Friday, September 16, 2005


High Stakes: Trent Lott's Bad Bet
Browner said that Lott was not alone among politicians in his disregard for the environment. “For fifty years,” she pointed out, “there’s been significant inattention to the environmental consequences of developing the wetlands.” But Lott was particularly single-minded in his support of casino development. “I had barely taken office,” Browner said, “when I discovered there was a ‘hold’ on a department nominee.” (Placing a hold, which is a common maneuver in the Senate, can keep a nominee’s name from moving forward to a vote.) “I didn’t have a clue who put the hold on the nominee. Then Trent Lott called me up and said that he had done it. He told me, ‘I figured I’d have a problem with the E.P.A. I don’t have one yet. But this is a warning to you.’ Then he lifted the hold. But the message was clear.

“A few years later, in 1997, Clinton nominated someone else to a job in the E.P.A. that needed Senate confirmation,” she recalled. Browner learned that a hold had been placed on this person, too. “It was a person who was perfectly qualified,” she said. “So the hold seemed odd.

“We called around to see what was the matter,” she went on. “And I found out that Lott had put a hold on this person. I then spoke with him about it, and he said, ‘It’s not about the nominee.’ He said, ‘It’s because I want you to fire another employee, because he’s standing in the way of wetlands permits needed for casinos.’

“He wanted me to fire this guy who was handling the wetlands permits down in our regional office in Atlanta,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it if I’d wanted to. I told him I wasn’t going to. It’s the job of the E.P.A. to enforce Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which covers all wetlands permits, and this guy was doing his job.” Browner said that she did not tell the employee in Atlanta, because she didn’t want him to feel pressured. “Lott thought the guy was working with the Army Corps of Engineers to hold up the casino permits, and he was determined to get rid of him.”

(Emphases mine.)

The disaster of Hurricane Katrina isn't limited to the immediate aftermath, the days lost by FEMA's useless and needless dickering over inane questions of jurisdiction, or by Bush's inability to grasp just how bad things were. This was a disaster years in the making. If it didn't hit Louisiana and Mississippi, then it would have hit somewhere else. Pundits and politicians can scream all they want about the uselessness of the government, but when the people who work in it do their damndest to do their jobs and serve the people in both the short and the long term, only to be ignored by greedy thugs, I know whose feet I'll lay the blame at.

Lott had better goddamned well enjoy that glorious new house that the president has promised will rise from the rubble of his old one. If there was any justice, the voters of Mississippi would vote in such a way to allow him a lot more free time to spend there.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I Didn't Know Any Of This

Chief Justice Rehnquist's Drug Habit
..[F]or the nine years between 1972 and the end of 1981, William Rehnquist consumed great quantities of the potent sedative-hypnotic Placidyl. So great was Rehnquist's Placidyl habit, dependency, or addiction—depending on how you regard long-term drug use—that by the last quarter of 1981 he began slurring his speech in public, became tongue-tied while pronouncing long words, and sometimes had trouble finishing his thoughts.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Somebody's Angling For A Promotion!

I noticed these two posts over at Atrios. I've extrapolated the links out a little bit.

First, this one:
Nothing that could make Dear Leader look bad must ever be shown.
FEMA Wants No Photos of Dead
From Reuters

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. agency leading Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts said Tuesday that it does not want the news media to photograph the dead as they are recovered.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected journalists' requests to accompany rescue boats searching for storm victims.

An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats.

"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

And then there's this:
The fascist at FEMA:

On Monday, the Tribune says, some firefighters began to take off their FEMA-issued T-shirts in protest. A FEMA spokesman responded by questioning the firefighters' willingness to help in a time of need. "I would go back and ask the firefighter to revisit his commitment to FEMA, to firefighting and to the citizens of this country," FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak told the Tribune.

So, if you object to having yourself be flown across the country so you can be a human prop for the president instead of actually using your skills to help the citizens of this country then you need to revisit your commitment to "the citizens of this country."


I think it's a pretty safe assumption that the unnamed spokeswoman in the first bit is the named Mary Hudak in the second.

Just as long as we have a name to attach to the shilling.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Finally, Something Is Being Done

White House Enacts a Plan to Ease Political Damage
The effort is being directed by Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett. It began late last week after Congressional Republicans called White House officials to register alarm about what they saw as a feeble response by Mr. Bush to the hurricane, according to Republican Congressional aides.

