Wednesday, August 31, 2005
The News Keeps Getting Worse
This may push me over the edge...Why can't "stars" just write checks like the rest of us?
Our occasional Left Coast correspondent Midgie summed it up best when it comes to celebrities attempting anything beyond entertainment...."SHUT UP AND LOOK PRETTY!".
I know they are only trying to help...but what can Leonardo DiCaprio say that will inspire me to give more?...oh yes.."I'm retiring"...
Wack Jobs on the Loose
Gays 'Responsible' For New Orleans Devastation Group Claims
Don't they mean "The Gays?". Guess there weren't enough Soldier funerals to protest this week. An evangelical Christian group that regularly demonstrates at LGBT events is blaming gays for hurricane Katrina.Repent America says that God "destroyed" New Orleans because of Southern Decadence, the gay festival that was to have taken place in the city over the Labor Day weekend. "Let us pray for those ravaged by this disaster. However, we must not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long,"
Halley Barbour Responsible for Hurricane Deaths - RFK, Jr.
This is just as bad if you ask me. Am I supposed to believe that had the Senate approved Kyoto that Hurricane Katrina wouldn't have happened? Does RFK, Jr. remember that a test vote on Kyoto failed the Senate by 98-0?! (No Democrat voted in support of Kyoto in the test vote..and this was under Clinton?!!).
Perhaps we can combine both stories to conclude that the gays cause global warming.
The Parade of Horribles Begins
CNN: Commercial flights coming out of New Orleans International Airport could resume in two months.
Experts: $4 a gallon gas coming soon
Houston Astrodome Opened for Superdome Refugees
President Still on Vacation
Bush is often lauded for being a man of decisive action. He repeatedly said during the last election that you may not like him, but you know where he stands. Well, over the past 5 years, there seems to be a disturbing pattern in this so-called man of action, the founder of compassionate conservatism. Is it just me or whenever there is some terrible event- like the 9/11 attacks, the Asian Tsunami, or the hurricane Katrina, Bush's compassion and decisiveness is on some sort of time delay?
On 9/11 he continued to read "My Pet Goat" for nearly 20 minutes after it was apparent that the U.S. was under attack.
After the Asian Tsunami, it took him three days to offer aid, and then only $5 million dollars.
Despite the fact that it was clear that Hurricane Katrina was going to be a massive storm, and strike at the heart our domestic energy supplies in the gulf, he waited three days beyond the storm to return from his month long vacation.
Is this decisiveness?
As I mentioned yesterday, huge events like Katrina shake the markets and only preemptive and decisive action, even if symbolic, helps to mitigate the worst excesses of such instability.
Someone tell Cheney or Rumsfeld to turn off the compassion delay switch please.
A New-New Orleans?
It won't be so simple
Last night I was talking to Donkey and suggested that perhaps, when they finally drain New Orleans and start to rebuild they should call it, New-New Orleans. Donkey had a more enlightening suggestions, saying that what was New Orleans is now likely to be the world's largest super-fund site, which will greatly complicate rebuilding. He has a good point.
Think about this for a minute. 80% of a city of roughly 500,000 people is under water. Bubbling up into this new lake are all the chemicals (normally safely contained) we use day in and day out as part of our day to day life. Gas stations are now leaking fuel in to the water, dry cleaning chemicals are leaching out too. Transformers and generators are perhaps leaking toxic PCPs into the flood waters. Then there is all the cars left behind and all the household and industrial chemicals that are being added to the stew. Through in the bodies of the victims and all the raw sewage (and those poisonous swamp critters!) and you have what the media is annoyingly calling - Toxic Gumbo.
So after they plug the leaks in the levies and drain the city. Buildings and homes may be coated with a layer of toxic goo that could require a more complicated remediation. We may not be able to just scrub up the walls, throw on a coat of paint and move on.
In the weeks ahead we may see the realization that reconstruction, which at this point is a difficult task, will be even more complicated as a result. A month to get things back on line seems pretty optimistic at this point.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
New Orleans 1718-2005
Good-Bye New Orleans
Like 9/11 or the Tsunami, the scope fo the disaster that struck the Gulf Coast is hard to grasp. Sometimes a story opens a door and crystallizes for a moment, the utter devastation and pain of the victims. This trigger moment is different for each of us, but last night while watching the news, it hit me.
CNN was doing a story on the brave men and women of the Coast Guard who are working to rescue folks trapped on roofs. One of the rescuers was talking about the emotional toll it takes. While he's happy to be rescuing the people, he was heart broken that they are under orders to leave pets behind. The story ended with a shot of a helicopter pulling away and a goofy looking blood-hound mix cowering on a roof top. That opened the door for me, and the scope of the loss poured in. Personal effects can be replaced, houses can be rebuilt, but precious life cannot.
What is clear at this point is that unlike Gulf Port or Biloxi, where folks can start reconstruction, New Orleans is being abandoned.
New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, and named for the regent of France, Philippe II, duc d'Orleans. It remained a French colony until 1763, when it was transferred to the Spanish. In 1800, Spain ceded it back to France; in 1803, New Orleans, along with the entire Louisiana Purchase, was sold by Napoleon I to the United States. It was the site of the Battle of New Orleans (1815) in the War of 1812. During the Civil War the city was besieged by Union ships under Adm. David Farragut; it fell on Apr. 25, 1862. On August 30, 2005 after flood waters breach the city's levies, the mayor ordered the entire city evacuated, ending for now, over 300 years of permanent settlement.
What a day
If there is such a term as disaster porn, then I think that sums up the coverage of Hurricane Katrina today. I've had my office TV on in the background most of the day and events are playing out like a bad movie...
Latest word is that New Orleans will have to be abandoned for the time being...
CNN is actually talking about Gas rationing?!
New Orleans Sinks
How can it be that we can launch airstrikes and missle attacks on a moments notice anywhere in the world, but we can't plan and have troops on the ground after a natural disaster?
Looting aplenty.... here's hoping some of this criminals get swarmed by a floating ball of fire ants...
I've finally turned off the news in my office. It's going to be a long week....
And the Media Coverage...
Watch: Screams for help Day that wouldn't end
Watch: 'You can't hold me... take care of the kids'
Watch: 'Everything is gone' Rooftop rescue Katrina's fury
Prelude to a Bad Month
A Bleak September
If the prospect of Congress coming back into town wasn't depressing enough, consider the parade of horribles that await us in September.
First, Oil prices continue to climb to record levels with only the earliest reports of damage in New Orleans and the Gulf, already there is talk of gas shortages. $80 Oil by Friday!
Even with early reports in, Katrina looks to outdo Hurrican Andrew in terms of damage, already the response of Federal and State goverments has been underwhelming, the initial response will be inadequate and recriminations will start by the end of the week. (intial response to Andrew- 36,000 national guardsmen, Katrina - 3,600).
Second, Iraq continues to fester, with enthnic tensions ready to explode into all out civil war as the failed constitutional process limps forward. Someone please fire Rumsfeld?!
Bush's slow leadership on all these issue will continue to cause his poll numbers to plummet into record low territory, sadly, this is totally unnecessary. (Se posting below).
The always fun, but never useful, Supreme Court Nomination process gets started in a week.
And New Orleans may be destroyed after all, Toxic Gumbo arrives, Marshall Law Declared!
Remember 9/11? Remember how we didn't hear from the President until late in the evening? I'm kind of getting the same feeling with Katrina. Like 9/11, the massive Hurricane that ripped through the Gulf states requires decisive, if only symbolic, leadership. To date, the President has made only a few comments prior to the storm's landfall, and yesterday made some off-hand comments about the storm during a Medicare speech. He should be more bold in his approach to the storm and the government's commitment to help mitigate the likely spike in oil prices. This is supposed to be his area of strength.
First and foremost, hundreds of thousands of Americans are now homeless and Mr. Bush continues his month long vacation. At most he could fly back to Washington to personally expedite the disaster relief requests of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana (all states that helped him get elected). At the very least, he could work from Crawford and talk with the media about the work the federal government is doing to augment or assist the various states. Mr. Bush's alleged empathy is supposed to be his strength and he could do wonders for his dismal approval rating by taking action in the face of a regional disaster.
