CBN, Horan called it an accounting issue. [Oooh, isn't there something about "bearing false witness" in the 10 Commandments? - ed]

"I'm president of a charity that's been working 22 to 24 hours a day for the last week trying to save lives down there," he said, "and I'm not going to talk any more about the issues that involve accounting."

A spokesman for Operation Blessing later told ABC News that the charity utilizes Robertson's television network as a conduit for delivering donations overseas, and that none of the money has been used for network activities. [And if you believe that one, you probably still think we're going to find WMD in Iraq just any day now.... - ed]

As for FEMA, Director Michael Brown says that he does not know who decided to recommend Robertson's charity so prominently. [Well, there's a surprise. - ed]

Break out the Boggle-o-meter.
Remember how we kept hearing about how Bush could do anything in Crawford that he could in the White House, and how well connected Air Force One is?
The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.

We already knew he didn't read the papers. Apparently he doesn't watch TV or listen to the radio, either. Worst. President. Ever.
Law? We don't need no steenking law!
Despite a court order to the contrary, the military is still preventing media in New Orleans from taking photos of or writing stories about the body recovery process.

I was particularly impressed by this bit:

Dean Nugent, of the Louisiana State Coroner's Department, who accompanied the soldier, added that it wasn't safe to be in Bywater. "They'll kill you out here," he said, referring to the few residents who have continued to defy mandatory evacuation orders and remain in their homes."

"The cockroaches come out at night," he said of the residents. "This is one of the worst places in the country. You should not be here. Especially you," he told a female reporter.

Nugent, who is white, acknowledged he wasn't personally familiar with the poor, black neighborhood, saying he only knew of it by reputation.

I'm sure Mr. Nugent would vehemently deny - and probably believe - that he's neither racist or sexist. Sigh.
At 7:55 AM, Anonymous Olin Brinlee said...

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What are these people thinking?
I thought that one of the reasons terrorists were considered so dangerous is that they have no territory of their own, so deterrence is not a viable strategy. Well, turns out that the DoD has been looking at plans to possibly go with a nuclear first strike against, well, something on the theory that it would keep terrorists from using WMD against us.

What this is supposed to do if the terrorists are living among us, or in caves in Tora Bora, is unclear. Nor does it explain how the deterrent would be useful if "no one could have foreseen" an attack, as was said about the 9/11 attacks.

Really, you know, can't we just neuter a bunch of these fools and see if lower testosterone levels would lead to more rational policy decisions?

Actions speak louder than words
Among the things the Bush crew just doesn't seem to get. At the same time as WH spokesbeing Dan Bartlett is saying, "The president will not let any form of bureaucracy get in the way of protecting the citizens of Louisiana," the administration was turning away a German military plane with 15 tons of supplies "because it did not have the proper authorization."
September 12, 2005
A new energy source
We could hook up dynamos to the spinning remains of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and power most of the country. At the "Freedom Walk", a man
who registered for the walk was detained by a Pentagon police officer after he slipped a black hood over his head and produced a sign that read, "Freedom?"

The man was removed from the Pentagon registration area, handcuffed and taken away in a police car. It was not clear whether he was charged or simply detained and the police did not respond to messages requesting more information.

Ann Grossman, 56, from Silver Spring, Md., also carried a homemade sign, which read "Honor Our Troops, Respect Their Lives," that was confiscated by police at the Pentagon. Ms. Grossman registered to participate in the walk, saying she did so to voice her opposition to the Iraq war, and she was allowed to participate without the sign.

Dissent was not totally absent, however. A couple of protesters had the audacity to appear along the route with signs reading Bush is a Liar. An aide acommpanying Obergruppenfuhrer Rumsfeld soon put them to rout by whipping up a cheer of "USA! USA!", clearly demonstrating to the proletariat that criticism of Dear Leader is deeply unpatriotic.

When other people want to be stupid, they have to pay her royalties.
Michelle Malkin demonstrates how to raise stupidity to an art form. Let's be clear: this isn't about "political correctness" (whatever that is), or "imaginations running wild". It's about being so stupid that people wonder how you find food.
R. I. P. Habeas Corpus: 1215-2005
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the president can indefinitely detain a U.S. citizen captured on U.S. soil in the absence of criminal charges, holding that such authority is vital to protect the nation from terrorist attacks. This ruling was made in the case of Jose Padilla.

