Thursday, September 29, 2005
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Murff is a family and criminal law attorney in private practice; he served in the U.S. Army (2nd Armored, 1st Brigade, Fort Hood). He’s a graduate of Western Kentucky University and the South Texas College of Law, a member of the Houston Bar Association and the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism, and has routinely donated his time as an attorney ad litem to Children’s Friend in Court, a non-profit organization providing legal service to indigent children.
My transcript of our conversation follows.
Q. Why are you running for Congress?
A. As simply as I can put it, I find myself perplexed by the partisan agenda of the people currently in office, and I’m concerned about the direction our country is headed while that narrow agenda is being served.
With all of the challenges we face, in every direction I look -- from the enormous budget deficits to healthcare to energy concerns to homeland security and on and on -- what I see is nothing but partisan conservative platitudes, which just seem to be disconnected from the concerns of the average American.
Q. What about Congressman Culberson? Any specific differences of opinion with him?
A. Sure, absolutely. In many ways John Culberson is actually worse than Tom DeLay, if you can believe it, and his statement today in response to DeLay’s indictment is an example of what I’m talking about relative to partisan politics overriding everything else. I would’ve thought that Culberson would try to distance himself from this growing scandal, or at least be mum about it, but instead he chose to attack (Travis Co. district attorney) Ronnie Earle, whose record clearly shows he’s gone after corrupt politicians regardless of party affiliation.
Regarding the DeLay matter, it will probably drag well into the 2006 election cycle, and frankly I’m not excited about the Democratic Party potentially being the beneficiary of the Republicans’ misfortune. I’m tired of the Republicans portraying Democrats a certain way, and the truth is that the party in power needs to clean up their house and start serving the people instead of the corporations, and maybe this will give them the incentive to do so. If they don’t, or won’t, then that’s a good enough distinction between us to give voters a clear choice.
Culberson voted to relax the ethics rules that enabled DeLay to continue as majority leader up to now, and he also voted for the 11th-hour Medicare provision before he got enough political cover to vote against it. He’s also expressed the opinion that the judicial branch is supposed to serve the will of the President and Congress; that judges should just rubber-stamp the laws passed by Congress and signed by the President. As I hear that, it sounds like he’s against an independent judiciary. That’s truly alarming.
I think it would be a good thing if the people of the 7th District had a congressman who actually listens to them, who gets to know them, who understands their concerns and who will look out for them, as opposed to blindly following the instructions of the Republican leadership.
Q. What issue(s) do you feel most concerned about?
A. I think we‘re squandering a tremendous opportunity from a national perspective, and a tremendous resource right here in Houston -- namely the brilliant minds of the Texas Medical Center -- by blocking stem cell research. That’s got to change.
I think we need to get serious about alternative fuels in this country, and I think there’s a lot we can do regarding biofuels.
Q. You served in the Army. What should we do now regarding Iraq?
A. You know, our soldiers didn’t deserve what they walked into over there. From everything that was known at the time, I would’ve probably voted to authorize the use of force, but the lack of an exit strategy going in is simply the best reason why it’s now time to get our boys and girls back home. And if Iraq then degenerates into civil war, then it may take a true national coalition, one built on real alliances, to restore order.
This administration may just not be capable of doing any of that, unless we the people can send them a strong enough message in 2006.
Murff will have a website up shortly; http://www.murff4congress.com/ .
He’s available to speak to clubs and groups throughout the district. Contact his office at 281-335-4777 or via e-mail at dlmurff at sbcglobal dot net .
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Could it be? At long last?
A Texas grand jury's recent interest in conspiracy charges could lead to last-minute criminal indictments -- possibly against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- as it wraps up its investigation Wednesday into DeLay's state political organization, according to lawyers with knowledge of the case.
Conspiracy counts against two DeLay associates this month raised concerns with DeLay's lawyers, who fear the chances are greater that the majority leader could be charged with being part of the conspiracy. Before these counts, the investigation was more narrowly focused on the state election code. By expanding the charges to include conspiracy, prosecutors made it possible for the Travis County grand jury to bring charges against DeLay. Otherwise, the grand jury would have lacked jurisdiction under state laws.
