Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday Airport Blogging




Right, now that the formalities are out of the way, here is a brief quiz to keep you occupied:

1) Are there any other cities besides Pittsburgh with at least 3 major sports teams that all have the same team colors? (Stillers, Pahrrts, and Penguins are all black & gold)

2) Has anyone achieved Major American Icon status with a smaller body of work than James Dean? I have nothing against James Dean - if anything, it's a testament to the impression he made in his only two major film roles - but it does seem a bit unusual.

Unfortunately, I don't have the answers to either question, but I'm hoping someone does...

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

"Nobody can handle nipples like Bobo."

From Out Of The Dark, a hilariously cheesy horror movie about a deranged clown killing phone sex operators. You just can't make this shit up.

And, of course, there'll be other people's cats...

The triumphant return of Mocha! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Someone 'Splain This To Me...

The Heretik has a nice post excoriating the 22 spineless so-called Democrats who voted to confirm Roberts as Chief Justice. And here's the thing I don't get: Every time this sort of cave-in happens and it's explained rather than just swept under the rug (see: Reform, Bankruptcy), the explanation is some variation of "The Dems want to keep their powder dry for really important Issue/Confirmation Fight X."

Frankly, this sounds about as rational to me as the argument that gay marriage somehow diminishes straight marriage. Are the Democrats somehow constrained on how many times they can oppose the Republicans? Do they have a quota of No votes? They're the opposition party, it's their job to oppose - do any of them really think the American people are going to take them less seriously when they oppose Rush Limbaugh for Sandy O'Connor's swing vote seat because they also voted to oppose Roberts? I just don't see it, and worse yet, they can't even be counted on to show up for the fight they said they were saving themselves for (remember the filibuster compromise that was supposed to be such a great deal 'cuz it would let them filibuster the next Supreme Court nominee?).

Can some more knowledgeable politics-talkin'-guy (or gal) please explain this to me? And use small words - I don't think real good since the bad thing happened.

Fun News Day

Okay, so Roberts getting confirmed/sworn in sucks, but there were some awfully juicy tidbits out there:
  • University of Maryland poll suggests that about 70% of the population isn't buying "Spreading Democracy" as sufficient grounds for war.
  • Piece-of-meat-with-eyes Doug Feith's creature, Larry Franklin, is going to plead guilty to leaking classified information to Israel.
  • Not exactly news, but I think there are a whole bunch of "Tom DeLay Will Bring The Crooked Republicans Down" columns and articles out there like this one and this one.
Ha! The wages of sin is, well, public embarrassment followed by a cushy lobbying job.

Baby steps, people. Baby steps. Much as I want to see just about the entire Republican party in jail, I am more than willing to settle for them letting go of the wheel. I just wish I had a little more faith in the Democrats' willingness to grab it. I know, it's awfully close to the cliff and they don't want to take the blame, but they're in the car too.

No More Doubt

Well, if there was any question in my mind about whether I'm authentically Jewish, I think this pretty much puts it to rest:
Yiddish is the language par excellence of complaint. How could it be otherwise? It took root among Jews scattered across Western Europe during the Middle Ages and evolved over centuries of persecution and transience. It is, Mr. Wex writes, "the national language of nowhere," the medium of expression for a people without a home. "Judaism is defined by exile, and exile without complaint is tourism," as Mr. Wex neatly puts it.

To be Jewish, in other words, is to kvetch. If the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" had been translated into Yiddish, Mr. Wex writes, "it would have been called '(I Love to Keep Telling You That I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (Because Telling You That I'm Not Satisfied Is All That Can Satisfy Me).' "
Okay, that last bit was maybe a little too tortured...
Yiddish thrives on argument, hairsplitting and arcane points of law and proper behavior. Half the time, Yiddish itself is the object of dispute, a language, Mr. Wex writes, "in which you can't open your mouth without finding out that, no matter what you're saying, you're saying it wrong."

When you get it right, it can be a beautiful thing. Or a lethal weapon. Yiddish excels at the fine art of the insult and the curse, or klole, which Mr. Wex, in a chapter titled "You Should Grow Like an Onion," calls "the kvetch-militant." Americans generally stick to short, efficient four-letter words when doling out abuse. Yiddish has lots of those, too, and it abounds in terse put-downs like "shtik fleysh mit oygn." Applied to a stupid person, it means "a piece of meat with eyes." More often, though, Yiddish speakers, like the Elizabethans, like to exploit the full resources of the language when the occasion requires.


A simple, American-style "drop dead" might be rendered as "a dismal animal death on you" ("a viste pgire af dir"), which, Mr. Wex, notes, carries the suggestion that "you should spend the rest of your tiny life in a Colorado feedlot, then be herded off to some nonunion slaughterhouse to be turned, painfully, into fast-food burgers for one of the less prominent chains."

I can't fathom how it is that I don't just know Yiddish, like, instinctively. I think I'm going to have to add "piece of meat with eyes" to my repertoire, along with "wee tiny of a man" (big hat tip to Spear And Magic for that one).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Lede Of The Day

From the NY Daily News:
Ex-stripper Anna Nicole Smith's ample assets will be in the hands of soon-to-be-confirmed chief justice John Roberts.