The truly terrifying part of the article, however, was this:

The decision by a three-judge panel was written by Judge J. Michael Luttig, who sources have said is under consideration by President Bush for nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Let us hope that the Republic wills survive long enough for this ruling to be seen as mistake on the caliber of the Dred Scott decision.

September 11, 2005
You can't be much plainer that that....
September 10, 2005
Oh, Blackwater
Does it strike anyone as strange that the Federal Government is employing private security guards from Blackwater in New Orleans? I mean, you'd almost think there weren't enough National Guardsmen around or something.
What's in it?
Ever wondered about what's really in hair coloring, Silly Putty, Cheese Wiz, artificial snow, or self-tanners? Chemical & Engineering News presents a collection of articles that gives you a look at the chemistry behind a wide variety of everyday products. For instance, did you know that Cheez Whiz is "pasteurized process cheese sauce"? That "new car smell" is a soup of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mostly toluene, acetone, xylenes, styrene, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, various C5 to C12 alkanes, ethylbenzene, and ethylene glycol butyl ether? Now you can.
Assistant, Intern...what's the diff?
If it wasn't bad enough that Bush appointed a politically connected hack with no visible qualifications as head of FEMA, turns out that he was padding his resume. Mike Brown said that he'd been "assistant City Manager" of Edmond, OK; actually, he was "assistant to the City Manager", or basically a glorified intern. He claimed to have been "overseeing the emergency services division", while he actually had no one reporting to him.

While the Democrats in Congress certinaly ought to get some blame for letting him sail through, this is just more evidence: Worst. President. Ever.

$9/hour - a princely sum, eh?
Ever heard of the Davis-Bacon Act? It says that government contractors must pay at least the prevailing wage of the area they're operating. The President has exercized a clause that lets him suspend Davis-Bacon in "a national emergency", freeing contractors from that onerous burden in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The "prevailing wage" for construction work in New Orleans is about $9/hour. Now maybe it's just me, but somehow I don't find the message that $9/hour to reconstruct your demolished city is just too much to be paid very convincing. But hey, I'm absolutely certain that Halliburton and any other contractors (should such a thing exist) will pass along every penny of the savings on labor costs to the taxpayers.

Cheney is a taxpayer, right?

A Dose of Reality, Part I
Here's what the good folks over at redstate.org want us to think.
A profoundly stupid meme circulating about the left (no links, you can guess where and whom) asserts that people are dying in New Orleans and elsewhere because there are insufficient Guardsmen on hand to deal with the Katrina catastrophe. Bush's war in Iraq, the line goes, has depleted the National Guard's ranks and is therefore harming Americans in need.

Reality?

The deployment of thousands of National Guard troops from Mississippi and Louisiana in Iraq when Hurricane Katrina struck hindered those states' initial storm response, military and civilian officials said Friday.

Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said that "arguably" a day or so of response time was lost due to the absence of the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Infantry Brigade and Louisiana's 256th Infantry Brigade, each with thousands of troops in Iraq.

Louisiana National Guards of the 256th Brigade Combat team leave the plane at the airport in Alexandria, Louisiana upon their arrival, Friday, Sept. 9, 2005. The first contigent of about 100 National Guards left Kuwait Thursday to return to the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina. Guard officials say 80 percent of the returning force lost homes, jobs and family in the storm and flooding.

"Had that brigade been at home and not in Iraq, their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear," said Blum.

September 09, 2005
Yes, do, Mr. Cheney
OpEd News has some excellent background on the person who told VP Cheney to go fuck himself today. His destroyed house was in the area Cheney was visiting. After his commentary, he went back to the remnants of his house, where he was visited a few minutes later by a couple of military police waving M-16s.
"I told them I was probably the person they were looking for, and so they put me in handcuffs and 'detained' me for about 20 minutes or so," Marble wrote. "My right thumb went numb because the cuffs were on so tight, but they were fairly courteous and eventually released me after getting all my contact info. They said I had NOT broken any laws so I was free to go."
That sure sounds to me like an "intimidation" visit, since they didn't seem to ask many questions.