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WE'VE MOVED! Click here: http://www.hartwilliams.com/blog/blogger.html

WE'VE MOVED! Click here: http://www.hartwilliams.com/blog/blogger.html

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The NATIONAL ENQUIRER reports that George W. Bush went off the wagon during either Cindy Sheehan's protest, or the Hurricane Katrina debacles.

99 bottles of beer on the wall ...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A bit of doggerel, casually tossed off on August 16th, THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE NEOCONS has taken on a life of its own.

First played on the Nationally syndicated "Stephanie Miller Show" (8-17), my recorded version ran on KOPT's "Nancy Stapp Show" (8-19). Then, The Eugene Weekly decided to run it, uncredited and unrecompensed on 9-15.

Why this is, no human knows ... 'ere 'tis:

The Battle Hymn of the NeoCons
by Hart Williams

Mine eyes have seen the gory
from a useless foreign war
They are trampling out the protest
for what we used to stand up for
We are sending troops to Baghdad
to get shot up more and more

The lie keeps marching on.

Gory, Gory in Fallujah
Gory, Gory what's it to ya?
If you ain't in agreement, well then screw ya,

The lie keeps marching on.

In the glory of mendacity
George sent troops across the sea
with a perfidy in his bosom
that flim-flammed you and me
as they die to protect oil wells
he says they die for you and me

The lie keeps marching on.

Gory, Gory Mesopotamia
Disagree and they'll
defame ya
Keep yer mouth shut-
who can blame ya?

The lie keeps marching on.

We control the barking moonbats
of a thousand talk show mikes
when we fax them all our talking points
they do just what we likes
we went to war for gasoline
so ignore those gas pump hikes

The lie goes marching on

Gory, gory Al jazeerah
we'll turn off your feed so none can hear ya
disagree with us and
watch us smear ya

The lie keeps marching on ...
The Version heard on the Nationally Syndicated Stephanie Miller Show:

The Version that aired locally
MP3 format - 2 meg download (right-click and choose "save as" in WinDoze)

But then, the EUGENE WEEKLY decided to print it, because, evidently, "it was on the internet" and, while five minutes of Googling would have found the author, the first two stanzas were published, credited to "Anon." Naturally, as a Writers Union Member, I take a dim view of copyright infringement (we successtully pursued "Tasini v. New York Times" all the way to the Supreme Court, where writers rights to their copyrighted material was upheld by a not-very-split court.

So, I called the editor, Ted Taylor, who never actually apologized, nor did he offer compensation for publishing my material without permission. "Fair Use" doesn't extend to commercial publications printing for profit.

He said he'd "correct" it. (This is what they ran (in teeny weeny little type):


... Last week's Slant section included a clever, unattributed little blurb called "The Battle Hymn of the NeoCons" that has been circulating on local political e-mail lists and has even gotten air time on local talk radio KOPT. Sing along and follow the bouncing ball-busters. Turns out the snarky stanzas were penned by Eugene political pundit and blogger Hart Williams. There's an additional stanza about "barking moonbats" at www.hartwilliams.com

Speaking of ball-busters, did anyone catch "Real Time with Bill Maher" Sept. 9 in which Maher called on Bush to resign? [...]

SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, editor@eugeneweekly.com
But alas, this wasn't the first time this YEAR that the EUGENE WEEKLY decided to snark me in print. Earlier, and having stomped on AVA's shutdown the previous week (kicking Bruce Anderson when he was already down), I noted it. This was their response:


A couple of weeks ago we asked AVA Oregon! publisher Bruce Anderson about rumors that he's returning to California, and he denied it. Turns out we asked the wrong question. He's staying in town, but his newspaper is going away, unless of course he finds someone to bankroll future issues. The R-G gave AVA's demise about 200 words Saturday, buried on D3, getting less attention than the Springfield mayor's plans to go on TV for five minutes each week to answer questions. Back in November, the R-G gave Anderson's arrival in town two prominent stories, a photo and a total of 2,000 words. The Oregonian weighed in with a big story, The New York Times gave Anderson's move to Eugene 1,200 words, and the February Editor & Publisher devoted four full pages to Anderson, "the Jeffrey Dahmer of journalism." Hype generates hype, and it turns to whimpers.

Speaking of the daily rag, up until now the R-G's long-term, full-text archives have only been accessible on a fee basis. But if you have a Eugene Public Library card, you can gain access to the paper's full-text archives for free, along with other newspapers and magazines...

SLANT includes short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, editor@eugeneweekly.com
Talk about snarky! I also noted that the library had the microfilm index online for quite a while -- indeed, my last article for AVA Oregon relied heavily on microfilmed articles on Vicki Walker from the R-G, researched initially over the internet. In other words, when you discover the the world isn't flat, is that news? Or is it shoddy, self-absorbed me-journalism?

Having never held the position as Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary or Treasurer of the Democratic Party of Lane County, snarking, was, as per usual, more important than facts.. This is what they ran:



Our Slant last week on the closing down of AVA Oregon generated a slew of unflattering words from Hart Williams, former chief of the Lane County Democrats, a former state House candidate and a recent contributor to AVA Oregon. Williams writes about EW on his blog and calls the paper "basically glorified parakeet cage liner," and goes on to say that "generally, the parakeets contribute the best material to the paper." He describes EW as a "pseudo-'alternative' paper," noting that EW gave scant attention to his political opponent Paul Holvey's out-of-district campaign contributions in the last legislative primary (see News Brief 5/6/04). "They started raking muck where there was no muck, and NOT raking muck where there was," he writes. He calls AVA's Bruce Anderson "the only honest editor in Eugene," and "the only editor that I know of on the West Coast with any balls." Read all about it at www.hartwilliams.com where there's a link to his blog.

SLANT includes short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, editor@eugeneweekly.com
Too bad they couldn't get their facts straight. Or, actually, it's TYPICAL that they can't get their facts straight.

Frankly, that "ball buster" comment on their "correction"

"Speaking of ball-busters, did anyone catch ..."

sounds a WHOLE LOT like their little snip at the REGISTER-GUARD on the AVA snark:

"Speaking of the daily rag ..."

(So don't parse to me that it was 'inadvertent': first they steal your stuff, then call you -- in a craven and cowardly manner -- a "ball-buster" for NOT suing them for copyright infringement! The Yiddish term for this springs, unbidden, to mind: "putz")

And, minus so much as a minor nod to their illegal behavior (to say nothing of an apology) is just beyond the pale: Clueless, rude and lawless.

