Friday, September 30, 2005
Debuggin iTunes 5.0.1
Okay, I'm a total sucker for having to pay Apple support $50 to get the answer to this rather than look it up in on web support, but hey, I'm a busy guy. Also, it's kind of crappy that Apple releases a buggy version of iTunes and then I have to pay $50 to make it work right...oh well, perhaps some of you out there can benefit from my largesse.
After loading iTunes 5.0.1 I kept getting an error message that none of my purchased music was able to be transferred to my ipod because the iPod software was too old..even though it had just updated. So, the key to fixing this seems to be to restore your iPod and reload all your music.
That's it, simple and easy task....and better yet it works.
Much more boring than expected...yet strangely fascinating
Yesterday while I was in my normal trance like state on the metro, I was thinking about the future. Not the future-future, but the current future, today..or at least what I thought today would be like when it was yesterday...and by yesterday I mean 1982 or so.
Well, many aspects are more than I could have dreamed would be true. I have a job a love. I share my life with some pretty amazing people. I'm fortunate enough to be able to travel, etc.
On the other hand, I'm still waiting for hover cars and I know that Midgie is still dying for her jet pack. But we do have our cell phones (So very Captain Kirk like...though more annoying than expected) and our wonderful Jetson's like super large flat panel televisions (though programming on television sucks)...so more or less somewhat fascinating, yet still kind of blandish.
But what struck me as very much in the tone of the future this week, a kind of Jacob's Ladder version of the future, is that I keep hearing little sound bites off the radio about plans to 'repopulate New Orleans' and I remember that oh yes, it was destroyed....which of course is very mad max and all. I keep waiting for someone to start training apes to be butlers and such, then I'll know for sure that the future is here.
Ahhh The Federal Government
More irony from the federal government. It seems to me that this entire year has been lifted from a Joseph Heller novel. But isn't it odd that the government can spend at a rate of roughly $3,995,433 per minute, day in and day out, but when it comes to money actually getting to tax payers, well that's when things get gummed up.
Everyone repeat after me, "Computers don't make mistakes, people do!"...
Not a Conspiracy
Ok, Donkey sent me this link yesterday and it looks like my iTunes 5.0 problem is actually more widespread and even effects current models like the u2 version. So, perhaps my iPod, someday, will be able to play the 300 or so songs I purchased off of iTunes...someday when Apple realizes that there is a problem. Apple support did email me some advice on how to deal with this...but I've already taken those steps to no avail.
It's all so microsoft if you ask me....
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Rotten to the Core?
Still no Answers regarding iPod
Apple customer support lines are jammed, and I certainly hope that most of the callers feel the way I do about the trickery of iTunes 5.0. While apple is certainly allowed to update thier products and under no obligation to support older models, a little disclaimer letting me know that if I downloaded iTunes 5.0 I would no longer be able to listen to the more than 300 songs I've purchased from the iTunes library would have been nice.
Seriously, at this point what I do know is that it is very possible that for my patronage of their services, Apple has left me with two choices: 1) I can spend another $200 to $300 dollars to purchase a new iPod or 2) I can accept that I can no longer listen to the $300 of music I've purchased from them on my iPod.
What boggles my mind is that I can't imagine this will go down well with the million or so other people who have the same version of iPod as me. Yes, many products are improved year in and year out. Cars, blenders, computers, etc. But it doesn't mean that at the end of a year or two the company calls your house and deactivates the product...does it? Am I missing something?
Will the folks with iPods more than two years old simply shrug and go off and spend another wad of cash on a new iPod that may only be good for two years? I don't think so.
The shine may be off the apple folks, and you heard it here first.
Speaking Truth to Power
But hypocritical, arrogant, big-spending Republicans need to go!
Instapundit has a great link to a Tennesse commentator and his views on the big spending republicans here in DC. Money quote:
Bush may still be popular with the branch of the Republican Party that only cares about abortion, stem-cell research and displaying the Ten Commandments, but the fiscal-conservative small-government don’t-tread-on-me wing of the party has had enough.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Ok, just got off of the phone where I've been holding with Apple support for more than 1/2 an hour. Seems I'm not the only one with problems right now. No answers yet, but I'm committed to find some. I jotted off this email to customer support.
In 2003 I purchased an 10GB, touch pad model of your iPod. I use it daily. In fact, I was so pleased with it, I switched my home computer from a windows machine to an I-book G-4. I even convince close friends to make the switch. Today I downloaded iTunes 5.0 and discovered that all my music I have purchased through iTunes will no longer sync with my iPod. A close friend of mine said that Apple customer support told him that the only solution to this problem is to "purchase a new iPod." Is this true? It seems odd that a perfectly good, two year old product has now been rendered obsolete by a software download, especially a software download that did not contain any warning or disclaimer that this would be the end result.
I'm currently on hold with Apple support and it has been over twenty minutes. Could you please respond to the feedback?
AND ONCE AGAIN PEOPLE, DO NOT DOWNLOAD ITUNES 5.0 YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!
The Great iPod Rip-Off!
Ok, regular readers of this blog will note I've been singing iPods praises for the last two years. I purchased my ipod in 2003 and despite being 2 years old, the battery life is still pretty good and I use it daily. But what Apple Computers doesn't tell you is that when you download iTunes 5.0 you can no longer down load your purchased music to your iPod. Prior to downloading the new version I had roughly 1,000 songs on my iPod, while those 1,000 songs are still in my library on my computer, they will no longer download to my iPod. Donkey had the same problem and when he called technical support, they told him that he basically had to buy a new iPod if he ever wanted to listen to the music he purchased from the iTunes music store again, after all, according to the Apple support person, a two year old iPod is ancient. WTF!
I didn't believe Donkey when he told me, so I foolishly downloaded iTunes 5.0 and guess what...same problem. I'm on hold with customer support right now and this better not be true, if it I have three words for Steve Jobs...Class Action Lawsuit.
My strong reccomendation for those with iPods right now is DO NOT DOWNLOAD iTunes 5.0. If you do you will be totally screwed. Leave it to Corporate America to make such a boneheaded move. Remember the iPod battery issue? It cost Apple millions in a class action, and now its being reported that the dreamy iPod Nano is a piece of crap. Oh September, why are you so cruel!
Oh yes, don't buy an iPod!
Oh my, what a wonderful day for those of us who like to see our representatives in Washington put in a rare day of actual work.
Tom Delay has been de-railed, for now as house majority leader (Don't count him out yet, he's one tough mofo). He was replaced, for ten seconds or so with the very, very, very single...cough 'gay?' cough Rep. David Drier. But then someone on the far right looked up the term 'committed bachelor' and began mumbling something about The Odd Couple, Ernie and Bert or something and called Hastert. Before Drier could crack a smile, he was (pardon the pun) out. The job now goes to Roy Blunt..who's not nearly as interesting as his name might suggest.
Oh and Karen Hughes has an epiphany that her job of spinning our way out hatred in the Middle East might require more than just talking points.
Let me just tell you this...through my experience working in the House of Representatives, there are many GOP members who are secretly happy today.
Tom Delay is sleazy at best and a corrupt leader on par with the best from Tamany Hall. Of course any visitor to his office would be cross referenced agains their financial contributions to the GOP, regardless of how many jobs, how good a policy proposal, or even direcet connections to his personal constituents in Sugarland. Now I have no idea with teh single count indictment against Mr. Delay will stand up to scrunity, but I do know that the whole Abramoff scandal probably runs far deeper than has been covered and the Mr. Delay is the first, but not the last to suffer collateral damage. It also couldn't have come at a worse time...Bush is under fire for appointing folks like Brownie, Rove is under the gun on the Valerie Plame leak, and Senator Frist apparently recently pulled a Martha with a sale of his stock in HCA. So much for accountable government.
I wonder if the business community, who are reeling under the burdens of Sarbanes-Oxley and its corporate accountability requirements see the irony that the folks who required them to meet with the strictest corporate ethical standards are so pathetically amaturish with the curruption and intrique thing. Geese-Louise, if I'd wanted scandals and excuses, I'd have voted to give Bill Clinton a 3rd term.
