mercredi, septembre 28, 2005

Who's that Pretty Blogger in that Mirror There? (The What Mirror Where Remix)

I’m giddy today, and I don’t care who knows it.

I just deplaned after a very short trip to NY/NJ (how short? No suitcase short). I flew into JFK because the ticket there was $400, and the ticket to Newark (much closer to where I was going) was $1400. And my '05 T & E budget is starting to dry up, friends. Anyway, I had a nice, scenic trip from my hotel to the airport; the city just charmed me (again).

At JFK this morning, a young man, fully regaled in Raider gear (top to bottom, and it was so clean there is no way it has been washed) came out of the McDonald’s in Terminal 4, showed me a Styrofoam cup with dark brown fluid in it and asked me:

Him: “What is this”
Me: “Coffee?”
Him: “And what is this” – showing me a paper cup with small frozen blocks of ice in it.
Me: “A cup of ice.”
Him: “Can’t drink this (lifts coffee). It’s too f---in’ hot. That’s how come they got sued.”
Me: “And that's how come you got ice.”
Him: “And that's how come I got ice. You’s smart, but I’s smart too. What's happenin? How you livin'...?"

And then we talked for awhile. I made no pretense about being cool or hip, and he seemed to make not notice of the fact that I am totally square (is that what the kids say these days?), though I'm sure he did notice, he didn't betray it. And I really enjoyed our conversation.

After we took off, we made a loop over the water and then circled back to give an amazing view of Manhattan from about 10,000 feet. It occurred to me that after all these years, all my trips to NYC were either by train (from D.C.) or brought me in under cloud cover, so I had never seen that particular view.

And it was amazing to me. I got a sense for how big Central Park is (from the ground it's huge - from the sky, expressed in proportion to the island itself, it's unreal), and it really made my heart sing. Seriously, it has to be the most expensive stretch of single-use real estate in the world. And realizing how long it has stood undisturbed, and how long it has existed without being developed, I was suddenly filled with this sense that our human race might make it after all. Man, we’ve blown it plenty of times (and my giddiness will ebb if I start to think about it), but every once in awhile we get it just right.

Other things contribute to my giddiness.

I was upgraded on the way home, which I don’t really care about, but I had lunch (and I was hungry and, amazingly, the lunch was vegetarian).

A man, a few rows up studied the Talmud, and I wanted to talk to him.

An AfAm man one row up read Welch’s new book, Winning, and I wanted to talk to him.

An AfAm woman across the row from me worked on her laptop. She looked like an AfAm Carly Fiorina, and I wanted to talk to her.

An Asian woman had two seats and spent the time composing music (with headphones, and what I wouldn’t have given to hear her composition) on a synthesizer.

On the way to NYC, I read “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and happened upon what is, in my view, a single paragraph that displays Capote’s genius (for a single story that displays his genius, read “A Christmas Memory”). It is excerpted here:

“Mag Wildwood couldn’t understand it, the abrupt absence of warmth on her return; the conversations she began behaved like green logs, they fumed but would not fire. More unforgivably, people were leaving without taking her phone number. The Air Force colonel decamped while her back was turned, and this was the straw too much: he’d asked her to dinner. Suddenly she was blind. And since gin to artifice bears the same relation as tears to mascara, her attractions at once dissembled. She took it out on everyone…”

Anyway, the funny young man, the view, the park, my fellow passengers in all their rich diversity and excellence, the horrible tease of seeing music composed but not hearing it, re-reading the Capote section and writing it in my Moleskine…well… it all made me feel really good about people. We are so different and so the same. We do phenomenal things sometimes. We make machines that fly and parks that exalt. We make art. And yes, I’m tempted to counterbalance it with all the horrible things we do, but today, I’m not gonna do it.

I’m giddy today. I don’t care who knows it, and I hope that, as you read this, a small little dash of happiness finds its way to you.

jeudi, septembre 22, 2005

Moral Dilemma

With appreciation to my brother-in-law (who's kinda cool)

This test only has one question, but it's a very important one. By giving an honest answer, you will discover where you stand morally.

The test features an unlikely, completely fictional situation in which you will have to make a decision.

Remember that your answer needs to be honest, yet spontaneous.

You are in Florida, Miami to be specific. There is chaos all around you caused by a hurricane with severe flooding. This is a flood of biblical proportions. You are a photojournalist working for a major newspaper, and you're caught in the middle of this epic disaster.

The situation is nearly hopeless. You're trying to shoot career-making photos. There are houses and people swirling around you, some disappearing under the water. Nature is unleashing all of its destructive fury.

Suddenly you see a man floundering in the water. He is fighting for his life, trying not to be taken downwith the debris. You move closer. Somehow the man looks familiar.

You suddenly realize who it is.

It's George W Bush!

At the same time you notice that the raging waters are about to pull him under. You have two options--you can save the life of G.W.Bush or you can shoot a dramatic Pulitzer Prize winning photo, documenting the death of one of the world's most powerful men.

So here's the question, and please give an honest answer:

Would you select high contrast color film, or would you go with the classic simplicity of black and white?

mercredi, septembre 21, 2005

A Letter from the Poet Sharon Olds to the First Lady, Laura Bush

Laura Bush
First Lady
The White House

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on September 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House.

