Bourgeois Deviant

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Not in the mood

I haven't been in the mood to post lately. Weather and circumstance are bringing me down. However, I don't want to neglect the blogoshpere. Here are some positive things:

The DCeiver breaks of a fierce recap of LOST. Worth the time spent.

Four Day Hombre is getting the acclaim they deserve by the BBC. We dig it. Down to the bottom, baby.

Ding dong Delay is dead!
Not really dead,
his career be bled.
Ding dong the fucker shit the bed!

And I have been doing some retooling of this here blog. Format and what not. Basically, I have not been pissed off enough or am so tired from being pissed off so much that the words just aren't flowing, you know?

More as my groove returns.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

LOST Thoughts

As I write this to you from a phone bank for one of the world’s most established financial institutions (which is about as thrilling as you might think), my mind wanders in between rings to last nights season premier of LOST. As television shows go, this one is really good. Like, the only other show I have been this jazzed about was Twin Peaks. That is saying something. But the question is: Why?

LOST presents to its audience a really stimulating, broad polarity for a viewing experience. On the one hand you have an incredibly obtuse story with many ambiguous threats that seem to defy explanation. Then on the other hand, you have an abundance of extremely minute detail that, upon first glance seems inane, but after time you realize that resonates an insane amount through every show. Many times it is not even discussed. For instance, these numbers: 4, 8,15,16,23 and 42 keep popping up everywhere. Seat assignments, departure gates, prize money amounts, as serial numbers on hatches, times of death, dates of birth… It is crazy (which is good).

Then there is the obvious. The people are pretty. Fit women, strong men and everyone seems to be perpetually well groomed (for as much as they can be on a desert island) and sweaty at the same time. The island landscape is both equally and/or more beautiful and just as much a character as any of the people. There is a core group of players that move the story along; however, they are not the only survivors of Oceanic flight 815. There are a host of others that go unnamed and are fertile ground for development. The network has announced that they will be adding in a few more big TV names (i.e. Katie Segal, among others). So if the show starts to lag, just swap in a celebrity. I wonder how long it will be before we see Heather Locklear.

These afore mentioned factors by themselves are cool and make for good viewing, but there is more at play here. Without intending to sound grandiose, I would like to put fourth the idea that some of the themes within LOST are resonating in the American zeitgeist. For example lets look at the idea of uncertainty. The LOST crew is on a strange island with a lot of strange stuff going on around them. They aren’t even sure how they survived the crash. The last time I checked, the American public is pretty darned uncertain about a whole host of stuff such as economy, war, environment, federal government. All these things are pretty important and central to the American life right now, and none can be lightly overlooked. So, we, like the LOST crew, aren’t sure how thick the ice is right now.

Fear is another key player in the LOST and American experience. One could argue this goes hand in hand with uncertainty, but they are not exclusive partners. The LOST island is pretty spooky. There is a monster, for lack of a better term, that roams about and rips trees off their roots, opens gaping chasms for people to fall into and makes some god awful noise (both animal and machine in nature). And it is invisible. The only trace of it aside from its footprint is some blurry smoke. One could reasonably argue that this horrible thing without form could be construed as the viewing publics' fear of terrorism made visual metaphor. Think about it. What do we, Joe Public know about the terrorist threat to our nation? Well, we know what it is capable of. We know how it does the things that it does, in principle. But we have no idea as to the size, breadth and intention of it. Well, actually we do, but again, only in the abstract. The LOST folks are trying to get their head around this demon just like the American public is trying to get its collective psyche around terrorism.

Maybe this is a poor comparison, but it seems to make sense to me. Again, sometimes it is difficult to articulate why we like something or why it touches us in some way. But when it does, we know it. I think these reasons I have discussed may be a fair start to this exploration. It would be great to know what you think. Plus, ain't it fun to talk about?