Now this may not make any difference to anyone. You might think it doesn't matter. But the next time somebody steals your lawn mower, then tells you that they didn't know it was yours, and uses it, returns it without so much as a faretheewell or replacing the gasoline they used, well, perhaps you'll understand how I feel.

It's about me, and it's about the profession. You don't steal articles, no matter whether they're fluff or not. Then you don't FAIL to apologize. You don't make a correction that isn't a correction, and you don't call the victim of your crime a "ball-buster" -- even as a sly "witticism."

And you take the bloody time to get your facts right, Mr. WEEKLY, unless you're willing to admit that you aren't within ten thousand miles of being an actual journalist. Otherwise, you're not only an amateur, but you're a CRIMINAL amateur as well. Great leaping horny toads, Daddy Warbucks. Show a little class, Ted Taylor. Show some cojones, WEEKLY. And show that you have at least a vestigal apprehension of the canons of journalism.

That's some kind of "professionalism" in a "newspaper."

I tried to resolve this quietly and amicably, without sending my Union Grievance Officer, or retaining a lawyer. But I guess they just don't cotton to acting civilized. So, what do you think? Do I declare war?

Oy vey.

This page has been more or less virtually reprinted at: http://www.hartwilliams.com/battle.htm

Wednesday, September 21, 2005
or, OH, YEAH

"... of anger and of shame that the world's richest nation couldn't organise a p**s up in a brewery and lets Americans starve while they arrogantly observe petty regulations."
Short blog entry today. We here at Skiing Uphill know the last few entries have been hard on the eyes (especially as the presbyopia kicks in).

Vheadline.com, "Venezuela's Electronic News" reports:
If anyone has misconstrued Christ's very teachings it is George W. Bush...

VHeadline.com commentarist Mary MacElveen writes: I want to thank Lori Price of 'Citizens for Legitimate Government' for bringing this to not only my attention, but the attention of others that read her site: "Hundreds of tonnes of British food aid shipped to America for starving Hurricane Katrina survivors is to be burned. US red tape is stopping it from reaching hungry evacuees. Instead tons of the badly needed Nato ration packs, the same as those eaten by British troops in Iraq, has been condemned as unfit for human consumption."


So not only does the American government refuse to accept food and water from Venezuela ... they will burn food coming from a supposed ally? ... In light of the United States burning food intended for victims, they are not practicing Christ's very teachings and that is to feed the poor. While I am not an overly religious person, President Chavez did what Christ taught him to do and that was to turn the other cheek when he saw a people in need. He could have said no, but he offered us aid. I wonder what he is thinking right now as he reads where we burned food coming from Britain.

President Chavez said "Americans do not want to be scourge of the world ... the United States, like all countries has a human soul -- feelings and love."

It horrifies me that the actions of my country have many seeing the citizens of this country as being such a scourge. It horrifies our senses that the Bush government can burn food intended for the hungry. Some around the world may think that Americans are all about greed and have no soul ... but I stand here before you to tell you that that is simply not true.
Yes, Virginia, it seems to be true. Here's from the original story [Note the anemic paragraphs]:

19 September 2005
Tons of British aid donated to help Hurricane Katrina victims to be BURNED by Americans
From Ryan Parry, US Correspondent in New York
HUNDREDS of tons of British food aid shipped to America for starving Hurricane Katrina survivors is to be burned.

US red tape is stopping it from reaching hungry evacuees.

Instead tons of the badly needed Nato ration packs, the same as those eaten by British troops in Iraq, has been condemned as unfit for human consumption.

And unless the bureaucratic mess is cleared up soon it could be sent for incineration.

One British aid worker last night called the move "sickening senselessness" and said furious colleagues were "spitting blood".

The food, which cost British taxpayers millions, is sitting idle in a huge warehouse after the Food and Drug Agency recalled it when it had already left to be distributed.

Scores of lorries headed back to a warehouse in Little Rock, Arkansas, to dump it at an FDA incineration plant.

The Ministry of Defence in London said last night that 400,000 operational ration packs had been shipped to the US.

But officials blamed the US Department of Agriculture, which impounded the shipment under regulations relating to the import and export of meat.

The aid worker, who would not be named, said: "This is the most appalling act of sickening senselessness while people starve.

"The FDA has recalled aid from Britain because it has been condemned as unfit for human consumption, despite the fact that these are Nato approved rations of exactly the same type fed to British soldiers in Iraq.

"Under Nato, American soldiers are also entitled to eat such rations, yet the starving of the American South will see them go up in smoke because of FDA red tape madness."

The worker added: "There will be a cloud of smoke above Little Rock soon - of burned food, of anger and of shame that the world's richest nation couldn't organise a p**s up in a brewery and lets Americans starve while they arrogantly observe petty regulations.

"Everyone is revolted by the chaotic shambles the US is making of this crisis. Guys from Unicef are walking around spitting blood.

"This is utter madness. People have worked their socks off to get food into the region.

"It is perfectly good Nato approved food of the type British servicemen have. Yet the FDA are saying that because there is a meat content and it has come from Britain it must be destroyed.

"If they are trying to argue there is a BSE reason then that is ludicrously out of date. There is more BSE in the States than there ever was in Britain and UK meat has been safe for years."

The Ministry of Defence said: "We understand there was a glitch and these packs have been impounded by the US Department of Agriculture under regulations relating to the import and export of meat.

"The situation is changing all the time and at our last meeting on Friday we were told progress was being made in relation to the release of these packs. The Americans certainly haven't indicated to us that there are any more problems and they haven't asked us to take them back."

Food from Spain and Italy is also being held because it fails to meet US standards and has been judged unfit for human consumption.

And Israeli relief agencies are furious that thousands of gallons of pear juice are to be destroyed because it has been judged unfit.

The FDA said: "We did inspect some MREs (meals ready to eat) on September 13. They are the only MREs we looked at. There were 70 huge pallets of vegetarian MREs.

"They were from a foreign nation. We inspected them and then released them for distribution."
Luckily, the Bush Administration has KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas, to defend it:
Hurricane Relief from Great Britain Called into Question
Tuesday September 20, 2005 6:09pm
Reporter: Jessica Morkert Posted By: Amanda Manatt

Little Rock - Hurricane Katrina relief continues to arrive at Little Rock Air Force Base daily. However, there may be hundreds of tons of international food that may be not be used.

Last week, NATO sent tons of MREs, or meals-ready-to eat, to the Little Rock Air Force Base. Those MREs are from Great Britain and are being inspected by the USDA. However, health concerns about beef products and mad cow disease (news) could keep them in storage.

It's something the London-based Daily Mirror tabloid calls, "sickening senselessness." Hundreds of tons of British food aid shipped to America for starving Hurricane Katrina survivors is to be burned.

