B After The Fact

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Damn Right I've Got The Blues

Easy to see now, but I think the most fruitful line of questioning for Justice Roberts, would be for Senator Schumer to ask

"Justice Roberts -- What do you think that Advise and Consent means? Can I vote against your nomination because I disagree with your politics? Because I don't like your tie? I mean, I know the voters would never stand for it, but as a Constitutional matter, can't I vote against you simply because I don't like your tie?"

"You keep refusing to answer questions on the grounds that judicial nominees do not "traditionally" have to answer these questions, or on some concept of "judicial independence" that appears nowhere in the Constitution. Does that mean that you are so committed to the traditional way of doing things that you would never overturn a former ruling of the Supreme Court."

"No? Then why aren't we allowed to set up new standards for asking judges questions?"


"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Mr. Bush said in an appearance in the East Room with President Jalal Talabani of Iraq. "I want to know what went right and what went wrong."

W- must have read my previous post, where I pointed out that according to the movement conservatives, the Federal government had no job to do in the Mississippi Delta, and is not responsible for anything that might happen in any of the states. Therefore, Bush's "apology" --- as he well knows --- is a nullity. Bush's record of it never ever ever having been his fault stands at 100%.

This is sort of like when Bush promised that at the point where Karl Rove is convicted and sent to Federal prison, Bush won't allow him to work at the White House anymore.

Nice thing about that conservative theory. Not the Federal government's responsibility to protect the levee or save the people, but it does get to control the contracts to Halliburton to rebuild.


Just so you don't think I have nothing to do all day but criticize conservatives, I want to congratulate the paper of record for finally printing an editorial on Monday pointing out that Judith Miller has been in prison for almost two months for (I can only assume) refusing to rat out Karl Rove.

Actually, I think the Times published an editorial on the subject last month as well.

If I'm Judith Miller, I'd find a publicist.

If I'm the New York Times, I'd find a tree and hang myself. You have a reporter in jail defending the New York Times right to lie in order to defend the Bush administration.

IN JAIL for the First Amendment right of your reporters to make 6 figures for tale bearing and gossip mongering on behalf of the Administration, summarizing press releases and calling it hard investigative journalism, and then refusing to assist the government in ferreting out (putting cement shoes on) possible obstruction of justice and perjury.


It only needs to be two sentences long. It only has to say JUDITH MILLER HAS BEEN IN JAIL FOR ___ DAYS. FREE JUDITH MILLER.

Unless of course, the good old liberal New York Times is happier with the current state of affairs.


Tuesday was Mayoral Primary Day in New York City. The second Tuesday in September. The last time there was a mayoral primary, I voted, then hopped on the "F" Train. At 8:48 a.m., the train stalled in the tunnel for quite a few minutes, for no apparent reason, and then completed the trip from Queens to Manhattan. I got off the train, and the day seemed unusually clear, and the street seemed unusually quiet. I got into the office, and heard about the plane and the first tower. I couldn't get my mind around it.

One of the office messengers then told me that on one of his video games, when the plane hits the building, the game starts a count-down clock, because eventually the central core of the building will heat up until the building in the video game implodes into rubble. The messenger saw no reason that this could not happen to a real building as well. He thought that they ought to be getting all the people out.

Meanwhile, on the 87th floor of the second tower (forgive me, I can never remember if the North Tower was hit first, or the South Tower), there is a company that I do business with every single day. Apparently, after the first tower was hit, there were announcements telling people to stay in place. The President of the Company on the 87th Floor either did not hear the announcement or did not comprehend it, or did not agree with it. He made the entire company leave the building. The elevators to the 65th floor were still operational, and so they only had to walk down 65 flights. They all got out safely.

Meanwhile, we were told to evacuate our midtown building at 10:00 a.m. I was pretty ambivalent about it. I thought we were better off together in one place, better than scattering off to the four winds. But it was fine. I walked over the 59th Street Bridge. I saw two towers of smoke. I thought the buildings were on fire, and they were being surrounded by a haze. Even though someone had told me that the messenger was right, down to the last detail, I couldn't get my mind around that either. I believed I was watching the buildings burning. But by then the buildings were gone.

