Friday, September 30, 2005


Pace Bill Bennett

" could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."
--Bill Bennett

Problems with Bennett's formulation, and the reasons why it's racist even though he was only speaking hypothetically:

1. It presumes something other than individual choice. "You could abort every black baby..." Who could abort every black baby? The government? The radical right? the Neo-Hitler-Youth? Abortion is a matter of individual liberty--one person making a decision about her own family planning. The very idea that anybody--any agency, power, or force--could "abort all" babies of any sort is essentially fascist at its root. It harks back to forced sterilization programs, not to mention final solutions.

2. It presumes that blacks are born criminals. That is, it's not because they grow up in poverty and prejudice that makes criminals out of them, it's because they're black. This is fairly typical of racist thinking on the issue. The racist idea is to emphasize the separateness of black people based on their race, by concentrating on the black underclass and then blaming underclass behavior on the entire race.

The truth is, about two thirds of all American blacks belong to the middle class or higher; blacks who grow up in the suburbs with two prosperous parents do just as well in school as the average white kid with the same advantages; etc. etc. So, to lower the crime rate in this country, would it be necessary to abort the babies of people such as, say, Bill Cosby, Oprah, Shaq, Thomas Sowell, Tavis Smiley, Al Roker, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Angelou, Clarence Thomas, Jessie Jackson, Condoleeza Rice, Stanley Crouch, and on and on? Ridiculous.

It's interesting to note that many of the conservative blogs and commentaries on the Katrina disaster focused not on povery, mendacity, and governmental callousness, but on "looting and lawlessness." Stories were spread on the conservative noise machine emphasizing (and in many cases fabricating) these aspects of the disaster. The cause of this is systemic: racists want to believe that poor blacks cause crime, and that therefore they deserve to be discriminated against, deserve to live in poverty, deserve their own condition, their misery. As for those conservatives who insist that "black males are disproptionately involved in violent crimes," again, that's a racist formulation--because it's not because they're black, it because they're a disadvantaged underclass with low education and limited opportunities. If you were to separate out the assimilated, college-educated, professional black middle and upper classes, and analyze only them, putting the underclass aside, what you would find is that black males are NOT disproportionately involved in crime. So where does the problem lie? Is it in "blackness" per se, or is it in the existence of a disadvantaged underclass?

If you were to abort all the white babies in this country, it would eventually cut down on the number of racists. Maybe even, if we were lucky, on the number of racist right-wing talk-show hosts. Ba-dum.

The Quotidian Meander

Well, There's Always 2006

In 1994, people got fed up with an overbearing, bloated, incompetent Congress. Voters swept the incumbent Democrats out, and installed young, vital Republican majorities in both Houses.

The result?

Corruption in government is at an all-time high.

Cronyism, quid pro quo, and the "revolving door" between the "aisles" and the "lobbies" in Washington are worse than ever.

Government's even larger.

Government's far more in debt.

The poor and the lower middle class are worse off; personal income growth has stalled; "job devaluation" continues apace; unemployment remains high.

Class divisions in the country are deeper and more bitter than they've been since the 1930s.

Ethics violations in Congress are rampant, with Republican leaders in both Houses either indicted or under investigation.

And that's not even mentioning Vietnam II.

So what to do? In a two party system, there's only one thing to try: sweep the overbearing, bloated, incompetent Republicans out of Congress, and install young, vital Democratic majorities in both houses.

Viva 2006.

The Quotidian Meander

Thursday, September 29, 2005


You Can't Make This Stuff Up, Dept.

It's not fair. It's just not. A few recent news bites:

--> Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma, in his role as Chairman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, has called sci-fi novelist Michael Crichton to give expert testimony before the committee, on the subject of global warming. Crichton's latest novel, State of Fear, is heavily preoccupied with denying global warming.

--> Louisiana State Senator Craig Romero (Republican, of course) visited Washington earlier this month to raise money for Katrina disaster relief. But while drumming up support for his own run for Congress, he handed out press packets to special interest groups saying that if only Katrina victims would never move back home, the district will become Republican.

--> Radio talk-show host, former Reagan administration Secretary of Education, and best-selling author of The Book of Virtue Bill Bennett declared on his radio show that if "you wanted to reduce crime...if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Bennett conceded that aborting all African-American babies "would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do," then added again, "but the crime rate would go down."

