Friday, March 24, 2006

Song and Dance Dick

Mr. 68 Degrees, All Lights on, Brewed Decaf...and Faux News on the Telly

I guess "Shooting People in the Face With the Stars" was all booked up:

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday rejected charges by Democrats that the Bush administration was mishandling Iraq and said: "If they are competent to fight this war, then I ought to be singing on American Idol."

This, from a man who mistook Harry Whittington for a bird...

Well, Big Time's got a rider...I guess the only question is what's he gonna sing?

I Shot The Sheriff Donor
I Don't Like Monday's Saturdays
I Fought the Law (and the Law Won)
English Iraqi Civil War
Boom Boom Out Go The Lights

Then again, if there was any justice in the world, Big Time'd be singing Chain Gang...and turning rocks into gravel by hand, instead of by command like he did in Afghanistan and Iraq.
All in the Family

The rotten apple doesn't far fall from the poisoned tree.

In case you haven't seen it already, to the Bush family, "charity" begins at home:

Former first lady Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund with specific instructions that the money be spent with an educational software company owned by her son Neil.

Oh, and what a coincidence--citing TPM again, turns out that while Neil owns the company, an investor.

Then again, maybe she's just concerned--Neil busy with work means less time for Neil to flit off to Thailand, where, you know.

Speaking of TPM--a new site, "After the Levees," is up and running there. It's worth a look.

You want freedom fries with that?

King Shrubleroy the Dimwitted has just enough cynicism--and functioning brain cells--to fancy himself the Burger King. Seen at both this webchat from the WaPo with Noam Chomsky and at TPM, it pretty much sums up Little Boots' Shrub's position on executive power:

Thus in this morning's press it was reported that after signing the new version of the Patriot Act with grandiose flourishes, President Bush quietly issued a "signing statement" that exempted him from its requirement to notify Congress of FBI actions that go beyond court authorizaton.

Could someone PLEASE put this child back at the fry station where he belongs?
Why Won't They Behave?

The Bush Doctrine

From the Department of Do as We Say, not...

The blindfolded detainees in the dingy hallway line up in groups of five for their turn to see a judge, like schoolchildren outside the principal's office.

Each meeting lasts a few minutes. The judge rules whether the detainee will go free, face trial or be held longer at this Iraqi base in northern Baghdad. But Firas Sabri Ali, squeezed into a fetid cell just hundreds of yards from the judge's office, has watched the inmates come and go for four months without his name ever being called.

He is jailed, along with two brothers and his father, solely as collateral, he says. The Iraqi forces are hunting another brother, suspected of being an insurgent. The chief American medic here says that he believes Mr. Ali to be innocent but that it is up to the Iraqi police to decide whether to free him. The Iraqis acknowledged that they were holding Mr. Ali until they captured his brother.

"I hope they catch him, because then I'll be released," said Mr. Ali, 38, a soft-spoken man who until his arrest worked for a British security company to support his wife and three sons. "They said, 'You must wait.' I told them: 'There's no law. This is injustice.' "

Such is the challenge facing the American military as it tries to train the Iraqi security forces to respect the rule of law. Three years after the invasion of Iraq, American troops are no longer simply teaching counterinsurgency techniques; they are trying to school the Iraqis in battling a Sunni-led rebellion without resorting to the tactics of a "dirty war," involving abductions, torture and murder.

The legacy of Abu Ghraib hampers the American military. But the need to instill respect for human rights has gained a new urgency as Iraq grapples with the threat of full-scale civil war and continuing sectarian bloodletting. It is not uncommon now for dozens of bodies, with hands bound and gunshot wounds to the heads, to surface across Baghdad on any given day.

"The legacy of Abu Ghraib hampers the American military..." has to be the understatement of the week--I mean, that's sort of like saying "the trip through Dealy Plaza hampered Mrs. Kennedy's stay in Dallas." Between the torture/abuse, the house raids that, for the Iraqis we supposedly "liberated," seem like an ugly anti-lottery, the "collateral damage," the "fog of war"--and the privatization of such practices...willful, aggressive ignorance of the's small wonder we've pretty much worn out any sort of welcome. Which makes it pretty goddamned difficult to provide instruction in legal niceties.

Besides, it's not like this administration has shown much in the way of example when it comes to following the law, either in letter or spirit. DC is awash in myriad scandal...and it's flavored one hundred percent with pure GOP elephant shit. Hell, watching this gang of clowns attempt anything with "ethics" or "morality" as the basis for action must be like watching Shrub try to lecture Jenna on the evils of drinking and drugs. Of course, the consequences in the Middle East are quite a bit more serious than Jenna's "appendectomy."