Gee, what took everyone so long?! NASA has been swindling us taxpayers for years with promises of reducing the cost of getting people and equipment into space for years, only to accomplish exactly the opposite. An expensive and dangerous shuttle, a useless and expensive space station and now, plans to go back to the future with a new, and very dubious, return to the moon program. So what is NASA's manned flight program all about anyway? Doing R&D to make space travel less expensive and more accessible? or is it about 'pride' projects like getting back on the moon before the Chinese get there? There's been no cohesive vision (Congress gets the blame for that) and as a result, NASA's programs lurch from one useless agenda to anther. But thank goodness we spent those billions so we could have such wonderful 'spin-off' technology like Mylar balloons.
But now NASA's new administrator is telling us the last 30 years of his agencies work has been a mistake. Oops! Sorry about that...$250 billion dollars later, we need to go back to the drawing board and forget about any technologies or lessons we could draw from the space shuttle or the station. A long hard look at the direction, and even necessity, of a publicly funded manned space program should be first on the agenda, before we race off half-cocked into a new and just as dubious direction. But as is the custom in this town, such failures are rewarded with bigger budgets and new and expansive program goals.
Not So Amazing
Ok, I broke my promise and actually watched the first hour of The Amazing Race: Family Edition (TAR-F) last night... well, at least the first hour of it. It's pretty much everything I feared it would be. Leave it to some television VP to take one of the few good reality shows and muck it all up. The problems were many, and format less than exciting.
The first of many problems with the TAR-F format is the teams. Previous seasons have stuck to the unwritten rule that a reality show should start with no more than 20-24 contestants. (Think survivor, the apprentice, etc.) Traditionally, TAR has 11 to 12 teams of 2, in the "F'ing" edition they have 10 teams of four. So rather than slowly getting to know these teams, we have a massive blob of 40 people, and kids...Screaming and running around...Even worse though is that producers, perhaps seeking a more family friendly production schedule, have taken the "Amazing" out of the race. The first leg of previous seasons had racers heading to Iceland to snowmobile across a glacier, or Rio to hang glide off a mountain. On TAR-F, the first task was to drive from Brooklyn into Manhattan and stop at an Eastern Mountain Sports store in SoHo! From their teams had to drive (I kid you not!) to the Upper Eastside! There they had to get a clue from some hot dog vendors (who if you didn't notice were Kevin and Drew from season one).
It really didn't get any better after that. Teams had to make their way to Washington Landing, PA and row a George Washington across the Delaware River. One contestant, confused as to their destination, kept saying "I think Pennsylvania may be a state or something." Really?! Do you think so?! Dear lord. It did get a little scary when the teams had to camp out in a park in Philly, and their tent assemble was supervised by a team of ...Gasp...Eagle Scouts. I stopped watching at this point and delved into my TiVo library for something decent. I understand that the teams made it all the way to Lancaster, PA on this first leg...I don't think I'll be able to sleep until I find out if they make it to say...Timonium, MD or something. Pretty disappointing.
Wow, this posting totally sounds like it should be in a Star Trek chat room or something...But needless to say, before I turned off the idiot box last night, I erased TAR-F from my season pass list. Perhaps, if I'm lucky, they'll return to a more Amazing type race next season.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Only In DC
I've had the FEMA hearings on C-SPAN running in the background as I work in my office today. All I can say about Mike Brown is that he's a complete and total ass. His main mistake in handling the hurricane?
"...I did not set up a system of media briefings which I should have done as that would have required less of my time than responding to all the requests for interviews."
Yup, that and those pesky, incompetent state and local officials. But in a move that is an only in DC type of thing, Mr. Brown, who resigned in disgrace, has been hired by FEMA as a consultant to find out what went wrong. What other line of work, besides the largess of the federal government, would this type of thing happen?
Your tax dollars at work and the results of the GOP's mission for an effective, accountable government.
Does the Media...
An important aritcle in today's LA Times discusses how the media dropped the ball on the post Katrina story and largely reported rumors rather than fact. We know that the convention center and Superdome were still hellish places to be, but they weren't the rape factories and death chambers that were widely, and apparently inaccurately reported. The article brings up a good point..
"If the Dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people," Amoss said, "it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering."I think the answer is no, if these facilities had been full of 'white folk' I think the tenor of reporting would have been different. So, to be fair to those who criticize the Administration and accuse them of not caring about black people, I ask this...Why, apparently, does the media hate them too?
The Next Scotus Nominee
You've probably noticed that I haven't added my voice to the chorus of folks praising or balking at the Roberts nomination. My peronsonal belief is that coming from the Bush administration, he is probably the best we could expect. His years working as an appellate attorney and arguing before the Supreme Court has given him an almost professorial air. And from my experience in appellate work, you really develop a great sense of both sides of the issue when you're arguing an appeal. Roberts, to me, comes across as a lawyers-lawyer and I think his underlying respect for the law will likely temper any (if at all) tendencies to go all Scalia on us. Conservative - yes, no doubt, but annoyingly so - I'm not to sure. He leaves me hopeful for the future of the court.
On the other hand, the rumors and speculation about the next nominee have this town all a twitter. Bush has coyly indicated that 'diversity' is important to him. Lots of folks see that as an indication that he'll go with one of the Ediths or perhaps his long-time friend Alberto Gonzalez. I'm thinking it is probably the later of those choices. First, Bush is loyal to a fault to his friends and it has been rumored for years that he wants Gonzalez on the high court. Second, Gonzalez would be the first Hispanic justice for SCOTUS and the GOP has been drooling over the growing hispanic vote for years. Finally, Gonzalez is not a right wing zealot, but more right of center where the Bush dynasty seems to be most comfortable. So that's my speculative pick.
But Gonzalez would also pose some serious problems for Bush. It is, after all, Mr. Gonzalez who wrote and supposedly approved the use of 'torture' on enemy combatants. If you've been tracking the left-ish side of the blogoshpere you'll note that it has emerged that solidiers in Iraq have been running websites where they post grusome picutures of killed, captured and tortured Iraqi combatants. The sometimes annoying, sometimes on the money America Blog has been on top of this issue. (Caution, pictures not safe for work). AndrewSullivan.com has also been on the case (can't link to specific posts on his site, so just go check it out).
The damage done from the prison abuse scandal will take years to fix and it appears that the problems are much, much deeper than we were led to believe. A Gonzalez nomination will bring back the prison abuse scandal and shine a bright light into the current web-torture pictures and thrust the already unpopular conduct of the war back into the spotlight. Not a good move for the President and his approval ratings slump.
While I generally am sanguine about Roberts, I'd likely be opposed to a Gonzalez nomination as I am sure many others on the right-ish side of the specturm would be.
Porkbusters: Louisiana to America: F.U.!
Well, the feds dropped the ball and the American public opened their wallets and homes to the refugees from New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast. This week, the Louisiana Congressional Delegation put forward a shameful request for more than $40 billion dollars as the first installment of reconstruction money from the American taxpayer. Why shameful?
Well, the request is filled with previously rejected proposals that ranked as some of the biggest boondoggles by the government. Oh yeah, and the money would be turned over to a 'commission' of appointed state folks who would decide how it was spent. The request was a joint effort by the Louisiana Congressional Delegation, made up of both Republicans and Democrats and both should be ashamed at putting their greed ahead of the public good.
Google Turns 7
Elephant Turns 36!
Wow, I woke up this morning and a thirty-six year old was staring back in the mirror, and it was me! Actually, I'm looking forward to this year, lots of good things expected, but more importantly 36 has always been my favorite number, so that's probably a good sign.
Lucky me, I share my birthday with:
- Google: which is 7 years old
- Meatloaf: who is 58 years old
- Wilford Brimley*: who is 71 years old
- Shaun Cassidy: who is 47 years old
- Avril Levigne: who is 21 years old
Monday, September 26, 2005
Shed Project Update:
Well, a Sunday business trip put a damper on massive progress on the shed this weekend, but Saturday proved highly productive none-the-less. Set down tar paper on the roof and then installed shingles. Once again, it looks surprisingly like it should. I am however, looking forward to finishing up most of the work next weekend... (Sorry for the delay, blogger wasn't letting me post pictures yesterday.)
After CBS's summer Movie of the Week, Shark Attack!, I think this rather odd, but allegedly true story of government trained assasin dolphins getting loose is would be a ..er..killer story.