In one way, it's a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring! The possibility of finding new readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, and in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents--all of us who need the pleasure, and the inner and outer news, it delivers.

And the concept of a community of readers and writers has long been dear to my heart. As a professor of creative writing in the graduate school of a major university, I have had the chance to be a part of some magnificent outreach writing workshops in which our students have become teachers. Over the years, they have taught in a variety of settings: a women's prison, several New York City public high schools, an oncology ward for children. Our initial program, at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely physically challenged, has been running now for twenty years, creating along the way lasting friendships between young MFA candidates and their students--long-term residents at the hospital who, in their humor, courage and wisdom, become our teachers.

When you have witnessed someone nonspeaking and almost nonmoving spell out, with a toe, on a big plastic alphabet chart, letter by letter, his new poem, you have experienced, close up, the passion and essentialness of writing. When you have held up a small cardboard alphabet card for a writer who is completely nonspeaking and nonmoving (except for the eyes), and pointed first to the A, then the B, then C, then D, until you get to the first letter of the first word of the first line of the poem she has been composing in her head all week, and she lifts her eyes when that letter is touched to say yes, you feel with a fresh immediacy the human drive for creation, self-expression, accuracy, honesty and wit--and the importance of writing, which celebrates the value of each person's unique story and song.

So the prospect of a festival of books seemed wonderful to me. I thought of the opportunity to talk about how to start up an outreach program. I thought of the chance to sell some books, sign some books and meet some of the citizens of Washington, DC. I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture and another country--with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain--did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made "at the top" and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and religious chauvinism--the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to.

I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness--as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing--against this undeclared and devastating war.

But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.

What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting "extraordinary rendition": flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us.

So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.



mardi, septembre 20, 2005

Four Photos from our Vacation to Hilton Head/Coastal Georgia/Savannah (Metro Area)

At one end of a parking lot just outside of Savannah, Georgia... the other end of that same parking lot.

My mother-in-law's cousin has an 800 foot pier off his backyard, this is him (and his son) casting a net into a school of mullet.

A bird outside of a restaurant near Brunswick, Georgia.

When It Rains It Pours

Favored corporations are doing really well in the wake of Katrina.

Disfavored workers are not doing really well in the wake of Katrina.

[Closed circuit to the Gulf Coast working class from President Bush - " you lost your house and everything. There's good news and bad news. The good news is that we're going to put you to work rebuilding your little city there. The bad news your wages...yeah, I'm going to go ahead and need you to take a little pay cut...we kinda over-committed to the Shaw Group, Bechtel and Halliburton and everything. Yeah...sorry about that."]

Ah yes, the Republican party, the party of the people. Pretty much everything Bush does just strengthens the working class and undercuts corporations and the supremely wealthy. If he hated the rich any more, I'm sure they would cry. Hey corporations: you had your day, Bush is our President now, and he's a man of the people!

But it's all good because, with each passing day under Bush, we are becoming more and know, as a country and everything.

A Blog Q & A That's Making the Rounds

Cross posted to Pandyland.

Ten Years Ago: I was working in downtown Minneapolis at a law firm on the 40th floor of the then, First Bank building and buying a duplex near Minnehaha Creek with my girlfriend, my best friend, and his wife. I won't jump forward in time, but I think the Feng Shui was goofy in that place.

Five Years Ago: I was working as a Sales Associate at the company where I still work. And (here comes the awwwwwwww moment. Ready?) Three days away from my wedding to Mrs. Duf. Because the post below does not answer it, I'll tell you why we got married. It was not because of love, although we love each other very much; it was not because of financial gains, although, sadly there are financial benefits to being married that are not available to all couples; it was not to have a child - although we did. I think it was symbolic. We wanted to merge our histories and our families and create a new family representative of where we'd come from. We both changed our last names to a hyphenated name as an extension of that philosophy. Mrs. Duf may have a different reason. I'll ask her.

One Year Ago: We were getting settled into our current home, and I was a Vikings fan and a Twins fan. But no more!

Yesterday: I was getting settled in our current home. I found out at work that I lost a political battle. I was opposed on a reporting structure issue by a VP and an SVP. I felt a new resource should report to me, they felt the new resource should report to the VP. As part of all this, the SVP said to my boss (the COO) that the new resource would get more/better guidance from the VP - which really hurt my pride. My boss told me that he was looking to me to "be the bigger person." Which is the same thing he told me the last time I got screwed.

Five Songs I Know All the Words To: "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugar Hill gang; "Fake Plastic Trees" by Radiohead (okay 90% of the Radiohead catalogue); "Can't Get There from Here" by R.E.M. (okay 100% of the pre-1990 R.E.M. catalogue); "New Years Day" by U2 (okay, 90% of the U2 catalogue); "Poor Places" by Wilco (okay, 1000% of the Wilco catalogue).

Five Snacks: Dry roasted peanuts, dry roasted sunflower seeds, Sun Chips (the cheesey ones), french fries, vanilla ice cream.

Five Things I'd Do With $100 Million: Build a greenhouse for my wife, finance my brother's movies, build an architecturally significant house on my current property, start a foundation called Full Ride which would send 100 kids to college every year, and start a non-profit called the DPDP or DP2 (the death penalty defense project).

Five Places I'd Run Away To: Lawrence, Kansas; NYC; San Fran; Seward, Alaska; Vancouver, British Columbia.

