SocraticGadfly: 8/28/05 - 9/4/05

September 03, 2005

FEMA actually prepared to do this FUBAR?

That’s what agency director Michael Brown said, according to CNN.

Last week, Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told CNN his agency had recently planned for a Category 5 hurricane hitting New Orleans.

Speaking to “Larry King Live” on Aug. 31, in the wake of Katrina, Brown said, “That Category 4 hurricane caused the same kind of damage that we anticipated. So we planned for it two years ago. Last year, we exercised it. And unfortunately this year, we're implementing it.”

Brown suggested FEMA — part of the Department of Homeland Security — was carrying out a prepared plan, rather than having to suddenly create a new one.

Wow. Just think if they hadn’t been prepared.

“All we have is each other…”

So notes the American Atheists.

From its website:
American Atheists urges all fellow nonbelievers to contribute to the rescue and other humanitarian efforts in the devastating wake of Hurricane Katrina.
A number of secular, non-religious aid organizations are active in this relief campaign. They do not incorporate a religious message in their operations, nor do they proselytize to those in need.

The list of organizations linked on its page includes Oxfam, which just extended a matching donation program less than two weeks before the hurricane.

Here is the link for Oxfam America.

Over at Washington Monthly, Paul Glastris says Beliefnet will donate $1,000 for every 100 people who give. Here’s showing a secular organization is in the right time at the right place.

Halliburton gets storm cleanup contract

The Houston Chronicle reports on this doozy.
The Navy has hired Houston-based Halliburton Co. to restore electric power, repair roofs and remove debris at three naval facilities in Mississippi damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Halliburton subsidiary KBR will also perform damage assessments at other naval installations in New Orleans as soon as it is safe to do so.
KBR was assigned the work under a “construction capabilities” contract awarded in 2004 after a competitive bidding process. The company is not involved in the Army Corps of Engineers' effort to repair New Orleans’ levees.

How much comes off the top, or from under the bottom, of all this money?

Clinton also cut NOLA levee funding

And other thoughts on how realistic-minded conservative blogs are a welcome counterweight to “Blame Bush and blame only Bush” for Katrina aftermath disaster.

As Europe-based libertarian blogger EU Rota reports, the “Big Dog” himself cut Corps of Engineer levee-improvement funding more than once. Going through the archives of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, he lists several such instances from 1995-2000.

And, while I disagree with Rota, and think Bush deserves a majority of the blame, it is indeed arguable that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco have their own share of blame for not having more local and statewide prestaging points, etc.

September 02, 2005

Bush still doesn't get how Fubar he is on Katrina

In Biloxi, Miss., he said:
“I am satisfied with the response. I am not satisfied with all the results.”

Satisfied with the response? You have got to be fricking cluelessly kidding.

Did Koppel rip Michael Brown a new one or what?

On the Sept. 1 “Nightline,” host Ted Koppel sounded like he’d been browsing some liberal blogs, the way he grilled FEMA Director Michael Brown for the Russian-doll layered levels of BushCo incompetence.

Find a video of it — it was great.

Where Clinton failed on welfare reform

Yes, he was “triangulating” to get reelected in 1996, but he didn't have to sell out liberal principals.

He could have told Fig Newt and the rest of the House GOP something like, “Fine, you want real welfare reform? I'm OK with that as long as we have some sort of partial replacement social safety net — i.e., an increased minumum wage.”

Now, I’m not talking about that small move from $4.25 to $5.15. I’m talking about a bigger, multi-year, increase.

And then, as the piece de resistence, Clinton should have pulled a page out of the Reagan tax-reduction playbook and said:

“There’s one more condition. We index the minimum wage to the inflation rate, just like tax brackets.”

But he didn’t.

And we are the poorer for it.

The environmentalist me, New Orleans and the ACE

The ACE is the Army Corps of Engineers, now hailed by many as the would-have-been saviors of New Orleans if only given enough of a budget by BushCo.

But the environmentalist me says, let's not forget that this organization, through draining wetlands, made its own contribution to the Flood of New Orleans.

And through similar wetland drainage, combined with increased river channelization, the Corps has increased the risk of flood-related, and above all, hurricane-caused flood-related, damage throughout much of the coastal Southeast.

September 01, 2005

Katrina help in Dallas Metroplex

For more information on how to help out — or get shorter- or longer-term help — here in southern Dallas County, see this special page at my newspaper group.

As with any offer of assistance, buyer beware, of course. But, one temp agency is already working to help Katrina refugees (that’s what they are, folks), somebody is stepping in where BushCo is far, far behind.