I think it is a little over 10 miles from where I work in Manhattan to where I live in Queens. About 2/3 of the way, the Long Island Expressway goes over Queens Boulevard. When I passed that point, I said to the person I was walking with that I thought that the gravitational pull had shifted somehow, that I had left the scene of the accident (I didn't know the details then), and that even though I was still within New York City, I had left it, right there at that intersection, and had entered the rest of America. I still feel its true, and that it is true for a lot of people, and it explains a lot of what happened since.

My mother knew one person who was on the airplane coming in from Boston. He was a fellow who had married my mother's friend's daughter, a woman I had known pretty casually, but had known all my life. I hadn't spoken to her, I guess since 1982. I regret to report that I still haven't called her, and I wouldn't do it at this late date.


Anyway, I took a pretty broad view about the people who bombed the building. They weren't Osama, they weren't Mohammed Atta, they weren't the 19. They are an entire way of thinking, and an entire way of life. And that way of thinking is not Islam, and therefore it is not Afghanistan. It is Wahhabi, it is the Middle East, and we have to be there to clean it out. Iraq is a poor substitute for Saudi Arabia -- but the conversation never turned that way.

It was never about WMDs to me, and I have written about it in other blog entries , but those of us who feel that way dropped the ball.

Seen a lot of bleating from places like the Nation, and the American Prospect, and the New Republic, trying to get us "liberal hawks" to admit that we were wrong.

The notion that we should have seen all along that Bush would expletive everything he touches doesn't change my support for the war. You can't wait 8-12 years for the Republicans to get kicked out, and probably even longer for a War Democrat, to fight a war, which, contrary to public opinion, we did not start.

Democrats are going to have to live with the scenario -- not talked about, and obscure then -- not talked about, but obvious now -- that we should have taken greater action after the first WTC bombing in 1993, we should have retaliated when they bombed the Khobar Towers, we should have bombed anything when they bombed the U.S.S. Cole during the Presidential election campaign. If we had, then Al Gore would have been President, and they probably would have never bombed our building in the first place.

But Clinton did not go in. By the way, do you really think the Republicans would have let us go in? My heavens, the contracts weren't even lined up properly yet. Would Halliburton get the oil profits? Oh ... Wag the dog. Lots of people will be spending extra time in Hell because people thought, and people still think, that the Clintons are more evil than Osama and Saddam.

To paraphrase, you go to war with the President you have. But you still have to go to war.

And when Boy George pulls out of Iraq next summer, because the Republicans don't want a draft, and don't want to face the voters in 2006 for an election campaign, it will be too soon.

Or when Boy George pulls out of Iraq in 2008, because Cheney has taken all the money out of Iraq he can, and his Vice-Presidential immunity from prosecution is expiring, and they don't want Jeb saddled with Iraq in the Presidential election campaign, it will be too soon.

And if we wait until the earliest possible date we can leave, which is not when Iraq is a democracy, but the much longer time when Iraq is in a position to defend itself against Iran (whether or not Iran throws off the mullahs), it will still be too soon to leave.

Once you are in, you are in until you win, which is further out into the future then any of us can predict. That is why Bush 41 stayed out. But Bush 41 had a choice, and Bush 43, he really didn't.

[See further, Lawrence of Arabia. It blows my mind every single day, that none of the Bushies saw Lawrence of Arabia. They would greet us with flowers? In the desert?
Did any Republican in the history of this country ever see Lawrence of Arabia?]

Tragically, Bush 43 thought and behaves as if he still thinks, just like Michael Moore, that this was a war of choice.

That's why Bush thought -- Bush still thinks -- he could fight this war on the cheap, with one hand tied behind America's back -- putting domestic political considerations and profiteering first. Putting short term victories in front of both the military war aims and the more important cultural/ moral war aims (like the information you gleaned from the terrorists at Abu Gharib and Gitmo is not worth the hit we take to our self esteem. Like what if the terrorists bomb the levee?)

We are still fighting with one hand behind our back. On top of all that, our city is gone. So I don't know what a President with a strong moral compass would do in this situation. Much less this set of money makers in Washington.