Five Things I'd Never Wear: A Bush/Cheney shirt, leather, striped pants, hip shoes, well-ironed clothes.

Five Favorite TV Shows: CBS Sunday Morning; The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; Big Break IV: USA v. Europe; Wifeswap; and Rock Star INXS (I know what you're thinking HAL and SHUT IT!)

Five Greatest Joys: Dinner with friends, golfing with my wife or with friends, quiet nights at home, a great read, and a certain unmentionable something that will go unstated here (this is a family blog).

Five Favorite Toys: My Callaway Big Bertha II driver; my daughter's remote control race car; my iPod (sorry HAL); my clock collection; and my bicycle.

lundi, septembre 19, 2005

Why "The Brothers Karamazov" Should be Banned in Schools

So I'm reading "The Brothers Karamazov" these days, and in the middle of Book V, the chapter titled "The Brothers Get Acquainted" - you know, the one where Aloysha and Ivan meet at the restaurant and discuss Dmitry and religion - well in the middle of that, I happen across these lines:

There's still an awful lot of centripedal force on our planet, Aloysha. Life wants to be lived, and I live it, even though it goes against logic. Very well, so I don't believe in the order of things, but the sticky (icky)* leaf buds that open in the spring are dear to me, as is the blue sky, as are certain people whom, would you believe it, sometimes one loves and knows not why, and as are certain human achievements in which one may perhaps have ceased to have any faith, but which for old time's sake one treasures in one's heart.

And you can't tell me that Dostoyevsky wasn't part of some early "legalize it" movement.

Still a lot of centripedal force?
Life wants to be lived, and I live it?
Sticky (icky) leaf buds?

Man, that's not even subtle.

* Though it is not my intention to embarrass famed translator David McDuff, he really spaced it here. Yes, it is beyond clear that Dostoyevsky alludes to the famed 1828 Pushkin poem "Yeshcho duyut kholodnye vetry..." but how baked was McDuff to miss the true science that sweet, sweet Fyodor was dropping down? "[I]cky" is implied in the original text, and I hope it will be included in future Penguin editions.

What I Answered

A few days ago, my four year-old daughter asked me a fairly straightforward question. She asked:

Why do people get married?

I suspect that in a lot of homes that would be an easy question to answer: "Before mommy and daddy got married they were just going steady. Then they loved each other very much and wanted to have a baby, so they got married..."

But for me it was tricky.

  • I didn't want to restrict it to heterosexual couples;
  • I didn't want to explain it as a setting for having children;
  • I didn't want to romanticize it; but
  • I had to keep it simple; my daughter has a surprisingly high intolerance for any conversations about tax policy.
So I said:

"Some people decide they want to have just one sweetie for a long time so they get married. But you can have just one sweetie for your whole life and not be married, and there are a lot of people who are a family and have a baby and love each other but never get married."

And then, after a few minutes (and a conversation about why I was not playing a CD (the disc player in my car is broken) but we were listening to music on the radio instead), my daughter asked me:

What is radio?

vendredi, septembre 16, 2005

I'm a Posting Fool Today

You are Rerun!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by


These are three photos from our company golf outing last Saturday. We did not "win all the monies." ...not even close.

This is me at the moment my chip came to a complete stop two inches from the cup. What I'm asking is "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" HAL is in the background asking herself if she is going to have to carry me on her back all day long.

This is me moments later, a poor repentant sinner.

And this is me on the first tee box visualizing my tee shot. I love this picture. We have a colleague who is a gifted photographer, and he took all the photos. This one is now poster sized, and is, embarassingly enough, hanging right outside of my workstation.

Presidency by the Numbers: 1...2...3...It's as Easy to Learn as Your ABC's...

From ABC just before the President's reading last night - "the White House wanted to make sure we told you that all the lights you see tonight are provided by generators supplied by the White House."


If only he'd made the reading from the Superdome in the early days. Those folks might have had lights and AC.

There were elements of the reading that I liked. I liked that it had lots of information for storm victims. I liked that he took care to mention areas besides New Orleans. I liked the references to the Chicago fire and the San Fran earthquake.

But there is a lot that bugged me.

First, I'm really tired of made-for-TV events around Presidential speeches.

Act One, Scene One,
New Orleans, Prime Time

President walks alone, but presidentially across well-lit, freshly mown, but presidential lawn. He wears no tie, no jacket...though presidential, he is a man of the poeple. He begins a dramatic and presidential reading...

Second, there are Presidential speech conventions that are beginning to drive me nuts:

(a) the tendency to mention specific people and heroic or noble or extraordinary acts. "So and so was about to be robbed in their home and took in the would-be robbers and 15 other people besides..." In the State of the Union addresses, it's made for applause "...stand up, so and so...", and it gets very old, in readings, it just comes across as Presidency by the numbers, 1...2...3...

(b) subtle Christian references (like the one cited above - nice turning of the other cheek so and so) and words like "grace" that are used to reference a deity (and it ain't allah and it ain't the earth mother neither).

(c) The endings are now so required that you can't even deviate from them when you should "...and my God bless America." (Take that, pledge of allegiance haters!) I would have loved it if he would have read "May God bless all who have suffered a loss from this storm; may God bless this earth. I'm going to go rejoin Kyoto."

