Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Worm Has Turned

The eighteen wheeler that is the Republican machine is throwin' some big ol' chunks of rubber all over the highway these days, to the point where there are only 3 degrees of separation from the President to the Gambino crime family. That's right, three gangsters, one of whom once convicted along with Gene Gotti for heroin trafficking, were indicted today for conspiracy to murder the guy from whom top Bush/Cheney moneyman Jack Abramoff and his partner, Adam Kidan are accused of fraudulently buying a casino business in 2000.

Shortly before the murder Kidan wrote a check to one for $145,000 for "catering" and "consulting", though there never any food, and shortly after the murder he wrote another one for $95,000 for "surveillance services", of which I'm guessing there was at least a little.

About the alleged fraud. Well, it's seems that lenders involved in the deal were a little upset at learning that Abramoff and Kidan (allegedly) faked a 23 million dollar wire transfer that was supposed to represent their cash down payment. I hope our local Republican crooks are paying attention, here is truly someone to look up to.

There's much more with this guy, and there will be much to hear of him in the days to come. And then there's the Martha Stewart-like antics of Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, and the indictment yesterday of Tom DeLay, the house majority leader. The hits keeps on coming, there's no rest for the weary as Washington reporters must be pulling their hair out.

More? How about this David Safavian character? After telling his GSA bosses that he had no dealings with the lobbyist, although he had been helping Abramoff to procure government land for a private high school he was involved in, Safavian got the OK to go on the now famous $100,000 St. Andrews, Scotland golf junket in 2002. Since then he has moved up to become the Government's top purchasing agent, at least until he got canned last Friday, right in the middle of handing out no-bid contracts like candy in the Katrina aftermath. Nice!

Oh, and today Judith Miller got tired of sitting in jail and agreed to testify in the investigation of just who in the administration decided to expose Valerie Plame as a CIA operative. It is widely believed that Cheney's secretary Scooter Libby is the source Miller has been protecting.

Like so many rats, conservatives are jumping off the USS Neo-Con. They claim the Administration's fiscal irresponsibility is no longer tenable, but the smoke these ultimate pragmatists sniff out is that the neo-con's insatiable greed has put their stronghold on the political majority in jeopardy. It's every man for himself and pols and money men will be seen to scramble as far as they can from what is rapidly becoming an historic disaster of a regime―illegitimate from beginning to awful end.

You can see it happening on Fox News, plaything of one of the biggest of these rats. Suddenly Colmes, for years the intentionally anemic foil of Sean Hannity, is getting more time, more guests, more last words.

It's coming.

Monday, September 26, 2005

We All Do Our Part

The President:
Two other points I want to make is, one, we can all pitch in by using -- by being better conservers of energy. I mean, people just need to recognize that the storms have caused disruption and that if they're able to maybe not drive when they -- on a trip that's not essential, that would helpful. The federal government can help, and I've directed the federal agencies nationwide -- and here's some ways we can help. We can curtail nonessential travel. If it makes sense for the citizen out there to curtail nonessential travel, it darn sure makes sense for federal employees. We can encourage employees to carpool or use mass transit. And we can shift peak electricity use to off-peak hours. There's ways for the federal government to lead when it comes to conservation.
This gem is copied directly off the site, where such attention to detail is only matched by the boss's command of English. But that are not the point of -- well, it just makes sense that folks out there be -- oughta listen up to their President...

From ABC News:

Despite the ban on unnecessary trips, Bush announced he was flying back to the hurricane-affected region on Tuesday, traveling to Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, two of the harder-hit areas. He just concluded on Sunday a three-day hurricane trip, his sixth since Katrina hit a month ago, that took him to Colorado and two cities in Texas and Louisiana. During that trip, the president had no direct contact with areas or people affected by the storm, instead spending the entire weekend getting briefings on the storm from military and other federal officials.

That we may better "pitch in", the official White House web page directs us to a link called "", which is really a redirect to something that's called Partnerships for Home Energy, which has absolutely nothing to do with gasoline or travel. This is the best these people can do.

"Whatta we got on energy for the folks? We got anything on fuel conservation on the old www, boys? No? Anything like that?"

"We got sumpin' on new windows and energy efficient refrigerators. 'Bout it."

"Well, make it sound a little more, uh, to the point, and stick it in."

"You got it!"

Nowhere in that site are there hints about how to save fuel if one happens to command a 747, a couple of transports, several armored limos, and a few miscellaneous choppers. I guess he's off the hook.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Unruliness Among the Unruled, or When Cribs Collide

So this guy we know, a major (sports figure)-type, comes into a few million in signing bonus.

