Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Michael: Without Further DeLay

At long last, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been indicted for conspiracy in connection with a campaign finance money laundering investigation. DeLay stepped aside from his leadership role in reponse to the indictment; no doubt under pressure from his own party caucus.

Though the GOP spin machine is trying to cast this indictment as a political vendetta by Ronnie Earle, the Democratic Travis County district attorney who presented the indictment to the Grand Jury, that dog no longer hunts for the GOP. No one outside of the most committed of the GOP base will believe that Earle, who has prosecuted a dozen Democratic politicians for corruption in his long career, and only 6 Republicans, is motivated solely by political animus. To the contrary, DeLay has been protected by months of determined inaction by the district attorney of DeLay's home country, who is a Republican.

The press release, accompanying the indictment by the prosector's office states:

"The indictment charges DeLay with conspiring with [James] Ellis and [John] Colyandro to violate the Texas Election Code by contributing corporate money to certain candidates for the Texas Legislature. It describes a scheme whereby corporate, or "soft" money, was sent to the Republican National Committee where it was exchanged for "hard" money, or money raised from individuals, and sent to those candidates. Criminal conspiracy is a State Jail Felony punishable by six months to two years in a State Jail and a fine of up to $10,000."

It is hard to see this as anything but yet another blow to the Bush Administration's chances to make any headway on their legislative agenda. The result of DeLay's probable removal from his leadership position, and possibly his office, may be to erode the iron control over the House that the GOP caucus has maintained over House procedure under DeLay. In addition, DeLay's legal peril opens up the possibility of the money laundering scandal spreading, both within the Texas delegation, the Texas legislature, and the House and Senate GOP leadership.

DeLay and the GOP leaders have played with some very sharp elbows, and flexible ethics, for the past several years. I'm only saddened that their actions have taken so long to catch up with them. They have done incalcuable damage to the public welfare in the past 5 years. It is indicative of the sclerosis of American politics that the law, in all its ponderous inefficiency, caught up to DeLay and his cronies before the voters ever did.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Michael: Rep. Rick Renzi Dinshonors Arizona

Rick Renzi has been named one of the 13 most corrupt members of Congress based on illegal financing of his 2002 campaign and conflicts of interest. This is important enough to reproduce the bill of particulars against Renzi in detail.

Via Beyond Delay (thanks to for the link):

Rick Renzi (R-AZ) is a second-term Member of Congress, representing the 1st district of Arizona. In addition to his position as a Member of Congress, Rep. Renzi maintains business and real estate interests. Rep. Renzi’s ethics issues stem from the illegal financing of his 2002 congressional campaign and from legislation he sponsored that benefitted his father.

Illegal Financing of His 2002 Campaign

Use of Corporate Contributions

In 2004, the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") concluded an audit (.PDF) of Rep. Renzi’s campaign committee, Rick Renzi for Congress ("RRFC"), and found that the committee had illegally financed much of the Congressman’s 2002 election campaign. The FEC found that, based on the documentation submitted by RRFC, $369,090 of the loans were made using impermissible corporate funds.

Misstatement s of Financial Activity

In addition, when RRFC’s reported activity was compared to its bank records, the FEC's Audit staff found that, for the 2002 calendar year, receipts, disbursements and cash on hand had been misstated. The Audit staff found that RRFC had understated its receipts by $37,539, its disbursements by $101,105, and had overstated its cash on hand by $63,566.

Failure to Itemize Contributions

Political committees must itemize every contribution from any political committee, regardless of the amount, and every transfer from another political party committee. The Audit staff reviewed all of the contributions RRFC received from political committees and found that it had failed to itemize 13 such contributions totaling $20,745. RRFC offered no explanation for this failure.

Failure to Disclose Transfers

After receiving proceeds of a joint fundraiser, each participating committee must report its share of net proceeds received as a transfer from the fundraising representative and its share of gross receipts from each contributor as memo entries. RRFC failed to report that it received three transfers totaling $134,495 from The Leadership Committee, which RRFC has claimed as an affiliated committee with a relationship as a fundraising representative.

Disclosure of Name and Employer of Contributor

For each itemized contribution from an individual, political committees must provide the contributor’s full name, address, occupation, employer, the date of receipt of the contribution, the amount of the contribution, and the election cycle-to-date total of all contributions from the same individual. After reviewing all the contributions of over $200 made to RRFC, the Audit staff identified 200 contributions totaling $132,811 from 159 contributors that did not have the occupation and/or name of employer properly disclosed.

The severity of Rep. Renzi’s campaign finance violations suggests that not only the FEC, but the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct should investigate this matter. Rule 23 of the House Ethics Manual requires all members of the House to conduct themselves "at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House." Absent the influx of illegal corporate dollars, Rep. Renzi might not have won election to Congress. The FEC audit was not conducted until late 2004 and, to date, there has been no known enforcement action against Rep. Renzi or his campaign committee. Thus, Rep. Renzi was able to violate the law, get elected to Congress and remain unpunished. Should the FEC ever engage in an enforcement action, the worst Rep. Renzi is likely to suffer is a fine – a small penalty to pay once elected to federal office.

Rep. Renzi Sponsored Legislation Financially Benefitting His Father

In 2003, Rep. Renzi sponsored legislation (signed into law in November 2003) that dealt hundreds of millions of dollars to his father’s business while, according to environmentalists, devastating the San Pedro River. The provision exempted the Army’s Fort Huachuca base in Sierra Vista, Arizona from maintaining water levels in the San Pedro River as called for in an agreement made in 2002 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Rep. Renzi claimed he introduced the measure to prevent the closing of the Fort and to promote its enlargement. Notably, neither the fort nor the river is located in Rep. Renzi’s district.

A key beneficiary of Rep. Renzi’s legislation was ManTech International Corp., a Fairfax, Virginia based defense contractor where Rep. Renzi’s father, Retired Major General Eugene Renzi, is an executive vice president. ManTech had $467 million in contracts at Fort Huachuca with options for an additional $1.1 billion between 2004 through 2008. In addition, the company, which has an office in Sierra Vista, Arizona, was the largest contributor to Renzi’s 2002 congressional campaign and the second largest in his 2004 campaign.

If Rep. Renzi accepted campaign contributions from ManTech in exchange for pushing through legislation benefitting the company, he would be in violation of 18 U.S.C. §201(b)(2)(A).

Members of the House are prohibited from taking any official actions for the prospect of personal gain for themselves or anyone else. In addition, House conflict-of-interest rules provide that a Member should never accept "benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance" of his official duties. To do so "would raise the appearance of undue influence or breach of the public trust."

Finally, Rule 23 of the House Ethics Manual requires all members of the House to conduct themselves "at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House." By pushing legislation which stood to financially benefit his father, Rep. Renzi may have run afoul of House conflict-of-interest rules and engaged in conduct that does not reflect creditably on the House. As a result, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct should investigate this matter further.

I feel so proud to know that we have such an upstanding, honest and open public servant such as Rick Renzi representing Arizona. Unfotunately, most of the electorate is either so ignorant or so indolent that Renzi will likely never be punished for his mendacity - statistically, he isn't even likely to lose his seat over these improprieties. As such, Renzi should be the poster child of the ineffectuality of late-stage American democracy.

Of course, I could be wrong. Please, people, prove me terribly wrong.