Since we are planning to leave in the forseeable future (don't listen to the politicians, look at the generals), we must be ok with losing.

Maybe we should have known that the Republicans (c.f. -- Bob "there are only Democrat Wars" Dole) would lack the fortitude to see the war through. But even then, you had to go in, and hope that the Republicans would find the courage somewhere along the line to stay the course, and expand the war to where it ought to be fought and won -- both on the battlefield of the Middle East, and in the creation of the more perfect union here in the United States. It is still possible they will stay the course. Can't hedge a bet on this one. You've already put down the "all-in."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Old South Floods New Orleans

I reposted what I call my "bedtime story" The Civil War Must Be Refought In Every Generation . I wrote in 1996 on an old Brother Word Processor, and I edited it very slightly when I retyped it into Blogger on the day after Election Day 2004.

When I put it up today, I did not re-edit it at all.

I have been thinking about the essay a lot this week, as we look at Hurricane Katrina, and the death of Justice Rehnquist and the related appointment of Justice Roberts, and September 11 and the war that resulted from that attack.

You can read my essay if you like. The one sentence summary is: The South lost the Civil War, and has spent the last 140 years trying to reverse the result.

If you claim, like the modern Conservatives do, that the United States Constitution calls for a limited Federal government, and that the 50 states are still the dominant actors in this post-Civil War, post-Great Depression, post-Civil Rights, post-Cold War, post- 9/11 world, then the response of the Bush Administration to Hurricane Katrina has been entirely appropriate.

The Feds waited for the Governor of Louisiana to fall on her ass, then they waited some more to see if she would regain her footing, then they blamed the City of New Orleans (actually the head of Homeland Security essentially blamed the City of New Orleans for existing). Meanwhile, people are dying, but that is not the main point. And if you don't want government crawling all over you all the time, it can't be the main point.

Then, the Feds finally came in. It stands to reason, by the way, that it took longer for Federal aid to come to New Orleans than to the tsunami victims because it should be harder for the Federal government to go into a soveriegn state like Louisiana than it is for the United States Army to airdrop food into a foreign country. That is the way the conservatives say that the Constitution is written. And maybe it's true.

Once the Feds did arrive in Mississippi Delta, they handled the issue like a Homeland Security issue, since, according to the States Rights analysis, the Federal government is the wrong place to look for social services and flood relief.

No need to play the Blame Game, since the Federal government has done nothing wrong.

Only problem is that even the most conservative of the conservatives admit that at some point or other, fixed or fair, you have to hold an election.


I think that John Roberts is an excellent choice to replace Rehnquist. He is a bit lost in the 70s, and the political/ intellectual battles of that era, but everybody has to be somewhere. (Easy for me, since I live there too.) Obviously, I would prefer a more liberal justice, but in order to find a Justice more liberal than Roberts, the Democrats have to win an election or two.

A lot of people seem to mourn the fact that Bush gave up the "high ground" of the O'Connor-for-Roberts swap for the more even exchange of Rehnquist-for-Roberts. However, I think that the next appointee has to be a woman/ minority and (a) I am not sure the country is really ready for a woman/ minority to be a Chief Justice and (b) even if it is, a woman/ minority Chief Justice who is as conservative as Clarence Thomas and who has the intellectual heft of Robert Bork (which is what the movement conservatism really wants) just isn't there right now.

The ascension of Antonin Scalia to Chief Justice, by the way, is not the answer for the movement conservative. It has to be a younger person, not simply because you never know when Scalia will die (what if Hillary is President, then?), but anyone with an adult living memory of World War II or Martin Luther King is simply not, in a pinch, going to prove conservative enough for these people. And, by the way, anyone with an adult living memory of being a woman, or a non-Caucasian, is in a pinch, going to fail the movement conservatives as well.


The Civil War Must Be Refought in Every Generation. One cause of the Civil War was that an activist Supreme Court wrote the Dred Scott decision. One result of the Civil War was the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. One result of the 14th Amendment was that an activist Supreme Court wrote the Slaughterhouse Cases, and pushed the 14th Amendment back, in a jurisprudential way, for 85 years.

