Monthly Archives: January 2006

Gulf Coast Abandoned Tonight

From Scout:

There were 5339 words in the SOTU address.

93 words were devoted to Hurricane Katrina.

That is 93 words of the address devoted to the worst natural disaster in our time.

That is 93 words for the 1.9 million Americans presently displaced by Katrina.

That is 93 words devoted to the loss of a great American city.

That is 93 words devoted to the destruction of a region of America.

That is 93 words for the families of the 1329 Katrina dead

Shame on George W Bush!

Update: Sen. Landrieu puts the word count at 152 which I think is being generous as I thought Bush moved from Katrina recovery specifically to generalize about opportunities nationally. Perhaps I am wrong. I’ll let you decide. Either way it is still a pittance and people were disappointed. Here’s the words Landrieu included which I did not….

and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country. The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every child … and job skills that bring upward mobility … and more opportunities to own a home and start a business. ………., let us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice, equal in hope, and rich in opportunity.

UPDATE:From CNN on the disappointment in NOLA.

COOPER: CNN’s Susan Roesgen joins us live now to talk about how the president was received tonight in New Orleans — Susan.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you’re right, they were listening, but they were so disappointed. The general reaction was, Is that it, just a couple of sentences and the last five minutes of the president’s speech? One woman told me she expected the president to at least acknowledge all the people who’ve lost their homes here, all the people who’ve lost their jobs here, and to acknowledge all the people who have died here. And one man told me that New Orleans deserves to be more than a footnote in the president’s speech.

You Could Throw A Banana To The Chimp …

… or you could go here and learn everything you need to know about the State of the Union.

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin

Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in

Should I hate ’em for having our jobs today

No I hate the men sent the jobs away

I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams

All lily white and squeaky clean

They’ve never known want, they’ll never know need

Their sh@# don’t stink and their kids won’t bleed

Their kids won’t bleed in the da$% little war

And we can’t make it here anymore

I heard this in my car on the way home today and had to sit in the car in the parking lot until it was over so as not to miss one single bitter truthful word.

If the party talked to people like this, just like this and damn what the Republicans and the Kewl Kidz say, we’d never lose another election for anything in all our livin’ lives.

A.

Big Doings We’ve Got Here In Mystery

No, not the New York Rangers. I’m pleased to announce an addition to our stable (heh) of bloggers here at First Draft.

Recent guestblogger and kickass blogger at her own place Scout Prime will be joining us on a full-time basis beginning tomorrow. We proposed, she accepted (I think she’d been drinking, but I’m not going to question our good fortune), the marriage will be consummated immediately. The blog marriage. You know what I meant, you sickos.

I wanted to let you all know because I know how scared you get when we move the furniture around. Don’t worry, the system will remain broken in all the same ways it’s broken now, the ferrets will still ignore your demands for pancakes and Stoli, and Scout will have nothing to with how fast the chinchillas run things, so don’t add to her burdens by blaming her for their laziness.

Oh, and be nice to her or I’ll stop posting about Galactica.

A.

Putting the Neocon Stamp on the World Bank

From Holden:

Paulie Spitcomb brought the Bush Assministration personel policies with him to his new job.

In the latest example of simmering tensions between Mr Wolfowitz and some members of the bank’s staff, a complaint to the bank’s whistleblower hotline this month raised questions about what it alleged were excessive pay and open-ended contracts for Robin Cleveland and Kevin Kellems, previously colleagues of Mr Wolfowitz in the administration of George W. Bush, who came to the bank with him.

The complaint also questioned the terms on which Karl Jackson was retained as a consultant. Mr Jackson worked with Mr Wolfowitz in the administration of George H. W. Bush, and is a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, where Mr Wolfowitz used to be dean.

The e-mail complaint was sent to the Department of Institutional Integrity’s whistleblower hotline, which encourages bank staff to come forward anonymously using procedures designed to safeguard their identity. It was copied to the bank’s 24 executive directors, who represent its 184 member countries on the board.

Bank insiders said it appeared to have been sent by an individual or group of bank staff who had access to high-level personnel files.

Separately, the bank’s staff association has raised concerns about some of Mr Wolfowitz’s appointments, after what it said were expressions of concern from a large number of staff.

Last week the association sent an e-mail to all 10,000 bank employees complaining that procedures were not followed in the appointments of Suzanne Rich Folsom, as head of the Department of Institutional Integrity, and of Mr Kellems, who was named director of strategy in the bank’s internal relations department.

In addition to their new appointments, they remain counsellor and senior adviser to Mr Wolfowitz, respectively.