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

1000 Bulbs

An old friend is in a great band in the UK. Four Day Hombre (linked to the right). They have a new video out. It is smashing. And the song is even better. If you want to catch a good wave from across the pond, check them out.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Big Apple to Big Easy

I write this to you, dear reader, from the Brooklyn bound R train to Bay Ridge. I just left the “From the Big Apple to the Big Easy” concert from New Orleans. It was quite something. Presumably, Sir Elton John and others helped to assemble a cavalcade of performers. Among those I saw: Lenny Kravits, Aaron Neville, Cindy Lauper, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett, Sir Elton and a bunch of others. The zenith of the evening, not for her performance, mind you, but for what she had to share by way of thought over the whole Katrina calamity was Bette Midler.

Yes. Bette Midler.

Ms. Midler cited the tragedy of it all and that global warming was a likely culprit. I will attempt an accurate quote here for the rest: “Then, I get a letter from the Republican Party saying that they appreciated my support of the Bush Administration during this trying time. And I wrote them back telling them to go fuck themselves.” She went on to bring the President Bushbot. It was not until she brought him up that the boos started emanating from the audience. She continued to (justifiably) chastise the Commander and thief and then acquiesced. “You know, I really shouldn’t say bad things about the President. He is a fan of mine. He came to one of my shows in the 70’s. I think his coke dealer got him the tickets.”

Bette Midler lambasting the President isn’t news and really, at the end of the day, doesn’t matter. What will matter is if some Republican shmuck sues her for libel and slander and/or defamation of character. Time will tell.

The most eloquent thing said this evening was by Mr. Elvis Costello. “Lets make sure the promises made, are kept.” Well put, Elvis, well put indeed.

(If anyone has the exact quote, please let me know so I can edit this.)

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Mo & Me!

On my lunch hour, I was walking around Battery Park and was flagged down by a woman who asked if I wanted to be interviewed for Animal Planet. I like animals, so I said "OK." The next thing I knew, Mo Rocca was interviewing me for WHOA! Sunday. After the fact, it turns out that I knew much less about frogs, toads and snakes than I thought I did. It should be on in couple of weeks.

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This past weekend, the wife and I went to our alma mater’s homecoming weekend. Friends were well met, drinks were imbibed, food consumed, football watched and good times were had by all. Strolling around the bucolic campus, I marveled at how great the place looked. At that particular moment, I was walking with a member of my family and explored the question of whether the place matched the student body. Upon blue-skying this a bit further, I arrived at the logical but uninformed conclusion that the student body didn’t deserve the place. This is not to imply that there was a chasm of incongruity, but given the caliber of students that go there now, it really didn’t seem to line up.

I am no righteous tee totaling person that loves to point the finger at the (i or)amorality of young life. I threw down in my day and even threw down this last weekend (inasmuch as I still could). It is great to let your hair down. However, I couldn’t help but notice that the campus, for the most part, was devoid of student life despite a plethora of activity available. Sure it is a small school. Sure it is located in the middle of nowhere PA. And yes, it is a dry campus. That certainly adds to the lame factor. (Mind you, not while I was there) But the last time I checked, weren’t institutions of higher education supposed to be for and about the learning?

I have my various bones to pick with the current state of American higher education, but that is not the point I wish to explore. Of the dozen or so students that I spoke with, and of the many more college age people that I have encountered over the last several years, it has been my unsettling observation that most of these kids are incurious. They aren’t enthused about what they are studying. Granted, someone getting an accounting degree doesn’t have a heck of a lot to get jazzed over, but hear me out.

I rode out the first three years of schooling there maximizing on my strengths and dodging my weaknesses. The basic ethos was to get through and do well. However, despite finding at least mild interest in most classes and love within my major, living the life was the priority. I was amazed then, as I am now at how career driven University life was and presently is. It didn’t bother me until I did a year study abroad at a U.K. University. Not only were the students eating, sleeping and breathing their coursework, they loved it and it WAS their life. And we’re not talking about nerds here either. These were the cool folks.