Time to pack up the bling bling, the collection of big-ass rides and the Rottweilers from the gates of Hell, plunk down a mil or two and drop it all into a couple of acres right in the middle of WASP utopia in a suburb called something like Freedomville, USA.

This is primo real estate. Not quite on the shore or in horsy country with the old money, but 10 minutes from the team facility and two minutes from the Tollway, while in a rare for these parts deep oak forest of a minor river valley. The kind of place where people like more than anything else to be left alone, or at least as close to such a place anyone can be and still take the train to the office in the Loop in 45 minutes.

This is the kind of place where people can afford good enough lawyers to keep their enclave out of the greedy little clutches of developers and the grubby little fingers of the neighboring tax-hungry municipalities, and so the authority in these parts remains the county. It's a little piece of libertarian heaven where you can park your travel bus or your cigarette boat, have a horse, whatever.

And build all the fences you want, and that's where we literally come in with hundreds of feet of cedar stockade and a front line of ornamental aluminum wrought iron looking kind of stuff. Right here through the arboreal ambience of Gentrified Oaks, somewhere in between the staged mulch bins and the herbal garden.

No one else had dared to do such a thing, though at least our guy didn't pull a Mr T and cut down every last oak tree on the property. The patrician etiquette heretofore practiced in these parts would certainly preclude such a garish display of, well, pretty much anything. Upon those awkward moments when their paths might collide whilst walking or running their spaniels and sheepdogs and Irish Wolfthings, a violator of the unspoken code might come to bear the awful Disdainful Eye, whereupon the shame of it all would force a relocation.

Ah, but the beady little evil eye shone over the impeccably shaven high-cheekboned rosiness framing the pursed, nearly non-existent lips of the impossibly perfectly silver haired gent in the lightly starched Polo shirt, cords and slightly worn but never dirty Topsiders ain't gonna shame our dude. Neighbors? Close the gates and release the hounds!

In the process of scouting the outer realms of this little sultanate, I'd noticed that in one spot the boundary ran fairly close to one of the neighbor's houses, within about 50' or so. "Trouble," I thought.

In the second day of the job I began to think, "So far, so good." As with those early results in New Orleans, I thought we'd dodged a bullet. Not so. Along 3 pm or so came the call, announced by the secretary, "Line two, (X's) neighbor."

Oh, boy! Now, the boss handles the VIP stuff, especially the (sports figure)-types, and so it was his call. I only listened to one end of the ensuing conversation, but I've done enough of these to gather the gist.

First comes the fishing. "I understand there's an ordinance that fences have to be built off the easements, or two feet (or some such) off the property line." Not true, except in certain cases, most of them having to do with exposures along streets and sidewalks. In one such conversation with a neighbor he told me that he was certain of such a rule, and that he ought to know, because he is a LAWYER. The unsaid part of that was that I, being a hippie-looking and somewhat begrimed by midday working class joe, was probably clueless and someone who might be intimidated by such an identification. Having dealt with these issues for twenty years or so by that time I was quite confident that I knew more about them than nearly any lawyer, and so my response was, "Ahhh, but are you a FENCE lawyer?"

He got the point and off he went, hopefully to reflect upon the ease with which his self-realized mystique had led him to judge a book by its cover.

Back to the crank de jour.

Having exhausted the only contrived argument he could come up with on the spot, our neighbor has nothing left to assert but emotion. "We've never had the need for fences before. I hate fences! I can't believe I have to look out of my kitchen window at this hideous fence every day!"

I recognize that these moments of uncharacteristic emotion represent breakthroughs for these folk, and at such times I might feel a twinge of sympathy. I don't like fences either. I think a far greater portion of the land should be common. I think we should live in clustered population centers of a more vertical design with centralized transportation and employment zones, and that the the greater portion of the land should be parklands, rather than the sprawling suburban nightmare of parceled isolation. But then I remember that these are the guys who zone the most attractive and accessible land for themselves, while stiffs like me have to move to the exurbs and buy more gas and waste away more of our lives driving past their pristine little hideaways on our way to work. Sympathy quickly wanes.

With no courage to confront the second party and having spent his enthusiasm for browbeating the third party, the first party gives up, no doubt feeling incredibly foolish in the utter spectacle of it all. The inevitable despoiling of his Hobbit hole continues.

Looks the same either way from my house.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Love Won Out Conference on Homosexuality Comes to Birmingham

Focus on the Family will bring its international Love Won Out conference to Birmingham on September 17. Metropolitan Church of God will host the one-day event, designed to educate and equip attendees on the issues surrounding homosexuality and provide help for those struggling – and those whose loved ones struggle – with unwanted same-sex attractions.

