my pissant two cents

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina: a Class 4 hurricane. Bush: a First-Class dolt.

I just spent a long time looking at pictures from New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile and all along the Gulf Coast. My boss called it disaster porn, which is fairly accurate. Except most porn isn't obscene. These pictures really were.

I've been through disasters. They really suck. The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake killed a lot of people in northern California. I was there in my little college town, in my little house with the windows all busted, surrounded by houses torn from their foundations, the power out for a few days. Many people lost their homes and all of their belongings. But I was warm and dry, and there was food and water.

Those people who got stuck in the path of Hurricane Katrina are not so lucky. I've heard them referred to far too often as "those who chose to stay." Granted, there are some crackpots who think the sheer power of their will, or piety, or dedication to their homes will keep them safe. But I seriously doubt that everybody we see wading through the streets "chose" to stay. I suspect not a few of them were too poor, too sick, too young or too old to get out of town. It's simply not rational to say that people who couldn't afford a car to drive out of town, let alone the gas to make it go, "chose" to stay.

Now the discussion has given over to "looters." OMIGOSH! When society goes in the crapper for an extended period of time, desperate people turn to lawlessness? Knock me over with a feather. Fox News anchor John Gibson tried to fan the flames of hysteria (not to mention racism) by repeatedly showing footage of black people taking goods out of abandoned stores. Not even Miami Police Chief John Timoney-- the mastermind behind the Miami Model, wherein cops pre-emptively shoot, beat and use chemical weapons against peaceful demonstrators-- would rise to the bait. Instead of agreeing that cops should be shooting looters, Timoney suggested that police might better serve the public at large by trying to save lives.

Ironically, according to, several cops reportedly participated in the looting of a local Wal-Mart, including one who made off with a laptop computer and a 27" flat-screen TV. (Deep down inside, where I can still experience child-like wonder, I am bubblingly giddy at the thought of cops ripping off a Wal-Mart.)

And then there's this guy:
A hack would make a "fiddle : guitar :: Rome burning : New Orleans drowning" analogy. A somewhat more clever person would direct your attention to the fingering of the left hand, which is not so much a chord as it is a gesture. I must let it suffice to ask rhetorically, "What the F is this dolt doing?"

Bush likes to compare himself to historical figures. For example, lately he's been comparing his entrepreneurial warmaking in the Middle East with the truly noble leadership Franklin Roosevelt showed in WWII. (Memo to Bush: FDR was a Democrat, and the people you surround yourself with are constitutionally incapable of thinking of him without feeling the urge to strangle a kitten.) Maybe now he's modeling himself after his favorite philosopher, Jesus H. Christ, who notably spent three days laying low before he sprang into action.

Three days after Katrina began battering Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and then began cutting a swath of destruction through Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio (query: does God hate red states?), George finally did something.

But unlike the socialist Nazarene whose philosophy Bush befouls simply by existing, Bush couldn't be bothered to spend time among the suffering. He did his ministering from a seat in Air Force One, 32,000 feet above the devastation.

Back in Washington, George gave as insipid and lackluster a speech as any "leader"-- for lack of a better term-- has done in similar straits. To wit:
"I cannot tell you how devastating the sights were. [...] Right now the losses seem awfully dark for those affected and I understand that. But I am confident that with time, you'll get your life back in order, new communities will flourish, the great city of New Orleans will be back on its feet, and America will be a stronger place for it. The country stands with you. We'll do all in our power to help you."

Sleep well, Gulf Coast. George is confident.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

No Quarter for Hackery

The following is a letter to the editor of the Washington Post in response to an article on the demonstrators at Bush's Craqford, Texas, dude ranch in Monday's (8/21) edition by Mike Allen.
The article is laced throughout with scornful jabs at the demonstrators, their cause, and their politics. If this were an opinion piece or a fluffy feature written by a feature writer, it might be a little more palatable. Not much more, but maybe a little. But Mike Allen is part of the Post's reporting team that regularly covers the White House. As such, he should be held to a higher standard.
Of course, I'm not holding my breath in anticipation that they wil publish it. Nevertheless, I encourage you to read the article and write a letter of your own, and send it to They can't ignore all of us....

I am offended by Mike Allen's August 22 article on the demonstrators at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas. I am a Columbia-trained journalist, and have taught journalism at two universities, and this is precisely the type of article I would use to demonstrate biased writing.
Allen uses several loaded words to describe the demonstrators, "hordes" and "onslaught" being two of the most egregious. He also makes several snide characterizations, e.g.: discussing the port-a-potties, "but no shower" (because they're dirty hippies); a volunteer "scraping a frittata pan" (because an effete liberal wouldn't use something as banal as a skillet); and juxtaposing the Food Not Bombs group's bus that "can only be started with jumper cables" (because they're poor) with the "hybrid-fueled cars" of the "liberals from throughout the West" (because they're rich). Allen presents something for everyone to sneer at.
Rather than making any principled stand against a war that has killed more than 1800 Americans and innumerable thousands of Iraqis, these demonstrators merely try to "capitalize" on Cindy Sheehan, who Allen assures us is nothing more than a publicist-manufactured "logo for opposition to Bush." Forget, for the moment, that her son was killed in Iraq, and she'd like to know why.
Allen giddily passes on the White House press corps moniker for the demonstrators-- "Cirque du Soleil"-- which adds nothing to the story, but confirms what the Left has long suspected and now knows to be true: the mainstream media is mocking and marginalizing them.
I'd expect this sort of thing from a partisan hack or an Ugly American caricature like P.J. O'Rourke. I expect better from the Post.