Sure the academic structure of their lessons was a bit different. However, a professor I had said it best. When I asked him how he graded, he replied “What does that matter? Marks don’t mean anything.” He went on to impart that they were technicalities designed to thin the academic herd. If you were meant to be in University and you were dedicated to the learning, you would involuntarily do well. Grades were meant to be a test of your determination. This may be a bit idealistic, but I think that professor was right, for the most part.

How many people do you know that actually love their job? How many people do you know that went to school to get that job? Now, how many people out of that bunch just do it for the money? I know I am reaching, but try and leap with me here. These kids I have spoken with that love to party (as we all do) and are getting degrees to get jobs that facilitate that. There isn’t really anything blatantly wrong with this; however it speaks to shallowness within society. Maybe this is not widespread, but certainly an increasing trend. I don’t have access to the stats, but how many universities are increasing their amenities to appeal to and draw more students? How many colleges and universities have an ever present if not growing problem with alcohol? These are all loose points, but they suggest a trend to me that a college education is not what it once was. Indeed, it may have well been the latter for longer than we care to admit.

Are colleges and institutions aiding hegemony in America?

Think about it. Why do kids go to college? To get a good job. How difficult is that getting to be in our country? Darn'd difficult. What is more important to you: Aristotle’s Poetics or taking the CPA’s exam? Feel free to add similar and/or related questions.

I don’t write this to disparage anyone or anything. It is just something that has been stewing in my ever meandering mind. These are all just loosely strung together thoughts throughout my work day. Take them for what you will.

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One more reason to love Google

Go to Google and enter the word "failure" into the search line. Hit "I'm Feeling Lucky"


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Body Counts as Bench Mark?

From today's WP:

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, September 19, 2005; Page A01

BAGHDAD -- Using enemy body counts as a benchmark, the U.S. military claimed gains against Abu Musab Zarqawi's foreign-led fighters last week even as they mounted their deadliest attacks on Iraq's capital. (Wonkette)

This is EXACTLY what they did in Vietnam. I smell endgame and it isn't going our way.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Who has learned from Menachem Begin?

These guys are a LOT more alike than you think.

Could Osama bin Laden be a covert student of history?

I learned something on Tuesday. Israel, as a country, owes a substantial portion of its independence and statehood to terrorism. Israeli history is not something I am too versed in, but I read an article by Mark Danner in the New York Times Magazine last weekend that had a small portion of it devoted to an historical analysis of the history and origins of terrorism. He sites Menachem Begin, a Prime Minister of Israel:

"History and our observation persuaded us… that if we could succeed in destroying the government's prestige in Eretz Israel, the removal of its rule would follow automatically. Thenceforward, we gave no peace to this weak spot. Throughout all the years of our uprising, we hit at the British government's prestige, deliberately, tirelessly, unceasingly." In its most spectacular act, in July 1946, the Irgun guerrilla forces led by Begin bombed the King David Hotel, killing 91 people, most of them civilians.(NYT)

Before you get all up in a bundle, know that I am not trying to make an anti-Semitic point. Don't care about ethnicity. People are people and I judge by actions. I do have my political bones to pick with Israel’s behavior and the lopsided US alliance with it, but that is for another post. I may have even written about it. I’ll check. But for now, let us stick to what history and Mark Danner are telling us.

Though it has been slowly fading for the last 30 to 40 years or so, the United States has always had this idealized image abroad of being powerful, fertile and golden. We are the land of opportunity and the breadbasket of the world. We toppled Soviet Russia and saved the world from the spread of Communism. (This is actually false. The USSR pretty much did itself in. We just threw a little fuel on that fire to make it happen sooner) Begin alludes to Britain in the 1940’s similarly as Danner equates the US having this image of all-powerfulness. It is this that is an equal target being attacked in addition to our troops and interests. My father said that you are only as good as your word, and if you don’t have that, you don’t have much at all. Well, America’s word value is dropping faster than the dollar.

