Friday, September 30, 2005

In case you're running out of things to worry about...ANOTHER reason to be concerned about airlines...

There's the war in Iraq, there's bird flu, there's soaring oil prices, there's the trade deficit, the Federal deficit, bad emergency response in Santa Ana season... but I bet you never worried about collateralized debt obligations.

Neither did I until I read the above link.

Instead of these old-fashioned relatively straightforward leases, airlines these days rely on something called "enhanced equipment trust certificates." These are bonds, backed by pools of aircraft.

Any single bond issuance is divided into what are called tranches. Often, individual tranches come with different yields and different risk profiles. Specific investors can pick through the tranches to find one that matches their demand for yield and their tolerance for risk.

But the change from something as old-fashioned as a lease on an actual airplane to a derivative that represents a share of a pool of aircraft doesn't stop there. In the old days an investor like Disney was stuck with the risk of the investment it had just made. Today the investor in enhanced equipment trust certificates can sell part of that risk to another investor.

That's done with another derivative called a collateralized debt obligation, or CDO. The buyer of a CDO is buying insurance against Delta or any other debtor defaulting on its obligations. The seller of the CDO is hoping that the debtor will not default and that the seller will be able to pocket the price of the CDO.

And you can sell a CDO if your risk tolerance changes, then buy another to fit your current needs...

Once upon a time, this was a tiny market, with banks arranging these contracts for a large investor such as an insurance company. Now, banks ...create CDOs for a wide range of investors. And those investors then trade these CDOs with each other, as they're estimation or appetite for risk changes. Today there are $8.4 trillion (yes, that's trillion with a T) in credit derivative contracts outstanding. That's up from just $919 billion at the end of 2001.

[N]ote that this is a huge financial market -- and the market for credit derivatives is just one part of the much larger market for derivatives of all kinds. For reference, the entire U.S. money supply (measured by M3, the widest definition of money) at the end of August was $9.9 trillion. The size of the credit derivatives market as of end of June 2005 was $12.4 trillion, up 128% in a year, according to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association. It's no wonder that the Federal Reserve has less clout than it did when this derivative money supply was a mere $919 billion.

Now, for those who don't know M3 = all physical money like coins and currency, includes demand deposits,(checking accounts and NOW accounts), all time-related deposits, savings deposits, and non-institutional money-market funds as well as all large time deposits, institutional money-market funds, short-term repurchase agreements, along with other larger liquid assets.

Now, in case you don't get it why this is a "Holy Shit!" waiting to happen:

The problem, of course, is that this system only works until it doesn't. Because derivative contracts are frequently bought and sold by the original purchaser, it's hard to tell who is now guaranteeing whom against loss.

It's not very efficient. It's relatively illiquid. And, if a few big borrowers (say, like an airline or two) defaults on their CDOs, it could have a cascade effect on the CDO market, sucking in capital from other markets, driving down the stock market, the bond market and creating one big fat financial apocalypse.

And evidently a significant portion of debt is traded this way.

And you never heard of CDOs before, didya?

Oil and Gas and Tae Kwon Do Karma

This morning two thoughts occupy my head:

1. My 401(k) plan's reps need to be contacted. Something about "stagflation."

2. I'm reallly glad I live where I do because there's almost no commute, relatively speaking, and so I can be home at a reasonable hour to see my son practice Tae Kwon Do. Not every kid's dad can, but maybe with high energy prices, at least some of those that can afford to relocate will, and as a side effect they can watch their kids play sports and act in the school plays, etc. "Get involved in your kids' life" say the ads about drugs, etc., and they have a point, but more than that you actually get to be a part of your kid's life. Totally wonderful thing. You two share something you know is important to him. This is why we need a living wage for the poor: so that they can be part of their kdis' lives. This is why we shouldn't be slaves to automobiles. Any parent who cannot take the time to get their kid involved in activities like this for reason of money is sadly lacking one of the most important experiences of being a parent.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Pat Buchanan nails the Next Distraction


[Bush] needs to change the subject, select a field of battle where he has the high ground, and, as the Corleones used to say, "go to the mattresses." As soon as John Roberts is approved as Chief Justice, Bush should go right in the face of his chortling enemies and name a visible Scalia-Thomas strict constructionist to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, and let Leahy, Biden, Kennedy and Clinton fulminate all they wish.

But one thing: it wouldn't "rekindle faith in him as the strong decisive leader of post-9/11," as Buchanan goes on to say; such a nominee would get filibustered, and rightly so, and would leave the Repubs with 2 options: go for a power grab replay of the "nuclear option" (already a loser with the American people from previous polling) or let the nomination die (which would rekindle belief that Bush is nothing but a well connected oil hack who stole an election, lied about 9/11, lied about Iraq, ...)

So I say: Bring it on.

OK, I finally found something I approve from Bush's regime.

Beluga sturgeon are endangered. The ban on beluga's good.

The stuff tastes good, too.

More on the Blunt-DeLay corruption connection...

The link quoted below on Fired Up America points to this link here, first posted on 8/15/05, with one Jim Ellis as a "coordinator" of the "Rely on Your Beliefs" PAC.

Well, it's hit the mainstream media, or at least the Associated Press.

Ellis, of course, has been indicted with DeLay in their alleged money laundering scheme.

It's good to see the media following the bloggers again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Roy Blunt- another DeLay...

Here's the dirt on Blunt...

Ouch...a money trail directly from Blunt to DeLay's wife...

In 1999 and 2000, when Ellis ran both DeLay's ARMPAC and Blunt's ROYB Fund, ARMPAC made contributions to Blunt's committee totalling $150,000. In return, Blunt made a series of payments to the Alexander Strategy Group (ASG), a firm controlled by former DeLay staffers, that also happened to employ DeLay's wife at the time. Over the course of a two-year period, Blunt's payments to ASG totalled $150,000. For a detailed schedule of the payments, click here.

In the same quarter in 2000 that Blunt received a contribution from DeLay for $100,000, Blunt made a contribution to the mysterious DeLay Foundation for $10,000. Blunt's PAC also paid rent to the U.S. Family Network, yet another DeLay controlled entity.

Also check out the Daily DeLay blog...

This ain't going to go away soon...but I think it needs an organized crime task force with detailed diagrams showing the money flow to sort it all out. I mean, does this look like a classic money laundering operation or what?

And then there's Frist...

No wonder the SEC and Federal prosecutors are looking into Frist's dealings with HCA. Two to six million dollars in profits makes Martha Stewart look like a piker.


Saw it first on Atrios: DeLay indicted.

If he's convicted I'll have to rethink my phobia about the S&P 500...

Update: spin inoculaton here.
Update: Here's the indictment.

If the other guys flip DeLay's goose is cooked.

Update: Even some conservative blogs are starting to see the problem... Earle likely has a case...especially if the other guys flip...

I wonder what David Brooks would say about this...

Too bad I don't have Times Select yet.


Ashley Smith, who was held hostage in her apartment in March by the man now charged with murder in the Atlanta courthouse shootings, was hailed as a hero after she disclosed how she had persuaded her captor to surrender, partly by reading to him from the spiritual best seller "The Purpose-Driven Life."

But in a memoir released yesterday, Ms. Smith also recounts that she gave the kidnapper some of her supply of crystal methamphetamine during her captivity and that she did not tell the police for some time afterward.

In the memoir, "Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero," Ms. Smith recalls that Brian Nichols, who has been charged in the death of three people shot at the Fulton County Courthouse and a fourth killed elsewhere in Atlanta soon before her kidnapping, asked her if she had any marijuana. She answered no but said she did have some "ice," or crystal meth.

Ms. Smith says that at the time, she was fighting an addiction to crystal methamphetamine that had previously led her to spend time in a psychiatric hospital and to lose custody of her 5-year-old daughter.

She says she last used crystal meth about 36 hours before being taken hostage. Though Mr. Nichols used it and invited her to do so, she refused, she writes, and has not taken drugs since the episode.

"Suddenly, looking down at my drug pouch," she says, "I realized that I would rather have died in my apartment than have done those drugs with Brian Nichols. If the cops were going to bust in here and find me dead, they were not going to find drugs in me when they did the autopsy. I was not going to die tonight and stand before God, having done a bunch of ice up my nose."

I'm glad the woman got her reward. But what a strange culture ... what a strange culture...

It's time for a peaceful democratic revolution in America...

I often wonder why I blog; especially when I read of a Buddhist of some substance renounce blogging because of the ego trip involved, when conservatives admit that much blogging is hot air...albeit for the wrong reasons, and when, even if I highlight something days before more widely trafficked bloggers I still don't get notice..