Preaching to the Proles

From Holden:

Lauwa stamps her feet and wrinlkles her nose, January 15, 2006:

So I really — I’m always a little bit irritated when I hear the criticism of abstinence, because abstinence is absolutely 100 percent effective in eradicating a sexually transmitted disease.

Perhaps Laura should penetrate the Xanax haze long enough to look to her own family before preaching to the rest of us.

FUN-loving First Twins Barbara and Jenna Bush were spotted dancing on tables at a boozy “Broken Resolutions”-themed soiree at D.C. hot spot Play the other night. The Grey Goose vodka-sponsored blowout featured “cigarette girls passing out smokes, chocolates and even condoms,” reports the Hill newspaper. “There were fishnet-clad dancers, sporting handcuffs and police hats, gyrating on a pole.” The toxic twins’ club-hopping lifestyle seems to have rubbed off on their long-suffering Secret Service bodyguards: The ear-piece-wearing minders were reportedly decked out in “clubby” clothes for the festivities.

Something You Won’t Hear Chimpy Mention Tonight

From Holden:

A full 47% of Iraqis approve of attacks on American forces, partially because 80% believe we intend to never leave.

A new poll found that nearly half of Iraqis approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and most favor setting a timetable for American troops to leave.

The poll also found that 80 percent of Iraqis think the United States plans to maintain permanent bases in the country even if the newly elected Iraqi government asks American forces to leave. Researchers found a link between support for attacks and the belief among Iraqis that the United States intends to keep a permanent military presence in the country.

At the same time, the poll found that many Iraqis think that some outside military forces are required to keep Iraq stable until the new government can field adequate security forces on its own. Only 39 percent of Iraqis surveyed thought that Iraqi police and army forces were strong enough to deal with the security challenges on their own, while 59 percent thought Iraq still needed the help of military forces from other countries.

Seventy percent of Iraqis favor setting a timetable for U.S. forces to withdraw, with half of those favoring a withdrawal within six months and the other half favoring a withdrawal over two years.

[snip]

According to the poll’s findings, 47 percent of Iraqis approve of attacks on American forces, but there were large differences among ethnic and religious groups. Among Sunni Muslims, 88 percent said they approved of the attacks. That approval was found among 41 percent of Shiite Muslims and 16 percent of Kurds.

Ninety-three percent of Iraqis oppose violence against Iraqi security forces, and 99 percent oppose attacks on Iraqi civilians.

[snip]

Previous samples from Shiites who supported attacks on coalition troops have been much lower in the past, Cordesman said, but support for U.S.-led forces even among Shiites – who were oppressed under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni – has been mixed from the beginning.

“It was clear after the invasion that about a third or more of Shiites did not see us as liberators, and did not see the war as justified, and somewhere around 15 percent supported attacks on coalition forces then,” he said. “We’re also seen as creating all kinds of internal problems without creating any kind of internal solutions.”

[snip]

According to the poll, 80 percent of Iraqis overall assume that the United States intends to keep bases in Iraq. The breakdown of people who have that belief is 92 percent of Sunnis, 79 percent of Shiites and 67 percent of Kurds.

More than 80 percent of Sunnis favor a six-month withdrawal period; 49 percent of Shiites favor a longer withdrawal. Just 29 percent

Perjury

From Holden:

Abu Al has some (here comes the cliche) ‘splainin’ to do.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) charged yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales misled the Senate during his confirmation hearing a year ago when he appeared to try to avoid answering a question about whether the president could authorize warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.

In a letter to the attorney general yesterday, Feingold demanded to know why Gonzales dismissed the senator’s question about warrantless eavesdropping as a “hypothetical situation” during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2005. At the hearing, Feingold asked Gonzales where the president’s authority ends and whether Gonzales believed the president could, for example, act in contravention of existing criminal laws and spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

Gonzales said that it was impossible to answer such a hypothetical question but that it was “not the policy or the agenda of this president” to authorize actions that conflict with existing law. He added that he would hope to alert Congress if the president ever chose to authorize warrantless surveillance, according to a transcript of the hearing.

In fact, the president did secretly authorize the National Security Agency to begin warrantless monitoring of calls and e-mails between the United States and other nations soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The program, publicly revealed in media reports last month, was unknown to Feingold and his staff at the time Feingold questioned Gonzales, according to a staff member. Feingold’s aides developed the 2005 questions based on privacy advocates’ concerns about broad interpretations of executive power.

[snip]

“It now appears that the Attorney General was not being straight with the Judiciary Committee and he has some explaining to do,” Feingold said in a statement yesterday.

