Thursday, August 31, 2006
I suppose that I would be completely remiss in my duties as chronicler of the scoundrels and nincompoops of this country if I didn't talk about Pat Buchanan, who seems to be going onto any and all shows that will put a mike in his face so that he can promote his racist treatise entitled State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America. Think Progress does a bang-up job of hitting the high points of this inflammatory screed, the basic premise of which is to say that America used to be a super place to live for White Folks but will soon be taken over by wetbacks and darkies if something isn't done. (Oh, and he basically advocates that whites are the superior race, which is always bound to get you a few extra sales.) It's pretty much just red meat for the Minutemen types and toilet paper for the rest of us. I'll spare my readers the obligatory outrageous quotes, since you've probably already read them. If not, then I again direct you to Think Progress' coverage.
And because Pat is such a total whore when it comes to promoting the book, he's been on every and any show that would have him. Two of his appearances are also available via Think Progress - one is from The Creepy Guy in the Cowboy Hat, errr the Don Imus Show (where he details Mexico's plans to "re-annex" the Southwest States) and the other is from HANNITY and colmes. The HANNITY one is extra good because Pat fondly remembers a time when the country was "80 or 90 percent white." To quote Pat: "I like that country" that "I grew up in." Yeah, things sure were better when them coloreds knew their place and America was a happy white place. (Note: Pat was born in '38 and grew up in the 40's and 50's.)
Maybe I'm tired or something, but I just cannot get worked up about this whole thing. Really, it's a standard right wing tome and promotional tour: nutty person writes a book, which includes nutty outrageous passages; nutty writer goes on nutty talk shows to talk about nutty book; nutty book sits at number one on some best seller list; weeks later the nutty book is selling for the nutty discount of 50% off. Wash, rinse and repeat. You know, I think that's why I'm not up in arms about it; I just watched Coulter do the same thing with her nutty book about a month ago.
Busy day today as the TOP TEN continues to fill itself out nicely. We've got two new entrants and a surprise move up the charts. Onward, faithful readers!
Starting things off at number nine, we've got the Maverick (except when he's not the maverick and is cuddling with the Religious Right) John McCain. Again, nothing new out of his grill; either of them.
At number eight, there's Jack Kemp. He's still set to campaign with Sore Loserman Ver. 2.0. Half the people are saying, "Jack who?" while the other half wonders, "Why Kemp?"
George Felix Allen Jr. drops a spot to number seven. After calling a campaign worker from his opponent's camp, MACACA, and subsequently seeing his poll leads disappear, Felix sacced up and apologized. Now he's back to blaming the media for the dustup. Oh, and he like's hanging out with the KKK, er I mean CCC.
Dropping a couple of notches is Dick "Straw Man" Cheney at number six. You know, some say that it's okay for Cheney to club baby seals using the same bat that he wantonly beats his own wife with, but I disagree with them. I think that type of behavior is wrong.
The number five slot today belongs to Joe Lieberman, who today says that he expects 'cool reception' from his FORMER Democratic colleagues when he returns to Washington soon. Yeah, stabbing your former party in the back to feed your own ego has a way of pissing people off. Whodathunkit?
Making a big jump today (and here I thought she'd be gone in no time) is Ann Coulter, jumping from number seven all the way up to number four! Why the big jump? Well, when you continue to advocate the death of political opponents, I tend to take special note. Her latest wannabe victim is none other than Republican senator, Lincoln Chafee. See, the title of her latest column is entitled, "They Shot the Wrong Lincoln[.]" I'll be getting into Ms. Coulter in depth tomorrow, where I can really explore her bloodlust. Come on back and check it out.
Today's number three is none other than last week's WORST PERSON OF THE WEEK, George W. Bush. He began his big PR push today, henceforth known as FEAR, SMEAR AND LIES - U.S. TOUR 2006. The first stop was in Salt Lake City where he continued the same talking points and oversimplifications that got us into this mess in the first place.
Debuting tonight for the first time in the TOP TEN is none other than Sean Hannity. Continuing along the same lines as his good buddy, Ann Coulter, he seemed to advocate that it is worth one's life to stop Nancy Pelosi from assuming the House Speaker position if the Dems are able to regain control this November. Scroll down two posts for my full thoughts.
And staying in the top spot for the second day in a row, Donald H. Rumsfeld. The fallout of his comments including mine are reverberating around, including a masterful diatribe by Keith Olbermann that shouldn't be missed. Oh, and not wanting to be left out, the LA Times got into the act as well. Of course, the administration stands firmly behind his comments, as evidenced by Dan Bartlett's support on Hardball (to which I'm still trying to find a transcript). Basically, Danny sees no problem with Rummy's statements. Of course you don't, sir.
GEORGE W. BUSH
I decided to punish myself today by listening to (most of) Bush's non-political/political speech today in Salt Lake City. It was the first of what is promised to be far too many speeches by Bush and company as they attempt to turn the tide of public sentiment against the Iraq War.
Two things struck me as I listened to him while I was driving around the bowels of Mississippi. The first is that, when he works from a script, he really does sound like a semi-competent communicator, and if you didn't know that most of what was coming from his mouth was bullshit, the strength of conviction with which he conveys his talking points (and make no mistake; that's about all he said today) is almost believable. Of course, put him in a setting like last week's press conference and we'll be back to the same mumbling and inarticulate chimp that we all know and despise.
The second thing that really stuck with me is Bush's basic need to paint his pictures as black and white, us versus them. There are no gray shades in Bush's worldview. Unfortunately, the office of President of the United States requires that the person holding that office not only recognize these nuances but that they also be thoroughly comprehended when processing information and making decisions. I know that this would be a colossal leap for a man that wasn't aware that there are three distinct ethnic divisions in Iraq right before he launched his ill-advised war, but it is a lesson that should be pounded into him every single day until his final day in office.
I made mention a couple of days ago about something Al Franken said on his radio show; the biggest mistake this administration has made when dealing with the Middle East is their attempts to simplify what is a complex situation. Throughout his little speech today, he kept speaking in generalities like "enemies of freedom" and "terrorists" as if all terrorists the world over are just part of one singular entity, one terrorist group completely interchangeable with anther as if they all have the same rationalizations and motivations.
Now that type of overgeneralization or oversimplification is an effective tool when used by political cartoonists, but when it is utilized as the main context for defining real world scenarios, then the description falls far short of being effective and, even worse, demonstrates a woeful disregard and outright ignorance to what the mechanics of the violence in Iraq truly are all about. And this has been going on for over three years!!
Kevin Drum over at Washington Monthly, when speaking about this administration's insistence on using the misnomer, "islamofacist," wrote something that I think relates nicely to what I'm getting at here:
The modern Republican Party has mastered the art of winning elections by beating culture war campaign tropes to death in 30-second ad spots, and they seem to think that you can solve actual real-world problems the same way.Back during the 2004 campaign, John Kerry said, "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history." And I'm sure you will all recall that he was of course widely ridiculed by an administration that doesn't understand concepts like subtlety and nuance. It has been over two years since Kerry made that statement and in all that time Bush still has not learned that it is going to take more than oversimplifications and soundbytes to defeat this enemy in the real world.
Sean Hannity is the final member what I like to call the Triumverate to make this prestigious list, the other two being O'Reilly and Limbaugh. And most would figure that he should have been up here weeks ago. But honestly, I just haven't been paying all that much attention to this guy. Until today.
On Tuesday, during a broadcast of his radio show, The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity made the claim that making sure that Nancy Pelosi does not become the Speaker of the House is worth dying for. The exact quote follows (and the full quote, context and all, can be found courtesy Media Matters).
This is the moment to say that there are things in life worth fighting and dying for and one of 'em is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn't become the speaker.What exactly is he saying here? Is he just attempting to rally the Republican voters and get out and vote this November? Or is he advocating something more sinister? I don't know; maybe I'm just reading too much into it. It's just that my ears tend to perk up a bit when a blowhard like Hannity infers that any and every step must be taken to ensure that Nancy Pelosi does not become House Speaker. To me, that sounds like a little bit more than a rah-rah GOTV pep talk. There are things in this country that are worth fighting and dying for. Making sure that Nancy Pelosi does not become house speaker is not one of them.
Man, it seems like I can't go a day without slapping Joe around for something. Yesteday, Fox News was doing a piece on the negative impact on the Democratic Party that Lieberman is having because of his decision to continue running for Senate after being defeated in the primary by Ned Lamont.
Specifically, Joe will most likely have an adverse affect on the three Dem candidates who are running against weakened incumbent Republicans. Fox was able to ask Joe directly if his independent run will help the GOP candidates. Joe's arrogant response to this?
"Well, they should have thought of that before they had the primary."