This case will almost certainly hinge on some very arcane and subtle aspect of constitutional law, such as "Which would-be heir to the money is more likely to donate it to Republican candidates?"

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Belated Sunday Swing Dance Blogging

Well, I haven't had a chance to blog since yesterday because I've been busy processing photos from a softball friend's swing-dancin' birthday shindig. I filled up my memory card that holds an assload of photos, and then filled up my half-assload backup card as well. I'm still not all the way through, but at least I found some shots I felt I could post here. I'll probably post a bunch more to my Yahoo photo galleries.

Alas, I was too busy taking pictures to participate in the swing dance lesson, so I sat out on the swing dancing when I couldn't take any more pics. It was still very entertaining to watch, and I can't help but suspect that some of what I do in my own manic rock-and-roll freestyling mode might actually be translatable, if I can just learn the basic swing vocabulary (easier said than done; I don't think I've successfully learned a dance step in my life).

I liked the band; the piano player in particular was a bit of a card, interjecting occasional tongue-in-cheek messages from imaginary sponsors, as if they were on an old-time radio show. One extolled the virtues of "Duquesne Pilsner" as a great back-to-school beer for the kids; another was for some kind of vocational-education-by-mail, which concluded with, "...And now I'm the director of FEMA!"

The Boilermaker Jazz Band. I approve. Hat on the bass and everything.

You spin me right round, baby, right round...

Note how skillfully I protect everyone's identity... Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Yeah, Right.

From today's NYT:
As President Bush moves to fill the second vacancy on the Supreme Court, he faces a new challenge in finding a jurist who can not only withstand Democratic scrutiny but hold together the support of Senate Republicans as well.


Now, both socially conservative and more liberal Republican senators say they may vote against confirmation of the next nominee if the pick leans too far to the left or the right on prominent issues like abortion rights.

Any Republican defection could provide cover for Democrats who want to oppose confirmation, protecting them politically in Republican-leaning states. Democrats have vowed to dig in for a tough fight over the nominee to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor because she was a pivotal swing vote on the court.

"It is going to be different," said Senator Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, who is socially liberal and has said he will vote to confirm Judge Roberts.

What total bullshit. Need I remind everyone which seat Roberts was originally nominated for? And how willing almost all the Democrats and "moderate" Republicans were to give him a free pass because he's rilllly smart and oh-so-polite? Besides, it's not like Chief Justice is such a completely trivial position that you should just give someone a rubber-stamp for managing to not say, "If confirmed, I will dedicate myself to rolling back constitutional protections for women, minorities, and the environment" out loud...

Abu Gonzales is probably the best nominee we can hope for. Prepare for disappointment.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering why I didn't include an example of a Democrat vowing to dig in for a tough fight... The article didn't provide any.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

"My friend, you cannot pick up two melons with one hand, and I cannot work miracles."

From The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad, one of those corny Ray Harryhausen extravaganzas - rather late in the string, really.

And, of course, there'll be other people's cats.

Flory's kitty Princesa and her new, um, playmate. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 22, 2005

eCommerce Can Only Go Downhill From Here...

This is just too cool.
The Lego Group, based in Denmark, recently opened an online Lego Factory (, where Lego enthusiasts can design projects with free 3-D software and then order a kit to build the model.

The company's free Lego Digital Designer software, which lets users construct Lego projects on screen using an endless supply of pixilated parts, is available at the site to download to Windows and Mac systems. Using the software, Lego lovers can upload their masterpieces to the Lego Factory site, and can also inspect other people's projects that have been posted online.

You can buy all the bricks and other parts needed to build your model right on the site. The parts arrive by mail in custom packaging, complete with a picture of the finished model and the creator's name emblazoned on the box.
Makes me wish I had, like, design skills.

Why It's A Good Thing I'm Not Shakespeare

I would have made Othello a comedy, and subtitled it "The Moor, The Merrier."

Also, I suck at dialogue.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

San Diego Chairblogging

In meetings pretty much all day today; feel completely alienated from what's going on in the world today. So, having nothing constructive to say, I offer you... Chairs! Nature's butt-rests!

Chair/bench thingy at Bazaar Del Mundo.

It's green! Green, I say!

Me... and my sha-a-a-dow... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bush Takes The Bullshit By The Horns

Generally speaking, I mainly read the NY Daily News for the sports (I know, it's kinda like the inverse of reading Playboy "for the articles"), but Denis Hamill does a damn fine job of hitting Bush with the chair today:
I'm amazed that anyone is amazed that it took George W. Bush three days to show up in New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

That's exactly how long it took him to show up at Ground Zero after 9/11.

So it mystifies me that the pundits and the cable gasbags keep telling us that George W. Bush missed his "bullhorn moment" in New Orleans.

No, he didn't.

Because his bullhorn moment in New York City was just as late and just as disgraceful as his fumbling handling of the Katrina carnage.


It will go down as one of the worst moments in American history because when he stood on the smoldering ruins amid the dust of the dead it was through that bullhorn that Bush's Big Lie was first shouted to the world that the people who knocked down those buildings would soon be hearing from us.