Have you noticed the regular shafting al Queda gives us and our allies with systematic regularity? (9/11, Spain’s train bombings, London’s sub and bus bombings to mention a few) Danner says, in no uncertain terms, that America is losing the war on terror. I have no reason to doubt him. No amount of disinformation the Federal Government puts out can change this. We are losing the war on the ground and we are losing the PR war all because bin Laden-ism is more effective, more potent than US leaders are capable of giving credit for. The individuals calling the shots for us are, perhaps, doing their best but what they don’t realize is that we really can’t have guns and butter. Winning and losing isn’t about body counts to these people. Its about idealism and territory. You can’t kill an idea with a gun and bullets will disappear into sand without a trace.

Where are our students of history? Is the dumbing down of America so manifest that it has penetrated the highest levels of government? This pattern has happened before! Begin and Israel vs. Great Britain, the US in Vietnam (and the French there too), Russia in Chechnya. Its all just so plain to see when you aren’t in the fog of war. Somebody please turn on a fan in the White House to clear the air.

As long as you have somebody willing to die for a cause, you have the most powerful weapon there is. Osama bin Laden knows this and clearly took the history lesson from Israel. (Does anyone else see the multiple layers of irony in this?) It begs the question: Why haven’t our leaders seen this? Is it arrogance and hubris? Is it the fog of war? Or, is it the sun setting on our nations reputation? Time will tell and history will be our judge.

P.S. Again, I don’t know the full history, but it seems that Israel at least partially attained its sovereignty through terrorist methods. Those very same methods were, in turn, turned against them. What does this tell us about karma? How does Begin’s legacy fit into the relativism of history? Truly, what you reap is what you sow.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Sigur Rós. Good for what ails you.

As you may discern from a prior post, I have been a bit melancholy of late. So, before all that happened, I saw that Sigur Rós was coming to town. For those of you who don’t know, they are a hip little band from Iceland that has been around making really terrific ambient music. That is a gross generalization of what they do, but for now it serves me.

Trekking from Bay Ridge to the Upper West Side proved to be well worth the haul. For those of you who have never been to the Beacon Theatre, it is a sight to behold. I can only guess at its vintage. Probably 1920’s. It is well maintained and the sound is excellent. The Wife and I got there right on-time and took our position in the nosebleeds (which were still pretty darned good seats). Soon thereafter, the opening band, the Amina string quartet, took the stage. At first I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them, but they held my interest and they left the stage at the end of their set with a good opinion from me.

Like Sigur Rós, Amina’s sound kind of defies description. Both bands, despite different instrumentation and overall sounds, musically articulate an abstract landscape as if you were viewing a painting with your ears. Amina went from extremely ambient and atmospheric compositions to melodies that were nearly electronically poppy. One of the women even played the saw, which I love. They later joined the headliners on stage for several numbers throughout the show as an excellent accompaniment on a number of different instruments.

The opening and closing numbers were the only “performances” of the evening for Sigur Rós. By that, I mean to say that there was an element of theatricality and/or sense of a mise en scène. A white scrim hung before the band and interplay of lights, smoke and digital image projection interwove to generate equal aural and optical stimulation commensurate with the overall style of the band. It was simple yet powerful. An excellent prologue for all fans, virgin or veteran, and foreshadowed a good evening.

The rest of the performance was equally as strong but wholly different. It was solely about the music. They did have lights and video projection, but those peripherals were so subtle, they were only a gentle dash of spice enriching the overall flavor of the event. It just goes to show you, as with theatre or film, if a good story, or in this case music, is there, who needs lots of spectacle?

One element of both groups, but particularly in Sigur Rós’s case, was the electronic looping and effects that were used. Some fans of live music get put off when all the musicians’ music on stage is not ego ingenero but it just works for them. With all of the technology they have, they can achieve depths and layers to their music that I can only articulate as lush. Again, no one element of what they play or produce is astonishing, but the combination and manipulation therein touches genius levels regularly.

Closing the show was an aesthetically similar performance as the show opener. However, the melody was evocative of moving on and the potential of what lay ahead. Maybe it is where I am in life right now and the events going on around me, but I felt that this band captured my mood and lifted me out of it. Like a little therapy session, traveling from despair to optimism in the span of 90 minutes. It was the right show at the right time.

