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9 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Cuba and the United States: Politics over Principle

As I’ve noted before, I despise the Castro regime (both its Fidel and Raul editions).  I spent a year in the early 1990s documenting its use of psychiatric institutions to detain and torture human rights advocates and regime critics.  But I also oppose the U.S. embargo — I agree with the position held by many of the brave human rights and democracy activists on the island, who believe that it is one of the few things propping up the current regime.

So I have to say I was not surprised at the following report:

After days of pressure by certain Cuban exile leaders on the Bush Administration to temporarily lift travel and money remittance restrictions to Cuba to aid storm victims, the State Department has finally delivered a response.  The answer is no, the federal government will not lift restrictions that limit Cuban exiles to visiting close relatives in Cuba once every three years and sending up to $300 every three months.

In a statement issued Friday, the office of the State Department spokesman had this to say in direct response to the pleas for lifting restrictions: “We do not believe that at this time it is necessary to loosen the restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba to accomplish the objective of aiding the hurricane victims.Non-governmental organizations on the ground in Cuba are already mobilizing to provide such assistance.”

The issue arose last week when three prominent members of the Cuban exile community, Ramon Saul Sanchez of the Democracy Movement and congressional Democratic Party candidates Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia called on President Bush to lift the restrictions. Then Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama endorsed the exile appeals. A bipartisan group of congressional leaders, four Republicans and three Democrats, issued a separate statement urging the U.S. government to send aid directly to storm victims. The Republicans included the two incumbents Martinez and Garcia are challenging: Lincoln and his brother Mario Diaz-Balart.

So let me get this straight.  The Cuban exile community supports the temporary lifting of the embargo to facilitate the delivery of relief to the victims of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, but the Bush Administration refused — in all likelihood because they’re trying to placate the Cuban exile community.

The ongoing stupidities of this Administration will never cease to amaze me.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:38 pm

Hurricane Cindy and the RNC’s Potemkin Gustav Relief

On Monday, I had this to say about the the Cindy and Laura show, a.k.a. the Republicans’ hurricane Gustav relief efforts:

Cindy McCain look like, uh. . . .  Well.  Hmmmm.

How do I put this?

She looks like she spent more money on her dress, pearls, make-up, manicure, and hair than the Republicans will raise on behalf of Hurricane Gustav victims.

Turns out I was more right than I thought:

Yes, something from Arizona was certainly shining at the convention, but it wasn’t the sun. It was Cindy McCain’s citrine dress from Monday night. And her three-carat diamond earrings. Oh, and don’t forget the Chanel J12 white ceraminc watch.

Cindy’s dress, designed by Oscar de la Renta, cost $3,000, and the watch, another $4,500. Her four strand pearl necklace cost between $11,000 and $25,000, and her shoes set her back $600. But the real whoppers were the earrings, priced at $280,000, putting the total cost of the outfit beteween $299,100 and $313,000.

Here’s the only press report I could find about the RNC’s hurricane relief campaign.  Just so you know, it’s from Fox:

As Gustav pummels the Gulf Coast, several delegates are missing the breezy, beautiful weather locally to man the phones at a telethon effort set up at the downtown Hilton in Minneapolis. About 150 red phones were set up in the ballroom and Cindy McCain not only helped make the calls, she and husband John McCain donated $25,000 dollars to relief efforts. In all, 90 delegates, volunteers, campaign staff and others in the Twin Cities for the convention were helping out at the telethon.

The telethon opened at 2 p.m. ET and had raised $1.165 million by 3 p.m. ET. One donation was in the form of $1 million, but officials would not release the identity of the donor.

If the $1 million pledge actually comes through, then the Republicans did a worthwhile thing (more on that in a second).  But if it didn’t, that means that they raised $165,000, or $140,000 if you don’t count the McCains’ contributions — or about half of what Cindy’s outfit cost.

But even if the $1 million pledge comes through — and even if the RNC/McCain campaign managed to raise more money than this report indicates, there is still one little fact that isn’t going anywhere:  Cindy McCain spent between twelve and fifteen times as much on her outfit as she and her husband donated to Hurricane Gustav relief efforts.