Second, the jittery energy markets need to be soothed and only bold decisive action can do that. While I certainly give Mr. Bush credit for finally considering using some of the strategic petroleum reserve if needed, his attempt so far is too timid. He should announce that he is concerned with the impact the hurricane will have on already tight energy supplies and that the government will take any and all action to help solve the problem in the short and mid term. He should announce that the federal government will open up federal lands (or closed military bases) for the constructions of new oil refineries. In short he should talk up the market.
You may be saying, this is all fine and good Elephant, but it is largely symbolic. Yes, it is, but leadership is also about reassuring people that the full power of the federal apparatus will be utilized to help out. Even if relief takes days to reach the needed folks, repeatedly telling them that help is one the way, that they can expect it by day XXX can help head off the crisis in confidence that plagued his father after the equally calamitous aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.
Bush, per usual, will probably step up to the challenge, but as is his custom, it'll be a day late and dollar short...mark my words. Another in a long line of missed opportunities for leadership.
The News Channels
A "Toxic Gumbo" of Coverage
You could almost see the disappointment in the faces of the talking heads on the news channels this morning. New Orleans, battered for sure, was still standing and its much hyped destruction and resulting toxic gumbo didn't come to pass. But someone please buy these people a clue.
The coverage of the hurricane amounted to the annual parade of wanna-be 'journalists' vying for that local news Emmy, by repeatedly standing in the raging winds of the hurricane while reminding me (as if I just had a lobotomy) that doing this very stupid act is actually quite dangerous. One intrepid Fox reported even crouched behind a mail box and threw various items into the wind to show how they become 'lethal projectiles.' (Oh how I was praying that the metal shards he was throwing into the air would circle back and impale him!). The best, as is being reported on numerous blogs, was when Fox's Shepard Smith was walking the streets in the height of the storm and came across a man walking his dog.
SHEPARD SMITH: YouÂ?re live on FOX News Channel, what are you doing?
MAN: Walking my dogs.
SMITH: Why are you still here? IÂ?m just
MAN: None of your f#cking business.
SMITH: Oh that was a good answer, wasnÂ?t it? That was live on international television. Thanks so much for that. You know we apologize.[snip]
SMITH: "I'm watching two dogs drink
out of a glass of ice water, and it's none of my business why they are still
He, he! Good for the guy walking his dog!
Other excesses included the repeated fact that New Orleans is below sea level (seemingly mentioned every ten seconds) and the often referenced "Toxic Gumbo" of flood waters, raw sewage and poisonous swamp animals that was soon to descend on the fabled Big Easy. And don't get me started on the comment that "This is our Tsunami!", umm no it's really not. Katrina is a terrible disaster for those in its path. But unlike the Tsunami, which sent 70 foot tall waves miles inland in Asia without warning killing a quarter of a million people, Katrina's death toll (while still tragic to be sure) is likely to be quite low and unlike the Tsunami, we had at least three days notice that the hurricane was coming.
I feel for the victims of Katrina, I really do. But I regret that their personal tragedies will be boiled down to the lamest metaphors smiliesies that the talking heads on the 24/7 news channels think are pithy and moving.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Killing the Golden Goose
First they conspired to fix prices on CD's, then they opposed the creation of a digital marketplace to sell music (leading the rise of Napster, Gokster and such), which led the music companies to sue their customers. When the visionary Steve Jobs introduced i-Tunes and the i-Pod (which boosting the record industry's slumping sales), the music industry shrugged and now they're pushing to make the price of a music download be based on a songs popularity. They just don't get it.
Music is no longer a product, but rather it is a commodity. Ubiquitous downloading, legal and otherwise, have eliminated many of the traditional costs of distribution for the industry. No longer do they have to produce millions of CDs, rather they need to make a master track, and then an infinite number of perfect copies can be make for nothing and sold over digital networks. Of course adapting to a world were they can't control distribution or force us to buy a DC with 11 crappy songs to get one or two we may like, would just be to hard for them. On the flip side, products like Apple's garage band make it possible for nearly any group to put out professional sounding music, thus side stepping the major record labels. Rather than adapt to the changing market place, the big recording companies seem to be set on continuing to use their waning influence to retard the full development of a digital marketplace. Morons. They will fail, and soon we'll be free of such pre-fab trash as Ashley Simpson, etc....
I've been pretty conscientious about only downloading music legally. But if the record companies push this new cost model, that fits them rather than the market, I think that I and many others may dust off our icons for file sharing services...
Everything is Terrible
Golly, did you get the impression yesterday, from CNN and others, that Hurricane Katrina would be a catastrophic storm and I also think I heard something about New Orleans being mostly below sea-level (although I'm not sure they hammered that point home enough). I think that God, like me, was tired of the over-hyped coverage and nudged Katrina just a little bit to the right to spare NOLA the worst, let's hope so.
I was talking to Donkey yesterday about the impact of Katrina on oil prices, making the bold prediction that the per barrel price would exceed $70 by late this week. When the markets opened today, that barrier fell quickly, putting $80/bbl. in reach. $4/gal gas for the holiday weekend? Uggh... It must be hellish for you all who have to drive every day.
Oh yeah, and there's some stuff going on in Iraq, Crawford, Tx, and Congress comes back next week...truly dreadful.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
An Ugly Week Ahead
Holy crap! I woke up this morning to the news that Hurricane Katrina is a category five storm and headed right toward New Orleans. Sitting in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina is also likely to take out some oil platforms as well, no doubt adding to the fears in the oil market and making $70/bbl oil a near certainty.
New Orleans, which is below sea level, could find the downtown under 20 feet of water if the Hurricane lands just east of the city and the storm surge floods downtown. No doubt Pat Robertson will hail the destruction of this modern day Sodom, but I'm kind of found of the shabby, skid row elegance of the Big Easy. It may not be around after this week....
Friday, August 26, 2005
Final Thoughts on Pat Robertson
I know vaguely that Pat Robertson is a billionaire and that he's connected to some shady characters in Africa and other places. Via Instapundit, I found this old Post story on just how knee deep in blood diamonds, African strongmen and outright money grubbing the so-called Reverend Robertson is. Perhaps Mr. Robertson might want to stop reading Fortune, the WSJ and Businessweek and actually pick up the Bible. Perhaps, may I suggest, Matthew 19:24?
Name that panda
The Butterstick Project
Ok, as you may have heard, the pandas at the National Zoo had a baby boy recently. Suprisingly the zoo staff have yet to kill it through their usual negligence. When it was born, the local media kept saying that it was the size of a 'stick of butter.' (An odd measuring term- expect of course for butter). Anyway, Wonkette has started a campaign to name the panda "Butterstick" rather than some of the lame, preselected choices put out by the zoo. One of her readers even hacked into the voting system so you can cast your vote for Butterstick.
Please vote, and vote often.
There boy in the Senate has failed to deliver on FMA and stem cells and some elements of the GOP right aren't happy (as if they ever would be). President in 2008? I think not.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
More Complaints about the GOP Majority
Drunk With Power, Spending Out of Control
A Fall or Winter of Discontent
Hmm...I caught President Bush's speech yesterday while at the gym during my lunch hour. I think it is important that our leader continue to publicly support our troops and their parents/families. But beyond that the speech left me rather..well, angry.
Iraq a growing problem:
I was a reluctant supporter of the Iraq war. I conditioned my support on the WMD issue, but thought that we had the right to go in on the dozens of unfulfilled U.N. Security Council resolutions. But like many initial supporters, I thought that the allegedly hawkish republicans would make sure we adhered to the Powell Doctrine that worked so well in the first Iraq war.
The doctrine expresses that military action should be used only as a last resort and only if there is a clear risk to national security by the intended target; the force, when used, should be overwhelming and disproportionate to the force used by the enemy; there must be strong support for the campaign by the general public; and there must be a clear exit strategy from the conflict in which the military is engaged.
