Friday, September 30, 2005


E&P on Judith Miller’s release:
Judy refused to testify in this case because she gave her professional word that she would keep her interview with her source confidential. At the outset, she had only a generic waiver of this obligation, and she believed she had ample reason to doubt it had been freely given. In recent days, several important things have changed that convinced Judy that she was released from her obligation.

People come up to me on the street all the time and ask me “Doctor Biobrain, could you please give me a good example of bullshit.” Well, this is it kids. Bullshit of the highest order. Because lets face it, this wasn’t the case of a rogue whistleblower or modern-day Deepthroat giving the goods on their boss, or anyone in position to do them harm. If anyone was wronged here, it was Joseph Wilson and his wife; and possibly the CIA. But none of them were in any position to punish the people who spoke with Miller.

And isn’t that the whole point of this confidentiality stuff? To protect people. But it’s not supposed to be some kind of freedom to blab nasty stuff about people, or special cover to out personal secrets. If that was all that it was ever about, I’d say we chunk the damn thing. But it’s not about that. It’s about providing cover for people who need it. It’s about getting to truths that need to be told, but can’t be. Otherwise, you could just start a crime wave with reporters, and they’d never have to testify against one another.

Waivering Fools

But there’s something even bigger going on here. According to Judy, she was given a waiver from Libby to speak. But she just didn’t think he meant it, and that it had been coerced. But who did the coercing? Someone in a position of power who would want to punish the source? Because that’s why you’d worry about the coercion. Because you wouldn’t want the person in power to be able to force the person to out themselves.

But in this case, the coercer isn’t the punisher. It’s our President. And more importantly, he’s in on the whole deal too. I’m not necessarily saying that he knew about it or anything. In fact, if I was a Whitehouse guy, I’d keep Bush as far away from all my secret schemes as possible. Same deal with that whole 9/11 conspiracy stuff. Even if you do think that neo-cons planned it, it doesn’t take much to realize that they wouldn’t have included Bush in the plan. Forget plausible deniability. That dope’s going to get you hung! I wouldn’t trust Bush to plan a party, let alone treason.

But regardless of whether Bush was in on it, he certainly benefits from Judith’s silence. Just the taint of scandal is enough to hurt him. And so when he tells his staff to waive confidentiality, that’s not coming from the punisher. That’s coming from one of the damned. That’s coming from one of the guys in Libby’s gang. In fact, that’s coming from the guy that Libby was most directly trying to help. So even if Bush wasn’t directly involved, he is far from an innocent bystander. No. He is in this almost as much as Libby.

And when we look at it that way, we’re just talking about conspirators protecting themselves. In fact, a paranoid person might even suggest that the President intentionally “coerced” his fellow conspirators to waive confidentiality solely because they knew that Miller wouldn’t accept it. But that it would make the conspirators look like they’re doing the necessary act, while not clearing anything up. And so everyone looks like they’re doing the right thing, while all along they’re doing the wrong thing. And that kind of shit is these people’s specialty.

Egregious Bullshit

And so what if there is a theoretical situation which matches this one, but for which the outcome should be the opposite? Maybe the theory should justify these kinds of actions too. Maybe it should protect halfwit shills and libelous liars. But does this make Judy a hero? Do reporters really deserve the praise if they’re serving a bad cause? Because that’s what the real bullshit here is. It’s not about the confidentiality itself. That’s bullshit, to be sure. But it’s not egregious bullshit. The egregious bullshit is the heroizing of Miller. The idea that she’s serving a just cause. Because if you only see it as a preservation of the right of confidentiality, that’s bullshit by itself. Because it does no such thing.

Had Miller immediately caved to Fitzgerald’s demand, that wouldn’t have done a god damn thing to harm confidentiality. Not any more so than it was by going to jail. Because her decision didn’t affect what the government would or could do. Her decision only involved herself. And the next reporter who has to make this decision won’t base it upon Miller’s. Well unless they do it for the fame and praise that Miller got, but I suspect that’s not the exact position that Miller’s supporters are taking.

And if anything, this incident has supported Fitzgerald’s position. He believed he could jail reporters if they didn’t reveal their sources, and that’s exactly what happened. And even now, we see that he has won. Not necessarily because he got the source, but because he could imprison her and release her, based upon his needs. And that’s exactly what his position was from the start.

And even if he had released her early and decided to give up, he still wins regarding imprisoning reporters. Because it was entirely his decision. He thought he could imprison a reporter for this kind of thing, and the judicial system agreed. So he won in either case.

The only way that Judy could win is if she could have prevented Fitzgerald from imprisoning her. But she couldn’t. And once she was locked up and the appeals were over, she was finished. She lost. There was no battle. She was standing up for nothing but herself. Fitzgerald imprisoned her at his wishes, and she stayed there until he was done with her. This is nothing but a complete loss for Miller.

So there’s that angle to the whole thing. This bullshit about protecting source confidentiality was a joke. All she did was confirm it. And every day she spent in jail was just another day of confirmation. If anything, Judith Miller helped bury reporter confidentiality even further. Every reporter from here to Timbuktu is now fully aware that they’re not safe against federal prosecutors. Judy didn’t do anything but confirm that.

