Friday, September 30, 2005

William Bennett is NUTS

As you've probably gathered over the past year, President Bush and I don't agree on many things. I wonder sometimes if there are things outside of politics, such as flavors of BBQ Sauce or favorite brands of beer, where old W and I might find common ground. Perhaps Bush also enjoyed the movie Billy Madison, as I did. One particular news item this week, gave me particular hope that the President and I might actually agree on something related to politics.

That something is our judgement of comments made by former Secretary of Education and Virtue Guru William Bennett. I have included as much of his comments as I can find below, so that we don't get accused of taking Bennett's interesting perspective out of context (article):
“But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if
that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country,
and your crime rate would go down,” said Bennett, author of “The Book of
Virtues.” He went on to call that “an impossible, ridiculous and morally
reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out,
these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.”
Bennett later said that his comments were taken out of context because he was not actually suggesting that all black women be forced to have abortions in order to lower the crime rate in this country because that would be immoral. No kidding?

The problem with Bennett's comments is not that I believe he was ACTUALLY suggesting mandatory abortions for all blacks as a policy. Not that such a position coming from him would surprise me. Rather, the problem with Bennett's comment is that it implies a favorite thesis of conservative morons that somehow black people are to blame for the crime problem in this country.

It's far too deep a topic to discuss in this format, but if you're interested in a well-written paper on the subject check out this paper, which discusses the differences in incaceration rates between whites, blacks and hispanics, and how those should not be used as measures of actual crime, as they often are in the mainstream media. Rather, the fact that poor and minority individuals often can't afford legal representation or don't understand the legal system might have more to do with who is in jail than who pulls the trigger more often.

Where Bush and I agree is that Bennett's comments are ridiculous. It's a little scary that it had to come to something this extreme for us to see eye to eye, but I'm glad that the President isn't so loyal to his former cronies that he would try to defend Bennett's statements. I was afraid he might try.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Without DeLay

Way back in April, you may recall a discussion on this very website about GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and an impending investigation into the legality of campaign contributions that his Political Action Committee received from corporations. In Texas, it against the law for political candidates to receive money from corporations. DeLay and other GOP members in Texas took money from corporations in order to pay for their political campaigns. Seems pretty clear cut to me...

Finally this week, DeLay was indicted for his role. The GOP response has been interesting. First, the GOP responded angrily calling it a political game. DeLay himself categorically denied any wrongdoing. After all, the Prosecutor in Texas, Ronnie Earle, who is bringing the indictment against DeLay is a DEMOCRAT, which apparently disqualifies him from prosecuting criminals like DeLay, who don't share his political views.

While only time will tell about the outcome of DeLay's indictment, some interesting events have already transpired. Republicans have started to return money that was received from DeLay's PAC. Boy, isn't that interesting behavior from a group who apparently doesn't believe the charges levelled against their leader? If Republicans are giving back money, chances are they are doing so only to avoid indictments themselves. After all, if the money was obtained within the law, why give it back? The only thing Republicans love more than keeping abortion legal to be used as a political tool is money, so this is a pretty significant sign of what we're dealing with here.

DeLay's court date is set for three weeks from now. He should have plenty of time to prepare, since he's stepped down as House Majority Leader.

If you want a litmus test for your friends who are Republicans, to see if they are good people who happen to have different beliefs than you or crazy assholes who would defend President Bush if he ate a Jewish baby, see how they react when DeLay is convicted. If they admit what he did was wrong, you know you're dealing with a reasonable individual, despite their unenlightened view of politics. If they're still defending him after he's convicted, suggest that they seek professional help to get Bush's cock removed from their ass.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Blame Game

I have to say that it's been quite entertaining to hear some of the crap that comes out of the mouth of ex-FEMA cheif Michael Brown since the debacle that was his agency's handling of Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. If you recall, Brown initially blamed the poor and disabled people of New Orleans for not jumping in their cars and fleeing the city after a mandatory evacuation order was placed before Katrina made landfall. It was at that point that I realized how much of an asshole this guy really is.

Today's Congressional Hearing offerred an opportunity for some other wonderful quotes from Brown, and some downright awesome exchanges between Brown and members of the comittee:

"And while my heart goes out to people on fixed incomes, it is primarily a state and local responsibility. And in my opinion, it's the responsibility of faith-based organizations, of churches and charities and others to help those people." _ Michael Brown, former FEMA director.

While there is no doubt that churches and faith-based organizations have provided more than FEMA did in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, that is a FRIGHTENING quote from a guy whose job it is to coordinate federal management efforts after natural disasters. Would he suggest that churches should have gotten together and put out the fires and rounded up the terrorists after the World Trade Center bombings? Given the number of people without food, clothing and shelter in the aftermath of Katrina, churches and faith-based organizations are obviously not equipped to handle this sort of thing without additional support.