--> Rep. Stacey Campfield, a white Republican from Tennessee, tried to join the Congressional Black Caucus, and was turned down. His response was to compare the Caucus--unfavorably--to the KKK. "My understanding is that the KKK doesn't even ban members by race," said Rep. Campfield, adding that the KKK "has less racist bylaws" than the black lawmakers' group. Caucus chairman Rep. Johnny Shaw, a black Democrat, called Campfield a "strange guy" who was simply interested in stirring up trouble.

It's not fair, I tell ya. How is a guy supposed to lampoon this stuff? The truth is more offensive and ridiculous than any parody. Oh well.

The Quotidian Meander

The Delay Train (Or Is That the Train Delay?)

Tom Delay's high-speed express graft'n'greed train, nicknamed the "Milk It For All Its Worth," appears to have encountered a bad patch of track. Longtime Delay watchers will marvel that it's just one single solitary indictment, analogous to nailing Capone for tax fraud; Delay has, after all, left innumerable bodies strewn in his wake. Well, actually the Capone analogy is the nonpartisan analogy. The progressive-hippie one-worlder analogy would be to, say, getting the Son of Sam with a parking ticket.

And in case you're wondering what's giving the Republican leader over in the other house of Congress fits, here's the short take: it's exactly what Martha Stewart went to jail for, but on a much grander scale. The QM is betting Frist won't serve any time--after all, he's not some uppity broad who needs to be taken down a peg.

Back to the Delay Train: chances are still pretty good that repairs will be made and service will be restored. Operators this ruthless have a way of never quite going away, as will be demonstrated when Newt Gingrich runs for President in 2008.

P.S. Also check out "The Hypocrite Effect," this blog's entry for last July 10th (the title above is a link).

The Quotidian Meander

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Let's Get This Straight

The opposite of Liberal is not Conservative. The opposite of conservative is Progressive. The opposite of liberal is Authoritarian.

"The term authoritarian is used to describe an organization or a state which enforces strong and sometimes oppressive measures against those in its sphere of influence, generally without attempts at gaining their consent and often not allowing feedback on its policies.

"In an authoritarian state, citizens are subject to state authority in many aspects of their lives, including many that other political philosophies would see as matters of personal choice. There are various degrees of authoritarianism; even very democratic and liberal states will show authoritarianism to some extent, for example in areas of national security." (Wikipedia)

The Quotidian Meander

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Quote of the Day

"My family's ok, so I'm not worried about the house. I never liked that house that much anyhow."

--Port Authur police officer Pat Powell, whose house, in Sabine Pass, TX, lay directly in the path of Hurricane Rita

Friday, September 23, 2005


An Enlightening Experience

It's no secret that George Bush doesn't much care for poor people. In his own words, his "core" is "the Haves…and the Have-Mores." But I had a thought the other day--I wondered if Bush has ever worried about the price of gasoline, or the winter heating bill.

Most people in America are at least annoyed by those two things, and many are very worried indeed. This past Summer, I paid more than $20 for a single tank of gas for the first time in my life. Right after Katrina, putting gas in the car came pretty close to $30.

In Wisconsin, huge pickup trucks, SUVs, and, to a lesser extent, minivans are very popular. Those people are paying, in some extreme cases, upwards of $100 for a fill-up! And presumably they have to do it more often, too. I can get by on a single tank of gas for a month--can an SUV manage any significant commute for a whole month on a single tank of gas? I don't know for sure, but I doubt it.

And in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Energies is cautioning families whose monthly home heating bill was $350 last winter to expect monthly expenses northward of $500 this year. Maybe it's just my starving-artist perspective, but that seems like kind of a lot of money to me.

I just think that the experience of near-poverty--at least fleetingly--is a necessary experience for anyone, especially the very rich. Many otherwise continuously prosperous white people experience this during a short lull right after graduating from college. Many, however, don't even experience it then. I've never experienced anything close to real poverty, but I'm aware, at least, that it can be an enlightening experience to not have quite enough money. It's one reason why I have a little more trust in politicians like John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich--at least they know what that's like.

I just wonder if the cost of gas for the car or the cost of heating a house in the winter has ever even entered into the President's consciousness. Again, I don't know…but I have to doubt it.