Then, there's a time like tonight, when I'm awakened in the middle of the night by my son and I can't get back to sleep.

I keep thinking of a film I saw on Free Speech TV last night- "Orwell Rolls in His Grave."

Variety evidently wrote:

Pic meticulously traces the process by which black may be turned into white, with frequent references totalitarian states both fictional and real -- Orwell's "1984" competes with Goebbels' theories on propaganda and blatant examples of Soviet revisionism for pride of place... Helmer Pappas (director of the fiction features "Now I Know," and "Some Fish Can Fly") forsakes all pretense of presenting both sides, since presumably the other side is promoted daily by radio, television and the press. Pappas offers like-minded journalists, media watchdogs, scholars and legislators who voice their deep concerns about the health of democracy in America... Pic largely relies on talking heads, but the conviction and punch of the interviewees' commentary, leavened with pertinent excerpts from a lively Michael Moore speaking engagement, never becomes tedious. Graphs showing the income of the middle-class lamely flatlining while that of the upper-class climbs off the page are accompanied with shocking government figures of a 9% increase in middle-class income verses a 140% increase at the top...

But that's a lame review. Here's a better one:

Take the following items:

  • The original "October Surprise," in 1980. Sourced better than the first Lebanese story on "Arms for Hostages," (and considered matter of fact in places like Israel and France) it still remains taboo in America to suggest that Republicans back in 1980 may have committed treason; it's never been fully explored in the US...

  • The 2000 election. From the suppression of Bush's stock scam in Harken to the shenanigans of the Freepers to the evidently outright stealing of that election.

  • The 2002 election. The airbrushing out of the Voter News Service.

  • The 2004 election. The exit polls said - yet again- the Democrat won. The US and the US media the same reason to overturn the fraudulent vote in the Ukraine.

  • The attack on Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV and Valerie Plame.

  • The 9/11 report whitewash...

As "Orwell Rolls in His Grave" makes abundantly clear, if this happened in the Ukraine or Nicaragua, the US would call these the workings of a dictatorship. And rightly so.

Nobody but somebody who is ideologically blinded cannot see that one of these things might be tin foil hat thinking, but all of them - and the results to date: an oil industry hack becoming president and - surprise, surprise! - a tripling of oil prices- can't but suggest one thing: the present government is as legit as a 3 dollar bill.

And, at the rate they're going, will be thought of by the rest of Americans as that.

And so I guess it's time to effect a change in America for the better: the restoration of democratic rule to America.

The question is how...

Perhaps Cindy Sheehan has the right idea, but her schtick would have to be done on a wider scale to be effective: if one million people were peacefully camped out on the Washington Mall every day, this government, one way or another, would quickly become as illegitimate in the eyes of Americans as that of the Ukraine before its government toppled, or Tiananmen Square. My concern, thought, is - like the "Bonus Wars" government power might be brought in to violently "overthrow" the Tiananmen Square.

We will have to take back Congress. We will have to have legitimate elections.

I really don't know how this might be effected today without a massive "People Power" movement in America. But thanks to the ideologues on the right, this might just happen.

I was taught we were a free country in school. May we again be free.

I know righties will say reflexively "Tin Foil Hat!" and the like.

To which I say, "Look at the results. That pain in your wallet from high energy prices? You either voted for it because it fooled you or it stole its way into your wallet. Do your own research. Don't believe one film, one story in a magazine. Look at the foreign media. Check references. Find out!"

The market's been voting my way for quite a while now; if you believe that nonsense about markets as decision makers than it's clear that the present government has tanked the US economy.

When will you wake up?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Here's an article certain to cause controversy...


According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its “spiritual capital”. But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.

The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, reports: “Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.

“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

“The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”

Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist, used data from the International Social Survey Programme, Gallup and other research bodies to reach his conclusions.

He compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide and teenage pregnancy.

The study concluded that the US was the world’s only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from “ uniquely high” adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates, the study suggested.

Mr Paul said: “The study shows that England, despite the social ills it has, is actually performing a good deal better than the USA in most indicators, even though it is now a much less religious nation than America.”

He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was compared with other countries, including France, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. These nations had been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, he added.

Mr Paul delayed releasing the study until now because of Hurricane Katrina. He said that the evidence accumulated by a number of different studies suggested that religion might actually contribute to social ills. “I suspect that Europeans are increasingly repelled by the poor societal performance of the Christian states,” he added.

He said that most Western nations would become more religious only if the theory of evolution could be overturned and the existence of God scientifically proven. Likewise, the theory of evolution would not enjoy majority support in the US unless there was a marked decline in religious belief, Mr Paul said.

“The non-religious, proevolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator.

“The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.”

I do think this is merely Blake's dictum that "Prisons are built with the Stones of Law, Brothels with the Bricks of Religion."

I also think this is basically a reflection of the dualistic nature of monotheism, frankly.

What will we tell the children?


"Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, 'Of Pandas and People,' is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves..."

So, it actually involves apparently intentional misrepresentation of science? That's pretty honest of them.

Today's post...

  • Yesterday, there was a clip of Dalai Lama was on The Daily Show, mentioning "karma" in connection with "Katrina." No, folks at TDS, the poor are not solely to blame.

  • Surprise, surpise. The White House "doesn't see a lot of merit" in calls to delay the nasty new bankruptcy law's effective date but was considering making "allowances" for hurricane victims.

  • Good energy diary on Kos. Again.

  • Here's the website for Clark County (WA) Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Here's the website for "Lifepac" - a Republican front group?

  • Will the war porn go down the memory hole?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sunday, September 25, 2005

More cronyism in the Bush regime, and why it bugs me...

Thinkprogress notes a blurb in Time magazine noting that at some top places in the Federal government, connections come before qualifications.

I am reminded of a company that used to employ me; at the time, crucial funding was given over to jobs and employees who were connected, regardless of whether they fit the company's mission or were qualified.

There was nothing- nothing- so poisionous to the morale of the qualified, and nothing as sure to send them out the door as the very appearance of unqualified people in high positions or being given favors regardless of performance.

I saw the best and brightest people leave -those who stayed did so for family reasons, and bless 'em, a few of 'em even prospered. But others prospered by walking away. I did, and I did.

This Bush regime - it's welfare for the connected, for you righties who can't see through it.

You've elected a government of welfare queens.


Let's get the facts on Today's Military....


THE camera tracks a mother's field of vision as she hovers over a checkbook and a calculator lying on her kitchen table. She looks up as her daughter, a young African-American woman, sits down to speak with her.

"Look Mom, if I decide I still want to be a doctor when I get out, I'll have had four years experience as a nurse or an X-ray tech or an O.T. specialist working with real patients," the daughter says, speaking directly into the camera and into her mother's eyes. "That's why I want to enlist in the military; it'll be good for my career. What do you think? Mom?"

Block letters spelling out "Your Turn" rise across the daughter's face. But before the mother's response can be heard, the advertisement fades to white and displays the address of the Defense Department's military recruitment Web site. A no-nonsense voice-over then weighs in, offering advice to parents: "Make it a two-way conversation. Get the facts at"

With the brutal realities of the ground war in Iraq contributing to a well-publicized drop-off in recruitment, the federal government will roll out a sophisticated and expansive marketing campaign on Oct. 17 that will rely on advertisements like this one to convince parents - mothers in particular - that military service remains a wise choice for their children.

Well, I went to that site above- and couldn't find what I found in an earlier edition of this book:

Studies during World War II indicated that as after as few as 100 to 200 days of combat stress, the average infantryman is a mental and physical wreck, incapable of further purformance. Most infantrymen don't survive that long. With a minimum daily casualty rate of 2 percent, the chances of keeping body and soul together for 150 days are slim.

The Standard of Living at the Front

It is very low. The overriding goal is not to get hit with flying objects. This requires being inconspicuous, as what the enemy can't see he can't shoot at, at least not deliberately...[M]ost infantrymen live like hobbits, underground. At that, it's an uneasy life. There's much work to be done. Positions must be prepared and maintained...Enemy fire and Mother Nature conspire to keeep everything dirty, damaged, and on the verge of breakdown.

About 10% of all casualties are attributed to combat fatigue1 the cumulative effect of little sleep, poor food, ...dreary living conditions, and the constant threat of random death or mutiliation. If it rains, you usually get wet. If it stays damp, you are in constant danger of all those afflictions that arise from constant exposure, like trench foot (your toes literally rot). If it's a tropical climate, you can rot all over...Staying clean is nearly impossible, as you are living in the dirt...