More Serious Bullshit

And there’s also the issue of assuming as E&P does that “several important things have changed that convinced Judy that she was released from her obligation.” Because that too is some serious bullshit. Who the hell are they kidding? Sure, maybe a few things did change. But the basic principle is the same: Judith Miller did not want to be in prison, but could not sacrifice her reputation by openly buckling under. The only thing that changed in this case is that Judy finally found a face-saving position so she could get out of jail without destroying her so-called dignity. Because that’s what this is all about. Saving face while pretending to stand up for justice.

And that pussy Matt Cooper wasn’t any better. He too got some kind of double-secret permission that somehow hadn’t been offered before. But the only difference was that Cooper was just a bigger pussy about it, and gave up sooner. But that’s what this was all about. It wasn’t about reporters standing up for reporter’s rights. It was all about their fucking reputations and looking cool in front of their peers. But let’s not pretend that Miller was somehow braver than Cooper. She’s just ballsier, and was willing to do more to help her career. I always got the impression that Cooper was always a kind of putz who accidentally got caught up in all this. But she wanted to ride this out to the end. Unfortunately, prison is probably pretty boring and I guess even Miller has her limits to how far she’ll play her game. There ain’t no Starbucks in jail.

And let’s face it; the real case here wasn’t about source confidentiality. It was about reporter anonymity. Specifically, it was about the media’s desire to keep the story off of them and about everyone else. Sure they go on TV, and sure they want some fame, but only the good stuff. Bad publicity is not for our treasured media. They are supposed to be the ones putting people in jail and righting the wrongs. The system is not supposed to work against them. After all, they’re not like us. They’re just the flies on the wall, telling us what’s going on. They’re not supposed to be caught up in this mess. And that’s what their position always was from the start. And who could doubt that the media would really prefer a blanket protection against all criminal actions. Don’t we all.

Maybe Judy was wanting to protect herself or the Whitehouse. But the media was only looking out for one of their own. And at that, often abusing their position of power to give one-sided stories and opinions on the matter, to better protect their comrade. And by protecting Judy, they were protecting themselves. Not against imprisonment, but against the world. They’re standing up for their right to be left alone; to practice their craft however they see fit. In every courtroom story, they’ll tell us that the maximum time served may be as high as ten years or twenty years in prison; without mentioning that the low end might be probation. But forty days is just too fucking much for these people. Because they’re not like us. Jail isn’t for them. They’re above all that. They’re reporters.

Deeper Bullshit

But the bullshit goes deeper than that. Yes indeed, much deeper. Because this wasn’t about a reporter standing up for what’s right and good; but for what was wicked and wrong. This wasn’t about protecting the weak against tyranny. This was about tyranny protecting their right to tyranate. The powerful protecting themselves through power. And so even if you support source confidentiality and even if you think that Judy was doing something to help protect it, you can’t pretend to like the specifics of this case. Not if you’ve got half a fucking brain, anyway.

It’s like watching a murderer get off scot-free because his rights had been violated. You can support our judicial system without pretending that the bad guy is a hero. Because he’s not. He may be standing on good principles, but he’s still a god damn murderer. And while this case might not involve murder, it’s certainly not a textbook example of confidentiality. Because again, the source waived his right, but she just wouldn’t accept it, even though it came from a sort of ringleader.

Hell, making a hero out of Judy Miller’s like making Larry Flynt a hero. He helped fight for a free press, sure, but there was a lot of fucking and sucking going on to make that happen. And while it’s always important to acknowledge the professionalism and energy that went into making that happen, you just can’t forget that underneath, they’re still just a whore.

Anyway, I’m a little rusty after my hiatus, and my wine glass is empty yet again, so I’m just going to be leaving it at that. I know, it’s a pretty bullshitty ending after I lead you this far. But sometimes, bullshit is enough.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Lovely Rita

Hey Biobrain fans, sorry for the light posting.  I’ve actually got two posts in the works, along with a few others to write, but I’ve been too busy/lazy (blazy?) to finish any of it.  Plus, I’ve been having trouble with Blogger and can’t seem to get the damn thing to work for me.  I’m sure there is a conspiracy involved with this somehow.

But if you thought this was going to fill in the void, you’re out of luck.  I’m under mandatory evacuation and am getting my ass out of Dodge (or Corpus Christi, to be specific).  Luckily, I’ve got family within driving distance (not always the case, in big ole’ Texas); so this will really be more like a much needed vacation.

Anyway, wish my cats luck.  I’m leaving them here to protect the homestead against those big bad looters.  They’ll have a week’s worth of food and a day’s worth of kitty litter, so I’m sure they’ll have eaten and shit the house into much worse shape than anything the hurricane might do.  And if you’re lucky, I’ll have some horrible stories to tell about not getting needed federal assistance to this disaster.  Keep your fingers crossed.

P.S. If any of you looters are out there wanting to take my stuff, make sure that all four cats are back in before you lock up.  My wife is upset enough that we’re not taking them, and it’d kind of suck if they got lost.