Okay, Next Crisis

God, I love this guy:

In his righteous fury, R. Cort Kirkwood [letter below] completely misses my point. So I’ll try again: What Hugh Hewitt and his fellow critics of the mainstream media don’t get is that for 99 percent of the work in daily journalism, a reporter’s personal political views don’t matter a whit. Is there a liberal or conservative way to cover night cops? Sewer boards? High school football? I have no doubt that conservative journalists (and I know a few, and have been considered one on occasion) would cover the overwhelming bulk of their beats just as well or just as poorly as the liberal ones. Owning a gun or attending church doesn’t make you a different sort of reporter. And I think, should Hewitt enlist his legions to infiltrate the newsrooms of America, they would find out the same thing.

There’s perhaps a couple of dozen journalists in the country making decisions that might shape the public debate. But this idea that liberal bias has saturated newsrooms and is affecting coverage decisions makes no sense to me. I’ve worked at four daily’s now and the only pervasive bias I’ve seen is toward stories that get people to buy the damn thing.

Kirkwood also makes an interesting, and I think hopelessly wrong-headed, assertion that social issues like gay marriage and abortion rights are “pet causes” of this imagined liberal media. As most rational observers have realized, no group has benefited more from the airing of these issues than conservatives, who have manipulated voters into believing the republic is teetering on the brink of a moral collapse. A real liberal agenda would mean a barrage of front page stories about income disparities, the healthcare crisis, the privatization of the military and campaign finance reform. It seems that Kirkwood is too wound up about gay cowboys to notice.

Every so often, just when the letters section of Romenesko has made my blood pressure shoot up into the stratosphere and I’m about to say screw it and move the ferrets and my books down to this little waterfront bar in the capital city of Belize, there’s a gem like that to brighten up the day.

A.

Still Here

Hecate:

Once, when I was doing chemotherapy, had just been abandoned by my lover of twenty-some years, and was about as sorry for myself as it was possible to feel, I was sitting in a restaurant trying to make myself eat something. I called for the check and the waitress said, “A man saw you sitting in the window, came in and paid for your meal. He left this.” It was a tiny, dirty scrap of paper, torn off of an envelope and it said: “Believe.”

A.

Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Dammit, Scottie gets all snitified when you throw the Chimpster’s words back at him in the gaggle.

Tone Deaf

Q Let me ask you a question about elevating the tone, because, obviously, a lot of Americans are familiar with this talk from the President, even though it didn’t really come to pass after he was elected in 2000. The President has talked a lot recently about, in essence, trying to set the terms for how his critics should disagree with him on Iraq, what the responsible way is to do it and what the irresponsible way is to do it. So could you be a little bit more specific about what he thinks he can do to elevate the tone?

MR. McCLELLAN: Just exactly what he’s been doing throughout his administration. This President has always worked, whether it was when he was governor of Texas or since he’s been President of the United States, has always worked to reach out and elevate the discourse. If you look at his tone, this President has focused on how we can work together to get things done, and focused on what the American people expect us to do. And that’s what — and that’s what he will continue to do.

Q And then also equated Congressman Murtha to Michael Moore, when he questioned whether troops should be withdrawn, is that the sort of elevation in tone you’re talking about?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, we said that we have great respect for his service to the country.

Q You later said that.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we said that at the time. I correct you.

[snip]

Q You said the President is going to continue doing what he’s doing in terms of elevating the tone in Washington. So to whom, exactly, is he referring?

MR. McCLELLAN: To elevating the tone?

Q Yes.

MR. McCLELLAN: All of us. Both parties, to work together to get things done for the American people.

Q So everybody is kicking in the gutter, except him? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that’s not what he said. That’s what you said.

Q But he doesn’t need to elevate his tone, so are there some who don’t need to elevate their tone?

MR. McCLELLAN: He’s going to continue to. I think we’ve seen that — and it’s one of the things he’s talked about, Victoria. Maybe it’s a surprise to you, but this town has become pretty bitter over the course of the last several years, not just when this President has been in office, but even before that. And this President, when he — go back to his days as governor; he was able to reach out and work with Democrats and Republicans, alike, to get things done, and he was hoping we could have made more progress to elevate the tone in this city. But it requires both parties reaching out to one another.

[snip]

Q So in terms of working together, is he prepared to compromise at all on the Patriot Act with the Senate?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we’ve made our views very clear on the Patriot Act. And it’s — unfortunately, there are some that have obstructed getting that renewed. And there was a compromise —

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. McCLELLAN: I reject your characterization, because there was a conference committee that came together and they reached important compromises.

