Friday, May 26, 2006

Crank Up the Radio

Can you reboot this thing?

Or at least link over to streaming media from NPR--Talk of the Nation featured Robert Bea, Ivor van Heerden, and David E. Daniel discussing the Independent Levee Investigation Team report and related concerns here on the cusp of the hurricane season.

This is worth a listen. In particular, van Heerden makes a number of valid points as to the feasibility of living along the Louisiana Gulf Coast, which is refreshing. I sometimes get the impression that the rest of the country thinks of the Gret Stet as a burdensome welfare case (I said as much in a comment over at Suspect Device), and this is unfortunately confirmed by disgusting posts like this--or this (dealt with at TPM's After the Levees thread...Blundell also takes apart this tripe)...anyway, van Heerden, near the end of the segment, notes several ADVANTAGES we have over the often mentioned model of the Netherlands, namely, wetlands, barrier islands, and river silts. With proper planning and management, protection of low-lying coastal or near coastal regions is possible...and desirable: Louisiana's coastal and near coastal regions are certainly not mere locations for vanity housing--or charity cases--but in fact are quite productive. Agriculture, industry, commercial and sport fishing are four things I can think of off the top of my head that take advantage of the existing regional conditions.

This isn't a matter of charity to "prop up a dying city." It's a committment that a country makes to its citizens.

The next disaster, be it natural, or the result of government negligence (the levees were a federal government project that failed due to poor planning, construction and maintenence on the part of the federal government) could be almost anywhere in the country. I wonder if the pro-abandonment folks will feel the same if they're the ones affected next time?
Here's Another Mistake to Admit, Dingbat

Looks like boy king and his wingnut minions have another item to dump down the memory hole:

A military investigation into the deaths of two dozen Iraqis last November is expected to find that a small number of marines in western Iraq carried out extensive, unprovoked killings of civilians, Congressional, military and Pentagon officials said Thursday.

I wonder if they'll beging trashing the military the way they trashed John Murtha...nah, they'll probably just go for ignore, deny...and trash Murtha some more.

Because truth isn't exactly their strong suit.

Or, as Glenn Greenwald notes, they'll ratchet up the "fog of war" or equivalent argument, or maybe even play compare and contrast with Saddam Hussein, as if killing fewer numbers of non-combatants somehow qualifies as moral superiority.

And, of course, the top of the command chain won't even be questioned--even as they pretend that war is hell--or hard work--for themselves, too.

Sons of bitches...
My, How Things Change, Eh?

On Grownups Being in Charge

Today's Rude Pundit and Paul Krugman bookend, they actually do, and explore more or less the same theme. Since you can link to the Rude One via the magic of the internets, I'll post Krugman's op-ed here (you can probably find the whole Krugman piece somewhere out there, but this hopefully makes it easier):

A Test of Our Character

In his new movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore suggests that there are three reasons it's hard to get action on global warming. The first is boiled-frog syndrome: because the effects of greenhouse gases build up gradually, at any given moment it's easier to do nothing. The second is the perception, nurtured by a careful disinformation campaign, that there's still a lot of uncertainty about whether man-made global warming is a serious problem. The third is the belief, again fostered by disinformation, that trying to curb global warming would have devastating economic effects.

I'd add a fourth reason, which I'll talk about in a minute. But first, let's notice that Mr. Gore couldn't have asked for a better illustration of disinformation campaigns than the reaction of energy-industry lobbyists and right-wing media organizations to his film.

The cover story in the current issue of National Review is titled "Scare of the Century." As evidence that global warming isn't really happening, it offers the fact that some Antarctic ice sheets are getting thicker — a point also emphasized in a TV ad by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is partly financed by large oil companies, whose interests it reliably represents.

Curt Davis, a scientist whose work is cited both by the institute and by National Review, has already protested. "These television ads," he declared in a press release, "are a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate." He points out that an initial increase in the thickness of Antarctica's interior ice sheets is a predicted consequence of a warming planet, so that his results actually support global warming rather than refuting it.
Even as the usual suspects describe well-founded concerns about global warming as hysteria, they issue hysterical warnings about the economic consequences of environmentalism. "Al Gore's global warming movie: could it destroy the economy?" Fox News asked.