P.P.S. We’re taking all the good stuff with us, including the booze, so anything you’re likely to get will be something cheap, and probably covered in cat shit.  Bon appetit!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Stupid Tax Laws, Part 1

For those who didn't already know, if you own two houses, you can deduct the amount you pay in mortgage interest on both of them. Even if one of them is a houseboat. In fact, a house needs a few necessities like a toilet, and it qualifies to deduct the interest.

Why in the hell is that? I mean, besides that these rules were written by Congress and many Congressmen have two homes. Besides that, why is that a law? I understand what most tax code is for. I really do. And too much of it is devoted to closing unintended loopholes crafted by crafty accountants and lawyers, which trip up the innocent taxpayer more than the greedy ones. But this two-home mortgage deduction is just too much. I don't know how much revenue is lost due to this deduction, but it really should be stopped. Especially as it allows people to write-off interset paid on a houseboat.

BTW, this does not refer to people who buy homes for investment or rental purposes. That interest would be deductible as a business expense. This only applies to people who own two homes for personal use. And anyone who can afford two houses doesn't need the extra deduction. If Congressmen want a deduction for their second house, they need to try to pass that bill and see how far it gets. But we really should stop subsidizing second homes for the rich.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Pop Quiz

1) If it comes out that John Roberts is a cyborg, would that be worse for his nomination than if he were gay? Or would it be about even? Explain.

2) What if he were a gay cyborg? Would that be considered worse, or is robot-on-robot action considered more acceptable to Christians? Give the pros and cons.

3) Defend the position that it would be better to have James Dobson as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court than the Cyborg John Roberts. Use no adjectives.

Good luck!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

President For Insanity Broccoli

I've said this before, but probably not on this blog: How exactly are we so sure that President Bush really isn't insane? I mean, just completely loony. And that these "bubble-boy" photo-ops and set-piece "Townhall Meetings" are really the only thing keeping him from nuking us all? I mean really, if he really was crazy after 9/11, would they tell us? 9/11 was a pretty tramatic thing, and he seems to be very frail, mentally speaking. I don't mean this as any kind of insult at all, but isn't it possible that if we peeked inside, we'd find no one home? That he's half a load short of a bake sale? Out to sea without a dog paddle?

I should add that I believe everyone to be crazy (except you, of course), and that the secret of sanity is how well you function with your insanity. The less able you are to cope with it, the more insane you are (or maybe it's vice versa). So in that context, we see Bush as an insane person who seems unable to deal properly with reality. And after all, what's the difference between an extremely powerful person and a crazy person, except that people listen to the powerful person while ignoring the crazy person? It's something to think about, anyway.

Oh, and finally, what would you prefer as president: A crazy-ass Bush or Dick "Go Fuck Yourself" Cheney? On the one hand, we've got a complete madman recreating America in his own image; and on the other hand, crazy old George. Never an easy choice, but I think the clueless, arrogant leader is better than the malevolent leader.

Bullshit Brown

Via the Voluntary Trade Council, via Mises Economics Blog, via Juliette Kayyem at TPMCafe, via Josh Marshall, we see the official transcript (pdf) of the Nomination of Michael D. Brown to be Deputy Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And it's disgusting.

See, the problem for us nice, decent, normal, thinking kind of people, is that bullshit is easier than the real thing, and people who can fake it can often appear more competent and professional than the people who actually are competent and professional. And too many people just can't see that. Like they were born without bullshit detectors. And that's how bad people get good jobs and why you get stuck working under them. Because they can bullshit it better than you. This isn't always the case, of course; and oftentimes your boss really is more competent than you. But I was just trying to be polite.

And this is exactly how we ended up with Bush. I mean, that guy's bullshit all the way. Because that's all he's got. He just doesn't give a damn about what he says, and he's not trying to bullshit; he just can't help it. He's got nothing better to say. And so it is with all bullshitters. They don't want to bullshit, they just can't do anything else, and don't even understand the distinction. In fact, they think of us honest folks as suckers, and don't understand why we're too stupid to bullshit too. They think it's all bullshit, all the time.

Bullshitters beget more bullshitters, and so we end up with the likes of Michael D. Brown heading up the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A 42-minute hearing, and this boob ended up as the head honcho. And I've never read one of these nomination transcripts, but the whole thing just sounds like complete bullshit. Like people who know they have a role to play, but can't do anything but copy what the other meetings were like.

It starts off with a brief introduction by Joe Lieberman, the chairman of the committee in 2002, and then goes quickly for the bullshit. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Co) begins the lovefest with stuff like:
"Mr. Chairman, I cannot state firmly enough that I believe Michael Brown to be more than qualified to serve FEMA and the people of this country as part of the administration. He is dedicated, tenacious, and he is exactly the type of individual who has given up probably a better lifestyle to be in public service and we certainly appreciate all of that."

Wow, he just couldn't state firmly enough that Brown was more than qualified for the job. Wow. The Senator didn't specify whether this inability was due a failure in our language, not having strong enough words to convey his feelings; or if it was that Brown was so infinitely qualified that it was physically impossible to do it any justice. Whatever it was, Nighthorse Campbell just couldn't do it.