The article alleges U.S.. red tape is stopping it from reaching hungry evacuees, and unless the bureaucratic mess is cleared up soon, it could be sent for incineration.

Tuesday officials with the USDA remained on the defensive. A USDA spokesperson says the MREs sent from Great Britain must be inspected, and health regulations, specifically involving beef products and the possibility of Mad Cow Disease, cannot be waived. Some of the MREs have been set aside, many have been cleared for use and distributed, and none have yet been destroyed.

(Lishantia Andrews, Katrina victim) "They are good enough for people in New Orleans, but there must be a catch to them if they're not passing their standards."

Officials say it's not an issue of the food being unsafe, but rather a security clearance and that they're grateful for all international assistance.
English language newspapers seem to have a slightly different take on the disaster than Sean Hannity:

The Australian report (tomorrow):
Gulf Coast braces for new misery
Correspondents in Miami
September 22, 2005

HURRICANE Rita was placed on a par with the devastating Hurricane Katrina last night after strengthening into a category-four storm with 217km/h winds.

As news of the upgrade was announced, US President George W. Bush flew to New Orleans amid growing fears that nature was about to bring renewed misery to the Gulf Coast.

Forecasters predicted that Rita, moving at 22km/h, was heading into warmer waters and could intensify further before striking the Gulf Coast this weekend, as a possible encore to Katrina, which also ranked as a category-four on the five-level scale.


The reaction from the White House and authorities in Florida, Louisiana and Texas was frantic and paranoid - a reflection of the heavy political and psychological damage inflicted on US leaders by Katrina ... In stark contrast to the lethargic federal and local response before and shortly after Katrina, Mr Bush was determined to appear prepared for the next possible disaster, and was briefed on the growing storm aboard the helicopter assault landing ship Iwo Jima, which is docked in New Orleans and has served as the US military's relief headquarters for the Katrina devastation.
Well, you're all smart cookies. I think you can process the commentary without a lot of further balderdash from me. Nice to know that so many around the world are seeing us through Bush-colored glasses.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lost in the Katrina morass has been the waterproofed Supreme Court nomination of one John Roberts.

I read the transcripts and watched portions of the "hearings" -- but I used to wade through thousands of pages of such hearings back when I was on the college debate team at TCU, long ago.

We had a pretty good team that year. Even though the final tally didn't reflect it (as we'll see later), there was general consensus that the best two teams in the nation that Watergate year were Old Jesus University and TCU (yes, I am a Horned Frog. Couldn't you tell?). And they dueled all year long, with many tournament finals dominated by TCU v. Old Jesus University verbal slugfests.

[NOTE: I am changing the name of the actual school to the accurate "Old Jesus University" for reasons that will become obvious.]
Coincidentally, that Freshman year of mine happened to be John Roberts' Freshman year at Haaaarvard (sic).

Our coach had been a brilliant debater in college, and it was said that he and his partner had invented, INVENTED the Comparative Advantage case during a tournament in the Southeastern United States in the 1960s.

That summer, in conjunction with TCU's centennial celebration, he' hosted the national Conference on Debate and Argumentation, and we were all issued purple-covered "proceedings," after the TCU Press had printed them us.

He didn't know it, then, but this would be his last year in debate.

Funny how you never realize when the high points were when you were living them. He would move on to become the manager of a city foundation in the industrial Midwest, and turn it into a charitable dynamo. And he would retire as a respected and admired member of the community. But this was his last hurrah in debate.

And he was a superb teacher of debate. Many of his lessons stick with me today: don't worry about hitting ALL of the opposition's arguments. Find the critical arguments and focus on them. Look for contradictions. And, find the primary sources.

If there was any lasting value in my college education, the vast majority of it came from that magic year of debate.

Ironically, the debate topic that year was energy policy. Resolved that the Federal Government shall control energy policy in the United States, or something close to that.

I say 'ironically' since during the late fall, the team was nearly stranded when gas prices exploded, and lines formed everywhere. They didn't have enough cash to get BACK to TCU in the two white station wagons that the team used for transport. They were somewhere up in Kansas or Minnesota that week, I recall. I was fortunate enough not to be along.

Either someone's granny showed up at a Western Union office early on a Monday morning, or else the students pooled all the cash they had and made it back to Fort Worth, Texas, our command headquarters -- to use the current parlance. We deployed from there, at any event.

At the time (while it has changed), two two-person debate teams would square off, affirmative and negative. They split an even number of debates -- perhaps eight rounds, over two days -- arguing for and against.

The speeches were broken into ten minute "constructive" and five minute "rebuttal" arguments. Ten for the First Affirmative [speaker] who explains the problem and offers a solution in a (generally) pre-written speech; and ten for First Negative, who disagrees. Second Affirmative defends the case from First Negative's foreordained negativity, and then the Second Negative attacks the plan.

Now, they switch, with First Negative taking the first five minute rebuttal -- in which they re-argue, but no new arguments may be offered. That has given the Negative team a fifteen-minute block of time. Now, the First Affirmative Rebuttal (affectionately termed "One-A-R") has to answer fifteen minutes in five. It's the most challenging speech in debate, BTW. Then second Negative, and, finally, Second Affirmative, who has the last word, to go with having had the First. The crux, however, is the Affirmative Case, which defines territory of the debate.

And that year, there were many cases out there. There were a lot of conservation and solar energy cases; there were several "future energy" cases, featuring things like tidal power, ocean thermal gradients, magneto hydrodynamics (or, MHD); clean coal, and drilling for more oil cases. For a time, we ran a hydrogen case. There were a lot of nuclear cases, but MOSTLY banning all nuclear energy production. No one seriously tried to defend nukes after the first couple months of that season. Nuclear power was -- alas for the debater who believed in it -- fundamentally indefensible.

The Old Jesus University team ran a team case. They had decided it at the beginning of the season, and would fine-tune it for the remainder of the year.

TCU ran several cases, but generally won with them all, although they didn't win them all. But they won a lot.

And I thought that perhaps becoming a lawyer (which most of them became) might be a very fine thing to become.

THE GOD DIONYSUS. Any fault there?

EURIPIDES. A dozen faults and more.

DIO. Eh! why the lines are only three in all.

EUR. But every one contains a score of faults.

DIO. Now Aeschylus, keep silent; if you don't
You won't get off with three iambic lines.

AESCHYLUS. Silent for _him_!

DIO. If _my_ advice you'll take.

EUR. Why, at first starting here's a fault sky high.

AESCH. (_To Dio_.) You see your folly.

DIO. Have your way; I care not.

AESCH. (_To Eur_.) What is my fault?