SOTU II: The Optimistic Incompetent

Q Scott, you say the President is going to be optimistic tomorrow and there’s been a lot of talk about being upbeat in his message. Many Americans believe that the President would have more credibility if he acknowledged some of the hardships that they’re facing, whether or not there are people who are still homeless from Katrina, or U.S. casualties in Iraq. Is he going to address any of those things?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President often talks about those issues. And I do expect he will talk about Iraq tomorrow in his remarks, and I do expect he will talk about the importance of continuing to meet the needs of the people throughout the Gulf Coast region who have been put in a terrible situation because of a storm of unprecedented magnitude and scope. And we have an obligation to continue making sure that their needs are met. We have already passed some $85 billion in resources that are available to help them. Only about $25 billion or a little bit more than that has been allocated to be spent at this point. There is enormous resources available. We are going to continue working to meet their needs. And the President made it clear that, if needed, we will continue to build upon those efforts.

Anyway, go ahead. Did you have a follow-up?

Q Is that one of his initiatives, the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. I mean, that’s one of his initiatives now. But I’m talking about new initiatives now.

SOTU II: Old Friends

Q Is he going to talk about the record oil — the record profits of Exxon released today? Is he going to address that issue?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you’ll hear his speech tomorrow, and he’ll talk about what we need to do and the kinds of alternative sources of energy we need to look to in his remarks.

Q But is he going to make any reference to —

MR. McCLELLAN: But not only that — again, tomorrow night, the State of the Union, there’s only so much you can say in the course of that time period on each priority area…

The Optimistic Incompetent Returns

Q According to data currently available at the Department of Homeland Security Funded Terrorism Knowledge Base, the incidents of terrorism increased markedly in 2005: worldwide attacks were up 51 percent from the year before, and the number of people killed in those attacks is up 36 percent; since the year 2000, attacks are up 250 percent, and deaths are up 550 percent. How do you reconcile those numbers with your claim that you’re winning the war on terrorism and putting terrorists out of business?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, just look at the facts. If you look at the facts, many of al Qaeda’s known leadership have been put out of business. They’ve been brought to justice. They’ve either been captured or killed. No longer is America waiting and responding. We’re on the offense; we’re taking the fight to the enemy. We are engaged in a war on terrorism. The enemies recognize how high the stakes are. And one thing the President will talk about, continue to talk about tomorrow night and in the coming weeks, is that we continue to face a serious threat. This is a deadly and determined enemy. But the difference is now that we’ve got them on the run, we’ve got them playing defense, we’re taking the fight to them. And all of us in the international community must continue to work together…

A Series of Post-Cloture Thoughts

First of all, I’ve been screaming about hitting them with the chair for so long, you don’t need to read an open letter to Obama telling him to stop deploring the uncivil tone of politics and realize he is, in fact, a politician and should either do the job with all its indignities or, if he truly considers it beneath him, get the fuck out.

(And just between him and me, when you win the race he won in 2004, I can see where you think all it takes is statesmanship and decency to beat the GOP. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that, in facing first Jack Ryan and then Alan Keyes, he wasn’t running against the real GOP. He ran against the GOP’s drunk uncle. He and Max Cleland should sit down and Max should explain to him what it’s really like when they come after you. Maybe then he could lecture us about moral courage with some credibility. As it is, thank you for voting against cloture, Barack, and as for the rest of your career, try saying this shit behind the scenes and not to the pretty sparkly cameras, okay?)

And you don’t need me to tell you that this speech by ol’ Teddy was a thing of epic beauty and that watching him deliver it was one of the most moving experiences of my political life, and that I won’t even quote it because you need to read it all in its thunder and glory.

But please, this isn’t the end of America, okay? If there was a time to declare such a thing, it was in November 2004, and I recall quite a few people doing exactly that. Yet look. We’re still here. Weakened by more death, more destruction, more undermining. But here. I’m not pollyanna-ing. I know this sucks. You know what else I know? That this was the thing we saw coming. We knew when Bush got elected he considered himself above the law; we may not have known the specifics of the domestic spying program but we knew that was his modus op. We knew he was going to appoint some soulless right-wing nut case who wanted to overturn Roe. This is the thing we knew about. And anybody who was worried about it should have fought harder against Bush’s election if stopping it is truly what they wanted to do. I don’t want anybody coming to me now saying oh, my god, we didn’t realize until today.

