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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Now is not the time to play the blame game

Seriously.  Instead, it’s time to play the game where we ask conservatives to outdo each other on the subjects that so often provide them with the occasion to muse that some humans are just a tad less human than others!

Today’s contestants are Barbara Bush and John Derbyshire.  In alphabetical order:  first, Barbara touring the Astrodome.

What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.

Damn!  That’s hard to beat:  Hurricane Katrina as a stroke of luck.  Poor people movin’ on up to the floor of a sports stadium.  But wait:  what about poor black people?  Surely, you think, the subject will inspire John Derbyshire.  And it did!  Here, John is defending Steve Sailer’s remark on the far-right VDARE website, “What you won’t hear, except from me, is that ‘Let the good times roll’ is an especially risky message for African-Americans. The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.” Take it away, John:

Our own Roger Clegg noted last year that “Birth rates for unmarried women vary widely by race and Hispanic origin. . . . Among African Americans, 68.2 percent of births are illegitimate, versus 23.0 percent for non-Hispanic whites.”

Meanwhile, so far as males are concerned, the Bureau of Justice reports that “At midyear 2004 there were 4,919 black male prison and jail inmates per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,717 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 717 white male inmates per 100,000 white males.”

Under the circumstances, to say, as Steve Sailer does, that African Americans “tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups,” and “need stricter moral guidance from society” does not seem to me very outrageous.

Unless, that is, you believe that it is ill-mannered to talk about these things at all . . . in which case you had better take the matter up with Roger Clegg and the Bureau of Justice for their “shocking,” “unspeakable,” and “tasteless” breaches of etiquette.

Vote for one of the above, or nominate a contestant of your own.  No fair heading over to Dave Neiwert’s place and picking up stuff from “race vampires” (Neiwert’s term) like David Duke or the Council of Conservative Citizens.  But if you find “mainstream” conservatives like Derbyshire going to the mat for far-right extremists and white supremacists, that’s fair enough.  They do it all the time, you know.

Posted by Michael on 09/06 at 07:24 AM
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Monday, September 05, 2005

Bush:  Major Rescue Operations are Over

WASHINGTON — Hours after making an historic landing aboard a moving aircraft carrier in the waters of the Gulf Coast, President Bush told reporters aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln Thursday that “major rescue operations in New Orleans have ended.”

“Operation Cover Our Asses was carried out with a combination of precision, speed and boldness the American people did not expect,” Bush told a select group of Gannons standing on the flight deck. “We set up an array of emergency photo ops and Potemkin villages with a can-do spirit that dazzled the world.  I personally have hugged black people in the Gulf Coast, and the photos are now available on the White House website.”

Fox news analyst Sean Hannity praised Bush’s speech, saying, “I will say anything my leader tells to say.  That’s what a journalist is supposed to do.” Time magazine’s Blog of the Year concurred, writing, “The City of New Orleans and its residents owe the President a profound debt of gratitude for these photographs.”

A celebratory parade is scheduled on the Washington Mall for the morning of Saturday, September 10, which, according to White House press secretary Scott McClellan, will hereafter be known as “V-K Day,” for “Victory over Katrina.”

Posted by Michael on 09/05 at 11:02 AM
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Thank you, Heathers

Writing in Slate, Bruce Reed reminds us that thanks to Clinton and Gore’s wonky, do-good “reinventing government” initiative, FEMA was transformed from “a dumping ground for political hacks” to a competent, responsive agency.  The head of FEMA was of course James Lee Witt.  As Reed notes, Bush paid the Clinton Administration a rare compliment in his first presidential debate with Gore, and Gore replied in kind:

First I want to compliment the governor on his response to those fires and floods in Texas. I accompanied James Lee Witt down to Texas when those fires broke out. And FEMA has been a major flagship project of our reinventing government efforts. And I agree, it works extremely well now.

Reed then goes on to write:

That debate moment is remembered more for Al Gore’s faulty claim moments later that he, too, had visited those fires in Texas with Witt. Gore had been to disasters with Witt, but not that one, and the Bush campaign spun the exchange to persuade the press that Gore was somehow a serial exaggerator.

Kudos to Reed for recalling that sorry moment—but wait, something’s not quite right here.  Check that hyperlink on “serial exaggerator”:  it doesn’t take you to the 2000 Bush/Cheney campaign apparatus.  It takes you, instead, to one of the unofficial outposts of the 2000 Bush/Cheney campaign apparatus, Mickey Kaus’s column in Slate. Further along in that column, Mickey, the Father of Modern Blogging, wrote,

It’s as if Gore were told that whatever he did at the debate he shouldn’t hop up and down on one foot and he’d gone and hopped up and down on one foot. It’s as if Gary Hart had gone home with yet another babe after the Donna Rice incident! Put another way, the question isn’t whether Gore’s a liar and whether that’s worse than Bush being dim; it’s whether Gore’s lying shows that, in some respects, he’s a bit dim too.