The Associated Press spoke to several lawyers familiar with the case, all of whom requested anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. DeLay, R-Texas, said Tuesday that prosecutors have interviewed him. He has insisted he committed no crimes and says Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, is pursuing the case for political reasons.
The disclosure came as congressional officials said top House Republicans were quietly considering how to respond if an indictment were issued.
Will King Cockroach escape the pointy-toed shoe again? Can he scuttle safely back under the baseboards once more? And if he avoids the jailer, is he significantly damaged enough for the Republicans to finally slip a shiv into his ribs? Does he finally take the hint and quit his leadership post -- or even his seat in Congress?
Or do we just have to wait until Nick Lampson sends him home to Sugar Land?
Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets...
Update (9:38 p.m.): Speculation abounds.
Monday, September 26, 2005
From Corpus Christi to Norfolk, Va., most vulnerable cities have pre-set plans to run their highways in one direction only, headed out of town, said Brian Wolshon, a civil engineer at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center.
Wolshon gave a presentation on the subject at Houston's TranStar traffic management center two years ago, but found that officials were reluctant because Houston's freeway grid is much more complicated than other coastal cities.
"I don't think they really took it seriously," he said.
State and local officials changed their minds early last Thursday in the face of a historic traffic jam. But it was too late, and the one-way freeways that eventually opened on Interstate 10 and Interstate 45 didn't relieve drivers' 20-hour nightmares.
All the idling engines created the secondary problem of empty gas tanks and empty gas stations, which state officials admitted they were in no position to remedy.
The TxDOT executive director is a gubernatorial appointment. Michael Behrens assumed the position in September 2001, less than a year after Rick Perry became governor of Texas. Behrens' bio lists education completed prior to his career in state bureaucracy as a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University, where Governor "Adios MoFo" led cheers for the football team as an undergrad.
Behrie, you're doing a heckuva job.
Update (9/28): Local ABC affiliate KTRK reports at least 31 deaths -- in Harris County alone -- attributable to the hurricane, 19 of those before Rita ever made landfall.
Update (9/29): The death toll reaches 107, and the stories are horrid.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
That was it. Not even any tree limbs down. Just a little trash blown around.
So by 8 a.m. I was reduced to watching the news and worrying about my folks. I just had to hope in my father's case, that the sheriff's department had evacuated RV parks to a safe place -- a shelter, a high school gymnasium, something -- somewhere the previous day (Jasper County had announced a mandatory evac Friday morning).
At lunchtime I finally laid my head down to rest, after reading some of my FIL's book of Yiddish meditations, entitled "Bringing Heaven Down to Earth". I highly recommend it, incidentally.
Mid-afternoon I had had enough of the news, and I couldn't watch the Astros or college football, and the freeways were starting to build with returning evacuees, so I piled up the car and decided to head back to my house. SH 290 inbound at 4:30 p.m. had the normal Saturday afternoon traffic; busy but moving at posted speeds (which translates into 75-80 mph).
I came home to a cool house and some flashing 12:00 appliances, so I lost power but apparently not for long. I showered, fixed dinner, and was starting to fall asleep about 7 p.m. when I heard from my brother that Pop had made it through OK.
They had "a rough ride", and once the worst passed them in the afternoon, walked into 'downtown' Jasper and found a working land line to let us all know they were OK.
It just wasn't their time, I suppose.
No word from Mom yet, but she did make it safely to Nacogdoches Thursday night and was ensconsed in a private guest house with a few friends there, and by news accounts that area was comparatively spared. I'm guessing she can't get to a land line, so I'm choosing not to worry. My neighbor knocked on my door this morning at 7:30 to tell me he was OK, and my friends in Livingston called and said they're safe.
I still think that TxDOT's contraflow plan (under the auspices of our good-haired God-fearing Governor) was a colossal mal-execution, and had Rita come in on top of us, could've been catastrophic. He'll probably attempt to advance his mega-toll road agenda now as a result.
But for now I'm headed out to drink some beer, shoot some pool, and watch some football.
How was your weekend?