The administration seems to have all but ignored this principles, putting to few troops on the groups to pacify a country that is plagued by social, religious and ethnic divisions. James Fallows gave us all a heads up back before the war in 2002, calling Iraq, the fifty first state. Even a member of Bush's cabinet indicated that the war would cost upwards of $200 billion, for which he was promptly fired. (The war costs are currently at $300 billion). I'm getting tired of the spin.
Most recently, we've hear a chorus of how 2006 will provide the opportunity for the U.S. to start drawing down our troops, yet strangely, we are actually stepping up our presence there.
Anyway, we went in with too few troops, we made tactical errors (like disbanding the Iraqi military) and the administration continues to believe that things are just ducky (if ducky means on the precipice of civil war). In fact ducky enough to take a month long vacation.
Geesh, oil continues a rather steep climb this week and is fast approaching $70 a barrel. True there is not much the President can do about this, but leaders can sometimes relieve problems by taking symbolic actions in the face of such uncertainty. The revised CAFE proposal this week is a start (not a great one, but better than nothing). Perhaps reintroducing the 55mph speed limit on a temporary basis (under the banner of supporting the troops/war effort) would be a good idea.
But in my conversations with my economist friends here in DC (yes, DC is the type of place where one can actually be employed as an economist) they all keep telling me that $100 per barrel is not out of the question. In the past, such conservation measures helped the U.S. break the OPEC cartel and ushered in a period of cheap oil.
Either way, fair or not, $3/gal gas is not going to win Bush any converts.
Let us not forget too that there is a special prosecutor out there investigating the White House staff on just who leaked information on an 'undercover' CIA operatives ID to punish her war critic husband. Karl Rove is the alleged target of the leak and when or if indictments are handed down, things could get interesting.
Bush's leadership has always been one of benign neglect (when he's not too busy creating a big government nannystate that is). But as we enter fall, we may be facing some pretty big challenges, a continued deterioration of Iraq and higher oil prices to name a few. Then there is North Korea and Iran with their nuclear ambitions (note how Bush is kind of soft on real nuclear programs, but will kick your ass ala Iraq for pretend ones). American has the ability to tackle all these obstacles, it's just that I don't thin our leadership is up to the task.
God is all about loopholes
The Ten Commandments Say Nothing about Kidnapping!
When he's not blaming the gays, the abortionists and/or the gay abortionists for the 9/11 attacks (and the four hurricanes in Florida last year), or praying for Supreme Court Justices to get cancer, or most recently dabbling in the art of international relations (e.g.-assassinations), Televangelist Pat Robertson apparently finds time to study the bible.
On the 700 club show on Monday, Robertson said of Chavez, "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop."
Of course yesterday, despite the video evidence, Mr. Robertson claimed he was misunderstood.
.."I said our special forces could take him out,Â? Robertson said today on his The 700 Club show, which airs on ABC Family. Â?Take him out could be a number of things including kidnapping. There are a number of ways of taking out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted," he added.
Yes, the Tecommandmentsts say nothing about kidnapping! So that would be ok! Only a true man of God would understand such subtleties of scripture. Of course there's that pesky 'thou shalt not lie' thing...but that's ok.
What's heartening is that religious leaders from across thChristianin perspective (liberal to conservative) havcondemneded Robertson's remarks and questioned his ongoing public role as self appointed leader of evangelicals. Good for them. But I think a real Republican/AmericaChristianin would find some way to blame this all on Cindy Sheehan.
Pat Robertson's call for assassination should mark the end of his credibility as a minister or politician
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
iPod Shame Index (TM)
Not much new in the music department for Elephant the past few weeks. I've been focusing my iPod resources on Mandarin language tapes for my trip to China in November. But, that aside, there is still time to squeeze in a little music and here's the top ten tunes from Elephant's iPod.
- Shoop - Salt-n-Peppa
- Feels Good - Tony, Toni, Tone
- Pope - Prince
- Back to Life - Soul II Soul
- No Scrubs - TLC
- More than this -Roxy Music
- 100 Years - Five for Fighting
- Elsewhere - Sarha McLaughlin
- Washing in the Water - Peter Gabriel
- Father and Son - Cat Stevens
So many ideas fermenting in my cloudy mind this morning. Iraq (soon to be Iran-lite?), the military (and how we'll have to rebuild it after W leaves office), gas prices, the failure of corporate mega news media, Pat Roberston and so on.
The sad part is, things are so wacky here in DC under W, that I've really disconnected from the whole political thing (which, if your job is that of a lobbyist, probably isn't a good thing).
We here in DC, who are encamped on the right side of the aisle, have segregated ourselves into two camps. The kool-aid drinkers and the non-kool-aid drinkers. The former are folks connected with leadership or the administration. Bush is their messiah, a visionary who can do no wrong. No excuse, however Clintonian, is too over-the-top or lame to pick apart. Critical thought is discouraged (perhaps even treasonous) and all that is required for our country to prosper is blind faith in our dear leader.
The other camp is sound the warning bells regarding the ominous signs that the GOP majorities legacy will be no better, and perhaps much worse, than that of the democrats. Spending is out of control, ethics are notably absent (and on a scale that dwarfs the banking scandals of the early 1990s), our military is becoming a shell of its former self fighting an ill planned war in Iraq, and we seem to lack a strategic direction or plan for our economy in an ever more competitive world.
Elephant and most of his contacts fall into this group. I'll try to sort my thoughts on this during the course of the day, but to some of us, it's becoming apparent that who ever is elected in 2008, will have to spend their first term, cleaning up the excesses of the last eight years.
Back in my day....
Cute story in the Post on how decorating your dorm room has become sort of a "Trading Spaces" competition. Fancy foutons, crates and desks rather than the university issued institutional furniture of old. It is kind of interesting the variety, design and quality of things you can buy now at discount chic places like Target. Back in the fall of 1988, when I entered U of M, there weren't as many options. Storage crates? Nope, you had to go swipe them from behind the convenience store. Fancy desks? nope....Laptops...nope (If you were really lucky you had an old school Mac, which back then cost about $4000).
Pretty interesting...but I wonder if this style trend carries over to designer beer bongs, pipes or water bongs?
Designs on Dorm Rooms
On any given week, it seems that the 'media' focuses in on some story that supposedly is an indication that the end times are near. You know, shark attacks in Florida, missing persons (when they are 1) white and 2) female...blond helps too). Now with the Natalie Holloway story (sad, but sadly not unusual) getting a little long in the tooth, it seems that the new crisis de jour is high gas prices. I'm waiting for the story of the desperate soccer mom who had to sell her kids to the circus so she can fill up her SUV. Panic, Panic, Panic...
Experts say rising gas prices spur thefts, violence
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Bush: Freedom Requires Sacrifice
I didn't catch Bush's address to the VFW, but it seems more of the same....Iraq-9/11, Iraq-9/11...sacrifice. Is it just me or does the argument for sacrifice coming from a man who's taken 366 vacation days in the last five years, and is currently spending a month on his ranch a little over the top?
The View from the Heartland
Wow, George Bush isn't too popular in the Midwest, if my extended family is any sort of random sample (they aren't). But what's surprising is that from my older brother (who thinks that reiterating talking points he gleans from Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh is political discourse) to my libertarian brother, my lapsed Catholic Mom and even the beagle, all are seemed disappointed and confused by Bush's Iraq strategy.
While there is a difference of opinion amongst the family members on the necessity of the war, we all are pretty much in agreement that we need to do right now that we've deposed Hussein. And we're all a little perplexed at why we seem to be fighting a half-assed war with too few troops. If this is, as they say, WWIII, then why only 130,000 troops and why the poor planning?
Of course the rambling criticisms of Bush and the litany of complaints are followed by..."But the dems would be worse.." Maybe...
Insert WWJD joke here....
I agree that Chavez is a problem, but his rise was due mainly to our begnin neglect of South America and internal problems....killing him would only make him a matyr...you'd think a man who's all about Jesus would understand that concept.
Northwest Airlines...Delays, Delays
Still Flyin'...sort of...
While the news keeps saying it's smooth sailing for Northwest Airlines during the mechanics strike, my experience yesterday, although generally positive, seems to indicate that there are some cracks in the 'all is well' facade put out by management.