Dare to dream, I say. Dare to dream.

Third, I'm fully convinced that the President goes where he is told to go and says what he is told to say.

Aide: "Sir, you must leave Crawford."

Bushy: "Why? I got two days left."

Aide: "Well with the hurricane and all."

Bushy: "This isn't a hurricane, it's an iced tea."

Aide: "Funny sir. But I meant hurricane Katrina."

Bush: "I'm sure Brownie's on it, where's my bike?"

Aide: "Sir, I'm afraid I must insist. Also sir, start reviewing your talking points, this storm has 'PR disaster' written all over it."

Fourth, in the wake of the potty break request and in the wake of an inept response to this tragedy (the President himself said (in a debate with Al Gore) that catastrophes "are a chance to test your mettle"), can we now officially conclude that this President is an embarrassment? Can we now officially declare that he has been weighed and measured and that he has been found wanting?

What I wouldn't have given for the slightest impression that the President wrote even a phrase of what he read last night. How much I would give if he read the portions that needed to be read (here's where you get help) but spoke from the heart for the rest. How much I wouldn't give for a President who was even capable of such things.

Last night's reading had three basic components:

(a) here's where you get help.

(b) acknowledgement that the storm was bad (although I think he attempted to make the storm into a person by describing it as "cruel and wasteful" - thus making it blameworthy) but moreso recognition that people are great, strike that...recognition that American people are great.

(c) to tell people what his team's plan is in response to the storm (which did not include the call for an independent review).

The first one is about information. The last two are about image. If the government were doing its job, then the first would be unnecessary (how many vicitims had TVs or care what the President had to say? How many can get to a computer to access referenced web sites?). If the actions were there, we wouldn't need a reading to tell us about them. And action in response to a crisis should be plainly obvious.

Make no mistake, therefore, about the primary mission of the reading. It was not to assure the storm victims, it was not to direct them to assistance. It was a rescue mission plain and simple, and the only thing they are trying to rescue is the image of the President.

jeudi, septembre 15, 2005

What Would You Have Answered?

A Prelude to What I Want to Ask You

Yesterday, my daughter (a.k.a. "TinyE") and I went to dinner for her favorite meal - "chips and cheese." You may know them as nachos. She likes to get her nachos at Boca Chica's Taco House and within that, she prefers the Maplewood location to the St. Paul location (better gumball machines). I prefer St. Paul because of the mural.

At the restaurant, I scolded a group of young men (they were 12-14 years old) after they came in, one young man said to another young man in his group "ask the bitch can we get four waters." I said, "excuse me, what did you just say?" And then I went on to lecture them from there (my wife says I'm a lecturer). It all left your humble lecturer feeling very, very old. I think I got a couple of eye rolls and a couple of threatening glances, and I'm sure those young men are totally done with misogyny and will never say the word "bitch" again.

Later, while TinyE and I were eating (I had the veggie taco burrito natch), a young woman (18 or 19) sitting in a group of three other 18 or 19 year-old women (why do the young peoples travel in fours?) left to purge her dinner and spoke candidly with her friends (who were concerned and who scolded her - they all thought she had stopped) about what she'd done.

It made me very sad, and because everything is about me all the time, it also made me think a lot about what I could do as a father to help my daughter avoid cutting or eating disorders or drugs or STDs, or a stunting letter from the Ivy Leagues denying her admission.

And just as I'm thinking of all that, my four year-old daughter, who, by the way is only four, says to me (and she's age four mind you) "those girls are prettier than me." Ladies and gentlemen, she's only four years old.

I lectured her. It all comes very fast dear readers, it all comes very fast.

End of prelude.

What I Want to Ask You

But that's all a prelude to what I want to ask you.

On the way home, my daughter asked me:

"Why do people get married?"

My question to you is: What would you have answered?

I'll tell you what I answered tomorrow. For now, here are some answers I ruled out:

1. Because people are illogical and do strange things.

2. For financial expediency...

3. Well now there's dowery and property transfer and estate laws and well, I guess romance too...

4. Everyone sing: "...the bible tells [them] so..."

5. Because from suffering comes strength, and because that which does not kill you...

6. Because abstinence is a virtue.

7. Human beings, all of us and each of us, are creatures of habit and tradition...

You understand my dilemma, right? As a super-progressive, hyper-liberal, uber-Democrat, commie-socialist-pinko, I absolutely will not go to the "well honey, a man and a woman fall in love and they decide that they want to have kids" route. Non-married folks have kids, and married folks don't have kids. Oh and by the way, marriage should not be limited to a man and a woman (IMHO). Power to the people with no delay.

Anyway, I'll ask you again...what would you have answered?

I'll tell you my answer tomorrow (and you can critique it).

dimanche, septembre 11, 2005

All that Glitters Is Not Gold, or: One Case Against the Dread Pirate Roberts for Chief Justice - And May Other Cases Be Made

Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts sure seems like a nice guy. He has a suitably handsome wife, and two well-scrubbed children. Man what an All-American portrait they paint. Even unapologetic liberals like myself had a hard time not rooting for the guy. His high-school teachers have come forth to hail him as the greatest intellectual his prep school have ever seen. Harvard alum after Harvard alum after Harvard alum has come forward to say that he was quiet, studious, well-scrubbed, All American, and very, very, very nice. Yes, I even breathed a sigh of relief. Hey, he's not as bad a Edith Brown Clement, right?