The freeway was wide open. I made the trip in the usual forty minutes, accompanied by about half a dozen other motorists. The freeway bottlenecks, big news the previous day, had apparently managed to plod their way out of Harris County, with monstrous traffic jams now in exurbs like Sealy, Brenham, Conroe, Lufkin, and Baytown.
I had awakened at 3:30 a.m. and immediately turned on Local2News, which IMHO had become the best source for current and accurate information. I had thought that if the exodus had softened up I might attempt another escape to D-FW in my other still-gassed up car; Mrs. Diddie was flying in that evening from her business trip and we had a hotel room and she would be worried and lonely by herself. No dice; Local2 was talking to a doctor stuck in stop-and-go in Huntsville. He'd been on the road 18 hours coming from Friendswood.
A digression about the local media coverage here:
I usually never watch the channel mentioned above; it's the NBC affiliate and is renowned for its tabloid journalism. The anchors are all surgically enhanced and the weathermen are all flaming (not that there's anything wrong with that). And the worst pair of talking heads is their Chocolate-and-Vanilla early morning team (I'll be kind and not name them, but you H-Towners probably know who I'm talking about). I'm certain it's actually the set of a porn flick, with Seventies music cued up and the two of them ready to undress each other at any moment. But the station's field reporters were everywhere, from The Woodlands to Port Arthur to Lake Charles, seemingly outnumbering the competition of the other three affiliates combined. And they didn't seem to focus so much on the inane, such as Rick Perry's say-nothing press conferences or pictures of Air Force One taxiing down the runway after landing in San Antonio or Austin or wherever it was Our Leader was, safely doing nothing as usual. FWIW my usual pick for local news, Channel 11, had the funniest moments: video of the arrested surfer -- handcuffed by Galveston authorities wading in the surf after him -- following his plunge off the pier at the Flagship Hotel at 4:30 in the morning. And an on-location with the twenty or so hurricane partiers at some gin mill on the Seawall Friday evening about 5:30 p.m.
Mostly at this point -- Friday midday -- I was concerned about family and friends in harm's way: my mother had evacuated at the same time as me, heading from Beaumont for northeast Texas and ultimately northern Louisiana. I had received no word on my father and stepmother, who had been planning on taking the RV to Lake Sam Rayburn -- just north of Jasper, Texas -- as they had done for Hurricane Lili last year. Neither of them were answering their cell phones. I had spoken earlier that morning with my neighbor, who had made it to Conroe in 17 hours and was on the side of the road with thousands of others but with still a half-tank of gas, and my friends living in League City who had traveled to Kirbyville (in Jasper County) and Lake Livingston respectively. None were contemplating returning, even as Rita's track was bending to the east.
Finally around noon my brother called and said that Dad had indeed headed for Henhouse Ridge, the previously-mentioned RV park near Jasper, which was developing into Rita's inland bulls-eye. When I had last spoken to Pop on Tuesday, he bragged that the tall pines in that area would shield them from the storm.
Yes, I thought that was monumentally stupid, and I urged him to reconsider, as did my brothers, sister, stepbrother and stepsisters. All of our pleadings had failed to dissuade them.
So I spent most of the afternoon worrying about my peeps and worrying about the weather. The aftermath of the bus fire which claimed the lives of the Bellaire nursing home patients on I-45 near Wilmer was the horrifying news of the morning, and I was glad again that I hadn't tried to get to Dallas. And I went to bed early, as Rita was expected to land early Saturday morning and I had no intention of being asleep when she did.
I'll finish this journal with the rather anticlimactic events of yesterday in the next post.
You get my account live-blogged on a tape delay, beginning Thursday afternoon the 22nd:
I hit the road just after noon, having secured my prescriptions, and headed for I-45 N via 288. 'Freeway closed', at the Pierce Elevated. So I turned south on 45, passing the back of the line at about Cullen (near U of H), came around on Loop 610 all the way past the Astrodome and the Bellaire and the Galleria and a long line exiting 290 (the Austin escape route), heading for I-45 on the north side. Got the same message. I exited the loop and headed north on Airline, turning back to 45 N on Crosstimbers, past the first gas line I was to see, and gradually (as in less than one MPH) merged onto the main Dallas escape road by 1:15 pm. I breathed a premature sigh of relief.