The Quotidian Meander

Be It Resolved

Chicago, Illinois

On September 14, 2005, Chicago approved a resolution calling for an "immediate and orderly withdrawal" from Iraq by a vote of 29-9. Here's the text of the Resolution.



WHEREAS, The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 was passed by the U.S. Congress on October 11, 2002, and that Public Law 107-243 cited Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction as a primary reason for the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq; and

WHEREAS, On January 12, 2005, President Bush officially declared an end to the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; and

WHEREAS, The United States initiated combat operations in Iraq on March 19, 2003; and

WHEREAS, Hundreds of thousands of members of the United States Armed Forces have served with honor and distinction in Iraq; and

WHEREAS, More than 1,700 members of the United States Armed Forces have been killed and more than 12,000 members of the Armed Forces have been wounded in substantially accomplishing the stated purpose of the United States of giving the people of Iraq a reasonable opportunity to decide their own future; and

WHEREAS, The United States military occupation of Iraq has placed significant strains on the capacity of the United States Armed Forces, both active duty and reserve and the National Guard.

WHEREAS, The armed forces of Iraq number more than 76,000 troops as of June 8, 2005, and are growing in number and capability daily; and

WHEREAS, The forces of the Iraqi Interior Ministry number more than 92,000 personnel as of June 8, 2005, and are growing in number and capability daily; and

WHEREAS, More than $200 billion has been appropriated by Congress to fund military operations and reconstruction in Iraq, and Chicago residents’ share now exceeds $2.1 billion; and

WHEREAS, The funds spent by Chicago taxpayers on the war and occupation in Iraq could have provided Head Start for one year for 238,056 children; or medical insurance for one year for 1,076,242 children; or 31,147 public school teachers for one year; or 16,183 additional housing units, according to the National Priorities Project; and

WHEREAS, The war and continued occupation have resulted in the devastation of Iraq’s physical and social infrastructure and led to widespread and continuous resistance to U.S. occupation that threatens the lives of Iraqi civilians and the men and women who compose the ranks of U.S. and other occupying forces; and

WHEREAS, The presence of United States forces in Iraq and the alleged torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other facilities have inflamed anti-American passions in the Muslim world and increased the terrorist threat to United States citizens, both at home and abroad; and

WHEREAS, Polls show that less than half of the American people support the war; and

WHEREAS, Illinois Congresspersons Rush, Lipinski, Emanuel, Davis, Schakowsky, Jackson, Gutierrez, and Costello joined more than 100 other Congresspersons in voting for a House resolution on an Iraq exit strategy; and

WHEREAS, On January 2003, the Chicago City Council passed a resolution 47-1 opposing the war in Iraq prior to its commencing in March 2003; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, That the City Council of the City of Chicago, on behalf of the citizens of Chicago, urges the United States government to immediately commence an orderly and rapid withdrawal of United States military personnel from Iraq; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the City Council of Chicago, recognizing that the stability of Iraq is crucial to the security of the citizens of Chicago and to all Americans, urges the United States government to provide the people of Iraq with all necessary non-military material aid as shall be necessary for the security of Iraq’s citizens and for the rebuilding of Iraq; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the financial resources used to prosecute the war be redirected to address the urgent needs of America’s great urban centers and the most vulnerable portions of our population, including health, education, and homeland security; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That a suitable copy of this resolution shall be sent to George W. Bush, President of the United States, and the members of the Illinois Congressional delegation.

The Quotidian Meander

Thursday, September 22, 2005


The Coming Media Monopolies

Sorry for the cut-and-paste, but this is too important not to at least do my own little part to help spread the word.

Sand, Sun and Spectrum Policy
By Craig Aaron
August 30, 2005

Summer is no time to talk about spectrum policy. So instead, let's pretend this is a column about going to the beach.

Imagine for a moment that you're relaxing on the white sand, with a slight breeze in the air, just steps from the clear blue water. This beach is open to the public, but it's never too crowded. It's a great place to surf.

But then one day you show up, and there's a huge brick wall blocking your path to the shore. Without telling anyone, the government sold off this seaside spot to a private developer. Seems they were a little short of cash because of too many tax cuts. If you still want to dip your toes in the water, the new management expects you to pay through the nose.

You'd be pretty angry, right?

