Friday, September 30, 2005

Texas 2050?

I was just daydreaming about the whole worst-case End of Oil scenario and wondering, well, what about peanut and sunflower oil? I know there's been some success in developing hydrogen-powered vehicles run by sunflower oil. So I imagined a Texas blanketed with sunflower fields, which run as far as the eye can see. Much prettier than oil wells don't you think?

Too Moral

I blogged this quote just over a year ago, having found it in my notes from a lecture series I attended in Prague. Seems ever more relevant in a week with the news about Frist and Delay. Eda Kriseova, spoke on "Literature and Nationalism" and is a friend and biographer of the Czech president and writer Vaclav Havel. About his waning popularity, she said:
Havel is "too moral" for the ordinary person. They prefer the lying and stealing pragmatic bureaucrat since they make them feel comfortable with their immorality.
I often wish we had leadership in modern American politics, which inspired the public the way Havel I'm sure there are multiple reasons why we don't: the modern newscoverage, which benefits the more telegenic most greatly; the way politics attracts the power hungry and repels the intellectual, for example. But, boy, there's the sting of truth to Kriseova's remark, too, isn't there?

Best Ad Ever

Just watch it. Go ahead.

And then there's the small version.

Update: The Carlton Draught site also has this great Boardroom Bingo game (pdf). Amazing how corporate speak in Australia corresponds so closely with the American stuff. What a shame for colorful Aussie English to be overcome with business jargon! Guess they can't be all "Cor, didja see Gazza go aggro on Bazza for that shonky bizness of 'is, mate?" all the time, but still.

(Via The Marketing Playbook)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Booksellers, Where Are You?

I didn't see a Banned Books display at Books-A-Million, nor did I see any sign of this week's emphasis on or Barnes & Noble's site either. So I wrote 'em all to ask why, and let you know what I hear back. (So far, two boilerplate emails from B&N. Nuttin from the other two.)

Blue Gal notes Amazon's silence, too, and point us to Alibris and Tattered Cover (great Denver Bookstore) both feature banned books this week. Good on 'em. Why not the others? I'd hate to think it's because they don't wanna be controversial. That'd be ironic.

Thanks to Boing Boing for supporting Banned Books Week, too.

Update 9/28: I heard back from Books-A-Million:
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I see that we recognize Banned Books Week online at and have passed your e-mail along to the director of operations over our retail stores to see if we do the same at all of our locations or if this was a mistake on the part of our staff at the Charlotte locations.
It's true that they do promote it on their homepage - with the 5th of 10 bullets in the Spotlight section of their homepage. The first bullet? In bold: " is a five-time winner of the BizRate Circle of Excellence Award." Something Marketing probably mandated, but their customers aren't going to care about. At least they mention Banned Books Week. Amazon and B&N don't mention it at all.

Why the concern? Remember: these are booksellers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Top 100 Banned Books

Here's the ALA's listing of the top 100 banned books. Shame, shame: I've only read 5 or 6 (memory fails!) of them, though I'm reading 2 more right now. Maybe because an extraordinary number of them are children's books? So, no doubt, I could knock out another half a dozen any evening in the children's section of my local library. Somehow Lolita didn't even make the top 100. It may be the best of the banned books I've read, though Of Mice and Men is extraordinary in its simplicity and in its message. Some I need to get to: Slaughter House Five, The Handmaid's Tale, and Brave New World. Two of those I have on my shelf and still haven't gotten to--among a whole host of other books. I started American Psychoonce, but actually did think it was crap, so I put it down. The graphic violence in some passages was certainly imaginative, but lapsed heavily into the lurid. I've read a lot of Bret Easton Ellis, and he's a brilliant writer, but he can also be tedious, sensationalistic, and a terrible name-dropper. Still, the movie version was suitably horrific and I can't imagine anyone outdoing Christian Bale in the role. Maybe I'll try it again some time.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Banned Books Week

Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it. - Mark Twain
It's Banned Books Week from September 24th–October 1st, so be sure to buy, read or give away a banned book.

The American Library Association has more info, as you might expect. They also listed the most often challenged books from last year. The Chocolate War topped the list (again), but for the first time in five years, there wasn't a Harry Potter book in this top ten list. Interestingly enough, the most challenged book last year was Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, not for language or explicit content, but for inaccuracy and for its political viewpoint?

If we're banning books for those reasons (and Arming America is fraudulent), then I can suggest another worthy entry. But, no, though John O'Neill may have packed his Kerry book with untruths, I still support his right to publish it. (Of course, publishers also have a right to refuse to publish it. That's not censorship. Naturally, Regnery was only too happy to publish the book and that's certainly their right.)