Geez...I never thought I'd look so forward to 2009--when I'll be even OLDER than I am right now...ahem, which allows me to segue to a side note: yep, officially I'm another year older, and, thanks to the joys of home ownership, deeper in debt than I ever imagined. But I'm not complaining, except for the pain in my back...and my shoulder...and my wrist. What a drag it is...laff.

Thirty-eleven...and counting.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dick's Demands

Courtesy of The Smoking Gun...let's see: I guess Faux News is Big Time's equivalent of The Playboy Channel or hotel pay-per-view...TSG notes Lynne's request for Perrier...didn't she get the memo re: Freedom Fries and all that? "all lights turned on" and "private bathroom"...well, I just don't want to go there...

Oh, full disclosure: yeah, I added the line about making sure there's enough birdshot to shoot Harry Whittington in the face. I'll bet Dick always takes care to be fully loaded, um...
Your Contribution

What a bargain

Bob Herbert considers the financial cost of Operation Enduring Clusterfuck:

George Bush's Trillion-Dollar War

Call it the trillion-dollar war.

George W. Bush's war in Iraq was never supposed to be particularly expensive. Administration types tossed out numbers like $50 billion and $60 billion. When Lawrence Lindsey, the president's chief economic adviser, said the war was likely to cost $100 billion to $200 billion, he was fired.

Some in the White House tried to spread the fantasy that Iraqi oil revenues would pay for the war. Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary and a fanatical hawk, told Congress that Iraq was "a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."

The president and his hot-for-war associates were as wrong about the money as they were about the weapons of mass destruction.

Now comes a study by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University, and a colleague, Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, that estimates the "true costs" of the war at more than $1 trillion, and possibly more than $2 trillion.

"Even taking a conservative approach and assuming all U.S. troops return by 2010, we believe the true costs exceed a trillion dollars," the authors say.

The study was released earlier this year but has not gotten much publicity. The analysis by Professors Stiglitz and Bilmes goes beyond the immediate costs of combat operations to include other direct and indirect costs of the war that, in some cases, the government will have to shoulder for many years.

These costs, the study says, "include disability payments to veterans over the course of their lifetimes, the cost of replacing military equipment and munitions, which are being consumed at a faster-than-normal rate, the cost of medical treatment for returning Iraqi war veterans, particularly the more than 7,000 [service members] with brain, spinal, amputation and other serious injuries, and the cost of transporting returning troops back to their home bases."

The study also notes that Defense Department expenditures that were not directly appropriated for Iraq have grown by more than 5 percent since the war began. But a portion of that increase has been spent "on support for the war in Iraq, including significantly higher recruitment costs, such as nearly doubling the number of recruiters, paying recruitment bonuses of up to $40,000 for new enlistees and paying special bonuses and other benefits, up to $150,000 for current Special Forces troops that re-enlist."

"Another cost to the government," the study says, "is the interest on the money that it has borrowed to finance the war."

Among the things taken into account by the study are some of the difficult-to-quantify but very real costs inflicted by the war on the American economy and society, such as the effect of the war on oil prices, and the economic loss that results from the many thousands of Americans wounded and killed in the war.

The study does not address the substantial costs of the war borne by Iraq or by any other countries besides the United States.

In an interview, Mr. Stiglitz said that about $560 billion, which is a little more than half of the study's conservative estimate of the cost of the war, would have been enough to "fix" Social Security for the next 75 years. If one were thinking in terms of promoting democracy in the Middle East, he said, the money being spent on the war would have been enough to finance a "mega-mega-mega-Marshall Plan," which would have been "so much more" effective than the invasion of Iraq.

It's not easy to explain just how much money $1 trillion really is. Imagine a stack of bills worth $1 million that is roughly six inches high. (Think big denominations —a mix of $100 bills and $1,000 bills, mostly $1,000's.) If the six-inch stack were enlarged to the point where it was worth $1 billion, it would be as tall as the Washington Monument, about 500 feet. If it were worth $1 trillion, the stack would be 95 miles high.

Ms. Bilmes said that the $1 trillion we're spending on Iraq amounts to about $10,000 for every household in the U.S.

At his press conference on Tuesday, President Bush made it clear that whatever the cost, American forces would not be leaving Iraq soon. When asked whether a day would come when there were no U.S. forces in Iraq, he said that decision would be made by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.