Well, that's exactly what's happening right now in Congress. Only the valuable public resource being auctioned off isn't the beach--it's a prime slice of the public airwaves.

A little background: In 1996, Bill Clinton and Congress handed the nation's television broadcasters billions of dollars worth of the radio spectrum for free to make the transition from analog to digital broadcasting.

Where broadcasters now have one channel on the air, they'll soon be able to "multicast" four to six channels simultaneously (with no new obligations for public interest programming). This will be especially troubling if the broadcasters succeed in overturning broadcast ownership rules at the FCC. They could potentially control as many as 12 or 18 channels in a single market.

In exchange for this windfall, the broadcasters were supposed to complete the digital transition by the end of next year--and return their old analog spectrum to the government. But they've been slow to make the switch, so Congress is preparing to impose a new "hard date" of Dec. 31, 2008, at which point your TV will stop working if you don't subscribe to cable or satellite.

That's right. Though nobody has bothered to warn consumers, millions of TVs being sold right now will soon be obsolete. Even though 85 percent of U.S. households subscribe to cable or satellite, Consumers Union estimates that 39 percent of homes have at least one TV relying on over-the-air analog signals. Unless the government pays for a subsidy, tens of millions of viewers will have to cough up at least $50 for a converter or buy new TVs altogether.
(Guess which one the electronics industry is counting on.)

But the real scandal of the digital television transition is what's going to happen to the analog spectrum that's being vacated by the broadcasters and returned to the government. After returning from the recess, Congress intends to auction off the public airwaves to the cell phone companies for at least $20 billion. You wouldn't know from the paltry press coverage of this boondoggle that there's an alternative. Instead of a one-time fire sale, Congress could open the airwaves to the public and lay the groundwork for universal, broadband access. All they have to do is set aside a portion of the spectrum as "unlicensed," meaning anyone can use it, not just the highest bidder.

The wireless network at your corner coffee shop uses unlicensed spectrum. But right now Wi-Fi operates in the high-frequency "junk bands," which are cluttered with signals from microwave ovens, garage-door openers and baby monitors. The airwaves being taken from the broadcasters, however, are the Malibu of the radio spectrum--fine beachfront property.

Signals at these lower frequencies travel farther at lower powers and can go through obstacles like walls, trees and mountains. That means lower infrastructure costs for broadband providers, encouraging the development of local wireless networks and lowering prices. With more unlicensed spectrum, the "Community Internet" networks being set up across the country would be even faster and more reliable.

Super-high-speed broadband connections for just $10 a month could be a reality.

Under the current regime, a majority of Americans are unable to get connected or afford the high-priced commercial service offered by the cable and phone companies. The United States has fallen to 16th place worldwide in broadband penetration--behind countries like South Korea, Japan, Canada and Finland. More unlicensed spectrum would help narrow the digital divide.

We're heading for a world in which all communications--television, telephone, radio and the Web--will be delivered over the Internet. The choice seems clear: We can sell off our public resources to pay for the war, tax cuts or more pork-barrel projects.

Or we can invest in the future, bringing the benefits of broadband to all Americans.
But first our lawmakers need to pull their heads out of the sand.

Craig Aaron is the communications director of the national media reform group Free Press and a senior editor of In These Times. The views expressed here are his own.

The Quotidian Meander

Tuesday, September 20, 2005



backronym (BAK-ro-nim) noun

A word re-interpreted as an acronym.

[Compound of back + acronym.]

In a backronym, an expansion is invented to treat an existing word as an
acronym. An example is the PERL programming language whose name is now
explained as an acronym of Practical Extraction and Report Language.

When naming, sometimes a suitable name is chosen and then an acronym
is retrofitted on top of it: USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening
America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct
Terrorism). The clunkiness of the expansion is a quick giveaway. How about
forming a backronym for ACRONYM itself: A Contrived Result Of Nomenclature
Yielding Mechanism?

(from Anu Garg at A.Word.A.Day)

Friday, September 16, 2005


Katrina Won't Spin

Bush made a nice speech last night.

Then again, he's going to send NASA to Mars, be the Education President, get Osama bin Laden no matter what it takes, be a uniter not a divider, and fire anyone in his administration found to have been involved in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Forgive me, but our President has got a credibility gap a mile wide. I'm afraid we're going to have to wait and see.