Instapundit has a great link up to a federal budget cutting calculator. Give it a shot. A quick run on my part, cutting programs I know of and leaving most things at current levels, still yeilded an $89 billion cut in federal spending. My cuts were generally - Nasa (1/3), Corp. Welfare, Ag. Subsidies, means testing SSI survivor benefits, and a few other tweaks.
So much for "No fat left in the Budget!"...hey Mr. Delay?!
Home Mortgage Interest, State/Local Deductions..
A GAO report issued last week highlighted the cost of the mortgage interest deduction and the ability to deduct state and local income taxes from your federal returns as areas that could be cut or curtailed to help balance the budget. That would not be good for Elephant, who lives in a city with a 9% income tax...(DC isn't a state, so my city taxes are essentially my state income tax). Beyond that the mortgage interest deduction is a huge incentive to encourage home ownership, and while it is likely to be preserved (too political to cut this one), it will be interesting to see if this reccomendation will find its way into the long delayed Tax Commission Report that will be issued in October and serve as the basis of the President's Tax Reform effort in 2006.
Will the voting public support repeal of these valuable deductions to fund a permanent repeal of the estate tax? (Most of us don't pay the estate tax) or support the repeal to fund the ever going spendthrift ways of the GOP led Congress? I think not. But as the Social Security surplus dries up over the next ten year (currently being spent through the budget) and then starts eating into general revenue, Congress will have to do something. The $300 or so billion (Pre-Katrina) deficit for the current fiscal year would be far higher if you pulled out the SSI surplus (@$120 billion) as will happen soon.
If there is a silver lining to this whole Hurricane-o-rama, it may be a slap in the face to the GOP's high spending ways, and maybe just maybe they my find religion and get things in order......
I know gas prices have come down a little bit since the post Katrina spike. But I had a rude awakening yesterday when I merely needed to fill my rental car tank with about 1/4 of gas before returning it at the airport. 1/4 tank=$15.00?! and this was at prices less than is the norm in DC. So this week, as I sit in delays on the subway, I'll thank my lucky stars that I live in a city where I can commute by mass transit. I don't know how the rest of you all are coping with these gas prices, but knowing that 95% or so of the workforce doesn't have the mass transit options we have here in DC (If you work downtown that is), I can imagine it blows....
If it is Sunday...
Okay, my weekend was cut short by a brief business trip to Pittsburgh to deliver a speech. Still got work done on the shed (Blogger isn't posting pics right now, so look for a shed update later), but not as much as desired due to having to work on Sunday.
Pittsburgh is a fine city. Really dramatic entering downtown from the airport as you take the highway through a tunnel and emerge to the shining down town. Pretty cool. It is a bit depressing though to see the abandoned steel mills along the river (what's left of them) and other than the central business district, there ain't much left in the inner city. In years gone by the folks who worked in the mills along the river would live up in the hills above. Long stairways would connect the neighborhoods to the factory areas. The stairs, now crumbling, are still there and you can see them along the road as you drive. I was imagining folks trudging up and down carrying their lunch pails (with sardine sandwiches) heading off to a hard days work at the mill.
Not much, if any, steel made in Pittsburgh anymore. Most steel produced in the U.S. is actually "new steel", which is just recycled steel from old cars and such...
Friday, September 23, 2005
Bad News in South Africa
I've found it ironic that many of the leaders of South Africa have been quick to condemn our President as a 'terrorist' and at the same time turn a blind eye to the brutal ways of Robert Mugabe in nearby Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, it looks as if elements in the South African government are set on following Zimbabwe's lead by forcibly seizing white owned land. This won't be good for anyone in South Africa, mark my words.
Land reform, sadly is just the tip of the iceberg as South Africa copes with the legacy of Apartheid. Nearly 1/3 of its population is infected with the HIV/AIDS virus, presenting an enormous challege to the country's stability.
We may very well be looking at the beginnings of the next great failed state.
CNN, Foxnews and MSNBC are all reporting water pouring into parts of New Orleans. Gridlock stil grips the highways of Texas and then this tragedy. Some good news in the storm track, but that just puts others in harm's way.
What's been interesting during these beginning days of the debate on how to pay for Katrina recovery is 1) How the GOP leadership in the House has dropped the ball, and 2) How efforts to cut federal spending are being lead by the blogs.
Politicians hate being put on the spot about these things. When you shine a light on questionable spending, they will run for cover like so many cockroaches. So, Democrat or Republican, let's keep them in line and ask them to cut the pork to pay for rebuilding the Gulf region...
More ideas here...
Department of Homeland Security
Yep, that is the measure of accountability in Washington. A massive federal agency fails to meet even the most basic requirements of its mission, so to investigate its failings, we appoint a person who works for the very agency that failed.
Like a Bad Movie
I've always been a big fan of disaster movies. Earthquake!, the cannon of Airport movies, and of course the Towering Inferno! (Ironically, most of these movies had Ernest Borgnine and Shelley Winters as part of their cast...?!). Anyway, this fall has been one surreal (or all to real if you live in the Gulf region) natural disaster flick. First, just as I'm becoming used to hearing the phrase..."repopulating New Orleans.".... we get the new twist from Houston...100 mile long traffic jams.
The question here isn't if the evacuation plans are adequate, but could you ever build enough infrastructure to evacuate 2 million or so people? I don't know if you can...
Thursday, September 22, 2005
We Don't Need No Stinkin' Gas
"The two worst-case scenarios for the impact on the refining industry would be what happened with Katrina and what looks like could happen with this one," said Bob Slaughter, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.
Wow, September 2005 is really turning out to be sucky....
Elephant's Fatwa for the Week
Yup, history is upon us again as another monster storm rages toward Texas. And what does the sum total of our technological development have to offer us in terms of combating the storm? No weather control rays to direct the storms into more worthy victims (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala), retractable domes that rise up to protect our cities, and of course no jet packs or hover cars to allow us to evacuate in a style more befitting the 21st century. What we do get is a bunch of moronic weatherman/women standing out in the wind and telling us that it is windy, and rainy and that this is a dangerous storm.
So, my directive from above this week is that such coverage should be banned, ignored, or at the very least mocked.
Best use of a Cass Elliot Song
For those that TiVo'd the lost premier last night, I'm posting this as spoiler text, so don't read it if you don't want to know what happened.
Ok, first off, Lost is a show I love to hate. So many questions, so few answers, and very few tantalizing clues. But last night, in the season premier, we did find out what was under the hatch. Apparently it's some kind of 1970's quarantine area, a super stylin' underground apartment/bunker that is well stocked with "Momma" Cass records and a bright red Pee Wee Herman like exercise bike. Who knew....
Perhaps God Hates Golf?
First New Orleans, Now Houston?
Houston, we have a problem. (Get used to this cheesy line from the news in the next few days). But seriously, despite the folks who like to read the tea leaves to find some way, any way to blame Hurricanes on the gays, I'm beginning to think that perhaps God just hates golf. Why?
Well first off, I was scheduled to speak at a huge golf industry show in New Orleans in February. After Katrina the show got moved to Houston, which now seems to be next on God's to do list. So, just as valid as any of these other crackpot theories, I think that God must have it in for the golf industry, which if you think about it, is sort of homoerotic anyway....people out in fields playing with balls and sticks. So remember, if the rapture happens in the next few days, you heard it here first.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
And the Blogs Shall Lead Them
Wow, that was hard, no wonder they pay Congressman and Senators so much....
President Bush is not standing for re-election. For better or for worse he's had two terms to leave his impact on America. But unfortunately, his vision for leadership on paying for Katrina clean-up/reconstruction amounts to simply saying.."We need to find cuts to offset the costs." He can do and should do more.
His GOP Colleagues in Congress must stand for re-election, all members of the House next year along with 1/3 of the Senate. They have to face the voters, and as a result, stepping up to the plate to say "cut programs in my district" isn't something that most would do, without knowing that other members of the House or Senate would do the same. But from his bullypulpit in the White House, President Bush and his staff could put forward a program or set of cuts to help offset the estimated $200 billion for reconstruction. For example, the highway bill was something like $30 billion over the limit the president himself set for spending, although his threatened veto never came. Asking, or commanding Congress to go back and meet those spending limits gets us almost 10% of the offsets we need. Of course trimming the increase in NASA's budget would yield similar savings. NASA, who's human space flight program is of questionable benefit, could squeeze around $3 billion a year over the next 20 years by killing the shuttle, space station and cutting the dubious return to the moon program. Restore NASA's budget to its pre-FY2006 levels of $13 billion and re allocate the $3 billion of twenty years and you get another $60 billion...with the highway bill savings that's $90 billion dollars, just under 1/2 of what we may need.
