Monthly Archives: February 2006

Car Talk

Commuter talk.

Thoughts from a small town turned city turned suburban turned city girl.

Mr. A and I became a one-car family about three years ago. Before that, we lived in one suburb and both commuted to other, separate suburbs. I was reporting, and my job required me to have a car and at times I lived in the damn thing. He pretty much drove to work, ran errands, and drove home. But when we moved back to civilization, to a ‘hood of bike paths and parking restrictions, and I got ticket after ticket for forgetting to move my stupid automobile when I was supposed to move it or to the wrong place or some other fucking thing, and he started taking the train to work downtown every day, we really looked at it and said, do we need two cars?

We agreed to get rid of mine (which had a bazillion miles on it, a cracked engine block and had been a lemon from the day I purchased it) and just “see how it went.” I thought we’d be back to two cars in a month. I was completely wrong.

There were times when he needed to travel to some far-flung suburb on a day I had to work. No problem, car rental right up the street, work reimbursed him for it. There were times one of us would go out of town. Not much of a problem, even in February: six cab companies competing for business plus the train plus my bike. There were times both of us wanted to go somewhere on the same day. Eh, whatever, you go first, honey, I’ll sleep in and leave when you get back. It was a pain in the ass at times because I couldn’t just say, while stuck late at work, “Oh, could you run out and get that yourself?” Because I was the driver, I became the car maintenance person, the one who checks the oil and tire pressure, and fetches the milk. It was also a pain in the ass because it became neogtiation, it added a level of having to communicate and cooperate and be disappointed sometimes that, for two Type A Instant Gratification Crack Squirrel personalities, could be difficult. But we missed the car a lot less than I thought we would. The maintenance costs alone were killing us, the payments, the insurance, the gas … One car rental for one day every two months was nothing compared to that.

But I recognize that the circumstances that allowed us to do that are pretty unique. Chicago’s public transit systems aren’t bad, if you want to do one thing: go from the suburbs to the city (and vice versa, of course). Because Mr. A worked in the city he could take the L. If he worked in another suburb, chances are he’d have been driving it, because most suburban trains stop at parking lots far from the office parks and factories where people actually work in the ‘burbs. Suburb-to-suburb commuting is a problem because the burbs and their train lines were built on the assumption that you’d live out and go in, instead of living out and going out and pretty much never going downtown unless it’s to see a play and bitch about how much a meal costs. The suburban bus system runs too few buses to too few places and takes too long for it to truly replace cars in terms of efficiency.

And having covered suburban land use issues for both dailies where I’ve worked, part of the problem was all the competing systems of government. One town I covered got constant shit from its residents about how narrow the main road was and how it was a total traffic nightmare and oh, my god, do something. Well, it was a county road, and wasn’t nothing the town could do but complain, which it had been doing, but which was tough to explain to the army of pissed off people who didn’t want to understand that there are about sixteen dozen little pissant taxing bodies in Illinois and they all want a piece of you and they all take care of different things and there’s no way to make one town cooperate with another, so they go build a shopping mall and suddenly you can’t get out your door anymore. The whole thing’s a matter of making 50 different suburban mayors, half of whom hate each other and most of whom hate Chicago, plan their development in reasonable ways. Which, in this lifetime, is never going to happen unless somebody develops a vaccine for grudges and self-interest and puts it in the water supply.

(This isn’t a post to hate on suburbs, really. It’s not my lifestyle, but I can see where it works for lots of people. If we’d had kids I think we’d have liked the outer-outer-burb we lived in a for a while. Place was designed to keep kids happy: parks, community programs, schools that looked like palaces. But I was 22 and bored witless.)

What’s the answer? I think it’s not just transportation boards and trains and bus lines. It’s making people in a region behave as if what’s happening to their neighbor is happening to them, and that’s a tall order. Start talking public transit and you’ll find yourself talking a whole lot of coded racist shit about “those people” and “we moved out here to get away from all that” and people overreacting because it’s their houses and their kids. Absent gas shooting up to $10 per gallon, which as Atrios notes would only fuck the poor hardest, the only way to get people to care about other people’s problems is to show them that those problems affect them, too, and create overwhelming public sentiment in favor. Make having six cars for four people shameful. It’s cultural as well as physical, it’s about what you’re comfortable with as your community.

