Saturday, September 02, 2006

Drought Monitor

Drought Monitor is an interesting site, "a synthesis of multiple indices, outlooks and news accounts, that represents a consensus of federal and academic scientists" on the state of drought in the U.S. It's a project of a bunch of Federal agencies and the National Drought Mitigation Center of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

{Hurray for government and the good things it does for us! Hurray for taxes which allow the government to do that good work!)

Here's our drought status as of Thursday August 29th:

(If you're reading this at another time, the current status is here.)

The "Moderate Drought" and "Abnormally Dry" conditions in the Mid-Atlantic states (Maryland, Delaware, Virgina and North Carolina) should, I hope, be somewhat abated by the rainfall from Ernesto and the storm that preceded it, but I was surprised to see "Severe Drought" conditions in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

There's really a lot of interesting information on the site.

By the way, I was sent to the Drought Monitor via a comment to a Matthew Yglesias post about the "rebranding" of the "Great Plains" out of the "Great American Desert," as it was once called -- his point being that that area of the country is prone to intermittant periods of dryness.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/02/2006 02:35:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) The Shavian moment

83) Gratefully conscious of all they have meant to me, I declare friendship to be the most precious thing in life. But it is like a plant that withers if it is not heedfully fostered and tendered. It is only by constant thought, by visits, by little services, and by abounding sympathy at all times, that friends can be kept. I implore my children to remember this [...]
Sir Sydney Cockerell
quoted by Hugh Whitemore in
Best of Friends (play, 1988),
[adapted from the letters and writings of
Dame Laurentia McLachlen, Sir Sydney Cockerell
and George Bernard Shaw]

84) Pakenham Beatty - Irish playboy, amateur pugilist, minor poet in the Sinburne flight [...] was not 'sensible' about money. He spent it in the Irish manner, generously, spontaneously, without thought, until everything was gone and he was left with nothing but the settled habit of spending.
Michael Holroyd
Bernard Shaw: The Search for Love (1988)

85) The moral drawn [...] was that as nobody could be trusted to govern the people the people must govern themselves, which was nonsense [...] But this assumption suited the plutocrats very well, as they had only to master the easy art of stampeding elections by their newspapers to do anything they liked in the name of the people. Votes for everybody (called for short, Democracy) ended in government neither of the best nor of the worst, but in an official government which could do nothing but talk, and an actual government of landlords, employers, and financiers at war with an Opposition of trade unionists, strikers, pickets, and - occasionally - rioters. The resultant disorder, indiscipline, and breakdown of distribution, produced a reaction of purer disappointment and distress in which the people looked wildly around for a Savior, and were ready to give a hopeful trial to anyone bold enough to assume dictatorship and kick aside the impotent official government until he had completely muzzled and subjugated it.
[George] Bernard Shaw
Too True To Be Good (play, 1933)

86) That's one of your favorite tricks, Mr. Lewis [...] You redescribe your opponent's arguments with a dismissive image, and you think you've dismissed the argument.
William Nicholson
Shadowlands (play, 1986)
[spoken by the character "Joy" (Gresham)
to the character "Jack" (C.S. Lewis)]

87) The theory of legal procedure is that if you set two liars to expose one another, the truth will emerge.
[George] Bernard Shaw
Too True To Be Good (play) (1933)

88) At the trial, which sent a saint to the stake as a heretic and a sorceress, the truth was told; the law was upheld; mercy was shewn beyond all custom; no wrong was done but the final and dreadful wrong of the lying sentence and the pitiless fire. At this inquiry from which I have just come, there was shameless perjury, courtly corruption, calumny of the dead who did their duty according to their lights, cowardly evasion of the issue, testimony made of idle tales that could not impose on a ploughboy. Yet out of this insult to justice, this defamation of the Church, this orgy of lying and foolishness, the truth is set in the noonday sun on the hilltop; the white robe of innocence is cleansed from the smirch of the burning faggots; the holy life is sanctified; the true heart that lived through the flame is consecrated; a great lie is silenced for ever; and a great wrong is set right before all men.
[George] Bernard Shaw
Saint Joan (play, 1923)
[spoken by the character "Ladvenu"]

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 872 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/02/2006 01:00:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Always under siege

In a post titled "The Paradox," Garance Franke-Ruta asks her readers to explain this:
So, on the one hand, we have a nation that does not take poverty seriously (as per E.J. Dionne), and on the other, a public that thinks Democrats are excessively focused on the poor at the expense of the middle class (as per Elizabeth Warren).

It's rather disturbing that she would see this as a paradox of any sort, when, as one commenter put it, it's easy to see one as corollary of the other. Clearly, they're both rooted in disdain for the poor, and Tapped commenter David fills in the background:

This actually goes back to the dirty secret at the heart of "populism"--that it's not about rich vs. poor, but about the middle class against, as the Omaha Platform of the Populist Party in 1892 put it, "the two great classes--tramps and millionaires." Those in the great [or not-so-great] middle are constantly suspicious that they're being ripped off by the "idle" The idle can be the "idle rich" [and when this is the dominant meme, as, say, during the Depression, liberals do well] or people who collect good money even though they don't do "real" work like college professors [full disclosure--like me]--or, quite often, they can be the poor who allegedly are the beneficiaries of all manner of special subsidies provided to them. What Elizabeth Warren has apparently just stumbled upon [Where has she been?] is this sense of middle-class beleaguerment, which has been around since Nathaniel Bacon was accusing the seventeenth-century Virginia elite of being in cahoots with the Indians to deprive honest white men of their rightful opportunities. Conservatives, in their clear-eyed, cynical way, have long understood this dynamic, and have adeptly exploited it with their "culture wars" tub-thumping. Liberals, on the other hand, keep getting caught flat-footed--and the fact that Warren, who's been working on the problems of the middle class for ages, only seems to have found this out now explains why.

That sense of "middle-class beleaguerment" ties in nicely with the sense of the religious right and non-elite Middle American conservatives that they're always under attack, always the underdogs, always the hard-pressed victims of sinister forces (liberals, the media, immigrants, minorities, feminists, abortionists, hippies, whatever) -- even when they are, in fact, in political ascendance and in control (by proxy, at least) of the entire mechanism of the Federal government. If they ever lost the sense of being under siege, they'll probably lose all coherence as a political force -- so perhaps one way to undermine them is to make them as happy as possible to reduce their political paranoia, but how to do that without totally compromising progressive policy ideals is a problem for someone above my pay grade.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/02/2006 12:31:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, September 01, 2006

Where were you?

Another very affecting ad from the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation in their "Build the Memorial" campaign. This is the 30 second version of "Where Were You When It Happened?" -- the 15 second and 60 second versions aren't quite as good.