Now of course "today's army" has a different mission, but there's still people shooting at them. Funny how the US military website doesn't mention that in big bold letters...

1. "Combat fatigue" of course is a big hazard- and can, if severe result in catatonia...The "Today's Military" site left that one off, too.

Location, location location

A rather amusing article in the Week in Review section tries to underscore a feeling of impotence in Americans:

So how much can Americans cut back on their driving? How much time behind the wheel is discretionary?

Consider that the average American household used its cars and trucks for 496 shopping trips in 2001, according to an exhaustive survey of 160,000 Americans conducted by the Transportation Department. Trips were 7.02 miles in length, on average, for a total of 3,482 miles per household per year. That much driving could almost get you from New York to Juneau, Alaska, give or take a few hundred miles.

That's a lot farther than in 1990, when the average household's shopping trips could only get you from New York to Denver. Part of the difference stems from the fact that the length of an average shopping trip was 5.1 miles in 1990. Blame greater suburban sprawl for longer trips these days.

But the average household also took just 341 shopping trips in 1990, back in a pre-latte era when there were just a few dozen Starbucks stores and coffee was something to be brewed at home. People are now taking more shopping trips than trips to and from work.

Of course, determining how driving miles are put to use through surveys is hardly an exact science...

In Texas, traffic on the Trinity Railway Express, which links Dallas to Fort Worth, was up 16.4 percent for the first four weekdays of September compared with the same period a year earlier. St. Louis reported a 17 percent increase in mass transit ridership from April to June, compared with a year ago. In San Francisco, traffic on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system was up almost 4 percent during the first two weeks of September, compared with a year ago, and Sept. 15 was the busiest day for the system in a year.

"These are probably the highest growth levels in four decades," said William W. Millar, the president of the public transportation association, a nonprofit group representing transit authorities across the country.

Drivers can only bend so far, however.

"People can't change where they live," said Richard Porter, an economics professor at the University of Michigan. "They can't change where they work, and there aren't any clear substitutes to gas. You can't run your car on much else. It's not like switching from oranges to grapefruits."

Umm...we're the most uprootable population in the industrialized world.

The real issue is the 'burbs we designed on the assumption of cheap fossil fuels.

Seems like there's an answer to that.

It has to do with real estate...

Liberal Hollywood?

In attempting to meet my son's wish to watch a Godzillla video this morning, I have had to watch "coming attractions" for long forgotten films.

One such film was "Anacondas," which clearly features a typical Hollywood story line: explorers try for something "they're not supposed to get," and get roughed up by "Big Forces."

Which made me think...outside of Reds, there's been very few films that have departed from this story line.

In particular, while there's the occaisonal film about those who steal and get away with it (that horrible remake of Oceans' 11- the original actually kept to the aforementioned story line), there's almost no films about those who try for something They're Not Supposed to Get, tangle with Big Forces, and crush the Big Forces, forcing a Fundamental Change. Except, of course, when it comes to Mel Brooks Gibson, and leading a revolution against the Brits or being Jesus.

I'd like to see a biopic about John D. Rockefeller and those times.

Might educate a few conservatives...

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Vancouver for Peace and Justice

Esther Short Park in Vancouver WA hosted its own celebration of peace and justice today; there were groups from the Democratic Party, the American Friends Service Committee, the Unitarians, the Presbytarians, the Ba'hais, the Buddhists, the Peace Corps (yes they were there), the Lutherans, the Congregationalists, the Muslims, the NAACP, AU, and a host of others.

We now have a Clark County chapter of Americans United. Cool. As Democracy for Vancouver notes, Royce Pollard's bad Koizumi does Yasukuni Shrine imitation with the Full Gospel Men's Fellowship might receive some attention now.

Now let me just say one other thing: these folks at the Vancouver for Peace and Justice Fair were nice people. I don't share all their views- for example, I think there ought to be a plan in place - made by people smarter and more ethical than Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney - that gets us out of Iraq before we just pull out, so as to minimize loss of life and maximize stability. There's ways to do that, and they need to be looked at.

Moreover, sometimes war is the answer- when you have to defend the lives of those around you. But war is a failure of policy, and only if conducted in such a way as to bring about its end will it result its continuance (common sense, unless you're a Republican).

But, given a hard choice between the Vancouver for Peace folks and the Bush/Cheney crowd, it's not even a contest. The Vancouver for Peace folks have the moral high ground, and want to move in the right direction, even though their tactics are wanting.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Now we know what happened to the folks in the jails in N. O.

Back on August 28 I wondered about the folks in the jails.

Now we know. It ain't pretty.

According to officers who worked at two of the jail buildings, Templeman 1 and 2, they began to evacuate prisoners from those buildings on Tuesday, August 30, when the floodwaters reached chest level inside. These prisoners were taken by boat to the Broad Street overpass bridge, and ultimately transported to correctional facilities outside New Orleans.

But at Templeman III, which housed about 600 inmates, there was no prison staff to help the prisoners. Inmates interviewed by Human Rights Watch varied about when they last remember seeing guards at the facility, but they all insisted that there were no correctional officers in the facility on Monday, August 29. A spokeswoman for the Orleans parish sheriff's department told Human Rights Watch she did not know whether the officers at Templeman III had left the building before the evacuation.

According to inmates interviewed by Human Rights Watch, they had no food or water from the inmate's last meal over the weekend of August 27-28 until they were evacuated on Thursday, September 1. By Monday, August 29, the generators had died, leaving them without lights and sealed in without air circulation. The toilets backed up, creating an unbearable stench.

"They left us to die there," Dan Bright, an Orleans Parish Prison inmate told Human Rights Watch at Rapides Parish Prison, where he was sent after the evacuation.

As the water began rising on the first floor, prisoners became anxious and then desperate. Some of the inmates were able to force open their cell doors, helped by inmates held in the common area. All of them, however, remained trapped in the locked facility.

"The water started rising, it was getting to here," said Earrand Kelly, an inmate from Templeman III, as he pointed at his neck. "We was calling down to the guys in the cells under us, talking to them every couple of minutes. They were crying, they were scared. The one that I was cool with, he was saying 'I'm scared. I feel like I'm about to drown.' He was crying."

Some inmates from Templeman III have said they saw bodies floating in the floodwaters as they were evacuated from the prison. A number of inmates told Human Rights Watch that they were not able to get everyone out from their cells.

Inmates broke jail windows to let air in. They also set fire to blankets and shirts and hung them out of the windows to let people know they were still in the facility. Apparently at least a dozen inmates jumped out of the windows. "We started to see people in T3 hangin' shirts on fire out the windows,"...

Human Rights Watch compared an official list of all inmates held at Orleans Parish Prison immediately prior to the hurricane with the most recent list of the evacuated inmates compiled by the state Department of Corrections and Public Safety (which was entitled, "All Offenders Evacuated"). However, the list did not include 517 inmates from the jail, including 130 from Templeman III.

Many of the men held at jail had been arrested for offenses like criminal trespass, public drunkenness or disorderly conduct. Many had not even been brought before a judge and charged, much less been convicted.

Speaking of Houston, a blast from the past...

The chaotic evacuation of a major metropolitan area brings to mind an event from over 25 years ago: the controversy over the Shoreham nuclear plant on Long Island, NY.

It was only concrete and steel, after all. A tangled mass of pipes and circuitry wrapped around a cavernous core of superheated water. A machine to harness the breakneck energy released when atoms are split in chain reactions, and to channel that energy into the prosaic chore of lighting lights and heating homes.

But the Shoreham Nuclear Power Station was never just a machine. Not to the people of Long Island, who made the 25-year saga of the doomed plant on Brookhaven's north shore the defining political struggle of the Island's modern era. Shoreham launched an anti-authoritarian brand of citizen activism that transformed local politics, especially in Suffolk County, and against all odds vanquished the massed power of the federal government, Wall Street and the electric utility industry, preventing a completed and fully licensed nuclear power plant from operating for the only time in American history...

Then, fatefully for Shoreham, the 1978 Three Mile Island reactor accident in Pennsylvania galvanized the anti-nuclear movement nationwide, and Shoreham became a focal point. On a rainy Sunday in June, 1979, 15,000 protesters showed up at Shoreham for the largest demonstration in Long Island history. Police made 571 arrests. Meanwhile, Three Mile Island prompted federal regulators to declare that operators of nuclear plants would have to work out evacuation plans in cooperation with state and local governments.

