Friday, September 30, 2005

His closing bit the other night on REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER, HBO:

"Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you any more. There's no more money to spend--you used up all of that. You can't start another war because you used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people. Listen to your Mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit cards maxed out. No one's speaking to you. Mission accomplished."

"Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service and the oil company and the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or space man? Now I know what you're saying: there's so many other things that you as President could involve yourself in. Please don't. I know, I know. There's a lot left to do."

"There's a war with Venezuela. Eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote."

"But, Sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised that you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man. Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire city to rising water and snakes."

"On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans. Maybe you're just not lucky. I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side."

"So, yes, God does speak to you. What he is saying is: 'Take a hint.'"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Yes, it has been a busy few weeks since I posted last. We're going through another round of budgeting woes at work, one quarter into the fiscal year. Fun!

But, we have had a chance to help out victims of the latest hurricanes, even out here in San Jose, CA. We've been able to put our usual procedures and such aside to take in, at no cost to them, several individuals made homeless by flooding in the Gulf.

Yesterday we took in an older gentleman from Florida. After the storms hit, he went up to New York to find his estranged daughter. He wandered her old neighborhood asking after her for days, but nobody knew where to find her. He then boarded a bus for San Jose, where he had lived years earlier, and showed up at our door.

These are the moments that remind us of why we're in the business we're in; providing shelter to the homeless. When so much of my job is given over to bureaucracy and spreadsheets, it's good when I actually get to work with a client for a few moments, and be reminded that what I do is worthwhile.

On another front, what's been keeping me busy is the big secret project that I'll be unveiling in another few days. Basically, I've been setting up a small business to do on the side for a little extra income. Stay tuned for the big announcement.

Meanwhile, on the National Front, the administration has begun a game of blaming the messenger. In a twist on the old search for WMDs, they claim that the accounts of crime, death, and abuse in the Gulf were greatly exaggerated without any proof. How this is somehow supposed to excuse their lack of movement on this disaster for several days, I don't know.

Need proof yourself? Read "Power crews diverted" and learn how Dick Cheney's office had emergency crews leave hospitals without power in order to help out the oil companies first.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." - Barbara Bush, former First Lady, mother of the President.

1) She's scared that "these people" might want to stay in Texas.

2) She believes that living on a cot in a sports arena with 15,000 roommates is a step up.

And some people wonder why the President can be so uncaring about hurricane relief? He is his Momma's boy.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Afraid that you'll be paying for hurricane relief through higher taxes? Have no fear! Republicans are here! US Republicans say hurricane won't stop budget cuts.

Yes, through mud and storm the Republicans march on, slashing Federal programs to help the most vulnerable and putting the savings into the pockets of the most fortunate.

Democratic leaders have said that budget plan "would likely cut programs that many victims of Hurricane Katrina will be relying on."

Republicans use their Super Math Powers to counter that. For example, they claiming that by cutting Medicaid, "Dramatically more people will be covered." Huh? Gosh I wish I were a smart Republican so I could understand that calculation!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Last night on MSNBC somebody compared the plight of Hurricane Katrina's victims to that of the Dustbowl Refugees of the 1930s, who escaped what the commentator called "the opposite of Katrina", a drought that wiped out an entire region.

I was thinking about this in light of what I posted yesterday regarding compassion, and why it's so easy for people to reach out to these victims, while ignoring the homeless in their own towns.

It's pretty much the same thing. When a disaster strikes quickly, we're a caring and compassionate nation, but over time we're not quite so warm-hearted. During the dustbowl period - a disaster that took years to destroy lives - the rest of the country did not respond the way they are now to the people of the Gulf.

The "Okies" were looked down upon, were chased out of town, and treated a problem to be met with violence - anything but compassion or welcoming them as victims of a natural disaster.

This is wonderful that we are all helping the victims of Katrina - that is the way it should be. I just hope that we can keep it up long enough to get people settled, employed, and housed, before the compassion runs out and we start looking for ways to run these poor strangers out of town.