In the words of Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss:
"What part of the FEMA plan envisioned that the first responders in Hancock County and much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast would have to loot the local grocery store and loot the local Wal-Mart in order to feed themselves, would have to loot the local Wal-Mart in order to have a change of clothes?"

The irony behind all of this is that one the same page discussing the hearings on Capitol Hill there are still thousands of people affected by Hurricane Rita who don't have access to basis services. Wasn't our response supposed to be better this time? I guess we're too busy trying to figure out who to blame to fix anything. While the President rides around the country burning jet fuel and reminding all of us to conserve gas, I guess anything is possible.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Why I am tired of Fiscal/Economic Conservatives

The President's less than stellar job approval rating among Americans has provided an opportunity for me to have some pretty interesting discussions lately about the President. Recall that I live in the conservative homeland that is Nebraska. While it's not as far gone as say Utah or Wyoming, Nebraska isn't exactly a haven for progressive individuals like myself. The one benefit is that I have plenty of crap to write about on this website.

With the President's job approval rating so low, it means that it can't just be the usual Bush-haters that don't approve of his abysmal policies and wait and see approach to hurricane relief. Even conservative die-hards are starting to voice their dissent. In a bar last night, I encountered one such individual, a self-proclaimed fiscal/economic conservative and social "moderate". Aside from a difficulty setting on Mortal Kombat 3 for Sega Genesis, I have no idea what moderate means. I think maybe it means "I am a conservative who wants to be perceived as compassionate."

This individual complained that he is unhappy with President Bush, despite supporting him less than a year ago in the election of 2004. Why? His continued ignorance regarding the reality of how long we will have troops in Iraq? Nope. The bungled response to Hurriance Katrina? Keep guessing, this list could keep going for a while. This guy is unhappy with Bush because of his out of control government spending.

This is not an uncommon sentiment among "true" conservatives. By "true" I mean those of you who would sell your first-born child for an unchecked free market economy or the elimination of the estate tax. I think it's hilarious Bush is even allowed to consider himself a conservative, given the fact that he still hasn't outlawed abortion or controlled spending, despite the fact that it's been well within his power to do so. The best part about this is that conservatives have no one to blame but themselves.

You can't blame to Democrats in Congress, since they would need the Republicans there to vote through any spending packages. Bush has yet to veto any spending packages that have crossed his desk in 5 years. Could it be that all the conservatives out there who thought they were voting for a true conservative were duped?

The scariest part is that these fiscal conservative assholes had to wait through thousands of innocent people being killed in Iraq, before they finally got upset about Bush's out of control budgetary policies. What's even worse is that there are still some people out there who think Bush is doing a great job. How self-righteous does a person have to be for them not to be able to admit how horrible this guy has done as our President? Is it that important to be right that you're willing to put your own righteousness ahead of the well-being of fellow American citizens?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

I think it's a huge mistake to play political games with a national tragedy like Hurricane Katrina. However, in a situation where federal policies and the response of federal agencies was so inadequate that people's lives were lost as a result of that incompentance, something needs to be said. Molly Ivins said it much better than I could have in the Chicago Tribune:

Molly Ivins: 'Why New Orleans is in deep water'

AUSTIN, Texas -- Like many of you who love New Orleans, I find myself taking short mental walks there today, turning a familiar corner, glimpsing a favorite scene, square or vista. And orrying about the beloved friends and the city, and how they are now.

To use a fine Southern word, it's tacky to start playing the blame game before the dead are even counted. It is not too soon, however, to make a point that needs to be hammered home again and again, and that is that government policies have real consequences in people's lives.

This is not "just politics" or blaming for political advantage. This is about the real consequences of what governments do and do not do about their responsibilities. And about who winds up paying the price for those policies.

This is a column for everyone in the path of Hurricane Katrina who ever said, "I'm sorry, I'm just not interested in politics," or, "There'snothing I can do about it," or, "Eh, they're all crooks anyway."

Nothing to do with me, nothing to do with my life, nothing I can do about any of it. Look around you this morning. I suppose the National Rifle Association would argue, "Government policies don't kill people, hurricanes kill people." Actually, hurricanes plus government policies kill people. One of the main reasons New Orleans is so vulnerable to hurricanes is the gradual isappearance of the wetlands on the Gulf Coast that once stood as a natural buffer between the city and torms coming in from the water. The disappearance of those wetlands does not have the name ofa political party or a particular administration attached to it. No one wants to play, "The Democrats did it," or, "It's all Reagan's fault." Many environmentalists will tell you more than a century's interference with the natural flow of the Mississippi is the root cause of the problem, cutting off the movement of alluvial soil to the river's delta.

