Archive for the ‘Political’ Category

Krugman on Katrina

Krugman’s op-ed in the NYTimes this week well-reflects what everyone is thinking about the abysmal federal response to this disaster:

Killed by Contempt – New York Times

You might have expected the administration to reconsider its hostility to emergency preparedness after 9/11 – after all, emergency management is as important in the aftermath of a terrorist attack as it is following a natural disaster. As many people have noticed, the failed response to Katrina shows that we are less ready to cope with a terrorist attack today than we were four years ago.

I’ve had a lot of good responses to my previous posts on both sides of the issues, I really need to get comments working again.

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It took me a couple of days to fully appreciate the scale of the disaster in the South this week, mostly because I wasn’t following the news super closely and because I thought “this is an industrialized country, and there’s lots of warning, how bad can it get?” Obviously I was wrong, terribly terribly wrong.

I started paying more attention to the news this morning after I heard some disturbing rumors of a rescue helicopter being shot at last night. I figured this would be an isolated incident. Parts of today I’ve sat in stunned silence and thought, “it can’t get any worse,” but it did. Rescue by boats and busses being called off because of safety issues, trucks of medical supplies being robbed at gun point, people SHOOTING AT HOSPITALS. My god, how can this be happening.

AND WHERE IS THE CAVALRY? How are we to imagine that the government can protect us from/recover from a terrorist attack if they couldn’t save its citizens from a weather event THEY HAD SEVERAL DAYS WARNING FOR. Why were there not busses lined up in the city to evacuate people after all of the auto fuel ran out and the airport closed? Afterwards, why is it taking DAYS to bring aid in to the people who are left, get the injured out, and maintain order. WHAT KIND OF PLANNING COULD LET THIS HAPPEN!?!?!

Say what you will about the looters. After an event like this, AND WHEN IT BECOMES OBVIOUS THAT NO-ONE IS GOING TO HELP YOU, you’ll do whatever you can to help yourself. But who in the world starts firing on rescue and medical workers?!?!? Have Americans drifted so far from a civil society that this is even considered? The rest of the world must be absolutely shocked at this, and we are likely losing what little respect we may have had left as a culture.

I’ll say it again though, HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN? How could we ignore the ample warning, not listen to the experts, and not at least prepare even a little bit to dig out after the worst natural disaster in the history of the country. I feel as if we should be asking frickin Canada and Mexico for aid here, because its obvious that we can’t take care of our own.

In the meantime we have to do what we can to give people some kind of help. Donate to the Red Cross, give blood, do whatever you can to aid strangers who are stranded and homeless for the next several months. Also, re-assess our own disaster plans. Living in an earthquake-prone area and close to a more dangerous urban center, I’m thinking about what would be needed to take me and my family out of the danger zone at a moments notice if the only thing we can count on is our legs. Since our governments priorities are firmly focused elsewhere these days, we really don’t have much we can count on in even the worst of circumstances.

And I ask you again, how do you feel about Homeland Security and the possibility of a surprise terrorist action in the wake of this fiasco.

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From CNN:

New Orleans hospital halts patient evacuations after coming under sniper fire, a doctor who witnessed the incident says.

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Looks like its official, Britain’s Labour Party held on to its lead in Parliament just enough to ensure keeping Blair in office. I really don’t have anything to say one way or the other on the British PM — except that he’s a hell of a lot more eloquent than our “benevolent” dictator — but being in the UK for the last couple weeks of this election was pretty interesting.

Iraq was a bigger issue in the UK election that it seemed to be here in the states during our last election. The Conservative leaders went on and on about the legality of the invasion and how Blair misled the people into war (sound familiar…yeah, it didn’t work for him either). There was the usual prattle about health care, jobs, and the economy (no real issues, just imagery), but there were a lot less dirty personal attacks than our campaigns had. The UK process was by no means pretty, but it wasn’t as disgustingly showy and scum-ridden as our electoral process.

As much noise as everyone made about Iraq having the possibility of unseating Blair, no-one I talked to when I was in the UK (locals and ex-pats alike) felt there was really any risk of such. The polls always had him with a solid lead, even with the very progressive Liberal Democrat party sapping points from Labour I’m sure (Nader couldn’t spoil the election over there).

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The Disappearing Dollar

Interesting opinion piece in The Economist this week about the continuing decline of the dollar and how big of an impact that a continuing slide will have on the worldwide economy, mostly because the dollar has been the “stable, safe” currency for so long that a huge amount of global credit is based on the dollar remaining relatively strong.

Economist.com | World economy

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A Mandate

I’m still a little shell-shocked. Sitting here this morning I’m watching W’s surprise news conference where he has literally referred to himself as, “the will of the people.” I am just astounded by the 3.5 million vote margin for W, and I’m terrified about what this means for the country when the radical right takes it as a “mandate” (which they already are):

– It is a mandate in support of John Ashcroft’s war against the Bill of Rights and the erosion of civil liberties.

– It is a mandate in support of preemptive invasions of countries that didn’t attack us, did not have the means to attack us, and did not work with the people who attacked us.

– It is a mandate to ignore the risks posed by countries that really do have nuclear weapons, and to demonstrate to them that the only way they can remain safe from US aggression is to build up and be willing to use those weapons.

– It is a mandate (along with 11 state initiatives) to dictate to people who they can spend their lives with.

– It is a mandate to continue to destroy our environment through Orwellian initiatives such as “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests”

– It is a mandate to run our economy in to the group by running a deficit of more than half a trillion dollars (more than a quarter of our national budget), resulting in latter-day interest rate climbs and a crushing blow to our economy a few years down the road.