Some folks who complain that the Supreme Court is too activist (33 years after the appointment of Rehnquist!) don't know their history and aren't interested in learning it. Same folks who complain that the Supreme Court is too activist started to complain that the Supreme Court wasn't activist enough in the Terri Schiavo case.

Some folks who complain that the Supreme Court is not respectful enough of "original intent" don't get that the original intent of the Framers was, in large measure, to protect the interest of slaveholders. The Civil War changed all that. But it can all change back. Maybe it already has.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

High Water Everywhere

I get that no one can predict a Category 5 Hurricane.

I get that no one can predict that the levee will break (or whatever euphemism is being used) the day after the Category 5 Hurricane.

I get (but I am a little disturbed by) the argument that there is never enough time, money or resources to do all the things that need to be done. Therefore, the argument goes, the levee that is controlling the walls that is controlling the port that is controlling the mouth that is controlling the river that is controlling the commerce of the 8-10 states that it borders (many of which voted for the President and Republican Senators), not to mention the farm industry, the livestock industry, and the oil refining industry of the states directly west of the aforesaid 8-10 states (virtually all of which voted for the President and Republican Senators) ... that levee is somehow not, how should I put it -- the highest priority item that anyone in the Red States should be concerned with.

But here are some questions that no one has yet answered to my satisfaction:

After they bombed our building in New York and our building in Washington ... hell, after they bombed Pearl Harbour, how could the Pentagon, how could the Department of Homeland Security not have a contingency plan for a military strike or a terrorist attack on the levee? It is not as if the Battle of New Orleans is a new concept in American History.

Donald Rumsfeld, to the best of our knowledge, has not been asked anything, has not done anything, and has not been asked to do anything. The Head of Homeland Security, to the best of my knowledge, has not been asked tis question directly. The question -- why aren't we using the contingency plan that has to be in place for a terrorist attack on the levees?

Or maybe we are. But we know that if this was the contingency plan the Foxies would be defending the plan, they would be saying that the President is doing everything perfectly. But even the Foxies aren't saying that. They are simply defending the President's efforts. If this was the plan, the President would not have spent all day today trying to fix the mess that the President made of his trip to the region yesterday which itself was scheduled to try to fix the mess he made when he opened his mouth earlier in the week.

Well, at least Dick Cheney was on the scene today.

Why wasn't there a plan?

Here's another stab. Why aren't we using the contingency plan that has to be in place for a terrorist attack on the levees?

Because there is no plan. Because the Administration does not really take a terrorist threat on the levees seriously. If the Administration does not really take a terrorist threat on the levees seriously, where would they take a terrorist attack seriously? I mean, besides Kennebunkport or Crawford?

If there is no serious contingency plans for a terrorist attack in our Gulf, then ---and I ask this as a supporter of this war in a context where my support has cost me life-long friendships, and most likely business opportunities --- if we have no contingency plan to fight terrorism in our Gulf, why would we be fighting terrorism in that other Gulf?

Oh, but I (since the government and I are very tight) ... I never said that we had to be in Iraq for terrorism. I never said that we had to be in Iraq for the spread of democracy. I said that we had to be in Iraq to protect the oil supply.

But even my cynicism turns out not to be nearly cynical enough.

No one in the Administration was worried about protecting the oil supply. Because if someone would have been concerned about oil supply, they would have been concerned about oil refineries, and if they were concerned about oil refineries, they would have made sure that the refineries would have been protected from breaches in the levee. But the plan to shore up the levee was not a high priority to the President of an Oil Company who is the President of the United States or to the President of an Oil Company who is the Vice President of the United States.

Would shoring up the levee would have made a difference this week --- It was never even tried, because they did not care.

We had to go into Iraq to protect the oil supply so the cheap energy source could continue to flow into the United States, where it belongs. I paid $3.19 for a gallon of gas on Thursday. Good thing I didn't wait for the weekend, because gas costs $3.59 a gallon now. The day before the flood it cost $2.59 a gallon.

Happily for the Administration, I, like most Americans, can not remember what the price of gas was 6 months ago.