I managed to travel about one exit an hour. For a Houstonian's reference, I was at the Gulf Bank exit by 4:30 p.m. The entire distance I traversed lies roughly between Loop 610 and BW-8, the road to InterGalactical Airport (some call it Bush, but not me). Most of the motorists surrounding me had their windows down in the 100-degree heat to save their dwindling fuel. The fellow directly in front of me for quite awhile was actually pushing his minivan full of children and provisions forward. Not because it was broken down; because he was practicing conservation.
To this point I had seen about one ambulance an hour, snaking its way through the mass of autos, sometimes with siren on, sometimes not. But about 4:45 pm three paramedic vehicles sailed by on the inside shoulder flashing and wailing. Followed a few minutes later by two pairs of police motorcycles, and a minute later two police cruisers, all lights and sirens hot. Less than five minutes later, six more cycle cops, and at 5:05 p.m., two more police cars, another motorcycle, and another ambulance. And at 5:15, another pair of HPD on two wheels.
Never learned what the emergency was.
By 6 p.m., I was two miles from Beltway 8 and the IAH airport exit, at mile marker 58. My gas was down to a bit over half a tank, and it was obvious that I wouldn't make it to Dallas on that, that there was no gas to be purchased ahead and no room at any of the inns along the way. Determined that I was NOT going to be sitting on the side of the road when the hurricane hit, I hit the exit and turned around for home.
It took me six minutes to travel the distance I had come in a bit over five hours.
Throughout the waiting, I saw people and cars severely overheated on the side of the road, and at stores and parking lots alongside. A few times I flashed on the Highway of Death (the road from Kuwait to Iraq which was mercilessly bombed during the Gulf War). I thought, these people are all going to be stuck here when Rita rolls in. No gas, no shelters (Mayor White had repeatedly said there would be only a few for the elderly and infirm), no way to get back home; it seemed that thousands would be hiding under overpasses from the storm.
I called my father-in-law on the northwest side of Houston, who had insisted on riding it out there, and told him to expect company Friday morning.
Continued in the next.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Will join my in-laws later this afternoon on the NW side of Houston to ride it out. Online access will be limited, so posting could be sporadic to non-existent. Don't be alarmed.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Bitch messed up my interview/blog post today with David Murff, the challenger to John Culberson in TX-07. Maybe next week (if the roof doesn't fly off my place).
We have an evacuation plan that includes picking up my in-laws in northwest Houston and carrying them to Dallas, where we have a hotel room reserved beginning Friday evening for a week. (Mrs. Dittie, who leaves for Chicago on business tomorrow morning, will change her return plans to land in D-FW Friday night, instead of Hobby.)
You all should also have an evac plan right about now ...
Hello? ... Anybody there? ...
Monday, September 19, 2005
You can go read my comments about the man whom I believe is currently the most powerful Democrat in Texas at the first link above; here I'll talk briefly about the guy who's going to send Lamar Smith packing.
I first met John at Camp Casey about three weeks ago; he and his wife were among the thousands of advocates against the Iraq occupation who gathered with Cindy Sheehan in Crawford last month. He's a passionate speaker against the war, and as an Air Force veteran he knows more about serving his country than Smith and any of the rest of the chickenhawks. One of the things he talked about tonight was the $30 million dollar rehabilitation facility that is being constructed in Washington -- it will take two years to complete -- which tells him that the government is planning for a lot more disabled veterans. The shortest quote is the most powerful:
"If I'm elected, I'll work every day to end that war."
Courage will be a strong advocate for vets (he'll fight hard for the VA hospital in Kerrville) and for education (he's a teacher by profession). He feels strongly that unfunded mandates like No Child Left Behind are another example of the ' all talk and no action' epitomized by the administration and Republicans in Congress.
He's another one of those progressive populists I like so much (just like this man) who believes that government is supposed to help the little guy and not the corporate fat cats.
He's also in the running for DFA's Grassroots All-Star, and if you like what you're reading here, then go vote for him.