The Quotidian Meander

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Take a Hint

Bill Mahr last Friday night:

"Now, I kid, but seriously, Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you anymore. There's no more money to spend. You used up all of that. You can't start another war because you also used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people.

"Yeah, listen to your mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit card's maxed out, and no one is speaking to you: mission accomplished! Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service. And the oil company. And the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or spaceman?!

"Now, I know what you're saying. You're saying that there's so many other things that you, as president, could involve yourself in... Please don't! I know, I know, there's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela, and eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote. But, sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man.

"Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire metropolis to rising water and snakes. On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two Trade Centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans...Maybe you're just not lucky!

"I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side. So, yes, God does speak to you, and what he's saying is, 'Take a hint.' "

(Bill Mahr) (Thanks to JB for sending me this)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Amazing article

This is amazing. Note the date on this article.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Great News

There's lots of really good news out there if you only know how to look at it. For instance, did you know that the cost of living hasn't gone up since 1997? There's strong evidence of this in the fact that Congress hasn't raised the minimum wage since then.

Ignore all the pay raises Congress has given ITSELF in that time period. That might lead you to a different conclusion, and you'd miss the good news.

More good news: President Bush has rescinded the Davis-Bacon act of 1931, requiring that construction companies pay "prevailing" wages. Why? To help with the reconstruction effort, of course. Construction companies have long been hampered in their selfless efforts by those pesky labor costs, after all. In a similar spirit, this probably means that, real soon now, President Bush will require that companies accepting government contracts for rebuilding suspend their profit-taking, too. Right? Everybody should be approaching this in the same spirit, shouldn't they?

It's real generous of those companies to be paying anything, come to think, since the poor homeless darkies would probably work for cheap wine! This is working out very well for them.

In a similar spirit, the President has also wisely suspended the requirement that rebuilding contractors bid competitively for government contracts. This just shows how trusting our President is. What a nice guy! He knows he can count on the civic responsibility of the construction companies, who will seize this opportunity to submit low bids voluntarily. After all, they're saving on all those labor costs.

Everyone's helping, in this time of national crisis.

It warms the heart.

The Quotidian Meander

Friday, September 09, 2005


We Need to Pay Attention

I have to say that things like this make me almost physically ill, and, very unfortunately, I'm not the only one.

One of the things that ordinary, everyday Americans need to know that most of us don't is that the U.S. military has been using depleted uranium for both armor and munitions since the first Gulf War. It seems that DU armor is nearly impervious to conventional armor-piercing shells, and DU-tipped rounds are extremely effective at piercing conventional armor. Plus, thanks to our numerous nuclear energy plants, depleted uranium is relatively plentiful and cheap.

The trouble seems to be that "depleted" uranium is not entirely depleted, and when a DU-tipped round hits anything, the uranium is atomized and pollutes the environment around it.

Iraqis living near the "Corridor of Death" from the first Gulf War are experiencing greatly heightened incidences of birth defects.

Unfortunately, it's also affecting our own soldiers. DU appears to be at least partly responsible for "Gulf War Syndrome," which, as some observers see it, is in essence radiation sickness. 40% of Gulf War veterans have needed further medical care after returning home, vs. 9% in WWII. It is suspected that Gulf War veterans are also experiencing higher-than-normal rates of birth defects in their own children, although no scientific studies have been permitted.

The issue is highly politicized because Saddam Hussein used it heavily in his internal propaganda before he was deposed, and because the Department of Defense has stonewalled on accountability. Although it's a hot-button issue in the European press, the corporate-owned U.S. media has downplayed the issue.

The dispersed uranium from DU-tipped ammunition is extraordinarily difficult to clean up--as the U.S. contractors building military bases in Iraq are discovering.

It may also be that DU-tipped munitions violate the Geneva Convention, which outlaws weapons that inflict needless and ongoing suffering.

(Source: True Lies by Anthony Lappe and Stephen Marshall,

The Quotidian Meander

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Our Orwellian Times

The United States is in its post-democratic phase. Democracy in this country lasted 224 years, which is a pretty good record.

Along the way, it was a principle that was much admired in the abstract, and much abused in practice.