But no more. I shook the cob-webs off, and I hope you will do the same.

The media have been faithful in their depictions of a bright, amiable, enigmatic man. Is he really conservative, or does he advocate skillfully for positions that he does not hold? It's all so difficult to figure out.

Ann Coulter, that screaming shrew with limited access to reason and logic, made a masterful play in criticizing the administration for not selecting a card-carrying member of the conservative party. At first, it made me think that maybe Bush selected a moderate because, as so many papers were quick to suggest - he is politically weak right now and could not (a) force a very conservative nominee through the Senate, or (b) afford to lose a nomination battle. But what Ann was doing, me now thinks, was contributing to the hype: Roberts is not so bad, he's not Edith Brown Clement bad, and any Democrat who refused this guy (when he has a young handsome family to support) is just down right unreasonable. Wow that's slick. I mean, even I almost bought it, and I'm practically a jenious.

It's like being told that Barry Bonds is going to hit you in the head, full force, with an aluminum bat, but then only having Barbara Bush laugh in your face because you're poor and homeless and you don't know where all your loved ones are and you might have e. coli or cholera, and you're very, very thirsty and naked and alone and cold. So cold. So very cold.

It's amazing how something bad doesn't seem all that bad when something worse is expected. It's all about setting low expectations, and no one has set lower expectations than your man in Crawford and Washington: "Dubya." It's like a game of how low can we go where the answer is always "lower than that...lower still...yep, even lower..."

So is Roberts really a conservative, or is he some level-headed man of reason?

[Notice my either/or there? Tee hee...]

For me, the answer is: he is really conservative. What I mean by that is: (a) he really is conservative, and (b) he is really (read "very") conservative.

I keep wondering why the White House won't release a lot of his writings - especially his work as deputy under then Solicitor General Ken Starr. If all they did was establish the nominee as intelligent and wise, they would have been all over the Wall Street Journal by now. There's something in there they don't want us to know. Under another President, I might buy the claim of attorney-client privelege, or the claim of not wanting to set a bad precendent, but this President is so consistent in his willingness to bend or break the truth, that he is no longer worthy of trust. He's hiding something.

But the one thing we know about Supreme Court nominees, is that they can disappoint their selectors. Lots of libs were worried about Souter, but he is one of the Court's staunchest protectors of the bill of rights. JFK nominated Byron White, and, well, "Whizzer" wasn't exactly the most liberal fellow, now was he? I'm sure Reagan expected more from Justice O'Connor than he received. So, it is possible that Roberts would go on to disappoint. But who among us would count on it? Not I.

But this one thing alone makes Roberts unfit to be the Chief Justice. Ready?

On April 1st, Attorney General (and fool) Alberto Gonzales interviewed Roberts as a potential SC nominee.

Later that month, the AG filed an appeal in the Ahmed Hamdan case - regarding the administration's challenge of the Geneva conventions and its effort to torture and detain with impunity at Guantanamo.

In May, Gonzales, this time with Karl Rove, Dick "go f--- yourself" Cheney and other top administration officials again interviewed Roberts for a potential SC slot.

While these interviews were taking place, Roberts was presiding over the Hamdan case.

[Read that previous line again, please.]

Roberts and two other judges ruled in favor of the administration in Hamdan.

[I'll pause while you digest your surprise.]

Four days later, guess who was selected to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court?

[I'm sorry to keep springing stuff on you like this. Truly.]

Well now, there's the appearance of impropriety, and then there's out and out impropriety.

Does anyone reading this - anyone - believe that Roberts would have been the nominee if he ruled the other way in Hamdan? Anyone?

Does anyone reading this think that John Roberts should NOT have recused himself from the Hamdan case?

Does anyone reading this think that Roberts would have been the nominee if he would have recused himself?

Does anyone think that politics is not irretrievably vulgar?

Does anyone - especially in the "justice for hire" era of Antonin Scalia - does anyone believe that the Court is squeaky clean?

What bugs me about this (and about the American people) is that this blatant conflict of interest is hardly a pubic hair on a can of Coke. I can't imagine how Democrats will get the average citizen to follow the bouncing ball here. Even if you boil it down to a sentence - like "Roberts supported the administration in a filthy case he presided over, and in return, the administration supported his dirty bid to serve on the court," most will say "who is Roberts?" Or, but he's a nice guy, or quid pro quo. Brilliant. Good show.

Roberts is a hack. And because he's already in the pocket, and because justice is supposed to be blind and neutral and disinterested and everything. Love of justice, love of jurisprudence, and love of democracy and fairness and all that hooey should compel us to encourage your President to select someone else. But not Edith.

The dread pirate Roberts is filthy, and if I were the American people, I wouldn't touch him. All we need is another Justice hunting with litigants and thumbing his nose about it.

Vote "yes" to a clean Court, vote "no" to dirty Roberts.

mercredi, septembre 07, 2005

Some Things are So Bad and So Embarrassing, That You Have to Shake Your Head in Disbelief, or: You're True Colors are Shining Through

Like mother like son (a scathing criticism of the former first lady, whose lack of empathy somehow manages to outpace her son's by a country mile - or maybe she just needs better handlers. I honestly find this so disgusting and embarrassing, that if I saw her, it would take everything in my power not to spit in her face).