Update (9/20): More about the pit viper that is Lamar Smith posted here.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
-- Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Summer 2003
Pointing to a little-noticed "Cyber Security Alert" issued by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the source inside Diebold -- who "for the time being" is requesting anonymity due to a continuing sensitive relationship with the company -- is charging that Diebold's technicians, including at least one of its lead programmers, knew about the security flaw and that the company instructed them to keep quiet about it.
"Diebold threatened violators with immediate dismissal ... In 2005, after one newly hired member of Diebold's technical staff pointed out the security flaw, he was criticized and isolated."
(The source) confirmed that the matters were well known within the company, but that a "culture of fear" had been developed to assure that employees, including technicians, vendors and programmers kept those issues to themselves.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
I didn't watch the speech (I had something much better to do with my Thursday evening), but Kevin Drum, MaxSpeak, Media Girl, and others seem to think so.
(If so, then that would have to be a DLC Democrat, n'est ce pas?)
Which generates a tangent ...
Coming on the heels of a liberal quantity of conservative apoplexy at Tom DeLay's recent comments about himself -- err, the federal government -- I'm really bemused at what's happening over there in far right field.
This summer, a number of the most virulent starboard-tackers I can still call friends have been getting off the GOP bus (you've noticed this among your own circle, haven't you?). First it was the matter of Terri Schiavo, then Cindy Sheehan, and then it was the soaring cost of gasoline, and this month it's been Katrina. Mix in the sham of the Roberts hearings, pictures of Bush eating cake and playing guitar and asking Condi if he can go potty and you've got a seriously bad fall kickoff.
Not everyone on the Right is wavering; the bloc in the Senate remains steadfast. Next week they'll vote in harmony for a new Chief Justice, just as they did last week to kill an independent Katrina commission.
But the support in the outlands is falling away like the leaves. Well, not so much here in Deep-In-the-Hearta; it's still too freaking hot.
But it's only a matter of time before that first cool snap ...
Friday, September 16, 2005
I use Mozilla Firefox almost exclusively, but every now and then someone tells me something doesn't look quite right, and when I look at it through Bill Gates' glasses, sure enough ...
I've given up trying to fix it, too. Just put down the Kool-Aid, people.
David Van Os, candidate for Texas Attorney General
(L.) Jay Aiyer, Houston City Council candidate
(R.) DeLay-slayer Nick Lampson
Two-hundred and fifty Democrats gathered in Houston's Bay Area last night to "fun-raise" for BAND, but what they really raised was a coming hell (for the GOP).
Bush says he doesn’t want to play the “Blame Game.” Makes sense. Never heard of a chicken who wanted to play the “Extra Crispy” game.
The good news is, closed circuit videos in and around New Orleans have allowed us to identify the looters: Chevron, Shell, and ExxonMobil.
Senator Rick Santorum thinks there should be tougher penalties on people who decide to ride hurricanes out. I guess he means worse than drowning.
As soon as New Orleans gets back to normal, I plan on volunteering to go down there and help drink their economy back on its feet.
Count me in on that.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Arpollo Vicks was born male, but in January, the 20-year-old became, she says, "who I really am." She started living as a woman.
In New Orleans, this was no big deal.
Friends and family began calling her Sharli'e. She says that at L.B. Landry Middle School, where she worked as a substitute teacher, kids who had known her as Mr. Vicks simply began calling her Ms. Vicks.
Sharli'e's gender didn't play a part in the beginning of her Katrina miseries, either. After the levees broke, she and two cousins left their downtown neighborhood, looking for help and higher ground. Eighteen-year-old Rolanda Grisham was a plain-vanilla, born-that-way girl. Things were more complicated for Rolanda's 16-year-old sibling. Like Sharli'e, Leo had been born male but lived as a woman.
The three waded and swam a mile and half to the terrifying New Orleans Convention Center, where they spent two uncomfortable nights, one punctuated by gunfire. They then spent two hot, hungry days on an Interstate 10 overpass. At the Superdome, they finally found someone to rescue them.
A bus carried the three to Houston, but it was turned away at the Astrodome. Around 1 a.m. that Sunday, the three learned that they had arrived, instead, in College Station. They were shepherded into a shelter at Texas A&M University's Reed Arena.
Pansexual, live-and-let-live New Orleans had arrived in the heart of Aggieland, and there was bound to be trouble.