Michael: McCain against torture for the wrong reason

Arizona's Senator McCain says prisoner abuse must be repudiated because it hurts America's image abroad. This is undoubtedly true, but it is not the proper, or even sufficient reason for opposing the torture of people in American custody, whatever legal status assigned them. McCain and everyone in a position of authority in the American government ought to oppose torture because it is immoral, illegal, and inherently wrong - not because it makes us look bad.

Torture is counter-productive, fails to produce accurate intel, corrodes military discipline, and exposes our own troops to mistreatment. But more than any of this, it treats the victims as less than fully human, and sanctions the basest impulses in its perpetrators. Torture is a cruel, vicious, and inhuman practice antithetical to the premise underlying America's sole claim to moral authority: our recognition that every human is worthy of dignity, deserves eqality before the law, and has inherent and inalienable rights.

Rejecting torture means rejecting situational ethics. Not every action can be justified by the ends intended by taking it. Some actions are inherently wrong, whatever their aim. That is the reason we abhor terrorism; it is the ultimate political expression of situational ethics. Terrorists justify murder with the exigencies of their political struggles. Ethically, it is no different than situationally justified torture. Unless we reject torture, we cannot condemn terrorism with a straight face.

Torture is wrong and must be repudiated. The legal regime against its use must be reiterated and strengthened, and those who have engaged in it must be punished surely and severely. Rejecting torture must be done, not because tolerating torture makes us look bad, but because it is undeniably the right thing to do. If McCain's morally-bankrupt message is the only one capable of resonating with McCain's intended autdience, we are perilously far down the path to open fascism and much closer to laying aside core American values than I have yet suspected or feared.

If America's leaders cannot summon the will to purge this evil from our own breast, we are truly lost. We will have lost the struggle with terrorists the only way we truly ever could: by becoming like them.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Michael: Frist's rite of passage

Senator Frist was until recently the darling of the religious right wing and the Majority Leader of the Senate. Now he's just Majority Leader. Tommorrow? Indicted by the SEC for insider trading on his family stock? Inmate at a mandatory Federal summer camp? Frist's 'blind' trust sale of HCA stock is being investigated by the SEC and things don't look too rosy for Frist.

Schaudenfruede comes so easily to me when the subject is a self-righteous, holy-than-thou hypocrite who trades on the superiority of his morals - until those morals hit his bottom line, that is. Then, it's 'every man for himself', 'damn the torpedoes', and 'the law doesn't apply to me'.

Yes, morality is a useful distraction for the electorate, just don't let it get in the way of the serious business of business. Taking your corporation offshore to avoid American taxes isn't immoral, because it's just business. Profiteering on the suffering of millions by using political influence to snag inflated no-bid contracts in Iraq and New Orleans isn't immoral, because it's just business. Laying off American workers and devastating American communities to move operations to third-world nations having wages 20 times lower isn't immoral, because it's just business. It seems business has become a morals-free zone in American life.

If Frist is taken down by this scandal, it will be more apt and ironical than any morality play that the Democratic Party could have invented. Then again, Bush weathered his brush with the SEC over insider trading at Harkin Energy with nary a ruffled coif, and DeLay is still pounding along despite the rotting albatross of political corruption indictments hanging around his neck; maybe Frist will prove equally teflon. Or perhaps flouting the law is now a rite of passage among the GOP elite apiring to the Presidency? Perhaps you have to prove to the 'base' that you can get away with your own chosen crimes before they'll trust you to do their dirty work.

Michael: Creation 'Science' is for Christians who Lack Faith

Creationism and Intelligent Design are simply a symptom of lack of faith in God. IDers don't really believe that God can reveal his mystery in scientific discovery, not just in ancient texts.

By searching for the fingerprints of God on the evolution of life, IDers seek factual crutches for their faith. In other words, they are a frightened and insecure unbelievers, denying reality in order to defend their outdated interpretation of dead old words. They must think that if they can't find 'scientific' proof that God took an active hand in the development of life, that God somehow becomes irrelevant to human life.

Their spiritual intuitions are stunted. "If you need factual proof of God, then your faith in God is weak."

Friday, September 23, 2005

Michael: Albuquerque to vote on Clean Elections System

Albuquerque's Clean Elections Campaign city referenda indicates that Arizona's clean elections system is spreading. Like a virus, a good idea is infectious.

Let's hope Clean Elections passes in Albuquerque and spreads to the whole state (which polling indicates is likely) and goes on to infect the whole nation with the mutant descendants of Clean Elections. Universal, fair, grassroots-driven, public financing systems are a necessary precondition for putting American politics back on the road toward serving the real needs of its citizens. Our current system serves the wealthy very well, but ignores the wider public interest. It rewards exploiting wedge issues and inflaming the most radical elements on both sides of the political spectrum (but most harmfully on the reactionary right).

Something's got to give. The rot spread by private money in our public affairs is that something.

Michael: The lead duck Presidency

George W. Bush’s Presidency is effectively over. He's not lame, he's lead and sinking fast. He would accomplish as much, and possibly much more, by simply resigning. The GOP may be able to give traction to an heir apparent by having Cheney choose a VP from among the 2008 hopefuls and then resigning in turn. Installing a new handpicked President seems audacious, but, hey, if the Supreme Court can do it...

BushCo is dead in the water politically, and they know it. "You run down the list of things we thought we could accomplish and you have to wonder what we thought we were thinking," says a Bush Administration member who joined on in 2001. "You get the impression that we're more than listless. We're sunk." Clearing the decks may be the only way this Administration can heave off the sandbar it has run aground on before the 2006 and 2008 elections.

A President McCain, or Giuliani, or Romney, almost anyone, really, would have a much better chance at rebuilding the trust of Americans which Bush has squandered in the war in Iraq and waters of Katrina. With most of a term in which to steer the nation onto a new, and hopefully less divisive, GOP course, GOP chances in ’06 and ’08 might improve. Such a plan may not appeal to the younger candidates, as they would forego the possibility of serving two full terms. But at least to McCain, most of 7 years with only one Presidential election campaign would probably sound as good as 8 with two.

Of course, this could never happen. There is no one more sure of his own competence and judgment than a CEO as he runs his company over a cliff. And Bush has a lot of experience with (one might even suspect a fondness for) that particular sensation. The only hope is that Cheney, by far the more savvy businessman, who knows the power of seeming not to be in control, sees things differently, and prevails upon his protégé to walk the plank.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Michael: No More Plea Bargains

There is an initiative application pending that would end all plea bargaining in Arizona's criminal justice system. That would mean instead of just a handful of cases in every 100 going to trial, they would all go to trial. Superficially this might sound good for the law and order voter, but the result would be complete anarchy and the collapse of the criminal justice system as we know it. Pretty much every lawyer in the state would have to be hired just to handle the criminal caseload this would create.

Here is the application:

No More Plea Bargains
February 8, 2005 - July 6, 2006
122,612 signatures required

Joel K. Barr 180015
SMU 1 P.O. Box 4000
Florence, AZ 85232

"The purpose of the NO MORE PLEA BARGAINS initiative is to ensure the guilty do not avoid appropriate mandatory sentences by pleading guilty to lesser crimes; and innocent people are no longer coerced into signing false confessions. False confessions harm the innocent, protect the guilty, insult victims, defeat the purpose of mandatory sentencing, and defraud taxpayers. The text of the NO MORE PLEA BARGAINS initiative is as follows: "Every person accused of violating any law of the State of Arizona shall stand trial on every charge. No information, complaint, or indictment may be withdrawn or dismissed prior to its trial."