Amnesty International lists authors who are currently being persecuted because of their writing. They also have this poster (PDF) you can print out to promote the week. Scholastic offers advice for teachers on how to promote Banned Books Week when teaching kids and interacting with parents.

Think I'll grab The Chocolate War or The Catcher in the Rye myself, as I've never fully read either. Any other recommendations?

Update: I went to Books-A-Million and bought the above two books, and they didn't even have a Banned Books display for this week. What's up with that?

Conservative Cats

Russell is a Republican is a book detailing "Republican party values from a cats point of view." Seriously. Mwah-hah-hah!

Who needs this book, though? I could've told you cats were Republicans. Cold. Aloof. Look how they switch their tales! Always so disappointed with us humans. And dogs then. They must be liberals. That's why they're called "man's best friend."

(Via Andy Sullivan.)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Hometown Hero

This guy from my home town survived a shark attack by punching the thing repeatedly until it left him alone. Yessir, that how we Perthites (Perthians?) get it done. (What do you call someone from Perth? I have no idea and I was born and raised there.) ""I lifted my body out of the water," he said, "and I just got my fists and I remember what I'd read in the paper. I just started punching and I connected with its head." See. We read, too.

BTW, watch out ya'll, we're gradually taking over. Yes, we're a shark-punching, phone-throwing, croc-wrestling, auto asphyxiating* lot, and we're taking over. You heard it here first.

You doubt my words? Well, who owns News Corp?

*Admittedly, this trait may be counterproductive to the cause.

Food for Thought

We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire. Unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense. - Gore Vidal

All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Men who allow their love of power to give them a distorted view of the world are to be found in every asylum: one man will think he is the governor of the Bank of England, another will think he is the king, and yet another will think he is God. Highly similar delusions, if expressed by educated men in obscure language, lead to professorships of philosophy, and if expressed by emotional men in eloquent language, lead to dictatorships. - Bertrand Russell

I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Separation? Schmeperation

Boing Boing links to this fascinating story about a TV show supposedly endorsed by George Bush called DHS. The producer has been busted for scamming investors out of 5.5 million.

There's just one brief paragraph I want to focus on though:
More than 70 investors, including churches, had invested money in the series on the basis that DHS - Department of Homeland Security - had been personally approved by Mr Bush.
Churches? Churches invested money in a TV series that intended to lionize the Department of Homeland Security? A series that was long rumored to have received George Bush's particular blessing? WTF? I don't even know where to start with this. Seems odd that a church would choose a TV show with that particular subject to endorse and invest in. But the investing is even weirder. Since when do churches invest in television shows? How does that work exactly? And if they were going to invest in something like that, one imagines The Passion of the Christ (regardless of what you think of the film itself) or Touched by an Angel, but DHS? What next? Walker Texas Ranger? The next Tom Clancy flick? Some sort of military propaganda flick? It boggles the mind from every angle.

I've Been Diagnosed

Bizarre: I just found a link to this site from Autism Kingdom under Asperger Characteristic. How it got there, I have no idea. I suspect it's some sort of fake site/link farm to collect info for spamming or something as many of the links on the site aren't related to the subject. I also get regular emails, supposedly from a woman, from a similar site which sells some sort of breast enhancement cream, telling me that they've added a link to my site, so I'm obliged to add a reciprocal link. Hah!

Friday, September 23, 2005


Probably not, but Toyota is saying that Katrina has driven up hybrid sales. I wondered as much. Last night I stopped by the bulletin board in the men's locker room at the Y and there were were about six photos posted of cars for sale. All but one were SUVs.

Six years plus and a good 140,000 miles later, my Honda Civic's still running like a top. And I bought it used with about 20,000 on it. Of course, the year I bought it ('99), you find gas for 69, 79 cents a gallon some places in South Carolina for a while. I could fill my tank for ten bucks. Not so now. More like 25 bucks. But then I pull up behind these SUVs at the pump, and they're paying, what, 50 bucks and more to fill up now? And they're not getting as much bang for their buck either.

Daniel Gross points out that Priuses was outselling Hummers two to one by late 2003. Hummers languish on th elot, while there's a waiting list for Priuses. My friend in Atlanta could tell you, Minis don't stay on the lot long either. You may have heard about Ford's huge new hybrid initiative, too: 250,000 hybrid cars and trucks per year by 2010.