There's lots more trouble, but the story ends happily.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
The President wrote a note to the Secretary of State, asking to go potty, during his field trip to the U.N. today.
I am not joking.
... and if you haven't seen the pictures from the Bush Famly New Orleans Vacation, then go here.
(caption: The President may have to take a "drop" because his ball has become lodged under a corpse.)
Monday, September 12, 2005
-- President Bush, on "Good Morning America," Sept. 1, 2005, six days after repeated warnings from experts about the scope of damage expected from Hurricane Katrina
2) "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckles) -- this is working very well for them."
--Former First Lady Barbara Bush, on the flood evacuees in the Astrodome, Sept. 5, 2005
3) "It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's seven feet under sea level....It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed."
--House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Aug. 31, 2005
4) "We've got a lot of rebuilding to do ... The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."
-- President Bush, touring hurricane damage in Mobile, Alabama, Sept. 2, 2005
5) "Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well."
-- ex-FEMA Director Michael Brown, Sept. 1, 2005
6) "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
-- President Bush, to Brown, while touring hurricane-ravaged Mississippi, Sept. 2, 2005
7) "I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water."
-- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, on NPR's "All Things Considered," Sept. 1, 2005
8) "Well, I think if you look at what actually happened, I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, 'New Orleans Dodged the Bullet.' Because if you recall, the storm moved to the east and then continued on and appeared to pass with considerable damage but nothing worse."
-- Chertoff, blaming media coverage for his failings, "Meet the Press," Sept. 4, 2005. There were no newspaper headlines that could be found which said what he said he saw.
9) "You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals ... many of these people, almost all of them that we see are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold."
-- CNN's Wolf Blitzer, on New Orleans' hurricane evacuees, Sept. 1, 2005
10) "Louisiana is a city that is largely under water."
-- Chertoff, news conference, Sept. 3, 2005
11) "It's totally wiped out. ... It's devastating, it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground."
-- President Bush, turning to his aides while surveying Hurricane Katrina flood damage from Air Force One , Aug. 31, 2005
12) "I believe the town where I used to come -- from Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself, occasionally too much (laughter) -- will be that very same town, that it will be a better place to come to."
-- Bush, on the tarmac at the New Orleans airport, Sept. 2, 2005
13) "Last night, we showed you the full force of a superpower government going to the rescue."
-- MSNBC's Chris Matthews, earning his government paycheck, Sept. 1, 2005
14) "You know I talked to Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi yesterday because some people were saying, 'Well, if you hadn't sent your National Guard to Iraq, we here in Mississippi would be better off.' He told me 'I've been out in the field every single day, hour, for four days and no one, not one single mention of the word 'Iraq.' Now where does that come from? Where does that story come from if the governor is not picking up one word about it? I don't know. I can use my imagination."
-- Former President George H. W. Bush, whose imagination has earned a six-week vacation, in an interview with CNN's Larry King, Sept. 5, 2005
15) "...those who are stranded, who chose not to evacuate, who chose not to leave the city..."
-- ex-FEMA Director Brown, on New Orleans residents who could not evacuate because they were too poor and lacked the means to leave, CNN interview, Sept. 1, 2005
16) "We just learned of the convention center -- we being the federal government -- today."
-- Brown, to ABC's Ted Koppel, Sept. 1, 2005, to which Koppel responded: "Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting on it for more than just today."
17) "I actually think the security is pretty darn good. There's some really bad people out there that are causing some problems, and it seems to me that every time a bad person wants to scream or cause a problem, there's somebody there with a camera to stick it in their face."
-- Brown, CNN interview, Sept. 2, 2005
18) "I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans."
-- Brown, arguing that the victims bear some responsibility, CNN interview, Sept. 1, 2005
19) "As of Saturday (Sept. 3), Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said."