I work from home now, and Mr. A still takes the train, and sometimes our car goes for days without use. In the summer, weeks: we can ride our bikes almost anywhere we need to go, without fear of being mowed down, because we’re not the only bikes on the road in our neighborhood. We’re not the only ones balancing bags of groceries off the handlebars or trying to finish a conversation started in the pub while pedaling. The car gets used to go out of town, or go for a really big load of groceries, and you know, I really don’t miss it.


Your President Speaks!

From Holden:

ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas snagged an interview with Chimpy on his way outta Dodge.

American Disaster Preparedness: Slightly Better than “Woefull”

ELIZABETH VARGAS: A congressional report assessed the U.S. reaction as “woefully unprepared” not only for a natural disaster now but for a terrorist attack, the state of readiness right now of the United States. Setting aside future improvements that you plan, today do you agree with that assessment, that the United States is “woefully unprepared” for another natural disaster or attack?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I agree that we didn’t do as good a job as we could have done on Katrina. However, I would remind people that there was a hurricane right after Katrina that hit Louisiana and Texas, and the response was much better coordinated, and the situational awareness on the ground was much improved.


VARGAS: So you don’t agree with that report that calls the U.S. “woefully unprepared”?

BUSH: I think the U.S. is better prepared than woefully unprepared. There’s no question we’ve got more work to do, and our report on Katrina outlined the work that needs to be done.

Stayin’ The Course: Despite The Civil War That’s Not Happening

VARGAS: Let’s move to Iraq. This has been a rough few days in Iraq since the bombing of the mosque in Samarra. There’s been a lot of sectarian violence. What is the policy if, in fact, a civil war should break out or the sectarian violence continues? Are you willing to sacrifice American lives to get the Sunnis and the Shiites to stop killing each other?

BUSH: I don’t buy your premise that there’s going to be a civil war. There’s no question that the bomber of the mosque is trying to create sectarian violence, and there’s no question there was reaction to it. On the other hand, I had the duty, which I did, to call these leaders, Shi’a and Sunni leaders, as well as Kurdish leaders.

And the response was that we understand this is a moment that we’ve got to make a choice if we’re going to have sectarian strife or whether or not we’re going to unify. And I heard loud and clear that they understand that they’re going to choose unification, and we’re going to help them do so.

VARGAS: But what is the plan if the sectarian violence continues? I mean, do the U.S. troops take a larger role? Do they step in more actively to stop the violence?

BUSH: No. The troops are chasing down terrorists. They’re protecting themselves and protecting the people, and — but a major function is to train the Iraqis so they can do the work. I mean the ultimate success in Iraq — and I believe we’re going to be successful — is for the Iraqi citizens to continue to demand unity.

VARGAS: So let me make sure I understand you. No matter what happens with the level of sectarian violence, the U.S. troops will stay there?

BUSH: The U.S. troops will stay there so long as — until the Iraqis can defend themselves. I mean, my policy has not changed.

The Default Jonah Post

From Holden:

You could use this header for every Goldberg post:

I WAS WRONG [Jonah Goldberg]

I should at least admit that my prediction that Cheney would ultimately receive a bump in the polls from the hunting accident mania hasn’t panned out.

Still, he remains my favorite politician in the GOP leadership.

Posted at 12:31 PM

Meanwhile, The Derb thinks that cultrual diversity is a form of rape.

Saddle Me Up A Conservative Pony

From Holden:

Via Dan Froomkin we learn a few more details about the latest CBS News poll.

In the January Times/CBS News poll, 83 percent of Republicans approved of the way he was handling his job; in the latest poll 72 percent approve. Approval among self-identified conservatives also dropped to 52 percent, from 62 percent.

Judy Doesn’t Work There Anymore

From Holden:

What’s this? A stirring of investigative journalism at the New York Times?

The New York Times sued the U.S. Defense Department on Monday demanding that it hand over documents about the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program.