Of course that's not the President's view of leadership. We saw that on the Social Security debate. He comes out with a vague plan, so there's less to criticize, and expects others to step up with details (and of course face the inevitable harsh criticism for providing details). But unlike members of Congress, Mr. Bush isn't running for re-election and he could use that as a political shield for those that are. Here is my plan, he could say, vote it up or vote it down, but this will offset the costs so we can keep the already enormous deficits in check.
That sort of decisive action is both good politics and good leadership. It'd be nice to see it after so many years of waiting....
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Don't Mess with the Feds
I've always had a strange fascination with the show Survivor. Probably because I was unable to watch the much talked about first season back in 2000. Poor Elephant was studying to take a bar exam (legal, not drinking variety) and was putting in 19 hour days, seven days a week for three months...So, when I'd drag my sorry behind into the office and everyone was a twitter about this detail or that detail of the cast, I was like.."Wazza-Wazza? Television? What?" Ever since, I feel somewhat compelled to at least try to watch the show, somehow thinking that it will make up for that hazy time when I was studying so much my eyes bled.
Anyway, that may be a poor choice on my part, but I garuantee you it is a far better choice than was made by Survivor's first winner Richard Hatch. Mr. Hatch apparently feels that CBS should have taken the taxes out of his winnings as your or my employer may due. Sadly, that's usually not how it works, and I have no doubt that his CBS issued 1099 or whatever form they have for cash prizes is sitting on his cluttered desk underneath a stack of undergear catalogues. A sad defense and a poor choice of battles to fight.
Unlike state or local charges, when your indicted by the feds, chances are your going to do some time. Remember Al Capone? When the feds couldn't get him on racketeering, they went for tax evasion. Works everytime. I think the federal conviction rate is some where in the 90% range. So have fun in prison Mr. Hatch, I hear they treat the talent pretty well.
The Grocery Store of Kings...
The Post has a little piece this morning on how Jordan's King Abdullah shops at the Wisconsin Avenue Safeway. And I can tell you it is true. I've seen him there, as have Donkey and other friends of the Elephant. One of the fun-ish parts of living in DC I guess is when you are out and about you see these quasi-leader/celebrity types.
However, it is still not as exciting as when I saw Bob Saget at the grocery store near Midgie's house. But does anything really compare to a Bob Saget sighting?
Blogs Against Pork
Truthlaidbear blog is doing a round up of members of Congress who have committed to cut spending to help fund reconstruction in the Gulf. So far things don't look promising. But pressure and exposure will help more the effort forward. The President, beyond some mumbling about offsetting the costs, has never vetoed any spending bill during his tenure. And the of course, the big media isn't capable of keeping a focus on this story....not with all that information coming in simultaneously on the "Situation Room."
It's up to us as citizens to keep the pressure up, and this is a good way to do it.
FDA Destroys Food Donated by Britain
Why may you ask is the federal government burning tons of supplies donated by the British to help feed Katrina survivors? Apparently due to the BSE (mad cow) fears from the contaminated British beef supply years ago, such products are banned from consumption in the United States. Although U.S. soldiers in NATO and British troops eat these meals without ill effect.
If anyone thinks that New Orleans will be successfully and quickly rebuilt, this should be a cautionary tale.
Congress Should Appoint an Independent Commission
President Bush has already acknowledged some of the federal shortcomings in the response to Katrina. State and local officials appear to bear part of the blame as well. That's why it is in everyone's interest to appoint an independent commission to produce a report on the system-wide failures that led to the post Katrina debacle.
Appointing such a commission doesn't necessarily provide political fodder in and of itself. Bush can bully pulpit the issue as evidence that he wants to fix things, make them right and let the chips fall where they may. A panel may even uncover evidence that is helpful to the feds. Of course making government work and holding people accountable are no longer part of the Republican mindset. I mean they gave former CIA chief Tennet the Congressional Medal of Honor for Pete's sake, not to mention that they were opposed to the 9/11 commission from the start and did everything in their power to keep Administration officials from testifying.
Responsible minded GOP'ers need to stand up for principle, not party and demand a fully independent commission to study the Katrina disaster.
It's Travel Season...
Yeah, in a great change of pace from my DC bound duties, the arrival of fall means it's time for Elephant to take the show on the road so to speak. I'll be so glad to get the heck out of this silly town, even if it is for a day. So far, my gigs aren't as burdensome as last year, but interesting never-the-less.
My tour over the next five weeks or so includes:
San Antonio, TX
New York, NY
Boca Raton, FL
After Boca I fly back to DC for a day then I'm off to China for vacation...Hurray!
"Think of it as Apollo on steroids"
Think of it as a Colossal Waste of Money...
I can't remember a time when bragging about a government program as being like another government program, only on steroids as a good thing. But NASA seems content on scrapping the wasteful shuttle for another ill-conceived program that will cost over a $100 billion dollars. Returning men (and maybe a woman or two) to the moon.
For me it begs the question why? Did we forget something more than 30 years ago when we last visited? Is there a larger scientific goal, with potential for civil spin off technology that is more useful than say - Mylar balloons? What about the useless space station, what becomes of that?
Leave it to NASA to spend $100 billion (existing money) on developing technology that is a retread of current shuttle technology combined with 35 year old Apollo technology. As we've seen in the last year, the private sector is stepping up to take on NASA's spaceflight monopoly and in a way that is much more efficient.
NASA's resources would be better spent on robotic exploration craft and incentivizing private sector development of spacecraft as was done with the Ansari-X prize. What we have in the current proposal is just an elaborate back to the future project. What a waste.
Monday, September 19, 2005
This Answers My Question
In coversation this weekend, the topic of the weather service running out of names for hurricanes came up. And as we are already in the Rs it isn't a silly topic. I speculated that like DC, whose street names start at the Capitol with A St., B St., C St.,...then move on to names begining with A, B, C, then names with A-A, B-B, etc. So, perhaps we would get to see Hurricane A. Aaronson or something...
Turns out if we run out of names, then we revert to the greek alphabet...which, as a result of pleging a fraternity many years ago, I can recite three times before a matchstick burns my fingers. (Thank you sir may I have another...) But that's another story...
Here's the skinny on Hurricane Names....
My Carter-like Malaise....
Truth be told, my lack of postings is more than just having a full plate in the office. I'm deeply pessimistic about the current state of affairs in terms of Iraq, New Orleans, and the general direction of the country - I feel as if I'm entering a personal "malaise" unseen since the time of Jimmy Carter.
It is apparent looking back on Katrina, that the failure of government occurred at all levels and unfolded in a stunning manner. Some elements of the federal response seem to be going well (Army Corps, Coast guard rescues, etc.), while others, FEMA, EPA and what not, seem to be stumbling or uncovering new problems that will delay reestablishing the gulf coast.
What's most depressing is the enormous, big-government response to the catastrophe. While the level of destruction requires enormous expenditures to restore public infrastructure, help the displaced and so forth, I have zero..ZERO confidence that Bush or the GOP led Congress can cut spending to help pay for the $200 billion plus tab. And of course many elements of the reconstruction plan read as if they were written by Ted Kennedy....
Bush's response, from a leadership point, has been underwhelming too. Delivering a decent speech last week, promising all the money in the world, with no consequences or tax increases or whatever. He's even been using a mad-libs like talking points, borrowed from Iraq, to describe federal efforts. "We won't give up, we will prevail.." only leaving out the "evil doers" part, but that's parenthetical...you know Nagin/Blanco being really at fault.
So yet another round of government failure, in an era when the GOP controls all branches of government. The response, not independent investigations or calls for accountability, but rather, throwing nearly incomprehensible amounts of money at the problem and expanding the size and reach of the feds even further. Dear Lord!....