Then again, perhaps he was just trying to warn us off. When he said that "I can't state firmly enough", perhaps it was because he thought that Brown was completely incompetent and unqualified, and might even damage America.

We quickly move to the Honorable Wayne Allard, another Republican Senator from Colorado. In fact, Colorado has a big part to do with his Honor's praise of Brown; as Brown too is a Coloradan. And this pleases the Honorable Allard, as he mentions several times. At the end, Allard actually thanked the committee for allowing him the opportunity to introduce Michael D. Brown. And I'm sure that's what I'm missing from my life too. I've been feeling kind of sluggish lately, a bit down in the dumps. But I'm sure that if someone gave me the opportunity to introduce a deputy director nominee to a committee, I would thank them for it afterwards.

I'm being bad, of course. I'm sure that this is all just standard protocol. But it does seem a bit stupid, in light of how little that hearing accomplished, in regards to our recent national disaster. Just more bullshit to help these people feel important. Especially as I'm sure that these guys didn't write these speeches, and they were most likely just rewrites of the same kind of crap that these guys spew out all the time.

And then Lieberman steps up, and after mentioning that those two endorsements got Brown "off to a good start", he enters a written statement praising Brown. And what's crazy is that I was just getting to this part when I clicked over at TPM and read this: Time finds what it really, really charitably calls discrepancies' in FEMA Chief Michael Brown's resume. Like when he served as "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight" in Edmond, Okla.? Okay, he was an intern (title=administrative assistant) there while he was in college.

And sure enough, I read this from Lieberman's opening statement:
"and, in what I think is particularly useful experience, early in his career, was assistant city manager in Edmond, with responsibility for police, fire and emergency services. Yes, that would have been particularly useful, had it been true. And you know what else would have been helpful? If someone on this committee had actually checked Brown's resume. That would have been helpful.

And seeing as how these reporters found it in just a few days, I'm having trouble understanding why our own government couldn't do this. Shouldn't it just be standard issue to at least check the resumes of these people? I've worked at small companies where we checked resumes, and in one case, even fired an employee a week after he started for lying about a previous job. We had already hired the guy, yet my boss still kept calling his references and past employers until he got his answers. And the guy was sacked immediately.

And yet, here I'm reading Brown's confirmation hearing, and they're clearly using his resume as filler in their speeches. The only things they have to recommend him, outside of being from Colorado, is his resume. His heavily padded, and often fraudulent resume. And yet these Senators were satisfied enough to use it again and again. And I wonder if Brown was thinking about any of these falsehoods when these fine Senators recited them. Or is he such a bullshitter that he doesn't even remember when he's bullshitting? If he was thinking about them at all, he was probably laughing about the whole thing. But he probably had forgotten about it completely.

Ah fuck it. I just don't have the time to finish this soon, and by the time I finish it, it'll be completely stale. So I'll just end this for now. Maybe I'll finish it later tonight, or maybe I won't get back to it at all. I don't know. I'll just leave you with one of Brown's bullshit answers.

Lieberman asks about evacuation plans around nuclear plants in the New York area, and refers to a petition filed with FEMA from a New York Assemblyman who thought that FEMA's evacuation plan was inadequate. Lieberman says that as Deputy Director of FEMA, Brown would be responsible for handling that kind of thing, and asked about how he would handle the investigations of such plans. Brown answers:

I think my role is a very serious one. I think the agency's role is a very serious one, that we should not just wait for someone to petition or request that we evaluate, that those types of plans should be evaluated on an ongoing basis. It would be my intent to somehow implement the ongoing evaluation so we do not have to look in hindsight and say, gosh, we wish we had looked at that. We should be looking at that all the time to make sure they are adequate, and I will pledge to you that we will certainly do that.

Nice, bullshitty kind of answer. The kind of thing that anybody could say, whether competent or not. In fact, one that a bullshitter would be more likely to find at hand, rather than the competent. He's not going to wait for people to petition an evaluation of FEMA's plans. He's not going to "wish we had that" in hindsight. Oh no. And I'm sure that if he had given his answer five years ago, he might even have used the cliche "proactive" at least once. And he might even have referenced "synergy", another bullshit phrase used in these kind of situations.

But then Lieberman asks a follow-up, and we have this exchange that ends the grueling 42 minute confirmation hearing of this important incompetent:

Chairman LIEBERMAN. I appreciate that, obviously, from the point of view of Connecticut. I am not asking for what your response will be, but do you have any sense of how you will handle this petition from New York about a review of the Indian Point plant?
Mr. BROWN. In all honesty, I do not. I just received it yesterday --

Chairman LIEBERMAN. You did?
Mr. BROWN [continuing]. When I got back into the States and I just looked at it for the first time yesterday.
Chairman LIEBERMAN. Understood. We will continue to want to be in dialogue with you on this, as well, and I appreciate the commitment that you made to be involved in ongoing review of these plans because it is obviously critical.

