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Wednesday, August 30, 2006
It's been a year since Katrina blew ashore in New Orleans. We were all inundated with the pictures of the colossal failure of the government, and the almost unimaginable human suffering that took place, and is still taking place. Along with other things weighing heavily on my mind at that particular moment, there was this seemingly never-ending nightmare. American citizens, stuck on roofs and balconies, floating in fetid water, baking in the sun by the side of Interstate 10, and starving to death in the Louisiana Superdome. It was absolutely unbelievable, and as I revisit these things in depth a year later, I find myself in a similar mindset.
I don't really get depressed, fortunately. But I think that at the time, with all of the things I was worried about, I probably was. No need to worry, I'm not the suicidal type. Murder-suicide, maybe...
But I was worn down, no question about it. To see that kind of misery taking place, and knowing there is very little that I, alone could do about it, just takes the piss out of you. Fortunately, the grief and nearly complete lack of sleep were supplanted by my old reliable ally: Righteous fucking fury.
By August 31st, the devastation and death were really becoming known all around the world, and we began asking, "Where the hell is the federal government?"
And the question remains.
This week, George W. Bush remembered New Orleans, and flew down for another photo op. The fact that this bastard has the gall to even set foot inside of New Orleans is remarkable. His cronyism where FEMA was concerned probably cost hundreds their lives, and certainly slowed any cleanup efforts. But he really stepped up and owned it, saying the following:
"I take full responsibility for the federal government's response, and a year ago I made a pledge that we will learn the lessons of Katrina and that we will do what it takes to help you recover."
He is taking full responsibility. Which means what? Nothing.
Listen to me, you negligent failure-in-chief. "Responsibilty" would entail you clearing debris from the Lower Ninth Ward instead of brush from your fucking ranch. Responsibility would involve you admitting your failure and resigning. You claim to have been reading Shakespeare this summer, you son of a bitch. Well, Caesar, where is your Brutus? Or perhaps seeing all of your plots and plans go awry, you could fall on your sword as Cassius. You owe it to us.
A student of history such as yourself should look to the Japanese to see what a "war leader" such as you ought to do after he has led his nation into a pre-emptive war of choice. Tojo used a gun, but failed. I suggest you either use something bigger, or ask Vice President Cheney to assist.
I am an agnostic, but if there is a god, I hope you will be judged accordingly. You have no idea what responsibility means.
posted at 7:57 PM
Put up or shut up
It's been an interesting week in Lebanon. Hezbollah has made more progress cleaning up Beirut in a couple of weeks than FEMA has made in New Orleans in a year, and the UN has committed 15000 troops to be in the buffer zone, as per the US/French brokered ceasefire agreement.
So far, so good.
The French originally committed 2000 troops to the contingent, but earlier this week backed that down to 200. Two hundred. This, again, from a nation that helped broker this deal, and at last check has a population of about 61 million persons.
Now, this is not just random France-bashing. I'm not one of those who prefers his potatoes "freedom fried" nor do I think the French are cowards for not helping the US in Iraq. They made a smart choice based on the evidence at hand. If I were the French government, I'd have kept my army at home, too.
But this ridiculously small commitment of 200 soldiers is just nonsensical. Especially given France's colonial history in Lebanon, they should certainly be well represented. Hell, Italy is sending 3000.
So today, after pressure was applied, mainly by the US, France relented and agreed to send the original force of 2000. I am very proud of the French and Italians for doing their part to keep peace in the world. For a change.
The Bush administration, which by all accounts is (pardon my lapse) completely fucked, has been put in a position to ask the EU to actually do something for a change. I am being put in a position to decide whether the Bush government or the European ones are in fact, more reprehensible.
It's a tie!
You can go through the archives of this well-read and poorly written blog and see quite clearly that I have no love for this president, his cabinet, cronies, or anything that he is associated with. He is, without a doubt, the worst president ever. I say these things as a liberal with economically socialist leanings, who would tax the wealthy at 80% and provide health care for everyone.
I do not share the liberal affinity for Europe. Of course, many wonderful things have come from Europe, far too many to name, so this is not a complete dismissal. But to talk to my liberal brethren and, ah, sistern, you'd think Europe was Utopia.
"Oh, they're so advanced in their thinking, and Copenhagen in the Spring? Blah blah blah."
Great, you can smoke weed, not get arrested and go on a six-week vacation.
My problem is, the Europeans are every bit as hypocritical as any American. Their shit doesn't stink. Go ahead, just ask them.
But maybe they don't notice the poo-smell over the stench of rotting corpses. That stench, incidentally, is one that Europeans have trained themselves to ignore.
"Is this about the Holocaust? That was last century, dude."