EUR. Begin the lines again.

-- Aristophanes, The Frogs
Now, at the same time, I was taking an English course that was analyzing that famed English author Aristophanes.

We read "The Frogs" and then "The Clouds."

And, having spent the prior year under the lash of our high school humanities teacher, Mr. Gill, of whom a generation of Santa Fe high school graduates can tell horror stories, and a big part of his opening schtick was the death of Socrates, or, the Apology (the trial) and the Phaedo (the death).

So, there was always a certain outrage (as Socrates is reputed to have felt) towards Aristophanes, who, in parodying Socrates' arch-enemies, the Sophists, portrayed Socrates as a Sophist, as well.

The Sophists were, evidently, rhetorical tutors, who would teach young males (politicians on the make, in that most political of all city-states, Athens) how to win all arguments. The word survives into English, with our words "sophisticated" and "sophistries." The former means, of course, swilling champagne, while the latter means to swill beer calling it champagne.

And it didn't take long to note that the parallels between the Sophists of both Aristophanes AND Socrates were quite uncomfortable in the case of college debate.

The question "is it good and true?" had been replaced by "is it the argument that will win?" The rest was just details and socializing.

Phidippides. I will pass over to that part of my discourse
where you interrupted me; and first I will ask you this:
Did you beat me when I was a boy?

Strepsiades. I did, through good-will and concern for you.

Phid. Pray tell me, is it not just that I also should be
well inclined toward you in the same way, and beat you,
since this is to be well inclined-to give a beating? For
why ought your body to be exempt from blows and mine
not? And yet I too was born free. The boys weep, and do
you not think it is right that a father should weep? You
will say that it is ordained by law that this should be
the lot of boys. But I would reply, that old men are
boys twice over, and that it is the more reasonable that
the old should weep than the young, inasmuch as it is
less just that they should err.

Strep. It is nowhere ordained by law that a father
should suffer this.

Phid. Was it not then a man like you and me, who first
proposed this law, and by speaking persuaded the
ancients? Why then is it less lawful for me also in turn
to propose henceforth a new law for the sons, that they
should beat their fathers in turn? But as many blows as
we received before the law was made, we remit: and we
concede to them our having been thrashed without return.
Observe the cocks and these other animals, how they
punish their fathers; and yet, in what do they differ
from us, except that they do not write decrees?

Strep. Why then, since you imitate the cocks in all
things, do you not both eat dung and sleep on a perch?

Phid. It is not the same thing, my friend; nor would it
appear so to Socrates.

Strep. Therefore do not beat me; otherwise you will one
day blame yourself.

Phid. Why, how?

Strep. Since I am justly entitled to chastise you; and
you to chastise your son, if you should have one.

-- Aristophanes, The Clouds
Debate inadvertently pushed me into the life of verbosity and sloth that I now inhabit, so it wasn't all bad. But it inadvertently pushed me back to Socrates, and I took a course on formal logic, so that I would at least have the nomenclature for the specious arguments with which I was contending nearly every weekend.

I felt a lot like most of us feel when forced to watch Faux Nooz: they slap us in the face with "fair and balanced" and then tell a tale that we know isn't right, but we don't know WHY the logic's wrong. Or, we would have a hard time explaining it in a few words.

We learned about the argumentum ad hominem, the non sequitur, the straw man, the 'two wrongs don't make a right,' the post hoc ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore BECAUSE of this), et al, ad nauseum, etcetera.

Didn't do me a bit of good in debate.

And Aristophanes continued making fun of the Sophists, with whom I rubbed shoulders nearly every weekend.
[Exeunt Socrates and Strepsiades]

Chorus. Well, go in peace, for the sake of this your valour. May prosperity attend the man, because, being advanced into the vale of years, he imbues his intellect with modern subjects, and cultivates wisdom!

[Turning to the audience.]

Spectators, I will freely declare to you the truth, by Bacchus, who nurtured me! So may I conquer, and be accounted skillful, as that, deeming you to be clever spectators, and this to be the cleverest of my comedies, I thought proper to let you first taste that comedy, which gave me the greatest labour. And then I retired from the contest defeated by vulgar fellows, though I did not deserve it. These things, therefore, I object to you, a learned audience, for whose sake I was expending this labour.

-- Aristophanes, The Clouds
The irony of debate is that, while it is an exercise in public speaking, the debaters generally outnumber the spectators in any given debate. Four debaters, two two-person teams, affirmative and negative, engage in an elaborate formal rhetorical minuet before an audience of one, the judge.

It may have to do with the fact that football is easier on the eyes. Perhaps it is just that oratory is fundamentally dull as a sport. So it is unsurprising that no one, outside of the occasional girl- or boyfriend, ever watches preliminary rounds unless they have to.

And, since there are a dearth of available judges, the various team coaches put aside their team hats, and become (hopefully) impartial debate judges, which is great for the teacher, but presents ethical dilemmas for the coach out to win.

That year, we could never win a debate in front of a certain judge from a small Texas university. It took much of the season, but I finally pieced together the story:

He had been the coach at our school, and had been summarily dismissed when it was learned that he was gay. And, understandably, he harbored an unreasoning hatred for our school, and made certain that we always lost any debate that he was called to adjudge.

Funny thing was, his comments were among the best on the ballots that had to be filled out (who won; what the issues were, and speaker points, which counted towards a "best speaker" individual trophy at the end of the tournament), and he ALWAYS gave our debaters superb speaker points.

So, that was how he resolved his dilemma. When it became known, it was quietly arranged that he would never sit on a multi-judge panel during the final rounds if one of our debate teams was involved.

But that year the Old Jesus University coach was, in addition to being a brilliant debate strategist himself, a win-at-any-costs debate judge.

It became apparent as the year progressed that he would give the win or the loss in any debate to the team that would most benefit HIS teams's chances.

Rather than a gentlemanly exercise in mentorship (because, really, we were being judged by the collective pedantry of the debating profession), the Old Jesus University coach had adopted the model of having all NASCAR participants swapping pit crews.

And he poured sugar in the gas tank as often as he could.

But that was in keeping with their case, which was sometimes characterize as "like trying to screw fog." Debaters who had run into it again and again would try attacking from an opposite direction, and the entire case would shift. If there were not enough trucks, they had a plan to provide enough trucks; if there were too many trucks, then they could prove that there were exactly enough trucks.

Clearly, the question had not become in inquiry into the "truth" of the case. It had become a question of simply winning, whether the facts bore one out or not.

And I began to think that studying the law and becoming an attorney might be a terrible thing, after all.