And I know a lot of you did all that you could, which is what makes this really, really shitty. I wanted to rip my own hair out after I heard people saying, “Let’s keep our powder dry.” For WHAT, I kept wondering, if not this? Jeff Bingaman should be given a vigorous dose of smelling salts as should Landrieau if they really think their votes will make them immunue from the Republican skull-fuck treatment next time their seats are up. Harry, as someone noted over at the crack den, needs to read up on the life of LBJ. Lieberman needs many, many things.

But here we are. As a result of the newly constituted Roberts Court, we’re gonna be hip deep in people who need help and won’t be able to get it. The usually screwed in our society will be even more so, and I know it just looks like one form of being taken advantage of to say that those of us who still give a damn, whether there’s 25 senators’ worth of us or 49 million of us or however many, we’re the ones who have to take care of them, but that’s the way it is. You have the obligations you assign yourself, so take a big ol’ shot of tequila and a deep breath, because we’ve got more work to do.

Mercifully, we seem to have a lot of dry powder around, so at the very least there’s that.

A.

Crossing From Negligence to Criminality

From Holden:

How can anyone call the reaction of Bush’s FEMA to Katrina mere incompetnece? More heads should roll for this, Brownie did not fuck FEMA up on his own.

Federal emergency officials failed to accept offers of possibly life-saving aid from the Department of Interior immediately after Hurricane Katrina, according to documents obtained by CNN.

The Interior Department offered the Federal Emergency Management Agency the use of personnel who were experienced in water rescues and also offered boats, helicopters, heavy equipment and rooms, the documents say.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of a Senate committee with jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, said the additional resources may have saved lives. (Watch how FEMA brushed off offers of help — 2:14)

“It is indeed possible that there was additional suffering and maybe even loss of life that might not have occurred if these assets had been deployed,” Collins said.

[snip]

The Interior Department offered FEMA 500 rooms, 119 pieces of heavy equipment, 300 dump trucks and other vehicles, 300 boats, 11 aircraft and 400 law enforcement officers, according to a questionnaire answered by a department official.

Interior law enforcement officers included special agents and refuge officers from the department’s Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Although we attempted to provide these assets, we were unable to efficiently integrate and deploy these resources,” an Interior Department official wrote the Senate committee investigating the government’s response to Katrina.

Collins said she is particularly concerned by the fact that the offer of help was from the federal government.

“Now, you might be able to understand if it came from outside government,” she said. “But this is another federal agency, an agency that was offering trained personnel and exactly the assets that the federal government needed to assist in the search-and-rescue operations.”

[snip]

According to government officials, 1,322 people died from Katrina, all but 15 of the deaths occurring in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Senate committee released e-mails that document FEMA’s decision to ground its search-and-rescue teams three days after Katrina because of security concerns.

Before then, the Interior Department had offered FEMA hundreds of law enforcement officers trained in search-and-rescue, emergency medical services and evacuation, according to the documents.

“The Department of the Interior was not called upon to assist until late September,” the Interior official writes.

Support Our Troops!

From Holden:

While the idle Bush twins continue to loll around America, doing the butt dance, table dancing at parties where condoms replace condiments, and hob-nobbing with cocaine dealers, 50,000 Americans have been forced to remain in the military past the terms of their commitments.

The U.S. Army has forced about 50,000 soldiers to continue serving after their voluntary stints ended under a policy called “stop-loss,” but while some dispute its fairness, court challenges have fallen flat.

[snip]

“As the war in Iraq drags on, the Army is accumulating a collection of problems that cumulatively could call into question the viability of an all-volunteer force,” said defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute think tank.

“When a service has to repeatedly resort to compelling the retention of people who want to leave, you’re edging away from the whole notion of volunteerism.”

When soldiers enlist, they sign a contract to serve for a certain number of years, and know precisely when their service obligation ends so they can return to civilian life. But stop-loss allows the Army, mindful of having fully manned units, to keep soldiers on the verge of leaving the military.

Under the policy, soldiers who normally would leave when their commitments expire must remain in the Army, starting 90 days before their unit is scheduled to depart, through the end of their deployment and up to another 90 days after returning to their home base.

[snip]

Congressional critics have assailed stop-loss, and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry called it “a back-door draft.” The United States abolished the draft in 1973, but the all-volunteer military never before has been tested by a protracted war.

A report commissioned by the Pentagon called stop-loss a “short-term fix” enabling the Army to meet ongoing troop deployment requirements, but said such policies “risk breaking the force as recruitment and retention problems mount.” It was written by Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer.

Thompson added, “The persistent use of stop-loss underscores the fact that the war-fighting burden is being carried by a handful of soldiers while the vast majority of citizens incur no sacrifice at all.”

Who’da Thunk It?