I was home in Manhattan, taking care of my 2 year old son. We were lying on the living room floor, watching TV (probably Teletubbies) when my wife called from work to tell me that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2006 11:27:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Friday Photography: Lighthouse

click to enlarge

Daryl Samuel (1992)

Location: Point Reyes Lighthouse, Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Previous: Hands With Softball / On Alcatraz / Cameras

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2006 12:12:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Miscellany

79) In the middle of a particularly busy day, the emperor [Hirohito] was driven to a meeting hall for an appointment of some kind. But when he arrived, there was no one there. The emperor walked into the middle of the great hall, stood silently for a moment, then bowed to the empty space. He turned to his assistants, a large smile on his face. "We must schedule more appointments like this," he told them. "I haven't enjoyed myself so much in a long time."
Benjamin Hoff
The Tao of Pooh (1982)

80) I know it sounds paradoxical, but the killing of privacy is, in some fundamental way, a supremely antisocial act. Everybody goes public, and who cares? Who sympathizes? On the other hand, the person who nurtures and preserves a private existence encourages the respect and imitation of others. Under the best of circumstances a general decorum ensues; people feel more comfortable with one another for the walls they erect and defend. Civilizations are made of such interacting privacies, since civilization tend to rely more on communion than communication.
Roger Rosenblatt
"Who Killed Privacy?: The Right to Know
Everything About Everybody"
in New York Times Magazine (1/31/93)

81) Forty-two. His age had astounded him for years, and each time that he had sat so astounded, trying to figure out what had become of the young, slim man in his twenties, a whole additional year slipped by and had to be recorded, a continually growing sum which he could not reconcile with his self-image. He still saw himself, in his mind's eye, as youthful, and when he caught sight of himself in photographs he usually collapsed [...] Somebody took my actual physical presence away and substituted this, he had thought from time to time. Oh well, so it went.
Philip K. Dick
A Maze of Death (1970)

82) Where necessary, instrumentalists must memorize parts, or know them so well that faint light is enough. The effect of stand lights on white music paper - onstage - tends to destroy even the most elementary lighting concept. Actors and singers have always memorized parts, and it is irrational to exempt instrumentalists, especially when they are cast in such a way as to be indispensable to the action.
Harry Partch
notes for the libretto to
Delusion of the Fury (opera, 1969)
in Bitter Music (1991),
Thomas McGeary, editor

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 873 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2006 12:10:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Fascism: the founder's perspective

To see if the characterization "Islamofascist" (or "Islamic fascist") being bruited about by the Bush administration and their pets makes any particular sense, Digby looks to the writings of Mussolini, the founder of the original fascismo movement, for his definition of fascism.

I've updated my earlier post ("Fascism defined, redux") which collected together various definitions of fascism and lists of fascism's characteristics to include Mussolini's statements.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/31/2006 10:24:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



click to enlarge

Connor & Ed Fitzgerald / "Grapes" (2006)

This is the third anniversary of the start of unfutz. A few months ago I was toying with the idea of using it as the occasion for shutting down, but I guess I've decided to press on for a while longer, or, to be more honest, I've declined to decide anything one way or the other (typical!) -- which leaves me up and blogging, at least for the time being.

I would like, at least, before I disappear into the mists of the Internet, to see through the end of the Bush Era and the ouster of the Republicans from control of the Federal government -- if they could be left in disarray with their party in turmoil and on the brink of disintegration, that would be nice too.

In the meantime, my thanks to those of you who check in here occasionally, and kisses and hugs to the loyal few who read the site regularly. To a low-traffic blogger like myself, every reader is precious, and I truly appreciate your custom.

Stats-wise, in the course of 3 years (1096 days) I've posted 1910 entries (this is post #1911), which is an average of 1.74 posts per day. (Sure seems like more than that.) According to Site Meter, there have been 159,643 visits to unfutz since I put up the counter (can't recall when that was) -- chump change for any of the Big Blogs, but it is what it is, and I thank everyone for those visits.

Correction: Checking with my Site Meter account, I see that I've had the counter on the blog since the very beginning, so 159,643 is an accurate count (via Site Meter's criteria) of all the visits to unfutz from the start, an average of 145.66 visits per day.

That's misleading, however, since many of those visits were accumulated during the time I was posting the Electoral College Survey series before the 2004 election, when my traffic ballooned up to over 2500 hits a day, pushing the site up to #139 on the TTLB list. (Currently I'm #6475.) Post-election, things dropped off very quickly back to normal or below. To give a truer sense of the scale of things, I hit 125,000 on 4/10/2005, so in the ensuing 509 days I've accumulated just under 35,000 visits, an average of 68 a day. That's about my normal level of traffic -- except when it's worse.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/31/2006 01:30:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) The work of nations

77) So a [...] strategy was developed: If foreigners could do it cheaply so, presumably, could America's core corporations. American executives began demanding sizable wage cuts from their American employees [...] they sought to "rationalize" their operations by closing inefficient factories and laying off workers [...] they set up new factories abroad, in the very nations whose cheap sources of production were depressing corporate profits [...] Unable to beat them, America's core corporations would try to join them.

But this strategy [...] failed to restore the profitability of most companies that tried it. Even when American producers successfully matched foreign costs of production, they still could not earn healthy profits. Whatever price they charged, foreign producers could always lure away customers by charging a still lower price and setting for an even smaller return. This painful lesson still eludes many: Perfect competition - the economist's Rosetta stone - eventually strips away all profits, causing even the best of businesses to fold.
Robert B. Reich
The Work of Nations (1991)

78) The formal education of the budding symbolic analyst follows a common pattern. Some of these young people attend elite private schools, followed by the most selective universities and prestigious graduate schools; a majority spend childhood within high-quality suburban public schools where they are tracked through advanced course in the company of other similarly fortunate symbolic-analytic offspring, and thence to good four-year colleges. But their experiences are similar: Their parents are interested and involved in their education. Their teachers and professors are attentive to their academic needs. They have access to state-of-the-art science laboratories, interactive computers and video systems in the classroom, language laboratories, and high-tech school libraries. Their classes are relatively small; their peers are intellectually stimulating. Their parents take them to museums and cultural events, expose them to foreign travel, and give them music lessons. At home are educational books, educational toys, educational videotapes, microscopes, telescopes, and personal computers replete with the latest educational software. Should the children fall behind in their studies, they are delivered to private tutors. Should they develop a physical ailment that impedes their learning, they immediately receive good medical care [...] Overall [...] no other society prepares its most fortunate young people as well for lifetimes of creative problem-solving, -identifying, and brokering.

Budding symbolic analysts learn to read, write, and do calculations, of course, but such basic skills are developed and focused in particular ways. They often accumulate a large number of facts along the way, yet these facts are not central to their education; they will live their adult lives in a world in which most facts learned years before (even including some historical ones) will have changed or been reinterpreted. In any event, whatever data they need will be available to them at the touch of a computer key.

More important, these fortunate children learn how to conceptualize problems and solutions. The formal education of an incipient symbolic analyst thus entails refining four basic skills: abstraction, system thinking, experimentation, and collaboration.
Robert B. Reich
The Work of Nations (1991)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 874 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/31/2006 01:21:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Feeding the beast

Publius points out, correctly, that from the point of view of the media, feeding frenzies such as that surrounding John Michael Karr (the supposed murderer of JonBenet Ramsey) make perfect sense, as they help to feed the maw of the 24/7 beast:
[F]rom the internal perspective of the media, Karr-gate isn’t an embarrassment at all. It’s a job well done. Ratings are apparently up — and that’s the name of the game. The idea that MSNBC and CNN are going to go into some deep reflective period is just silly. They’ll cry all the way to the bank.

That said, the Karr frenzy is an embarrassment from an external perspective (i.e., from the perspective of the public). From this perspective, [Howard] Kurtz couldn’t be more right that this episode was — like Iraqi WMDs — a journalistic failure of the highest degree. No countries got invaded, but the media dynamics are the same.

And that’s what’s truly disturbing about the Karr episode. Yes, that guy is a freak and we all enjoying laughing at the circus freak. But what’s troubling is that public knowledge relies to a large extent on an institution with a vested, rational interest in creating sensationalized frenzies unsupported by facts. Today’s Karr could be tomorrow’s Iran. As it’s confirmed again and again lately, the 24-hour media has little reason or incentive to throw water on emotion-stirring stories. And so, if the dominant headline became Iranian nukes next month, I have about zero faith that the 24-hour and local media would demand and report facts that would reduce the controversy or put the facts in the proper perspective. Again, it’s not that the media is stupid or corrupt — it’s just that sensationalism is their business. Lions eat zebras.

The only way to fix the problem is to make frenzies irrational. And the only way to do that is get to people to stop watching crap like this.