The Times wants a list of documents including all internal memos and e-mails about the program of monitoring phone calls without court approval. It also seeks the names of the people or groups identified by it.

Your Presidnet Speaks!

From Holden:

Chimpy graciously accepted a few questions after his photo-op with Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi this morning.

Compare and conmtrast the two world leader’s responses to this question regarding the civil war in Iraq and the possibility of withdrawing military forces.

The Question:

Q Mr. President, there was some more sectarian violence today in Iraq. There have been hundreds, maybe thousands, killed since the bombing of the mosque. Do you fear an all-out civil war? And will the events of Iraq of the last few days affect prospects for a U.S. draw-down?

And to the Prime Minister, do you still want to withdraw Italian troops by the end of the year?

The Bush Response: Blame the Iraqis if there is chaos.

PRESIDENT BUSH: The United States strongly condemns the bombing of holy sites. We believe people should be allowed to worship freely. Obviously, there are some who are trying to sow the seeds of sectarian violence. They destroy in order to create chaos. And now the people of Iraq and their leaders must make a choice. The choice is chaos or unity. The choice is a free society, or a society dictated by the — by evil people who will kill innocents.

This weekend I spoke to seven of the Iraqi leaders. They understood the seriousness of the moment. They have made their choice, which is to work toward a unity government. The Iraqi people made their choice. Since last December, 11 million people, in defiance of the terrorists and the killers, went to the polls and said, we want to be free.

The Berlusconi Response: We’re outta here!

PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: (As translated.) We have announced a plan to progressively withdraw our troops, which should be completed — we have to be completed by the end of this year. And this plan has been agreed upon also together with our allies, and with the Iraqi government. Because this what is going to be possible — (in English) — why this will be possible.

Then on the question of Chimpy’s swetheart deal with the UAE, watch as Chimpy gets steamed and demands that the question should not be translated in to Italian as the topic if none of Berlusconi’s business.

Q Mr. President, since you’re the final arbiter of the Dubai Ports deal, are you still inclined to approve it? And do you stand by your veto threat?

PRESIDENT BUSH: My position hasn’t changed to my message to the Congress. And I appreciate the fact that the companies concerned have asked the Congress for a review of all the security implications.

Let me just make something clear to the American people. If there was any doubt in my mind, or people in my administration’s mind that our ports would be less secure and the American people endangered, this deal wouldn’t go forward. And I can understand people’s consternation because the first thing they heard was that a foreign company would be in charge of our port security, when, in fact, the Coast Guard and Customs are in charge of our port security. Our duty is to protect America, and we will protect America.

On the other hand, this company is buying a British company that manages the ports. And by the way, there are a lot of foreign companies managing U.S. ports. And so my question to the members of Congress as they review this matter is, one, please look at the facts. And two, what kind of signal does it send throughout the world if it’s okay for a British company to manage the ports, but not a company that has been secure — been cleared for security purposes from the Arab world? So I look forward to a good, consistent review. You don’t need to interpret. That’s a U.S. question.

One at a time.

Beats The Hell Out Of The Harry Whittington Inaction Figure I Got Last Week

From Holden:

I can’t wait to play with my Dick Cheney Action Figure complete with shotgun, scowl and “retractable-spike kick shoes” – just like the pair 007 villain Rosa Klebb sported in “From Russia with Love”, according to the <a href="NY Post.

Whenever I Give Up on the Washington Post’s Lead Editorial…

From Holden:

…it focuses on Bush’s torture fetish. Of course, it would better if they would mention that “the top” is indeed the president.

ONE OF THE most shocking photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq shows a grinning guard giving a thumbs-up sign over the bruised corpse of an Iraqi detainee. Subsequent investigation showed that the deceased prisoner, an Iraqi named Manadel al-Jamadi, died of asphyxiation on Nov. 4, 2003: He was tortured to death by Navy SEAL and CIA interrogators who took turns punching and kicking him, then handcuffed his arms behind his back and shackled them to a window five feet above the floor. Nine SEALs, a sailor and several CIA personnel were implicated in the killing. As it turned out, the Abu Ghraib guard who posed with the body, former Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr., was not involved.

