Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hannity Gets Shamed

Shame on anyone who tries to minimize the extent of the suffering of the people down in New Orleans, crammed into the Superdome, the convention center, or hospital rooftops. Double or triple the dosage of shame to be served on Sean Hannity, a man I simply cannot stand to begin with, for following up literally tear-filled reports from a wiped out Sheppard Smith and an outraged and bewildered Geraldo Rivera by saying in an unemotional tone, "Let's get some perspective."

Watch the video of the beginning of last night's Hannity & Colmes at Crooks and Liars (wait for it to load) and see if you can defend this man. Besides the fact that Smith and Rivera give the two most emotionally honest reports I've seen in the many, many hours of coverage I've taken in over the last week, the clip is very revealing of Mr. Hannity. On his radio program, Sean - "a great American," according to his loving callers - regularly invokes the suffering of Iraqi women and children under the regime of Saddam Hussein when arguing about the merits of the Iraq war.

But yesterday, when he saw his faithful reporters get a little more personal than he may have liked, Sean couldn't have shown less empathy. When he saw the suffering in Geraldo's arms in the form of a 10-month-old baby boy and his young grandmother who was also looking for two other grandchildren, Sean didn't use his pseudo-sympathetic voice, or even his homely, welcoming voice reserved for Vermont Teddy Bear spots or Purina Dog Food commercials.

Sean Hannity is not a "great American" and he is not a great person, either. Give credit to his own reporters for making that so nakedly clear.

Gingrich Goes After Bush

Via, Blanton's and Ashton's, former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich (R-Ga), has voiced annoyance with administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina.

Gingrich labeled the relief efforts "sluggish" and called for the White House to appoint Rudy Giuliani the head of the disaster response. Gingrich believes that the administration's incompetence on Katrina has revealed the nation's vulnerabilities on homeland security.

"If we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?"

Gingrich is rumored to have strong presidential ambitions for 2008. Attacking the administration's spending habits, loose organization, and integrity might not be a bad path to power for a man who appeared on the cover of Time as "Mr. Scrooge" in December of 1994.

Friday, September 02, 2005

How Do Reporters Get to New Orleans?

Via Blogspotting, I found an interesting post that addressed a question that had irked me ever since Katrina hit: if reporters seem to have such easy access to the refugees, why don't the aid workers and rescue teams?

According to many of the commenters, the reporters do not carry the burdens of government orders, cumbersome equiptment, and the mobs of hungry people that come with relief missions. Moreover, the news organizations have made a business out of getting into dangerous situations and have learned the tricks necessary to often beat the government to the spot.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Etymology of Hurricanes

Although it is a meaningless topic, especially considering the circumstances, I have always wondered how hurricanes are named.

It’s a pretty easy system. Human names are given to storms to make them easily distinguishable. The first storm of the year begins with an “A” name (Andrew), the second a “B,” and so on and so forth. Katrina, beginning with a “K,” is therefore the eleventh tropical storm from the Atlantic this year. The names are determined by the World Meteorological Organization, which began using this system during World War II. I found this information on this site, where there is a list names for the future and additional information on the topic.

Someone please remind me: why are we fighting a war in Iraq?

Hail To This Chief

Every so often, it is necessary to pay tribute to the great leaders of the past. John Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, has warranted my attention today.

John was a reticent man; once at dinner with the President, a woman told him that she had made a bet that she could make him say more than three words during the meal, and he responded simply, “You lose.” Calvin’s silence extended beyond mere words, though. He was silent on matters of national policy as well. His defense of his policies that caused the worst depression in American history was simply, "The chief business of the American people is business." As millionaires grew on trees, Silent Cal preferred to sit back and watch. Some have even speculated that he chose not to run for re-election in 1928 because of the inevitable crash, which he predicted to his wife. It seems that he forgot identifying a problem is only the first step in solving it.