Anyway, at what point is it cheaper to turn coal into oil? At what point is it cheaper to turn corn into ethanol and process that a second time? I cannot believe that no one has made that calculation yet. I'm sure Dick Cheney knows. Why doesn't somebody just ask him.

Because if we don't care about protecting the oil refineries here, why should we care about protecting the oil supply there.

Because once the energy supply in the United States is that much cheaper than a gallon of oil, we can just convert to the alternate source, get out of the Middle East and leave those people to their own devices.

Where are the answers?

A couple of final footnotes.

Why isn't this empty suit who is the head of FEMA out of a job yet? He said days afterwards that he wasn't aware that there was a refugee problem (I'm paraphrasing), and then he exacerbated the situation when he said that he was heart-broken -- heart-broken -- FEMA asked those poor people with no money, no connections, health problems, to leave New Orleans -- what was FEMA supposed to do. Give them a bus ticket, too? I mean it's not like this guy would really be out of a job. An original thinker like that is a perfect match for Mary Matalon's new conservative publishing imprint.

Some moron in the New York Times wrote an entire column today stating that the Federal Government should not be in charge of repairing the levee. That it was a matter of flood insurance. If the Port of New Orleans is not a federal issue, not to be controlled by the Federal government, then just tear the Constitution up and start over. Because then the conservatives are right. There is no need for a United States. For anything. And I can keep my Federal tax money and use it to buy guns, rockets and missiles for my own protection. The Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana cannot have sole responsibility for the Mississippi River. That's not my decision. That was decided during the Battle of Vicksburg.

On a more cheerful note, I would like to welcome all the new converts to my way of thinking. All winter long, all through Holy Week, these people said that 3 Federal benches, the Supreme Court and countless State judges could not determine whether or not to pull the plug on someone who was brain-dead for 15 years.

Others said that, even in the case of a serial killer, the instrumentalies of death were too severe to be put in the hand of elected officials, and the middle-aged and elderly (mostly) gentlemen who are our judges. The government, they said, cannot take a life.

I am happy to say that these same people now say that although they do not trust scores of federal judges and elected officials, any 19-year old who has been deputized into the National Guard this week is free to shoot and kill anyone caught stealing a Kit Kat bar from a Walgreens.

Welcome to the cause.

To those of you who accuse those like me of politicizing the issue. I know that the Bush Administration is completely focussed on the fate of the victims, and anything that they do in the coming days will be part and parcel of their efforts. So I know that help is on the way. I know that this week, the Bush Administration and its fellow travelers will spend their time alleviating the pain and suffering of the most truly aggrieved in our society. The ones who have been hurt the most. It will take the one government action that must be taken to insure that the calamity these victims have suffered will never happen again. Yes, at long last, we will have the solution that will lead to all solutions. We will stop what we are doing, and we will repeal the Estate Tax.

High Water Everywhere -- A Footnote on Bob Dylan

High water risin', the shacks are slidin' down
Folks lose their possessions - folks are leaving town
Bertha Mason shook it - broke it
Then she hung it on a wall
Says, "You're dancin' with whom they tell you to
Or you don't dance at all."
It's tough out there
High water everywhere


High water risin', six inches 'bove my head
Coffins droppin' in the street
Like balloons made out of lead
Water pourin' into Vicksburg, don't know what I'm going to do
"Don't reach out for me," she said
"Can't you see I'm drownin' too?"
It's rough out there
High water everywhere

Well, George Lewis told the Englishman, the Italian and the Jew
"You can't open your mind, boys
To every conceivable point of view."
They got Charles Darwin trapped out there on Highway Five
Judge says to the High Sheriff,
"I want him dead or alive
Either one, I don't care."
High Water everywhere

Bob Dylan
"High Water (For Charley Patton)"
Released September 11, 2001

Of course, that is from the same Dylan album, "Love And Theft" which has the lyric:

"Only One Thing I Did Wrong
Stay in Mississippi A Day Too Long"

I'm a big Dylan guy, and there's a lot of product out there -- especially over the next 6 weeks -- most of it brought to you by the Jester himself -- that will tell you that Dylan was the voice of those times. Well, he isn't doing too bad with these times either.