-- Washington Post staff writers Manuel Roig-Franzia and Spencer Hsu, who didn't bother to fact-check the blatant lie peddled by the Bush administration as part of its attempts to pin blame on state and local officials, when in fact the emergency declaration had been made on Friday, Aug. 26
20) "Thank President Clinton and former President Bush for their strong statements of support and comfort today. I thank all the leaders that are coming to Louisiana, and Mississippi and Alabama to our help and rescue. We are grateful for the military assets that are being brought to bear. I want to thank Senator Frist and Senator Reid for their extraordinary efforts. Anderson, tonight, I don't know if you've heard -- maybe you all have announced it -- but Congress is going to an unprecedented session to pass a $10 billion supplemental bill tonight to keep FEMA and the Red Cross up and operating."
-- Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, to CNN's Anderson Cooper, Aug. 31, 2005, to which Cooper responded:
"I haven't heard that, because, for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry,and very frustrated. And when they hear politicians slap -- you know, thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been lying in the street for 48 hours. And there's not enough facilities to pick her up. Do you get the anger that is out here?"
"Maybe you know something I don't know."
And that happened to be the second instance today verifying that the President is out of the loop on the decision-making regarding the Katrina disaster.
I'm appalled. How about you?
Update (9/13) : Or maybe he just plain ol' lied about it.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Along with Texas Attorney General candidate David Van Os and civil rights activist Rev. Peter Johnson, I attended a public hearing on the modification of a hazardous waste permit held by the ExxonMobil refinery in Beaumont. Hearings of this type are mandated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; this one was held at the Jefferson County courthouse Friday afternoon, September 9.
There about twenty or so in attendance; four of us out-of-town citizen activists, a handful of residents of the Charlton-Pollard neighborhood which abuts the refinery, and six representatives of ExxonMobil -- the community relations director and her assistant, three refinery executives, including at least one with the word 'environment' in his job title, and an ExxonMobil corporate attorney. None of whom made their names obvious enough for me to catch.
There were no members of the TCEQ present at the hearing, and no members of the media either (unless I count as one).
For over two hours, the oil company employees tapdanced around every single question posed to them with the most bewildering array of corporate doublespeak and rehearsed spin I have ever personally witnessed.
A couple of examples:
Q: We wrote a letter containing thirteen questions for ExxonMobil to answer at this hearing, and we sent them by certified mail. Did you receive them?
A: And we're here to answer your questions. And the questions of all the residents here.
Q: The first question is, has ExxonMobil conducted any environmental impact surveys in the neighborhood regarding the impact of the refinery's discharge on the residents' health?
A: Exxon Mobil has conducted numerous studies about the environmental quality of the neighborhood. We built the Family Resource Center and the park. We live and work here too, and have a great deal of concern about the neighborhood's environment.
Q: But have you done any studies of the health of the neighborhood's residents?
A: Those aren't environmental studies, sir.
David Van Os : Has ExxonMobil done any epidemiological studies of the neighborhood?
ExxonMobil Community Relations Director : What's that?
DVO: You mean to say you don't know what an epidemiological study is?
EM CRD: No, I know what it means... you might define the word for those in the audience who don't know what it means...
DVO : But they didn't ask. Could you answer the question please?
EM CRD : Would you define 'epidemiological'?
DVO : Could you please answer the question? Yes or no?
And so on and so on, just like that, for two hours.
When a resident described the black dust he has to power-wash off his house every few months, the oil company employees just looked blankly at him. When Rev. Johnson read the results of an autopsy of a female neighborhood resident, which revealed that her lungs were 'as black as those of a sixty-year-old coal miner' (according to her doctor), the ExxonMobil representatives tried hard not to look him in the eye. When another resident described how her three-year-old son had to have a liver transplant, and that benzene poisoning was a suspected cause, the corporate lickspittles studied their manicures.
As I've previously posted, I grew up in this area. I worked in that refinery one summer. I used to come home every evening from working in that refinery and blow black snot out of my nose.
I heard the stories of Lamar University coeds whose nylons dissolved on their legs as they walked across campus (which is a half-mile from the ExxonMobil chemical facility). I smelled the rotten egg scent of sulphur dioxode myself, as a college student, on several occasions. I knew people who lived near the campus who smelled odors inside their homes that would cause them to become sleepy, and when they woke up they would have a splitting headache.
And those stories are twenty-five years old.