Well, no, it couldn't. There's some dispute among economists over how forcefully we should act to curb greenhouse gases, but there's broad consensus that even a very strong program to reduce emissions would have only modest effects on economic growth. At worst, G.D.P. growth might be, say, one-tenth or two-tenths of a percentage point lower over the next 20 years. And while some industries would lose jobs, others would gain.

Actually, the right's panicky response to Mr. Gore's film is probably a good thing, because it reveals for all to see the dishonesty and fear-mongering on which the opposition to doing something about climate change rests.

But "An Inconvenient Truth" isn't just about global warming, of course. It's also about Mr. Gore. And it is, implicitly, a cautionary tale about what's been wrong with our politics.

Why, after all, was Mr. Gore's popular-vote margin in the 2000 election narrow enough that he could be denied the White House? Any account that neglects the determination of some journalists to make him a figure of ridicule misses a key part of the story. Why were those journalists so determined to jeer Mr. Gore? Because of the very qualities that allowed him to realize the importance of global warming, many years before any other major political figure: his earnestness, and his genuine interest in facts, numbers and serious analysis.

And so the 2000 campaign ended up being about the candidates' clothing, their mannerisms, anything but the issues, on which Mr. Gore had a clear advantage (and about which his opponent was clearly both ill informed and dishonest).

I won't join the sudden surge of speculation about whether "An Inconvenient Truth" will make Mr. Gore a presidential contender. But the film does make a powerful case that Mr. Gore is the sort of person who ought to be running the country.

Since 2000, we've seen what happens when people who aren't interested in the facts, who believe what they want to believe, sit in the White House. Osama bin Laden is still at large, Iraq is a mess, New Orleans is a wreck. And, of course, we've done nothing about global warming.

But can the sort of person who would act on global warming get elected? Are we — by which I mean both the public and the press — ready for political leaders who don't pander, who are willing to talk about complicated issues and call for responsible policies? That's a test of national character. I wonder whether we'll pass.

Count my vote for the grownups.
Olbermann on "The Apology": "A Brief Visit From the Muse of Retrospection"

Schroeder linked to the transcript. And on Countdown, Richard Wolffe made an interesting observation that Watertiger picked up on. After "showing remorse," Smirk Chimp flashed his trademark, um, smirk.

Evidently he did this while the camera was focused on Poodle Blair, because I managed to listen to the whole dreary exercise, and even forced myself to watch the final moments.

Attaturk has some thoughts about the clown show...and the other clown show that followed, at least on MSNBC:

Tweety called Dear Leader's faux mistake listing last evening as "a little bit of Lincoln". It was fun watching a series of analysts, including fellow MSNBC blastocyst Joe Scarborough, come forward and say in so many words that Matthews was insane.

There are three particular failings of Chris Matthews that stand out from all the other failings:

1. He apparently needs to talk in order to breathe.

2. He is obsessed with gossip, especially sex gossip about the Clintons (hardly alone, the mighty "Cleni" are the prom King and Queen of D.C. apparently)

3. He has a mancrush on Bush that rivals the Powerline boys after they've been forced to wear anti-masturbation mittens for a week...

Bush as Lincoln, I've always pictured Bush as more a Jefferson Davis kind of guy, without the intellect or the horrid neck beard. Like Davis, Bush is prickly, vain and stubborn.

Of course, it was all just a show anyway--most commentators think the whole thing was staged. To me, he looked like a kid being forced to apologize.

And, if he can't figure out that the deadly, sorry spectacle that will be his legacy--the foolish invasion of Iraq--has far more in the way of error than choice of words, then we really do have a serious problem.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Busy Here Today

Apologies...happens sometimes. See you tomorrow.
From a Big House to THE Big House

Looks like Kenny Boy and Jeff will have to "put their affairs in order" and prepare for a little time at the graybar hotel.

Wonder what Ken's good buddy thinks...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"Global Warming? It Could be Bad for O.C.P."

From Cursor.

Maybe it's for all the wrong reasons--and I still don't like or want to shop there--but Wal-Mart...yes, that's right, Wal-Mart...has more sense than our national leadership when it comes to global warming and how to deal with it:

Sometimes you just have to let the possibility breathe.