First, and most embarrassingly, I arrived at the airport yesterday to return to DC at about Noon, thinking that my flight departed at 12:52pm. My bad, it arrived in Detroit at 12:52 pm and departed my location at noon. Oops! The counter lady quickly, and without grief, put me on the next flight. That flight departed on time, but upon arriving at the hub in Detroit, our plan had to wait on the taxi way for about 20 minutes because the plane at 'our' gate was experiencing mechanical trouble. We pulled in pretty close to my connection time, but thankfully my connecting flight to DC was also delayed. So I made it home about an hour and forty five minutes late. Looked like a lot of other flights were late as well...
If I were a betting man, I'd be wagering that Northwest and Delta will both declare chapter 11 by the end of the 3rd quarter.
Friday, August 19, 2005
As I mentioned, I'm headed up the Midwest to visit my brothers. I'm not returning until Monday, so the likelihood that I won't post is fairly high. Of course I'm flying Northwest Airlines who are mere hours away from a strike, so perhaps in the afternoon , as I sit with thousands of other stranded fliers, I may find time to post something. If not...see you all Tuesday.
Our Children IS learning!
I believe the children are the future..
Wow! This week has seen one journalistic milestone after another in our local papers. First we had the Post do a breakthrough piece on August traffic and now, the much maligned Washington Examiner does an insightful and shocking piece on the impressions of a DC intern from Ohio. Her observations cut to the quick and go to show that our children is learning.
- After I got over the discomfort associated with seeking out cheap beer at happy hour and learning to curb my Pellegrino habit, the sky started to clear. (Ohio! Mineral Water!?- "I love my dead gay son!")
- We soon discovered that many of the adults in D.C. were fake, impolite and pretentious.
- [I]t was phenomenal to drink champagne in million dollar Georgetown homes with legendary senators. (A million dollar Georgetown home? How'd they fit everyone into that studio?)
- Despite my love for the city, the uppity mentality and condescending attitude held by many in D.C. left a sour taste in my mouth. (Yeah, that's what Monica said).
An intern looks back on summer
Back to School Edition:
Is our children learning? I'm not sure and I'm not sure I care. August is coming to an end soon and that means Congress will be back in town and my work load will grow exponentially (if only because it is now close to zero). So it has me filled with a little anticipation. It sort of reminds me of getting ready to go back to school, circa 1979. The summer was still full on, but my mom dragged me off to J.C. Penny (It was the only store in the great white North at the time) to get some school clothes and my annual treat of a new lunch box and a trapper keeper. Anyway, even if there were a couple weeks left before school started, there was a shadow over the rest of the summer.
Kind of feel that way today. So, with no relation to this topic at all, here's your weekend reading:
Hands off our homes
IF YOU ever doubted the importance of the Supreme Court, consider the fuss about Kelo v New London. The five-to-four ruling by the court on June 23rd, apparently giving the government the power to bulldoze homes on flimsy grounds, has set off fiery protests across the country.
God vs. Darwin: No Contest
The God vs. Darwin debate
went to the White House last week when President Bush weighed in, stating in a roundtable interview with reporters that "intelligent design" should be taught along with evolution in public schools. It's a move that has undoubtedly pleased the president's conservative religious base. However, it has also caused much unhappiness among those conservatives who want the Republican Party to be something other than a political arm of the religious right, including such strong Bush supporters as columnist Charles Krauthammer and University of Tennessee law professor/blogger Glenn Reynolds.
Do We Need the Space Station? (Ummm..NO!)
Now that the U.S. space shuttle fleet has been grounded until NASA can solve its foam-shedding problem, it's time to re-examine the future of the International Space Station.
That's good enough...I mean after googling day in and day out for most of the month, I'm getting tired of looking at the computer screen. Have a good weekend.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Who Supports Our Troops?
Every once and while, the general mindless chores of working in DC (Commenting on proposed regulations, going to god awful coalition meetings, attending Senate/House hearings) get pushed aside for a project that reminds me of why I got into this business in the first place. Today I got one of those calls.
A client of mine called to enlist my assistance in rounding up some big name politicians to attend a fundraiser for an organization called Homes for our Troops. HfOT is kind of like a less glamorous version of extreme makeover home edition that builds accessible homes for our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who have suffered pretty severe injuries. Very moving stuff, especially if you consider the state of our VA hospitals, who are overworked and underfunded.
While generally my office is not big enough to help coordinate such events for my clients, there wasn't a moment of hesitation before "Yes, Absolutely" came out of my mouth.
So over the course of the next few weeks, I committed to work the phones for these folks seeing if I can round up Politicians (The bigger the better) to simply attend a fundraiser my client is hosting. I'll hit up the usual suspects, like the state's Senator's and Congressman. But I thought it'd be fun to put others on the spot. If I already have to call Senators Kennedy and Kerry, why the heck can't I use my connections to try to pull in some big fish...Rummy?(I know, why punish these people), VA Secretary Nicholson, Collin Powell, Bob Dole, Etc.
It would be a great social experiment to draft a list of politicians/pundits (from both sides of the aisle) to invite to this event. An equal number of D's and R's if you will...to see who supports the troops. It'd be bad form to post details (The first goal of this project is to help this cause, the secondary goal-where compatible - is your edification), so I'll have to play it by ear. Anyway, an interesting (and clearly worthwhile) project if you ask me. I'll keep you posted.
Oh Brave New World!
Despite the hopes of the local news outlets, most of us (especially me, I take mass transit most places) have been quitely sucking it up when it comes to the new price bench marks that gasoline is hitting daily. I saw my first $3/gal sign today.
But the local news is going into complete tizzy mode. The headline on the news radio channel this morning was "We're mad as hell and were not going to take it anymore." They then went on to interview people on the street who were mostly saying..."Well, it does suck, but what can you do?". The news folks seem to be eager for gas lines (like these in China) or perhaps a string of 'gas and go' robberies that will help spice up there otherwise lifeless and useless reporting.
But most of us will just shrugg it off, complain about the 'government' and the Saudis and maybe (gasp!) drive a little less. The local news will continue to foster revolt, but that too will fade away when fall approaches and they start telling me to wear a hat because it's cold outside....
Brings tears to my eyes..
2008: Dark Red Horses
Well, it's August and I could either attempt more Paris Hilton jokes or perhaps ponder the field of candidates for 2008, both are likely painful, but at least postulating about the Presidency doesn't make me feel like I have to shower. So, lets take a look at the GOP side and some of the people who want to run, but (in my humble opinion) have no chance of winning.
Several folks have already thrown their hat into the ring, or at least said they're considering throwing their hat in the ring. Senator Brownback of Kansas, Senator Hagel of Nebraska, Majority Leader Frist, Senator George Allen, and Senator Rick Santorum.
Historically, something like 15 former Senators have gone on to the Presidency. I like those odds. But can any of the current crop of Senators distinguish themselves enough to break through? Here's a quick assessment.
Majority Leader Frist: I hear that personally, Frist is a great guy. But politically he's damaged goods, especially for the activists in the party on the far right. Last year he was their darling, making medical diagnosis via video tape (hey! there's a solution to rising health care costs) and threatening the kill the tradition of the filibuster. But in just about every task he's been asked to carry water on by the party activists...Terri Schiavo, the filibuster, FMA, things haven't quite worked out. The Dobson/Robertson axis recently showed their thanks by not inviting the good Senator to the recent, so-called, Justice Sunday (Homer: Mmmmmm...Justice Sundae...arghhhhh.)Ok, that wraps up the potential senate candidate. Senator Allen gets to move on to the next round. Next week- The Governors....
Advice: Retire to Tennessee and continue your medical career, become and advocate for market based reforms of the health care system.
Senator Brownback: Senator Who? Brownback, Senator from Kansas is probably the dream ticket for social conservatives, he gives Rick Santorum a run for his money on the right flank when it comes to social issues, but lacks the charm and charisma of Le Santorum. Most people probably don't know who he is, and even Elephant, and inside the beltway kind of guy, can't really recall an issue that he's lead the charge for passage. Then there's Kansas, a state full of nice people, but one that keeps getting into the news because it has some vendetta against science...