It is ignorant, low, mean and ugly to hate the poor, but it is ignorant, low, mean, ugly, disgusting and totally pitiless to hate the poor while they are suffering from a horrific tragedy. If I did not find her totally pathetic and miserable, I'd feel sorry for her. People who are so completely lacking in empathy, people who can laugh in the face of people who suffer tremendous losses, people who can shrug while seeing sadness and misery all around them, such people live only to consume oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Her entire life has been fortune and blessing. In return, she is only able to mock and laugh. Really amazingly and incredibly disgusting.

Shame (maybe Kanye West was right)!

mardi, septembre 06, 2005

Some Better Blogs on the Hurricane

Aerenchyma says all of our hands are dirty.

The Keez hits the sweet spot and smacks a home run to straight-away center.

Even the giddy Dirty broke it down one time (BTW, congrats, sir!).

The President is Guilty of Blatant Disregard of Americans

Here are some (scattered and visceral) observations from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Bush was on vacation when the hurricane hit.

He was scheduled to be on vacation for 30 days.

He only made it 28 days.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, Condolezza Rice was in New York taking in the broadway show "Spamalot."

When the house lights went up, she was booed.

Later, she was shouted down while buying thousands of dollars worth of shoes - something to the effect of "how dare you buy shoes while people are dying and losing their homes?"

I happen to like New York.

Professional basketball player Stephon Marbury broke down while saying: "it's not about the money;" he was so moved he could not finish his comments.

Marbury is a native New Yorker.

Celine Dion broke down while saying: "it's not about the money;" she was so moved she had to quit speaking.

Dion is a native Canadian.

Chris Rock cried.

Jamie Foxx cried.

George Bush got big laughs telling a joke about hanging out on Trent Lott's porch after his mansion, which was destroyed by the hurricane, is rebuilt.

While it appears that storm watchers were prepared for a big event, agencies designed to assist with emergencies were not.

Days passed before an adequate response was given (some argue it hasn’t happened yet).

Bush was slow to leave his vacation.

Bush was slow to speak about the hurricane.

Initially, he did a flyover on his way from Crawford to D.C.

A flyover.

Bush praised FEMA head, Mike Brown in the immediate aftermath of Katrina.

Mike Brown was fired from his previous job supervising the International Arabian Horse Association.

The Times Picayune, in an open letter to the President published on Sunday, called for him to be fired as head of FEMA.

I think he should resign.

I think Bush should resign.

Dead bodies are floating in the streets.

Dead bodies, resting in the streets, are being eaten by rats.

Bush, early on, joked about rebuilding Trent Lott’s lost mansion.

Cholera cases are showing up.

There is e. coli in the water.

The media, in some instances, are calling the survivors "refugees."

New Orleans has been declared a public health emergency.

In the past, Bush has been proactive in response to hurricanes.

The proactive response was in Florida.

The proactive response was during an election.

Bush’s brother Jeb is Governor of Florida.

Jeb Bush is widely thought to be a candidate for the Presidency in 2008.

Bush cut funding to New Orleans flood control 50% as part of his budget.

The energy bill recently signed by President Bush contained $15 billion in aid to big oil.

Blacks carrying food and water are described as having looted.

Whites carrying food and water are described having found.

31% of New Orleans residents live at or below the federal poverty line.

In numerous warnings, federal officials indicated that the New Orleans Levee system could never withstand a category 3 hurricane.

When it was bearing down on the gulf, Katrina was rated category 5.

There was no proactive response.

Earlier this year, New Orleans flood and levee officials asked Congress for $78 million for projects.

Bush offered them $30 million.

Congress approved $36.5 million.

The energy bill recently signed by President Bush contained $15 billion in aid to big oil.

Since 2001, flood and levee officials have asked Bush for $500 million.

He has budgeted $166 million.

Congress has given $250 million

In 2001, FEMA warned that a hurricane hitting New Orleans was one of the three most likely natural disasters to hit the United States.

Funding was still cut.

In August of 2001, the President was warned in a daily briefing that a terrorist attack using airplanes was planned.

No proactive response was given.

Total funding cuts to the Corps of Engineers budget since 2001 is 44.2%.

The Corps of Engineers has imposed a hiring freeze in response to the cuts.

The Louisiana National Guard patrolled the Superdome with machine guns.

Flood victims, inside the Superdome, behind metal barricades shouted “we need more water.”

Cigarettes in the Superdome sold for $10 a pack.

The Superdome was long ago identified as a gathering point for storm victims.

The plumbing failed and there were no portable toilets.

The electricity failed and there were not generators.

There was no air conditioning.

Victims lived in the hot dark, without toilets and without adequate potable water.

The mayor said that armed gangs and feral dogs ran wild in the Superdome.

Prisoners in solitary confinement are treated better.

Yesterday a Superdome official said the building should be destroyed for structural and psychological reasons.

During a concert to raise money for flood victims, Rapper Kanye West said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

People sincerely and truly believe that if the hurricane had hit coastal Florida or North or South Carolina or Texas that the response would have been dramtically different.

57,000 troops, many trained for combat duty, patrol the streets of New Orleans.

Michael Jackson hopes to record a “We Are the World” type pop song in relief of the hurricane victims.

When the Superdome was evacuated, evacuees were not allowed to take pets along.