As opposition spread and electric rates soared, big cracks developed in what was formerly a united pro-Shoreham front among Long Island's political and business leaders. A key turning point came on Feb. 17, 1983, when the Suffolk Legislature flatly declared in a 15-1 vote that the county could not be safely evacuated. A few minutes before that vote, New York's newly elected governor, Mario Cuomo, ordered state officials not to approve any LILCO-sponsored evacuation plan.

The "liberal" newspaper Newsday supported Shoreham up to its demise (as you can tell from the tone of the article quoted above).

But the "activists" were right: evacuating a densely populated area like Long Island was an exercise in futility; it is a cautionary tale for those stuck in topographically and climate challenged areas like Houston are only now learning.

Houston: deja vu all over again...


HOUSTON, Sept. 22 - Heeding days of dire warnings about Hurricane Rita, as many as 2.5 million people jammed evacuation routes on Thursday, creating colossal 100-mile-long traffic jams that left many people stranded and out of gas as the huge storm bore down on the Texas coast.

Acknowledging that "being on the highway is a deathtrap," Mayor Bill White asked for military help in rushing scarce fuel to stranded drivers.

Mr. White and the top official in Harris County, Judge Robert Eckels, admitted that their plans had not anticipated the volume of traffic. They maintained that they had not urged such a widespread evacuation, although only a day earlier they invoked the specter of Hurricane Katrina, and told residents that the "time for waiting was over."

It's actually worse in Houston- it's something like 8X bigger than N.O.

Bottom line: the automobile is a clunky device with which to use to flee an urban area or a suburban area near a metropolis when a catastrophe is going to hit, when millions of your fellow citizens are doing the same.

Heh heh...there's tapes...

The good folk of Louisiana apparently had the foresight to tape their unsuccessful attempts to get help from FEMA.

The wheels just came off the attempt to knee-jerk blame Democrats by righties for the Katrina mess.

China Travel Tip...

American Express is known- in most countries- as the company supplying the best exchange rate.

Not so in China- in China, the best exchange rate is had by exchanging cash for yuan (renminbi) within the country itself; you get the "official" rate to within 3 decimal places. AMEX gives you the rate to within 2.

That's the beauty of state owned banks...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

You spoke too soon, Richard...

Richard Bennett is singing the praises of Houston as it tries to cope with Rita. But I suspect the folks in Houston don't think so. I really don't think so.

Meanwhile for those that want to ponder the karmic implications of all this (oil → CO2 → global warming → sea temperatures rising → stronger hurricanes forming → gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico → hitting oil rigs) here's a nice Kos diary on the oil situation.

Update: Richard Bennett thinks Houston is empty.

Evidently his source didn't go to the public housing projects.

Deja vu all over again...

Donahue versus O'Reilly

Phil makes felafel out of him.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Exercise, religion, and children...and heck, Halloweeen....

I suspect this blog has been a bit gloom and doom of late, so perhaps this post will provide some, er, "balance."

Yesterday, I took my son (age 4) to his first Tae Kwon Do class.

It was one of those "parent things." Doting parents outside the dojo beaming at their little precious ones executing kicks and punches in their gis.

What is odd is the cultural combinations that exist there; they count in Korean (well, I knew they'd do that), they bow to the American and Korean flags (the martial art was founded by a Korean general in the 50s) and much of what in other realms would be KWATSU! be expressed (somewhat clumsily) as "Focus! Discipline!"

But at the end of the day they know their stuff and I don't know it. At least I don't think I do. And my kid's having fun.

Now I suspect many conservative Christians have problems with the above (we were suprised to run into parents from his secular pre-school); after all, it does originate from Buddhism. And I, ultimately, am judging the teachers on the basis of their practice. Yeah, in a Buddhist sense. Yet frankly, in the Pacific NW, as the nights come early, I personally think that if you're not engaging your kid in a way like this, he's missing out. That is, if you can afford it. It's not like it's cheap.

I guess we really do need a Shaolin Temple in the neighborhood.

But if my son sticks with it, there is a Shaolin school somewhere around here. Or there's the people that trained under the classmate of Jet Li's. (You simply cannot believe what those kids can do...)

Well, at least Halloween's still free, more or less.

At the same time, I do find it odd that these traditions have to be culturally put in a blender and shaken because somebody's sensibilities one way or another might be offended. Yeah, I think it's a bit absurd to have a 4 year old kid bow to any flag, but at the same time I think it's even more absurd to deny a kid fun and discipline and expending calories furiously because the method of doing so is not politically or religiously correct.

Last Saturday the New York Times had an article on "Christian" yoga, and got a money quote from various religous experts, including apologetics flim-flam man Douglas Groothius (whose ideas were roundly debunked on the New York Times Religion boards a few years back):

"There is an element of superficiality or hypocrisy there," said Subhas R. Tiwari, a professor of yoga philosophy and meditation at the Hindu University of America in Orlando, Fla. "To try to take Hinduism or aspects of Hinduism outside of yoga is an affront. It's an act of insincere behavior."

Douglas R. Groothuis, a professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary, said that yoga was a Hindu practice structured to help people attain a higher spiritual state within, and that was incompatible with Christian teachings.

"I don't think Christian yoga works," he said. "It's an oxymoron. If it's truly Christian, it can't be truly yoga because of the worldviews."

The Vatican has also expressed misgivings about yoga. In a 1989 letter, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, said practices like yoga and meditation could "degenerate into a cult of the body."

These ideas if taken to their logical conclusions would consign people to - geez, I can't imagine what...

  • "To take Buddhism out of walking (kin hin) is an act of insincere behavior..."

  • "I don't think Christian chanting works," he said. "It's an oxymoron..."

  • Practices like being a couch potato practices could "degenerate into a cult of the body."

  • Above all, don't just sit there and do nothing. You'll wind up practicing shikan taza! (That is, the Zen practice of "just sitting."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Let's not be disningenuous...

Of course the Democrats are right for not being part of the Katrina whitewash.

But Kos, you know as well as I do why the Republicans are so afraid of an independent commission.

It's because the Bush regime is corrupt to its core, with dots that connect right to Tom DeLay, and his fondness for what appears to be to be slave labor -somebody else's of course, not his.

And finally- this point is so obvious it is amazing nobody's making it- Katrina reinforces the "My Pet Goat" meme of Bush.

It's a heck of a lot easier for Mr. and Mrs. Joe Sixpack to believe that Bush really was asleep at the wheel in August 2001, and totally ignored the PDB of August 6, just like he was in August 2005.

At the rate things are going, though, there will be an investigation, albeit in 2007.

I'd wager that even the most dyed in the wool conservatives wouldn't mind getting these suspected felons out of power at least long enough to have a credible authority to bring them to justice.

Update: Even Michelle Malkin is decrying the rampant cronyism in the Bush regime. Which is kind of absurd; I mean this is simply the style Bush carried over from before he was Texas governor. She should have known who she was supporting before she did so. Actions have consequences, you know.

That about wraps it up for the "buses abandoned in N.O." chestnut

FEMA screwed up.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I'm convinced; it's indeed price gouging by the oil companies

FAIR's Counterspin makes an excellent point or two: new refineries weren't built for 20 years because it was for that long that demand for gasoline was down significantly enough that the oil companies wanted prices to increase to make them (more) profitable.

Listen to the whole thing

There's a Barbera Bush joke in there somewhere...


FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford has appointed a man who has spent the majority of his career in the office of veterinary medicine to the position of acting director of the Office of Women's Health at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

But he's not the only vet...

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Lester M. Crawford announced today the appointment of Rear Admiral Linda R. Tollefson to the position of Assistant Commissioner for Science. Most recently, RADM Tollefson served as Deputy Director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). In her new position, she will also serve as Coordinator for Commissioned Corps Affairs at FDA and direct FDA’s Offices of Women's Health and Orphan Products Development

Video link of Hitchens - Galloway debate...


Galloway won.

Update: I missed Juan Cole's retort to Hitchens here, but it is well worth reading. Hitchens came off as disingenuous, especially when confronted by Galloway about "evil" versus "more evil."

Where's the money?

The NY Times today posts an article on financial blogging today, including one on people describing their net worth.

It should come as no secret that I have been putting it where I've recommended it: in oil, in emerging markets, and betting against the dollar long term.

I've also said, from a political perspective, as to why these investments make sense (and they've been doing quite well, too.)

It would be interesting to see luminaries of left, right, and center disclose similar leanings.

Where does Rush Limbaugh stash his money when he's not paying for Oxycontin? Duncan Black? Hugh Hewitt?

I'd suspect that if folks really knew where Limbaugh was investing his money that they'd think twice about his opinions...