I had been speaking to a musician friend the night before about training to play music as a professional. He said that practicing (drums) was good, but you had to be able to really wail unimpeded by volume, time or space in order to get the conditioning you need. He said “Do you wanna see a guy who is solid for the sprint or for the marathon?” After seeing this show, there is no doubt that Sigur Rós are in it for the marathon.

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This is important

I think this is an important reference for anyone seeking information or wishing to make informed commentary regarding Hurricane Katrina and the events around it.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Sad News

This weekend brought me some very sad news. My father told me that my grandfather is going to die in the next few weeks, if not months. I got that news on Saturday. With each passing day, it upsets me more. This is natural, right? The fact is taking its time to set in. That is part of the process, right? The mind has to adjust to loss. It takes time.

Our brains are muscles, really. I read that in The Art of Happiness and, at the time, I found it to be a great idea and very helpful. H.H. the Dalai Lama and the co-author of the book, Howard C. Cutler arrive at the understanding that the human brain is a muscle that can be trained like any other in the body. If you take the time to condition it, it will be able to adapt better to different situations. For example, if, two years ago, I started meditating on the fact that my grandfather was going to die, I might not be having such a difficult time with this news right now. That might be all well and good to do, but I didn’t do it. So, I am still trying to get my head around it.

But, my sadness is not why I am posting. Sure it is a great outlet, yadda yadda yadda. The most important thing is that, like with any person’s passing, the world is losing someone really unique.

He is a soft spoken man that, to anyone’s knowledge, has never uttered a swear word in his adult life. He is the eldest of several brothers, his youngest brother being nearly my father’s age. He lives in the same town he grew up in and people still know him by his high school knick name. He served in the US Coast Guard during World War II, married to a strong, wonderful woman and raised three great kids that I am lucky enough to have as family. He owned and ran a dry cleaning business called Tip Top Cleaners. He was widowed and in the mid 1970’s he remarried to another incredible woman that I have always known as “Grandma.” All his life, win or lose, he has been a fan of the Green Bay Packers. He loves golf and played every chance he could.

A couple of years ago when he went to the doctor for the first time for an unrelated ailment, it really was for the first time. The doctor discovered that he had no medical record. My grandfather is in his middle 80’s. Now he has just a little time left. The weekend after next, barring unforeseen circumstance, my wife and I are going to visit him in Wisconsin. Time and economy are prohibitive of spending more time than that, but some time is better than no time at all.

More on time and loss in the hours and days ahead.

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Notice anything different?

The previous template for this blog was beginning to strain my eyes. I am all about the content, really, but I am also mindful of my readers… and their eyes. That is, if I have any.

For once, this will be an entry devoid of political retching. Fancy that!

Yesterday evening, I ventured to the Drama Bookshop to get some plays to read. I am currently looking for monologues that are fitting for my type. This is sort of a difficult task. I am reading lots of good stuff, but not coming up with any material where I can say “Yeah! I can do that and do it really well!”

Type is a difficult thing to assess, really. It requires a high level of self awareness with a dynamic balance between being arrogant and humble. People tell me that I look like a young Christopher Reeve. Ok, but I don’t look good in blue tights and flowing capes. So, of the theoretical 200+ readers that have at least brushed over this page, does anyone have any recommendations for monologue material for a young looking 30 year old skinny white guy?

Currently I am reading Mrs. Farnsworth by A.R. Gurney, This is How it Goes by Neil Labute, ThomPain by Will Eno, The God of Hell by Sam Shepard and The Archbishop's Ceiling by Arthur Miller. Actually, that is my current line-up and I will read them consecutively. Mrs. Farnsworth is great so far!

Any and all suggestions will be most welcome with the exception of any telling me to go and copulate with myself or any derivation therein. Ideally these pieces should be in the ballpark of two minutes. Thank you in advance.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Race Line and the Magic Bullet

It certainly has been a big Labor Day weekend in the news cycle. To try and encapsulate all of its events would be nearly futile as my day job efforts continue to distract me from this outlet; however, I do have some thoughts to share.