[Emphasis added -- Ed]

To my mind, it's always been much more likely that any real bias in the non-partisan mainstream media (as opposed to the perceived liberal bias complained of by the right-wing, and as opposed to outrightly partisan media like Fox News and the Washington Times) is the result not of the political views of the reporters and editors (the bias of owners and publishers is a different story) but of structural and institutional factors such as what Publius is talking about in his post, and such as I pointed out in a recent post.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/30/2006 11:32:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



Phila at Buphonia:
It's often claimed that George W. Bush has asked for no sacrifices in this time of war. On the contrary, he's asked us to sacrifice our humanity and our compassion. He's asked us to sacrifice our privacy and freedom, and our respect for our fellow citizens. He's asked us to sacrifice every irreducible ideal - and there were few enough of them, God knows - on which this country was founded, and whatever fragile steps we've taken towards implementing them under the law. He's asked us to sacrifice any religious truth that would interfere with the dreary, mechanical pursuit of redundant wealth and false security. He's asked us to sacrifice our souls and our conscience, in exchange for his snake-oil promise that we'll never have to suffer the consequences of our own inhumanity. He's asked us to sacrifice our present for his future, and our future for his present.

[via Digby]

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/30/2006 11:23:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



I've closed up a gaping hole in my comments policy, which now reads:
Bullshit, trolling, unthinking knee-jerk dogmatism and the drivel of idiots will be ruthlessly deleted and the posters banned.

Entertaining, interesting, intelligent, informed and informative comments will always be welcome, even when I disagree with them. I am, however, the sole judge of which of these qualities pertains.

Have a nice day.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/30/2006 06:20:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) A Brunner shockwave

75) Theoretically any one of us has access to more information than ever in history, and any phone booth is a gate to it. But suppose you live next door to a poker who's suddenly elected to the state congress, and six weeks later he's had a hundred-thousand dollar face-lift for his house. Try to find out how he came by the money; you get nowhere. Or try confirming that the company you work for is going to be sold and you're apt to be tossed on the street with no job, three kids and a mortgage. Other people seem to have the information. What about the shivver in the next office who's suddenly laughing when he used to mope? Has he borrowed to buy the firm's stock, knowing he can sell for double and retire?
John Brunner
The Shockwave Rider (1975)

76) 'Has there been any progress on your side, Nick? - rationalizing the tax structure?' [...] 'Here it comes [...] Seems to be pretty well finalized. Categorizes occupations on three axes. One: necessary special training, or uncommon talent in lieu - that's to cover people with exceptional gifts like musicians and artists. Two: drawbacks like unpredictable hours and dirty working conditions. Three: social indispensability [...] Yes, I think this balances out very nicely. For instance, a doctor will score high on special training and social importance too, but he can only get into the top pay bracket if he accepts responsibility for helping emergency cases, instead of keeping fixed office hours. That puts him high on all three scales. And a garbage collector, though rating low on special training, will do well on scales two and three. All public servants like police and fireman will automatically score high on scale three and most on scale two as well and- oh yes. I like the look of it. Particularly since a lot of parasites who were at the top in the old days will now pay tax at ninety percent because they score zero on all three axes [...] People in advertising, for example.'
John Brunner
The Shockwave Rider (1975)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 875 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/30/2006 03:53:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Liberal blogger comes unhinged

No, not me (as you might have suspected), but that poor young curmudgeon Matthew Yglesias, who goes all to pieces because Pluto is no longer a planet.

Pull yourself together, Matthew, stuff like that simply makes you look terribly silly and childish and ignorant, and can be used to call into doubt your much more sensible and intelligent political commentary.

Stick to politics, please.

Update: Matthew makes up for his Plutonian nonsense with this commentary on TPM.

Update: ...And then he goes and writes something like this:
It's fairly clear that liberals, rather than conservatives, were the ones who fired the first shots in the God wars -- the Supreme Court case on prayer in public schools, and the various causes associated with feminism and the sexual revolution.

I hate to be an ageist, but this only reminds me how really young Yglesias is, and also explains why his weblog, which used to be way up on the A list of my sidebar, slipped gradually over time down to where it currently sits (and will probably slip even lower now).

(Read the commenters to see Yglesias' claim eviscerated.)

Update (9/1): Perhaps it's just coincidence, but Yglesias appears to have left both TPM Cafe and Tapped (and here) to write a book. Separation anxiety? He's still blogging at his own site, where commenter Keith M Ellis knocks down his arguments about Pluto.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/30/2006 03:39:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


E-lim-in-ate the negative

I thought I'd mention in passing that it's that time in the baseball season, the time when teams start to be eliminated from contention, and the "magic numbers" of the leading teams start to be bandied about. Then, on September 1st, the rosters expand and we get to see all those minor leaguers and reserves on the 40-man list who have been shuttling back and forth all season -- all of which means we're coming down to the end, the final month of the regular season.

(Unfortunately for me, that's going to coincide with my beginning work on a workshop based on Brecht's Roundheads and Pointheads, and a three-week residency at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. From what I can tell, the cable providers up there carry the Mets and Yankees games, so I hope I'll be able to follow their progress as closely as I have for the past 5 months.)

At the moment, we're on the verge of losing the very first of the 30 MLB teams: the Kansas City Royals, having already been mathematically eliminated from the race in the AL Central a few days ago, now have an elimination number of 1 for the American League wild card race. They have only to lose one game, or the White Sox win one, and the Royals are totally out of contention, and can only be spoilers.

As for the hometown teams, they still have a lot to go. The Yankees' magic number is 25 to eliminate the Red Sox from the division, and the Mets' is 17 to knock out the Phillies. There are still plenty of other teams in contention elsewhere, in one way or another: in no particular order -- the Red Sox, the White Sox, the Twins, the Cards, the Reds, the Astros, the Dodgers, the Padres, the Giants, the Diamondbacks, the Phillies, the Marlins, the Braves, the Brewers and the Rockies (whose elimination number in the division is 26 and 24 in the division). That's fully half of all major league teams.

Many of these teams are still fighting for a place because of the innovation of the wild card, and that's great, because it keeps people interested in the game for longer in the season. The problem is that many of those teams that could still get into the post-season (and from there potentially go on to win the World Series) have sub-.500 records. I would support some kind of rule change which would in some way penalize a wild card team which ends up the season with a losing record -- perhaps no post-season games played in their home stadium, or giving the team they are to play a one game bye.

Having a team with a losing record in the regular season be the World Champion [sic] would be a terrible thing for baseball, and I wish the baseball PTB would pay more attention to it.

Addendum: Just want to make it clear that the current leading contenders for the National League wild card (the Padres, and the Phillies and Reds, who are a half-game back) are all over .500 -- just barely. The American League wild card contenders White Sox, Twins, Red Sox) are all well above.

Note: Kansas City has indeed been eliminated from the American League Wild Card race, so they become the first team in either league to be completely out of it for the season.

Update (8/31 midday): Next up for elimination -- Tampa Bay (elimination number 3 in the division and 4 in the wild card). The Washington Nationals are almost out in their division (3) but are hanging in for the wild card.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/30/2006 02:47:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

An open letter

This is an open letter to every liberal / progressive / lefty who says "If the Democratic Party nominates X for President" -- most recently I read a comment where someone said this about Hillary Clinton -- "I'm going to sit out the election or vote for a third party candidate."

Dear Sir or Madam:

You are an idiot.