Saturday, September 17, 2005

About Roberts:

If John Roberts doesn't have the testicles to say where he stands on issues, he shouldn't be on the court. Period.

He'll probably be confirmed, but it is a scandal for the United States.

Where was man?

I was led to this story

ven as the political debate split between those who focused on who was to blame and those who moved straight to What Must Be Done?, so did the spiritual debate as well. You can reliably expect, as the initial shock of a disaster passes, a revival of the familiar question, Why God Lets This Stuff Happen. The survivors often say God saved them—how many baby girls will be named Katrina?—but if he chose to save the living, did he choose to kill the lost? It is an occasion for atheists to remind believers of the flaws in the case for a benevolent God, and even the most mainstream pastors acknowledge that at times like this they are pressed for answers about how a loving God lets hateful things happen. "Of course, this makes us doubt God's existence," declared the Archbishop of Canterbury after the Asian tsunami, before calling his country to deeper prayer. The search for answersis part of the natural journey of faith; it is a mystery beyond our understanding, or a part of a larger plan, or the price we pay for free will, or God's tap on the shoulder, calling us to attention and mercy.

With the deepest sympathy for those who are suffering, you still have to wonder why this debate erupts so violently every time the winds howl and hurl water out of their way; God whispers as well as shouts, and mystery comes in all sizes. On any given day in between, an innocent child somewhere is struck by lightning or disease or drowns in the soft frozen river or starves in the drought-wracked desert. Do we only wonder why God lets people die en masse but are content not to ask so long as they die quietly, one at a time? Or wonder how we are called to help only when the need is so pressing it squeezes us out of our very chairs?

While it's standard Time pseudo-profundity, the answer is really quite simple, and Bill Maher (follow the links below) got it.

Bill Maher is right...

There is culpability in the right for Katrina.

And he's also right when he says something to the effect that if you care more about what gays do in private than in the melting of the polar ice caps, you're part of the problem.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Back in America, land of George W. Bush...

I've always said you should always book your airline flights with a carrier just after it crashes; and so it is with the Department of Homeland Security. For some bizarre reason (related to Katrina?) entry into the US was a breeze, with polite officials (but still suboptimal line routing- you'd think these folks would go into a Burger King in Brooklyn or any bank with a "Wait in line for next available teller" to see how it's done. (That actually speeds up your time in line on the average.)

Anyhoo, back to Bush...I read Bush's speech, and saw the blogs briefly in Beijing before I got on the plane. I was shocked that Bush dodged responsibility yet again!...

The storm involved a massive flood, a major supply and security operation, and an evacuation order affecting more than a million people. It was not a normal hurricane – and the normal disaster relief system was not equal to it.

It's normal for a guy who's a political hack to be running FEMA?

These people have no shame.

5K for people? That's nothing.

And this part stinks to high heaven:

To help lower-income citizens in the hurricane region build new and better lives, I also propose that Congress pass an Urban Homesteading Act. Under this approach, we will identify property in the region owned by the federal government, and provide building sites to low-income citizens free of charge, through a lottery. In return, they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity.

I wonder what that property is or was. The FBI? Half of the Federal Reserve Bank of New Orleans? The INS? The Post office? The EPA? The implication here is that either this is all bullshit, or Bush is using this to basically shut down vital Federal government services that would understandably be needed in a major city.

More giveaways to businesses have only increased poverty in the US. I read in Newsweek that the percentage income received by the poorest 10% of the population is on a par with China; Japan diverts about 2X more of its income to the poorest 10% (and is number 1 in this regard), as far as the countries Newsweek reported on.

This is just more of the same.

Josh Marshall reports on the Rove outrage du jour (Really! I can't believe this! These people have no shame.) And this one from Marshall is simply stunning. Why it was those damned environmental groups litigating that caused the levees to fail...Un-believable.

Travel Tips....

  • T-Mobile's service at SFO sucks. Avoid it if you can.

  • When confronted by people hawking objects in foreign countries with a little command of English, an absurd response that triggers cognitive dissonance will give you the needed time to get away; e.g.:

    Hawker: You want DVDs?
    Traveler: Saxophone!

  • United's service is declining preciptously. I am seriously reconsidering my frequent flyer status with them. Am hoping ANA buys their foreign routes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"Ideas have consequences", part II

I started discussing this theme below, but having seen the exchange between DarkSyde and Joe Carter, I thought an update is in order.

On the aforementioned link, I stressed the primacy of practice over a large list of beliefs; the crucial belief needed, to the extent that it is one (since it's founded on a great deal of experience and observation), is a belief that one can improve things and one's self, that one can become more skillful.

Coincidentally, a report from the Congressional Research Service pretty much debunks much of what the rightwing blogosphere has been saying to shift the blame away from Bush, on the same day that he sort of "took responsibility" ("In saying he took responsibility for any failures of the federal response to the storm, Mr. Bush stopped short of acknowledging that he or anyone else had made mistakes").

While I wouldn't have used all the words DarkSyde did, his point is correct: some people tried to mitigate disaster within their capability. Another group of people did nothing to mitigate disaster even though it was within their capability to do so. They are thus, within what I was brought up to understand about Christian morality, guilty of a sin of omission. And sins of commission: we expect our government money to be spent wisely, not wasted on the salaries of hacks and their wasteful actions. In saying, "I've got this belief system I got from God," too many people have forgotton that what makes the world better or worse in terms of meeting people's needs is not so much a laundry list of beliefs, but the choices one makes to act.

I don't think it's necessarily fair to blame Carter for not blogging about the storm; it's his damned blog, he can do what he likes.

But - as somebody who supported Bush- he shares a small bit of responsibility for putting into office a man who used the government - time and time and time again- as his friends' personal piggy bank.

It's not a failure of government, as Carter claims; but it is his failure to recognize that in striving for "absolutes" he has done his part ot give us a more corrupt government than anything than anyone since at least Reagan.

In striving for a "moral government" with "Christian influence" Carter, and as many of his fellow travelers who voted based on "abortion and gays and Bush is a Christian" have seriously aided and abetted the deterioration of the United Stats.

Silly argument for creationsim


The movie is "March of the Penguins," and of all the reactions it has evoked, perhaps the most surprising is its appeal to conservatives. They are hardly its only audience; the film is the second highest grossing documentary of all time, behind "Fahrenheit 9/11."

But conservative groups have turned its stirring depiction of the mating ordeals of emperor penguins into an unexpected battle anthem in the culture wars...

To Andrew Coffin, writing in the widely circulated Christian publication World Magazine, that is a winning argument for the theory that life is too complex to have arisen through random selection.

"That any one of these eggs survives is a remarkable feat - and, some might suppose, a strong case for intelligent design," he wrote. "It's sad that acknowledgment of a creator is absent in the examination of such strange and wonderful animals. But it's also a gap easily filled by family discussion after the film."

The fact that there's a substantial death rate from frozen penguins and penguin eggs doesn't make a case for "intelligent" "design."

It's cold in Antartica; if penguins hadn't evolved to the point where they or their DNA gain a propagation advantage from sitting on their eggs in the dead cold of an Antarctic winter it would be a picture of absurdity.

But it shows that some people see something in anything...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Judicial Extremism from the 4th Circuit...

I missed this because, well, I'm in China:

The panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., threw out a ruling by a trial judge in South Carolina that Mr. Bush had overstepped his bounds by detaining Jose Padilla, a Chicago native, for three years...

In an opinion written by Judge J. Michael Luttig, who has been considered by President Bush for a nomination to the Supreme Court, the panel said Mr. Bush had the right to detain Mr. Padilla as an enemy combatant under the powers granted the president by Congress after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon.

"The exceedingly important question before us is whether the president of the United States possesses the authority to detain militarily a citizen of this country who is closely associated with Al Qaeda, an entity with which the United States is at war," Judge Luttig wrote. "We conclude that the president does possess such authority," citing the Congressional authorization.

Lutting- darling of folks like Hugh Hewitt bases his opinion to hold Padilla on the United States "being at war" with al Qaeda.

Ummm...when did Congress declare war? Is Lutting declaring war?

War is when war is declared; that would be a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

Moreover, if we are at war, how come they can't try Padilla for treason or espionage or conspiracy to commit murder?

I think the answer to that question's quite simple, and something that Lutting and the Feds don't want discussed: the detainment of Padilla has probably put in jeopardy the Feds' ability to try him.

Tiananmen Square ....the media didn't get it 50 years ago...

Yesterday, off to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City...and then again in the evening as our search for Peking Duck led us to a restaurant that was, indeed, the best Peking duck I have ever had in my life.

