March 01, 2006

Katrina: Bush lied.

UPDATE [3/2]: In what may be one of the more lamer attempts at defending Bush, Mickey Kaus writes:
A good deal of the gleeful Froomkinian outrage in the press and Democratic party over that pre-Katrina video seems to be based on what is at best is a semantic misunderstanding. After Katrina, Bush said "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." In the video, Patterico points out, Bush is warned by hurricane expert Max Mayfield that there's a chance the "levees will be topped." Topping is different than breaching, no? When a levee's "topped," or "overtopped," some water sloshes over it and into the city. Then the storm passes and that's it. When a levee's "breached," there's a hole in the levee and Lake Pontchartrain pours in the gap and keeps pouring in until the city is completely flooded. What Bush said after the storm seems quite consistent with what Mayfield told him before the storm--i.e., he thought the levees might be topped by the storm surge but not that they'd be breached, with the catastrophe that resulted.
Yeah, that's the ticket...all Bush was warned of was that "some water" might drip over the levees and down into the Big Easy as a result of Katrina, not that there would be mass flooding as a result...such a trivial thing, too; I wonder why Mr. Mayfield even broached the subject. And technically, Clinton didn't have "sexual relations" with Ms. Lewinsky either.

Jeez, that doesn't even survive the giggle test. In fact, "topping" and "breaching" are the same thing, in this context. Both constitute a failure in the levee system to prevent water from flooding the city of New Orleans, and with Katrina predicted to be a Cat-5 hurricane when the President was briefed, the predicted result was going to be the same: a calamitous and overwhelming ocean of water entering the city, ruining everything in its path. It didn't matter if the water was coming over the levee or through it. Bush knew that this was possible, was warned about it before it took place, then denied he had been told anything of the sort several days later. This isn't even lame spin; it's insulting.
A fine wrap-up on Marshall v. Marshall, by Dahlia Lithwick:
It seems cruel to report that Anna Nicole then stood and exited the courtroom, leaving the building by a side door and again granting no interviews. I would love to tell you that she did something, anything, to distinguish herself from the thousands of appellants who have brought their cases into these marble walls. But the court has worked its magical spell of blandness, even upon Anna, and she is just another litigant with a probate dispute today. She has stepped into the only place in America where her breasts have no power.
Well, Clarence Thomas aside....
As if we needed more evidence that the Housing Bubble has burst, comes word that last month, home sales reached a ten-year low in Massachusetts, the state that saw the most sustained increase in home values over the past twenty-five years. I thought we caught a real break last year when the Bubble sustained itself through the expiration of the old bankruptcy law; the unsupportable increase in home prices over the last decade has been one of the things that helped limit the number of credit defaults, since people who sustained a medical emergency or job loss could always borrow money off the equity in their home as a last resort. Now that home values have peaked, and monthly credit card payments are soon to double, it may get very ugly again in the bankruptcy courts....

February 28, 2006

In re Vickie Lynn Marshall: Not much of substance to add about this case (for that, go here and here), except that the trial in her matter took place in the same bankruptcy court that I used to hang out at, in Downtown L.A. (most of my work is now done at the Woodland Hills branch). On occasion, I would drop by the packed courtroom (1575, on the 15th Floor, is where Judge Samuel Bufford holds court) and sneak a peek of the fat model listening to the proceedings during her trial. That she was initially awarded such a huge amount of money, in spite of the earlier decision by the Texas probate court, was no surprise, considering the strong pro-debtor leanings of Judge Bufford, whose obsession with the correct pagination and tabbing of motions and briefs has made appearances before him such a deeply pleasurable experience for all local counsel. And now Anna Nicole, like Dred Scott, Curt Flood and whoever "Wade" was before her, will live on in American history, to be studied and scrutunized by law students into the next millenia.
Political Relativism: Blogger Jane Hamsher writes:

While it's open to debate how much influence NARAL's decision not to support anti-choice Langevin in the Rhode Island race had on his decision to drop out, it was perceived as significant. Their endorsement may not mean a lot in Alabama, but it means a lot in solidly pro-choice New England states. Further, their decision to continue to support Lincoln Chafee and Joe Lieberman even after their disastrous vote on Samuel Alito is a signal to other Senators that is okay to vote like this in the future and keep your official pro-choice credentials in the process. NARAL and Planned Parenthood are rubber stamping these votes. How exactly do they plan on coming out and fighting the next Supreme Court Alito-lite nomination if they don't start yanking chains now?