John was also a great humanitarian. The 1920s were not a time of great prosperity for all Americans. Farmers, who profited enormously from selling supplies during the war, saw the prices of their goods plummet as America returned to a peacetime economy and demand dropped. A bill, similar in principle the Agricultural Administrative Act passed by Franklin Roosevelt, the man elected to clean up Calvin’s mess, that would raise farm prices by cutting supply, was dismissed by the Commander in Chief as communist rhetoric. Farmers thus suffered twenty years of depression in between the two world wars. Also, when a flood struck Mississippi, Calvin responded by doing what he believed in. Nothing.

Calvin is an example of why it is so vital for a country to have a strong leader. Markets will set prices and people will help people to a certain degree, but it is the duty of the government to ensure protection and stability for its citizens. The 1920s provided neither. Calvin’s laissez-faire policies, thankfully, have not been repeated, and the Commander was not prophetic when he said, “Four-fifths of all our troubles would disappear, if we would only sit down and keep still.”

Quote Of the Day

"You can do everything for other countries, but you can't do nothing for your own people," he added. "You can go overseas with the military, but you can't get them down here."

—A resident of New Orleans on the state of lawlessness in his hometown

The Associate Democrats Abroad Germany


When I searched for "Rick Santorum" on technorati, the fourth blog I found was called the "Associate Democrats Abroad Germany". Apparently the organization consists of foreign teenagers who "associate" with the Democratic Party. The blogger, Chris Brown, says that he is chairman of the organization but that his blog is actually independent and "does not represent the views of ADAG".

Chris Brown sounds like an American abroad, identifying with the party he will eventually belong to. However, when I went to the official website of the group, all the names sounded pretty German. You decide for yourselves.

However, it is interesting that these German students (or in the case of the picture, Dutch students) decided to take such an active role in American politics. Perhaps these kids are simply pragmatic Europeans who understand that the elections that mean the most are those that take place in the most powerful country in the world. However, that's impressive. I used to live in France and I didn't keep up with U.S politics at all during that time. Of course, it's easier to keep up with American politics in countries like Germany or the Netherlands, where most people speak English.

When Will We Get A Public Speaker?

President Bush is inarticulate. We all know it, and many of us take relish in the embarassment that it often causes the president and his supporters. However, often times, criticism of Bush's speaking ability overshadows the political issues that really matter, often because making fun of the president's unintelligible blabber is easier than criticizing his policies. In reality, it's the softest shot Democrats can take at Bush when they're in the company of people whose political opinions are unknown. Nevertheless, enough is enough. The president needs to learn how to speak.

Bush's inability to communicate his ideas is not only embarassing, it's dangerous. Remember back in 2000 when we were told that then Governor Bush was a moderate who brought opposing sides together? Where is that man now? Perhaps because he has a much more diverse constituency and government to control, he is not as comfortable speaking his opinions, however, the result has been terrible. As a friend of mine was telling me the other day, because Bush has trouble expressing complex policies or positions in words, he has reverted to more partisan positions and more extreme language to endorse them.

The war in Iraq is the best example. He is incapable of coming out and telling the public about the real situation of the war, and therefore uses exhausted slogans that only antagonize people who feel that the war is going badly. "You're with us or against us", "The terrorists are growing weak", "We believe in freedom and they don't". Sure, these words may be true in theory, but they don't answer the specific questions that people want to know.

It's his second term. He's not dumb. It's time for the president to throw away the notes and just talk like a normal person. Whatever he has to say can't possibly sound worse than the status quo. If he wants to go down in history as a war leader than he should start acting like one.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

President Bush and Katrina

Articles like this one from Editor & Publisher, which blames the war in Iraq for the magnitude of the calamity down in the Big Easy, are bound to pop up in the wake of a disaster like the one being dealt with on the Gulf Coast this week. But this soon? The fact that significant money was siphoned from New Orleans' Army Corps of Engineers funding to pay for the war is, indeed, a fact. But turn on the television! There are tens of thousands of the city's poorest, most ill people stuck inside a football dome with gaping holes in its roof, no electricity, and nonfunctional bathroom facilities. There are people who spent last night on highway underpasses. I saw on the news a mother in Alabama whose seven-month-old son, born premature and kept alive by oxygen tanks and heart monitors that run on electricity, is clinging to life as the batteries powering the devices quickly run out. I think the war was a mistake, too, but can we please help these devastated people before we help our own political agendas?