Tiananmen Square is huge. I cannot convey the sense of hugeness of the place.

A conventional theory about Tiananmen square is that it was built this way to allow easy defense of state buildings (like e.g., in Warsaw). That may or may not be true, but what is undoubtedly also true is that if defense was all they were after when they built this stuff, they would have done it differently- it's quite a walk to get from one place to the other. The place is certainly too big for humans -especially walking humans. Ergonomics and the easy flow of pedestrians from point A to point B was not an overriding design concern of Tiananmen square.

No, there was something else afoot, and you can catch a hint of that in the massiveness of the "Great Hall of the People" off to the side of Tiananmen square. The purpose of this design is political. This (that is in the square) is where Mao held mass rallies, with untold (or, uh, I forgot how many) hundreds of thousands of people in Mao suits chanting political slogans in unision.

"Hundreds of thousands of people in Mao suits chanting political slogans in unision" is exactly the image of the "Communist Chinese" that was reported to the Western media throughout the 50s-80s. This image also conveyed with it the meme of "everyone thinking identically," "everyone behaving in an organized manner," and so forth. One can imagine the Western reporter being cloistered in a hotel such as this one (trying to find radical Chinese cuisine -heck, at least broiled snake- is something beyond the skill set of the concierge, evidently) seeing the images in Tiananmen sqaure, and writing back about "what a threat" Communism was.

But it was based on a completely nonsensical notion of how Chinese behave.This country has probably always been, on a rubber-meets-the-road personal level, the closest thing to anarchy I've ever witnessed. It just seems like the national psyche is to engage first, with enthusiasm, and without necessarily paying attention. So Mao's Tiananmen square, I suspect, was his and his regime's attempt to herd cats. Lots of cats.

He wasn't the first, either; the same principle of grandeur on an otherwise unimaginable scale was the notion of the Forbidden City; in fact, Tiananmen Square in being where it is, is Mao's critique on the forbidden city; rather than centralizing attention on a palace, attention is "centered" on the diffused "bigness" of the huge concrete plain that is bordered by the National Museum, the Great Hall of the People, Mao's tomb, and the Forbidden city. Whereas there was in the forbidden city a balanced dichotomy (with attempts at "harmonization," but still a dichotomy) between "where the people were" and "where the emperor was," in Tiananmen Square, except for the part in the forbidden city that holds Mao's picture, (which is small actually- tiny from much of the concrete plain)attention is mostly diffuse; Mao's picture, regardless of whatever you can say, just isn't as preopossessing and awe inspiring (at least to this westerner)as the big place immediately north where the emperor used to live.

The media reported the crowds, the slogans, and didn't really see what this was all about. It was about a government declaring its legitimacy in stone and architecture and function. But it wasn't a comprehensive experience of the Chinese people- probably everybody in China got that; and our media?

Well, if you want to see that go back and read the papers from those times at your local library, if there is indeed a local library near you that hasn't been privatized yet.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Beijing Blogging....and the environment...

Where I'm staying in Beijing, well, it's certainly China, but on the whole I'd rather be in Shanghai. Beijing's air is noticably dirty even at 3 in the morning; which is to say it smells like an industrial city. I've yet to see the the Mao body.

That said, the media availability here is, shall we say, interesting. If you can read this, I can post to my blog but it seems that is hard to get to.

OTOH, I can read Mossback Culture. I guess they don't think his words are going to undermine the stability of the present government anytime soon.

OTOH, I have no problem reading Kos, so maybe it's just a server thing. Little Green Footballs? No problemo.

Two items appeared side by side in the Japan Times yesterday. I don't know whether you were able to see in America, a juxtaposition of articles which has the same theme... First item:

Three Superfund toxic waste sites in and around New Orleans were flooded by Hurricane Katrina and one remains underwater, Environmental Protection Agency officials said yesterday, adding that they will soon start investigating whether hazardous materials are leaching into the environment.

Although the agency is focused on conducting search-and-rescue missions and taking floodwater samples from the city at large rather than from waste sites, officials have begun to monitor the potential danger. The Agriculture Street Landfill in New Orleans, where city residents dumped their trash for decades, is still underwater. In the nearby suburbs, the Bayou Bonfouca site in Slidell, La., and the Madisonville Creosote Works site also sustained flooding.

Local environmental activists, who are concerned that two Superfund sites in neighboring Mississippi may also have sustained water damage, said federal authorities are not moving fast enough to assess the public health threat.

The uncertainties surrounding how the storm affected hazardous waste sites -- EPA administrator Steve Johnson said his agency had yet to determine if any of their protective shields had been degraded -- highlights the challenges facing any future cleanup. The Gulf Coast has long been a magnet for chemical plants and waste dumps, some of which shut down after becoming too contaminated in recent years.

Second item:

The federal government yesterday approved a $3.1 billion plan by a private corporation to store tens of thousands of tons of highlyradioactive nuclear waste on a Native American reservation in Utah, potentially removing a major obstacle to the nuclear industry's ambitions for renewed growth.

The move paves the way for the industry to circumvent a lengthy political stalemate over a proposed public nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada and could rid dozens of overcrowded nuclear plants around the country of the need to store radioactive products that will remain dangerous for centuries...

The decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to grant a license for the facility cemented a pact made nearly a decade ago between strange bedfellows: utility behemoths that wanted to get tons of radioactive waste off their hands and an obscure Native American tribe that was willing to offer its land in exchange for a still-undisclosed sum of money.

While public waste storage plans such as Yucca Mountain have been plagued by political maneuvering and not-in-my-back yard fights in Congress, Private Fuel Storage, the company that will build the new facility, successfully argued that its agreement was between a private corporation and a sovereign tribe and therefore not subject to the same degree of public review. Environmental groups and the state of Utah have tried repeatedly to intervene but have failed...

The terms of the company's arrangement with the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians have not been disclosed. Silberg said that was proprietary business information.

"If I were storing canisters of rock for someone else, you would not necessarily have the right to get that information," he said. Storing nuclear waste is no different except when it comes to safety issues, he added, and those have involved lengthy public deliberations and thousands of pages of documents.

Let's review the bidding here: Aside from all the brouhaha about he levees, Superfund sites have made New Orleans a city-sized toxic waste dump, thanks to years of neglect and underfunding...and the same folks who didn't want corporations to take responsibility for toxic waste now tell us that it's a private matter, not subject to review (does that include regulatory review?) for storing nuclear waste.

Does anybody else see a "making the same mistakes and expecting different results" scenario or is it just me?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Poll after poll confirms it:

George W. Bush is one of the most unpopular presidents in modern history.

I remember when Jimmy Carter was president- the press was merciless- and Carter had higher approval ratings than George W. Bush has now.

My recollection is somewhat fuzzy, but I think Carter's record deserved at least some of the drubbing he got in the press.

George W. Bush has been orders of magnitude worse: Carter was dead on damned right with energy. (Contrary to right wing crap beings spewed now, the windfall profits tax and odd/even rationing dried up the long gas lines in a heartbeat. Carter gets credit for making gas available, sorry righties. I was there.)

I didn't vote for Carter in 1980 (voted for Barry Commoner) because Carter was too right wing for me. Shoreham and Three Mile Island were big issues then.

I do wish the press were more balanced, reported more about Bush - the Time Magazine scandal involving not reporting on Rove's involvement in the Plame affair is just one example- but it's time - high time- the press at least represented Bush as an unpopular president, because that's exactly what he is.

Tokyo Blogging... last day...

My son has made his demand: a plastic sword. So off to Asakusa, where plastic swords, as well as "imitation" swords (with prices up to over $1000.00) with real sharp edges I don't ask for an explanation- my Japanese would quickly fall off a cliff, and English...well, as they say, fuggedaboutit.

I could have spent the day in Tokyo, but in the afternoon, after a lunch at a Chinese place that couldn't be beat (Japanese Chinese food, of course, is not Chinese Chinese food, but more like American Chinese food done really really well and really really costly) I head back to Makuhari, Chiba, where my hotel is located.

Koizumi will win the election; the New Democratic Party is desparate enough to hand me a flyer...

Back at the hotel, a BBC show is playing on the surviving kids of the Beslan terrorist attack. A child is putting toys and pouring a bottle of Sprite on a tomb of another child, as an offering to him. The children of Beslan have been brutally scarred by this event.

Likewise, the wounds of New Orleans will heal for many folks, but for others, this is a catastrophe beyond words. The firing of the FEMA head - oh, I forgot, he was "removed" to Washington- will not erase the wounds, of those who have lost everything, who have lost loved ones, who are completely displaced. It was a Beslan by neglect on a massive scale.