Two years after the photo came into the hands of Army investigators, the result of the case is this: Mr. Graner is serving a 10-year prison sentence for his role in the nonlethal abuse of other detainees at Abu Ghraib — and no one involved in killing Mr. Jamadi has suffered serious penalty. Nine members of the Navy team were given “nonjudicial punishment” by their commanding officer; the 10th, a lieutenant, was acquitted on charges of assault and dereliction of duty. None of the CIA personnel has been prosecuted. The lead interrogator, Mark Swanner, reportedly continues to work for the agency.

The de facto principles governing the punishment of U.S. personnel guilty of prisoner abuse since 2002 now are clear: Torturing a foreign prisoner to death is excusable. Authoring and implementing policies of torture may lead to promotion. But being pictured in an Abu Ghraib photograph that leaks to the press is grounds for a heavy prison sentence. In addition to Mr. Graner, seven lowly guards appearing in photos, none of whom were involved in fatalities, have been sentenced to prison. But according to a well-documented new report by Human Rights First, only 12 of 98 deaths of detainees in U.S. custody have resulted in punishment of any kind for any U.S. official. In eight cases in which prisoners have been tortured to death, the steepest sentence meted out has been five months in jail.


The Army itself has labeled 34 prisoner deaths as homicides, but in more than half of those no charges were brought. In close to half of the 98 cases it surveyed, Human Rights First reported, the cause of death remains officially undetermined or unannounced. “In dozens of cases,” the report says, “grossly inadequate reporting, investigation and follow-through have left no one at all responsible for homicides and other unexplained deaths.” Commanders, starting with President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and extending through the ranks, have repeatedly declined to hold Americans accountable for documented war crimes.

Mr. Rumsfeld and the military command have grown so confident of their impunity that they don’t even try very hard to defend themselves. “Some 250 people have been punished in one way or another,” Mr. Rumsfeld replied last month when asked about abuse cases. Spokesmen offered a similar response last week to the Human Rights First report. Sadly, it has been left to retired officers, such as Brig. Gen. David R. Irvine, to speak honestly about this shameful record. The “torture and death” catalogued by Human Rights First, he wrote in a response to the report, “are the consequence of a shocking breakdown of command discipline on the part of the Army’s Officer Corps. . . . What is unquestionably broken is the fundamental principle of command accountability, and that starts at the very top.”

Intelligent Design’s Death Rattle

From Holden:

If ID can’t make it in Utah, then it’s dead.

In a defeat for critics of Darwin, the Utah House of Representatives on Monday voted down a bill intended to challenge the theory of evolution in high school science classes.

The bill had been viewed nationally, by people on each side of the science education debate, as an important proposal because Utah is such a conservative state, with a Legislature dominated by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But the bill died on a 46-to-28 vote in the Republican-controlled House after being amended by the majority whip, Stephen H. Urquhart, a Mormon who said he thought God did not have an argument with science. The amendment stripped out most of the bill’s language, leaving only that the state board of education “shall establish curriculum requirements relating to scientific instruction.”


Casey Luskin, a spokesman for the Discovery Institute, a research group based in Seattle that has promoted the ideas of intelligent design, called the vote “a loss for scientific education,” but said it was a purely local Utah matter.

A spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Joe Conn, said Utah’s vote would resonate.

“If the creationists can’t win in a state as conservative as Utah, they’ve got an uphill battle,” Mr. Conn said.

Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Today’s gaggle included many port sell-out questions, but this is one of the best in my mind. Because if Chimpy has already decided to go forward with the deal then this entire 45-day review thingy is nothing but a scam.