To which I respond, "Whaaaa?" So Joe is basically taking revenge on the Democratic voters in his state because they didn't vote for him in the primary? Is he also seeking retribution against the party itself because most national Democrats respected the vote of the people in their selection of Lamont as the Democratic candidate in the primary? Or is it even worse than that - is he angry that he was even forced to participate in a primary process? Perhaps Lieberman believes that an incumbent like himself shouldn't ever have to answer to his constiuents. Am I the only one who thinks that his statement is basically the equivalent of a small child throwing a tantrum we they don't get their favorite toy?
A statement like what Lieberman said yesterday should be the final straw with Democratic leadership. In no uncertain terms, Minority Leader Harry Reid should state that Joe Lieberman is no longer welcome in the Democratic Party, meaning no seniority and no committee assignments. His actions have demonstrated that he wants nothing more than to sabotage the party at every available opportunity. Statements like yesterday's comment clearly illustrates that Joe is about Joe. His arrogance and petulance have earned him a one-way ticket out of the party.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Based on recent entries (and one surprise entrant who has not received some snark from me this week), I give you our updated list of scoundrels and nincompoops.
At number seven, as expected, we've got Ann Coulter. As I figured, her lunatic rantings are having less and less of an effect, and if the list fills up enough, she'll be booted soon. Still, I've only got seven on the list at this point, so she sticks around.
Keeping his position right in front of Coulter, there's John McCain. Mr. Maverick/Wussy Bush Man has been quiet of late. Any guesses which persona will make its next appearance first?
Making his first (and most likely final) appearance on the list at number five is none other than Jack Kemp. Who? Yeah, I get that a lot when I say his name; he's just that pointless. And this is the man that Joe Lieberman called to campaign with him. What, was Dan Quayle busy?
Making a surprise appearance at number four is George Felix Allen Jr. Why? Yeah, I know that I haven't blogged about him this week (and I've actually enjoyed the break) but his macaca snafu seems to have metamorphosed into a lot of background work that is really painting an ugly picture of the man who would be president. Now coming to light is a more than friendly connection in his past with a group called the CCC, Council of Conservative Citizens, the successor organization to the segregationist White Citizens Council and among the largest white supremacist groups. The CCC is designated a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. And they're buddies of Felix. Well done.
Getting into the top three, and let me tell you, the voting was fierce as to who deserved that top spot. So, without further ado...
At number three, I present Dick "Straw Man" Cheney. Now some people say that it's okay for Dick Cheney to frequent bathhouses in Thailand where little girls can service his every whim and desire, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Isn't it odd that just a week ago, Bush said that we shouldn't question the patriotism of our opponents, yet his attack dogs are out in full force this week? I guess they didn't get the memo.
Coming at at number two is Joe Lieberman (and boy was it tough choice between two and one). He's already had three offenses this week, including flipping through the GOP Dirty Tricks Playbook to run his campaign against Democratic Primary WINNER Ned Lamont. He also called in a big(?!?) gun like Jack Kemp to stump for him. And finally, he's apparently blaming Democratic primary voters for him running as an independent. At least I think that's what he's saying. I'll have more on that one tomorrow.
And finally, coming in at number one is Donald H. Rumsfeld, the man who claims that if you disagree with Bush and his war policy then you're a coward and mentally and morally deficient.
Keith Olbermann over at MSNBC's Countdown did layeth his righteous wrath upon Rummy during Wednesday's edition of the show. The video of said smackdown can be found courtesy of the fine folks over at Crooks and Liars. This stuff is required viewing, my peeps - DO NOT MISS IT!
That's it for now. I hope to have a full TOP TEN by Friday, but no guarantees, though speaking of guarantees, I'm almost certain that Bush will be popping up here tomorrow as the administration begins yet another PR push about the Iraq War tomorrow. That's our Bushie - don't change the strategy on the ground in Iraq, just turn up the volume of the PR at home.
Ten years ago, Jack Kemp was the Republican Vice Presidential candidate. The Dole/Kemp ticket was one of the most unimpressive tickets for a presidential race in years and the two were quickly dispatched by Clinton/Gore in November 1996. Since that time, Kemp has done ... well, nothing that would make even a blip in the national consciousness.
That is, until earlier this week, when Joe Lieberman contacted the former Buffalo Bills quarterback and asked him to campaign with Joe in Connecticut. At first I thought, why? What's the draw? It's not like Bill Clinton, who can draw a crowd for obvious reasons. It's Jack Kemp. Big. Hairy. Deal.
Well, Kemp has apparently decided to up his profile in an effort to help his old buddy Joe, by appearing the GOP TV, aka the Fox News Network. He starts off by calling Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, "hypocritical, sad and pathetic," based on their support for the WINNER of the Democratic primary earlier this month in Connecticut, Ned Lamont.
"Hypocritical, sad and pathetic." Huh. That's kinda funny. Mr. Kemp, let me introduce you to a friend of mine; his name is Kettle. Notice any resemblance? Seriously, how sad and pathetic, on a number of levels, is it for Kemp here to be pulled out of mothballs and campaign for a supposed independent candidate? And here I thought Kemp was serious conservative activist - what's he doing campaigning for the "one true Liberal" in this race? To paraphrase a phrase that has been used a little too often in political circles, "Mr. Kemp, I have been sad and pathetic, sad and pathetic have been friends of mine, and you sir, are sad and pathetic."
But wait, there's more...
Kemp then goes on to claim that it is Lamont's intention to advocate for an immediate pullout from Iraq, or as Kemp put it, "Ned Lamont, who wants to pull out tomorrow[.]" Lamont is on record as saying that he supports a phased withdrawal of American troops over the coming year, and not "tomorrow," the standard talking point for those who advocate the "stay the course" strategy. Because, if you're not for "staying the course," you're for "cutting and running" immediately, because there is no middle ground. No sir, not with this administration.
Think Progress has the video and a partial transcript of the sad and pathetic affair.
I guess I can take solace in the fact that soon Kemp will do his little favor for Joe, then he'll return to the obscurity in which he's existed for a decade. Then, Joe will either drop out or lose in November, and Jack Kemp will become even more irrelevant than he was ten years ago. Kinda sad and pathetic, isn't it?
I discussed in a post this past Saturday that for some reasons which simply were not computing with me, former NYC mayor Rudi Giuliani is leading in a GOP presidential straw poll I happened to run across. I found this odd mostly because I sort of figured that his views on abortion and gay rights alone would be enough to disqualify him by much of the party. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Mr. John Hawkins over at Right Wing News drags out a laundry list of reasons why Rudy as the GOP's candidate in 2008 would "be a big mistake." Some of his problems include his pro-abortion stance; his supposed anti-second amendment streak; his position on gay marriage, specifically as it pertains to it being used as a campaign issue; his position on immigration and his past marital problems and indiscretions.
The article is actually not a terrible read (as far as blogging goes on the right) if you can avoid his occasional forays into Wacky Winger Land. Overall, I think that Mr. Hawkins presents some valid points in his position as self-appointed representative of the right wing of his party,. There are a couple of times, however, where he slides off into the loony fringe of the right wing. One such example follows:
One of the biggest selling points for Rudy Giuliani is supposed to be that he's "electable" because a lot of independents and Democrats will vote for him. The problem with that sort of thinking is that if he becomes the Republican nominee, the very liberal mainstream media will spend nine months relentlessly savaging him in an effort to help the Democrats.See, when someone writes that kind of malarky, it immediately costs that person a few points in my "Legitimacy Book." The media has done nothing but fellate Giuliani for the last five years! They absolutely adore "America's Mayor." But then, I guess you never can tell with that fickle "liberal mainstream media." After all, Al Gore and John Kerry really benefited from their largesse. I mean, look where they are now.
Personally, my main issue with Giuliani has everything to do with that fact that I do not believe that he is qualified to hold the position of President of the United States. Of course, I held the same opinion of a former governor of Texas who is currently hastening the coming of the End of Days, so my opinions about presidential qualifications may not resonate with the voting public at large. (For those not aware, the position of governor for the state of Texas is one of the, I guess one could call it easiest, governorships in the nation. Being the "rugged individualists" that they are, Texans are very much wary of a consolidation of power in one office. Most of the power in the state is held by the legislature and that legislature convenes only once every two years. Bush's daily itinerary for much of his six years in the office always had room to squeeze in an afternoon nap and a couple of hours of working out in the afternoon.)
I suppose that if I had to choose who I believe is the more qualified of the two, the mayor of the largest city in the United States or the governor of Texas, then I suppose that Giuliani gets the nod, but that's mostly by default.
Of course, if I were forced to choose between the two in a mythical GOP primary, Giuliani would get my vote given his social liberalism on women's rights and gay rights. But it's for those reasons and the additional reasons highlighted by Mr. Hawkins, that I think Giuliani stands no shot in '08.
DONALD H. RUMSFELD
I'd like to start by giving you a little background on how I operate. Sometimes writing this blog is a chore. I'll scan through dozens of news sites and blogs in an effort to find something that I might be able to stamp my particular point of view on. Sometimes, nothing jumps out at me. Other times, I'll see articles and news bytes that just scream for me to get to. Monday was like that as it was relatively quiet, but then all of the sudden, some Lieberman stuff hit, then some new Cheney junk came out and that's when my work is a breeze.