This is what happens when mindfulness is not practiced.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"Ideas have consequences"

is one of the favorite sayings of the right, especially conservatives.

I have been fascinated by this meme since it was spun in the Clinton years by folks like degenerate gambler Bill Bennett.

"Ideas have consequences" is not the meme I grew up with. That would have been actions have consequences. The idea that ideas have consequences seems to indicate that some ideas have consequences just for being thought, but as Bob Dylan famously pointed out, "If my thought dreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine."

What is really true is that ideas that are translated into actions or omissions of actions indeed have consequences.

But I think some folks just think "Don't think that thought! Don't think that thought!"

That's what came into my head in response to Razorskiss' reply here to his post here.

Now this "armchair commentator" - that would be me- (who had good friends endure Bush's mercies in Manhattan after 9/11, and who lost a high school classmate - albeit not a close one -in the Towers AND cleaned up his share of hurricane damage when he lived on Long Island - Gloria was a pain in the butt) says that because of statements he makes like this:

I have people like him in my "Ripostes" section, with a content warning, for a reason. Times like this are why.

which is subtitled "Read at your own risk." ...Thoughts are dangerous, you know.

Especially, evidently, if they bring to bear unpleasant facts that clash with one's beliefs.

People like Razorskiss voted for someone who claimed "moral beliefs" who really engaged in cronyism.

We New Yorkers and ex-New Yorkers saw it a mile away in a New York minute.

We tried to warn the rest of you.

But instead of listening (an action) and actively searching out the truth another action, you dared not risk finding out what has clearly led to the loss of great life and property.

And I'm not talking about just George W. Bush here; especially if the Governor and Mayor are culpable.

And we're talking about those who voted for him.

Thus, if Razorskiss dared to find out the truth, he'd have known - it was all over the progressive blogosphere, that the statement he made:

FEMA assists MEMA (or LOHSEP) in emergency *management* operations. They *assist*. They do not take charge, they assist!

is hogwash. FEMA, under law, can take charge. They should have. They failed to. They failed to coordinate.

I've seen enough of my share of bad situations, but this is an embarassment for America, and it is even more embarassing that some folks, who claim to be "religious" cannot dare to examine their conscience.

I feel very bad for all the folks who lost their lives and property in this disaster- everyone- but we've seen Bush regime damage control before, we've seen the ineptness before, we've seen the whitewashing before, and we know where the blame lies.

I wish Razorskiss luck in reconstruction (from his blog he was awfully lucky); unlike Charmaine Neville he didn't lose everything, but was helpling the "least of these" to the best of her ability.

Unfrickin' believable...

I cannot believe, that even at this date, some folks are still trying to blame the poor and/or African Americans traped in Louisiana for what went on...

Rx: See this video here, or if that link goes bad, read the transcript here.

After seeing that, anybody who's going to write off "those people" and "elements of their population," should wash their keyboard out with soap.

And as far as "sensationalizing," ...there's an estimated 40,000 dead bodies rotting in the streets and in the water in New Orleans.

That's 8-12X the number of people killed in the Kobe quake, at least 15X the number of people killed in the World Trade Center.

What planet do some people inhabit???

Powerline reverts to an excuse and a mantra...

Powerline basically says, "Look at all these bad things poor George W. Bush had to endure! But at least we have only 5% of people looking for work who are unemployed (who cares about those whose benefits ran out?) and there hasn't been a terrorist attack on American soil in almost 4 years..."

Well, that brings up a question: If there was another terrorist attack, or an earthquake, or an epidemic, does anyone honestly think FEMA could respond?

Does anyone think if something happened in the next few weeks that anybody would be anything other than screwed?

Americans agree, it seems. If there is another attack on American soil, Bush will have been a perfect failure.

The Republican Party is Antiamerican and Must Be Destroyed strongly denounced in order to make sure our liberties are preserved...

I am not kidding. I am all for a multiple political parties, and I am proliberty, and pro-civil liberties.

That's why any true American must demand that the Republican Party as we know it cease and desist.

Why? Because of this, (HT Atrios) and this. There simply is no excuse for this garbage. This is America. We do not censor the media here. We do not shut out opposition debate. We do not tolerate puppet governments acting at the behest of a leader.

Get out of town George W. Bush. You're a disgrace to the office.

And anyone who is a card-carrying member of the Republican party should be denied a security clearance, should be given exactly the same treatment that we gave Communists in the 1950s; it is patently obvious that those who support George W. Bush are a grave threat to the American way of life, and are a clear and present danger to the liberities of Americans.

Update: Evidently they've gotten a bit better with respect to press restrictions or maybe a "sea change".


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Remember the old canard about "Clinton's haircut on the runway delaying flights?"

It's false, of course, but, even if it were true, it would pale in comparison to chemotherapy being denied to cancer patients because Bush was doing a photo-op instead of attending to Katrina!

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 30 -- The Naval Medical Center in San Diego's Balboa Park was shut down to accommodate a visit by President George W. Bush Aug. 30, RAW STORY has learned, forcing patients to cancel chemotherapy treatments and hundreds of scheduled patient visits.

"The pharmacy is closed. The emergency room is closed. Even chemotherapy patients will not be allowed on base," the daughter of one patient told RAW STORY shortly before the President's arrival. "My mother is a patient...She was contacted and told that her appointment had been canceled and would be rescheduled later…All civilian personnel and patients will not be allowed on base."

Hundreds of patient visits were cancelled as a result, she said. Patients and staff at the Naval Medical Center voiced concern over the shut-down of non-critical patient care services for a photo op that never even materialized. None were willing to go on record by name for fear of retaliation, such as loss of jobs or revocation of healthcare privileges.

One hospital volunteer expressed shock and disappointment at the apparent disregard for patient welfare.

"I think it's disgusting. People who are getting chemotherapy or radiation are on a very set schedule. They are not supposed to miss a session or put it off by even a day, because it's based on the life cycle of a cancer cell," the volunteer said, adding that some patients had waited weeks for appointments. "Some had to postpone for quite a while, because the radiation and chemo rooms were full on other days," she added. "They closed everything down just so he [Bush] could have his photo op in the lobby with the corpsmen."

I was always one who loudly complained whenever Bush I, or Clinton visited NYC; they inevitably caused huge traffic jams; in my opinion, if they were better public servants they'd need a whole lot less "security."

But this is such a callous disregard for human life.

It ain't an imaginary 2 hours on a runway.

"Natural limits to what government can do..."

The above was what I took away from one of my commenters; the question I thought of was, just what are those "natural limits?"

Also, in my response to Greensmile I noted:

The thing that will bring down the United States if these people are not turned out of office is their complete contempt for the very notion of a social contract, that some notion of a society, that needs stability, must be encouraged, and cannot be "privatized."

In America, the rich and powerful have stability; the higher up on the food chain you are, the better you are able to insulate yourself against calamity. But the idea that government should at least try to avert calamity is alien to these people, and it is alien to them on ideological grounds, the same grounds that Stalinists used to justify their absurd economic system.

Now this isn't some newfangled idea - the idea of a social contract, that government can do things to avert at least some calamities and promote tranquility even for the most dispossesed, and for visitors to a country. It's thousands of years old...

As an opinion piece in the usually abysmal Washington Post put it:

The story begins in the usual manner, with the king asking his faithful minister, Gun, to save the country from rising waters. Unfortunately, Gun is an arrogant guy and thinks he can control nature. For nine years he labors, building dam after dam to stem the raging tide. As each dam falls apart, the waters rage ever stronger. Eventually, the king wises up, banishes Gun, and orders Gun's son, Yu, to have a go. A humble man, Yu quietly studies the problem and concludes that attempting to constrain nature is futile. Rather than build dams, he gently channels the flood waters into an irrigation system. The crops bloom, the waters recede, the people are saved and Yu is anointed king.

Americans seem not to know Yu's story, for we insist on defying nature. We blithely set sail on churning seas and fly into stormy skies. We build homes on unstable hillsides, and communities in woodlands ripe for fire.

Then they go on to say, "We rely on technology and the government's largess to protect us from our missteps, and usually, that is enough..." which is the whole problem: the people in charge don't think there should be "government largesse," nor should there be a promotion of harmony in society.

This story is not simply about floods - as is the New Orleans story itself, but it is about how it came to be, and who is responsible.

