Ramblings From the Ragged Crumbling Edge Of The Reality-Based Community

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Playing Games With Voters' Rights 

...it's the sort of thing that would sound like a joke if they weren't standing there with those "cross my heart" looks on their pusses. Republicans are intent on agressively taking the lead on the reauthorization of the Voters' Rights Act in an effort, it is said, to try to attract more black voters to their side.


That's what they said.

No matter that the outrages committed in Florida in 2000 to deny black voters the franchise in a vital swing state were so obviously committed. No matter that blacks stood in line for endless hours and were effectively denied their right to cast a ballot in the equally vital swing state of Ohio in 2004 while those in predominately white precincts had sufficient resources to cast their votes in a relatively painless fashion. No matter that the enduring image of Hurricane Katrina is of black residents abandoned for days in flooding, filth, dead bodies, and a horrifying sort of madness while the Republican government dithered and the Republican president took two days to even acknowledge their plight and five days to even make an appearance. No matter that the Republican Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a black man by the name of Alphonso Jackson, insisted that his vision of the recovery of New Orleans included a city that was "less black", essentially telling the poor black residents of the hardest hit neighborhoods that there basically wasn't going to be any room at the table for them, no matter what their ties to the city. The Republican leadership in Congress is convinced somehow that leading the charge in reauthorizing Voters' Rights is going to turn the tide and convince increasing numbers of black voters to cast their ballots for Republican candidates.

It's certainly a...well...um...strategy, I suppose. There's every chance that a party that has openly done everything possible to disenfranchise segments of the black population, be openly ignorant to the desperate plight of black citizens in New Orleans, subsequently treat black evacuees little better than work-release convicts, and which has a recent history of opposing or cutting programs that could help blacks rise above the institutional racism and resultant poverty that is still built into the American system could somehow convince those very people that they have their interests close to their hearts. It's also possible that small furry woodland creatures, in a fit of altruism, will one day decide to offer to lead me to the undiscovered cache holding all those bags of money that D. B. Cooper took with him when he
bailed out of that airliner all those years ago. Who knows, maybe there's an untapped reservoir of concern in the black community about ending legal rights for gay and lesbian couples, stopping embryonic stem cell research, and ending legal abortions that will outweigh the simple stark fact that the Republican party hasn't done much to improve their lives since the days of Abraham Lincoln. If nothing else, it should be entertaining to watch...

Friday, September 30, 2005

Making The World Safe For Developers 

...it's received a little bit of notice, but the Republican effort in the House of Representatives to rip most of the skeleton and all of the major organs out of the Endangered Species Act simply hasn't had that raw political sex appeal to drag itself to the front of the stage and fight for elbow room with Judy Miller, SCOTUS nominees, FEMA, and the Gulf Coast. Heck, who could compete with a lineup like that? A majority of Americans would assume you were spinning some cruel, tasteless joke if you told them that 200 Iraqi's and 15 US troops have been killed just this week. In any case, the Rep.'s decided to make a play for that award as "Legislator of the Year" from the Bulldoze America to Prosperity Association by stampeding a major rewrite of the Endangered Species Act through their process at Land Speed Record velocity...

This revision, which features my own Congressman, Greg Walden, as a cosponsor, has a little bit of something for everybody, though that isn't necessarily a good thing. If you need to have a keenly developed sense of rage at the callous disregard for the world we'll be leaving our children in order to function properly, this bill is for you. If you have hungered for a time when industry-backed junk science peddled by federally appointed partisan hacks would play a major role in decisions about our natural world, it just could be your lucky day. If you were hoping that Oregon's Measure 37, requiring payment for loss of land value or releif from land use requirements, could somehow be parlayed to the national level, you're sittin' in high cotton right now. It's all there, along with the elimination of the initial declaration of critical habitat that currently comes with designation as a threatened or endangered species. The identification of vitally important habitat will now be deferred to the phase where the species recovery plan is developed, and this in itself is a clever little bit of forward thinking. It sometime takes years to develop these recovery plans, and a little bit of clever budgetary juggling by ESA opponents will be able to assure that the funding to do this sort of work is sufficiently cut to make the delays even longer. An unintended but likely consequence of this is that - in the absence of critical habitat designation and development of a recovery plan - federal worker bees like some folks I happen to know are going to have to negotiate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (in required project consultation) over every square foot of ground in any given project where a listed threatened or endangered species resides...Thanks, Congressman; really appreciated your help there!