Sorry to be so blunt about it, but I'd like to jump to the chase, if you don't mind. We're sitting here in a country, the national government of which is all but totally controlled by one party, and the people of that party have:
  • run up massive deficits we have no idea how we're going to pay off;

  • done everything possible to insure that the rich get richer at the expense of the working and middle classes;

  • turned the government bureaucracy into a branch of the Party, operating not for the good of the country or its citizens but for the aims and purposes of the Party and their clientele;

  • corrupted the political process in a massive institutionalized manner that goes far beyond any recent political corruption in living memory;

  • used our fears and concerns about terrorism and other issues of national security as a device to gin up fear and provoke support for their party and their policies;

  • ignored every military and diplomatic lesson we've learned in the past forty years to sink us into yet another unwinnable war;

  • spied on us in direct contravention of the law and the Constitution;

  • ignored science and scientific evidence whenever it contradicted the dogma of their ideology;

  • allowed a major American city to be devastated and done practically nothing about rebuilding it;

  • lost us almost a decade of progress we could have been making in alleviating our dependence on fossil fuels;

  • rolled back the environmental protections that help keep our air and water clean;

  • weakened the complex framework of international institutions that we put into place after World War II to prevent future global wars and improve cooperation and coexistence between countries;

  • run our reputation as a country into the ground, so that anti-Americanism is rampant;

and basically just up and wrecked the place, shitting on our rights and liberties, and favoring authoritarian schemes over egalitarian solutions and corporate interests over those of the people.

And in the face of that, you are saying that you can't hold your nose and vote for X? Even when for all practical purposes if you do not vote for the Democratic candidate you're helping to elect the Republican candidate, because, buckaroo, that's the way things work in our system as currently constituted?

If that's your reasoning, if you can look at the state we're in and recognize that we're truly fucked, and yet cannot bring yourself to do the only practical thing with your vote that will help to alleviate the problem, then, I'll say it again, you are an idiot. And, more than that, since you're not part of the solution (getting rid of the people who are deliberately ruining this country by moving it towards their own vision of what it should be), then you are, that's right, part of the problem -- and you're an idiot.

I don't want to hear about your principles, I don't want to hear about the lesser of two evils still being evil, I don't want to hear about how the two parties are basically the same, I don't want to hear any of those really lame and pitiful excuses, I want to hear only one thing from you, how sitting out the election or voting for a third party is going to help throw the goddamned Republicans out of office. If you can't do that -- and you can't -- then you are truly worthless and the rest of us are just going to have to save the country for you without your help.

Let's put the proposition directly on the table right now, a good two years out from the next general election: I don't care if you're a devoted Kossack, or a high-minded devotee of MyDD or if you call yourself a liberal, a leftist, a progressive, a socialist, a communist, an independent, a moderate, a centrist or a contrarian, if you don't vote for the Democratic candidate, you are helping to elect the Republican candidate, and if you're helping to elect the Republican candidate, you are helping to continue the ongoing screwing of America, and you that makes you worse than an idiot.

That's my proposition, and I stand by it.

Update: It should be obvious, but let me be clear that I'm not talking about people strongly supporting whatever candidate they think the Democratic Party should get behind in the effort to overthrown the Republican stranglehold on the Federal government, or working to make the Party reflect their own personal views as much as possible -- those are legitimate political acts that no one should denigrate (disagree with, certainly). I'm talking about when the jousting is over and one candidate has been selected. Those who don't unite behind that candidate, the one and only hope in our system of driving the Republicans out of office, are the idiots I refer to.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/29/2006 07:59:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


New Orleans: One year after

[Hurricane] Katrina made its second landfall at 6:10 a.m. CDT on August 29 [2005] as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph (205 km/h) near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana. At landfall, hurricane-force winds extended outward 120 miles (190 km) from the center and the storm's central pressure was 920 mbar. After moving over southeastern Louisiana and Breton Sound, it made its third landfall near the Louisiana/Mississippi border with 120 mph (195 km/h) sustained winds, still at Category 3 intensity.

[Think Progress Katrina Timeline] (Times-Picayune):

When the shock began wearing off -- when the scenes of New Orleans under water had become accepted as fact instead of nightmare -- the anger set in. Who to blame for the disaster Hurricane Katrina visited on the city?

Many turned with hostility to the Army Corps of Engineers, which had planned and built the defenses that collapsed. Others raged at public agencies and officials, saying they should have been more vigilant. Some pointed to environmentalists as the culprits. Still others -- most living far from New Orleans -- blamed the city's founder for choosing to build below sea level in the heart of hurricane alley.

They all can claim a slice of the truth.

In their search for reasons why it all went wrong, experts published encyclopedic works already considered classics of forensic engineering. But none produced "the smoking gun" that one person, agency, policy or decision was responsible for the more than 1,600 lives lost during the costliest engineering failure in history.

Instead the consistent thread to all of the reports is that the recipe for this disaster is a long list of decisions reacting to each other over a period of years until they form a whole.

Yet certain moments in any history are critical, and this one is no different.

When pressed, the experts agree there were choices and decisions that, had other courses been taken, could have significantly limited Katrina's impact on the area, including changing disaster into inconvenience.

And they start truly at the beginning.


Bureaucracy and a lack of money are slowing the rebuilding of New Orleans nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina's landfall, Mayor Ray Nagin says.

As the one-year anniversary of the storm approaches on August 29, the city still is struggling financially, despite billions of dollars in congressional appropriations, he said.

"The misperception out there is New Orleans is wallowing in dough and we have money coming out of our ears," the mayor told The Associated Press in an interview Monday.

But little of the appropriated money has reached the city, Nagin said. The city is still waiting for federal officials to approve much of the $1 billion requested for essential infrastructure, he said.

Bill Quigley:

New Orleans is still in intensive care. If you have seen recent television footage of New Orleans, you probably have a picture of how bad our housing situation is. What you cannot see is that the rest of our institutions, our water, our electricity, our healthcare, our jobs, our educational system, our criminal justice systems – are all just as broken as our housing. We remain in serious trouble. Like us, you probably wonder where has the promised money gone?

Brookings Institute:

One year after Katrina, New Orleans is showing signs of early rebirth. The housing market is beginning to turn around and increased business and visitor travel have helped bolster the region's tax base and economy. But the majority of indicators are troubling, pointing to much-needed progress in basic city services, infrastructure, and affordable housing for workers in order to boost market confidence and move the region's economy affirmatively forward.

New York Sun:

President Bush says the American government has committed more than $110 billion to the recovery of the Gulf Coast, declaring last month that "we've got a plan" for the hurricane-battered region.

Almost a year after Hurricane Katrina struck, progress on that plan is hard to discern in New Orleans.

Fewer than half the city's hospitals are open. Thousands of homes stand deserted within miles of the Marriott hotel where Mr. Bush's Health and Human Services secretary, Michael Leavitt, last month pledged to help build a health-care system as a "light to the world." More than 85 million gallons of drinking water are leaking into the ground each day. Mangled cars, mounds of debris and broken traffic lights mar the half-populated city.

"Everybody that goes down there says the same thing: ‘My God, it's just so empty, so devastating,"' Senator Landrieu, a Democrat of Louisiana, said in an interview. "The most important thing the federal government could have done is to just come to terms with how bad it was, to come to terms more quickly with the magnitude of it, and respond appropriately."

Less than half the $110 billion in federal money that Mr. Bush touted has been spent, and much of it went to immediate relief efforts after three hurricanes hammered five states last year. The rest has been subject to bureaucratic delays, political wrangling, and, in some cases, mismanagement and fraud.

Rude Pundit:

On most of the homes of Lakeview, a large middle-class "neighborhood" that is in the north part of New Orleans, bordering Lake Pontchartrain, as well as on the gorgeous, old homes that line Canal Boulevard heading south, there is a conspicuous line, like in the bowl of an unclean toilet. Chances are, if you are standing on the ground next to a lined house, that line is above your head, whoever you are, however tall you are. Because, see, when the eastern levee wall of the 17th Street Canal gave way, water poured in. A few blocks away, the western levee wall of the Loudon Avenue Canal, which borders Gentilly, gave way, too. The coursing waters of the lake flowed out of the funnels, heading towards each other and then south. By the time all was said and done, Lakeview was the lake, under at least ten feet of water.