From Holden:

With an Assministration formed almost exclusively of former oil industry executives who could have anticipated that the big oil companies would do so well?

Chevron Corp. on Friday reported the highest quarterly and annual profits in its 126-year history, refocusing attention on the high fuel prices that have enriched the oil company’s shareholders and exasperated consumers paying more to fill their gasoline tanks and heat their homes.

The San Ramon, Calif.-based company’s fourth-quarter earnings rose 20 percent to $4.14 billion, the most it has made in any three-month period since its inception in 1879. The performance topped the $4.13 billion earned during the second quarter of 2004 _ the early stages of a two-year boom.

Chevron’s profit of $14.1 billion for the full year also was a company record. It now has posted record annual profits in each of the last two years, earning a combined $27.4 billion.

And I mean unprecefuckingdented well!

Exxon Mobil Corp. posted record profits for any U.S. company on Monday _ $10.71 billion for the fourth quarter and $36.13 billion for the year _ as the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company benefited from high oil and gas prices and demand for refined products. The results exceeded Wall Street expectations and Exxon shares rose nearly 3 percent on premarket trading.

The company’s earnings amounted to $1.71 per share for the October-December quarter, up from $8.42 billion, or $1.30 per share, in the year ago quarter. The result topped the then-record quarterly profit of $9.92 billion Exxon posted in the third quarter of 2005.

Exxon’s profit for the year was also the largest annual reported net income in U.S. history, according to Howard Silverblatt, a stock market analyst for Standard & Poor’s. He said the previous high was Exxon’s $25.3 billion profit in 2004.

Stand Up Straight And Quit Whining

Quoth Jack Shafer to newspaper execs:

But instead of improving their product by deploying technology bloggers can’t afford (yet), newspapers are devolving. Many are cutting staff. Daily newspapers are growing smaller and uglier, with no paper looking anywhere near as lovely as Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World from the late 1800s. Comic strips have gotten so tiny you need a magnifying glass to read them. I’m fine with newspapers cutting back on stock tables, but they aren’t adding something new to the package. Most newspapers claim they’ve shrunk their dimensions to combat steep increases in newsprint prices, but that’s a lie.

What else do I want? I want a daily newspaper that looks as good as Vogue but smells like a cinnamon bun instead of perfume. I want smarter newspaper headlines. I want a Mike Royko in every daily newspaper. I want editorials signed by people, so I know who to yell at. I want newspapers to restore editorial cartoonists to their place of honor instead of eliminating them. To broaden the answer, I want the newsmagazines to give me a better reason to read them than remixes of the last four days’ news cycle, and I want them to look like Harry N. Abrams’ coffee-table books.

I want Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to straighten out the production problems at the Washington-area plant that prints the New York Times so it arrives on my doorstep more reliably. I also want more for my Times subscription than TimesSelect and its stingy 100 “free” searches a month from the archives, its News Tracker, and the paper’s columnists.

Via Romenesko.

While I don’t agree with the thrust of his column blaming the Newspaper Guild for resisting job cuts (I mean, honestly? The hell?), I do think he’s right in placing the onus on newspapers to be what they were, rather than become what bloggers are.

A.

Why They Hate Us, Vol. 697

Imagine how many schools we could have painted:

Dryly written audit reports describe the Coalition Provisional Authority’s offices in the south-central city of Hillah being awash in bricks of $100 bills taken from a central vault without documentation.

It describes one agent who kept almost $700,000 in cash in an unlocked footlocker and mentions a U.S. soldier who gambled away as much as $60,000 in reconstruction funds in the Philippines.

[snip]

Negligence proved deadly in at least one case. Three Iraqis plummeted to their deaths in an elevator in the Hillah General Hospital that was certified to have been replaced by a contractor who received $662,800.

Also in Hillah, occupation officials spent $108,140 to replace pumps and fix the city’s Olympic swimming pool. But the contractor merely polished the old plumbing to make it look new and collected his money.

When the pool was filled, the water came out a murky brown and the pool’s reopening had to be canceled. The reports did not identify the contractors involved.

[snip]

-Only a quarter of $23 million entrusted to civilian and military project and contracting officers to pay contractors ever found its way to those contractors.

-One contractor was paid $14,000 on four separate occasions for the same job.

-Of $7.3 million spent on a police academy near Hillah, auditors could account for just $4 million. They said $1.3 million was wasted on overpriced or duplicate construction or equipment not delivered. More than $2 million was missing.

-U.S. personnel “needlessly disbursed more than $1.8 million” of the estimated $2.3 million spent for renovating the library in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.