Sometimes you just have to allow that something grand and good and healthy might actually be born from the bowels of the dank and ravenous megacorporate world, like flowers from a dung heap, like vodka from old potatoes, even if it comes right alongside the nastiest, most abusive federal environmental policy you will see in your lifetime...

back in October, Wal-Mart's president, Lee Scott, delivered a "secret" speech to employees about "21st Century Leadership," in which he outlined a whole slew of what can only be called truly remarkable and potentially world-altering agenda items to help ensure the future health of the world's biggest shopping hell.

And what a speech it was. Packed with all sorts of pledges and goals of such a green and sustainable and forward-thinking nature it might as well have been floating on boats of tofu on waves of Sierra Club blown by winds of Utne Reader. It was, in a word, surreal. And if even half of it is true, more than a little revolutionary.

There was talk of stores eventually being supplied with 100-percent renewable energy. Talk of ultimately creating zero waste, of pledging to reduce packaging materials across the board and create more recyclables and replace PVC packaging in all Wal-Mart branded items with more eco-friendly materials. And when you're talking megatons of plastic, that's saying a lot.

It gets better. Wal-Mart has already committed to selling 100-percent sustainable fish in its food markets. They are already experimenting with green roofs, corn-based plastics and green energy (which is now used to power four Canadian stores, for a total of 39,000 megawatts, amounting to what some estimate is the single biggest purchase of renewable energy in Canadian history). Is this remarkable? Groundbreaking? Utterly confounding? Well, yes and no.

Like any giant company suddenly "embracing" the green initiative (hi, GM and Ford), Wal-Mart's rationale for all of this, of course, has absolutely zero to do with any sort of deep concern for the planet (though it does make for good PR), nothing at all about actual humanitarian beliefs or honest emotion or spiritual reverence, and has absolutely everything to do with the corporation's rabid manifesto: cost-cutting and profit.

The reason Scott promised that Wal-Mart will double the fuel efficiency of their huge truck fleet within a decade? Not to save the air, but to save $300 million in fuel costs per year. The reason they aim to increase store efficiency and reduce greenhouse gasses by 20 percent across all stores worldwide? To save money in heating and electrical bills, and also to help lessen the impact of global warming, which is indirectly causing more violent weather, which in turn endangers production and delivery and Wal-Mart's ability to, well, sell more crap. Ah, capitalism.

Seems Wal-Mart has realized one vital maxim that so many fundamentalist right-wing capitalist GOPers have so far failed to grasp: The apocalypse is just really bad for business.

Bad for business...and bad for kids and grandkids of those who supposedly are "pro-family."
Off the Scale

Make sure you've got plenty of bullshit protection...

If stupidity was intelligence, John McCain would've just gotten his Ph.D. (from Hullabaloo):

“One of the things I would do if I were President would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, ‘Stop the bullshit,’” said Mr. McCain, according to Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, an invitee, and two other guests.

It's nice that these tough guys like to pretend that they can rule the world with their impressive codpieces, but I think we've had enough of this impotent GOP posturing. McCain was a very tough guy years ago, but now he's prostituting himself to the rightwing and believing his own hype.

He's also showing just how dumb he really is--as is anyone who thought we'd be able to manufacture some sort of compliant, democratic Iraq--at ANY cost, much less the 20,000 casualties, $300 billion dollars (and counting)...the lost Iraqi lives, our ruined international reputation, and so on.

What a fool's errand.

And McCain's apparently so cravenly obsessed with getting elected president, he's decided to become a fool himself.
Funny How Your Tune Changes...

...When it's YOUR ass facing a possible appointment with a frying pan.

(Note: don't eat the Congress Critters. They taste bad and have zero nutritional value).

I wonder if Dennis was turned away from The Frying Dutchman or something like that. After sitting on his continent-sized lardass while Team Bush took a giant collective dump on the Constitution, Denny finally notices when the FBI raids William Jefferson's office:

House Speaker Dennis Hastert demanded Wednesday that the FBI surrender documents and other items agents seized on Capitol Hill in what lawmakers said was an unconstitutional raid.

"I think those materials ought to be returned," said Hastert, adding that the FBI agents involved "ought to be frozen out of that (case) for the sake of the Constitution."