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On a lighter note, a funny line from a column by Howard Fineman of MSNBC speculating on the political atmosphere (Katrina, oil, Iraq, 9/11 anniversary) to which President Bush is returning:
"Andy Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans. Will George Bush?"

McCaskill To Challenge Talent in Missouri

Missouri State Auditor Claire McCaskill announced her candidacy for the U.S Senate seat currently held by incumbent Republican, James Talent. She is currently the only Democrat seeking the party's nomination.

OurSenate, a democratic blog focused on gaining a Democratic majority in the Senate, has labeled the Missouri race [necessary to winning the Senate majority]. Missouri, like several other states in the region, has an unpopular Republican governor and has given President Bush low approval ratings in recent polls. Moreover, polls show Talent in a virtual dead heat in a hypothetical race against McCaskill. Nevertheless, Talent has the natural advantage. Not only is he an incumbent, but Missouri has become increasingly red in recent congressional elections.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Mike Bloomberg on Iraq?

When I was looking through the New York Times at work today, I noticed an article on Mike Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City. The headline was "Bloomberg Parries Repeated Questions on the War in Iraq." Over the last few days, the article says, Mike Bloomberg has been asked questions about President Bush's support of the War in Iraq and about Cindy Sheehan, and has refused to go into specifics in response. The other day he quipped, "It's not a local issue and I don't have anything to say." And he shouldn't. New Yorkers should care about Mike Bloomberg's views on the Iraq war about as much as they, or anyone, should about Cindy Sheehan's views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

So maybe that's a slight overstatement. The City has suffered significant losses of troops overseas in Iraq, but the mayor of New York City has nothing to do with foreign policy or the military. It's easy to see why Bloomberg's opponents from the left would want to press him on his views on Iraq. New York is a blue city, and Bloomberg a red mayor. New York Democrats see the mayor's ties with the unpopular President as an opening to weaken his support among New Yorkers who may oppose Mr. Bush but, at this point, support Bloomberg. Though there's no evidence to be found of this being a major issue in the campaign, any pressure put on Bloomberg to defend the President and the war is just political opportunism and should be avoided.

I'd be very disheartened with any Democratic candidate who pressed the mayor on the war, or on any other federal actions that New Yorkers might oppose. Stick to education, security, public transportation and the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. Heck, if the Democrats want an issue to be at the front of, why not come out against the appalling Freedom Center set to go up on Ground Zero and which Bloomberg has waffled on? If anyone in the state deserves to be asked questions about Iraq or the lack of any energy policy or anything else federal, it's New York's U.S. Senators, but a municipal politician certainly has no jurisdiction or responsibility for what goes on in Iraq, or in Washington.

Is Your Marriage Boring?

If so, then you might take a note from Larry and Joni Jones, of Tom's River, a married couple that has made history by simultaneously running for two state assembly seats in the 10th congressional district of New Jersey. If elected, they'll be the first successful husband and wife combo. Unfortunately they're from the same party (Democrats). Spouse opponents would have been too good to be true.

The Joneses (as spelled on their campaign site) have an admirable record of public service. Mr. Jones is an attorney who helped open the People's Law Clinic, a public library service that serves to educate the citizens of Ocean and Monmouth Counties on how to represent themselves in court without an attorney. Ms. Jones is a lifelong nurse, who has helped establish annual senior's day, which allows senior citizens in the area a day to conference with specialized physicians about health issues. The rest of their information can be found here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Pardon Me

One of the most entertaining discussions in history class last year revolved around the possibility that the president could commit mass murder and then pardon himself.

Sorry to disappoint you, it's just a governor, and all he did was give out taxpayer money to political allies. What else is new?

Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher recently pardoned nine members of his administration who had been indicted on various misdemeanors as well as two counts of evidence tampering, which is a felony. Fletcher dismissed the indictments as politically motivated and a "waste of taxpayer dollars". Nevertheless, the Democratic Attorney General, Greg Stumbo, plans to pursue his case against the Republican governor, who has not yet issued a pardon to himself, although Kentucky law allows him to do so.

The allegations against the administration are centered around the issue of government jobs, which Stumbo believes have been given out based on politics rather than merit. Although this accusation seems absurd, as patronage is one of the pillars of modern political success, the state had evidence that showed that top officials in Fletcher's administration had discussed the political allegiances and contributions of job applicants via various emails.

Fletcher can take solace in the fact that he won't be the only Republican in the area getting the boot from the feds or the voters. His neighbor, Governor Bob Taft, in Ohio, recently plead no contest to various misdemeanors relating to illegally accepting gifts.

The Democrats are already licking their lips for 2006. The Ohio GOP is in shambles, as is Kentucky, and Bill Frist is leaving a vacant seat in Tennessee. One place they shouldn't look is the Dakota's. They like their Republican governors there.

Bush’s Next Four-Year Plan

“Four more years,” a popular phrase used by the GOPs in the 2004 national election, now applies to something else: the Iraq War. Pentagon officials have estimated that we will need to station significant numbers of troops in the Middle Eastern nation until 2009. Since our soldiers will be there for so long, not to mention all the other controversy this war has caused, it is a good time to reflect on why we initiated this war in the first place.

On March 20, 2003, President George Bush ordered troops to begin "striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war," in a preemptive strike against Hussein’s government in Iraq. However, as subsequent inspections have shown, Sadaam didn’t possess nuclear capabilities at the time of our invasion. Conveniently for the administration, by the time this was discovered, they had already changed the reason we started the war.

Turns out that all we wanted to do was liberate the Iraqi people (hence “Mission Iraqi Freedom”) from Sadaam and stabilize the Middle East. Noble, but that’s the most liberal idea I’ve heard in a long time, ironic it coming from an administration that may be sinister in many ways but certainly not in its Latin meaning (the left side). I almost hope this is the reason we’re fighting the war, because if this is an oil war, then I’m speechless on the outcome.

However, as it turns out, we haven’t really liberated anyone. Sadaam may have been a butcher, but his state was no less humanitarian that the one that exists now. The provisional government is due to agree on a constitution soon (they’ve already missed the date), but even that could be insignificant if it doesn’t appeal to the Sunni Muslims, who account for approximately fifteen percent of Iraq’s population. George’s claim of “Mission Accomplished” was certainly unfounded and even condescending to the troops over there by claiming that what we have there now is anything resembling a victory.

Victory will only be achieved when a democratic government built upon liberal principles is established, the Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds are all satisfied with the political condition of their country, and every American troop sent over for the war is back home. Then, Iraq could serve as a shining example for the rest of the Middle East that Western culture and Islam can co-exist. However, this is an extremely lofty ambition that does not appear attainable for decades, if ever. Already, 1900 American lives (and at least 25,000 Iraqi) and $200 billion have been lost in the war effort and the country is no more stable than the day we entered it. The war effort has hiterto been a failure with no signs of reversal. It is true that Congress and the public supported Bush’s war initially, but for the highest office-holder in the world to have such poor foresight is unacceptable.

The saying “unless it is completely necessary to go to war, then it is completely necessary not to go to war,” is humanely speaking, accurate, because war should only be used as a last resort. However, in this case, war was just a guess based on the intuition of a man that seemingly cares more about his personal image than the goodwill of the country he leads. We are now bogged down in a war that was unnecessary in the first place and are paying for it dearly in the form of lives and tax dollars. And although Bush’s approval ratings might be plummeting now, it was only 10 months ago that we re-elected him. A great power doesn’t remain great unless its leadership does, and in a democracy, ensuring this is the role of the people.