And, here in Dallas, we’re close enough to the scene that the help is important.

See the “Liberal Blogosphere for Hurricane Relief” ad on the right-hand rail for an easy way to donate.

FEMA wants you to help Hitman Pat Robertson

That’s right. Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing ranks right below the Red Cross in third place on FEMA’s list of charitable organizations to whom to send donations.

As SPLOID notes, this is the same “Rev.” Robertson who advocates assassination of foreign leaders, among other things.

Pat Robertson’s Operation blessing Look at the list. Pat’s group should be listed with all the others in Group B. Besides, the Red Cross, at least here in Dallas, has already announced it is taking volunteers, not just cash, so the list is inaccurate anyway.

Yes, let's blame Bush

Reportedly there were around 50 carjackings Wednesday. Today, we hear stories about how hospital supply trucks are being hijacked.

Meanwhile, Bush strummed guitar Tuesday while New Orleans burned. And, over the last two-plus years, sent one-quarter of the Louisiana National Guard to Iraq.

Yes, let's blame Bush.

August 31, 2005

Bill Gates — geek, computer idea thief and now — ID lover?

Over at Salon, Farhad Manjoo raises a great question: Just why in the hell has the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation given $10 million to the stealth-creationist outfit, the Discovery Institute?
The Gates Foundation responds that it hasn't abandoned science to back intelligent design. Greg Shaw, Pacific Northwest director, explains that the grant to Discovery underwrites the institute's "Cascadia Project," which strictly focuses on transportation in the Northwest. The Discovery webstie lists several program goals, including financing of high-speed passenger rail systems and reduction of automobile congestion in the Cascadia region, which encompasses Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

But surely, there is some other group besides Discovery that sponsors similar projects.

But that’s not Microsoft’s only connection, even if in a personal vein.
Mark Ryland, who heads the institute's Washington office, is a former Microsoft executive, and a Microsoft employee named Michael Martin is a current member of Discovery's board. A spokeswoman for Microsoft says that Martin served on the board in his personal capacity, not as a representative of the company.

Discovery spokesman Kenneth Pollock uses the old right-wing tactic that people who question such donations are really against free speech.

He tells Salon:
”Finally, I have been asked to advise you that it is unseemly for people who dislike one program at a think tank (or a university — or an on-line magazine, for that matter) to try to pressure funders of other programs there,” he writes. “It is illiberal and contrary to the spirit of free speech.”

Just as Discovery, of course, claims all criticism of intelligent design is anti-free speech.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why the Gates Foundation is supporting Discovery after all. I’m sure old Billy Bob Geek Gates sees an argument he can’t pass up in future PR and legal battles for Microslob.

Maybe not immediately, Kevin, but yes, there should be political fallout over Katrina

Kevin Drum says both conservatives and liberals ought to avoid political infighting over Hurricane Katrina.

I happen to disagree, to some extent. I certainly disagree, if we’re making reasonable time allowances. Perhaps such political wrangling shouldn’t be done immediately, but this is another inexcusable thing for Bush.

In addition to the Think Progress post noting with approval that Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu blames Bush for cutting Corps of Engineers funding, Bush needs to be held accountable not only for hurricane lack of preparedness, but having National Guard troops who could be stopping looting fighting a needless war in Iraq.

Meanwhile, EBJ fails to help her district’s top employer

That company would be Southwest Airlines, which would greatly benefit from elimination of the Wright Amendment.

And please, EBJ, don’t tell me that your Hudson bookstore holding at D/FW Airport is in a blind trust; you still know you have that, even if you don’t know the exact value.

Part of the fallout of gerrymandering

In my post just below, I bemoaned the failure of Eddie Bernice Johnson to adopt a more progressive line re Iraq.

Of course, that cuts to the heart of the issue, in my opinion.

She really isn’t that progressive, nor are some other minority members of Congress for whom Republicans have redistricted even safer seats while putting white Democrats in tougher ones. Combine that with serving nearly two decades in Washington, and of course, it’s easy to become part of the “scratch my back, at least on occasion, and I’ll scratch yours” game.

Eddie Bernice, you still want to support the war in Iraq?

As reported by Reuters, in actual, inflation-adjusted dollars and not inflated ones, Iraq is now costing more per month than Vietnam.

Tell me why my allegedly progressive Congresswoman, Dallas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson, who has in the past ranked in the top 10 percent or so on House progressive indexes, continues to support this war and vote for every new Iraq appropriation?