Earlier today, I had one of my Eureka! moments as I was doing a quick Google news search through the usual suspects. I typed in "rumsfeld" and there it was, barely an hour old:
Man, but I love headlines like that. On that headline alone, I knew that I had my hook. Immediately, dozens of retorts and snark popped into my head as I tried to whittle down my indignation into a coherent piece. As I read through the article, I found several more outlandish claims that were just begging to be smacked around. When a guy like Rummy throws this much fodder at me, it takes a little time to figure out exactly how I'm going to go about snarking the crap out of his statements. I suppose I should start by quoting some of his nuggets (from CNN) and then we'll take it from there:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday accused critics of the Bush administration's Iraq and counterterrorism policies of lacking the courage to fight terror.Shorter Don Rumsfeld: People who disagree with Bush are pussy morons.
In unusually explicit terms, Rumsfeld portrayed the administration's critics as suffering from "moral and intellectual confusion" about what threatens the nation's security.
Rumsfeld spoke to an American Legion convention as part of a coordinated White House strategy, in advance of the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, aiming to take the offensive against administration critics at a time of doubt about the future of Iraq and how long U.S. troops must remain there.
But it is apparent that many have still not learned history's lessons," he said, adding that part of the problem is that the American news media have tended to emphasize the negative rather than the positive.
He said, for example, that more media attention was given to U.S. soldiers' abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib than to the fact that Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith received the Medal of Honor.
Seriously, I'm just not sure how much more I can distill what he's just said here. How else are we to interpret his claims that in disagreeing with Bush, we "lack courage on terror?" And then he claims that these same Bush critics are suffering from "moral and intellectual confusion?" Ho. Lee. Shit. I'm almost speechless. I just don't know what else to say to this. I mean, Rummy has basically said it all right there. Disagree with Bush and you're a pussy moron.
Moving on, I'd like to direct your attention to the third sited quote. Reading through it, I'm left with no choice but to conclude that this adminstration is once again playing politics with 9/11, something that they often chastise their opponents for doing. "A coordinated White House strategy, in advance of the fifth anniversary of" 9/11 that aims to "take the offensive against administration critics[.]" Bushco has been playing politics with this national tragedy since the second plane hit the South Tower. Why else would Bush sit there in that elementary school in Sarasota, Florida, attempting to project an air of calm as Chief of Staff Andy Card whispered the news of a second strike in his ear? Granted, he looked to me (and most people) like a deer in headlights rather than a leader projecting calm, but even at the earliest stages of that fateful day, he was working the politics angle, figuring out the best way to take advantage as events unfolded around him. The fact that he felt the best way to do this was to sit with a blank look on his face for the next seven minutes speaks volumes of our Commander-in-Chief's lack of imagination.
Finally, I'd like to acknowledge Sgt. First Class Paul Ray Smith, who received the Medal of Honor on April 4, 2005, "[f]or conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty[.]" Sergeant First Class Smith died in the line of duty two years earlier on April 4, 2003.
Secretary Rumsfeld, you are correct. More coverage was given to the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal than to Sergeant First Class Smith. Unfortunately, your whining about the media's focus is sort of like blaming a rubbernecker who observes the carnage of a three-car pileup. What happened in Abu Ghraib was dispicable and deserved to have a light shone upon it. Your efforts to use Sergeant First Class Smith's heroic death as an excuse not to bring the events to light does a disservice to Smith's ultimate sacrifice.
In addition to Sgt. First Class Smith, I'd also like to recognize the following soldiers and Marines who were confirmed dead by the DOD this past weekend:
Spc. Edgardo Zayas, 29, of Dorchester, Mass., died on Aug. 26 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Cpl. David G. Weimortz, 28, of Irmo, SC., died, Aug. 26 in Al Anbar province, Iraq.
Cpl. Jordan C. Pierson, 21, of Milford, Conn., died Aug. 25 in Al Anbar province, Iraq.
Pfc. William E. Thorne, 26, of Hospers, Iowa, died on Aug 24 (location not given).
Sgt. Marquees A. Quick, 28, of Hoover Ala., died on Aug 19, in Ar Ramadi, Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Gordon G. Solomon, 35, of Fairborn, Ohio, died Aug. 24 in Al Anbar province, Iraq.
Sgt. Jeremy E. King, 23, of Meridian, Idaho, died on Aug. 24, in Baghdad, Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Dwayne E. Williams, 28, of Baltimore, Md., died Aug. 24 in Al Anbar province, Iraq.
Oops. There I go again covering the negative.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
After a quiet couple of weeks from Tricky Dick (version 2.0), Mr. Cheney came out from his hidden bunker in an undisclosed location with a vengeance yesterday, this time throwing around a straw man argument that is quite possibly lamer than just about any straw man his "boss" has ever come up with. From Reuters:
"Some in our own country claim retreat from Iraq would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone," Cheney told a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nevada. "A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be ... a ruinous blow to the future security of the United States."That right there is the very definition of a straw man! NO ONE anywhere has ever ever ever ever said what he just said!!! EVER!!! It just boggles the mind. I mean, just the inference that a terrorist has an appetite that can be satisfied makes no sense. There is nothing on the planet that we could give the "terrorists" (as if they are some sort of monolithic entity) that would "satsify their appetite." Dear lord, but it's just so frustrating! We could pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow and cut off all support to Israel immediately and "the terrorists" would still be plotting ways to attack us! Their demands mean bupkis to them. These people are fanatics. They are operating on a level that we cannot hope to understand, much less conquer, as long as people like Bush and Cheney are in power.
Last Friday, Al Franken said something on his radio show to the effect of "the biggest mistake we've made in the Middle East is attempting to simplify a very complex situation." There aren't any easy answers for Iraq or the Middle East as a whole. And because of that fact, no one has ever made a statement about placating their appetites by leaving Iraq.
This November will be a big test for voters. Think of it as a midterm before the final exam in 2008. Have voters wised up to the fact that the GOP has nothing to offer them except for straw men and bogus terror alerts? Unfortunately, over the last two election cycles, the majority of voters have bought into this fear and smear paradigm. The 2006 elections are going to be a big test as to whether Americans have learned this crucial lesson.
Wow. This one has got to be seen to be believed.
A few weeks ago, Dick Cheney committed two errors. The first was that he commented on a northeast state's party primary, namely the Connecticut Democratic primary. People in his position have no business offering comment on a local matter. Maybe I'm overly sensitive, but I just thought that it was improper to say anything. The second offense? What was said in that comment, namely that al Qaida types were really digging that Ned Lamont defeated incumbent Joe Lieberman based mostly on Joe's wrongheaded support for Bush's costly and poorly executed war in Iraq. The inference was that a vote for Ned was a vote for al Qaida. But, then we all know that Dick has no shame or morals or a soul for that matter, so this sort of statement shouldn't have been that shocking. [Original quote via Think Progress.]
On August 20, John Kerry was on This Week, where he accused Joe of "adopting the rhetoric of Dick Cheney," on the issue of Iraq. I think Senator Kerry hit the nail on the head with that one. Why? Take a gander at this photo:
While I will readily admit that I have no concrete proof that this guy is in fact employed by Joe Lieberman, Jane Hamsher over at Firedoglake seemed to have a firm grasp on the subject when she wrote "Now, I can’t say for sure if Lieberman is paying this guy to make this sick and truly despicable joke. But, in my experience, nearly all the people who show up on behalf of Lieberman not named Lieberman are collecting a paycheck for it." [Quick shoutout for one of the commenters at Ned Lamont's blog, ShermanDem, who wrote this about the above photo: "I’m confused. Why is a Shepard from last year’s Christmas Pageant touting Lamont a big deal? I just want to know if the Pageant organizers know the costume is missing? Where is his shepard’s crook? Seriously, who the hell is he supposed to be? A retro Islamo-fascist?" I thought the same thing when I first saw the photo, but he wrote it way funnier than I thought it so he gets the mention.]
It's truly frightening how wholeheartedly Joe Lieberman has embraced the Republican Party election playbook. He's gone from the Vice Presidential nominee for his party in 2000 to this year's version of Zell Miller (anyone wanna bet that he'll be speaking at the GOP Convention in '08?). And the irony of it all is he would most likely be Vice President right now if he had shown this much drive and tenacity when debating Cheney or during the Battle for Florida during the 36 day recount and legal battle.
PART III: RECLAMATION
[NOTE: IF YOU HAVE NOT READ PART ONE AND PART TWO, YOU'LL PROBABLY FIND IT HELPFUL IF YOU READ THOSE FIRST.]