The Rude Pundit hadn't seen Lakeview the last time he visited, stopping then at the ghost town that was/is Mid-City. A year after the hurricane, the woman driving the Rude Pundit around told him, "At least the streets are passable," and that was true. We could drive up and down the miles and miles of streets where the storm's wreckage was still blatantly obvious. Yes, many homes were gutted, many more were for sale whatever state they were in, about one out of every twenty was rebuilt or in some stage of rebuilding, and so, so many were untouched since the storm, with a year of lawn overgrowth in the neverending Louisiana heat. Outside one home, the front lawn was filled with piles of pill bottles and packages, obviously tossed for lack of refrigeration. And across the street a small bulldozer flattened the earth around a plot of land where the home had been completely torn down. (They do not have basements in New Orleans.) There was one crew working to clean the streets this Saturday.

"There's rats everywhere," said the woman, as the Rude Pundit insisted that he cross one of the lawn jungles to look inside a house. A machete would not have been inappropriate. The door had obviously been hacked open by an axe, although the visible outside of the house bore none of the fluorescent spray paint marks that told you whether or not there was a body there. Even up the steps of the porch, the feces-colored water line was up to his chest.

Inside, the house looked like the waters had only just receded, except, of course, for the tell-tale mold and mildew that infects so many of the homes here. The Rude Pundit pulled up his shirt over his nose so he could breathe. The furniture, which was senior citizen-chic, was tipped over or shoved aside, mud was still caked in corners, and on the walls of the living room, the water line stopped less than a foot from the ceiling. If someone stayed behind in the that house for the storm, they got to endure that submarine film horror of the water rising and rising, wondering if it would stop before the breathing space ended. Flyers strewn on the floor and stuck to the door offered services for gutting it, hauling it all away, rebuilding. The flyers were being overtaken by mold.

"How was it?" asked the woman driving.

"It was someone's home," the Rude Pundit sighed, trying not to sound melodramatic, but wondering how one could help it since, for many, many thousands of New Orleans residents, it was.

[More Rude Pundit here, here, here, here]

Talking Points Memo reader LB:

80% of the city was destroyed. This includes huge sections of New Orleans East and Lakeview, home to middle/upper middle class families of all shapes, sizes and colors. Our tax base, if you want to be mercenary about it.

I drove through a few sections of Lakeview yesterday, for the first time in a long time, and they look much the same as the Lower Ninth. Recovery is spotty at best. Huge, huge areas are still utterly destroyed. The infrastructure is shattered. The 'planning' process would be a joke if it existed.

I point out these places for a couple of reasons:

1) if places like The East and Lakeview cannot recover, neither can the city;

2) These are the places that huge portions of the US would have recognized as looking/feeling/being exactly like the places they live. And I would like them all to understand that they, too are in danger. Hurricane/Earthquake/Terrorist Attack/Structural Failure of some dam - our government appears to have neither the ability nor the national will to help them if disaster strikes.

[TPM's After the Levees blog]

Paul Krugman:

The Bush administration likes to talk about all the money it has allocated to the [Gulf Coast], and it plans a public relations blitz to persuade America that it’s doing a heck of a job aiding Katrina’s victims. But as the Iraqis learned, allocating money and actually using it for reconstruction are two different things, and so far the administration has done almost nothing to make good on last year’s promises.

It’s true that tens of billions have been spent on emergency relief and cleanup. But even the cleanup remains incomplete: almost a third of the hurricane debris in New Orleans has yet to be removed. And the process of going beyond cleanup to actual reconstruction has barely begun.

For example, although Congress allocated $17 billion to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for Katrina relief, primarily to provide cash assistance to homeowners, as of last week the department had spent only $100 million. The first Louisiana homeowners finally received checks under a federally financed program just three days ago. Mississippi, which has a similar program, has sent out only about two dozen checks so far.

Local governments, which were promised aid in rebuilding facilities such as fire stations and sewer systems, have fared little better in actually getting that aid. A recent article in The National Journal describes a Kafkaesque situation in which devastated towns and parishes seeking federal funds have been told to jump through complex hoops, spending time and money they don’t have on things like proving that felled trees were actually knocked down by Katrina, only to face demands for even more paperwork.

Apologists for the administration will doubtless claim that blame for the lack of progress rests not with Mr. Bush, but with the inherent inefficiency of government bureaucracies. That’s the great thing about being an antigovernment conservative: even when you fail at the task of governing, you can claim vindication for your ideology.

But bureaucracies don’t have to be this inefficient. The failure to get moving on reconstruction reflects lack of leadership at the top.

Paul Hill:

As a former New Orleans resident with fond memories of this great city, I was horrified as I drove in one year after Katrina. On the outskirts, the fields of dead trees and boarded-up buildings barely hinted at the shocking scenes to come.

New Orleans’ nickname is “the city that care forgot.” Today, I would call it “the city that capitalism forgot.”

Many restaurants are still shut down in the French Quarter. The devastated Ernest Morial Convention Center is open only to a tenth of its capacity. Downtown, I saw new and old office buildings boarded up. Some of the grand old department stores along Canal Street are shut. The old NAACP building is closed. Oddly, the gambling casinos by the Riverwalk are fully operational.

I drove through the famous Garden District. The Tulane University Center and dormitories were boarded up, with reconstruction ongoing. Many houses in the area had signs of damage.

The population is now less than half of the pre-Katrina number.

I drove out to the Lower Ninth Ward. None of the streetlights were working. All businesses along St. Claude were boarded up.

The Lower Ninth Ward, a major cultural center, is the home of world famous artists and musicians. Due to its geographic separation, rich multiracial and multicultural working-class heritage, and governmental neglect, residents have developed a history of activism.

The Martin Luther King Elementary School for Science and Technology housed a branch of the New Orleans Public Library, the first full-service library in the ward. It provided an array of adult classes including GED, reading, math and computer skills.

As I arrived at the school, Doris Hicks, former principal, informed me that I just missed a rally of 300 people “demanding that they open the Martin Luther King Jr. School and library, which have been closed since Katrina.” Heaps of rubble were piled in front of the school, with more visible inside.

Hicks told the disappointed crowd that the Louisiana Department of Education planned to relocate the school temporarily “sometime after Labor Day” to an old building that people described as “rat infested.” One official expressed the hope that the school would reopen in January 2007.

Katrina vanden Heuvel / The Nation:

One year. It's been one year since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. One year since the levees broke and the city of New Orleans drowned. One year since the poor people of New Orleans stood on their roof tops with signs that screamed "Help Us," but help didn't come until, in too many cases, it was too late.

First year anniversaries are meant to commemorate the dead and ease the grief of the living. If Hurricane Katrina had only been the worst natural disaster in American history, we could do that. But it was also one of the worst failures of political leadership--before, during, and after--in American history. And so the politicians involved have spent the past year spreading the blame around to avoid answering the question crucial for any type of healing: Why did it happen?

In HBO's magisterial When the Levees Broke, Spike Lee performs a levelheaded autopsy of the disaster. And his answer is that the political leaders did not care enough to respond quickly enough to avoid the tragedy. Governor Blanco cared more about the appearance of being in control than she did about the situation in New Orleans. And President Bush cared more about fundraisers and the concept of state rights than he did about the situation in New Orleans to preempt the Governor and send in the military before the food, water, and medical supplies ran out.

As if to underline this point, Bush used this time of mourning for New Orleans to make an impassioned appeal to continue aid for a place he cared about enough to preemptively invade: Iraq. Does the President of the United States care more about the people over there than he does the people here?

brandon (Flickr photoset):

New Orleans nearly one year after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina remains devastated. Large areas of the city are without reliable power, water, food, or adequate shelter. For the few that remain in affected areas, FEMA trailers exist as new neighborhoods in abandoned retail parking lots. Generations of families have lost everything but their stories.

