September 1st, 2008

barack obama

Labor Day!

I was trying to think what to post for Labor Day, this day that honors the worker and heralds the movement toward fall and the return of children to school.  I know I think of sharpening my pencils and getting my files in order.  It feels like a new year, a fresh and motivated start.   Joe Riley from Panhala posts this poem today.  I think it beautifully expresses what this day is about.

El Dorado
Juncha slowly dying of jaundice
Or yellow fever or blight or jumbie or neighbour's spite,
No one knows why he turns the colour of cane.
Small boys come to peep, wondering
At the hush of the death-hut
Until their mothers bawl them out.
Skin flaking like goldleaf
Casts a halo round his head
He goes out in a puff of gold dust.
Bathed like a newborn child by the women.
Laid out in his hammock in the yard.
Put out to feel the last sun.
They bury him like treasure,
The coolie who worked two shillings all day
But kept his value from the overseer.
~ David Dabydeen ~
(Turner: New and Selected Poems)

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Paul Krugman

The disaster the Bush administration has brought to us.

Op-Ed Columnist

John, Don’t Go

Published: September 1, 2008

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good. Three years after Hurricane Katrina, another storm is heading for the Gulf Coast — and this has given Republicans a reason to cancel President Bush’s scheduled appearance at their national convention. The party can thus avoid reminding voters that the last man they placed in the White House did such a heckuva job that he scored the highest disapproval ratings ever recorded.

Instead, Mr. Bush is playing Commander in Chief. On Sunday morning the White House Web site featured photos of the president talking to Gulf state governors about Hurricane Gustav while ostentatiously clutching a red folder labeled “Classified.” On Monday, instead of speaking at the convention, reports suggest that Mr. Bush will address the nation about the storm.

And a report on suggested that John McCain might give a speech “from the devastation zone if the storm hits the U.S. coast with the ferocity feared by forecasters.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

Let’s start with that red folder. Assuming that the folder contained something other than scrap paper, is the planned response to a hurricane a state secret? Are we worried that tropical storm systems will discover our weak points? Are we fighting a Global War on Weather?

Actually, that’s not quite as funny as it sounds. Some observers have pointed out that daily briefings on preparations for Gustav, which should be coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency — which is, you know, supposed to manage emergencies — have been coming, instead, from the U.S. military’s Northern Command.

It’s not hard to see why. Top positions at FEMA are no longer held by obviously unqualified political hacks and cronies. But a recent report by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security said that the agency has made only “limited progress” in the area of “mission assignments” — that is, in its ability to coordinate the response to a crisis. So FEMA still isn’t up to carrying out its principal task.

That’s no accident. FEMA’s degradation, from one of the government’s most admired agencies to a laughingstock, wasn’t an isolated event; it was the result of the G.O.P.’s underlying philosophy. Simply put, when the government is run by a political party committed to the belief that government is always the problem, never the solution, that belief tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Key priorities are neglected; key functions are privatized; and key people, the competent public servants who make government work, either leave or are driven out.

The political cost of Katrina shocked the Bush administration into trying to undo some of the damage at FEMA, and it’s a good bet that the initial response to Gustav will be better (it could hardly be worse). But because the political philosophy responsible for FEMA’s decline hasn’t changed, the administration hasn’t been able to reverse the agency’s learned incompetence. Three years after Katrina, and a year past a Congressional deadline, FEMA still doesn’t have a strategy for housing disaster victims.

Which brings us back to the politics of the current storm.

Earlier this year Mr. McCain, as part of his strategy of distancing himself from the current administration, condemned Mr. Bush’s response to Katrina. If he’d been president at the time, he says, “I would’ve landed my airplane at the nearest Air Force base and come over personally.”

Um, that completely misses the point. The problem with the Bush administration’s response to Katrina wasn’t the president’s failure to show up promptly for his photo op. It was the failure of FEMA and other degraded agencies to show up promptly with food, water and first aid.

And let’s hope that Mr. McCain doesn’t jet into the disaster area in Gustav’s aftermath. The candidate’s presence wouldn’t do anything to help the area recover. It would, however, tie up air traffic and disrupt relief efforts, just as Mr. Bush did when he flew into New Orleans to congratulate Brownie on the work he was doing. Remember the firefighters who volunteered to help Katrina’s victims, only to find that their first job was to stand next to Mr. Bush while the cameras rolled?

To be fair, Republican plans to deal with Gustav by turning their convention into a “service event,” perhaps a telethon to raise funds for victims, are a good idea. So is the Obama campaign’s plan to mobilize its e-mail list to send aid and volunteers. But personal, voluntary aid is no substitute for an effective public response to disaster.