And what of New Orleans? That wretched, yet beguiling town of jazz, booze and hedonism? One can only imagine the havoc that the federal reconstruction effort might inflict on the storied city. Bold concepts of "New Urbanism", mixed use whatevers and Disney like reconstructions of neighborhoods are just the begining. Efforts to reconfigure the city will no doubt make use of the controversial Kelo decision to allow for private companies to seize land for new development. Clearing out concentrations of poor and or minority residents to allow the building of urban condos for the never to return yuppies in and around downtown. Or even, as I've read, turning the poorer neighborhoods into industrial zones to help create jobs...At this stage I just can't see a new city, designed by a committee, emerging as anything vital or interesting at all...that of course may change...but for now, it just seems so bleak.
And then there is this crap from NASA. Taking us into the future by using technology that is older than I am...and as I am fast approaching my -gasp! 35 year on Earth, that's pretty old. Only in the world of the Federal Government can reusing current and old hardware for space missions still cost $5 billion to develop and put into service. What a waste.
But for now, I'll put on my little happy face, head out to my meetings on the Hill and compliment the "Emperor" on his nice new set of clothes. . .
And in the mean time, to stay sane, I'll focus on what works...private citizens, most charities, blogs and of course...that dreamy new iPod Nano....
Yes, crazy is as crazy does, but it is Monday morning and I'm already swamped with work. Legal stuff for the office, speech writing (it's travel season for Elephant), and some other stuff. So, once again, I'll attempt to blog during lunch.....
Back to Iraq
Or does this seem so "Vietnam-esque?"....
Using enemy body counts as a benchmark, the U.S. military claimed gains
against Abu Musab Zarqawi's foreign-led fighters last week even as they mounted
their deadliest attacks on Iraq's capital.
Is Tivo Dying?
Dude, I don't know what I would do without my Tivo. But it looks like trouble in paradise as TiVo's website is no longer selling the units...
Raisin' The Roof!
It looks like...A shed!
Wow, miracles never cease to amaze me. Another weekend of work (with the expert assistance of Donkey) and some more progress on the shed. The amazing thing is, that if you plan your work and work your plan, sometimes, the work product comes out as you intended it to!
This weeks big adventure included learing the joys of right triangles and roofing. I really need to look up my old High School Trig teacher, just to let her know that I found a real world application for trig. this weekend. The application of course was figuring out the length of the shed roof joists. I knew I wanted a 30 degree angle on the roof, and of course I knew the mid-point of the shed side wall (78 1/8 inches). Remembering back (with some help of the internet), I recalled that a 30, 60, 90 triangle's sides had some sort of relationship with each other. (It turns out the relationship is: x, 2x, x(square root of 3). Anyway, math, math, math. The roof was raised, the roof-line is straight and level...amazing!
Still a long, long way to go. This is a mere shell and needs to be wrapped, then sided. But so far, so good.
Friday, September 16, 2005
Ok, I found some breathing room in my day here. Got some edits to a book (more like a booklet) I'm writing for work done, and cabbed over to the Chinese Embassy at lunch to drop of my application for a visa to visit in November.
I must say that the whole process over the the Chinese Embassy is a breeze. I dropped my applications off and was in and out in like 1 minute. Same thing for other visas I've gotten in the past...pretty fast and efficient. To bad when folks try to visit the U.S.A it ain't so easy.
Unless you live in a Visa-waiver country (Europe mostly)...getting a visa to visit the U.S. is an difficult task. Post 9/11 visa applicants must set up interviews with representatives at U.S. embassies in their countries. Usually there is only one or at most a handful of staff to handle this. (Imagine if you will wanting to visit Italy, but before you could go there you had to travel to Washington DC to meet with someone at the embassy).
Anyway, you apply for a visa, pay the $140 fee and wait for an appointment to talk to an embassy staffer. If your lucky, you get the meeting, but even if you don't the results are usually the same...(especially if you are from a 'developing country').
The attitude is pretty much...well, you may have a good job here in your little country....but how can we really be sure you'll ever go back home...I mean once you see Wal-mart, or all those sprawling suburban developments that look all alike...you'll never every want to go back to your village and your beloved donkey. And your visa is denied....oh and the embassy keeps that $140 fee.
Want astounds me most though, is that despite are general craptastic (word of the week if you haven't notice-craptastic) treatment of folks who want to visit the U.S.A., other countries are generally pretty welcoming of us...which is nice. So anyway, I'll have my visa to go to China in November sometime next week....hurray!
Promises, promises... I know...but it's actually one of those rare days where I'm overwhelmed with work at the office....will attempt more this afternoon....
Why the Dems don't have a plan for NOLA...
Didn't we discuss this like...
Could airlines merge?
Exceeding my Low Expectations
I must admit, that Bush touched on nearly every point he probably should have last night, and by the standards of his past speeches, this one wasn't too bad. But of course, I can't help myself in putting in my two sense. Here's how I would have advised him to approach the topic.
Start from the podium: The walk to the podium was too long, the shot was too far away, it made the President look small and a bit awkward. Just start at the podium.
don't' bury the lead. Yes, it is proper and important to note the public's heroic response to Katrina, but start with what everyone wanted to hear...We messed up.
Show some anger. Just a little, to let us all know you get what's going on. Saying the feds, state and locals failed is great, but come on man, did you see those bodies in the water, the folks at the conventions center?
After the anger, and the contrition, then move on to thank the public for its response and the coast guard ect. And while many churches are leading the response (and doing an outstanding job), many non-Christian organizations have helped out too...
Call for Congress to reprioritize (cut) spending to help fund rebuilding...perhaps by even singling out some members (Don Young!) to give up their pet projects to offset the enormous cost of reconstruction. Like 9/11, Bush is in a position to call for sacrifice for the greater good and use it to help control spending...he didn't do it after 9/11, and he didn't do it last night. He should....this aspect is by far the biggest hole in the response so far.
Again, not to bad Mr. President...
Thursday, September 15, 2005
The Politics of Failure have Failed!
This wonderful phrase of course in from the Simpson's, where alien's Kang and Kodos pose as Clinton-Dole during the 1996 elections. That's pretty much the Orwellian message I expect to hear tonight in the President's speech. Here's the talking points summary.
- Katrina was a terrible storm, really, really bad!
- The government, at all levels, failed in its response to Katrina.
- If there were federal failures, I take responsibility.
- The failures were especially painful for those that count on government the most.
- therefore, we must greatly expand the federal government to fix the failures caused in part, by the federal government!
- Oh yes, and Terror, Terror, Terror, 9/11, 9/11, the Troops, Iraq and "Evil Doers"...
More Bad News...
It is a good thing we invaded Iraq, you know, to prevent the spread of WMD...
Fly the Craptastic Skies...
Most analysts predicted a domino effect in the airline industry after United and U.S. Airways filed for Chapter 11 protection some years back. Yesterday, Delta and Northwest filed for barnkruptcy protection. That leaves more that 1/2 of all airline seats in the U.S. market on carriers who are not (in current form) financially viable. Think about it. Delta alone has $28 billion in debt. Under bankruptcy both Delta and Northwest can dump their current pension programs onto the federal government. The Pension Benefit Garuantee Corp. (like the FDIC for pensions) is already deep in the red. So we as tax payers will have to foot that bill.
Some are saying that the advent of discount carriers, high fuel prices and a post 9/11 world will mean less choice and higher costs on flights. There's even speculation that we'll see massive consolidation - Delta-Northwest-Continetal, American-United, etc. More rules, less choice and most likely even more surly service.
Bush: Live from New Orleans
It was promising to hear Bush take 'responsibility' for the federal failures "if"there were any earlier this week. It may also be nice to hear him get some 'religion' on holding federal agencies accountable for their actions. But I think that, perhaps, that won't be what we hear tonight. We'll hear about how big goverment will make everything ok, and maybe some Clintonian contortions of accepting responsibility, without really accepting responsibility...We shall see, but even my lowest expectations of this President and the GOP leadership have failed to be met time and time again.
DC Evacuation "Plan"
As if 9/11 didn't teach us anything....
I, like most folks, remember the morning of 9/11/01 quite well. I was downtown for a job interview when someone ran into the office, tears streaming down their face to tell us that the building/city were being evacuated, a plane had hit the Pentagon, the World Trade Centers had collasped, and the various rumors of the day that a bomb had exploded at the State Depatment, the Washington Monument was on fire and the (former) U.S.A. Today building had been hit aswell.