Now if Mr. Barr's address looks a little funny, that's because he's in prison in Florence. In fact, he's in the Special Management Unit: the supermax facility. If his application description sounds a little pissed, it's probably because he's speaking from personal experience. I don't have any knowledge of Mr. Barr's case, maybe he really was innocent. I suppose if anyone has an interest in bringing the state's criminal justice system to its knees, it would be Mr. Barr.

I support the Initiative system. I also support the political reinfranchisement of prisoners after their sentence has been served. But I don't support Mr. Barr's plan to kneecap the state from his jail cell. If you ever see a petition for this dog being circulated, which I doubt will ever happen, you might want to make sure you are in a well-lit place and have a tight hold on to your wallet, the circulator may be personally familiar with the digs at the Florence SMU.

Michael: Stitching up the Katrina Cut

UPDATE: Pastor is now a co-sponsor of this bill.

In a bill pending before Congress to reinstate Bush's waiver of prevailing wage requirements for contractors (read: Bush's pet cronies such as Haliburton, Fluor and Bechtel, among others) working on Katrina reconstruction, 171 Democrats are onboard as co-sponsors. So why isn't Ed Pastor? I urge you to ask him why he doesn't support a living wage to those working to rebuild after Katrina.

District Office
411 North Central Avenue
Suite 150
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 256-0551

Image, Washington Office
2465 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-4065

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Michael: Post-Term Impeachments All Around!

Considering that many of the incompetent ideologues who have made such a hash of the Bush II Presidency are retreads from earlier conservative Administrations, we had best give some thought to preventing the worst bunglers from rising again like some awful neo-con revenants in any future GOP Presidency.

A few of those I would rather not see return, in no particular order: Wolfowitz, Bolton, Feith, Libby, Rove, Rice, Negroponte, Brown, Allbough, Tenet, Griles, Ashcroft, Mueller, Hadley, Chertoff, Boykins, Gonzales, Chao, Rumsfeld, Armitage, Bremer, Cheney, and, of course, Bush himself. I’ve undoubtedly forgotten to mention many who richly deserve impeachment. Heck, I would like to have most of them impeached. Age may take care of a few, but there are plenty of hale and hearty idiots who will colonize the think tanks and lobbying firms and then continue to plague the public sector, failing upwards in the inimitable GOP elite fashion, for years to come unless we do something about it.

I suggest that we consider post-term impeachments all around. Normally, people think of impeachment as a way to remove an official from office, but impeachment has the effect of preventing the impeached person from ever holding a position of trust, honor, or profit with the Federal government ever again. Thus impeachment, even after an official has left office, is useful in preventing travesties such as Admiral Poindexter’s or Dick Armitage’s rehabilitations.

There is clear consensus among legal scholars that although impeachment has yet to be used in this fashion in the United States it is Constitutional. The practice was, and continues to be used in England, from whence we drew the institution. The English practice is specifically limited in several particulars in our Constitution, but, significantly, not in regards post-term use. Finally, the Senate voted during impeachment proceedings against Secretary of War Belknap in 1876 that they had the power to proceed post-term after Secretary Belknap resigned.

Of course, Democrats would need majorities in the House and Senate to succeed. A Democratic rallying cry for the 2006 and 2008 Congressional races could be to post-term impeach key members of the failed Bush II Administration, thus protecting the government from their incompetence and venality in the future. This Administration is becoming unpopular enough that running against it, even as it is out-going in 2008, could net electoral benefits.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Michael: Arizona's GOP legislators put politics before public welfare

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee chair, Rep. Russell Pearce (R-18) questioned the very premise of building a satellite medical school in Phoenix. He said, "I'm not even sure we need a second one. It's easier to use the money to enhance [the UofA] than to build a brand new school." But Mr. Pearce admitted he has not even yet read the Arizona Board of Regents' report (PDF) on the school. How can he know what the facts are, and what the best advice of the medical community is, without investigating the matter at least to the very minimal extent of reading the Regents' report?

The facts are that Arizona faces a severe near-term shortage of trained doctors and there is not the space to expand quickly enough in Tucson. The world class clinical training opportunities in Phoenix (at the Barrow and Mayo, for instance) make it an ideal location for a satellite school. The medical community's consensus on this issue is quite clear; Phoenix is the best location to expand on the great base that the UofA medical school gives Arizona. The UofA medical school has already operated in Marcopa Country for 30 years. There is currently a regional campus in Phoenix which trains as many as 80 third- and fourth-year students every year. Expanding this existing program in the Phoenix area is the natural and most efficient means of expanding Arizona's professional medical base.

I don't really know what political agenda the GOP leadership has in mind that prompts them to so obstinately run counter to expert opinion and the public interest on this issue. Governor Napolitano had to take them to the mat in budget negotiations just to get the slim 7 million in funding to start the effort. Now the GOP seems primed to reneg to reneg on even that amount. I can only speculate that they do not want an expanded medical school to gain a constitutency in the heart of their political base. They know that legislative spending on a satellite school in Phoenix will be harder to rein in over the coming years than would the budget of the UofA medical school, safely tucked away far from the center of political power. They want to starve higher education, and that will become a mor difficult task with a satellite medical school providing tangible benefits to the citizens of Phoenix.

Regardless of their motives, they are clearly ignoring the best advice of Arizona's medical and educational communities on hoe best to provide for the public's welfare and instead pursuing an ideologically inspired political agenda of their own. It is heartening that opposition to the satellite school concept may be lessening among GOP members, but the battlelines are hardening among the GOP's most ideologically inspired. Anyone interested in the future growth and health of Arizona's people should remind ideologues like Pearce whose interests they serve.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Michael: Bush Presumes to be Spiritual Leader of Nation

President Bush made two Presidential Proclamations designating Sept. 16 as a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the victims of hurricane Katrina, and September 9th through 11th National Days of Remembrance for the victims of terrorism and the fallen veterans of his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Setting aside for the moment the obvious issue of his naked attempt to elide the outrage of 9/11 with his war of folly in Iraq, I wonder where he finds the authority to proclaim such national prayer services?

In the proclamations themselves he makes a broad claim of authority for calling people to worship using the White House press office as a muezzin. He claims this religious function is based on “the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” I question whether such authority exists. The powers of the President enumerated by the Constitution certainly do not include being the nation’s pastor, and no act of Congress, itself enjoined from establishing religion, could confer ecumenical religious powers on the Presidency. I certainly concede that a secular day of observation and ceremony to honor the memory of those who have died in disaster, war, and terrorist attack is warranted, but I do not think that any American President has the authority to call Americans to religious services. Nor does this President, in particular, have any moral authority to do so.

A far better memorial to the fallen would be to further real justice and equity in this nation, and to work toward peace and security for all, rather than issuing proclamations from on high calling for empty prayers. The ever-starker divisions between rich and poor, between those who can afford justice and those who do without, can only be bridged by acts, not by a costless proclamation of prayers. A President who has worked so assiduously to champion the causes of the powerful, and to denigrate and neglect the causes of the weak, has no more moral authority to proclaim days of remembrance for those his own failings brought low than he has the requisite legal authority to do so.