And they have the huevos to call Democrats elitist?  As Vanity Fair put it, “Wow! No wonder McCain has so many houses: his wife has the price of a Scottsdale split-level hanging from her ears.”

A couple of questions for the McCain campaign:

1.  How much did your relief efforts raise?

2.  Did your campaign donate the time, website server costs, and other associated expenses?  If so, can you account for it?  How do you plan to report these expenses to the FEC?

3.  Were the relief efforts run out of St. Paul separate from or part of the phone banks set up by the AidMatrix Foundation?  If separate, how did you arrange for these funds to get to relief organizations?

4.  Both FEC and IRS non-profit reporting rules require the identification of donors, particularly large donors.  Why are you not identifying the donor who made the $1 million pledge?

5.  How much did Cindy’s outfit really cost?

This whole McCain/RNC Gustav relief operation looks more and more unreal.  Not illegal, mind you, but suspiciously like a Potemkin Village.  Earlier this week, I raised other questions about the McCain relief effort, focusing on the relationship between he McCain campaign, the Bush Administration/FEMA, and AidMatrix, the charity that supposedly is managing the money (and which received a big FEMA contract in 2006):

Aidmatrix may be an entirely legitimate organization, but there’s a real lack of transparency regarding how they got the FEMA contract and how they got involved in the McCain campaign.

To learn the truth, Aidmatrix, FEMA, and the Bush Administration need to answer some questions:

1.  How did Aidmatrix get its FEMA grant?  Was it sole-sourced or competed?  How much is it for?  What percentage of Aidmatrix’s budget comes from the FEMA grant?

2.  If [Aidmatrix's] main focus is logistics — using “advanced information technology to create efficiencies between donors and those in need” — what are they doing managing donations for the McCain website?  And where will these donations go after they receive them?

3.  Did Aidmatrix get the hurricane relief gig because of [Aidmatrix CEO, McCain supporter and former Wisconsin Governor Scott] McCallum’s connections with the McCain campaign?

4.  If not, why did McCain choose Aidmatrix instead of better-known and more established non-partisan humanitarian relief organizations such as the Red Cross?

5.  Did AIdmatrix inform and/or clear its involvement in the McCain campaign with FEMA or other U.S. government officials?

To see the full post, go here.

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3 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Dan Savage, NSFW But Astute Nonetheless

Dan Savage, my all time favorite advice columnist and the man who gave Rick Santorum’s last name an entirely new (and hilariously disgusting) new meaning, had a pretty good observation tonight about Bush’s speech.

George W. Bush couldn’t make it to the Republican National Convention because, you see, he had to be at the White House, of course, where he was closely monitoring, um, Monday morning’s storm. (Gustav, not Bristol.) This, of course, is total bullshit. The White House goes wherever the president goes. The White House is wherever the president is. No, Bush was at the White House because 1. he’s making amends for Katrina, and 2. it was better for John McCain for the wildly unpopular president to be elsewhere tonight.

Now about Katrina: the problem during that hurricane wasn’t that the president wasn’t at the White House, but that the president was on vacation. And ol’ George and rest of the Hee-Haw gang had no idea what was happening in and to New Orleans—something they could have realized if, like the rest of the country, they had bothered to watch on the news.

Now about the president’s absence tonight: George W. Bush is the first sitting president to miss his party’s convention since LBJ in 1968. Hm… what does George W. Bush have in common with LBJ? Oh, right: Like LBJ was in ‘68, Bush is wildly fucking unpopular. He’s practically toxic.

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2 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:41 pm

RNC: Are the Gustav Relief Efforts Legitimate?

Last night, I watched Laura Bush and Cindy McCain tell delegates at the Republican National Convention that they should take immediate action to help the victims of Hurricane Gustav.

Certainly helping those in distress is something worth encouraging and celebrating.  But how exactly are the Republicans getting the funds they raise to those in need?

You might guess the Red Cross.  But you’d be wrong.