Q On the ports, under the 45-day review that you’re now going to start, the way the law is written, it’s up to the President to be the final arbiter of this, the committee then reports to him. Since the President has already expressed his views on this deal — and you’ve just reiterated those today — can he be a neutral judge on this issue? Should he recuse himself from this, since he’s already expressed his opinion, much the way a judge might —

MR. McCLELLAN: This is a congressionally mandated process; they put this law in place. And the company voluntarily asked for a 45-day investigation, so this is at the request of the company. And it will go to the committee —

Q You see my point, you’re in the odd position of the President has already declared his view on something he’s supposed to judge at the end of the investigative process.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, but it’s going to go through the Committee on Foreign Investment — because this is a new transaction that they are notifying the committee about. And the committee will review it, and at the request of the company, go through the investigation. That will involve additional people. And then, as you point out, I expect it ultimately would go to the President, as called for under the law. This is the way — the law has been in place for some time.

Q So he’s got to keep an open mind that maybe the committee will find something different than —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he stated his views. The views that he has previously stated remain the same. But we will see, as it goes through the Committee on Foreign Investment, where this goes.

Now watch Scottie’s toes curl as he is asked about Chimpy’s horrible poll numbers. Pony-up, biatch!

Q Scott, the President is heading off on his trip with some record low approval ratings. And I’m wondering, given the events of the last couple of weeks — the ports deal, and the outbreak of violence in Iraq, and the handling of the Vice President’s shooting — is there any thought to changing the way the administration is doing business?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you’re talking about with Congress, we will continue to work closely with Congress on our shared priorities. I think if you look at the record, we have been able to move forward and achieve a lot of important things for the American people. And we will continue to do that.

That’s where our focus is. Our focus is on the important priorities of the American people, and I think that’s where Congress’ focus is, as well.


And that’s what the President is going to continue to do. We’ll let others get into all the political analysis of those things.

Q Do you have any idea why the dip?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?

Q Do you have any idea why the dip?

MR. McCLELLAN: We don’t get caught up in the weekly snapshots in time that you’re referring to. We are focused on getting things done for the American people, and we have a record of results.


So look at the record and look at the results, and look at the facts.

Finally, Double the Les, Double the Fun, I always say.

Q I understand. The state legislature of South Dakota has just passed a new law which allows abortion in case of threat to the mother’s life, but denies it to all ages in cases of rape and incest. My first question: Does the President believe that rape and incest victims should be denied the right to an abortion?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes we ought to be working to build a culture of life in America. And we have taken practical, common-sense steps to help reduce the number of abortions in America. It is a strong record that is based on building a culture of life, and the President has made very clear that he is pro-life with three exceptions.


Q The Washington Times notes this morning that as recently as last year, Hamas couriers were dispatched to the West Bank or Gaza with United Arab Emirate cash, while the Department of State’s country reports and human rights practices reports that the UAE does not allow any elections and restricts freedom of speech and the press. And my question: Why should any control of our ports be given to a company owned by such a dictatorship that refuses to recognize Israel?

The Coast Guard Said No, Too

From Holden:

Jim the Crazy Liberal picks up on the latest from the AP:

Citing broad gaps in U.S. intelligence, the Coast Guard cautioned the Bush administration that it was unable to determine whether a United Arab Emirates-owned company might support terrorist operations, a Senate panel said Monday.

Scottie’s Mom Says No To UAE Port Deal

From Holden:

Poor Little Scottie, even his mom is bucking the Bush line these days.

“Our roads, our bridges, our seaports, our airports and our border crossings are vital to our economy and prime targets for terrorists,” said Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Texas comptroller, couching it in home-state terms but jumping on the political bandwagon opposing the ports deal. “Why take the chance and let a private or public foreign operation control vital Texas infrastructure and property?”

Via Froomkin.

Screw The Young, Too

From Holden:

The Bush Economy is an equal opportunity fucker, isn’t it.

In the race to get ahead economically, America’s young workers are falling behind.

A new survey shows that median incomes fell for householders under 45, even as they rose for older ones, between 2001 and 2004.

Income fell 8 percent, adjusted for inflation, for those under 35 and 9 percent for those aged 35 to 44. The numbers add new weight to longstanding concerns about whether younger generations of Americans will achieve living standards that are better – or at least equal to – those of their parents.

Brain Fart of the Day

From Holden:

Dear Leader, to our nation’s governors.

I’m — this is historic times, and I know you know that.