So maybe the U.S. needn't be the Land of the SUV after all.

And, yes, there's even a hybrid replacement for the Humvee in the works.

Allow Me to Translate

From the Department of Defense transcript of an interview between "policital commentator and talk show host" Laura Ingraham and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:

INGRAHAM: Fantastic. If you need someone to be that military spokesperson over in Iraq, I'm happy to give up my microphone any time, Mr. Secretary. Any time you call I'll be happy to jump over there.

TRANSLATION: I’d happily ditch any pretense of journalistic integrity just to serve at your feet!

RUMSFELD: You're terrific, Laura. Thanks so much.

TRANSLATION: Goooood doggie. Here’s a treat.

Here also are a couple of Ingraham’s tough questions for the SOD (the Secretary of Defense, that is):

“Are you confident that a year from now or six months from now public opinion will move toward embracing progress in Iraq and the fact that Iraq was worth it?”

“You've got a press corps against you and you've got an international media who's oftentimes against you so it's very difficult.” [Sorry, that one’s simply a bald statement, not a question.]

“I hear a very different account of what is happening, very positive stories, again, and yet I don't see the stuff reported. It's frustrating to me. I can't imagine how frustrating to you it must be.” [Sorry, that’s more a bald statement of support, too, isn’t it.]

[Here’s a real question. Promise.] "Do we think, Mr. Secretary, that having a military spokesperson on the ground day in and day out, ticking off three positive pieces of news out of Iraq every day, someone that every American knows, comes to know whether it's General Casey or someone else [e.g. Laura Ingraham], do you think that's something that would affect the public opinion at this point? Because I'm concerned if these numbers keep going the way they are, it's going to do damage to the President's war on terror overall and obviously his standing on other issues at home." [See, there was a question in there.]

(Via Andy Sullivan.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What? Supermodels Are Doing Coke?

I'm shocked, I tell you. Shocked. And so apparently are H&M and Chanel.

No worries. I'm sure she can still find plenty of work with Calvin Klein and Versace.

No, it's really not news and my point is that "kate moss" and "heroin chic" have been synonyms for well over decade now and for these companies to pretend otherwise is pretty nonsensical. Obviously, she's getting dropped for getting busted, not for partaking.

Next thing you know, we'll find out athletes are doing steroids or something.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Gouge Away!

A week ago, John Stossel put down his well-thumbed copy of Atlas Shrugged (sorry, he actually referred to Adam Smith) to sing the praises of price gouging. That's right. You see the idea is that if a storeowner radically raises the price of goods during a time of crisis, only those who really need said goods will purchase them, effectively allowing for the fair distribution of the same goods. Well, let's let him do the splainin':
Consider this scenario: You are thirsty -- worried that your baby is going to become dehydrated. You find a store that's open, and the storeowner thinks it's immoral to take advantage of your distress, so he won't charge you a dime more than he charged last week. But you can't buy water from him. It's sold out.

You continue on your quest, and finally find that dreaded monster, the price gouger. He offers a bottle of water that cost $1 last week at an "outrageous" price -- say $20. You pay it to survive the disaster.

You resent the price gouger. But if he hadn't demanded $20, he'd have been out of water. It was the price gouger's "exploitation" that saved your child.
The price gouger's "exploitation" saves your child! Touches the heart don't it? Well, when you've put down your tear-soaked tissue, consider this alternate scenario:

You're thirsty and you need water for your self and for your new-born baby. You find a convenience store that's open and you discover it has a single six-pack of bottled water left. How much? $20. It's a lot, but you do have a single twenty left and maybe you can make the water last a couple of days.

Just as you pick up the pack and head to the counter, you hear a screech of rubber outside. A Humvee pulls to a stop and a big guy wearing a Polo shirt and a Rolex jumps out.

"How much for that water?" he yells before he even gets into the store.

The store manager looks at you. Looks at the Humvee guy.

"Twenty dollars," he says. "But this is the last pack and the lady is about to buy it."

"I'll give you $200," the guy says.

The store manager looks at you. He looks at Humvee guy. He looks at the well-thumbed copy of Atlas Shrugged on the counter before him (or his clipping of John Stossel's stirring article) and he remembers the merits of acting selfishly.

"OK, $200 it is. Sorry lady."

The Humvee guy pays up, jumps in his vehicle and speeds off to safety. The price gouger has saved the Hummer guy a stop on the way to his second home up in the mountains! You return to the street to see if you can find any puddle water clean enough to drink.