And that's that. That's how it ends. The answer to the last question of the hearing is that Brown hadn't looked at the petition, and didn't have the slightest idea how he would respond to it. Which means that he didn't know anything about it. I mean, Lieberman clearly stated he didn't need a specific answer, just a general sense of what Brown would do. And Brown couldn't even give that much, because he was so unfamiliar with this topic which he had just said he wouldn't wait for. And Lieberman was clearly of the impression that Brown should have already seen it. Because, mind you, Brown was already acting Deputy, so it's not like he hadn't been doing the job already. But he clearly wasn't aware enough of this part of the job to even give a bullshit answer.

Of course, it's not like evacuations for nuclear plant disasters are all that important anyway. And maybe Brown does have a good excuse for not being able to answer the question. But as we've seen excuses aren't nearly as good as plans. Brown talked a good game of not waiting for petitions, and not having to wish for things in hindsight. But in hindsight, it was all complete bullshit.

Anyway, I might finish this later, or maybe not. I'm really kind of busy.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Save the Children

As we all know, conservatives and particularly social conservatives are worried about the children. Not just their own children, but all of our children. They're worried about what the kids are seeing on TV and at the movie theaters. Where they're going on the internet. The music that they're listening to. The whole works. And they're so concerned about the children being infected by these horrible nasty sources, that they're willing to deny these things to us all. Not just porn, but violence, and unwholesome materials, bad influences, and everything else that makes life worth living. We're all supposed to forego this stuff, for the sake of the children. Right?

And of course, a lot of that is bullshit. It's not about the kids. It's about us. These people want to tell us what we're allowed to see and can't see. And all based upon their own specific set of morals, with the bible supposedly backing up their claim. And I'm sure that a big part of it is that they just don't like us having all the fun, while they're stuck watching The Waltons and Benny Hinn. Or whatever the hell it is that those people do in place of having fun.

But I'm also sure that the kids really are a big part of this. I've got kids and have met their friends, and they really are a fairly impressionable bunch. Mine are better than most, but if MTV showed cool youths dancing to polka music while wearing Minnie Pearl hats, I'm sure my kids wouldn't be far behind. And I'm also sure that in many ways, these influences are stronger than my own. Me and my wife are pretty cool people, and none of this seems to have rubbed off on either of them. Currently, I'm listening to a ten-hour Stereolab (the greatest of all musical acts) shuffle on iTunes, while my twelve-year-old daughter is sitting right behind me listening to some fag-ass "rockers" on the headphones (and no, I don't mean that in the homosexual sense).

For that matter, both my teens are fairly anti-gay and it really bugs the hell out of me. I don't make a big deal about it, but they've clearly picked this anti-gay stance from their friends, and I find it to be pretty offensive. But I'm sure they'll grow out of it. When they start sporting James Dobson t-shirts and telling me that God hates fags, I might want to think about an intervention, however.

And my point is that conservatives, particularly social conservatives, have a big problem with bad influences on our kids. And they think it's the parent's responsibility if a kid grows up bad. It's irresponsible to let our kids watch the MTV and violent movies and Queer Eye. And the problem is so grave that we have to just stop making these things, just to make sure that none of the kiddipoos get their grubby little hands on any of it. Especially the porn.

Where It All Falls Apart

But here's the weird part. Poor inner-city kids grow up in a bad setting. They don't eat right. They see bad behavior all over the place. Violence on the streets. Drugs on the streets. Drug use by their own parents. Parents who get their kids to buy and/or sell drugs. All kinds of crap. Crap that these conservatives don't even want us to be able to watch in movie theaters. Bad stuff. And these kids grow up with it. Not on film. But as a real influence in everyday life. Something going on around them all the time, since they were born. All that they've ever known, outside of TV and movies. And I don't want to overemphasize this, as I'm sure it's not always as bad as this. But it's clearly stuff that conservatives know, know to be bad influences on children.

And yet what are their attitudes towards these people. Sympathy? Understanding? Do they take these factors into consideration when thinking about these people? Do they think about bad influences which can make people go bad? No. What do they do? They attack these people and denounce them. And anyone who blames the parents is a "moral relativist" who excuses all bad behavior. This, from the people who think that Janet Jackson's brief nipple-shot ruined our children, and who think that sex-ed and homosexuals on TV will bring our country down.

But none of that applies when we're talking about the poor people. Suddenly, it's no longer the parent's fault for how the kids grew up. Suddenly, the child is responsible for their own behavior. Suddenly, it's not about the corrupting influence of violence, drugs, and porn. It's all about people not taking responsibility for their actions and their lives. It's about lazy people who get what they deserve. As if there is some point at which your childhood influences stop influencing you, and you wake-up and can make decisions independent of your earlier influences. And if that were the case, why would we need to protect our youths from boobies, dicks, and vaginas? Hell, if your childhood influences didn't matter, the Dobsons shouldn't mind if we let our kids totally gay it up until maturity set in. It wouldn't make a difference.