This was Socrates' horror. He was a truth-seeker, after all, and I was, by temperament, unsuited to arguing a case that I cynically did not believe. It was easy enough to raise questions about anything, so Negative cases weren't a problem. And you could find a case you "believed" in, at least that you thought it would be a good idea.

But, the Old Jesus University coach and his gang cared mainly about winning.

Now, they never were caught "cheating" in the sense of making up evidence, nor any other dirty tricks. They saved those for the debates themselves, as they became masters of the slippery argument and the sly fallacy. They were, as I watched the duel between TCU and Old Jesus University, the perfect sophists.

Because they were being taught by their single-minded coach, that ultimate truth of reason: that ALL arguments can ultimately be defeated, because logic is ANALYTICAL, which mean, literally "to break down."

You can always break down any argument simply by finding its premises (its unprovable basis) and just saying "uh-uh."

Ultimately, you can win any argument simply by demanding that the arguer prove to you that he or she exists. If they can't prove that, then their arguments don't have to be answered.

But that isn't the goal of debate. The goal of debate is to learn to weigh the relative truths of this world, and to present reasonable arguments for and against policy choices.

After I'd dropped out and moved to Hollywood, they had a panel of college "debate coaches" comment on the Ford-Carter debates, and dang if I didn't know two or three of them. So, what was happening on the national debate scene in that year 1973-1974 had its own influence on a lot of future lawyers.

The great duel took place at the regional debate tournament (between Dallas and Fort Worth) at the University of Texas, Arlington, and the finals were, as all expected, TCU and Old Jesus University. This match had been brewing all year long, and this was to be the culminating struggle. The debate armageddon. Both teams' top duos moved through their respective "seedings" with fluid ease, and the championship debate would be held between our best two teams, respectively.

It had been a good year for the TCU debate team. While the TCU football team was losing every game but its opening, and the TCU basketball team's style was more suited to the demolition derby than to hoops, we were winning trophies, and at onle point wrote a letter to the local paper -- which they published -- noting our coverage-worthy feats, and asking that they cover said feats -- which, subsequently, they did not.

And, the final battle was set.
Phidippides. Here rave and babble to yourself.

[Exit Phidippides]

Strepsiades. Ah me, what madness! How mad, then, I was when I ejected the gods on account of Socrates! But O dear Hermes, by no means be wroth with me, nor destroy me; but pardon me, since I have gone crazy through prating. And become my adviser, whether I shall bring an action and prosecute them, or whatever you think. You advise me rightly, not permitting me to get up a lawsuit, but as soon as possible to set fire to the house of the prating fellows. Come hither, come hither, Xanthias! Come forth with a ladder and with a mattock and then mount upon the thinking-shop and dig down the roof, if you love your master, until you tumble the house upon them.

[Xanthias mounts upon the roof]

But let some one bring me a lighted torch and I'll make some of them this day suffer punishment, even if they be ever so much impostors.

1st Disciple of Socrates. (from within) Hollo! Hollo!

Strepsiades. It is your business, O torch, to send forth abundant flame.

[Mounts upon the roof]

1st Dis. What are you doing, fellow?

Strep. What am I doing? Why, what else, than chopping logic with the beams of your house?

[Sets the house on fire]

2nd Disciple of Socrates.(from within) You will destroy us! You will destroy us!

Strep. For I also wish this very thing; unless my mattock deceive my hopes, or I should somehow fall first and break my neck.

Socrates. (from within). Hollo you! What are you doing, pray, you fellow on the roof?

Strep. I am walking on air, and speculating about the sun.

Soc. Ah me, unhappy! I shall be suffocated, wretched man!

Chaerephon. And I, miserable man, shall be burnt to death!

Strep. For what has come into your heads that you acted insolently toward the gods, and pried into the seat of the moon? Chase, pelt, smite them, for many reasons, but especially because you know that they offended against the gods!

[The thinking shop is burned down]

Chorus. Lead the way out; for we have sufficiently acted as chorus for today.

[Exeunt omnes]

-- Aristophanes, The Clouds
I think you have a pretty good idea how it turned out. They flipped a coin to see who took Affirmative, and who took Negative, and Old Jesus University won the toss.

By all accounts, it was an apocalyptic debate, a close debate, etc. But the Old Jesus University snake-oil case proved impervious to evidence and argument, and they won.

A couple weeks later, they breezed through the National Debate Tournament, and that was the end of the season.

But I was deeply troubled. Was this the value that rhetoric had in our society? That it was about slickness, and not facts? About sophistry and not Socratic reasoning?

And the answer was "yes." I immediately cancelled any thoughts of law school. The next year, our coach resigned, or left or was not renewed, clearly not valued by an administration obsessed with getting a winning football team (it would be years before they succeeded -- they would not win a single game the following year, setting a record for gridiron futility that was shortly topped by Northwestern). He intended to move to another school, but ended up in the industrial Midwest and, as I said, became the director of a large charitable foundation and retired a year or so ago.

The Old Jesus University fellows went on. One was a network commentator for the Ford-Carter debates, as noted earlier.

But debate had proven to me that Socrates had lost where it really counted, and that the Sophists, much maligned by both Aristophanes and Plato, were alive, well, and doing just fine. They seemed to me soulless men and women, without any moral core, at least in an ethical sense, and in my years since, I have met their brethren and sisters in the professional practice.

We call them lawyers.

And, listening to the Roberts confirmation hearings, and reading the transcripts, I could not help but think of that year in college debate, and its final outcome, and the oily Old Jesus University debate case.

Because, in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, John Roberts ran the Old Jesus University debate case as well as anybody ever has.
... and the man who gave him the poison now and then looked at his feet and legs; and after a while he pressed his foot hard, and asked him if he could feel; and he said, No; and then his leg, and so upwards and upwards, and showed us that he was cold and stiff. And he felt them himself, and said: When the poison reaches the heart, that will be the end. He was beginning to grow cold about the groin, when he uncovered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said--they were his last words--he said: Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius*; will you remember to pay the debt?

The debt shall be paid, said Crito; is there anything else? There was no answer to this question; but in a minute or two a movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him; his eyes were set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth.

Such was the end, Echecrates, of our friend; concerning whom I may truly say, that of all the men of his time whom I have known, he was the wisest and justest and best.

-- The Death of Socrates (End of the Phaedo, by Plato)
And it seems a dead certainty that John Roberts will be confirmed as Chief Justice, to our eventual sorrow. I might be wrong. Perhaps the Supreme court will change the man, but I fear I'm more liable to be right than wrong on this one, no matter how much I might hope to be wrong.