OK, so let’s get this straight.  It’s October 2000, and we have two candidates for President.  One is a bit of a stiff, who rolls his eyes and sighs in the first debate, and misremembers travelling to Texas with James Lee Witt this one time even though he’d accompanied Witt on seventeen other occasions.  (This might be a good time to ask how Cheney spent his time during Katrina, don’t you think?) The other is a liar and an blustering boob, who, when he is eventually handed the reins of government by the most egregious act of judicial activism in our time, appoints a campaign contributor/ horse whisperer to manage FEMA, thereby restoring to the agency the corruption and cronyism of his father’s era.  (And not just any horse whisperer, mind you!  An incompetent horse whisperer who was pushed out of his horse-whispering job because he was a “total disaster.” Give that guy a disaster-management position!) And Kaus—like the rest of the national media—jumps all over the competent, wonky candidate for his “fib.”

Don’t you remember those crazy days, folks?  Gore’s claim about James Lee Witt was treated like a matter of national security—almost as if he’d started a disastrous war on false pretenses, or worse, diddled a White House intern.  The question of which candidate would do a better job with FEMA just wasn’t important enough for most of our press to cover.

Thank you, Mickey.  Thank you, Ceci Connolly.  Thank you, all you “fifteen-year-old Heathers” who covered the 2000 campaign.  I thank you, Al Gore thanks you, your country thanks you, the people of New Orleans thank you.

NOTE:  This blog will hereafter refer to Michael Brown as the Incompetent Horse Whisperer.  And as the Bush Administration prepares to blame the New Orleans disaster on Lynndie England, this blog will refer to the Dauphin as President Katrina.  Following a suggestion from Randy Paul in yesterday’s comments, Chertoff will hereafter be known as the Devil.  And we’re definitely going to call Lt. Gen. Russel Honore the John Wayne Dude.

ADDENDUM:  Just to be clear about this—the point about FEMA and Witt is not an example of 20/20 hindsight.  It is an example of precisely what we progressive Democrats said in 2000 when we were told that there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Bush and Gore.  We admitted that Gore was a neoliberal free-trade shill and a DLC guy who would be disappointing, annoying, or simply infuriating on any number of issues domestic and foreign.  But we insisted that the real difference between the two would be felt in the vast machinery of presidential appointments and regulatory agencies, from the NLRB to FEMA.  We were kinda right about that, I think.

Posted by Michael on 09/05 at 09:01 AM
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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Chertoff:  Feds Surprised by “Perfect Storm”

Washington—Defending the U.S. government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued Saturday that government planners did not predict such a disaster ever could occur.

Chertoff, fielding questions from reporters, said government officials did not expect both lightning and thunder in the extreme weather that devastated the Gulf Coast over the past week.

“That ‘perfect storm’ of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody’s foresight,” Chertoff said.  He called the disaster “breathtaking in its surprise.”

“We knew about the lightning,” Chertoff insisted.  “We had all gathered to watch the lightning, which was really awesome.  But then came the thunder, and before we knew it, most of us had dived under tables, chairs, desks, anything—anything to get away from the horrible booming noise no one could possibly have expected.”

He added: “There will be plenty of time to go back and say we should hypothesize ever more apocalyptic combinations of catastrophes. Be that as it may, I’m telling you this is what the planners had in front of them.  They were confronted with a horrible booming noise that they did not have built into the plan.”

In a related story, Chertoff took pride in the fact that people trapped in New Orleans’s Superdome and in its Convention Center were being served “three square meals a day” throughout the catastrophe, adding, “I believe the entree on Wednesday night, for instance, was lemon chicken and pilaf.”

Posted by Michael on 09/04 at 02:50 PM
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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Lift every voice and scream

Some of yesterday’s highlights:

The Dauphin lands in the Gulf Coast and does a bizarre parody of George W. Bush, waving his arms woodenly and stumbling through simple sentences until he gets to that funny little joke about sitting up on Trent Lott’s porch.  And let’s not forget the immortal line, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” I see a Medal of Honor in Mike Brown’s future.  (You really do have to watch the video if you haven’t seen it.  Even by Bush’s standards, it’s stunning.)

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announces that the Senate will vote on the permanent repeal of the estate tax next week.

The Navy hires Halliburton to restore electric power, repair roofs and remove debris at three naval facilities in Mississippi.

The American Family Association puts out a press release in which the Reverend Bill Shanks says that the decadent city of New Orleans got what it deserved.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency continues to funnel funds to Pat Robertson’s charity, Operation Blessing.