And so it was. Although European disinterest in the plight of its own during the Third Reich would serve as a solid enough example, I won't burden you with the details. They are fact, and they are everywhere, and no, they will not be forgotten.
I'd like to talk about Kosovo, if I could.
Slobodan Milosevic spent the better part of a decade waging war on Kosovar Albanians, a campaign known by the achingly familiar name of "ethnic cleansing." Thousands were killed, and many more displaced. It was grotesque sectarian violence, which was precluded by the usual vilifying cry of an "enemy among us." Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, a dizzying array of new names for Americans to learn. We may be excused for our ignorance of these nationalities up to that point, as I would excuse someone from outside the United States for not being able to find West Virginia on a map, or identify where Creoles live.
All of this went on right there in the middle of Europe. For years. Nothing was done.
Back in 1995, when we still had a president that could read and actually gave a shit, the US led an agreement to try and put an end to these atrocities. The Dayton Accords were the result, and a US-led NATO force (is there any other kind?) was put into the region as peacekeepers. Slaughters continued, including the Racak Massacre, which led to a 78-day bombing campaign by NATO forces in 1999. A peace was brokered, and Milosevic was captured in 2001. He was tried for war crimes, but unfortunately died in March of 2006 before he could enjoy a full measure of justice.
The question I must ask is, why did the US need to be involved in this conflict? If this was not a European problem that ought to have been dealt with by Europeans, what else possibly could be? Why didn't the fact that bodies were piling up on the continent matter to Europeans?
I have no answers.
None of this excuses the US fiasco in Iraq. That FUBAR is ours, solely owned, and fully operated by George W. Bush and Halliburton Inc.
That being acknowledged, I will not silently sit by as Europeans once again try to skate on the thin ice of lecturing about ugliness taking place in all corners of the world, when they have so frequently disregarded their own blood-soaked native soil.
And let's not even get started about the former British colony of Darfur.
posted at 6:45 PM
No one is safe
I mean really, what's a several millennia-old conflict between friends?
Quite more than I thought, apparently. And truly a damned shame.
posted at 9:23 PM
"Sleeps With Bodyguards"
She may be of Arab ancestry, but if she ever needs an Indian name, this is it. Have a look at psychologist Wafa Sultan's appearance on al-Jazeera back in February of 2006.
Stop apologizing, making excuses, and do something.
posted at 4:36 AM
Tie Goes To The Bastards
We have a ceasefire at the moment in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. It will not last, because peace does not suit the Islamic fundamentalist agenda, but the respite allows us time to reflect.
Hezbollah claims victory, and I have to admit, they put up lot better fight that I thought Arabs were capable of. They may have a great history of science and mathematics, but the Arab prowess in battle is the equivalent of British skill in the culinary arts. Although at least with English cooking, you will occasionally get a whiff of guts.
That's right, I'm insulting everyone tonight.
Israel is not really bothering to claim victory, which in this context, is a defeat. Israel did manage to wipe out a good chunk of Hezbollah's warmaking capability, and probably killed four or five hundred terrorists. There will be a period of rebuilding that capacity, and then Hezbollah will resume it's cowardly attacks.
A lot, too many Lebanese civilians were killed in the crossfire, but considering that Hezbollah never bothered to target military installations in Israel, only civilian population centers, Israel still holds the moral high ground. Some of the civilian deaths in Lebanon may have been the result of sadistic Israeli pilots, but that number is undoubtedly miniscule in comparison to intentional Israeli civilian deaths. I will not, in the interest of fairness, hold Israel to a higher standard than Hezbollah. Those who would ought to read this piece by David Mamet. He writes well.
Simple advice to my Lebanese brothers and sisters: If you don't lay down with a whore, you don't wake up with a whore.
The problem is that our esteemed president, George W. Bush, has declared Israel the winner in this month-long battle. Given his record of accuracy on, well, pretty much everything, it is clear to even the most biased observer, that Hezbollah must have actually won. That's a kick in the gut.
posted at 6:46 PM
Little Man Being Erased
May pretty horses
Come to you
As you sleep
I'm gonna go to sleep
Let this wash
All over me.
posted at 3:42 AM
I was considering the workings of my own brain, and trying to figure out whether or not it had any bearing on the way I approach the outside world. What a luxury, to self-indulge about one's own mind. I'm a bore.
So, I decided to itemize the physical manifestations of my wiring.
Scissors: Either, mostly right
Basketball shooting and dribbling: Favor left
Fork and knife: Either
Snap fingers: Right hand only
TV remote: Right
Grabbing things: Whichever is closer
So, neurologically, I'm a mess, which probably fails to surprise you. But is it capable of telling me anything about my outlook toward the world in which I live?