Of course, Dennis isn't actually taking up Dollar Bill's cause (and neither will I--Jefferson doesn't represent my district...but as far as I know, he's not distinguished himself in any way, nor has he, to my knowledge, done much of anything for his district or the state)...nor is his newfound love for separation of powers rooted in a deep, abiding faith in our founding documents. No, I think Joe from AmericaBlog gets it right when he notes how many GOP'ers are treading on VERY thin legal ice...and might break through any day, if not any second.

Denny himself might not be out there (hell, given his sheer girth, he'd have broke through a long time ago)...but the scandals could cost him his speakership. And, besides, he's an asshole.
Update: Hmmm...maybe Hastert's an asshole...and a crook after all.

Better than a FEMA trailer...and less toxic

Today's New York Times has a feature on Andres Duany and his suggestions for Gulf Coast redevelopment:

He's the man architecture critics love to hate: Andrés Duany, charismatic prophet of the New Urbanism, with his nostalgic prescriptions for dense, walkable neighborhoods energized by stores, mass transit and traditional housing.

Opponents cast this architect as an imperious enemy of progressive design and a threat to the Gulf Coast, where he has been involved in plans to redesign communities that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Reed Kroloff, dean of the architecture school at Tulane University in New Orleans, for example, has referred to Mr. Duany and other New Urbanists as "Svengalis" who "have now seduced Louisiana's hapless governor and been given the keys to the state."

Damn, I forget where I saw this, so apologies for not citing, but critics point to Seaside, Florida as an example of a Duany inspired/designed community that apparently posesses all the charm of an even more manufactured Disneyland than the real thing.

On the other hand, the cottage above--and it's cousin, the Katrina Cottage--look a hell of a lot nicer to me than either FEMA trailers or surburban ranch-styles. And, shifting gears just a bit, Duany and his wife, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, are heavily involved in the redevelopment of downtown Baton Rouge...which certainly got my attention, given that I'm going to be a downtown BR resident (hopefully) for quite some time.

Thus far, I can't complain about the direction they're trying to take my town. As for NOLA, well, I'd be interested to hear what the folks down there think about Duany, Plater-Zyberk, and their proposals--or other ideas.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It Takes a Banana Republican...

From a friend, an interesting top ten list.
Now That I've Blown Off a Little Steam...

Moses, Moses...

Here's something I came across this morning at Rising Hegemon...and later at WIIIAI...totally off topic, but it gave me a good laugh. Maybe you've seen it already. If not:

Ten Things I Hate About Commandments (Flash video).

"Can a zero become a hero?"
Myth Busting

"...and Tinkershrubs can fly...if they snort enough magic dust first..."

Apologies for the late start today--no excuses...just found it difficult to get going today for some reason.

A while back, I came across a quote from of all people, John F. Kennedy--and, let me note for the record that my feelings towards the 35th president are, well, at best, ambivalent...anyway, here's the quote:

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.

That's actually one of the few citations from JFK that I can agree with wholeheartedly. And it seems that everyday something comes along that confirms the central point of his statement.

The myth of "incremental progress" in Iraq continues to get the big push from Team Bush and their media syncophants even as Tony Blair's presence as the latest "secret visitor" underscores the absurdity of the whole sorry operation. Other myths surrounding Operation Enduring Clusterfuck are routinely pushed, as I've sure you've seen recently at Atrios or other big blogs: the whole "six month window" nonsense...and, more sinister, the idea that Democrats or war opposers are hoping for bad news (aside: we are not hoping, and indeed, don't NEED to hope for bad news from Iraq--the bad news is occurring--fuck that, hemorrhaging...literally, on a daily basis from the region).

And, while I'm thinking about it, no, Ms. Rice, we likewise don't "wish Saddam was back in or still in power," or whatever absurdity I heard spewing from your pie hole the other day. Our position wouldn't comprise national security. Your position has caused a huge numbers of casualties, an over-extended military, a waste of some $300 billion dollars--and counting--and an unstable, fragile, soon-to-be irreparably fractured Iraq, which will generate greater instability in the Middle East--I could go on but, to use a metaphor, watching the way you've handled Iraq, Ms. Rice--and the whole lot of y'all--must be like watching a medieval surgeon at work.