Giambi Deserves Our Cheers

Yesterday's Yankee hero in the team's 10-3 win was Jason Giambi, the team's comeback player of the year, and perhaps the league's. Though he has never publically and explicitly admitted it, we can operate under the assumption that the guy took steroids. But when anyone wearing your team's uniform goes 3-for-3 with two home runs and seven - count 'em, seven - RBI, you cheer him. As long as Jason Giambi keeps pumping out home runs, Yankee fans like me will keep rewarding him with praise and standing ovations.

I am as against steroid use as anyone. Steroids aren't natural, aren't fair, and they taint the game. Pretty simple. So when I went to my first Yankee game of the season, I didn't cheer Jason Giambi. (Admittedly, a good deal of my reaction had to do with the return of Tino Martinez, my favorite Yankee.) Giambi made an error and grounded out in a big spot, so booing him was easy. By my second game, though, late in July, I was content to cheer him when he performed well. After Giambi took a couple of walks in key situations when the Yanks needed a baserunner, I joined in the applause.

For those readers who thought I was a frontrunner once I said I was a Yankee fan, and are convinced now that I said I'd cheer Giambi only if he did well, I have a rebuttal. What Giambi did in the past was wrong. I'm not sure he'll have the numbers anyway, but he shouldn't be considered for election to the Hall of Fame. But the good that he can do for the game now will outweigh his wrongdoings. He's handled this well; in Spring Training, Giambi was the Yankees' most prolific autograph signer and, so far this season, he has taken the incessant boos in stride and played above them. Having to bear the brunt of the criticism for the entire steroid-using population this past winter, then hearing the jeers every night in Oakland, Boston, Detroit, and any other American League city you can name is punishment enough. Now that he's got well over 20 home runs and is seemingly as close to his old form as he'll get, Giambi is a lesson of a different sort. He's off the juice and he's performing. We all believe in second chances, don't we?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Interesting Bush Documentary


Anybody who has ever wondered what motivates the president to say the things he does should check out this documentary, which can be viewed here, about Bush's number one speech writer, Harlen McCraney.

The part about the president's tendency to stop speaking for extended periods of time is perhaps an exageration of his genius, but still interesting.

It's actually very funny, everyone should see it, it's only a couple of minutes.

Montclair Secessionists


In 2004, the citizens of Montclair voiced their support for secession from Essex County. These rebels were motivated by rising property taxes, which many of them attributed to wasteful spending on schools, especially in notorious Newark, where money allegedly evaporates after it is touched by the administration of Mayor Sharpe James.

However, before the town tries to cut taxes by moving to cheaper neighbors, it has to solve its own problems. Montclair leadership has a long history of pandering on the issue of wasteful spending for useless initiatives. Up until last year, the township spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay men to pick up empty garbage cans and place them back in the driveways of residents. The purpose behind this, according to former mayoral candidate Margaret Mukherjee, was to prevent "the atmosphere of abandonment" on streets where people weren't home to tend to their own garbage cans. Nevertheless, the same lower income families that that project was supposed to protect (poorer residents tend to be away from home more often and hence are not able to pick up the cans) are ultimately driven out of town because of the rising property taxes, which are exarcerbated by pork barrel projects such as useless garbage can pickups.

Joyce Michaelson, the councilwoman at large for Montclair, supported the referendum for secession, although her website does not specify what her stance on the actual issue is.

Should Montclair secede? It's not like Passaic County doesn't have it's own problems in the boroughs of Paterson and Passaic.

Warner, the Anti-Hillary


Mark Warner, Virginia Democratic governor, has a promising political career. He is currently leading the Republican incumbent, Senator George Allen, in the polls for a 2006 senate race. However, according to the Political Wire, Warner might also be able to provide the Democrats with the only thing more valuable than a southern senate seat: an anti-Hillary candidate.

Many say that Mark Warner is the only candidate who's popular enough, and different enough, to beat Hillary Clinton and give the Democrats a different image than the one currently provided by Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, which fuels conservative rhetoric and creates claims of "radicalization of the party". More importantly, because he is a governor, and does not have a voting record, it would be hard for Republicans to portray him as a radical liberal, the way they succesfully did with John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign.

A sitting senator has not won a presidential election since 1960. Is it a coincidence?

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