Kanye West gave voice to the subtext nearly everyone who is either a minority or liberal was thinking, at least a little. The man has a point, sort of. However, I will be contrary here and say that Bush cares, but only to the extent that his privileged upbringing and executive bubble existence allow him to. The man and probably a majority of this administration plebes more than likely have no clue how to begin to appreciate the magnitude and gravity of what has happened. Nor do they have any real concept of what life is truly like for most people of color in this country. That the poor have been the most affected by the devastation of Katrina is no surprise. That the poor are mostly black and minority is not so much a surprise, but is more telling of the racial problems still saturating American society.

I think the Civil Rights movement in the United States accomplished a Herculean feat in its efforts to break down the walls of racial division, achieving equal rights and considerations under the law for minorities. However, using Katrina’s devastation as evidence, it is more than clear that the progress made by Dr. King and President Johnson and those that followed either did not take root or those roots are still shallow. To the point, inequality in this country has only grown and more often than not, the economic spread is greatest between white and black. Legislation was only the beginning. More needs to be done.

To say that legislation was not enough to overcome a racially divided America is pretty easy. To hear that coming from a white guy like me may be a bit unconventional. More unorthodoxy like this is needed from many more people. I had some friends run for President back in 2000. The Brown/Milner platform was certainly eccentric. However, in its eccentricity, there was a brilliant, if not cartoonish jewel within it. One of their platform items was a proposition for mandatory interracial marriage. This allusion is not an endorsement as much as it is just a rehashing of a cool radical idea. It is always better to deal in facts, but to get outside the box, what if something like mandatory interracial marriage came to pass? Moreover, consider what could be learned about the similarities and differences between people.

At the end of the day, love is going to do what it will and you can’t legislate it one way or the other *cough*. The learning is what is important here. Education is the magic bullet that can solve this problem better and faster than any law ever could. For those of us who had the good fortune to ever partake of a study abroad program or join the Peace Corps or like outfit, how much did it teach you? What did you learn and how much of that still influences you today? It was profound and you couldn’t get it from a book. Right? Experience is the ultimate educator regardless of who you are.

LBJ said, upon signing the Civil Rights Act, that it would kill the Democratic Party in the South for the next several decades, and he was largely right. In the 2004 election, I can’t remember there being any blue states south of Maryland. This cannot flatly be construed as the LBJ prophecy manifest, but it colors the observation. Having technically grown up in the South (shout out to NoVa and Band Camp) I can attest, that with some exception, there is still a color line in the country. Tour around North West DC and take it in, then go to South or North East and tell me if you think there is a color line. I can safely guess that it is similar or more pronounced further south of the Mason Dixon line.

Like love, you can’t legislate culture. Some have tried, but barring something glaring that I am overlooking because of mindless busy work here in corporate America, all have failed. What does have impact on culture, to point out the obvious, is prevailing thought and trends as dictated by art, literature and events on a broad scale. The rift between the races and the economic classes has been somewhat breeched by these things, but not as much as it should or can be. Again, more needs to be done. Certainly we can say again that there are two Americas. Making one America is essential to get back to what the country once was. A place where the streets are paved with gold and the average person can expect that with hard work and tenacity, they can earn the American dream.

So, with mandatory interracial marriage not being a realistic or viable option, what do we do? How do we get the kids from Laguna Beach to realize that their lives aren’t realistic? How do we get kids from the slums of Akron Ohio to see that there is a way out and up? How do we get a welfare kid from South East DC to be friends with a millionaire kid from Potomac, Maryland? How do we get that kid from Potomac, Maryland to realize that he isn’t all that different from the South East, DC kid? How do we get an elected executive that grew up privileged with no cares in the world to see that his life is just as valuable as that of a garbage collector that lost everything he owned and loved in a storm?