Not until 2000, however, did the system fail--when Jeb Bush, the President's brother, doing his part to secure the desired end result in the election, oversaw a wholesale (and wholly purposeful) disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida. Overall, between 48,000 and 70,000 voters--overwhelmingly poor and black (about 9 out of 10 of whom could be expected to vote Democratic)--were improperly stricken from voter rolls.

That turned out to be decisive.

In the 2004 election, exit polls predicted that John Kerry would win the presidency by a comfortable margin of 8 million votes. Exit polls are considered highly reliable, with a margin of error of only 1%. Yet George W. Bush "won" the election by 5 million votes.

When this discrepancy was analyzed, it was discovered that anomalous results--that is, wide discrepancies between the exit polls and the counted vote that far exceeded the statistical margin of error--did not occur where the votes were counted by hand. Only in precincts where the votes were counted electronically did large discrepancies occur.

Americans largely ignored both of these irregularities.

We've also ignored the high irony of claiming to be "exporting democracy" when we're no longer practicing it at home. (Or rather, we're pretending to practice it but aren't.) Of course, freedom and democracy are not the real reasons we're in Iraq, and never were.

But still.

The Quotidian Meander

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Sorry, My Bad

You hardly have to be a critic of the President, as I am, to discern that he's not a man who takes responsibility for things. Amid the growing concern and anger over the slow rescue response after Katrina, for instance, the conservative message machine has already settled on its characteristically simple slogan, which it will now repeat ad infinitum: this time, it's "state and local." As in, state and local governments and agencies are the ones you should blame, not the President or his party. And of course Karl Rove's spinmeister spin, which is "Let's help the victims now and point fingers later."

Don't take my word for it. Just be on the lookout for these terms over the next few days and weeks. I'm betting you'll hear it more than a few times. I've already heard eight different individuals use the standard-issue "point fingers later" line.

There is, of course, one way to make absolutely sure that you're not blamed: head the "investigation" yourself. Every parent knows the great value of deferring a decision. "We'll talk about it later" or "I'll decide tomorrow" are crucial strategies for dealing with insistent childish demands. On the national political scene, the equivalent is, of course, the "investigation." When anger flares or criticisms become insistent, the solution is often to launch an investigation. You can then refuse to talk about it because it's an "ongoing investigation," and you can claim to be doing something about it even when, really, you're not.

So anyway, apparently George W. Bush himself--always one to cut to the core truth of issues regardless of the political consequences, as we all know--will head the "investigation" of the response to Katrina.

Here are two possible potential conclusions I can think of:

"The problems occurred because I cut the legs off FEMA and slashed funding for flood control, and appointed one of my incompetent cronies to head FEMA. Sorry, my bad."

"There was no way to foresee the disaster; response was mainly a problem on the state and local levels; as soon as I became aware of the problem, I launched an investigation."

We should really save the guy the trouble. (He's already cut his five-week vacation short by a few days. How much more can one President sacrifice?) Why even have an investigation, when it's all but certain from the start what the outcome is going to be?

Don't even bother.

The Quotidian Meander

Monday, September 05, 2005


We're Sure She Meant Well

Barbara Bush said today, referring to the poor who had lost everything back home and evacuated, "This is working very well for them."

...On the surge of evacuees to [Houston], Barbara Bush said: "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 [she chuckles slightly] is working very well for them."

And if there's a shortage of food, why, let them eat cake.

The Quotidian Meander: Ya Can't Make This Stuff Up

Republican Agenda

From the Sunday Portland Oregonian:

"Other than telling us how to live, think, marry, pray, vote, invest, educate our children and, now, die, I think the Republicans have done a fine job of getting government out of our personal lives."

Sunday, September 04, 2005



(by Kevin Drum)

CHRONOLOGY...Here's a timeline that outlines the fate of both FEMA and flood control projects in New Orleans under the Bush administration. Read it and weep:

• January 2001: Bush appoints Joe Allbaugh, a crony from Texas, as head of FEMA. Allbaugh has no previous experience in disaster management.

• April 2001: Budget Director Mitch Daniels announces the Bush administration's goal of privatizing much of FEMA's work. In May, Allbaugh confirms that FEMA will be downsized: "Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program...." he said. "Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."

• 2001: FEMA designates a major hurricane hitting New Orleans as one of the three "likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country."

