Friday, September 30, 2005
Thursday, September 29, 2005
The Daily Show highlights the "Conserver" President, in End Times (via One Good Move). Jon Stewart notes the need to conserve energy "following warnings that oil and gas supplies might have been hit harder than anticipated. All in all, 16 Texas oil refineries have remained shut down after the storms. Analysts say it's the worst thing to happen to the Texas oil industry since George W. Bush worked in it."
According to current Press Secretary Scott McClellan, energy conservation "has been a high priority for the President from day one." Former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer echoed that as far back as 2001, when asked if the US needed to correct it's energy use lifestyle, by responding "That's a big No. The President believes that's an American way of life." I may have many issues with the Bush Administration, but you've got to give it credit for consistency.
I must confess to be a Philly Magazine reader, despite the fact that the most recent iteration of the magazine is geared to appeal to a younger audience (younger than me, anyway). More bothersome is the fact that it is a tad "Philly-light" and often much too pretentious for my blood. I can generally flip through that stuff, for the interesting articles and the various "Best Of's." Overall, still worth it for me as a casual, gossipy magazine dealing with the area.
I was disappointed to read this "Contrarian" piece Attack of the Blogs by Noel Weyrich in the October issue of Philadelphia Magazine. Admittedly, I often find Weyrich to be a Neanderthal. His extreme bourgeois view is a little surprising, since the region (even the suburbs) is generally moderate, both politically and socially.
The subject of his mudsling was the blog campaign to raise awareness of the Latoyia Figueroa case, the missing, pregnant woman from the Philadelphia area, later found to be murdered by the father of her unborn child. A local blogger from the All Spin Zone managed to bring her case to the attention of local and national media, which no doubt contributed to the solving of her case. At the time, I followed the postings of the blogger, and was impressed with his efforts to focus attention on a non-blond, non-white missing woman.
I've read Weyrich's rant a few times and I'm still not quite sure whether he objects more to bloggers or missing non-blonds getting too much attention. Either way, a few of his observations are beyond the pale, such as his opinion that race has nothing to do with missing girl/women media coverage. Rather, it's the sweet and innocent (read that: pretty, blond, blue-eyed) who get attention, not the bad girls (read that: poor, black). Unfortunate as it may be, concludes Weyrich, it's mostly white, middle class and up women who fit in the former category, so they get the media's (and the public's) attention. One shouldn't read too much else into it, by carrying that racism stuff too far. Of course, based upon the views expressed by Weyrich, you don't need to go too far to find it.
The blogger in question responds, in No Good Deed Shall Go Unpunished. Other bloggers also weigh in: Attytood and Sisyphus Shrugged, giving Weyrich the "thumbs down."
Judy (no, it wasn't me) voiced the view of many when she called Cardinal Rigali, of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, a "phony" at a recent talk he gave at Villanova University. His speech was on the topic of "Joy and Hope," and the Cardinal emphasized the importance of "human dignity."
""That thing about human dignity [in Rigali's talk] pushed me over the edge,' she added."
Not much joy or hope of seeing human dignity from the Church leaders may be the mindset of a number of Philadelphia area Catholics these days.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Michael Ignatieff wrote a moving essay in the NYT Magazine, The Broken Contract, on the political catastrophe of Katrina when the government failed to respond to help its citizens when disaster struck. I agree with most of his thesis.
"A contract of citizenship defines the duties of care that public officials owe to the people of a democratic society. . . . When the levees broke, the contract of American citizenship failed."
""We are American,' a woman at the convention center proclaimed on television. She spoke with . . . astonishment that she should be required to remind Americans of such a simple fact."
"Let us grant that the contract is contested ground. Liberals since Franklin D. Roosevelt have believed that being a citizen should give protection against the dangers of unemployment, old age and ill health, while conservatives have sought to curtail the contract, arguing that government programs weaken personal responsibility and hobble economic progress. Still, the idea of a contract is very basic."
"What makes the failure over Katrina so unexpected is that while liberals and conservatives agreed about nothing else, they were supposed to have agreed that government should protect Americans from natural disaster."
"The most terrible price of Katrina - everyone can see this - was not the destruction of lives and property, terrible though this was. The worst of it was the damage done to the ties that bind Americans together."