And it's bad enough that we do this to adults who grew up badly. People who are victims of influences far worse than what the conservatives want to deny us. But they also believe that the children themselves need to suffer. That a child deserves to starve because of his parent's mistakes, laziness, and immoral behavior. That a child deserves to be poorly educated and just plan poor, because of his parent's actions. That a child deserves to be subjected to the horrible influences that responsible adults should be denied, simply because of his parent's mistakes.

In these cases, the children are seen as mere objects, existing only relative to their parents. These children simply become part of the punishment against the parents. Good things happen to children of good, moral parents; and bad things happen to children of bad, immoral parents. And so this is just a big morality lesson. These children are no longer seen as individuals deserving protection against bad things and evil influences. These children exist only as a warning to the others: Behave properly or your kids will suffer.

The Sins of the Father

And we're even seeing that right now. Many conservatives insist that the people who stayed in New Orleans deserve to die because they failed to heed the evacuation warnings. That these people should starve and suffer because of their mistakes. And let's set aside the issue of people being unable to evacuate. Because I'm sure there were people who could have left, but didn't. But do these people deserve to die? Was it so impossible to save them that their mistake became a capital offense, worthy of death? Or at least days of hunger and thirst? Hell, a prison sentence for failing to evacuate would be a far better punishment than leaving them to die, as these conservatives suggest we do. And this would make far more sense if sending aid had been much harder. But it wasn't that help was so difficult. It was that the government screwed up, and is now trying to rationalize those screwups.

But it's not just the people who chose not to evacuate that they are wishing this on. It is children. Children are there, and these conservatives believe that these children should suffer because of their parent's mistake. And again, it is often the same conservatives who insist that children and teens are too stupid to understand smut and violence properly, are the same ones who suggest that children of these non-evacutees deserve to suffer. Sure they wouldn't say it that way, but if anything, that just shows their own callousness and small-mind. Because they aren't thinking of the children and babies suffering. They just want to rationalize what happened. They're so busy trying to make things seem better, that they can't even think about saving these children.

And this isn't to suggest that criminals should be allowed to commit crimes, simply because bad things happened to them, and they were swayed by bad influences as a child. And this isn't to say that we shouldn't punish criminals. Because punishment is certainly required. But there should also be understanding and compassion. And maybe if the Dobsons worked as hard at curing poverty and bad influences in inner-cities, as he did at ending pornography, violent movies, and homosexuality; we could go far to making the world a better place. But I guess that just isn't as fun or easy as converting gays and getting the boobies off of the television. We all have to have our hobbies.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Sacrifice and Security

As others have pointed out, dealing with this crisis really was not significantly different than handling a terrorist attack. Like a massive dirty bomb attack. If anything, the difficulties involved in a major terrorist attack are worse than what is necessary for a natural disaster. Especially as we had several days warning before the storm hit. Not that it is likely that anything worse will happen, but we certainly must be prepared for significantly worse.

But we're clearly not. Four years after 9/11, there clearly are no plans. There was no mass evacuation ready. We didn't have National Guardsmen ready. Our Washington leadership's plan was Every Man For Himself, and to denounce people who didn't take care of themselves. And that is simply not a plan. That is disgusting. Four years after "everything changed" and it's obvious that nothing has. At least not as far as preparing our nation for another attack.

The only thing that changed was that the Bushies had a stronger argument to use against their opponents. An argument which supposedly gave them free reign to do whatever the hell they wanted. Taxcuts, war, racial profiling, invasion of liberties, torture, anything. That's what they wanted and that's what they got. And so the only thing that changed was their rhetoric.

But what about doing the things necessary to make our country safer? Not indirect things, like invading Iraq, which only Bush loyalists still insist made us safer. But the direct things, like evacuation and quick responses. And securing our ports and chemical manufacturing plants, and other necessary safety precautions, which are unsexy but necessary. All that got ignored. And this current disaster shows the consequences.

But it's not just a case of the Bush Administration not caring. It's that they knew that these things would hurt them. They knew that we'd be far less likely to follow them into war if we were busy making America safer. This wasn't just incompetence. This was part of the PR campaign. This was part of the sales pitch. They wanted lots of unused energy getting pent-up with hopelessness and anger, so that they could spring their "solution" on us and we'd follow right behind them. They didn't want us to have a useful outlet for those feelings, and so they didn't give us one. And if we felt safer, we wouldn't need Bush's war to make us safer. And they just didn't see how any of this was necessary anyway.

Sacrificing Goals

And I was thinking about this in the context of Kevin Drum's comments about troop strength. As he said, for those liberal warhawks who say the war was right, but that Bush screwed up by not sending enough troops; that's just bogus. Because the real issue is that we didn't have enough troops to make the war work. And that it would have taken great time and expense to raise enough. And the Bush Admin knew that that wouldn't work, and that they couldn't have their war. So they took the troops they had and hoped for the best. Bush preferred to sacrifice our lives, money, and reputation; rather than his agenda.

And that's exactly what we've seen post-9/11. It's not just that the Bush Admin didn't do what was necessary to make America safer. It's that they knew that they couldn't, not if they wanted to get their laundry list agenda passed, anyway. They knew that they'd lose their taxcuts and their war if we spent what was necessary to prepare America. So they cut spending on our security and infrastructure; rather than increasing it, as was necessary.

