20 September 2005

Yellow Dogs Unite!

Finally! A leading Democrat finds his balls!

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid announced his opposition to Chief Justice-nominee John Roberts on Tuesday, voicing doubts about Roberts' commitment to civil rights and accusing the Bush administration of stonewalling requests for documents that might shed light on his views."

Rest of story at CNN: "Top Senate Democract opposes Roberts

Shades of Reconstruction

A Razzie should go out to Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who recently said,
"If there is a silver lining in this tragic situation, it may be that our country understands how fragile our energy sector is. ... We can't just get our oil and gas from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico. We need to diversify our domestic oil resources."

Grist.org, "Katrina prompts new energy proposals".

It just goes to show that not all carpetbaggers are from the North.

16 September 2005

Second Harvest

Scientists Collect Fish To Assess Environmental Damage from Katrina

September 16, 2005 — By Garry Mitchell, Associated Press
ABOARD THE NANCY FOSTER — Scientists harvested fish off the Mississippi coast as part of the latest effort to assess environmental damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina's monstrous storm surge and toxic floodwaters.

Researchers hope to determine whether the hurricane caused any contamination from chemical spills, sewer overflows or other poisons that washed into the Gulf of Mexico....

Continue article on ENN at http://www.enn.com/today.html?id=8817

We need a scientific study to prove whether our seafood supply was harmed by 7 million gallons of oil being dumped into the Gulf? I'm no scientist, but I think it's safe to say this is not the best time to be hitting the "all you can eat" shrimp buffet at Red Lobster.

14 September 2005

Policy Maker

Ah, the joy, you've bought your first home, you've started to remodel it, the mortgage is 1/3 paid off. And then Katrina hits, and something no one could have predicted happens -- areas that never were marked as flood plains become submerged and homes are ruined. No, we're not talking New Orleans. We're talking large sections of southern Mississippi.

So what do you do when you return to your fallen castle? You call your insurance company. Who promptly informs you that, while you are covered for hurricane damage, your crumbling walls aren't covered because.... the damage was caused by flood, not hurricane.


For every policy, there's a loophole. Guaranteed. American nationals will open their homes and wallets to help our ravaged southern brethren, but not Nationwide.

08 September 2005

The Caste System of Environmental Disaster

In Race To The Bottom, Lisa Featherstone makes a strong case for the Katrina disaster as proof of environmental inequality. It's worth a read for those of you who may be wondering why all the people we see on the news in the form of bloated corpses, wailing wives, and rooftop rescues are dark in pigment. In a metro area of approximately 800,000-1 million people, over 35% are African-American (over 60% in the inner city). For decades New Orleans seems to have been a model of integration in a way that much of the south has not been. Every aspect of NO culture has been infused with African-American energy and spirit. And yet these are the people whose neighborhoods are built on toxic Superfund dumps, whose homes are closest to Cancer Alley, and whose lack of ready transportation is not accounted for in the standard evacuation plans.

What is frightening to consider is that this kind of environmental segregation is not new, nor is it uncommon. Black farmers do not get the relief that white farmers do when the government subsidizes losses. Poor neighborhoods are the last to be evacuated in any emergency, regardless of distance or convenience. Earlier in this blog, in a prime example of environmental injustice, I discussed a situation in So. Cal where the property owners at the top of the hill wanted an ordinance in place which would chop down all the eucalyptus trees on the properties at the bottom of the hill because they "blocked the view." Those trees are the only vegetation holding the soil from complete erosion and, thus, preventing the cliff-top homes from tumbling down. No points for guessing who won that battle anyway-- the rich folk who wanted their unobstructed view. In a Machiavellian maneuver, one major city chose to give permit for a dump transfer station to be built in the middle of a poor, mostly black neighborhood already ragged and riddled by deterioration. The permit required the company to clean up and restructure the city block it was mowing down and provide public green space. How public green space can make up for the smell of rotting refuse wafting from next door because your government doesn't give a damn about your quality of life?

Given any 10 miles of coastline, it is guaranteed that the high ground will go to those who have and the low to those who have not. Given any 30 miles of riverbed, the upstream will belong to the rich and the downstream to the poor. When cities "revitalize" their neighborhoods, it is always with a higher price tag and tax assessment levied so that the poor end up forced to move out.

The "other side of the tracks" still exists in some form in every community. What Katrina has done on a large scale is expose this inequity. If anything good can come of a disaster, I hope that it will be a wake-up call to the we in which use the environment to act out our prejudices. For more information on environmental justice, visit The Environmental Justice Resource Center of Clark University.

Montezuma Moves North

First EPA Tests Confirm New Orleans Floodwater Risky Even for Skin Contact

September 08, 2005 — By Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Floodwaters in New Orleans contain levels of sewage-related bacteria that are at least 10 times higher than acceptable safety limits, endangering rescue workers and remaining residents who even walk in it, federal officials said Wednesday.

Results of the first round of testing by the Environmental Protection Agency were no surprise, but reinforced warnings that everyone still in the city take precautions to avoid getting the water on their skin -- especially into cuts or other open wounds -- much less in their mouths.

"Human contact with the floodwater should be avoided as much as possible," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.

Health hazards from that water make it imperative that remaining residents comply with evacuation orders, added Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"If you haven't left the city yet, you must do so," she said.

Story continued....

06 September 2005

RockStar: In Excess

Ok, I've only had a cumulative 40-odd years of experience on the stage & in music, so what do I know about the talent on the hoof in the hit CBS "reality" show RockStar INXS?