The silence and inaction from our U.S. government, insurance companies, and mainstream media is predictable, yet no less appalling. The responsibility then falls on citizens to help New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, and everyone else affected.

New York Times:

One of the best snapshots of how New Orleans area residents were scattered by Hurricane Katrina may come from the post office. Since the storm struck last year, more than 270,000 households have filed change of address forms, including about 200,000 that still listed an address outside New Orleans and its surrounding parishes on July 1.

Current population estimates vary, but most put the city's population between 200,00 and 250,000 down from 480,000 before the hurricane. Estimates suggest that tens of thousands have also left nearby parishes.

[Map showing where Katrina's disapora ended up]

Chris Kromm / Facing South:

New Orleans remains a city of contrasts, often along race lines. Boosters note that nearly half the city has returned -- which is a low number, given the resources pledged to rebuilding the city. But the important point is that the city's pain is not equally shared:
The oft-given statistic in the press is that about half of New Orleans residents have returned. But that's a misnomer in some ways, said Church World Service Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison Lura Cayton.

"Some areas are 75 or 80 percent occupied, while others are nearly uninhabited," she said.

The "nearly uninhabited" neighborhoods are those of the poor and working class, largely African-American population that remains locked out because they don't have money to rebuild, because schools haven't been rebuilt, or other basic barriers that make returning impossible.

San Francisco Chronicle:

Hurricane Katrina is regarded as the nation's worst natural disaster. The damage can be counted in numerous ways. Here are statistical measures of its damage:

New Orleans population:

-- Before Katrina: 470,000.

-- After: 220,000 to 235,000.

Deaths attributed to Katrina: 1,695. (1,464 in Louisiana and 231 in Mississippi.)

Katrina's effect: 80 percent of New Orleans lay underwater for more than 50 days.

Buildings destroyed: 78,000.

Debris: 24.6 million tons, enough to fill the city's Superdome 13 times.

Damage estimates: $100 billion, stretching 100 miles inland across Louisiana and Mississippi.

Budget for rebuilding: $110 billion in federal aid, with $44 billion of that spent to date.

Life in New Orleans today:

-- 29 percent of public schools are open.

-- 23 percent of child-care centers are operating.

-- Three out of 11 hospitals are open.

-- Half of the city's bus routes have resumed service.

-- Two phone books -- the white and yellow pages -- now are condensed into one.

-- 250 of 350 miles of levees have been repaired.

-- USA Today poll: 16 percent say their lives are back to normal.

Steve Gillard:

New Orleans still has piles of garbage on the street like a couple of armored divisions ran through the town. It's amazing. They can't even get the crap from the street, much less identify the dead.

The tragedy of New Orleans is way beyond some cheap PR stunt. People, and not casually, call it ethnic cleansing. They can't get the insurance to pay for their homes. Sure, there's progress in downtown, but most of the city isn't downtown.

FEMA didn't fail. FEMA is still failing

That's the thing people don't get. This isn't history, it is current events. The people of the region feel abandoned and with good reason.


[T]he fact is that America broke down during Katrina and that started in the White House and went all the way down the line. [...] Scenes which should have never happened in the US did, and no Washington PR stunt can blunt that. Bush failed, badly, his government failed and is still failing.

Some people may have forgotten. But not New Orleans, not black America.

Update: Digby, including a link to the Institute for Southern Studies' Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch.

Dan Baum, "The Lost Year" / The New Yorker:

Seven weeks after the storm, Richard Baker—the Louisiana congressman who had reportedly celebrated God’s “cleanup” of public housing—introduced a bill to finance reconstruction throughout the state. In local mythology, the proposal quickly became known as an eighty-billion-dollar buyout, even though the bill stated that federal spending would be capped at less than half that amount. Under the bill, the government would buy, at sixty per cent of the pre-Katrina value, any flood-damaged house or small business in Louisiana that an owner wanted to sell. The government would consolidate the properties and sell them for planned development. Baker’s proposal was big enough to save New Orleans. It would put money and options in the hands of homeowners. And it was tailored to appeal to Bush’s sensibilities—government involvement would be temporary, and about half of the initial public outlay would be recovered when redeveloped properties were sold. The bill made New Orleans the greatest urban-revival opportunity in recent American history, and planners and architects from around the world gathered to help.


On January 24th, New Orleans suffered what Congressman Baker called a “death blow.” Donald Powell, a former F.D.I.C. chief, who was overseeing Gulf Coast recovery for the White House, announced that President Bush would not support the Baker bill. The President didn’t want the government in the “real-estate business,” Powell said. Of the more than two hundred thousand Louisiana homes that Katrina had destroyed, the federal government would pay to rebuild only a tenth, he said: those which lacked flood insurance, were owner-occupied, and were outside established floodplains. Officials at all levels of state and local government appeared to be taken completely by surprise; on the streets of New Orleans, people were visibly stunned.

An official involved in the negotiations with the White House told me that responsibility for handling the bill within the Administration had shifted, from the coöperative Treasury Department to the office of Allan Hubbard, the President’s chief economic adviser. “Hubbard just looked at it as ‘We don’t want to set up another bureaucracy,’ ” the official said. “I’m a conservative ideologue myself, but I think it’s ideological.” Three weeks later, Bush announced that he would ask Congress for an additional $4.2 billion for housing in New Orleans, bringing the total to a little more than ten billion dollars—far from the ten billion dollars a year over ten years that Nagin initially had expected.

The Bring New Orleans Back Commission continued meeting into March, but its grandiose plans for social engineering now seemed pointless. The failure of Bush to “do what it takes” to rebuild New Orleans was only part of it. Much of what could have been done to improve New Orleanians’ lives, such as land swaps to preserve a smaller Lower Nine, wouldn’t have required a lot of money. It would, however, have required trust and coöperation. But, as the weather grew warm, the vision of a planned recovery slipped away, and an every-man-for-himself ethic replaced it. People began piling rotten wallboard on their front lawns and lining up on the eighth floor of City Hall for building permits.


The decision to rebuild was now in the hands of residents, who, for the time being, wanted only to put things back the way they were. A few weeks after Nagin told me that he was uncomfortable rebuilding in the neighborhood, he attended a similar homeowners’ meeting and announced, “We’re going to rebuild all sections of New Orleans, including the Lower Ninth Ward!”

The last hope for a planned recovery ended a little more than a month later, on April 12th, when FEMA released its long-awaited floodplain guidelines. Instead of ruling out redevelopment in low-lying areas, the agency had essentially left floodplain elevations unchanged. The only new rule was that some builders would have to raise new houses three feet off the ground. Sean Reilly, of the state planning authority—who had hoped that the FEMA guidelines would make rebuilding decisions a matter of safety rather than of racial politics—was incredulous. The three-feet requirement seemed both arbitrary and pointless in an area where water had run over rooftops. He told me that the agency had “simply abdicated” its responsibility. “They took away our moral authority to tell people what to do,” he said. “We staked our authority to move people to higher ground on the maps.” Instead, authority had devolved to homeowners. The latest plan from Blanco’s commission was to give homeowners the pre-Katrina value of their homes—up to a hundred and fifty thousand dollars—minus any insurance settlements or FEMA assistance they’d already received. The pre-Katrina value of many New Orleans homes, particularly in the Lower Ninth Ward, was far less than a hundred and fifty thousand dollars—too little to buy a house elsewhere in the city. So, instead of encouraging people to move to higher ground, Blanco’s commission ended up doing the opposite: encouraging people, especially those in the lowest-lying and poorest neighborhoods, to stay put and fix up their houses. The state expects to start handing out checks this month. “There isn’t much to be done now,” Reilly said, morosely.