But it's not just about spending. During WWII, citizens made real sacrifices, not just with rationing, but with citizen groups organized to defend our nation. People volunteering their time and energy to make America safer. And I don't know much about the 50's and 60's, but I know that they were ready for this kind of stuff too. Not just this, but against actual commie invasions and nuclear attacks. They organized local preparation units nationwide. Regular citizens sacrificing their time and energy, to ensure against attacks that never happened.

And that's exactly the kind of thing we need now, and what people would have gladly agreed to after 9/11. Not just higher spending, but civilian mobilization crews who are told what to do in case of disasters. So that we don't need to wait for FEMA and troops to restore order and help those who need it. Because more often than not, people want to help during crisis. People like being useful, rather than helpless. They'd much rather be a rescuer than the rescued. One of the worst things during a crisis is doing nothing and unsure of your next move. People just need to know where they fit in and what they can do to help. With guidance, even your worst looter will prove that he/she belongs in our society.

And maybe they've got stuff like that where you live, but I haven't seen jack dooky where I'm at. And I live on the Texas coast, with a large Navy base, a major port, and refineries nearby. And I don't have any idea what I'd do if we were attacked. Sure, I know the evacuation routes out of town. And I've gotten a flier from the local newspaper and TV station, showing what I need to do to prepare for a hurricane. But what about something more serious and unpredictable than a natural storm? I'm sure they've got plans for what we'd do in case of attack (I hope), but I have no idea what those plans are, or what I could do to help.

But these things can't just make themselves happen. These things need to be organized at a higher level. But that takes time and energy and money. And Bush had better uses for these resources than getting us better prepared for emergencies and terrorism. He didn't want to see these resources squandered on government programs, and now all he can do is make excuses for why we weren't ready. But there are no excuses. We've been warned and the Bush Administration ignored those warnings, and people are suffering and dying. People were prepared after 9/11 to do what it took to make America safer; and Bush used that instead to ensure his place in history. And that he has, though it is doubtful that it is in the way that he intended. If nothing else, Bush will not be a forgotten president.

I can't stress this enough, people who don't think that government works should not be in positions responsible for making it work. Because they can't do it. You don't put a communist in charge of your chamber of commerce, and you don't let an atheist run your church. If someone doesn't think something can work, they won't be able to make it work. Conservatives don't believe in government, and should not be allowed to control it. It's that simple.

Conservative Incompetence

I'm starting to get the impression that one problem that the conservatives have with government (and thus, the problem we're seeing in New Orleans) is that conservatives honestly don't seem to understand what the federal government can do to fix things. Perhaps they're too busy thinking about their tax bill, or perhaps it's simply the level of their own incompetence (probably both); but it really does seem that these people just don't understand what should have been done differently. As if their conservatism is, in at least some part, based on their incompetence. And that they just don't understand how competent people get things done.

And this really explains much about why they are conservatives. Rather than greedy bastards who don't want to pay for the services they need, they appear to be incompetent bastards who really do see government projects as a moneyhole. Wasted tax dollars. Not because the money is wasted, per se. But simply because they fail to understand why these things are necessary, and how disasters can be lessened or even prevented. And that's why they attack both successful and unsuccessful government programs. Because they just don't understand how any of it works, and assume that it's all a giant boondoggle; the sole intent of which is to give other government people cushy government jobs (a claim I've heard from many conservatives). And they think that because they're just too stupid to understand why any of this is necessary.

And that's why many Republicans seem to see Bush's mistake being that he didn't get out with the PR campaign soon enough. He wasn't ready enough for the right kind of photo-ops; the right kind of speeches. As if, even now, they fail to understand what the government can do to fix things, beyond tossing out empty words, platitudes, and excuses. And if we're lucky, perhaps this might open their eyes and allow them to understand that the government really can do things that private individuals and organizations cannot do. And that it must.

But at best, that will be a small handful, and most will simply close their eyes and insist that Bush couldn't have done anything better. But they say this, not simply out of loyalty to Bush (though that is certainly an issue), and not just because they oppose government; but because they really don't understand how competent people can fix things, if given the resources to do so. And private citizens and organizations simply do not have the resources to handle this kind of catastrophe. And even state governments can't have the resources to handle this. Nor can it be contracted out to private industry. It can only be done with the nation united together, and that can only be done with a federal government. This kind of thing takes coordination and expertise and preparation, and that can only be done at the highest level.

And again, this isn't a political message. This is a statement of fact: People who don't think that government works, should not be put in positions responsible for a working government. Because if they don't understand how it works, they'll be unable to make it work. And that's exactly what we're seeing in New Orleans right now: People unable to make the system work.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The End Is Nigh

Conservatism as an ideology is over. That's not just a prediction, that's a promise. I'm just stunned reading all of the horrible stories coming out of New Orleans right now, and we can only hope that things aren't as bad as they might be. But one of the clear indicators coming from all this is that Bush is going to pay, and be remembered in history as the next Nero. Fiddling as New Orleans was destroyed. But it's not just him. It's the entire ideology he represents. Not because they were in power during the disaster. But because they made our government so powerless during it. Not just because of their incompetence, but because that's what conservatives have always wanted, and that's what they stand for. And now we see just one horrible consequence of this dangerous ideology.