The meter's running. We're at a trillion dollars, and counting.
"Bubble Dungeon"

WIIIAI offers the perfect metaphor for Team Bush's bunker.
Argument Against Human Cloning

"Let me finish!"

Lieberman's channeling his fellow northeasterner Shrub:

McEnroe: You probably know that I wrote in the Currant last Sunday that if I had to vote in the primary right now I would, with some sorrow vote for Ned Lamont simply because you have kind of drifted so far towards the Bush Administration whose policies I don’t approve of very much. Tell me why I’m wrong, tell me why I should vote for you.

Lieberman: Well I…I think that your statement just then was as ridiculous and unfair as your column was. I was really upset by it. I don’t get to hear you a lot because I’m in Washington but if you’re saying that on the air really I hope your listeners are taking it with a grain of salt.

First off let me go to something that really bothered me. You have this line saying that I’ve come to a point where I’m saying that those who do not parrot my support of the war are unpatriotic and then you take TOTALLY out of context something that I said in a speech that I gave last December when I came back from Iraq and I urge you to go back and look at that whole speech.

McEnroe: Okay, tell me why…

Lieberman: Let me just finish this!

Ah, spoken like someone who really thinks he--and the current occupant of the White House (hey, that means the White House is...under occupation)--anyway, he and dingbat Shrub really DO behave more like lords of the manor than...public servants. Our employEES.

C'mon Connecticut--give Joe his pink slip, and we'll all work on doing the same with Dubya.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

That's His Story, and He's Sticking With It


Reading this Consortium News article makes me think Team Bush actually had some sort of plan, at least for the casus belli in Iraq, even if it's as clear as a lovely spring day that, like the proverbial dog that catches a car, they had no clue what to do next:

In a nationally televised press conference, George W. Bush repeated some of his favorite lies about the Iraq War, including the canard that he was forced to invade because Saddam Hussein blocked the work of United Nations weapons inspectors in 2003.

Bush has uttered this lie in a variety of forms over more than 2 ½ years, yet the Washington press corps has never challenged the President directly about the falsehood. He got away with it again on March 21 when no journalist followed up the question from Helen Thomas that elicited Bush’s response...

Bush reasserted his false claim about the U.N. inspectors after Thomas noted that Bush’s pre-war rationales had turned out to be false, an apparent reference to Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s supposed links to al-Qaeda.

...Hussein accepted the U.N. inspectors in November 2002, granted them unrestricted access to suspected sites and announced – accurately as it turned out – that Iraq had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction.

U.N. chief inspector Hans Blix reported that Iraq was cooperating with his team and the U.N. Security Council thus refused to endorse Bush’s insistence on war in March 2003. Bush then rebuffed the U.N. Security Council, forced the inspectors to leave and invaded Iraq in violation of the U.N. Charter.

Yet, Bush has been presenting his bogus pre-war history since July 2003, three months after Baghdad fell, when the absence of WMD was becoming obvious and an Iraqi insurgency was beginning to kill scores of American soldiers.

In his first version of this revisionist history, Bush said about Hussein, “we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power.”

When the U.S. news media failed to object to Bush’s rewritten history, he continued to spin out this lie in various forms, including at the Republican National Convention and during the presidential debates.

So, my guess is that the "rationale" for the prelude to Operation Flightsuit Photo-Op was Hussein's refusal to admit the UN investigators...but then Saddam ruined everything by screwing up his role and allowing them access to Iraqi sites. Evidently they forgot to tell Shrub--or, once locked in, he simply refuses to let facts get in the way...or maybe he knows he's lying through his teeth and no one in the syncophant press corpse bothers to call him on it.

Which, in it's own way, is instructive: it demonstrates the rather limited capacity at the top, the mouse-like behavior of the national press, and the degree to which some people will play along with the clown show even as it becomes an international embarrassment--and tragedy. After all, war isn't a parlor game: the town of Ishaqi north of Baghdad last week, Iraqi police said that US troops had shot 11 people, including five children, in their home. The local police chief, Colonel Farouq Hussein, said that all the dead had been shot in the head, according to autopsies. "It's a clear and perfect crime," he said. In an incident in the town of Haditha in western Iraq on 19 November last year, US soldiers went on a rampage in a village after a bomb attack and killed at least 15 civilians, according to witnesses and local officials cited by Time magazine in an investigation.

The US military first claimed a roadside bomb had killed a US Marine, Miguel Tarrazas, along with 15 Iraqi civilians caught in the blast. Later, a military statement said "gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire" and in returning fire the Marines killed eight insurgents.