During their presentations, Laura and Cindy encouraged people to go to the website of something called called “Cause Greater.”  I had never heard of this particular charity, so I visited their website.  Here’s a screenshot:

“Cause Greater” is not a charity, but rather a wholly owned subsidiary of the McCain campaign. Rather than directing assistance to existing charities (which is what the Obama campaign has done by encouraging people to donate to the Red Cross and/or Save the Children), they are instead directing charitable donors to a campaign portal that also happens to include a link to the McCain home page.

Wait — it gets even better.

If you look closely at the screenshot, you’ll notice that Cause Greater redirects donors to six sites,  Four link to state-sponsored disaster relief funds.  One links to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, a community foundation that has established a Gustav relief fund.  None of those are particularly controversial.

The sixth is something called the Aidmatrix Foundation, which is listed both as a charity working in Louisiana and the place to call if someone wants donate by phone.

Here’s what their website has to say:

Aidmatrix is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit headquartered in Dallas, Texas, USA, with offices in Germany and India. The Aidmatrix Foundation, Inc. builds and operates powerful technology hubs that support diverse stakeholder groups in their efforts to work together to solve the world’s most challenging humanitarian crises. More than 35,000 leading corporate, nonprofit and government partners leverage our solutions to mobilize more than $1.5 billion in aid annually, worldwide. The donated goods, money and services impact the lives of more than 65 million people.

That didn’t really clear things up for me, so I went to Wikipedia:

The Aidmatrix Foundation, Inc., (Aidmatrix) is a U.S.-based nonprofit 501 (c) (3). It is a supply-chain software developer for nonprofits and those involved in the supply chain of humanitarian relief (disaster relief, medical relief, and hunger relief.) It is headquartered in Dallas. . . .

In 2006, Aidmatrix secured a major cooperative agreement grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to build a national Internet-based network for humanitarian aid. Known as The Aidmatrix Network®, the project was to create a virtual exchange or marketplace that would connect the state and local governments with donors and nonprofits. It focused on in-kind donations management, cash donations management, and volunteer management.

That’s a little clearer, but the problem is that Wikipedia’s editors have posted a warning that this page “appears to be an advertisement,” which means it probably was written by Aidmatrix itself.

But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for the moment.  Aidmatrix uses techology to provide supply-chain logistics support for NGOs working on humanitarian relief and crisis response.  Its website includes statements of support by some well-known NGOs.  Its main donors are the Accenture Foundation and UPS.  It also gets a big chunk of money from FEMA, but it’s not clear how much.  It does not, like many NGOs, have its IRS form 990 available on its website — if it did, we could answer a lot of these questions.

What’s not clear is whether Aidmatrix won the FEMA grant through a competition or if it was yet another sole-source award, which has been the rule rather than the exception with homeland security and defense contracts awarded during the Bush Administration.

Now let’s take a look at their executive leadership.  Their President and CEO is Scott McCallum, who served as (Republican) Governor of Wisconsin from February 2001, when he succeeded Tommy Thompson (after Thompson resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services) to January 2003, when he was succeeded by Jim Doyle (who defeated McCallum in November 2002).  Before he became governor, McCallum was lieutenant governor for fourteen years and before that, was a state senator.

Here’s what Aidmatrix’s website says about McCallum:

Governor Scott McCallum has more than 30 years of executive experience leading cross-functional divisions including operations planning, supply management, media and public relations, marketing and development, government relations and strategic partnerships. He served as Wisconsin Governor, with a career spanning more than a decade in public service office. . . .

McCallum acts as President and CEO of the Aidmatrix Foundation, a nonprofit that uses advanced information technology to create efficiencies between donors and those in need.  As CEO, he has grown the Aidmatrix Foundation to globally transact $1.5 billion annually with operations in six continents to 35,000 nonprofits. The work ranges from distribution of medical products for U.S. Free Clinics and international Non-Government Organizations (NGO) to program partnerships with global organizations like International Red Cross and the World Food Programme.  Most charitable food in the United States goes through Aidmatrix technologies for contribution and distribution. The Aidmatrix bundle of solution systems was recently designated as “the Network” to be used in preparedness for American disaster relief, with endorsements from federal branches and inter-state coalitions.

It’s not clear when McCallum became Aidmatrix’s CEO, but it’s fair to speculate that it was before FEMA awarded it the contract.  An April 2004 press release from the Discovery Institute announcing his appointment as a Senior Fellow says that McCallum is head of the McCallum group and does not mention Aidmatrix.