Since the disaster of Katrina, the failure to respond has been blamed on negligence, incompetence and bureaucracy. As I watched the horror of the flooding and abandoned people in need, I couldn't help but think that the response (or lack thereof) was much more intentional.
Issues of race, class, poverty and politics were all factors, of course. Politics was part of the reason the Bush Administration responded ably during the election cycle to hurricane disasters in Florida. Race, class and poverty have been addressed in many commentaries assessing the manner in which the response was mishandled. These issues did play a part and cannot be minimized.
I think, however, it goes further. The federal non-response with Katrina was part of an understated, underlying agenda of the Administration, that the role of government does not extend to "helping people." That is the core belief of the "Starve the Beast" mentality, that individuals should not rely on government to help with their needs. This concept is somewhat radical, so the Administration is trying to gradually, quietly advance this theory. Social security reform is a variation on this theme. That is, you need to plan for your own retirement, the government won't be there to help you.
In my view, Katrina was a "testing of the waters" by the Administration, with a slow, wait and see approach to federal intervention. The initial response was consistent with this, with the federal government saying it was deferring to local and state authorities. It was only when public reaction was so horrified, so negative, that the Administration decided that it had to act. Realizing the extent to which it miscalculated the political fallout from this disaster, it could never acknowledge the deliberateness of this reaction. Better to respond (and shift blame) based upon incompetence than reveal the truth. The public's reaction demonstrated that we are not prepared to go it alone and gives me hope that the contract is not truly broken. It is just the Administration that has breached the contract with its people.
Monday, September 26, 2005
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Other than showing another example of the "Starve the Beast" mentality at work, this article that I read the other day from the LA Times, Limiting Government's Role, was puzzling.
For example, the authors observed that "Two days after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to issue emergency vouchers aimed at helping poor storm victims find new housing quickly. . . . But the department suddenly backed away from the idea after White House aides met with senior HUD officials. . . the administration focused instead on a plan for government-built trailer parks, an approach that even many Republicans say would concentrate poverty in the very fashion the government has long sought to avoid. . . .
"Instead of offering $10,000 vouchers, FEMA is paying an average of $16,000 for each trailer in the new parks it is contemplating. Even many Republicans wonder why the government would want to build trailer parks when many evacuees are now living in communities with plenty of vacant, privately owned apartments."
However, today when I read this piece in Common Dreams by Naomi Klein, Purging the Poor, it began to make more sense.
"New Orleans is already displaying signs of a demographic shift so dramatic that some evacuees describe it as 'ethnic cleansing.'"
"Rather than rebuild ghettos, New Orleans should be resettled with 'mixed income' housing, with rich and poor, black and white living side by side. . . . [But, this] urban integration could happen tomorrow, on a massive scale. Roughly 70,000 of New Orleans' poorest homeless evacuees could move back to the city alongside returning white homeowners, without a single new structure being built. . . thousands of livable homes were sitting empty."
Ahh yes. If vouchers are given out, the displaced poor could return to New Orleans and move in to those empty homes. But, this would in fact result in "mixed income" housing and, despite the expressed desire for this outcome, that is the last thing that many in those neighborhoods would want. A variation on the NAMBY theme -- not in my next door. Much better to built trailer parks for those people. Elsewhere. Even if it costs more.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
I'm a big fan of Bill Maher's New Rules, but his whole show is always interesting and funny. This skit, entitled Save Our Children (via One Good Move), is highly amusing. I won't say anything more. Just watch it.
Another Maher skit from the other night is equally hilarious, via Crooks and Liars.
Guest George Galloway said "I believe myself that George W. Bush is no kind of Christian, he's pretending to be a Christian. He's not found God, he's found the party of god. . . .Christians believe in Prophets, Peace be upon them. Bush believes in the profits and how to get a piece of them."
Bill Maher then mentions the National Enquirer rumor about Bush drinking again and lists the signs. Check it out. See also Americiablog: Bush Drinking Again.
The expected gay ban in the Catholic Church has "set off a wave of anger and sadness" within the ranks of many in the ministry, according to this article in the NYT, Gay Men Ponder Impact of Proposal by Vatican.