A little boy, separated from his dog, “Snowball,” was so upset that he vomited.

The mayor of New Orleans today announced that as many as 10,000 people may be dead.

It is estimated that 150,000 houses are lost to flood damage.

Pepsi America offered $400,000 in aid comprising cash and water.

Celine Dion and George Clooney each offered $1,000,000, comprising just cash.

Christian extremists have argued that the flood was brought by God to relieve New Orleans of Southern Decadence – the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, and those who practice false religion.

The French Quarter is largely undamaged.

In other words, it was not a lack of warning, it was not for lack of requests, it was not for lack of money, it was not for lack of time to prepare, it was for a lack of leadership – the kind of proactive leadership we know the President can show when he cares.

Once the storm hit, it was not for lack of coverage, it was not for lack of understanding of the extent of the damage, it was not for lack of local effort, it was for a lack of leadership, the kind of reactive leadership we know the President can show when he cares.

As Celine Dion cries on national television, full of rage and compassion, someone tell my why our President was joking about Trent Lott’s mansion? Why is a Canadian pop singer able to show compassion more effectively than our President?

Someone please tell me why Harry Connick, Jr., and WalMart immediately responded and reached the city, but FEMA could not? How can FEMA credibly claim that the city was inaccessible? How is it that Oprah and Hollywood could react right after the hurricane, but the President could not? What do they have that’s missing from the President? C’mon, you know the answer…they care.

And in a world where actions speak louder than words, for the umpteenth time in his Presidency, it is very clear that the President only cares when his aides tell him too. It is very clear that the thing he cares about more than anything else, the one thing that he doesn’t ever want to see suffer any harm or damage is his image.

In the face of a crisis, his tendency is inertia.

Early on in my blogging career, I talked about how Bush would be remembered as the worst President ever. Outside of getting re-elected, I literally cannot point to one success the man has had (but that is because I’m not among the richest 2%). I believe objective historians will look back on his presidency as a total failure: a failing economy, a failed environment, a failure to find bin Laden, a failed and mismanaged effort in Afghanistan, a failed and mismanaged effort in Iraq, treasonous behavior, failure to articulate coherent foreign or domestic policies, failure to understand the complexities of the office, failure to lead his staff (and instead, allowing himself to be led by them - failure), failure to address poverty, failure to address education, failure to address health care, failure to prevent himself from lining the pockets of big oil, failure to prevent his party from giving away tax breaks to the wealthy. He even failed at saving Terri Schiavo after drawing a failed conclusion about whether she could/should be saved. While I thought I might add failure to rise to the challenges of the Presidency, I never imagined that I would add the failure to give a damn.

But I do it today.

Blatant disregard for our own citizens. Blatant disregard. Failure to give a damn, and George Bush is the worst President ever.

vendredi, septembre 02, 2005

"Pro-life" more like "anti-reason", or: How the Republican Right Might Someday Meet the Enemy and Find that It is Them

Logic and reasoning from the Religious Right:

Contraception education leads to promiscuity.
Lack of education on contraception leads to abstinence.
Abortions are bad.
Pills like the plan B pill (which prevent conception) are abortion.
Preventing over-the-counter sale of plan B will prevent abortions.

I have to laugh at how conservative efforts to reduce abortion lead to more abortions. It is often said that abortions go up under Republican presidents, and I believe it. Google it yourself, but also go here for this quote: “Abortion rates fell during pro-choice President Bill Clinton’s administration by 17.4 percent. Abortion rates have risen under “pro-life” president George W. Bush by 14.6 percent.”

Hmmmmm...that's strange. So all those pro-lifers use their votes to increase the number of abortions (and, in an urelated matter, increase military deaths as well).

Here’s the reasoning over there:

No sex or health education, because I guess kids want to test out everything they hear in school. They seem to test gravity and evolution all the time.

Limited availability of contraceptives (don’t talk about them, don’t hand them out, don’t sell them at your pharmacies), because if you CAN'T get pregnant, then kids will have sex everyday all the time, and eventually, the earth will collide with the sun. The inverse is equally true (interpret "equally true" however you will) if you CAN get pregnant, then kids will never have sex ever - the past few millenia to the contrary are an aberration.

Abstinence education (yeah, sure, okay) – so our kids, taking their cues from hip and trendy educational films and overweight health teachers, will override the guh-zillions of messages they get in pop culture and “wait until they are married.” I guess it could happen. In fact, let’s work toward a world where no teens have sex ever. It makes way more sense than working toward a world where kids are educated about the decisions they make and the potential consequences of those decisions. But before we eradicate sex before marriage, let’s solve that pesky little perpetual motion conundrum.

Last, when there’s an ex post facto way to prevent egg fertilization, fight it with all you’ve got so that women will…will what? Have the child? Place the child for adoption? Sure, I guess sometimes they will, but guess what else they will do? Never have sex ever. Do we want such a world? I know I don't. But then, I suppose it's also possible that they will have unprotected sex, which may lead to unwanted pregnancy, which may also lead to...

So to recap:

If we don’t teach sex ed, then kids won’t have sex.

If we don’t make contraception available, then kids won’t have sex.

If we make plan b difficult to get, then the abortion rate will go down, because people won’t have sex.

I mean, there are no other options, right?