The prophet Amos related the words of an angry God to an Israel that had begun to trample the rights of the poor, and deny justice to many of its people. God said:

“I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts, I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.” (Amos 5:21)

Amos said that God wanted justice for His people, not just empty words of worship nor worshipful acts while injustice was done in His name. God proclaimed, "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) When the battered inhabitants of the Gulf coast are inundated with justice, Bush may be able to claim the right to memorialize those who died in Katrina’s waters; not before.

No one appointed Bush our national pastor, and his calls for the nation to worship in the name of those his Administration has wronged are rank hypocrisys in the eyes of any just and decent God.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Michael: Cultural Diversity is not 'PC'

When a species encounters a new ecological niche, it may adapt to its new environment by evolving into one or more new species. Biologists call this process radiation. Why do species radiate and thus diversify? It’s a hard question to answer briefly, but the facile answer is that diversification is life insurance. By varying the means of getting a living, relating to the local environment, and reproducing (the inability to interbreed being the sine qua non of speciation), the creatures making up the total diversified population increase their survivability above that which they could achieve as a single species. By increasing diversity, evolution, does the work of life, ensuring the continuation of life despite adversity and disaster.

In some ways, human culture fills an evolutionary role similar to speciation by radiation and operates on similar principles. Humans adapt through culture by modifying our behavior, technology, and economies to suit different environments. The plasticity of human behavior is finite, but cultural adaptation has allowed us to adapt to some fairly extreme conditions. We may be the most behaviorally diverse and adaptable multi-cellular organisms on the planet. We are champions in conquering new and challenging environments, rivaled only by our next nearest competitor for environmental adaptation; the ant. And we’ve managed the feat of colonizing an amazing variety of environments in an eye blink of evolutionary time; in comparison, the ant is a plodder. The reason is, of course, the rapid adaptivity of culture. By any measure, human use of culture instead of genetic adaptation to, in effect, radiate into new environments has been a resounding success for humanity.

It very well may be the human ability to make extreme behavioral adaptations rapidly through culture that has spared us from extinction thus far. We know by study of population genetics that humanity passed through at least one population bottleneck in recent evolutionary history. As recently as 50,000 years ago, our entire species could have fit comfortably in one unremarkable town. Likely, one human cultural ‘species’ got very lucky and, for some reason, avoided the fate that engulfed the rest of humanity; cultural diversity may have saved our species.

Thus cultural diversity serves a practical and deadly serious purpose, the preservation of our species. Concern for cultural diversity, a goal too often derided as liberal drivel, is not merely a matter of being inclusive and respecting people’s differences (though those goals are important); it is about preserving the diversity of our species ‘cultural DNA’ that has served us so well for millennia in a harsh world full of surprises.

One vital area of cultural diversity that is under assault is the diversity and resiliency of our agriculture. Our species has fed itself for more than 5000 years with selectively bred food crops and domestic animals. These food stocks are cultural artifacts we have husbanded and modified through millennia of practical experimentation. The thousands of strains preserved by traditional farmers around the world are a giant insurance policy protecting our food supply.

In a modernizing world where even our food is commoditized, and standardization in the name of efficiency lies at the heart of our economy, the agricultural heritage of mankind could be chucked out in favor of the latest high-yield biotech offering. So what? Shouldn’t we favor higher yields? Efficiency isn’t all. Those normally productive strains developed and grown locally over centuries and millennia constitute part of our cultural variability that allows us to adapt to adversity. They may not be the most efficient or highest yielding strains possible, but they’re proven against everything that environment has thrown at them. Our super-crops might be crippled by our relentless design emphasis on production, and fail us after we’ve eaten the last fruits and seeds of our heritage crops. The relentless drive for production at the cost of cultural variation could prove our undoing. The very cultural diversity that preserves the agricultural heritage we might need to make it through the next bottleneck could be shoved aside by the powerful economic logic of corporate monoculture.

The issue doesn’t stop with how we get our daily bread; it extends to language, belief, tradition, and ways of knowing and understanding the world. Any of these could prove every bit as vital to our survival as the painstakingly selected gene lines of our food crops and livestock. Most people who do not live in a state of denial recognize that the way we have structured our economy and our lives cannot continue indefinitely. The possibly of unlimited growth is a seductive mistress, but sooner or later one has to return to one’s spouse, who insists on balancing the checkbook. Where will we learn the cultural values about how to cope with a new reality, where no open frontier awaits us and the mess we’ve created can’t be left behind? From those who have lived within the limits of their environment all along, I suspect.

Promoting and preserving cultural diversity in all forms is not some squishy liberal cause. It is rooted in a strategic concern for preserving the human species’ ability to adapt in crisis. Policy doesn’t get much more hard-core than that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Michael: Sam Coppersmith Hammers Kyl on Dynasty Tax

Oy gevald! Sam kicks the dreck out of Kyl's argument to repeal the Dynasty Tax. Kyl's cokamammie reasons for handing the people with all the gelt such a metzyea make for quite a megila, but Sam points out that the result will clearly be to force the federal government to be funded from the pushke.

We need to repeal the dynasty tax like I need a loch in kop. The very idea is a shande. We all know that Kyl is just shtuping the 99% of us who haven't the good fortune to ever pay the dynasty tax. If only I had the privilege and good fortune to pay the dynasty tax, I would say, "a sheynem dank America!" But the ultra-rich, they don't want to give up their tsatskes. Kyl can stick his schpeel right up his tuchus.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Michael: Who's in charge of FEMA in Arizona?

It wasn’t long ago that the black helicopter crowd had a special place in their paranoid fantasies for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA was supposed to be the secretive government within the government that would assume dictatorial powers upon the advent of some manufactured crisis, setting in train the end of American democracy and constitutional government. There was even a great computer game, Deux Ex, based on the premise that FEMA lay at the center of a globalist conspiracy to dominate the world.

Now Americans have found out that far from being a secret cabal of uber-mensch, FEMA can barely tie their own shoes without dithering over whether the rabbit should first go through the hole or around the tree. Of course, conspiracy is the gift that keeps on giving, and even if FEMA is incompetent, there can be a nice conspiracy behind their failures, too.

But conspiracies and secret executive orders aside, Katrina makes it very clear that it really matters to citizens who is running the show at FEMA when the excrement hits the rotary atmospheric agitator. So who runs FEMA here in Arizona?

FEMA is split into regional directorships. Arizona is part of Region IX. Region IX embraces the States of Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada; and the Territory of American Samoa, the Territory of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau. It is one of the largest territorial jurisdictions in the United States. The Region is currently managed by Acting Regional Director Karen E. Armes.

Before joining FEMA, Ms. Armes was director of the Business Management Department of the Navy Finance Center in San Francisco, a position assigned to her after the capitalization of the data automation centers by the Defense Information System Agency in 1994. Prior to that, she had served more than 10 years with that organization being promoted from budget analyst to the director of the Budget and Accounting Division and then director of the Management Support Division. She began there in 1982 as a NAVCOMPT financial management trainee.

Now, there is nothing wrong with being a bean-counter. Bean-counting is a noble and necessary calling. But I question the wisdom of having one directing an agency which is supposed to be the action figure of federal agencies. I don’t want some political hack bean-counter running a cost-benefit analysis of whether my liberal hide is worth pulling from under the rubble.

Ms. Armes holds a bachelor of science degree in recreation administration from Radford University, Va. She has also completed graduate courses in business administration at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. During the next tsunami is Ms. Armes going to organize synchronized swim teams?