What struck me when I got out to the street was both the frenzy of people trying to get home to their loved ones and the realitivly quiet manner in which it was proceeding. But one factor stood out above all others...that day I saw no DC police, or federal police, in fact average citizens and even some homeless folks had taken to directing traffic. The authorities, it seems were all engaged in helping protect and evacuate members of Congress. Helicopters were everywhere as were loud and low flying f-16s. But us residents and worker bees were pretty much on our own.
Seems that Katrina, and the failures associated with it, have caused DC to re-examine its evacuation policy. Probably a good exercise, but most likely futile....
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Gasp, Laugh, Cry
Dude, what the heck is going on with the GOP leadership?! There is no fat in the budget?! Dear God Man! Federal spending has climbed by nearly 1/3 under the GOP majority, and a good portion of it is waste. (Also, this doesn't count the Iraq war costs which are 'off budget items').
The arrogance, the idiocy...the hubris.... If the Dems can pull together a cohesive plan and put up some decent candidates (BIG IF MIND YOU!)... they might possibly be able to retake the majority...and the GOP deserves the loss if you ask me.
Also, my assistant M just reported that Congresswoman and Senate hopeful Katherine Harris was wearing a tiara on the floor of the House today...How sad, and how sadly appropriate.
The Roberts Hearings
The genius of the Roberts nomination
Helping the Pets
Midgie, EIE's left coast correspondent and professional skeptic sent me some info on a group that's in New Orleans rescuing abandoned pets. Some of here friends in LA are on the scene helping out. Check out this site if you have any frequent flyer miles to donate, but be warned, this is tear jerking stuff. (The story of the rescued beagle had me balling...)
W May Ruin My Vacation
Bush to Visit China
Sigh! I think it's a good thing that Mr. Hu and Mr. Bush will have a sitdown. And it's always a great boost to our image abroad when the President visits another country (save perhaps France). Anyway, Drudge is reporting that the President has accepted an invitation to visit China the 3rd week in November...just about the time I'm scheduled to head over for my vacation. He likely won't stay long, but the thought of major sites being closed for his visit - the Imperial Palace, the Great Wall (at Badaling) is enough to send shivers up my spine...
Ok, I'll live, I guess. I mean, poor me, I'm still going to China...
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Wither Detroit: Update
Detroit has been on a long slow decline for many years now. In the city itself there are blocks and blocks of vacant houses and many of the 1930's era office towers lie vacant. Back in February we talked about how the parts suppliers for the Big Three (err..Big Two), who were spun off as private companies a few years back are going down the tubes, pulling Michigan's economy down with it. Well, it looks like the mac-daddys of the suppliers, Delphi, is on the verge of bankruptcy. If they fall into bankruptcy protection, they can dump their $10 billion pension liability on GM, which is already overburdened.
Look out Detroit, in the next four or five years, perhaps sooner, we could see at Toyota-Ford or Toyota-GM merger....
Roll Call Follows Elephant's Lead
2006 Looking Like the GOP's 1994.
For my loyal readers (all three of you), you may recall that from nearly a year now I've been expressing concern that the GOPs drift from its core issues (fiscal discipline, government accountability, strong defense) were setting them up for a repeat of the Dems losses in 1994.
It seems Mondays edition of Roll Call includes a special supplement that is all about this very topic. In fact the picture above is the cover. An elephant in campaign regalia looks into the mirror to see a donkey in 1994 campaign regalia....so clever...
Sorry to tooting my own horn so to speak, but it's nice to know that I'm not completely detached from reality.
Monday, September 12, 2005
Tom Delay's Worst Nightmare
You know, behind the scenes, Mr. Delay is probably a bit nervous that his master plan to redistrict Texas to solidify the GOP advantage in that state might take a big hit if these folks decide to stay. . . and you know they won't forget those days sitting in excrement in the Convention Center and Superdome. Oops!
Maybe this is the best we can expect for Bush..if so, it's pretty darned sad. Wake me up in 2008...
Google Goes Crap-Tastic
The bloom is off the rose a google, or so it would seem. I'm a huge googler, and turn to it first if I'm looking for some info for work, or better yet, at work looking to waste time. But last week I was perplexed by what seemed to be a google-meltdown- I could search for anything, it would error out. This week while searching to an article for a client in some obscure newspaper, the whole first page the search returns is pure garbage....the first page of hits are all meta search sites, regardless of what I'm searching for. It blows chunks....
What's going on? Looks like I'm back to yahoo or some other crap-tastic search engine...this is soo lame...
Great article in the Post today on how lobbyists are pulling back from the ongoing shameless plugs for cash by candidates on both the left and the right. As a political professional who regularly gives money to candidates, once your on the mailing list you get inundated with requests for even more money. It's not just us DC insiders either, members of my Board of Directors where I work, all very successful and socially active men and women, have on numerous occasions made note on the near daily pleading for money from either the left or the right.
I think for me, and many others, our personal funds we have set aside for funding candidates will be significantly less this year, with a lot of it going to Katrina relief. Perhaps we can have a telethon to help the useless politicians...Co-hosted by Al Franken and Sean Hannity.
Hide Your Porn!
Judge on speedy path to chief justice post
Remember the salacious details of the Tomas confirmation that gave us terms like "Long Dong Silver" and the infamous coke can? What does Roberts hearings hold in store for us?
Some Good(ish) News
Well Congress passed a $51 billion dollar supplemental bill to fund ongoing efforts in New Orleans. Seems that they will try to plug the holes in the levies with stacks of cash. The death toll (which strangely we're not hearing much about) looks like it will not top five digits, but either way is still tragic. The airport is reopening to some commercial traffic, although other than media, rescue folks and national guard, I don't know who would go to NOLA right now.
The long haul is still frought with challenges. If it takes months to get things back to were folks can return, how many will? Will returning residents and business be able to obtain afforadable insurance for flood/business interruption. Will the tens of thousands of mostly poor evacuess stay in Texas and mess up Tom Delay's redistricting? We shall see.
Either way, the story has now gone for minute by minute coverage to a longer story arc. There will still be lots to discuss, but events will play out over a longer time frame.
Freedom March is Double Plus Good!
Well, it looks like the so-called Freedom March here in DC went off like clock work and it appears to have been enjoyed by dozens. The Freedom March took place at the same time as a Nationals Game and a Redskins game, so I stayed home. It was all probably for the best as I most likely would have been arrested.
From today's NYTs....
One man who registered for the walk was detained by a Pentagon police officer after he slipped a black hood over his head and produced a sign that read, "Freedom?"The man was removed from the Pentagon registration area, handcuffed and taken away in a police car. It was not clear whether he was charged or simply detained and the police did not respond to messages requesting more information.
Ann Grossman, 56, from Silver Spring, Md., also carried a homemade sign, which read "Honor Our Troops, Respect Their Lives," that was confiscated by police at the Pentagon.
The more you look the worse everything gets...
Well a busy day of shed building yesterday and with Donkey's considerable help we were able to erect the frame for the shed. The dimensions are 6ft x 8ft x 6ft, 6inches. Midgie commented that it's looking more like a guest cottage than a shed, but oh well. It's mostly level and mostly plumb...Next week, the walls and roof.
Friday, September 09, 2005
You're Doing Great Work Brownie...
Great news, Bush does have a set after all... MSNBC (and Wonkette) are reporting that Brown is out!
The Not So Big Easy Edition:
Alas, amongst all the disaster news this week, one of the concepts I still can't fully grasp is that the Big Easy, as we knew it, is no more and perhaps never will be. It's still too early to tell if it will reemerge as a small, sleeker version of itself, or if it will become with world's largest Superfund site. Perhaps it will be both. But the city that served as the background of my favorite novel: A Confederacy of Dunces, is gone for now.
The way of Babylon?
THE question is awful, but will not go away. How much damage can a big American city suffer without going the way of Babylon? Or, for that matter, of Galveston, a boom town that never recovered from a hurricane in 1900?
Gulf Coast-area residents face toxic sludge concerns
When Hurricane Katrina's 13-foot storm surge crashed through the houses and businesses of this town on the Gulf Coast, it also rushed through a plant where DuPont stored dioxins and other hazardous materials. Now that the floodwaters have receded, local residents, deciding whether to rebuild, worry about what happened to those chemicals.