Another myth promulgated ad naseum by Team Bush and their horde of dwarfs is that it was "corrupt/incompetent" local and state politicians here in the Gret Stet who bear responsibility for the national disgrace that was the response to Hurricane Katrina. That one is so deep rooted I'm not sure it will ever manage to be effectively countered, particularly in light of Nagin's reelection, which, as plenty of bloggers noted yesterday (apologies for only citing Suspect-Device here, but take a look at my blogroll...that is, if you haven't already visited their sites)...anyway, the national myth of corruption/incompetence at the state and local level re: Katrina and Rita is, in a word, bullshit...bullshit from on high (i.e., a giant Rovian turd) designed to obfuscate not just a little bit of corruption and incompetence on the part of the national government. Aside from the fact that the real damage resulted from levees breaching and not the storm itself (and, guess what? the levees are a federal responsibility, via ACOE), the thruth is that the federal government is the only entity with the resources to deal with a major continue citing this superb post by Billmon, the Bush administration, when an election was on the line, managed to mount an effective, organized response to four major storms in one region--which should put to rest any lie about local or state shortcomings, given that Jeb is NOT any more competent than Blanco or Nagin (e.g. check out his handling of the Terry Schiavo case).

The federal government has explicity acknowledged its major role in disaster response for over a decade and DHS is presumably there for something beyond providing corner-offices-with-a-view for political appointees. A glance at budget figures also speaks volumes: The United States' budget for FY 2005: $2.3 trillion (including $423 billion for DOD and $28.9 billion for DHS); the State of Louisiana Budget in its entirety for FY 2005-06 (.pdf): $18.2 billion; New Orleans city budget pre-Katrina: $600 million.

Note: according to this website, Louisianians paid some $20 billion dollars in federal taxes in 2004, and some $300 billion dollars over the last twenty years. So, it's not like we're panhandling--we're requesting help in a time of need, just as, say, California benefitted from federal help in 1989 and 1994. And, if I remember right, the motto of the United States is E Pluribus Unum...not "you're on your own."

There are many other myths pushed daily from the wingnut swarm like so many crack rocks, but I'll leave it at these two for now, particularly since they bookend the Shrub administration so conclusively: massive failures at home and abroad...lame excuses...petty, but nonetheless vicious attacks on political opponents, at the expense of actually getting to work and accomplishing something...and a legacy that is utterly shameful. History's glare is gonna be harsh.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Incremental Progress

Tinkershrub meets Sisyphus (and I can hear Shrub now--"huh huh...Sissy-pus").

Hmmm...if in Iraq, "progress is incremental," then New Orleans must be a full-blown neocon success story:

The president acknowledged the American lives lost in Iraq, past mistakes and tough days to come. He repeatedly returned to the word "incremental" to describe progress there.

But Bush grabbed onto the political news coming out of Iraq as a way to support his mission in the unpopular war and declare a measure of victory over terrorists.

"The progress we've made has been hard-fought, and it's been incremental," Bush said in remarks to the National Restaurant Association...

A man in a chef's uniform, complete with tall white hat, went to the microphone and thanked Bush "on behalf of all the cooks and chefs in our country" for creating jobs in the restaurant industry and "running the country the way a chef would run the country."

Good lord: that'd be one hell of a shitty place to have dinner. I can picture it now: assorted vermin crawling over the table...god knows what would be kitchen would be like...Chef Cheney getting drunk and spraying people in the face with hotsauce, Maitre'd Shrub snorting coke in the corner, busboy Karl Rove and dishwasher Abu Gonzales smirking and panting over old copies of skin mags/stroke books when they weren't picking their noses...dirty dishes keep piling up...while waiter Tony Snow sheepishly explains that he doesn't know what happened to your order.

Health code violations? It'd be more a question of what WASN'T in violation...maybe a salt shaker somewhere.
Apply the Patch, Then Reboot

So, a new report is out on the structural failure of the levee and floodwall system during Hurricane Katrina. Short version: bad design/construction, poor maintence, neglect, etc., all contributed to the disaster. World Class New Orleans makes a good point:

Yet another report shows that New Orleanians have been defrauded by the Army Corps of Engineers. As will be shown in an upcoming post--inspired by helpful comments by a guy writing under the pseudonym "MikeMoser," the real estate and insurance markets were for years distorted by the intervention of the ACOE; people built and insured homes in an area that was not as safe as the government led us to believe. Thus, costs did not reflect realities.