Historians will refocus that bullhorn moment as the point of origin to exploit a terrible attack on America for a preconceived war in Iraq that had nothing to do with our dead.

Historians also will remember that directly after the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 2001, killing 2,749, our fearless leader, with all that Texas Air Guard combat training, hopped aboard Air Force One and lammed to, um, Omaha.

Talk about heroic.

And as real heroes dug in the rubble for signs of life, shortening their own lives in the toxic air, Bush hid out. Then three days later, when the coast was clear, he arrived to shoot a Karl Rove-inspired reelection commercial and to launch a war in Iraq.

The invasion of Baghdad started in New York in that "bullhorn moment" three days after Sept. 11.


I often ask successful conservative businessmen friends if they would let George W. Bush run their private businesses. They almost always smile and admit they wouldn't. And yet they voted for him torun the most powerful nation on the planet.

Yowza! Read the whole thing - I left some real good stuff on the cutting room floor. I... really don't have anything to add to it.

I Run Rings 'Round You Logically!

From a letter to the NYT sent by one David L. Neuner Jr., responding to their editorial urging Democrats not to vote for John Roberts:
The chief justice of the United States is supposed to uphold the law according to precedent and not speculate on how he would rule in future cases. His personal beliefs are not to be applied in how he judges individual cases, something Judge Roberts proved when he refused to answer several questions on how his personal views would shape his rulings.
Breathtaking. I think Mr. Neuner just jumped to the head of the line to replace Sandy O'Connor.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Reason #705 Why Religious Zealotry Is Unhealthy

From an NYT Magazine article by an ex-evangelical revisiting his youth on the occasion of a Billy Graham revival tour:
The caricature of American evangelicals as incurious and indifferent to learning is false. Visit any Christian bookstore and you will see that they are gluttons for learning - of a certain kind. They belong to Bible-study groups; they buy works of scriptural interpretation; they sit through tedious courses on cassette, CD or DVD; they take notes during sermons and highlight passages in their Bibles. If anything, it is their thirst for knowledge that undoes them. Like so many Americans, they know little about history, science, secular literature or, unless they are immigrants, foreign cultures. Yet their thirst for answers to the most urgent moral and existential questions is overwhelming. So they grab for the only glass in the room: God's revealed Word.

A half-century ago, an American Christian seeking assistance could have turned to the popularizing works of serious religious thinkers like Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, John Courtney Murray, Thomas Merton, Jacques Maritain and even Martin Buber and Will Herberg. Those writers were steeped in philosophy and the theological traditions of their faiths, which they brought to bear on the vital spiritual concerns of ordinary believers
- ethics, death, prayer, doubt and despair. But intellectual figures like these have disappeared from the American landscape and have been replaced by half-educated evangelical gurus who either publish vacant, cheery self-help books or are politically motivated. If an evangelical wants to satisfy his taste for truth today, it's strictly self-service.

And I can see now how this state of affairs breeds a narrow fanaticism.
Until age 14, my own reading was pretty much limited to comic books, Mad Magazine, histories of the World Wars and the occasional Hardy Boys mystery. Then I discovered the strange new world of the Bible. That discovery might have led me to other books, but there was no one to guide me onto that path. So the Bible became my only portal into the realm of ideas - ideas about morality, justice, cosmology, psychology, eschatology, mortality. The Bible posed all the important questions, questions that were vaguely forming in my adolescent mind, but that now took on shape and contour. And, of course, it answered those questions.
I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to have my literary and intellectual horizon narrowed to encompass a single, solitary book, much less a two-thousand-year-old one from a completely different world. It would be like living in a coffin designed for an alien.

He also has some interesting reminiscences of his prayer group, and it provides some fascinating insight into the comfort and ecstasy of the religious experience. I still want no part of it, though.

How Bill Clinton Sabotaged The Democrats

Talking Human Former President Bill Clinton has begun cropping up in the news again lately, alternately defending and trashing President Bush's job performance, and sparking renewed debate in the blogosphere (or at least in the Eschaton comments) about whether he was a good or a bad president.

I personally thought he was a pretty good president, even if he was a little too centrist and corporate. He was articulate and scary smart, had some degree of genuine compassion for the little guy, and he certainly cared about his legacy. He was far more fiscally and environmentally responsible than most Republicans, and presided over an economic boom and a budget surplus. On the other hand, he never really lived up to his promise, and he did some really stupid things: Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the botched healthcare fiasco, some fundraising indiscretions, schtupping an intern, and a flurry of dodgy pardons at the end of his term.

But his foolishness and folly is not what damaged his party - it was his brilliance and savvy that doomed the Democrats to irrelevancy. Clinton was such a skillful and charismatic campaigner that he won two presidential elections while hampered by a centrist, DLC platform and a weak, out-of-touch Democratic political machine. Unfortunately, the Democratic establishment drew the wrong conclusion and reasoned that Clinton had won because of that triangulation and campaign infrastructure. They consequently tried to repeat the same formula in 2000 and 2004, with candidates who were unable to connect with voters or articulate a clear, forceful message. To date, they evince neither inclination nor aptitude to find or cultivate a new generation of fiery, charismatic candidates; indeed, their first instinct is to shove such boatrockers to the side in favor of the more staid, establishment candidates who bore voters to tears. Hopefully Howard Dean's ascension to DNC Chair and Paul Hackett's near-upset in Ohio will lead to some changes, but as always, I'll believe it when I see it.