Perhaps I’m being unfair. It is always possible that a person has grown into their job and picked up skills by applying them in the real world. I am willing to let Ms. Armes speak for herself on how she would handle a crisis in her region. Let’s listen in on a recent radio interview (Windows Media) in which Ms. Armes is asked about emergency management and how her branch of FEMA would perform.

Just one interesting snippet of a very enlightening interview:

Interviewer: How complicated is it, for example, to drop bottles of water on to the sidewalk outside the Convention Center?

Ms. Armes: I’m afraid I don’t… that’s not my specialty.

That’s not her specialty? What the hell is she doing running the show if delivering emergency relief to victims of disaster is not her specialty? The complete inability of Mrs. Armes to answer the simplest and most obvious questions about the duties of her agency in times of crisis with anything other than meaningless stock phrases of bureaucratese, means just one thing to me: I’m going to have to take a Halcyon to sleep soundly tonight.

Contact your Congresscritters and get this bean-counting, platitude-mouthing, PE coach out of this vital post on whom the safety of your family and community relies in extremis.

Michael: On 9/11

On this fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on this nation, it is fitting to examine the progress that has been made in preparing the homeland against another catastrophic attack by terrorists.

An obvious and fitting incident by which to measure that progress is the flooding that followed in the wake of hurricane Katrina. It involved many of the elements of a large-scale terrorist incident; massive loss of life, a need for coordination between governmental agencies and jurisdictions, the evacuation of a large urban area, massive public works projects aimed to restoring the status quo ante, and the delivery of relief and services to a massive number of citizens displaced by the event.

Imagine that Katrina was not a hurricane, but instead a massive dirty bomb. Instead of thousands of drowned, you would have thousands killed in a massive explosion on the scale of the Bali bomb, or bigger. But the bomb also contained radiological waste that made the entire New Orleans region uninhabitable. The results would have been much the same, but the cause would have been malice, not meteorologic. Would the response of FEMA and state and local governments been significantly different?

Obviously, they would have. There would likely have been no warnings of impending disaster, no prior evacuation, and even greater health effects among evacuees. Undoubtedly, the result might have been even poorer performance by emergency management agencies.

But there would still be parallels. The entire city would still need to be abandoned, at least temporarily. There would still be need for a massive public works project to remove and dispose of radiologically contaminated material (i.e., most surfaces and structures). There would still be a monumental humanitarian aid task to care for and relocate evacuees. Arguably, the performance of our government on these tasks might be even more diffcult under my theoretical conditions, which, given very poor performance on these tasks in the real scenario, might be sub-standard indeed.

The only conclusion one can draw from an imagined terrorist scenario is that the humanitarian crisis would have only been worse had Katrina been a terrorist attack. The slow reaction of FEMA to effect a complete evacuation would have condemned as much as 20% of NOLA’s population (mostly the poor) to a slow death by radiation exposure. The inability of our leadership to even begin to confront the environmental clean-up task which Katrina presents, leaves little doubt that they would fail to rise to challenges of removing and sequestering an entire city’s worth of radioactive waste. How much worse would be the loss of life and chaos if the threat people were facing were not the biological threat of simple standing water, but instead the menacing invisible threat of radiological contamination?

Tonight, itchy fingered troops, as well as Blackwater and other mercenaries, prowl New Orleans, sometimes seeing the residents and the media as an enemy insurgency to be confronted, instead of charges to be protected. I don't know of any casualties resulting from the poor morale of both armed forces and citizery, but I know it would be far worse if people were in the grip of the sort of panic this Administration seems determined to use as a tool of politics. If the purpose of the destruction of New Orleans were to have been terrorizing the public, this Administration's habits could hardly do more to accomodate that end.

Katrina has tested us, and the terrorists will be pleased to note, we have been found lacking. FEMA has once again become a plaything of political appointees and the corporate ghouls who profit from tragedy. Our federalized government seems constitutionally unable to coordinate among jurisdictions. This Administration remains obdurately resistant to any responsibility for the safety of the American people. Emergency preparedness and response, which should be Job #1 and the sine qua non of governance, instead continues to play second fiddle to giving good press conference and making a nice photo op.

For all of us who silently vowed, “Never again!” along with the rest of the nation on 9/11/01, Katrina serves as notice that this sacred vow to the victims of 9/11 been betrayed. Katrina gives us a chance to renew our commitment to be prepared next time, for there inevitably will be a next time, and to never let our guard down so badly again. But if that commitment is to mean anything, than it must mean accountability for those most proximately responsible for failure.

In this case, it is the Republican Party, which has had complete control over the federal government in the years intervening between 9/11 and Katrina, that must pay a political price for their abject failure to make the homeland safer. If they do not pay an electoral price, do not expect our government to be accountable for performance in any future crisis; expect only that they will retain better PR flacks.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Michael: Superintendant of Public Instruction

Former GOP State Senator Slade Mead has decided to run for SPI on the Democratic Party ticket. He is opposed in the Primary by Jason Williams, a former elementary school teacher and Teach For America leader.

Now, I am every bit as delighted as the next blatant partisan when a member of the other party is so abused by his party leadership for doing what he thinks is the right thing (in Mead's case voting for a budget that didn't gut public education for our children) that he feels a need to switch parties. But despite welcoming Mead to the party as a supporter of our goals, I'm not yet convinced that he isn't just waiting for the right-wing insanity to pass away in his own party.

Is Slade Mead really suitable to be a leader and an state office-holder in the Democratic party just because he's had a falling out with the nuttiest Arizona Republicans? In fact, isn't Slade Mead, despite the party switch, really a moderate Republican? Democrats can work with and negotiate with moderate Republicans; Democrats don't help elect them.

I guess what I'm saying is that I suspect the Mead has just switched from being a RINO to being a DINO. Isn't he really an Independent? And shouldn't he run as such? I mean, there must be reasons he was a Republican other than his budgetary priorities.

Do we really want Mead, despite his obvious commitment to public education, to represent our party as its highest public educational official? Surely we can find someone to contest that office, who, like General Clark, is a Democrat for more reasons than Rove not taking his calls? I think it's great that Slade Mead has decided to become a Democrat, but I think I want more assurance that he's really committed to staying one before I give him my vote.

Now that I mention it, we do have an indubitable Democrat in the race: Jason Williams. As a career educator and administrator of Teach For America in Phoenix, Mr. Williams is eminently well-qualified for the post, and he's really a Democrat (not just serving time in the 'I'm no longer a Republican' penalty box).

I'll be casting my primary vote for Jason Williams for SPI. I hope you will consider his candidacy closely, too.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Michael: The Reconquista Begins!

The Mexican Army invaded American territory late Tuesday night. This confirms everything that FAIR, Chris Simcox, and the border volunteers have been warning us about! Run for the hills! The forcible conversions to Catholicism will soon begin.

Ok. Not really. The Mexicans are aiding with relief efforts in Texas. It is the first time that the Mexican Army has operated on U.S. (and by that I mean formerly Mexican) soil since 1846. Since our army doesn't do crap for Mexico except burn their fields of pot, I guess we ought to feel grateful if the Mexican army doesn't blow up our beer factories and burn our hop, barley, and wheat fields while they're here.

The Mexican forces bring with them a moble water decontamination unit and 15 trailers full of bottled water, so surprisingly where ever the Mexican army goes, at least you can drink the water.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Michael: The Enrons of Gasoline

Internal memos show oil companies intentionally limited refining capacity to drive up gasoline prices. How much evidence do we need to determine that completely unregulated energy markets do not equate with efficiency and low prices, but with price-gouging and intentional shortages that hurt both consumers and the economy as a whole to line the pockets of a few unscrupulous bastards with friends in high places?