At what point do wants become unwanted? Anyway, this is an example of what can do for you, assuming that you keep sending those dollars in so that they can go to feed the five young brats of a Glenn T. Stanton while he continues to ignore them while gallivanting around the country hawking his latest book on Christian family ideals. Instead of helping his no doubt besieged young wife get the little cherubs off to school, here he is on my radio at 7:00 am to tell us that kids are in trouble without the solid influence of a man in the house.

Study after study after study shows, he says, that children from a house with one man and one woman will become happier, more productive members of society. And who exactly is the control group for these studies? Who are the one man and one woman married households that do not have the enormous economic and legal advantages that accompany marriage that we can compare same sex couples to? Who are the hetero couples whose relationship cannot be celebrated in the church that can be rightly compared to homosexual couples? Could it be that the biggest problem facing same sex or single parents is that people like Glenn T. Stanton can't seem to stay out of their faces?

But lets put that aside for now, and argue the point in terms the Christian right can understand, or at least find familiar.

Stanton says the democratic thing would be for society to validate (and codify) the majority opinion that because children are better off living with Ozzie and Harriet―according to whatever―it shouldn't be that same sex people marry and/or raise children.

But wait a minute. Aren't these people the same who insist that the democratic element of American capitalism is not that all share equally, but that all have an opportunity to excel in the American Dream? It does not follow from this that the democratic outcome would be for same-sex or single parents to be denied the opportunity to raise children simply because certain of them are starting behind the eight ball. Is saying we should be in the practice of legislating out opportunity?

The awful truth is...that's exactly it, and only the beginning.

Over and over and over again, these people have democracy coming out both sides of their mouths.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Kinder, Gentler Thought

Bear with me, this will take a little setting up.

Remember the infamous seven minutes the President sat in the Florida schoolhouse while an unknown number of planes were out there continuing the attack of 9/11? I was mesmerized watching the president in Moore's film, wondering exactly what it was I was seeing.

And this is what I thought I saw. Anger. Not a stunned, then demanding of details and procedural options reaction one might expect. A knowing kind of anger. Why didn't he immediately head for the consul of his backers, of the nearby Rove et al? I saw a man who had been hoodwinked, a man who knew exactly who was responsible for the act and exactly who was responsible for telling him that a miscellaneous terrorist act or two would serve to further the Christian and neo-con agenda, as it certainly has. I saw a man who might explode if he were to confront the advisors who did not count on the murderous efficiency of the terrorists.

And so he sat and counted ten, and who could blame him? I think the reaction was something like, "This isn't the way I was told it would be, this is bullshit."

The other night Jon Stewart, on the Daily Show, made a big, goofy spectacle out of Bush apologizing and accepting the blame for his administration regarding the Katrina mess. Stewart was right, it was a big deal, and a strategy I don't think the party hacks liked it one bit.

And now the President comes on like the next FDR, for cryin' out loud, even with a program called the WRA. Conservatives are screaming and Bush just don't seem to give a golly. Listen to this:

I also want to know all the facts about the government response to Hurricane Katrina. The storm involved a massive flood, a major supply and security operation, and an evacuation order affecting more than a million people. It was not a normal hurricane -- and the normal disaster relief system was not equal to it. Many of the men and women of the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States military, the National Guard, Homeland Security, and state and local governments performed skillfully under the worst conditions. Yet the system, at every level of government, was not well-coordinated, and was overwhelmed in the first few days. It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces -- the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice.
"Greater federal authority"? Holy crap!

Now, Rush Limbaugh and all those he inspires or marches with dismiss all criticism of the President as being hate driven. We hate the man, it's that simple they say. I don't hate him. I don't like the job he's doing, and I especially don't like the kind of philosophy that's behind him, but I see him sort of like the frat guy who gives you a hard time while he always seems to have a football player or two on his wing. I think he's running with a bad crowd, and I wonder if he may have more compassion that a lot of people give him credit for. It has been hard to tell.

I wonder if he's beginning to realize time is running short. I wonder if he's realizing that he has the power to put his compassion ahead of his conservatism. I wonder―and this is way out there―if he could be the anti-Reagan. And I wonder how long he could get away with it.

Stuff happens.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Zero Sum of all Wisdom

Whiskey is carried into committee rooms in demijohns and
carried out in demagogues.   
Mark Twain

The "love it or leave it" crowd may not look too kindly on several of my last posts and others in that I criticize the notion of American Exceptionalism, the notion that America and Americans are on the one true path, and as such not to be subjected to limitations on our foreign policy we would expect to impose on other less morally "enlightened" societies.