Note: I should fess up that the idea of Clinton winning despite Democratic ineptitude stems from an NYT op-ed contributor whose name I have lost in the mists of time, who argued that the Republicans had built a solid, multi-tiered pyramidal support structure that can (and did) elect pretty much any idiot to the office of president, whereas the Democrats have to cross their fingers and pray for a home-run candidate. If anyone can point me to that column, I will be happy to cite it - I think it was one of the many 2004 post-mortems, or maybe even older.

Avast, Ye Scurvy Lubbers!

D'yahhrrr, me hearties! 'Tis Talk Like A Pirate Day, and ye'd all better
speak properly, else you'll get a taste of my lash, or get me boot up
yer poop deck!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sunday Softball Blogging

Well, once again we only got 6 people. So we had regular batting practice (I did pretty good - three home runs and a bunch of other deep shots and line drives when I wasn't hitting dinky pop-ups off the handle), followed by another every-man-for-himself quasi-game, which I won 3-1-1-1-0-0, or something like that. The absence of any bona-fide power hitters probably helped. I ended up 6-for-8 with 3 runs and 3 RBI, and played okay defense, despite being on the infield most of the day.

Current Stats: 28 games, .581 BA (118-203), 18 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 64 runs, 43 RBI.

Media, Take Heed

Frank Rich's column on the growing cracks in the Bush administration's imagecraft is excellent, of course, but I'm particularly intrigued by one little almost-throwaway tidbit:
You know the world has changed when the widely despised news media have a far higher approval rating (77 percent) than the president (46 percent), as measured last week in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.
I seem to remember the media's "approval rating" being well under 50% not so long ago. The fact that it appears to have cranked way up in the wake of some extremely and uncharacteristically anti-Bush reportage on the handling of Hurricane Katrina is very telling, and suggests to me that the public's appetite for Republican propaganda has worn very thin indeed, if I may employ some Tom Friedmanesque metaphor mashing.

Will the media take notice and start doing their jobs, in order to preserve their credibility? I doubt it. I believe their primary objective is pleasing their parent corporations, not garnering ratings or respect. But if I'm wrong, or if more and more people see the media for the right-wing spin outlet it has become, it could be very very good for the Democrats, and very very bad for the Republicans.

We shall see.

Now I've Seen Everything...

I wouldn't have believed it possible...
The show, which opens tonight at the TriBeCa Performing Arts Center and runs weekends through Oct. 30, features 26 cats; Mr. Kuklachev's wife, Yelena, as the Queen of the Cats; and two small, outnumbered dogs. The theater has a total of nine different routines, including "Cats From Outer Space" and "Nutcracker." No one show is ever exactly like another.

"Cats are like actors," Mr. Kuklachev said. "They do what they want. Sometimes a cat doesn't want one trick, so he does another."


The story of "Queen of the Cats" is a kind of allegory, Mr. Kuklachev explained. He plays a painter who goes to sleep and dreams that aliens arrive from outer space in a U.F.O. and try to steal his cats.

At one point, one of the cats stands on a mirrored ball that looks as if it has been borrowed from "Saturday Night Fever." She is emitting "rays of goodness," he said, spreading kindness throughout the world.

The idea of performing cats came to Mr. Kuklachev in 1971, he said, when he found a stray begging for food by performing on its hind legs and doing somersaults for onlookers. Mr. Kuklachev, the son of a truck driver and a factory worker, had attended clown school. He realized he and the cat might be able to do something together. He named her Strelka, and soon she was performing with him at the Moscow State Circus.


The younger Mr. Kuklachev said his father trains the cats not by rewarding them with treats, as one might train a dog, but "by long, good words, touching them."

The elder Mr. Kuklachev bridled at the idea of rewarding cats with food. "A cat is not a dog," he said. "If a cat doesn't want to do something, he will not do it."

This guy has got to have some kind of supernatural powers.

Fun With Tidepools

Still more from La Jolla/San Diego. I maxed out two memory cards with tidepool pictures, so you may be seeing a few more...

It kinda looks like a miniature canyon, really. With some really big graffiti.

Footprint helpfully provided for purposes of scale. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 16, 2005

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

"This dude here I call Vagina Puppet Man."

I have absolutely zero recollection of the context of this, but it's from 200 Cigarettes, with Martha Plimpton (who I went to grade school with!), Janeane Garofalo, Kate Hudson, Jay Mohr, Dave Chappelle (as "Disco Cabbie"), the Afflecks, Courtney Love, Christina Ricci...

And, of course, there'll be other people's cats.

This week's guest cat is Buckwheat, courtesy of my brother and one of my nieces. Oh, the ignominy. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Heady Advice

A couple more shots from San Diego... I'll have a whole bunch more when I finish processing the beach/tidepool shots. Whoo!

Words to live by at Bazaar Del Mundo...