These are all highly idealistic questions, but they need to be asked and more weight needs to be given to that kind of idealism. That weight was once there and can be again if our kids are taught to think, question and be a part the community and world around them. If all that starts with Kanye West speaking subtext to power, I am all for it.

Off Topic: Is it just me or is the BBC kicking the b'jesus out of American network news coverage of the Katrina aftermath? Also, has anyone picked up on the incongruity of newscasters, i.e. Katie Couric, broadcasting from these storm pummeled places and the dome in Houston and they are looking flawless? Makeup and clothes are perfect? Does anyone else thing that this aesthetic hurts the credibility of their newscast?

Lastly, if you haven’t read Maureen Dowd today, you should. (TB)

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina, the Poor and Security

After reading this post from The American Scene, I was left with a couple of burrs in my saddle about the way that America is set up. It has long been my opinion that the social structure and economy of this country are far too reliant on the automobile. And yes, fossil fuels as well. I am sure there are those out there will say “Yeah, so?” So, seeing that so many people decided to stay in their homes or in their towns/cities despite grave warnings warrants an examination of their decision making process. The post from TAS looks into that and determines that many people were living paycheck to paycheck or were so precarious in their living situations, i.e. they would rather stay and guard what they have lest their belongings be taken by looters and risk life and limb rather than just forfeit it all and leave it to fate to decide how they end up. As Reihan states, if your means only provide a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, you are “always one paycheck away from disaster.”

So, many of these people were simply unable to leave. They didn’t have cars. They couldn’t afford cabs. And, indirectly because of the social conditions that often accompany poor neighborhoods; they lacked a community to fall back upon that could bear them. The option to rely on family was not their either because of economic status or simply sheer lack of kin. They couldn’t afford to save themselves.

But this is all peripheral to the point I want to make.

My borrowing the phrase from John Edwards is by no means an endorsement of him, but the fallout from Katrina has clearly illustrated beyond any doubt that there are truly two Americas. Oversimplifying it for the sake of this argument, the “Haves” own cars and/or are able to do things to insure themselves against harm, which in this case was to get out of New Orleans. The “Have Nots” were unable to do much and, either out of desperation or inability to find (and pay for) transportation, stayed and forced to endure what came. Many paid for that choice, if you can call it that, with their lives. I am nauseous at the prospect of whatever the final death toll may be.

The point is, this country is out of balance in so many ways and we have to do something about it. The best way to address a huge problem is to start looking for simple ways to solve it, or at least part of it. What if those people who didn’t have cars did have access to trains buses, or other mass transit? This one element would not have solved the problem of getting people out of Katrina’s path, but it certainly would have helped.

What I would love to do now is shoot off on a tangent that imparts my loathing of car culture and the status that it carries and how the automobile industry has been the single largest malignancy in this country since World War II. However, that will be for another post. What I will say is that it is America’s dependence on the car, abetted by the oil business has been, in the long run, at the very least, partially responsible for the class divide in the United States today. Granted, the greed of the American consumer goes hand in hand with them. How many SUVs and luxury lines of automobiles do you need? Did you notice who stayed or was left behind in New Orleans?

Follow me in this leap. What if we broadened the idea of security beyond protection from religious fundamentalists trying to kill us? (Note that I left out the word Islamic) What if security applied to the overall strength and resiliency of our society? You could even include the notion of sustainability in defining security. So, to beat a dead horse, our fuel supply is not secure because we are at the mercy of foreign powers who set the price and as a result, have undue influence on our economic security.

Just watch the United States in the coming weeks call on OPEC to increase its production in efforts to help our recovery from this cataclysm. Sure it will be in the spirit of charity, but truly, it will be just like the dealer giving a junkie a bigger hit to tide him over until he gets through this rough patch.

As with 9/11, the toll will be great and the recovery will take years. What concerns me now is how we will recover. Will state and local leaders be able to see the problems that led to this for what they really were and are? Will our national leaders be able to see past politics and give the affected region what it needs in order to recover and make things better than they were before? Will the American people be able to recognize that there was a bold dividing line in race and class when observing who was affected by this? It will take leadership and vision. Again, as sad as this all of this is, it represents a tremendous opportunity for change in a positive direction that can serve as a glowing example to the rest of the country, if not the world.

