Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Opportunity Knocks

Back in March, I wrote a post about Ronnie Earle. I like Earle. Not much has changed there. Things today are different though, and it's an important difference.

In March, back when I put up the "Don't Delay, Indict Tom" banner on the top corner of my site, I thought I was mad as hell. Sometimes emotions are sneaky. We get so caught up in them we can't actually analyze them. My six month retrospective tells me I wasn't so much angry as brimming with frustrated disillusionment.

Folks on the right look at the overall change in America as a straightening of far left tendencies. I never saw it that way. All my life I have voted my conscience. I vote 60- 70% Democratic, but that's not a formula, it just my view of who, in any given race, can do the job. If you vote only along party lines, you're letting somebody else, and their agenda, do your thinking for you.

I happen to feel that it makes sense to be financially conservative. I dislike feeling dependent on anybody. I don't run my personal life that way; I damn sure don't want to run my country that way. Socially, I'm liberal. I accept that abler bodies and minds have a responsibility to those less fortunate. I think everybody had to try; everyone must do their best.

As a Christian, I believe that stepping into the breach and lifting is required. God doesn't ask us to drive Humvees and have the best toys, he simply wants us to see each life as valuable, even if the owner of that life acts like it isn't . Ultimately, I believe that accepting the value of each life allows us to decline the temptation of division; we can choose not to structure our society as an obstacle course, creating losers in order to make winners. Brains and abilities are already disparate. We don't need to build more division; the challenge before us is to figure out how to excel using ALL the brains and abilities, whatever their levels.

Hence the reason for the frustration. Everywhere I looked, I saw things I disagreed with. We spent a hell of a lot of money. If I ran my checkbook that way, I'd be living under an overpass. Stories kept changing. If I pulled that crap with my Mother, I'd still be eating Ivory Soap. Principles lost their transcendence. During the Clinton presidency, the lie about the sex became a metaphor for the reason the presidency must end. Clinton, to many, was an unprincipled man. Five years into this presidency, where are the principles behind this war, with its constantly changing premise? Where are the principles behind the Abu Gharib torture, when rank and file are left to hang and their superiors don't have their backs, are not demanding to be accountable for their people? Where are the principles behind the Patriot Act? Cutting the civil liberties of the taxpayer will not trap the terrorists -- only building a communicative network with other countries will do that. Sure it's easier to control the citizenry, but that doesn't make it right.

Which leads me back to Earle. Ronnie Earle is a principled man. He happens to not like people breaking the law because they've got power. Things will be said about Earle. Most will not be true. He's not partisan, (his indictment ratio of 13 Democrats to 3 Republicans supports that) but he sure as hell hates power hungry politicos who abuse the law for personal gain. He's a good guy. Lately, we seem to have a dearth of those.

People who roared about Clinton should be fervently supporting Earle. He's got the high ground here. In fact, folks in the middle and Republicans who no longer recognize this spendthrift party of cronyism as their own should back Ronnie Earle. Drawing the line in the sands of reason is the first step to regaining a healthier American political system and a recognizable Republican Party.

I miss those guys. I wish them Godspeed.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hey Boys and Girls, Wanna Play?

Every once in awhile, I come across something that is too funny to keep to myself. Madmary sent this to me, and I'm compelled to share. Polish up the plausible deniablity kiddies, and let's play!

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-- Courtesy of Salon

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hide and Sneak

I'm pissed. AGAIN. Hypocrites are starting to wear thin on me, and those asshats sitting on both sides of the aisle are hypocritimus maximus.

What on God's green earth possess these people? We are blessed with some truly outstanding examples of humanity in our armed forces. Selfless, disciplined, dedicated, and courageous -- these folks set aside their own dreams and goals, daily joys of seeing children grow, marriages deepen and careers thrive to go around the world, live in conditions that would make most of us stroke out, and possibly get killed. The rest of us, comfy and happy, stressing over whether McDonald's or Taco Bell is the best choice tonight, looking forward to a snuggle with our spouse and some great football this weekend should feel a moral imperative to take care of our caretakers.