Here's what I see: 3 men & 2 women trying their damnedest to stretch 15 minutes of fame to 15 years. Obviously they are using the Thomas Friedman ebb-and-flow calculus to achieve it. It's too bad that some of them are talented, because reality TV has absolutely nothing to do with talent.

05 September 2005

Come Back, Sandra Day!

The high water came, and now so has hell. Bush the Younger has proposed Roberts for the Chief Justice seat on the Supreme Court. Article at http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/09/05/roberts.nomination/index.html. And, huzzah!, he gets to nominate someone else in place of SDO'C as well. All hail the new age of legal feudalism!

Sing it with me, to the tune of "Sandra Dee" from Grease:

Come back to us, please, Sandra Day
Don't let the swing vote fade away
If Bush has two picks
Of conservative pricks
Our rights will be passe


The feeling of not belonging, of not being entirely worthy, of being sometimes hostage to your own sensibilities. Those things speak to me very personally.
-- Anthony Minghella, writer, producer, director

The calculated callousness of the Administration's response to Katrina troubles me. I have a problem with "the disconnect" anyway, as one friend observed many months ago. The "disconnect" he was referring to had nothing to do with Bush or the government, but he is correct and my problem with it is systemic. It seems to me that the greatest challenge modern society faces, regardless of locality or nationality, is isolationism -- on both the microcosmic and macrocosmic level. We are losing our sense of belonging. Some argue that it's already lost. The more advanced our communications technology has become, the more distanced we are from each other. Some ironies I enjoy. This one I do not.

Several years before birth, advertise for a couple of parents belonging to long-lived families.
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes, author & physician (not his son, the S.Ct. Justice)

As witty as Holmes's quote is on the surface, it highlights the undeniable trend of the past century of the broken home.

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
-- Aldo Leopold, conservationist, ecologist, philosopher

This sums up everything I feel is wrong with free-market capitalism in a nutshell. When everything can be reduced to a dollar amount, then everyone is devalued.

04 September 2005

Blog Hell

I'm having a few problems with the template for this blog. Unfortunately, it does not respond well to blithwhapping.

02 September 2005

Brownie's Merit Badge

From Michael Brown, chief of FEMA:
"Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well."

Compared to what? Wholesale slaughter in the streets? Oh, that's right, we have that.

Chris Lawrence, for CNN:
"From here and from talking to the police officers, they're losing control of the city. We're now standing on the roof of one of the police stations. The police officers came by and told us in very, very strong terms it wasn't safe to be out on the street."

"The officer hitched a ride to Baton Rouge on Friday morning, after working 60 hours straight in the flooded city. He has not decided whether he will return.

"He broke down in tears when he described the deaths of his fellow officers, saying many had drowned doing their jobs. Other officers have turned in their badges, he said.

"In one incident, the sergeant said he saw bodies riddled with bullet holes, and the top of one man's head shot off."

Obviously, Brown and Lawrence are talking about two different cities. Where is Brown anyway? Baton Rouge? It's a little like finding Waldo.... I suppose his hide is too precious to stray any closer to the actual disaster site.
"Nevertheless, [Brown] said he could 'empathize with those in miserable conditions.'"

On Jim Lehrer he even went so far as to sympathize with the New Orleans director for disaster relief, saying,
"...what the American public needs to know is that we have brought to bear the full resources of the federal government."

If what we have seen thus far has truly been the "full resources" we can bring to bear on the situation, then, as a country, we are in much worse condition than even my most pessimistic estimations ascertained. This is the kind of high-level disconnect that the Bush administration does best. Feed us pablum so we will sooner forget all about Crisis X, content to go along our meaningless lives, letting entire segments of the world population shift for themselves when we could be doing something constructive to assist them.

May we get something straight here? Pretty please, with Splenda on top?

This pap is not what the American public wants or needs to hear. Even those of us thousands of miles away have friends and relatives down there. Memories and emotions invested in that region. We actually give a shit and deserve to know the score. This is no time to be soothing America's jangled nerves. This is exactly the time to use our emotional connections to motivate us to help, and to keep helping. It's been many years since we lacked adequate resources. What we lack is good reason to part with them. This is good reason.

But I'm sure that "Brownie" will earn his Communications Merit Badge from the White House for feeding the public what the Administration wants it to hear. After all, his grossly understated attitude is in party line with Bush's own. Our grating and vainglorious leader believes
"we've got a lot of work to do, and [he] understand[s] it seems dark right now."

Bully for you, Mr. President. Next time, try emoting with a teleprompter, please.

Late-Breaking Broadcast

I was just in the corner store where they were playing the news on TV. The item featured a guy shooting in the streets of New Orleans and the voice-over said "And the president is flying over now..."

I always knew this was a drive-by presidency, but now I have my proof.

Would anyone want to lay money on whether Bush is (1) very concerned about the welfare of the citizens evacuating the Superdome, or (2) even more extremely concerned about the oil refineries and whether any of oil rigs which disappeared off the Gulf map were a part of the family portfolio. And would anyone bet against the Bushes and their colleagues using Katrina as the perfect reason to remove the center of US gas & oil shipping to the Gret Stet of Texas?

01 September 2005

Wine Haze

Over dinner last night while we drank our local brew, a good friend said "I never met a bottle I didn't like." It looks as though the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District doesn't agree with that statement.

The San Joaquin valley, home to Gallo and Delicato (among other mass-produced California wines), has a serious smog problem, which may be partially due to the ethanol, methanol and other natural compounds released during the fermentation process. For the article, go to http://news.findlaw.com/ap/f/66/08-31-2005/4e560035770a137b.html

Just another good reason to Buy Local. Virginia wines RULE!