She sure as hell hasn’t been able to tell me herself, as I have both called and e-mailed her office, including chiding her more than once for her unprogressive failure to join the Congressional Get Us Out of Iraq Caucus.

Some secularists don't mind thanking God

Not everybody, self-professed secularists included, agree with the spirit as well as the letter of my previous “spare me the hand of God” post about Hurricane Katrina swerving just away from a direct hit of New Orleans.

Over at Political Animal, Kevin Drum, who says, “It is, I'm pretty sure, impossible to be more secularist than I am,” sees nothing wrong with saying “Thank God” there wasn’t further damage in the wake of Katrina.
If other people want to talk about God, let ’em talk about God. In any case, when my commenters (I e-mailed him about it) start complaining about a common phrase like ”thank God,” they've really gone off the deep end.

Count me as going off the deep end, Kev. And, I suppose you’re willing to agree with Chief Justice Rehnquist that “civic religion” is really just harmless for everybody and doesn’t really violate the First Amendment?

August 29, 2005

Please, spare me the miraculous hand of God talk

I’m sure my plaintive cry will have no effect on the millions who see the “hand of God” in the last minute weakening of Katrina from Category 5 to Category 4 and turning just slightly east of direct hit on New Orleans.

A real hand of God would have kept the hurricane from forming in the first place.

Any other claim is simply religion-blinded twaddle.

The Dallas Morning News latest piece of crap

The Snooze, in its latest attempt to reorganize itself on the cheap — a "cheap" still influenced by the fallout from its overstating circulation numbers a few years back — has reinvented its zoned metro sections as four-day a week ongoing zoned news, including one day of a tab-sized insert, but with fewer zonage areas.

And — and — it's all reader written in that tabbed insert.

My snarky comment, as the editor of a suburban weekly the Snooze thinks to hurt with this?

I'd put that that in the bottom of a birdcage, but even my birds have enough self-respect not to take a crap on that.

August 28, 2005

Grizzly attacks, three days after I was there

As I mentioned in the post immediately below this, among the places I was recently on vacation was Glacier National Park.

Now I see that two people were attacked there by a grizzly just three days after I was in the same area.

The National Park Service has said it will interview the two after they have recuperated. However, I am guessing they surprised the bear, and did not take adequate precautions to guard against surprise, such as talking, whistling or making noise on the trail, wearing bear bells, or doing something similar.

The majority of grizzly attacks, such as this one, are usually by a sow, and one with cubs. They are quite likely to attack when startled like this, in defense of their cubs.

I was at Many Glacier myself Aug. 22, three days before this attack. I did not hike down the trail they did, which trailheads at Many Glacier, because it was late in the day and because I saw grizzlies at about 400 yards above the lodge on a hillside.

Both regretfully (the photographer in me) and perhaps fortunately, that was my closest encounter.

I did see mountain goats close enough to pet and wolves at 800 yards in Yellowstone. I’ll post pictures in a couple of days.

Incidentally, beestings, lightning strikes and snakebite will all kill as many or more people in the United States each year. Yet, lightning is not even a living being, and the other two don’t evoke traditional predator images.

I vacation the National Parks, BushCo wants to weaken them

I go on vacation to, among other places, Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, and I see BushCo shenanigans have been sneaking around for some of those very parks.

According to the New York Times:
A high-ranking appointee at the Interior Department proposed fundamentally changing the way national parks are managed, putting more emphasis on recreational use and loosening protections against overuse, noise and damage to the air, water, wildlife or scenery. But a group of senior National Park Service employees rejected the proposal at a meeting this month.
The 194 pages of revisions to the park service's basic policy document suggested by Paul Hoffman, a deputy assistant secretary of the department, could have opened up new opportunities for off-road use of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles throughout the park system, including Yellowstone National Park, whose roads the Interior Department has kept open to snowmobiles.

It’s things like this which have me maintain my membership in the Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice, formerly the Sierra Club’s legal arm. (See links on the right-hand rail.)

As if that weren’t bad enough, the antiscientific monstrosity called intelligent design reared its ugly head in Hoffman’s paper.

And in its discussion of park service system resources and educational programs, it would have eliminated virtually every reference to the theory of evolution.

In addition, Hoffman urged rejecting ideas of understanding parks in their larger environments, such as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and curtailing parks’ power to control events outside their boundaries.
For instance, it would have been more difficult for park officials to call for the Environmental Protection Agency's aid in reducing haze and air pollution in parks.

Can anyone say, “Let’s make the Great Smoky Mountains a little smokier?”