[*NOTE: Asclepius (or, Aesclepius) was the God of Healing. The irony here -- or, Socrates' last joke -- is that the sacrifice was usually performed as thanks for healing from an illness. Most scholars feel that Socrates (or Plato, editorializing) was saying, in essence, "I'm cured of the illness called 'being alive.'" It may well be that Socrates did, in fact, owe Aesclepius a rooster, and wanted to ensure better sleeping arrangements in Hades. But who am I to quibble? -- HW]
Sunday, September 18, 2005

We begin with the absurd pronouncement of a mainstream media outlet that thinks it pays attention, and that its opinion is thoughtful and considered:
Bush in charge
The Boston Globe
September 17, 2005

By his presence in New Orleans, his rolled-up sleeves, and confident demeanor, Bush showed himself fully in charge of the recovery effort. Acknowledging mistakes, he said, ''I as president am responsible for the problem, and for the solution." His speech came 17 days after the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast. His speech to Congress after Sept. 11, 2001, came nine days after the attack. The administration was as unprepared for Katrina as it was for Sept. 11, and the property damage from the hurricane was more devastating.
Bush was, instead, having problems buttoning his shirt. Don't believe me? Take a look:

Helpless George?

It is a telling metaphor for the Bush Administration. As they micromanaged their "recapturing the spotlight" and saving an increasingly failed presidency, no detail was too small: frantic days of putting together a legislative agenda, an army of speechwriters under intense pressure to "hit one out of the park," and the arrogation of a historical landmark, Jackson Square in N'Awleans, where Andy Jackson had defeated the British in 1812 in the most critical engagement of a war already ended (would the Brits have given back New Orleans -- given its strategic position then and now -- had they taken it? Not bloody likely).

They brought in their own generators, put a blue gel on the illumination of the cathedral so that it would match the president's shirt -- but couldn't generate enough wattage to illuminate the Romanesque spires, lending the picture an odd caste as a mission church, and not a Catholic cathedral. They illuminated the equestrian statue, but, odd for an administration that prides itself on appealing directly to the reptile brain, what was SHOWN was a rearing horse. Now, the reptile brain doesn't understand historical nuance, but may well have understood VERY WELL that it was a horseman of the apocalypse forming a third of the stage set.

[Never mind that the entire square was cordoned off on all side with camouflage netting, forming an ad hoc "stage," nor that all press and other citizenry were kept out of the "speechifying zone" -- another astonishingly arrogant act, more on a par with the Sun King than with an American presidency.]

With the equestrian of Jackson statue over his shoulder and virtual control of the single "pool" camera, Bushies had chosen their venue carefully. Bush himself had undoubtedly rehearsed the speech -- as he does for his State of the Union Speeches. Everything had been calculated to bury the disastrous dithering and present a BOLD presidency.

And then they let him try to button his own shirt.

It is an apt metaphor for this whole accursed and avoidable tragedy. I would say "fiasco" except that a lot of people died, and Button-Challenged Bush was standing there to sweep them under the rug. That was the PURPOSE of the speech, although the media obsesses on the PROMISES of the speech, as if they had already happened, in many cases.

We cannot for a moment pretend that someone in El Bushe's entourage didn't NOTICE that the Big Man had misbuttoned his shirt. Which means that we cannot discount the distinct probability that NO ONE TOLD HIM -- as numerous media outlets have confirmed that Bush's legendary, rumored thin-skinned and testy persona has aides and advisors afraid to in any wise correct, emend, or otherwise disagree with the Castrati-in-Thief.

And that, too is an apt metaphor, which I'll get to in a moment: he doesn't work or play well with others.

But they were so busy reading their advance transcripts, and preparing for the "instant" analyses that were to come that they DID NOT LOOK CLOSELY at what was right in front of their eyes. They all were enslaved to the same image, the same camera view -- and not one of them saw it, either.

Again, a particularly apt metaphor for our increasingly brain-dead and asleep-at-the-wheel media.

[I must confess that I did not see it either -- I let my TIVO record it for future viewing and listened to the speech instead. A friend passed on the photo, which I would love to credit if anyone out there knows what sharp-eyed person captured it. We are rather sensitive about uncredited material here at Skiing Uphill, these days -- see yesterday's blog for details.]

Can we really repose confidence in his "confident demeanor"? And how come no one at the Boston GLOBE noticed it, even though it was right in front of their faces? They have eyes but do not see; they have ears but do not hear.

But, you know, it registered. It registered -- in a three-element set -- with every mother, every grandmother, every person who's noticed a friend's sartorial misfire. They may not have realized it consciously, but the entire speech was geared to that selfsame reptile brain/subconscious that they've motivated with fear/security issues for the past six years.

And that's a metaphor too: the manipulators undercutting their own manipulation by allowing antithetical symbolism slip in beside their seemingly tightly-controlled pageants.

Because immediately after the speech, the public perception that Bush is doing a good job SLIPPED from 38% to 35% in a poll that WON'T be quoted by the MSM. They will find the MOST flattering poll and report THAT. But it will also show that Bush's approval didn't "bounce" after the speech. It dipped.

And that's attributable to a fundamental failure to properly get their lipstick on an increasingly unmanageable pig.

The ever-opportunistic Bushies saw an opportunity to shove forward their agenda in the speech, with a series of weird initiatives that advance their ideology without particularly advancing the plight of the dispossessed of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
"The president, in a rush to show he was in charge, outlined a three-point recovery program --an enterprise zone, retraining grants, and a home-ownership program. It's too soon to propose a plan with this degree of detail. Much of the rebuilding will be financed through insurance payments, and the federal government needs to step in only when private resources are insufficient." [ibid.]
OK: I've been sitting for three days now, processing. I've been a literary critic for thirty years now, and I know enough to understand that every word in that speech was carefully chosen. Too much was riding on it for it to NOT be the case.

And, clearly, professional speechwriters were in charge. Can anyone seriously believe that George W. Bush would know to not merely state, but CAREFULLY ENUNCIATE the term "inspectors general"? No. Not from a man who can't pronounce "nuclear." Bush was carefully scripted, AND he was rehearsed. I spent too many years in debate not to know a carefully prepped speech when viewing it.

Having watched the speech again last night, and with the official transcript from the White House web site, I think I finally found the CORE, the crux moment of that speech. Gussied up as it was in dream logic and non-rational appeals, it wasn't apparent without some reflection. Here 'tis:
"It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces -- the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice.

"Four years after the frightening experience of September the 11th, Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency. When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I, as President, am responsible for the problem, and for the solution. So I've ordered ... "
Let's subtract the dream-dressing:
"It is now clear that [...] this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces [...] I, as President, am responsible for the problem, and for the solution. So I've ordered ... "
The fallacy lies in the false conclusion that because HE is responsible for the problem, HE alone is responsible for the solution.