I drove east from the French Quarter, downriver, along St. Claude Avenue and into the Ninth Ward. St. Claude was busy, but when I turned north onto Alvar Street, into the area that flooded, I found myself in a ghost town. As I crossed the Claiborne Avenue Bridge into the Lower Nine. I could see, from the peak of the bridge, the freshly repaired breach in the Industrial Canal. The Army Corps of Engineers had mounded the levee there higher than before, and built along its top a white concrete floodwall that from above looked as thin as paper. Three recent studies of New Orleans’s flood-protection system make grim reading. A University of California at Berkeley study found that the Army Corps of Engineers—pressed by the contrary demands of “better, faster, and cheaper”—had over the years done such a bad job of building and managing New Orleans’s levees and floodwalls that, even with post-Katrina repairs, the city remained in as much peril as before. The corps itself, in a report of more than six thousand pages, acknowledged that it had built a hurricane-protection system “in name only,” and that it had done almost everything wrong, from assessing risk to choosing technologies. An article in the journal Nature found that the city and its levees are sinking into the Mississippi Delta mud much faster than anyone thought. In some places, the authors wrote, New Orleans is sinking by an inch a year, and some parts of the levee system are now three feet lower than their builders intended. In the following months, there was more bad news. Street violence grew so alarming—five teen-agers were shot dead in a single incident one night—that Mayor Nagin had to call in the National Guard to help patrol the streets. As much as two billion dollars in federal disaster relief was discovered to have been wasted or stolen, and last week a survey found that little more than a third of the pre-Katrina population had returned. The fate of the Lower Ninth Ward and the rest of the city remains anyone’s guess. New Orleanians tend to talk about the prospects of another devastating flood in the fatalistic way that people in the fifties talked about nuclear war. They know that they are living under the ever-present threat of annihilation. They want the people in power to do all they can to prevent it. But, in the meantime, there’s nothing to do but soldier on.

[Note: swampytad posts some specific and general objections to Baum's article.]


[Previous unfutz posts on Katrina and New Orleans]

Note: This entry was originally posted at 3:41pm on Monday August 28, 2006. The time and date stamp shown are to commemorate Katrina's landfall just before it hit New Orleans.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/29/2006 07:10:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


A tiny sign of detente?

I thought this was interesting, in the 5am Discussion from the National Hurricane Center about Tropical Storm Ernesto:

Previous discussions had rather obliquely indicated that the reconnaisance flights couldn't get all the data they wanted because Ernesto was over Cuba itself, where they couldn't go.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/29/2006 06:38:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The name (recognition) game

Garance Franke-Ruta of Tapped, whose commentaries recently have been regrettably flawed, makes an interesting point about Hillary Clinton and the 2008 Presidential race:
[T]aking the Republican candidate into consideration, could Clinton win a hypothetical match-up against Gingrich? Absolutely. And I'd bet on her against Bill Frist and the post-Macaca George Allen, as well. The real question is: Can Clinton beat McCain or Giuliani? And, if those seem like tough contests for her: Which other likely Democratic presidential contenders could be expected to do better against those two candidates with strong national security credentials and demonstrated electoral cross-over appeal?

Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of discussing Clinton in the abstract. Until someone can make the case for how John Edwards or Evan Bayh would beat McCain or Giuliani, the criticisms of Clinton don't strike me as being much more than the politics of personal distaste. Clinton could probably beat 75 percent of the Republican field. So could most of the Democratic contenders. But the two candidates she'd face a tough race against would be tough for any Democrat to beat, and until someone makes the case for how the other Democrats would do any better in contests against the toughest Republican contenders, it's not at all clear we're actually discussing Clinton's "electability," rather than her personality or gender difference.

I'm of the "Hillary can't win" school, but I admit that it's a difficult question whether any of the Democratic candidates I prefer (Edwards, Clark, possibly Warner) can beat McCain, who is the most probable GOP candidate. Newt Gingrich is another distinct possibility, and it has to be said that none of the other Democratic possibles are in the same galaxy of name-recognition that Saint McCain and Little Newtie inhabit -- only Hillary. (Any celebrity who can be identified by a majority of people by her first name only is definitely on the "A" list.)

One thing, though: the idea that the current Republican Party would nominate Rudy Giuliani is a total joke, and not worthy of serious consideration. Yes, he would be a formidable candidate, although very beatable -- I lived through his reign over NYC, and he's got real vulnerabilities, not the least of which is a very prickly personality and something of a Messiah complex -- but there's no way he'd ever be acceptable to the rabid right, and without their support he'll never get the nod.

P.S. On the other hand, as one of the commenters (SomeCallMeTim) on Tapped wrote:

What, exactly, is the difference between HRC's "electability" and "her personality or gender difference"? "I HATE her," strikes me as a completely legitimate criticism, and perhaps even the most important one.

And that's really the genesis of my belief that Hillary can't win, that too many people really hate her. I think that's a shame, because she's obviously the female politician best positioned to be elected President, and I'm more than ready for a woman President.

(My other concern, which Josh Marshall raised some time back, is that of falling into a pattern of alternating dynasties: Bush - Clinton - Bush - Clinton.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/29/2006 02:20:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Observations

You can't say A is made of B
or vice versa.
All mass is interaction.
Richard Feynman (c. 1950)
quoted by James Gleick in
Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (1992)

73) It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil - which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.
Richard Feynman (1959)
quoted by James Gleick in
Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (1992)

74) I just like - just breathing. I like breathing better than working.
David Gordon
The Mysteries and What's So Funny (play) (1992)
spoken by the character "Marcel Duchamp"

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 876 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/29/2006 12:41:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Joe's folly (not that Joe)

The Man Who Will Never Be President is at it again.

I pay my compliments to Joe-Jo here, here and here. (You can tell I hold him in the highest esteem.)

When will this guy get a friggin' clue? HE WILL NEVER BE PRESIDENT, period, full stop, end of sentence. If he could just wrap himself around that idea, there's a least a chance he could be an able legislator, once he stops doing silly shit that's only designed to further his unrealistic ambitions. (Of course he'd also have to get over the delusion that we're still living in the mythical bygone Age of Bipartisanship.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/29/2006 12:07:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, August 28, 2006

As seen on TV

Watching the Mets game just now (a noon game rain-delayed from yesterday), I looked up between innings to see the end of this commercial. The stark white-on-black words said "We needed one then" and "We need one now" so, of course, my immediate reaction was that it was talking about our dilemma as a country, that we don't have a leader, instead we have a stunted pre-pubescent frat boy and a warped vindictive kleptocratic old geezer in charge, and together they've managed to screw up everything they've put their hands on, subverted the Constitution, let a major American city be ruined, ran our international reputation into the ground and put the country on the edge of fiscal catastrophe.

It turned out, however, that the ad was for Build The Memorial urging some forward motion on the World Trade Center memorial. Still, I can't help but think that a lot of people are going to see those words and have some of the same thoughts I did.

Update: Matthew Yglesias makes what I think is an excellent point, as far as it goes:
[T]he good vibes about [Bush connected to 9/11] all, in essence, relate to a series of speeches he gave in the days following the event [...] But what does that all really amount to?

Not nothing. Providing inspirational rhetorical leadership in a time of panic is legitimately part of the president's job. But it still doesn't add up to very much. A speech is just a speech. [...] His popularity skyrocketed because, having failed to foil a serious terrorist plot, he made a series of pleasing remarks about the plot. And ever since that day, I think this dynamic has been infecting our national strategy. The main goal, in essence, is to do things that signify the adoption of an appropriate attitude toward hostile elements in the world rather than to evaluate possible courses of action in terms of their effects.