I wasn't able to find a great deal of useful information about any studies in regard to ambidexterity and politics, psychology or philosophy, and what I did locate seemed to want to talk mostly about Leonardo da Vinci.
I am not Leonardo da Vinci. I have no artistic talent, I can't make a decent circle or draw a straight line, my spatial abilities are crap, and I've never met Tom Hanks.
So, I wonder if it means anything, or if it's all just stuff that is mostly coincidental. Could someone be inclined to be politically conservative or liberal based on how he brushes his teeth?
Nature versus nurture? Yet another argument I probably won't settle tonight. But Catholic parents have Catholic kids, Republican parents produce conservative offspring (after authority approved missionary-style sex), and that's how generally the way it goes. Some kids rebel, and others just find their own way, but I'll bet if you're out in the world, your politics probably aren't all that different than your parents. Is it who we really are, or just what we know and parrot?
Polly wanna viable third party?
So, that's what I think about instead of being out there making a difference.
posted at 11:16 PM
What a rip
I spent some time this afternoon writing a piece that a local magazine wants in regard to an upcoming ballot initiative. A co-worker and I are doing a point/counterpoint sort of deal. I mention this only as an excuse for why there won't be any content today. I'm sitting here, knowing that I wrote something, but it's of no value to you, the loyal reader. Trust me, it's about a local thing that would be of no interest to you.
There is a lot going on in the world right now, but some days I feel like I spend so much time talking about it and thinking about it that I feel like when I'm writing, I'm repeating myself.
I suppose I should get over that.
The piece is brilliant, incidentally, and will undoubtedly make my colleague look like a shrill, petty ass. It's a good thing that I respect her as much as I do.
I'm not being ironic now.
posted at 10:24 PM
The 109th Congress, just wrapping up for summer recess, definitely has been maligned. Quite rightly, I'd say. This year, they have sent only a handful of pieces of legislation to the president to sign: Renewing the Patriot Act, and a $70 billion dollar tax cut, both terribly detrimental to the people of the United States as a whole. Oh sure, the sent the stem cell bill to Dingus, but he vetoed it, and Congress didn't have the balls to override him on a bill that nearly three-fourths of Americans favor. In terms of accomplishments? Pretty much nothing.
But passing laws is hard work, what with all of the lobbyists, corporate sponsors, glad-handing and so forth. I mean doing the people's business really takes a chunk of the week, especially since your week as a Congressman is only about three days long.
Oh, you didn't know? The typical schedule for legislators is as follows:
Tuesday afternoon, working in the Capitol.
Wednesday, same deal.
Thursday, work in the morning, flying out of DC in the afternoon/evening.
Friday-Sunday, either in the home district, raising campaign money (or both), or doing fact-finding junkets to golf courses.
Monday, fly back to DC in the afternoon or evening.
There's your week, slightly less than three days writing legislation.
In the first two months of 2006, Congress spent 47 hours in session. Sixty-nine days possible, forty-seven hours worked. I've had plenty of jobs where I knocked those kind of hours out in four days, and these people, even allowing for normal weekends off, still managed to put in about just one hour a day at the office. Sign me up. Fortunately, they did see fit to take the time to vote themselves yet another fat pay hike up to $165,200 per year. Since 1997, their pay has risen $31,000. Increase in that time to the minimum wage? Zero. But then, if you work forty hours a week for $5.15 an hour, you gross a fat $10,712 per year. Again, that's before taxes, and benefits, not that you get benefits with a minimum wage job, stupid.
So what have they been doing? Why, protecting America, of course! Congress has been nose to the grindstone making sure that you don't put nose to same-sex toilet area thanks to the Marriage Protection Act. And if you're anything like me, you can barely sleep at night, fretting about the three or four individuals each year who bother to burn American flags. Congress is on it, via the Flag Desecration Act.
This 109th Congress, which can barely make it to work three days a week, feels that the work of the founding fathers of this country, is simply inadequate. The Constitution is incomplete without language that would actually reduce our rights. Fortunately, neither of these bills managed to pass, although the flag one only missed it by one vote.
So, everything must be in order for our legislators to have this kind of free time, right?
Yep, everything is cool.
Sure, nitpickers will bring up the war in Iraq, the Katrina mess still in New Orleans, energy prices, inflation, outsourcing, conflict in Lebanon, the destruction of the US military, global warming, a crumbling infrastructure, immigration, the deficit, election fraud, educational problems in US schools, 45 million Americans who lack health insurance, the cost of health care for people that actually do have insurance, overfilled prisons, and a host of other things.
Those people just don't understand. You may complain that the 109th Congress has not done anything.
But when I look at the men and women who make up this once-great legislative body, and the issues that they put forth?
The only thing worse than the 109th Congress working less, would be if they were working more.
posted at 7:55 PM
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