And yes, you did read that right:  McCallum is a Senior Fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which is best known for its promotion of intelligent design.  But they also take conservative positions on other public policy issues.  As far as I can tell, the one op-ed McCallum published (on November 16, 2004) under Discovery’s imprimatur focuses on the issue of voter identification, which Democrats have argued is code for voter supression.  In the op-ed, McCallum suggests that there were questions about whether John Kerry “really carried Wisconsin,” and argues that a system requiring photo identification for voting would prevent fraud.

In the end, however, a CEO’s political or religious beliefs don’t matter as long as they don’t affect corporate policy and the person in question is a good manager.  When it comes to Aidmatrix, we don’t know whether those things are true, but there’s no evidence of Aidmatrix advocating the positions put forward by the Discovery Institute.

There is, however, have evidence of McCallum’s management skills during his tenure as governor of Wisconsin:

A big shake-up has occurred in the Wisconsin governor’s office, and that may not be all. The governor, Scott McCallum, a Republican, has been getting a lot of criticism recently for proposing to erase the state’s $1.1 billion deficit by ending aid to local governments.

His management style has also been criticized. Disgruntled supporters say he is short on people skills, slow to cultivate important allies and slower still to respond to requests and calls from constituents.

A poll released a few weeks ago found that 40 percent of Wisconsin residents viewed Mr. McCallum unfavorably and that he might be defeated by any of four Democrats eager to take him on in November.

Little wonder, then, that in recent days Mr. McCallum began firing and hiring, starting with the chief of staff and working down. His spokesman, Tim Roby, explained, ”When you get to the point of people telling you that you’re not the right one for the job of governor of Wisconsin, you get concerned.”

So if he wasn’t a good manager while Governor of Wisconsin, how did McCallum get named to lead an organization that claims to manage more than $1.5 billion in “global transactions”?  What did he bring to the table that made him appealing to Aidmatrix?  And how did McCallum, a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, come to head an organization based in Dallas, where he has no history and no known connections.  Except, of course, this guy.

One other little tidbit:  On February 14, 2008, the McCain campaign announced the formation of its Wisconsin Steering Committee.  Scott McCallum is the first name on the list, ahead of his former boss (and the much more prominent) Tommy Thompson.

Aidmatrix may be an entirely legitimate organization, but there’s a real lack of transparency regarding how they got the FEMA contract and how they got involved in the McCain campaign.

To learn the truth, Aidmatrix, FEMA, and the Bush Administration need to answer some questions:

1.  How did Aidmatrix get its FEMA grant?  Was it sole-sourced or competed?  How much is it for?  What percentage of Aidmatrix’s budget comes from the FEMA grant?

2.  If their main focus is logistics — using “advanced information technology to create efficiencies between donors and those in need” — what are they doing managing donations for the McCain website?  And where will these donations go after they receive them?

3.  Did Aidmatrix get the hurricane relief gig because of McCallum’s connections with the McCain campaign?

4.  If not, why did McCain choose Aidmatrix instead of better-known and more established non-partisan humanitarian relief organizations such as the Red Cross?

5.  Did AIdmatrix inform and/or clear its involvement in the McCain campaign with FEMA or other U.S. government officials?

Josh Marshall, white courtesy phone, please.

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2 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:45 am

Laura and Cindy, Burning down the House in St. Paul

America’s new fun couple:

Or maybe not.

Laura Bush looks like she’d rather be under house arrest in Burma.

Cindy McCain look like, uh. . . .  Well.  Hmmmm.

How do I put this?

She looks like she spent more money on her dress, pearls, make-up, manicure, and hair than the Republicans will raise on behalf of Hurricane Gustav victims.

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1 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:04 pm

Michael Moore: Still a Humongous Dillweed

Michael Moore has issued a follow-up to his comment on MSNBC’s Countdown that Gustav hitting New Orleans during the Republican National Convention was “proof that there is a God in heaven.”