Stirring, isn't it! That's the triumph of unchecked capitalism, Mr. Stossel. Or, at least, that scenario's just as likely as yours.

(I'd also suggest Stossel read Jose Saramego's Blindness for a much more likely depiction of how folks might act during a time of national disaster.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Gospel According to Vonnegut

Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. The hell I can't! Look at the Reverand Pat Robertson. And he is as happy as a pig in shit. - Kurt Vonnegut on The Daily Show

Not Exactly What I Had in Mind

Bizarre: In this person's family, my venerable last name is used when someone wants to describe a mess:
Please excuse the way my place looks. It's stribley, which is a word my grandmother passed down to my mother and the women in our family. Cluttery. Messy. So I named my place "Stribley Cottage." As in, Mr. Darcy has Pemberley, Mr. deWinter has Manderley, I have Stribley.
I'd love to know the etymology for that usage, as I assure you, I'm nothing if not clean and neat.

As for me, I believe I'll start using my name to describe that which is most refined and elegant, as in "What a simply stribley automobile the Aston Martin is.

Oddly enough, this distant relative (we all likely came out of Cornwall, England) considers our name in a saltier context.

(Found while, yes, ego-searching on Google's new blog search engine.)


Please forgive this lapse into juvenalia, but this photo of El Presidente asking Condi if he can go to the bathroom appears to be genuine.

The contrast of the photo with the caption is especially hilarious, given that it makes no mention of the content of W's note.

(Via Kevin Drum.)

Mini, Old San Juan

How cool is this: I took the above photo of a Mini outside of Nono's in Old San Juan and it's is now being used for the home page of the Atlanta Mini site. Thanks Jon!

Monday, September 12, 2005


Now, I have to confess, I haven't used Goovite properly yet. I haven't run a heuristic analysis on it. Haven't conducted any usability testing on it. But I do have to say that just the fact that it's not smothered in advertising and other distractions like its predecessor and competition prompts me to give props to wunder[nicht so]kind Mark Hurst for his new online invite site.

Now, I know Mark's newsletter is Good Experience and his conference is Gel, but Goovite? Hoping to sell to someone, Mark? The interface is impeccably clean, simple, and usable - birds of a feather?

(BTW: for those who don't know who is: Mark is one of the smartest, most approachable of the cyberati out there.)

Update 09/14: Mark emails to say thanks for the link and "as for the name, 'goo' - i've been naming companies and products with 'goo' (or 'gel') in their names longer than any other company i can think of..." Sure, Mark, sure. ;)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Louisiana 1927

You've probably heard this song a few times by now--in the background of news stories, covered by Aaron Neville, I understand, for one of the benefits (hope they release an album). Not too late to post the lyrics here, I think. When he recorded it back in 1974, Randy Newman may never have guessed his hauntingly beautiful song, originally a sad look back, would also be a sobering glimpse into the future.
Lousiana 1927
Randy Newman

What has happened down here is the wind have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through cleard down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tyrin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

President Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, "Little fat man isn't it a shame what the river has
To this poor crackers land."

You can also watch the Shelter from the Storm benefit concert, which opens with Newman singing the song. It's followed by an extraordinary verion of "One," in which U2 is joined by Mary J. Blige. And here's a tender acoustic version of the song recorded by Jay Johnson. I picked up the LP version of Newman's original a couple of years ago at a record shop. Records come cheap these days, so it's great having a record player.

My thoughts remain with all the people down in Louisiana.


The 2004 memorial of the September 11 attacks from Wikipedia

Saving Chris's Smile

For those following my brother's ordeal: finally, some really good news.


It only gets worse: Police from neighboring cities definitely prevented people from leaving New Orleans. Why?
"If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged." ...

[According to an eyewitness account from a pair of San Francisco paramedics who tried to leave the city], As they made their way to the bridge in order to leave the city "armed Gretna sheriffs (sic) formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads."

Members of the group nonetheless approached the police lines, and "questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge ... They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City.
I also heard this story described by someone who experienced it on This American Life yesterday. Police shot at a group of tourists trying to cross the bridge to leave New Orleans.

I agree with Kevin Drum: "Stuff like this makes me fear for the future of the human race."

We don't need attacks by foreign terrorists to destroy our society from the inside.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Swimming in Light

Last Wednesday night, mid-way through my vacation, I had the pleasure of kayaking and swimming in a bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico. It was a truly extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime experience.