I'd like to take this opportunity to note all the help we got as far as donations and money and such. My boss in Atlanta had contacted me after the storm and he and his church asked us what sort of help they could provide and they came through in a big way with various donations. It was amazing the level of generosity that was on display on a daily basis. Other co-workers of mine (and my wife's) donated money and goods to us in an effort to help out however they could. I had never seen that sort of thing before and it still puts in a lump firmly in my throat when I think about it. Tough times can really bring out the best in people.
Around the time that Lisa, Ryne and Shelby had returned home, I got another call from my boss, Kelly. Kelly had offered to drive his RV down to New Orleans and park in front of my parents' house for as long as they needed it. Keep in mind that this was quite some time before Kenner would become a FEMA trailer city as plans were still being put in place at that time. And the fact that he would drive well over 1000 miles (round trip) to do that was an incredible display of generosity. So Kelly hopped in his RV, towing his daughter's Saturn behind him so he could bet back and left Atlanta for Daphne. The trip took about six to seven hours.
It was decided that I would travel with Kelly and set up the RV and begin a little demolition before my parents would travel back. Kelly and I left on Thursday and my parents arrived on Saturday. Upon Kelly's arrival, I hopped in my truck and Kelly followed me on an uncertain trip to New Orleans. I say uncertain because there are only three main paths for getting into the town, Interstate 10 from the east, Interstate 10 from the west and the Causeway Bridge over Lake Ponchartrain. I-10 from the east was closed for the forseeable future because the twin span bridges that connect Slidell with New Orleans east had been severely damaged by the storm. Entire sections were missing and it would be some time before repairs were affected. The Causeway across Lake Ponchartrain was also closed for the time being. So, the only way to enter was from the west, which means we had to go above the lake on I-12 and then down I-55. Unfortunately, I-10 was closed about a mile east of where I-55 connects with it, so we had to travel through LaPlace and take backroads to get into Kenner. Keep in mind that we're doing most of this travel while speeding along about an average speed of 25 mph because of traffic.
When we got to Kenner, it was a ghost town. It was eerily quiet. As I had mentioned before, it looked like a war zone. No cars were driving by, the parking lots of the various stores were empty. All the grass on all the lawns was either dead or completely overgrown. On my parents' street, there were a couple of residents who had either rode out the storm or arrived earlier then we had. There were piles of debris that had started to form in front of their homes as they attempted begin the rebuilding process. Soon enough most houses would not even be visible from the streets as residents began removing EVERYTHING from the houses. Walls of debris flanked both sides of many street, sometimes making it difficult to find one's house.
The trees that had been obstructing most of the main roads had been cleared so getting to my parents' house wasn't a problem. It took a little while to situate the RV and we had arrived too late to make it to the local Home Depot to purchase the necessary equipment to hook up power from the house to the RV, so we started up the generator and used that for the night. We walked through the house after we had set up the RV and we were shocked to find that it was actually worse than my brother had described it. By this time, there had been no air conditioning running for almost three weeks so it was sweltering in there. The humidity and temperature had provided the ideal environment for various molds to flourish. In some areas, mold was visible four to five feet up a wall. Flies were abundant because of all the trash around the house. With every step you were reminded that the carpet was still totally soaked, which only added the humidity and subsequent mold issues. All the furniture in the house was a total loss. The sofas and chairs and beds were wet and moldy. My mother's table, that she had inherited from her mother had basically collapsed due to water damage. A family hutch had also all but disintegrated in the inhospitable environment. My mother kept family photo albums in a coffee table in the living room and they were all but destroyed as well. These photo albums chronicled about 70 years worth of family history and I knew their destruction would be particularly hard for my mom to take.
In the garage, my mom's now totalled car was sitting there. Water had screwed it up so badly that I couldn't even put it into neutral to back it out of the garage. It was like the house - wet and moldy. Due to the fact that the house leans from front to back, the garage was still holding about four inches of water.
Since power had been restored, I immediately turned on the air conditioner in an effort to get the temperature down in the house. I worked around the car and the water in the garage in order to dig out a couple of card tables so that I could start taking some stuff out of the house and drying them a little. I didn't hold out a whole lot of hope from the photo albums, but I took them out of the house and put them on the card tables and hoped that they might be salvagable if there were allowed to dry.
The next day Kelly and I got the power hooked up from the house, ran the proper sewage lines and he gave me a crash course on the care and feeding of his RV. Honestly, it was an amazing RV. Very spacious, a decent sized bathroom, comfortable sleeping arrangements. Considering that it would be my parents' home and only space of refuge from the nightmare outside the door for the next two months, it performed admirably. My mom was able to salvage a few framed photos from the house and she had them placed around the RV in an effort to make it seem more like a home. Honestly, my folks were better off than many other families along the street. A few lived in their gutted houses and at least one couple actually lived in their car until the FEMA trailers started coming in.
So with the RV all ready, Kelly headed back to Atlanta and I was on my own until my parents arrived the next day. Determined not to have them see the house as I had seen it, I began to do as much as I could to begin the demolition. I began by getting a spray pump and some bleach so that I could kill as much of the mold as I could. I understood that this method would inevitably put mold particles in the air so I wore as respirator as well as jeans and steel toed boots to protect against any cuts and scrapes that might occur. As I worked tearing out the soaked carpet, I was beginning to realize that the house was almost a total loss. Assuming that the some entity wouldn't make them tear the whole thing down and start from scratch, I at least figured that all the walls had to come out. I struggled on my own trying to get stuff out; moving the furniture and debris that I could manage out to the front lawn beyond the RV. With the heat and the humidity and the wearing masks and jeans; well, it was stiflingly hot work. I hadn't gotten nearly as much done as I hoped when my parents arrived the next day. My mom was understandable upset, but I think she had been steeling herself for this so she got through it alright.
The next few days were a blur for me. The three of us worked continuously as we first cleared out all of the furniture and carpet. We then started tackling the drywall, though I don't believe much got done during those first few days. I returned home to Daphne for the rest of the week, then headed back to Kenner to continue the demolition the next weekend. It was backbreaking work getting everything out of the house. We were given some assistance on that front as a roving church group from North Carolina offered to help remove items and cabinetry and drywall. Accepting the kindness of complete strangers still took some getting used to, but we kept them hydrated as they busted their collective asses helping us out. Over the coming weeks, the house that I had grew up in and lived in for eighteen years had been gutted down to the two by four studs. With everything out, we took the opportunity to remodel a little bit here and there, giving my parents a larger bedroom, altering the kitchen layout a bit and making the two bathrooms larger than they originally were. With this step complete, the task of rebuilding was at hand.
FEMA money, insurance and other federal aid had begun to trickle at this point so at least we had the funds to pay for rebuilding. As de facto general contractor on the rebuilding project, it was my job to procure all necessary materials, including driving from Alabama to pick up enough drywall in Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi and bringing it to Kenner. No drywall was available in Kenner unless one were to arrive at the local Home Depot at 6am or so, and then wait in line for about three hours. The wait times in Gulfport and Biloxi were not as bad, but the entire process, from travel time to picking up materiel made the trip take about five hours, twice as long as it would normally take. By this time, one lane of the twin spans connecting Slidell to New Orleans East had reopened so, though the traffic could get nasty at times, it did cut the travel time down somewhat.
Driving through the different areas to and from my parents' house was always heartbreaking. New Orleans East to this day still looks almost as bad as it did the first few months. Major damage had hit the numerous high rise buildings that line I-10 through New Orleans and Metairie (which is between Kenner and New Orleans). Everything just looked dirty and grey and there was still an eery quiet that enveloped some areas at times. We were able to get hooked up with an electrician who did most of the electrical work before we started on the drywall work. Since all the plugs in the house had been submerged underwater, they had to all be replaced. And since the house was built in the early 70's, the electrical layout was in major need of updating, so I designed the electrical plan and the electricians did a great job of implementing it. Once that was all done, we moved onto the biggest project, drywall. We handled the labor ourselves and various members of the family pitched in. The process took about three months of weekends to complete. By this point, it was mid-November and Kelly really needed his RV back, so my parents were able to buy a new bed and they set it up in their partially finished house. There was no flooring, just the original concrete slab. At least the walls were up at this point so that now a person could actually use the bathroom without being visible to everyone who happened to be in the house. Little by little over the coming months a new benchmark would be accomplished. New carpeting would be installed. New tile in the kitchen or bathroom. New paint on the walls. New furniture was purchased and delivered. Kichen cabinets would be installed. (There was only one source of water in the house for many months - the bathtub. Since we had to tear out the cabinets and vanities, there were no sinks, so every water-based need had to be met in the bathtub. Try washing dishes in a bathtub - not good times. But, like most things, we learned to deal with it. When we finally got the kitchen countertops and sink installed around May, it was a banner day!)