-The library contractor delivered only 18 of 68 personal computers called for and did not install Internet wiring or software. The computers worked only as stand-alones.

-The U.S.-led security transition command spent $945,000 for seven armored Mercedes-Benzes that were too lightly armored for Iraq. Auditors were able to account for only six of the cars.

-At one point, several paying agents kept cash inside the same filing cabinet in the Hillah vault. One agent took $100,000 from another’s stack of cash to clear his own balance. “This was only discovered because the other paying agent had to make a disbursement that day and realized that he was short cash,” the report says.

So first we kill them to give them freedom, and then steal the money we were going to spend rebuilding the shit we blew up. To give them freedom. Or something.

To quote Boomer, which is not something I do lightly, “And you ask why?”

A.

Wild Pessimism

They’re dancing about this tonight:

By 51 percent to 37 percent, Americans said they trust the Democrats more than the Republicans with the main problems facing the country over the next few years, the first time since spring 1992 that Democrats have gained more than 50 percent support on that question.

But tomorrow morning’s gonna dawn cold and wet, and here’s why.

People are gonna say they like Democrats now, but I have to tell you, this all has the flavor of late 2004 and maybe I’m a bitter jilted John Kerry ex who’s still in her wedding dress and pissed about it, but I just can’t sit back and say okay, it’s in the bag, because look at those numbers. People will say anything. It’s who votes, and how we get them to vote, and that’s all about a bizarre combo of voodoo and sticking electrodes right into their lizard brains, and that’s what we haven’t started doing yet.

In other words, GET OFF YOUR ASSES.

People won’t vote for Democrats just because they’re sick of Republicans. You have no idea how thick the sense of “eh, they’re all the same” runs in the veins of Disaffected White Guys until you spend an afternoon with guys my Dad’s age, all of whom are vaguely convinced that the reason they’re dissatisfied with their lives is that some woman or minority got the job they would have gotten that would have made them king of the world. Doesn’t matter if it’s real. It’s the sort of half-informed miasma of Rush and low-level local fuckers like Charlie Sykes and the celebrity-obsessed local TV anchors whose only thought about politics is a ten-second spot on Bush waving from Air Force One.

And it’s frustrating as hell, because man, could I ever argue with them. I know stats, I know positions, I know anecdotes and I even know jokes. But there’s no arguing with this, right? With “I know what I think, even though it’s total crap.” You’ve all had that conversation with the guy who’s just so wrong, but fighting that with specifics is like fighting fog with a broadsword: you wear yourself out and the fog’s still there and oops, was that your finger? My bad.

On election day, it’s not gonna matter what that poll said, no matter how warm and fuzzy it makes us feel. You know what’s gonna matter? Whether or not we tied those guys my Dad’s age down into their recliners and barrelled some hard truths straight into the part of their brain that assimilates only half of what they hear. The only thing that’s going to matter is if we can make the other guy look worse.

And I’m sorry for all you college sophomores out there, but that’s how it works. I had a boss for a long time, used to tell me I trusted too much in the ability of people to draw their own conclusions. People don’t follow unless you lead, and you have to lead by drawing them a map and taking their hands and pulling them down the path and pointing out the landmarks so they can find their way back again and if they resist you have to pull and push and shove and sometimes kick them to get them to go where you want them to go. We can’t just trust that they’ll get to Point A: Republicans Suck and automatically look up and see Point B: I Have To Vote For A Democrat.

There’s something polls like this underestimate, and it’s the appeal of sitting around bitching about the present instead of working to change the future. Sitting around bitching is like the great American pasttime. Screw football, complaining is really what we do for fun.

So we have to grab them by the shoulders and shake them and scream. Kos is right:

Iraq won’t do Bush any favors (especially given the coverage of Woodruff’s condition), the prescription drug debacle is already raising ire with the elderly (people who actually vote), and we’ve got a whole spate of investigataions and trials on tap which will further highlight the Republican culture of corruption and Bush’s belief that he is an infallible monarch.

But look. Most people don’t KNOW this stuff. They just don’t. They don’t pay attention. WE have to point it out. We have to run the ads that say, “Eleven Republicans voted against Katrina aid, against helping the poor and desperate. Are these Christians?” We have to print up the fliers that say that and put them on cars in the church parking lots. We have to take copies of this Rolling Stone article, which made me jump up and down with joy at how baldly and bluntly it was written, and shove it into the dorm mailboxes of all voting age students. We have to show grandmothers and grandfathers, turned away at the pharmacy counters because they just couldn’t negotiate their way through the new drug “benefit” plans.

We need to ask the question, bluntly: Why are you still supporting people who fuck you? Every time? Why?