What we really need is a government that works, because it’s run by people who understand that sometimes government is the solution, after all. And that seems to be something undreamed of in either Mr. Bush’s or Mr. McCain’s philosophy.

barack obama

Peace -

The following comes from The Writer's Almanac today.   What is so striking to me is that the German people did not want war.  We must carefully watch where we are led, for we are responsible for what the country we belong to, does. 

from The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1939 that Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. The previous year, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had tried to prevent a war with Germany by allowing Hitler to take control of part of Czechoslovakia. But that compromise only encouraged Hitler to expand his power. He took control of all of Czechoslovakia, and then began to plan an invasion of Poland. He claimed that the only part of Poland he wanted was the city of Danzig, which he said was rightfully a German city.

And so, without making any formal declaration of war, Hitler ordered the invasion on this day in 1939. At the time, Poland had an army of 1.7 million men, and Hitler's invasion force consisted of only 800,000. But Hitler's army was the most advanced in the world. Whereas almost all of World War I had been fought on the ground, in the trenches, at a slow-motion pace, Hitler saw speed as the future of warfare. He began the invasion with dive-bombing planes, equipped with screaming sirens that would terrify the people on the ground. Then he sent in high-speed panzer tanks, which could drive over fences and destroy stone walls and buildings.

The Polish soldiers were completely outmaneuvered. In one of the battles, a group of Polish cavalrymen rode out on horseback with lances and swords to fight the German tanks, and they were slaughtered in minutes. The fighting lasted barely more than a month, and Hitler arrived in Warsaw for his victory parade on October 5, 1939. Fifty thousand Polish soldiers had been killed or wounded and 750,000 had become prisoners of war.

But back in Germany, people were not celebrating. Most Germans remembered the horrors of the First World War, and they didn't want to go through that again. Two days after the invasion began, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. American journalist William Shirer was in Berlin as a correspondent for CBS Radio, and he wrote in his diary that day, "It has been a lovely September day, the sun shining, the air balmy, the sort of day the Berliner loves to spend in the woods or on the lakes nearby. I walked the streets. On the faces of the people astonishment, depression. Stunned."

Back in New York City, the poet W.H. Auden was inspired by the news of war to write what became one of his most famous poems, "September 1, 1939," which begins,

"I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-Second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade."

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Nothing like honesty -

So, the only reason that it was revealed today that Palin's 17-year old daughter, who is a senior in high school,  is pregnant, is that there were rumors that the daugher was actually the mother of Palin's fifth child.  Wow!  I completely missed that.  I knew Sarah had said she didn't really look pregnant, but I assumed she was, and so now, that her daughter is five months pregnant, it is proof that yes, the latest child in the Palin family is the fifth child of Sarah Palin.

I'm certainly glad that has been cleared up.

We are also all supposed to be thrilled that the daughter is not having an abortion. 

Has no one in this family ever heard of birth control?

barack obama

Practical details -

I am starting to worry that there are not enough bedrooms in the White House if something should happen to John McCain,  and Sarah Palin should become president.

Maybe instead of asking for a job description for vice-president, she should have asked how big the house with which it comes.  She has five children, and now one, who is not yet eighteen and just beginning her senior year of high school will soon have a baby.  Even married, she and her new husband will probably need a place to live.   Is there room in the White House for this rapidly expanding clan?

barack obama

Amy Goodman interviewing Jon Stewart -

Here is a transcript of Amy Goodman interviewing Jon Stewart.

AMY GOODMAN: There were a number of preemptive raids throughout this weekend. As they were taking place, thousands of journalists were making the trip from Denver, where they were covering the Democratic National Convention, to here in St. Paul to cover the Republicans. One of those who just happened to be on our flight was Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s fake news program The Daily Show. I caught up with him next to baggage claim at the Minneapolis airport.

    JON STEWART: I thought it was a reasonable flight.

    AMY GOODMAN: You enjoyed the mixed nuts. Is that how you refer to your fellow passengers?

    JON STEWART: That is how I refer—well, when you go to a convention, it’s really the only way to refer to your fellow passengers. But it was nice to see everybody rolling on. You were just checking off organizations—AP, New York Times, radio, Democracy Now!

    AMY GOODMAN: What if the plane had gone down?

    JON STEWART: American discourse would have risen. I can’t even imagine the depths. It would have been like the senate, the Roman senate. The speeches that could have been given, the media that could have been attended to.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you think about the possibility that this convention will take place, the Republican convention, as a massive hurricane wallops the Gulf Coast?

    JON STEWART: Well, I’m surprised that God would send a hurricane to New Orleans when the Republican convention is here. So, clearly, all the gays are here, as we all know from the Larry Craig bathroom. So it’s just, I guess, a missed opportunity for God. But I guess He knows what He’s doing.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the image of President Bush here, when three years ago at this same time he was also not there?

    JON STEWART: You know, my guess is they’re going to work as hard as they can to create the illusion of concern this time. The illusion, of course.