As a result, Americans watching television coverage of the disaster this weekend began to see, amid the destruction and suffering, some of the most prominent members of the administration - Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Donald H. Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense; and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state - touring storm-damaged communities.


Ms. Rice did not return to Washington until Thursday, after she was spotted at a Broadway show and shopping for shoes, an image that Republicans said buttressed the notion of a White House unconcerned with tragedy.

You know, as Secretary of State, Rice's involvement in rescue and clean up would have been minimal; picking on her is, at a certain level, unfair. But, as one of the most prominent faces of the administration, she should have just stayed in her hotel room, and her decision instead to go shopping and to see "Spamalot" is worthy of criticism. And now that she's being sent out to put a more competent face on the administration, it is even more so.

But really, I started to wonder what had happened to Karl in the midst of all of this. The events of the last two weeks are almost enough to make you forget his treasonous act of revealing the identity of a CIA agent two years ago. Almost.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

What They Say

Michael Bérubé: Not Your Father's GOP

Modern Republicans have left all that behind.  They don’t like government; they want, in Lovable Furry Old Grover Norquist’s famous words, to shrink government to the size at which it can be drowned in the bathtub.  Consequently, when they get into government, they quickly fill its halls with two kinds of people:  people who are charged with the task of destroying the agencies they run, and people who have no idea whatsoever about how their agencies work."

Pandagon: Libertarian Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

It's a strategy we all know--given a responsibility you don't want, one way to get out of it is to fuck it up so badly no one ever asks you to do it again. Basically, the Norquistian theory that the federal government can't do anything right became a self-fulfilling prophecy. From that viewpoint, FEMA's failure to evacuate New Orleans before the hurricane and their failure to respond quickly in order to save lives afterward went pretty much according to plan--I have little doubt that the spinmeisters are working on a way right this minute to use this as leverage to make the argument that asking for help from the federal government will fail you every time, not just when a bunch of heartless incompetents are in charge.

Corrente: Christmas Came Early

...[T]his is the age of laissez-faire government. The free market will determine how much aid goes to those in need, and the cost of gas will be determined by whatever the traffic can bear. The private sector knows best, and this government has become merely a spear-carrier and comfort woman to the CEOs of the world. And the private sector knows that the people imprisoned in the cauldron of New Orleans were the least of the consuming masses, and the least of assets to 4th quarter profits and bottom-line accounting. When government abdicates the very skeleton of its duties to private interests, are we surprised to find that even the most crucial, life-or-death things only get done if they balance positively against somebody's cost-benefit analysis? These are the people who brayed proudly how they were going to get rid of their own functions, then set about proving it time and again in Interior, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Housing. And now we are surprised that they sat on their hands while thousands died? This is their ideology in action. This is who and what they are. This is George Bush's gift to you.

China Miéville: The Politics of Weather

So why the tardiness, and the failure to learn lessons? Well, you know that thing about capitalism and the free market being the most efficient system available? Want to hear something hilarious? New Orleans' seemingly unintentionally accurately named 'catastrophic hurricane disaster plan' was privatised last year.
IEM, Inc., the Baton Rouge-based emergency management and homeland security consultant, will lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan for Southeast Louisiana and the City of New Orleans under a more than half a million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Thanks to that, as Dewberry, a partner in this noble venture put it a while back, '[h]ad one of the devastating hurricanes targeted New Orleans and southeast Louisiana, state and local officials would have been ready'. So how's that working out?

IEM stands for Innovative Emergency Management. I guess 'Climb for your life!' and 'Run to the football stadium!' are pretty innovative. To be fair it must be hard to focus when you're so freaked by the impact on insurance, let alone oil prices.

And The Politics of Weather 3: The Shyness of Experts

You can still find the verbatim copy from the press release in the Insurance Journal. There are also details available from a New Orleans business provider, where we learn from IEM Director of Homeland Security Wayne Thomas that his company's 'approach to catastrophic planning meets the challenges associated with integrating multi-jurisdictional needs and capabilities into an effective plan for addressing catastrophic hurricane strikes'. Right. So, the IEM team's approach isn't to siphon off tax money, spout management shit, provide a demonstrably catastrophically inadequate plan, then fuck off like craven fucking caveworms and hide the evidence when the fucking corpses start piling up?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Class Warfare? Fuck Yeah!

Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing posted a link to this: Being Poor by John Scalzi. Some choice parts (and I've italicized some that I've found myself nodding at vigorously):
Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they're what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there's not an $800 car in America that's worth a damn.

Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.

Being poor is relying on people who don't give a damn about you.

Being poor is an overnight shift under florescent lights.

Being poor is believing a GED actually makes a goddamned difference.

Being poor is not taking the job because you can't find someone you trust to watch your kids.

Being poor is not talking to that girl because she'll probably just laugh at your clothes.

Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.

Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you're not actually stupid.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you're not actually lazy.

Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.

Being poor is having to live with choices you didn't know you made when you were 14 years old.

Being poor is feeling helpless when your child makes the same mistakes you did, and won't listen to you beg them against doing so.

Being poor is four years of night classes for an Associates of Art degree.

Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn't leave.

I'd recommend reading the whole damn thing.

For another perspective, Riggsveda posts at Corrente some other, um, choice comments in reaction to the ongoing disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi, including:
It seems to me that the poor should have had the EASIEST time leaving. They don't need to pay for an extended leave from their home, they could have just packed a few belongings and walked away to start over somewhere else. What did they have to lose?

When the wealthy evacuate, they leave behind nice houses, expensive cars, possibly pets that they treat as members of the family, valuable jewelry, family heirlooms, etc. This makes it emotionally difficult for wealthy people to leave. But by definition, the poor do not have this burden: they either rent their homes, or they are in public housing; their cars are practically junk anyway; and they don't have any valuable possessions. This is what it means to be poor. These people could just pick up their few belongings, buy a one-way bus ticket to any city and be poor there. Supposing they even had jobs in NO, it's not like minimum wage jobs are hard to come by.

Sobering to consider how many of us have disregarded the plight of the rich and well-insured. Spoken like someone who has all the wisdom of a fifteen-year-old who's just read "Atlas Shrugged."

Friday, September 02, 2005

Nope, Not The Time For Politics At All...

Read this over at TPM:
What's that proverb? Every crisis is an opportunity? AP this morning: "President Bush has used a constitutional provision to bypass the Senate and fill a top Justice Department slot with an official whose nomination stalled over tactics at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval facility."

Bush used a "recess appointment" Wednesday to name Alice S. Fisher to lead the agency's criminal division. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., had blocked the nomination because he wants to talk to an agent who named Fisher in an e-mail about allegedly abusive interrogations at the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo.

The agent wrote that in weekly meetings with Justice Department officials "we often discussed (Defense Department) techniques and how they were not effective or producing (intelligence) that was reliable." In the next sentence, the agent said Fisher, then the No. 2 official in the criminal division, was among Justice officials who attended the meetings.

Fisher has said she does not recall participating in the discussions, and Justice officials have said the agent did not intend to say she had. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales declined to let senators question the agent, saying it would violate long-standing policy.

It's a bunch of fucking sociopaths in charge.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Then And Now

Peggy Noonan, February 19, 2004:
Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man. He's normal. He thinks in a sort of common-sense way. He speaks the language of business and sports and politics. You know him. He's not exotic. But if there's a fire on the block, he'll run out and help. He'll help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, "Where's Sally?" He's responsible. He's not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world. And then when the fire comes they say, "I warned Joe about that furnace." And, "Does Joe have children?" And "I saw a fire once. It spreads like syrup. No, it spreads like explosive syrup. No, it's formidable and yet fleeting." When the fire comes they talk. Bush ain't that guy. Republicans love the guy who ain't that guy. Americans love the guy who ain't that guy."

George W. Bush, August 30, 2005:

As New Orleans drowns, the president decides to take guitar pickin' lessons.

To be fair, I'm sure he'll promise to send money. He likes to do that. He doesn't actually send money, but by the time anyone realizes that, we're on to the next disaster.

I'd also forgotten about Noonan's line, "Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world." Yeah, ain't that the truth? Like pointing out that the levees that were supposed to be strengthened weren't because the money budgeted to do so was diverted to the war in Iraq, just as the National Guard troops who should have been on hand to respond to the crisis were. Or that FEMA, which should have been on the spot before the clouds cleared away, has been gutted by the administration in favor of moving its responsibilities to the Department of Homeland Security, but that DHS doesn't have anything in place yet to handle a disaster of this magnitude. Yeah, stupid intellectuals.

I'm sure that Crazy Peggy will be pointing out shortly that the guitar incident was not a case of Nero fiddling, but of Mr. Bush's steadfast (and resolute!) committment to the arts.