Now that Katrina has wiped out a large of chunk of America's refinery capacity, the national security implications of the government allowing energy companies to play this particular game should be apparent. What Enron did for the respectability of bilking people's grandmothers and randomly shutting off people's power to spike electricity prices, these new revelations should do for the fuel industry. Maybe people will finally absorb the lesson that even good people tend to act like sociopaths when the only standard by which they are judged is a quarterly report.

Michael: McCain May Fold on Dynasty Tax

The douchbag traitor Robert Novak writes that Senator John McCain of Arizona is prepared to take a dive on the Dynasty Tax repeal cloture vote. Until now Democrats and rational Republicans (yes, it IS increasingly oxymoronic, I know... ) have stood firm in their opposition to giving the wealthiest 0.1% a further tax break of many billions of dollars so that their heirs can bathe in Kristal with Paris Hilton and throw away the Ferrari when the ashtrays get full.

This offends the Republican base greatly. So much so, that McCain appears to have decided, due to a coordinated campaign to lobby his $1,000+ donors, that he cannot hope to capture the plutocrat vote needed in the Republican primary until he allows his party to plunder the national treasury by repealing our most progressive and socially responsible tax.

McCain said, "I follow the course of a great Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, who talked about the malefactors of great wealth and gave us the estate tax. I oppose the rich passing on fortunes.'' Yet he has decided to cast a decisive vote to allow the Dynasty Tax to be repealed. One has to wonder if he will pander to the (very small and well-dressed) mob of self-involved, self-aggrandizing, irresponsible, greedy artistocrat-wannabees to gain the Republican nomination by actually voting for the Dynasty Tax's repeal? Or will he vote against it after voting for it?

It still boogles my mind that our Republican Congress seems determined to pursue the repeal of the Dynasty Tax so soon after the immense divide between the haves and have-nots in America has been so clearly exposed by the waters of Katrina. The Republican Party is displaying a political maladroitness that is a wonder to behold. I can only say one thing in response to such utter callousness:

You go, girls! Democrats in '06 and '08!

Make sure to sign Senator Kerry's petition.

Michael: Katrina Exposes Core Values

This essay by George Lakoff clearly states the core difference between Progressives and Conservatives and through the lense of the Katrina response (or lack thereof) and applies that understanding to John Roberts' nomination as Chief Justice. On both issues, Progressives cannot afford passivity:

Katrina's tragic consequences were not just due to incompetence, natural disaster, or Bush policies (though he is accountable). This is a failure of moral and political philosophy.

It is impossible for me, as it is for most Americans, to watch the horror and suffering from Hurricane Katrina and not feel physically sore, pained, bereft, empty, heartbroken. And angry.

The Katrina tragedy should become a watershed in American politics. This was when the usually invisible people suddenly appeared in all the anguish of their lives -- the impoverished, the old, the infirm, the kids and the low-wage workers with no cars, TVs or credit cards. They showed up on America's doorsteps, entered the living rooms and stayed. Katrina will not go away soon, and she has the power to change America.

The moral of Katrina is mostly being missed. It is not just a failure of execution (William Kristol), or that bad things just happen (Laura Bush). It was not just indifference by the President, or a lack of accountability, or a failure of federal-state communication, or corrupt appointments in FEMA, or the cutting of budgets for fixing levees, or the inexcusable absence of the National Guard off in Iraq. It was all of these and more, but they are the effects, not the cause.

The cause was political through and through -- a matter of values and principles. The progressive-liberal values are America's values, and we need to go back to them. The heart of progressive-liberal values is simple: empathy (caring about and for people) and responsibility (acting responsibly on that empathy). These values translate into a simple principle: Use the common wealth for the common good to better all our lives. In short, promoting the common good is the central role of government.

The right-wing conservatives now in power have the opposite values and principles. Their main value is Rely on individual discipline and initiative. The central principle: Government has no useful role. The only common good is the sum of individual goods. It's the difference between We're all in this together and You're on your own, buddy. It's the difference between Every citizen is entitled to protection and You're only entitled to what you can afford. It's the difference between connection and separation. It is this difference in moral and political philosophy that lies behind the tragedy of Katrina.

A lack of empathy and responsibility accounts for Bush's indifference and the government's delay in response, as well as the failure to plan for the security of the most vulnerable: the poor, the infirm, the aged, the children.

Eliminating as much as possible of the role of government accounts for the demotion of FEMA from cabinet rank, for Michael Brown's view that FEMA was a federal entitlement program to be cut, for the budget cuts in levee repair, for placing more responsibility on state and local government than they could handle, for the failure to fully employ the military, and for the lax regulation of toxic waste dumps contributing to a "toxic stew."

This was not just incompetence (though there was plenty of it), not just a natural disaster (though nature played its part), not just Bush (though he is accountable). This is a failure of moral and political philosophy -- a deadly failure. That is the deep truth behind this human tragedy, humanly caused.

It is a truth that needs to be told, starting now -- over and over. There can be no delay. The Bush administration is busy framing it in its own way: bad things just happen, it's no one's fault; the federal government did the best it could -- the problem was at the state and local level; we'll rebuild and everything will be okay; the people being shipped out will have better lives elsewhere, and jobs in Wal-Mart!

Unless the real truth is told starting now, the American people will accept it for lack of an alternative. The Democratic response so far is playing right into Bush's framing. By delaying a response for fear it will be called "partisan," the Democratic leadership is allowing Bush to frame the tragedy. And once it is framed, it is hard to reframe! It is time to start now.

Hurricane Katrina should also form the context in which to judge whether John Roberts is fit to be chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. The reason is simple: The Katrina Tragedy raises the most central issues of moral and political principles that will govern the future of this country. Katrina stands to be even more traumatic to America than 9/11. The failure of conservative principles in the Katrina Tragedy should, in the post-Katrina era, invalidate those principles -- and it should invalidate the right of George Bush to foist them on the country for the next 30 years.

John Roberts, as chief justice of a conservative court, would have enormous powers to impose on the nation those invalid principles. Do not be fooled by the arguments of "strict construction," "narrow interpretation" and the avoidance of "judicial activism" that will be brought forth in the hearings. What Roberts is brilliant at is the use of "narrow interpretations" to have maximal causal effect. Narrow interpretation, in his hands, can serve the purpose of radical conservative judicial activism.

Consider a small example, the Case of the Hapless Toad. The Constitution empowers Congress to regulate "commerce ... among the several states." This clause has been interpreted by the Court to make it the constitutional basis for much of civil rights legislation and all major environmental laws.

Over the past decade, the Court has been diminishing the powers of the federal government over the environment by limiting the scope of that clause, even limiting the application of the Clean Water Act. A completely narrow interpretation could eliminate all environmental laws (e.g., clean water and air, habitat protection) and threaten our civil rights. Roberts has written in favor such a narrow interpretation.

The case concerned a developer who wanted to build a large housing tract in California that would destroy one of the last remaining breeding grounds of the arroyo southwestern toad, threatening its continued existence. The U.S. Courts of Appeals on Washington, D.C., upheld the right to life of the toad species under the Endangered Species Act. But Roberts, in a July 2003 opinion, wrote that the Interstate Commerce Clause, on which the Endangered Species act is based, should not apply to "a hapless toad that, for reasons of its own, lives its entire life in California."