Planetarium ball at San Diego Science Center. Not sure if this contradicts the hat thing... Posted by Picasa

The Lemonade Party

I don't always get a chance to read it, but Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing is one of my favorite columns. It's a great sampling of political articles, opinion pieces, and blog posts, and Froomkin is very refreshingly not-a-Republican-tool. Today he had a couple of truly infuriating posts under the heading "The Not-So-Hidden Agenda."


John R. Wilkie and Brody Mullins write in the Wall Street Journal: "Congressional Republicans, backed by the White House, say they are using relief measures for the hurricane-ravaged Gulf coast to achieve a broad range of conservative economic and social policies, both in the storm zone and beyond.

"Some new measures are already taking shape. In the past week, the Bush administration has suspended some union-friendly rules that require federal contractors pay prevailing wages, moved to ease tariffs on Canadian lumber, and allowed more foreign sugar imports to calm rising sugar prices. Just yesterday, it waived some affirmative-action rules for employers with federal contracts in the Gulf region.

"Now, Republicans are working on legislation that would limit victims' right to sue, offer vouchers for displaced school children, lift some environment restrictions on new refineries and create tax-advantaged enterprise zones to maximize private-sector participation in recovery and reconstruction."

It is just amazing how utterly devoid of shame the Republicans are, and how completely spineless the Democrats. How can they not call the GOP on their exploitation of yet another tragedy for political gain? Heck, the Republicans make out so well from catastrophes that I have to wonder whether they really have any desire to prevent them at all.

In brief, the Republicans are masters at making lemonade out of lemons, while the Democrats could fuck up chocolate. But maybe, just maybe, the Republicans won't have enough sugar this time. They certainly have more than enough water.

But wait, there's more! From an LA Times article on the same topic, we get this little gem...
" 'Bush has a very well defined vision of what government should do and how it should do it,' said Michael Franc, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization consulted by the White House. 'This is a moment to teach or explain to the American people how his values apply to this catastrophic situation.' "
Um, hello? Heritage Foundation? The president already "taught" the American people how his values apply to this catastrophic situation. That's why his approval rating is sinking through the floor.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Damon Ways In

I guess it's safe to say Damon Wayans is not a fan of President Bush or Operation Iraqi Freedom...
"I'll send my sons if he sends his daughters," Wayans told the crowd... at Tom Joyner's Family Reunion in Disneyworld. "Put those two drunk bitches on a plane and let them go fight. At least I know my sons would be getting some on the way." By way of White House reaction, First Lady Laura Bush's press secretary, Susan Whitson, gasped yesterday and told me: "I wouldn't dignify that with a response."
Mwahahahahahaha... Now I might have to start watching his show or something.

Curious George Gives Hitler The Slip!

This is a rather surreal juxtaposition...
Curious George is every 2-year-old sticking his finger into the light socket, pouring milk onto the floor to watch it pool, creating chaos everywhere. One reason the mischievous monkey is such a popular children's book character is that he makes 4- to 6-year-olds feel superior: fond memories, but we've given all that up now.


...[I]n truth, "Curious George" almost didn't make it onto the page. A new book, "The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H. A. Rey" (Houghton Mifflin), tells of how George's creators, both German-born Jews, fled from Paris by bicycle in June 1940, carrying the manuscript of what would become "Curious George" as Nazis prepared to invade.
His original name was "Fifi," you know.

More Belated Vacation Photoblogging

As I said earlier, I finally have some time to start getting caught up on processing the photos from my trip to California... about a month ago. I suppose they're hopelessly stale by now, but I still kinda like some of 'em.

In other photo news, I think I successfully removed a pair of pesky dust specks from my sensor by blowing on them with an ear syringe (thanks to my uncle for the tip), and I also reorganized my online photo album into more discrete categories. Huzzah!

The overhead light in my grandmother's elevator.

Cool moth hanging out under an awning. Sure is nice to have a telephoto lens... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

George W. Bush: Worse Than Racist?

I'll stop being cynical when life gives me a reason.

I'm seeing a lot of polling and talk about how President Bush's lame response to Hurricane Katrina was racially motivated, but I really don't think that's it. I think his lame response was simply a reflection of his innate lack of seriousness and engagement, and his inability to understand the concept that he is Ultimately Reponsible For Stuff, and can't just twiddle his thumbs and wait for the grown-ups to take care of it.

Seriously, if New Orleans had been populated exclusively by white people who were not oil billionaires and/or assorted Pioneers and Rangers, I believe that Bush's "response" would have been absolutely identical.

In fact, I would argue that accusations of racism actually let Bush off the hook for his bone-deep incompetence, by making it appear to be a matter of choice. This allows his base to continue believing that he could and would take care of them if disaster struck. It may even advance the Republican's deeply evil "Southern Strategy," by allowing the most racist troglodyte elements of the party to admire the bold and decisive way he sat back and let Mother Nature take care of all them damn nigras, unlike all those other fancy-pants Washington Republicans who just throw around weaselly code words without ever lifting a finger to do anything about The Negro Problem.

Our message should not be that Bush won't save black people from disaster because he's a stone-cold racist, it should be that he can't save anyone from disaster because he's a stone-cold fuckup. The beauty of it is that it attacks Bush on one of his supposed strengths (CEO president, my ass), and deprives the Republicans of another cherished opportunity to paint us as shrill, race-card-playing hippies with alarmingly large penises.