And just to demonstrate how out of whack his ego is, it’s in the form of a letter to God:

Sunday, August 31st, 2008
An Open Letter to God, from Michael Moore

Dear God,

The other night, James Dobson’s organization asked all believers to pray for a storm on Thursday night so that the Obama acceptance speech outdoors in Denver would have to be canceled.

I see that You have answered Dr. Dobson’s prayers — except the storm You have sent to earth is not over Denver, but on its way to New Orleans! In fact, You have scheduled it to hit Louisiana at exactly the moment that George W. Bush is to deliver his speech at the Republican National Convention.

Now, heavenly Father, we all know You have a great sense of humor and impeccable timing. To send a hurricane on the third anniversary of the Katrina disaster AND right at the beginning of the Republican Convention was, at first blush, a stroke of divine irony. I don’t blame You, I know You’re angry that the Republicans tried to blame YOU for Katrina by calling it an “Act of God” — when the truth was that the hurricane itself caused few casualties in New Orleans. Over a thousand people died because of the mistakes and neglect caused by humans, not You.

Some of us tried to help after Katrina hit, while Bush ate cake with McCain and twiddled his thumbs. I closed my office in New York and sent my entire staff down to New Orleans to help. I asked people on my website to contribute to the relief effort I organized — and I ended up sending over two million dollars in donations, food, water, and supplies (collected from thousands of fans) to New Orleans while Bush’s FEMA ice trucks were still driving around Maine three weeks later.

But this past Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that the Republicans had begun making plans to possibly postpone the convention. The AP had reported that there were no shelters set up in New Orleans for this storm, and that the levee repairs have not been adequate. In other words, as the great Ronald Reagan would say, “There you go again!”

So the last thing John McCain and the Republicans needed was to have a split-screen on TVs across America: one side with Bush and McCain partying in St. Paul, and on the other side of the screen, live footage of their Republican administration screwing up once again while New Orleans drowns.

So, yes, You have scared the Jesus, Mary and Joseph out of them, and more than a few million of your followers tip their hats to You.

But now it appears that You haven’t been having just a little fun with Bush & Co. It appears that Hurricane Gustav is truly heading to New Orleans and the Gulf coast. We hear You, O Lord, loud and clear, just as we did when Rev. Falwell said You made 9/11 happen because of all those gays and abortions. We beseech You, O Merciful One, not to punish us again as Pat Robertson said You did by giving us Katrina because of America’s “wholesale slaughter of unborn children.” His sentiments were echoed by other Republicans in 2005.

So this is my plea to you: Don’t do this to Louisiana again. The Republicans got your message. They are scrambling and doing the best they can to get planes, trains and buses to New Orleans so that everyone can get out. They haven’t sent the entire Louisiana National Guard to Iraq this time — they are already patrolling the city streets. And, in a nod to I don’t know what, Bush’s head of FEMA has named a man to help manage the federal government’s response. His name is W. Michael Moore. I kid you not, heavenly Father. They have sent a man with both my name AND W’s to help save the Gulf Coast.

So please God, let the storm die out at sea. It’s done enough damage already. If you do this one favor for me, I promise not to invoke your name again. I’ll leave that to the followers of Dr. Dobson and to those gathering this week in St. Paul.

Your faithful servant and former seminarian,

Michael Moore

P.S. To all of God’s fellow children who are reading this, the city of New Orleans has not yet recovered from Katrina. Please click here for a list of things you can do to help our brothers and sisters on the Gulf Coast. And, if you do live along the Gulf Coast, please take all necessary safety precautions immediately.

Emphasis added.

This is so deeply cynical I don’t even know where to start.  It’s not an apology, it’s a smug rant against conservatives and Republicans.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Most of the time, there’s nothing I love better than a smug rant against conservatives and Republicans.  But not when a storm is going to affect innocent people.  And now that the storm has hit, and at least five people have lost their lives (and thousands in southern Louisiana have been left homeless), where exactly did Moore’s letter get us?

Apparently God doesn’t listen to sanctimonious blowhards no matter where they fall on the political spectrum.

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1 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:30 pm

Gustav: The Spin Begins

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the first assessment of Gustav by the Feds:

While it’s too early to proclaim the federal response to Hurricane Gustav a success, federal officials said Monday that damage from the storm was mostly contained and the rebuilt flood-protection system around New Orleans appears to have passed its first major test since 2005.