Raymond B. Seed, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and the chief author of the report, said, "People died because mistakes were made," he said, "and because safety was exchanged for efficiency and reduced cost."

Nobody here wants to whine about this. We just want well-paid government professionals (and even-better-paid government consultants) to explain what flood protection is possible, what it will cost, and how the cost will be assessed to citizens. That's all. Then we can all make decisions about our futures.

I'll add the following, which relates to my post below: this gives the wingnut crowd yet another chance, and it'll be interesting to see what they make of it. They can either get to work fixing the system...perhaps even adopting, in part or whole, the suggestion on the part of the Independent Levee Investigation Team for a comprehensive National Flood Defense Authority...or they can whine, make excuses, and blame, in no particular order, Bill Clinton, liberals, Bill Clinton, liberals, Jimmy Carter, liberals, Kathleen Blanco, Ray Nagin, the Landrieu family, and/or Bill other words, reiterate their entire domestic agenda to date.

Of course, they could also opt for a domestic version of Operation Enduring Clusterfuck, that is, throw massive amounts of money down here--and end up with nothing to show for it--but I doubt that will happen: too much of the wingnut agenda is specifically geared towards treating "those people" punitively (I presume everyone knows what they mean when referring to "those people"). In fact, the storm gave them the perfect opportunity to display their inner racist...once they got back from vacation, of course.

I also see, thanks to Suspect Device, that the 'nuts are already off to the races with both this AND the "let's abandon New Orleans" themes...well, to hell with 'em...and here's hoping they either freeze to death in the dark next winter, or suffer some similar fate. But their batshit insane rantings don't absolve--for a second--the responsibilty that rests with the national government at present. Once inaugurated, you don't get to pick and choose when you'll be responsible.

The levees and floodwalls failed on THEIR watch. Now it's THEIR responsibility to get them fixed. Again, citing my post below, if they don't, won't or can't, then call them what they are--FAILURES--and get someone in who can.
Tag Team

As those who are interested no doubt noticed, the people have spoken, and C. Ray held on to the mayor's key for an extra term.

At least one national news report yesterday brought up the "I can't believe they reelected that guy...oh, right: it's New Orleans," theme. The report was slick enough to have been produced by Karl Rove himself.

I'll leave the analysis of Ray's reelection to others, who can do a far better job than me--in fact, you'll see their sites listed to the right ("Gret Steters"). But, assuming the Oyster/Adrastos theory is correct, i.e., Nagin is the GOP's useful idiot (which explains a significant behind-the-scenes effort to assist his campaign), then, to me, that means:

New Orleans, and the reconstruction/recovery effort, is now their baby--or, as Tony Snow would say, tarbaby. I expect to see a MASSIVE, WELL ORGANIZED, efficient plan implemented with all due speed. And I don't mean all due speed=stall/blame Blanco/blame the state/or even stand up and haughtily proclaim "we shouldn't talk about 'blaming' anyone." Instead, get to work.

New Orleans--and the Gulf Coast--is now the test case for YOUR type of governance. I believe at one time you defined it as "compassionate conservativism." To be honest, the last eight months have demonstrated that it's actually abject neglect/play the blame game...and judging from your other grand initiative--the pathetic mess you've created in Iraq--I can't say I'm very optimistic at all.

So, here's your chance to prove me wrong. Or, to be proven wrong. And, truthfully, I'd rather see a rebuilt Gulf Coast than score political points. But if you don't, won't, or can't take care of business down here the way it should be taken care of, don't go whining about it being someone else's fault. Show some responsibility...or get the hell out of the way.

We're watching...and waiting. And don't expect much in the way of sympathy. This is what you wanted, and if the shoe was on the other foot, you'd already be launching attacks (don't think I haven't noticed your style). If--or maybe I should say when--you screw up, we're going to do our best to let as many people as possible know who's responsible...and why.

Best of luck.