Sure, Bush could not have prevented the storm. But there is already too much evidence which shows that he should have done more. And that we could have done more, had we not had a conservative in the Whitehouse, and a Republican Congress. People who oppose government have no business running the government, and this disaster is proof of that. I strongly predict a rising surge of anti-conservatism sweeping the country, and that Republicans will once again be seen as a permanent a minority party for decades to come.

And that is their proper place. Power unchecked is a bad thing, and Republicans will do well as an opposition party. It's their natural inclination, and where their heart really is. They need to act as a proper check to Democrat ambitions, and help keep them honest. Democrats are a poor minority, as too many of them go off and do their own thing. And a minority party just can't do much with a lot of strays. But Republicans are good at picking off strays, and this ability is helpful for taking out Democrat bills which aren't mainstream enough. And that's what we need. People who believe in government trying to make it work, and people who oppose government acting as the opposition. That just makes sense, and that is the balance that we will return to shortly.

I've read lots of these articles today, but here's one from Knight Ridder that stuck out at me (via Kevin Drum). Here are a few of the quotes which, if they become widely known, will help ensure the proper demise of the conservative movement:

Last year, FEMA spent $250,000 to conduct an eight-day hurricane drill for a mock killer storm hitting New Orleans. Some 250 emergency officials attended. Many of the scenarios now playing out, including a helicopter evacuation of the Superdome, were discussed in that drill for a fictional storm named Pam.
This year, the group was to design a plan to fix such unresolved problems as evacuating sick and injured people from the Superdome and housing tens of thousands of stranded citizens.
Funding for that planning was cut, said Tolbert, the former FEMA disaster response director.

FEMA wasn't alone in cutting hurricane spending in New Orleans and the surrounding area.
Federal flood control spending for southeastern Louisiana has been chopped from $69 million in 2001 to $36.5 million in 2005, according to budget documents. Federal hurricane protection for the Lake Pontchartrain vicinity in the Army Corps of Engineers' budget dropped from $14.25 million in 2002 to $5.7 million this year. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu requested $27 million this year.

In 2004, the Corps essentially stopped major work on the now-breached levee system that had protected New Orleans from flooding. It was the first such stoppage in 37 years, the Times-Picayune reported.
"It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay," Jefferson Parish emergency management chief Walter Maestri told the newspaper. "Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

The Army Corps' New Orleans office, facing a $71 million cut, also eliminated funds to pay for a study on how to protect the Crescent City from a Category 5 storm, New Orleans City Business reported in June.

Or there's this quote from a 2004 article in Independent Weekly:
The White House quickly launched a government-wide effort to privatize public services, including key elements of disaster management. Bush's first budget director, Mitch Daniels, spelled out the philosophy in remarks at an April 2001 conference: "The general idea -- that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided -- seems self-evident to me," he said.

And so this isn't just about a slow-footed reaction by a vacationing President; busy playing his guitar while New Orleans was destroyed. And it's not just basic incompetence, though those are both certainly issues. It is the entire conservative ideology which is to blame. They don't believe in government and obviously cannot be trusted to govern it. Because as I've argued before, it's not just that conservatives don't think the government can be successful, it's that they don't think it should be. And they oppose successful government programs more than unsuccessful ones. They don't want people dying, I'm sure. But they'd rather people not be saved by the federal government. Because they just don't like government and want everyone else to hate it too. And people don't hate programs that save them.

Again, this isn't to say that all the conservatives will pack up their bags and go home. But this is yet another nail in the coffin. And a particularly strong nail at that, in that all of the budget cuts above apply directly to this disaster. This isn't just a case of ruining a federal agency, or some other generic cuts. These are direct cuts which could have helped alleviate much of the damage, and it will be almost impossible for conservatives to spin this.

"The first such stoppage in 37 years." To the Bushies, I'm sure this was just another waste project. Taking away precious money needed for Bush's pet war and tax cuts. But to America, this will be a tell-tale of what is wrong with the conservative ideology. Proof positive that the conservatives are wrong. The funds diverted from these projects is peanuts compared with how much it will cost to rebuild New Orleans. And nothing can make up for the loss of life.

It's obvious that the Bushies hadn't prepared for this kind of event. But they never do. They always hope for the best and assume that that's enough. But hope is not enough. And hope is not a strategy. We had a strategy for these things, and the conservatives saw to it that those strategies were dismantled. And they replaced them with tax cuts and contracts for cronies. They chose to wait until tragedy struck, and still waited until it passed. And then Bush got off his vacation and tried to comfort us with too little, too late.

Maybe someday conservatives will learn to appreciate planning and strategies and worst-casscenariosos. And maybe they'll learn that it's best to spend a little more moneup-frontnt, or you'll end up spending a lot more later on. And maybe they'll begin to understand the importance of experts and competence and doing things right. And if that day ever comes, they will be liberals; forever shamed for what they have done.