• December 2002: After less than two years at FEMA, Allbaugh announces he is leaving to start up a consulting firm that advises companies seeking to do business in Iraq. He is succeeded by his deputy and former college roommate, Michael Brown, who has no previous experience in disaster management and was fired from his previous job for mismanagement.

• March 2003: FEMA is downgraded from a cabinet level position and folded into the Department of Homeland Security. Its mission is refocused on fighting acts of terrorism.

• 2003: Under its new organization chart within DHS, FEMA's preparation and planning functions are reassigned to a new Office of Preparedness and Response. FEMA will henceforth focus only on response and recovery.

• Summer 2004: FEMA denies Louisiana's pre-disaster mitigation funding requests. Says Jefferson Parish flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue: "You would think we would get maximum consideration....This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it."

• June 2004: The Army Corps of Engineers budget for levee construction in New Orleans is slashed. Jefferson Parish emergency management chiefs Walter Maestri comments: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay."

• June 2005: Funding for the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cut by a record $71.2 million. One of the hardest-hit areas is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes.

• August 2005: While New Orleans is undergoing a slow motion catastrophe, Bush mugs for the cameras, cuts a cake for John McCain, plays the guitar for Mark Wills, delivers an address about V-J day, and continues with his vacation. When he finally gets around to acknowledging the scope of the unfolding disaster, he delivers only a photo op on Air Force One and a flat, defensive, laundry list speech in the Rose Garden.

So: A crony with no relevant experience was installed as head of FEMA. Mitigation budgets for New Orleans were slashed even though it was known to be one of the top three risks in the country. FEMA was deliberately downsized as part of the Bush administration's conservative agenda to reduce the role of government. After DHS was created, FEMA's preparation and planning functions were taken away.

Actions have consequences. No one could predict that a hurricane the size of Katrina would hit this year, but the slow federal response when it did happen was no accident. It was the result of four years of deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of operational competence. It's the Bush administration in a nutshell.

(Source: Kevin Drum, "Political Animal" column, The Washington Monthly)

The Quotidian Meander

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Can't Be Everywhere

Percentage of Louisiana's National Guard force unavailable because they're in Iraq: 35

Percentage of Mississippi's National Guard force unavailable because they're in Iraq: 40

Total number of missing personnel: approximately 5,800

Pertinent quote:

"Missing the personnel is the big thing in this particular event [i.e., the aftermath of hurricane Katrina]. We need our people."

--Lieutenant Andy Thaggard, Mississippi National Guard

The Quotidian Meander

Friday, September 02, 2005


Unkind Cuts

I made a mistake in the "As Ye Sow" piece. I originally wrote "$230 short...." It was supposed to be "$23M short...." Basically, with all the money asked for by the Army Corps of Engineers for New Orleans, the Bush White House proposed giving them between 1/3 and 1/4 of what was asked for, and then Congress upped it to about half of what was needed. It wouldn't be so much of a scandal (priorities do have to be made) except that we're spending $4 billion a week in Iraq, much of that going to military contractors and American defense corporations.

Similar cuts have, of course, been going on all over the country at every level. The military base closings that have been taking place will save the Pentagon some $5 billion annually. Again, not a bad thing, except that the figure pays for a measly nine or ten days in Iraq, and we have built, or are building, 14 military bases on Iraqi soil.

Again, the point is that this Administration is deliberately engaging in extraordinary deficit spending, in a deliberate attempt to bankrupt the U.S. Treasury. It's a philosophical position. A radical one, I might add. Care to go looking for spending bills Bush has vetoed? I'll give you a hint: it'll be a lonely search, and you'll look a long time. At the same time, ordinary governmental services that U.S. citizens have taken for granted for a century and more are considered, by the right-wing philosophes, disreputable, and so the administration has been slashing them wherever and however it can. Their principles are: remove all constraints on big business, multinational corporations, and the very rich; spend as much federal money as possible, so there's none left for government social programs; and curtail or eliminate all federal spending on social programs, average citizens, and infrastructure.

All the little things that people complain about are just manifestations of this overall policy: the "tax reductions" that are really just a giveaway to the rich, and will only serve to shift a greater tax burden to the middle class; the unprecedented military spending, extraordinary in a time of peace; the gutting of environmental protections (note that the Bush Administration was quick to "respond" to high gas prices in the past few days by removing more environmental restrictions on gas producers--think that will be temporary?), the attempt to dismantle Social Security. All of it is just part and parcel of this government's radical basic policies.