Mike Brown continues to chastise the poor for not evacuating New Orleans.

Condi Rice makes an urgent appeal to all Americans to donate funds to help her buy shoes on Fifth Avenue.  (No, that’s not quite true.  She did something almost as strange:  “in an unusual foray into domestic affairs,” notes the New York Times, Rice “sharply disputed any suggestion that storm victims had somehow been overlooked because of their race.” Well, it’s a good thing she cut short her New York vacation to bring us that critical intervention.  But why isn’t anyone asking Rice how she liked Spamalot?)

Rise up, O my people.  You are being governed by incompetents, thugs, idiots, crazed clerics, and vicious looters.  Lift every voice. 

(And many thanks to AmericaBlog for keeping track of the atrocities and outrages as they pile up.)

Posted by Michael on 09/03 at 09:25 AM
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Friday, September 02, 2005

Not your father’s GOP

Even the usually mild-mannered Kevin Drum is outraged:

CLUELESS . . . .  Could the people in charge of managing the catastrophe in New Orleans possibly be more clueless?

George W. Bush, President of the United States, six days after repeated warnings from experts about the scope of damage expected from Hurricane Katrina: “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.”

Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, following widespread eyewitness reports of refugees living like animals at the Convention Center: “I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the Convention Center who don’t have food and water.”

Mike Brown, Director of FEMA, referring to people who were stuck in New Orleans largely because they were too poor to afford the means to leave: “. . . those who are stranded, who chose not to evacuate, who chose not to leave the city. . .”

Patrick Rhode, deputy director of FEMA, commenting on his agency’s performance after four days of steadily increasing urban warfare, deeply flawed coordination, and continuing inability to evacuate refugees: “Probably one of the most efficient and effective responses in the country’s history.”

Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, providing needed reassurance to the newly homeless: “It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that’s seven feet under sea level. . . .  It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed.”

This is beyond belief. What’s with these people?

Well, Kevin, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that these people are Republicans.  Not just any kind of Republicans, either—they’re modern Republicans.  Modern Republicans are not the Republicans you and I remember from childhood, Kevin.  Those Republicans balanced budgets.  They built highways.  They did social infrastructure, and they did disaster management.  They knew where other countries were, too.  They helped to fund universities, and they didn’t mind that university professors taught the theory of evolution.  Some of them were even pretty good on civil rights.

Modern Republicans have left all that behind.  They don’t like government; they want, in Lovable Furry Old Grover Norquist’s famous words, to shrink government to the size at which it can be drowned in the bathtub.  Consequently, when they get into government, they quickly fill its halls with two kinds of people:  people who are charged with the task of destroying the agencies they run, and people who have no idea whatsoever about how their agencies work.  (Reagan set the template:  James Watt at Interior, Clarence Thomas at the EEOC, Anne Gorsuch at EPA, among the destroyers; Samuel Pierce at HUD, among the no-idea-whatsoevers.  FEMA gets the latter group.) So your modern Republicans don’t do disaster management.  In fact, there’s a lot of things they don’t do anymore.  Basically, they’re down to two things:  one wing retools the tax code so as to redistribute wealth to their friends and cronies in the top .001 of American society, and the other wing works to expel gays and lesbians from the body politic.  That’s about it.  They don’t even do war very well anymore, to be honest.  If it doesn’t involve hoarding wealth or crusading against gays and lesbians, their hearts aren’t really in it.  (That’s why they’ve been pretty good at the “hoarding wealth” part of the Iraqi occupation but not so good at the military and diplomatic parts.  And of course they like where the Islamist clerics stand on gays and lesbians, too.)

Now, I know some folks will say that I’m not being entirely fair to modern Republicans.  They’re right, I’m not.  Some modern Republicans, such as the Dauphin, like to dress up in lots of specially personalized uniforms.  But that’s not a matter of public policy.

When the levees first broke, I thought that the Bush Administration had drawn up a list of American Cities Worth Saving.  You know, Denver, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Omaha, Richmond, Tallahassee, Topeka, and of course Dallas and Houston.  And cities not worth saving—the rest of ‘em.  But now I don’t think they got even that far.  They’re not specifically motivated to abandon New Orleans just because the city is full of poor people and African-Americans; they simply never gave a serious thought to New Orleans one way or the other.  Now, if the mayor of New Orleans had been conducting gay marriages, then sure, the federal government would have intervened in a heartbeat.  But repeated warnings of natural disasters?  Plans for delivering food, water, and medicine to trapped survivors?  Your modern Republican doesn’t read those.  In fact, he fires people who persist in writing ‘em after they’ve been told to chill.

Kevin, we could use a man like Thomas Dewey again.  But he was from your father’s GOP, and that Old School is long, long gone.

Posted by Michael on 09/02 at 10:25 AM
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