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15 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:45 am

Thought of the Day


Wall Street might just be in free fall.  Rick Perlstein got an email from a friend on Wall Street who writes,

The collapse of Wall Street will hit Main Street like Ike hit Houston.

That’s not good news, but it misses the point.  The most important question is, will Treasury and the Federal Reserve respond to the collapse of Wall Street like FEMA and DHS did to Katrina?  Because if they do, we’re completely, totally, utterly screwed.

| posted in foreign policy, globalization, politics | 0 Comments

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.

| posted in media, politics, pop culture | 1 Comment

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.

| posted in globalization, world at home | 0 Comments

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.

| posted in globalization, media, politics | 0 Comments

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

28 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

Hurricane Gustav: Potential Disaster for McCain? (UPDATED)


I am frequently critical of those who look at every story through the lens of politics, but occasionally, you can’t really avoid it.  This is one such instance.

Hurricane Gustav, which just ripped through Haiti, may be heading to the United States.  One of its possible targets:  New Orleans.  Here’s the latest 5-day track forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

Now take a look at the path taken by Katrina three years ago.

So if Gustav  stays on its projected path, it will make landfall southwest of Port Sulphur, which is about 47 miles south-southeast of New Orleans.  That is almost exactly where Katrina made landfall.

And if Gustav stays at its current speed, it will hit somewhere around 8 pm Monday night.  That will be right in the middle of the first night of the Republican National Convention.  An evening whose speaker lineup includes Joe Lieberman, Dick Cheney, and George Bush.

Uh oh.

This could hurt McCain in a number of ways.

First, it will distract attention from the convention — CNN and MSNBC will break away from coverage for updates.  And if it’s heading straight towards New Orleans, those updates are likely to overwhelm the political coverage.

Second, it’s likely to keep Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, one of the rising stars of the Republican Party and a dark horse VP candidate, from attending.  I don’t see how he can be in St. Paul if this thing has the potential to wreak havoc in his home state.

Third, the media will make sure that everyone remembers that it is happening three years (almost to the day) after Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Lest we forget, the Bush Administration didn’t exactly have its best days during the Katrina disaster.  I would bet good money that some network will track down Mike “Heckuva Job Brownie” Brown (no relation, thank Buddha) to provide analysis — and remind everyone of the ineptitude of the Bush Administration in the face of one of the worst natural disasters in American history.

Think that McCain has been on the phone to Bush about this yet?

It is my sincere hope that Gustav turns out to be a false alarm — that it loses strength, dies out over open water, and does little or no damage.  The reality is that New Orleans isn’t ready — in fact, it may not survive another direct hit this soon.  Far too many will suffer.

But it does make me wonder how the theocons — especially those who claimed that Katrina was God’s punishment for the wickedness of New Orleans — will explain away the timing of this one.  And should the Bush Administration fail to respond effectively this time around, it might be game, set, and match for John McCain.

UPDATE:  The National Hurricane Center has revised its projected path and landfall estimation.  Gustav is now more likely to hit a little further — but not that much further — west of Port Sulphur, and will not make landfall until sometime Tuesday.

| posted in globalization, politics | 0 Comments

10 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:02 pm

Controlympics: Pollyanna George


From Bob Costas’s interview with President Bush during NBC’s Olympics coverage tonight:

COSTAS: This past week, you restated America’s fundamental differences with China. But given China’s growing strength, and America’s own problems, realistically, how much leverage does the U.S. have here?

DUBYA: First of all, I don’t see America having problems. I see America as a nation that is a world leader that has got great values.

I’m speechless (wordless?  what is the blogging version of speechless?).  I thought he stopped drinking.  Maybe he’s high on vollyball babes.  I mean, Dude, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE LAST SEVEN FREAKING YEARS?????  Just off the top of my head:

  1. We’ve lost our lead in manufacturing to China.
  2. We’ve mortgaged our economy to the Chinese and others.
  3. We now torture, contrary to everything we supposedly stand for.
  4. We now detain people indefinitely.
  5. We haven’t captured Osama bin Laden or other al Qaeda leaders.
  6. We’re mired in two wars, one of which is going badly and while the other is going better, we are spending billions of dollars a month to try to find a way out.
  7. Our two largest mortgage lenders are in deep trouble, and the USG probably is going to have to bail them out.  And thousands upon thousands of Americans are losing their homes.
  8. As many as a dozen of our elected and appointed officials (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Addington, Yoo, Cambone, Wolfowitz, Feith, Rice, Tenet just off the top of my head) may be indicted for war crimes after the Administration ends.
  9. The Katrina crisis demonstrated just how incompetent our government can be in the face of a massive human disaster.
  10. Guantanamo; Abu Ghraib; Bagram; secret sites in Eastern Europe.

Nope. No problems there.  I apologize Mr. President, you’re absolutely, completely, and irrevocably right insane.

| posted in foreign policy, media, politics | 0 Comments

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