The story analyzes the impact of the ban on the Church by a number of priests, including one gay priest who made a comparison to being treated like Jews in Berlin in the '30s. Another mentioned a concern that this policy could cause a "Witch Hunt" within the clergy.
Without a doubt, however, the best contribution was from "[t]he Rev. John Trigilio Jr., president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, a conservative 400-member group based in Harrisburg, Pa., [who] said that barring gay men from seminaries was 'for their own good,' just as the church once barred epileptics from the priesthood. 'It's pretty much the same thing,' Father Trigilio said. 'The work and the ministry of the priesthood is going to be too demanding and will put a strain on them. He's going to have to spend five to eight years in a seminary where he's only going to be with men.'" (Emphasis added).
No, this is not a transcript from last night's Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It is a quote from Fr. Trigilio, an Opus Dei member, who is also the author of "Catholicism for Dummies."
Of course, you'd have to be a dummy to be his kind of Catholic, so I'm not sure you'd need to bother with the book. Oops, I also guess his book overlooked the fact that Pious IX should have been banned from the Church too, since he was an epileptic. Dummies don't need those details.
The Washington Note also gives a good overview of the hypocrisy of this bigoted policy. Blogger Steven Clemons describes his recent discussions with a Vatican insider, who estimated that 50% of cardinals and senior Church officials were gay. "When I asked whether homosexuals would be better served under Pope Benedict XVI than under John Paul II, he responded, 'Don't think that we will be any better served under a gay pope than a straight one.'"
The Note recommends "outing" Cardinals who encourage the gay ban. Um, wonder if that includes Popes? Let this Witch Hunt begin.
Waves of anger and sadness. Sort of sums up my sentiments towards today's church and Christianity in general. As a commenter to The Note noted, "Christianity has nothing to do with Christ and probably never has, unless Christ was a close-minded, misogynistic, war-loving, imperialistic, aggressive hater of anything he didn't understand or agree with." And no, he wasn't referring to George Bush. Just George's god.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Thursday, September 22, 2005
A NYT article on September 20, Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood, reminded me of my law school days (back in the dark ages, circa 1977) when the guys complained that women were taking up spots that could be filled by men who would work for a living, rather than women who would just spend a few years in the work force until they got a husband and family. I wasn't crazy about the stereotype then, and it doesn't resonate much more so today. I feel the same way if it's perpetrated by a female.
Jack Shafer, from Slate's on line magazine, has a few apt observations about the article in Weasel-Words Rip My Flesh!. Another blog also weighs in on the matter, in gelflog: media. Both note the problems with the survey and gelfog includes the questions that were asked.
I remember the days when growing up Catholic meant that you got to compare stories of nun "abuse" in grade school. Of course, the abuse consisted of things like a rap on the knuckles. Those stories and other tales of Catholic school life were also the grist of humorous novels, such as "Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?"
The Catholic Church in Philadelphia was taken to task in a scathing report issued yesterday by a Grand Jury investigating sexual abuse within the Church: An 'Immoral' Cover-up. The report details the years of abuse by a long list of priests and condemns the cover up by Church officials. "The grand jurors, who spent three years investigating, concluded that [former Cardinals] Krol and Bevilacqua were more concerned with protecting the reputation and legal and financial interests of the archdiocese than the children entrusted to its care."
The times, they sure have changed. Or not. Since this behavior has been going on for decades, I guess it existed then. We just didn't know about it.
The church's response? Now is not the time to play the "Blame Game." See Archdiocese Blasts Report. Current Cardinal Rigali said the report was "a vile, mean-spirited diatribe" driven by "unbridled cage-rattling and insidious pre-judgments about the Catholic Church," saying the Report is 'unfair'. What can you say in reply to something like that? Remember, cursing is a sin.
The Vatican also wants to deal with this scandal in its own inimitable manner. From the NYT: Vatican to Bar Gay Priests. Gay = pedophile, I guess, for the Church.
Will Bunch, who Blogs for the Philly Daily News, wonders how Rick Santorum will explain this little problem for the Church in Look what's in Rick Santorum's backyard.
UPDATE: John Baer, of the Daily News, wrote the perfect editorial on Friday, Stoke the flames. Normally, I'd only include an excerpt, but I'm going to make an exception here:
"KNOW what I hope?
I hope all those Catholic priests are right.
I hope there is a hell."