Rep. David Obey, D-WI thought so too. He tried an interesting experiment this week:

And so last Wednesday, Obey entered the laboratory of the subcommittee on military construction and proposed an amendment to restore $1 billion of the $1.5 billion President Bush cut from the budget for military family housing.

As Obey noted in an interview, "it's obvious that you have atrocious
barracks for the troops with families and also for the single troops." Wouldn't a Congress that passes resolutions "singing hosannas to the troops" give the same troops decent places to live?

But then the experiment kicked in: Obey proposed financing the budget increase by reducing Bush's recent tax cut, but only for the roughly 200,000 Americans who make more than $1 million a year.
Under Obey's amendment, these taxpayers would receive a cut of $83,546 this year -- more than most Americans make annually -- instead of the $88,326 they are currently scheduled to receive.

This small contribution to the troops was voted down on a party-line vote. A spokesman for Rep. Joe Knollenberg of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the subcommittee, said that Obey's amendment was inappropriate -- tax matters are properly dealt with in the Ways and Means Committee, he said -- and that Knollenberg hoped "that additional money would be found" to improve housing for the troops. -- Washington Post

I find these priorities completely screwed up. If I was wealthy enough to qualify for a 88 THOUSAND dollar tax cut, I think taking $4800 less and restoring 2/3 of the cut taken from our service people would sound like an upright thing to do.

In the face of what our service people endure on our behalf, it's barely a start.

Hiding behind procedural rules cuts exactly zero crap with me. Either you care about righting this wrong, or you care about who got you elected and who might get you elected again.

Flaunting selfishness in the face of valor is abominable.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

People, Get Ready

We registered our house as available to offer shelter to people displaced from their homes by Katrina at two different sites. We’re not well off, but we do produce a lot of food off our little farm, and one thing we have in abundance is good eats. Knowing you have food for your family covered frees up people to concentrate on the other Katrina realities such as the labyrinth of insurance negotiation and finding work. We hope we will be contacted, but nothing so far.

Part of the problem, of course, is that displaced people have limited resources for finding us. This is an area that FEMA really needs to look at. Having a stockpile of technology ready to reconnect victims with opportunities is crucial. Not only for the people who need help, but the people who want to help are equally reliant on their technology. I’ve received emails asking that I try to locate evacuees myself, in an effort to let them know I have housing. I’m fine with that, but again, we are missing a significant puzzle piece when the gap between need and help is so wide.

One person can’t make the difference that ten, a hundred, or a thousand can.

Next time, I hope we foresee and solve the tech breakdown between helper and helpless. Since right now is where the need is, Rabbi Marc Gellman has a solution that I like very much.

Rabbi Gellman believes that it will be months if not a year before displaced families can return home. Shelters cannot function for that kind of time. Most housing offers are short term and can accommodate just a few. Resettling whole families is a big job with impact on the new communities in terms of schools and services. The Feds are going to be busy rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, so most of these individual needs are probably not going to be met by Washington (and possibly not by the overburdened states).

His solution? The Starfish Project.

Therefore, it is clear to me that the best solution to this emergency is for the houses of worship to step up to this sacred task and help resettle these families in their towns. Religious congregations are perfect because they are larger than a family and smaller than the government. They are perfect because they already exist. They are perfect because they are already spread out all over this great land, and most of all they are perfect because it is their mission to do this. The moral integrity of not just America is at stake now. The moral integrity of America’s churches and other holy communities is at stake now. – Gellman, Newsweek

This is an opportunity for People of Faith across this country, frustrated by the Republican hijacking of Christianity for un-Christian behavior, to get back to the roots of faith. I urge you to bring this idea to your communities and places of worship and get the conversation started. Hands on helping, working together to help raise up another who has stumbled, is just the tonic we need.