New Orleans sits at the base of the river in the US, where a great deal of traffic goes, even today, and near areas where oil is drilled and refined. It is, in fact, an epicenter of interstate commerce. Yet conservative ideologues who find any use of the interstate commerce clause repugnant, did nothing. And I'm not talking just Republicans here- the Democrats, too, have shifted so far to the right that the very idea of creating an infrastructure to work with nature - and to promote domestic tranquility and the commonwealth is "socialism" while the "American way" is a society where calamities on the scale Triangle Shirtwaist fires are the norm, about which "we just can't do anything."

We know other societies do some things better than ours; it's simply idiotic not to adopt those items from other societies that work.

More Bush regime mendacity...

What else can it be called?
With censoring the bad news, stealing resources for photo-ops, that delayed relief efforts, and outright, bald-faced lies in an attempt to take credit for something other people were doing (while Bush was on vacation and raising money), it is a wonder that people still think Dear Leader can do no wrong.

Update: This diary in Kos pretty much takes apart the "Bush told the mayor and/or governor to evacuate New Orleans" meme; if it were true, then it's a LIHOP (Let It Happen On Purpose) event.

There's a big difference between this and 9/11: there was -until the recent attempts at censorship- no double super secret cloak and dagger bullshit associated with this: it's all out in the open and a matter of public record what happened, and it simply can't be spun. (See the links here to see that it's slam dunk no doubt about it that FEMA screwed up, regardless of what state and local officials did.)

This post on Powerline is a good example of the uttler moral cluelessness coming from the right at present: Hindrocket is concerned with "Bush bashing," not trying to for a moment to think that there might be some responsibility by Bush (as well as state and local officials, where applicable) to this.

Trip Reading...

Wondering what to do on long plane flights, in the tradition of my father, who travelled to Asia about 60 times, I often purchase a book to read. Unlike my father, though, I don't go in for fiction novels that "pull you in" with cliffhanger endings and short chapters.

The book I bought for this trip was in Powell's at PDX, "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers," by Mary Roach. It was in the "science" section. I kid you not.

I give it two thumbs up. I read most of it on the plane; later, in a restaurant I reread a passage about cannibalism, and laughed so hard (both times) tears came to my eyes. It must have been especially strange in the restaurant; I hope the sushi chef wasn't offended. The passage in question concerned a report by Reuters conerning a certain pair of brothers in Hainan, China, one of whom owned a restaurant, and the other who owned a crematorium, and the author's attempt to verify the report. It's worth the price of the book for that passage alone.

Powerline screws up again...

They praise Bob Denver, but Maynard Krebs was a schlemiel. He did irreperable damage to the very idea of Thelonius Monk - who was a f*king genius.

I hope Bob Denver goes to a good place, but Maynard Krebs wasn't much of an epitome of Beat culture.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Bush is culpable...

Damned right: it's blame game time.

Though I suspect that Nagin and the governor might bear some blame themsleves.

And people who voted for Bush bear some blame to - they put him in office.

Blame for what?

Let's start with about 40,000 dead bodies:

A co-owner of Shelbyville-based Gowen-Smith Chapel has been deployed to Gulfport, Miss., to help with recovery since Hurricane Katrina, and his business partner here has described the grim task there.

"DMort is telling us to expect up to 40,000 bodies," Dan Buckner said, quoting officials with the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, a volunteer arm of Homeland Security.

His partner, Dan Hicks, of Paducah, Ky., was deployed Monday. Buckner, of Dickson, is on standby. Their funeral home is one of several collection sites for donations to be taken to the Red Cross in Fayetteville on Wednesday for transfer to places in need.

The 40,000 estimate does "not include the number of disinterred remains that have been displaced from ... mausoleums," Buckner told the Times-Gazette Monday.

(Usless and tasteless aside: I am reminded of an old episode of the Beverly Hillbillies where Granny is explaining about a "bunch of greens that weren't planted deep enough and at the first heavy rain there were greens all over the place" (paraphrase) to someone who thinks Granny is planning her funeral, and who thinks the greens are a family of Greens...)

And while they were dying, and while others were going hungry and thirsty, where was Bush?

Even as Katrina was bearing down on the Gulf Coast that Sunday night and early Monday, Aug. 28-29, and the National Hurricane Center was warning of growing danger, the White House didn't alter the president's plans to fly from his Texas ranch to the West to promote a new Medicare prescription drug benefit.

By the time Bush landed in Arizona that Monday, the storm was unleashing its fury on Louisiana and Mississippi. The president inserted into his speech only a brief promise of prayers and federal help.

He continued his schedule in California, and he didn't decide until the next day that he should return to Washington. But it took him another day to get there, as he flew back to Texas to spend another night at his home before leaving for the White House.

Once the president was in Washington, the criticism only intensified.

While a drowned New Orleans descended into lawless misery, Bush delivered remarks from the Rose Garden that were seen as flat and corporate. It was a sharp contrast to the commanding, empathetic president the public rallied around in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In a television interview, Bush said - mistakenly - that nobody anticipated the breach of the levees in a serious storm.

Even Monday's trip to the region was a redo, hurriedly arranged by the White House over the weekend after lukewarm response to Bush's first in-person visit to the Gulf Coast last Friday.

Bush had raised eyebrows on his first trip by, among other things, picking Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss. - instead of the thousands of mostly poor and black storm victims - as an example of loss. "Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house - he's lost his entire house - there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch," Bush said with a laugh from an airplane hangar in Mobile, Ala.

In the same remarks, Bush gave FEMA chief Brown - the face for many of the inadequate federal response - a hearty endorsement. "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," Bush said.

Later in Biloxi, Miss., Bush tried to comfort two stunned women wandering their neighborhood clutching Hefty bags, looking in vain for something to salvage from the rubble of their home. He kept insisting they could find help at a Salvation Army center down the street, even after another bystander had informed him it had been destroyed.

Let's call it his "Marie Antoinette moment." (HT: Americablog)

Bush's Mouthpiece claims the buck stops with Bush. Let's see him resign, then, OK?

Here's how it's done:

Joe Carter thinks apparently that expecting a government to take measures to keep citizens safe is a form of idolatry. Not so, Joe; this really comes down to basics.

Serendipitously the same evening I read Joe's post, I happened upon the Daily Yomiuri; this article appeared there:

TOKYO - (KRT) - Japan's Construction and Transport Ministry plans to send a team of ministry officials and experts to hurricane-ravaged New Orleans to conduct on-site research, a move aimed at studying safety measures for low-lying areas in Japan, according to ministry sources.

With Hurricane Katrina having submerged almost the entire southern U.S. city last week, the ministry has been alerted to the impact a major storm can have even on a major industrialized country, the sources said. The disaster has prompted the ministry to consider reviewing its flood control measures, they added.

Japan has a total of 1,169 square kilometers of area at or below sea level, including the Kanto Plain and the Osaka Plain. Above all, the Koto delta district along Tokyo Bay's waterfront is home to 3 million people, prompting fear of possible disasters similar to the one seen in New Orleans as a result of broken levees. In light of this, the ministry intends to dispatch personnel to New Orleans to try to determine the cause of the city's levee breaches.

New Orleans was flooded mainly because a levee near Lake Pontchartrain, north of the city, collapsed under eight-meter high waves.

Also in Japan, as sea-level zones run through big cities, so does damage from tidal waves. In 1959, a typhoon hit Ise Bay with a 5-meter-high storm surge that broke levees on the Nobi Plain in Nagoya and other cities, leaving more than 5,500 people dead or missing.

Following the deadly disaster, the then Construction Ministry tightened its flood control measures by building breakwaters and floodgates resistant to tidal waves caused by typhoons equivalent in strength to the one that devastated the Ise Bay area.

Now Japan was a poorer country in 1959, but their government tends to try to a) learn from its mistakes, and b) takes preventative measures, and so since '59, they apparently have been doing a good job at prevention.

Did the US Federal government send civil engineers to Kobe after the earthquake there?

Carter's response is nihilistic; it is better to have public officials take proactive measures and follow through on them, rather than relying on the ideology that "no government is best" and then take the consequences of dead people when catastrophes hit. It's idiotic to hide behind the ideology of "federalism" and "we can't do anything" when clearly there are things that can be done. They just weren't because too many people were snookered into thinking "government is the problem."

One other thing I'll add: in Japan and China people aren't generally bothered by typhoons; much of their hydrology and civil engineering already reflects a resistance to them. (I know this for a fact; I went through one in Osaka once. I was at a technical conference, and nobody stopped doing anything. Not even the lights went out. And it wasn't a wimpy storm either.) Japan, a small country with little plain area, doesn't have all that much area that's floodable compared to Louisiana.