After sunset, we drove to to Mosquito Bay (Puerto Mosquito), just east of the diminutive southern town of Esperanza on the island. We walked out into some very swampy muddy water, then got onto sit-on-top kayaks. We took off into the middle of the dark, muggy bay. We'd chosen a good night for what we were to experience, it turned out, since there was no moon above us, only the lights of a nearby village to the east.

As you get closer to the center of the bay, you suddenly begin to notice that your paddle seems to leave--is that just foam in the water? No, it seems to be light trailing from your paddle through the otherwise murky water. Then you look down at the water puddling in your kayak and suddenly it seems alive with twinkling light.

Once deep out into the bay (the water was still only about seven feet deep) we tied our kayaks to the guide's, then we all fell into the warm receptive water. Though it was dark, the water still felt like bathwater - something like 90 degrees or greater - and whenever you moved you left glowing trails in the water caused by the tens of thousands of excited dinoflagellates per gallon of water (as I recall, normally there are only a couple dozen per gallon). These tiny ancient creatures light up by combining two chemicals in much the same way that fireflies do, only they're many times smaller and you really wouldn't see them with the naked eye if they didn't glow.

They only glow six or seven times a night, so you swim around to excite them in different areas of the bay. If you raise your hands from the water, it looks like a stream of tiny stars is falling down your arms, blinking brightly, then flickering out. The water is so salty it makes floating easier, so if you lie on your back, you can look up and see the Milky Way while swaddled in this warm luminescent water. It feels like you could do this for hours.

Eventually, we all did clamber back onto our kayaks and we took the long way back to where we began by hugging the edge of the bay. The idea was to pass through an area where we'd see numerous flying fish, though that night I only saw a few and a others didn't see any at all.

It's said that when Columbus encountered the bay, he thought it possessed with spirits, so he had his men block of the bay by filling its mouth with rocks. Ironically, this only served to increase the effect as the dinoflagellates were then able to reproduce more freely, uninterrupted and in even warmer water.

A truly, truly lovely, peaceful experience. I only wish I'd gone with a friend instead of going alone, so I could've shared the experience.

Thanks to the gregarious folks at Blue Caribe Kayaking in Vieques for organizing this incredible nocturnal adventure.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Jon Stewart, Professor of Journalism

Another guy who's out there getting it done (in his own way), Jon Stewart receives this credit from New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen:
In Katrina, CNN "learned from Jon Stewart how to use simple juxtaposition to make a point. Clip of a federal official explaining how no one anticipated the strength of the storm. Clip from the Weather Channel proving plenty of people did."
Yep, sounds like typical Daily Show material to me. Question is, why is it these journos have to take their cues from Comedy Central anyway? What are our journalism schools doing? Training their graduates in Network Hair Combing 101 and Selecting Khakis for Overseas Assignments?

(Via the ever-irrevent Bartcop whose 20th-century era site *still* lacks permalinks.)

Another One For the WTF Column

Some folks are still insisting that the federal government responded to Katrina in a timely and appropriate manner, but to add yet another entry to the WTF column, check this out: Canadian search-and-rescue team arrived in Louisiana *five days* before the U.S. military did.

(Via Andy Sullivan.)

Al Gore: Out There Getting It Done

Did you hear the story about Gore chartering a private jet, flying to New orleans and personally assisting in the evacuation of 140 people?


That's because he refused to take credit for it. Oh, for a thousand more politicians with that sort of integrity.

Man, I wish I had a time machine so I could go back to November 2000 and stuff a few Florida ballot boxes.

Update: Saheli directs us to this TPM Cafe account of the story and this NYT article mentions the flight in passing.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Some Loot, Others Forage

As the usual, The Onion proves brilliantly incisive, even during a time of national tragedy. From White Foragers Report Threat Of Black Looters:
Throughout the Gulf Coast, Caucasian suburbanites attempting to gather food and drink in the shattered wreckage of shopping districts have reported seeing African­Americans "looting snacks and beer from damaged businesses."
(Via Andy Sullivan.)

Communicate to Combat Hate

Extraordinary. I actually find myself agreeing with Karen Hughes:
As a communicator, first of all, you have to communicate your message through mediums to which people listen. So I think that we clearly need to be more effective about how we communicate on Al Jazeera.
What do you know. The administration is actually buying into the idea that communicating with folks you disagree with might somehow be beneficial.

The superlative documentary Control Room shows how the United States could have benefited greatly from knowing how to work with (which is not the same as saying "aligning with") instead of constantly vilifying Al Jazeera (as Rumsfeld in particular is so adept at doing). In subsequent interviews on NPR, I remember one of that documentary's main characters Lt. Josh Rushing confirmed that the military could've used Al Jazeera much more effectively, and that he himself was sent to Iraq with little more knowledge of the place than what he learned in Iraq for Dummies on the flight over. His role was to be Central Commands military liaison to Al-Jazeera.