But after Time presented the US military with what Iraqis said had happened, an official investigation found that 15 of the civilians had been deliberately killed by US soldiers.

The bomb attack on the US Humvee took place at 7.15am. Eman Waleed, a nine-year-old child, lived in a house 150 yards from the explosion. "We heard a big noise that woke us all up," she recalled later. "Then we did what we always do when there's an explosion: my father goes in to his room with the Koran and prays the family will be spared harm."

The Marines claim they heard shots coming from the direction of Waleed's house. They burst in to the house and Eman heard shots from her father's room. They then entered the living room, where the rest of the family was gathered. She said: "I couldn't see their faces very well - only their guns sticking in to the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny."

The US soldiers started shooting in to the corner of the room where Eman and her eight-year-old brother, Abdul Rahman, were cowering. The other adults in the room tried to protect the two children with their bodies and were all shot dead. Eman and her brother were both wounded.

"We were lying there, bleeding and it hurt so much. Afterwards some Iraqi soldiers came. They carried us in their arms. I was crying, shouting, 'why did you do this to our family?' And one Iraqi soldier tells me, 'we didn't do it. The Americans did it'."

The Marines' explanation is that they heard the sound of a Kalashnikov being readied to shoot and had then fired their weapons. The Marines say they were fired at from a second house, where they broke down a door, threw in a grenade and opened fire. The eight who died in the second house included the owner, his wife, the owner's sister, a two-year-old son and three young daughters.

In a third house the Marines searched four young men were shot dead. A military investigation decided these were insurgent fighters, along with four others killed in the street.

The Marines later delivered 24 bodies to a hospital in Haditha, claiming they had been killed by shrapnel from a bomb. Dr Wahid, the director of the hospital, said: "It was obvious to us there were no organs slashed by shrapnel. The bullet wounds were very apparent. Most of the victims were shot in the head and chest - from close range."

An US military investigation decided the deaths were "collateral damage". Relatives were paid $2,500 (£1,400) for each of the dead.

Collateral damage--nice, sterile, and just as much of a lie...
On Dogs and Chicken(hawks)

Good boy

Bad Chicken

A friend reminded me of this Molly Ivins column from 2004:

Well, look at it this way: You cannot keep a dog that kills chickens, no matter how fine a dog it is otherwise.

My friend John Henry Faulk always said the way to break a dog of that habit is to take one of the chickens the dog has killed and wire the thing around the dog's neck, good and strong. And leave it there until that dead chicken stinks so bad the dog won't be able to stand himself. You leave it on there until the last little bit of flesh rots and falls off, and that dog won't kill chickens again.

The Bush Administration is going to be wired around the neck of the American people for four more years, long enough for the stench to sicken everybody. It should cure the country of electing Republicans.

I can think of nothing more likely to convince the people not to vote for Republicans again for a long, long time than four more years of George W. Bush.

From the humorist's point of view, the material will be both better and blacker. During a particularly unpleasant period of American diplomacy in Central America (Ronald Reagan was supporting death squads in El Salvador and drug dealers in Nicaragua), I proposed a book of humor on the subject to be called If You Ignore the Dead Babies. . . . I pitched this idea to a New York agent, who sighed, folded his hands, and said, "Ah, Miss Ivins, I see you are not interested in income maximization."

In Texas, we've been losing elections to the demagogic triad of God, gays, and guns long enough to be pretty cynical about how it works out. I'm sure millions of Americans voted for George W. under the honest impression that he stands for moral values: family, patriotism, faith in God. I'm sure it's the Democrats' fault that such a silly ruse is allowed to stand. What Bush actually does stand for is nicely summed up by a news story that got stuck on the business pages.

In September, Merck, the huge drug manufacturer, pulled Vioxx, a popular painkilling, anti-arthritis drug, off the market after a new study from the Food and Drug Administration showed high doses of Vioxx tripled the risk of heart attack and sudden cardiac death.

Merck said it was acting out of concern for the patients. But The Wall Street Journal reported internal company memos going back at least three years indicating the company knew about Vioxx's unfortunate cardiac effect and advising sales reps to "dodge" the question from doctors.

That alone is lovely. But according to Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa and not a red-hot radical, the FDA not only dragged its feet about publishing the study but also ostracized its author and subjected him to threats and intimidation. Both Merck and the FDA deny everything. Next, the British medical journal The Lancet chipped in with a devastating editorial saying studies were available three years ago showing Vioxx increased the risk of heart attack.