    AMY GOODMAN: You mean, with a video behind them, a big screen of the hurricane happening?

    JON STEWART: My guess is they will fly him down there with some sort of crew, and—or they will say, you know, the President was supposed to speak today, but he just can’t, because he just cares so gosh darn much, and he’ll head down there and repair all the damage that’s been done. Wouldn’t it be nice if everything that he’s done wrong over these past eight years, he gets a redo, just as this goes along? Each night of the convention, maybe that will be the themes. The first night, he gets to redo Katrina. Tuesday night, maybe Iraq. You know, he’ll just get to redo each mistake.

    AMY GOODMAN: And the theme could still be “ready to govern.”

    JON STEWART: Yes. Almost—they just about got it down. They’ll get it.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of Sarah Palin?

    JON STEWART: It was interesting. I think, you know, Senator McCain has made it very clear that experience is his number one asset, and I think he went with that. Wait, are we talking about running a commercial fishery, or are we talking about governing? It was interesting.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you think she’ll get some Hillary delegates?

    JON STEWART: The ones that were voting for her purely on gynecological reasons, maybe, but I think politically, no.

    AMY GOODMAN: The evangelicals? Do you think that could shore up something McCain could not have gotten on his own?

    JON STEWART: Yeah, they seem very pleased. I’ve seen big smiles all day long on that. So that’s got to mean something.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what about this investigation they’re doing of Palin, the possibility that she fired her top—

    JON STEWART: Right.

    AMY GOODMAN: —security guy for putting pressure on him to fire her sister’s ex-husband?

    JON STEWART: Right. I imagine that’s what got her the gig. They probably looked into that and said, “You know something? I could see her running the Justice Department.”

    AMY GOODMAN: What about Barack Obama? Were you there in the football stadium?

    JON STEWART: Unfortunately, we were never able to be there. I mean, a couple of guys there that got convention passes, but we weren’t able to be there for much of the time. We were over at the University of Denver. So, you know, for us, we were watching it on TV like everybody else.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what did it look like?

    JON STEWART: It looked like the first presidential nomination acceptance speech that you could see from space. That was about it.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think of the media coverage, overall?

    JON STEWART: Great.

    AMY GOODMAN: In Denver, there were Democrats all over, welcoming people every which way in Denver.

    JON STEWART: Right.

    AMY GOODMAN: But here, it’s very different.

    JON STEWART: Oh, is that true? Yeah. Do you think the city feels just a sense of shame? Is that what this is about? I don’t know. Maybe they’re just busy. They have things to do. It could be just the Labor Day weekend.

    AMY GOODMAN: What are your plans for the week?

    JON STEWART: We’re going to go do four shows from a theater, same sort of that we did for the Democratic convention. And then we’re all going to get the hell out of here and try never to get this close to the political process again.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you think has to happen with the media over the next few months?

    JON STEWART: They—I don’t think it’s going to take a few months. It will probably take a few years. I think they have to separate themselves. They have to extract themselves from this loveless marriage and begin to be the outsiders that we need them to be.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you have any words of wisdom for Barack Obama?

    JON STEWART: It’s mostly in hoops. I’ll let him take charge of whatever he needs to do governance-wise and all that. My only thing is, when you’re driving the lane, don’t go left, because everybody knows that now. Everybody sees how he goes.

    AMY GOODMAN: John McCain? Words of wisdom?

    JON STEWART: Just try not to stand next to really young people, because, man, that’s a juxtaposition.

    AMY GOODMAN: Finally, their ads are already up.

    JON STEWART: Yeah.

    AMY GOODMAN: Blackwater to head to Gustav. Your thoughts on Blackwater?

    JON STEWART: Boy, you’re getting a mouthful. I’ve just been—I’ve been napping for—you know, look, if those guys—it would be nice if we paid our guys that much money. So, that’s my thought.

    AMY GOODMAN: It’s nice to see you, Jon.

    JON STEWART: Nice seeing you, too. Take care.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, that familiar voice and face, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, here to cover the Republican National Convention, if, in fact, it does take place. They are still taking it day by day, they say.


alan - purple flowers

Evening -

It seems like a sad day to me.  I would rather Sarah Palin's daughter were not pregnant, and that McCain had picked intelligently for vice-president.   Watching him as she made her acceptance speech, he seemed not all there.  I was speaking to my son about it and he said if you watch him in 2000, this is not the same man.   Perhaps it is time to admit that senility has set in and I feel sad about all of it.  

If we could choose on real issues, we would not have all these shenanigans going on, and maybe could choose the most intelligent one to represent each party, and from that choose the best man or woman.

I'm not sure when the GOP turned into such a joke.   I have to believe that Barack Obama will be our next president and that is not only historic, but I hope brings peace to the world.  It is time.

Surely all of this is humbling to us all.