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
As anyone who knows me well could attest, I'm an avid sports fan and try to do as many activities as possible. I try to keep up with my husband and our respective families, who all love sports and participate in the full range of sports, from football to basketball, to marathons, tennis and golf. Running, tennis and skiing are my passion.*
My brother, who is the real sports nut in my family, is now writing a weekly column for the Scranton Times-Tribune on issues related to PT and sports. The Steamtown Marathon is coming up in the next few weeks, so he is doing a series of articles on issues related to running. Here's his latest column from Monday, September 19, on Blisters. A burning topic for the sports fanatic.
Sorry to say, his last column, on "Sports Bras," is not available on-line. My daughter asked me why her uncle would be writing about bras, and I told her that I always remember him being a breast man.
*OK, I confess. I cannot tell a lie (for long, anyway). My true passion is to avoid any form of participation or mention of sports.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Today’s Paul Krugman column, provides its usual on-target view of the Bush Administration and the current political environment. Unfortunately, the NYT instituted a new TimesSelect premium charge to view most editorials, so it not generally available. But, you can find it here.
Krugman discusses race and New Orleans, race and the Republican party:
"By three to one, African-Americans believe that federal aid took so long to arrive in New Orleans in part because the city was poor and black. By an equally large margin, whites disagree.
"But in a larger sense, the administration's lethally inept response to Hurricane Katrina had a lot to do with race. . . . Race, after all, was central to the emergence of a Republican majority: essentially, the South switched sides after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Today, states that had slavery in 1860 are much more likely to vote Republican than states that didn't.
"And who can honestly deny that race is a major reason America treats its poor more harshly than any other advanced country? To put it crudely: a middle-class European, thinking about the poor, says to himself, ''There but for the grace of God go I.'' A middle-class American is all too likely to think, perhaps without admitting it to himself, ''Why should I be taxed to support those people?''
"But let me not blame the Bush administration for everything. . . . Consider this: in the United States, unlike any other advanced country, many people fail to receive basic health care because they can't afford it. Lack of health insurance kills many more Americans each year than Katrina and 9/11 combined.
"But the health care crisis hasn't had much effect on politics. And one reason is that it isn't yet a crisis among middle-class, white Americans (although it's getting there). Instead, the worst effects are falling on the poor and black, who have third-world levels of infant mortality and life expectancy.
"I'd like to believe that Katrina will change everything. . . . But I wouldn't bet on it."
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Frank Rich, as always, pens the perfect column in the NYT. His comparison of the parting of the curtain exposing the Wizard of Oz to that of George Bush is brillant, as is the rest of the piece.
"The worst storm in our history proved perfect for exposing this president because in one big blast it illuminated all his failings: the rampant cronyism, the empty sloganeering of "compassionate conservatism," the lack of concern for the "underprivileged" his mother condescended to at the Astrodome, the reckless lack of planning for all government operations except tax cuts, the use of spin and photo-ops to camouflage failure and to substitute for action."
Saturday, September 17, 2005
This is a MUST read from Daily Kos. One could only hope that he is correct about this being the beginning of the end for the Republican party. After the atrocities in New Orleans (not to mention Iraq, etc) they deserve nothing less. The expression that keeps coming to mind is that this is "man's inhumanity to man" exposed for all to see.
I would love to reprint the whole article, but here are a few of the many gems:
"I honestly believe that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the so-called conservative movement, and the Republican Party that it currently inhabits. The slow-motion horror that the nation is witnessing on the flooded streets of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is the final, irrefutable evidence that the GOP is not fit to govern this great nation.
"Democrats and liberals have watched in apoplectic horror as Republicans have gained ground at all levels of government despite hard evidence of corruption, incompetence, and failure. Foolishly, we, navel-gazers that we often are, have thought that the trend was about us; something that we were doing wrong.
"Well, we have erred, but not in the way that we usually think. . .The Republicans haven't been winning because they have a better plan or sounder policies. They have been winning because they have spent billions of dollars on a coordinated media campaign to make a slim majority of voting America feel good about the worst aspects of their natures.
"How hard is it really to convince people that being selfish is the way to go? Where is the higher calling in predatory greed? What invention is required to pander to the lust for revenge?. Where is the challenge in stoking people's fears about personal safety, or in feeding the flames of prejudice?