Dionne The Mark?

I sure hope E.J. is right...
The Bush Era is over. The sooner politicians in both parties realize that, the better for them -- and the country.

Recent months, and especially the past two weeks, have brought home to a steadily growing majority of Americans the truth that President Bush's government doesn't work. His policies are failing, his approach to leadership is detached and self-indulgent, his way of politics has produced a divided, angry and dysfunctional public square. We dare not go on like this.


If Bush had understood that his central task was to forge national unity, as he seemed to shortly after Sept. 11, the country would never have become so polarized. Instead, Bush put patriotism to the service of narrowly ideological policies and an extreme partisanship. He pushed for more tax cuts for his wealthiest supporters and shamelessly used relatively modest details in the bill creating a Department of Homeland Security as partisan cudgels in the 2002 elections.

He invoked our national anger over terrorism to win support for a war in Iraq. But he failed to pay heed to those who warned that the United States would need many more troops and careful planning to see the job through. The president assumed things would turn out fine, on the basis of wildly optimistic assumptions. Careful policymaking and thinking through potential flaws in your approach are not his administration's strong suits.


[I]f ever the phrase "reinventing government" had relevance, it is now that we have observed the performance of a government that allows political hacks to push aside the professionals.

I especially like Dionne's implication that not only will the American people repudiate Bush, not only will they repudiate the Republicans, but they will repudiate the (mostly) Republican way of doing business, where cronyism and payback are elevated over competence and the public good.

And satisfying as it would be to see Bush and his posse finally dishonored as the charlatans and criminals they are, it buys us nothing if his Congressional enablers do not also pay a stiff price, and that should include the spineless appeasers on the Democratic side, the Liebermans and Bidens and Nelsons.

In a perfect world, the Republican-lite DLC would become the new Republican party and leave us liberal Democrats alone, and the hardline religious and fuck-the-poor Republicans would be relegated to the lunatic fringe where they have always belonged, and leave everyone alone.

Do I think it'll happen? Well, not really, not anytime soon. I think Dionne underestimates the power of inertia and the status quo, fueled by the narrow self-interest of politicians on both sides of the aisle (think gerrymandering). As long as the Republicans control the media and the machinery of voting, and as long as the Democrats cower in their can't-we-all-just-get-along defensive shell, American democracy will continue to suffocate and slowly expire before our eyes. But the Democrats need to fix themselves before they can even begin to think about fixing the country, and even then it's going to be a long, hard slog.

Monday, September 12, 2005

It's A Good Presidency

Separated at birth?

From How Bush Blew It at Newsweek:
It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States.... The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

And from a synopsis and analysis of classic Twilight Zone episode "It's A Good Life," presented as a metaphor for Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
Anthony Fremont is a six-year-old with extraordinary powers to control the little town where he lives by simply wishing away people and things that anger or bore him. He has isolated the town by banishing electricity and cars. Other than his powerful wishing, Anthony has the mind and imagination of a typical little boy.... The people in Peaksville have to smile all the time, think happy thoughts, and say happy things, because that's what Anthony commands and, if they disobey, he can wish them into a cornfield or change them into grotesque versions of themselves. Anthony dislikes singing and punished Aunt Amy for thoughtlessly singing in his presence.


Comment: Substitute a big person for the arbitrarily vindictive little boy and this story also gives a general idea of how groups, including families, work when they are dominated by narcissists. But bear in mind that there's a necessary requirement for such a reign of terror to continue: the isolation of a captive audience. One of the ways tyrannical narcissists isolate their captives is by telling them that they must keep secret what goes on inside or face dreadful punishment, because they're so special that no one outside the group is capable of understanding them.... For a real-life example, see the story of the Phelps family.
For all intents and purposes, our country is at the mercy of an extremely powerful, but shallow and petulant child whom no-one dares contradict. The results have been predictably tragic, and there is no reason to hope for improvement.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Trouble With Competence

Just another one of those posts where I want to, shall we say, formalize something I've been saying in the Eschaton comments.

The catastrophe in Louisiana and Mississippi has served to shine a glaring spotlight on the rot of incompetence at the Bush administration's core. It is painfully clear that "Brownie" was woefully unqualified to run FEMA, and attained the position solely because he is a Friend Of Bush, as did his predecessor and his immediate subordinates. This is typically attributed to corruption and unseriousness about the important business of governing, but I don't think that tells quite the entire story of why competence is like kryptonite for the Bush administration.

To put it simply, competence gets in the way of loyalty. (Or at least, loyalty in its most cramped and narrow yes-man sense) Competence requires at least a passing familiarity with reality, which is sometimes not what the boss wants it to be. If the boss cannot accept anything that does not fit in with his worldview, then the competent employee will inevitably come into conflict with the boss's agenda. And the farther from reality the boss is, the more frequent such conflicts will be. So if the boss's priority is to employ people who won't rock the boat or tell him anything he doesn't want to hear, then he will naturally turn to those who have always agreed with him in the past, who make him feel comfortable.