When I was twelve years old, this made sense.

And so we come to that monumental waste of governmental, media and citizens' time, the Senate confirmation hearings for "X". The ins stroke so sweetly and the outs twist the candidate's words from about eighty years ago and about two weeks from now the vote everybody stashed away about 6 weeks ago will get dusted off and sent down to the podium. We learn nothing new about the candidate, because he is of the extreme inner beltway that all pols ascribe to some day, and as such the convention is that he will not be required to answer to anything if he chooses not to. You or I would get an entirely different treatment from such a committee. You or I would face jail time should we want to avoid embarrassing ourselves or to protect our employment, family or friends from the prying party line invoked queries of the chosen.

Getting back to the point, A Senator "R" started his bit of this circus with a long winded description of how the Court has in recent times made reference to laws in other countries in the formulation of opinion. This seems to have disturbed the Senator greatly, in that such foreign thinking has no place in an American institution intended to interpret American law according to the American founding fathers' American constitution.

And just where does Senator "R" think all them high-falutin' ideas in our constitution came from? Thin air? No, he knows damn well that America doesn't exist in a vacuum, and that our laws have always been somewhat influenced by international thinking. He would be a fool to actually think that we should ignore the wisdom of the greater part of humanity in the formulation of our legal concepts.

But if you're fool enough to believe it―if you'll be impressed by gratuitous American Exceptionalism―Senator "R" isn't above hitchin' up his britches, puffin' up the chest and givin' it his best Foghorn Leghorn crowin' for American law (in Latin) for American folk.

Don't think for a minute that I am anti-American. I love Americans and America, but it would be absurd to think we have all the answers for anything, including the law. Senator "R" knows this, as he didn't become Senator by playing the fool...

He became Senator by playing others for the fool.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Plot Against America, a mini-review

I finished The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth. It's been a long time since I read Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint, books I highly recommend to anyone who wants to know exactly what us old farts are referring to when we speak of the sexual revolution of the late sixties.

Times, alas, have changed and this more "mature" Roth has written in this latest book of the struggles of several families in 1940's Jewish Newark, New Jersey. Roth starts out from a more or less historical locale and then travels a timeline of a parallel world in which rightists oust Roosevelt and sign a non-aggression pact with Hitler in order to stay out of the war.

The villain of the book is none other than Charles Lindbergh, and Roth draws from quotes of this and other historical figures in imagining a deeply anti-Semitic culture taking hold in America, complete with an Office of American Absorption being led by a tragically ambitious social climbing rabbi.

The protagonist of this work is an adolescent boy, who sees his family and his life crashing down all around him as the government begins to create programs designed to decentralize and disenfranchise the Jewish community.

Roth maintains that this tale is not intended to be an allegory of the currently rising conservatism, but this book certainly has all the elements of a classic roman à clef, or thinly veiled "fiction" intended to depict historical events. Well, we all have our crosses to bear―so to speak―but the man has a way of getting into the head of the child, and that is when I remember the very real characters with very real demons that peopled Roth's earlier works.

One passage that touched me was young Philip's description of his father's breaking down upon learning that his foster child had lost a leg fighting for Canada in the war:

It was the first time I saw my father cry. A childhood milestone, when another's
tears are more unbearable than one's own.
Such description is why we write, and why we read. To remember when such a thing happened, and to see these words and know that we do not travel alone in this world, is why people so often refer to a book as their old friend.

It was nice catching up with Mr. Roth.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Stickers and Stones

If you travel on US Rte.6 from Cleveland west along the Lake Erie shore you will come across a very patriotic place called, appropriately ignorant of things French, Lorain County. For miles along this road there are at least a thousand full-size American flags, one strapped to each and every utility pole. By the end of this extravaganza, I was numb with pride.

Canadians don't do bumper stickers. They don't feel compelled to push the three word phrase that encapsulates their political bent into your face at every chance they get. They don't strap two Maple Leafs to their pickup truck unless the national hockey team is in a big match. They don't have stickers in their windows proclaiming themselves to be heavily armed.

Canadians don't have "I support the troops but what I really mean is that I support the war" stickers and they don't proclaim themselves saved or in a really tight relationship with Jesus, either.

They seem to require less self-convincing.


The previous post was sarcasm, as opposed to the act of advocating secession, which many might find treasonous. The humorless are advised to ignore le sequoit altogether.

The next post or two may contain observations made while on a trip to Toronto, Niagara and Cleveland, etc. I love my country. America is the greatest civilization since the Creation of the (is it okay if we call it the?) universe. Americans are the most greatest people to have ever walked the planet. Americans are the bearers of the beacons of morality, truth and justice.