Advice: Brownback probably knows his chances are nil, but he can still try to make an impact and anchor the right end of the spectrum (Think Pat Robertson and the Iowa caucuses). If he uses the primaries to help build name recognition, he can perhaps go on to lead some social conservative organization like Focus on the Fambily or something...Potentially the first candidate to drop out.
Senator Hagel: This very blog endorsed Hagel nearly a year ago for 2008. For a while, Hagel was attempting to cast himself as a McCain like maverick. From time to time he still speaks truth to power (Iraq for example). But increasingly his maverick tendencies seem scripted, and his absence from the gang of 14 on the filibuster ws disappointing for rabid moderates like me. (although I'm told he wasn't part of the 14 simply because the other NE Senator was part of it...state politics or something). Hagel in many ways is looking a lot like the John Kerry of the Republicans (did I really just say that! It seems so harsh!)...leaving us wondering just what does he
Advice: Stay in the Senate and ally yourself with the moderates. Become a Sunday talk show star. Another potential candidate for early withdrawal.
Senator Rick Santorum: (Please stop laughing) choir boy extraordiare. The good Senator is surprisingly conservative for a Pennsylvanian. His stand on the Schiavo issue, abortion, gay marriage (man on dog sex!), his belief that the government should regulate all sexual activity, make him a darling of the activist right. But the Saintly Senator has more baggage than Liza Minelli on her way to Betty Ford.
His moral positions haven't really been followed up in action. He was caught with hhis hand in the cookie jar, getting taxpayers in Penn. to foot the bill (to the tune of $40,000) to send his kids to some Charter school while living full time in Virginia. Beyond that, his policy positions don't jive with other personal stories. He voted to cap damages on med-mal lawsuits at $250,000, when his own wife won a $500,000 judgment against a chiropractor (later reduced to $175,000). Even the most libertarian minded of us don't mind a little moral lecture once and a while, but what turns our stomachs is "Do as I say, not as I do" moralizing. That seems to be the Senator's gift.
Advice: Start looking for a job, there's a good chance he won't get re-elected. Rick may be the Tom Daschle of 2006.
Senator George Allen: Senator Allen is the only one of this bunch to have, as they say, legs. Senator Allen has enough conservative credentials to pick up the social conservative party activists. At the same time Virginia's long tradition of state rights has the potential to temper the more reactionary, big government-let's-have-a-constitutional-amendment-for-everything crowd. He's got the charm and charisma, with (as far as we know at this point) none of the baggage of Le Santorum. The Senator even taught a friend of Elephant's how to do a one hand snuff at a recent fundraiser. If the social conservatives who control the party machinery want to continue their reign, they should hitch their cart up to this pony. He's a contender.
Advice: The Senator needs to round up the best and the brightest for his campaigning now (if he hasn't already) before they're snatch up by others. The only Senator on this list who can go the distance.
Several Locals Attacked By Rabid Beaver!
(Low hanging fruit, I know...)
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Headed to the MidWest!
Well, it looks like Northwest Airlines, which I'm flying on Friday to go visit my brothers back in the Midwest, is headed for a strike on Saturday. I can't say I'm surprised, the NW treats its workers like it treats its customers, they're lucky there isn't an all out revolt.
Anyway, I fly out Friday and return to DC on Monday. Am I worried? Nope! In an amazing race style manuver, I booked a back up return flight just in case. If I cancel it, I'm only out $30..so it seemed like a good move.
So Much for Protecting Marriage
In a few years many of the citizens in states that have voted to ban any recognition of legal relationships other than 'marriage between a man and a woman' are going to wake up and find themselves screwed. Oh, I don't expect that a bunch of people are going to 'go gay' as feared by the Dobson/Robertson crowd...rather many heterosexual couples who are living together long term, or widowed Seniors who may want to share their lives (but if they remarry may loose pension or health benefits from their deceased spouse) are going to find themselves between a rock and a hard place...in a committed long term relationship, but as a matter of law, legal strangers.
That's what's ironic about this whole debate on gay marriage/domestic partnerships, that in the end, the folks who will be the most impacted by these numerous referenda will be straight couples. Gay men and women are generally fairly legal savvy about their relationships and execute numerous legal documents to protect their interests vis-a-vi each other. Such issues as inheritance, hospital visitation and such.
The Problem of Legal Strangers:
Take for example home ownership. Let's say that Josh and Becky have been living together for some 20 odd years. They share a house and own it jointly. Becky looks crossed eyed at someone in the grocery store and they sue Becky for giving them the evil eye..and win. Now if Becky and Josh were married, they'd own their house as tenants in their entirety. That means that neither owns the house by themselves, and they each don't own half. Together as a union they own the house in it entirety and that ownership is not severable. That means that the person who sued Becky couldn't get the house as Becky doesn't own it...BeckyJosh owns it. Not the best example, but you get the drift.
Inheritance can get kind of crazy in these situations as well. If Josh and Becky are married and own the house, when one party dies, the other becomes the sole owner of the house...automatically. Better yet, there are no tax consequences for the survivor that absorbs the deceased spouses share of the house. That's not the case for unmarried couples. They cannot own a house as tenants in the entirety...but as joint tenants. Joint tenancy means that each persons share of the house is severable. The result, if sued that share may be seized (Josh now owns the house with the crazy lady from the grocery store). In the event of death it gets more complicated. If Josh left his share of the house to Becky, Becky gets it, but must pay taxes on the transfer of wealth. If Josh died without a will, then the House goes into probate...and Becky is screwed. Most states probate laws are kind of like the laws of succession for the queen of England. They follow what's called lines of consanguinity. If the couple has kids, then the kids inherit joshes share. No kids, then the share of the house goes to the parents, if alive. If the parents aren't alive, then the house goes to any siblings that may be living. No siblings...then the state statutes usually have the property move up the family tree and out to cousins, aunts uncles, second cousins and such. Unless Becky is some distant relative of Josh (hey don't knock it, FDR and Eleanor were first cousins- she didn't even have to change her name!) then she's out of the loop. The house could very well go to someone who never knew Josh.
The same thing goes for Josh visiting Becky at the Hospital. Regardless of how long they've been together, Josh is not 'family' and thus cannot visit his love in the ICU.
If you really think about various horror stories it gets really interesting...(in lawyer speak such imagining is often called the 'parade of horribles'). Let's say take the example of Becky and Edith. They're a married same sex couple in Massachusetts. One summer day they are hanging out in a small town that straddles the border between Massachusetts and New Hampshire. In fact, the state line runs down the middle of main street. They've just picked up some frozen yogurt and are crossing the street (in the cross walk) to visit an antique shop across they way. They each have one foot in Mass. and one foot in NH. Suddenly out of nowhere and drunk driver comes speeding down main street, straddling the median.
Edith manages to jump out of the way, but Becky is hit. . . she falls to the ground and dies. The survivor in a traditionally married couple has a clear case of wrongful death against the drunk driver. But with Edith and Becky it's a bit more complicated. We must look at three scenarios.
Scenario One: Becky falls forward into NH.
In this scenario, Edith is out of luck. As her relationship is not recognized in NH, her and Becky are legal strangers and Edith probably can't sue the driver for the wrongful death of Becky. The driver may be prosecuted under criminal law, but Edith has no wrongful death claim or a claim for loss of companionship or consortium.
Scenario Two: Becky falls backward into Massachusetts.
Edith lucks out. Since Massachusetts has granted the couple legal rights for their commitment, Becky has full access to seek justice for her loss.
Scenario Three: Becky is thrown forward and dies on the street's
median, half in Mass. and half in NH.
I'll save this one for professors to torture their family law students
with. Again, you get the picture.
You can think of other ways to complicate this hypothetical. What if Becky were pregnant?
The various permutations are what makes the law fascinating if you ask me. The Constitution, and the courts, endeavor to make sure that there is equal justice under the law. But increasingly, for a growing number of folks, that won't be the case. You could replace Becky and Edith with Fern and Herman and move them to Lake Tahoe. California recognizes domestic partnerships between opposite sex couples if one party is over 62. (This is to encourage widowed seniors to enter committed relationship where marriage would mean loss of a pension or medical coverage). It's getting interesting...and despite what the so-called Christian right is saying, it's not a conspiracy against marriage.