By mid-December, I had consciously pulled back from being as hands-on as I had been. The work was seriously taking a toll on me, both the labor aspect and the psychological toll as well. It killed me everytime I had to travel back to the town that I had grown up in and see it in its current state. Since most of the major manual labor was completed after the drywall and electrical, I knew that much of the coming work was doable by my folks. I'm still making trips back about every three to four weeks to help out when I can. This weekend, I'll be going back for the Labor Day weekend and it looks like all that's really left is some finish moulding along the bottom of the walls that needs to get completed, but after that, I'd say we're about done. I think some painting needs to get finished on the doors, but my mom is unhappily tackling that task.
As for the others, Liz and Bryan's house is on about the same trajectory as far as completion goes. I don't think they're as far along as Mom, but they're close. Jamie's parents suffered only light flooding; so light, that they didn't even notice any damage upon their return a month after evacuating. Brian and Lisa's house was essentially untouched; a little flooding as well, but nothing serious. Laurie's (Jamie's oldest sister) apartment near uptown fared well as much of that area of New Orleans is on higher ground, so she made out alright. If nothing else, Gracie got to spend about a month with her grandparents and aunts and cousins and her language skills greatly improved during that time because of the constant interaction. By October everyone had gone back to their lives, and I think Gracie was a little lonely for a while. All in all, it's been a tough year.
Nearly all of my family lives somewhere in the New Orleans and gulf coast area. My uncle's house was totally wiped out by storm surge in Waveland, Mississippi. One of my closest friends growing up has never been back and is currently living in Memphis. Another friend, whom I met in college, left New Orleans for good as well and is currently gainfully employed in Houston. One of my mom's closest friends totally lost her house. She lived in the Lakeview area right where the some levees broke and her house sat for weeks under 10 feet of water. These are just some of the stories of people I know.
Growing up as a kid in New Orleans, we always got excited about a hurricane because we'd get out of school and we might have to evacuate, which was always an adventure. Now, as an adult, I spend six months of the year with a pit in my stomach as we go through another hurricane season. While there are signs that New Orleans is slowly recovering, there's still such a long way to go. Though my parents' house is almost complete, there are other houses along the street that have barely been touched. If it took us a year of concerted effort to get finished, I can only imagine how long before the other houses on our street in our little corner of the area are completed. I sometimes wonder when things will just get back to normal, but things can never get back to the way they used to be. Too much has changed. Too many lives have been destroyed. Katrina left a huge gaping wound across the entire city and I don't know if we as a larger community have the requisite tools and abilites to ever make things right again.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Here at AMERICA'S LEAST WANTED, each week the slate is wiped clean from the previous week. A new week means a whole new TOP TEN, leading to every Friday's TOP FIVE WORST PEOPLE OF THE WEEK. Right now, it's still early in the week, but there are a couple of candidates that can start filling out the list. Of course, the list is subject to adjustment, so the four you see here may not be around come the TOP FIVE list. But given some of the offenses hightlighted within the current list, I somehow doubt that a couple of these guys are going anywhere.
Coming in at number four, we've got Ann Coulter. Only because the week is so new is she even here. I'm betting she'll be shoved off by Wednesday unless she says something particularly dispicable about, I don't know... the 9/11 widows? What? She's already done that? Ah, crap. There goes Ann, raising the bar so high that even she can't reach it anymore.
John McCain finds himself in the third position tonight. As I noted earlier, McCain keeps drifting further and further to the right while still brandishing his bullshit Maverick image. Will the press and the voters wise up to his sham before he becomes the oldest president ever elected to the office?
Our favorite Democratic primary loser who's still running anyway comes in at the number two; Joe Lieberman. I talked about him this past Saturday as he now refuses to endorse three Democratic challengers for Congress in Connecticut, which is posit might actually be a good thing for these challengers. But the reason for his high position has more to do with something else he's got going on right now. I'll get into it tomorrow.
And currently holding the top spot is none other than Mr. Undisclosed Location himself, Dick Cheney. What has he done to earn the top spot so early in the week? Unfortunately, I must leave you with yet another tease as I'll have a full post on Cheney's nonsense tomorrow. Hint: it has to do with a straw man... .
So, we've got a big day tomorrow. I'll have the final part of My Katrina story up in the morning. And I'll also have my rants on the latest from Cheney and Lieberman. Plus, there's bound to be somebody who pisses me off during the day, so be on the lookout for that. Thanks for coming by.
Ah, the righties over at Redstate are always good for a giggle. If guess if for no other reason, I enjoy trying to understand how the think, sort of like figuring out a Rubik's Cube.
The latest target of their wrath, by a poster named Jeff Emanuel, is a lame attack on Senator Hillary Clinton. How lame is it? He basically attacks her because, in an attempt during a speech (or a column) to paint a picture of her vision of the future, she invites her audience to "take a time machine" with her into the year 2020. That's basically it. It's probably not even enough of an offense to be brought up at such a prestigious blog as America's Least Wanted, but the level of pettiness was so profound that I thought I'd mention it anyway.
So, on this journey into the future, (here's a link for the full text of Hillary's thoughts) she hits her standard liberal points, including universal healthcare, the environment and global poverty. I'm sure that they probably had as much to do with Jeff's general disdain for Mrs. Clinton's vision as anything, but to channel that anger into the whole time machine diatribe comes off as silly and counterproductive to me. Instead of engaging Senator Clinton's policy concepts with actual debate, he basically snarks his way through the rest of his piece after the time machine-hate runs out of steam.
Jeff continues by complaining how long Clinton's column is, which to me speaks volumes about the competition on the right that we're dealing with. Apparently, if a message isn't tailored to the size of a Family Circus comic strip punchline, then you're probably going to lose their interest after about two paragraphs.
In the end, after spending a while trying to get into Jeff's head, the only thing I can figure out is that he's got some really bad Hillary-Hate going on, which is ironic considering how much the Left's Bush-Hate is always thrown into Liberals' collective faces. Satisfied by my conclusion as to Jeff's motivations, I unfortunately feel strangely unfulfilled. I suppose that, much like solving a Rubik's Cube, dissecting a rightie's motivations is ultimately an unrewarding experience.
McCain in 2000, if he were allowed to address Bob Jones University: "Get out of the 16th century and into the 21st century. What you're doing is racist and cruel!"
McCain in 2006, when asked if he would speak at BJU: "I understand they had made considerable progress."
Huh, for an institution as adverse to change as Bob Jones University, I would sort of tend to think that they probably haven't yet bridged the five hundred year gap that Senator McCain asked for during the past six years, but that's just an educated guess on my part.
I did a Wikipedia search on BJU (because I'm all about the research) in order to educate myself on their policies. Here's some of their rules [emphasis added and my snark in brackets]:
- Each student is provided with a filtered e-mail account. Using unfiltered Internet access via computer, mobile phone, or satellite phone is prohibited for residence hall students. The university provides content-filtered Internet access for student use that blocks pornography, "lurid violence," racial hate, and other "objectionable content."
- DVD/VCRs are not allowed in residence halls; DVD players on computers cannot be used for watching films. Televisions may be used only as monitors to play video games.
- Students are forbidden to attend movie theaters or, when visiting local homes, to watch any films with a rating higher than a G rating. Residence hall students are not permitted to play, use, or own video games that are rated T, M, or Ao or that include profanity, sensual or suggestive dress, rock music, graphic violence, or demonic themes. [I guess that leaves...Pac-Man?]
- Students may not listen to Country, Jazz, New Age, Rock, Rap, or Contemporary Christian music. [So what exactly can they listen to? Sounds an awful lot like the Taliban to me, but that's not exactly a revelation, now is it?.]
- The University will not allow anything displaying the logos of Abercrombie & Fitch or its subsidiary Hollister to be "worn, carried, or displayed" on campus even if the logos are covered because these companies have "shown an unusual degree of antagonism to the name of Christ and an unusual display of wickedness in their promotions."
Once again, it looks like the Straight Talk Express is taking a turn to the right.
PART II: DEVASTATION
[NOTE: IF YOU HAVE NOT READ PART ONE, YOU'LL PROBABLY FIND IT HELPFUL IF YOU READ IT FIRST.]
On Monday, everything in New Orleans went to hell. I direct you to a helpful flash animation that was put together by the Times Picayune for a timeline of how New Orleans was basically destroyed.
As the hurricane battered the gulf coast, Daphne was also effected as we lost power sometime around 10am. All day I kept expecting a tree to fall on my house as the winds made the surrounding trees creak as if they would snap at any moment. I boarded up many of the windows (though not all of them) on the first level of my house in case flying debris became a problem. So, seventeen people are in a house with no powers and many of the windows boarded up. Needless to say, it was unpleasant. With limited options most of us were trying to make sure that the kids weren't scared even though they could tell that the adults were. As for me, I'm a computer junkie. I get almost all my news from the internet so being without it was starting to wear on me after a while.
As I mentioned earlier, my brother Brian, and my brother-in-law, Bryan were still in Kenner doing police business. They rode out the storm in the jail. I later found out that they were mainly on looter duty in Kenner, heading off any would-be looters at various locations throughout the city. At one point, my brother officially became a total cliche by actually hanging out in a donut shop with a couple of his fellow officers. The fact that we didn't hear from them for a couple of days added to the anxiety that Liz, my sister, and Lisa, my sister-in-law were feeling, but they did a good job of keeping it together most of the time.