– It is a mandate to “not worry” about the man who did attack us, and still taunts us on world-wide TV.

This is an election won on the basis of fear and of hatred. It is a mandate for a party that has shown fiscal recklessness and social/civil fascism. How can we believe in a country that is turning away from a path of continuing freedoms to a path of deceit and repression?

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Found a pointer to a great list of things you can do right now to help take control of this election. Excellent resource for those of us in a non-swing-state who want to feel a bit less powerless over the destiny that is evolving for us:

Hiding In Plain Sight: DO SOMETHING NOW

Thanks to John Perry Barlow for bringing this list to his large audience.

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…and some local ones. I received my absentee ballot the other day and was a little intimidated to see that it’s 5 separate slips, front and back. Besides the obvious national debate, there are a host of local offices up for grabs (we live in Richmond, Contra Costa County), as well as a slew of state-wide initiatives: 16 state-wide, 4 county-ish, and 2 city. “Democracy is hard, let’s go shopping!”

I spent a few hours today (mostly during the Presidential debates) going through the voter information documents, reading opinions of sources I trust, and discussing with a few friends a number of these. I’ve filled out my sample ballot and think I’ve got votes I’m happy with for the measures that really will have an effect on us (and that we can have and effect on the en-action of). I’m not going to get in to discussion of individual office candidates (people) here, there’s too much of that already (and there’s not a lot of information about the local races to make it really interesting). I’m posting my intentions here because I’m very interested in what other people may have to say. Any questions/comments/insights, please post a note below or trackback to your own entry. There’s a lot on the ballot to critically look at.

State Measures

1A – Yes I think we should keep property and sales taxes local. Living in Richmond, I see a lot of impact due to lack of local revenue (as well as many other issues, but that would require even broader change…), but I don’t like the idea of the state having mandate over both my payroll taxes and my local taxes.

59 – Yes – Government sunshine initiative, always a good thing to have transparency in the local process.

60 – Yes Counter to Prop 62, which could lock out third parties from state-wide elections.

60A – No – Ties the states hands to use one source of income (from the state-wide yard sales) to pay off one source of debt (from the state-wide bond restructuring).

61 – Yes – Bonds for children hospitals.

62 – No – Restructures the election system in a way that could lock out third party candidates and regulate a two-party-only system. No, no, no.

63 – No – Good cause, but this feels like a bad case of class tax warfare. I don’t like the idea of specialized taxes on only certain groups of people.

64 – No – I’m worried that the big backers of this bill are major corporations which have suffered some major anti-trust losses recently (and for good reason, IMHO). I don’t want to limit the people’s right to seek grievances, and leave it solely in the hands of a politically motivated Attorneys General office.

65 – No – No-one wants this bill at all anymore, they want you to vote on 1A instead (which I’m thinking “yes” for).

66 – Yes – I’ve long thought that “Three Strikes” was much too harsh.

67 – No(?) – I’m torn on this one. While I don’t like the idea of a regressive tax on a specific utility (the phone system), I live in an area where our Emergency Rooms are under constant threat of closure.

68 – No – I can’t find anyone whose actually for this who doesn’t run a racetrack…

69 – (???) – I’m really torn on this one. Building a DNA database for criminal detection does sound like a very good thing, but I’m worried that this bill doesn’t have enough privacy protections…thoughts???

70 – No – Severely limits what we could get from the tribal casinos for almost a century, and is only supported by one of them, so this one isn’t very popular. Lets see how the Govinator’s negotiations come out.

71 – No – As promising as it sounds like stem cell research is, I don’t want this state in the business of funding it. (Federal government, that would be a different case…I think).

72 – No(?) – I’m skeptical of a state-mandated health system, but I’m in a pretty good position WRT health care, so I could be looking at this through rose-colored glasses. Anyone have a solid argument for a “yes” vote?

County Measures

AA – Yes – BART is heavily over-subsidized anyways, and I would much rather see this come out of road or gas taxes, but my wife rides the Transbay tube every day, so I want it as safe as possible.

BB – Yes – Even though AC Transit drivers keep trying to kill me on my bike, they’ve made some excellent local improvements to the buses and stops recently with well-placed funding. Since no-one seems to be against this one, and even though its a (minor) tax on me as a home-owner, I think it would be a good investment.

CC – No(?) – I can’t get a good read on what this tax is supposed to actually fund in the parks, but I use them quite a bit so I could be easily swayed…

J – No(?) – Torn again. At first I didn’t like what I read out of this bill because it seemed extremely broad and focused too much on roads (which I really don’t want a whole lot more of). Reading the arguments against this measure I see that more than half of it is actually dedicated to non-automotive enhancements, so I’m not sure…Again, though, I would like to see this as a fuel tax (which it somewhat is coming out of sales taxes).

City Measures

Q & R – Yes – Very little description or discussion of these measures, but they seem sane and there’s no-one arguing against them…even the sales tax increase.

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Florida 2004

billmon has some interesting information that was dug up by the NYTimes and by CNN about continuing issues in the Florida election process. Crooks, every single one of them:

Whiskey Bar: Caught Jeb Handed

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Driving Votes

I’ve been cultivating ways to materially help out in the next presidential election (if we actually have one). A friend in New York suggested going out to places like Florida and doing poll monitoring. Here was an interesting site I came across recently as well:

Driving Votes – Visit a Swing State

Registering voters in swing states is the single most effective way to defeat Bush. Driving Votes provides you with everything you need to register voters in swing states. If you don’t live in a swing state, get your friends together for a road trip on the Democracy tip. You’ll have an unforgettable time while helping to put the brakes on Bush.

Anyone have any experience with this group?

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