It's interesting that one great project of the Neocon revolution has been to transfer the former demonization of communists and socialists to a demonization of liberals. It seems an odd choice of bogeymen--demonizing liberals seems at first blush like clubbing baby seals or beating St. Francis with a stick. But what does "liberal" really mean? It's just a name for people who believe that society works best when there is strong government regulation, government involvement in social and societal problems, and government oversight of industry.

If you watch the White House carefully in the days and weeks to come, I think what you will see is a decided lack of interest in mobilizing relief for the Gulf Coast (no accident that Congress had to initiate recovery spending), but very quick and almost covert action when it comes to exploiting the tragedy to further their underlying aims.

The Quotidian Meander

Thursday, September 01, 2005


The Editorial Principle

I realize that the piece below, "As Ye Sow," seems bitter and ungenerous when Americans of all political persuasions are both recoiling in horror at the tragedy on the Gulf Coast and also pulling together to help.

This brings up a point I had meant to make in "The Middle Monkeys" a few days ago. Many people are unaware of the original intended purpose of the "editorial." The idea is that the editor of a newspaper of magazine is supposed to be fair, unbiased, and evenhanded in the discharging of his or her duties; but it's also natural that every individual in such a position will have his or her own opinions. The editorial is therefore a vent, a steam-valve. It's meant to give the editor a place to park his own personal opinions and blat his own biases, the better to enable him to keep them out of the rest of the publication.

"The Quotidian Meander" is itself a vent and a steam-valve in that same sense. I noticed two years ago that my need to communicate my political fears and worries was growing so insistent that it was spilling over into my photography column, where it was inappropriate. I have never publicized "TQM," never done a thing to increase its traffic; I have no expectations of it and no ambitions for it. I know I'm not a political writer or a politician.

All "The Quotidian Meander" is supposed to do is to give me a personal steam vent, a place to air my political concerns, to better enable me to keep those concerns from infiltrating my photography writings. That's all. That's why I write it, why it exists.

It has worked. In my photography writings, I confine myself to photography and, for the most part, keep the politics out.

Still, it's simply important that citizens realize that this hurricane is not entirely a "natural" disaster. The increasingly horrible aftermath we're forced to witness now is also the result of deliberate policy choices by our leaders.

Never mind the fact that climatologists have been predicting for 25 years that global warming will exacerbate storm activity, and the Bush league bizarrely yanked the U.S. from its lead-dog position in the Kyoto Accord pack. Forget about that. This administration is presiding over the biggest sacking of the U.S. Treasury ever. Using the philosophical rationalization that government can only be curtailed if it is bankrupted ("starve the beast" in the infamous words of Neo-con capo Grover Norquist--click on the title for a link), the Administration is transferring wealth to big business and the economic elite at an unprecedented rate. At the same time, it is cutting back on services to average citizens on almost every front.

We would see this--we are seeing this--wherever pressures are exposing weaknesses in our societal fabric. The hurricane is merely what is exposing it at the moment.

FEMA's slow response (there are trapped infants in desperate straits in a New Orleans hospital, for instance, days after the rains stopped) and the breach of the levees the day after the hurricane passed ARE NOT ACCIDENTS. They are not natural occurrences. They are the result of choices our leaders have made. We simply must realize that; it is our duty, as citizens and as human beings.

The Quotidian Meander

As ye sow...

I hate being a poverty-line American in the era of George W. Bush, but I would REALLY hate being a disaster victim under his watch. As one watches him mouth his dreadful platitudes on television, one can almost sense the pins-and-needles he's on lest someone mention two facts that have lately started to look a tad unwise. First, the Bush administration had all but cut off funding for SELA (The South Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project) by 2003, and second, he's slashed funding for FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been pretty bald about it. It was way behind schedule with flood control measures for New Orleans ($23M short on scheduled improvements in the Lake Ponchartrain levees, for instance), but it cited the costs of Iraq and Homeland Security as "putting pressure" on funds for flood control and disaster preparation.

Funny how no one wants a strong government until they need help. Then they can do nothing but complain about the tepid government response. Well, as ye sow, so shall ye reap.

The Quotidian Meander

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