Will New Orleans Recover?
It would be uplifting to write today of how the brave people of New Orleans will come together and help each other after Hurricane Katrina—and of course many are doing just that. Volunteers are navigating their boats around downed power lines and burbling gas mains to rescue fellow citizens still hanging onto rooftops in the water. Even as floodwaters still engulf the city, evacuees eagerly seek to return and rebuild their storied city—though they may not be able to do so for months.
Firms ponder future of New Orleans
Rising near Interstate 10 within sight of the Superdome, the tower of the New Orleans Times-Picayune is a landmark in a community served by the newspaper since 1837.
Now that building stands vacant, with the 270 editorial employees who normally work there scattered throughout Baton Rouge.
Tight Constraints on Pentagon's Freedom Walk
Could this get any more Hellerian? Could there be a more offensive way to remember the victims of 9/11? I don't think so. The Post has to goods on the so-called "Freedom Walk".
As our Dear Leader has said..."Let Freedom Reign".
Organizers of the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial Freedom Walk on Sunday are taking extraordinary measures to control participation in the march and concert, with the route fenced off and lined with police and the event closed to anyone who does not register on-line by 4:30 pm today.
Mid-Terms: Grading our Leadership
Well, we're 10 days plus out from the disaster and the good news is some things are starting to gel while others (e.g. FEMA) continue to flail. So let's update our grades of those here in DC and their responses/comments on the Katrina relief effort.
George Bush C/C-: He seems to be paying lip service to some of the feds failures, but at the same time he may be slipping into this..things are better than they seem attitude. I'm still hoping that he demonstrates those leadership skills I've heard so much about by firing Brown and Certoff. As I mentioned yesterday, industry/local government leaders here in DC had to personally call on Bush to stop FEMA from seizing their equiptment so that they could do their jobs. Even Trent Lott had to personally call on Bush to get FEMA to move temporary housing trailers into MS. Those trailers are still sitting in Atlanta. How many more failures of FEMA/DHS does Bush need brought to his attention before he 'gets it?".
Dennis Hastert F--: Perhaps I could give old Denny boy a double ZZ for a grade. He's come across so badly in his response I've found it shocking. Remember, this guy flew back to DC to preside of the Terri Schiavo bill, but decided the vote on emergency funds for Katrina relief weren't important enough to come back to DC. Why'd he stay in IL? He had a political fundraiser to attend and was auctioning off one of his antique cars. He's lashed out at critics saying that folks can stand on the sidelines and criticize or they can try to make things right. Does he mean stand on the sidelines like he's doing? Harsh, whinny and excuse ridden. I expected better from you Denny-Boy.
Bill Frist A-/B+: As shocked as I've been about Hastert's response, I've been pleasantly surprised by the good Dr. Frist. Readers of this blog know that Elephant doesn't have much respect for the Majority leader's political skills, but First has walked the line well in his public statements about the disaster. Yes, he acknowledged, there are problems at the federal level that are not excused by state and local issues, and yes we're going to get to the bottom of it. Positive and critical at the same time and only minimal amount of excuses. Of course we'll have to see if he follows up word with deed.
Laura Bush D: Harsh perhaps, but he assertion that the situation isn't as bad as the media is reporting makes me this that the situation is worse than the media is reporting. Oh yes, and ten days after the worst natural disaster in our countries history, she repeatedly refers to it a Corrina
Senator Santorum A+: The Senator gets to the head of the class solely on his consistent ability to take a situation to express compassion and fail miserably. He advocated fining those who stayed behind and had to be rescued. Then backtracked when it dawned on him that many who didn't leave were poor, had no transportation, or were physically incapacitated and couldn't get out.
More to come....
Inside the DC Armory:
Well, I must say that my skepticism of the Red Cross took a big hit yesterday when I headed over to the DC Armory to sign up to help out with the 288 folks who've been relocated to DC. From a volunteer standpoint, things were a bit frenetic, chaotic, but in a positive productive kind of way. Lots of volunteers showing up to sign up for shifts and training, and an ever changing array of more senior volunteers trying to set up a command/management structure. But the end result was sort of a fluid, cooperative atmosphere were everyone was willing to adapt and do what was needed to make the guests comfortable. It was impressive.
The facility itself, while certainly not ideal, appeared comfortable and relaxed. Half of the armory was reserved as a sleeping area (Guest quarters if you will) that was divided into men's, family, and women's areas. The overhead lighting in this area was off, allowing folks to rest. The other half of the facility was set up like a food court/mall. Food service stations, an internet cafe, an area with clothes and toiletries and a TV area. Local relief agencies were there as well with the Dept. of Mental Health providing counseling and the Dept. of Employment Services providing job assistance. Even the private sector had established a mini village in the parking lot with a Colgate trailer handing out supplies, a mini-clinic trailer from Children's hospital and some other trailers I couldn't make out.
It's not all sunshine and rainbows for the guests in the Red Cross shelter here, but the volunteer army seems to be doing their best to make them comfortable and provide the needed services for them to cope with their immediate needs. A bit of a hassle for volunteers to sign up for shifts and such, but nothing caused by lack of organization but rather a tremendous outpouring of volunteers.
I should also note, that the DC public schools have really stepped up on this. I don't know if the union is encouraging teachers to volunteer in the evenings, but nearly 2/3's of the folks there last night were from the DC Public School system....Good for them.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
God's "Swift" Vengeance?
Punishment for the Will to Power?
So fringe elements are saying that the destruction of New Orleans, Biloxi and other towns are a result of their wicked ways. Biloxi had gambling, New Orleans had...well take your pick, debauchery, drinking, gambling, gays, crime, abortion clinics you name it. In a move that would make Jonathan Edwards (the Puritan, not the politician) proud, God flicked his finger sending torrents of destruction down on the wicked, wicked people of the Gulf Coast. But despite what these fringe elements are saying, perhaps that's not what God was upset about at all (if in fact he participated in this event at all).
Maybe after four years of people like Pat Robertson, James Dobson, & Jerry Falwell trading on his good name for their own enrichment and political power, God sent a modern day flood to refocus our attention as Christians on helping our fellow man rather than helping ourselves?
How many times in the past four years have so-called religious/values leaders used God as a tool for their own financial and political gain? The instances multiply like so many fishes and loaves when I think about it. First we had Pat Robertson blame "They gays, the feminists, the abortionists (et. al.)" For the 9/11 attacks. He defended a thugish dictator in Africa in a country where he owns a diamond mine, yet called on another thugish - yet democratically elected leader, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez to be assassinated. Then he lied about it.
He had some leaders within the Catholic Church denying communion based on how people voted. At the same time, they continued to protect and hide the rogue priests who molested children in parishes around the world, even moving Cardinal Bernard Law to Rome to protect him for potential prosecution.
Dobson and his allies too, played on God's good name for fame and power. Dobson lead the charge to deny gay families protection under the law, because it would undermine the sanctity of marriage. Never mind religious aspects of marriage aren't involved in this debate. Even if his ends were just, his reliance on lies and 'fake' reports to bolster his claims and insight hysteria were in pursuit of a greater good...It's ok to lie, when you do it for God.
Then we had a pastor in the Carolinas excommunicate parishioners who voted for John Kerry.
Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign seeking membership lists from churches around the country. Even jokingly referring to their strategy as "God, Guns and Gays."
Maybe that's the root of this catastrophe. That we as Christians have gotten to caught up in the mortal world, using his name to gain power over our enemies for political gain. Gays, Intelligent Design, Abortion, Tax Cuts you name it. The only problem is that in writing all our checks to these various God/GOP causes we forgot what's really important, following his word, sharing his compassion and helping those who are at societies margins. I mean after all, we can no longer ignore those at society's margins any more as they camp out in various domed stadiums around the country? Can we?!
I've never seen God in a politician or those snake oil salesman like Robertson who claim my protection and salvation lie in suppressing or fearing the various "Others". In fact, for the past few years all the folks claiming to act in God's name on various ballot initiatives or what have you have only done one thing...push his presence farther and farther from my life.
But this past week, I've seen Him. In the massive and spontaneous generosity of everyday Americans responding to a horrendous catastrophe to help their follow man. And maybe, just maybe that was the motive behind all this...at the very least, it's just as valid as those who'd blame the victims, the democrats, the gays, the Unitarians, the gamblers or what have you.