You see it? It is, literally, "owning the problem."

But that's specious.

The entire mess, as we learn every day, has been fueled by the utter and arrogant unwillingness of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Sekurity to cede any control or power, even while they dithered and bumbled in darkness.

Trucks bearing water and food were turned away from New Orleans. A sheriff in a power-stripped town was told by FEMA on the phone to request aid VIA THE FEMA WEBSITE ... a doctor ON THE TARMAC at New Orleans' airport was ordered by FEMA to stop treating patients, even though he was the only doctor present. People died as he watched, helplessly.

These are not mere anecdotes: they are samplings of a broad spectrum of screwups. But they all have the same salient problem:

An unwillingness to act responsibly, and an unwillingness to share any responsibilty, even to the level of personally STOPPING a physician in an ad-hoc triage station, as he was administering emergency care to injured and dying storm victims.

And, in a slithery flash, George W. Bush claimed that, since HE was the problem, HE was, therefore the solution.

All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, all men are Socrates.

Quod erat demonstrandum. See?

Everything else proceeds from that little judo throw of poor, dumb rationality. It's slipped in between carefully chosen qualifiers, a magician's sleight of hand:

I also want to know all the facts about the government response to Hurricane Katrina. [You can't question that, even though it may not be true.] The storm involved a massive flood, a major supply and security operation, and an evacuation order affecting more than a million people. It was not a normal hurricane -- and the normal disaster relief system was not equal to it. [It was too big for anyone. Therefore we couldn't have REALLY screwed up.]

Many of the men and women of the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States military, the National Guard, Homeland Security, and state and local governments performed skillfully under the worst conditions. [Yes, but this is a non-sequitur. All of them might well have done these things in direct opposition to FEMA mismanagement! Certainly many Coast Guard and Marine personnel went AWOL to help rescue people!]

Yet the system, at every level of government, was not well-coordinated, and was overwhelmed in the first few days. [True.] It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces [This in no wise follows logically. It is pure fiat -- a bald-faced assertion without any supporting evidence or reasoning. And yet it is stated as a "therefore"] the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice. [This may well be true, but it does not prove that we necessarily want the armed forces to act within the U.S. The Posse Commitatus Act was a direct repudiation of the occupation of the Southern States in the period after the Civil War. We NEVER wanted Federal troops occupying the U.S. again. But, frighteningly, this is put on the table, and WITHOUT justification. Merely asserted, and, no challenge to its astonishing audacity has been heard. Caesar entered Rome with his Legion with more opposition, and he entered Rome unopposed to establish himself as Emperor.]

Four years after the frightening experience of September the 11th, [The utterly irresponsible and manipulative invocation of September 11 as a justification -- what does this have to do with hurricane response?] Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency. [A self-evidently true statement.]

When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I, as President, am responsible for the problem [But this isn't entirely true. The Buck may stop Here, but those in authority are responsible, and Bush's responsibility ALSO includes the imperative of holding those persons RESPONSIBLE. For instance, the official who stopped the doctor from tending the dying MUST be punished. Or, disciplined, for those of you who are squeamish. So, "I am responsible" more properly means PRECISELY, "I am ULTIMATELY responsible," and in exactly the same manner that the Supreme Court is ULTIMATELY responsible if you're in jail and weren't read your rights, allowed an attorney and were beaten by the cops with rubber hoses: they are ULTIMATELY responsible, but no one can seriously claim that Antonin Scalia held you down while Clarence Thomas beat you with a truncheon. But Bush is all but claiming that here]

and for the solution. [This is patently untrue. The entire nation is responsible for the solution, and, perhaps, if George and FEMA would get out of the way, families would be taken in, homes would be rebuilt. Food and supplies and medical care would be provided. The grand irony in all of this is that in the most charitable nation on Earth, our charities were not allowed to respond to the kind of crisis they ROUTINELY deal with everywhere else on Earth. But George is not only claiming that he is responsible for every shot of insulin and every water of bottle disbursed, but, fantastically, he is going to reimburse churches "houses of worship" in the "armies of Compassion" that were "deployed to the Gulf" for their aid to hurricane victims:

"the private fundraising effort led by former Presidents Bush and Clinton has already received pledges of more than $100 million. [...] A portion will also be sent to local houses of worship to help reimburse them for the expense of helping others."
Which is, in essence, "owning the problem" since he -- now not even as a representative of the Government, but as the implicit boss of the Clinton/Bush "charity" effort, is personally reimbursing churches as well. This is fantastic, in the literal sense of the word. But this is the "being responsible" aspect: he and he alone controls this hurricane aftermath. Just the way that he and he alone controls Jackson Square in New Orleans, with his own stage managers, lighting, cameras, and generators in a power-deprived disaster area. It's kind of like "The Truman Show" in reverse: we're all in a Reality TV show, and Bush is the sole audience.]

So I've ordered [I am in control, dagnabbit, is the clear assertion. Having "established" his authority over the Emergency, he now will issue proclamations and directives:] every Cabinet Secretary to participate in a comprehensive review of the government response to the hurricane. [Well, I will certainly be interested to see what the Department of Weights and Measures comes up with. This is hyperbolic. But, more to the point: all Cabinet secretaries will review government response. It doesn't say anything MORE than that they will have a meeting. A "comprehensive" meeting. There is no promise of action, nor of departmental review.]

This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. [Immediately implying that HIS government is going to -- the the rest is empty cliche]

We're going to review every action and make necessary changes, so that we are better prepared for any challenge of nature, or act of evil men, that could threaten our people. [The gratuitous nod to terrorists is noted, but the point is that it's CAUSE WE'RE GONNA protect you. This is the leitmotif, the mantra of the Bush message: security, security, security. But look at what a trade of powers and liberties he is suggesting to keep you safer. And, we have slithered away from the fundamental question: Why can't AMERICANS respond to an American crisis? How is it that you, George, who diddled and dawdled while YOUR government engaged in a lethal paralysis during a hurricane, how is it that YOU, George, suddenly own this crisis, and we are not even allowed into Jackson Square in New Orleans when your generators are lighting up the cathedral? How did OUR crisis become YOUR crisis? When did OUR problem become YOUR problem? And by that I don't mean you will take care of the problem, only that we are no longer allowed to participate in its solution? Now: listen to the next paragraph]:

The United States Congress also has an important oversight function to perform. Congress is preparing an investigation, and I will work with members of both parties to make sure this effort is thorough.