All I know is that we need to do this to fulfill God’s commandment and my favorite story. God’s commandment comes from the prophet Isaiah, “You are a refuge to the poor, to the needy in distress, a shelter from the storm” (Isaiah 25:4). A check to the Red Cross is good but it alone is neither refuge nor shelter. A shelter is an opening of arms wide enough to catch them. A shelter is using our blessings to ease their burdens. A shelter is bringing them close to our hearts and holding them until they are strong enough to walk on their own to the next place they will decide to live. A shelter is a group of families of
faith and hope, giving faith and hope to those who have just come up out of the waters and deserve to find more than a desert on the other side. America’s houses of worship are perfect shelters for the victims of this American storm. Some are already doing it now. More must do it tomorrow. – Gellman, Newsweek

The reckless spending of this administration is coming home to roost. We’ve spent a pile in the past five years; we’re well in bed with debt these days. It’s up to Americans to help each other. If we are what we believe ourselves to be, a caring nation with can-do spirit, we need to stop waiting for our uncaring, can’t-do government. Flexing our civic muscle, empowering our religious leaders and taking back our country from a bunch of talking points asshats on both sides of the aisle would put us a long way towards righting the rift that divides our country and allows us to be played against each other.

Religion has power in this nation. It’s just not the warped Pat Robertson “death-to-infidels” variety we’ve been beat with -- to the point that many believe that unless they pollute religion with politics, faith will fail. Faith can’t fail, people do. So get those conversations started, eh?

People get ready
There’s a train a-coming
You don’t need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
Don’t need no ticket
You just thank the Lord

People get ready
For the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers
From coast to coast
Faith is the key
Open the doors and board them
There’s room for all
Among the loved the most

Let’s raise this country up … once displaced American at a time.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Time of Death...

God, grant me the presence of mind not to drive to Washington and throttle George Bush.

In the face of the suffering, dying and dead, he used their horrific situation as an opportunity to get the press to take completely staged pictures of the progress in front of the breached levee that killed so many.

"But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast – black and white, rich and poor, young and old – deserve far better from their national government." -- Mary Landrieu

I know that You ask repeatedly for us to help the poor. I also know there's a single reference about supporting leaders in the book of Romans. I'm going to exercise my free will here and tell You that I will not support this idiot. His actions go against everything I believe is compassionate. He is selfish, short sighted, and a dumbass. He's used this country to death. I'm calling it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Critical Mass

I got the opportunity to listen to some truly ignorant opinions in the past week. Not on blogs, although I read more than I few I disagreed with, but rather from regular people, discussing the tragedy wrought upon the Gulf Coast. There's a sizeable number of people who simply think New Orleans should not be rebuilt. Period.

"It's under sea level."
"That's a stupid place to build a city."
"Only idiots would build a city that way."

So I asked them, did they think abandoning the city was truly the feasible response to Katrina? Surprisingly, this was a popular idea. It's money, of course. Nobody sees why rebuilding New Orleans is worth the money. There are, after all, other places to go party. There are other places full of historical relevance, right?

History. Ay, there's the rub.

You see, historically, New Orleans is a critical city. What is not being discussed is how, even in her battered state, this is still true.

Geographically, America is split by a biggie. It's the Mississippi River, and most of the major rivers in our country dump into it which gave us the ability to move goods from the interior to the coast. Successful farmers moved excess crops and sold them; this established the monetary base for the industrialization of this country.

The Battle of New Orleans, in 1815, was fought to ensure that New Orleans, so critical to the fledgling American economy, stayed under American control. The cherry in the Louisiana Purchase was New Orleans, the rivers, and the lands around it. If the British had kept New Orleans, and her incredible value, there would have been no Louisiana Purchase.

During WWII, the value of New Orleans, as the key to moving needed industrial minerals into America and move our agricultural wealth out was understood. It's no coincidence that there was a German U-boat campaign at the mouth of the Mississippi. New Orleans was seen as a critical target during the cold war, where destruction of the city could effectively grind the country to an economic standstill.