After work tonight, I'm headed over the the DC armory to begin my stint helping out the evacuees/refugees who've been moved to my fair city. It should be interesting to see how the Red Cross has organized things and how volunteers are being utilized, more importantly, I'm channeling my energies into something a bit more important than just b#tching. (Althought that's important too).
State Leads in Army Corps Spending, but Millions Had Nothing to Do With Floods
Ok, after giving the feds the lashing they deserve (and I'm not giving up on that yet), here's a good post story on how the Army Corps or Engineers and locals squandered valuable resources on dubious projects. There's plenty of blame to go around, but it doesn't mean we don't hold all of our politicians accountable.
Dear God No!
Micheal more is a talented film maker, no doubt. But his gift is compromised by his tendency to bend the facts to fit his larger vision of what the truth should be. Even in Farenieght 9/11, were government bungling abounded in events leading up to the terror attacks and the Iraq war, we still manages to 'bend' the truth, rearrange timelines, make stuff up, and even alter historical footage. "Roger and Me" was a hoot, no doubt, but Moore just plays to fast and too loose with the truth for my comfort. It's the Yin to FEMA's Yang.
Mr. Moore, please don't make this film...
White Wash II:
NBC's Brian Williams is reporting that the feds are blocking reporters for key areas of New Orleans as the round up of bodies begins. What is this Zimbabwe?
Lefty Blogger Atrios states the case, and I agree...
The failures of government at all levels magnified the death toll. We as the public need to know the true scope of this disaster. The government didn't act to protect the victims before the storm and I find thier newfound concern insulting.
Take a moment to note what's happening here: these are the marks of repressive government, which mixes inefficiency with authoritarianism. The crew that couldn't get key aid on the scene last week is coming in in force now and taking as one of its key missions cutting public information about what's happening in the city.
UPDATE: WaPo picks up on this line in an excellent editorial
Hiding Bodies Won't Hide the Truth
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
The Government Wants Us To Forget
Tom Delay blocks House hearings, and now Sir Rudy stepping in and saying not to second guess the federal response. FEMA stepping in to block any photos of the carnage in New Orleans. The government wants to delay an examination of it's failures and block full knowledge of the consequences (e.g. gruesome deaths) so as time passes, everything is rosy and we the public can be agog at the fashionable designs for New Urbanism in the rebuilding of New Orleans. Perhaps a nice retractable roof stadium to replace the Superdome and a monorail.
They hope we forget stories like this. I'm not raging on Brown or Chertoff becuase they are Republicans, I'm railing against them because thier abject failure borders on criminal negligence. Again, these people work for us, they failed, they should lose their jobs.
The only problem with the spin is that unlike Iraq, the facts on the ground are in our midst. The victims and their stories have been scattered like the wind around the country. They can keep denying everything, only to be countered by the facts and victims. How long before the victims are called unpatriotic for sharing their stories? I give it about a week.
Oh and Rudy, you can forget about my vote in 2008, you f*ck'ing appologist.
Apple Lifts my Spirit with New Flavor iPod
The underlying question is how many iPods can I own...The answer at this point seems to be, as many new models as they can churn out. Hmmm iPod...argghhhhh....
Another Katrina Time Line
Yes, it's from the left (as if that matters) but the time line is constructed from media reports from around the country. A good reference point.
Remember, Republicans and Democrats who failed to live up to their responsibilities will be trying to twist the facts and timelines to suit their own excuses. It's not a left or right issue, it's a citizens versus the government issue.
National Response Plan
Under the NRP, when a catastrophic event takes place, the feds aren't required to be asked to help, they are supposed to move in and integrate with local authorities asap. (See page 4)...
Total Failure II
Andrew Sullivan's posted two stunning stories on problems faced by evacuees. When they got tired of waiting for the goverment, they took their own initiative, only to be blocked by the very goverment that was supposed to save them....
Emerging Talking Points
Trial Run of Excuses
Well, they're starting to appear here and there when various apologist politicians start talking about the "blame game". The focus seems to be to put the blame on the locals, then Kathleen Blanco, and to remind us that disaster relief of any scale is a grassroots program, not a federal priority. I used to help create such talking points on various issues. The communications office that produces these for the GOP is housed in the bowels of the Capitol. Here's what I've gleaned so far.
1) Disaster relief is a bottom up proposition: In other words, all the failures lie outside the federal realm. The locals didn't request help soon enough or failed to do so altogether. Never mind that Congress created the Homeland Security Department in the aftermath of 9/11 to respond to an event of this scale, and never mind that we've spent billions in funding this department, it's not the feds problem.
2) It's the fault of the first responders and volunteers: This is the excuse FEMA is trying out this week. We see it in the post below, were hundreds of fire fighters simply misunderstood that FEMA needed them for PR work, not saving people. Never mind that FEMA turned help away in disaster zones across the Gulf, from churches to foreign aid.
3) On Tuesday, the media was reporting that NOLA Dodged the bullet: First off, after 9/11 and the creation of the HSD, your telling me that our intelligence on public safety is coming from the USA Today?! Even if you're fine with that revelation, one must wonder what papers Chertoff and Brown were reading. Again, this bald faced lie is so transparent and easily check (via Wonkette) that I can't believe the Pentagon repeated it yesterday.
4) It's the fault of the State and Local authorities: Yeah, there is some truth to this claim, but this is a classic bait and switch. Local and State failures do not excuse the dismal federal response nor do they enable it. Louisiana's Governor declared a state of emergency on Saturday and had to call Bush on his vacation to get him to do the same to enable a federal response...a response that was too long in coming.
5) The Media didn't get the word out: What channel were these folks watching. Even Instapundit, who is usually immune for such doctrinaire excuses seems to support this line. Every channel I was watching, network and cable was saying that this storm was a killer and to leave the area. I mean even the generally useless local stations were on this story. Sorry, not this time.
Of course all the little Lobbyist-Bots here in DC, between their martinis and talk about weekends at the beach, are repeating these verbatim, as if praising the emperor's new clothes.
I still don't buy it.
FEMA: Stunningly Incompetent
Fire fighters response to Katrina, only to be used as PR people for FEMA. Who does FEMA blame for the frustration, the Firefighers!
The initial call to action very specifically says we're looking for two-person
fire teams to do community relations," she said. "So if there is a breakdown [in
communication], it was likely in their own departments."
Evacuees Arrive in DC
Well, 295 evacuees have arrived in Washington, DC to be housed and helped until some vague future date when we have a grip on this whole no-more-New Orleans thing. I've stepped up to help the folks with any insurance claims, FEMA paper work and such. It will be a good way to channel the energy that all this rage against government incompetence seems to create.
Of course the clincher in this, is that the evacuees were told by FEMA they were being moved to Texas, only to find themselves in DC. Figures....
I'm told that the DC Shelter is in need of volunteers. If you are interested please email shelter director Lori Tompson at LThompson@FDIC.gov and CC in Steve Wollek at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please provide them with the following information:
2. Best Telephone Number to Reach you (specify if the number is work/cell/home)
3. Days that you are available
4. Send the specific dates that you can assist
5. If you can work a partial shift, this is great
6. What you would like to do (Mass Care, Family Services, etc..)
I've already been communicating with Lori, so this is legit and they really need the help.
FIRE BROWN NOW: BLOG
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Another Report Card
Conclusion: Brown must go, but feds aren't the sole negligent body.
That's what CNN is reporting. Delay is not just opposed to firing Chertoff or Brown, he's opposed to any hearing that would examine where accountability lies for the criminally negligent federal response to Katrina.
Funny how things like gay marriage or Terri Schaivo are such a threat to our national security that they require a federal response, numerous hearings, and total preemption of state perogatives on the matter, but a natural disaster that has destroyed an entire city and possibly killed 1,000's..eh..That's a bottom up thing.
How far can they spin this and still expect a rational person to by this. This is beyond Orwellian. It's the Simpson's episode where Lisa becomes a vegetarian. Alarmed by her independent thought, the school brings in a movie by the meat council.
Lisa: They don't expect us to buy this tripe?!
Principal Skinner: And now from the meat council...Free Tripe!
(The Class cheers, eats tripe)...