"Tragedy has a way of revealing character. The constant drumbeat of death from the war in Iraq, and now the cascading nightmare that is the Gulf Coast flood has peeled away the veneer and we can see the GOP leadership and the larger conservative movement for what it is: a sham. They have nothing. They offer nothing. They come to destroy, not to build. They have no vision for a greater public good because, for them, the very notion of a public good is anathema.
"Make no mistake: as we watch our fellow citizens drown, starve, and die in the street in New Orleans, its not incompetence or lack of planning that is killing them. It is willful neglect. It is the direct result of reducing the government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." This is what "starving the beast" looks like."
Truly, read the whole thing. It's well worth it.
Like Paul Krugman at the NYT, E. J. Dionne at the Washington Post almost always puts things in the right perspective for me. He did it again with, The Case For a 'No' Vote on Roberts
I have to admit that I have been mostly ignoring the Roberts' hearings. Basically, I believe that he knows exactly what he needs to do - look pretty and say nothing - and he's done an excellent job with that, so he's going to be confirmed. Knowing that, why waste my time watching (or reading) nothing. But Dionne does explain the danger in that (not that it will matter at all).
Another must see. One Good Move shows the latest Bill Maher - New Rules. Evil
A few highlights:
Is George Bush purely evil? Of course not. And that's what so evil about him. He doesn't twirl a mustache and smirk and cackle. . .Well, he doesn't twirl a mustache.
He's like the Peanuts character, Pigpen. Wherever he goes, he stirs up such a humongous mess, it can only be cleaned up by Halliburton.
Friday, September 16, 2005
Seems like once the dam broke (pun intended) about the "Real George," everybody felt like they didn't want to miss out (including me, gleefully). Here are a few other samples:
Dan Froomkin, in Monday's White House Briefing in the Washington Post, Now They Tell Us, notes that the articles reveal: "Bush is in fact fidgety, cold and snappish in private. He yells at those who dare give him bad news and is therefore not surprisingly surrounded by an echo chamber of terrified sycophants. He is slow to comprehend concepts that don't emerge from his gut. He is uncomprehending of the speeches that he is given to read."
In A Tale of Two Presidents, Salon's Aaron Kinney (Subscription or day pass needed) describes an incurious president who is cut off from reality. No?? What a shock!
I can't wait for the tell-all book by the twins.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Who pulled the short straw & had to deliver the bad news? See How Bush Blew It
An article in today's Guardian, The petulant president, by Sidney Blumenthal, also touches on the persona problem.
"The deepest wound is not that he was incapable of defending the country but that he has shown he lacked the will to do so. In Bush's own evangelical language, he revealed his heart. The press disclosed a petulant, vacillating president . . . Time magazine described a "rigid and top-down" White House where aides are petrified to deliver bad news to a "yelling" president. Newsweek reported that, two days after the hurricane, top aides, who "cringe" before Bush, met to decide which of them would be assigned the miserable task of telling him he would have to cut short his vacation."
Note that the emphasis is on cutting short his vacation, not the devastation of New Orleans. Says it all.
Check out these two songs re: Katrina & Bush's response.
One is an updated (audio) version of "Help" by the Beatles, Katrina style, at Crooks and Liars
The other is a video version of Kanye West's "Gold Digger." A hip hop group adds a voice over the original song Five Damn Days. Note: Parental advisory as to some of the language. Of course, my warning is for the delicate ears of the parents, since the kids listen to this junk all the time.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
One Good Move always has the best videos. Bill Maher's recent New Rule is a definite don't miss: George of the Bungle
As OGM says:
"Bill Maher making the case that Dub would welcome a recall. I kid, but seriously Mr. President, this job cant' be fun for you anymore. There's no more money to spend. You used up all of that. You can't start another war because you also used up the army, and now darn the luck the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare, helping poor people."
As a so-called "techie" (or as my daughter prefers to say, a dork), I've been asked by friends for the site of my blog.
No blog, I say. I read 'em, don't write 'em.
Well, I said the same thing about having a cat. Even more so about having a dog. Wrong yet again.
So here it is. Here I am. I finally joined the club. It's my on-line version of posting articles and cartoons on the fridge at the office.