Today, the ports of New Orleans and South Louisiana, located north and south of the city, are just as critical. The Port of South Louisiana is the largest port America has, moving 52 million tons of exported goods, (more than half are agricultural), and bringing in 57 million tons, including crude oil, coal, concrete, chemicals, and fertilizers.

A simple way to think about the New Orleans port complex is that it is where the bulk commodities of agriculture go out to the world and the bulk commodities of industrialism come in. The commodity chain of the global food industry starts here, as does that of American industrialism. If these facilities are gone, more than the price of goods shifts: The very physical structure of the global economy would have to be reshaped. Consider the impact to the U.S. auto industry if steel doesn't come up the river, or the effect on global food supplies if U.S. corn and soybeans don't get to the markets. -- Stratfor

Shipping these commodities using other ways of conveyance isn't feasible. The goods shipped down the river system are heavy and inexpensive, which means they have a low value-to-weight ratio. Another reality is that the nation's businesses and transport systems were built and geared toward the developed systems of barges and ports in place on the Mississippi. What I mean is that we built the national network of railroads to complement the river system, not replace it. Attempting to move the tonnage of material via other transportation methods won't be possible. It's just way too much, it's too heavy, and doing so would add astronomically to the cost.

Aren't geopolitics fun? Rivers aren't subject to rhetoric, spin or deniability. They just flow, and that flow drives a significant portion of the American economy.

Another driver of the economy is the worker, and this is where we are about to get into trouble in New Orleans. Ports need lots of people with skills; so do oil fields and pipelines. We need the people in position to keep our economic flow going. They need homes, grocery stores, shops, auto parts, mechanics, dentists, lawyers, H&R block and McDonalds, to name a few.

We not only need to rebuild a safer New Orleans, but we need to do it quickly. If we abandon these people while we horse around over the reconstruction, they will leave to further their personal survival. You're on your own . Our government was pretty clear on that. They showed it the way they reacted to the city after the storm. It's evident in how they are talking about the survivors, blaming them for their suffering, implying time was not of the essence.

The displacement of population is the crisis that New Orleans faces. It is also a national crisis, because the largest port in the United States cannot function without a city around it. The physical and business processes of a port cannot occur in a ghost town, and right now, that is what New Orleans is. It is not about the facilities, and it is not about the oil. It is about the loss of a city's population and the paralysis of the
largest port in the United States. --

The rivers are a permanent reality in the American economic landscape. We built New Orleans for an essential purpose. Sure, it's not an optimal spot, but it is a necessary one. We would do well to heed the history, and make a serious effort to restore a livable city in support of the ports we depend on. Failure is not an option.

Cross posted at Bring It On and BlogCritics

Monday, September 05, 2005

An Open Letter to the President of the United States

I found this over at Thoughts of a Minister. It sums up the feelings of betrayal and disillusionment felt by Americans these days. He's asked that other blogs cross-post or link to this letter. I'm doing both. Feel free to do the same.

Dear Mr. President,

Over the last several days I have watched the news, and the disaster that has stricken our nation. As you probably know there are a lot of complaints about your administrations leadership during this time.

You were elected under the banner of Moral Values, and I would hope that your platform of Moral Values would come into use here.

As I have watched and read about what has happened I see nothing but apparently the poor, the elderly, and the sick stranded and without help and assistance. In the Bible there is a verse in Matthew where Jesus explains that whatever you do, or don't do, to the least of these you do to me.

It is quite clear that under your leadership we did nothing for the least of these, in fact it seems only because of the extraordinary outrage in the nation that your administration even began to deal with the crisis.

You made mention that you would do whatever it takes to make the situation right.

I hope you have the fortitude to do that.

Which is why I am calling for you to respectfully resign the Office of the Presidency.

I realize that this will not be what you wish to do.