Monday afternoon creeped into Monday night, we were still without power, though the brunt of the storm had since passed by us as it tore its way through central Mississippi. With nothing to do we all tried our best to get some sleep. The sleeping arrangements were still being worked out over those first few days, but it eventually settled into what I'll describe now: Jamie's parents ended up in our bedroom. They're older than my parents by about 10 years so we thought it'd be best if they got the best bed in the house. My parents were in a guest bedroom on a double bed. The mattress was the one had from college so it was probably not the most comfortable place they'd ever spent a night. (Also something to note - my parents had not actually slept in the same bed for years as my father has an horrendous snoring problem. But, like so much that was going on at the time, my mom simply learned to adjust.) The only other actual bed in the house was a twin bed in another guest bedroom. Luckily, my sister had brought an air mattress, so that was placed in the bedroom with the twin and my sister and her two kids (including a nine-month baby) roomed with Lisa, my sister-in-law and her daughter and son. Nicole, Jamie's sister, slept on the floor most of the time in the master bedroom with her dog, Oscar. Jamie's other sister, Laurie, also had an air mattress, so she at first slept in Gracie's bedroom with Grace (who was sleeping in a crib at the time). We soon learned that Gracie doesn't sleep well with other people in her room, so Laurie eventually moved downstairs with her air mattress. Jamie, Laurie and I would rotate between air mattress, sofa and oversized chair each night.
Now, I'm a really picky bastard when it comes to temperature for sleeping. My thermostat has to be set at about 74 degrees in order for me to sleep comfortably. Needless to say, on that Monday night after the hurricane had passed us, it was the end of August in south Alabama so 74 degrees was not going to be happening. I eventually ended up outside on my back deck as I hoped that the wind would cool me off. Also, aside from temperature issues, I have a helluva time falling asleep without a television on. Usually, if I put on the History Channel or Discovery Channel, I'll be out within 20 minutes. But without a TV, it literally takes me hours to get to sleep. Without a TV, my mind races thinking about various junk going on at a given time; the television fills my mind with some random knowledge about ancient Egypt or engineering or some other less than thrilling subject and allows me to drift off.
So, there I am, out there on the deck, hoping to fall asleep with no TV and the temperature being around 85 degrees. Amazingly, at 10pm, the power came back on. My neighbors later told me that they heard an enormous roar from my house as we all rejoiced at having power again. Given what was going on along the coast and in New Orleans, we were truly blessed that night. Unbeknownst to us at the time, by the time we were fortunate enough to have the power back on, half of New Orleans was under water and many residents' nightmares were just beginning.
Unlike most of my neighbors, I have a satellite dish (DirecTV), so we were able to start getting television coverage within a few minutes of the power coming back on. (My neighbors were without cable for a few days.) I don't recall much of the television coverage other than the occasional nitwit standing outside as the rain and wind blew him sideways. Over the next couple of days as more and more "real" news began trickling in, it was becoming clear that our house guests would be with us for a while. The general concensus was that no one would be allowed to return to the area for at least a month, at least to the Kenner area and longer, for residents of New Orleans.
I don't remember every moment of those first couple of days. As it was such a difficult experience, I suppose that I've put a lot of it out of my mind over the past year. I remember impressions. I remember bits here and there. Among my scattered memories was a lot of sadness and crying. My mom has always been an emotional person so it wouldn't take much for her to get upset and start crying and understandably so. And if she was crying, my sister would probably start crying. Lisa was a bit "tougher" but inevitably she shed some tears over time. I recall that things were getting so bad in New Orleans (while Bush remained on vacation) that even the guys at Fox News were going apeshit crazy about the unfathomable situation taking place in a major American city.
Brian and Bryan, the Kenner cops, finally got in touch with the family around Wednesday or Thursday (while Condi Rice was buying shoes on Fifth Avenue in NYC). They had been on looter duty for a few days as Kenner was flooded with about three-four feet of water, sometimes higher, sometimes lower depending on the area. There were a lot of trees down so traversing the city was a real challenge. By Thursday, the water pumps had been turned back on in the area and the water had been cleared out shortly thereafter. My brother had been able to make it to my parents' house by Saturday. Though the water had been gone for two days by this time, the 90+ degree heat and wet carpet were reeking havoc on the house. When my brother stepped in, it was like walking into a mildewy hothouse. Since the house had had up to three feet of water in it, a lot of stuff in the lower cabinets had floated out. The garbage cans around the house had tipped over as well. Junk was everywhere. The smell was terrible. The heat was terrible. The house was ... terrible.
Bryan, my brother-in-law, got into his house soon thereafter and it was no better given that it was in the same neighborhood. Brian's house escaped with only minor flooding. Jamie's parents' house also fared well with very little flooding. The problem was, given all the fallen trees and lack of power and utilities, they were not allowing anyone to return for the next few weeks, which meant that hot houses and wet carpets were making for a nightmare cleanup operation and serious mold problems.
Day-to-day life was ... interesting in my home. My mom worked for Wal-Mart back in Kenner, so the local Wal-Mart happily accepted her (and many other refugee/employees) so she was able to work a very flexible schedule and keep her mind off of things. Dad looked terribly bored most of the time. Liz and Lisa spent much of the time entertaining the kids and keeping them somewhat quiet as Jamie works from home (for a company out of Atlanta) and she needed to actually get work done while the world was going crazy. In my opinion, Nicole doesn't seem to operate well in large groups so she spent a lot of time outside smoking with Oscar, her dog. Laurie has been on an oddysey over the last few years working on some sort of doctorate so she spent much of her time working on that. The fastest way to make my eyes glaze over is to listen to her talk about it, so I tried not to. Jamie's mom played with Gracie and kept to herself most of the time while Jim, her dad, was almost always upstairs in the master bedroom with a little radio listening to Rush Limbaugh. Ugh. (At one point I actually had to block Fox News from the main TV in the house because I just could not watch that garbage.) Everyday, I would get out the house and do some work. I don't work in an office as I'm a roof inspector, so much of my time was spent on roofs accessing damage. It was nice to get out of the house sometimes because for years it had just been me and Jamie. Then Gracie came along and she fit comfortably into our lives after a little adjustment. Now suddenly we were dealing with a houseful of people who are always nice to visit with, but not spend day after day with. The arrangement was starting to take a toll on me mentally. I missed my bed and I wasn't sleeping for shit on the sofa or the air mattress and I just missed the relative quiet that used to pervade our home.
Meanwhile, Brian and Bryan were dealing with having to operate in an environment that can only be described as war zone-like. Brian was working 12-hour night shifts while also basically being on-call for the other twelve hours. He was averaging about four hours of sleep on a given night and wasn't eating very well. Though he doesn't talk about it, I think he was about two steps away from a nervous breakdown. And honestly, who can blame him? He had not seen his wife and two children in over two weeks, he was sleeping in a jail most of the time and hadn't taken a bath in what felt like forever. One day, he and several officers had had enough and they headed to his house to take a cold shower (no hot water due to no power) and sleep wherever they could find someplace comfortable while dealing with the heat. On more than one occasion I believe that he was ready to pack it in and be with his family, but he stuck it out and did his job, which is all that anyone could ask for I suppose. I know Ryne and Shelby, his son and daughter, were missing him very much. Ryne was trying to be strong, but you could tell that it was tough on him. My dad and I attempted to become sort of surrogates for him and we played games and interacted and just tried to make sure he was having as good a time as possible. You could definitely tell that he was bored sometimes being away from his home and his friends and his toys so we did what we could to alleviate that. I also attempted to inject some amount of discipline and education while stuck away from home and school. Ryne is a highly intelligent child; top of his class and all that good stuff, so I tried to incorporate a little school time each day. We must have worked on his multiplication tables twice a day for two weeks, and I think by the end of his time with me, he had them down pretty well.
A little over two weeks after the storm had hit, power was finally restored in Destrahan, where Brian and Lisa live. Destrahan is about 20 miles due west of New Orleans. It had escaped most of the flooding and wind that had damaged and destroyed much of the city. After seventeen days of questionable sleep and being around all these other people, Lisa was ready to go home. When news of the power restoration reached her, she and the kids were packed and out the door within an hour.
Shortly thereafter, partial power had been restored to some areas in Kenner. However, my parents and my sister couldn't live in their respective houses given their condition. Bryan, Liz's husband had been able to secure a small one bedroom apartment so they were set while they assessed the damage. Where my parents would live is a different, yet amazing, story altogether.