Hey, that gummint regulation is bad for bidness.

Of course, I'm devastated by the news John Ashcroft is leaving. Do you think we'll see tits on statues in Washington once more?

I grew up amongst a lot of foot-washing, full immersion Baptists. Lovely people. And I'm so glad the majority of Bush's supporters turn out to be "moral values" voters. I thought they were all greedheads, bless their hearts. But we can outscripture Republicans in no time flat: Jesus was the original bleeding heart liberal.

We used to think we needed to talk to our friends and neighbors, but what's startling is how little most of us know them. If you don't live in a red county, do you know where the nearest one is? The nearest evangelical church? Can't talk to folks if you don't reach out.

Of course we'll laugh again, progressives. But I am into action now. So let's have at 'em.

Two years, ten months, and a few more weeks of rotting flesh left...
Spin Cycle

Twisting into the ground.

The Shrub Traveling Clown Road Show continues today with an appearance in West Virginia--maybe Rove thinks the good people there still lack things like television: the speech and subsequent Q&A could be the picture next to a definition of "phone it in."

Some are already beginning to speculate as to the mental health of Shrubusto...and I for one would hate to get in between the village idiot and a tall glass of Jim Beam.

But while Smirk-Chimp waxes on in his personal Neverland, his spin has collided head on with a wringer called reality:

Insurgents attacked the mayor's office and police station in a town south of the Iraqi capital early Wednesday, killing three police officers and a police commando, police sources said.

Insurgents pounded the facilities in Madain with coordinated mortar and small-arms fire, sources said.


Hundreds of militants stormed a jail in a pre-dawn raid to free inmates yesterday in the Sunni heartland north of Baghdad, triggering the deadliest firefight this year, which left 20 police and 10 insurgents dead.Authorities said all 33 prisoners in the lockup were freed.

Link--courtesy of Juan Cole.

Here's the "good" news:

Insurgents attacked a police station Wednesday for a second day in a row, but U.S. and Iraqi forces captured 50 of them after a two-hour gunbattle.

A two-hour gunbattle and a daylight raid on a jail can hardly be spun into "last throes," Mr. Cheney.

Then you've got the head of the FBI's counterterrorism division admitting in open court that he never bothered to read a memo from the Minneapolis field office...speculating that Zacarias Moussaoui might be plotting a terrorist attack using airplanes. The memo was dated August 18, 2001 (note: Maureen Dowd--sorry, no link--cites agent Greg Jones as the person who guessed the target might be...the World Trade Center)...

On August 18, 2001, George W. Bush was setting an example for his continuing his vacation (he remained on vacation until the first week of September).

There's yet more embarrassing revelations and fallout from the Abu Ghraib scandal, The New Afghanistan™ is showing some not-so-new trends, Hugo Chavez is enjoying a laugh at our expense...but hey, Halliburton's up by over a point, so I guess Cheney's not too upset.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"A New Image for Geryon"

My goodness!

Diane Christian updates Dante and William Blake:

The license to kill in Iraq follows a license to lie. 'Spin' is a scurrilous euphemism to use here, because the game isn't words, but wounding and killing and destroying. Rumsfeld is agile with words-he tried to contain the Abu Ghraib photos by saying they were 'radioactive.' He is a perfect machiavel-ruthless, arrogant, and single-minded, swathed in rimless glasses and sober, steadfast and stern demeanor. If Dante were around he'd have a new image for Geryon, the effigy of fraud "His face was the face of a just man, so mild an aspect had it outwardly; and the rest was all a reptile's body."

Dante saw deceit as the worst human perversion, the root. His Satan is a liar who set himself equal to God and deceived mankind. Dante draws him in human shape but triple-headed. Many-headed is a better critique, I think, than reptile body. Milton too stressed Satan's smooth deceit. "The mind is its own place" his Satan says, "and in itself / Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven." Thinking can make anything so.

No. A very big lie.
One Weekend a Month...or 5 and a Half Years...or More

Truth in Advertising

So, I wonder what Michael Ledeen thinks of his shitty little doctrine now?

President Bush said Tuesday that American forces will remain in Iraq for years and it will be up to a future president to decide when to bring them all home.

Link. H/T to Think Progress.

I wonder if the American public would've been so ready to send soldiers headlong into a miserable high-desert climate--searing summers, bone chilling winters, dust storms wreaking havok on bodies and equipment--if Smirk-Chimp had told them the truth...instead of "Weapons of Mass Destruction," "Mission Accomplished," and the artfully callous "Bring 'em on."