But I have come to believe that a well dealt with resignation will bolster your image in history because you have acknowledged the limitations of your leadership. Before the disaster your approval rating were below that of President Nixon at the height of Watergate. I am sure that it will be even less when the situation in the south east is calmer.

The rising gas prices and apparently coming sortage will remind people of the gas crisis of the Carter Administration, and the comparisons seem to have already begun.

And one last comparison would be to the Johnson administration, who was also from Texas, who got us into Vietnam. He properly did not seek a second term. Because you are early into your second term I believe a calm and respectful resignation would help how your administration is viewed in the future.

It also is a concern of this citizen that you do not seemed to have addressed the issue of price gauging at the gas pump, but you have stated a no tolerance policy for those who loot food stores to feed themselves and their families.

As of this moment the general appearance to most of the country is that you protect the gas and oil companies but are punishing the black and the poor.

It is because of your election under the banner of Moral Values and your Administrations performace over the last week that I believe it is your best interest, those that believe in Moral Values, and in the countries best interest that you respectfully resign the Office of the Presidency.

Respectfully yours,

blogger Matthew61 and those that have signed below.

To other bloggers, if you agree with this letter please link and or post it.

And sign your name in the comments section if you agree.

I'll have something new for you tomorrow, which I'll cross-post at Bring It On. They have a wrenching video up there today. Check it out.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Gotta Get Mine

The sheer grief of death is mesmerizing. I watched a man on the news Tuesday night disintegrate. The flooding split his home, and he could no longer hand onto his wife's hands. He and the children lived;she swept and drowned.

"I've lost everything."

This was not about stuff. This was about the debilitating loss of a rock in your life.

He wept. The reporter cried. My tears fell,too. I did not know this woman, but I understood that this family had been ripped apart as simply as she'd been torn from his grip.

Looking at the sea that is New Orleans is like watching another country. Unrecognizable devastation has little face time in America. We've had spots of drama, bits of opportunities for courage and toughing it out, but these moments are nearly edifying. We like their bracing affirmation that we are hardy, we can handle it. Last year in the Florida hurricanes, I saw this often. I felt it in myself. We can absorb the hardship when we can see the end of it. We can strive to rebuild when there is some sort of recognizable path. It's kind of like giving birth. You're willing to handle the pain, because it will end. No one stays in labor forever.

In New Orleans, the city is ruined. Not damaged. Uninhabitable. The government cannot provide any viability, and anarchy is upon them. The culprit was not the eye of the storm, but the fragility of the levees that protect the city.

Fragile? Levees?

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in
the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside. --
Editor & Publisher

You see, there was a little problem. In 2003, SELA funding was cut drastically. The Army Corps of Engineer acknowledged that the funding problem was due to the war in Iraq. The Times Picayune ran nine articles stating the cost of Iraq was the reason the hurricane and flood-control dollars weren't there.

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was
needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "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. 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." --
Editor & Publisher

In retrospect, I think is the case for the preservation of the city as a security issue has been made abundantly. Sure, we're not dealing with imported terrorists, but a home grown variety born of desperation, frustration and greed. There is no underlying religious justification for the terror, just the religion of "gotta get mine" that Have vs. Have-Not society nurtures. New Orleans, a city of wealth and vagrancy, is full of frightened impoverished Have-Nots at the mercy of our newly minted urban terrorists. We are quick to imply unworthiness because of race, but the real root cause is greed, and the addictive desire to tier our society for self wealth preservation.

The war in Iraq is about oil and it's control and profitability to a few select American corporations; this was confirmed by our President. I take no comfort in this magnamonious display of truth. I doubt the people of New Orleans, staring down the barrel of looted pawn shop weaponry into the eyes of our "gotta get mine" terrorists, do either.

The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had
Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be." --
Editor & Publisher

Congratulations, American cities. Crucial funding is being cut from all of you, but when the earth came calling, it wasn't for you. This time. Oh, and New Orleans?

Bang, bang. You're dead.