Part III coming Tuesday. Thanks for reading.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Look, I understand that I'm not breaking new ground when I criticize this pathetic excuse for a human being. I get it; she's a a screeching siren, yelling ever louder about the evil threat facing America, the godless and slanderous liberals. She has long since become a caricature of herself, forced to bellow louder and louder in the hopes that her words will have the same impact that they used to. Unfortunately for her, she's all but reached her point of saturation. There's really nothing else that can be said by her that will really be taken seriously by anyone other than the breathless talking heads as they lap up her bitter brand of kooky-juice. There are even those on the Right who find her shrill; occasionally useful, but shrill nonetheless. She's running out of attacks that are really shocking, and because of this, she's starting saying things that are just flat-out dumb. Which brings us to today's post.
While making her umpteenth appearance on Hannity & Colmes she said two things that made me hit the rewind button on my TiVo twice, not because the two comments were particularly shocking, mind you; I think it was because they fall more accurately into the realm of "batshit crazy."
When challenged by guest liberal/moderate Kirsten Powers (sitting in for Colmes) about the Bush Administration's failure to capture Osama bin Laden, she first said that bin Laden was "irrelevant" and likened him to "a fading movie star[.]" She further stepped in her own batshit-craziness by claiming that "[T]hings are going swimmingly in Afghanistan."
Now, some might describe someone like... I don't know, Tom Cruise, as a fading movie star (I wouldn't, but I guess someone could make a case), but, to date, Mr. Cruise's biggest offense was jumping up and down on Oprah's couch. Bin Laden on the other hand is directly responsible for the deaths of almost 3000 Americans. Because of that, to most Americans, bin Laden is the exact opposite of irrelevant! Just because Bush himself has been trying to make the case for bin Laden's irrelevancy since March of 2002 (just six months after 9/11, mind you) doesn't mean that the American public is buying it.
And just how swimmingly are things going in Afghanistan? Let's ask an authority on the subject, Lieutenant General David Richards, head of Nato's international security force in Afghanistan(from the The Guardian via Media Matters): General Richards "described the situation in the country as 'close to anarchy' with feuding foreign agencies and unethical private security companies compounding problems" caused by local corruption." Yeah, that sounds like the very definition of "swimmingly" to me.
See, whatever credibility Coulter may (or more likely doesn't) have, it just evaporates when she comes up with goofball stupidity like that. Even a mildly, intellectually honest conservative/right winger (and I have to believe that some exist) would acknowledge that Ann is totally off her nut and that statements like this are simply indefensible. If only the networks would stop giving her a soapbox from which to hurl her crazy nut grenades from, then perhaps she, like bin Laden, would become irrelevant.
-Dedicated to my good friend, Company Niki, who, upon reading this blog for the first time, wondered why I hadn't done a Coulter post yet. This one's for you.
PART I: EVACUATION
I've made mention of Katrina troubles over in my little autobiography section, and since we're coming up on the one year anniversary of that horrific event, I thought that I might elaborate on my experiences during that time. As I sat down to write this I wasn't sure if I wanted to even tackle it, but I thought that I'd give it a try. Here goes.
Let me give you a quick background on my and my wife, Jamie's, families. (Note that all ages given are for at the time of Katrina.) Every family member lives somewhere in the New Orleans area. My folks, Allen and Mary, live in Kenner (a suburb to the west of N.O.) in the house I grew up in. I have two older brothers, Allen and Brian and one younger sister, Liz. Brian is a cop in Kenner and is married to Lisa. They have two children, Ryne (9) and Shelby (4). My sister also lives in Kenner and is also married to a cop in Kenner, Bryan, and they too have two kids, Emily (3) and Peyton (9 months). (My oldest brother Allen and I do not communicate all that often - the occasional holiday - and he did not evacuate to my house.)
My wife's parents, Jim and Joan also live in Kenner (in the house she grew up in as well) She has two older sisters, Laurie and Nicole. Laurie lives in New Orleans, around St. Charles Ave in the area called Uptown. Nicole still lives at home. I think that's all of the players.
It was Saturday when everything started to hit the fan. All indications at the time were that Katrina was heading directly for New Orleans and that it would be a nasty one. Still, New Orleanians are a skeptical bunch and we'd heard this song and dance before. Usually the things turned and beat up Florida or Texas or the storm would weaken and the city would get some flooding, maybe a few feet. No big deal.
All that being said, Lisa has always been a bit of a worry wort. She was nervous and she decided to evacuate with my sister, Liz. They brought their four kids while Brian and Bryan had to stay behind given their position as police officers. So, she called me and said that they were on their way. I decided to head to Wal-Mart and see if I couldn't stock up on some supplies. I did not do too good of a job as the store had been pretty picked over, but I got enough stuff so that we wouldn't be starving in a couple of days. Lisa, Liz, the four kids and Lisa's dog arrived at my recently purchased home (we closed about four months prior to this) in Daphne, Alabama about five hours after they had called me. (Usual travel time between New Orleans and Daphne is about two and a half hours.)
Current people count: Six adults, five kids and one dog. Needless to say, Gracie was ecstatic to have her cousins visiting.
Saturday progressed and the news continued to get worse. Allen and Mary, my parents, were still in Kenner and were arguing about leaving. My dad didn't want to leave but my mom was getting scared and felt that they should go. Meanwhile, Jamie's folks and sister, Nicole, had made the decision to leave and were boarding up their windows at four o'clock in the morning. Soon, they were on their way with their large dog, Oscar, in tow.
My mom had finally convinced my dad that they had to leave and they were on the road by nine o'clock. They too had a dog, though a small one, named Camille (like a certain hurricane). They arrived at our house at around one in the afternoon. Shortly thereafter, Jim, Joan and Nicole had arrived. I do not recall when Jamie's other sister Laurie arrived but it was on sometime that day.
Total people count: 12 adults and five kids and three dogs.
I have a two-story, four bedroom house with three and a half bathrooms. With that many people in the house, we would need every square inch.
PART II COMING UP TOMORROW...
UPCOMING THREE PART KATRINA SERIES
Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm working on a big project to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. For those who have read my little biographical blurb, you know that I was directly affected by the events of Katrina last year. This series will obviously be more in-depth. I hope that I'm able to convey the challenging times that my family and I faced and continue to deal with as we rebuild.
Expect Part One sometime this afternoon.
I hope to be able to do a little regular blogging, but this series is really taking up a ton of my time, so we'll see.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
2008 GOP PRESIDENTIAL STRAW POLLS
I was just doing a little lazy Saturday trolling around and decided to check out what was up over at Redstate.com, as I had not visited there for a couple days (small doses, people). I ran across something that I thought was interesting and I thought that I'd share it with you.
Apparently, the Redstaters were participating in a "blog-wide" GOP presidential straw poll. (I normally don't link to righties, but I thought I should for this one: GOP Straw Poll.) Now, as I proud member and frequent reader over at Daily Kos, we see these sorts of things on a fairly regular basis, but this one is the first that I'd seen from 'the enemy camp'. (Actually, I suppose that if I just did a Google search with '2008 gop president straw poll' as my search parameters, I'd get several hits; it just never crossed my mind to look.)
The poll was oddly constructed. There is a list of 11 candidates and there are three choices for each candidate; first choice, acceptable and unacceptable. Voters could only vote for one "first choice" but multiple "acceptable" or "unacceptable" results. Voters were also asked to rate their level of conservatism from 1 (RINO) to 10 (Ultraconservative). There was also a choice for lefty trolls (their wording). Afraid that choosing "lefty troll" might skew my results, I instead affiliated myself in the middle. (For your information, 182 self-described lefty trolls participated in the survey, about 2.6% of the sample. The most popular classification was 8 with 2036 votes, about 29 percent. Based on the fact that the top four choices were 8, 9, 7, and 10 [accounting for 75% of the total results], and assuming that those selections were accurate, I'd say that this is a fairly good indicator of where the right wing of the party is looking as far as presidential choices.)
Boasting a dominating 6963 ballots cast at the time of my visit here are some findings:
The potential candidates, listed in alphabetical order are Allen, Brownback, Frist, Gingrich, Giuliani, Hagel, Huckabee, McCain, Pataki, Romney and Tancredo.
According to the "first choice" option, Giuliani leads with 25% of that option, followed by Gingrich at 21.5% and Romney well behind with 12.9%. Presumptive nominee McCain was currently sixth with only 6.2%.
According to the "acceptable" choice, Giuliani again leads with 66.7% followed very closely by Gingrich with 66%. Romney is currently third with 62.1%. Allen, who finished fourth in the first choice category, also finished fourth here, with 57.6% of respondents finding him acceptable. McCain is currently eighth with 28.3%.
Under the "unacceptable" banner, the top choices are close as Hagel and Pataki garner about 68%; Frist is close with almost 63%. McCain placed fourth here with a very high 62% of voters finding him unacceptable. Giuliani is currently "last" with 24.5% (Gingrich is at 24.6% unacceptability).
What this all means:
I tried to be honest with my ballot as far as who would be an acceptable president if I had to choose a Republican. I chose Hagel and, not surprisingly, he's the most unacceptable choice according to these respondents.