[Emphasis in bold added - Ed]

Unfortunately, Bush hasn't been content merely to settle for taking such attitudinal stances, he's also taken disastrous actions and in doing so screwed things up both by acts of commission (Iraq) and of omission (Katrina).

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/28/2006 01:33:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Corporations

68) The Republican party is not a party of conservative ideology. It is a party of conservative clients. Wherever possible, the ideology will be invoked as justification for taking care of the clients' needs. When the two are in conflict, the conservative principles are discarded and the clients are served.
William Greider
Who Will Tell The People? (1992)

69) Corporations [...] enjoy an anomalous status not available to anyone else [...] They may regularly violate the law without surrendering their political rights - committing felonious acts that would send people to prison and strip them of their citizenship. This contradiction is crucial to what has deformed democracy; the power relationships of politics cannot be brought into a more equitable balance until citizens confront the privileged legal status accorded to these political organizations [...] A corporation, because it is an "artificial legal person," has inherent capacities that mortal citizens do not possess. For one thing, it can live forever. For another, a corporation, unlike people, can exist in many places at once. Or it can alter its identity- chop off its arms or legs and transform itself into an utterly different "person" [...] Above all, a corporation by its nature possesses political resources that very few individual citizens can ever hope to accumulate- the wealth and motivation to influence political outcomes directly and continuously. Thus, if corporations are to be regarded as citizens, they are equipped to hold the front rank in American politics and nearly everyone else will invariably become citizens of the second class. But the corporate claim to citizenship raises a crucial contradiction: When corporations commit crimes, they do not wish to be treated as people, but as "artificial legal entities" that cannot be held personally accountable for their misdeeds. If an individual citizen is convicted of a felony, he automatically loses his political rights - the right to vote, the right to hold office - and sometimes his personal freedom as well [...] When corporations are convicted of crimes, they lose none of their diverse abilities to act in politics. Corporations are "citizens" who regularly offend the law - both in the criminal sense and in the civil terms of flouting regulatory statues. Yet their formidable influence on political decisions goes forward undiminished, as well as the substantial financial rewards they harvest from government.
William Greider
Who Will Tell The People? (1992)

70) Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
Ambrose Bierce
The Devil's Dictionary (1911) [CQ]

71) For many years, a wishful presumption has existed that, in time, the hegemony of global corporations would lead the way to the construction of a new international political order - world institutions that have representative capacity to govern equitably across national boundaries. That prospect is not at hand in our time. On the contrary, what is emerging for now is a power system that more nearly resembles a kind of global feudalism - a system in which the private economic enterprises function like rival dukes and barons, warring for territory across the world and oblivious to local interest, since none of the local centers are strong enough to govern them. Like feudal lords, the stateless corporations will make alliances with one another or launch raids against one another's stake. They will play weakening national governments off against each other and select obscure offshore meeting places to decide the terms of law governing their competition [...] In that event, the vast throngs of citizens are reduced to a political position resembling that of serfs or small landholders who followed church or nobility in the feudal system. They will be utterly dependent on the fortunes of the corporate regimes, the dukes and barons flying their national flag. But citizens will have nothing much to say about the governing of these global institutions, for those questions will have moved beyond their own government. If national laws are rendered impotent, so are national citizens.
William Greider
Who Will Tell The People? (1992)


[CQ] - The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 877 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/28/2006 02:33:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Digby's favorite story

I remember as a child a strange little neighbor girl who was found in her backyard swinging her cat by the tail against the sidewalk screaming "you're gonna love me!"
That's neoconservatism. It's so insane, I believe almost anything is an improvement.

Yep. More from Digby on the dangers of the neo-con insanity.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/27/2006 11:59:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


A great ad

[via Atrios]

More: The song, by Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Maxwell and Ken Mosher, is here (Crooks and Liars), and the story behind it is on Down With Tyranny.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/27/2006 11:24:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


She'll never be "Katie" to me

Justin Rood of TPM Muckraker, after chronicling the latest bit of self-destruction from Katherine Harris, writes:
I understand there's a big swath of folks whose politics move them to hope she won't ever come to grips with her long odds, her money problems, and her cartoonish inability to portray herself as a viable candidate. But on a human level -- isn't it just a little bit sad to watch this?

No, not really. This women was a important part of the confederacy conspiracy machinations that foisted George W. Bush on this country -- for which she has been amply rewarded with political power well beyond her abilities -- and, as such, she bears a significant amount of responsibility for everything that has gone wrong since then. Watching her self-destruction doesn't give me a lot of pleasure, but it is entirely just and well deserved -- and that's not politics, that's patriotism: I love my country, and she has hurt it badly. It's only right that she should suffer.

My hope is that she falls so hard that we never have to hear about her ever again.

(To people who do me harm, personally, I can be forgiving, but when it comes to those who hurt my family, my country -- which still has the potential to be once again a beacon of liberty and justice -- and the world we all live in, the only world we've got, I can be as vindictive as hell.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/27/2006 10:10:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Rules of the road

66) You know, I think that these people who go about helping other people, those people ... they are a curse.
Jiddu Khrishnamurti, the "World Teacher"
quoted by David Reid in "The Possessed" in
Sex, Death and God in L.A. (1992)
David Reid, editor

67) Rack's Rules [of movie producer "Rack Rookstein"]:

  • Work out, stay loose. You are the movies you make.

  • Forget about rules already. Make up your own, or else play by some other guy's.

  • Power is no accident. It depends on total freedom.

  • No one does anything to anyone. What people get is what they really want. Give it to them.

  • All you learn from stories is who has the power.

  • Don't get scripted on what you're going to say. Let your instinct fit your words to the moment you say them. Remember whatever's best to remember at the time you remember it. Your relations then take place entirely in the present. Be here now, as Leary said.

  • In a business deal, everything is negotiable, nothing is personal.

  • Every ego wants all it can get. All egos are equal. The difference between people comes out when someone is honest enough to admit it - and to act on what he knows.

  • Everything relates to sex, even sex itself.

  • Look everyone in the eye. That way, what you say is always the truth.

  • Sex is a natural human activity, which should never be restricted in any way. Again, the difference between people lies in who is honest about it.

  • He who pays has power. To be treated is a sign of vassalage, or, in modern terms, a constraint on freedom.

  • Openness in sex and privacy in money feel right because they are both forms of power. Each permits maximum freedom and leverage for those who can conceive of and afford such things. The only exception to the money rule is the selected announcement of profits, about which one always lies, so as to keep control.

  • The expression of sincere feeling is intimacy in action. Repressions leads to hostility, distrust, confusion, and death. Repression is the sure sign of a loser, the last thing you'd want to pass on to a child.

  • To be disturbed by anything is to be a loser.

  • Laughter is a form of social tribute.

  • One-on-one conversation is a gift wherein the more powerful person permits the less powerful person to try a number on him. To continue the same number in public is an attempt to force a favor into an obligation. Social position is earned only by success, one can't charm or impress one's way into it. After all, that too is nothing personal.

  • You can't love anybody until you love yourself.

  • The people who get real power in L.A. are happy people - much happier than you are. They lead peaceful, constructive lives, inventing in every generation new ways of loving America. That's what the movies are all about. That too, that too. Power from movies is no coincidence. It is exactly as it should be.
Jeremy Larner
"Rack's Rules: The Mechanics of Morals in Movieland" in
Sex, Death and God in L.A. (1992)
David Reid, editor

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 878 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/27/2006 08:56:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right,
Here I am...
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Martin van Creveld - The Transformation of War

Jay Feldman - When the Mississippi Ran Backwards

Martin van Creveld - The Rise and Decline of the State

Alfred W. Crosby - America's Forgotten Pandemic (1989)
bush & company are...
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Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
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the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.

If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.

(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)

Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.

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© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


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