The possible impact on the endangered natural world would be sweeping, in large part because of the property value compensation revision. Most of the stars of Endangeredworld - bald eagles, spotted owls, various salmonids - would probably weather the change, but the big impact would be on those nondescript little plants and animals and bugs and things that usually are the ones to make the news when habitat needs trump development desires. These are the guys that Republicans really want to be toast, and toast they will become if something resembling this House bill ever hits Gee Dub's desk for a signature. There is some hope, however, in the suggestion that some powerful Senate Republicans aren't interested in crafting a bill that much resembles the House effort. There may need to be some changes made to ESA to respond to changes in the world it affects; I'll go that far, although for the life of me I can't think what those changes might be. Suffice it to say that the House Bill is a virtually developer's goodie bag full of presents, and it doesn't even deserve the respect of a hearing in the halls of the Senate...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

When "I Quit" Doesn't Mean "Goodbye" 

...there are any number of good reasons to adopt the habit of sitting down when surfing blogtopia (y!sctp!). Avoiding injury from falling down in surprise is one of them. From Avedon at the Sideshow, we find this item at The Raw Story indicating we may not yet be entirely finished with Michael Brown, horse judge extraodinaire and emergency manager...well, not so much. His ongoing role, whatever the heck it is, is mystifying because of the relative lack of value that his "experience" with Hurricane Katrina actually represents. FEMA needs to start over from scratch, or at the very least reboot itself back to the Witt era when things might not have always gone smoothly but at least they looked like they'd been there before. Brownie can share his views on how it was all the Governor's and Mayor's fault, or perhaps jot a few notes on how the Homeland Security Director didn't read his emails with sufficient attentiveness; maybe he could make some observations about the role of a scapegoat from the goat's perspective. Aside from that, Brownie pretty much augered straight in at a high rate of speed and there aren't going to be enough pieces to drag out of that smoking crater to be much help in trying to figure out how to do it better next time. Clearly loyalty has now not only trumped competency going in; it's also trumped accountability going out...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The March of the Clueless 

...it's an embarassment, really, this meaningless little display by the pro-war gang on the Capitol Mall today. It would be sad, even, were it not for the abusive and seditious behavior that Americans, practicing their First Amendment rights, have had to endure from every chickenhawk flag waving bubba from the loud-mouthed "love it or leave it" guy down the street who's tooth-count and IQ race for the bigger number to the long-gone but unlamented Ari Fleischer and his "need to be careful what they say" suggestions that opposition to the Iraqi invasion and treason were fellow travelers. Down deep in the bowels of the sad paltry machine that organized today's pro-war rally, however, I suspect there are probably a few folks that are feeling their hopes of a grand new American Century of global dominance slipping away through their fingers...

They didn't need the National Mall; they could have gotten by comfortably with a mini-mall, and would have been able to handily provide refreshments for everybody there from the donut shop in the corner suite. You could pull this many people to a good estate sale auction in Central Oregon on any given weekend, even in the winter. Just about any small intermountain western town with it's own zip code and a high school can pull this many people for a Tuesday night basketball game, even those with a losing season. On Saturday, those in opposition to Gee Dub's Grand Nation-Building Adventure built on ginned-up intelligence and brutal personal assaults on its opponents came to D.C. by the tens and tens of thousands - perhaps a hundred thousand in all. On Sunday, the pro-war advocates willing to accept whatever is this week's reason for the invasion were able to attract roughly the same numbers as the student body from my small-town high school back in Idaho. They were all in fine voice, making sure to claim that Cindy Sheehan didn't speak for them - although she has never claimed to speak for anybody, and making sure to claim that opponents to the war don't support the troops or love America - apparently as a result of being able to pass that first true test of intellect, being able to hold two opposing ideas in focus at the same time...

Yes, they said all the right things, but they didn't say it to anybody. The Big Theme on the right over the last few years has been how the left is Out Of The Mainstream. Aside from being empiracally unsupportable, that theme is starting to lose its luster from the standpoint of shear numbers. Faith in Gee Dub's GNBA was slipping long before Hurricane Katrina exposed the whole core and direction of his administration as being a hopeless fairy tale. At the very, very least, this weekend in D.C. demonstrates the disparity between the people who care about what we have done versus the people who wished to blindly follow their president down whatever rathole into which he was anxious to scramble. Gee Dub has never actually won an election that demonstrated any sort of public support that would grant him the kind of political capital that he claimed to have after the last election. This weekend demonstrates rather pointedly that all that capital that he kept prattleing on about is pretty much spent...

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