There also seems to be quite a disconnect between supposed conventional wisdom and the alleged hardcore element of the party. CW says McCain is the leading candidate, but he really does not seem popular with these masses. I assume that this is similar to what is found on left-commissioned straw polls in that Hillary is the supposed popular choice but she rarely actually polls well among the liberal/blogger set.
What I find strange is that for all of Giuliani's liberal issues (based on his record as mayor of NYC, and I suppose that he could completely crap on that record if he so chose to) he's the top selection all around. It's always been my understanding that it's the red meat issues (abortion, God, guns, and gays) that really motivate the base on the Right, but Giuliani would score a big fat zero on at least two of those issues based on his positions as mayor. (According to a response given in Dec. 0f 1999, he doesn't even support so-called partial birth abortions). As I said, he's entitled to change his mind (and be called a flip-flopper if he does), but I'm just surprised that Rudy would get such widespread support given this conservative sample. I suppose it's possible that the voters are putting a lot of stock in Rudy being "America's Mayor," a label I always felt was a bit of a stretch (as does Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins, authors of Grand Illusion, a book about Giuliani after 9/11). Actually, I would fully support a Rudy nomination just so that he could be hammered incessantly over his flip-flopping. As we learned in '04, this type of campaigning is easily recalled by the voting masses (I seem to recall polls asking something along the lines of 'what's the one thing you know about Kerry' and the answer would predominantly be flip-flopper) and constantly keeps the candidate on the defensive.
Another oddity - why does Giuliani poll so well, but Pataki doesn't? In fact Pataki is one of the most unpopular choices among the group of eleven. Now obviously, Pataki did not get the "rub" that Rudy did after 9/11, but is that the whole reason? They both have similar views on issues - favors a women's right to choose and equal rights for gays among other issues. Yet Pataki is a bottom feeder in this straw poll even though he is generally considered more conservative than Giuliani.
Still, I guess since there is still over 26 months until the the '08 elections, there is still an enormous amount of time for people to learn about the candidates. Based on my skimming through the comments over at Redstate, many tend to believe that Giuliani will not survive the primary season. It's odd that the same people who voted him as their first choice (about a third of the voters in the "Right Blogosphere" straw poll were from Redstate) are skeptical about him even clearing the primary. Something doesn't compute.
But there I go again, trying to apply logic to the right wingers. When will I ever learn?
I made mention of this in the FIVE WORST PEOPLE OF THE WEEK below, but I just thought it deserved a fuller rundown by me. (Thanks to New Haven Independent via ConnecticutBLOG.)
Lieberman -- who after losing an Aug. 8 Democratic primary to Ned Lamont has launched a third-party bid to hold onto his seat in the Nov. 7 general election -- was asked whether he still endorses Diane Farrell, Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy, three Democrats looking to unseat endangered Republican incumbents Chris Shays, Rob Simmons and Nancy Johnson.Look, Lieberman's gotta know that he's flat out hurting Dems at this point, doesn't he? Seriously, is he that dumb and blind or is there something else to it? Is he doing this because he's trying to be the stern father figure who's teaching naughty children a lesson? Sort of like, "If I have to tear down the Democratic Party to its foundations in order to fix it, then that's what I'll do. 'Let justice be done though the heavens fall!'" Is that his game?
The comment was significant because analysts from both major parties believe that Lieberman's campaign could help the three Republicans keep their jobs in the face of tough challenges. Lieberman's strongest support -- 75 percent in the most recent Quinnipiac poll -- comes from Republicans. If he succeeds in drawing more Republican voters to the polls to support his candidacy, that could help the Republican Congressional candidates. Those three races are considered among the 10 most competitive Congressional races in the country; both parties consider the races key to deciding which party controls the House in 2007. National Republican strategists and donors have come forward to help Lieberman's campaign; party leaders have abandoned the nominal Republican in the Senate race, Alan Schlesinger. Prominent Republicans like Shays and former Republican House leader Newt Gingrich have endorsed Lieberman.
Actually, I think it's a third option. Basically, I believe that he's made up his mind to join the Republican Party or at least caucus with them as an independent (or CTfL member) much like Jim Jeffords (I-VT) did with the Democrats when he left the GOP in June 2001. With this being the case, it would serve no purpose to support any Democratic efforts to retake Congress, including supporting the aforementioned Farrell, Courtney and Murphy. One other thing he said makes me firmly believe that caucasing with the GOP is exactly what Joe intends to do:
Lieberman laughed Friday when asked if he was endorsing the three Republican Congressional candidates instead. He subsequently said they hadn't asked for his endorsement.
Logically, the next question the reporter should have asked was that if the three Republican Congressional candidates asked for your endorsement, then would you give it? If he refused to answer, then my next three calls would be to the three GOP candidates (Shays, Simmons and Johnson) to ask them if they intended to ask Joe for his endorsement? Given that Joe's strongest support comes from Republicans (75% in the most recent Q-Poll), one would assume that the three GOP candidates would benefit from a pat on the back from ole Joe.
Given this scenario, the only way that I can see him dropping out the race is if there is a significant drop in his Democratic support in the next few polls, a trend that may already be underway according to Rassmussen and ARG. "Playing Switzerland" by not endorsing the three Dem candidates for the House could assist in lowering Joe's unfavorables among Dem voters. And if those "miracles" continue to happen in Iraq over the next 70+ days, I would suspect that his support for Bush's policies in the region will certainly have a negative impact. To be continued. ...
Starting things off at #5 we've got Mr. Hugh Hewitt, who among other things had this to say about Dems:
Trusting the national security to Democrats is like trusting a moving car to a four year old, or the management of a vast company to the junior high school business club. Neither the child nor the preteens want to wreck the car or ruin the corporation, but both results are near inevitable.Well done, Captain Condescension.
#4 goes to John McCain. This week, his Maverick alter ego had returned, and then promptly scurried back into the undisclosed location it goes to when McCain is courting right wingers. After coming out earlier this week to sort of criticize Bush' lack of transparency about the high costs of the Iraq War, he backpedaled on Thursday once again scurring up Bush's hind quarters and stating basically that Bush is doing a heckuva job with the war and with informing Americans. Long live the Maverick.
#3 is Mr. Joe Lieberman. Sigh... what more can I say? He continues his crusade of sabotage against the party he purports to love with his Connecticut for Lieberman campaign of egotism. It's been a big week for him as the national GOP has de facto embraced him as their candidate (even though he votes liberal over 90% of the time I'm told). The polls seem to reflect that Dems and Independents that supported him in the primary are beginning to move away from him and he announced on Friday that he refuses to back Democratic Congressional candidates Diane Farrell, Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy. See, it's important to concentrate on his campaign so he cannot be bothered with saying something as simple as, "Yes, of course I support them, being the strong Democratic candidates that they are, however, I cannot be expected to campaign with them given my struggle to hold onto my Senate seat." Actually, Joe's decision to hang them out to dry may be the best thing for those candidates. Distancing oneself from Lieberman, if you're a Democrat, is definitely a good thing.
#2 is none other than Senator George Felix Allen Jr. and his bumbling band of idiots surrounding him. This is a campaign group that is so stupefyingly idiotic that they are incapable of admitting a mistake and apologizing for it. Of course, that doesn't stop them from lying about apologizing and coming with excuses of how macaca doesn't really mean what everyone knows it means and then, the refuge of last resort of assheads worldwide, it's the LeftWing Media's fault. And this is the man who would be president. God help us. Late update: Allen reportedly tracked down the offended party and finally apologized for his insensitive remarks. Uh huh. So, which is it? Was it all a vast media attack and a misinterpretation of what was said, or were they insensitive remarks? Do you repudiate what your own campaign manager said about the incident, Mr. Felix? When Dems issue conflicts statements, they are called to task and ask to explain the conflict (or they're just called a flip-flopper). I would expect no less from an aspiring presidential contender.
And finally, after his press conference this past Tuesday, how could George W. Bush not find himself at #1? Seriously, it's a no-brainer. That presser (only his second one of the entire year) was a tour de force of tics and shrugs and incredulousness and all other series of mannerisms that made it perfectly clear that he would rather be getting a colonoscopy than standing in front of a room of reporters. We learned so much during that painful viewing experience. Did you know that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11? Amazingly, so does Bush. Or course, this was the first time he'd flat-out admitted it and thereby contradicted so many of his lieutenants through the years, so it kind of a big deal. His views on Iraq: We will never leave as long as I'm president. NO MATTER WHAT! It doesn't matter what's happening on the ground, Bush is adamant. Let's see, he made fun of a reporter's outfit not once but twice. Oh, and he taught me a new word, peroration, which he helpfully told me to look it up. He had such a twinkle in his eye when he said it, like he had just read it off of a Word-of-the-Day toilet paper roll earlier and decided to shoehorn the word in to sound intelligent. Mission accomplished, sir.