As Rushing told NPR
The fodder that feeds the fires of 9/11 is the Arab perspective. There's no greater shaper that we have access to than Al-Jazeera. It's too important to ignore.
Glad someone's finally listening.

(Via Kevin Drum and Abu Aardvark.)

ID Science

In case anyone missed this: Bush's own science advisor concedes that Intelligent Design is bunk or "not a scientific concept" in his own words.

Pity Bush doesn't understand this himself.

Evolution is not "just" a theory. A theory is a big deal: theories can be subjected to obervable, repeatable testing. ID cannot. Therefore, ID ain't even a theory. But the fact that evolution qualifies as a theory (buttressed by facts) is incredibly significant and its importance shouldn't be undermined because some wish to surrepticiously mix religion into science.

Look at it this way and the whole topic is really the stuff of Science 101. To agree to consider ID as science is to breech the scientific method. Clear and simple.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Cronyism Kills

That headline seem a bit harsh? Time will tell, I guess, but every detail coming out about FEMA Director Michael Brown only seems to confirm it. His apparent failures at the International Arabian Horse Association. His comprehensive lack of qualifications to handle disaster relief. His confession that FEMA apparently didn't know about thousands of people languishing at the New Orleans Convention center, though the rest of us watching telly did. His getting hired in the first place by his former-college roommate/boss.

Believe it or not, Brown's direct reports may be less qualified than he is. Basically, Bush appointed an unqualified buddy to head FEMA, who replaced himself with another unqualified buddy (Brown), who works with a couple of similarly unqualified Bush campaign strategists, who all run FEMA together. Comforting, huh?

Here's a novel idea: how about hiring a few folks to work at the top of FEMA who have some disaster-recovery experience squirreled away somewhere in their résumés?

Folks have called upon President Bush to fire a litany of different people over the course of his administration. None, however, so far as I can tell, come with fewer qualifications or have stood so crippled before a greater catastrophe. Time for Brown to go--if he hasn't been quietly fired or demoted already. Even the NRO's Rich Lowry is decrying Brown's incompetence.

Another thought: if FEMA is riddled with this sort of cronyism, what of our other civil servants nestled within the Office of Homeland Security? Shudder to think.

Small government conservatives are always griping that government should be downsized, limited to protecting the people, paving the roads, etc. Now's their chance to put their money where their mouth is. They all need to join in a bi-partisan chorus to demand that these agencies be repopulated with qualified individuals. As Jerry Doyle, a Las Vegas talk show host just said on the Beeb's World Today, "When governments don't do what governments are supposed to do, people die." So what good is any government that's riddled with unqualified cronies? Those sort of hiring practices have brought down some mighty big companies. What could they do to the country? Compound a natural tragedy into a greater disaster, adding another jagged scar to the national psyche, perhaps equal in magnitude to that of 9/11? Seems to be where we're headed.

The suffering of the poor. The survival of the richest. The self-congratulatory cronies slapping each other on the back. What rich material for Dickens were he here to rail against it all.

Some other items I've come across:

>As usual Pat Robertson flaunts his tin ear. So does Barbara Bush. (She reminds me of Prince Philip and his famous, remarkably out-of-touch utterances, some of which are nonethless admittedly hilarious in a Basil Fawlty oh-my-god-I-can't believe-he-just-said-that sort of way.)
>Another loopy preacher blames Katrina on America's decadence: gay marriage, sex with horses, etc.
>Extraordinary video of Fox's Geraldo Rivera and Shepard Smith shouting down a typically arrogant, remote and cold-hearted Sean Hannity. Rivera begins weeping and holds up a baby in a plea to avoid partisanship. It's pure Rivera theater on the one hand; on the other, he seems entirely genuine.
>Crooks and Liars also has this unprecedented and compelling five-minute rant/editorial by Keith Olbermann from MSNBC.
>On a more positive note, here's a great NYT article on how London, Amsterdam and Venice have re-architected their cities, using high-tech devices to combat flooding.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Adios, Puerto Rico

I'm back from lovely Puerto Rico, the Island of Enchantment, with lots of pictures to share. I'll post some more to Flickr, once I settle back in. The wonderful mural above was simply painted onto a garage door along one of the uppermost streets of Old San Juan. I thought it'd make a pretty cool postcard.