Whenever major media outlets need an official quote from the pro-choice movement, they call NARAL and Planned Parenthood. If they are not speaking up against this bullshit, nobody is.

The problem is that in doing nothing they are actively hurting their own ability to do the good work that Planned Parenthood consistently does. If the South Dakota Rapist Rights bill goes through, it won't matter how many brave souls are willing to staff an abortion clinic, they won't be able to do so. I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is no more important task right now before the pro-choice movement than changing the balance of power in the US Senate and breaking up the Gang of 14....

I can think of nothing that will have less importance to the "pro choice movement" in the U.S. than electing a Democratic majority this November. However unlikely, at the moment, the prospect of taking seven GOP-held seats may seem, the prospect of taking over the Senate will be of almost no signifcance in preserving abortion rights, or protecting the privacy rights of women. That fight is now in the hands of the judiciary.

And if party stalwarts such as Daniel Akaka, Herb Kohl, and Maria Cantwell were not motivated to use the filibuster when the party was in the minority, and it was one of the only weapons in their arsenal to fight back against the far right, why should anyone believe they'll put up much of a fight when they gain the majority? And if the blogosphere doesn't care enough to send them a message, instead focusing all its wrath on the hapless Mr. Lieberman, why should other Democrats stick their necks out on principle either?

Based on recent history, the party's track record is not promising. One doesn't even have to look to the last four years, and examples such as the 2005 Bankruptcy bill or the confirmation of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, to realize what a worthless vehicle the party is in effecting worthwhile change, since there are numerous examples of what it did when it actually had a majority. In the five and a half years since 1990 when the Senate was controlled by the Democratic Party, it:

1) confirmed Clarence Thomas;
2) prevented President Clinton from ending anti-gay discrimination in the military;
3) failed to pass bills mandating access to health care (Hillary's plan, or any plan), public financing of elections, K-Street reforms, term limits, or efforts to curb gerrymandering;
4) passed the Patriot Act;
5) supported the resolution to go to war with Iraq, and generally supported the President's policies (before they opposed them);
6) created the Homeland Security Department; and, last but not least,
7) confirmed Michael "Heckuvajobbrownie" Brown to run FEMA.

That's quite a track record for a political party that's ostensibly supposed to be defending the great liberal tradition in this country. So pardon me if I don't get too exorcised about whether NARAL endorses Joe Lieberman or Lincoln Chafee, or use my small corner of the internets to whore for Democrats this election. Making the Democratic Party something worth fighting for can't be done by scapegoating a single Senator, not when almost half the party sucks from the same sleazy teat.
Le Menu Cunningham: I suppose when there's no one guarding the henhouse, it shouldn't be surprising that one Republican Congressman would not only sell his office, but would actually set out, in writing, a "menu" for what services he could provide in exchange for what level of bribe. This sort of corruption is never bipartisan, since the minority party can't offer government contracts, or any of the big ticket items that exist in this scandal. Yet it's a "Republican" scandal only because they currently hold the reigns of power; there is nothing in the modern ideology of liberalism that would make its believers any more pristine than conservatives. Moreover, this is a problem that can't be fixed by any of the normal palliatives, such as the public financing of elections, since the money doesn't go to campaign spending. Greed is greed.

February 27, 2006

Overshadowed by the election of the first woman to baseball's Hall of Fame is the welcome news that Minnie Minoso may also be pegged for the Hall. Among the players chosen today for their contributions in the Negro Leagues, Minoso had the prior misfortune (as far as his HOF candidacy was concerned) of having straddled the gap, putting up splendid numbers before and after the integration of the Major Leagues, but not having the career numbers in either to be an obvious selection. Today, that can be remedied.