It's a puzzlement that we are the world's most enthusiastic consumers of air fresheners, as clearly our shit doesn't stink.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Big, Boxy America

Was planning a little car trip and yet I procrastinated enough to be looking for an oil change on Saturday afternoon in preparation for a post Labor Day four-in-the-morning departure, necessary in order to get around the Chi-town horn by rush hour and on our way to Toronto. Well, it turns out my usual spot was closed at 3:15 in the afternoon, so today I woke up and headed for the spaciously splendid, superbly centered Wal Mart as a last resort.

On approach to the auto center of this grand edifice were numerous lanes, two of them distinctly marked for the "express lube" category of unsuspecting patrons. We parked ourselves at the end of a perfectly marked ramp and waited. Nothing. Were we supposed to leave the car and enter the building? The Quick Lube place would be all over us now. Nothing.

So I went inside. One guy was trying to sell tires to someone and the other one was on the phone. After twenty minutes of watching these two go in and out of this little office without so much as an acknowledgement of my existence, eventually one of them took my order. I'd have liked to have gone outside to tell my little Hun what was going on, but I couldn't get out without a button press by one of those pretending that I don't exist. Interestingly, they couldn't get out either without fumbling for the right key when there are about eight thousand scanning devices throughout this building.

The main dude handed me a ticket with a UPC code and proudly informed me that I could check on the status of my "express" oil change utilizing any scanner from a check out or price check clerk in the store. Wonderful.

We went in and got a bouquet of flowers for my mom, a certain unmentionable and an extra book for the trip (The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold), and then we headed on back to claim the Focus. The hood was still up and they were apparently getting around to scrounging up the correct oil for this exotic model. No less than one hour from the time we pulled up to these "express" lanes we finally headed out, but not before the dopey part-timer doing our 15 point "expert" lube job had to call over his supervisor to make sure we had enough oil in our car.

The Waltons. You see, just as with the case of The Orleans catastrophe, you have these Reaganite, BMA laden, neo-con skin flints thinking they can apply their economic model to any old thing, with often disastrous results. Everyone manages but no one leads. Everyone makes do with less, and less is the result.

Ok, so a Texan is rough-ridin' the country, and an Oklahoman is running FEMA, and an Arkansan(?) is running the company store. When did all this happen? What happened to good old Yankee know-how!

Wisconsin is pretty self-sufficient. We have lots of fresh water, fertile land, Angus steer and dairy cows. We are the world's leading producer of if not cheese, cranberries. We also have a nice big pipeline to Alberta's oil fields. For what do we possibly need the South and all this hair-brained "leadership" they keep foisting on us?

I say we secede, maybe take Minnesota and the UP of Michigan with us and become the Canadian Province of New Scandinavia. If the German Americans don't like it they can keep Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha and go join the flatlanders in Illinois. Half of Kenosha and Racine are commuters to Illinois anyway, and since they no longer make beer in Milwaukee I haven't figured out what the hell else they do there.

Of course, we would have to import a few million Harley Davidsons a year, but at least we could make them put mufflers on them.

Me and the missus, we're gonna head up to Toronto and feel it out. If you don't hear from me, I've gone illegal.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Festering

Sometimes David Brooks, for all his ignorance of life among the ordinary, can get things very right:

Civic arrangements work or they fail. Leaders are found worthy or wanting. What's happening in New Orleans and Mississippi today is a human tragedy. But take a close look at the people you see wandering, devastated, around New Orleans: they are predominantly black and poor. The political disturbances are still to come.

As the police barricade themselves in for another night in New Orleans we see video after video of desperate people, and many of those who not only have no respect for the law, but suddenly find themselves in a position not to fear it either.

How many people in this crowd, to whatever degree justifiably, are wondering if they being left to rot in New Orleans because they are black? This anger will grow, and at the same time their plight will forever worsen for the violent images.

As anger grows, pols, and understandably, predominately the ins, plead this is not the time for politics. It is hard, though―so hard―to keep quiet when you hear something like this:

I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.

George Bush

Apparently this was true of just about anybody he knows well enough to have landed a job in departments like Homeland Security and agencies like FEMA.

The Daily Koz ran this quote:

It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV "storm teams" warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however--the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level--more than eight feet below in places--so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't--yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City.

National Geographic, October, 2004

2,800 Guardsman are on the ground today in New Orleans. 30,000 are said to be "On the way".

This is the forecast of the track of Katrina from last Friday:

Here is some text from a NOAA advisory from the same hour:


Six days later, help is still "on the way".