Oh--and Attaturk came across this re: WMD. Check it out.

Anyway, could you picture Smirk Chimp at the March 6, 2003 press conference speaking candidly and frankly about the cost in lives, money, international reputation--in exchange for a quagmire, followed by a civil war, followed by (most likely) some form of reactionary Islamic theocracy? Nah, I can't either...

No, it's was lies, bullshit, lies AND bullshit, lies, bullshit, terror color codes...and Dick Cheney...and swiftboating...and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (YRHT notes the dauphin graciously offered assistance to Australia in the aftermath of a Cat 5 nice), and eventually, the conclusion--with a whimper--of Shrub, James Buchanan redux (actually, I saw recently, forget where, that the boy is a descendent of Franklin Pierce, via Babs, Barbara Pierce Bush. As the commentor noted, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree).

For more on the fine mess Gee Dubya got us into, check out Patrick Cockburn's latest--and Riverbend's...and I'll agree with James Wolcott's suggestion re: how to "celebrate" the anniversary of Operation Worse Than the Neighbor's Garage:

Meanwhile, those merry souls at Fox News Your World w/ Neil Cavuto opened the show today with a segment asking if the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq should be celebrated as a national holiday there.

Of course, it's difficult to know how the people of Baghdad would be able to get out and celebrate their liberation when shopping for summer clothes presents mortal peril.

And yet I don't think this is a bad idea. Perhaps next year on the anniversary of this glorious mission, the US could fly a transport plane crammed with the creme de la creme of warbloggers, hawkish pundits, neoconservative thinkers, and cable news and talk radio hosts, and deposit them on the site of Saddam Hussein's fallen statue--the newly christened Krauthammer Square--and let them behold the joy and splendor they have bestowed upon a grateful Iraqi people. Who, in turn, will brave the heat, dust, and danger and leave their homes to demonstrate their gratitude to their noble guests by attempting to shoot their lying asses to pieces.

No, that probably won't make for an appropriate holiday. Scratch that idea.

To earn its rightful date on the calendar, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq should be a day of remembrance on which conscientious Americans wear mourning colors and beg the world's forgiveness, and Iraqis' forgiveness most of all.
Fade to Small Dot

pResident Infomercial

Pathetic. Just plain pathetic. Today's follow-up to yesterday's abysmal performance in Cleveland (See Think Progress for a couple of lowlights) is, in the words of Jim the Liberal, " a teenager child who is trying to lie his way out of crashing Dad's car breaking a vase in the house while playing ball." Yep.

If Shrub was a rock band, he'd be on the county fair circuit--or billed just below the puppet show

For five plus years we've been "treated" to the grim spectacle of children running amok in the nation's capital (aside: Jim, and others, including myself, find Smirk-Chimp's attempts at humor--his "spending capital" remark--just plain creepy and, for me, indicative of some deep rooted psychosis)...anyway, the children in charge have manifest ignorance matched only by an equal dose of arrogance. Now it's pretty clear their whole program is burning like dried dung, but the nominal head of the slag heap is lost in a Caligula-like delusion, while the rats below are scurrying about searching for tow ropes and docks.

Digby's been posting about this, and I'll defer to his eloquence--but I'll note some of my own thoughts re: watching the mix and match of horror show, farce, Lord of the Flies (starring the Mayberry Machiavellis)--and the chorus of wingnuts (now, thankfully, a shrinking chorus of wingnuts) collectively braying praise while barking at political opponents...

There seems to be, among that crowd, an almost pathological insistance to turn every issue into a martial or military matter. Aside from the obvious irony of their leadership composed almost exclusively of chickenhawks, it's a disturbing trend and a significant misreading of how American power most effectively projects itself--a misreading that, for the wingnut crowd, has been a cornerstone of their political philosophy since...Vietnam, which just adds to the irony...

That's not to say that the US doesn't have a history of militarism--anyone with a passing familiarity of the history of the Western Hemisphere knows or should know of literally dozens of US military actions...but turning the entire globe into the theater of operations is a relatively recent phenomenon--our occupation and bloody, ugly war in the Philipines notwithstanding. Add to that the emergence of the modern, national security state (for me, that began with the publication of NSC 68 in 1950), the bomb, and the subsequent efforts to promote eternal conflict, and it's not all that surprising we've got a cadre of wingnuttery perpetually ready to...have poor people wage war for them. In doing so, they likewise demonstrate, along with their Smirk-Chimp in Chief, deep seated psychoses of various flavors...while managing to undercut the very power they profess to be exercising.