“I think we’re seeing a very well-prepared nation for Hurricane Gustav,” said Adm. Harvey Johnson, the deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in an afternoon conference call from Washington.

Johnson said a preliminary assessment, conducted while the storm was still raging through Louisiana, found no major damage to the levees and floodwalls around New Orleans and said the evacuation of residents away from the most vulnerable areas went better than three years ago.

So the spin begins — keep in mind that Johnson may be an admiral, but he’s also a political appointee.

I’m guessing that Bush and McCain will follow with statements praising the heroism of the relief workers and congratulating themselves on the heckuva job everyone did.

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1 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:33 pm

Gustav’s Legacy: GOP Betwixt and Between

I can’t help thinking that the fact that Gustav turned out to be less lethal than everyone feared leaves the GOP in the worst possible spot.  The storm wasn’t severe enough to turn the convention into a telethon, but it was sufficiently bad to ensure that they can’t mount the convention they wanted.

So what do they do?  Do they attack Obama?  How much do they celebrate?


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1 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:44 am

Gustav: Good News but not Great News

Gustav is “only” a Category 2.  It’s not the mother of all storms. That’s good news.

But there are still lots of folks who are experiencing a small taste of hell today, and there are reports that water is topping the Industrial Canal levees near the Ninth Ward in New Orleans — and that some are concerned about them holding.  So this is not even close to being over yet.

But let’s hope that this is not what we feared.

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1 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:40 am

Gustav: Thoughts and Prayers

The latest tracking information on Gustav:

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast.  Let us all hope that this is nothing like Katrina, and that the federal, state, and city responses are up to the incredibly important task of helping those affected.

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31 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:45 pm

Five to Watch: McCain, Bush, and Gustav

Here’s the latest tracking on Gustav.

New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain are at roughly 30° North, 90° West on the map above.  They’re the part of the red line that appears to run inland from the coast.

Don’t be fooled by the fact it’s not heading directly at New Orleans anymore.  If anything, the current path is worse:

If, as currently predicted, Gustav lands west of New Orleans on Monday as a Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds up to 155 mph (249 kph), its 16-foot (4.9 metre) storm surge could break through the same levees that failed three year ago.

In the face of what is likely to be one of the worst natural disasters in American history, it may seem a bit insensitive and even vulgar to talk about the storm’s political implications. But the timing and location of the storm — during the Republican National Convention and on the same path as (and on the third anniversary of) Katrina — ensures that politics are inevitably part of the bigger story.

Right now, it looks like the Republicans are going to go forward with the Convention.  They have promised to make it a more subdued, muted affair, but you can bet that every media outlet in town (well, everyone other than Fox) is going to be cruising for revelers.

In addition, the White House has announced that neither President George W. Bush nor Vice President Lord Voldemort Dick Cheney will attend the convention (which doesn’t preclude their addressing it via a live feed or even videotape).  The Cheney announcement alone may lead some delegates to celebrate — the last thing McCain wanted (other than, of course, Hurricane Gustav) was that guy showing up.

John McCain has promised that the convention will not be a celebration, and is visiting the Mississippi Gulf Coast today apparently to show just how cynical he can be he really truly does care a whole lot about the danger Gustav poses.  Barack Obama, smartly in my opinion, is staying away and not criticizing McCain’s decision.

Here are five issues to watch as Gustav makes landfall:

1.  The mainstream media will portray McCain’s visit to Mississippi as a sign of leadership rather than as a cynical ploy or a foolishly rash act (after all, we’re talking about a person who wants to be the next POTUS putting himself in the way of a “monster” storm).  The one exception is Anderson Cooper, who may just go postal on McCain, just as he did three years ago on New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Senator Mary Landrieu, and others.

2.  No matter what the Republicans do in St. Paul, they’re facing a split screen convention, with coverage of the devastation competing with their rhetoric and ruffles.  It is a comparison from which they cannot benefit, no matter how muted or subdued they make the event.  And iff New Orleans is badly damaged by the storm — even if its residents evacuate — they’re going to find it almost impossible to hold the media’s (and by extension the public’s) attention.