Then again, we could just let it all go, as Dennis Hastert thinks.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Cheap Shot for a Cheapskate

It is said that Nero fiddled while Rome fell. (The Populist)

This photo was taken on Tuesday 8/30/05. (AP Photo/ABC News, Martha Raddatz)

I can't believe it either. And, to boot, here is some more food for thought:
The assistant secretary of the Army, Mississippi's former U.S. Rep. Mike Parker, was forced out Wednesday after he criticized the Bush administration's proposed spending cuts on Army Corps of Engineers' water projects, members of Congress said.
"Apparently he was asked to resign," said U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the House Appropriations Committee's energy and water development subcommittee that oversees the corps' budget.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, also said Parker was dismissed.

Parker's nomination to head the corps drew heavy criticism last year from environmental groups pushing to downsize the agency, calling its flood control projects too costly and destructive.

Parker earned the ire of administration officials when he questioned Bush's planned budget cuts for the corps, including two controversial Mississippi projects.

"I think he was fired for being too honest and not loyal enough to the president," said lobbyist Colin Bell, who represents communities with corps-funded projects.

Bell said Parker resigned about noon after being given about 30 minutes to choose between resigning or being fired. (TPM)

Now, if you weren't already sure that I am a TPM addict, check this question out:

I have a question that no one has raised so far. Wouldn’t part of any homeland security preparation be the handling of refugees? Virtually any serious terrorist attack (explosion, nuclear, biological) would entail a large number of displaced persons. Wasn’t anything done along these lines? I would have thought we would have pre-positioned refugee resources (tents, MRE's, water purification, generators, emergency medical care) near major population centers in the event of mass exodus. Am I crazy?


JY is not cray at all.

Also, check out buddy-o-mine Checkypantz.

And again, just so the blame for a delapidated FEMA isn't passed without objection: Read this.

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The Tower View

Yesterday, I posted a little bit on how the Commander and Thief chastised the Clinton Administration for not being tough enough on terror. I called this hooey. I still think it is hooey. Now, in this time of post disaster we see this bit from the Knight-Ridder group:

Being prepared for a disaster is basic emergency management, disaster experts say.

For example, in the 1990s, in planning for a New Orleans nightmare scenario, the federal government figured it would pre-deploy nearby ships with pumps to remove water from the below-sea-level city and have hospital ships nearby, said James Lee Witt, who was FEMA director under President Clinton.

Federal officials said a hospital ship would leave from Baltimore on Friday.

"These things need to be planned and prepared for; it just doesn't look like it was," said Witt, a former Arkansas disaster chief who won bipartisan praise on Capitol Hill during his tenure.

FEMA said some of its response teams were prepared. (TPM)

Clinton actually did something right? Clearly, Bush wasn’t tough enough on our home front. Isn’t the President the guy who is supposed to keep the nation safe? It would seem that the gulf coast part of our country isn’t safe at all. Looting is rampant and there are stories of rape in the Super Dome. (Tom) Security isn’t just taking the fight abroad. It is making sure that we are ready at home, too. FEMA’s ball drop aside, how are we doing on airline security? And what of the tsunami warning system plan? Is the nation so distractible and its POTUS so myopic that we are doomed to get completely broadsided by any other disaster or calamity that my happen our way?

Again, here is a tremendous opportunity for the President to show some civil humanity and admit some error. Can this buck please stop with him? My bet is that he will just stay in his vacation ivory tower and talk about how things must be twice as bad on the ground. How apt. I am sure he could say the same for our fighting men and women in Iraq.

So help me, if he or any of his flunkies try to dismiss this lack of preparedness on the prior administration… well, I don’t know what I will do. I am open to suggestions. Until I can think of something better to do I shall regard the Bush Administration's actions and invective as, by default, hooey.

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