Again, I'm not implying that the United State lacks nor needs lethal military force as a necessary component of foreign relations...but I AM saying that military force should neither be an object of worship, i.e., the wingnut view...though, again, it's funny to see how they shirk or slink from actual service--not surprising, given that colonial war is "the new black," and I'd venture that most anyone with a brain has a decent enough awareness of how such warfare makes an individual soldier even less valued, but I digress...nor is it something the rest of the world finds particularly we're finding out tragically in Iraq.

That said, I DO think the United States--or, maybe I should say, the people of the United States, as opposed to the GOVERNMENT of the United States (funny how the rest of the world is relatively comfortable with such nuance), anyway, the people of the United State still manage to inspire a degree of admiration across the thanks to Team Shrub and the wingnut minions, mind you. If you ask me, this admiration is due to the fact that this country still IS a land of opportunity, despite the VERY REAL elements of racism, xenophobia, ignorance, you name it...of course, there's a money element involved: "opportunity" is measured in dollars...but I also believe there's a certain appreciation of uniquely American attitudes--attitudes NOT manifest in wars of preemption, aggression, or whatever you call it.

Which is why the Team Bush program is SO maddening to witness. It's a perfect storm of aggressive, willful ignorance, and sneering contempt, starting at the top, of all that's below. Which is certainly an easy method for building a political base, as any student of Southern Democratic history would know...but is sheer disaster in a world that REQUIRES a measure of cooperation and nuance, two characteristics seemingly lost on the modern GOP. And that disaster could well wind up affecting us VERY badly, as I think the public is finally beginning to realize.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Katrina Cottage Revisited

Photoblogger is down--why am I not surprised?--so I've got an inline image of The Katrina Cottage above to go along with a series of links, starting with Ashley Morris, who found this story from the online Pic:

Jake Borrouso of Chalmette lost his home and mother to Hurricane Katrina. He now lives with his girlfriend in a 28-foot trailer in Picayune, Miss.

The quarters are tight, and Borrouso isn't looking forward to spending hurricane season in the trailer.

The trailer "rocks in the slightest wind now. This is ridiculous," Borrouso said.

So after touring one of the small hurricane-proof homes that some are touting as an alternative to trailers, Borrouso left with one question.

"Why not do this in the first place instead of the trailers?" he asked.

State and local officials are wondering the same thing.

As is everyone else--that is, everyone with a brain, Senator Hatch.

I also came across the same article with additional research courtesy at Da Po' Blog--where FEMA excuses about prohibitions on "permanent structures" are demonstrably shown to be as false as government assurances about the levees (side note: Donald Powell, according to today's NY Times, has finally realized, in his words, "...that while Mississippi was an act of God, Louisiana was an act of God and man. There were some flaws. The levees breached."). Well, Mr. Powell, now that you can finally see, don't stare directly into the sun...

But I digress: getting back to the topic, I couldn't help but notice (and I'm guessing others have too--apologies in advance for not having any specific citations) that the little houses (designed to allow for expansion, by the way) not only look FAR more comfortable than a typical trailer, cost roughly the same or a little less than a typical trailer AND are safer, but bear remarkable resemblence to another structure initially built for simple utility: the San Francisco earthquake shack. Which got me searching some more--and, sure enough, at least one major news outlet likewise noticed:

The Gulf Coast's unique housing crisis has given birth to a cute, yellow, 308-square-foot house known as the Katrina Cottage, which has put a smile on the face of just about everyone who traipsed across the white-trimmed threshold to see how the concise layout could shelter a family of four under its charming pitched roof.

Inside on the walls, at showings in Orlando in January and Ocean Springs, Miss., in February, architectural drawings by cottage designer Marianne Cusato and South Carolina architect Eric Moser detailed how various models of the Katrina Cottage could serve as a "Grow House" that would over time be expanded to a bigger house, or maybe even just provide a rear guest cottage to a new house to be built at the front of the lot.

Outside on the broad front porch, visitors lingered on its built-in benches.

"Everyone walks through and says 'Wow, it's so big,' " said Cusato, a New Yorker whose design was the first to be built of more than 100 created for the Mississippi Renewal Forum under the leadership of New Urbanism co-founder Andres Duany last fall. "Three hundred square feet and they say it's big."