3.  Gustav is both bad news and good news for the McCain campaign.  The bad news (other than the issue of a split screen convention) is that Gustav will cost McCain all or part of his convention bounce — even if it fails to hit New Orleans.  The good news is that Ron Paul’s alternative convention will disappear off the radar.

4.  No matter what happens — good or bad, direct hit on New Orleans or not — the Administration (and more than likely the McCain campaign) will attempt to portray the federal response to the crisis as fast, smart, and a reflection of the lessons learned from Katrina.  And chances are that it will be an outright lie.  The big question is not what the Administration will say, but rather how the media responds.  Again, Anderson Cooper will be a bellwether.

5.  Sooner or later, a prominent Democrat (not Obama or Biden, but someone) will be tempted to talk about how great it is that Gustav is hitting New Orleans just when the Republicans are holding their convention (much as Michael Moore did on MSNBC Friday night).  If that Democrat fails to shut the hell up, it will negate any and all bad publicity for the Republicans.  The most likely purveyor of such idiocies is New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who once again will be portrayed by Republicans as utterly incompetent.

Both parties have to be careful here.  Gustav is a potential tragedy in the making, and hundreds if not thousands of people will lose their lives.  Hundreds of thousands will at best find themselves displaced and at worst homeless.  Any effort by either candidate (or party) to use this terrible development for political ends will not play well either on the Gulf Coast or in the rest of the country.

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31 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

RNC: Bad Imagery Fixed

So when I went to the Republican National Convention website this past weekend, the various boxes and text were superimposed over the image of a lake, I presume because Minnesota is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

The only problem, of course, is that it looked an awful lot like rising floodwaters.

I’m glad to report that the lake is gone.  It’s been replaced by gray stars.

It’s the first sign of Republicans demonstrating a degree of sensitivity in at least eight years.

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30 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:45 am

Dillweed of the Day: Michael Moore

On MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night, Michael Moore said that Hurricane Gustav is “proof that there is a God in heaven.”

Yes, thank Buddha that the Almighty has decided to make New Orleans and the upper Gulf Coast suffer horribly so that we can have a good laugh at the expense of the Republicans.

What an arrogant twit.

Congratulations, Michael.  You’re our Dillweed of the Day.

Oh, and Keith Olbermann — shame on you for failing to call him on it.  Come to think of it, shame on you for giving this pompous blowhard a full segment.

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29 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Gustav Update: GOP Has Problems Either Way

The Washington Post-dated is reporting that the GOP is considering postpoining their convention next week, in light of the fact that Tropical Storm (and likely to become Hurricane) Gustav is barreling down on New Orleans:

The threat is serious enough that White House officials are also debating whether President Bush should cancel his scheduled convention appearance on Monday, the first day of the convention, according to administration officials and others familiar with the discussion.

For Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Gustav threatens to provide an untimely reminder of Hurricane Katrina. A new major storm along the Gulf Coast would renew memories of one of the low points of the Bush administration, while pulling public attention away from McCain’s formal coronation as the GOP presidential nominee.

Senior Republicans said images of political celebration in the Twin Cities while thousands of Americans flee a hurricane could be dubious.

You think?

The Republicans are pretty much screwed either way they go.  If the go forward, then they compete with Gustav.  If they postpone, people spend two days watching Gustav.

The Post goes on to say that some Republicans think this could be a win because a robust response could demonstrate that Bush et. al. learned from Katrina, and MCCain would benefit.  The problem with that argument is that it takes anywhere from 72 to 96 hours for the media — and thus the public — to know, much less understand, what actually has happened in a serious hurricane zone.  The first pictures are unlikely to be of rescues but rather of suffering.  And even if it turns out that the Bush Administration succeeds in avoiding another Katrina, having to respond in the first place is still going to remind everyone of Katrina.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is not just callously trying to take advantage of a natural disaster, they’re also fooling themselves.

Here’s the latest tracking from the National Hurricane Center on Gustav:

I wonder what Rain Man thinks of all of this?

| posted in politics, world at home | 0 Comments

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