In the end, when the current patchwork of laws regarding these relationships comes crashing down, my bet is that it will have nothing to do with a same-sex couple, but with, perhaps, a widow and a widower who want to care for each other, but can't remarry as they'd lose their health insurance and pension from their deceased spouse.
How is encouraging two people to care for each other, and granting them legal rights in exchange for that responsibility a threat to anyone? In fact, isn't that a conservative position?
More Good News!
A rather long, but none the less, interesting article on the simmering danger of the bird flu. If the high gas prices don't kill us, then this just might.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Are Half of All Americans Mentally Ill?
2008: A Third Party Victory?
That's the very scenario that Elephant and his colleagues have been discussing as a potential outcome for the 2008 presidential election. The GOP is increasingly beholden to the extreme right (the Dobson-Robertson Axis) who are so absolutist and out of step with most Americans that they'll put forward a GOP candidate who, for many of us in the middle, will be damaged goods. Ideally their best bet would be a George Allen candidacy, but Frist has been their boy for some time and he'd be a terrible candidate.
On the left it seems that the Dems. are still in the wilderness, trying to find their voice. Are they progressive (as many of their activists base members are...think dailykos, moveon.org, etc.) or are they New Democrats in the Clinton/Clinton mode? Either way, they need to find a message that's better than George Bush sucks (really we didn't notice?!) and we'll raise your taxes. Their best bet seems to be Hillary. (And if you ask me, if the only people we can run for office are the sons of former presidents or their wives, then we're in pretty bad shape.
Anyway, the alienation of the middle by the big government, big brother GOP dominated by Bush/Robertson/Dobson, huge deficits, a lingering Iraq problem, and $4/gal gasoline will hurt the GOP. The Dems will be hurt by their general lack of direction. Both sides will be hurt by the larger perception and weariness of the public over gutter politics and campaigns based on fear...(GOP-Fear the Gays, immigrants!/Dems-Fear the Brownshirt GOP!Fear God in politics).
That opens the door for a third party or unity ticket. Perhaps McCain-Kerry, or Giuliani-Clinton or some such combination. A ticket that cuts through the crap of fear politics (aka- Rove's classic divide and conquer) and puts up a ticket that is focused on fixing health care, cutting spending, and making the massive government aparatus more responsive and accountable.
Perhaps it's wishful thinking on my part, but both parties seem rather tired and increasingly aloof from their base. Back in 1992 we felt the same way and if Ross Perot hadn't gone kooky on us, he very well could have won. We shall see, we shall see. But don't be surprised when other more reputable outlets start talking about this too- just remember you heard it here first!....
How To Kill A Good Show
Must everything be family friendly? How amazing is a race that is mostly in the U.S.? Why couldn't they do an Amazing Race Victoria's Secret Edition? A great show, but I'll be skipping the 8th installment.
(P.S.- A family version of the race is fine, but they should have done it as an addition to the classic TAR rather than a substitute for it.)...
Ahh the News
Apparently the text message recieved by a cousin of a victim of the plane crash yesterday in Greece was a hoax. But CNN, Fox and others all reported it, for the entire day as fact. Don't these people ever check their scources?
Monday, August 15, 2005
Keep an eye on Ohio. The GOP in the state is bogged down by a major corruption scandal (coingate) and the so called evangelicals have organized to take over the party to promote candidates that favor the creation of a "Christian" State. As we go into the 2006 election cycle it will be interesting to see if the GOP fractures in Ohio and if the "Christian" reconstructionists can wrestle control of the party apparatus...interesting and scary....
Filibuster compromise pins a target on dealmakers
"The people who are putting together Justice Sunday seem to be far more interested in power than in justice."
Frist, ironically wasn't invited this time.....
(Speaking of irony...isn't it a tad bit over the top for Tom Delay to decry the Courts as Autocracies and at the same time redistrict Texas to make more republican safe districts?)
Big Government Republicans
This post editorial says it all. Spend, spend, spend....
Friday, August 12, 2005
Well, oil prices our skyrocketing, Iran's going for the Bomb and Lil' Kim already has it, Iraq is unstable, Congress in pushing our country into bankruptcy and the Rolling Stones (or as Drudge says..The Strolling Bones) are touring again. With the prospects of surging energy costs, hig deficits and a wider war..er...struggle against etremism...a real possibility...I'm dedicating this week end reading to the god-aweful miniseries...The Winds of War. If I were brighter I'd figure out a way to tie in even worse mini series like The Thorbirds or Samuri...but it's hot and I'm kind of dumbish...Enjoy!
Perils at the pump
Oil prices hit yet another record this week, on fears of political instability in the Middle East and refining problems in America. So far, the world economy has managed to chug along without much ill effect. But how long can consumers go on paying ever more at the pump without cutting back elsewhere? And why aren’t high prices bringing new supplies to market?
Trade Deficit Up As Oil Imports Hit High
WASHINGTON -- America's trade deficit increased sharply in June as surging oil prices pushed the cost of petroleum imports to an all-time high. The politically sensitive deficit with China also set a record.
Iran resumes atomic work, escalates crisis
Iran' resumed work at a uranium conversion plant on Monday, fanning Western fears it may be seeking nuclear weapons and defying EU warnings that it could be referred to the
U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
Stones Surprise Toronto
After a month of rehearsals in Toronto in preparation for their world tour, which launches August 21st at Boston's Fenway Park, the Rolling Stones gave the city a big thank you last night by performing an eighty-minute, rootsy set for 1,100 fans at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. People had been lined up down the street since Tuesday to snatch up the bargain $10 tickets for the show, filmed for a reported DVD.
This Week in Orwell!
Ok, I've noticed that the last few years things are getting a little creepy in the propaganda realm. The justification for the Iraq was is a prime example. First, it was because Iraq had WMD, or soon would..but when that didn't pan out it was because there was an Iraq-Al Qaida connection...and when that didn't pan out the message became, there is NOW and Iraq-Al Qaida convention (created by the invasion)...so that justifies our being there. See..it's so simple and elegant...If you can through in a reference to how the Democrats are all pussies and some threat of gay marriage and or children...then your ready to be an administration spin person.
So, with this twisted logic in mind, I bring you..Today in Orwell, for the statements made during the week that are so beyond the pale and illogical..they must be true. Enjoy!
From Focus on the Family:
Orwellian Statement: If fathers showered with their boys and show them their penises, they won't grow up gay.
Meanwhile, the boy's father has to do his part. He needs to mirror and affirm his son's maleness. He can play rough-and-tumble games with his son, in ways that are decidedly different from the games he would play with a little girl. He can help his son learn to throw and catch a ball. He can teach him to pound a square wooden peg into a square hole in a pegboard. He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger (one would hope).
Michele Malkin: In commenting on the protest of the mother of soldier Casey Sheehan in Texas.
DOD's Freedom Walk: In commemoration of the 4th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks the DOD has announce a "Walk for Freedom" event. They've invited folks to gather at the Pentagon and then walk across the river to the mall for a concert.
To participate in the walk for freedom...People must register with the pentagon, provide their phone number and be screened before the walk. (Let freedom reign!)
Elephant thinks this is all double plus good, and I look forward to next week when I can thank the recently passed energy bill for lowering the cost of oil from $55/bbl to $70/bbl.
Around the City
Tom Delay and Friends meet with their lawyers...
A High-Powered Lobbyist's Swift Fall From Grace is the big story today! Uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff was indicted in federal court in Florida for fraud in conjunction with his lobbying activities. The story is compelling and involves everyone from Ralph Reed (Moral Majority), Tom Delay and even a few Dems.
In the first round of indictments, Abramoff is facing 4 counts of wire fraud (max. penalty of five years each) and a conspiracy change (which I understand can be used to multiply the other sentences..but I'm too lazy to look it up). Anyway, facing a federal conviction rate of something like 94% (Never, ever get in trouble with the feds..if you do you're going to the big house ala Martha)...Mr. Abramoff is likely to do some time. And he may sing like a canary....something that some of our less scrupulous leaders here in DC may fear. (Tom Delay...)