It's big enough to make people stop and think, especially here in the Bay Area. Will we be able to get one of these instead of a travel trailer when the Big One knocks down three or four times as many dwellings as Mississippi lost in Katrina? And with an adorable, friendly structure like this costing only about $35,000 to build, why must Bay Area starter homes cost half a million dollars?

The answers are -- as usual when talking about Bay Area housing -- a little depressing and more than a little complex.

That is, where answers exist...

"I think this is a nifty little design, and I think it's really hitting a good need and it's a wonderful thing to offer people. I was fantasizing myself about how you'd add on to it, and I think you can. And I can think if the Hayward or San Andreas fault really busts loose in this part of the world, there'd be a lot of people who have a plot of land who'd like to have something like this on it quickly."

Ratcliff is president of the Bay Area's only 100-year-old architectural firm, which was started by his grandfather, Walter, just before the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. That was the year the San Francisco Relief Corp. built more than 5,000 structures of 140 to 252 square feet, along what is now Park Presidio Boulevard, that have become known as the "earthquake shacks."...

...there are still people in earthquake cottages in San Francisco, according to the Western Neighborhoods Project Web site,, which reports that 5,000 of the structures were hauled off to various parts of the city, where 23 still stand. Fortunately, they were made of durable materials, with fir flooring, redwood walls and cedar-shingled roofs, and were easily and attractively expanded into larger homes.

Indeed, you can go to the site and see for yourself how nice some of these structures look. Additionally, as I noted last week or so, the book Tiny Houses mentions them along with other small structures suitable for temporary or permanent housing.

Of course, there's also the option of soulless existence in any of a number of various flavors of McMansions sprouting like weeds between NOLA and BR (around Gonzales it's actually pretty scary to see the sheer volume of construction)...but is that what people REALLY want? Perpetual suburbia? I'd like to think not...

That said, I don't think the Katrina Cottage is the perfect end-all solution--but it's a hell of a lot better of a start than trailer park city...or no plan at all, and, goddamnit, even fits the entrepeneurial paradigm often touted by conservative governments, but rarely put into practice (which speaks volumes, eh?). And IF we had a government genuine concerned with the welfare of its citizens, I think we'd see a lot more emphasis placed on options like the cottage and a lot less on trailers. Alas, though, this seems to sum up perfectly the inertia shown at the highest levels:

Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran told FEMA she'd prefer more cottages and fewer trailers -- "This has a lot more character and a lot more soul than a FEMA trailer," she told the Biloxi Sun Herald last month -- but the government agency has declined to assist. Emeryville architect Christopher "Kit" Ratcliff said he could see why after viewing the plans.

"One of the problems that I see with it, and I probably shouldn't say this, is that it looks nice," Ratcliff said. "I think the government has a very hard time giving things away to people or underwriting things that go beyond some sort of bureaucratically understood minimal gesture.

Between that and sheer Team Bush's pretty amazing you've even got a prototype.
A Dunce by Another Name

Credit to Agitprop for the pic.

My goodness!

Former top officials in two presidential administrations -- one Democratic, one Republican -- disagreed Sunday with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's characterization of what would happen if the United States were to pull out of the war in Iraq.

"Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis," Rumsfeld wrote in an opinion piece published Sunday -- the third anniversary of the beginning of the U.S.-led war in Iraq -- in the Washington Post.

The anniversary came as officials from Iraq and the United States differed on whether there is all-out civil war there.

Henry Kissinger, who served with U.S. forces in Germany at the end of World War II and who served as secretary of state under Republican Presidents Nixon and Ford, said the situations are not analogous.

"In Germany, the opposition was completely crushed; there was no significant resistance movement," the German-born diplomat told CNN's "Late Edition."

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser under President Carter, a Democrat, was less charitable.

"That is really absolutely crazy to anyone who knows history," he said. "There was no alternative to our presence. The Germans were totally crushed. For Secretary Rumsfeld to be talking this way suggests either he doesn't know history or he's simply demagoguing."

I think I'll go with "crazy" in characterizing the Donald. And I guess he didn't get the memo re: analogies to Nazi Germany...
Not So Happy Birthday

Brought 'em on.

Think Progress has a timeline overview of the last three years; for a perspective from one family's point of view, check this out: disposable heroes.

I continue to be amazed and disgusted by the wingnut faction that sees nothing wrong with barking for war without regard to the human costs. To them, lives are just so many statistics (or, as I put it in a post last week, so much meat destined for the slaughterhouse)...of course, many of these same folks flail away wildly at even the possibility of being personally affected by ANYTHING (they'll bray like beaten mules about affirmitive action, for instance).