And once we’ve shown them the swamp we have to show them the way out. We have to give people something they want more than they want to be dissatisfied. Like I said, that’s hard. So many people I know seem to enjoy being pissed off. But we’ve got to give them a dream to be a part of. Kennedy and FDR and Lincoln are beloved for a reason. They were leaders. They looked out and said come along with me, I know where to go, and it’ll be great there. It’ll be more than you ever thought possible. Come on. Come.

If we can do that, if we can run on those two tracks, if we can make people understand that the current crop sucks but that you don’t have to live this way, that you can be proud of your country again, that you can take your anger and make a fight out of it, and that you can fight and WIN, and that it feels really, really fucking good to win, and we use the power of our own history as a country and our party and our people, well, then I can see all the pretty promises in that poll coming true.

But Democrats have to do it. I bought into it, too, the last time around, the idea that Republicans had done our jobs for us and all we had to do was sit back and wait for the spoils. It doesn’t work. They’re too good at making us hate each other just enough to let them squeak by. We have to do it, and we have to start now.

A.

What Is It Going To Take?

Wow. I came back and there’s still stupid all over the place. I would have hoped somebody could have cleaned it up before I came back but no, we’re still sitting here, hip-deep in bullshit, telling the guy with the shovel that he’s making us look bad.

Steve, as usual with the apt metaphor:

If you owned a football team and the coach didn’t change his gameplan after several losing seasons would you not fire him?

This whole conversation is irritating and here’s why. It’s a way of discounting people’s opinions. You see this in the bloggers v. Howell mess, too, where the Washington Post doesn’t feel it needs to listen to people who got the idea to e-mail them from a blog. Oh, they’re those blog types they don’t count. The fuck? I’d wager we know more about politics than two-thirds of the people with whom little Debbie spends her days, and I really, really loathe the idea that being well-informed and able to target our efforts towards those who can make a difference should somehow count against us so that Debbie listens less to us than to some git who reads a paper once a month and called to point out an error in the crossword puzzle. Just because a letter-writing campaign is well-organized doesn’t mean it’s wrong, Deb my darling, and you’d do well to listen to the substance instead of the surface.

What’s being lost here, in this back-and-forth over who’s allowed to express an opinion on the Washington Post’s site and who’s allowed to have a say in the Democratic Party’s future and who can comfortably be ignored because after all, they have a website how gauche, is that the reason we get worked up about this shit is that it affects us. We have friends, to name a personal example, getting letters from their husbands stationed in Iraq and Kuwait, who don’t know when they’re coming home. We have student loans that are getting harder to pay off because the money coming in no longer pays the bills the way it used to, or there’s no money coming in at all. We have memories of a house in NOLA that isn’t there anymore. We have nagging little worries like the pain in our backs or our stomachs that won’t go away, but it’s too expensive to go to the doctor. We sit up at night thinking, will I be able to sell my house in two years, or is the economy going to bottom out? And who’s speaking up for me? Who is my leader at a time when all the current power structure seems to care about is screwing me as hard and as loudly as possible?

These are real questions and they matter and demanding answers and action from people in a position to give both is not outrageous shrillness and it’s not overstepping the bounds of civility and it’s not anything at all other than our goddamn patriotic duty as Americans and our obligation as human beings.

And what people like Debbie and people like the DLC consultant types sitting around talking about how reality is fucking up their strategy need to remember is that however tough we’re making their day, there are in fact people who have harder jobs, tougher things to deal with. Grow the fuck up. You work at the Washington Post, the posh office in the Capitol. You have no problems you could pay me to care about.

The soldiers and sailors, the people in the food lines, the kids trying to graduate from college, the young couple trying to make a salary stretch far enough, the babies just trying to get through their first year of life, the grandparents in apartments without heat, the sixth-graders struggling to learn to read, the scientists trying to cure diseases that are ravaging our families and friends, the people of faith whose voices have been silenced, the good people of all faiths and no faith who find themselves scorned, me, you, your parents, your friends … These are the people we care about. These are the people we have in mind when we write and call and e-mail and get together on sites like this one and talk about how to make the world a better place. And if we seem to get a little more excited than your average bear, well, these people, real people and not demographics and ad buy statistics, well, these people are just a few of the many, many reasons why.

A.

Friday, er, Sunday Ferretblogging

We’re happy to see you, too, Joe.

A.

The Passion of Lee Adama: Saturday Galactica Thread

Some boypretty, for once, for those of you who like that sort of thing. Spoilers for this week’s intallment of a crap soap opera the best show on TV lurk herein.

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