This is just the beginning of a long saga of scandal and corruption in Congress. Do you remember back in 1994, when the Democrat majority was living large on the lobbyist perks? The House banking scandal tipped the public into disgust at the largest of the then majority party and sent them packing...giving the GOP a majority in the House for the first time in a generation.
Seems the GOP has followed the fat-cat democrats lead and have jumped on the corruption train far faster than the Dems....as this story plays out over the next year or so..(And as the GOP continues to spend, spend, spend) the voters may pull another 1994 and send 'em packing. They should.
Abramoff Indicted in Casino Boat Purchase
Lobbyist, Associate Charged With Fraud
Thursday, August 11, 2005
True Conservatism is Dead
How can anybody still hold the belief that the current crop of leaders within the GOP still stand for limited government? They're spending like drunken sailors, there is no accountability in government, and they keep pushing the Dobson-Falwell-Robertson agenda for a so-called Christain version of Saudi Arabia here in the good ole' USA. His latest quote:
"This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don't think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want." - Senator Rick Santorum
Holy Crap! Dude! I can't even get my mind around this. In my work I've met many, many very conservative people, ones that probably will never accept things like gay marriage, shacking up or other so-called "Life-Style Choices*". But underneath it all, liberal or conservative, the average America wants one thing above all else, for the federal government to leave them the F#ck alone. I think this would apply to the good folks in Pennsylvannia as well.
I don't want the government telling me what car to buy, if I can own a gun, if I have to recycle or not, that I can't build a cabin on some property cause some puddle counts as a 'wetland'. And I ESPECIALLY don't want the government to force me to cough up a marriage license to buy a pack of condoms, dirty magazie or bust down my door for (insert non-missionary-position sex act here). These comments are beyond the pale and beyond the 'values' and thinking of just about anyone I know in Pennsylvannia. Please dear citizens, end this national embarassment!
Guest Blogger Dan Savage at Andrewsullivan.com discusses this better than I ever could...so check it out.
DC Getting Whiter?
Counter-intutive, but interesting...
Census Finds More Whites In D.C., Close Va. Suburbs
(I'm part of a trend!)....
Northwest Airlines Strike
My flight home to see my family August 19th...on Northwest Airlines...priceless!
Mechanics break off negotiations with Northwest Airlines
Will 2006 be the next 1939?
Like the article about the cold war posted below, it's increasing becoming apparent that as we move farther and farther from the U.S. v. U.S.S.R. bi-polar world of the past 1/2 century, we are moving into unstable, scary-assed times as a new structure emerges. We've got the terror-related non-state actors (Al Qaida), the despots (Chavez, Lil' Kim [DPRK], Iran's Mullahs, the House of Saud, et. al.)
China and India's rise seem to have set off a global scramble for energy, with oil prices hitting record levels by the day. Oh, Iran has elected a student/hostage taker from 1979 as their president and want the bomb, North Korea has it, and we're bogged down in a war of choice in Iraq. GEESH! The U.S. Airline industry is on the verge of collective collapse (in five years we'll only be able to stop at Wal-Mart and fly Southwest-THE HORROR!), and it costs something like $500 to fill up our gas tanks.
This is all a far cry from the equally unreal bubble economy days of the go-go-90s. But given a choice, I'll stick with the later.
Oil has yet to hit problematic height
Europeans to Urge Iran to Resume Suspension of Atom Program (and if that doesn't work, they'll do even more urging...that's what Eurpeans do)
Chavez: the US is the "most savage, cruel and muderous empire" in world history (Hugo, the world's littlest dictator...seems to me he's an aweful lot like General Noriega...but with slightly better skin... Oh and Hugo, don't ya think you're being a little harsh?)
Rolling Stones release new album, announce tour.
(Dear God, stop this Horror! The Stone's rocked up to about Tatoo You, but know this is just sad).
Boy Scout Watch
Dude, you'd think that any organization that keeps out "the gays" would get God's extra special protection. Doesn't seem to be the case. Boy Scout tragedies are quickly becoming a dime-a-dozen, although no less painful or tragic.
Girl killed by falling tree at Boy Scout camp
Remembering the Cold War..
Glad about M.A.D.
Ann Altehouse is guest-blogging over at instapundit. She's doing a great job (as is Dan Savage subsituting for Andrew Sullivan). Anyway, she has a great link to an article that waxes nostalgic about the cold war, the stability of a bi-polar world and speculates on the instability and greater likelihood of nuclear terror in an age of non-state actors. It's a good read.
(Donklephant via instapundit)
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
August is slow...
I'll be attending the following 'meeting' tomorrow....
Penn Quarter FRESHFARM Market
8th Street, NW between D and E
Thursday, August 11, 3:00–7:00 pm
See how 40 pounds of plum tomatoes, 10 pounds of red onions, 15 bunches of cilantro, 5 pounds of Serrano peppers, and 150 avocados become the largest guacamole you have ever seen!
Metro: Archives–Navy Mem’l-Penn Qtr and Gallery Pl–Chinatown (MCI Center exit)
Iraq: Everthing is Fine! Fine!
Hmmm. . . more conservative folks keep saying that were not getting the 'whole' story on our 'success' in Iraq. I'm sure that we are taking some baby steps here and there, but I continue to be dumbfounded by the sheer lack of foresight of the War Planners (e.g. Rumsfeld). I'm not one to shrink for using the U.S.'s hard power assists, but I've said before, it's like using a baseball bat to shop for crystal...you need to think long and hard about what you're doing. We did the war thing good, but I'm increasingly coming to believe (hope against hope) that we're losing the peace...big time...and that's not good.
This story kind of pushed me even more over that precipice....(as if the ongoing bombings aren't a sign that things aren't all rainbows and lollipops). We must prevail for the sake of the Iraqi people and our own security. I wish our leadership was as focused on that aspect as much as they are on spin.
Anyway...when the mayor of Baghdad is overthrown...just how great can things be?
Iraq War: Everything is Fine, Fine!
Hmmm. . . more conservative folks keep saying that were not getting the 'whole' story on our 'success' in Iraq. I'm sure that we are taking some baby steps here and there, but I continue to be dumbfounded by the sheer lack of forsight of the War Planners (e.g. Rumsfeld). I'm not one to shrink for using the U.S.'s hard power assests, but I've said before, it's like using a baseball bat to shop for chrystal...you need to think long and hard about what you're doing. We did the war thing good, but I'm increasingly coming to believe (hope against hope) that we're losing the peace...big time...and that's not good.
This story kind of pushed me even more over that precipice....(as if the ongoing bombings aren't a sign that things aren't all rainbows and lollipops). We must previal for the sake of the Iraqi people and our own security. I wish our leadership was as focused on that aspect as much as they are on spin.
Anyway...when the mayor of Bagdad is overthrown...just how great can things be?
I told you...
When Bruce Bartlett was the deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the U.S. Treasury under George H.W. Bush, boredom occasionally drove him from his cushy Washington office to seek relief at the movie theater. One afternoon, he ran into a friend who was a senior official in another department.
Yup! We're so darned bored, we're sneaking off to see crappy movies like..the Dukes of Hazzard, The Island, and anything with Tom Cruise.
Jesus and the Death Penalty
Ok, so checking my TiVO last night, I noticed that it had recorded John Water's Serial Mom for me. Nice! Not only is Kathleen Turner fantastic as the serial killing mom, but the movie pretty much just rocks in general. Since I hadn't seen it in years, I decided to watch it.
Minister: "You know, Jesus didn't really say anything about the death penalty"
Minister: "And you know, you think he would have said something hanging on the cross and all."
Minister: "So, since Jesus didn't say anything about the death penalty, I say 'Just do it!'"
DC Strikes Back!
Your Water Bill This Month is: $3,500.
Well, the victory over the city on declaring my neighborhood a historic district seems to be shorted lived. Yesterday, my neighbors and I all received large packages from WASA (The water and sewer authority). It's been well publicized here in DC that many of the houses are connected to the city water mains by lead pipes. In fact many homes have lead levels in their water that are way, way above what is considered safe.