Now, of course, a real leader does not fear competence - a real leader welcomes competence and alternative viewpoints to his own, and uses them to make himself stronger. But, needless to say, President Bush is not a real leader, and surrounding himself with people who tell him he is only makes him less of one.

Sunday Softball Blogging

Well, we only got six people today (damn Stillers), so we couldn't really have a proper game, so first we had some batting practice (I hit one out, plus a bunch of other really solid line drives and warning-track shots), followed by a sort of every-man-for-himself game-slash-batting practice. I ended up 8-for-12 with 2 runs, 2 RBI, and played some pretty good defense.

It's probably going to be slim pickins now that football season is underway.

Current Stats: 27 games, .574 BA (112-195), 18 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 61 runs, 40 RBI.

Stats include a very abbreviated Wednesday game (1-3, 1 R).

Friday, September 09, 2005

Tone-Deaf And Dumb

Some more thoughts on the Katrina aftermath:

I understand the Republican strategy (which I just freudianly mistyped as "tragedy") of trying to shift all responsibility to the Democratic state and local government. It's craven and morally bankrupt, but Not Owning Your Fuck-Up is basic self-preservation, and is what passes for admirable behavior among politicians in general, and Republican politicians in particular. But it also looks like there is a remarkable lack of compassion for the victims among the Bushies, and outright hostility towards them by the right-wing pundits.

To recap the examples I can remember (with help from Atrios), in no particular order:
  • After remaining on vacation for a few days after the hurricane hits, Bush finally shows up and reminisces about the great partying he had in New Orleans in his younger days, talks about sitting on the great new porch Trent Lott is going to have, and tells "Brownie" that he's doing a heck of a job. Meanwhile, Cheney is fishing and Condi is shopping and having her Grand Day Out at Spamalot and Ferragamo.
  • Barbara Bush expresses her fear of Texas being overrun by those uncouth refugees, and chuckles about what a sweet deal this Astrodome gig is for them. Tom DeLay compares it to summer camp and suggests that it's "kind of fun."
  • Baton Rouge Republican Representative Richard Baker expresses gratitude that God has "finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans."
The thing here is, even if the Republicans somehow manage to succeed in diverting accountability away from the head of our entire government, that still doesn't erase the impression that Bush and the Republicans very clearly DID NOT GIVE A FUCK. An entire American city gone, thousands dead, and Bush and his Republican cronies display absolutely zero awareness of or interest in the seriousness of the situation in any terms other than the purely political. Even if non-wingnuts can overlook or forgive incompetence, especially if it's incompetence by proxy, can they overlook or forgive this kind of moral and spiritual vacuum?

Indeed, his choice of FEMA appointments suggests that he doesn't much care about disaster preparedness at all. Perhaps he was counting on the next catastrophe to be the terrorist attack he's been inviting, where wholesale casualties would give him a chance to once again wrap himself in the War-Preznit flag and bully everyone into "rallying around the president" again, as he invades Iran or Syria or Venezuela or Bhutan.

As I have said before in other venues, I think BushCo. really thought that the rest of America, or at least the Republican base, would care as little about the deaths and displacement of hundreds of thousands of poor and black people as they do (hey, it's not like anyone important died, right?). I desperately hope that they're wrong.

Another thing that seriously disturbs me about the administration's response is the gratuitous, selfish phoniness of it, where valuable resources were diverted from relief efforts for the sole purpose of making the president look good. A fake levee repair effort was started and then swiftly abandoned after Bush posed with it. 50 of the 1,000 firemen who came to New Orleans from all over the country to help were assigned to stand-behind-the-president-so-he-can-bask-in-
your-reflected-9/11-glory duty as he toured the disaster area.

Yes, it's appalling that the administration spinmeisters are this callous, but we already knew that. What's chilling is that they're this arrogant. They had to know that this sort of callousness would be absolutely devastating if it were widely reported, which means that they also knew that it would not be widely reported. This country is in serious trouble if they are right.

"I Don't Think That's A Total Stretch."

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, the principal target of harsh criticism of the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, was relieved of his onsite command Friday.


Earlier, Brown confirmed the switch. Asked if he was being made a scapegoat for a federal relief effort that has drawn widespread and sharp criticism, Brown told The Associated Press after a long pause: ''By the press, yes. By the president, no.''


Bush administration documents have credited Brown with overseeing emergency services while working for the city of Edmond, Okla., in the mid-1970s. Brown's official biography on the FEMA Web site says he served as ''an assistant city manager.'' But a former mayor of Edmond, Randel Shadid, told AP on Friday that Brown had been an assistant to the city manager -- never assistant city manager.

''I think there's a difference between the two positions,'' said Shadid. ''I would think that is a discrepancy.''

Asked later about the White House news release that said Brown oversaw Edmond's emergency services divisions, Shadid said, ''I don't think that's a total stretch.''

Can I please, please start calling him "The FEMA Impersonator" now???

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

"Maybe eyeball jelly makes handy blade wax."

Today's quote is from Screamers, a great B-movie with Peter Weller and Jennifer Rubin, based on a Philip K. Dick story. The basic premise, about killing machines that have evolved to the point where they are indistinguishable from humans. It rather reminds me of that new Battlestar Galactica that the kids are so excited about these days.