Such a narrowing would threaten the legal basis of the Endangered Species Act. Anti-discrimination legislation is also based on the Interstate Commerce Clause. What about discrimination wholly within one state? Were Roberts to apply a similar narrowing criterion, much of anti-discrimination law would go out the window.

The point is simple. Narrow interpretations can have massive causal effects and be a form of radical judicial activism in the conservative cause. After the Katrina Tragedy, we cannot afford a radically activist Chief Justice with the same philosophy that has failed America so badly. The ultimate moral and political issues apply in both cases. John Roberts as Chief Justice would be a danger to our democracy and possibly to our very lives.

George Lakoff is the author of Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate' (Chelsea Green). He is Professor of Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley and a Senior Fellow of the Rockridge Institute.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Michael: Nero To Lead Inquiry

Emperor Nero announced today that he would lead an inquiry into the burning of Rome. Interrupting his month long festival of fiddle concerts for a press conference, the Emperor said that he and his retinue were, “working hard, to ensure we fix what’s wrong and duplicate what’s right” about the Imperial government’s response to the Rome fire. Asked for an example of what would be duplicated, the Emperor told the reporter. “What? Are you some kind of Persian sympathizer? Get that asshole outta here!”

While the Emperor has said that “we’re not going play the blame game,” when asked about where responsibility lay for the recent total destruction of Rome by fire while thousands of volunteer bucket brigades stood awaiting orders outside the city and the legions remained in their barracks, members of the Imperial party have repeated affixed blame to the victims of the fire for being “too flammable,” and the urban quaestor for being burned to death along with his lictors early in the conflagration. “The irresponsible death of local officials left Imperial officials with no one to say ‘tag, you’re it,’ to them, and thus helpless to assist,” said the director of the Imperial Emergency Management Agency.

The leader of the Imperial Senate remarked insightfully about the tragedy in Rome, “I think that we probably shouldn’t rebuild Rome. It was exposed to oxygen and that made it very likely to burn. We should probably rebuild it somewhere where there isn’t so much oxygen, if we rebuild at all.” When criticized for his comments, the leader clarified his remarks, saying, “I just meant that when we rebuild Rome, we should get rid of all that oxygen, first.”

Despite misgivings, the Senate is likely to approve funding for the rebuilding of Rome. The Vice Emperor, former CEO of Halliburtoni, a major construction company expected to receive billions of sesterces worth of no-bid Imperial contracts, is quoted as saying, “Buy all the shares of Halliburtoni you can get your hands on… Hey, I’m dictating a papyrus here, get the hell out of my bunker!”

The Imperial Spokes-slave, when asked why the Emperor was starting an inquiry into the Rome fire when the Senate has already begun two independent inquiries, said, “The Emperor’s inquiry will be untainted by partisan politics. And the Emperor’s final report will have a much greater public relations budget than the Senatorial reports, so as to get the propaganda out there. To catapult the truth, as it were.”

Monday, September 05, 2005

Michael: Olbermann's Smackdown

My new hero. I have nothing to add to Mr. Olbermann's justified outrage.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Michael: Rice Defends Bush Against Racism Charges

Condoleeza Rice asserted as she toured Alabama that the Administration's lacksidaisical response to Katrina was not due to racism. I agree. I don't think that Bush or anyone in his Administration are overtly racist. The reason for their dereliction of duty and incompetence is not that the victims of Katrina are overwhelmingly black; it is because they are poor, powerless, tend not to vote (and when they do, they vote Democrat), and Bush isn't facing an election. They failed becuase that's what this Administration does - fail - at everything they do besides suck-up and coddle the most wealthy and special intersts. It didn't hurt that there wasn't anyone who was a Bush Pioneer on the phone demanding that Bush put down his guitar and get FEMA and the Guard in gear.

The response to the hurricane that hit Florida just prior to the 2004 election was exemplary, swift, and generous. Not so this time. Those who actually care about the suffering of average Americans might want to keep that dichotomy in mind come the 2006 elections. You may not be able to punish Bush, but you can stick it to his Congress-cronies, who as we speak are lining up a vote to permanantly repeal the Estate Tax next week.

That's right. In a time when hundreds of thousands of Americans are becoming refugees in their own country, Bush and the Bushtards are angling to give billions in tax breaks to America's wealthiest families. Is that your order of priorities?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

PSA: Arizona To Welcome Katrina Victims

The governor's office announced the arrival of at least 1,000 evacuees to the valley on Sept 4 and 5. The Governor is asking you to help with the endeavor. There are several critical needs and here is how you can help:

1. Be part of a welcome team. Local groups have taken on the task of welcoming the evacuees to Phoenix. They are expected to begin arriving by plane as early as 6am on Sunday. What we know at this point is that they will be arriving in groups of 200-300 at a time. Volunteers working directly with the governor's office and we will be welcoming people at the airport with signs. Also, volunteers will provide them a bottle of water, and perhaps a snack. Since people will be arriving at different times and in different terminals, there will be welcome teams for each group of arrivals.

If you can help collect, transport and distribute the water, please contact Joanne Ivancich right away at 480-242-7737.

To volunteer to join one of our welcome teams call Joanne at 480-242-7737 or email her at coach4you AT aol DOT com.

2. Offer housing. There is also a critical need for housing. There are several ways to do this. Perhaps you could contact your church or some businesses and ask them how many families they can help.

Or, if you want to offer space in your home send an email to pubinq AT azdema DOT gov. Be sure to be specific about what you can do. They are expecting at least 1,000 people and the governor's office would like to have something set for at least 500 people before they arrive.

3. Be a volunteer. If you have any services you can volunteer, go to and send an email specifying the service you can offer.

4. Contribute urgently needed items. There will be a truck leaving for the Gulf next week. Visit for a list of needed items and collection locations.

This is our chance to personally do our part to ease the suffering of those in need, not just throw money at the problem (of course, money is an excellent thing to throw).

Friday, September 02, 2005

Michael: My Favorite Arizona Blogs

A blogroll can't really deliver an opinion on the quality and consistency of a blog very well. I have collected so many blogs by Arizonans that the cream is sometimes is danger of getting dispersed back into the whey. So I decided to take a small time-out from my outrage over the negligent destruction of NOLA to finger a few of my favorite Arizona bloggers.

In no particular order:

The Data Port by Art Jacobson gets regular hits from me. I like Art's writing and find his viewpoint endlessly thought-proving and entertaining. Art is a retired philosophy professor and motorcycle fanatic who lives in Tucson with his lovely wife Katherine, who writes for the Desert Leaf.

Rum, Romanism and Rebellion by Ted Prezelski is a good read. Ted is a deft and insightful commentator on Southern Arizona politics. His family are also enmeshed in local politics; his brother is in the state legislature and his mother is a doyen of local Democratic politics. Ted spearheaded the Clark campaign in 2004.

Now called The Arizona Eclectic, Gail Davis' web magazine (I'm not sure I dig this neologism... like blog is a tired term already?) is always a refreshing hit. She does some fun stuff with her design (I wish she'd redesign mine for me) and really celebrates Arizona's uniqueness.