People frequently override intense passion and tremendous yearning to consider their long term options and make decisions based upon the availability of scientific and pharmaceutical options to reduce any associated risks. This "heat of the moment" thinking is far superior to the calm reasoning that might characterize post-coital/morning after reflection. So, having options the next day is really unnecessary.

Sure, okay.

jeudi, septembre 01, 2005

"I didn't water my flowers because I thought for sure we'd get some rain but nothing. I'll water them - whenever."

I haven't known what to say, and so I have said nothing.

Crys - if you have family in Mississippi, I hope they are all okay.

LJC of Binghamton, NY - you are constantly in my thoughts, and I hope you are okay and that all your friends in the Big Easy are okay.

Last night I received an email forwarded by a friend that was written by a relative of theirs who is in Louisiana.

I want to say that I blame no one who decided to stay.

I also want to say that I understand people who go to a store to take bread and water and such things. I would do the same thing, and I hope I would send a check to the store's corporate offices for the value of what I took. But I don't know if I would think of that.

I won't criticize people who take televisions and such things, but I will admit that I do not understand it. I will admit that I wish they would stop it.

I will not criticize people who shoot at rescuers and police officers, but I will admit that I do not understand it. I will admit that I wish they would stop it.

I cannot imagine what I would do if I were in New Orleans. I will say that I can see how devastation of that magnititude would tax the sturdiest mind.

I'm not a prayerful fellow, but I'm journeying toward a place where I can express my thoughts and feelings...toward somewhere celestial and toward something providential. I have constant thoughts and wants for the people of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, and my thoughts and wants border on prayer. Perhaps they are prayer.

Here is the email:

Hi everyone,

This is a conversation between K's first cousin and mom. It gives more personal insight as to what's going on. Thanks again to everyone for your prayers.

As you know M was called out to help in New Orleans since he is a State Employee with the Wildlife and Fisheries. He left Monday and came home this morning around 3:30 a.m. He is leaving either tonight or tomorrow morning to go back. They will be working 12 hour shifts until...... I haven't been able to talk to him yet but talked to D. He was filling up his truck, gas tanks, boats, etc. to head back. He worked the East side of New Orleans and told D it was terrible and very scary. They rescued over 100s of people yesterday off of roof tops and in buildings, etc. There were many people that they came across who did not want to leave. They did not force them and just went on leaving them on their roof. They went on to help those who wanted help. During the day, he did see many bodies floating around. They did not mess with them but went on to try and save those in need. At some point they were picking up people and were told where to drop them off - on higher ground until helicopters or someone came back to get them. He said there was a man with no legs in a wheelchair, there were children at this drop off who didn't know where their parents were, there were old people, young people. They found a man with a big gash on his head and put him in the back of their truck where he was to be picked up, while they went back in their boats to get more. Later they came back and the man was still there. They had to get him out or he would have died. Besides another levee had broke, more water was coming and rising very quickly. They loaded up his boat and got in his truck to leave. His truck was filling with water. It wouldn't start. He tried and tried and finally it started and he took off with gun shots being fired at him. The people were mad because they were being left there.

He does not know what place he will be stationed at when he goes back. He said that it is just horrible there.

I just can't understand these "monsters" that would shoot at you when you're there to help as best you can. They chose to stay and not heed the warnings that were given.

Anyway, I ask that you please continue to pray for his safety and that of his co-workers until their job is done.


Yesterday, the Crowley Fire Department cooked jambalaya plates for like 800 people. They went around town and gave out vouchers to those people who evacuated to Crowley to come and eat. L and I got to the fire station around 6:20 and people were getting there and we stopped serving around 8:30 p.m. It was so pitiful. Old people, young people, all colors and nationalities. I could have sat and cried with them all. One elderly lady stopped to get her drink (I was handing out cokes) and she said that she lived at the Mouth of the river and she got word that her house was under water. She started to cry telling me that everything she owned was gone. I couldn't find words to comfort her. All I could tell her was that we were all praying for her all the people over there and that we just need to be thankful that she has her life because that is not something that can be replaced. Other people would stop and ask if we'd heard any news or a certain part of town or a certain city and that they had family that stayed behind and they can't get any word from them and ooh, I cannot tell you how sad it was. I went to bed last night and I couldn't get these people out of my head. We are doing spaghetti tonight for them. S didn't get back until almost midnight. After we fed those people who came to the station we made hundreds of plates and S and another fireman went in the Fire truck (Suburban) and went around to the churches and shelters who had people, they even went to Wal-Mart in Jennings where people are camped out and the rest area in Jennings where S said people were just laying on the ground outside with no place to go. It just breaks my heart. I told S if we could find a couple with small children or whatever, I wouldn't mind taking them in the house and giving them a place to stay until they can go home. Mom says the same thing. Some man even called the fire station last night from Carencro and left his name and phone number and said that he can take in a family to please send someone to stay with him because he wants to help.

I didn't water my flowers because I thought for sure we'd get some rain but nothing. I'll water them - whenever. When I get off of work I'll head straight home, change and get L so we can go back and help at the station tonight to feed those people again. I cannot tell you how thankful they were. It was all quiet at one point with people eating and stuff and all of a sudden this lady stood up and said very loudly something like "I'd like to say Thank You to you people for helping us - we love you" and everyone stood up and clapped. It's just so pitiful.