Poor Tom DeLay

From Holden:

Via the Daily Muck, Tom DeLay’s likely November opponent, Nick Lampson, has raised more money and has more cash in the bank than the indicted former House Majority Leader. The reasons for DeLay’s cash-crunch? He has trouble raising money because he is viewed as a crook, and he can’t hold onto the money he has raised because he has to pay his lawyers.

Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, is trailing his potential Democratic opponent, former Rep. Nick Lampson, in fundraising and cash in the bank, according to new financial reports that covered the first six weeks of the year.

DeLay, who faces three contenders in the March 7 Republican primary for the 22nd Congressional District seat, raised $154,712 and spent $304,795 between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15, the time span covered in the reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. The lawmaker reported having about $1.3 million in the bank.

Lampson, unopposed in the Democratic primary, raised $250,970 in the same time frame and spent $125,027. He has more than $1.4 million on hand.


DeLay’s largest recent expenditure — $110,000 — went to the law firm employing Richard Cullen, the attorney representing him in the Justice Department investigation of an influence-peddling scandal involving indicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The Housing Bubble Goes The Way Of My Bush Boom

From Holden:

Where would we be without our bubbles?

Sales of new homes fell for the second time in three months in January, providing further evidence that the nation’s five-year housing boom is slowing.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that sales of new single-family homes dropped by 5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.233 million units last month.

That was a bigger drop than analysts had been expecting and provided support to the view that the housing market, after setting sales records for five straight years, is slowing under the impact of rising mortgage rates.

Flaming Shot of Ouzo

Tbogg hurt the widdle wingnut’s feelings. The comments to his response to Tbogg’s post (which I referenced here) are truly priceless. This is my favorite:

I’ve spent 17 months in Iraq, working for the CPA in 03-04 and on reconstruction contracts for a couple of tours since. I probably am a “liberal” by your definition, and a retired reserve officer.

I’m in Iraq now, Green Zone Baghdad. I was listening to mortar fire yesterday afternoon. They (Sunnis? Ba’athists? someone else?) were shelling the neighborhood of one of my Iraqi co-workers, I later learned. I’m waiting for him to come into work now, he’s usually very early.

Not to mention whether we have to worry how, if the shit really hits the fan here, we are going to get out. The helicopter-off-of-the-roof-of-the-embassy theme is a recurrent mordant joke here.

Of course, this is the fruit of this undermanned and underresourced war, always on the razor’s edge of ruin, while Rumsfeld and Bush spout their happy horseshit. The thing is, it could have gone so much better with competent people in charge who followed the Weinberger and Powell doctrines, rather than the marginal and disorganized effort this has been from the beginning. I’ve always said one of the problems with this is that it is run by people whose philosophy is anti-goverment, and it is a situation where government is needed. They are not like the New Dealers who helped rebuild Europe and Japan. But hey, “stuff happens.”

Yes, I know that you might agree with me on that, but why not place the blame where it lies, instead of talking about how civil war might be a good thing.

The idea that some people might find your schadenfreude about an incipient civil war “insult[ing] or inflam[ing]” does not seem to occur to you.

You, apparently a military age male, follow that post with one talking about how much fun paintball is. Yes, shooting as a game, your fun war metaphor.

I suggest you apply for a direct commission in Army Reserve Civil Affairs, they need people desperately. You might also be able to get a job with a contractor on one of the reconstruction projects, maybe the new Regional Reconstruction Teams. Then you might learn that this shit is in earnest, not some parlor word game.

That might be a bit too eloquent for our learned winger friends. Let me put this in terms the Vodkapundit might understand.



Incurious George Goes to India

From Holden:

Chimpy is on the road again.

President Bush is planning a two-day wind sprint across India this week, when he will meet with political leaders, chat up high-tech millionaires and give a speech at a 16th-century fort. But to the consternation of the Indians, he will not see the country’s most famous monument, the Taj Mahal, a decision that Mr. Bush said was made by an omnipotent scheduler.


“I’ll be the president, we’ve got the scheduler being the scheduler,” [Bush said].


Mr. Bush has never been a sightseer, and his planned two days in India and one in Pakistan are typical of a president who visited the Great Wall of China in 30 minutes flat.