But in addition to long-range consequences of long-term policies like letting the Corps of engineers try to build a better river than God, there are real short-term consequences, as well. It is a fact that the Clinton administration set some tough policies on wetlands, and it is a fact that the Bush administration repealed those policies--ordering federal agencies to stop protecting as many as 20 million acres of wetlands.

Last year, four environmental groups cooperated on a joint report showing the Bush Administration's policies had allowed developers to drain thousands of acres of wetlands.

Does this mean we should blame President Bush for the fact that New Orleans is underwater? No, but it means we can blame Bush when a Category 3 or Category 2 hurricane puts New Orleans under. At this point, it is a matter of making a bad situation worse, of failing to observethe First Rule of Holes (when you're in one, stop digging).

Had a storm the size of Katrina just had the grace to hold off for a while, it's quite likely no one would even remember what the Bush administration did two months ago. The national press corps has the attention span of a gnat, and trying to get anyone in Washington to remember longer than a year ago is like asking them what happened in Iznik, Turkey, in A.D. 325.

Just plain political bad luck that, in June, Bush took his little ax and chopped $71.2 million from the budget of the New Orleans Corps of Engineers, a 44 percent reduction. As was reported in New Orleans CityBusiness at the time, that meant "major hurricane and flood projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now."

The commander of the corps' New Orleans district also immediately instituted a hiring freeze and canceled the annual corps picnic. Our friends at the Center for American Progress note the Office of Technology Assessment used to produce forward-thinking plans such as "Floods: A National Policy Concern" and "A Framework for Flood Hazards Management." Unfortunately, the office was targeted by Newt Gingrich and the Republican right, and gutted years ago.

In fact, there is now a governmentwide movement away from basing policy on science, expertise and professionalism, and in favor of choices based on ideology. If you're wondering what the ideological position on flood management might be, look at the pictures of New Orleans--it seems to consist of gutting the programs that do anything.

Unfortunately, the war in Iraq is directly related to the devastation left by the hurricane. About 35 percent of Louisiana's National Guard is now serving in Iraq, where four out of every 10 soldiers are guardsmen.

Recruiting for the Guard is also down significantly because people are afraid of being sent to Iraq if they join, leaving the Guard even more short-handed.

The Louisiana National Guard also notes that dozens of its high-water vehicles, Humvees, refuelers and generators have also been sent abroad. (I hate to be picky, but why do they need high-water vehicles in Iraq?)

This, in turn, goes back to the original policy decision to go into Iraq without enough soldiers and the subsequent failure to admit that mistake and to rectify it by instituting a draft.

The levees of New Orleans, two of which are now broken and flooding the city, were also victims of Iraq war spending. Walter Maestri, emergencymanagement chief for Jefferson Parish, said on June 8, 2004, "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq."

This, friends, is why we need to pay attention to government policies, not political personalities, and to know whereon we vote. It is about our lives.

Monday, September 05, 2005

How time flies....

I have to apologize for not posting for almost 3 weeks. A lot of interesting crap has happened since that last angry post about VD. Here are a sampling of email that I have received:

"Did you die in Hurricane Katrina?"

No. I live in Nebraska. If I did die in Hurricane Katrina, would sending me an email tell you anything?

"I am glad to see you've finally stopped posting crap on this page. You must have gotten the message that people don't like to read crap. I bet you got sick of having like 2 hits a week. Blogs suck, and yours sucks hardest of all."

You wish, dicklicker. I'm back with a vengence. I made it very clear in the beginning that if I didn't have something to write, I wouldn't waste your time. Time is something I haven't had a lot of lately, but things are starting to settle down. If my site sucks, don't read it. For the amount of time it took you to write that email, you could have donated money to the Red Cross, mentored a child, or jerked off a donkey. This site may suck, but the fact that you're reading it says more about you than it does about me.

"I'm surprised that you haven't posted anything on Hurricane Katrina. The feds are fucking this up badly. People are starving to death. Doesn't that piss you off enough to write SOMETHING?"

The situation with the Hurricane was simple. I was feeling like complete shit about it in the first place. I have friends in New Orleans, who are thankfully safe, but I have to say that I was really disgusted with the media coverage of the whole thing. Except Robert Siegel of National Public Radio, who took Secretary of Homeland Security Direction Chertoff to task about the lack of federal response on air. If everyone had been like Robert Siegel, the government might have felt compelled to do something aside from fly over the scene in Air Force One.

"I usually check your site once or twice a week to see what has been written, but lately you've been MIA? Is this the end for the Angry Midget?"

No. As long as people continue to read this and I have something to write about, it will continue. Once people stop reading it or I start to sound like a broken record, that's when it ends. Plain and simple. Let's not read too much into this. I would much rather spend time writing profanity and talking about pirates, than I would analyzing how often I post to this damned site.

Thanks for your concern, and for continuing to write when you think I may have been swallowed by a Hurricane or sold to a Latvian Circus. Happy Labor Day.