This week's guest kitty is Monster, who my girlfriend found hiding under her car after a torrential downpour, and had to give away because her cat does not, um, play well with others.

I find your lack of faith disturbing... Posted by Picasa

Spam O' The Day

It's been a while since I posted any Random Spam Weirdness, partly because I haven't gotten much lately, and partly because Certain People always rub my nose in how much cooler their spammers' names are.

But I just couldn't resist this line, nominally from an eBay "Urgent Security Notice For All Clients":

"Here's your Textbooks I'll give you... Ralph Nader Computers"

It's brilliant, really - who wouldn't want a Ralph Nader Computer? Or Textbooks from Ralph Nader Computers? I'm a little hazy on which it would be, but both possibilities are terribly intriguing.

Who Needs It?

Well, great:

More than half the people in this country say the flooded areas of New Orleans lying below sea level should be abandoned and rebuilt on higher ground.

An AP-Ipsos poll found that 54 percent of Americans want the four-fifths of New Orleans that was flooded by Hurricane Katrina moved to a safer location.

Umm... so what? Let's let the people of New Orleans make that call, shall we? Was there even a need to poll on this?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

EschaCon Picnic Online Gallery

Couldn't resist posting a couple of nature shots from the picnic...

Mama Bear and Baby Bears look on as Papa Bear sticks his head in a tree to forage for honey.

The Atriots prepare to descend on the picnic site like a swarm of... eaty things. Posted by Picasa

In other news, a more comprehensive collection of my EschaCon Picnic photos can be found here.

Maybe now I can get back to catching up on the photos from my last trip...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Enough With The Picnic Blogging Already!

Okay, that's it for people pics from Philly, although I probably have a few non-people ones left.

Will update with link to more comprehensive online gallery as soon as I have it set up. In the meantime, you can check out more photos chez NTodd, oldwhitelady, The Kenosha Kid, spork_incident, radsaq, and radsaq.

The Hokey Pokey is a perilous dance for the unwary.

Scout prime motions for someone to remove bigvic from the side of her face. Matt and karmic_jay are bemused, whatever that means. If you look really closely, you can see watertiger, Young Thers, and Woody in the batting cage.

NTodd helps me demonstrate how camera geeks do staring contests.

Spork_incident admires Feral's... limb.

Penultimate EschaPicnomiCon Pics

Okay, I finally finished processing everything, and I think I have just enough left for one more batch after this one.

Um, is taking 180 pictures in a couple of hours abnormal? I'm never really sure about such things...

Mount Brushmore revisited.

The Fifteen-Year-Old and the Five-Year-Old in a rare oasis of calm half in, half out of the sun. This is almost certainly a trap.

DAS attempts to convince Greg that he has his nose, with little success. Sisterofye, Megan, and NTodd look on with varying degrees of concern, alarm, and glowhands.

Watertiger convinces Rosie and Thers that raspberries do go with pretzels.

Bereft of energizing raspberry infusions, Rosie is fading fast.

Just... about... gone at this point. Not even the lights in her legs can keep her awake now.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Mostly B&W Picnic Photoblogging

I got tons more still, but I think I'm winding down on postable stuff (assuming I didn't run out two posts ago) and will put the rest up in an online gallery somewhere.

Spork_incident extols the virtues of his plastic camera, as the ever-vigilant Kenosha Kid maintains a lookout for ocelots.

Spork continues to reprise his role in The Graduate, and-

Is there an ocelot on me?

NYMary receives a benediction from Woody, as NTodd searches his soul for answers.

Atrios subtly reveals his dark side during an unguarded moment. Greg clearly senses something is amiss, but can't quite put a finger on it. Posted by Picasa

And They All Played Games... At The Atriots Picnic

Okay, almost checkout time and I still haven't packed (ugh), but here's some more pics to tide y'all over 'till I get back home...

I took some moonbatting practice pics as well, but obviously I have a... broader perspective than NTodd. Not to mention a stronger instinct for camera preservation.

"Quick, Atrios! Look serene!"

I know the watertiger and the dog can coexist peacefully.

Wifi? Who needs wifi?

Not karmic_jay, QuiltLady's finger, sisterofye, oldwhitelady, Mr. QuiltLady, bigvic, or the top of scout prime's head!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Sorta Softball Blogging

Well, we didn't quite get enough interest or people (maybe if we pushed it) for a game, but we had a nice time with some casual batting practice. Typically uneven for me, but Woody was a star at the plate and in the field, after a bit of a rough start.

Since I was in the field or at bat the whole time, no real action shots, but I have plenty of pictures of the picnic afterward.

Mmm... clouds... (I think I can see my invisible buddy's house from here!)

There appear to be a few silhouettriots as well.

Major beardness! Prior Aelred, Woody Guthrie's Guitar, and Mr. Quilt Lady.

Note that the Prior's inner radiance makes a flash quite unnecessary.

"Wow, that was an awesome beard picture," you say, "but I sure wish I could get a better look at the Prior's beard and one of his spiffy headphones."

Your wish is my command.

Feral Liberal, shortly after being reintroduced into his native habitat. We attempted to coax him down with nuts and berries, but he just snarled at us and scampered away. Posted by Picasa