UPDATE [2/28]: Not remedied, after all. Minoso, along with Buck O'Neil, were among those passed over by the Hall.
Texas Q.B. Not Borderline Retarded: Deadspin sets a rumor bites man !!
Matt Welch, et al., opine on the five nominated films for next week's Oscars. I haven't seen any of them, including the flic Welch rips, Crash; moreover, I haven't seen any of the films featuring the twenty nominated actors or ten nominated scripts. Besides being a dying medium akin to radio drama in the early-1950's, lying supine at the feet of high-def TV, it's also a rip-off to pay twenty bucks for the overrated "communal experience" that even movie connoisseurs don't seem to care about anymore. I'll go see a comedy, or anything that would look good in IMAX, but for everything else, I can wait for it on cable.

If I really want to see it, I'll get the DVD, which now only comes out a few months after the original release. Inevitably, technology will make it easier to download movies, either on to my computer or DVR, without having to wait even that small amount of time. Actually going to a movie theatre will soon be akin to visiting a museum, an activity based more on social class than a need to be artistically enthralled and captivated.

February 26, 2006

Proponents of school vouchers should take a look at these private institutions, where the only subject on the curriculum As reported in today's New York Times:
The Times found several schools with curious student populations.

¶Genesis One Christian Academy in Mendenhall, Miss.: Two years ago, this kindergarten-to-Grade 8 school added a high school and a Grade 13, for basketball players who did not graduate to raise their grade-point averages. At least 33 of about 40 students at the unaccredited high school play basketball, and its stars have signed letters of intent to attend Oklahoma State, Arkansas and Alabama.

¶Boys to Men Academy in Chicago: The student body consists of 16 basketball players, who can earn credit for the equivalent of eight high school core courses in a year by studying online through an accredited correspondence school.

¶Rise Academy in Philadelphia: Opened last fall, it outsources lessons to others, including Lutheran Christian and two online high schools.

¶God's Academy in Irving, Tex.: A summer basketball coach started with three students in August. Now 40 students in Grades 6 to 12, all basketball players, meet with two full-time teachers four days a week at a recreation center. The curriculum is provided and graded by an education center 25 miles away. Its star player, Jeremy Mayfield, signed with Oklahoma.

Some of these institutions recently joined other private schools to form the National Elite Athletic Association. With more than two dozen teams from Los Angeles to Toronto, this conference is seeking a shoe contract and a television deal. Its teams sometimes travel thousands of miles to play in tournaments that often attract more college coaches than fans. Those coaches will pay $100 for booklets of information about the players.
What's a Wilf? A comprehensive list of who athletes donate to in political campaigns, here. As you might expect, people in the World o' Sports tend to contribute disproportionately to the right end of the political spectrum, but there are some exceptions, more so one than one would find in examining the leanings of entertainment figures. Those exceptions can be found in three categories: African-Americans (duh), basketball coaches (bravo to the Zen Master, Pat Riley, Dean Smith and Gregg Popovich, et al.), and team owners/executives (incl. the aforementioned Minnesota Vikings owner, Zygy Wilf).

Some surprises: Muhammed Ali leans Republican; Arnold Palmer, who used to be a golf buddy of Ike's, has been a generous backer of Jack Murtha; and tennis stars tend to be as Democratic a voting bloc as NBA players. No surprise: golf pros are more Republican than the Christian right. [link via Roger Ailes]
Earlier this week I mentioned my endorsement of another blogger for something called the Koufax Awards, which is sort of a lefty popularity contest. It seems one can't write about the contest without mentioning the financial woes of the blog that's hosting the awards, and asking that a "contribution" be sent their way, which I won't do here (on the other hand, if you like their blog, then by all means give 'til it hurts; it's a pretty good site). Banging a tin cup is a particularly tacky thing when it's being done for your own website (one blogger in particular seems to have a fundraising drive every six weeks), but sometimes necessary if you're too lazy to get a real job.

However, doing it for a blog that's providing a potential award or benefit to you isn't just tacky; it's ethically sleazy, calling into question the entire credibility of the award. It's at the same level as the "service" Mitchell Wade or Jack Abramoff provided members of Congress: Duke Cunningham has been a mensch in the field of defense contracts, he works his ass off rewarding his friends, so why shouldn't he get a taste of the Good Life, especially since our business will benefit too. Of course, there's no law against bribing bloggers, or against encouraging payments to support a website that's giving you an award. But the appearance is just as shady.