There was one thirty-year neighborhood resident in attendance at the hearing, who had his own self-declared respiratory concerns, and he defended ExxonMobil in a sort of resigned way:
"Well, they ain't goin' nowhere, so we gotta try to get along with 'em..."
Let me call attention to the title of this post, and quote no less an authority than Benito Mussolini:
" Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power."
And also Franklin Roosevelt:
" The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group or any controlling private power. "
We both had appointments at Lamar University Thursday afternoon; David's was to speak to the Latinos Unidos student group; mine was to meet with some of the alumni officials. We reconvened that evening at the PDSE meetup at Acapulco Mexican Grill.
Before I tell you about our visits, which included a public hearing at the courthouse on a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) matter, let me provide some history about the area called the Golden Triangle, nestled into the corner of Texas next to the Gulf and the Sabine.
Beaumont-Port Arthur, the mid-county cities of Nederland, Port Neches, and Groves, and Orange -- the easternmost point of the Triangle; as far as you can go without being in Louisiana -- are home to the highest concentration of refineries and chemical plants in the state of Texas. And not just a lot of them but some of the largest petrochemical operations in the world; when I lived there, their names were Gulf and Texaco and DuPont and Allied, but the names have all changed. I was raised in a union household; Mom was a professor in the college of business at Lamar, Dad was OCAW, employed by the Mobil (now ExxonMobil, of course) refinery in Beaumont. I worked at the coking unit of that plant during the summer of 1980, graduated from Lamar that winter, and started my first career at the Beaumont Enterprise-Journal as an advertising salesman that spring.
Politically speaking, the Golden Triangle has been Yellow Dog Democrat country for almost all of the time I've been around, and for a long time before. They elected and re-elected liberal stalwarts like Jack Brooks, Carl Parker, and Charlie Wilson, but they've also had temporary lapses of sanity with right-wing fools like Steve Stockman. And like most of the rest of Texas, they fell in love with Ronald Reagan in the Eighties and haven't yet managed to fall completely out of love with the current iteration of radical religious Republicanism.
History lesson over.
About sixty SE Texas Progressive Dems assembled for David's stump speech, and the crowd included Jefferson County party chair Gilbert Adams, state representative Joe Deshotel, and a handful of local candidates, but mostly citizen activists and kindred spirits. Here's a summary of what he said:
“News commentators, industry representatives, politicians, and other voices of the corporate-political-media establishment are somberly telling the rest of us to expect more increases in gasoline prices as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
However, I have some questions for the political-corporate elites and their friends in the media punditry. Who gave the big oil companies an unalienable right to profit off tragedy? Do the oil companies have a God-given right to forever maximize their profits? Why shouldn’t the oil companies and their silk-stocking executives be expected to do their part to assist in relief efforts? Why shouldn’t the oil companies be expected to show some public spirit and reduce their profit expectations at this time of national distress? Where are our public servants who should be calling on the oil companies to do their part? Are our public officials too beholden to corporate industry to exert moral leadership on this matter?”
About the amendment on the ballot to outlaw gay marriage in Texas:
“I take it as a personal offense and an affront to my citizenship that forces of bigotry are seeking to enshrine hate into the Texas Constitution. You know, the Declaration of Independence of 1776 grants every United States citizen the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; it is inconceivable that Texans would put something in our state constitution that would be a giant step backward from the achievement of that vision. The very idea of what the 'unreligious wrong' is trying to do is a disgrace, it is inhumane and it sure isn’t moral ... Morality means everyone is equal under the law. All of us as Texans are entitled to public servants who will serve the people and do everything in their power to defend the constitutional rights liberties of all the people equally."
And specifically addressing members of the GLBT community throughout Texas, as quoted in the Dallas Voice:
“Just keep on fighting for liberty, keep on fighting for equal justice under the law and keep on fighting for the kind of society and world you want to live in,” Van Os said. “Fight 'em 'til hell freezes over, and then fight 'em on the ice.”
There's more, but you get the picture. David was pretty well received, as you might imagine.
Friday morning, Van Os appeared on News Radio FOX 1340 (check out the 'fair and balanced' syndicated program lineup) for an interview with local drive-time personality Dominick Brascia, who was obviously and genuinely impressed with David's credentials and stands on the issues.