Kevin Spidel's blog is always a worth a hit. Kevin is very active in the Progressive Caucus and always has lots of fresh news about what's what in the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

Dr. Kieran Healy's Weblog is one of my favorite stops. A professor of sociology at the UA, Dr. Healy is an Irishman. Not only is his writing always top-notch, witty and informative, but he tends to lend his reader a laudible tolerance and perspective on issues that they may not always remember to bring to the party themselves.

Tucson attorney Ken Sanders Politics of Dissent is like a bracing fist to the face of authority. He doesn't mince words. His postings are also periodically excerpted in the Arizona Daily Star's monday opinion section.

Group blog Unscrewing the Inscrutable is a free thinker's nature preserve. Atheists, evolutionists, and philosophers, oh my!

Doing a yeoman's job of keeping an eye on the public interest, Arizona Congress Watch tracks the shenanigans of Arizona's Congressional delegation. They are doing a great job of ferreting out the doings of the congress-critters. They should get a grant or something!

Temple Stark's blog is worth a regular hit. He's a reporter, so he talk pretty good, and always has something interesting to talk about. He's currently experimenting with podcasting, if that's your thing. Temple also helps to run PolState Report.

Dr. John Lynch, a evolutionary biologist at ASU's Barrett Honors College, has a blog he calls Stranger Fruit. Another Irishman, he blogs about biology, evolution, the creationist meanace, and public policy. It's always nice to get a scientist's perspective.

Joel Gaines' No Pundit Intended is the only conservative to make this list. And, believe me, it's not because we agree on much. I read Joel's blog because I know that he's the real deal. He's a fellow who walks his walk, not just talks his talk. Joel sometimes comments here, and he's always a respectful and articulate advocate for a different point of view, not just a knee-jerk bomb-thrower.

Jason Coyne's blog Jason for Arizona is a little difficult on the eyes (think mid-80s phosphorous CRTs), but is good for the soul. He's irreverent and funny. He identifies himself as a conservative Democrat, but I'm not buying it; Jason's a progressive. He's also excerpted periodically in the Arizona Daily Star's monday opinion section.

There are probably a lot more really good Arizona blogs out there. If you have one, or know of one that you read at least weekly, leave a comment and let me know about it.

PSA: From Arizona State Representative Ted Downing

We can do a lot to help Hurricane Katrina victims simply by making a few temporary sacrifices.

The hurricane that devastated the Gulf Coast knocked out about one third of the US crude oil supply and about 20 percent of our domestic gasoline. Here in Arizona, the damaged area accounts for around 18% of our fuel. It will take 13 days for the strategic petroleum reserve to enter market following the President’s Emergency Order. It will take longer than that to recover the lost refining capacity and re-open the port at Fourchon, Louisiana, which is used to ship a third of the US oil supplies

We can help the nation, and help our own family budgets without much sacrifice. Schedule and combine trips. Try car-pooling for a week. Ride a bus. Review the energy logistics of your business. Properly inflate your tires. Avoid stomping on the gas pedal. Consider whether that out-of-town trip is really necessary.

We know from the Tucson pipeline break that panic buying will suck our gas stations dry. Topping-off your tank seems an outright affront to the victims and first responders who need our support.

This Labor Day weekend, my wife and I decided to cancel our planned vacation and donate to a hurricane relief fund. We hope that like-minded Arizonans will dream up creative ways to reduce our energy footprint during this shortage. We have seen a lot of chaos over the past few days, but Americans are good people who are ready and eager to help in a crisis. Show them what Arizona can do.

Ted Downing (D)
State Representative, District 28

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Michael: Monkeyshines

The Chimpanzee genome is completely mapped just in time for them to go extinct. Seems we won't rest until our semi-sentient cousins are expurgated from this good earth, or at least their genome is ours to command. We can't risk the competition. You saw Planet of Apes didn't you? You just know those monkeys are up to no good. Better safe than sorry I always say...

Michael: The Death of New Orleans

I'm not a spiritual person, but tonight I am going to say a prayer for the soul of New Orleans. A great American city is dying, and may never return to its former self. Beyond the tragedy that has befallen each individual, a tragedy has befallen the community that was New Orleans. That community languishes on its death bed as I write.

One certainly cannot tell the scope and seriousness of the disaster that has befallen Louisiana and the other Gulf Coast areas hardest hit by Katrina from anything Bush has said. His callow platitudes, constant referents to local solutions and private charity, boviating lists of trivialities, and reluctance to fully commit the Federal government to complete recovery efforts stink of the indifference born of the absence of any personal experience of suffering or tragedy. Or maybe he's just utterly insensitive to the suffering of others.

The incomprehensible scale of the tragedy may somewhat excuse Bush's ignorance of the horrible hardships that people displaced by the flooding now face. Americans have never experienced this sort of utter destitution on our own soil. Our citizens are now the victims of the tsunami for whom we poured our compassion. The sort of tragedy that regularly visits Bangladesh has come calling. It is difficult to absorb the full ramifications of such an event.

Consider that it will be months before people can begin to re-inhabit the city. Even when the floodwaters have been pumped out or receded, the city will be largely uninhabitable. New Orleans is swiftly becoming the largest toxic waste dump in the world. A senior analyst at the EPA said of the toxic gumbo now filling New Orleans, "there is not enough money in the gross national product of the United States to dispose of the amount of hazardous material in the area." Lax enforcement of the already lax regulation of the chemical industry of the region has turned loose the Superfund site to dwarf all Superfund sites. Much of New Orleans may be unfit for human habitation for a generation or more.

New Orleans' economic base is dying, if not already dead. The people who lived there face the prospect of months, possibly years, before they can return. In the mean time, their livelihoods have been wiped out along with their businesses and their places of work. They will be forced to relocate in order to make a living. Experience with this sort of total flood loss indicates that most will not move back to rebuild when the insurance money comes - if it ever does.

Surely there will always be a New Orleans, but it will never be as it was again. Bush's flip assurance that people will rebuild even if it takes years is simply wrong. Many won't rebuild. Without significant and extraordinary aid to those made refugees in their own land, most haven't the means.

The robust and funky Euro-Carribean port city of sin that we once loved from afar will be ghostly echo of its former self. The inter-generational threads of continuity that are the soul of a community will be attenuated, if not broken. People will leave in droves, many never to return. The community of New Orleans will be a memory, not a living thing. America is going to have to come to terms with the unwelcome experience of the sudden death of an entire civic community.

Event: Drinking Liberally 9/1

Another week, another installment of Drinking Liberally. We are meeting as usual at BoonDocks Lounge @ 6pm @ First and Ft. Lowell.

Here are a few chuckles for you, courtesy of Bill Maher:

"Hurricane Katrina looked like it was bad in Florida the other day. Law enforcement officials went around telling people to stay in their homes, and black people thought it was election day." --Bill Maher

"President Bush said he wants Iraqis to compromise with each other, the warring parties, on their constitution. He said, look how easy it is, look how many times I've compromised our constitution." --Bill Maher

"Interesting science news this week. Scientists say they now have incontrovertible evidence that the earth's core is an iron ball the size of the moon . Apparently it spins faster than the rest of the planet. President Bush weighed in immediately. He said it's also important that schools teach that it doesn't." --Bill Maher

"Doctors and hospitals have gone back to literally the Middle Ages for a cure they say works better than anything they have in modern medicine for post-operative blood coagulation. They are going back to flesh-eating maggots and blood-sucking leeches. Or as most people know them, HMOs." --Bill Maher

See you through the bottom of a beer mug!

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