WASA knew about this for years, but covered it up. The story broke last year with the requisite local news understatement. "IS YOUR WATER DEADLY?!" So, the city has begun a massive program of swapping out all the connections to the water main in the city. The unfortunate part of the whole equation is that the city will pay for swapping out the pipe from the street to the property line. Fixing the pipe from the property line to the house is the home owners expense. The city can have this done for me while they are doing the other work, but I must agree to it in the next 29 days, pay for it, and then wait for the work to be done in the next year or so.
My estimate was $3,500. But that's just speculation. If they run into problems during the installation and it costs more, I have to pony up. If it costs less, too bad. My neighbor's estimate was $2,900, and some folks down the street had an estimate of $4,000. No explanation of how that estimate was reached, or who the contractors are (and DC has a funny way of awarding contracts, without competition, to unqualified firms who happen to be politically connected.
What to do?
I think I'll have my water tested to see if there is any lead in it. (My old place the levels were 5X's the safe limit). Then perhaps I'll try to FOIA the contracts for the pipe work to find out who has this lucrative contract and if the city put it out for a competitive bid...That may not help, but it at least will cause the bureaucrats over at WASA to sweat a bit (I hope).
ARRGGGHHH! Is homeownership this much of a pain in the @ss everywhere or just here?
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
NARAL: Slipping into Irrelevancy
NARAL is an absolutist in the abortion debate, and with a lot of contentious issues in politics, each side needs an absolutist anchor. But in its efforts to defend women's reproductive rights, the actions of NARAL in regards to the Roberts nomination, seem to go a bit to far. In the end, NARAL is not helping women here, merely isolating themselves from an important debate. A lie at worst, a purposeful distortion at best...
Ad says Roberts tied to clinic violence
We Knew A Year Before 9/11...
And we did nothing...
Atta, three hijackers linked to Al-Qaida cell a year before Sept. 11
The Reganization of DC
Yet again, those nut jobs on the Hill are looking to name yet another landmark after former President Ronald Reagan. I have nothing against Reagan. I think we was one of the two best Presidents during my lifetime so far. (The other? Clinton).
Anyway, here in DC we already have the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center (The largest office building in the city) and of course we also have the cumbersome Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The bill that cropped up just before recess would have renamed DC's historic 16th Street after the late President. The bills sponsor, Henry Bonilla, didn't even bother to mention this to our duly elected government. (We have no vote in Congress). Anyway, if Mr. Bonilla wants to name stuff after President Reagan in his district (San Antonio) then I think he should. Perhaps the Alamo can be renamed the Ronald Reagan Patriot Center at the Alamo or something like that. Moron.
Perhaps he is also forgetting the his party is trying to repeal our gun ban and allow DC citizens to carry loaded weapons. Another great idea...allow the 575,000 disenfranchised residents of DC to carry arms. I'll be leading the charge up Capitol Hill.
9 Street-renaming plan ignores D.C. residents
If you are like me, you are sort of fascinated, sort of afraid of this thing called Fabreeze Scent Stories. This CD player like contraption, supposedly plays 'stories' of smells. Some of the stories available are: strolling through the garden, wandering barefoot on the shore, and relaxing in a hammock. I'm not sure what that last one would smell like. But it got me thinking about scent stories I wouldn't want to purchase. Thus today's interactive feature!
Create a Scent Story no-one would purchase.
My entry is in the comments section:
Monday, August 08, 2005
Brookland Historic District?
Hurray! Looks like the push by the city to declare my neighborhood a historic district has died. The lack of consultation with the residents (me!), and the general perception that we as residents have enough restrictions and fees for improving our property seem to have carried the day. I'm most proud of my ANC Commissioner, Mr. Boston. He seems to have been kicking ass and taking names at the last neighborhood meeting.
The City Paper has all the delicious details.
Brookland doesn't take kindly to historic preservation.
Information on the area known as "Brookland"
Bring Back Street Cars!
San Francisco seems to have the right idea. DC should get on the band wagon and put some street cars on routes around the city. The underground metro system is depressing and dark, street cars could add some needed character to DC.
Streetcars have returned to the fabric of downtown San Francisco
Chicago: The Perfect City
Why Don't I live there?
Perhaps it is because Chicago is the epicenter of the Midwest. The largest city, embodying all the values and ideal of the culture of middle-America. Who knows, but what I do know is that I love Chicago.
I was talking to Midgie on the left coast last night. She just got back from Chicago a few weeks ago. We were both discussing what makes Chicago so attractive to us. Perhaps it is because we both grew up in the Midwest, and the whole culture is tattooed on our souls, or just maybe it is because we both now live on the coasts, were people are just a bit more self-important, and now we really notice just how gosh-darned friendly the folks in the Windy City are.
Between the feel of the city, the shops, the diversity, the architecture and the folksy niceties, Chicago is one of my most favorite places. If I hadn't spent the last decade working in DC (Honing skills that are absolutely useless to society at large) I'd be chillin' in my loft on the near-north side and watching cubs games at Wrigley.
(P.S.- Since my hotel was right next door to the John Hancock Center, I took a quick trip to the top and snapped this photo.)...
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Flight from Hell
Sorry for the lack of postings. I was up in Chicago giving a speech at the ABA conference. It was fun, but alas I was only in town overnight. Way to short, and the WiFi at the hotel wasn't working right. Anyway, my flight to Chicago sucked, big time.
I probably got what I deserved, I decided to fly to Chicago on Delta (via Atlanta) to get some more miles. I'm Silver Elite on Delta, so every mile I fly I get bonus miles and by the end of the year I should have enough for a nice business class upgrade to Europe of something. My flight left DC at 7 AM, I was to connect in Atlanta and arrive in Chicago at 11:41 AM. I had some networking meetings planned for the afternoon, and cocktails scheduled with some attorneys I've become friends with through my work with the ABA.
The flight from DC left on time, and we arrive in Atlanta on schedule. The flight is full, so no free upgrade for me, but I'm very comfortable ensconced in a roomy exit row seat. Since it's only about 9:00 am, and I'll arrive in Chicago at noon, I decided to get something to eat when I arrive rather than carry on some bland airport food.
In Atlanta I work my way from gate E-31 (The end of the concourse) to B-3 (also at the far end of the concourse). I sit down and do some work, the flight is supposed to depart at 10:10 am, and it's already 10am. At 10:10 AM they announce that there is a problem with the plane, and a new plane is waiting for us at gate A-3. So we all trundle off to the subway thing and work our way down to A-3. At the gate, we board the plane. I again have a nice exit row seat.
We sit on the plane for some time. At about 11:10 am the pilot gets on the PA and tells us that due to storms between Atlanta and Chicago, we'll have to fly around them, so they need to put more fuel on the plane. This takes about an hour. After the fuel is finally on the plane the pilot again gets on the PA to tell us, that we don't need the extra fuel after all, and we'll have to take it off before we leave. Another hour wasted. It's now sometime after noon. The extra fuel is taken off the plane and we finally taxi out to the runway. As our turn to take off approaches, the plane suddenly does a quick u-turn and we pull off to a remote corner of the runway.
The pilot, now a bit sheepish, gets on the PA again and announces that there is something wrong with a sensor on the wing. We head back to the gate to get it fixed. He does announce that due to the long delays, all drinks will be free. I shout, "But beverages are free anyway!". (It turns out he meant beers and such would be free). Anyway, back to the gate. We've now been on the plane well over three hours. There is nothing on the plane but snacks and the flight attendants start distributing them to help avoid a mutiny.
The mechanics can't fix the sensor problem, which means that the co-pilot will have to manually make sure the flaps are in position to take off. (He does this by looking out the windows near my seat). The pilot does announce that the storms have reformed and we will have to load more fuel as we'll have to detour over Kansas City to get to Chicago, which means our flight to Chicago, which should have taken an hour and a half, will no take two and half hours.
We finally take off, and two and a half hours later, arrive in Chicago. I miss my networking meetings as well as the cocktail party. My flight to Chicago has taken 7 or so hours. But at least I arrived in time for dinner.