[That's almost more snake oil than one sentence can handle. First, the obviously true but meaningless "congress is important." Well, duh. Then, "Congress is preparing an investigation" is not entirely precise. The REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP of Congress -- acting fist-in-glove with Bush/Cheney/Rove, Inc. remember -- is preparing an investigation. The "both parties" line is as gratuitous as it is laughable. But this is to shift us away from the crux of the speech: the usurpation of the crisis, as he did with 9/11 and again with the Tsunami response.]

Ok. Enough speech. Listen to what Maureen Dowd said in the NEW YORK TIMES:

September 17, 2005
Disney on Parade

The president, as he fondly recalled the other day, used to get well lit in New Orleans. Not any more.

On Thursday night, Mr. Bush wanted to appear casually in charge as he waged his own Battle of New Orleans in Jackson Square. Instead, he looked as if he'd been dropped off by his folks in front of an eerie, blue-hued castle at Disney World. (Must be Sleeping Beauty's Castle, given the somnambulant pace of W.'s response to Katrina.)

All Andrew Jackson's horses, and all the Boy King's men could not put Humpty Dumpty together again. His gladiatorial walk across the darkened greensward, past a St. Louis Cathedral bathed in moon glow from White House klieg lights, just seemed to intensify the sense of an isolated, out-of-touch president clinging to hollow symbols as his disastrous disaster agency continues to flail.

In a ruined city - still largely without power, stinking with piles of garbage and still 40 percent submerged; where people are foraging in the miasma and muck for food, corpses and the sentimental detritus of their lives; and where unbearably sad stories continue to spill out about hordes of evacuees who lost their homes and patients who died in hospitals without either electricity or rescuers - isn't it rather tasteless, not to mention a waste of energy, to haul in White House generators just to give the president a burnished skin tone and a prettified background?

The slick White House TV production team was trying to salvage W.'s "High Noon" snap with some snazzy Hollywood-style lighting - the same Reaganesque stagecraft they had provided when W. made a prime-time television address from Ellis Island on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. On that occasion, Scott Sforza, a former ABC producer, and Bob DeServi, a former NBC cameraman and a lighting expert, rented three barges of giant Musco lights, the kind used for "Monday Night Football" and Rolling Stones concerts, floated them across New York Harbor and illuminated the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop for Mr. Bush.

Before the presidential address, Mr. DeServi was surveying his handiwork in Jackson Square, crowing to reporters about his cathedral: "Oh, it's heated up. It's going to print loud."
Or, listen to Frank Rich from Sunday's NYT:

September 18, 2005

This White House doesn't hate all pictures, of course. It loves those by Karl Rove's Imagineers, from the spectacularly lighted Statue of Liberty backdrop of Mr. Bush's first 9/11 anniversary speech to his "Top Gun" stunt to Thursday's laughably stagy stride across the lawn to his lectern in Jackson Square. (Message: I am a leader, not that vacationing slacker who first surveyed the hurricane damage from my presidential jet.)
But this was what he wrote, most tellingly:
ONCE Toto parts the curtain, the Wizard of Oz can never be the wizard again. He is forever Professor Marvel, blowhard and snake-oil salesman. Hurricane Katrina, which is likely to endure in the American psyche as long as L. Frank Baum's mythic tornado, has similarly unmasked George W. Bush.

The worst storm in our history proved perfect for exposing this president because in one big blast it illuminated all his failings: the rampant cronyism, the empty sloganeering of "compassionate conservatism," the lack of concern for the "underprivileged" his mother condescended to at the Astrodome, the reckless lack of planning for all government operations except tax cuts, the use of spin and photo-ops to camouflage failure and to substitute for action.
And, it would be tempting to dismiss Bush as the accidental president, who can't even button his shirt for the most important speech he's ever given. That would be tempting, and a lot of progressives are doing it.

But don't forget, while the entire nation sours on them, they're still winning: still getting Roberts and a Loonie-to-be-named-later on the Supreme Court; now using the Katrina Catastrophe to cut out the last of the Federal programs they don't like -- as though the cuts to the Corps of Engineers levee construction funds caused no harm nor were unwise in any wise! -- still going to vote on Social Security privatization; still shoved lunatic John Bolton into the UN on the 60th Anniversary of same; still putting Karen Hughes in charge of the Middle East for the State Department; still managed to get $64 billion in disaster relief ALL given to FEMA (to do with as they please!), and, they've already moved rapidly to turn this whole disaster into a business "free-fire" zone, with no regulations, few taxes and endless opportunity. This disaster may well only be beginning, after all. Meantime, they eschew the "blame game" as long as it's about them, and their surrogates go after all critics.

Here's a "teenage" Republican blogger on the "button" fiasco http://www.thepoliticalteen.net/index.php :

September 16, 2005
Buttongate: Bush's Shirt

A lot of liberal bloggers are commenting on this picture. Apparently Bush didn't button the top button of his shirt in the correct position.

[Photo of Bush speech as above]

Is it just me or is it a bit hypocritical for Democrats to be commenting on people's clothes after this:

[Photo of blue dress]

By: Ian @ 11:09 pm in: Comedy, Liberal Whining
Well, at least the kid (if it IS a kid, there's a LOT of advertising on this supposedly 'amateur' blog) knows how the Rovies argue. What does a semen-stained dress have to do with Bush's misbuttoning? And if that semen-stained dress warranted an impeachment, does this mean, by the "Teen"s reasoning, that Bush should be indicted immediately? Because that's the only LOGICAL conclusion to his argument. The classic Republican fallacy of "Clinton did it" or, "Two wrongs make ours right!"

And they're still leading the national media by a nose ring as though it were a prize pig at a county fair. (Sometimes I wish they'd just button it, themselves.)

Here's the blooper headline of the day:
Bush Vows to Rebuild Gulf Coast in Speech
Smartmoney.com (subscription) - Sep 16, 2005
(Yes, rebuilding it speech is the ONLY guarantee we have in all of this: Rhetorical skyscrapers as far as the eye can see.)

And, from the St. Petersburg Times [which notes that "Information from the New York Times, Associated Press and Hearst Newspapers was used in this report"]:
"Four years after the frightening experience of Sept. 11, Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency," the president said. He said that when the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, "I, as president, am responsible for the problem, and for the solution."

Bush ordered all Cabinet secretaries to join in a comprehensive review of the government's faulty response. In addition, he ordered the Department of Homeland Security to undertake an immediate review of emergency plans in every major city in America.

He also said a disaster on the scale of Katrina requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces.

Unusual for a prime-time address, carried live by the major television networks, Bush stood tieless in a blue dress shirt.
Well, this media's surely no prize pig.

hart williams
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