Monday, September 05, 2005

From San Antonio: Advocates want homeless treated same as evacuees. Texas is not particularly well known for its efforts to help the homeless living there, making their hosting of Katrina's victims a touch ironic.

This is really quite typical after something like this. American's are generally giving and compassionate, but they sometimes need to be shaken into acting on it.

When they see something like Katrina, they understand the need to help those made homeless by tragedy. It's immediate and dramatic, and points out clearly how easily any of us can be destroyed by forces beyond our control. We can see ourselves in the eyes of the victims and so we reach out without hesitation.

The slow tragedy of economic destruction is not so immediately dramatic. When a community - or even an individual - is dragged down by a confluence of circumstances smaller and open to interpretation, it's easier to look away. Was it the closing of one factory? Was it the over-crowded classrooms? Or was it just laziness?

A hurricane is clear-cut. We know why they were homeless and there's no arguing about whether the victims brought it on themselves. It's easy to give there.

Economic ruination is a little different. If we admit that there are causes beyond the victims' control then we have to recognize the potential for chaos in our own lives. Now that's hard.


On a different subject, yesterday we saw "Grizzly Man." This documentary by Werner Hertzog tells the story of the last few years in the life of Timothy Treadwell, including his violent death. For the last 13 years of his life, Tim had spent late Summer and early Fall in the Alaska wilderness among the bears. In 2003 he and his partner stayed later in the season than usual, when most of the animals entered hibernation, and the salmon had stopped running, and where killed by a hungry bear.

Tim studied the bears, photographed them, and (he claims) protected them from poachers. His detractors say that poaching is not that big a problem, and that Tim harmed the bears by acclimating them to human contact. During the off-season he brought his stories and pictures to schools across the country and never charged a speaker's fee. You watch the movie and decide for yourself whether Tim was a great naturalist, or a crazed fame seeker, or something in between.

Sometimes a movie is not just a movie. What made this so difficult for Leslie and I to watch is that we knew Tim. During his time away from Alaska he was a neighbor of Leslie's parents, and became a family friend. Tim even named one of the bears "Freckles" after my in-law's family dog.

Hertzog relys heavily on Tim's own footage that he shot over the years, and skillfully combines it with new interviews and narration to tell the complex story of this very complex man. I think it's a brilliant and beautiful movie, and it does Tim justice even as it shows the bad along with the good.

Learn more about Tim's legacy at Grizzly People (the foundation he started to fund his work).

Friday, September 02, 2005

Listening to the radio I was beginning to wonder if the rest of the world had forgotten us. Voice after voice was complaining how upset they were that the international community was quietly watching the U.S. Gulf Coast die without offering any aid.

So, I went to Google News and searched for "Katrina international aid". Along with a few editorials railing against the world for ignoring us and calling for an end to our foreign aid, I found several news articles that called that thesis into question:

* International Offers of Aid Pour Into U.S. in Katrina Aftermath (Bloomberg)
* Oil price drops as Europe plans US oil aid (Reuters)
* Aid for us? (New Hampshire Sentinel)
* Australia, Japan, Germany Offer Relief (Washington Post)

If you take the time to read a few of these articles, what you learn is that no less than a dozen nations have offered help so far, despite what the right wing commentators would have you believe.

The help includes cash aid from governments and individuals, French rescue workers from the Caribbean, and a release of gasoline from the Europeans' strategic oil reserves.

What you also learn from these articles is that this help has all been offered, despite the fact that President Bush has not asked for any assistance. Bush even went so far as to turn down the Russian offer of help, saying that the U.S. had "all the necessary means and equipment to conduct relief works."

In other post-hurricane news; this morning I received my first hurricane relief scam spam. It was an email soliciting donations to help in the relief effort. One link, buried within the email, was a legitimate link to the Red Cross (, but the more prominent link was completely suspicious.

Yes, we should all be giving generously to this effort; but don't be fooled by scams. Give to organizations you already know and trust (such as the Red Cross) through links you can verify through a reputable source.

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